Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of consecration. "To give my life for Christ appears glorious," he said. "To pour myself out for others ... to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom--I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. "We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table--'Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.' "But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost.' Go to a committee meeting. Give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. "Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul."

Our church’s theme for 2021 is holiness and today is the last of four messages on holiness. Our memory verse for January tells us why we are to be holy. It is because God is holy and he has set us apart from the world to be his own. We are to strive to be more like Christ every day because as Christians God has given us the responsibility to continue Jesus’ work on the earth, which is to pursue, grow and multiply disciples, just as he did.

Paul, the writer of Romans, spends the first eleven chapters of this book teaching the theology of the Christian faith and expounding on the gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught an understanding of our sin problem, our need for salvation, our sanctification and the sovereignty of God that is central to our faith as Christians today. In Paul’s teaching in Romans, we have been given some of the most well-known verses in the Bible on these subjects, such as, Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans chapter 3 gives a detailed picture of what sin looks like in our lives. Then in Romans 6:23 we see what we deserve because of our sin, “For the wages of sin is death.” What we deserve is a spiritual death, an eternal separation from God. But praise God, the theology of Christianity didn’t end there. Romans 6:23 goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God took care of our sin problem and made a way for us to be reconciled to him. All this was done while we were living in rebellion against Him. Romans 10:9 tells us what our responsibility now is: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The ball is in our court. God doesn’t force us to accept Jesus. But salvation, the forgiveness of sins, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Finally we see the culmination in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the good news for those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and are following Him. Now in Romans 12, Paul says, “So What?” Now that we’ve made a decision for Christ, what’s next?” Now that we are saved, how should we act? It is nice to say we are to be holy because God is holy. But is holiness in my daily life even realistic? Paul’s going to show us that holiness is definitely realistic and it is practical as well. In Romans chapter 12 the way that we achieve holiness is through sacrifice which brings us to our big idea this morning that: Our holiness will be seen in being a “living sacrifice” to God and others.

There are three points this morning. First, the Exhortation to Sacrifice; Second, the Expression of Sacrifice and third, the Evidence of Sacrifice. Let’s look at the exhortation to sacrifice which is found in Romans 12:1-2. This is what God’s Word says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Paul starts off with the word, “therefore”, meaning that what follows is a continuation of what came before in chapters 1-11. He is urging us to act on the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ that he just taught. But he doesn’t just say “do something.” He gives us a logical reason why we should act which is because of God’s mercy towards us. God didn’t have to make a way for us to be reconciled to him. He could have left us in our sinful state and to the consequences of our sin. But as John 3:16 says, God loved the world so much he sent his one and only son to die on a cross to take away the sins of the world and all we need to do is accept his son and we can have eternal life with him instead of eternal separation from him.

So because of what God did for us, the reasonable thing we should do in response is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This response is reasonable and spiritual. What would your response be if a total stranger paid your bill at a restaurant? The reasonable response should be gratitude and maybe that prompts you to pay it forward and pay someone else’s bill in the future. In the same way, our response to what God has done for us should not only be gratitude but action. It should motivate us to obedience. Next, our response should be spiritual. In the OT, worship and gratitude was accompanied by sacrifice. In that time God had instituted animal sacrifices, which was the way for the Israelite’s to worship God and to show their gratitude to him for what he had done for them. But once Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, once for all, they no longer needed to sacrifice animals in order to do that. Now our sacrifices are spiritual acts of worship. This spiritual act of worship comes from the heart and the mind and requires a sacrifice from us. But we don’t just make a sacrifice to God we are to “be” a sacrifice to God, not a dead sacrifice but a living sacrifice.

What does it mean to be a “living sacrifice?” First, Paul tells us we are to present our bodies to God. He means “present our bodies once and for all.” This is not just a one time commitment. It is not just sacrificing our bodies to God on Sundays and Wednesdays when we come to church. It’s is an every second of every day commitment to God. We can’t take a day off. We can’t be holy in one area of our lives and not holy in another. Holiness must permeate every area of our lives twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three- hundred and sixty five days a year. The spiritual act of worship is an everyday worship experience that is a passionate pursuit of holiness in our daily lives.

Second, in urging us to be a living sacrifices, Paul says we need to sacrifice three things in response to what God has done for us. The first thing we need to sacrifice to God is our bodies. Before we became a Christian we used our bodies for sinful purposes but now that we are a part of the family of God we are to use our bodies for his glory and for his purposes. Holiness is sacrificing our bodies as living sacrifices so that God can use us as his instruments in the world.

The second thing we are urged to sacrifice is our minds. The world or this “age” is trying to control our minds but God wants to transform them. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. This means we are to sacrifice our minds to God for his use and for his purposes. We can’t give our minds to both God and the world. It must be one or the other. But we all know how hard it is to resist conforming to the world around us especially when it is actively seeking to devour us and take us away from the family of God. How does the world try to conform us? It’s insidious because it is actually the same way that God transforms us. We are conformed or transformed by what we read, what we watch, what we listen to and who we hang out with. Are you reading your Bible? Do you watch Christian movies and TV shows? Do you listen to Christian music? Do you hang out with Christian friends?

We are conformed to the world by anything that we put into our minds that is worldly and we are transformed by anything that we put in our minds that is Godly. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Do you want to know if you are a conformer or are being transformed? What are you thinking on and about? Is it true, is it noble, is it right, is it pure, is it lovely, is it admirable, is it excellent and is it praiseworthy? Who controls your mind, God or the world?

This transforming of your mind will result in an outward display of obeying God’s Word. When we make a commitment to holiness as individuals and a congregation that means we are individually and corporately reading and studying God’s Word, memorizing scripture, praying to God in adoration, confession, thanksgiving and petition and the result is that our outward actions toward others will prove that we are pursuing holiness. Holiness is a practical pursuit which is why we put together the Spiritual Life Journal. We will see holiness in our lives as we obey God’s Word as it pertains to his Word, to our service, to our giving, in our relationships, in the gospel and in our worship. BIG IDEA

The third thing we are urged to sacrifice in response to what God has done for us is our wills. Your mind controls your body and your will controls your mind. It is only when we yield our will to God’s will that his power can take over and give us what we need to pursue and practice holiness. We can’t do it in our own power. We do this by knowing what God’s will is and putting it into practice. ​​ If we know and put into practice his standards, his desires, his motives and his values it will lead to spiritual growth and holy living. What we feed our minds and wills is what is inside of us and will come out of us. The difference in being conformed to this world or being transformed by the renewing of your mind and knowing what the perfect will of God is, is what comes out of us, is our actions.

These first two verses are not just asking us to sacrifice our time, talents, gifts and abilities to God and use them for his glory. They are asking for us to sacrifice our whole selves to him which includes those things. We need to sacrifice to him what we actually own. Our time, talents, gifts and abilities have been given to us by God. We can’t give away what we don’t own. But we do own our own bodies, our minds and our wills. That is what God wants us to sacrifice to him. The right to ourselves is the only thing we can give and we sacrifice our bodies, minds and wills so that his will can be done through us. That brings us to our first next step which is to be a “living sacrifice” by sacrificing my body, my mind and my will to the Lord for his purposes and his glory.

Our second point this morning is our expression of sacrifice. We express our sacrifice in the church by discovering our place in the body of Christ and seeking to build it up into a unified body. This is found in Romans 12:3-8 and this is what God’s Word says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

In these verses we see what sacrificing and pursuing holiness looks like in our relationships with those in the body of Christ. First, we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we should. We are all on a level playing field when it comes to God. No one is better than anyone else. To have sober or realistic judgment means that we realize we are all supposed to be living sacrifices and we owe everything to God. Paul uses an analogy of the human body to show how each believer is a part of the body of Christ. We all have gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and we are to use those gifts to build each other up. We belong to each other, we minster to each other and we need each other. We have sober judgment when we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the Church and not for our own benefit. We do this in a couple of ways.

The first is an honest evaluation of our spiritual gifts. We need to know what our spiritual gifts are or we can’t use them for the good of the body. How can you tell that you are using the gifts that God has given you? First, how are you serving here at Idaville Church? If you aren’t serving in some way you need to start. Second, if you are already serving are you happy where you are serving? If not that could mean you aren’t serving in that sweet spot where God wants you to be. It’s like having a job that you hate to go to. How does that affect you? It can be the same way in the church. If you are serving in the church and you aren’t happy then you need to change. It is not doing you or the church any good to serve in that position. God has a sweet spot in mind for you, you just need to find it.

So, if you aren’t serving right now or don’t know how or where to serve, please come see me. If you don’t know what your gifts are or how they can be used in the church, please come see me. If you are already serving here at Idaville and aren’t happy, please come see me. In all of these instances, you can take a spiritual gift survey which will help you better understand your gifts and how and where they can be used in the church. A spiritual gift survey can help you to find that sweet spot that God wants you to be in which will benefit both you and Idaville Church. Also if you look in the Spiritual Life Journal under the heading Holiness in Service you can see the steps that you can take in this area. Our goal at Idaville Church would be to have everyone serving God and doing it in their sweet spot.

That brings us to our second next step which is to take the steps necessary to be serving God in my sweet spot at Idaville Church. When the believers in a church know their gifts, accept them by faith, and use them for God’s glory, then God can bless us in a wonderful way.

The second way we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the Church is by faithful cooperation. As I said we all have been given spiritual gifts. No one has been left out and our gifts complement each other’s gifts. We have been given these gifts to be used within the church family so that it can be a healthy place to grow spiritually. Everyone’s gift is important and is to be used for the good of the body so we must all must be faithful in using our gifts.

We need to be careful to not use our gifts for selfish reasons instead of for the reasons God intended. Paul in Corinthians had to rebuke them for how they were using their gifts. They had the gifts of the Spirit but they were lacking in the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Our gifts are to be used by faith and in cooperation together to build up the body of Christ. I like this quote from Weirsbe, “Spiritual gifts are tools to build with, not toys to play with or weapons to fight with.”

Our third point this morning is the evidence of sacrifice. If the sacrificed life is expressed when we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the body of Christ than the evidence of a sacrificed life will be seen in the nitty-gritty of our day-to day relationships. This includes our relationships within the church and our relationships outside the church. We see the evidence of a sacrificed life in Romans 12:9-21, this is what God’s Word says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We are called to sacrifice ourselves in our relationships with others by overcoming evil with love. The key to doing this is that our love for others must be sincere. If our love is not sincere we can never do what Paul commands here and will never be able to overcome evil with love. The Greek word for sincere is the negative of the Greek word for hypocrite. Therefore, sincere love is not a hypocritical love. The word hypocrite was used for an actor of that time who wore different masks to portray the different emotions of the characters he played. This means that sincere Christians should not wear masks. What you see is what you get and Paul says that others should see a sincere love from us all the time. Also, it would be hypocritical for a Christian to hate what is good and cling to what is evil therefore we need to hate what is evil and cling to what is good.

Paul goes on to show us what this sincere love should practically look like especially in our relationships with other believers. We can only do these things if we are pursuing holiness and have offered our whole selves to God as living sacrifices. BIG IDEA. First, we must be devoted to one another in brotherly love. The same Greek root word was used for loving relationships within families. As the body of Christ we are in a spiritual family and we to love each other like the best earthly families would. This, of course, would be the ideal and not the norm. Next we need to honor one another above ourselves. The mantra “looking out for number one” has been around since the Garden of Eden when Adam, Eve and the serpent blamed everyone but themselves for their sin. We are to put others first as an expression and evidence of sincere love.

Next, we are not to be lacking in our zeal but we are to keep our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. We are to be zealous about our worship to God. What does zealous mean? It means we are to be “on fire” or “passionate” about our worship of God and what he is accomplishing in the world. This can be seen in our sharing the good news of Christ with those who don’t know him or serving in a soup kitchen, etc. The Holy Spirit is the one who fans the flames of our passion for God. Are we asking to be filled by the Holy Spirit daily? Are we asking the Holy Spirit to give us passion for God and his son Jesus? Sometimes that passion can be misguided and harmful to the church so Paul tells us our spiritual passion must be used in obedient service to Christ. We need to remember whom we are to have passion for and what our passion is to be used for, which is serving the Lord.

Next, we are to “stay the course” as we fight the spiritual battles the world throws at us. We need to rejoice in the hope that we have that “God Wins” and show patience and endurance when trials and tribulations come our way. We also need to be faithful in prayer. We all know how important prayer is in the Christian walk. We need to be praying for others, for our church and for our world. Next, we show the familial love to the body of Christ when we share with other believers who are in need. We are also called to practice hospitality towards others.

In verses 14-16, Paul seems to shift from our relationships with other believers to our relationships with non-believers and how we are to show the same sincere love towards them. But these same behaviors still apply within the church. He starts off this section by seeming to quote from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We are called to a sincere love of others that goes way beyond the normal boundaries of human love. We do this by blessing those who persecute us and not cursing them. We are to treat them as God treated us which is by loving and forgiving them, unconditionally. ​​ Next he talks about rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Imagine what could happen if we as Christians rejoice with non-Christians over the things they rejoice in or mourn with non-Christians over things they are mourning over. Imagine the impact and witness that we could have on them and the opportunities it could give us to talk to them about the gospel. For instance, we could share with them the reason we can rejoice mourn with them is because of what God has done for us in sending his son to die for our sins and because of that we have the hope of heaven.

If we practice these things it allows us to live in harmony with everyone. The greatest obstacle to harmony in our relationships is pride. Paul urges us to avoid pride and to humble ourselves. We have all received the grace of God and are on the same plane when it comes to sin, salvation, sanctification, etc. so no matter our wealth, prestige or position we are to treat everyone the same and better than ourselves and be willing to do even the humblest of duties. We should also not be conceited or think we are wiser than we really are. This is what will bring unity as we pursue holiness as living sacrifices to God.

The last section, verses 17-21, talks about overcoming evil with good by refusing to retaliate against those who persecute you. A sincere love for others will repay evil with kindness. But as followers of Jesus Christ we are to go one step further. We are to be careful to “do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” How can we do that especially when there are those who believe that what is right is sin? We are to be at peace with everyone as long as God’s good and perfect will allows us to be and it doesn’t contradict God’s moral demands on us. We will not always be at peace with others but that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to do our very best to try and live that way.

We are not to seek revenge against someone who wrongs us because God is the only one who can judge. He is the only one who knows all, sees all and is all-powerful. It is God’s right not ours to repay evil in the world. Instead we are to overcome evil with good. This is seen by feeding our enemy if he is hungry and giving him something to drink if he is thirsty. In doing these things we will heap burning coals on his head. This means that by responding to evil with good it may cause them to become ashamed of their actions and perhaps because of our witness seek reconciliation with God. Isn’t that what we want? We want the world to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior as we do. This is counter-cultural, this is going above and beyond, this is being a living sacrifice, this is a practical pursuit of holiness in our lives. Which brings us to our third next step which is to pursue a sincere love for others and to overcome evil with good in all of my relationships.

So, what does it mean to be a living sacrifice? Like I said in the beginning, it’s like cashing in a $1,000 for quarters and going through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there in loving others. Being a living sacrifice is also like giving God a signed blank check and allowing him to continually fill it out and put anything and everything he wants on it. Being a living sacrifice is going all in with God. It is surrendering your will daily for the will of God. Being a living sacrifice is the pursuit of holiness that we have been talking about for the past month. The Israelites were to be a living sacrifice. Daniel was a living sacrifice. We are to be a living sacrifice to God. Being a living sacrifice is what the Spiritual Life Journal is all about. If you have signed the commitments in the Spiritual Life Journal and have started to do the daily bible reading plan and memorize the monthly scripture verse you have essentially given God a signed blank check and have agreed to pursue holiness everyday of 2021. You have agreed to not only grow spiritually inwardly but to show your growth outwardly by your actions. Your growing relationship with God will show that you are pursuing holiness and your growing relationships with one another in the church and in the world will show that you are practicing holiness. You will be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your true and proper worship.

Let’s pray.

Pursuit Of Holiness

Taught Not Caught

(Daniel 1:1-21)



Bryan Chapell begins his sermon, “The Undefiled,” with this story.


