Category: Sermon Notes

Sermon notes

Galatians Sermon Notes 01

GALATIANS: An Introduction

 Of all of the letters penned by the Apostle Paul, few shine brighter than the Letter to Galatians.   According to much contemporary New Testament scholarship, Galatians is likely the first letter written by Paul, despite its location in our New Testament canon of Scripture.

It may also stand as one of the most important.  Clearly, it is a frontal attack on the insurgent Judaism preying on the early New Testament communities that Paul founded in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.   Paul was alarmed and angry that the Jewish interlopers were feeding on the young sheep in the fold.

A part of his frustration came as these enemies of the faith had begun to erode confidence in the new disciples in HIS credibility as an apostle.  (1:11-2:14). His defense of his apostleship also provides us with an amazing autobiographical sketch of his life and calling.

GALATIA

The letter went to a region of Asia Minor which Paul visited on his first missionary journey.  The name “Galatians” (Gauls) applied to Celtic people, wherever they settled in central Asia Minor.  It is difficult therefore to pinpoint the location of the churches Paul founded and for which this letter was originally intended.

Culturally, the Gauls were considered a warlike and barbarian people.  Uprisings among their tribal groups constantly tormented their Roman conquerors.  In 230 BC, the Gauls were conquered by Greece and contained in the area of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey).  It was considered a victory of Hellenistic civilization over barbarianism. The area was later conquered and annexed by the Roman empire between 6 BC and AD 4.

This said, the area of Galatia had a colorful background.  Hardly known as a cultural center, the people seemed open to receiving the Gospel that Paul preached.  Apparently did not stay long enough in any region of Galatia to firmly establish them in their newfound faith.  No pastor/elder/leader was addressed in the letter, so it may be safely assumed there were none since the missionary team headed by Paul returned intact.

In reading Acts 16:6,  the missionaries Paul and Silas found themselves searching for a place where the Spirit of God had opened a door for them to enter Europe.  They finally did so through Macedonia. (“they went through the Phrygian and Galatic region, having been forbidden to speak the word in Asia”).  From there passage would have been possible into the Galatic region.

Galatia is again mentioned in Acts 18:23 as Paul returned west on the way to speak the Word in Ephesus.  But neither circumstance in Acts 16:6 or 18:23 allow for the possibility that Paul visited the Northern Galatian area, since to do so would have been virtually impossible from Lystra and the Cilician Gates where they started.

This gives birth to what is often referred to as the “South Galatian” theory, which indicates that the Galatian congregations were established on Paul’s first missionary journey.  This in turn is evidence that the letter to the Galatians was written early in Paul’s ministry. In fact, many believe, this was the first letter from the Apostle Paul.

THE GALATIAN PROBLEM

Unlike any other letter from Paul, Galatians begins with urgency and with great energy.  The appeal and question, “who has bewitched you” gives us an idea of the concern Paul feels.   While most pastors would understand using that kind of phrase with one person who wanders from the faith, few of us have had the experience of addressing this to an entire group.

From inferences drawn from the letter itself, we can detect that a group (probably Jewish) had come in and begun teaching that to be true followers of Christ, they must be circumcised.  (This, notably, would have discouraged many from continuing further).

They also taught observance of special days (festivals, Sabbaths) that were peculiar to the Jews.  From Paul’s encounter with Peter in Galatians 2:11-14, we can also see that certain food laws were instituted.

All told, a number of typically Jewish laws and restrictions were being introduced to the new and impressionable Christ followers in Galatia.  This legalistic addition to the Gospel Paul referred to as “another Gospel,” or one which was not a Gospel at all.

Paul’s determination was to clarify the Gospel as he had presented it, to drill down into bedrock the basic claims of the faith, and to refute and reject the claims being made by the Jewish “troublemakers” (his words).

Galatians goes further and deeper into the true purpose of the Law and the place of the Spirit and the evidence of walking in the Spirit in later chapters.  All in all, the deep problems which prompted the letter aside, it is one of the most foundational documents we have in our Bible.

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REFERENCES:

  • Scott, J S, Dictionary of New Testament Background, (IVP)
  • Bruce, FF.  New International Commentary of the Greek New Testament: Galatians
  • Morris, Leon.  Galatians: Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom

Jesus’ Initial Ministry in the World (Part 1)

Book of Signs 

Chapter 1:19-12 (Raising of Lazarus)

“The Early Ministry of Jesus”       (John 1:19-4:54)

One of the really obvious things we encounter when we talk about John’s Gospel and compare it to Matthew, Mark and Luke is that there are some seeming contradictions or conflicts that occur in timeline, and location, or even in repetition of events the other Gospels may have reported occurring only once.

Part of the question involves how we see the issue of the inspiration of Scripture.  Could John have had access to the other Gospels in some written form?  Obviously by the late 90’s the Gospels would have been in circulation for almost forty or fifty years by the time John wrote.

How did inspiration happen?  Did the Holy Spirit just land on them like on Jesus during His baptism and just pour out all the words?  Or was there a sense in which God worked through the Gospel writer’s life experiences and the historic setting of the day?  Did John know he was writing “the Gospel of John” or was he writing for his own reasons?

I think the latter is true.  God worked IN the inspired writer but also THROUGH them to bring the Biblical books into focus.  It was a very Divine process…(“ all Scripture is God-breathed…”) but it was wed with a very human process.  Both were in play.  God’s fingerprints are all over the Gospels, and yet the Holy Spirit limited Himself to the writer’s ability to write, and to the writer’s life experience and the writer’s experience with Jesus and memory of it.

So why would John NOT just repeat all the things MML wrote?  Well two reasons:

  1. They already wrote it and it’s already been said and commonly circulated
  2. John had a totally different purpose and new audience he was targeting

For instance, there’s a lot more material about John the Baptist in John’s Gospel.  That’s because the disciples of John the Baptist were still influencing people in John’s day.  He had to confront that and deal with it as an issue.

So the circumstances drive which content made it into the telling of the story of the Gospel.

i. The Testimony of the First Disciples (John 1:19-51)

The first eighteen verses of John 1 introduce Jesus to us from a Divine perspective.  We learn from the descriptive terms where Jesus came from, why He came, and what would happen when He appeared.

The rest of the Chapter is also an introduction, but this time from a human perspective.  I mentioned there are 22 or 23 titles for Jesus found in John 1.  But the only one Jesus ever chose to use for Himself is the term “Son of Man.”

The human introduction in John 1 covers a period of seven days.  From the ministry of John the Baptist to the wedding of Cana in the beginning of Chapter 2, one week elapses.

A:  The Controversial Ministry of John Baptist

The Jews came (beauraucratic, not the common Jews) to interrogate John as to whether he was claiming to be Messiah.  They essentially asked seven questions: (vv 19-25)

  1. Who are you?
  2. What then?
  3. Are you Elijah?
  4. Are you the prophet?
  5. Who are you?
  6. What do you say about yourself?
  7. Why are you baptizing?

John’s answers were amazing, but humble.  He could have taken offense and gotten angry about their challenges.  But that wasn’t John.  That was why Jesus referred to him as “the greatest in the Kingdom.” (Matt 11:11)

He was humble as a little child.  Their questions were accusatory and condescending.

On Day 2 of this week, Jesus appeared.  (vv 29-34). He was then baptized by John.  John knew seven things about JESUS:

  1. He knew he was to prepare the way for Jesus
  2. He knew that Jesus takes away the sin of the world
  3. He knew he was to show Jesus to Israel
  4. He knew he was to baptize Jesus
  5. He knew Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit
  6. He knew Jesus was the Son of God (of exact character and nature)
  7. He knew Jesus was the son of Mary, were humanely related cousins

What does John teach us about how to be a witness?  (1) Focus on Jesus, not religion, not denomination, not church.  (2) Be humble. (3). Be authentic.  People want to know first if YOU believe this…believe ur belief

Day 3, we encounter the first testimony of the disciples.

