Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

Forgiveness

Posted: April 17, 2013 in Sermons
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I recently preached a sermon at our church on forgiveness as part of our series on Grace-based marriages. I always learn a lot when I preach and this time was no exception. I will post a brief outline below and you can listen here or download the podcast via iTunes.

Ruth Graham: “Every good marriage is defined by two good forgivers.”

1. One purpose of marriage is to reflect the mystery of Christ and the church (Eph 5:32)
2. Forgiveness comes from the God.
-Ephesians 2:1-7 (We were dead and he made us alive.) This is one long sentence/thought…The subject is “God” (v. 4). The verbs are “made alive” (v. 5), “raised us up” (v. 6), and seated (vs. 7). The object is “us.” We were dead in our sins. We were living out of the passions of our flesh, and not obeying God with our lives or with our minds.
3. Christians lives differently than the worlds. There is no clearer picture of this than in marriage.

Where does the need for forgiveness come from? 1. Unmet expectation. 2. Sin

Forgiveness is not…
1. Approving sinful behavior
2. Ignoring sin.
3. Forgetting.
4. Emotional death or using pain numbing substances.
5. Reconciliation
6. Neglecting justice.

1. What is forgiveness?
-To grant a pardon or to release a debt. Jesus taught a parable of forgiveness in Matthew 18

2. How does this look in a relationship? (Ephesians 4:25-32)
a. Don’t go to bed angry (v. 26)
b. Some of the ways you used to live will change. (V. 28)
c. Use words to build up: Edify (v. 29)
d. Avoid all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice (v. 31)
e. Be kind and tenderhearted. (v. 32)
f. Forgive (v. 30) – to give up desire or power to punish

Forgive also means “to leave behind”
There will be sin and failure. There also needs to be confession and forgiveness.
Our response is to come clean, cancel debts, and turn to the cross of Jesus.

Prayer in the Early Church

If you haven’t picked up on it yet the elders and pastors have decided to re-emphasize prayer in 2013. The vision of Lawton EMC is to be a praying church that makes disciples and plants churches nationally and internationally. We want to be a group of people that values prayer. We want prayer to become our church’s MO, or Modus operandi. We want it to be the default mechanism of our church. It’s our desire that prayer be the foundation, the pillar, and the covering of our church body.

So far, Pastor Roger has preached on why the early church prayed and to whom they prayed to. And last week we learned the different postures of prayer that we see in the early church and in the Bible. And so I began to diligently study the Scripture this week to see if I could find what exactly we are supposed to be praying about. To paraphrase 1 Timothy 2:1 and Ephesians 6:18, I learned that we should be praying with all kinds of prayers for all people on all occasions with all kinds of prayers. I found that redundant and not very helpful.

Instead of ending there, I decided to revisit the early church in the book of Acts and ask, “What specific things did they pray for could be of help to us in our Christian walk?” The first thing I found out is something I already knew from life itself: Just like in life you sometimes don’t know what to say in difficult situations, sometimes we pray when we don’t know what else to do. Maybe the disciples were feeling that way after Jesus left in the beginning of Acts. It doesn’t say exactly what the disciples were praying about. In Acts 1, Jesus tells them to “wait for the gift” the Father has promised and in Acts 1:14; a large group had gathered together praying constantly. They were simply waiting in prayer. Praying and waiting.

Sometimes, as Christians, we don’t know exactly what to pray. And that is OK. Prayer is a gift from God, anyway. We are sinners, and it’s only because of Jesus Christ that we can have a legitimate audience with the God of the Universe. It’s because we stand in his righteousness that the Father accepts us. And it’s the Holy Spirit that creates in us new life. And so when we pray it’s the Holy Spirit who helps us. And sometimes, we don’t know what to say. In Romans 8:26 it says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” It’s ok if you don’t know exactly what to pray because the Holy Spirit will help you.

But then again, sometimes we can see specific instances when those first believers prayed…

First off, the early church prayed for guidance.

We see this right away in the book of Acts as the disciples decide that they must choose a replacement for Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus and then took his own life. In Acts 1:23 they choose two men Joseph and Matthias. They prayed that God would show them which man was to fill the slot, so to speak, and be the next appointed leader. To decide who it would be, we read that they “cast lots” which was a common Old Testament method for determining God’s will.

Again in Acts 13, the leaders of the church in Antioch were fasting and praying together when God called two of them, Saul and Barnabas, to leave the church for a special mission. The church didn’t kick them out, and they didn’t leave without the blessing of the church. The elders of the church fasted and prayed more, placed hands on them (a symbol of praying over them), and sent them into other regions to spread the gospel. Then, when Paul and Barnabas were on their missionary journeys they were establishing new churches in the cities they visited. In Acts 14:23, we read that one of the things they did was appoint elders, through prayer and fasting, to lead the church.

It’s very clear that the early church believed in seeking the Lord with prayer and fasting before major ministry decisions were made. We also must be a church that seeks God’s will for the future leaders of this church. Today, we are going to be having our annual business meeting where we choose who will be the next leaders of the church. I hope you have been praying about this already. If not, I encourage you to take some time this afternoon to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in these decisions.

In addition to choosing leaders, we see in Acts that prayer was part of the role for those in Christian leadership. In Acts 6:4 we read that the elders were to give their attention to “prayer and the ministry of the word.” This is so important. It really is the most important thing. It’s what we, as elders of this church, focus on. We pray for the body, in general. We pray for specific needs of individuals. We pray that we can lead the church’s attention to prayer and the Word.

In Acts 16, we see on two occasions that Paul and his associates were looking for a “place of prayer.” I hope you have your own private “place of prayer,” but here they were traveling and as a group wanted to find a suitable location. Just to remind you, every Sunday morning at 8:15 we make these first two rows a place of prayer for the church and then every other Sunday evening from 6-7:30 pm, this also becomes a place of prayer that you can be a part of.

Thirdly, we see that Paul asked for the churches to pray for Him as a leader. He writes this in more than one letter, but you can find a specific example in 2 Corinthians 1:11. Paul plainly says to the church “you help us by your prayers.” Church, praying makes a difference. You do help your pastors and elders when you pray for us. Are you praying for your pastors and elders? You should be.

In addition to guidance, we also see in the book of Acts, that the early church prayed for the needs of other believers. In many places in the New Testament, we see the words “prayers and supplication” or “prayers and petitions” used together. I know that a petition is a list of names, like when you are trying to get something on the ballot for an election. But what is “prayer and petition?” Well, when you petition someone you are asking for a specific request. So, in prayer it means to ask God for help.

The early church asked for help when they were suffering persecution. In Acts 4, Peter was in prison and the church gathered to pray. After his release, they prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. In Acts 12, Peter is in prison again because he wouldn’t stop preaching publicly about Jesus. And as Pastor Roger explained last week, the church there in Jerusalem was praying “earnestly” for him. And we see it a third time in Acts 16, but this time it was Paul and Silas when they were in prison in Philippi. They were praying and singing hymns while they were locked up.

The early church also prayed for physical needs of fellow believers. In Acts 4, after Peter and John were released from prison, one of the things that the believer’s prayed for was for God to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. God used these miracles to bring people to himself.

James 5:14 echoes the importance of prayers. Turn with me there. It says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” Are you sick? Call an elder or a pastor to come and pray over you. We really need to be doing more of this, church. When the elders come forward after church and stand up here, come up and be prayed over. Don’t make excuses. If you think you have never been in a position that you needed prayer for then you have a big problem. It’s a sin called “pride.” Stop acting so tough.