“When I was in seminary, the wife of one of my classmates worked as a quality control inspector at a pharmaceutical company downtown in order to support the family. One day, through mistaken procedures, a major order of syringes was contaminated and would not pass inspection. When the wife of my friend reported the contamination to her boss, he quickly computed the costs of reproducing the order and made a ‘cost-effective’ decision: ship the order. He ordered her to sign the inspection clearance despite the contamination. She refused.


Because of government regulations, my friend's wife was the only one who could sign the clearance. The syringes did not ship that day. So the next day, a Friday, the wife got a visit from the company president. He said he would give her the weekend to think it over, but if the forms were not signed on Monday, her job would be in jeopardy.


In fact, much more was in jeopardy. This inspection job was this couple's only means of support. The husband's education and ministry future was also in jeopardy. All their hopes, dreams, and family plans of many years could be shattered as a result of a choice to be made over the next two days. For this young couple, all the abstract doctrinal instruction they had been receiving about personal consecration, world transformation, and credible witness boiled down to this one very real decision: could they afford to remain undefiled from the contamination the world was urging them to approve? Was the witness of holiness worth what it would cost?


The couple's predicament, of course, was not unique to them. In all ages God's people are pressured to pollute the purity of their dedication to God. The pressures come from lots of potential sources: bosses, finances, competitors, friends, relatives, congregations, our own desires for success and significance. This couple faced such pressures, you have faced them, Daniel and his friends faced them. The pressures face anyone who will seek to live undefiled in a world of sin. That's why the Bible, in order to help us face these pressures, speaks so plainly about the risks, reasons, and rewards of holiness.”




This couple was going to have to decide whether or not to follow what they were taught by their parents, church, and seminary. ​​ When it comes to tough decisions we most often return to what we were taught – our character.



  • ME

    • Character traits developed in me by my parents

        • Hard work ethic

        • Honesty

        • Tithing

        • Trustworthiness

        • Loyalty

        • Faith in God

    • Hiring staff

        • I remember attending a workshop at one of the UB National Conferences where former Bishop Phil Whipple was sharing about hiring staff

        • He shared that he would rather hire someone with character instead of someone with a lot of skills

        • His reasoning behind this was that it was easier to teach them the various skills they would need, than to teach them character qualities that take time to develop

        • Character is something that is taught over a long period of time, while skills can be easily caught within a short period of time


  • WE

    • Skills caught

        • What skills have you learned?

    • Character taught

        • What character traits were you taught? (good and bad)


Daniel and his friends were taught some pretty incredible character traits that stuck with them even when they were separated from their families. ​​ One of the main character traits they had learned was a firm commitment to God. ​​ They also learned what holiness meant and how to maintain that. ​​ From Daniel’s example in the passage today, we will learn that . . .

BIG IDEA – Holiness begins with a firm commitment to God.


Let’s pray


Kenneth Gangel does an excellent job of providing the main point headings in the Holman Old Testament Commentary for Daniel. ​​ I’ve used those headings as the main points this morning.


  • GOD (Daniel 1:1-21)

    • Attack by Babylon (vv. 1-2)

        • Jehoiakim’s reign

          • Jehoiakim was the son of Josiah

            • Josiah was the king who returned the Israelites to the worship of God

            • He was one of just a few kings who were righteous and did what was right before God

            • Most of the other kings were wicked and turned away from God

            • After Josiah’s death, his younger son Johoahaz was actually made king, first, but his reign only lasted three months (he was a wicked king)

            • Pharaoh-neco appointed Eliakim, Josiah’s elder son, as king and renamed him Jehoiakim

          • Year of Jehoiakim’s reign

            • Daniel says it was in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign

            • Jeremiah says it was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign (Jeremiah 25:1)

            • Which one is correct?

              • Both, because they are talking about the same time period

              • Two different calendars [Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1328]

                • Jewish calendar began in September-October

                • Babylonian calendar began in March-April

              • Two different ways of counting [Gangel, The Holman Old Testament Commentary, Daniel, 15]

                • Babylonian reckoning (Daniel) – they “considered the first year of a king’s reign the year of accession and the second year would be the official ‘first year.’” [Gangel, 15]

                • Egyptian reckoning (Jeremiah) – they considered the first year as the actual first year of their reign

          • So, Jehoiakim had been king for four years (Egyptian timing), three years (Babylonian timing)

        • Nebuchadnezzar’s reign

          • Jeremiah (25:1) tells us that it was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign that he besieged Jerusalem

          • It was 605 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar became king and he didn’t waste time establishing his dominance in the region

          • He immediately began his conquest of the surrounding nations

          • While Nebuchadnezzar thought he was ultimately in control, we see the almighty, sovereign God, who is actually in control

        • God’s sovereignty

          • In God’s sovereignty and under His control, He allowed Nebuchadnezzar to overtake Jerusalem and delivered king Jehoiakim into his hands

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign!

            • Nothing happens outside His divine control and purpose

            • This is the first time, in the passage we’re looking at today, that we see God’s sovereignty, but it’s not the last

            • God is still in control of world changing and nation changing events

              • Whatever our political views are, we can trust that God is in control!

              • Whatever our beliefs are about a world-wide pandemic, God is in control!

              • Whatever financial struggles we’re experiencing, either personally or as a church, God is in control!

              • How many of us would say that we feel like we are being taken captive (emotionally, spiritually, politically, relationally, financially)?

              • How many of us would say that we feel like some of our most prized possessions are being carried away?

              • Perhaps most of us can relate to what the Israelites were feeling at this point – we may not be going into captivity and being carried away to another land, physically, but perhaps that’s how we feel emotionally, mentally, or spiritually

              • We may be experiencing the feelings of hopelessness

              • God is with us and promises to never leave us or forsake us, but to be our helper (Hebrews 13:5-6)

              • We can trust Him!

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God’s sovereign power and turn to Him with my feelings of hopelessness.

          • God also allowed some of the articles from His temple to be carried away to Babylonia

            • “Daniel tells us that twice in one verse, indicating its importance. ​​ He wants us to understand that this is not only a battle between nations but also a battle between deities – God against Marduk, great god of the Babylonians.” ​​ [Gangel, 17]

            • This spiritual battle wages to the very end of time as we see in Revelation

            • The temple in Babylonia would have been to Bel (Marduk)

            • The purpose in carrying away some of the articles from the temple was to prove that the deities of Babylonia had conquered the God of Judah

            • And yet, we know that’s not the case, as Daniel pointed out (God was in control)

            • Nebuchadnezzar left some of the articles in the temple, so the Israelites, who remained in Jerusalem, could continue to worship their God

            • They were a vassal state of Babylon

        • Nebuchadnezzar didn’t only take articles from the temple of the Lord, but he also took young men from Jerusalem to Babylon

    • Training in Babylon (vv. 3-7)

        • Who was to be trained?

          • Nebuchadnezzar puts the chief of his court officials, Ashpenaz, in charge of choosing those who will be taken into captivity and trained

          • This was common practice in the ancient world – taking the brightest and best of the royal family and nobility into captivity and training them, so they would eventually become advocates, for the conquering nation, with their own people

          • Attributes of those chosen

            • Physically – young, without defect, handsome (I may be biased, but I think my three boys would have qualified physically)

              • Young men/youths/children – Daniel and his friends would have been around 12-15 years’ old

              • Their age will be significant as the events of this passage unfold – so keep their age in mind

            • Intellectually – aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand (again, I’m biased, but my three boys would qualify)

            • We would all feel the same way about our own children

          • Now that we know who was to be trained, we can focus on what they were to be taught

        • What were they to be taught?

          • Language and literature of the Babylonians

            • Language

              • “The traditional language of Babylon was Akkadian, a complex and ancient language written by means of a cuneiform script (using a stylus to make wedge-shaped characters), in which each symbol represented a syllable.” ​​ [John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 730]

              • [Show pictures of Akkadian cuneiform script]

              • While the Babylonians knew Akkadian, they primarily communicated using Aramaic, which was similar to Hebrew, in that it used an alphabetic script instead of a cuneiform script

              • Daniel and his friends may have already know Aramaic

            • Literature

              • There were certainly all kinds of general literature for these young men to learn (sciences, mathematics, etc.), but perhaps they were taught specific forms of literature based on how there were going to serve the Babylonian kingdom

              • We know that Daniel served as a diviner, because God had given him the ability to understand visions and dreams of all kinds (Daniel 1:17)

              • It’s probable that Daniel focused on the omen literature that would serve him well as a diviner

              • We’re not really told how the other three youths served the Babylonian kingdom, so it’s more difficult to determine their course of training

          • This wasn’t a 12-week course on how to serve the king, but rather a much lengthier training that would completely indoctrinate them to the customs, traditions, and ways of the Babylonian people

        • How long was their training?

          • Their training would take them three years

          • After their training was complete, they would serve the king

          • Every aspect of their lives was regimented and set by the king – what they were to learn and what they were to eat

        • What were they to eat?

          • The king assigned a daily portion of food and wine from his own table

            • This shouldn’t be seen as a way to defile the Hebrew captives

            • The king probably didn’t even know about their dietary restrictions

            • He was providing the best, he had to offer, for them

            • Remember, the purpose in their training was to transform those who were captive from their original origins to Babylonian citizens

            • We only learn later that Daniel and his three friends considered the food and wine something that would defile them

            • We’re not told the exact food items that were part of the daily portion, but perhaps it included bread and meat of some kind

          • Captives weren’t the only ones who received a daily portion from the king’s table [Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 731]

            • Ranking members of the administration

            • Craftsmen and artisans (native or foreign)

            • Diplomats, businessmen and entertainers

          • Of those who were taken captive, we see that some of them were from Judah

        • Line of Judah (line of the king)

          • Hebrew names

            • Daniel – “God is judge”

            • Hananiah – “Jehovah is gracious; whom Jehovah has favored”

            • Mishael – “Who is what God is?”

            • Azariah – “The Lord helps”

          • Babylonian names

            • “To change someone’s name is to exercise authority over them and their destiny.” ​​ [Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament,]

            • Belteshazzar (Daniel) – “Bel’s (Marduk) prince; he whom Bel favors.” [Chief-god]

            • Shadrach (Hananiah) – “young friend of the king; command of Aku.” ​​ [Sun/Moon-god]

            • Meshach (Mishael) – “Who is what Aku is?” Could also be from Babylonian goddess Sheshach (Shak) [Earth-god]

            • Abednego (Azariah) – “servant of Nebo; servant of the shining fire” [Fire-god]

        • So, Daniel and his three friends, along with the other captives, were going through a lot of changes all at once

        • Daniel accepted all of the changes, but one

    • Commitment in Babylon (vv. 8-14)

        • Daniel’s resolution

          • Daniel made up his mind that he would not eat the royal food or drink the wine

          • Why did he make up his mind about the food and drink, but not the name change or curriculum?

            • Having his named changed and learning about the customs, traditions, and ways of the Babylonian people did not directly go against Jewish law

            • Eating food prepared by Gentiles would have made the food unclean – it was not Kosher

            • The food might have been sacrificed to idols and eating it would have meant approval of the worship of those gods

          • Firm commitment to God

            • Holiness begins with a firm commitment to God.

            • Where did Daniel learn this firm commitment to God?

              • He would have been alive during King Josiah’s reign

              • He would have seen and experienced the repentant heart of not only the King, but everyone else in Jerusalem

              • Perhaps he watched his father and mother recommit themselves to the Lord – he saw, first-hand, the transformation that God’s Word had in his own family

              • He was wholly committed to the Lord and would not sacrifice that commitment by eating food and drinking wine potentially sacrificed to idols

              • “The great lesson from the incident is that religion should regulate the smallest details of life, and that it is not narrow over-scrupulousness, but fidelity to the highest duty, when a man sets his foot down about any small matter, and says, ‘No, I dare not do it, little as it is, and pleasant as it might be to sense, because I should thereby be mixed up in a practical denial of my God.’ ‘So did not I, because of the fear of God’ (Neh. v. 15), is a motto which will require from many a young man abstinence from many things which it would be much easier to accept.” ​​ [Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 10757]

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we choose holiness over worldliness.

            • Application

              • Holiness

                • We are being bombarded every day with temptations for worldliness

                  • Perhaps our employer is asking us to do something that we know is not morally or ethically right (what will we choose?)

                  • Maybe a friend at school wants us to help them do something that we know isn’t right (what will we choose?)

                  • Some of us may have family members who are pressuring us to do something wrong (what will we choose?)

                  • A fellow college student or professor may be encouraging us to be more tolerant of a social or cultural shift that is in opposition to God’s Word (what will we choose?)

                  • Society wants us to be tolerant of other religions and “cultural norms” that go against the Bible (what will we choose?)

                  • Laws within our land (abortion, same-sex marriage, legalization of drugs, etc.) tempt us to accept what God says is unacceptable (what will we choose?)

                • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Resolve to stand firm on my commitment to God and choose holiness over worldliness.

              • Committed to God at a young age

                • As I mentioned earlier, Daniel and his three friends were probably in their early teens

                • They were pursuing holiness, because of a firm commitment to God

                • These four young men seem to be the exception among the captives, but they are an incredible example for our young people today

                • The norm

                  • Too often in our day and age, young men and women in their early teens are not pursuing holiness and a firm commitment to God

                  • We often hear them say that they will pursue God and holiness when they are older

                  • Many young people, who walked away from the church and the Lord in their mid to late teens and early twenties, return to the Lord and the church when they begin having children (they know the importance of training up their children in the Lord)

                  • This doesn’t have to be the norm

                • Young people can and should be pursuing holiness and a firm commitment to the Lord

                  • The primary teaching and modeling for pursuing holiness should come from Dad and Mom

                  • They learn both from our teaching and our example

                  • There are certainly young people who are living in a non-Christian homes, but are striving to live for Jesus

                  • That’s when the body of Christ steps in and provides the teaching and modeling for these young people to follow

                • #3 – (Young People) My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Not wait until I’m older to pursue holiness and a personal relationship with God.

                • #4 – (Adults) My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Commit to teach and model a life of holiness for the next generation.

          • Daniel gives us a great example of how to handle potential conflict, especially when it pertains to defiling our moral and ethical beliefs – he appeals to those in charge

        • Daniel’s appeals

          • Chief official

            • He asks the chief official for permission not to defile himself

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign!

              • We see that God is sovereignly in control again as He causes the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel

              • The chief official understands Daniel’s concern about the food and wine, but he isn’t ready to choose holiness over worldliness

              • He prefers having his head attached to his shoulders (he’s afraid for his life)

              • The chief official wasn’t willing to question the king’s assignment of food

            • That didn’t stop Daniel from continuing to appeal

          • Guard

            • Next, he goes to the guard who has direct supervision over him, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah

            • His appeal is to have the guard give these four a test run for 10 days

              • Instead of eating the royal good and drinking the wine, they will only eat vegetables and drink water

              • After the 10 days are up, the guard can compare their appearance to the appearance of the other captives who have eaten the king’s food and wine

              • The guard can then treat these four young men based on what he sees

            • The guard agrees to the test

        • What will happen as a result of these four young men choosing holiness, because of their firm commitment to God?

    • Blessings in Babylon (vv. 15-21)

        • PRINCIPLE #3 – God honors the obedience of His people.

        • Physical blessing

          • These four young men looked healthier than the other young men

          • They also looked more nourished/fatter (we don’t associate fatter as healthy term, but think about malnourished children who are only skin and bones – for them to be fatter, means well nourished)

          • The guard saw the results and took away the choice food and wine from everyone and gave them all vegetables to eat and probably water to drink

        • Intellectual blessing

          • The intellectual blessings all came from God!

          • All four men received knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning

          • Daniel also received the ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams

          • It didn’t matter what the king questioned them about

          • As it pertained to wisdom and understanding, these four young men were ten times more capable of providing a balanced answer, than all of the other magicians and enchanters in the kingdoms

          • That’s a pretty incredible blessing from the Lord for pursuing holiness and a firm commitment to Him

        • Employment blessing

          • These four young men were given positions within the kingdom

          • They had completed their three years of training and were ready to serve the Lord by serving the king of Babylon

          • Daniel remained as an official in the Babylonian kingdom until the first year of King Cyrus

            • That was nearly the entire 70 years of the Babylonian captivity

            • Daniel served under four kings

              • Nebuchadnezzar (Babylonia Empire)

              • Belshazzar (Babylonia Empire)

              • Darius (Medo-Persia Empire)

              • Cyrus (Medo-Persia Empire)

        • What blessings have you received as a result of obeying God?