They followed Jesus first as a Rabbi, or a religious teacher, when John the B pointed to Him as the Lamb of God.  We see the arrival of the first disciples, Andrew and John.

Day 4, Jesus determines to go on a three day journey to Cana, where a marriage (family member?) was taking place.  On the way (Day 5) He acquired two more disciples, Phillip and Nathaniel.  Jesus poured intently into twelve men.  That says something to us of our own priorities.  Nothing replaces the individual, one-on-one, life on life transformation of discipling people.

Day 6 they traveled and arrived at the wedding in Cana.  Day 7 surrounds Jesus and Mary at the wedding.  The disciples were not just passive.  They were witnesses of the life of Jesus.  (Flying car). They saw Him, heard Him, and watched God work in Him.  They were His witnesses.  So are we.  (“Jehovah’s Bystander”)

ii. The First Sign: Water into Wine   (John 2:1-11)

Jesus is, with this miracle, demonstrating His authority as Creator.  That it is happening at a wedding is significant, because the imagery of wedding, of the Bride and Bridegroom, points to the last chapter of the Bible.

The wedding of a virgin, according to Jewish tradition, would begin on a Wednesday.  That means it was probably Friday or Saturday when Jesus appeared with the disciples.  Weddings were days long in Jewish custom.

Jesus would have been accompanied, by then, by six disciples:  the four we met earlier and then John, the writer of the Gospel, and his brother James.

Ok Jesus was not rude to Mary…”woman” a term of respect…”What do you and I need to do?” “What would you have me do for you?”

Sign….pointing to something better that was coming

Water jars…used for religious ritual; purification 9-10 gallons.

108-180 gallons…miracle of substance but also of time?

Miracle was not for it’s own sake.  It pointed to a greater reality.

Some saw the miracle on it’s face…it was an incredible thing!  But others began to see with eyes of faith that something greater was happening.

iii.  The Temple Cleansing   (John 2:12-25)

If the miracle at Cana’s wedding was a sign of Jesus’ authority over creation, the cleansing of the temple was a picture of Jesus’ authority over the Jewish religion.  This was “HIS FATHER’S” house.

It was Passover; the first that Jesus and His disciples attended in Jerusalem.  For the Jew, attending Jerusalem…particularly Passover… once a year was mandatory if at all possible.  Jesus would probably have been on many other occasions.

While the other Gospels seem to point to only one visit by Jesus to Jerusalem, there are implications, even in the Synoptics, that there were several.

When He cleansed the Temple:

  1. He “cast out” the money changers and their sacrificial animals.  Jesus was making way for the only acceptable sacrifice:  Himself.
  2. He purified the Temple that was representative of His Father’s presence to the nations.  It was not primarily a reminder to the Jews of God’s presence, but a picture to the nations.
  3. He prepared the way for the teaching that HE was the temple…”destroy this temple.”  By now, the temple renovation had been underway 46 years and would not be completed until 63 AD, only to be leveled by the Romans in AD 70.
  4. By His coming, Jesus was “overturning” and “disrupting” the present Jewish system of religion and ritual.  The cleansing here and the week of His passion showed this clearly.
  5. Jesus’ human emotion on clear display here…angry
  6. When the religious authority asked for a sign as His authority to do this, Jesus pointed to His resurrection as the only sign they needed.

iv. Nic at Night. (1,000) (John 3:1-21)

Obviously sincere, but concerned about being seen with such a controversial person, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.  Flashed his resume.

(vv 4-13). The New Birth

(vv 14-21) The Love of God

  1. The Reality of God’s Love. (vv 14-16)
  2. The Reason Jesus Came (vv 17)
  3. The Result of Belief (v 18)
  4. The Response of Man (vv 19-21)

v.  Jesus and John the Baptist  (John 3:22-36)

The Humility of John’s Ministry and Misunderstandings

(vv 22-30)

The Honoring of Jesus

  1. His Supremacy (v 31)
  2. His Testimony (vv 32-34)
  3. His Authority. (vv 35-36)

These statements were from John’s own mouth, reminding those who still insisted on following John as the possible real Messiah, that he was not.

vi. The Samaritan Woman (John 4:1-42)

Jesus departed (“sent Himself away; went away”) from Judea into Samaria.  Jesus rested (“after extreme toil”).  Jesus was human.  He experienced all that we experience, even our temptations, yet without sin.

The Samaritans were despised by the Jews, and had their own temple and their own worship on Mount Gerizim.  This goes back to the history of Israel when the father of King Ahab conquered the hill of Shemer and the center of worship was moved there for the northern Kingdom.  Rabbis taught that “to eat with a Samaritan was to eat swine’s flesh.”  No friendly relationship here!

Jesus transgressed:  Racial distinctions; (Samaritans came from five tribes or people groups in Mesopotamia); religious distinctions (sat and spoke with a Samaritan); gender distinctions (initiated conversation with her).  The truly religious Pharisee would not even speak to his wife in public!

Jesus pointed to Himself as the water of life

Jesus did not condemn this woman, married multiple times

Jesus diagnosed the woman’s emptiness and thirst

Jesus taught about true worship, without condemning her for following the wrong one

  1. Jesus first built the faith of this outcast woman
  2. He then built the faith of His own disciples
  3. Then He built the faith of a Samaritan city

vii.  The Second Sign:  The Nobleman’s Son   (John 4:43-54)

Authentic faith is not spiritual curiosity but commitment

Samaritans were curious about Jesus, but curiosity is not belief.  People today are spiritual…I saw a number of posts the other day after people had the “spiritual” experience of looking at the Wolf Moon.

Authentic faith is not emotional feeling but informed belief

The Nobleman who’s son was dying did not base his son’s survivalon a feeling.  He believed “what Jesus said…”

Authentic faith is not a single decision but a growing dependence

Saving faith is not a momentary flash of emotional experience, but a genuine, trusting and growing dependence upon Jesus as your Lord.  The nobleman first believed in the spoken Word of God as his son was healed.  But then he believed in the incarnate Son of God, and was saved.  This act of faith was placed in contrast to the Galileans who only believed because of the Sign.

John is pointing to a pattern of Jesus’ ministry that modeled the Great Commisson:

  • Jerusalem:  Nicodemus
  • Judea. (4:1-3)
  • Samaria. (4:4-42)
  • Uttermost Parts (4:43-54)—-Gentile nobleman’s son/belief with household

Prologue: John 1:1-18

PROLOGUE   John 1:1-18

“The Revelation of the Word of God”

His Deity  (1:1-2)

“Who Was Jesus?”

How is Jesus to be understood?  Did he stride out of the wilderness 2000 years ago to preach a gentle message of peace and brotherhood? Or did he perhaps advocate some form of revolution?  When did he realize his mission would end with death upon a cross?  Did he view himself to be the promised Messiah?  Did he understand himself to be both God and man?

Ostling, Time

For those who say that Jesus did not see Himself as God, the opening verses of John 1 correct their view.  “Confusion about the deity of Christ is inexcusable, because the biblical teaching regarding it is clear and unmistakeable.  Jesus Christ is the pre-existent Word, Who enjoys full face-to-face communion and divine life with the Father, and is Himself God.” (MacArthur)

It’s important for us to keep straight in our thinking that Jesus was not created.  When He was born in Bethlehem, a body was provided for Him, born of a virgin, conceived by God in Mary’s womb.  “A body you have prepared for me…I have come to do your will O God.” for “When all things began, the Word already was.” (Continuous action)

We have to wrestle a bit with the idea of Jesus as “the Word.” What exactly does that mean?  “Logos” in the Greek, (“logic”) the idea of Jesus as “the Word” of God hits us as a little strange.

What do words do?  Well, words can strengthen a nation for war, as Winston Churchill showed us during WW 2.  Words can change the direction of our lives, as some of you have known when you said, “I do.”

But words also reveal.  God tried to tell us Who He was in the Old Testament.  But here as Jesus enters history and time, He SHOWS us by His Word.

