James gives us the process of temptation while teaching us that God does not tempt us to evil (James 1:13-18).

In his book Hope Is Contagious, Ken Hutcherson shares a moment from his personal life that illustrates well the ability to foster joy in the midst of trying circumstances, even as he was battling cancer:

You can face anything in life—anything—and have that same inner peace and joy. And when you do, it’s contagious. It lifts up everyone else around you. Isn’t that the type of person you want to be? Instead of joining over and over again in the whining about how bad things are, just your presence shows others that, hey, life is still a wonderful gift we should all be enjoying.

[One day] I was relaxing in my recliner after having spent five hours in the emergency room the night before. I’ll admit I was exhausted, and the pain medication wasn’t working as well as I would have liked. I looked around and saw my family going about their lives as usual. Video games. Chores. Music. Laughter. My wife, Pat, was fixing breakfast. Even our new little puppy was settling into a comfortable routine and enjoying everyone’s efforts to spoil him. A visitor stopped by to chat. Some friends from church surprised me with a birthday cake—I had almost forgotten it was my birthday. So there I sat, surrounded by so much goodness even as I’m feeling lousy. My favorite cake is staring at me, but I have no appetite. My eleven-year-old runs past me, and I don’t have enough energy to grab him and wrestle him to the ground like I used to. I’m trying to have a conversation with my guests, but between the short night and the powerful pain pills, I can barely stay alert. And you know what I’m thinking? Can you imagine how close I am to being overwhelmed with what is happening to me?

The words practically shouted from inside of me: “Isn’t God great? What a privilege to be his child!”[1]

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

John Piper writes:

God strips every pain of its destructive power. You must believe this or you will not thrive, or perhaps even survive, as a Christian, in the pressures and temptations of modern life.

There is so much pain, so many setbacks and discouragements, so many controversies and pressures. I do not know where I would turn, if I did not believe that almighty God is taking every setback and every discouragement and every controversy and every pressure and every pain, and stripping it of its destructive power, and making it work for the enlargement of my joy in God.

Listen to Paul’s astonishing words in 1 Corinthians 3:21–23, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” The world is ours. Life is ours. Death is ours. Which I take to mean: God reigns so supremely on behalf of his elect that everything which faces us in a lifetime of obedience and ministry will be subdued by the mighty hand of God and made the servant of our holiness and our everlasting joy in God.

If God is for us, and if God is God, then it is true that nothing can succeed against us. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all will infallibly and freely with him give us all things — all things — the world, life, death, and God himself.

Romans 8:32 is a precious friend. The promise of God’s future grace is simply overwhelming. But all-important is the foundation: I have called it the logic of heaven. Here is a place to stand against all obstacles. God did not spare his own Son! Therefore! Therefore! The logic of heaven! Therefore, how much more will he not spare any effort to give us all that Christ died to purchase — all things, all good, and all bad working for our good!

It is as sure as the certainty that he loved his Son!

Devotional excerpted from Future Grace, page 114[1]

We are all going through trials and tribulations right now.

We are all going through trials and tribulations right now.

A few years ago I was running and it was a very windy day. We were running in the country, as we would climb hills the wind got worse. I found myself being angry at the wind. I actually even wanted to yell at the wind, “stop it!” But in the end, you just got to keep running, you got to keep moving. I think that is the case in the Christian life. The devil attacks (Eph. 6:10-12), temptation comes. Those attacks provide resistance and try to make us give up or knock us down but we have to keep going we can’t give up. Press on. See 2 Tim. 2:1-7 and 1 Cor. 9

1 Cor. 9:24-27

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/as-sure-as-gods-love-for-his-son

As we look at the Bible we see that God does not tempt us but God will allow us to be tested in order to bring about His greater purposes.

We began a series on James last week, let’s continue this series. In today’s passage we see the process of temptation. But we also see important Theological truths:

God does not tempt us to evil and God cannot be tempted to evil. God does not change. God is good and gifts us with salvation.

Theme:

James gives us the process of temptation while teaching us that God does not tempt us to evil.