And prayer does work. Don’t stop praying. MaryBeth Allen gave me permission to share with you a result of prayers from her friend Dee Dee:

“Late last fall I [MaryBeth] heard about my good friend [DeeDee] from childhood who was given a month to live by her doctors due to a rare weakened blood vessel disorder. When I saw her last, she was so weak she could barely communicate and was getting ready to let her kids know she was going to be with Jesus. She is only 40 and has 3 young children. Many people prayed for her and I asked you all to pray too. This is the result of that:

On Tuesday of this week, we got this response:

“I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to ALL of you that have been praying and fasting for me…God has heard your prayers!!! I got the results of my scans back…and I am OFFICIALLY HEALED!! Whoot Whew!!! The scans show that the blood vessels are no longer weak…and all of the pooling blood is GONE!!! My doctor said if she had not seen this with her own eyes she would not believe it!!! ONLY GOD is able to do THIS!!! Our God is AWESOME…and SOOO worthy of praise!!! THANK YOU ALL SOOOO MUCH for the love you have shown our family, we have been SOOO blessed to have so many people uniting in prayer, providing meals, sending cards, messages and gifts …we could not feel more loved!!! I will NEVER be able to express how much all of you mean to me… I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH !!!!”

God hears our prayers and miracles still DO happen!”

The early church prayed for guidance, they prayed for the needs of one other, and they also prayed for the needs of unbelievers. For example, in Acts 28 when Paul was on the island of Malta he prayed for and healed the chief official’s father. Then many other sick people came to him for prayer and healing as well.

More importantly, though, we see the example in Scripture of praying for the spiritual needs of others. If you remember when Stephen was being killed he prayed that the Father would not hold that sin against them (the same prayer that Jesus prayed about those that killed him).

Turn to Romans 10:1. Here we see what Paul prayed about regarding the Israelites. It says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” We believe that salvation is a gift from God; therefore we pray for unbeliever’s to be saved. I hope you are praying regularly for more people to come to saving faith in Christ. Do you pray for unbeliever’s to be saved?

So, following the example of the early church we pray for guidance, we pray for the physical and spiritual needs of believers and unbelievers. And finally, the early church prayed for God’s Word to spread.

In the letter that Paul wrote to the church in Colossae in Colossians 4:3, he said, “pray God may open a door for our message.” And then in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 he says, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” He is saying that you’ve received the message of salvation that is available through faith in Christ, now pray that others hear it and respond. Pray for more opportunities. Pray for more salvation decisions. Pray for more churches to be established. Pray for us.

And when you pray, pray for boldness. That is what Paul was asking for himself in Ephesians 6:19-20: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, or which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” When I think of the great apostle Paul, I think of someone who speaks boldly for Christ wherever he goes. But here he is asking for prayer from others so that he would be able to be bold and fearless in his communication. This is a great encouragement to me, because I feel so helpless and weak and not-bold so often. Please pray for me.

In Acts 4:29, the first church prayed that God would enable to them to speak his Word with great boldness. This is such an important thing to ask God for that I took a minute to look more closely at this word. The word “boldness” can also mean “outspokenness, confidence, openly/publicly, plainly, or with courage.

I know for some of us this comes easier than with others. It’s easier for some people to “speak their mind” than it is for other people. Some of us are naturally more outspoken than others. But this word doesn’t mean that we are to be overbearing. Boldness is not having to get your two cents in” as a part of every conversation that you hear (or overhear). But on the other hand, boldness does mean not always being quite because you are afraid to speak your mind.

We learn that from Acts 2:29, Peter said: “I may say to you with confidence…” And then in Acts 4, Peter demonstrates a clear presentation of the gospel.  “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (vs. 4:13). It’s the image of holding your head up and looking straight. In other words, we can drop the “awe shucks” approach to sharing our faith.

In addition to being confident, I want us to look briefly at three ways Jesus used this same word which should be helpful for us.

1) Jesus taught that speaking with boldness is speaking plainly. In Mark 8:31-32, Jesus spoke boldly or plainly, about how he was going to die and rise again. Boldness is speaking plainly. Christians, we need to avoid the tendency of vagueness. Sometimes we are vague because we don’t know why it is we believe what we do. You need to specifically know why you believe what you believe so you can speak plainly about it.

2) This same word, boldness, is used in John 16:25, to describe how Jesus taught publicly. In other words, you need to be able to speak openly about your faith and about the gospel. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. If someone asks what you believe don’t just mumble something about it being a personal relationship. Instead, be able to speak openly about what you believe.

3) Finally, Jesus taught that it means to speak clearly. In John 16:25, this was the word Jesus used to describe how sometimes he taught figuratively, but now he was going to be speak clearly about things. As Christians, we need to be careful about speaking Christian-eze. That is a language that only other Christians speak. I’m not saying we can’t use words that are in the Bible like “sin” or “justification.” I’m just saying we need to make sure we are clearly defining those words when we are involved in conversations with others.

Pray that the Gospel message would spread, and that God would use you to speak confidently, plainly, and boldly.

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! [take courage, be strengthened] I have overcome the world.” Our courage comes from Jesus because He has overcome this world and our sins. So take heart!

What difference would it make to our life together if this was what we prayed for?

  • Do we pray for God’s guidance when making decisions, especially with regard to our current and future leaders?
  • Do we pray for the needs of one another regularly?
  • Do we pray for the salvation of lost people among us?
  • Do we pray for the spread of the message and our bold witness?

“Prayer is not preparation for work, it is the work. Prayer is not a preparation for the battle, it is the battle.” –E.M. Bounds

            If you haven’t picked up on it yet the elders and pastors have decided to re-emphasize prayer in 2013. The vision of Lawton EMC is to be a praying church that makes disciples and plants churches nationally and internationally. We want to be a group of people that values prayer. We want prayer to become our church’s MO, or Modus operandi. We want it to be the default mechanism of our church. It’s our desire that prayer be the foundation, the pillar, and the covering of our church body.            
            So far, Pastor Roger has preached on why the early church prayed and to whom they prayed to. And last week we learned the different postures of prayer that we see in the early church and in the Bible. And so I began to diligently study the Scripture this week to see if I could find what exactly we are supposed to be praying about. To paraphrase 1 Timothy 2:1 and Ephesians 6:18, I learned that we should be praying with all kinds of prayers for all people on all occasions with allkinds of prayers. I found that redundant and not very helpful.
            Instead of ending there, I decided to revisit the early church in the book of Acts and ask, “What specific things did they pray for could be of help to us in our Christian walk?” The first thing I found out is something I already knew from life itself: Just like in life you sometimes don’t know what to say in difficult situations, sometimes we pray when we don’t know what else to do. Maybe the disciples were feeling that way after Jesus left in the beginning of Acts. It doesn’t say exactly what the disciples were praying about. In Acts 1, Jesus tells them to “wait for the gift” the Father has promised and in Acts 1:14; a large group had gathered together praying constantly. They were simply waiting in prayer. Praying and waiting.
            Sometimes, as Christians, we don’t know exactly what to pray. And that is OK. Prayer is a gift from God, anyway. We are sinners, and it’s only because of Jesus Christ that we can have a legitimate audience with the God of the Universe. It’s because we stand in his righteousness that the Father accepts us. And it’s the Holy Spirit that creates in us new life. And so when we pray it’s the Holy Spirit who helps us. And sometimes, we don’t know what to say. In Romans 8:26 it says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” It’s ok if you don’t know exactly what to pray because the Holy Spirit will help you.
            But then again, sometimes we can see specific instances when those first believers prayed…
First off, the early church prayed for guidance.
            We see this right away in the book of Acts as the disciples decide that they must choose a replacement for Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus and then took his own life. In Acts 1:23 they choose two men Joseph and Matthias. They prayed that God would show them which man was to fill the slot, so to speak, and be the next appointed leader. To decide who it would be, we read that they “cast lots” which was a common Old Testament method for determining God’s will.
            Again in Acts 13, the leaders of the church in Antioch were fasting and praying together when God called two of them, Saul and Barnabas, to leave the church for a special mission. The church didn’t kick them out, and they didn’t leave without the blessing of the church. The elders of the church fasted and prayed more, placed hands on them (a symbol of praying over them), and sent them into other regions to spread the gospel. Then, when Paul and Barnabas were on their missionary journeys they were establishing new churches in the cities they visited. In Acts 14:23, we read that one of the things they did was appoint elders, through prayer and fasting, to lead the church.
            It’s very clear that the early church believed in seeking the Lord with prayer and fasting before major ministry decisions were made. We also must be a church that seeks God’s will for the future leaders of this church. Today, we are going to be having our annual business meeting where we choose who will be the next leaders of the church. I hope you have been praying about this already. If not, I encourage you to take some time this afternoon to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in these decisions.
           