It was by the Word of God that the world, and in fact that all of the material and even spiritual aspects of creation came into existence.  What do we see over and over in Genesis 1?  “And God said….”

Those of us who have used the phrase, “well sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” have never been on the receiving end of a critical parent, or a verbally and emotionally abusive spouse, or have never read hurtful and untrue comments on Facebook that amount to bullying.

Words have power.  The Hebrew people knew this.  They would literally duck if someone starting cursing at them!  Words have power.

To the Hebrew person, words had energy and an independent existence.  It’s still true of folks living in some parts of the east today.

If you have read or heard the story of Isaacs blessing of Jacob which he was deceived into doing, and you hear the “unblessed” brother Esau begging his father for any word of blessing, you see something of this.

Words have consequences.  Jesus said that we would be held accountable to “every idle word” we speak.  We are responsible for the use of our words.

But to the Greek reader, the word “logos” meant “reason” or “wisdom.” It was the “logos” in Greek thought that brought order and meaning to the world.  They never understood what it was or where it came from, but they did not deny it’s existence.

His Creation  (1:3)

God created through His Word, Who was Jesus.  Jesus was the agent of God’s creation, both in the beginning and as Jesus, the Word of God personified and incarnated, the Word of God was inseparable from God as your words are inseparable from you.

Before the world or anything in all creation was brought to existence, Jesus existed.  Jesus was God!  God has always been like Jesus.  One little girl, after encountering some of the more difficult and violent places in the Old Testament, felt the need to defend God’s actions.  “These things happened before God became a Christian!”

Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you have created all things and by your will they were created.”

All things came into existence by Him.  Not a firefly, a sunset, a sunrise or an amoebae exists without Jesus bringing it to life.

His Illumination   (1:4-5)

John now introduced two words that will come back many times in the Gospel. The words are “LIFE” and “LIGHT.”  Jesus does two things by His coming:

1). He brings LIFE.  Jesus is LIFE.  “The wages of sin is death…”  We lost life with God because of sin.  We are separated from God when we are spiritually dead.  Eternal punishment is eternity separated from LIFE with God.  “We are dead in trespasses and sins…but alive because of the grace of God.”  Death, by definition, is “the inability to respond to life.”  Physical death is separation of the spirit or soul from the body.  Life is no longer present.  Jesus came to call that which was formerly dead to life.  A Christian is someone who was once a spiritual corpse but is now alive with resurrected life.

You know, eternal life (and John deals with that term later) begins at salvation and never ends.  It doesn’t stop when your body dies.  Life never returns to death when Jesus brings it.

The word “LIFE” is tremendously important in John’s Gospel.  Thirty five times, the word “zoe” or “life” appears.  Fifteen times the statement “to have life” appears.  Fifty references exist in total about LIFE.

2). He brings LIGHT.  “The light shines in the darkness…”. John uses the word for darkness that means “the realm where God is not loved.” This darkness is a darkness that is the natural realm of those who do not want to do good.”  The light shines in that darkness and brings illumination.  In the letter of 1 John, he talks about those who prefer to stay in the darkness and not walk in the light.   Jesus brought enough light for every man.  No one needs to remain in darkness unless they choose to do so.

His Forerunner  (1:6-9)

John came to point people to the Light that was Jesus.  It’s interesting that people need to be directed to the light.  You would think that people who are walking in darkness would welcome it!  And yet, people don’t do they?  They become accustomed to living in darkness.  Their eyes become acclimated to the dark.  Do you know there are fish that are found in pools of water is some of the deepest, darkest caves that don’t even have EYES?  What do they need eyes for?  There’s nothing to see in the darkness.  But we need to be pointed to the Light, and John makes clear that HE isn’t the Light, but he knows where the Light is, or better, WHO the Light is.

John was “SENT” (apostelo) from God.  One of the big debates among the religious authorities of the time was who John was.  He had huge crowds that would come to the Jordan River, near the wilderness, to hear him preach and see him baptize.  He had a following of disciples that we run into several times later in the New Testament.

Once when Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees over something He did that made them mad, they demanded to know, “Where did you come from?”  Jesus turned the question around on them and said “Was the baptism of John from God or from men?”  This caused them a problem.  If they said, “From man,” the people would riot against them.  But if they said, “From God,” then Jesus would say “then why didn’t you believe what he said about me?”

His Rejection   (1:10-11)

So Jesus came to bring LIFE and LIGHT.  Why would people not want that?  Wouldn’t you want LIFE if you were dead, and LIGHT if you were blind?

But “He came to His own, and His own (People) did not receive Him.” However, their rejection of Him opened the way for the offer of salvation to be offered to “Whosoever will…”. “As many as received Him…”  That’s you.  That’s me.  We are the “whosoever.”. We are the “as many…”

His Offer   (1:12-13)

John uses the word “teknon” to describe our new birth in Christ.

In John 3 when Jesus talks to Nicodemus…(“born again…”)

Paul uses the term “huion” which is more a legal term.  John emphasizes birth into Jesus.  We are regenerated, “born again” into the family of God.

Paul emphasizes the legal phrase because his emphasis on salvation is more focused on adoption than new birth.  Both are different dimensions of the same reality.  We are made new, made part of a new family, a new community, we come into a new relationship with God…no longer as slaves and subjects but as children in a new family.

His Incarnation   (1:14)

Jesus did not come simply to dwell in a human shell.  He BECAME flesh.  When He was born physically through Mary, He received a body that is STILL alive today.  When you go to Heaven one day, you will see the very body of Jesus that was crucified for you, and that was resurrected.

If Jesus wasn’t human He couldn’t be tempted

If Jesus wasn’t human He couldn’t be an example to us

If Jesus wasn’t human He couldn’t die for us.

“…the humanity of Jesus is not a miracle of nature, but a marvel of grace.”

(JI Packer)

His Witness   (1:15-18)

Tabernacle

“pitched his tent”  “set up his tabernacle” among us

Glory

The visible presence of all the excellence of God’s character and nature.  No one could stare directly at the glory.  Often it was accompanied by a dark cloud that kept the glory from blinding those who looked

Fullness of grace and truth….we do not behold Him now through signs and images and symbolism.   Now we behold all the fulness of God (which dwelt bodily in Jesus).  Everything you will ever need to see and know of God is seen bodily // physically in Jesus.

  1. The Gospel is a rescue story, and Jesus is the rescuer
  2. The Gospel is a promise and Jesus is the fulfillment of it
  3. The Gospel is a grace story, and it is grace that leads us home

Cowper “God Works in a Mysterious Way”.  Struggled with depression, and guilt, and darkness his whole life.  On Jan 1, 1773 Cowper tried to commit suicide.  It was also on Jan 1 1773 that John Newton’s congregation sang the song “Amazing Grace” for the first time!  Newton wrote the stanza that said, “Through many dangers, toils and snares…”  with his friend, William Cowper in mind.  He had tried numerous times to convince Cowper that all of his sin had been covered by the grace of God.  He had hoped that singing the stanza of this song Newton had just written would persuade his friend to trust in the grace of God.

Introduction to the Gospel of John Part 2

The Prologue

The Word became flesh….”. Christianity is a strange religion.  It is a religion of a sort, but it doesn’t tell us how to find God.  It doesn’t even tell us how to escape the world, as in “this world is not my home.”

It is actually the story of how God, our Creator, entered our world through a body of flesh in the person of Jesus the Christ.  Jesus is the full Presence of God in our midst and in our world Who came to dwell with us.

OUTLINE OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

  1. Jesus, the Eternal, Incarnate Word of God  (John 1:1-18)
  2. Jesus’ Initial Ministry in the World  (John 1:19-10:42)
  3. The Preparation for the Crucifixion  (John 11:1-12:50)
  4. Preparation of the Disciples for Jesus Death  (John 13:1-17:26)
  5. Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection   (John 18:1-20:31)
  6. Epilogue: The Restoration of Peter Authentication of the Gospel  (John 21:1-25)

PROLOGUE                 John 1:1-18

“The Revelation of the Word of God”

  • His Deity                      (1:1-2)
  • His Creation                 (1:3)
  • His Illumination            (1:4-5)
  • His Forerunner            (1:6-9)
  • His Rejection               (1:10-11)
  • His Offer                      (1:12-13)
  • His Incarnation            (1:14)
  • His Witness                 (1:15-18)

Introduction to the Gospel of John Part 1

Who was the Author?

