8 Marks Of The Church
The Sent & Scattered Church
Lecture given by Bill Mounce about the Top Ten Myths about Missions
“Another part of our educational task in working with local churches is to realize that many people have myths about the missionary enterprise. I call this lecture, “Dispelling the Top Ten Myths about Missions.” We have many, many faulty ideas about missions that must be separated from our thinking so that we can be better equipped to think appropriately about the great missionary cause.
There are many common myths about the church that are misguided at best and dangerous at worst.
You can gather as a church without going as a church and be a healthy church
This myth, if believed, can be dangerous because:
It gives a local church the false sense of security that they can holistically be the church without being with people who are not yet part of the church
It gives the church a distorted view of the heart of Jesus, who desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth
We know this is a myth because Jesus said a clear mark of a healthy church would be a church filled with people who want to tell people outside the church about Him
MARK: The Sent & Scattered Church
The Sent & Scattered Church and the Teaching of Jesus (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19-20)
Luke reminds Theophilus that he wrote about, in his former book (Gospel of Luke), all that Jesus began to do and to teach until He was taken up to heaven
Luke tells Theophilus that Jesus appeared to His apostles and disciples over a 40 day period, speaking about the kingdom of God and giving them commands
When they were meeting together with Jesus, they asked Him when he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel
This question probably arises from what Jesus tells them in Matthew 28:18, that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him
If Jesus had all authority, then surely He would be able to restore the kingdom to Israel
They were thinking about shedding Roman rule
Jesus was not talking about an earthly kingdom, but about a spiritual kingdom
Jesus told them that they were not to know the times or dates that God has set for that to take place
He wanted them to focus on spreading the Gospel (spiritual), instead of when the kingdom would be restored (physical/earthly)
They had work to do, prior to God’s kingdom being restored on earth
Then we see Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8
The Greek word for power is dynamis
“The Greek word dynamis entered the English language when the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833–96) made the discovery that became his fortune. He discovered a power stronger than anything the world had known up to that time. He asked a friend of his who was a Greek scholar what the word for ‘explosive power’ was in Greek. His friend answered, ‘Dynamis.’
Nobel said, ‘Well, I am going to call my discovery by that name.’ So he called his explosive power ‘dynamite.’” [James Montgomery Boice, Acts, vol. 20 of Boice Expositional Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), 25.]
They apostles were going to have power from the Holy Spirit to do several things:
To know and truth of the Gospel and preach it with boldness
The ability to speak other languages that they did not already know
The ability to do miracles as proof of their commissioning
The ability to endure many trials
The power of the Holy Spirit would enable them to be Jesus’ witnesses
The Greek word for “witness” is martys (mar’-toos)
We get our English word for martyr from this Greek word
In the historical sense the Greek word simply means, “one who testifies for one” or “to be a witness for one, serve him by testimony” [https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3144/nasb95/mgnt/0-1/]
That is how it is used in Acts 1:8
In an ethical sense it has the meaning that we associate with it in the English language – someone who gives their life as proof of the strength and genuineness of their faith – a martyr
“. . . while some of God’s people have a calling to evangelism (Eph. 4:11), all of God’s people are expected to be witnesses and tell the lost about the Savior.” [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Dynamic, BE Series Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 23.]
“Every believer should be a ‘world Christian,’ able to function for the Savior from the other side of the street to the other side of the world.” [Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, ed. Max Anders, vol. 5 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1998), 10.]
Ever larger circles/outreach
The apostles are to start in Jerusalem, then move to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the ends of the earth
The book of Acts really outlines this increasing outreach
Acts 1-7 (Jerusalem)
Acts 8-9 (Judea and Samaria)
Acts 10-28 (ends of the earth)
Judea & Samaria
Acts 8:1, On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. (NIV)
Acts 8:4-5, 14, Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there . . . When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. (NIV)
Ends of the earth
Paul’s missionary journeys took the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the known world
“The uttermost parts of the earth have been given to the Saviour, (Psa. 2:8) and churches should not rest until He whose right it is shall come and reign, Ezek. 21:27.” [Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 9119.]
Jesus encouraged His apostles to wait for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and then to spread the Gospel in ever larger circles
In Matthew 28, He tells them what the Gospel outreach should look like
What is the therefore, there for?
It points back to what Jesus just said
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
Because all authority has been given to Jesus, He is commanding them to make disciples
This is the only command in these verses and it is an imperative
“Being a disciple meant more than being a convert or a church member. Apprentice might be an equivalent term. A disciple attached himself to a teacher, identified with him, learned from him, and lived with him. He learned, not simply by listening, but also by doing.” [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Loyal, BE Series Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 269.]
“At the heart of our mission is the reproduction in others of what Jesus has produced in us: faith, obedience, growth, authority, compassion, love, and a bold, truthful message as his witnesses. They were learners commanded to produce more learners.” [Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, ed. Max Anders, vol. 1 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2000), 484.]
What is a disciple of Jesus Christ then? It is someone who: [Wiersbe, 269]
Has believed on Jesus
Has been baptized as an expression of their faith
Is connected with a body of believers where they are learning God’s Word (truths of the faith)
Is then able to go out and win others and teach them
“How much faster our churches would grow, and how much stronger and happier our church members would be, if each one were discipling another believer.” [Wiersbe, 270.]
As disciples of Jesus Christ, that begs the question, who am I discipling?
It also begs the question, whom am I being discipled by?
We are learners who are commanded to make more learners
This model of disciples making disciples is part of revitalizing and strengthening the church
Every one of us can share what God is teaching us through our own personal devotional time
There are three participles that help us understand the imperative command of making disciples
Going (aorist passive)
It can mean “while you are going” or “when you have gone”
It is an ongoing action, not a one-time thing
“The point is that we believers are active; we are not inert. Going means crossing boundaries to make disciples—going across the street, going to dinner with an unbelieving friend, going into the inner city, going beyond one’s comfort zone to make the gospel accessible to the lost.” [Weber, 484-485.]
Baptizing (present active)
In the present tense and active voice, it means an ongoing process – as individuals believe on Jesus for salvation, they are to be baptized
Baptism is an outward expression of an inward decision
Baptism does not save you, it is an expression, publicly, that you are saved – that you are adopting and receiving the system of religion that is Christianity
“So to be baptized in the name of the Father, etc., means publicly, by a significant rite, to receive the system of religion, to bind the soul to obey his laws; to be devoted to him; to receive, as the guide and comforter of the life, his system of religion; to obey his laws, and trust to his promises. To be baptized unto the Son, in like manner, is to receive him as the Messiah—our Prophet, Priest, and King; to submit to his laws, and to receive him as the Saviour of the soul. To be baptized unto the Holy Ghost is to receive him publicly as the Sanctifier, Comforter, and Guide of the soul.” [Barnes, paragraph 3272.]
Teaching (present active)
The present tense and active voice again mean ongoing teaching – “keep on teaching them”
“By fulfilling the teaching portion of the Great Commission, we take believers at every stage of spiritual maturity to the next stage of growth.” [Weber, 486.]
With you always
Jesus tells us that He will be with us always as we accomplish His Great Commission
This fact of His presence with us is something that will last until He returns
Jesus teaches us that we have the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to make disciples in every part the world until He returns
The Sent & Scattered Church and the Teaching of the Early Church (Acts 2:42-47)
We have been looking at Acts 2 quite a bit as it pertains to the teaching of the early church and the 8 marks of the church
This was the establishment of the early church, so it very important for us to study
We see in Acts 2:42-47 the apostles doing just what Jesus had commanded them to do, beginning in Jerusalem
They were making disciples of all nations, especially in Jerusalem – remember, people from all over the known world were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks (one of three major annual feasts for the Jews)
Three thousand had already been added to their number after Peter spoke at Pentecost
We see the fellowship of the believers in Acts 2:42-47
Fellowship of the believers
Fellowship (agape meals)
Breaking of bread (communion)
Miraculous signs were done by the apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit
Everything in common
They were spending time together – lots of time together
They were selling their possessions and goods
They used the proceeds from those sales to provide for the needs of one another
Met together in the temple courts for teaching
They shared meals together in their homes with joy
They praised God!
Enjoyed each other’s company
The Lord added to their number daily
Notice that the work of salvation is the Lord’s work
The Apostles were faithful to preach and teach the Word of God, the Holy Spirit did the work in the hearts and minds of unbelievers, and Jesus provided salvation
“A healthy Christian community attracts people to Christ. The Jerusalem church’s zeal for worship and brotherly love was contagious. A healthy, loving church will grow in numbers. What are you doing to make your church the kind of place that will attract others to Christ?” [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for Acts 2:47]
“Instead of a humble and subdued group of Christians praying quietly in an upper room, we now have over three thousand people all over the city praising, praying, and witnessing for Jesus. The early church was a healthy church, a veritable model of what congregations can be in our day when they take seriously the biblical qualifications of what it means to be the church.” [Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, ed. Max Anders, vol. 5 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1998), 32.]
The early church modeled what Jesus had taught
The Sent & Scattered Church and the Teaching of the Apostles (1 Peter 2:12)
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (NIV)
“Peter’s readers were scattered among unbelieving Gentiles who were inclined to believe and spread vicious lies about Christians.” [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for 1 Peter 2:12]
As disciples of Jesus Christ, our actions are just as powerful and important as our words (preaching/teaching)
We not only see this mark proclaimed to us through teaching, but also through a picture
METAPHOR: The Light Of The World (Matthew 5:13-16)
Living in the world
Jesus uses two word pictures to help us understand our role as His disciples in this world
Three purposes of salt
In the ancient world they used salt to preserve food, especially meat (it kept it from getting rotten)
“Just as salt prevents or kills bacteria in food, the kingdom servant prevents or confronts corruption in the world.” [Weber, Matthew, 61.]
Colossians 4:5-6, Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
“‘Seasoned with salt’ means that what we say should be ‘tasty’ and should encourage further dialogue.” [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for Colossians 4:6]
Thirst – do we make anyone thirsty for Jesus Christ?
Jesus also used the word picture of light
We are already the light of the world through Jesus Christ; it is not something we have to become [Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, 62.]
The city on a hill and the lamp on a lamp stand were for the purpose of being seen and providing a point of focus
As disciples of Jesus Christ we need to be seen as we reflect the light of Jesus to our world
“The function of light is to make reality or truth visible, thereby giving direction and guidance by what is seen.” [Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, 62.]
“Let your holy life, your pure conversation, and your faithful instruction, be everywhere seen and known, always, in all societies, in all business, at home and abroad, in prosperity and adversity, let it be seen that you are real Christians.” [Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 596.]
The metaphor shows us that we are to be sent and scattered, seen and not hidden, so that the world might see our good works and praise our Father in heaven
So, how does this apply to our lives?
APPLICATION (how will we know if this mark of The Church marks Our Church?)
We will go to them through God’s great mandate (Mark 16:15-16)
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (NIV)
We are called to scatter throughout our communities, our state, our nation, and our world to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone
We will love them through God’s great commandment (Matthew 22:39)
And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (NIV)
This goes well with our theme for 2022, “Love One Another”
We will share with them God’s great exchange (2 Corinthians 5:21)
God made him who had not sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)
This is what we are to witness to others about concerning Jesus and the Gospel
Jesus came down from heaven, grew up to be a man, lived a perfect life, and willingly died on a cross to take our punishment for sin
Our right standing before God is through the blood of Jesus Christ
[Share the Gospel]
We will disciple them through God’s great commission (Matthew 28:19-20)
Read Matthew 28:19-20
Our desire is to have a church filled with people who want to tell people outside the church about Him
Idaville Member Survey from RESTOR Renewal Ministries
There was one of the five survey questions that were in the top fifteen of the least difficult for us as a church
“Our church consistently teaches on evangelism, outreach and missions.” (13 out of 15)
We definitely strive to teach on evangelism, outreach and missions
It is encouraging to know that you all feel like we are doing that
That was the least difficult for us, but how about the most difficult?
One of the remaining four questions was in the top 10 of most difficult for us
“The people in our church know and understand our church’s plan for reaching the people in our community and the world.” (8 out of 10)
I know that some people struggled with questions like this, because they felt like they didn’t know what other people in the church were thinking
Our model for quite a few years now has been three-fold (perhaps it just was not communicated enough)
Locally – we are always serving locally (food pantries, other service projects, etc.)