Let’s read James 1:13-18:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

  1. In verses 13-15 we see the process of temptation. James gives the process from test through enticement to sin to death.
    1. In context, James was writing about persevering under trial.
    2. In verse 13 James begins to write about temptation.
    3. John Piper shares that “tempt” is the same word for test at least in many cases. John 6:5-6; Heb 11:17; 1 Peter 4:12-17: God does test.
    4. In a sense all trials are temptations.
    5. Verse 13 gives two important theological truths. God does not tempt and God cannot be tempted.
    6. Notice that verse 13 specifies evil. God cannot be tempted by evil and God cannot tempt anyone, this means to evil.
    7. God can test us, but not to the point of temptation to do evil.
    8. A lot of times we are tempted to evil with things that are not bad in themselves.
    9. Hunger, sex, money and things like that are not sins by themselves. They become sinful as we see in verses 14-15.
    10. As stated, we do know that God tests. We see that in Genesis 22:1 with God testing Abraham. See also Heb 11:17 and John 6:5-6 with Jesus testing the disciples. What is the difference? We see the difference in verses 14-15.
    11. James breaks it down.
    12. In verse 14 he explains the process. When we are carried away and enticed by our own lust. We have desires and these lure us away. Some translations actually say that they drag us away. That is the beginning.
    13. Think of this like fishing. I used to do some fishing, though I did not do a lot of catching. In fishing I get my hook in the water. I have some bait on that hook. My bait lures the fish and then that entices the fish. The fish is going for a good thing, food, but that becomes a bad thing, the hook. All analogies fail and this one does too because it would not be sinful for the fish. However, these lusts, these desires become sinful for us.
    14. In verse 15 he continues to show us the rest.
    15. Lust, or desire in some translations, is conceived, then that gives birth to sin. Sin is accomplished and that brings forth death.
    16. Desire can lead to the duration of sin without repentance leading to death.
    17. God cannot be tempted and yet Christ was tempted but this was a different use of the Greek Word. Christ had allurements of ordinary hunger which we can use to sin and He did not.
    18. God tempts no one and tries everyone. In the trial, His purpose and goal is completeness and steadfastness. God does not make that trial a temptation.
    19. One person shares a good example:
    20. When my son Scott was just learning to walk, he fell on a cement driveway and split the area below his chin so deeply that the floor of his mouth was exposed. Hospitals and doctors were 250 kilometers away over tortuous mountain roads. I had no surgical instruments with me. A quick catalog of our resources turned up a less-than-impressive array of one darning needle, coarse thread, one pair of rather blunt scissors, and a pair of eyebrow tweezers. Infection in children develops rapidly and infection in the floor of the mouth can have fatal complications. We also had a little sulfonamide powder. There was no local anesthetic. Rightly or wrongly, I decided to trim and stitch the wound with what we had. We sterilized “the instruments.” I could not help but look at the affair from Scott’s point of view. I did my best to explain, but what can a one-year-old understand? Then he was placed on the dining room table and judgment descended on him. Cruel adults seized his limbs and his head so that movement was impossible. Then the father he had trusted became a fearful monster inflicting unbelievable pain on him. How I wished that he could understand that I feared for his life.Mercifully, he still seemed to trust me when it was over. As for me, I caught a glimpse of judgment from God’s angle.[2]
    21. The little boy was going through a trial, but he had to go through it in order to get better. We have to go through things because God wants to make us better.
    22. Verse 15 shows the process. I like how John Piper says that Jesus was tested, but it never got crossed into temptation. Remember it is the same Greek word. Jesus was taken to the wilderness and He faced testing, but it was not conceived to sin and was not accomplished to death.
    23. I like how Peterson renders this in the Message: The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
    24. Desire can lead to the duration of sin without repentance leading to death, separation from God.
  2. In verses 16-17 James shows that every good gift is from God.
    1. Verse 18 is an example of that.
    2. James says not to be deceived. How would they be deceived? They could be deceived to think that God tempts to sin or that God brings bad gifts or something like that. They may be deceived thinking wrongly about God’s character. God does not tempt to sin.
    3. God will send trials, but His goal is building us up.
    4. James says in verse 17 that every good and perfect gift is from above.
    5. In Today in the Word from Moody Bible Institute it reads:
    6. In 1885, a Russian czar commissioned Carl Fabergé and his family jewelry business to create a special Easter gift for his wife. They designed a beautiful white egg, inside of which was a gold “yolk.” Inside of that was a golden hen, and inside of that was a miniature diamond crown and a tiny ruby egg. Known as the “Hen Egg,” this was the first of 50 such jeweled eggs created over a span of 32 years as royal gifts.[3]
    7. That is a major material gift, right. Jesus gifts us something far better in our salvation.
    8. In verses 16-18 The gift is our salvation. The gift is the abundant life in God (John 10:10). The gift is living life with Jesus (John 15).
    9. The gift comes from God and He is comparing God as the Father of lights.
    10. We have another theological truth. God does not change. He does not vary. There is no varying shadow. The sunlight changes as the clouds move or the earth moves, but God’s light is strong and constant. 1 John 1:5 is about God as light.
    11. Verse 18 is an example of that.
    12. In exercising His will, he saved us, that is what James was talking about.
    13. They were the first fruits, in other words, this is the early church and they were the first believers.
  • Applications:
    1. God does not tempt us to evil. It is important to remember that God is good.
    2. The devil can tempt to evil, but so can sin around us.
    3. It is important to remember the process and put up safeguards to prevent sin and ongoing sin.
      1. Our desire can entice.
      2. That enticement can give birth to sin.
      3. Sin can go on and become death.
      4. We must remember to cut this off before the enticement leads to lust.
      5. We must repent before ongoing sin leads to death (Psalm 66:18).
    4. We must remember that God is good.
    5. We must worship God knowing that He brings good (verses 16-18).
    6. We must worship God knowing that He does not change like the shadow.

 

God does not tempt but He will let us be tested through difficult times.

In his spiritual memoir A Stranger in the House of God, author and Moody Bible Institute professor John Koessler tells the story of his younger brother George. Since childhood, George’s life consisted of heartache after heartache: because of a collapsed lung shortly after birth, he struggled with a learning disability that made him the butt of far too many jokes—even from his own family; his first wife cheated on him after being married for less than a year; he was permanently laid off from the only job he knew how to do well at the time. As the pain snowballed, George hit rock bottom. Because he hadn’t kept in touch with George, Koessler was unaware of what was going on in his brother’s life. A literal wake-up call concerning George’s condition came late one night. Koessler writes:

I awoke from a sound sleep with a sense of dread, compelled to pray for my brother. In particular, I felt impressed to ask God to spare his life. The longer I prayed, the more anxious I became, sensing George was in some kind of grave danger…

A week later I got a phone call from my father. My brother’s roommate contacted him saying George had tried to commit suicide. Despondent over his life, he slit his wrists with a kitchen knife. “He really meant business,” my father said. “If his roommate had come fifteen minutes later, it would have been too late”…

My brother’s roommate discovered him about the same time I was asking God to spare George’s life.

With the encouragement of family and friends, George partnered with God to put his life back together. He learned how to cope with his learning disability and overcame his depression with the help of medicine. He worked difficult, trying hours as an emergency medical technician in order to earn a college degree—which he earned with honors. All the while, he was taking the all-important steps toward a life of faith. After meeting his second wife, Jan, at a church function, George committed his life to Christ.

George’s transformation stirred in him a deep desire to serve others spiritually. This man, weighed down for so long by such profound pain, would eventually become the chaplain for the Detroit Fire Department. Koessler closes the chapter concerning his brother with these words about George: 

He doesn’t regret the difficulties he has faced. He doesn’t see them as unfortunate twists of fate or himself as a victim of circumstance. He sees them as tools wielded by the gracious hand of God. “Without them,” he says, “I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” 

George doesn’t consider any of his accomplishments remarkable. “I’m just a survivor,” he says. “I’m no hero.” Perhaps not to others. Certainly not to himself. But he is to me.[4]

Prayer

[1] Ken Hutcherson, Hope Is Contagious (Zondervan, 2010)

[2] John White, Eros Redeemed (InterVarsity Press, 1993) p. 49; submitted by Jay Caron

[3] https://www.todayintheword.org/issues/2019/february/devotions/05/

[4] John Koessler, A Stranger in the House of God (Zondervan, 2007), pp.188-189

Persevere when our Faith is Tested (James 1:2-12)

Persevere when our Faith is Tested (James 1:2-12)

Testing of our faith produces perseverance and holiness

I was listening to one of my favorite preachers. His name is David Jeremiah and he can be heard on the Moody Bible radio station which is 103.3 around here. David Jeremiah talked about a time when he was in China. In China he was speaking with some Chinese Christians. The Chinese Christians said “we pray for the American Church.” David Jeremiah asked, “how do you pray for us?” The Chinese Christians responded, “We pray for persecution.” Let me make sure you understand this, the Chinese Christians pray for the American Christians to face persecution. Why? Why do you think that is? We’ll come back to this in today’s sermon.