Without getting into the deep weeds of the debate, let me just say that there has been quite a bit of disagreement about exactly which “John” was the writer of this Gospel.

  • John the son of Zebedee (brother of James)
  • John the Elder
  • Disciples of John the Apostle wrote down the things he said

Only self-reference to author is “the disciple whom Jesus loved” or “the beloved disciple.”

Many of the eye-witness accounts are first-hand, inner circle kinds of reports

While it is safe for us to say that the beloved disciple was John son of Zebedee, other Biblical authorities make a case for this being a different John.  But there is ample references to make us fairly confident that John was one of the “sons of thunder,” the sons of Zebedee though other sources indicate it could have been a “John” who was not an apostle but who also followed Jesus and later became a church leader named “John the Elder.”

Why was John Written?

  • Gnosticism growing in influence: Pushing back against false theology
  • Provide a more non-Jewish theological framework
  • Fill in gaps in timeline and events not recorded before
  • Give an identity to an exiled community of Christians

What are the Distinctives?

 

What’s Missing?

Much if not all of the Galilean ministry of Jesus is missing

What’s Added?

  • Miracles:
    • Water into wine
    • Healing of man at Pool of Siloam
    • Conversion of woman at the well
    • Encounter with adulteress woman
    • Raising of Lazarus
  • Discourse at Lord’s Supper (Chapters 13-16)
  • Prayer in Chapter 17
  • Encounter with Peter in John 21

The Key Words in John

  • Life
  • Witness
  • Light
  • Truth
  • Believe
  • I Am
  • Father
  • Spirit

The “Signs” in John

  • Water into wine (John 2:1-11)
  • Healing of Capernaum officer’s son (John 4:46-54)
  • Healing of paralytic at Bethesda (John 8:1-15)
  • Feeding 5,000 (John 6:5-14)
  • Jesus walking on water (John 6:16-24)
  • Healing the blind man (John 9:1-7)
  • Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-48)

The “I Am” Statements

  • I AM the bread of life (John 6:35)
  • I AM the light of the world (John 8:12)
  • I AM the door of the sheep (John 10:7)
  • I AM the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
  • I AM the good shepherd (John 10:11)
  • I AM the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)
  • I AM the true vine (John 15:1)

01 Introduction & Survey of the Gospels

INTRODUCTION AND SURVEY OF THE GOSPELS

Wednesday Night Series 2021

To quote Elvis, “It’s now or never…”  I have long wanted to try to do something like this, but really haven’t had the chance.   I’m running a risk here, because this is not a light-weight devotional class.  In other words, I’m not laboring here to try and make you feel good or give you chills.  I want to teach, much like I’ve taught college classes, and my thought is this is going to “thin the crowd” a bit.  I don’t blame you.  It’s hard work, but I think if you hang in you’ll find it rewarding, and it will change the way you see the Gospels.

So I’m going to pray, and if you want to kind of slip out nobody is going to judge you for it.

I will say that this session will be a little different than the rest.  This is a general intro to the Gospels.  Next week and for the rest of our sessions up until Easter, we are going to focus on an Introduction and Survey of the Gospel of John.

Manuscript Evidence

Inspiration and Revelation

1 Timothy 3:16

2 Peter 1:20

Preservation and Transmission

What about the “Other” Gospels?

 The four Gospels we have are not the only Gospels in existence.  We know, for instance, that there was a Gospel of Judas and a Gospel of Thomas, neither of which made it into our canon (list of approved books) of New Testament Gospel accounts.  There were a number of other gospels circulated, especially later in the first century when the Gnostics began writing Gospels that fit their teaching.

There’s a lot of discussion about Councils and church authorities (bishops, overseers, etc) who decided which books were included in the New Testament.  But their decisions were not based on votes and behind closed door discussions.  Those present in the decision making were pastors of churches, representing regions of churches and people who had traveled broadly.  One of the first criteria to be evaluated was, “is this book used widely in the churches?”  The Spirit of God used the people of God and His church to determine which books bore witness to the truth.  After the canon was closed, no other books were included even though other Gospels were being written.

What Are the Gospels?

Gospels are NOT NECESSARILY biographies of Jesus

If they were biographies, we would have a great deal of detail about His life from age 12 to 30, and we have none (though some of the rejected gospels offer thoughts:  one said that when Jesus was an adolescent, people saw Him healing wounded birds).  (Others said when He walked on the sand, He didn’t leave footprints).

But even with FOUR Gospels we have major gaps in the timeline of His time on earth.

If they’re biographies they aren’t thorough ones.

Gospels are WITNESSES to Jesus

Do the Gospels agree?  Not word for word.  But they do not contradict each other.

“The car swerved off the road and hit a tree.”
“A tire went flat and caused the car to swerve off the road and into a tree.”
“One of the front tires blew out and caused the car to swerve….”
“The right front tire blew out and caused the car to wreck.”

Which statement is correct?  All of them.  Four people saw an accident, but from four different angles.  They see the same event, but don’t describe it in the same way.  Yet there is no contradiction.

The New Testament Problem:  Gospels as Apologetic

Each of the Gospels had a different purpose and focus, with a different audience in view.  Some of the Gospels are heavy weighted toward a Jewish audience.  Others clearly aren’t.

For instance, Luke’s Gospel is addressed to a Hellenistic Roman individual named “Theophilus.”  By his name, we know he is a “lover of God,” so he was at least introduced by his parents to God.  But some believe he was the judge who was deciding Paul’s fate, and Luke (who traveled with Paul as a doctor and historian) was offering an educated and detailed defense and explanation of Who Jesus was (in Luke) and how Paul had come to be arrested (in Acts).

Authorship and Dating of the Gospels

The dating of the various books is a matter of great controversy and debate. However, we can generally date them as follows:

  • 1 BC–1 AD The birth of Christ
  • AD 30/33 The death and resurrection of Jesus
  • AD 48–67 The letters of Paul
  • AD 55–75 The Gospel of Mark
  • AD 60s–80s The Gospels of Matthew and Luke
  • Late AD 60s–80s The Gospel of John13
  • AD 60s–90s The General Epistles and Revelation14

Focus of the Gospels

  • Matthew: Jesus as Rightful King
  • Mark: Jesus as Son of Man
  • Luke: Jesus as Son of God
  • John: Jesus as Word of God:  Word made flesh…

 

GOSPEL OF JOHN—Intro Comments

Begin at the end:  John 20:30-31

What do we need to believe?

“That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God”

That Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT promises

    • Genesis 3–a child born to put things right
    • Psalm 2–all injustice will end
    • Isaiah 55–suffering servant
    • Daniel 7–“one like a son of man”

That Jesus is God

What does it mean to believe?

Not “belief in belief”

Not intellectual assent

“I believe that bridge can hold my weight”

Belief is walking across the bridge

Belief means to trust…to put your full weight down

Why do we need to believe

That you may have life, and life everlasting

    • John 1:4
    • John 3:16
    • John 5:24
    • John 11:25-26
    • John 14:6

 

Keeping In Step With The Spirit

KEEPING IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT

Galatians 5:22-26

It is our nature as Christians to produce fruit.  Spiritual fruit.  We don’t strain to do it—we don’t go to “fruit bearing” seminars.  We can’t learn to produce fruit watching a self-improvement or personal growth videos on YouTube.

We just do.  IF… our inner nature is truly the life of Jesus.    But let’s explore what this fruit is, that every believer in Christ should be bearing.  What does it look like as it is lived out?