Domestically – we try to do a domestic mission trip every other year
Globally – we try to plan an international mission trip every other year
That leaves three final questions
The three remaining questions fell in the middle
“The mission of our church is clearly in line with the mission of God in the world.”
Mission – Pursue, Grow, and Multiply Disciples
Our mission statement comes directly from Matthew 28:19-20
That should be mission statement of every church
“Our church consistently encourages the members of our church to engage in evangelism, outreach and missions.”
We provide opportunities locally, domestically, and globally
One of the goals for this year is to create a team that will intentionally and actively share the Gospel in our community
The Revival on the Farm is coming this summer (June 5-8, 2022) and each church, that is participating, will be doing prayer walks through their community to pray for and invite individuals to attend the revival services
This will be an incredible opportunity for all of us to engage in evangelism, outreach and missions
“Our church consistently provides opportunities to participate and grow in evangelism, outreach and missions.”
This is closely connected to the previous survey question
We are providing some opportunities, but we would also like to provide additional opportunities to consistently be in our community with the specific goal of sharing the Gospel
What are our next steps?
Who are you discipling?
Who is discipling you?
The amazing thing about discipleship is that both people learn from one another, so while you are discipling someone you are also being discipled by them
My Next Step Today Is To: Begin a discipleship relationship with one other person.
The best model for this is to be in a discipling relationship with someone of the same gender (male-to-male; female-to-female)
Let’s see how God will use this to grow His church and bring joy and happiness to everyone
Fellowship of the believers
We saw in Acts 2:42-47 that the early church was devoted to several things including fellowship
They enjoyed each other’s company, they shared everything, they took care of one another – their hearts were glad and sincere
They were praising, praying, and witnessing for Jesus
Their zeal and brotherly love were contagious and the result was a healthy growing church
My Next Step Today Is To: Examine my zeal and brotherly love for Idaville Church, so we will be a church that attracts others to Christ.
Sent & Scattered
We are working towards creating a Gospel Team that will consistently and actively share the Gospel in our community
We are also planning prayer walks for the Revival on the Farm
We will continue to provide domestic and global mission opportunities
These are just a few ways we are encouraging you and providing opportunities for you to be sent and scattered
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to participating in the opportunities provided by Idaville Church to make disciples.
“We are a church that reaches out, spreading God's Word, God's glory, and God's promises to those that do not know Him.”
“We are a church who encourages our members to discover, develop, and use their spiritual gifts.”
Purpose (why we exist): “Pursue, Grow, and Multiply Disciples.”
Three+ Uniques – “Reaching outside our walls (warm/fellowship).”
“Intentional group to welcome and direct people.”
“Reinstitute meal teams.”
Value Proposition (Promise): “Within 90 days, guests should be comfortable, connected, and committed to Idaville Church.”
“Have a Welcome Team established and functioning.”
“Short-term domestic mission trip in 2022.”
“Have a 10% increase in the number of individuals serving in missions.”
“Have a 10% increase in the pursuit of holiness as evidenced through salvations, baptisms, and accountability.” (annual)
“Create a team that will intentionally and actively share the Gospel in our community.” (quarterly)
“Plan specific dates, times, and locations to have the Gospel Team in the community.” (quarterly)
“Robert Bellah, a sociologist who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, is very interested in the influence of religion on the community. In an interview in Psychology Today he said, "We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a new vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a culture may be changed when 2 percent of its people have a new vision."
There are many more than 2 percent Christians in your country and mine. Then why aren't we having more effect? Why aren't we having more influence? I pray that God will call you to permeate non-Christian society for Christ, to take your stand there uncompromisingly with the value system and moral standards of Jesus.”
Source: John Stott, "Christians: Salt and Light," Preaching Today, Tape No. 109.
8 Marks Of The Church
The Sacrament Observing Church
“There are bodies buried in Hoover Dam.
This is one urban legend that just won’t die. While there were many fatalities involved in the making of Hoover Dam, zero involved workers slipping into the mix and being covered up with concrete. It’s not hard to see its prominence in the human consciousness though, with six bodies buried in Montana’s Fort Peck Dam.”
“The dam was built in interlocking blocks. Each block was five feet high. The smallest blocks were about 25 feet by 25 feet square, and the largest blocks were about 25 feet by 60 feet. Concrete was delivered to each block in buckets, eight cubic yards at a time. After each bucket was delivered, five or six men called ‘puddlers’ would stamp and vibrate the concrete into place, packing it down to ensure there were no air pockets in it. Each time a bucket was emptied, the level of concrete would raise from two inches up to six inches, depending on the size of the block. With only a slight increase in the level at any one time, and the presence of several men watching the placement, it would have been virtually impossible for anyone to be buried in the concrete. So, there are no bodies buried in Hoover Dam.
The ‘official’ number of fatalities involved in building Hoover Dam is 96. These were men who died at the dam site (classified as ‘industrial fatalities’) from such causes as drowning, blasting, falling rocks or slides, falls from the canyon walls, being struck by heavy equipment, truck accidents, etc. Industrial fatalities do not include deaths from heat, pneumonia, heart trouble, etc.”
There are many common myths about the church that are misguided at best and dangerous at worst
You can emphasize the sacraments as much as you want and be a healthy church
This myth, if believed, can be dangerous because:
It neglects the two main ways Jesus desired for us to identify with Him and His Gospel, together
It robs us of the two most compelling and consistent reminders of what Jesus has done for us and our union with him
We know this is a myth because Jesus said a clear mark of a healthy church would be a church filled with people who remember Him and remember they are united with Him through observing and practicing baptism and communion
MARK: The Sacrament Observing Church
The Sacrament Observing Church and the Teaching of Jesus (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 28:19-20)
Communion (Luke 22:14-20)
This is Luke’s retelling of the Last Supper
Jesus and His disciples are enjoying the Passover meal together
This will be the last time that Jesus eats the Passover with them until it finds its fulfillment in the kingdom of God
Jesus was not going to drink wine with them again until God establishes His kingdom on earth
Jesus then explains the significance of the bread and wine as it pertains to His death
The bread represented His body that He was giving for them
Jesus experienced a scourging that actually killed other men
He had a crown of thorns embedded in his head
Nails were hammered through His wrists and feet
A spear was thrust into His side
Jesus’ body was given for us!
That’s what He was helping His disciples understand through the Last Supper
The wine symbolized His blood that would be poured out for all humanity
The lacerations that were opened up on Jesus’ back during the scourging caused His blood to flow
The crown of thorns being embedded in his scalp created open wounds that allowed His blood to be poured out
The nail holes in Has hands and feet created openings for blood to flow
The spear, thrust into His side, allowed the blood and water that had accumulated in His torso to pour out
Perhaps the disciples did not understand the significance of what Jesus was saying at this point, but within a day they would understand completely
Jesus was modeling for the disciples what they were supposed to do – it was not just emphasizing the importance of the Last Supper, but it was actually participating in and observing the Last Supper again and again
Jesus also instructed His disciples about baptism
Baptism (Matthew 28:19-20)
Matthew 28:16-20 has the heading, Jesus Gives the Great Commission
This is the mission of every church
It is our mission – Pursue, Grow, and Multiple Disciples
It is a the top of our bulletin
We have banners at the front of the sanctuary
We are now including it at the bottom of our weekly email updates
It’s included on page 3 of the Yearbook
It is part of the message on the inside cover of the Spiritual Life Journal
It is on the back of all three Challenge Coins
Part of the growth process of a new believer is recognizing the need to go through believers baptism
Believers baptism is an outward expression of an inward decision
The believer is letting others know they have given their lives wholly to Jesus Christ – He is their Lord and Savior
Jesus modeled baptism
In Matthew 3:13-17 we find Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist
John is reluctant to baptize Jesus, because He knows who He is
He feels like he should be baptized by Jesus
Jesus tells him that His baptism is to fulfill all righteousness, which appeases John and he consents to do it
As Jesus comes up out of the water we see the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove and we hear the voice of God the Father approving of Jesus
Jesus modeled the importance of observing the sacrament of baptism and He commissioned us to continue to observe it
The Sacrament Observing Church and the Teaching of the Early Church (Acts 2:38, 42)
Baptism (Acts 2:38)
As we have mentioned over the past few weeks, Acts 2 is talking about Pentecost
This is the time when God poured out His Spirit on the Apostles and they preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ with boldness
Peter is the primary Apostle who addresses the crowd and at the end of his address we see the crowd’s reaction
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do.” (Acts 2:37)
Peter’s response (Acts 2:38-39)
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)
We see that the early church not only needed to repent (180 degree turn), but also needed to be baptized
Peter is not saying that baptism forgives our sins – repentance is what does that
Baptism aligns us with Christ and other disciples of Christ
“Acts 2:38 should not be used to teach salvation by baptism. If baptism is essential for salvation, it seems strange that Peter said nothing about baptism in his other sermons (Acts 3:12–26; 5:29–32; 10:34–43). In fact, the people in the home of Cornelius received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized (Acts 10:44–48)! Since believers are commanded to be baptized, it is important that we have a clean conscience by obeying (1 Peter 3:21), but we must not think that baptism is a part of salvation. If so, then nobody in Hebrews 11 was saved, because none of them was ever baptized.” [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Dynamic, BE Series Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 42.]
Peter is making it clear that baptism is an important part of being a disciple of Christ
He encouraged the crowd to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ
This was significant, because John the Baptist was already baptizing people with water for repentance
“John baptized people as a sign that they had asked God to forgive their sins and had decided to live as he wanted them to live.” [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for Matthew 3:11, pg. 1646]
This was before Jesus had died on the cross, was buried, and came alive again to take the punishment for humanity’s sins
From that point on, those who believed in Jesus and repented of their sins, would be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ – identifying with His saving power through His death, burial, and resurrection
Peter used many other words to warn the crowd and he pleaded with them (Acts 2:40)
The result was that about 3,000 accepted the message, repented, and were baptized in one day! (Acts 2:41)
The early church not only taught about the importance of baptism, it also taught about the importance of communion
Communion (Acts 2:42)
The new believers devoted themselves to four things:
The Apostles’ teaching
Fellowship – koinōnia
It certainly can have the idea of sharing everything – having in common, which we see in Acts 2:44-45
“Here the believers fulfilled the words the Lord gave his disciples just before the crucifixion: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35).” [Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, ed. Max Anders, vol. 5 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1998), 31.]
Breaking of bread
This is referring to the Lord’s Supper/Communion
It was probably part of a regular meal
They would conclude the meal by remembering the body and blood of Christ, until He returns
Prayer – corporate prayer
It is noteworthy that these new believers were participating in these four things on a daily basis (it was a unique feature around Pentecost, but was not maintained or practical in later New Testament settings) – we don’t practice that today, but perhaps we should
The early church not only taught about baptism and communion, they also observed and practiced it
The Sacrament Observing Church and the Teaching of the Apostles (Romans 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Baptism (Romans 6:1-4)
The Apostle Paul makes it clear how baptism connects us to Christ
“The picture in baptism points two ways, backwards to Christ’s death and burial and to our death to sin (verse 1), forwards to Christ’s resurrection from the dead and to our new life pledged by the coming out of the watery grave to walk on the other side of the baptismal grave (F. B. Meyer).” [A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2001), paragraph 4711.]
Paul also taught about communion
Communion (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
This is one of the passages that I use when we observe communion together
Paul received this message from the Lord when he was in Arabia for three years (Galatians 1:15-18)
Jesus enlightened Paul to what happened at the very first Lord’s Supper
Paul is then passing this message on to the Corinthian believers as something they should be observing and practicing
The Apostle Paul not only taught the importance of baptism and communion, he observed and practiced them
METAPHOR: The Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23)
“As the body of Christ, we’re the locus of Jesus activity now, just as His physical body was during His earthly ministry.” [Matt Kyser]
“Through baptism, we are not only united with Christ in His body, but picture His death and resurrection to the world around us.” [Matt Kyser]
Greg Laurie talks about how they observe baptism at a cove on the beach in Orange County California – inevitably there will be people walking along the beach who stop to ask what is happening (sometimes those individuals believe in Jesus and are also baptized)
Wade and Seth were baptized in the Pacific Ocean when the church we attended in Southern California had their own beach baptism – there were people who stopped and asked what was happening
In 2019 I had the privilege of baptizing Wyatt and Alayna Derr at Fuller Lake with other individuals we didn’t know watching
Also in 2019 Alger Melton and I baptized Randy Bouder at a boat ramp in the Susquehanna River and a another family arrived while we were doing it
“As the Body of Christ, we are nourished and directed by Him as the Head of His Body, and are reminded about this every time we take communion.” [Matt Kyser]
APPLICATION (how will we know if this mark of The Church marks Our Church?)