            In addition to choosing leaders, we see in Acts that prayer was part of the role for those in Christian leadership. In Acts 6:4 we read that the elders were to give their attention to “prayer and the ministry of the word.” This is so important. It really is the most important thing. It’s what we, as elders of this church, focus on. We pray for the body, in general. We pray for specific needs of individuals. We pray that we can lead the church’s attention to prayer and the Word.
            In Acts 16, we see on two occasions that Paul and his associates were looking for a “place of prayer.” I hope you have your own private “place of prayer,” but here they were traveling and as a group wanted to find a suitable location. Just to remind you, every Sunday morning at 8:15 we make these first two rows a place of prayer for the church and then every other Sunday evening from 6-7:30 pm, this also becomes a place of prayer that you can be a part of. 
            Thirdly, we see that Paul asked for the churches to pray for Him as a leader. He writes this in more than one letter, but you can find a specific example in 2 Corinthians 1:11. Paul plainly says to the church “you help us by your prayers.” Church, praying makes a difference. You do help your pastors and elders when you pray for us. Are you praying for your pastors and elders? You should be.
            In addition to guidance, we also see in the book of Acts, that the early church prayed for the needs of other believers. In many places in the New Testament, we see the words “prayers and supplication” or “prayers and petitions” used together. I know that a petition is a list of names, like when you are trying to get something on the ballot for an election. But what is “prayer and petition?” Well, when you petition someone you are asking for a specific request. So, in prayer it means to ask God for help.
            The early church asked for help when they were suffering persecution. In Acts 4, Peter was in prison and the church gathered to pray. After his release, they prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. In Acts 12, Peter is in prison again because he wouldn’t stop preaching publicly about Jesus. And as Pastor Roger explained last week, the church there in Jerusalem was praying “earnestly” for him. And we see it a third time in Acts 16, but this time it was Paul and Silas when they were in prison in Philippi. They were praying and singing hymns while they were locked up.
            The early church also prayed for physical needs of fellow believers. In Acts 4, after Peter and John were released from prison, one of the things that the believer’s prayed for was for God to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. God used these miracles to bring people to himself.
            James 5:14 echoes the importance of prayers. Turn with me there. It says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” Are you sick? Call an elder or a pastor to come and pray over you. We really need to be doing more of this, church. When the elders come forward after church and stand up here, come up and be prayed over. Don’t make excuses. If you think you have never been in a position that you needed prayer for then you have a big problem. It’s a sin called “pride.” Stop acting so tough.
            And prayer does work. Don’t stop praying. MaryBeth Allen gave me permission to share with you a result of prayers from her friend Dee Dee:
           
            “Late last fall I [MaryBeth] heard about my good friend [DeeDee] from childhood who was given a month to live by her doctors due to a rare weakened blood vessel disorder. When I saw her last, she was so weak she could barely communicate and was getting ready to let her kids know she was going to be with Jesus. She is only 40 and has 3 young children. Many people prayed for her and I asked you all to pray too. This is the result of that:
           
On Tuesday of this week, we got this response:
“I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to ALL of you that have been praying and fasting for me…God has heard your prayers!!! I got the results of my scans back…and I am OFFICIALLY HEALED!! Whoot Whew!!! The scans show that the blood vessels are no longer weak…and all of the pooling blood is GONE!!! My doctor said if she had not seen this with her own eyes she would not believe it!!! ONLY GOD is able to do THIS!!! Our God is AWESOME…and SOOO worthy of praise!!! THANK YOU ALL SOOOO MUCH for the love you have shown our family, we have been SOOO blessed to have so many people uniting in prayer, providing meals, sending cards, messages and gifts …we could not feel more loved!!! I will NEVER be able to express how much all of you mean to me… I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH !!!!”
            God hears our prayers and miracles still DO happen!”
            The early church prayed for guidance, they prayed for the needs of one other, and they also prayed for the needs of unbelievers. For example, in Acts 28 when Paul was on the island of Malta he prayed for and healed the chief official’s father. Then many other sick people came to him for prayer and healing as well.
            More importantly, though, we see the example in Scripture of praying for the spiritual needs of others. If you remember when Stephen was being killed he prayed that the Father would not hold that sin against them (the same prayer that Jesus prayed about those that killed him).
            Turn to Romans 10:1. Here we see what Paul prayed about regarding the Israelites. It says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” We believe that salvation is a gift from God; therefore we pray for unbeliever’s to be saved. I hope you are praying regularly for more people to come to saving faith in Christ. Do you pray for unbeliever’s to be saved?
            So, following the example of the early church we pray for guidance, we pray for the physical and spiritual needs of believers and unbelievers. And finally, the early church prayed for God’s Word to spread.
            In the letter that Paul wrote to the church in Colossae in Colossians 4:3, he said, “pray God may open a door for our message.” And then in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 he says, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” He is saying that you’ve received the message of salvation that is available through faith in Christ, now pray that others hear it and respond. Pray for more opportunities. Pray for more salvation decisions. Pray for more churches to be established. Pray for us.
            And when you pray, pray for boldness. That is what Paul was asking for himself in Ephesians 6:19-20: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, or which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” When I think of the great apostle Paul, I think of someone who speaks boldly for Christ wherever he goes. But here he is asking for prayer from others so that he would be able to be bold and fearless in his communication. This is a great encouragement to me, because I feel so helpless and weak and not-bold so often. Please pray for me.
            In Acts 4:29, the first church prayed that God would enable to them to speak his Word with great boldness. This is such an important thing to ask God for that I took a minute to look more closely at this word. The word “boldness” can also mean “outspokenness, confidence, openly/publicly, plainly, or with courage.
            I know for some of us this comes easier than with others. It’s easier for some people to “speak their mind” than it is for other people. Some of us are naturally more outspoken than others. But this word doesn’t mean that we are to be overbearing. Boldness is not having to get your two cents in” as a part of every conversation that you hear (or overhear). But on the other hand, boldness does mean not always being quite because you are afraid to speak your mind.
            We learn that from Acts 2:29, Peter said: “I may say to you with confidence…” And then in Acts 4, Peter demonstrates a clear presentation of the gospel.  “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (vs. 4:13). It’s the image of holding your head up and looking straight. In other words, we can drop the “awe shucks” approach to sharing our faith.
            In addition to being confident, I want us to look briefly at three ways Jesus used this same word which should be helpful for us.
                  1) Jesus taught that speaking with boldness is speaking plainly. In Mark 8:31-32, Jesus spoke boldly or plainly, about how he was going to die and rise again. Boldness is speaking plainly. Christians, we need to avoid the tendency of vagueness. Sometimes we are vague because we don’t know why it is we believe what we do. You need to specifically know why you believe what you believe so you can speak plainly about it.
                  2) This same word, boldness, is used in John 16:25, to describe how Jesus taught publicly. In other words, you need to be able to speak openly about your faith and about the gospel. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. If someone asks what you believe don’t just mumble something about it being a personal relationship. Instead, be able to speak openly about what you believe.
                  3) Finally, Jesus taught that it means to speak clearly. In John 16:25, this was the word Jesus used to describe how sometimes he taught figuratively, but now he was going to be speak clearly about things. As Christians, we need to be careful about speaking Christian-eze. That is a language that only other Christians speak. I’m not saying we can’t use words that are in the Bible like “sin” or “justification.” I’m just saying we need to make sure we are clearly defining those words when we are involved in conversations with others.
            Pray that the Gospel message would spread, and that God would use you to speak confidently, plainly, and boldly.
      In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! [take courage, be strengthened] I have overcome the world.” Our courage comes from Jesus because He has overcome this world and our sins. So take heart!
What difference would it make to our life together if this was what we prayed for?
·         Do we pray for God’s guidance when making decisions, especially with regard to our current and future leaders?
·         Do we pray for the needs of one another regularly?
·         Do we pray for the salvation of lost people among us?
·         Do we pray for the spread of the message and our bold witness?
“Prayer is not preparation for work, it is the work. Prayer is not a preparation for the battle, it is the battle.” –E.M. Bounds 