“Fruit is the result of a long organic and living process.  The process is complex and intricate.  Fruit is not something made, manufactured, or engineered.  Fruit is the result of a life of faith created by God.  We do not produce fruit by our own effort.  We do not purchase it from another.  It is not a reward for doing good deeds, like a merit badge, a gold medal, a blue ribbon.  Fruit is simply there.”

Let’s review for a few moments what we said last week about fruit:

The fruit of the Spirit is SINGULAR, not PLURAL.  Not “fruits” of the Spirit.  All the fruit grows out of the same tree and root system.  The fruit of the spirit is more like a bouquet of beautiful flowers than just a sprig of daisies here or a rose there.  It’s symmetrical.

2). The fruit of the Spirit is AVAILABLE, not AUTOMATIC.  Just because it’s there in potential doesn’t mean we always avail ourselves of it.  There are certain conditions that must be met, just as we fertilize and water and keep the plant in sunlight.   “Keep in step with the Spirit.”

3). The fruit of the Spirit is VISIBLE, not UNSEEN.  If the Spirit of the Lord is in you, if you are “abiding in the vine,” “keeping in step with the Spirit,” then these characteristics will be evident in your life.  They will be seen by you and by others.

4). The fruit of the Spirit is GRADUAL, not SUDDEN.  No botanical or biological growth is sudden in nature.  You maybe suddenly NOTICE it, but it’s been coming on for a while.  And let’s be clear.  Like fruit or vegetables or oak trees, you can’t see the growth until it’s there.  It’s a mysterious process.  Be careful about judging your own fruit production or another’s.  Let me also say that the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t save us.  We are saved by grace through faith, not fruit.  But it’s equally true that a fruitless faith doesn’t save us either.  A true Christian will produce fruit.

5). The fruit of the Spirit is ORGANIC, not ARTIFICIAL.  The fruit of the Spirit is simply the character and nature of Christ being reproduced in you.   The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to point people to Jesus.  So, the work of the Holy Spirit is to form Christ in us and give expression of Jesus through us.

These character traits cannot be forced.  We are never commanded to “bear fruit” although every one of these characteristics is commanded somewhere in the Bible!   But it’s not something you can make happen.  This is not multiple choice, nor is it a self-help program.  If you are bearing spiritual fruit, it is evidence you are connected to the vine.  And if not, it’s because you are out of step with the Spirit.

When you set up your Christmas trees this year, there is one thing you will not do.  You will not examine your artificial tree for fruit, will you?

Why not?  It looks like a tree.  You may even spray it with something that makes it smell like a tree or hang ornaments on it that look like apples or oranges.  But it’s not real.  My Mom used to have some plastic shiny fruit ornaments that she’d put on our artificial tree.  (pic). But we knew they didn’t grow out of the plastic tree.   Only a living, organic tree or plant has that capacity.

THE FRUIT OF THE FLESH

We sometimes produce rotten fruit.  We detailed that last week.  Let’s remember that we are to live with our flesh crucified, and our lives in step with the Spirit.  If either of those are not true, if we are living to gratify ourselves, then this is how we know.  This is an ugly list.  They are characteristics that destroy life and destroy relationships.  And if we are seeing these rotting, fleshly things as characteristics or hanging on us as a normal part of our life, it should serve as a huge warning sign to us.

THE PROOF OF SPIRITUAL FRUIT

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Love, Joy, Peace:    Godward

This has to do with how we relate to God, and how He relates to us.

We start with the fruit of LOVE, which, I believe begins the list because all the other fruit flows from love.  We are to love one another.  We love because He first loved us.  The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.

But then we come to joy.  Joy is actually irrational and comes independent of our outer circumstances.  Happiness has to do with our circumstances being in a good place around us.  Joy comes despite those.

A man told about his friend who was a believer and had been hospitalized for a brain tumor.  One of his attending PA’S came into the room to speak to him, and wrote on his chart, “The patient seems to be inappropriately joyful.”  Isn’t that awesome!  “Inappropriately joyful!”  The joy of the Lord makes no sense to a lost world. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”

And after the fruit of love and joy comes peace.  If there is a woman listening named “Irene,” you were given a Greek name.  Your name means “peace” or “peaceful.”  That might have been the intent of your parents who named you, hoping you would live up to your name, “Irene: peace.”

Do you have peace?  Most of this world doesn’t.  Most of the world simply has stress.  Stress as a condition was only identified by psychologists in the mid-1950’s.  Before that, the term stress meant something entirely different.  But now, it’s the common condition of most people: “You stress me out.  I’m so stressed.”

Having inner peace is a prized condition to find.  How much would most people give just to have peace?  We look for it our whole lives, but right here is the answer we need.  God will give us the peace we are lacking.  “We have peace with God…and peace from God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  We have peace with God, that was brokered for us at the cross of Jesus and by the payment of His blood.

The problem with humanity is simply the “a-b-c’s:” We are ALIENATED from God, BROKEN because of our sin, and in CONFLICT inside of ourselves and with everyone else because we have no peace with God.  But one of the fruit borne by the believer is this “peace that passes understanding,” that guards of our hearts and minds.

All of this comes about as we relate to God.

Patience, kindness, goodness:  External fruit (toward others).

This is the social dimension of the fruit of the Spirit.  It has to do with how we relate to people around us.   We relate, first, with patience.  Patience is long suffering toward those who aggravate us and frustrate us.  You don’t need to have patience for people who don’t aggravate and frustrate you do you?   “Love suffers long…”  It’s more than simply “grinning and bearing it”

The patience being described here is a God-given grace that the Holy Spirit puts in us and marks us by it.   Some people seem to be more patient externally, but inside they are seething while they’re smiling on the outside.  That’s patience as humans practice it.  It’s just a mask.  The patience that is the fruit of the spirit is far more positive.

Then there’s kindness, which is really a disposition of attitude.  There was a sense in which Jesus was kind to people and they saw that kindness flow from Him.  It attracted children to Him.  The opposite of kindness is crankiness, irritability, a critical attitude, or complaining.  Kindness is welcoming of people.  By nature, we are not kind.  We push people away.

While kindness is an attitude, goodness is an action.  It’s words we speak and actions that are consistent with what is right and good.  The word “good” is actually derived from “god.”  When you tell your kids to “be good” you’re actually telling them to be like God!  To be “good” is to reflect the kind of things that God would do.  Goodness has to do with behaving ethically, righteously, and justly in line with God’s description of what is good and right.

One of the ways we are “good” is when we forgive those who wrong us.  (Woman caught in adultery—Jesus’ disposition was kind and He was good to her).

This fruit pointed toward others seeks their best and puts up with their worst.  Only God can produce that capability in us!

Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control:  Internal fruit

This third grouping of fruit is the quality and grace that allows us to live out a godly life.  Remember again that none of these nine qualities are something we self-produce.  God by His Spirit produces them in us, and as we “walk in the Spirit” or “keep in step with the Spirit” they will flow naturally from us.

“Faithfulness” is the quality of being a person who can be depended upon, whether that is faithfulness in your marriage, or just the integrity of keeping your word.  Faithfulness keeps you showing up because you said you would!

“Gentleness” is sometimes translated “meekness.” But it’s actually the ability to restrain strength.  We have a brother who works with our preschool children who spent his career in construction as a carpenter.  He is physically strong, but his strength is restrained and the children are drawn to his gentleness.

“Self-control” is the ability to restrain those urges that would cause you to veer off into sin if you “let go.”  Every person has characteristics that need to be constrained and controlled; every person has temptations that you have to continually say “no” to expressing.

This fruit is the grace God gives us to align our lives with the life He wants us to know and gives us strength to say NO to the wrong thing even when it’s very tempting to us.  We are no longer slaves to our sin.  We have the grace of self-control.