We will see regular baptisms (Acts 2:38)
In 2021 we had seven people who were baptized
In 2020 we had one person baptized
In 2019 there were eight people baptized
We will share communion on a regular basis (1 Corinthians 11:25)
Our normal practice has been to observe communion at the beginning of each quarter (January, April, July, & October)
We also observe communion during the Maundy-Thursday and Good Friday services
We will see baptism as:
A sacred act (Acts 2:36-41) [the early church]
A sign & symbol (Romans 6:1-14) [Apostles]
A sacred initiation (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
We are all connected to the Body of Christ as disciples of Christ
We are one unit made up of many parts
We all have different areas of giftedness that the Lord uses in cooperation to allow the body to function correctly
We will see communion as an opportunity to:
Remember Jesus (Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Remember to repent of sin (Read 1 Corinthians 11:27-32)
We are going to observe communion following the message
I don’t know how it works, but we see here that many among the Corinthian believers were weak and sick and some had died
It appears that the weakness, sickness, and even death were a result of not recognizing the body of the Lord when they practiced the Lord’s Supper
“It is a serious thing to come to the Communion with an unprepared heart. It is also a serious thing to receive the Supper in a careless manner. Because the Corinthians had been sinning in their observing of the Lord’s Supper, God had disciplined them. ‘For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [have died]’ (1 Cor. 11:30).” [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Wise, BE Series Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 129.]
Warren Wiersbe says that the Lord’s Supper can be a blessing and provide spiritual growth if we come with the right attitude
How can it be a blessing? Wiersbe gives us four ways:
We should look back (vv. 23-26a) – broken bread reminds us of Jesus’ body and the cup reminds us of Jesus blood shed for us
We should look ahead (v. 26b) – we observe the Lord’s Supper until he returns
We should look within (vv. 27-28, 31-32) – we do not have to be worthy to take communion, but we do have to do it in a worthy manner (“we have to examine our own hearts, judge our sins, and confess them to the Lord”) [Wiersbe]
We should look around (vv. 33-34) – we have to discern the Lord’s body (the church) and be unified and loving (love one another)
Remember to reconcile with other believers (Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-22, 33-34)
The Corinthian believers had tainted the Lord’s Supper by allowing cliques to develop and selfishness to prevail
The rich brought a lot of food and ate together, while the poor had little to no food and were not included with the rich
The agape feast was supposed to be a meal that included everyone and provided for all
Remember to rejoice at His return (Read 1 Corinthians 11:26)
Our desire is to have a church filled with people who remember Jesus and remember they are united with Jesus through observing and practicing baptism and communion
Idaville Member Survey from RESTOR Renewal Ministries
There was one of the five survey questions that was in the top ten of least difficult for us as a church
“Our church provides regular, consistent opportunities to receive communion.” (9 out of 10).
Once a quarter and around Easter
Communion is for disciples of Jesus Christ – those who have believed in Him and repented of their sins
It does not have any significance for someone who is not a disciple of Jesus Christ
They are not remembering the broken body of Jesus or that His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of their sins
We will be observing communion at the end of the message today
Today could be the first time you observe communion as a disciple of Jesus Christ
Romans 3:23 (all have sinned)
Romans 6:23 (wages of sin is death)
Romans 5:8 (God demonstrated His love for you)
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (Jesus fulfilled Scripture through His death, burial, and resurrection)
Romans 10:9-10, That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
My Next Step Today Is To: Be saved today by confessing with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in my heart that God raised Him from the dead.
Where did the other survey questions fall?
Three of the remaining four questions were in the top 15 of most difficult for us
“There is regular teaching in our church on the meaning and purpose of baptism and communion.” (11 out of 15)
I hope that today was helpful in understanding the meaning and purpose of baptism and communion
I will strive to provide regular teaching about the meaning and purpose of baptism and communion, especially when they come up in Scripture and when we observe these two sacraments
“Our church provides regular opportunities for people to be baptized, and I can remember the last person who was baptized in our church.” (13 out of 15)
Most of us know that we usually provide one baptismal service a year, which is right after church and right before the VBS picnic in August
We are not limited to just this one baptismal service each year or to one location (the parsonage pool)
There are local churches that have a baptismal in their sanctuary that would welcome us
There are portable baptismal units that can be used indoors
Here are the names of the people who were baptized in the past three years
2021 – Stewart Gebhart, Silas Brown, and Joe, Marsie, Alister, & Josephine Wynn
2020 – Keith Strine
2019 – Willow Toney, Christopher Sauble, Jennifer Sauble, Brenda Wible, Jeremy Melton, Randy Bouder, Wyatt Derr, Alayna Derr
We are committed to observing baptism whenever individuals are ready to take that step of faith
“The people in our church know what baptism is, why it is important to their life and the life of the church, and have been baptized.” (14 out of 15)
I hope that today’s message has helped everyone to understand what baptism is and why it is important to your life and the life of the church
If you have not participated in believers baptism, I would like to encourage you to take that step of spiritual growth
My Next Step Today Is To: Indicate my desire to participate in believer’s baptism.
The fifth question is in the middle as it pertains to most or least difficult for our church
“The people in our church know what communion is and why it is important to their life and the life of the church, and look forward to receiving communion.”
We are a family that is loving, caring, and welcoming
This includes times around the Lord’s Table (communion)
It also includes helping new believers take the growth step into baptism
Our leadership strives to be led more by Jesus, to lead more like Jesus, so we can lead more to Jesus
We want to follow the lead of Jesus, the early church, and the Apostles as it pertains to observing baptism and communion
As we lead more to Jesus, they will participate in baptism and communion
Pursue, Grow, and Multiply Disciples
This comes from Jesus commission in Matthew 28:19-20, which includes baptism
Have a 10% increase in the pursuit of holiness as evidenced through salvations, baptisms, and accountability
As we prepare for communion this morning, I would like to open up the altar for remembrance, repentance, reconciliation, and rejoicing.
ADVENT – ANGELS (Love)
Don’t Be Afraid!
(Luke 1:5-38; Matthew 1:18-25)
What was your greatest fear about going to the doctor as a child? Most children are afraid of getting a shot. As a parent, we try to call them down and let them know they don’t need to be afraid. It only takes a couple of seconds and it will be over.
As adults, we can be fearful of the unknown. Anything new can cause us to be fearful. Starting a new job, moving to a new city or state, going to college for the first time and being out on your own, going to a new school. All of those can cause us to be fearful.
We’re going to talk about three Biblical characters today that had reasons to be fearful. They were confronted with things that were new for them that included a visit from an angel.
After 400 years of silence, I can only imagine that the angels were eager to share the good news that Jesus was coming into the world. They were very busy for a period of time, as we will see today.
The angels had a common theme – Do Not Be Afraid!
BIG IDEA – God is in control, so don’t be afraid!
Zecharias’ Angel Encounter (Luke 1:5-25)
This was during the time of Herod’s reign
Zecharias (Jehovah has remembered) was from a priestly family – Abijah
Elizabeth (God is my oath) was also from a priestly family – descendant of Aaron
They were both upright in the sight of God – observing all the commandments and regulations blamelessly
In the midst of ungodly surroundings, they were in the world but not of the world
The priesthood at this time
There were nearly 20,000 young men that were eligible to serve in the temple at this time
They were broken up into 24 courses/divisions
That meant that each priest served two weeks each year
The rest of the year, they took care of their own farms
They used the lot system, “according to the custom of the priesthood,” to determine who would serve in what capacity
First Lot – cleanse the altar and prepare its fire
Second Lot – kill the morning sacrifice and sprinkle the altar, golden candlestick and the altar of incense
Third Lot – burning the incense (once in a lifetime opportunity)
Proverbs 16:33, The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord
This is a practical example of that verse
God needed Zecharias to be in the Holy Place on this particular day
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign! (God is in control)
Do you believe that today?
Are you struggling to believe that God is in control?
What situation are you going through that’s making you feel like God isn’t in control?
There is nothing too hard for Him
He can handle whatever fear and anxious thought you are experiencing
God is in control, so don’t be afraid!
Zecharias was going to need that reminder
The Angel of the Lord (Gabriel) appears
Zecharias had been chosen, by God, through the lot, to burn the incense
As he is standing in front of the altar of incense, Gabriel appears
Zecharias’ is startled and gripped with fear
startled/troubled – Greek word is tä-rä’s-sō which means “to strike one’s spirit with fear or dread”
fear – Greek word is fo’-bos which means “fear, dread, terror”
Can you imagine burning the incense, which was a once in a lifetime experience, and being confronted with an angel from the Lord? What was going through his mind
Was he thinking – “Does this happen to everyone?”
Was he thinking – “I’m a dead man. Did I do something wrong with the burning of the incense.” (it could have meant divine judgment)
The angel dispels his fears
“Do not be afraid”
Your prayer/petition has been heard – Greek word is
de’-ā-sēs, which means contextually, of prayers imploring God’s aid in some particular matter
This matter could have been his prayer for a son
It could also have been the prayer of every priest that burned the incense, that God would send the Messiah
Because of the next statement, the angel is probably referring to his prayer for a son
God answers prayer three ways: Yes, No and Wait.
Zecharias and Elizabeth had been waiting a long time and perhaps had stopped praying for a child
They are to name him Johanam/John (The Lord is Gracious)
He will be a joy and delight
There would be great rejoicing
He will be great in the sight of the Lord
He is to be a Nazarite – no wine or fermented drink
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth
He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah
He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children
Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
“This quotation from Malachi 4:5-6 is meaningful for more than its reference to Elijah. These were essentially the last words in the Old Testament, and now God’s revelation is resuming where it had left off.” [Guzik]
He asked the angel a question
How can I be sure of this?/How will I know this (for certain?)
I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.
Zacharias is looking at the natural instead of the supernatural
He looked at the circumstances first, and what God can do last
“It is simply that he feels it must be too good to be true, and he has probably protected himself from disappointment by not setting his expectations too high. We rob ourselves of many a miracle by the same attitude.” [Guzik]
“This, of course, was unbelief, and unbelief is something God does not accept. Zacharias was really questioning God’s ability to fulfill His own Word! Had he forgotten what God did for Abraham and Sarah? Did he think that his physical limitations would hinder Almighty God?” [Wiersbe]
PRINCIPLE #2 – God is all-powerful! (omnipotent)
Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”
Are you questioning God’s ability to do the supernatural in your life?
Are you questioning God’s ability to handle the struggle that you’re currently experiencing?
Are the physical issues you’re having too hard for the Lord?
Is the rift in a relationship with someone in your family, at work, in your community, or at church too hard for the Lord?
Are the financial struggles you’re experiencing beyond God’s ability to deal with?
Is the emotional rollercoaster you’re on too difficult for God to help with?
Is the political divide and racial tensions we’re experiencing in our country, right now, out of God’s reach?
Are you experiencing fear about any of those situations?
God is in control, so don’t be afraid!
Zecharias was doubting God’s ability to fulfill His Word and we are guilty of the same thing
How is your faith in an all-powerful, sovereign God?
Zecharias’ faith was going to be strengthened, because the angel was going to give him a sign that would prove God’s power and sovereignty
The Angel’s sign
First the angel identifies himself as Gabriel
He explains that he stands in the presence of God
Zacharias will not be able to speak until John is born
The people are concerned about Zecharias
Zecharias had stayed in the temple longer than most priests who burned the incense
They realized that something supernatural had taken place while he was in there, because he couldn’t speak when he came out
He tried to communicate what had happened by making signs
He was using body language to communicate with them
Did you realize that 55% of our communication is nonverbal?
Tone is 38%
Content is 7%
Zecharias should have been able to communicate what had happened with just hand motions and facial expressions
When Zecharias had completed his temple service, he returned to his home
Zacharias returns home to the hill country
After his service was done, we went back to see Elizabeth
Elizabeth becomes pregnant
Zacharias’ unbelief did not stop the work of God.