Naming the baby

Posted: January 7, 2013 in Sermons

My sermon from December 23, 2012: 

He will be called…
            Names are special. When you find out someone is expecting a baby you generally ask two questions: 1. Boy or girl? 2. Do you have a name picked out? It took my wife and I a little while to pick out our son’s name. We were settled on a girl’s name early on, but not a boy’s name. We picked the name Elliot for a few reasons. 1. We just liked it. 2. One of my Christian heroes (for lack of a better name) was the missionary Jim Elliot who was killed along with his four co-workers by the Ecuadorian tribe that they had gone to share the gospel with. And 3. It means “The Lord, he is God.” His middle name is Dean, who we named after Leah’s father. Naming your child is a special privilege of parents. And names can carry a lot of meaning.
            And people like their names because it represents who they are. Stephen Covey said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” If you want an easy way to insult someone you make fun of their name. We learned that on the playground at recess in elementary school. To insult a person is to drag their name through the mud. Names are important in our day just like they were important in Jesus’ time. They tended to have meaning behind them. Today I want us to look at five names that Scripture tells us that Jesus will be called. These names do more than simply give us data from his birth certificate; they identify who this baby is. Therefore with each one of them we will look at the significance of each one. And then I want us to end by asking the question: What will you call him?
Call him Jesus:
            The first name is the most common one when we talk about Christmas. Let’s begin in Matthew 1:20. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
            Mary and Joseph did not spend any time brainstorming names. They didn’t do an internet search, get a book of baby names, or ask their friends and family how they felt the name sounded. The name was already picked out for them. They were to give him the name “Jesus.”  At first glance, this was just an ordinary, common first century Jewish name. In fact, there have been 71 tombs discovered from the time of Jesus that are other tombs of people named Jesus. Paul worked with a guy named Jesus (or Justus). The fact that Jesus had a common name makes him that much more endearing to me. In many respects he was a regular dude just like me. We read in Isaiah that there was nothing special about his physical appearance that would attract people to him. And this is even true about his name, nothing too special about it. But there was a reason it was used often for children of that time:
            It was common because the name would have been Yeshua, or in the Hebrew Old Testament we see the longer version, Yehoshua, translated into English as “Joshua.” It literally meant “Yahweh (or the LORD) saves.” There were two significant Joshua’s in the Old Testament. The first was the Joshua who was chosen to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. But because of Israel’s unbelief, Joshua could not provide lasting rest (Hebrews 4:8-10). Jesus was a greater Joshua who would bring God’s people everlasting rest (Matthew 11:28-30).
            We encounter another Joshua in the prophecies of Zechariah. He’s the priest purified by the angel of the Lord in Zechariah 3. The visions of Zechariah 3 and 6 depict a priest who wears the royal crown. Since such a combination of priest and king was forbidden in the Israel’s law, this portrayed another kind of Messiah, a royal priest. In the coming of Jesus, this priestly king had arrived at last. In fact, the central message of Psalm 110, a psalm about the coming Messiah, views Jesus Christ as the messianic royal priest.
            When Mary and Joseph gave him the name Yeshua and when people would use his name, it would bring up images of the long-expected Messiah who would deliver his people from sin, death, and judgment.
Call him Immanuel:
            The second name that I want us to consider for this newborn child is found in Matthew 1:23. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). For someone who was to be called “Immanuel” no one really called Jesus that (or if they did it wasn’t recorded in the Bible.) But it wasn’t so much about the name, per se, but what it meant: “God with us.” Jesus was God in the flesh. There was a song a few years ago that had the lines, “What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?” I used to hate that song because I thought it was making fun of Jesus. Now I am sad for the songwriter because they missed what Christmas is all about. God did come like one of us. John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” We call this act the incarnation, which means “in the flesh.” That’s what Christmas is all about.
            John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” Jesus is God. He is God with us. Colossians 1:19 “In Him, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”
            To really grasp what this meant to the Jewish people of the time, we need to look at their history again. This time from the time of Isaiah, around 740 B.C. It was during this time that Israel was divided in two kingdoms. The northern kingdom, Israel, was doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. God was holding onto the southern kingdom, Judah, for a little while longer. Its king was Ahaz. In Isaiah 7, King Ahaz was afraid that the kingdoms of Israel and Syria would join forces and make war against it. God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell King Ahaz and Judah that they would stand for a little while longer. And then God told King Ahaz to ask for a sign that God was on their side. After King Ahaz refused, God said that he himself would give Ahaz a sign: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.”
            This had two meanings. One was dealing with the current military situation, but the second was that God would fulfill the Old Testament promises of coming to be with his people. God repeatedly promised: “I will be their God, and they will be my people. I will live among them and walk among them.”(2 Cor. 6:16, Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ez. 37:27). The birth of Christ was the fulfillment of God’s desire to dwell among his people.
            We see this in John 1:14, when it refers to the word becoming flesh it says he “made his dwelling among us.” That literally means that Jesus “tabernacled” with us or he pitched his tent with us. In the Old Testament, when the people of Israel lived in tents for forty years as they traveled the desert on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, the presence of God dwelt in a tabernacle in the middle of the camp. He was their very close, very real neighbor. And now, in the person of Jesus, God made his dwelling with us. Immanuel – God with us.
Call him King:
            We call him Jesus, we call him Immanuel, and we also call him the newborn King. We don’t fully understand what it means to be king because we live in a republic and not a monarchy. But even England doesn’t operate as an absolute monarchy because the queen doesn’t have full political powers but is more of a ceremonial head of state. In an absolute monarchy, a person is born into the position and when he becomes a king he is one for life. It’s also a system where there is much power. He would be the one that people would bow to in honor. The wise men who came to see Jesus understand that they were coming to worship a future king. That’s why they brought they didn’t bring cheap cigars or balloons as a gifts. One of their gifts was gold – a gift fit for a king.
            Luke 1:32b-33, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” This promise to Mary that her Son would sit on the throne of David was huge. It was interesting because Joseph was of the Davidic family line, which is why he traveled to Bethlehem for the census. Bethlehem is where King David was born. And if the prophecy was to be fulfilled it would come through the father, not the mother’s line. To understand the significance of the Christ child, one needs to know what God had long ago promised David and his sons. In 2 Samuel 7, God blessed David and his offspring, promising them an eternal throne. For nearly 1,000 years the people of Israel awaited a Davidic king who would keep the covenant and inherit the throne. The gospels reveal that Jesus is this long-expected, law-abiding king.
            Looking back at the prophecy in Isaiah that we looked at earlier, this time in chapter nine we read, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
            Jesus is the one who would bring everlasting peace. He is the royal Son who would inherit the nations (Ps. 2). Thus, the baby born in Bethlehem was the one God had in mind when he promised David his son would sit on an eternal throne.
Call him the Son of God:
            The fourth name that we can call this newborn baby boy is one that you and I cannot relate to on a human level but is extremely important in the story of the gospel. He was the holy Son of God: Luke 1:35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” One time a demon-possessed man followed Jesus shouting, “Here is the Son of the Most High God.”
            Each one of us is a lawbreaker. We have chosen to break God’s law. We have committed sins. But we are also born as sinners with a sinful nature. Even if you could be perfect in your actions, thoughts, and motives, you would still be a sinful person at your heart. Jesus was not like us in that way. He did not inherit the sinful nature because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. He knew no sin (Romans 8:3). He came as God in the flesh. But also came as the Son of God which means he lived a life of obedience to God the Father with the help and power of the Holy Spirit.
            Because Jesus was without sin he was able to die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for my sins and yours. His death for our sins brings us life. He is the only one who can be the mediator between God and man. He was fully man. He lived on this earth like you and me. He was also fully God. Therefore, he can be the substitionary atonement that we needed.
            As the Son of God, he also demonstrated perfected obedience to God the Father. He kept the law of God. He lived a life of submission to the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Call him Savior
            You can call him Jesus, Immanuel, King, Son of God, and now finally, because all this is true, we can call him our Savior. Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
            He is the promised rescuer and redeemer that everyone was looking for. He was the anointed one, Messiah that would be Lord and Savior of His people. Listen to 1 Peter 1:10-12: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”
            Salvation through Jesus Christ…God comes as a baby so that we can be saved from our sins. It’s so simple that a child could tell you what Christmas means, but it’s so complicated that even angels long to look into these things. No wonder they showed up on the first Christmas morning singing: “Glory to God in the highest.”
            This is why we look forward to this time of the year so much. This is why we celebrate. God came to rescue us. It’s the greatest story ever told. It’s the story of a returning king to make things right.
C.S. Lewis captures this in the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the story, the Lion, Aslan, was the Jesus-like Messiah figure whose return to Narnia was prophesied about. In the story, it was always winter and never Christmas in the land of Narnia. But when the animals noticed that it was getting warmer and the snow was beginning to melt. They said among themselves “Could it be true? Have you heard?” Could Aslan be returning to break the spell of the white witch? And then Mr. Beaver said, “Aslan is on the move.”
What a great day it will be when Aslan comes.
What a great day when Jesus appeared! He is the King, our Savior, the Son of God, Immanuel.
What will you call him?
            I want to leave you today with this thought: The reason why Jesus came was to seek and save the lost. Jesus did not save the world in his birth. It was in his life, death, and resurrection that made salvation possible. He became a suffering servant and offered himself as a ransom for many (Isa. 53; Matt. 20:28). In the Incarnation, the exalted Son took the form of a lowly servant, and died the death of a criminal. Therefore, the Father exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Joy to the Lord, verse 3:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
            He was more than just a baby born that we celebrate once a year with food and presents. He is our Savior. He is our Lord. He is worthy to be worshiped.
            Will you call him the true King? Will you acknowledge that he is the Holy One, the Son of God? Immanuel – God with us?
            Christmas is truly wonderful. Receive him as Savior and worship Him as Lord. 