IN CONCLUSION

So, we don’t have to live a life consumed by the pursuit of things that never satisfy.  We can live a fruitful life, that attracts a lost world to us.  But it begins by (1) SURRENDERING to God and then (2) SUBMITTING to the control of the Holy Spirit in our lives. (3) STAYING in step with the Holy Spirit.  “Walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

RESET: The Holy Spirit

How many of you have ever had to learn to march in step?  Some did in the military; some of us did in band.  I learned in the band.  8-5…eight steps every five yards.  Start with the left foot.  Ankle to the knee… I weighed 145 pounds in my junior year of high school.  I carried a brass sousaphone on the marching field…it weighed around 40 pounds.  I had to make a strategic decision in marching season:  continue standing up while holding the sousaphone, or actually play it.

But I also got yelled at…a lot…for being out of step.   Again, I was focused on breathing…not marching.  We’d watch game day films of our performances and I would get called out for being out of step…a lot.  Hard to hide when you’re carrying a tuba!  The band was no place for a renegade, I quickly learned.

I want us to look at a section of the Book of Galatians over the next few weeks together.

It’s kind of a teaser for a larger study we’ll do in the spring.  But today I want us to look at what it means to “keep in step” with the Holy Spirit, as we think about RESETting this topic.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

On the whole, we have an uneasy relationship with the Holy Spirit as Baptists.  Ever fearful that we’ll be mistaken for charismatics or Pentecostals, we have gone in the opposite direction of just not dealing with this One Who is the Third Person of the Godhead.

And yet the Bible just won’t let us sidestep this subject.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was referred to as the “ruach,” which is Hebrew for “wind” or “breath” or “breeze.”  It was the “ruach” of God that was brooding over the face of the deep in the creation account in Genesis 1.  It was the “ruach,” the “breath” of God that was breathed into Adam at creation.

And it was the “Ruach” of God that blew on the Day of Pentecost as 120 disciples in Jerusalem were filled with the Spirit and began speaking in languages they had never learned.

In the Old Testament, the “ruach” of God would fall on certain people chosen for a task.  Kings or priests or prophets would have the Holy Spirit for a time, but they could lose the Spirit by their disobedience.  This prompted part of David’s confessional prayer in Psalm 51 when he pleads with God to “take not your Holy Spirit “ruach” from me.”

As Christians, the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ) indwells us when we come to Christ for salvation and the forgiveness of sins.  The Spirit of God lives in us, (regeneration) and we become “temples of the Holy Spirit.”  And because of Christ’s work on the cross on our behalf, the Spirit of God never forsakes us, even if we fail.  We can “grieve” the Spirit or “quench” the Spirit, but we cannot lose the Spirit.

“All who are children of God have the Spirit of God.”   ROMANS 8:14-15

In 1 Peter 2:21 we are told that we are to “follow in the steps” of Jesus. Now this is not suggesting that we just try really hard to imitate Jesus’ life.  We do not live the Christian life by imitation, but by identification.   When we trust Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit then baptizes us into Jesus…identifies us with Him in His death, burial and resurrection.  We then receive His power, His presence that allows us to live out the Christian life.

And so, we are to “walk in the Spirit.”  This means “keep in step” with the Spirit in every part of our life.  We are told elsewhere to do the same.  The Christian life is a walk with Jesus…every day and through every experience.  Sometimes the word “walk” means the actual movement of our feet and legs and arms, representing our daily activity.  But here it means “to keep in step, follow a leader or follow a rule.”

The Holy Spirit actually does four things in us:

The Spirit of God helps us to overcome

We CAN NOT overcome our sinful nature by keeping the Law.  Now the Law is good…it reveals God to us and reveals our need for salvation.  Earlier in Galatians Paul writes, “The Law is our schoolmaster leading us to Christ.”  But the Law…your own good efforts…is powerless to save you.  When we come to Jesus, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit Who comes to live inside of us. And it is then that we can begin to overcome the flesh.  Every Christian has a civil war going on inside.  We are continually in a war between our old person and the presence of Jesus Christ in us.  As Carl Sandburg said, “There is an eagle in me that wants to fly but there is also a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.”

There is a spiritual presence in you if you’re in Christ Who wants you to fly like an eagle, but the old hippopotamus still lives inside.  The Holy Spirit wants to let the eagle fly.  Your flesh still wants to hang out with the hippo.  The reality is, you now have a choice about what you choose to do if the Spirit of God lies in you.  A person without the Spirit lives for the desires of their flesh, and they’re in slavery to it!  But through the Holy Spirit, we can OVERCOME the flesh.

The Spirit of God guides us. 

Jesus said, “When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, will guide you in all truth.”  Through the Holy Spirit, the Bible suddenly makes sense.  He opens our eyes to things we’ve never noticed and never understood about the Bible.  But He also leads us in everyday decisions, and He leads us to do His will.  “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”

Have you ever simply said, “Lord, whatever it is, whatever it costs, I just want to do your will.”  In 1979, I knelt beside my bed in an apartment in Williamsburg, Ky and prayed that prayer.  For some reason I vividly remember praying that.  It was on New Year’s Eve.  Pam was working that night.  I was alone.  I was struggling with God’s will for my life.  But it was almost like God said, “OK.  I hear you.”  I felt a tremendous sense of relief when I did that.  And I remember it like it just happened, 42 years later.   God wants to lead you if you’ll follow.

The Spirit of God reveals the presence of sin in us: 

The Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement.  When the Holy Spirit is living in us, He points out when we get “out of step” with the Spirit.  We are given a list of what a life “out of step” with God’s Spirit looks like.   We’ll take this list on in more detail next week, but for now let’s allow The Message paraphrase to bring it home for us

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you; you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.”

Galatians 5:19-21 MSG

By no means an exhaustive list, but certainly an exhausting one!  Those who live this way find death and despair, defeat, and depression all the while being deceived by the flesh into thinking “this is really life!”  But the Holy Spirit tears the scales off our eyes, so we can see that this kind of behavior leads to death, not life.  You may find yourself getting out of step every now and then, but the Holy Spirit prompts you and reminds you “hey, you’ve been here before and you were miserable…why are you back rummaging through the garbage again?”

It’s like you going to the grocery store, hand-selecting the best organic meats and dairy products and produce, making fresh bread but you have a child that keeps slipping away from the table and going out to the garbage can, tearing open the bags and eating spoiled meats and drinking soured milk.  You would immediately be aware that there’s some problem, right?

But spiritually this is what we do when we prefer the rotten fruit of the flesh life to the fresh fruit God provides us.  And we are warned, if you keep “practicing” that, you’re going to die: “You will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

The Spirit of God produces the righteousness of God through us

By their fruit will you know them…. (Matthew 7:20)

The fruit the Spirit produces:

What you are inside will come out of you.  Especially when you get squeezed.  The pressures and problems of life are opportunities to prove what you possess.  When you are treated spitefully but you respond with love, well you know that’s not you doing that, right?  When things are not going well but joy comes out…. when the storm is raging but you have peace…

Now we don’t go to an apple tree and expect to find watermelons.  It’s the nature of the apple tree to bear apples.  What’s inside the tree will come out.  “By their fruit…”  You don’t need to try and bear fruit.  You just will if your inner nature is home to the Holy Spirit.  If it’s not…well, you’ll know.  And so, will everyone else.

(SPECIAL NOTE:  So grateful for ideas provided by some messages preached by my friend Stephen Rummage and a classic book by JI Packer entitled “Keeping in Step with the Spirit.”)

RESET: The Church

RESET: The Church

Matthew 16:13-20

I love the church.  I haven’t always.  Like some of you, I rejected “institutional religion” when I was younger.  But when I came back, I came back with a passion and with a mission.

I love the church.  It’s flawed, it’s sometimes ugly, it is far from perfect, and sometimes hurts and alienates the very ones it should help. Yet in spite of the flaws and problems there is something that Jesus sees in us and loves so much.  Listen.  You may see all the problems, and divisiveness, and sheer stupidity enacted in the name of the church.  But that’s not the church.  That’s people using the church for their own agenda.