  • YOU

    • Are you feeling hopeless today? ​​ (trust God, because He is sovereign and in control)

    • Resolve to stand firm on your commitment to God choose holiness over worldliness

    • Young people – don’t wait to pursue holiness and a relationship with God (the blessing far outweigh the hardship)


  • WE

    • Parents and adults – we are called to teach and model a life of holiness and a firm commitment to God



For Daniel and his three friends, holiness and a firm commitment to God didn’t stop with this one difficult situation.


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose holiness over worldliness and experienced a supernatural fire walk and a promotion (Daniel 3:1-30)

Daniel chose to maintain his firm commitment to God and pursuit of holiness even when there was a 30-day prayer ban decreed by King Darius and experienced a supernatural slumber party with a den of lions (Daniel 6:1-28)


Are you ready to experience the supernatural blessings of God as you pursue holiness through a firm commitment to Him?




Ultimate Tag is a reality show where competitors must vault, dodge, tumble and dive their way through several different three dimensional courses with one person trying to tag the other person. It is billed as the fastest, craziest, most intense game ever.

Everyone has probably played the childhood game of tag at some point in their lives. I can remember playing tag on the playground growing up. I remember one time in second grade being chased in a game of tag and I tried so hard to get away that I slide under a fence. I ended up ripping my shirt and actually getting stuck under the fence. And I got tagged which upset me more than ripping my shirt did.

This morning we are going to be talking about ultimate tag as it pertains to a command given us by God himself. In ultimate tag the object is to pursue another person trying to tag them so they are “it.” In the command given to us by God we are to be holy as he is holy. We are to pursue holiness daily so that we can abide in his presence. This is the ultimate tag of life because we must be relentless in our pursuit of holiness. We can’t take a day off. It must be an every second of every day pursuit.

Holiness is not just about keeping the commands of God. We can’t earn our holiness as we can only be holy through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Without his sacrifice we could never be holy. But after our justification we can be sanctified through pursuing holiness which means the way that we show our holiness to the Lord is by keeping his commands and obeying his Word. This morning we will be studying Leviticus 19 and we will see parallels with the Ten Commandments given by God to the Israelites. If we follow the Ten Commandments our relationship with God and with others will be in good standing. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is our holiness can be seen in our relationship with God and others.

Before we begin our study this morning let’s dedicate this time to the Lord. Dear Heavenly Father, as we study your Word this morning help us to be attentive to you Spirit. Help us to hear your voice and what it is you want us to learn and share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Before we look at Leviticus, I want to give you some background information. First, what is holiness? The Hebrew word for “holiness” is a word that highlights the realm of the sacred in contrast to everything common and profane. It refers to God and what belongs to him. The word holy is used more than 600 times in the Bible. It describes something or someone that is set apart for God. We will see in Leviticus 19 that God was calling his people into a relationship with himself and he wanted them to not only to survive the experience but to be nourished by it. But for that to happen, they needed to know the ground rules, they needed to come to him on his terms not their own.

What or who can be holy? Anything can be holy, time, space, objects, and people, all can become holy if they belong to God. The temple in Jerusalem was considered a holy space, and the objects used in worship were holy objects. The Sabbaths and feasts of Israel were considered holy days or seasons. And the Israelites were called God’s holy people because he had chosen them and they belonged to him. To be holy literally means to be set apart. The Israelites were to be set apart from the other nations that they were going to be living among in the Promised Land and today we are to be holy and set apart from the world that we live in, meaning those who are against God and don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. To be set apart means we are to live differently from the world. When the world looks at us they should see a difference between us and themselves. If they don’t then we are not living a holy life as a child of God.

As believers, we are literally set apart, made holy, because of our relationship with the one who died on a cross for our sins and brought us back into a right relationship with a holy God. How does Jesus do this? If you remember the story of King Midas, everything he touched turned to gold. Something like that happens when we come into relationship with Jesus. He is the one who entered the holy of holies in heaven to heal the rift that sin had created in our relationship with God. Jesus is the one who makes us holy, enabling us to stand in God’s presence and join the angels as they sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.” It starts with our justification, our accepting of Jesus as our Lord and Savior and it continues with our sanctification.

What is sanctification? According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” It is a continuing change worked by God in us, freeing us from our sinful habits and forming in us Christ-like affections, dispositions, and virtues. It doesn’t mean that we will never sin again, but it does mean that we strive to be more Christ-like every day and when we do sin we confess and repent. This is sanctification and it is a real transformation, not just the appearance of one.

So our holiness starts with the work of Jesus on the cross and continues as we pursue the holiness of God in our everyday lives, which brings us to our scripture this morning. It is found in Leviticus 19:1-2 but we will be talking about the entire chapter. I also want to reference Leviticus 20:7-8 and 26 in the scripture reading this morning. This is what God’s Word say from Leviticus 19:1-2: The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. And in Leviticus 20:7-8, 26: “‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

We see the concept of holiness played out in these verses. First, we are to be holy because God is holy. Second, God is the one who makes us holy. Third, God has set us apart from the nations to be his own. And fourth, to be holy we need to keep God’s decrees by following and obeying them. The rest of those two chapters are God-given guidelines on what it practically meant for the Israelites to be holy. If they obeyed these decrees they would be different from the nations around them and would be in a close relationship with God. Another benefit from obeying these commands was that not only would they be in a close relationship with God but they would be in close relationships with each other. That reminds us of our big idea that our holiness can be seen in our relationship with God and others.

Leviticus 19 has been called the Old Testament Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus was laying out for His disciples His rules for those who would be subjects of His kingdom. Those whom Christ saves are to display a life that is different from the kingdom from which they have been delivered. They are different because they are pursuing holiness and striving to be holy as God is holy. The same was true for God’s covenant people. If they were pursuing holy living their lives would demonstrate that they were different from the nations living around them.

The important thing for us to remember is that holiness is definable, it is practical, and it is even measureable. But even further than that, when it comes to holiness, those who have been redeemed by the grace of God are responsible. It is our responsibility to pursue the practice of holiness in our lives. And because of God’s saving grace, we have the power to do so. If we pursue holiness, in the power of Christ, then we will find ourselves experiencing the abundant life that Jesus talked about. The pursuit of holiness is also a profitable pursuit. We will see all of this in Leviticus 19.

Our first point is the Principles of Holiness. The first principle is that holiness is a commanded responsibility. In vs. 1-2, God commanded his chosen people to be holy as he was holy. It was not merely a good suggestion but rather a covenant obligation. This is why we have been saved. We are not to be corrupted by the world around us but are to live in loyalty and obedience to the Lord who has saved us. We are to be like Him. Harris says, “The character of God is behind all his commandments. Among the sensual and foolish deities of antiquity, no god could ground all moral duty in his divine character; only the God of Israel could.” Jonathan Edwards once said that if we do not love God for His holiness then it is doubtful that we love Him at all. Think about it: we will know that we love Him for His holiness if we answer His command to pursue holiness. Every week in our worship-based prayer, we seek the face of God as we praise him for his many attributes such as his holiness, but you know what, they are empty words if we don’t answer his command to pursue holiness. It works the same way for all his attributes. If we say we love God but don’t love others our words are meaningless. If we praise him for his graciousness and mercifulness towards us but we are not gracious and merciful towards others our praise is meaningless.

Our second principle is that holiness is a countercultural responsibility. God was concerned that the people whom He had redeemed not be corrupted by the practices of the people whom they would soon encounter. They were to be holy and therefore their lifestyle was to be characterized by holiness. God is different from His creation and as believers we are called to model him. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Harrison says, “God’s holiness is to be taken as a model for individual and community life.” Currid defines holiness as “the imitation of God.” Jesus taught this principle when He said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” in Matthew 5:48. When God called His people to holiness, He was calling them to a lifestyle and an existence that was to be different to those around them. He is calling us to the same thing today.

Christians and non-Christians are similar in many ways. Rarely can you look at someone and just from the outside tell whether they are a Christian or not. The difference is related to someone’s desires, beliefs, values and aspirations. We should be different from the culture we live in and honestly we should unapologetically be offending the culture around us. There should be a difference in our behavior that is noticeable to them. We will examine examples of that behavior in the rest of chapter 19.

Our third principle is that holiness is a communal responsibility. God’s command to be holy as he is holy, was given in the context of community. Moses was commanded by God to command the entire assembly to holiness. No one was exempt from holy living, not even the stranger or the foreigner in the assembly. This means that everyone here in our congregation of Idaville Church has a part to play in being holy and the responsibility of ensuring that holiness is part of their everyday lives.

It is essential that I pursue holiness, but it is also essential that we all pursue holiness so that together we are holy. This requires an awareness of accountability. Moses gave these commands from God to the people publicly so that they were without excuse. There was a built-in accountability factor that no one could easily escape. It is the same for you and I. We sit here and hear Pastor Stuart preaching and teaching us directly from God’ Word every Sunday. We go to Sunday school and hear teachers teaching from Word of God. We read God’s Word for ourselves at home. We are now held accountable by God but also by each other to obey what God’s Word says. That accountability is part of pursuing holiness.

Our fourth principle is that holiness is a comprehensive responsibility. In Leviticus 19:3-18, Ross says, God gave the Israelites a “rapid, panoramic tour” of what it meant to be holy. The laws he gave covered every major sphere of daily life. They started in the home, and then with the sanctuary and then with society at large. Also, each of the Ten Commandments seem to be alluded to here. We are called to be holy and obedient in every area of our lives. Sometimes we are guilty of pursuing holiness in one aspect of our lives but not worrying about holiness in another. This may be played out in loving God but not being willing to love others as ourselves. We can’t love God if we don’t love others like us who are made in his image.

That brings us to our first next step which is to obey God’s command to be holy, different from the world we live in, individually and as a church community, in every part of our daily lives.

Our second point this morning is the practice of holiness. The pursuit of holiness is a practical pursuit. There are things that we are to do as well as things that we are to avoid. First, holiness is a concrete responsibility. There is a very definite behavior that God expects of those who claim Him as their Father and there should be concrete differences in our living compared to the world around us. And, this behavior is not beyond our reach; it is attainable. Tidball says, “Holy living involved goals that were manageable, by God’s grace, rather than goals that were so far out of reach that people were condemned to perpetual failure.” James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” The pursuit of holiness is practical. It can be demonstrated, measured and attained.

In chapter 19, verses 3-18, we see what was required in the daily pursuit of holiness. The first thing that was required was to love God, and this was shown practically in several ways. First, we are to respect our parents because God has put them in authority over us. Two, we are to remember the Sabbath. Holiness begins in the home and remembering the Sabbath benefits our family life. When we have a respect for God we will have a respect for those he puts in authority over us such as our parents. And three, we are not to have any other gods before us or worship any idols. It is interesting how these are related. If you don’t remember the Sabbath and the worship of God then it won’t be long til you start to worship idols such as money, possessions, people, etc. Holiness is demonstrated in whom we worship. We were created for worship. Everyone worships; the only question is whom and how we worship.

David Foster Wallace delivered a commencement address at Kenyon College back in 2005. He makes no profession to faith in Jesus Christ, but at one point in his address he made the following statement: “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what we worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship . . . is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” Anything you worship other than the God of the Bible—money, fame, sex, etc. will eventually eat you alive. If we do not want to be eaten alive by that which they worship, we must teach and model a remembrance of the Sabbath and a respect for God and parents. God is the only one worthy of our worship. Everything else is worthless.

Lastly, to love God was shown practically by obeying the rules. This is seen in Leviticus 19:5-10. The first rule had to do with the peace offering. The peace offering was the culmination of all of the sacrificial rituals. It was a meal in which God shared with His people. It celebrated reconciliation with God. It was a statement expressing fellowship and oneness with Him. The second rule had to do with gleaning which was a God-prescribed means for caring for the poor among His people. When a landowner harvested his field he was not to reap in the corners of his fields or to harvest every grape and olive. He was to leave some for the poor to harvest. It was a means of feeding the poor while at the same time guarding their dignity. In other words, they could find food but they had to labor for it themselves.

What was important about these two rules being together? The peace offering was also a thank offering, in which the worshipper would bring a sacrifice to express gratitude to God for His goodness in giving them a harvest. And this thankfulness was to spill over into their lives as they went back home to their fields. They were in community together and this was a practical way to have compassion for others just as God had compassion on them. ​​ 

The second thing that was required in the daily pursuit of holiness was love for their neighbor and these practical things are found in Leviticus 19:11-18. The first is honesty. If oneness, fellowship and unity were to be maintained in the community, there must be integrity among the people. To deceive others is to dishonour God and to destroy communal holiness. We should expect and even demand honesty from those who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and call themselves Christians. Second, we are not to take advantage of others. We are not to cheat our neighbor or withhold from someone what they have earned. We are not to take advantage of the disadvantaged or the disenfranchised. The Israelites were to be compassionate and sympathetic towards those who were in such a predicament. They were not to take advantage of those who did not know or could not perceive what was happening to them. He mentions the blind and the deaf. God can see and hear how we treat others even if they can’t. Third, we are to practice justice towards others. God’s people are to be characterized by justice, truthfulness and fairness. We are not supposed to stab people in the back. Lastly, a practical way to love our neighbor is to be constructive not destructive. Verses 17-18 means that we are to be passionately concerned for the spiritual welfare of others. We are to love our fellow believers so much that we will do what is necessary to help them live differently and to be holy. We don’t love others when we refuse to hold them accountable to personal holiness, or hold a grudge against them instead of reconciling and restoring fellowship with them.

Why is holiness important especially in our relationship to God and with others? Because if we obey these concrete laws of holiness commanded by God then good will be the result. Our homes will be blessed, our church will be blessed and the overflow is that our society will be blessed. Imagine what our world would look like if we obeyed the command in Leviticus 19:17-18 to love and not hate each other. How different our communities would be if we lived by this simple yet demanding rule.

That brings us to our second next step this morning which is to love God and love my neighbors so that our homes, our church, and our society will be blessed.

I want to say one last thing about this holiness. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Does that scare you? Which one of us can be perfect? Only Jesus was perfect and perfectly lived out these laws we see in Leviticus 19. The good news is we have the power as Christians to be perfect, to be holy. It is because we are Christians, not in name but in nature, that we have the power to pursue holiness. ​​ We need to be born again as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. Apart from being born again, all our attempts to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with our God will be nothing but self-righteousness. Of course, we can never be perfect even though we are called to be perfect. But the key is when we aren’t perfect and we do sin, we confess our sin and repent from it and we turn to Christ alone for forgiveness and for the ability to seek his righteousness and to live a holy life. Christ through his sacrifice gives us the power to daily pursue holiness and live holy, obedient lives.

In conclusion, I want to introduce the 2021 Spiritual Life Journal to you. Our theme for 2021, if you haven’t figured it out is Holiness. In 2020, our theme was Unity, and hopefully you all feel as I do that even though 2020 was a difficult year, we come into 2021, more unified than in the past, even though we spent a little over three months apart and are spending some time apart even now from our friends here at Idaville Church. But as Pastor Stuart and I were talking about 2021, we felt that a next logical step was a pursuit of holiness. I have been praying that we as a congregation pursue holiness and I have prayed that it would start with me. We spent 2020 working on our relationships with each other and now in 2021 we want to spend time on our relationship with God and in growing closer and staying close to him.