Who is Jesus?

Posted: November 5, 2012 in Sermons

Who is Jesus? – Luke 9:18-25

 
            If you wanted to prove that a person in history existed then how would you do it? Let’s say that it’s my goal today to convince you that a person named George Washington was alive at one time. Could I prove that he lived by using the scientific method? No, I cannot. The scientific method consists of systematic observation, measurement, experimentation, and then the formulation, testing, and modification of a hypothesis. There is nothing to observe or measure when it comes to determining if George Washington was alive therefore I would use the historical method. This is where historians use primary sources to write accounts of the past. If possible I would talk to people that might have known him when he was alive. Since this is not possible I would see if someone who knew him had written a biography about his life. I would be in luck if that were the case because no person has had more biographies written about him than George Washington. If I really wanted the best information possible I would go to what are called primary sources. This would be information recorded by the people that were with him, that lived, worked, and served our country alongside him. If I were to write a book then these are the sources that would be the most authoritative.
            You might be able to make the case that the only person that has had more biographies written about him other than George Washington is Christ Jesus of Nazareth. We have primary source material in the Bible written by those people that lived, ate, traveled with, and learned from Jesus. We also have secondary source material of people that investigated the claims made by those that were with Jesus. The life of Jesus was alluded to by two first century historians, one Jewish and one Roman, Josephus and Tactius. The lives of those that lived with Jesus were also written about extensively. We have coins and archeological remains that reference Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor at the time of Jesus’ death. It’s because of this amazing amount of material that there are very few people who doubt the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Christians, and pretty much any historical scholar agree that Jesus existed. In a 2011 review of the state of modern scholarship, Bart Ehrman (who is a secular agnostic) wrote: “[Jesus] certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees.”
            Everyone agrees that he existed, but that’s where the agreement ends. Just believing that Jesus existed doesn’t make a person a Christian. It doesn’t change a person’s life at all. In fact, acknowledging one God doesn’t make a difference either. James 2:19 “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” So what is it? What separates us from really good, moral, upstanding people? What is different about us compared to other religions even those that might call themselves “Christian?” The answer is in answering the question: “Who is Jesus?” Today you will be confronted with that question and you will be forced to respond. You can respond by ignoring it. You can respond by denying his claims. Or you can respond by agreeing with who he said he was in humble adoration, maybe even by repenting of your sins and bowing your knee to Jesus as Lord for the first time in your life.
            I would like to speak to this question by seeing how people of Jesus’ time viewed him, then spend time looking at who Jesus is, and finish with why it’s of utmost importance.
            In Luke 9, Jesus is traveling with his disciples to a region 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee to visit villages near the city of Caesarea Philippi. In Mark 6 we read that Jesus and his disciples were becoming well known. He was preaching that people should repent of their sins. He drove out demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. It’s natural then that people began to talk…a lot. And Jesus becomes well known. He was a traveling rabbi like many other Jewish teachers of his time, but rumors had begun to spread about this man. It could have been his teaching which was with authority unlike the other religious leaders of their time, or telling people that they were forgiven of their sins, which only God can do, by the way. But it was likely the miracles that he was doing which caused people to take notice, like feeding over 5,000 people at once, and to spread the word about this Jesus of Nazareth. When word reached King Herod he said it was John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded, who came back from the dead. Other people said it was Elijah or like another prophet of old.
            In fact in Luke 9 when Jesus’ ministry is about to take a significant turn he begins to teach his disciples in more detail about who is and why he came. A very significant conversation is about to take place and Jesus sets it up with a question for his disciples. He asks them this question, “Who do people say that I am?” It’s like he says, “Hey, what are people saying about me?” “What’s the word on the street?” And they rightly answer, “Some say you are John the Baptist; others Elijah, and still others one of the prophets.” The average person on the street that had common sense would know that this guy is not normal. He performs miracles, he drives out demons, he walks on water, he feeds enormous amounts of people with very little food. Obviously, this guy is from God, therefore he is a prophet. They thought he might be John the Baptist because John the Baptist was the first prophet in 400 years. He attracted a following, called people to repentance, said he was preparing for the kingdom of God, but then ended up dying at the hands of King Herod. Maybe he had come back to life miraculously and that Jesus was him.
            Or some say he was Elijah or another prophet. I thought about that this week. Why would people think that Jesus was Elijah? And then it hit me…Elijah didn’t die. If you remember in 2 Kings 8, Elijah and Elisha were walking and talking when a chariot of fire and horses appeared and a whirlwind carried Elijah away. And in Malachi we read that the Jewish people were looking for Elijah to return before the promised Redeemer. It says in Malachi 4:5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.” So the Jewish people were expecting the “day of the Lord.” They were expecting some type of rescue. At this time in history, they were being occupied by a foreign nation, Rome. Therefore, they probably expected that when the “day of the Lord” came it would mean a restored independent, free nation of Israel with no unclean, Gentile people. Like any complex issue, there were many sides to this issue, which caused division. Some people thought he would be a military leader, some thought a non-violent spiritual leader, some thought a political leader, and some didn’t want anything to change.
            Do you remember that God made a promise with David in 2 Samuel 7? It’s what we call the Davidic Covenant. It is an unconditional covenant made between God and David through which God promises David and Israel that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come from the family line of David and would establish a kingdom that would endure forever. Second Samuel 7:16 is a key verse: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” This is what people back then were looking for. They wanted a Messiah, a Christ, a Savior that would rescue them and who would establish a throne and a kingdom in Jerusalem that would never end. They had different ideas of how it was going to happen, but they wanted their land, and they wanted a king again. They were rightfully expecting a savior sent from God.
            And so you had all these people that were looking for a Savior, and they thought Jesus was a miracle worker/prophet like Elijah. Jesus was not Elijah who had come to bring about a revolution. In fact, in Luke 1:17 we read that John the Baptist was this Elijah-like figure prophesied about in Malachi who came “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
And so Jesus was not a prophet come back from the dead. And he was not John the Baptist. And he was not Elijah. So who was he?
And so Jesus asked his disciples…
            Verse 20: “What about you (ya’ll)? Who do you say that I am?” Jesus wanted to see what his closest disciples thought about the question. I wonder if they got nervous when he asked them. It would be like if your mom was the math teacher and you were out in public and a math question came up. She might turn to you and say, “What’s the answer?” You start to sweat and you get real nervous. You think, “Is this a trick question? I hope I don’t get it wrong. I know the answer. I should know the answer. Wait, what was the question again?”