I have seen the church operate with a lot of resources on massive scale, and I have seen small gatherings of believers in poverty come together and share life and love each other.  I got to preach the first public service for a body of believers in Sophia, Bulgaria that met in a nearly abandoned hotel.  I’ve preached in a church that met in an apartment in New Jersey where 40 or 50 people and two or three cats crowded.  Harvest City Church in New Jersey met in a Mexican restaurant before Covid hit.   None of these churches had money. None owned a building.  They had no social clout. But they had a confession:  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  It’s an incredible and beautiful thing when we see what Jesus intended His church to be.  Let me pull back the curtain for a moment.

1). The expression of Jesus’ presence on earth

We are the body of Christ.  The bride of Christ.  We are members of Christ and of one another.  We need each other.  85% of Americans say you can have a healthy, flourishing spiritual life without ever going or belonging to a church.  I don’t know which Bible they got that from, but it’s not in the one I use.  The same Bible that tells you Jesus is the only way to eternal life tells you that your physical involvement in the body is not optional, but essential!  It is not an individual deal; it is a relationship with one another.  (One another’s)

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament*

  1. “Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
  2. “Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
  3. “Love one another.” (John 13:34a)
  4. “Love one another.” (John 13:34b)
  5. “Love one another.” (John 13:35)
  6. “Love one another.” (John 15:12)
  7. “Love one another.” (John 15:17)
  8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” (Romans 12:10)
  9. “Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
  10. “Live in harmony with one another.” (Romans 12:16)
  11. “Love one another.” (Romans 13:8)
  12. “Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
  13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” (Romans 15:7)
  14. “Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)
  15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (Romans 16:16)
  16. “When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)
  17. “Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)
  18. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)
  19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)
  20. “Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
  21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other … you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)
  22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking, and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)
  23. “Carry each other’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2)
  24. “Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
  25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  26. “Forgiving each other.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
  28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
  29. “In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
  30. “Do not lie to each other.” (Colossians 3:9)
  31. “Bear with each other.” (Colossians 3:13)
  32. “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
  33. “Teach … [one another].” (Colossians 3:16)
  34. “Admonish one another.” (Colossians 3:16)
  35. “Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)
  36. “Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)
  37. “Encourage each other.”(I Thessalonians 4:18)
  38. “Encourage each other.” I Thessalonians 5:11)
  39. “Build each other up.” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
  40. “Encourage one another daily.” (Hebrews 3:13)
  41. “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
  42. “Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
  43. “Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)
  44. “Don’t grumble against each other.” (James 5:9)
  45. “Confess your sins to each other.” (James 5:16)
  46. “Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
  47. “Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)
  48. “Live in harmony with one another.” (I Peter 3:8)
  49. “Love each other deeply.” (I Peter 4:8)
  50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
  51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” (I Peter 4:10)
  52. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” (I Peter 5:5)
  53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)
  54. “Love one another.” (I John 3:11)
  55. “Love one another.” (I John 3:23)
  56. “Love one another.” (I John 4:7)
  57. “Love one another.” (I John 4:11)
  58. “Love one another.” (I John 4:12)
  59. “Love one another.” (II John 5)

Love one another 16 times.  Greeting with kiss 5 times.  Encourage each other 5 times.

Can I be real with you for a moment?  Our message to the world is not believed because our love inside the church is not supernatural, Jesus birthed love.  The world will know we’re Christians because of our love for one another.

2). The extension of Jesus’ mission in the world

I’ve told you before that churches are like cruise ships, whose mission is making the customer, the traveler on the ship, comfortable.  Right?  Been on a cruise ship before?  It’s all about you, isn’t it?

But churches are not cruise ships.  They are aircraft carriers.  We are on this planet to carry out a mission, and the mission is to move against the enemy who is occupying this world.  We don’t exist to see what a nice experience we can have while we’re here.   We exist to pay the price necessary to do the mission.  Why does an aircraft carrier exist?  I spent 24 hours on the USS Enterprise a few years ago and let me assure you:  They do not exist to make ANYONE comfortable!  They exist primarily to launch jets into their mission; refuel them, rearm them, and send them out again.  And EVERYBODY on that ship knew that!

WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT THE CHURCH?

In Matthew 16, Jesus took the disciples to a place called Caesarea Philippi.  The Romans had renamed a city known as Paneios, named for the Greek god Pan, after Caesar Augustus.  Paneios was a place of pagan worship and of much idolatry.  The altar to Caesar was just one more “god” on the religious buffet.

So, when Jesus stopped in Caesarea Philippi and asked this question, He asked it in this marketplace of false deities and pagan religious ideas.  “Who do men say that I am?”. “Who do YOU say that I am?”. (“Y’all”)

While Peter’s answer gave a framework to how the church would be grounded (“You are the Christ…”) the church was not born until Acts 2.  But Jesus told the disciples some important things about the church before it became a reality.

1). The church is an organism, not an organization

The word “church” (ecclesia) was not a Biblical word.  It was actually used of a special group of Roman citizens who were called out from the general populace to legislate on behalf of the Roman government.  The ecclesia represented the power and authority of the Caesar granted to the citizens of the empire.

The church is not just a group of folks who gather together on Sunday morning to sing, and go to groups, and fellowship for an hour.  The church is the official representation of the Kingdom of God on earth.  It is the place where eternity speaks into history, and heaven speaks to earth.  The principles, the laws, and purposes of the Kingdom and of our King Jesus are to be spoken and to address earth from heaven.  We are legally authorized by God to be this voice.  We are not a self-improvement society or a self-help organization.  We speak with God’s authority through His Word.  The church is like the embassy of heaven.

The church was never organized.  It was born.  Jesus gave it birth upon Peter’s confession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son…”. Upon this rock I will build my church.  “Petra,” the word Jesus used to refer to Simon Peter, is a small stone…usually a group of stones.  Connected stones.

What material does Jesus use to build His church?  1 Peter 2:9, we are called “living stones” being built into a “spiritual temple.”  Any brick or stone in a wall is resting on a foundation of other stones or bricks under it, and it has other bricks or stones resting on it.  It is an interdependent process, and as it says, “being built,” a continual process.

If you pull yourself out, something that was leaning on you or needs to lean on you for support will be lacking.  God is building us together with one another!  The wall is stronger as all the bricks are in place.

2). The church belongs to Jesus, not to us.

“I will build my church.” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus is the builder.  We are the building blocks. Jesus is the owner.  We are the servants.  Jesus is the cornerstone.  We are the “petras” stones; the little stones.   Jesus is the Rock.  Big R.

3). The church will prevail, not fail

I know the number of churches reported closing year to year (about 5-6 thousand) might sound like the church is on life support.  It isn’t. The pandemic did not stop the church.  A virus can’t kill the church that Jesus died to form.  The communist regime in power in China right now is seeking to stop the church by tearing down the buildings where they meet, but they can’t tear down the living stones that make the church what it truly is!

The gates of hell will not stand against the church.  We get this image wrong sometimes, I think.  We see this as a picture of the church all huddled up in a sanctuary together with hell pounding at the door trying to get in.  But the “gates of hell” is representative of the legal authority of hell.

The gates, in the Bible, was the place where legal matters were discussed and decided.  Hell has no authority to advance.  The church has that authority.  (Keys of the kingdom…not given to a government.  Any government.  Given to the church). The Kingdom of God will arrive, not through any government or man-made entity, but through the church.

Jesus gave us a picture of the church victorious moving against the gates, or strongholds, of hell in the world!  Hell cannot stand up against the forward progress of God’s church.  Let’s say this again.  Jesus is building His church and it can’t be stopped.  Hell wants to stop it.  You’re on the victorious side of the conflict.  Hell can’t stop what God is doing.

  1. You do not love Jesus passionately if you don’t love His church
  2. You cannot serve Jesus effectively if you refuse to serve His church
  3. You cannot follow Jesus obediently if you reject His church.

Patrick McGinnis, a FOBO:  Fear of better options.  Leads to indecision, regret, and lower levels of happiness.  Make a decision.  You can literally attend one church a week for over three years just in the metro Jacksonville community and still not be in all of them.  You ready to do that?