When you look through the Spiritual Life Journal you will see the same main headings with holiness in place of unity, such as, Holiness in Prayer, Holiness in the Word, Holiness in Service, Holiness in Giving, Holiness in Relationships, Holiness in the Gospel and Holiness in Worship. There are commitments that can be made for each section and Bible verses for each section as well. There is also a daily Bible reading plan and monthly memory verses that we as a congregation will recite together on Sunday mornings. I want to challenge everyone to sign the commitments this year that are in the Journal and I want to challenge everyone to do the daily Bible reading plan and to memorize the monthly memory verses. If we all make this commitment to God and to each other and hold each other accountable we will attain a goal of holiness this year not only personally but as a community of faith as well. That brings us to our last next step which is to make a commitment to holiness in prayer, in the Word, in service, in giving, in my relationships, in the Gospel and in worship and to daily Bible reading and memorization.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Holy God, I pray that we who call Idaville Church home would pursue holiness every day and I pray that it would start with me. Help us to hold each other accountable and to strive to be better in our relationships with you and with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pursuit Of Holiness

Real Faith

(1 John 3:1-10)



“The United States Treasury Department has a special group of men whose job it is to track down counterfeiters. ​​ Naturally, these men need to know a counterfeit bill when they see it.


How do they learn to identify fake bills?


Oddly enough, they are not trained by spending hours examining counterfeit money. ​​ Rather, they study the real thing. ​​ They become so familiar with authentic bills that they can spot a counterfeit by looking at it or, often, simply feeling it.”


[Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Volume 2, 503].


“The United States Treasury uses a number of sophisticated techniques to keep counterfeiters from reproducing the look of paper currency. ​​ The exact makeup of paper bills is a secret, but it is widely known that the paper is made of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen, with red and blue flecks of silk. ​​ In addition to the high quality of the paper, United States currency also has magnetic ink, an almost invisible ink on the left side of larger bills, and an engraved ‘United State of America’ around the face of the larger bills. ​​ The final feature that is impossible for anyone to replicate is that the paper is run through machines with high-pressure rollers that create a uniform thickness. ​​ Without these machines, this feature cannot be duplicated.


These sophisticated measures do not keep counterfeiters from trying, nevertheless, because they can get so close that many people cannot tell the difference. ​​ Deceit of course, is the whole point of counterfeiting. ​​ Someone who does not have the real thing wants someone else to believe he has. ​​ We must be aware, alert, on guard against deceit, in regard to money as well as other things in life.”


[Walls & Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, Jude, 187].



  • ME

    • Bank training

        • Right out of college, I worked as a bank teller

        • After being hired, I had to go through several days of training, which included learning what real currency looked like

        • They trained us to identify the attributes and characteristics of real money before they ever tested us to see if we could identify counterfeit money

        • After working with money every day for months, I was able to tell when paper money didn’t feel right

    • Coins

        • One thing I also learned while working at the bank was that Canadian coins sounded different when dropped on the counter top or floor than American coins

        • I could tell when someone gave me a Canadian coin mixed in American coins without looking at it because of the sound that it made when dropped on the counter


  • WE

    • Counterfeit Detector Pens

        • How many of us have every used one of those counterfeit detector pens?

        • I did when I worked as a cashier at Walmart, many years ago

    • UV Counterfeit Detectors

        • Now they have UV counterfeit detectors

        • These detectors can be used for U.S. dollars and many other currencies

        • It can also be used to check credit cards, ID’s and passports

    • Carob instead of chocolate

        • How many of you know what carob is?

        • It’s basically a chocolate substitute made from a carob pod instead of cocoa pod

        • Carob is less bitter and has a roasted, naturally sweet flavor

        • Carob is caffeine-free and high in fiber

        • I remember the first time my Mom made carob brownies (I knew something was different, but I didn’t know what)

        • How many of us are able to tell when something has been substituted in our favorite foods? ​​ (we know what the original ingredient tastes like, so we know something’s different)


John was writing to reassure Christians, in several Gentile churches, to hold on to their faith and not be led astray by antichrists that had joined, not only the Ephesian church, but other churches as well. ​​ They were spiritual counterfeiters. ​​ In 1 John 3, “God reveals the characteristics of the bad currency and the good, so that his church can grasp the good” [Walls & Anders, 187]. ​​ John compares the characteristics of those who are children of God and those who are children of the devil. ​​ John wants us to understand that . . .


BIG IDEA – Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.


Let’s pray


A faith that’s real is characterized by the pursuit of holiness


Warren Wiersbe says that “John gives three reasons for a holy life” [Wiersbe, 504]. ​​ Those are going to be our three points this morning.


  • GOD (1 John 3:1-10)

    • God the Father loves us (vv. 1-3)

        • What we are (v. 1)

          • We are loved

            • The NIV doesn’t translate the first Greek word in chapter 3, which is ὁράω (horaō) and means “behold” or “see” (most other translations have one or the other)

            • The Greek for “how great” means, “what kind/sort of or quality”

              • Wiersbe translates it this way, “Behold, what peculiar, out-of-this-world kind of love the Father has bestowed on us.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 504]

              • It’s an unconditional, never ending kind of love

              • Jeremiah 31:3, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

              • Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

                • That’s unconditional love at its best

                • While we don’t want anything to do with God, He still loves us – no matter what!

                • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is love!

                  • That is one of God’s many attributes

                  • His attributes are qualities about Him that we can hold on to and have confidence in

                  • No matter how bad you think your sins are, God still loves you – unconditionally

                  • His love is so great that He is willing to adopt you into His forever family

              • When is the last time you’ve experienced that kind of love?

                • I would venture to say, that most of us have never experienced that kind or quality of love

                • We’ve experienced conditional love a lot

            • Perhaps children who have been adopted understand God’s unconditional love better than children who grew up in a biological family

            • God’s love for us is of such incredible quality that He calls us His children

          • We are children of God

            • NOTE: ​​ most manuscripts do not have “and that is what we are!

            • John tells us in his Gospel how we become children of God

            • John 1:12-13, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

              • This isn’t a natural, biological birth that John is talking about

              • It’s a supernatural adoption that takes place by believing in Jesus name and receiving Him into our lives

              • We have to repent (turn from our sins) and begin to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior

              • Repentance is more than saying a prayer, it’s a lifestyle change that affects every area of our life

              • Application

                • Have you received Jesus into your life and believed in His name?

                • Have you turned from your sins and pursued a relationship with Jesus?

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Receive Jesus and believe in His name, so I can become a child of God.

            • When this transformation truly takes place in our lives, the world will not understand it

          • We are unknown by the world

            • “[The world] Does not understand our principles; the reasons of our conduct; the sources of our comforts and joys.” [Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 32512.]

              • The world has a hard time understanding how we can have a smile on our face and be optimistic when everything seems to be falling down around us

              • The hope that we have comes from the Lord

              • We understand that this world is not the end, that the difficulties we are currently experiencing are only temporary, and the glory we will experience will far exceed the hardships we are going through

              • We are in great company

              • John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

            • The world won’t understand our transformation, because they don’t know the Lord

              • John 1:10, He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.

              • The world doesn’t know Jesus, because they have rejected Him

          • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

          • We know from verse 1 what we are, but verse 2 tells us what we will be

        • What we will be (v. 2)

          • Now we are children of God

            • The moment that we receive Jesus into our lives and believe in Him, is when we become children of God

            • It’s not something that happens later on

            • “The present possession of believers requires constant reaffirmation because of what daily life present them with, as seen in Calvin’s (1988: 266) memorable words: ‘Physically, we are dust and a shadow, and death is always before our eyes. ​​ We are exposed to a thousand miseries and our souls to innumerable evils, so that we always find a hell within us. ​​ The more necessary is it that our sense should be withdrawn from the view of present things, lest the miseries . . . should shake our trust in that happiness which as yet is hidden.’” ​​ [Yarbrough, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 1-3 John, 177]

            • What John is addressing here is the tension between the already and not yet that we see throughout Scripture

              • Already Romans 8:15, For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship [adoption]. ​​ And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

              • Not yetRomans 8:23, Not only so, be we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

              • [show figure B] [https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/already-not-yet]

          • What we will be has not yet been made known

            • John tells us a little about what we will be when he says that when Jesus appears, we will be like Him

            • Scripture helps us understand what Jesus is like now, so we know what we will be like

              • Colossians 3:4, When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

              • 2 Corinthians 3:18, And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

              • 2 Corinthians 4:6, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

              • Philippians 3:20-21, But our citizenship is in heaven. ​​ And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

          • We know what we are and what we will be, which should affect what we should be

        • What we should be (v. 3)

          • Because we know that Jesus is returning again, we should strive for holiness (to keep our lives clean)

            • Paul expresses it this way to the Corinthian believers, Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1)

            • James expresses it as standing firm (James 5:8)

            • Peter tells us to be self-controlled (1 Peter 1:13)

            • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

            • Application

              • Are you striving for holiness, purity, and self-control?

              • Are you struggling with habitual sin, right now?

              • Do you have someone to help hold you accountable?

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Strive for holiness as I wait, with hope, for Jesus to return.

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is pure (holy)!

            • John tells us that our model, our guide, our standard of holiness is Jesus

            • “In every case Painter’s observation (2002: 228) holds true: ‘The use of this word [καθώς] suggests that Jesus is the source and mode of the believer’s righteousness.’” ​​ [Yarbrough, 179]

          • “A group of teenagers were enjoying a party, and someone suggested that they go to a certain restaurant for a good time. ​​ ‘I’d rather you took me home,’ Jan said to her date. ​​ ‘My parents don’t approve of that place.’ ​​ ‘Afraid your father will hurt you?’ one of the girls asked sarcastically. ​​ ‘No,’ Jan replied, ‘I’m not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him.’ ​​ She understood the principle that a true child of God, who has experienced the love of God, has no desire to sin against that love.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 504-5]

        • God’s love for us is a great reason to live a holy life!

        • John gives us a second reason in verse 4-8

    • God the Son died for us (vv. 4-8)

        • In these verses we see that there were two reasons why Jesus died for us

          • To take away our sins (vv. 4-6)

            • John 1:29, The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

            • Sin

              • I like the NASB 1995 translation of verse 4, Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness

              • The tense (present), voice (active), and mood (participle) of the Greek word for “practices” helps us understand that it is a habit of doing sin and not occasionally sinning [Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2001), paragraph 7795]

              • Definitions of sin in the Bible

                • Lawlessness – breaking God’s laws (1 John 3:4)

                • Anything not from faith (Romans 14:23b, everything that does not come from faith is sin)

                • Thought of foolishness (Proverbs 24:9a, the schemes of folly are sin . . .)

                • Knowing to do good, but not doing it (James 4:17, Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins)

                • All unrighteousness (1 John 5:17a, All wrongdoing is sin . . .)

                • “Sin is basically a matter of the will. ​​ For us to assert our will against God’s will is rebellion, and rebellion is the root of sin.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 505]

                • We can fake holiness and purity on the outside, so that other people think we’re a good person

                • We can’t fake holiness and purity on the inside, and God is able to see both the inside and the outside – He knows the attitude of our hearts

                • “Little Judy was riding in the care with her father. ​​ She decided to stand up in the front seat. ​​ Her father commanded her to sit down and put on the seat belt, but she declined. ​​ He told her a second time, and again she refused. ​​ ‘If you don’t sit down immediately, I’ll pull over to the side of the road and spank you!’ ​​ Dad finally said, and at this the little girl obeyed. ​​ But in a few minutes she said quietly, ‘Daddy, I’m still standing up inside.’” ​​ [Wiersbe, 505]

              • We’re all born with a rebellious attitude toward God

                • Isaiah 53:6a, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; . . .

                • Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

              • We know that all human beings are sinners, but God had a plan to deal with our sin

            • Jesus came to take away our sins

              • Isaiah 53:6b, . . . and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

              • 1 Peter 3:18, For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. ​​ He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.

              • 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.

            • He is the only One who can take away our sins, because He is perfect, without sin

              • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is pure (holy)!

              • He lived a sinless life while on earth

              • That’s why He was able to take away our sins when He died on the cross – He fulfilled God’s standard and required payment for sin

            • Real faith vs. counterfeit faith

              • John makes it clear that a genuine, real faith and relationship with Jesus Christ means that we will not keep on practicing habitual sin

                • To live in Jesus means to remain in Him, to abide in Him

                • John 15:5-6, “I am the vine; you are the branches. ​​ If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ​​ If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

                • PRINCIPLE #3 – God completely transforms those who live/abide in Jesus Christ.

              • The opposite is also true, that if we continue to practice habitual sin we have a counterfeit faith and we have neither seen or known Jesus

            • Jesus not only died to take away our sins, but to destroy the works of the devil

          • To destroy the works of the devil (vv. 7-8)

            • John knew that there were antichrists in the various churches trying to deceive and lead followers of Jesus Christ astray

            • Actions speak louder than words

              • Doing what is right

                • The same Greek word is used here as in verse 4 and means practices

                • Again, it means a habit of doing what is right

                • 1 John 3:7, Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous (NASB 1995).

              • Doing what is sinful

                • 1 John 3:8a, the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning (NASB 1995).

                • Those who follow the devil are the ones who habitually practice sin

              • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

            • Destruction of the devil’s work

              • When we think of the word “destroy” we usually think of something being completely taken away (annihilated), but we know that the devil is still active in our world today

              • So, what is John saying here about the purpose or reason why Jesus appeared

              • The Greek word can mean, “to loosen, release; melt” or “to loosen, undo, dissolve, anything bound, tied, or compacted together.”

              • We are tied up and bound by sin

              • Destroy, here, means ‘to render inoperative, to rob of power.’” ​​ [Wiersbe, 506]

                • Hebrews 2:14-15, Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

                • 2 Timothy 1:10, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

                • Acts 10:38, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

              • Jesus won over sin and death when He died on the cross, was buried, and came alive again the third day

          • I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for all that Jesus has done for me

        • Because Jesus died for us, we should pursue holiness as His followers

        • John gives us one more reason to live a holy life

    • God the Holy Spirit lives in us (vv. 9-10)

        • “A person who can enjoy deliberate sin and who does not feel convicted or experience God’s chastening had better examine himself to see whether or not he is really born of God.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 506]

        • God’s seed remains in us (v. 9)

          • Chiastic structure [Kruse, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Letters of John, 125]
            a  ​​​​ No one who is born of God
             ​​ ​​​​ b  ​​​​ will continue to sin,
             ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ c ​​ 
            because God’s seed remains in him;
             ​​ ​​​​ b’ ​​ he cannot sin,
            a’ ​​ because he has been born of God.

          • Born of God

            • We already talked about this in verse 1

            • We are children of God

            • Everyone who receives Jesus and believes in His name is given the right to become a child of God – born of God (John 1:12-13)

          • Will continue to sin and cannot sin

            • What the NIV translates as “continue to sin,” the NASB translates as “practices sin”

              • The same Greek word is used here as in verses 4, 7, & 8

              • This is not talking about sinless perfection

              • It is talking about willful, habitual sin – being characterized as a sinner

            • As children of God we will not continue to sin or cannot sin, because God disciplines His children

            • Hebrews 12:4-6, In your struggle against sin, you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood. ​​ And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punished everyone he accepts as a son.”

            • In addition, we will not continue to practice sin, because we have a new nature – God’s nature living in us

          • God’s seed

            • When we become a child of God several incredible transformations take place [Wiersbe, 506]

              • Justification – a new standing before God (He sees us a righteous, through the blood of Jesus Christ)

              • Sanctification – a new position before God (this is the ongoing, continual growth to become more like Jesus)

              • Regeneration – a new nature (we have the Holy Spirit that lives within us to help us say “no” to sin and “yes” to righteousness)

              • 2 Peter 1:3-4, His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. ​​ Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

            • “Based on his readers’ divine parentage, John is confident that God’s true children, like those of the devil, ultimately cannot conceal their identity. ​​ The nature of their inner identity will be ‘evident’ (φανερά, phanera) from their actions.” [Yarbrough, 196]

            • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.

          • In this final verse, John addresses the two families that humanity can be a part of

        • Who’s your Father?

          • Children of the devil

            • John states it in the negative as it pertains to children of the devil

            • Two characteristics

              • Anyone who does not practice righteousness (make a habit of doing what is right)

              • Anyone who does not love his brother

          • Children of God

            • The positive is also true as it pertains to children of God

            • Two characteristics

              • Anyone who practices righteousness

              • Anyone who loves his brother

            • People will know that we are children of God when we love God and others

            • “Augustine summarizes John’s counsel this way: ‘Love, and sin is undone’ (Bray 2000: 200).” ​​ [Yarbrough, 197]


  • YOU

    • Questions to contemplate [Wiersbe, 509]

        • “Do I have the divine nature within me or am I merely pretending to be a Christian?”