In a minute I want you to turn to James 1. We will talk today about James 1:2-12. These verses are written specifically about trials and persecutions. As we talk about this passage I want to show you that James challenges his audience that perseverance in trials will build them up in maturity and holiness and give them a reward in Heaven. Let me repeat this theme for emphasis: James challenges his audience that perseverance in trials will build them up in maturity and holiness and give them a reward in Heaven.

Now let’s read James 1:2-12

Read James 1:2-12

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

  1. In verses 2-4 and then again in verses 9-11 James writes about trials and temptations, let’s look at those.
    1. James says that you should consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials and temptations. This doesn’t make sense.
    2. Have you ever considered it joy at the time when you were going through a trial or temptation? Really, have you?
    3. Okay, think of it another way: have you ever considered it a good thing after you have gone through a trial or temptation?
    4. I bet that we all have. I bet we have all been thankful for what we learned through a trial or temptation. I know I have.
    5. Chuck Swindoll says, “I am thankful for the mountaintops in my life as well as the valleys, for without the valleys I wouldn’t appreciate the mountaintops.
    6. Now, what type of joy is he writing about? This is not meaning mere worldly, temporal happiness, but rather spiritual, enduring, “complete joy” in the Lord who is sovereign over all things, including trials.
    7. Notice this says “pure joy.” This is not partial joy, this is complete joy.
    8. Now, what type of trials is he writing about?
    9. Well the text says trials of many kinds. One of my sources says that he is talking about the trials of the rich oppressing the poor. That is possibly quite likely as the rest of James has several passages dealing with the rich oppressing the poor.
    10. However, I don’t want to limit this passage to the trials of rich oppressing poor. The rich certainly did oppress the poor in this area. However, this area certainly did face persecution.
    11. It was around 33 AD that Paul the apostle stood as a witness to the stoning of Stephen. It was around this same time that Acts 9 records the Christians fled the Jerusalem area because of persecution. It was prior to this time period that Peter and James were persecuted in Jerusalem. James was written from Jerusalem.
    12. The text says “many kinds of trials.”
    13. So, we also must consider it joy when we face persecution.
      1. Why?
      2. Why would we consider physical persecution pure joy?
  • Why would we consider verbal persecution or other types of persecution as joy?
  1. Why would we consider the persecution of the rich oppressing the poor as joy?
  2. Why would we consider life’s struggles as joy?
  3. The next two verses clue us in.
  • When our faith is tested this develops perseverance. This perseverance carries the idea of patience, or steadfast hope expectantly waiting on Christ. But this is not all. The text continues.
  • Verse 4 says that this perseverance finishes its’ work by making you mature and complete.
  1. This completeness has the idea of holiness.
  2. Through our trials; whether verbal persecution or physical persecution, whether oppression, or other trials of health or finances; God is building us up in holiness.
  3. And that is why we rejoice. That is why we count it as pure joy.
  • Why would the Chinese Christians pray for persecution in the United States? This is because they are facing persecution and they know it builds them up as a church. listen to this:

The following prayer was prayed by an Ethiopian at Soddu, Walamo, Ethiopia: “Almighty God, from the depth of my heart I plead with thee to send us trouble. When our king was exiled we were in much trouble with the foreign [Italian] rulers. We had to meet in secret and were in constant danger of our lives. That was the time when we worked in harmony with our fellow Christians.

“Many a night after I had locked my door and gone to bed, tired from a day’s long journey of preaching and teaching, there came a persistent knocking. Lord, how I wanted to sleep, and surely but they wouldn’t want to be baptized at night and be hunted and chased and put in prison and beaten, but they said they had seen the Christian’s joy and they too wanted that religion. Every night there were more and more.

“We read Thy Word and talked about it and prayed through the nights. We shared our joy in the Lord. We worked side by side with only one desire, to preach and teach the Gospel. Then, Lord, our king came back. The foreign rulers were forced to leave our country …

“We have peace in our land. We baptize in the daytime. We are not beaten. We meet and pray, yes, but we are beginning to grow careless in our zeal for Thee. Jealousies creep in and spoil the harmony. Petty troubles take on in large meetings. We are selfish in our ambitions. Dear Lord, send us more trouble, I pray Thee, that we may forget ourselves and be so dependent on Thee that we have no time to become selfish and jealous of our fellow Christians. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.  

  1. Now skip to verses 9-11: In verses 9-11 the text will come back to the idea of trials, this time it is specific to the trials of the poor and the rich.
    1. Verse 9: the brother in humble circumstances…. This means they have a low social status and/or financial status. How can someone in that type of status have pride?
    2. They can have pride as they don’t have the temptation to depend upon wealth rather than God. Look at the next verse.
  • There is a contrast. The rich, low position—huh? What he means is that the rich are more likely to depend upon their wealth rather than God.
  1. Come back to my example about the Chinese Christians praying for persecution in America. In China many Christians are persecuted. In China many of the churches are underground. So, they know what it is like to depend upon God. Now, what about America we have many excuses not to depend upon God. We have financial help at our finger tips. We have medical help at our finger tips. We have…. We have… we have… But we are lacking in dependence upon God.
  2. Please don’t get me wrong. I love America and I am not attacking America. I also know that many of you have had times when you definitely depended upon God. I am not discounting that.
  3. I am merely saying that the blessings of America are exactly what hurt us spiritually; the blessings of America are exactly what hurt us spiritually.
  • I was reading a book called 1776 a few years ago and the historian David McCullough says that in 1776 America was already the richest country in the world.
  • So, many haven’t had to struggle for finances and I believe this is hurting us today. We aren’t compelled to depend upon God and move to spiritual maturity.
  1. In verses 10-11 James uses an analogy to say that our wealth passes away. At death we are all on the same playing field.
  2. It says that the sun rises and the heat withers a plant. In the NASB it says scorching wind. The “scorching wind” (NASB) might refer to the sirocco, an especially devastating hot wind blowing into Palestine from the southern desert. But the summer sun by itself was also quite effective in wilting Palestinian flowers, which were then useless except as fuel.

I read of a man in California who had two daughters in their early teens. One was more attractive; the other was rather plain.

One day as they were getting ready for school the better- looking girl looked into the mirror beside the face of her less attractive sister. The latter complained to her father that this was done as a reflection on her lack of looks. Instead of growing angry or taking sides, the father called both girls to himself and gave them this excellent advice: “I want both of you to look in the mirror every day. You who are more attractive that you may be reminded never to dishonor the beauty of your face by the ugliness of your actions, and you who lack beauty that you may hide your lack of it by the superior attractiveness of your virtue and beautiful conduct.”