“Your unbelief will not stop the work of God. It will not hinder the purposes of God.” [Chuck Smith]
Mary’s Message From God (Luke 1:26-38)
Gabriel is busy again
Six months after appearing to Zacharias, he is back to earth to speak with Mary
He greets her by saying that she is highly favored and that the Lord is with her.
Mary was troubled/perplexed by this greeting
Greek word is dē-ä-tä-rä’s-sō which means “to agitate greatly, trouble greatly.”
Why would Mary have been troubled greatly?
She was from a poor family and not considered great in the eyes of society
She was a simple young girl (15-16 years)
Why would she be highly favored
This really expresses her humility as a young lady
Gabriel sets her mind at ease and then gives her the Good News
“Do not be afraid”
You have found favor with God
Gabriel tells her everything
You’re going to be pregnant and give birth to a son
Name Him Jesus (Greek) – Jehoshua/Joshua (Hebrew)
He will be great and called the Son of the Most High
The Lord will give Him the throne of David
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever
His kingdom will never end
How would you react if you heard all of that in three quick sentences
When a woman is pregnant, they usually tell you that and then pause for your reaction
Gabriel didn’t pause
I wonder if Mary heard anything after, “You will be with child and give birth to a son . . .”
Her response leads me to believe that she didn’t
“How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
This statement is different from Zacharias in the fact that Mary believed what Gabriel said, but needed some clarification of how it would come about
“Her question in Luke 1:34 was not an evidence of unbelief; rather, it was an expression of faith. She believed the promise, but she did not understand the performance. How could a virgin give birth to a child?” [Wiersbe]
The Holy Spirit will come upon you
Greek word for “come” is ep-e’r-kho-mī which means “to come upon, overtake one, of the Holy Spirit, descending and operating in one”
Power of the Most High will overshadow you
“The word overshadow means ‘to cover with a cloud,’ like the cloud of Shekinah glory.” [Guzik]
“It is the word applied to the presence of God in the holy of holies in the Jewish tabernacle and temple (Ex. 40:35). Mary’s womb became a holy of holies for the Son of God!” [Wiersbe]
He relays the news that Elizabeth is six months pregnant even though she had been barren
He declares the power of Almighty God – “nothing is impossible with God.”
The dream, the hope, the desire of every Jewish girl was coming true for Mary – to be the instrument through which God would send the Messiah.
“Many young Jewish girls, when they had a boy born to them, would call his name Joshua. Hoping that maybe God would use that child to be the instrument of His salvation. And that was a reason, one of the reasons why being barren was considered such a curse.” [Chuck Smith]
I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said
She was willing to be scrutinized by her culture to fulfill the purposes of God
“All this took more trust in the Lord than we might think. Mary agrees to receive a pregnancy that will be seen as suspicious, and this in a culture that had a death penalty for adultery. Mary identified herself with sinners so that the purpose of God would be fulfilled.” [Guzik]
“A ‘handmaid’ was the lowest kind of female servant, which shows how much Mary trusted God. She belonged totally to the Lord, body (Luke 1:38), soul (Luke 1:46), and spirit (Luke 1:47).” [Wiersbe]
Mary didn’t need to be afraid of how this supernatural pregnancy was going to happen and how her family, friends, and neighbors would react, because God was in control
God may call you to do something for Him that seems counter cultural
It may be supernatural
It will probably cause you to be scrutinized and criticized by your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors
But you don’t have to live in fear about following the Lord
God is in control, so don’t be afraid!
We’ve seen two supernatural appearances by Gabriel, but there was one more important visit that needed to take place
Joseph’s Dream (Matthew 1:18-25)
Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant
“Probably, it was after her return from her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she continued three months (Luke 1:56), that she was perceived by Joseph to be with child, and did not herself deny it.” [Matthew Henry]
Imagine for a moment how Joseph must have felt when he found out that Mary was pregnant
He knew what his cultural responsibility was, but he loved Mary
Joseph was a righteous man
He was very concerned about keeping the commands of God
He is also merciful
“He is a moral man who stands for rightness, but he is also merciful, which is a rare combination. Most people are either moral or merciful.” [Courson]
Would you agree with statement?
Are you more moral or merciful?
I would have to say that I fall more towards the moral side, but realize that I need to be more merciful
This rare combination would serve Joseph well
He was planning to divorce her quietly, so she wouldn’t be criticized and scrutinized by the community
Also, he was basically saving her life, since the punishment for adultery was death
While Joseph is trying to decide what to do, the Lord steps in
He is considering divorcing her when an angel appears to him in a dream
How many of us have experienced a dream that gives us insight into a problem we’re trying to solve?
Did you realize that your brain is a powerful tool?
It continues to work even while you sleep
Joseph son of David – this was serious, pay attention
The angel uses his full name
Most of us have probably experienced this with our mothers
When they use our full name, we know we have to listen and pay attention
Do not be afraid, take Mary as your wife
It would be very difficult for Mary to explain to Joseph the supernatural overshadowing of the Most High
It would not make sense in the natural world
Guys, we have to honest with ourselves. We strive to understand things on our own and work things out on our own before we consult God. Women are much more open to the things of God
We should work to be the spiritual head of our household, instead of letting our wives take the lead
Joseph was going to need some instruction about naming this baby
Naming the baby Jesus was to be a fulfillment of prophecy
God communicated that to Mary directly through Gabriel
Now he has also communicated it to Joseph in a dream
Naming your son after you was very important, culturally
They would be breaking tradition
Zecharias was going to be breaking tradition when he named his baby boy, John (no one in his family had that name)
Joseph obeys immediately
I’m just as impressed by Joseph’s obedience as I was with the shepherd’s obedience
Lord, help us to obey immediately!
When you are faced with supernatural situations or difficult cultural circumstances, you need to remember several things:
Do not be afraid, God is in control
He knows what is best for you and He has not been caught off guard by your situation or circumstances
Psalm 56:3-4, When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
My Next Step Today Is To: Put my trust in God concerning the situation I am currently fearful about.
You may not understand God’s plan, but you can trust Him by faith, because He is sovereign and all-powerful
Zachariah’s obedience in naming his son, John, brought healing to him – he was able to talk again (Luke 1:62-64)
Mary and Joseph’s obedience brought about the Messiah, the Savior of the world (becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit, taking Mary as his wife, fleeing Bethlehem at the prompting of the angel, returning to Nazareth)
My Next Step Today Is To: Obey what the Lord is telling me to do, because He knows best.
Mary and Joseph probably had a lot to be fearful about
“The Holmes Rahe scale assigns points to various life stressors. These points are called LCUs or a life change units. Dr. Holmes and Dr. Rahe concluded that an individual experiences a total of 300 LCUs is at high risk for illness. Among other things, the list includes such events as:
Marital separation 65
Marital reconciliation 45
Adding a new family member 39
Change in financial state 38
Trouble with in-laws 29
Change in living conditions 25
Change in working conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Change in sleep habits 16
Minor violation of the law 11
Joseph and Mary could conceivably have experienced all of the events listed above for a total LCU count of 435. This total excludes divorce (73 points), as it was threatened but not carried out. Neither jail terms (40 points) or minor violations of the law (11 points) are included in the previously mentioned total, but Mary's pregnancy out of wedlock was a violation of Jewish law which, some contend, could have resulted in stoning. Christmas (12) is also excluded.”
David Slagle, Atlanta, Georgia
Instead of being fearful, Mary and Joseph were hopeful, because they knew that God was in control.
The God Who Heals
(2 Chron. 7:13-16; Acts 9:1-9, 17-18; Mark 5:25-34;
Mark 2:1-12; Matt. 6:25-34)
“The movie Simon Birch follows a boy with stunted growth who has a clear sense that God has an important plan for his life. Little Simon is often met with obstacles and opposition, but he plods on through life until he really does become a hero.
Simon and his friend Joe do everything together, even though they are an odd pair. The unlikely Simon is always talking about the great plans God has for his life, but Joe is always doubtful. Joe has been deeply wounded by growing up without a father, and simply cannot move from cynicism to true faith.
Early in the movie, Simon and Joe are heading home from the swimming hole. As Simon and Joe wander through a field of wildflowers, they turn to discussing destiny and the role of faith.
Simon: But things will be different…once God makes me a hero.
Joe: You know, you shouldn't talk about this hero stuff, Simon.
Simon: Why not?
Joe: Because it's weird. The other kids tease you enough as it is.
Simon: I don't care. It's the truth.
Joe: But you don't have any proof.
Simon: I don't need proof, I have faith. Your problem is that you have no faith.
Joe: I got faith. I just want proof to back it up.
In the end, Simon does become a great hero, even though it leads to his death. Many years later, as Joe reflects on Simon's life, he can't help but finally move to a place of faith as well.
Elapsed time: DVD scene 6, 00:17:13–00:17:43. Rated PG
Simon Birch (Buena Vista 1998), written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson; submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California.
Our natural desire is to have proof of God’s existence or to have Him speak to us before we’ll take a step of faith
Often times, but not always, God is waiting for us to take the step of faith toward Him, before He does the miraculous or speaks to us
In the midst of difficulties, it can be hard to have faith in God’s ability to heal spiritually, physically, and financially
As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, we will need to take the necessary steps of faith, toward God, even when we have spiritual doubts, physical illness, and financial struggles. Our natural desire will be to demand signs from God before we move in faith. Now more than every we need to remember that . . .
BIG IDEA – God has the power to heal every area of our lives.
Today’s message is going to be done in a way that is different than usual. We are going to look at healing in three areas: spiritual, physical, and financial. As we complete each area, we are going to spend time praying through the Scriptures we’ve looked at and then responding in worship.
Spiritual Healing (Acts 9:1-19; 2 Chronicles 7:13-16)
There are certainly many passages of Scripture we could use to talk about spiritual healing
I’ve only chosen two passages
One will focus on spiritual healing for those who have never believed in Jesus
The second passage focuses on believers who have turned away from the Lord
Unsaved (Acts 9:1-19)
Read Acts 9:1-19
We are all familiar with this story of Saul’s conversion (we know Saul by his Greek name, Paul)
He was zealous for God and the Jewish way of religion, but Jesus’ arrival on earth had transformed religion to a relationship with Jesus
Change came hard for the religious leaders (chief priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees)
They continued to try to stop the spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and Saul was the ring leader
But everything changed on the road to Damascus
Saul had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus
Jesus arrested him and stopped him in his tracks
We see the glory of God surrounding Saul, and Jesus questioning him
God’s glory temporarily blinded Saul – that’s how magnificent His glory is
PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s glory is beyond compare (magnificent)!
Ananias used by God
God used a follower of Jesus Christ to restore Saul’s sight
God used Ananias to bring physically healing to Saul’s eyes
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
This is an important principle for us to understand
PRINCIPLE #2 – God uses His people to help others come to Jesus.