        • “Do I cultivate this divine nature by daily Bible reading and prayer?”

        • “Has any unconfessed sin defiled my inner man? ​​ Am I willing to confess and forsake it?”

        • “Do I allow my old nature to control my thoughts and desires, or does the divine nature rule me?”

        • “When temptation comes, do I ‘play with it’ or do I flee from it? ​​ Do I immediately yield to the divine nature within me?”

    • Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.


  • WE

    • As a body of believers here at Idaville Church, we should be characterized as people who practice righteousness

    • Our community, neighbors, coworkers, and family members should be able to tell that we are children of God



“You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one's holy Father.

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”


J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 182; submitted by Aaron Goerner, Utica, New York.






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!


Let’s pray



  • Zecharias’ Angel Encounter (Luke 1:5-25)

    • This was during the time of Herod’s reign

    • Their background

        • 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]

    • Zacharias’ Doubt

        • 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?

              • Take heart!

              • 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

    • Mary’s reaction

        • 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]

    • Gabriel’s clarification

        • 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.”

    • Mary’s submission

        • 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

          • What faith

          • What strength

          • 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

        • Application

          • 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

  • Just Obey

    • 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

Marriage 50

Marital reconciliation 45

Pregnancy 40

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.



Men Of Action

(Luke 2:8-21)



Do you remember the excitement of the birth of your first child? ​​ It was a joyful occasion and you wanted to tell the whole world. ​​ Instead, you made a few phone calls to family members and close friends and the grape vine took over from there.


After returning from the hospital you probably wrote out special announcements and sent them in the mail to a larger number of people, with all of the statistics about your new baby. ​​ Maybe you handed out pink or blue bubblegum cigars to everyone that you came in contact with.


Today it can be almost instantaneous if you have Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook on your cell phone or tablet. ​​ The minute the baby is born, you can broadcast it to the world within seconds.



  • ME

    • Social media

        • We didn’t have Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook for any of our boy’s births

        • We had to use a regular camera or digital camera

          • Do you remember the days when extended family, who lived far away, had to wait until you developed the film in your camera and then mailed a picture of your new baby?

          • Those days are long gone

          • How many of you still use a camera that takes film?

        • We did have a video camera for all three births

        • We had email capabilities for Seth and Levi’s births, but not Wade’s, if I remember correctly

    • Cell phone

        • We didn’t have a cell phone for Wade’s birth and if we had one for Seth’s birth, there was a cost per minute to use it

        • We may not have had a cell phone for Levi’s birth, but if we did, it wasn’t like cell phones today – it would have been a flip phone with calling and texting capabilities (no internet or camera capabilities)

    • Waiting by the phone

        • Our parents and siblings had to wait by the phone to hear about the birth of our children

        • I had to go home and use the land line phone in order to communicate with family and friends

        • Things have certainly changed

        • It wasn’t instantaneous


  • WE

    • How many of us remember those days gone by?

    • How many of us don’t have any idea what I’m talking about?


Well, God used an instantaneous delivery system when His Son was born. ​​ He didn’t Tweet, create a post on Facebook or Instagram, Snap Chat, or make a TikTok or YouTube video, since the electronic age had not yet arrived, instead He Angeled and used Shepherdbook.


The angels told the shepherds and the shepherds spread the news from there. ​​ They jumped into action to go see the baby and then tell everyone they saw about the news!


BIG IDEA – Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.


Let’s Pray

  • GOD

    • The Birth Announcement

        • Mary has just delivered Jesus by herself and is wrapping Him in swaddling clothes and laying Him in a manger.

        • At the same time, there are shepherds living out in the fields around Bethlehem taking care of the flocks at night.

          • These were the third shift shepherds, who spent the night around a camp fire watching the sheep

          • It was probably a pretty uneventful job to have, although they would have seen things that others would not have

            • They probably saw shooting stars

            • They knew the various constellations

            • Perhaps they saw certain planets in the night sky

            • Maybe they saw the aurora borealis

          • These shepherds, by most commentators’ writings, were known to care for the temple flocks – these were the perfect sheep, without blemish used for sacrifices.

          • This would seem like an unlikely group of people to send your instantaneous message too, but God had a perfect plan.

            • These shepherds would have been ceremonially unclean, because of their work

            • They would have been away from the temple for weeks at a time so they couldn’t be made clean

            • The shepherds were hearing about Jesus, whom scripture identified two ways:

              • Lamb of God (John 1:29)

              • Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15)

          • God revealed His grace to mankind when He sent the angels to visit the shepherd’s first

            • They were the unclean ones, the outcasts

            • Wiersbe states, “God does not call the rich and mighty; He calls the poor and the lowly.”

              • Luke 1:51-53, He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. ​​ He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. ​​ He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

              • 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, Brothers think about what you were when you were called. ​​ Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. ​​ But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. ​​ He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

          • While these lowly shepherds are hanging out in the field, checking out the night sky, they see something they’ve never seen before

        • An angel appears

          • In the middle of the night outside Bethlehem, a bright light pierces the darkness and an angel appears.

          • Shepherds were not usually fearful of much – think about David taking on the bear and the lion.

          • They were terrified/sore afraid – Greek is fo-be’-ō, meaning “to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm, of those startled by strange sights or occurrences.”

          • The angel reassures them, “Do not be afraid.”

          • The angel’s announcement

            • I bring you good news – Greek for good news is
              yü-än-ge-lē’-zō, “in the NT used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation.”

            • It literally means that they preached the Gospel to the shepherds

            • Of great joy! – this was the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Anointed One. ​​ This was definitely something to be excited about. ​​ Jesus was going to bring great joy, because He came into the world to provide a way to bridge the gap that sin had created between God and man

            • For all people – this meant everyone. ​​ No one will be excluded. ​​ It was for the Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor. ​​ It includes us today. ​​ This Good News is for you!

            • A Savior was born today in the town of David, Bethlehem

              • They identify Him as Christ the Lord

              • Messiah

              • the Anointed One

            • They gave the shepherds specific instructions, so they would know that they are in the right place.

              • A baby wrapped in cloths – this was not unusual and could have identified any newborn baby in Bethlehem

              • Interesting note – the strips of cloth used to swaddle a baby were very similar to those used in the embalming process. ​​ John Courson states, “This was fitting because Jesus came to die. ​​ Although death interrupted the ministry and teaching of Socrates, Plato, Buddha, and every other philosopher and thinker throughout history, it did not interrupt the ministry of Jesus Christ. ​​ Rather, death fulfilled Jesus’ ministry because Jesus alone came to die.”

              • Lying in a manger – this would have been very unusual, a baby lying in a feeding trough?

              • These two combined would identify the Christ Child for the shepherds.

              • They already knew that the baby was born that day (Today!)

          • The shepherds receive an amazing free concert from heaven

            • A great company of the heavenly hosts join the angel

            • They glorify God

            • They speak about peace on earth to men on whom His favor rests

              • This was a welcome message to the shepherds and to the Israelites.

              • This was the first time in centuries that the glory of God returned to earth.

              • The Roman world had been under much war, so peace sounded great!

              • They were currently living under the “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace), but they were not experiencing the peace that they had hoped and prayed for.

              • We see that the absence of war did not bring peace to the Jewish world. ​​ They were experiencing some of the same things we are experiencing today – high taxes, high unemployment rates, poverty, immorality, division, disorder, etc.

              • The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. ​​ He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”

              • Wiersbe shares, “The Jewish word shalom (peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life. ​​ It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. ​​ It has to do more with character than circumstances.”

    • The Shepherd’s Obedience

        • GO

          • We see from verse 12 that there is an expectation that the shepherds will go to see baby Jesus – “This will be a sign to you

            • The shepherds were expected to do something with what they just heard from the angels.

            • They were to be doers of the word and not hearers only

            • This is an example for us today – when God speaks to us through His Word, we need to be men and women of action.

          • The shepherds have a quick meeting

            • They decide to go to Bethlehem

            • They recognized who the message was from, the Lord

            • They left the flocks immediately and went to Bethlehem to find what was told to them

            • Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.

            • We need to obey God immediately

              • Has God spoken to you?

              • What has He told you to do?

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Obediently do what God has told me to do.

          • The shepherds obediently left the fields outside of Bethlehem and went into the city to begin their search

        • SEARCH

          • They hurry off to Bethlehem and find Mary and Joseph and the baby

            • The verb found in the Greek is ä-nyü-rē’-skō, which means “to find out by search” or “found after a search

              • NASB renders it this way – “So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

              • They knew they had to look in a stable since the baby was in a manger

              • They probably started going from stable to stable looking for a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger

            • Luke reminds us again about the specific sign that would identify baby Jesus – “who was lying in a manger.”

            • That is exactly where the shepherds find Him

            • They followed the signs given to them and continued to search until they found the right place

            • Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.

            • We need to follow the signs that God gives us through His Word and the wisdom of those around us and search diligently until we find the place where God is leading us.

              • Have you diligently searched until you found where God is leading you?

              • Many times we search tentatively, but not diligently because we don’t want to be obedient to what God has told us to do

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Diligently search until I find the place where God is leading me.

          • After finding Jesus, the shepherds can’t keep silent!

        • TELL

          • Just imagine seeing the heavenly host and having an angel speak to you and then finding exactly what they told you

          • You would be really excited!!!

          • After the shepherds see Jesus, they spread the word

            • They share with everyone about what they were told about this child

            • They share the Gospel with others, just as it was shared with them

            • They share that the Messiah, “the Anointed One,” has arrived

            • This was the long-awaited Savior of the world. ​​ Everyone would have known who they were talking about when they used the words, “Christ the Lord” or “Christos kyrios

            • They shared with everyone the Good News about Jesus

            • Jesus’ birth should cause us to be people of action.

            • When we are obedient to God, follow the signs and search until we find the right place, we can’t help but share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ because we have been transformed by it.

              • Have you taken time to tell others the result of being obedient to God and searching diligently?

              • If you have had others praying for and with you, it is important to let them know how God faithfully answered your prayers

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Tell others how God faithfully guided and directed me when I was obedient to what He told me to do.

            • We can experience the same response from others that the shepherds experienced

          • Everyone that heard what they had to say was amazed

          • They returned to their sheep, glorifying and praising God

            • They were thankful for what they had heard

            • They were thankful for what they had seen

            • They had experienced God’s trustworthiness firsthand, because everything they saw and heard, was just as they had been told

            • We can claim the promise today that God is trustworthy

              • We can count on Him to speak to us about His plans for us and to guide us as we seek to be obedient to His plan

              • When He proves to be trustworthy, we can rejoice and tell others what He has done

        • While the shepherds are excitedly sharing the good news of great joy, Mary is quietly thinking about all that has happened

    • Mary is a very mature young lady for her age

        • She treasured all these things – She kept them within herself, lest they be forgotten

        • She pondered them in her heart – she brought them together in her mind, she went over them again and again in her mind.

        • She did not want to forget how God had used her to further His kingdom and bring salvation to the world

        • She had experienced some pretty incredible things, that most everyone else had not

          • She was visited by the angel of the Lord and told that she had found favor with God

          • She had become pregnant as a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit

          • Her relative Elizabeth tells her how her baby leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice

          • Joseph still takes her as his wife even though she is not pregnant by him

          • She has strangers visit her in the stable worshipping the baby Jesus because an angel told them about this child


  • YOU

    • Has the Lord spoken to you and told you to go do something? ​​ Have you been obedient?

    • Have you diligently searched until you’ve found the place where God is leading you?

    • Have you shared with others how God faithfully guided you when you were obedient to Him?


  • WE

    • We have a responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to be people of action

    • The Christmas season is a natural time to share with family and friends about the joy we’ve experienced as a follower of Jesus Christ – His birth has transformed us in a powerful way!


Jesus’ presence on earth had transformed these shepherds. ​​ They would never be the same again, because they had experienced the glory and majesty of the Lord!


“Did you ever read Bret Harte's story The Luck of Roaring Camp? Roaring Camp was supposed to be, according to the story, the meanest, toughest mining town in all of the West. More murders, more thefts – it was a terrible place inhabited entirely by men, and one woman who tried to serve them all. Her name was Cherokee Sal. She died while giving birth to a baby.


Well, the men took the baby, and they put her in a box with some old rags under her. When they looked at her, they decided that didn't look right, so they sent one of the men eighty miles to buy a rosewood cradle. He brought it back, and they put the rags and the baby in the rosewood cradle. And the rags didn't look right there. So they sent another of their number to Sacramento, and he came back with some beautiful silk and lace blankets. And they put the baby, wrapped around with those blankets, in the rosewood cradle.


It looked fine until someone happened to notice that the floor was so filthy. So these hardened, tough men got down on their hands and knees, and with their hardened and horny hands they scrubbed that floor until it was very clean. Of course, what that did was to make the walls and the ceiling and the dirty windows without curtains look absolutely terrible. So they washed down the walls and the ceiling, and they put curtains at the windows. And now things were beginning to look as they thought they should look. But of course, they had to give up a lot of their fighting, because the baby slept a lot, and babies can't sleep during a brawl.


So the whole temperature of Roaring Camp seemed to go down. They used to take her out and set her by the entrance to the mine in her rosewood cradle so they could see her when they came up. Then somebody noticed what a dirty place that was, so they planted flowers, and they made a very nice garden there. It looked quite beautiful. And they would bring her, oh, shiny little stones and things that they would find in the mine. But when they would put their hands down next to hers, their hands looked so dirty. Pretty soon the general store was all sold out of soap and shaving gear and perfume and those kinds ... the baby changed everything.


That's the way it is for those of good will. That's the way it is for those who please God. The baby enters into their lives, and he slips into every crevice of their experience, until they say ‘Hark! Listen, the herald angels sing! God is for us. And Christmas is forever.’”


Bruce W. Thielemann, "Hark! The Herald Angels," Preaching Today, Tape No. 63.





Born In The Middle of Nowhere

(Luke 2:1-7)



How many of you know where Florida, MO is? ​​ (show picture of MO with Florida marked on the map). ​​ Now you know where it is, but do you know why that place is significant? ​​ It was where Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born. ​​ Does that help at all? ​​ What if I told you that Samuel’s pen name was Mark Twain, would that help? ​​ Most people don’t know where Florida, MO is.


Most places where famous people were born were unknown prior to their rise to popularity. ​​ (Show picture of states where U.S. Presidents were born) The birthplaces of most of the Presidents of the United States are not familiar cities to us that we would be able to locate immediately without Googling it.


In the 1st Century there was a town that most people of the day cared little about. ​​ It was an insignificant place that would soon be well known. ​​ Its popularity was the result of it being the birthplace of someone very special.


Today we are going to learn about a well-known man that was “Born In The Middle of Nowhere.”



  • ME

    • Our families birthplaces

        • Florida

        • Indiana

        • Missouri

        • Ohio - 2

  • WE

    • Where were you born

        • Would most people know the place where you were born?

        • It may not be hard to know the place where you were born, especially if it was around this area

        • Would anyone like to share their birthplace with us to see if you can stump us? [If you’re joining us online, you can put your birthplace in the comments section of Facebook Live]


  • Facts about Bethlehem

    • Bethlehem means “house of bread.”

        • What an appropriate birthplace for someone who would later identify Himself as the Bread of Life

        • John 6:35, Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. ​​ He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

    • Historic heritage

        • It is where Rachel died after giving birth the Benjamin

          • Gen. 35:16-20, Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. ​​ And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you have another son.” ​​ As she breathed her last – for she was dying – she named her son Ben-Oni. ​​ But his father named him Benjamin. ​​ So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). ​​ Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

          • That’s a sad story related to Bethlehem

        • It was where Ruth was married to Boaz

          • Here is a happier story related to Bethlehem

          • Ruth 1:22, So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

          • Read Ruth 4:1-16

        • David had many exploits there – it was the city of David

          • 1 Samuel 16:1, The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? ​​ Fill you horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. ​​ I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

          • 1 Samuel 17:34-37a, But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. ​​ When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. ​​ When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. ​​ Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. ​​ The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”


  • From Nazareth to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7)

    • Caesar Augustus

        • His birth name was Gauis Octavius

        • His grandmother was the sister of Julius Caesar

        • Julius Caesar adopted him and made him the official heir in 45 B.C.