  1. Now let’s go back and have a looksee at verses 5-8. In these passages wisdom in faith are contrasted with doubting.
    1. If you lack wisdom ask of God. Who gives out wisdom? God gives out wisdom. Where does wisdom come from? God is the provider of wisdom.
    2. There is an amazing passage in 1 Kings 3. Solomon is now the king of Israel and God comes to him in a dream asking him what he wants. Solomon doesn’t ask for riches but for wisdom. Wisdom comes from God.
    3. Verse 6 says when you ask believe, don’t doubt. Now, why does this matter? This is why: when we ask God for something but we really don’t believe He can fulfill it this dishonors God. This undermines God’s ability. The text goes on to say that this makes the man double minded. Why?
    4. This is because on one hand you call yourself a Christian. You are trusting in God for eternal life. But on the other hand you are not trusting God with other matters.
    5. I remember when I was a child; I thought my dad could fix anything. He really did fix most things. A toy would get broke and my dad could fix it. There was not a doubt in my mind that when my dad got home, he would be able to fix what was broke.
      1. But you know what else? My dad wanted to fix things for me. He cared about me.
      2. God can fix things for us, God cares about us.
  • But sometimes we must go through some trials in order for something to be better.
  1. Now, how does this wisdom and faith relate with trials and tribulations. This is how: We need wisdom to know what choices to make in our trials. Then we need faith to trust God to guide us.
  • The passage also is written about a reward. This is found in verse 12.
    1. When we persevere in our trials. God gives us the crown of life. I believe he is talking about eternal life. But the image in mind is the crown that people would receive when they won an Olympic contest.
    2. See 1 Cor 9: 24-27.

Conclusion:

Dr. Lambie, medical missionary, formerly of a place in Africa, has forded many swift and bridgeless streams in Africa. The danger in crossing such a stream lies in being swept off one’s feet and carried down the stream to greater depths or hurled to death against the hidden rocks. Dr. Lambie learned from the natives the best way to make such a hazardous crossing. The man about to cross finds a large stone, the heavier the better, lifts it to his shoulder, and carries it across the stream as something that weighs him down. The extra weight of the stone keeps his feet solid on the bed of the stream and he can cross safely without being swept away.

Dr. Lambie drew this application: While crossing the dangerous stream of life, enemies constantly seek to overthrow us and rush us down to ruin. We need the extra weight of a burden, a load of affliction, to keep us from being swept off our feet.

 

Look, we all will continue to face trials and troubles in life. Some have trials that relate to health. Some have trials that relate to finances. Some have trials that relate to children. Some have trials that relate to verbal, physical or other forms of persecution for their faith. God never promised that these will go away but that He will support and guide us and make us stronger for going through them. Someone once said: “Are you praying for lighter burdens or a stronger back?” When we persevere we gain an eternal reward and when we persevere God builds us up.

So, how are you doing? Are you being built up? Are you staying strong in your struggles? I pray that you will. Please pray that you will. Pray that you will stay strong in your faith no matter what the circumstances. Pray that you will stay strong when, not if, but when Christians are persecuted. Make this a matter of prayer.

We are all in process. God is crafting us.

pray

 

NASB New American Standard Bible

Hope: Heaven is for Real and You Were Created for IT

What is going on?

All this corona virus stuff makes us wonder what is going on?

Do we have to fear? No, we have to pray. It is encouraging to know that most who get corona virus will recover. Actually, it sounds like many will get the virus and be asymptomatic. Either way Christians have nothing to fear. We must pray. We must sanctify our thinking. Live out 2 Cor. 10:5. Live out Phil 4:6-8.

I’ll tell you what is going on, fallenness.

We were created good, see Gen 1-2.

The world fell.

When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, so did death. Jesus has redeemed us, but we are not there yet.

We are waiting on everything to be made new which we see in Rev 21.

I want to talk about the future.

There is so much panic right now.

There is so much uncertainty but you know what you can be certain of? Heaven.

You can be certain of Heaven. Let’s talk about that.

I was really debating what to talk about this morning. I did not think my planned sermon would fit. So, I want to talk about our future as Christians.

There are at least 3 topics that fit right now: Prayer, God’s sovereignty and heaven. I am talking about heaven because we hardly ever talk about heaven.

Do remember to pray, this is national day of prayer.

I plan for this to be a full sermon not a devotion. It will be on the podcast app later as well as the church website. It will be on the church website in video form as well as audio form.

If you have a steel ball, solid steel, the size of this earth, 25,000 miles in circumference, and every one million years a little sparrow would be released to land on that ball to sharpen his beak and fly away only to come back another million years later and begin again, by the time he would have won that all down to the side of a BB, eternity would have begun.[1]

Years ago, when I moved to northeast, Ohio. I moved from Cincinnati, though I am originally from Dayton. One day I walked in a barber shop, it was a small barber shop that a local recommended, but when I walked in I felt like I stood out like a Steelers fan in the Dawg Pound. I saw a few guys shootin’ the breeze there and one of them asked me, “You’re not from around here, are you?” I said where I was from and they made me welcome, but I will never forget walking in there. The realization hit, “No, I am new in town.” It has only been just aboout 14 years since I lived in the Dayton area, but everything has changed. Sometimes I like to go to the website of the school I graduated from or check it out on Facebook because it has all changed. Nothing, absolutely nothing, stays the same. Last year, they tore down my high school and built another one. I attended the same school district from Kindergarten through twelfth grade and it is all different. I like to think back; I think I do that more as my daughters gets older. I think about what it was like when I was eight and what my dad was doing, though my dad was younger then I am now when I was that age. Everything changes. So, having moved just less than four hours from home, I am amazed at people who move overseas. I am amazed at people who left Germany, or Ireland in the late 19th century to begin a new life in the States. Where are you from? Do you long to think back to the area you came from? Or, maybe you long to think back to a different age? Are you longing for something, or somewhere, or sometime?

Paul Enns in his book on Heaven writes:

What are you looking for and longing for? In America, people sometimes long for the wrong things—and what they really want (although they don’t know it) and what they really need will remain elusive to them. Many think they need another car, a vacation home, the newest items in technology. They think the latest fashions in the shopping centers will satisfy their longings. They won’t. The longing that God has placed in our hearts is for heaven, a better place, a better country. But more specifically, it is a country of our ancestry.[2]

We may long for a place, a time, or something else, but what we are really longing for is Heaven. God created us for Heaven.

Theme:

My theme is simple: Heaven is real, and you were created for it.

My application is hopefully encouraging: Long for Heaven, Heaven is paradise.