            Peter answers the question for everyone, “God’s Messiah.” The gospel of Matthew adds a little more detail saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And also adding that Jesus said, you are blessed Peter because this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father who is in heaven.” This is the first time that the Twelve acknowledged Jesus as being the Christ/Messiah. There were a lot of clues. For instance, the name “Jesus” is the way we pronounce it and they would have pronounced it “Yeshua” or “Joshua.” It literally means “Yahweh saves.” In Matthew 1:21, Mary is told by the angel to give him this name because he will save the people from their sins. So she gives him the name “Yahweh saves” because this boy will save people from their sins. Is the angel saying that his baby is the God who will save His people? How is that even possible? And then Peter said he was the Messiah or the Christ, Christ was the Greek version and Messiah was the Hebrew version of the word, which was a title that meant “God’s anointed one.” Kind of like King David was anointed to be King of Israel with an anointing of oil.
So Jesus was his name and “Christ” was his title. But when Peter declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” Jesus said you are absolutely right and you don’t even know what that means.
            I know this because in the next verse he says, “Don’t tell anyone yet.” And then after Jesus explained in greater detail how this was going to happen, Peter said “I won’t let that happen.” And Jesus looked at his disciples and gave them a tongue-lashing. He was harsher with them than with any of the religious leaders. Yeah, he called the religious leaders a “brood of vipers” and “white-washed tombs” but he called Peter Satan (Mark 8:33).
            So what did Jesus say that made Peter disagree which caused Jesus’ hard reprimand? It’s in Luke 9:22. Jesus calls himself the “Son of Man.” We don’t use this title to refer to Jesus. We use “Christ,” but it’s really Jesus’ favorite title that he used for himself. It comes from Daniel 7 and Jesus used it because it best captured his identity and ministry. He claimed to be the promised Messiah that they had been prophesied about and about whom they were looking for. He also came as a humble servant and a suffering servant as prophesied about in Isaiah 52-53. And it shows that he saw himself as the glorious King and Judge who will return again to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.
            Jesus says this, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and he must be killed on the third day be raised to life.” Jesus predicts his own suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection. From here on out Jesus begins to tell his disciples what will happen to him. He was trying to get them to fully understand, which they didn’t until after his ascension that his victory wasn’t going to be something on earth, but in heaven.
            He came to set his people free, but not freedom from Rome, it was freedom from sin.
            And his people weren’t just the Jewish people, but for all people who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ’s work on their behalf for their salvation.
            And this victory wasn’t going to be won with a sword, but with his death and resurrection.
Do you know why Jesus had to die? I know he died on the cross to save us from our sins. But like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, my question is “Couldn’t there have been another way?” I mean really, “why did he die?”
            Let me tell you why it’s important that Jesus is who said he was and why it’s of utmost importance to your life. First of all, we need to start with who God is. God is infinite. He is holy and he is righteous. And He is just. There is no sin in him whatsoever. God created mankind in His image for his glory and our good. He created us to have a unique relationship with him. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, did not believe what God said was true and they rebelled against God’s good plan thinking they knew better. Their first act of sin was known as The Fall. It brought a sin nature that is now inherited to human beings. We are now sinners from birth and by choice. And our sin has eternal consequences because we have sinned against an infinite God. The only right and fair thing then would be to sentence us to death for our sins because that is the just punishment that we deserve. “For the wages of sin is death…”
            There is a common question unbelievers ask: “If there is a God then why does he let evil happen? Why doesn’t he get rid of child molesters, sexual predators, and the murders?” My response is to ask, “Then you want God to get rid of all evil? Even those of us who have lied, taken God’s name in vain, and had hateful or perverse thoughts?” I am convinced that when Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we had to take the log out of our own eye before removing the speck from our brother’s eye that he wasn’t saying this might be true of us, but that it is true of us. He says in Matthew 7:3, “do you not notice the log in your eye?!” Can you not see this? Do you really desire justice and not mercy?
             I’m not saying we can’t help one another in love. I’m just saying that we are sinners and we deserve to be punished for our sins. We deserve death. But I am so thankful that God loved us and made a way for us to be with him again. It was God’s sovereign plan to save us from our wretched selves. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit eternally existed as three persons. But for a specific time in history (at just the right time Galatians says), God sent his Son, Jesus, to be born like a human being. He was fully God, but he became fully man. They called him Immanuel, which meant “God with us” because that is what he was. God lived among us and his glory was veiled in human flesh. He lived a life of perfect obedience to God the Father with the power of God the Holy Spirit. He didn’t abolish God’s law, but he kept it all perfectly.
            It was his plan to seek and save the lost. In Luke 9:22 it says he was planning on being killed at the hands of the religious authorities and being raised to life again. He became our substitution on the cross. He became the propitiation of God’s wrath due to sin. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” He became the sacrifice for our sins. And he was raised to life three days later just like he said it would happen.
            Finally, the book of John says we must receive Him. This means that we must repent, or turn from our sins, and trust in Jesus alone for our salvation from sin and death. You must recognize that your good works are not enough to save you and you must trust in Jesus’ good work on your behalf. You stop living life like you are god and because of God’s mercy you offer your body as a living sacrifice to him.
            Jesus goes on in Luke 9:23-24 and says that if you want to be a follower of his you must deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow him. Jesus gave his life to offer us eternal life, and we in turn offer our physical life for him. Dietrich Bonheoffer, a German pastor who died at the hands of Hitler in WWII, said the call to follow Christ is an invitation to “come and die.” We die to ourselves and are made alive with Christ.
            Some people will try to create an image of Jesus that they are comfortable with in their mind. They will say that Jesus was a historical figure and nothing else. Mormons would say Jesus was a child of God just like Lucifer and just like you and me. That he was not fully God existing eternally. Some people say that Jesus was a good teacher. Many religions, such as Islam, will say he was a prophet and that is all.
            What people try to do, and maybe you have done it, is to create a Jesus in their mind that they are more comfortable with. Have you shaped him to fit a certain mold that you like? For instance, when I was in college, there were girls that believed in Boyfriend Jesus. They had kissed dating goodbye and not Jesus was their boyfriend.           
            -Or how about Good Teacher Jesus who always has wise words to live by.           
            -Some people believe in Touchdown Jesus who helps Christians win the major sporting events.
            -Then there is Free Love Jesus who doesn’t think anything is wrong as long as you have love.
            -There is Republican Jesus and Democrat Jesus who promises to make your life better after the election results on Tuesday.
            -There is Feel Good Jesus who wants us all to walk out of here with a warm fuzzy feeling.
            -There is Smiley Jesus who wants us to give us a pep talk so that we can have our best life now.
            -Then there is Good Example Jesus who shows you how to treat people. And then you can feel sorry for him because he died unfairly.
And so I ask again: What will you do now? Will you ignore who He said he was? Will you repent and seek his forgiveness from your sins for the first time in your life today? Will you create a Jesus to suit your own needs and wants?
            Peter was right: Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. The promised Rescuer, Redeemer, and Savior. The one who came as a suffering servant to set the captives free and restore sight to the blind. The one who perfectly kept the law of God and then died a sinner’s death. He lived a perfect life that we didn’t. And he died a death that was meant for us. And by trusting in Him for salvation, we can be saved and inherit eternal life that we truly didn’t earn and don’t deserve. This Christ is not a reflection of our current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is more loving, more holy, and more wonderful than we ever thought possible. He is the one we worship.
Pray