        • After Julius Caesar’s death, he ruled with two others until 30 B.C. when he became the soul ruler

        • He assumed the title of Caesar from his great uncle

          • Caesar in Greek means “severed”

          • As the Roman Emperors rose to power, we realize that they were severed from friends and family.

          • They could not trust those around them.

        • Augustus was added after he rejected the Roman Senate's suggestions of “king of Rome” and “dictator of Rome

        • Augustus means “exalted” and “sacred” and has as its background, “though, of the gods

    • Decree

        • God had allowed Caesar Augustus to rise to power in order that His will and the prophecy of Micah could be fulfilled (Read Micah 5:1-5a)

          • NASB – “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, {Too} little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. ​​ His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” [Micah 5:2]

          • Ephrathah means “ash-heap: place of fruitfulness”

          • Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13)

          • Micah 5:3, Israel will be abandoned – there was 700 years from the time Micah spoke these words until Jesus came. ​​ We also know that there was a 400 year period where Israel had no prophet who spoke for God.

          • Micah 5:3, The returning of the brothers – part of this is fulfilled when the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon, but the remainder will be fulfilled when Christ returns.

          • Micah 5:4, Jesus’ rule and reign will reach to the ends of the earth

          • Micah 5:5, Jesus will not only bring peace, but He will be our peace. ​​ Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14 that, He is our peace

        • Poor Caesar Augustus had no idea that he wasn’t really in charge

        • We may not understand why certain things happen in politics, the medical community, or the financial world today, but we can rely on the fact that God is ultimately in control. ​​ We may not see the end result of what He is doing, but we know that all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign!

            • Perhaps we all feel apprehensive right now

            • Presidential election

              • Who should we believe concerning the Presidential election?

              • Did Joe Biden or Donald Trump win?

              • Was there widespread election fraud?

              • It all depends on who you get your news from

            • COVID-19

              • When should I go get tested for COVID-19?

              • Are the COVID-19 tests reliable and accurate?

              • Is COVID-19 really that serious, especially with a survival rate in the 99th percentile?

              • Will a mask and social distancing really keep me safe?

              • Should we shut down or remain open?

              • Again, it depends on who you talk to or listen to

            • Financial world

              • Will there be another financial stimulus package provided by our government?

              • Will the economy ever bounce back after COVID-19?

              • Will I lose my job?

              • If I lose my job, how will I survive?

            • We can take all of these concerns to a sovereign God who is ultimately in control

            • None of these concerns, or any other concerns we may have, come as a surprise to God

            • He knew about all of these things prior to them happening

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God’s sovereignty concerning my feelings about our nation’s physical, political, social, and financial struggles.

        • Caesar Augustus was the one who made the decree about the census, but it was by God’s sovereign plan and will – He is in control!

    • Census

        • This was a registration of everyone in the Roman world.

        • Each Jewish male had to return to the city where his father was born to record his name, occupation, property, and family

        • This was not for statistical purposes like we have today, but was designed to efficiently and effectively tax everyone in the Roman empire

        • Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, said that in his own day, more than a hundred years after the time of Jesus, you could look up the registers of the same census Luke mentions.

        • Chuck Smith states, “in Egypt there are records that they have discovered where it said that the people had to return to their family homes for the census to be taken, completely confirming this account in the scriptures.

    • Parenthetical note by Luke

        • This was the first census that was taken

        • From this point on there was a census every 14 years

        • Giving the name of the governor of Syria, Quirinius, is another historical “anchor” that confirms that this really happened and was not a fairy tale or something that Luke dreamt up after Jesus death in order to confirm His life.

    • Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem

        • They leave from Nazareth in the region of Galilee for Bethlehem in the region of Judea [show map with route]

        • It would have been approximately an 80-mile journey

          • Like walking from Sunbury, PA to Idaville, PA [show map].

          • It probably would have taken them 3 to 4 days if they traveled 8 hours a day.

        • Mary was not required to accompany him on the trip, but several factors probably led to her coming along

          • She was also of the line of David, so there was potential for seeing family while they were there

          • She was in the middle of a controversial pregnancy that was probably the talk of the town

          • Liefeld states, “It is possible that he used the emperor’s order as a means of removing Mary from possible gossip and emotional stress in her own village. ​​ He had already accepted her as his wife (Matthew 1:24), but apparently continued in betrothal (Luke 2:5), pledged to be married, till after the birth.

          • Wiersbe says that “Mary and Joseph were already husband and wife but since they did not consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born, she is called his ‘espoused wife’

    • Jesus is born!

        • We don’t know how long they were there, because it says “while they were there”

        • Mary gives birth to her firstborn, a son

          • It does not mention that anyone else was there to help Mary with the delivery

          • Usually there was a midwife to take the child and to wrap it in swaddling clothes and to take care of it

          • Mary was only 16 ½ to 17 years old giving birth for the first time on her own

          • Bruce says, “The narrative runs as if Mary did these things herself

          • We know from studying Acts that Jesus had other half-brothers, so this was Mary’s firstborn, Jesus.

        • Cloths/Swaddling Cloths

          • Mothers in that day wrapped their infants in long bands of cloth to give the limbs strength and protection

          • The fact that Mary wraps Jesus in cloths is another indicator that she probably went through deliver by herself

        • Placed Him in a manger

          • It can mean a feeding trough or an enclosure for animals

          • Most scholars believe that Jesus was born in a cave and not a wooden shed/shack as we see in modern manger scenes

        • No room in the inn

          • We realize that Jesus struggled to be accepted all of His life

          • His brothers thought He was crazy and didn’t believe in Him

          • The Pharisees thought He was a blasphemer

          • Isaiah 53:3, He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. ​​ Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

          • Many people have gotten so caught up in the materialism of Christmas that they have no room for Jesus either

          • We have time for everything else in our lives except for Jesus


  • YOU

    • Whether we’ve believed in Jesus for salvation or not we can all get caught up in the cultural pressures of the Christmas season

    • Perhaps as a follower of Jesus Christ you need to stop and reflect to see if you have made room for Jesus

        • If you recognize that He has been pushed to the side, what steps do you need to take in the coming weeks to make room for Him

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Evaluate whether or not I have made room for Jesus during this Christmas season and make the necessary changes.

    • Perhaps you’ve never made room in life for Jesus Christ before

        • Christmas is a celebration of the fact that Jesus came from heaven to earth

        • His purpose was to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10)

        • You may be thinking, “I’m not lost!”

        • Isaiah 53:6 – we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way (we are lost to God’s plan of redemption for mankind)

        • Romans 6:23 – wages of sin is death (separation from God for all eternity)

        • Luke 15:7, I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

        • Acts 16:31, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Make room in my life for Jesus and believe in Him so I can be saved.


“The Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar [was] probably the most meaningful ‘crib’ I have ever seen. Three small wood-carved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand – nearly too small to attract attention at all.


But then – a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world. While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. ... Without the radiant beam of light shining into the darkness there is little to be seen. ... But everything changes with the light.”


Henri J. M. Nouwen in The Genesee Diary. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 14.






Light In The Darkness

(Isaiah 9:1-7)



It’s been a difficult year!


Most of us would agree with that statement. ​​ We could never have imagined in our lifetime that something like the coronavirus would cause such distress, chaos, fear, anxiety, and depression.


Add to that the racial tensions that have surfaced over this past year.


Then, add to that the political divide that continues to widen.


Finally, add to that the economic downturn and we have the makings of something very difficult and dark


It’s easy for us to look at 2020 and say that we are living in the land of the shadow of death. ​​ It’s not hard to feel like we are walking in darkness.



  • ME

    • Times of darkness

        • The miscarriage of our one child

        • When criticism comes

          • I’m a self-evaluator

          • I’m hardest on myself


  • WE

    • Times of darkness

        • Financial struggles

        • Emotional struggles

        • Physical struggles

        • Spiritual struggles

    • Times of darkness for God’s people

        • God spoke directly to the prophets in the Old Testament

        • He gave them prophetic words for the people of Israel and their leaders

        • Most of the messages from God to His people and their leaders were not feel-good messages, but rather warnings about punishment to come if they didn’t repent and turn back to Him

        • Some of the prophetic words were about the future and brought hope

          • That’s what He did with Isaiah as we’ll see today

          • BIG IDEA – There is light in the darkness, through Jesus!

          • But first I want to do a little background work on Advent for those of you who have never experienced it or have experienced it, but never understood why it is celebrated the four weeks leading up to Christmas


  • Meaning of Advent

    • Advent comes from Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival”

    • Candles

        • Prophecy/Candle of Hope (purple)

        • Bethlehem/Candle of Preparation (purple)

        • Shepherds/Candle of Joy (pink)

        • Angels/Candle of Love (purple)

        • Christ Candle (white)

    • Wreath

        • The circle reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end

        • The evergreen used, speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life.

        • Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Jesus.

        • The 4 outer candles represent the period of waiting during the 4 Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the 4 centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.


  • The Prophecy Candle (Isaiah 9:1-7)

    • Isaiah’s time

        • Most of the OT prophecies were not exciting news for the Israelites

        • God would use the prophets to help turn the Israelites back to Him

        • Israel not following the Lord

        • As we see in Isaiah 8:1-10, God uses Assyria to humble the northern kingdom

        • This was the mode of operation for Israel

          • They would forget about God and turn to idols and other practices that He found detestable

          • He would send them in to exile by using neighboring nations that would come in and conquer them

          • They would remember the Lord while in exile and cry out to Him for rescue

          • He would hear their cries and bring them back to the Promised Land

    • Isaiah’s prophecy – first part (9:1-2)

        • Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (8:19)

        • Thrust into utter darkness (8:22)

        • We see the transitional word “Nevertheless” or “But” which is contrasting what was just mentioned in 8:22.

        • In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and Naphtali (the northern kingdom)

              • “They were most severely ravaged when the Assyrians invaded from the north.” (Guzik)

        • In the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles

          • This goes back to the mode of operation for Israel

          • When they repent and cry out to God, He hears them and rescues them from their oppressors

        • The people walking in darkness

          • The reference here, to living in darkness, is something that we all can connect with

          • The Israelites, while in exile, were being oppressed

          • It’s hard to be happy when you are a slave to someone or something else, because that “master” dictates everything you do

          • If your master is an addiction, you know the darkness associated with that and the pull of that master

          • If your master is the opinions of others, you understand the darkness of depression

          • If your master is someone who is abusing you, you recognize the darkness of secrecy that surrounds you

        • Have seen a great light, a light has dawned

          • Isaiah hints here of hope that is coming

          • Light is associated with hope, with being able to see things clearly

          • It drives out fear

          • If you’ve every slept with a nightline on, you understand that even a little bit of light drives out darkness and fear

          • Isaiah says that the people walking in darkness have seen a great light – it wasn’t just a little light

    • Isaiah’s prophecy – first part fulfilled

        • Read Matthew 4:13-17

        • We see in this passage that Jesus lived in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali

        • Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 and verifies that Isaiah was referring to Jesus as the light.

        • Jesus spoke about Himself as the light

          • John 8:12“I am the light of the world.”

          • John 9:5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

          • John 12:46I have come into the world as a light . . .

          • John 1:4-5In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.

          • John 1:9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world

        • There is light in the darkness, through Jesus!

    • Verses 3 to 5

        • Isaiah is speaking about future events

        • Some of it was fulfilled in Isaiah 37 when God accepted King Hezekiah’s prayer concerning the Assyrian’s. ​​ The angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 Assyrians.

        • It can also represent the second coming of Christ and His deliverance and victory

          • Jesus’ ministry would bring joy and gladness

          • There will be rejoicing when He returns

          • He will conquer completely – the reference to the burning of the boots and garments was something that would be done when the battle was finished and you had won!

    • Isaiah’s prophecy – second part (9:6-7)

        • Jesus birth

          • A child is born

            • This speaks of Jesus humanity

            • “There is nothing more weak, more helpless, more dependent than a child. ​​ Theoretically, the Messiah could have come as a fully grown man, created as an adult even as Adam was created. ​​ But for Jesus to fully identify with humanity, and to display in His life the servant nature that is in God, made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7)”
              [David Guzik]

            • This was the starting point of Jesus humanity

          • A son is given

            • This speaks of Jesus deity

            • Since He has always been, there was no starting point to his deity, but God gave Him to us.

            • 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.”

            • “That Jesus is both God and man tells us that man really is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and that perfect humanity is more compatible with deity than we imagine. ​​ It says that our problem is not our humanity, but our fallenness . . . remember that the humanity that Jesus added to His Divine nature was not the sinful humanity we commonly know, but the perfect humanity of Adam and Eve before the fall.” ​​ [David Guzik]

          • Jesus humanity allowed Him to take your punishment for sin and His deity allowed Him to be the perfect sacrifice that God demanded. ​​ Without either we would be lost in our sin.

        • Jesus’ reign

          • The government will be on His shoulders – this will be fulfilled in the Millennium (thousand year reign) when Jesus reigns in Jerusalem.

          • Gayle Erwin writes about the government God promises, both ultimately and right now:

            What might such a government look like? ​​ First of all, it would look like its king. ​​ Politicians of this day look for what they can get from you. ​​ Jesus looks for what He can do for you.

            Leaders of this day surround themselves with servants. ​​ Jesus surrounds us with His servanthood.

            Leaders of this day use their power to build their empire. ​​ Jesus uses his power to wash our feet and make us clean and comfortable.

            Leaders of this day trade influence for money. ​​ God so loved that he gave . . .

            Generals of this day need regular wars to keep their weapons and skills up to date and insure their own advancement. ​​ Jesus brings peace and rest to hearts

            The higher the plane of importance one reaches in this world, the more inaccessible he becomes. ​​ Jesus was Emmanuel, “God with us.”

            Leaders of this day are desperate to be seen and heard. ​​ Jesus sought anonymity so He could be useful.

            Obviously, Jesus is not in charge of the halls of Washington, London, Moscow, Baghdad, Paris or Bonn. ​​ So, how can we ever believe the “government will be upon His shoulders?”

            Actually, His government shows its workings in wonderful ways. ​​ Whenever I see someone who miraculously leaves a life of drugs or alcohol and is restored to his family and work, I can see that he is now governed by God.

            Whenever I see loving Christians gently caring for orphans and those rejected by family, I know I am watching people governed by God.

            Whenever I see people eagerly learning the Bible and joyously praising, I know who the governor is.

            Whenever I see people give up lucrative careers simply to go and share the Good News of Jesus, I know they are governed by God.

            When I see pastors carefully teach and lead the flock God has given them, I know they are getting signals from the great King.

            When I see people leave family to live and teach in distant lands because they love the people who have not heard, I know they are governed by God.


          • Daniel Watts of Every Generation Ministries has said: ​​ “When we think about a King building His kingdom we realize it requires battles where they conquer those around them.  The King of Kings, Jesus Christ, did something completely different - He died in order to establish His kingdom.”

        • The names/character of Jesus

          • Wonderful – Hebrew, peh’leh, which means admirable, distinguished. ​​ Jesus’ reign will not be boring.

          • Counselor – Hebrew, yä-ats’, which means one who consults, i.e. cares for, protects. ​​ There is no need for an appointment or fees with Jesus. ​​ He should be our immediate resource as a counselor.

            • Scholars debate whether these two names should be combined or not

            • Whether they are taken together or not we see God’s attribute of omniscience (all-knowing)

            • He knows exactly how to counsel us in the dark times of our lives

          • Mighty God – Jesus cannot only give you wise counsel, but has the power to help execute that wise counsel

            • We see in this name another attribute of God, omnipotence (all-powerful)

            • Nothing is too hard for Him

            • Jesus had and used supernatural power to get the attention of people so He could share with them about God and His kingdom

          • Everlasting Father – Warren Wiersbe says that a better translation is “Father of eternity”. ​​ Among Jews, the word “father” means “originator” or “source.” ​​ In John 8:44 Satan is the “father [originator] of lies”. ​​ If we want anything eternal we have to go to Jesus

            • In Hebrew and Arabic when they say that someone is “the father of” they are saying they are the source of that thing

            • Hippocrates – the father of modern medicine

            • Galileo – the father of modern science

            • Wilhelm Wundt – the father of modern psychology

            • We see here another attribute of God, omnipresent (always present with us, throughout eternity)

          • Prince of Peace – Jesus is the one who makes peace, especially between God and man

            • “The Hebrew term shalom indicates not only absence of war, but a condition of rich, harmonious, and positive well-being.” ​​ [BBC, 63]

            • The final attribute of God in Jesus is omnificence, which means unlimited in creative bounty

    • Isaiah’s prophecy – second part fulfilled

        • Luke 2:11 – Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord

        • Jesus was born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago.