  1. Heaven is real and you were created for it:
    1. Randy Alcorn: Heaven:
    2. The sense that we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history. Australian aborigines pictured Heaven as a distant island beyond the western horizon. The early Finns thought it was an island in the faraway east. Mexicans, Peruvians, and Polynesians believed that they went to the sun or the moon after death. Native Americans believed that in the afterlife their spirits would hunt the spirits of buffalo. The Gilgamesh epic, an ancient Babylonian legend, refers to a resting place of heroes and hints at a tree of life. In the pyramids of Egypt, the embalmed bodies had maps placed beside them as guides to the future world. The Romans believed that the righteous would picnic in the Elysian fields while their horses grazed nearby. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, “The day thou fearest as the last is the birthday of eternity.” Although these depictions of the afterlife differ, the unifying testimony of the human heart throughout history is belief in life after death. Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal— that this world is not all there is.[3]
    3. The Roman catacombs, where the bodies of many martyred Christians were buried, contain tombs with inscriptions such as these:
    4. In Christ, Alexander is not dead, but lives.
    5. One who lives with God.
    6. He was taken up into his eternal home.
    7. One historian writes, “Pictures on the catacomb walls portray Heaven with beautiful landscapes, children playing, and people feasting at banquets.”
    8. In AD 125, a Greek named Aristides wrote to a friend about Christianity, explaining why this “new religion” was so successful: “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.”
    9. In the third century, the church father Cyprian said, “Let us greet the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which snatches us from this place and sets us free from the snares of the world, and restores us to paradise and the kingdom. Anyone who has been in foreign lands longs to return to his own native land.  .  .  . We regard paradise as our native land.[4]
    10. Our native land is not here, nor is it overseas. Our native land is Heaven. We were created for it.
    11. S. Lewis wrote: If our deepest desires cannot be satisfied in this world, then we must have been made for another world.” He pondered this and other truths, which led him to Christ.
    12. There’s cartoonist G. Larson’s “Far Side” which shows a guy strumming a harp on a cloud in heaven saying: “Wish I’d have brought a magazine.” Mark Twain paints the same picture in Huckleberry Finn, telling how Huck doesn’t want to go there because of how the spinster Watson has portrayed it, and because she’s certain Tom Sawyer won’t be there, so Huck doesn’t want to be there without Tom (p. 7).
    13. What a contrast to Charles Spurgeon, Twain’s contemporary, called the Prince of Preachers in the 19thcentury: “To come to Thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labour, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes.” (p. 7)[5]
    14. Part of the problem is that we have an inaccurate view of Heaven. Let’s begin to change that.
  2. Heaven is a place
    1. I will talk about several passages and you can look them up at home.
    2. Sometimes we think things in Heaven are only spiritual. This is not true.
    3. If things in Heaven are only spiritual then why does God use so many material objects to illustrate what we’ll have in Heaven, like “house, dwelling, clothed, rooms (Jn. 14), white robes (Rev. 6:10-11), rivers, gardens, and the tree of life in Heaven. (Rev. 2:7; 22:2) refers to the SAME Tree of Life that was physical in the Garden of Eden in (Gen. 2:9).[6]
    4. Randy Alcorn writes: Christoplatonism: Plato was “the first Western philosopher to claim that reality is fundamentally something ideal or abstract.” “For Plato . .  . the body is a hindrance, as it opposes and even imprisons the soul (Phaedo 65– 68; 91– 94).”
    5. But according to Scripture, our bodies aren’t just shells for our spirits to inhabit; they’re a good and essential aspect of our being. Likewise, the earth is not a second-rate location from which we must be delivered. Rather, it was handmade by God for us. Earth, not some incorporeal state, is God’s choice as mankind’s original and ultimate dwelling place.
    6. To distinguish the version of Platonism seen among Christians from secular forms of Platonism, I’ve [Randy Alcorn] coined the term Christoplatonism. This philosophy has blended elements of Platonism with Christianity, and in so doing has poisoned Christianity and blunted its distinct differences from Eastern religions. Because appeals to Christoplatonism appear to take the spiritual high ground, attempts to refute this false philosophy often appear to be materialistic, hedonistic, or worldly.[7]
    7. But Heaven is a real place. Jesus reminded His disciples to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9).
    8. In the Bible it will refer to multiple heavens: 1) the atmosphere, the universe and where God resides.
    9. Look at these Scriptures: They are in your bulletin and on the screen:

Psalm 2:4

The One enthroned in heaven laughs…

2 Cor. 12:4:

I was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

2 Cor. 5:6, 8:

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

2 Tim. 4:8:

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Titus 2:14:

14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Matthew 6:33:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

2 Peter 3:11-14:

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[a] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Col. 3:1-2:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

John 14:1-2:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 

  1. Heaven is a destination,
  2. It will not be boring,
  3. It is paradise.
  • Significance of Heaven.
    1. Have you lost loved ones, you’ll see them again if they were in Christ.
    2. Are you having trouble walking or maybe you cannot walk, you will have a perfect body someday.
    3. Maybe your eye sight is failing, that not eternity, you will have renewed vision.
    4. Maybe your memory is struggling, you will know more and remember again (1 Cor. 13:9-13).
    5. Maybe you are watching a loved one suffer through something, know that this is not how God intended it. This is because of our sin-filled world. Your loved one will live again without these sufferings.
    6. Do you have trouble getting up and facing each day? Do you experience pain constantly? This will end and you will have a perfect body.
    7. Do you experience depression or mental illness? In Heaven this will be gone.
    8. Do you have a loved one that you cannot talk with because of Autism or something else? You will have conversations with that loved one in Heaven.
    9. Jesus reminded His disciples to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9).
    10. Heaven is hope.
    11. Have you ever been at a family reunion and you wanted to see and talk to so many people, but there just wasn’t time? There will be in Heaven. And, you will be able to talk to Jesus, and Moses, and Elijah and all these other people.
    12. Do you want to see your parents again? Your grandparents?
    13. In Christ Alone: No guilt in life, no fear in death…
  1. Different sources:
    1. As we talk about Heaven, I am studying from Scripture, but also several books and Bible dictionaries. Here are four of them.
    2. Randy Alcorn has two books on Heaven. One is simply called “Heaven.” The other is called “Heaven, Biblical Answers to Common Questions.”
    3. Paul Enns has a book called “Heaven Revealed.”
    4. Chip Ingram has a book called “The Real Heaven, What the Bible Actually Says.”