            We’ve been in a series for a few weeks now entitled “God has questions, too.” We all have been through times in our lives when we have questions for God. Questions like “God, why is this happening?” or “God, is everything going to turn out ok?” or “God, are you listening?” or the big one is just, “God, why?” It’s ok to ask questions of God. The wonderful thing that we know about God is that even though he is eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, and big; he is not far off. He is close and He is caring. We serve a God that hears the cries of His people. He hears you when you call because he is relational. Along those lines, there are times when God responds with questions of his own. We know that since God knows all that He doesn’t ask questions of us because he wants our opinion or our knowledge. Instead, when God asks a question he is trying to get us to teach something or to change our understanding of a situation.
            We see this play out in the life of Jonah after he became very angry about the situation he found himself in. I would like to start by giving some background about the story of Jonah and then we will look at his anger verses God’s compassion. But first let’s start with a word of prayer…
            Jonah was a prophet of God who lived in the 8th century BC in the northern kingdom called Israel. A prophet was a spokesman for God to the people. The king at the time, and we would assume the people of Israel, did not turn back toward God but instead did evil in the sight of the Lord. However, God in his grace, still did great things in the country of Israel and Jonah saw the border of his beloved nation increase. In Jonah chapter 1 we see that God called Jonah to leave his country and go to the city of Nineveh and preach against it because of their great evil. This is quite shocking because it’s the only time that God called a prophet to go to a foreign nation that was not his own (in fact they could be considered enemies of the Jews) and preach to them on their soil. All the other times we see prophets calling the nation of Israel back into a right relationship with God. It’s also a difficult call for Jonah because these people were really, really bad. The Assyrians were a very bloody, brutal people group from history. I won’t go into gory details, but the book of Nahum calls it “a city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims.” This was a horrible place, filled with vile people who had attacked the northern kingdom of Israel in the past and who would eventually conquer them destroying them forever. It was into this mess that God told Jonah to go.
And Jonah did not want to go. We will get to the bottom of why he didn’t want to go, but at first we just know that he didn’t want to go. So he went to a seaport and bought a ticket on the first ship headed in the complete opposite direction of where God told him to go. Out on the ocean God sent a storm that nearly took down the ship with all the cargo and the sailors on board. After doing everything they could to get out of the situation they were in, the sailors threw Jonah overboard. God showed grace to Jonah and saved him by sending a large fish to swallow him. Jonah was then spewed onto dry land after three days and God told him again to go to Nineveh to preach to the people of that great city. This time, Jonah obeys and after a likely month of travel he arrived at the large city. He spend three days going through the streets preaching one message, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” It was simple. The people responded by repenting of their sin and seeking God for compassion. And God relented and did not destroy them.
(Read verses 1-4)
1. Jonah’s anger
But to Jonah this wasn’t right. He became angry. Literally, he got hot. There are two types of anger. There is rage that comes from the passion of the moment. And then there is seething anger that boils up like a pot of water that gets hotter and hotter. And this was Jonah.  I can almost here him say something like, “I knew it! I knew this was going to happen! I called it back when I was in Israel. I told everyone that this was going to happen. That’s why I took off. That’s why I left.” (Exodus 34:6) God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. “Kill me now, God!”
God’s first question is a gentle admonishment/correction. In his question, “Do you have any right to be angry?” God is nudging Jonah. It’s like he is saying, “Lets think about this again. Maybe you want to take a step back and assess those emotions again. Do you really want to be angry about what is happening?”
And then Jonah throws a fit and we learn the rest of the story.
(Read verses 5-10)
God lovingly turns up the heat on Jonah. He is trying to get Jonah’s attention. In Hebrews 12:5-6 we learn that God disciplines his children because he loves them. This is exactly what God does. He sends a vine to grow and give shade to Jonah (who apparently was a good prophet but a horrible tent maker). And then God removed the plant and sent wind and bright sun.
            Jonah, stop and listening to what you are saying. God is trying to get your attention.
God then asks the second question in response to Jonah’s dramatic angry outburst. “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” Jonah thinks his anger is justified and is so mad that he wants to die. God reminds him that He is in control and that Jonah had nothing to do with the plant’s growth.
            When I first started studying for this sermon I couldn’t help but step back and say, “Jonah, you are such an idiot. You sound like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum.” And then it hit me. This is me. I was looking into a mirror. Sometimes God uses His word to shine light on the sin in our lives so I want you to look in this mirror with me.
Was his anger justified? No. Let’s look at unjustified or unrighteous anger.  
            a. It was likely fueled by racism. These Assyrian people were not the people of God. In fact, they were enemies of God.
            b. His anger was came from a focus on himself and his comfort than the lost people of Nineveh.
            Sometimes you need to ask yourself: Is this really that important? My pastor growing up used to say: “In light of eternity, how much does this matter?” One time he told the story of how his son was backing up his old pick-up truck out of the barn and accidently ripped off the side mirror. When Max started to get upset his son said, “Dad, in light of eternity, how much is this side mirror really worth?”
Why is unjustified anger so bad?
            1.  Persistent anger that is uncalled for will give the devil a foothold in our lives. When carry anger from one day to the next it will open the door to many other persistent sins in our life.
            2. Festering anger leads to bitterness. Eventually everything makes you angry and you are never happy at all.
            3. Revenge-seeking anger puts you in God’s place as Judge. You are revealing that you need to have control because God will not do anything or that He won’t respond the way you hope for.
            4. Boiling anger shows a total lack of grace. Jonah had just been shown grace and he missed that God was doing the same thing for the Ninevites. Jonah thought that they deserved judgment, but he deserved grace.
Anger is an elevated emotion that can have its root in many places. To find out where it might be in your life ask yourself what topics of conversation causes you to talk faster or to raise your voice? What issues take up most of your energy and time in research and discussion? In what part of life do you have things your way no matter what? What sets you on edge or puts you in a bad mood for hours or days? Personally, there was a time in my life when a Colts lost used to put me in a bad mood for a whole day. It’s so easy to sit here and judge Jonah for his childlike behavior, but then I think, I’ve done the same thing. What causes unrighteous anger in your own life?  
2. There is such a thing as righteous anger. God’s grace wouldn’t mean anything unless He was a holy God that rightly judged the wicked.
So when is anger justified? When we get the heart of God. What makes him angry? Sin.
We see a lot of instances in the Bible where God judges people rightly for their sin. The wages of sin leads to death. And sometimes in the Bible, this happens instantly. Other times the full penalty for sin isn’t administered until after death.