        • Verse 7 is a prophecy yet to be fulfilled. ​​ It will be fulfilled when Christ returns.

          • There will be unending peace.

          • He will fulfill God’s promise to David that there would always be someone from his line on the throne.

          • He will be a just and righteous King


  • YOU

    • Darkness

        • The Israelites understood Isaiah, because they had first-hand experience with being oppressed

        • They needed to have hope in this darkness

        • Perhaps you’re experiencing the darkness of oppression today

          • There may be a “master” that is controlling your actions, attitudes, and behaviors

          • You know you need to get out from underneath that “master”, but it’s difficult

          • There is hope!

          • Allow Jesus to be your master

          • He knows about your situation and has the power to help

          • He is always present waiting for you to cry out to Him in repentance and to ask Him for help

          • He wants to bring peace to your life

          • He is the light that drives out darkness

          • There is light in the darkness, through Jesus!

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Begin this Advent season by crying out to God in repentance and ask Him to be my Master.

          • Tell God about the master that is currently oppressing and controlling you

          • Ask Him to remove that master from your life

    • Bright future

        • As followers of Jesus Christ, we know that our future is bright

          • We serve a God who keeps His promises

          • All of His prophecies have come true, so we know those that have not yet been fulfilled will be

          • We can rejoice that God fulfilled his prophecy through Isaiah as we remember Jesus birth during this Advent season

        • Perhaps you don’t see the future as being bright

          • You can change that today

          • John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. ​​ Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

          • This is talking about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ

          • Following Jesus requires a 180-degree turn

            • That turn happens when you repent of your sins and ask Jesus to come into your life

            • The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) – that’s eternal darkness

            • The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus our Lord

            • God’s offers you the free gift of eternal life by believing in Jesus and receiving Him into your life

            • You can do that today and know for sure that your future is bright

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Receive God’s free gift of eternal life and know that my future will be bright!



“During the 2008 presidential race, John McCain was asked by Time magazine to share his ‘personal journey of faith.’ In his article McCain shared a powerful story of something that occurred while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam:


When I was a prisoner of war in Vietnam…my captors would tie my arms behind my back and then loop the rope around my neck and ankles so that my head was pulled down between my knees. I was often left like that throughout the night. One night a guard came into my cell. He put his finger to his lips signaling for me to be quiet and then loosened my ropes to relieve my pain. The next morning, when his shift ended, the guard returned and retightened the ropes, never saying a word to me.


A month or so later, on Christmas Day, I was standing in the dirt courtyard when I saw that same guard approach me. He walked up and stood silently next to me, not looking or smiling at me. Then he used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt. We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas, even in the darkness of a Vietnamese prison camp.”


John McCain, "A Light amid the Darkness," Time magazine (8-18-08), p. 40; submitted by Kevin Miller, executive vice president, Christianity Today International.





Can I Get A Witness?

The future. It might be one of the greatest obsessions of our society today. From an early age we are focused on our future. We ask ourselves, “What do we want to be when we grow up?” In school we are always working toward getting good grades so we can graduate and get a diploma. When I was in high school I had to decide whether to take college prep or business courses. If we go to college we have to decide what to major in or we are looking at getting the job that might have the best chance of getting us the most money. Then we think about the raise or the promotion or the next job and finally we are looking toward retirement. Next comes relationships. Will I get married? Who will I marry? Will I have children? How many children do I want to have and how many years between them? The future. Right now, the future seems to be at the forefront of our thoughts and our prayers. We think about a future after the coronavirus, hopefully, or our future with the coronavirus. We think about our future after the election or the future of our world as we deal with racism and other problems in our society.

One of the most famous predictors of the future is probably Nostradamus, a French astrologer and physician, born in 1503, whose prophecies earned him fame and a loyal following during his lifetime. In the centuries since his death, people have credited him with accurately predicting pivotal events in history, from the French Revolution to the rise of Adolf Hitler to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and even the 2020 coronavirus.

In 1900, John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., made some pretty interesting and accurate predictions. Here are a few of his predictions, published in a 1900 issue of Ladies' Home Journal under the title "What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years." One, express trains will travel at speeds up to 150 mph. Today, the Acela express train hits top speeds of 150 mph and the bullet trains in Japan, glide along at 198 mph. Two, "Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishments similar to our bakeries of today." Have you ever heard of Stauffer’s? The frozen-food industry is worth $33 billion today. Three, "Man will see around the world. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span." Can you say “the internet.”

God through his Word also has a lot to say about our futures. There are over a hundred verses in the Bible that talk about the future in some way. Here are a few: Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 1 Peter 1:3b-4 says, In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. Proverbs 16:3-4 says, Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster. Lastly, Matthew 6:31 says, So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ and verse 34 says, Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

These verses tell us many things about our futures: that God has a plan for our futures and for our hope. If we trust, lean on and submit to the Lord he will make our paths (our futures) straight. We have a future inheritance in heaven waiting for us. Commitment to the Lord establishes our future. And lastly we are not to worry about our future because God has our futures in his hands.

This morning our passage comes immediately following what Pastor Stuart taught us last week. Jesus has just restored Peter and commissioned him to feed and take care of his sheep. Peter would serve the Lord and show his love for Jesus this way until his death. ​​ This morning, we are going to see that Jesus tells Peter what his future holds. Jesus will also give insight to Peter about John’s future and will show us that he holds the future of the church in his hands as well. As we study this passage in John 21:18-25, John wants us to understand that Jesus is the Lord of our futures. That’s our big idea this morning. From the verses that I just read and from our passage this morning we see that God and Jesus are supremely concerned about his people’s futures, knows His people’s futures and is Lord over his people’s futures.

Let’s pray: Almighty and All-Knowing God, we come before you this morning ready to be filled with your Holy Spirit, ready to learn from your Word and ready to share what we learn with those who need to hear it. Give us opportunities this week to share the Good News of your Son, Jesus Christ, with those who do not believe. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We are going to be looking at three points this morning. First, Peter’s future, second, John’s future and third, the church’s future. We will start with Peter’s future which is found in verses 18-19. This is what God’s Word says, “Truly, truly I tell you, when you were younger, you used to put on your belt and walk wherever you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will put your belt on you, and bring you where you do not want to go.” Now He said this, indicating by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had said this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”

Jesus begins with “truly, truly” which emphasizes that he is about to say something significant to Peter. What he says to Peter was probably a well-known proverb in Jesus’ day. It contrasted the strength and freedom of youth to the frailty and limitations of old age. Two things are mentioned: the putting on of his belt or dressing himself and the walking or going where he wanted. Jesus is reminding Peter that “when he was young” he had freedom and independence. He led a somewhat carefree life as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. But “when he is old” someone else will dress him and take him where he doesn’t want to go. Jesus had just commissioned Peter to a future of serving Jesus by feeding and taking care of his sheep, but later there would come times of trouble and tribulation and at the end of his life he will “stretch out your hands.” The Greek words for “stretch out your hands” was used by early Christian writers to represent death on a cross.

John then goes on to tell us exactly what Jesus meant by “stretch out your hands” and it was to indicate the kind of death Peter would die that would glorify God. Now we don’t know exactly how Peter died but the tradition from Eusebius is that he was crucified upside down. Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy of dying in the same way that Jesus had. We see from these verses that Jesus was the Lord of Peter’s future. He was not only Lord of Peter’s future in his ministry of feeding and taking care of Jesus’ sheep, he was Lord of his future in death as well. As soon as Jesus tells Peter he will die for his sake he tells him to “follow me.” It is used in the present tense meaning “keep on following.” Jesus meant that Peter was to continue to follow him no matter what for the rest of his life. He had followed in the past but not continuously. “Follow me” takes on a whole new meaning for Peter, in that, he would spend the rest of his life in faithful ministry to Jesus knowing that one day he would die a martyr’s death which would glorify God. ​​ 

This reminds us that there is a cost to our discipleship. There is a cost in following Jesus. We must decrease so Jesus can increase. We must daily surrender our will to Jesus’ will. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” We must be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Gospel. That includes, our safety, our security, our jobs, our families and even our lives if Jesus calls us to that. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as I follow Him in the ministry he has called me.

Our second point is John’s future which is found in verses 20-22. This is what God’s Word says, “Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them—the one who also had leaned back on His chest at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who is betraying You?” 21 So Peter, upon seeing him, said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

After Jesus had reinstated Peter and commissioned him to feed and take care of his sheep it seems they began to walk down the beach possibly for a private moment together. After Jesus had told Peter he would be martyred for his sake Peter turned and saw the disciple that Jesus loved following them. We are also told he is the one who asked Jesus at the last supper who was going to betray him. He’s talking about John. These two specific identifications of John show the close relationships that John had with Jesus and with Peter. John 13:23-24 says, Lying back on Jesus’ chest was one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter nodded to this disciple and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” This signaling between Peter and John assumes a close relationship between the two disciples.

This may give us some insight into why when Peter saw John he asked Jesus the question, “What about him?” While we can’t be certain of the motivation for Peter’s question, he may have been concerned about John’s future because of their close relationship, especially after being told about his own. Maybe there was a sense of rivalry between the two reminiscent of the race to the empty tomb. Maybe Peter felt emboldened by his restoration and assumed he now had special privileges to ask certain things of Jesus. Whatever Peter’s motive, we get the sense from Jesus’ reply that it was not well-intentioned because he abruptly but mildly rebukes Peter. He makes it clear that John’s future is none of Peter’s business. The verb “remain” meaning “remain alive” has eschatological overtones in that if Jesus wanted John to live until he returned, talking about the Second Coming, that did not change the task he had given Peter. Even though Peter was the leader of the disciples there were some things he did not have the privilege to know. Peter’s attention was to be focused on himself and his duty and devotion to Christ not John’s.

Jesus wasn’t putting down either disciple. Peter was being called to pastoral ministry and a martyr’s crown and John was being called to be a historical and theological witness to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Carson says, “The beloved disciple’s commission is not cast in terms as explicit as Peter’s because at this point Peter needed a new fresh commission since that was part of his restoration while the beloved disciple did not. John was giving faithful historical witness even at the present time and would continue to do so.” Jesus was the Lord of John’s future as he knew what John’s role was going to be to further his kingdom. That reminds us of our big idea that Jesus is Lord of our futures.

After his rebuke of Peter, Jesus tells him, “You must follow me.” The “must” is emphatic and the fact that Peter has now been told twice by Jesus to “follow him” is significant. Peter has been twice urged to do what John was already doing. Hoskyns says, “His obedience (John’s) is assured; it was Peter’s love that had been shown to be uncertain.” Jesus is reminding Peter that he has one duty and that is to follow Jesus and to follow him until his death.

We can learn a lot in the church today from this rebuke of Peter. It is interesting that Peter had to turn to see John following them. If Peter had kept looking forward or better yet kept his eyes on Jesus he would not have seen John and asked the question that received the rebuke from his Lord. As Christ followers we need to always be focused on Jesus and not on others. Our mission to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples is too important to compare ourselves to, compete with or be critical of what other Christians or other churches are doing. If we are properly living out our call from God we should not have the time to question the ministry and stewardship of other Christ followers. Personal competition and rivalry destroy the work of the church. What we should be doing is encouraging, helping and serving with other Christians and other churches. That brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card which is to keep my focus on Jesus and encourage, help and serve with other Christians as I pursue, grow and multiply disciples for his sake.

Our third point is the Church’s future and we see this in verses 23-25. This is what God’s Word says, Therefore this account went out among the brothers, that this disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is testifying about these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they were written in detail, I expect that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”

John was the only disciple not to die a martyr’s death and in fact was going to live to a very old age. This passage seems to prove that in the fact that the rumor that John would live until Jesus returned had spread throughout the church by the time his gospel was written. The longer John lived the more people would start to believe that what Jesus had said to Peter was a prophecy about John. As this rumor spread John felt he needed to correct people’s false beliefs because of the damage it could do to the future of the church. When John would finally pass away two things would happen. Those who were Christians at the time would be in for a shock and those who were enemies of the Gospel would call Jesus a liar. Imagine the impact for the church and for the world. John’s witness about Jesus being the Messiah and the Son of God would be damaged. The church would start to wonder about the truthfulness of Jesus and the disciples. The world would ridicule Christians and call Jesus a liar. Christianity may have ceased to exist. So John wants his readers to be clear about what Jesus did or did not say. The “but” is emphatic that Jesus did not say John would not die. He again states Jesus’ exact words to prove it is accurate. He is careful to say Jesus was speaking hypothetically only to deflect Peter misguided question. The word, “if”, made all the difference in Jesus’ statement. John was desperately concerned about the unity of God’s people and the oneness of Jesus’ flock. The Jesus whom both Peter and John served in different ways is passionately concerned about those things as well. Jesus cares deeply for his church and is the Lord of the future of the church.

John now turns his attention to his calling as a faithful witness to Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. John was able to say that he saw all “these things”, and he wrote these things down. “These things” refer to his entire Gospel. We can’t be sure who the “we” are in “we know that his testimony is true.” He could be referring to the other disciples that witnessed the same events or it could refer to John’s followers in the Church of Ephesus where he resided until his death. Some commentators believe that these last two verses were written by someone else besides John, possibly these followers. Or it could have been just a literary device that John used like we see in John 1:14 which says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and “we” saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

It would be nice to know who the “we” refers to but it must not have been important to the book or we would know. If the “we” means someone other than John than their testimony must have been very early because there has never been any doubt about it. Barrett (in Morris’ commentary) says, “The ‘we’ is to be taken with full seriousness; there exists an apostolic Church capable of verifying and affirming the apostolic witness.” If it is referring to someone besides John we don’t know who they are but they were there and that is what mattered.

John’s gospel is a record of what happened written down by a man who had seen it, but it was not exhaustive. John says that Jesus did many other things as well and if they were all written down there would not be enough room in the whole world to hold the books that would be written. This is playful hyperbole, a deliberate exaggeration for dramatic effect which was common in antiquity. John is not content to end his Gospel focusing on himself. He closes by saying his own work about the life of Jesus is only a small part of all the honor and glory due to the Son. John is not only stating the greatness of God here but also stating that the words and works of Jesus were much greater than what is contained in his gospel. But nevertheless, John is the final witness in a long line of witnesses that include John the Baptist and the miracles and signs that Jesus did while he was on the earth. And his Gospel is also a witness written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presenting Jesus Christ as the Messiah the Son of God for the express purpose that all may believe.

Witnesses are important. A witness is defined as someone who sees, hears, or knows by personal presence and perception, to be present at (an event) as a formal witness, spectator, bystander, etc. or to bear witness to; testify to; give or afford evidence of. The word, “witness”, is significant in the Bible. The Israelites were to be witnesses to the world of the goodness of God. But where we really see its importance is in the New Testament. The Greek word for witness occurs thirty-four times; the verb form appears seventy-nine times; the nouns are used a total of fifty-seven times. This concept is found mainly in John and Acts which suggests that it was a vital reason for the Church's growth from a local Jerusalem group to a world-wide movement. The witness of those early Christians contributed to the explosion of the church and the belief that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" through which believers found “life in His name.”

This witness was important because it was different from every other religion of the time, before it or since. In Jesus’ day there were the gods of the Greeks, the gods of the Romans, and both had their temples and priests. There were many philosophies of the day such as Gnosticism and Stoicism. Jesus Christ showed up on the earth in the midst of these pagan religions. He came as a baby born in a manger. He grew up learning carpentry from his earthly father, Joseph. He taught in the synagogue, ate with sinners, healed the sick and forgave sins. He claimed to be God and died on a cross. This was different in that no one ever shook the hand of one of the Greek gods or had lunch with a Roman god. Those deities never wore sandals or walked the same earth that humans did. Jesus Christ was a historical person who interacted with other historical people and those people were witnesses to this Jesus and made the claim that he was indeed the Son of God.