Close:

A few weeks ago a family of five died in a car accident. They were young parents, 29 years old, with three children. They were soon going to Japan as missionaries. The youngest was 2 months old. Their car was hit from behind by a semi and they died at the scene, all of them. That broke my heart. But upon further reflection, this is cause for praise. They all went to Jesus together. They could have experienced 80 years of suffering in this life, but instead they are in Jesus’ presence. They are in Heaven.

What are you longing for?

Almost two years after Meagan and I got married we moved from the farmhouse which we lived in to live with my parents. I was almost finished with college and it made more sense to live with my parents as we finished. My parents had moved to a place which cut down my drive time to school and Meagan’s drive time to work. We were both driving an hour each way. The nine or so months we lived with my parents were great, but we longed for our own place again. We longed to take our furniture out of storage and move into our own house and that day did come.

When Meagan was pregnant, both times, we longed for the day of our daughter’s birth.

But you know what we all, all of us as humans long for? We long for Heaven. We try to duplicate Heaven in our homes, malls, amusement parks, vacation destinations. We desire Heaven because we were created for Heaven.

I close with Jesus Loves Me. I want to talk about it and then read it. The 2nd and 3rd verse are awesome.

Anna B. Warner, 1820–1915

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17)

The story is told of a brilliant professor at Princeton Seminary who always left his graduation class with these words: “Gentlemen, there is still much in this world and in the Bible that I do not understand, but of one thing I am certain—‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’—and gentlemen, that is sufficient!”

Without doubt the song that has been sung more by children than any other hymn is this simply stated one by Anna Warner. Written in 1860, it is still one of the first hymns taught to new converts in other lands.

Miss Warner wrote this text in collaboration with her sister Susan. It was part of their novel Say and Seal, one of the best selling books of that day. Today few individuals would know or remember the plot of that story, which once stirred the hearts of many readers. But the simple poem spoken by one of the characters, Mr. Linden, as he comforts Johnny Fax, a dying child, still remains the favorite hymn of countless children around the world.

Jesus loves me! this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong.

Jesus loves me! loves me still, tho I’m very weak and ill, that I might from sin be free, bled and died upon the tree.

Jesus loves me! He who died heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in.

Jesus loves me! He will stay close beside me all the way. Thou hast bled and died for me; I will henceforth live for Thee.

Chorus: Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

William Bradbury, the composer of the music, was one of the leading contributors to the development of early gospel music in America. He became recognized as one of the pioneers in children’s music both for the church and in the public schools. In 1861 Bradbury composed the music for Anna Warner’s text and personally added the chorus to her four stanzas. The hymn appeared the following year in Bradbury’s hymnal collection, The Golden Sower. It had an immediate response.[8]

“If there is anything that will endure the eye of God, because it still is pure, it is the spirit of a little child, fresh from His hand, and therefore undefiled.” Ask God to give you this kind of spirit.[9]

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

[1] Swindoll

[2] Enns, Paul P. (2011-03-01). Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About (p. 31). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[3] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 265-274). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[4] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 287-288). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[5] Rick Sams’ sermon on Heaven

[6] Rick Sams’ sermon on Heaven

[7] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 8723-8724). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[8] Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 73.

[9] Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 73.

Be Relational as You are Contagious (Luke 5:29); the Church Must Also Be Relational

Be Relational as You are Contagious (Luke 5:29); the Church Must Also Be Relational

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 8, 2020

Think about your relationships. We are all influencing other people for good or for bad. You are, we are, influencing other people.

When we think of the phrase “Relational evangelism,” the operative word is “evangelism.” If we are not sharing the Gospel with them then we really do not love them.

If we think about Phil. 2:5-11. Jesus died for our need, but what was the need? We needed salvation. He gave Himself up for us. Who are we giving ourselves up for?

I was researching this message and I was reading from the book Becoming a Contagious Christian and I was encouraged. I was encouraged because the best fertile ground for sharing the Gospel is NOT door to door evangelism, or “cold” calls. There is nothing wrong with those types, but the best fertile ground is in your relationships. If you want to be used of Jesus, be a friend. But don’t stop there. Be a friend and share Jesus with the friend.

Becoming a Contagious Christian says:

The fact is, all of us experience discomfort when someone outside our circle of friends tries to influence us about personal, significant matters. We all naturally gravitate toward people we already know and trust. Friends listen to friends. They confide in friends. They let friends influence them. They buy from friends — and that’s true of both products and ideas. So if we’re going to impact our world for Christ, the most effective approach will be through friendships with those who need to be reached. We’ll have to get close to them so they can see that we genuinely care about them individually and that we have their best interests in mind. Over time, that will earn their trust and respect.

My theme today:

Theme: Build relationships and share the Gospel.

Let’s read Luke 5:27-32:

27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.

29 And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

  1. Let’s talk about the passage.
    1. Jesus talks to Levi, who is also called Matthew, and says “follow me.”
    2. The man immediately follows Jesus. There are no questions asked. It could be that they had conversations previously. He drops everything and follows.
    3. When he decided to follow Jesus there was no turning back.
    4. Verse 29 shows this to be true. He was a new believer and what did he do? He decided to share this with others. He decided to have a party. We now call these parties “Matthew parties” after him.
    5. We would think Matthew would invite the religious people to his party in order to communicate, “I am now one of you,” but that is not what Matthew did. He invited the other tax collectors.
    6. Tax collectors were known as thieves in those days. They were known as sinners who held allegiance to Rome. The tax collectors would take from other people extra money that would not go to taxes.
    7. But Matthew invited them over.
    8. What else did Matthew do? He invited them to his house.
    9. Matthew was willing to sacrifice his own home and pretty much have them over for a barbecue.
    10. This is an evangelism principle called “barbecue first.” We are to get to know people as we share the Gospel with them and they will listen more.
    11. I look at this and think, “I must be willing to host others (non-believers) in my home for the Gospel.”
      1. Think about it.
      2. Do you try to connect with those you know who are non-believers?
  • Are you praying for opportunities to share Jesus with them?
  1. Then, you, we, must build relationship so we can share the Gospel.
  1. So, these people are now all at Matthew’s house and you know who else is there? Jesus is also there.
  2. Jesus was later called a sinner because He ate with them, so what. He didn’t care.
  3. Jesus is there and they are all telling jokes, they are eating and they are drinking. Jesus was later called a glutton and a drunkard for eating with these types, but He didn’t care, He wanted to minister (see Matthew 11:19).
  4. I don’t know what type of jokes Jesus was telling, but I think He had a good sense of humor. Maybe He said, “Why do cows go to math? Because they need a cooooow-culator…”
  5. They are partying. They are getting to know each other.
  6. Sometimes this is tough.
  7. Do we have many non-Christian friends?
  8. We are the church and the church leaves the building every week and one of the best ways that we are to be the church is in our relationships.
  1. Where do you find people?
    1. Suppose that you want to build relationships with non-Christians, but you wonder where to find people.
    2. Think about ways to get together with people you know. Are there relationships that could go deeper?
    3. People you used to know, are there relationships that you can reconnect with?
    4. People you would like to know, are there people that you can connect with but just haven’t?
    5. What about having a block party?
    6. What about having just a few neighbors over for dinner?
    7. There is also the ability to strategically shop at the same places and go inside at the gas station. Talk to the people who are at the cashier’s station. Build that relationship.
    8. Have a holiday party
    9. Have a “pie” party. This is a party where you invite people over and then they all pick up a pie on their way home from work.
    10. Go golfing with others
    11. Share everyday activities with others.
    12. Watch the game together.
    13. Make sure that you are looking to transition to spiritual conversations.
      1. Don’t wait too long to tell people you are a Christian.
      2. Don’t get drunk even if they are.
  • If people share something ask if you can pray for them.
  1. If people are commenting on scenery give credit to God.
  1. Health clubs are good opportunities to meet people.
  2. Sporting events are good opportunities.
  3. Be creative.
  4. God will use your relationships.
  5. Most people come to know Christ through relationships.
  6. Be relational as you are contagious. Build relationships and introduce your friends with your best friend, Jesus.