            a. It’s ok to be angry at sin. In Exodus 32:19, Moses burns with anger when he returns from Mt. Sinai and sees the people worshiping a golden calf. God hates idolatry.
            b. Another instance of God’s anger against a city was Sodom and Gomorrah? Why did God destroy the city of Sodom? General wickedness, but also in Ezekiel 16:49-50 we read,  “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” Does this sting a little?
            c. In Exodus we learn that God is concerned with orphans and widows in distress.
            d. God especially hates the shedding of innocent blood.
            e. Anytime that you see mistreatment, injustice, spiritual darkness, or sin of any kind you can get angry. I pray that you get angry at sin in society. A sin in our society that makes me angry is abortion. I know that if it was illegal it would still happen and that making it legal doesn’t make it right. I just wish it didn’t happen at all. I hate that there are 3,700 abortions that take place in our country every day. I hate that Margaret Sanger intentionally placed Planned Parenthood centers in inner cities to target minorities. Where we lived in Chicago there was an abortion clinic (at least we thought it was) and I hated seeing that building. There was another building that was home to the cult of Adida. We used to laugh about it. Until one day a young lady that grew up at ICI got angry and said, “That should not be there. We need to pray that it shuts down.” That is a demonstration of righteous anger that led to a motivation to action. Remember, those people are blind so we don’t hate them. You don’t get made at people that are physically blind so don’t get mad at people that are spiritually blind.
            f. You should be angry at your own personal habitual sin. A sign that you are saved is that you hate the sin that you continue to commit against your loving heavenly Father. If you are happy to continue in your sin and are only anger when you get caught, I would question whether you are saved. We should agree with God that sin is horrible and we should hate sin.
But God is compassionate…
3. God revealed his compassion by sending a storm while Jonah was running away. God showed compassion by rescuing Jonah with a giant fish. God showed compassion to the Ninevites by not sending the destruction like he said.
            Jonah knows about God’s compassion. When the LORD passes in front of Moses he said the line that Jonah quoted early.
            a. In verse 2 we read that God is gracious – that means he longs for and cares for others.
            b. He is compassionate – that means he is tender in his affection.
            c. He is slow to anger – he is patient with sinners. He doesn’t wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
            d. He is abounding in love – that is the loyal, faithful, covenant-keeping love. He does relent from sending calamity, which is why God sent Jonah to them in the first place.
            e. God’s final question to Jonah in verse 11 shows his heart for the lost people of the city. “But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” God is concerned about the lost people. I don’t think he was as concerned about the cattle, but since Jonah was so worried about the worm from before, I think God was making a point with him. Who do you love more? Are you concerned about the animals or the people?
            It reminds me about the scene in the 80’s movie, Ferris Buelers day off. Two HS kids named Ferris and Cameron take Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari and skip school to spend a day in downtown Chicago. The car is very nice. It’s rare. The dad spent years restoring it to perfection. Cameron said that his dad knew how many miles were on it because he never drove it, he just wiped with a diaper every day. At the end of the day, they try to take off the miles but it wasn’t working. And then Cameron starts to say how his dad is going to be so mad and how his dad pushes him around. And then he starts kicking the front of this car and screaming. “Who do you love? Who do you love? You love a car.”
4. Our compassion.
            a. Where is your compassion? Where is your love? Is it for a car? A career? Your house? Your business? Your personal comforts?
            Someone put it this way: in God’s city, the inhabitants love people and walk on gold, while in man’s city, the inhabitants love gold and walk on people. God’s deepest affections are reserved for people. In God’s economy, people come before possessions and projects, not the other way around. 
            b. The question that God asks in this last verse of Jonah is something that I think about. If God is very concerned about this great city so full of lost people, shouldn’t I be concerned also? Shouldn’t you be concerned about the lost people of your neighborhood? I believe God is calling me to plant a new church in a city that needs an evangelical church. It’s not that I don’t care about the people of LEMC or the lost people of our community. I do, which is why it will be hard to leave. But new churches are needed:
            Did you know that in 1950 there were 17 churches for every 10,000 people, but by 2004 there were only 11 churches for every 10,000 people.
            James McDonald reports in his book Vertical Church that 3,800 churches open every year unfortunately 3000 close their doors. Therefore, America gains churches at a net rate of 800/year. However, with population increasing by 4 million every year. We really need to be planting not 800 churches/year, but 10,000 or more really.
             Cities in particular tend to have a much larger ratio of lost people to churches. Did you know that here in Van Buren County there are approximately 1 church for every 500 people. (Very rough estimates) But in Miami-Dade County in southern Florida that number is 1 for every 8000 people. When you narrow those number to evangelical churches you can see why a a place like Pittsburgh is considered “religious” with Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, but is really less than 5% evangelical Christians.
            According to the US Census 80% of the people in the US live in an urban area. And that number continues to grow.
            Is it no wonder that in the US, ¾ of people in this country no meaningful church connection? And that number continues to grow.
            Shouldn’t we be concerned?
            God was concerned about Ninevah.
            God was concerned about Jonah.
            God is concerned about you.
God doesn’t ignore sin. He dealt with sin by transferring it to Jesus Christ on the cross.
            In Matthew 12:41 Jesus used the story of Jonah to foretell how he would die and rise again three days later. He also was trying to show the Jews how they were guilty of rejecting salvation. In Matthew 12:41 he says, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.”
What did he mean? They were both prophets, however Jesus was the very Son of God.
Jonah preached a message of judgment. Jesus preached a message of salvation because of God’s grace.
Jonah could have died at the hands of the blood thirsty Assyrians. Jesus died willingly for the sins of the world.
Jonah’s ministry was to one city. The gospel of Jesus is the power of salvation for the Jew and for the rest of the world.
Jonah obeyed, but it was reluctantly and not from the heart. Jesus always did whatever pleased His heavenly Father.
Jonah didn’t love the people he came to preach to. Jesus had compassion for sinners and proved it by dying on the cross. He even showed love to those who were crucifying him.
Jonah went outside the city hoping that God would be unforgiving and kill them because the Ninevites deserved it. Jesus went outside the city walls to a hill called Golgotha, and willingly died in the place of sinners who deserved it.
Yes, Jesus is greater. It’s only through Jesus’ death that salvation is possible. God spared the Ninevites even though they were great sinners. God didn’t just ignore sin and pretend like it didn’t happen. He sent his one and only Son, Jesus, into this world to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin.  
The compassion of God and the message of Jonah can be summed up with Jonah’s quote in 2:9 from Psalm 3: “Salvation comes from the LORD!”
Praise God.