We learn from this interaction that Saul was God’s chosen instrument to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the Gentiles and their kings
Saul was transformed
We see Saul praying, basically for three days’ straight
I’m guessing that his prayers were different now
After having his sight restored, Saul gets baptized
This was an outward expression of an inward decision
He was showing those, who were traveling with him and the believers in Damascus, that he had changed
He was now going to experience being on the other side of persecution
Salvation – the Good News
With Saul, we see a complete 180 degree turn from trying to kill followers of Jesus Christ to sharing with everyone about Jesus Christ
That is what repentance is – a 180 degree turn away from sin and running to Jesus
We’ve all sinned – lying, stealing, blasphemer, adulterer and murderer in our hearts (Romans 3:23)
Punishment for sin is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23)
God is loving and just
Loving (Romans 5:8)
Just – He has to punish sin
Ecclesiastes 3:17, I thought in my heart, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.” (NIV)
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice
His death, burial, and resurrection opened the way for us to be in a right relationship with God
Read Hebrews 10:13-24
Being spiritually healed
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I encourage you to take that step of faith today into spiritual healing
Prayer for salvation (encourage anyone who has never believed to pray after me)
We looked at being spiritually healed for the first time, but we also need to look at being spiritually healed as believers (it’s different concept)
Saved (2 Chronicles 7:13-16)
Read 2 Chronicles 7:13-16
The Lord spoke to Solomon after he had completed the temple and the royal palace
God was basically telling Solomon that the Israelites would turn away from worshiping Him
God gave Solomon a picture of what the discipline of His children would look like
There would be droughts (no rain)
Locusts (bugs) would eat up their produce and grain
Plague among His people
God also shared what steps the Israelites would need to take to stop His discipline of them
Identifies those He is talking to (God’s people, called by His name)
What they would need to do
Humble themselves (put away pride and selfishness)
Pray – talking to God
Seek my face – turning to God instead of anything else
Turn from their wicked ways (repentance)
He will see and hear from heaven
He will forgive their sins
1 John 1:9
We see here the spiritual healing that takes place
He will heal their land
This passage really addresses all three areas of healing
When God says He will heal their land, we have to go back to see what His discipline entailed – the drought and locusts would have devastated their economy/finances – and God promises to bring healing to their finances
The plague would have affected their physical health and God promises to bring physical healing
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
The physical and financial healing will be developed more in the next two points
For now, we need to focus on the spiritual healing aspect
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, thank You that Your glory is reflected in/through . . .” (Acts 9:3)
Prayer Prompter: “Almighty God, thank You that You have the power to . . .” (2 Chronicles 7:13)
Prayer Prompter: “Dear Lord, I confess that I have persecuted You when . . .” (Acts 9:4)
Prayer Prompter: “Righteous Father, I confess that I have not ________ (humbled, prayed, sought Your face, or turn from my wicked ways), please forgive me.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Prayer Prompter: “Gracious God, please help me to hear Your voice and obey Your leading with . . .” (Acts 9:17)
Prayer Prompter: “Loving Lord, I am committing today to __________ (seek humility, pray, seek Your face, repent of my wickedness) so that I can experience Your promise(s) of healing ___________ (spiritually, physically, financially).” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Prayer Prompter: “Precious Savior, help me to obediently take the next step of faith by . . .” (Acts 9:18)
Prayer Prompter: “Faithful Father, thank You that Your eyes are open and Your ears are attentive when I cry out to You about . . .” (2 Chronicles 7:15)
SONG: Jesus Messiah
Physical Healing (Mark 5:25-34; Mark 2:1-12)
I believe that as we take the step of faith into spiritual healing that God promises to sustain and provide for us physically and financially
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not preaching a prosperity gospel
Jesus never promised us that following Him would be easy, spiritually, physically, or financially – you won’t find that in Scripture
But, we know that the all-powerful, Creator of the universe is now our Heavenly Father and He watches over His children and promises to sustain us and provide for us through difficult times
“In my experience, signs follow decisions. The way you overcome spiritual inertia and produce spiritual momentum is by making tough decisions. And the tougher the decision, the more potential momentum it will produce. The primary reason most of us don't see God moving is simply because we aren't moving. If you want to see God move, you need to make a move!
I cannot promise that signs will follow your faith in three minutes or three hours or three days. But when you take a step of faith, signs will follow. God will sanctify your expectations, and you will begin to live your life with holy anticipation. You won't be able to wait to see what God is going to do next.”
Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase (Multnomah, 2008), pp. 32-33
PRINCIPLE #3 – God is pleased when His people step out in faith.
Individual Faith (Mark 5:25-34)
Read Mark 5:25-34
The woman’s ailment
We know that this woman had been dealing with a bleeding issue for 12 years
She had probably sought out the best physicians of the day
None of them were able to help, but she kept getting worse
She was out of options and money
The woman’s faith
Notice that the woman isn’t seeking recognition, but simply expresses her faith in thought
She knows who Jesus is and His reputation of having healing power
She believes that simply touching His cloak will release His healing power to her
She is correct!
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she knew it physically
I really appreciate her incredible faith in Jesus’ healing power
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
Jesus realized that healing power had left His body and so He asked who touched His clothes
The disciples didn’t understand, because many people probably touched His clothes since they were crowding around Him
When the woman fearfully identifies herself, Jesus affirms her faith, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
I like that this potentially shy and reserved woman could quietly express her faith by simply touching Jesus’ cloak
Mark also records another physical healing that Jesus performed, but the entrance was much more dramatic
Corporate Faith (Mark 2:1-12)
Read Mark 2:1-12
People heard that Jesus had returned home and they wanted to be around Him
He was preaching to a packed house, so much so, that this group of friends couldn’t get their paralyzed friend to Jesus
So, they went up on the roof, dug a hole in the roof, and lowered their paralyzed friend right in front of Jesus
Jesus recognized the faith of the group of friends and the paralytic, so He told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven (spiritual healing!)
That didn’t sit well with some teachers of the law, but that didn’t matter to Jesus
He then tells the paralytic to get up, take his mat, and go home, which he does
Jesus told the man to get up, take his mat, and go home, so that the people would understand that He was God and had the authority on earth to forgive sins
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
Prayer Prompter: “Jesus, thank You for revealing Your omnipotence (all-powerful) in my life by/through . . .”
Prayer Prompter: “Jesus, please forgive me for doubting Your ability to know everything, especially when it comes to ________ in my life.” [Mark 5:31]
Prayer Prompter: “Precious Savior, I confess that I am currently skeptical about Your power to forgive the sins of __________ (name the person specifically).” [Mark 2:10]
Prayer Prompter: “Dear Lord, help me to have faith in Your healing power as I struggle with . . .”
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, thank You that You promise to give me peace as I step out in faith concerning . . .” [Mark 5:34]
Financial Healing (Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 6:38; Malachi 3:6-12; 2 Chronicles 7:13-16)
Financial struggles, especially with COVID-1 (Coronavirus pandemic)
I think we would all be kidding ourselves if we said that we weren’t concerned about our financial future with state and federal “stay-at-home” orders.
God’s part (Matthew 6:25-32)
Read Matthew 6:25-32
God’s provision of food
He takes care of the food needs for birds, who don’t sow, reap, or store food away in barns
He says that we are more valuable than birds, which means that He will provide for us
We may not know how it will happen, but it will
Upper Adams Food Pantry, Gettysburg Soup Kitchen, New Hope Mobile Food Pantry
Generosity of family, neighbors, or friends from church
God’s provision of clothing
God provides beautiful dressings for the fields through flowers
The dressing of the fields is temporary and He says that He will clothe us even more
As God’s children He says that we are valuable to Him and He will provide for us
Discipline of His children (2 Chron. 7:13; Malachi 3:6-9)
As His children, He will also discipline us, just like a parent with their child(ren)
As we already saw in 2 Chronicles 7:13, He will bring about droughts, and devouring bugs, and plagues as a way to get the attention of His children, so they will turn back to Him
Read Malachi 3:6-9
In Malachi 3:6-9 we see that we are under a curse for turning away from the Lord and robbing Him by not giving our tithes and offerings
God’s part is to provide and discipline, but we have a part to play also
Our part (Matthew 6:33a; Malachi 3:10; 2 Chronicles 7:14a)
Seek God’s kingdom first
Seek God’s righteousness first
What has first place in your life above God’s kingdom and righteousness?
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse
For the Israelites this was the first fruits of all their labors (field and flock/grain and animal)
To what or whom are you giving your first fruits instead of giving it to God?
2 Chronicles 7:14a
Seek God’s face
Turn from our wicked ways
When we obediently do our part, God promises us certain things
God’s promises (Matthew 6:33b; Malachi 3:11-12; 2 Chronicles 7:14b)
All these things will be given to you as well
God promises to provide our every need (food & clothing)
God will prevent pests from devouring their crops (livelihood)
God will make sure that nothing is wasted
Other nations will call them blessed
2 Chronicles 7:14b
God will hear and see from heaven
God will forgive our sins
God will heal our land
God has the power to heal every area of our lives
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, since You never change, I worship You because/for . . .” [Malachi 3:6]
Prayer Prompter: “Heavenly Father, thank You that you value me more than . . .” [Matthew 6:26, 30]
Prayer Prompter: “Precious Savior, I confess that I seek ________ first instead of Your kingdom and righteousness.” [Matthew 6:33]
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, please forgive me for using my first fruits on _________ instead of giving them to You as a tithe and offering.” [Malachi 3:8-9]
Prayer Prompter: “God, will You please help my faith to grow through _________ (difficult situation), so I will trust You more.” [Matthew 6:30]
Prayer Prompter: “Lord, help me to take the step of faith to test You concerning robbing You of ________ (time, talents, or resources),” [Malachi 3:10]
Prayer Prompter: “Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing me and providing for me through . . .”
SONG: God Will Take Care Of You
My Next Step Today Is To:
Believe in Jesus and receive God’s gift of eternal life (spiritual healing)
Step out in faith and trust God to heal me physically (physical healing)
Trust God to provide for my every need, even during difficult times (financial healing)
“Every other Tuesday, Maria Lopez would come to clean my house.
Maria always arrived like a bubble of energy determined to restore order to my universe, scrubbing as though it were an act of worship.
As we became acquainted, I learned that Maria was a pastor's daughter from Peru who had no family in the United States. I had only been a Christian a few years and appreciated Maria's enthusiastic faith. She prayed out loud while she cleaned, and sang praise songs in Spanish while she scrubbed. She praised Jesus everywhere she went.
One Tuesday, Maria didn't show up for work. I anticipated seeing her cheery face the following day. But no one came.
When she didn't arrive the next day, I called. No one answered the phone.
This is so unlike her, I thought. She's so reliable. There must be a good reason.
On the third day, a nurse called to say Maria was at the hospital. Alarmed, I cut some flowers and drove to Northridge Hospital to find out what was wrong. I found Maria sitting up in bed, rocking back and forth with her head encased in a heavy iron cage resting on her shoulders. Her eyes were closed, and tears streamed down her cheeks. Touching her arm gently, I held out the flowers. She clutched them to her chest.
"What's that around your head, Maria?"
"Oooh, Meessus," she moaned, touching the iron contraption, "it is the torture of Satan."
Puzzled, I turned to the nurse. She explained, "It's called a halo. It's screwed and bolted directly into the skull in four different places. It isn't pleasant."
"How long must you wear it?" I asked Maria.
"Five months, my doctor say, maybe. But Meessus, you tell him, Maria, she no live five months with thees in her head. She die. You tell him, yes?"
"I'll talk to him, Maria. Anything else I can do for you?"
"Yes, Meessus. My Bible." She pointed to the bedside table. "Please, you read to me."
I started reading John 14. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."
Out in the corridor, I found Maria's doctor. "Why is she wearing that hideous device?" I asked him.
"Because, to put it simply, if she didn't," he said, "her head would fall off. Maria has cancer. Her neck bones have degenerated to the point where they can no longer support her head."
"Can they be repaired? Or regenerated?" He shook his head gravely.
"It means we can't ever take it off. Maria will have to get used to living with it."
Every week when I visited, Maria asked me to pray with her and read from the Bible. She always requested the same chapter from the New Testament: John 14. Weeks turned into months. The heavy metal halo was crippling.
During one visit, months after being admitted to the hospital, Maria clutched my hands and whispered, "God tells Maria it won't be long. Soon, he say, we take this off."
Before I left the hospital, I stopped at the nurses' desk to ask how much longer Maria would be there. A nurse said they were preparing papers to release [her]. Maria doesn't have insurance or enough money to stay in the hospital. That's why they're releasing her.
Maria panicked when the doctor told her she must leave. "No! You take new x-ray." Touching the halo she cried, "You take this torture from me! I no leave with this!"
"There is really no point," he insisted. "Nothing has changed."
When I returned to the hospital two days later to pick up Maria, I was surprised to find her sitting in a chair, beaming ear to ear. "I no leave today," she said.
"Why not, Maria? Have you had your x-ray?"
"Yes. But I stay until they take this off." She rolled her eyes toward the halo.
Hasn't anyone told Maria what will happen when they take the halo off? It was my turn to panic. I can't tell her. Her despair will be overwhelming.
I cornered the doctor. "She won't leave until you take the halo off. What do we do?"
"We'll take it off," he replied.
"You said her head will roll off without it!"
Suddenly, Maria's doctor began acting strangely. He looked left and right, then muttered in low tones, "It won't roll. The x-ray we took this morning indicated her neck bones have regenerated."
"You said that was impossible."
"It is impossible."
I shook my head, confused. "Were the original x-rays a mistake?"
"Not at all. They're here for anyone to see."
Before answering, the doctor sighed. "So there are things I can't explain. Her bones have regenerated, and they are strong enough to hold her head. That's all I know."
"Doctor! Is this a miracle?"
"I don't know about miracles, that's Maria's department. She tells me Jesus healed her."