Close:

From Becoming a Contagious Christian

Mark learned this lesson the hard way. It happened a few years ago when our church was putting on a week-long presentation that combined contemporary music and drama to communicate Christianity to people who don’t normally go to church. He had bought four tickets for the Friday night performance, and along with his wife, Heidi, had invited another couple. But that couple cancelled at the last minute. Now it was the day of the event, and they were holding two extra tickets with no one to bring. Mark drove home from the office that evening, and as he turned into his driveway, he saw the young couple who lived next door walking on the sidewalk in front of his house. They weren’t married, had shown no inclination toward spiritual interests, and he only knew them by their first names. Still, he figured, why not give it a shot? “Hey, Scott!” he called out. “I was wondering if you two are busy tonight. You see, I’ve got these extra tickets to a concert at our church.” He quickly tried to dispel any stereotypes they might have and to convey that this would feature music they’d really like, that there would be professional-quality and up-to-date drama, good sound and lighting, and so on.

And then he asked if they would like to go. Push the pause button for a moment. If you think along the lines I do, you’re probably admiring the confidence Mark showed in forthrightly explaining this opportunity and inviting a couple he’d barely even met. It was the kind of thing a lot of us think about doing but find it hard to muster the needed courage. The only problem, as he found out, was that it was probably too bold and too quick. It risked the possibility of scaring them away not only from this, but also from future chances for interaction. Scott glanced shyly at his girlfriend for a moment and then looked at the ground. Somewhat awkwardly he finally said, “Um … thanks anyway, but I don’t think we’ll go this time … but, well, if you’d ever like to get together in the backyard for a barbecue, let us know.” As they walked away, Mark thought to himself, “Why didn’t I think of that? In fact, that’s the very thing I’ve been teaching in my evangelism seminars for years: you’ve got to barbecue first!”

It’s so important that we make investments in friendships — what I sometimes call paying relational rent — in order to gain the person’s trust and respect, as well as to earn the right to talk to them about spiritual issues. Interestingly, Mark did follow up later with Scott. After a few weeks he called him and suggested that the four of them see a movie and then go out for dessert afterwards. When the night came, Mark and Heidi decided that they would not bring up topics related to church or Christianity. They knew they’d already gone too fast, and they determined to “barbecue” several times with the couple before even thinking about trying to steer the conversation into matters of faith. But to their surprise, that same night in the restaurant, Scott himself asked some questions of a spiritual nature![1]

So, my encouragement to all of us is that we build relationships with non-Christians and share the Gospel in the relationships. Don’t push it, but do wait for the opportunity.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

[1] Hybels, Bill; Hybels, Bill; Mittelberg, Mark; Mittelberg, Mark (2008-09-09). Becoming a Contagious Christian (p. 98). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Pray for the Lost. Pray for Divine Appointments to Share the Gospel (Acts 8:26-40)

Pray for the Lost. Pray for Divine Appointments to Share the Gospel (Acts 8:26-40)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, March 1, 2020

Think about being led by the Spirit, think about being sent from God.

Tozer writes:

There was a man sent from God whose name was Noah. A just man, Noah builded himself an ark and saved himself and his wife and eight persons, saving the human race from extinction.

There was a man sent from God whose name was Abraham. He came from Ur of the Chaldees, following nothing but the light in his own heart and the dimly seen vision of the living God. Abraham became the founder of the Jewish nation.

There was a man sent from God named Moses, who took a nation lost in darkness and bondage in Egypt through the miracle of the Red Sea and into the wilderness, where he guided and cherished and nursed and cared for it through forty years.

When Moses died, God sent a man whose name was Joshua, who gathered the nation as a hen gathers her chicks and established Israel in the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

There was a man sent from God whose name was David and he reached into his own heart and tore out the sounding strings and set those strings in the windows of the synagogues for a thousand years so that the winds of persecution blew across them, making music for the Jewish worshipers.

When the veil of the temple was rent and the Holy Ghost had come, those same harp strings taken from the heart of David were strung in the windows of the churches; so today in our churches we cannot sing without having David sing also. In a very true sense, the man sent from God whose name was David taught the world to sing, and we have been singing David’s songs ever since.

Oh, there was a man sent from God whose name was Paul, and another man whose name was Peter. And many centuries later when the church had been buried under the debris and settlings of the dust of Romanism, there was a man sent from God whose name was Luther, and he feared no one. He brought back the Bible again, translating it into sonorous and musical German.

There was a man sent from God whose name was Simpson and he was joined by another whose name was Jaffray, and they combined in praying and taking the Christian gospel to great unreached sections of our world in the past generation. Go down the line—take any list you happen to be fond of and wherever men had done great things for God, they have been men who were sent from God.[1]

Now, if you are here and you are a believer in Jesus Christ, I want to say that you also are sent from God. We are all called to share the Gospel. Listen, the Great Commission is not an option. The Great Commission is not an optional commission. Jesus calls us all to share the Gospel.

Romans 10:15:

How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

Sometimes we get caught only applying that passage to the missionaries, but in reality, in the New Testament we see the common lay people sharing Jesus as much as anyone. We never see the idea of sharing the Gospel only for the pastors and leaders.