Christianity rests on the witnesses of these stories and events. If no one knew the events and witnessed to them, no one would be a Christian. Because of this we need to keep returning to the scriptures. The Bible will always remain central to the Church's witness, for it contains the story which brought the Church into being and will continue to nourish it to the end. The difference between the apostolic witness and all subsequent Christians through the ages is that they could speak of that "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands” and the rest of us who were not present at the time must repeat the story and keep it living to the next generation. John’s Gospel that we have just finished studying is the witness that gets us from, Thomas, who believed because he had "seen" to "those who have not seen and yet believe.”

So what does all of this have to do with us? John, an eyewitness to the historical Jesus who died on a cross for everyone’s sins, wrote his gospel so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing may have life in his name.” Now that we have read and studied his gospel we too must be witnesses to an unbelieving world so that they may believe in Jesus as their Messiah, as the Son of God and by believing those who you share your testimony with will have life in his name. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to “be a witness for Jesus Christ and what he has done in the book of John and in my life so that others may believe and have life in his name.”

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you that you not only have the futures of Peter, John and the Church in your hands but our futures as well. Help us to be faithful witnesses of your Word and of what you have done in each of our lives. Let us be bold in sharing our testimony to the salvation you have freely given us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



Fireside Chat

(John 21:15-17)



“The president wants to come into your home and sit at your fireside for a little fireside chat,” announced Robert Trout on the airwaves of CBS in March 1933. It was the first of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous radio talks addressing the problems and successes of the Great Depression, and later, World War II. President Roosevelt had not originally planned a title for these broadcasts, but the name “Fireside Chat,” coined by CBS station manager Harold Butcher in reference to the president’s conversational speaking style, stuck. During President Roosevelt’s twelve years in office, the Fireside Chats connected the White House to ordinary American homes as never before.1

Franklin Roosevelt took office at the start of the golden age of radio. When he was first elected in 1932, forty-one percent of U.S. cities had their own radio station. Five years into Roosevelt’s presidency, nearly ninety percent of the U.S. population had access to a radio. Radio was fast overtaking newspapers as America’s major source of news, as it did not require literacy to enjoy or even money to buy—just a friend or neighbor willing to let others tune in. Walking down the street in cities and small towns, one could hear music, radio dramas, comedy hours, or news drifting out of open windows. By the end of the decade, ninety percent of Americans said they would sooner give up movies than radio.2

The primacy of radio as a source of entertainment and news gave President Roosevelt an opportunity no U.S. president had yet had: to speak directly to broad sections of the American public without having his message filtered through the press. Presidents before him had always had to rely on newspaper reporters and editors to convey their words to the public, leaving their original message open to editorial slant or misquoting. Live radio, by contrast, left no room for misquotation.


During his presidency, Franklin Roosevelt used periodic Fireside Chats to tell the public what government was doing about the Great Depression and later, the second World War. During the years of the New Deal President Roosevelt addressed the nation on-air about twice a year, announcing each chat a week or two in advance to ensure a wide listenership. He defended government programs, answered his critics, expressed encouragement through difficult national times, and requested cooperation with his policies. 3

With the United States’ entry into World War II, President Roosevelt started to broadcast about every three months, feeling that it was important to update the public frequently on the progress of the war. His frustration with information provided by the press was constant throughout his time in office: a reporter once asked if he planned to discuss recent talks with Winston Churchill on air, to which the president replied, “It’s up to you fellows. If you fellows give the country an exceedingly correct picture, I won’t go on the radio.” 4

For many Americans, the Fireside Chats, delivered in President Roosevelt’s calm, measured voice, were a source of comfort—a reassurance that during the crises of the Great Depression and World War II, a steady hand was on the wheel. The first Fireside Chat, updating the electorate on what the federal government was doing to address the banking crisis of 1933, came just eight days into Roosevelt’s first administration, direct from the White House to half a million listeners. The sense of connection with the president was immediate. A flood of letters from citizens across the country inundated the White House Mail Room in the months after that first on-air address, most expressing strong support for the president’s words. One letter in particular summed up the general spirit of the response: “Think of having the president talk to us in our parlor…” 5




  • ME

    • Campfires

        • Judy loves to have campfires

          • We’ve had many, here at the pavilion

          • We’ve also had several at various campgrounds

          • Sitting around campfire provides an incredible opportunity to relax and talk

          • We’ve had some really meaningful talks with our children and their friends around a campfire

        • Creation campfires

          • A least of couple of times we’ve had campfires at Creation Music Festival

          • Those campfires have brought out some deep conversations about the things of God as youth are away from their usual surroundings and perhaps more open to hearing from the Lord


  • WE

    • Creation campfires

        • How many of us have experienced those deep, meaningful conversations around a campfire at Creation?

        • Perhaps we remember a youth giving their life to Jesus Christ for the first time (can you remember their name(s)?)

        • Maybe it was a Creation campfire conversation that sparked the desire to enter full-time ministry

    • Personal campfires

        • Every one of us can probably think of a time when we had a meaningful conversation around a campfire

        • Even if it wasn’t around a campfire, we can probably recall a time when we had a deep conversation with someone about Jesus Christ and God


Jesus had a fireside chat prepared for Peter and the other disciples after their breakfast together on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. ​​ Peter had publicly voiced his allegiance to Jesus, even if everyone else fell away. ​​ He also publicly denied Jesus three times. ​​ With incredible mercy, Jesus wants to restore Peter publicly, so that he could carry on the mission of the Gospel. ​​ Through this fireside chat, Jesus helped Peter understand what his responsibility would be concerning taking care of His flock (sheep). ​​ The principle Jesus shared with Peter, included the other disciples and you and me. ​​ John wants us to understand that . . .

BIG IDEA – Loving Jesus means loving His people.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (John 21:15-17)

    • 1st Question & Answer (v. 15)

        • After breakfast

          • John lets us know when Jesus’ fireside chat took place

          • Jesus had prepared breakfast for them and had served them and cared of them

          • Jesus took care of Peter’s physical needs, before dealing with his spiritual needs

          • It’s interesting to note that Jesus modeled physically what He was going to challenge Peter to do spiritually

            • Jesus fed Peter and the other disciples, who were His sheep

            • He served them and took care of them as His sheep

          • Only after the disciples were taken care of, did Jesus move from the physical to the spiritual

        • Question

          • Jesus addressed Peter in the presence of the other disciples

            • “Peter had boasted of his reliability in the presence of his fellow disciples.” ​​ [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 675]

              • John 13:8, “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” ​​ Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

              • John 13:37-38, Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? ​​ I will lay down my life for you.” ​​ Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? ​​ I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

              • John 18:10-11, Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. ​​ (The servant’s name was Malchus.) ​​ Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! ​​ Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

              • Mark 14:29-31, Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” ​​ “I tell you the truth.” ​​ Jesus answered, “today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” ​​ But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” ​​ And all the others said the same.

            • His denial of Jesus was done publicly

            • It stands to reason that his restoration, by Jesus, should also be done publicly [Carson, 675]

              • Jesus had met with Peter privately, prior this public restoration, to deal with Peter’s private sin

                • Luke 24:34, “It is true! ​​ The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”

                • 1 Corinthians 15:5, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

              • “Private sin should be confessed in private, public sins in public.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Volume 1, 397]

          • Jesus uses Peter’s given name, Simon, which reminds us of when Jesus initially called him to follow (John 1:42)

            • Jesus does not call him Peter (the Rock) as this point, because he was broken

              • He had denied knowing Jesus three times

              • Luke 22:60-62, Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” ​​ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. ​​ The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. ​​ Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” ​​ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

            • Jesus knew Peter’s strength and character and how he would lead the establishment of the first Christian church

              • Jesus knew the importance of restoring Peter, so that the other disciples would follow his leadership

              • Matthew 16:15-18, “But what about you?” ​​ he asked, “Who do you say I am?” ​​ Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” ​​ Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. ​​ And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

          • “Do you truly love me more than these?”

            • Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Him more than the other disciples, who were present, love Him?

            • Before Peter’s denial of Jesus, he probably would have answered, “Yes!” (it would have been emphatic with confidence)

            • “Of course I love you more than these guys love you!”

            • That’s not the case as Peter answers Jesus

          • That’s what we see next

        • Answer

          • “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

          • Peter doesn’t try to compare his love for Jesus with any of the other disciples love for Jesus

          • He knows that his pride and arrogance got him in trouble before

          • “He does not try to answer in terms of the relative strength of his love as compared with that of other disciples. ​​ He appeals rather to the Lord’s knowledge. ​​ Despite my bitter failure, he says in effect, I love you – you know that I love you.” [Carson, 677]

        • Greek words for love

          • Some scholars and preachers have pointed out the use of two different Greek words for love, in Jesus’ questions and Peter’s answers

            • They attempt to make this difference more significant than it should be

            • In Jesus’ first two questions, John uses the Greek word agapaō, which has been considered to be the stronger form of, “to love” – it is self-giving and self-sacrificing love

            • In Peter’s response, all three times, and in Jesus’ final question, John uses the Greek word phileō, which is thought to be the weaker form of, “to love” – it is a friendship love or brotherly love

            • It would be nice to make a distinction between these two Greek words and apply that to our lives today, but we have to consider how these two words were used by John in the rest of his Gospel

            • He uses them interchangeably throughout his Gospel, so there really isn’t a distinction between the two Greek words [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 1043]

              • He uses both Greek words for the Father’s love for the Son [Michaels, 1043]

                • John 3:35, The Father loves (agapaō) the Son and has placed everything in his hands.

                • John 5:20a, For the Father loves (phileō) the Son and shows him all he does.

              • He also uses both Greek words for the disciples’ love for Jesus [see 14:15 (agapaō); 16:27 (phileō)] [Michaels, 1043]

              • He uses both for Jesus’ love for Lazarus [see 11:3 (phileō), 5 (agapaō)] [Michaels, 1043]

              • Finally, he uses both for Jesus’ love for “the disciple whom he loved” (see 13:23 (agapaō); 20:2 (phileō)] [Michaels, 1043]

            • The main point of the passage is that Jesus is restoring Peter after his denial and not the use of two Greek words for love

          • After Peter affirms his love for Jesus, Jesus gives him this command

        • Command

          • “Feed my lambs”

          • Lambs and sheep are again used interchangeably throughout the Gospel of John, so there probably isn’t some hidden meaning there that needs to be mined or harvested

          • Jesus had just fed Peter, physically, and now He is commanding Peter to feed His sheep, spiritually

          • This will be significant after Jesus ascends to heaven and Pentecost takes place

        • Jesus asks the same question a second time

    • 2nd Question & Answer (v. 16)

        • Question

          • The only difference in Jesus’ question, this second time, is that He omits, “more than these”

          • The restoration of Peter has begun its second phase

        • Answer

          • Peter’s answer is exactly the same as his first one

          • “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

        • Command

          • “Take care of my sheep”

          • The verb can also be translated, “Shepherd or feed”

        • Jesus completes the restoration of Peter by asking him the same question a third time

    • 3rd Question & Answer (v. 17)

        • Question

          • The only difference in the question this time is found in the Greek

          • Jesus uses phileō instead of agapaō

        • Answer

          • John tells us that Peter is hurt when Jesus asks him a third time

            • Why was Peter hurt or grieved?

            • “It was hardly because of the change in the Greek verbs. ​​ Besides, that argument would hardly be viable if the original conversation would have been in Aramaic. ​​ A mere glance at the text tells the reader the reason. ​​ Peter experienced a major ‘undoing’ (cf. Isa 6:5, KJV) of his self-assertiveness because Jesus asked him ‘the third time’ (21:17) about his love. ​​ The third time did it.” ​​ [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 335]

          • Peter adds an important part to his answer this time

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus is all-knowing (omniscient)!

              • “Lord, you know all things”

              • This is an important principle for followers of Jesus Christ to embrace

              • Psalm 139:1-4, O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. ​​ You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. ​​ You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. ​​ Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

              • There is nothing in our lives that Jesus does not know about

                • Whatever we’re struggling with (health, emotions, relationships, finances) Jesus knows about it

                • Some of us may feel like Jesus doesn’t know about our situation, because we feel like He is doing anything about it

                • That doesn’t void this principle or truth – our feelings don’t void truth

                • Jesus answers our cries with Yes, No, or Wait

                  • We never struggle with Yes

                  • We normally struggle with No and Wait

                • Sometimes the struggle is to strengthen us

              • Because Jesus is all-knowing, He knows what is best for us

                • He knows what will strengthen us and draw us to Him

                • He knows what we are able to handle with His grace

                • He knew how Job was going to react to the attacks from Satan

                • He knows how we’ll react to the attacks from Satan

                • We can trust Him to do what’s best for us, because He knows everything

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in Jesus’ ability to know everything about me and what I’m going through and to guide me by His Spirit.

            • Even though Peter is hurt and grieved that Jesus asks Him the same question a third time, he affirms His love for Jesus based on Jesus’ knowledge of him

          • Jesus gives the same command again

        • Command

          • “Feed my sheep”

          • Jesus wants Peter to take care of the other disciples and the new converts that will be part of His flock

    • Command fulfilled

        • We know that Peter took this restoration seriously and understood his responsibility to take care of Jesus’ flock

        • 1 Peter 5:1-4, To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. ​​ And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

        • Read Acts 20:28-31

        • “Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), the Great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20-21), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). ​​ Pastors are ‘under-shepherds’ who must obey Him as they minister to the flock. ​​ The most important thing the pastor can do is to love Jesus Christ. ​​ If he truly loves Jesus Christ, the pastor will also love His sheep and tenderly care for them.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 398]

          • Pastor Marc and I love Jesus Christ

          • We love all you very much and we strive to tenderly care for you

          • Loving Jesus means loving His people.


  • YOU

    • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is merciful.

        • Mercy is the goodness of God providing a way for man’s guilt to be erased

          • Ephesians 2:4-5, But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.

          • Numbers 14:18, “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. ​​ Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.

        • Peter experienced Jesus mercy as He gently restored him to leadership after his failure

        • You and I can experience the great mercy of Jesus when we fail Him

          • You and I are human and fallible

          • Even as followers of Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit living in us, we will sometimes choose to give in to sin’s temptation

          • When we acknowledge that sin and confess, Jesus promises to forgive us

          • 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

          • Are you struggling with unconfessed sin?

          • Are you ready to experience Jesus’ mercy by confessing those sins to Him today?

          • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess my sins to Jesus and experience His mercy and forgiveness.

        • If you’re not a follower of Jesus Christ, you can still experience His mercy and forgiveness for the first time

    • PRINCIPLE #3 – Before Jesus can be followed and served, the sin in our lives has to be addressed.

        • Peter experienced that also through his restoration process

        • Jesus had met him privately prior to this public fireside chat

        • Jesus wants to meet you privately to deal with your sin, so you can follow and serve Him

          • You and I are born in sin (Rom. 3:23, 6:23)

          • Before we can follow and serve Jesus we have to recognized our sin (The Good Person Test)

          • Repentance is turning away from our sin and following Jesus and His ways

          • God loves us so much that He made a way to deal with our sin (Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3-4)

          • 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.”

          • Are you ready to take that step today?

          • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, so I can be saved from my sins.


  • WE

    • PRINCIPLE #4 – Following Jesus and loving Jesus mean accepting responsibility for Jesus’ people.

        • We know that God raises up some individuals to serve in spiritual leadership roles, but listen to what Paul says about their role as he writes to the Ephesian believers

          • Ephesians 4:11-13, It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

          • Spiritual leaders are to prepare God’s people for works of service that will build up the body of Christ

          • The various discipleship opportunities that Pastor Marc and I offer is to help prepare you all to serve one another

          • We also serve together with you through the various food pantries we help with

        • The Holy Spirit gives each follower of Jesus at least one, if not more, spiritual gifts to help serve the church and those who are part of it

          • Romans 12:4-6, Just as each one of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. ​​ We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.

          • 1 Corinthians 12:7, Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

        • Loving Jesus means loving His people.

        • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Identify my spiritual gifts and commit to using them within the body of Christ, so that Jesus’ people will be taken care of.