Adapted from Barbara Royce Extract, "Maria and the Halo," Christian Reader (Jul/Aug 2001), p. 63.
“Nelson Mandela, who opposed the South African apartheid regime and was imprisoned for almost 3 decades, knew the power of words. He is often quoted today, but while in prison his words could not be quoted for fear of repercussion. A decade after his release he said: ‘It is never my custom to use words lightly. If 27 years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are, and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.’
King Solomon, author of most of the Old Testament book of Proverbs, wrote often about the power of words. He said, ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue’ (Prov. 18:21). Words have the potential to produce positive or negative consequences (v. 20). They have the power to give life through encouragement and honesty or to crush and kill through lies and gossip.”
By Marvin Williams, Our Daily Bread, August 26, 2015
Hurting Judy with my words
We let our guard down when we’re at home, especially when it comes to our words
I know in my own life that I have said things in the past that have hurt Judy
It may have been the content of the what I said, but also the tone with which I’ve said it
I don’t intend to hurt her with my words, but it happens
Hurting my boys with my words
I’ve done the same with my boys
One thing I’ve learned recently is that I need to communicate with my boys in the same way they’re communicating with me
If they’re expressing feelings or emotions, I need to respond with feelings or emotions
If they’re sharing facts, I need to respond with facts
What normally happens is that I respond with facts, when they’ve communicating with feelings or emotions
I’m still learning how to do this, because it’s new to me
Levi was expressing frustration with his cell phone, because it wasn’t working properly
He was telling me that he needed a new(er) phone
He was expressing his feelings of frustration about not having a phone that was working correctly
What I heard was, “I need a new phone!” and my response was factual, “We can’t afford to get you a new phone.”
My response should have addressed the feelings of frustration he was having instead of telling him, “just the facts”
I should have said, “I understand how frustrating it can be when something doesn’t work properly.”
Letting our guard down at home
Every one of us has probably said things to our family members that we regret
We let our guard down at home and we don’t watch what we say
We may say things in the heat of the moment that show our true feelings, that we would not normally say out loud
Guarding our tongue
It happens to all of us, we sometimes don’t guard our tongue, but allow it to say things that are hurtful
Gossip is something that is so easy to do, because we “feel better” after we share something about someone else
Unfortunately, our words have the power to crush and ruin those around us
The great thing is that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have the power within us to guard our tongue and use it to encourage and build others up, because of the Holy Spirit
I want us to look at how God and Jesus Christ used the power of their words to do some pretty incredible things throughout history. The greatest display of God’s power is what we’re celebrating today. We will see today that the same power, God used to raise Jesus from the dead, lives in us. Our big idea today is that . . .
BIG IDEA – God’s power lives within us.
GOD (Matthew 28:1-10)
I want us to walk through Scripture for just a moment and remember how powerful God and Jesus’ Words were
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3)
And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” (Genesis 1:6)
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so . . . Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:9, 11)
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:14-15)
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” (Genesis 1:20)
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so . . . Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:24, 26)
Then say “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.” (Exodus 7:16-18)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them god, I will plague your whole country with frogs. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on hour people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will go up on you and your people and all your officials.’” (Exodus 8:1-4)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the water and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground where they are. But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and our people. This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow.’” (Exodus 8:20-23)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me.’ If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field – on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.’” (Exodus 9:1-4)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth . . . Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now.’” (Exodus 9:13-14, 18)
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians – something neither your fathers nor your forefathers have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.’” (Exodus 10:3-6)
So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt – worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger left Pharaoh. (Exodus 11:4-8)
Jesus’ first miracle
The Gospel of John is the only Gospel that records Jesus’ first miracle
We know that Jesus and His disciples are at a wedding at Cana in Galilee
His mother is also in attendance and tells Jesus that they have run out of wine
“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” . . . He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:4-8, 11b)
We know that when they took the sample of the water to the master that it had been turned into the best wine
Jesus simply spoke the words and told the servants what to do – there was power in His words
Jesus casting out demons with a word
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17)
Jesus had just crossed the Sea of Galilee and entered the region of the Gerasenes, when He was approached by a demon-possessed man. The demon, whose name was Legion, begged Jesus not to torture them or drive them out of the area. The Gospel of Mark tells us, For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” (Mark 5:8). The demons were granted their request to be sent among a herd of about two thousand pigs, which then ran into the sea and drowned
A Greek woman from Syrian Phoenicia heard that Jesus had arrived in the vicinity of Tyre and she went to Him to beg Him to drive the demon out of her daughter. After Jesus uses the situation to teach this woman what was right, He said, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark 7:29-30)
Jesus healing with a word
Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13)
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a Centurion asked for His help concerning his servant was paralyzed and in terrible suffering
Jesus told him that He would come and heal his servant, but the Centurion tells Him to just say the word
Jesus explained to the crowd the incredible faith that the Centurion demonstrated
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour. (Matt. 8:13)
Government officials son (John 4:46-54)
Jesus had returned to Cana of Galilee and when a royal official heard about it, he came to Jesus to ask Him to heal his son
The royal official wanted Jesus to come with him to Capernaum to heal his son, but Jesus had a different plan
Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. (John 4:50)
When the official talked with his servants on the road, they all realized that his son was healed at the exact time that Jesus said the word
Paralyzed man (Luke 5:17-26)
A paralyzed man had some very great friends
They brought him on a mat to Jesus, but had to lower him through the roof, because it was so crowded
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20)
This didn’t sit well with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who were present
Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. (Luke 5:23-26a)
Jesus during His passion
Garden of Gethsemane and Mount of Olives
After the last supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with His disciples
During that time, Judas brings a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. . . . When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. (John 18:4-8a)
We see the power of Jesus’ words at His arrest
Jesus on the cross
As Jesus is hanging on the cross, He cries out to God saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46b)
He is offered a drink of wine vinegar
He then says in a loud voice, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (Matt. 27:51-53)
There was power in Jesus’ final words on the cross
All of this leads us to the culmination, the climax, of God’s power
Jesus is alive! (Matthew 28:1-10)
“One sleepy Sunday afternoon when my son was five-years-old, we drove past a cemetery together. Noticing a large pile of dirt beside a newly excavated grave, he pointed and said: "Look, Dad, one got out!" I laughed, but now, every time I pass a graveyard, I'm reminded of the One who got out.”
Phil Callaway, from the April 16 entry of Men of Integrity (March/April 2006)
The empty tomb (vv. 1-7)
“Jesus’ resurrection had already occurred, notwithstanding the massive stone barrier (v. 6). The resurrection itself is never described anywhere in Scripture, presumably because no one ever saw Jesus leave the tomb.” [Blomberg, New American Commentary, Matthew, 427]
It’s likely that Jesus left the tomb prior to the stone being rolled away, as we’ll see in a moment, but we don’t know how far in advance it happened
We can be sure that it was not the night before, because He said, prior to His death, that He would raise up the temple again in 3 days – referring to His resurrection
Since Jesus’ resurrection is not described in Scripture, we can only speculate about how it took place
I would like to think that God simply said, “Jesus, it’s time to rise!”
That idea meshes well with what we’ve seen throughout Scripture about God’s power through the spoken word
So, by the time the women go to the tomb, it’s already empty
Women went to the tomb
The Sabbath was sacred for the Jews, which meant that nothing could be done during the Sabbath
While they may have finished purchasing the necessary spices after sunset on Saturday, they waited until just before sunrise on Sunday to go to the tomb
Most of us wouldn’t blame them for waiting until sunrise, because most people have a fear of cemeteries, especially after dark
At the earliest opportunity we see two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, headed to the tomb
Some of the other Gospel writers include other women in the group
There is a discussion between the women about who is going to roll the stone away, so they can complete the embalming process (Mark 16:3), but we see that they don’t have to worry about that
Angel rolls the stone away
A violent earthquake
Matthew’s account tells us that a violent earthquake happens when the angel of the Lord comes down from heaven and rolls the stone away
It could have been an aftershock from the earthquake that happened when Jesus died
“While not uncommon in this region, this second earthquake surrounds the supreme supernatural event, the resurrection of Jesus. A. T. Robertson quotes Cornelius à Lapide as saying, ‘The earth, which trembled with sorrow at the Death of Christ as it were leaped for joy at His Resurrection.’” [Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, Matthew, 937]
It seems clear that the earthquake was a result of the angel coming down from heaven and rolling the stone back from the entrance to the tomb
We see that, with the word “for,” used after the mention of there being a violent earthquake
The “for” means that this is the reason why the violent earthquake happened
Rolling this enormous stone away from the entrance of the tomb was nothing for the angel of the Lord, so he just sits on top of it and waits for the women to arrive
Appearance of the angel
The appearance of the angel should not come as a surprise to us, especially after our study in Revelation and how the New Jerusalem will not need a light source, because the glory of God is all the light that is needed
This angel has been in the presence of God’s glory, so his appearance is like lightning and his clothes are as white as snow, representing purity
The glory of God reflecting from this angel is obviously too much for the guards who were standing watch at the tomb
The purity of God reflected in His angel strikes fear into the guards
Their fear was so real that they shook and became like dead men
“The ones assigned to guard the dead themselves appear dead while the dead one has been made alive.” [Donald Hagner cited by Wilkins, 938]
We know that eventually the guards regain their composure and report what they saw to the Pharisees and religious leaders, who coach them concerning what to say
It appears as though the angel does not speak to the guards, but he does speak to the women when they arrive
The women encounter the angel
He tells them not be afraid, which is probably why they did not end up like the guards – shaking in fear and becoming paralyzed
They’re at the right tomb
Have you ever driven somewhere that you’ve only been to once or twice and when you arrive, you begin to second guess whether or not you’re at the right place?
There is no question that the women have arrived at the right tomb, because the angel tells them that he knows they are looking for Jesus who was crucified
Jesus has risen
He is not in the tomb, because He did exactly what He told them He would do – He kept His promise
He had shared, on multiple occasions, with the Twelve and the other disciples, who followed Him, that He would be crucified, buried, and come alive again in 3 days
“‘Come and see the place’ verifies that this is the correct tomb and correct location within the tomb, thus stressing that he really is alive.” [Blomberg, 427]
It also helps the women, and us, understand that Jesus’ resurrection was not only spiritual, but also physical – His physical body was not there
The angel gives them instructions
The women are the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection – they have a responsibility as witnesses
The same is true when you and I witness an accident or some other crime – we have a responsibility as witnesses to tell what we saw and heard
The women were given the responsibility of sharing the incredible news of Jesus’ resurrection with His disciples
They were told what to tell the disciples – “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.”
Because of the amount of time the disciples had spent with Jesus in Galilee, they probably knew right where to go – it would have been a spot where they had spent a lot of time with Jesus
The angel had completed his task
The women immediately began their task
Jesus appears to the women (vv. 8-10)
The women had two emotions running through their bodies
They were afraid, probably because they had never encountered an angel before
They were filled with joy, because Jesus was alive
While they were trying to deal with these opposing emotions, Jesus meets them on the path
Their response to seeing Jesus
Jesus basically says, “Hello!”
They obviously recognized Him immediately, because they bowed down to worship at His feet
This is the correct posture to have when confronted by the King of kings and Lord of lords
Jesus comforts them and reiterates the angels instructions
Knowing that the women were afraid after encountering the angel, Jesus tells them not to be afraid
He gives them the same instructions that the angel had given the – “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
He calls the disciples His brothers, which could simply mean that they are now part of the family of God through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection – God’s redemptive plan for humanity had been completed
Followers of Jesus Christ
We’ve seen today that God is all-powerful (omnipotent)
He has the power to simply use words to do the miraculous
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the same power living in us, through the Holy Spirit of God
It’s the same power that allowed Jesus to come alive again
Financial, emotional, physical, mental, spiritual
God is able to help you through every one of those
Read Ephesians 3:14-21
My Next Step Today Is To: Recognize that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me to overcome any difficulties in life.
Those seeking a relationship with Christ
If you’ve never pursued a relationship with Jesus Christ, then you don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit living in you, but you can change that today
Jesus died on the cross to take your punishment for sin
We’re all born with the same condition – sin (Rom. 3:23)
God is holy (perfect), so He has to punish sin (Rom. 6:23a)
God is also loving, so He made a plan to deal with our sin (Rom. 5:8)
Romans 10:9-10, 13, That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. . . . for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
My Next Step Today Is To: Confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe that God used His incredible power to raise Him from the dead to take my punishment for sin so I can be saved.