 

RESET: The Gospel

RESET: The Gospel

Nov 6 will mark for me the 28th year of my first visit to Fruit Cove, Florida.  I came to preach for you the first time with a carefully chosen, and carefully prepared message.  I would never have preached a message like I’m about to bring today.  THIS is outside of my comfort zone.  But I am called by God (and by name, “Timothy, do the work of an evangelist”) (1 Corinthians 15:1-7)

I have said for years that one of the most helpful things I’ve ever learned about ministry came from an older African American pastor I heard once at a conference when I was just beginning in ministry, almost forty years ago.  He told this gathering of preachers I was attending two things that stayed with me throughout my ministry: “The secret of a great message is have an engaging introduction, a stirring conclusion, and keep the two as close together as possible.”  “Gentlemen, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

As a younger pastor, I nodded my head in agreement.  His comments came from the Apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15, where he said under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, “For I delivered unto you that which was of first importance (or, the main thing): Namely, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and He rose again on the third day.” In our written record called The Bible, this was the earliest formal statement about the resurrection of Jesus.

That was the main thing.  It should be easy, right?  Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t get distracted by tertiary, secondary, temporal issues.  Don’t veer off the road.  Don’t die on hills that don’t matter in eternity.  “The way is straight, and the gate is narrow…”

And yet, being in ministry for four decades, I fight continually to keep my eyes on the main thing.  And it’s not just MY need to stay focused on the main thing.  It’s helping the church focus on the main thing, too.  We get distracted by many things, and not just distracted.  We allow these things to become more important than the Gospel.

We drift from what is most important.  It’s not sudden.  It’s gradual. When we drift from the essential thing, the main thing, other secondary things will come in to take the place of “that which is of first importance.”  I’m going to call out 3.  But they are the areas I see over and over again where people take good things and make them ultimate things.

Our Worship preferences (music, style, dress, times):  When our focus is more on what makes me feel comfortable OVER what helps the Gospel progress to our mission field, we are being distracted from the main thing.  Churches still split over disruptions about music:  what songs are we going to sing, and who’s going to sing them, and what kind of accompaniment will it have, and will there be drums, and all of these things that are so secondary to the main thing, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ going forward.  In other words, we can let our preferences over which 3 songs are being sung on a Sunday morning make us angry enough to take our focus off the Gospel of Jesus.

Our Political positions…if 2020 has been a trip down uncharted rapids, we are now approaching the rocks.  Some churches and ministries have already been dashed to pieces on these rocks.  Others are about to be.  Let me say this as clearly as possible:  We are in danger of losing our testimony as believers and our impact as a church in this community if we don’t navigate this season wisely.  What I’m talking about is presenting our political positions and preferences (in and of themselves, nothing wrong with that).  The danger is when our message to the community around us and to those who know us says that politics are more important to us than the Gospel.  Now let me clarify this.  There is nothing wrong with Christians being politically involved.  I hope you are.  I hope you’re listening carefully and learning what you need to learn about how your vote should be cast, because as a Christian you should vote with an informed conscience.  I think I’m right about my political convictions.  But even if I’m right (and I believe I am), I don’t want my political position to keep someone from hearing the Gospel.

What really concerns me is seeing believers who are showing more passion and spending more energy trying to get their candidate elected than to get Jesus into people’s hearts.   The answer to the pain and sin and distress of our time is not going to be an elephant or a donkey.  The answer is a lamb.  The Lamb that was slain.  Folks the animal you vote for is not as important as the Savior you worship!   Let’s not give up the main thing for a secondary priority.

Social issues …The very first conflict in the New Testament church was, at its core, a racial problem.  In Acts 6, we learn that the Hellenistic widows were not being treated as the Jewish widows were.  The early church was a mash-up of Jews, Romans, Greeks, slaves and free people, slave owners, and politicians, Zealots, traitors, uneducated, brilliant, women and men.  White/black issues and skin pigment is never brought up in the Bible as a problem.  The world of that day was very multi-racial and cosmopolitan.  There wasn’t racial prejudice as we define it today.  But the prejudice between Jewish and non-Jewish people was huge.  It was a battle that Paul found himself in the middle of time after time as he sought to plant churches in the world of that day.  But it was clear that Paul saw God’s new creation, which the church represents and is a part of, as a multi-cultural, multi-racial, cross generational, people who accepted anyone, rich or poor, slave or free, male or female.  There was no place in this that allowed for prejudice or ostracizing any person or national or racial group.  But in today’s church, prejudice and racism is tearing fellowships apart and distracting from the “main thing” of sharing the Gospel.

What is the Gospel?  The gospel is the proclamation that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. “But God demonstrated His love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”

The “Good News” of the Gospel is not JUST that God loves us, but that He has done something radical to bring us to Himself, and we are made right with Him by having faith in what Jesus did for us, and not our own works.  “By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Every religion in the world says, “Believe, then work to gain approval and access, and then you get to God, or Nirvana or whatever they promise.” Only Christianity, the Good News that Jesus came to bring, says “Believe, and then you are justified and forgiven and made right with God, and then obey because that has happened to you.   The Christian life is not obedience school, where you just go to church and try to conform.  It’s a life change, a transformation, a transition to being a whole new person in Jesus.  It’s not just praying a prayer, joining the club, and eating pizza.

1). The GOSPEL is a UNIVERSAL message

It is God’s greatest desire that every man, woman, boy and girl on the planet hear and respond to the Gospel.  (2 Peter 3:9). No person, no race, no nationality, no ethnic group, and no person however hopeless they might seem is excluded from the invitation.  No sin is too deep, no person too far gone to move themselves outside the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

2). The GOSPEL is an EXCLUSIVE message

While it is universal, the Gospel is also exclusive.  It is exclusive in the same way that a doctor giving you a prescription that will cure your illness says, “this is the only medication that will help.”  He or she would be seen as very narrow minded, by the definition of some critics.  But do you want a doctor who would say, “You know there are hundreds of thousands of medications out there, and they were all made by good people.  Just pick the one you feel good about.  One is just as good as another to help you get well.” Now we might applaud him for being open-minded, but he’d be a terrible doctor and should lose his license.

When the Bible says, “there is salvation in no other Name” and that “no one can come to the Father but through Jesus” it’s the same thing in play.  I want that doctor to be narrow.  I want that doctor to be confident in the cure to fix what’s wrong with me!   When I was diagnosed with cancer in the early 2000s, the doctor gave me three options for treatment.  I asked him a simple question:  Which would you do?  He said, “I’d have surgery, hands down.”  I said, “Then that’s what I want.  Schedule it.” “There’s a way that seems right to a man but ends thereof lead to death.”  I didn’t feel like having surgery.  I didn’t like having surgery.  And if left up to me alone trusting what “seemed” right, I would not have chosen to have surgery.  But if I hadn’t had it my choice would probably have led to my death.

There is only one way…only one Who can rescue you.  Only One Who is the mediator between God and man.  That’s Jesus Christ.  It doesn’t matter what you feel; what God’s Word says is true.

3). The GOSPEL is an ESSENTIAL message. (California earthquake)

200,000 plus people have died in the US since March.  How many of those died without ever hearing the Gospel of Jesus?

4). The GOSPEL is a PERSONAL message

You must respond personally for this Good News to be effective for you.  Your parents can’t decide this for you; your wife may love you and pray for you, but she can’t do this for you.  You have to humble yourself, repent of your own sin, and receive for yourself the free gift of God that is forgiveness of sin and eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

The word “evangelist” is not a word created in the Bible.  It was actually a political term, that had to do with how news got communicated in the days before newspapers, and internet, and Fox or CNN.  Whenever a new king came into power, the “evangelist” would travel from village to village, little hamlets and towns and burgs, and tribal clusters, and announce that a new king had now come to power.  The message the “evangelist” would carry was called “the Gospel…” “Good news.”

Christian man, woman, young person, when King Jesus began to rule in your life, He appointed you to be an evangelist…you are to go and tell your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even people you don’t like…that a New King has come to rule…a new Kingdom has been established…and His Name is Jesus!

“Do the work of an evangelist!”

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