We’re going to close this morning with the song “Arise My Love” written by NewSong and performed by The Akins.
I AM A CHURCH MEMBER
Treasuring Church Membership
Most of you know how a pearl is formed. A foreign object, like a piece of sand, gets caught inside the shell of an oyster. Because the oyster doesn’t have hands and can’t sweep the item out of its shell, it begins to cover it with nacre. This is the substance that creates a pearl. The irritant for the oyster eventually becomes something that is smooth and round and doesn’t cause the oyster pain and suffering anymore. It’s something that takes time and effort on the part of the oyster.
My favorite Disney park in Florida is Epcot Center
There are fascinating things to see and do there
They always try to stay on the cutting edge of technology in their exhibits on the front side of the lake
But my favorite part of Epcot Center is what is on the backside of the lake – it’s all the foreign country exhibits
I could spend the whole day or week just exploring all the various countries and what they have to offer
Two times ago, when we were at Epcot Center, we spent some time in the Japanese exhibit
One particular thing caught my eye
They had a display where live oysters were kept
You could purchase an oyster and the Japanese lady would carefully open it and remove the pearl that had been growing there
Levi and I spent several minutes watching as different individuals purchased an oyster and waited expectantly to find out how big the pearl was that was inside
Of the ones we saw, they were about the same size – they were mid-range
They were not the smallest and definitely not the largest
God’s creation is incredible!
He made the oyster just this way to be able to transform something that’s an irritant into something beautiful and valuable
You and I are His incredible creation too!
It’s not hard to identify the person at work that irritates the other employees
If you are having a hard time thinking of whom that person is, it’s probably you!
In your neighborhood
When a new neighbor moves in it can be scary
What are they going to be like?
Will they be friendly, angry, or distant?
Will you get along with them?
Will they be irritating to you and your other neighbors?
For a time, the houses on either side of us were vacant and I was concerned that maybe we were the irritating neighbors
It can happen within the church as well
Certain people can irritate you
They can get under your skin
God’s work, God’s institution
God is the one who instituted the church
He has created you and I with the incredible ability to transform something that is an irritant into something valuable
The nacre He has given to us, is love – unconditional/sacrificial love
Christ sees the church as a valuable treasure, a pearl of great value
He is again our model for exercising and expressing sacrificial love as we’ll see in Matthew 13:44-46
Let’s commit this message to the Lord in prayer
BIG IDEA – Make love your nacre.
GOD (Matthew 13:44-46)
In the 13th chapter of Matthew Jesus shares seven parables about the kingdom of heaven
Four of those parables He shared with a crowd of people
The last three He shares with only His disciples in a house
He begins His time of sharing with the disciples by explaining the parable of the weeds
His explanation is very important for our understanding of the meaning of the other six parables
The person who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man – Jesus!
The field is the world – all humanity
The good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom – believers/followers of Jesus Christ
The weeds are the sons of the evil one – those who are not believers/followers of Jesus Christ
The enemy who sows the weeds – the devil
So, keep Jesus’ explanation of the various parts and players in mind as we look at two of the parables He shares with His disciples
Hidden Treasure (v. 44)
Jesus is again trying to help us understand what the kingdom of heaven is like
He talks about a treasure that is hidden in a field
If we follow Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the weeds, then we would identify the field as all humanity/the world
So, there’s a treasure that’s hidden within all humanity that is obviously very valuable, because the man who found it hides it again and goes and sells all he has and purchases the field
What is the treasure that’s hidden in all humanity?
It’s not a hard question
It can either be the church or better yet the Israelite people
Exodus 19:5-6, Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.
Psalm 135:3-4, Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant. For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.
God set aside the Israelites in order that they would be a showcase of theocracy to all the other nations of the world [Stedman, 4]
The Israelites were supposed to demonstrate what a relationship with God looks like, but they failed
They were supposed to show what glorifying God looks like
They were to model for all the other nations this incredible relationship, so the other nations would be drawn to God, but instead they kept it to themselves, they focused inwardly
They were a nation hidden, a treasure not being invested to produce dividends for God [Wiersbe, 47]
Israel was an obscure, tiny nation for hundreds of years
There was no voice of God in their midst
God was not speaking to them through the prophets during this 400 year period
Who is the man that hides the treasure again and sells everything to purchase the field?
The man would be Jesus Christ
When He came from heaven to earth, He briefly uncovered the glory that was Israel
You know what happened though
Most of the Israelites rejected Him
They didn’t believe He was the Messiah
He couldn’t be if He died on a cross, because He would have been rejected by God
Jesus eliminated this misconception when He rose from the grave
He won over sin and death
Even though they rejected Jesus, God still has an important role for the Israelites to play during the end of times
Romans 11:11-14, Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgressions, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.
This promise from God is not only for the Israelites today
It’s for you as a follower of Jesus Christ
Have you temporarily turned away from God and giving in to your own selfish desires
Are you struggling in your relationship with God right now
Everyone goes through those times in their lives where they feel distant from God
Maybe you’re questioning today whether you’ve gone too far and are beyond recovery?
The answer Paul gives is for you – Not at all!
2 Chronicles 7:13-16, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
It’s not too late, you haven’t gone too far
God is ready to forgive, just cry out to Him
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise to forgive me by crying out to Him and confessing that I’ve temporarily turned away from Him and have neglected my relationship with Him.
He has hidden them once again until His second coming
Until He returns, the privilege of demonstrating the grace of God has been given to the church
Matthew 21:43, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
Jesus was overjoyed when he found Israelites and gave everything He had to purchase humanity, which included them
John 11:51, He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation
Isaiah 53:8, By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
Pearl Merchant (vv. 45-46)
Who is the merchant?
In the other parables the main character is represented as Jesus Christ
He is the sower who went out to sow
He is the one who scattered the sons of the kingdom throughout the world
He is the one who planted the mustard seed in the field
So, the merchant is Jesus Christ
Who is the pearl?
It is the church
Why a pearl to represent the church instead of another gem?
“. . . the pearl is the only jewel which is the product of living matter.” [Stedman, 2]
“Unlike most other gems, the pearl is a unity – it cannot be carved like a diamond or emerald. The church is a unity (Eph. 4:4-6), even though the professing church on earth is divided. Like a pearl, the church is the product of suffering.” [Wiersbe, 47]
There are times when you and I suffer through some difficult things at church – most of those are related to relationships with other people
Paul tells us how God desires for us to deal with those difficult relational situations
We are to use the nacre of unconditional/sacrificial love
John Oxenham wrote a poem that expresses this principle perfectly:
He drew a circle that shut me out,
Rebel, heretic, a thing to flout.
But God and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
Sanctification is a continual growing process, it’s not a one and done kind of thing
You and I have to work at it
We can’t ignore the problems within our church – they won’t just go away
You and I have to step out of our cultural norms and comfort zones in order to sit down together and lovingly and patiently work out our differences
Is there someone within the church that’s irritating you right now?
You need to take time this week to meet with them and patiently and loving talk it out
My Next Step Today Is To: Ask God to give me the strength to meet, this week, with the individual(s) within Idaville Church that I’m struggling with.
When you and I truly grasp the great value that Christ places on the church and why it’s being formed, it should motivate us to treasure the church in the same way He does
Jesus is making for Himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any blemish (Eph. 5:25b, 27)
The church has been given the task of pointing the rest of the world to Jesus
The church is to be demonstrating what a relationship with God and Jesus looks like
“A pearl grows gradually, and the church grows gradually as the Spirit convicts and converts sinners.” [Wiersbe, 47]
Is Idaville Church doing that?
Are you doing that?
My Next Step Today Is To: Look for ways this week to demonstrate to my family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers what a relationship with Jesus Christ looks like.
What did the merchant do to obtain this pearl?
Jesus gave everything He had in order to obtain the church
He considers the church something of great value
The church is the vessel He is currently using to demonstrate to the rest of the world the kind of relationship He desires with them
He willingly sacrificed the glories of heaven to come to earth
He took on the form of a human being and suffered just like you and I do, yet without sin
He fulfilled God’s purpose for Him on earth by being falsely accused, beaten, and hung on a cross to die, to take your punishment for sin
We’re all born with a desire to have our own way (Romans 3:10-12, As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”)
Because God is just, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished (Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.)
God’s not only just, but He is also loving (Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.)
He made a way for you to be in a right relationship with Him (2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.)
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe in Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice to purchase me, so I can be in a right relationship with God.
Jesus modeled love
It was love that motivated Jesus to give everything He had to purchase humanity so that He will be able to use Israel, an incredible treasure, when He returns again
It was love that motivated Jesus to sacrifice everything in order to purchase the church, which is the pearl in humanity that points to Jesus
It was God’s great love for us that motivated Him to fulfill His plan of redemption through Jesus Christ
Love is our nacre
1 Peter 4:8, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Make love your nacre.
God showed grace towards us – He didn’t give us what we deserved for our sin
We also should extend grace to those around us, which is an expression of love
When we allow love to be our nacre, it can cover over the irritation that we may be feeling toward our coworkers, neighbors, family, friends, and fellow believers
The Sixth Pledge
This membership is a gift. When I received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, I became a part of the body of Christ. I soon thereafter identified with a local body and was baptized. And now I am humbled and honored to serve and to love others in our church. I pray that I will never take my membership for granted, but see it as a gift and an opportunity to serve others and to be a part of something so much greater than any one person or member.
Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King
Jesus in Disguise
“The surprise was complete. The attacking planes came in two waves; the first hit its target at 7:53 A.M., the second at 8:55. By 9:55 it was all over. By 1:00 P.M. the carriers that launched the planes from 274 miles off the coast of Oahu were heading back to Japan.
Behind them they left chaos, 2,403 dead, 188 destroyed planes, and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included eight damaged or destroyed battleships.
At 6 A.M. (Hawaiian time) on December 7, 1941, the first Japanese attack fleet of 183 planes took off from aircraft carriers 230 miles north of Oahu. Ironically, at 7:02 A.M., two Army operators at a radar station on Oahu’s north shore picked up approaching Japanese fighters on radar. They contacted a junior officer who disregarded their sighting, thinking that it was B-17 bombers from the United States west coast. The first Japanese bomb was dropped at 7:55 a.m. on Wheeler Field, eight miles from Pearl Harbor. No one was prepared for what was occurring. The rest is history.
At Pearl Harbor, the consequences for not being ready for an enemy attack was devastating. There were signs that went unheeded. Had the U.S. military been ready to spring into action, the losses at Pearl Harbor might have been greatly reduced.
The element of watchful waiting applies to the return of Christ. For the believer, being ready for Christ’s return involves more than not being caught by surprise. It also involves living a life in faithful obedience to God, investing our resources in the kingdom of God. Jesus will someday return. Those who are found faithful and living in obedience to God will be rewarded. Are you among the ready?”
[Stuart K. Weber, Holman New Testament Commentary, 427-28].
Spokane, WA – an important part of what we did was to take care of Wayne and Denise Miller and their family
Mississippi – we are planning a trip to Carthage, MS next summer to help at Abigail Farmer’s church (she is one of our missionaries) – part of the time will again be spent taking care of Abby and ministering to her
A friend of mine was diagnosed with a brain tumor
He was a follower of Jesus Christ
I took him once to his experimental treatment and waited with him
He had helped me out before when I woke up with something in my eye in the middle of the night
Serving homeless in Spokane, WA
They were so appreciative of the food and clothing items we brought through the two organizations we served with
It was a joy to minister to each person
Week of service this past summer (they took care of other ministries)
Tender Care Pregnancy Center
Upper Adams Food Pantry
Laurin and Bev Fleming’s home
In the past
New Hope Ministries in Hanover
Adams Rescue Mission
Helped with other individuals within the church
Gettysburg Soup Kitchen
Upper Adams Food Pantry
In-Gathering (happened last week)
Individuals in our church have used their talents to help others in the church
Car maintenance and repair
Yard work and mowing
Rides to church, doctor appointments, the pharmacy, and the grocery store
These are just a few of the ways that we have helped others, but there are countless other ways as well
Take a moment to think about how you have taken care of others
Jesus has been teaching on the Mount of Olives. He has been talking about the future and gives a couple parables to help His disciples understand they need to be ready and obediently working at multiplying the Gospel. He concludes His Olivet Discourse by teaching about the final judgment. Through His teaching Jesus wants His disciples and us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Serving servants of Jesus is serving Jesus.
GOD (Matthew 25:31-46)
Jesus will return (vv. 31-33)
PROMISE/TRUTH – God will send Jesus to earth a second time
When God gives us a promise or truth in His Word, we can claim that promise and believe that truth, wholeheartedly
We can put our hope in the fact that Jesus is coming again
It will be in power, which is represented by all the angels coming with Him
He will also come in authority as He sits on His throne in heavenly glory
He will come with God’s glory and authority to judge
Nations and people
In the Greek the word used for “nations” is talking about all people or the Gentiles and the Jews
The Great Commission includes every nationality and people group in the entire world
While every nation will be represented, the Greek word used for “the people” is in the masculine gender and “implies that individuals and not just nations or people groups are intended.” [Blomberg, The New American Commentary, Matthew, 376]
This concept agrees with all of Scripture – we are individually responsible for our salvation and how it is evidenced through our actions
Jesus uses imagery that would have been familiar to those He was teaching
The practice of keeping sheep and goats together in the pasture is still used in the Middle East today
Our image of sheep and goats is different than in the Middle East and probably from what was normal in the 1st Century
Our image of sheep are those with pure white wool coats
Goats can have different colored spots and patches on their coats
The sheep being referenced here probably had spots and patches of different colors that made them harder to distinguish from the goats
Genesis 30:31-32, “What shall I give you?” he asked. “Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages.”
While sheep and goats grazed together in the fields, when it was time to separate them, they would be sent down a chute that required them to go one at time in a single line
A shepherd would sit on top of the fence and swing a gate back and forth to guide each animal into the appropriate pen [Weber, Holman New Testament Commentary, Matthew, 424]
If the sheep and goats were both spotted, it would take a trained eye to quickly separate them
Jesus has that trained eye
We do not know the heart of man, but God does
We may think from outward actions or superficial knowledge that we know who are God’s people and who are not
Praise the Lord, He knows!
Right and left
Jesus will separate each individual from all nations
He will put the sheep, who represent those who are righteous, on His right side – this is the place of honor
He will put the goats, who represent those who are cursed, on His left side – in this context, it was a place of disgrace
Now that the righteous and the cursed have been separated, Jesus explains what will happen to each group
Blessed (vv. 34-40)
Reward (v. 34)
Jesus refers to Himself as the King in this parable
He will beckon those on His right – the righteous ones – to come and take their inheritance
These individuals are blessed by God the Father
This blessing is not the same as in the Beatitudes, where the Greek word means “happy”
It rather means someone who enjoys God’s good favor [France, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Matthew, 962]
It also has the idea that these individuals have received God’s spiritual and material blessing and favor already and that they will continue to receive it [Weber, Holman New Testament Commentary, Matthew, 424]
Their reward is the inheritance of the Kingdom of God
This was prepared for them since the creation of the world
There are two beliefs concerning the wording “since the creation of the world”
One belief system says that the identity of the individuals who will enjoy God’s blessing and favor have been determined before their birth
The other belief system is that Jesus is referring to the group of those who are saved as a whole
“God has prepared this kingship for those who will prove to be worthy of it, but who those people will be remains to be discovered on the basis of their response to the gospel and to the will of God.” [France, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Matthew, 963]
As we’ll see in vv. 35-36, how individuals respond to Jesus’ disciples who are in need, is evidence of a genuine relationship with Him
Service (vv. 35-36)
The righteous ones recognize three basic human needs (food, shelter, and companionship) and step in to help
These individual did not have to be told to do these things, because it was an outpouring of their love for Christ
Their perspective on humanity had been transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ – they now saw each person as a valuable creation of God the Father
The amazing thing is that they didn’t even realize they were serving Jesus
Surprise (vv. 37-39)
These verses make it sound like the righteous are confused or surprised by the King’s statement
They didn’t realize that serving servants of Jesus is serving Jesus
Jesus is saying to the righteous that they fed Him, gave Him water to drink, invited Him in to their homes, gave Him clothing, took care of Him when He was sick, and visited Him when He was in prison
Jesus is talking to His disciples about the final judgment
So, it could be confusing how these individuals had taken care of Jesus in the various scenarios outlined, since He was already back in heaven
I like how Wilkins addresses the surprise that the righteous ones are experiencing
“Such surprise indicates that these were not intentional meritorious acts to gain access to the kingdom. Rather, these acts of mercy are evidences that the sheep belong to the kingdom . . .” [Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, Matthew, 810]
The righteous were not doing these things as a way of working their way to heaven
They were doing these things as evidence that they were already citizens of heaven
They had been transformed by Jesus Christ and the proof was evident through how they served servants of Jesus
PRINCIPLE – Acts of service are a sign of salvation.
Our acts of service do not have to be “great” things
They are usually little things that seem insignificant to us
Providing food and drink to those who are need
Welcoming someone into our home who is a stranger
Offering clothing to those who need them
Caring for the sick or visiting those in prison
Perhaps the righteous didn’t even remember doing these things because they seem so insignificant
Are we helping those in need?
There are individuals all around us who are in need
There are those who are hungry and thirsty
There are individuals who need shelter and clothing
There are many in our congregation right now who are sick and can use help
We financially support Chaplain Will Olson and his ministry at Adams County Adult Correctional Facility, but he needs volunteers to help with Bible studies to both men and women
There are other needs in our church and community that we can help with
Those who have experienced divorce and separation (children and adults)
Various addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc.)
There a things we can do corporately as the body of Christ
What can you do individually?
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to helping those in my church and community who are in need.
What is our motivation for helping those in need?
The righteous in Jesus’ parable weren’t motivated by accolades or the hope of salvation by serving others
It was an outpouring and evidence of the transformational power of the Gospel in their lives
“True disciples will pass an examination not because they are trying to pass an examination but because they will love his brothers and sisters – and therefore Jesus.” [D.A. Carson cited by Boice, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 2, An Expositional Commentary, 541]
We should be serving others, because of the salvation we have received through Jesus Christ
This passage has been used by many in the social Gospel movement to motivate Christians to serve the poor, but those Jesus is referring to here are not just any poor or needy person
Servants (v. 40)
Disciples of Jesus
The least of these brothers of mine refers to Christ’s disciples or all Christians
In Matthew’s gospel the Greek word used for “least” is the superlative form of the adjective “little [ones]” which without exception in the gospel of Matthew refers to the disciples (10:42; 18:6, 10, 14; cf. also 5:19; 11:11)
The same is true of the Greek word used for “brothers” – “when not referring to literal, biological siblings, always means spiritual kin (5:22-24, 47; 7:3-5; 12:48-50; 18:15 (2X), 21, 35; 23:8; 28:10).” [Blomberg, The New American Commentary, Matthew, 377-78]
John Broadus explains it this ways, “Our Lord is not expressly speaking of benevolence to the poor and suffering in general, but of kindness to his poor and suffering ‘brethren’ for his sake.” [Broadus cited by Boice, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 2, An Expositional Commentary, 541]
For this particular passage of Scripture, Jesus is saying that our future depends on how we relate to His followers, which is a reflection of how we relate to Him
The Apostle Paul reiterates Jesus’ teaching when writing to the Galatians about doing good to all
Galatians 6:10, Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
While this passage does not speak to the social justice for all people, that does not mean that God is ambivalent towards the poor and needy who are not followers of Jesus Christ
Importance of taking care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan
There are multiple passages throughout the Old Testament that speak about God’s will concerning the poor, the widow, and the orphan
Nearly every prophetic book in the Old Testament has a warning from the Lord concerning taking care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan
There are additional warnings against taking advantage of those who are less fortunate
The king and those in authority were not to forget about those in their kingdom who were in need
From those passages and others in the New Testament, we know that we have a responsibility to take care of all who are poor and needy, whether they are in our church or in our community
We see that the righteous are blessed and will receive the Kingdom as their inheritance, because they willingly took care of Jesus’ disciples who were in need as evidence of their salvation and relationship with Jesus Christ
But Jesus has something to say to those on His left who are cursed
Cursed (vv. 41-45)
Punishment (v. 41)
We see some mirrored opposites here
The cursed are told to depart from Jesus instead of coming to Him
They are cursed instead of blessed
Their destiny is the eternal fire instead of kingship
The eternal fire was prepared for the devil and his angels
We have no evidence in Scripture that the fallen angels were given a chance to repent
That is not the case with humanity
No one should have to face eternal fire – it was prepared for the devil and his angels
Yet there are those who have chosen hell by rejecting Jesus Christ
They have no one else to blame but themselves
God has given each of us a free will to either accept or reject His plan of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ
There are individuals who readily say they welcome hell as their destiny, but they don’t understand what they are saying and what’s at stake
Hell is total separation from those in heaven and from God – if those in hell are able to, they will understand the vastness of God’s grace and mercy because they will no longer be experiencing it – He will no longer hold back His wrath
Those who go to hell will be together with the devil and his angels in total rebellion against God
Hell is suffering – it will be eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30)
There is still hope!
Jesus has not yet returned the second time
God’s grace and mercy are still in full force
God’s salvation is still available to anyone and everyone who repents and submits to Jesus as their master
Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
The beginning of our relationship with Jesus Christ comes in believing in Him, but it doesn’t stop there
It’s a total transformation that takes place in our lives through the Holy Spirit that now lives within us
Matthew 16:24-26, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Luke shares the same teaching from Jesus, but adds that the we have to take up our cross daily
My Next Step Today Is To: Begin my relationship with Jesus today by accepting God’s grace through faith in Jesus, and then grow in my faith by denying myself and taking up my cross daily.
Those on Jesus’ left did not make that decision and therefore neglected to take care of Jesus’ disciples
Neglect (vv. 42-43)
Here is the sad reality – the cursed did not do some great evil against Jesus’ disciples, they simply neglected to do good
The reality for us is that there are some who claim to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and attend church on a regular basis, but will be separated to Jesus’ left hand
Their relationship with Jesus was only lip service
A true transformation never took place
The evidence is clear from what Jesus says about those individuals
They did not take care of the basic needs of Jesus’ disciples who were suffering
Surprise (v. 44)
This group is also surprised by Jesus’ statement of not taking care of Him
They also didn’t recognize that taking care of Jesus’ disciples who were suffering meant they were taking care of Jesus
They didn’t understand that serving servants of Jesus is serving Jesus
Servants (v. 45)
The same disciples of Jesus were around these individuals, but they refused to take care of them
Their perspective on humanity had not been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ
They perhaps looked right past or through these suffering servants of Jesus
Their hearts were not compassionate towards those followers of Jesus who were suffering for Him
They were more concerned about themselves instead of others
Accountability (v. 46)
PRINCIPLE – Every one of God’s people will be held accountable for their response to Jesus’ disciples who are in need.
Those who neglect to help Jesus’ disciples will experience eternal punishment
Those who serve Jesus’ disciples will experience eternal life
“The presence of kingdom life will always produce evidence in the transformed speech, thought, actions, and character of Jesus’ followers. The absence of transformation is proof that a person has not accepted the invitation to the kingdom. Reward or penalty is distributed according to the evidence.” [Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, 813]
Does your life evidence a transformation by Jesus Christ?
If you’ve never accepted God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ are you ready to do that today?
If you stood before Jesus today would you be a sheep or a goat?
We all have an individual responsibility to serve Jesus’ disciples who are in need
We also have a corporate responsibility
We need individuals who will lead various ministry aspects
Men’s ministry leader
Single’s or divorce recovery ministry for adults and children
We need individuals who have a passion for these various areas to step up and lead
“When a friend cared for her housebound mother-in-law, she asked her what she longed for the most. Her mother-in-law said, ‘For my feet to be washed.’ My friend admitted, ‘How I hated that job! Each time she asked me to do it I was resentful, and would ask God to hide my feelings from her.’
But one day her grumbling attitude changed in a flash. As she got out the bowl and towel and knelt at her mother-in-law’s feet, she said, ‘I looked up, and for a moment I felt like I was washing the feet of Jesus Himself. She was Jesus in disguise!’ After that, she felt honored to wash her mother-in-law’s feet.
Today, might you echo my friend, who now wonders when she meets someone new, ‘Are you Jesus in disguise?’”
[Amy Boucher Pye, Our Daily Bread, September, October, November 2017, October 24]