However, we still want to pray for God to direct in our mission. We need to pray for Divine Appointments. We want to pray for God’s leading as we share the Gospel.

So, today, we are going to look at Philip being a witness to the Ethiopian Eunuch. As we look at this passage we will bring out some strong insights to share the Gospel. I also hope that we will all be encouraged that we never, never, never are a witness by ourselves. We witness with Jesus.

Before we talk about Philip and Acts 8 we must talk about where salvation comes from and who saves people.

My theme and application today is:

Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel and then follow the Spirit’s lead.

  1. Salvation is of the Lord.
    1. Throughout church history there has been a great debate between God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill. I see both in the Scriptures. In Acts 13:48 we see: When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
    2. Notice the key word “appointed.” God knows who will be saved and God is sovereign over all things.
    3. In Acts 14:1: In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.
    4. In this case the apostles are speaking and teaching in such a way that a large number were saved. In this case we see clearly that God is using their gift mix.
    5. In 1 Cor. 9:19-23 we see Paul wanting to be all things to all men to save some (verse 22).
    6. God wants to use us, but God does not need us. God does the saving through us.
    7. However, no one can be saved but by the Holy Spirit drawing them:
    8. John 6:44: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
    9. John 6:65: And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
    10. The point is that we are dead in our sins and will not receive Jesus as Lord and Savior except by the Holy Spirit opening our eyes to Him. All of us have freely chosen to follow Adam in rebelling against God (Rom. 5:12). We have freely placed ourselves under Satan’s power and have thus become his slaves (John 8:34; 1 John 5:19). We are so helpless that Scripture says we are “dead” in our sin (Eph. 2:1). Our hearts have become “devious above all else” and “perverse” beyond understanding (Jer. 17:9). Our very nature has become hostile to God (Eph. 2:3).[2]
    11. So, we see God’s sovereignty and we do see man’s freewill, but we are powerless to receive Jesus because we are dead in our sins. This is why I believe in a truth called “prevenient grace.” This is grace that comes from God to convict us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. One writer says this: There are times when God sees that people are hopeless, and so he withdraws his Spirit and hardens their hearts by “[giving] them up to their passions” (Rom. 1:26; cf. vv. 24, 28; Gen. 6:3). But otherwise God’s Spirit is at work in people’s hearts, trying to soften them to acknowledge his lordship and walk in his ways.[3]
    12. There are many more scriptures we could get into about this subject but the point is that we must pray for people to be saved. God does the saving. Now, we have freewill. This means that I believe God is giving people His prevenient grace, convicting them to accept Him, but someone can freely reject the Gospel. People must receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
    13. God wants all to be saved. John 3:16: For God so loved the “world.”
    14. 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
    15. God wants all to be saved, but salvation is a miracle. Turning from sin to follow Christ is a miracle.
    16. Without Christ we are dead, dead, totally dead. Here is an assignment, go to the graveyard and bring a person back to life. Who can do that? None of us can raise the dead on our own, but Jesus can do that.
    17. When we are sharing the Gospel we need Jesus to raise the dead person. The person was spiritually dead and we need Jesus to bring them to spiritual life. That is why we must pray evangelically. We must pray for Divine appointments and we must follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.
    18. A Divine appointment is a ripe fruit. Meaning that someone is opened to receive the Gospel.
    19. I want to give two BIG cautions.
      1. Don’t expect the Lord to verbally tell you to share the Gospel with someone. In a minute we will look at a passage where the Holy Spirit did that, but that is rare.
      2. Start talking about Jesus and see where the conversation goes. Once the person seems to not be interested change the subject or move on. As long as the person is engaged it is likely a Divine appointment.
  • Sometimes we think it is not of God if the person is not saved. NOTHING CAN BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.
    1. Many of us are Divinely appointed to plant seeds.
    2. 1 Cor. 3:6-7: I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
  1. Divine appointment in the Scripture:
    1. Acts 8:26-40

Let’s read Acts 8:26-40:

 But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:

“He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He does not open His mouth.
33 “In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
Who will relate His generation?
For His life is removed from the earth.”

34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.

Message breakdown

A model for personal sharing from Acts 8:26-40

Verse 26 and 29 Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit
Verse 27 Be obedient to the Lord’s command
Verse 30 Be sensitive to the other person’s (Ethiopian’s) needs
Verse 35 Be skilled in understanding God’s Word
  1. First part, verses 26 and 29, we must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
  2. Look at verse 26 with me. We can see that the Angel of the Lord speaks to Philip and Philip obeys.
  3. Then we see in verse 29 that Philip is again spoken to by the Spirit of God.
  4. Philip obeys as well.
  5. As I said the Holy Spirit normally does not speak to us in this way. The Holy Spirit may speak to us in a still, small voice. If you are thinking, “Should I share Jesus with him?” That is probably the Holy Spirit. Maybe you are going about it the wrong way. Maybe the Holy Spirit is asking you to be contagious with your faith in other ways. Are you thinking:
    1. Maybe I should send this person a card.
    2. Maybe I should ask if I can pray with this person.
  • Maybe I should be a friend to the person who is alone.
  1. Maybe I should buy this person’s dinner.
  2. Maybe I should help them cut their grass.
  1. There are many ways the Holy Spirit may be leading you to share the Gospel or be contagious Christians. The Holy Spirit may be leading you to plant a seed.
  2. Blumenstock in my evangelism class at Cedarville University told a story of taking students to witness at Ohio State University. The students would witness to their peers and he would witness to his peers, the other professors. He was tired, so he went to sit down by the lake. But God had a plan. A student was sitting there reading a Campus Crusade Tract. Dr. Blumenstock asked the young man if he understood what he was reading. He replied, no. Dr. Blumenstock followed the Spirit’s lead and he shared about Jesus with him.
  • Verse 27, we must be obedient to the Lord’s command.
    1. Back up now to verse 27, notice that Philip obeys. He obeys right away.
    2. Now, I know that many times I can intellectualize something.
    3. Many times, I can easily think, someone else will share Jesus with so and so. Right?
    4. What about your children. You would tell them, “Mercedes, I want you to pick up your toys.” Now, Mercedes could easily say, “Daddy, Abigail will pick them up.” But I could say, “I did not ask Abigail, I asked you.” Right? Right? God is calling me to be a witness to certain people and He is calling you to be a witness to certain people. We must obey. We should not say, “Oh, the other pastor will do it,” or anything like that.
    5. You may ask, “How do I know the Lord is telling me to be a witness or to witness to someone?” I am glad you asked. Simple answer, you know them, they are in your influence, right? That means the Lord wants you to witness. In another way, you must now pray for how to be the most effective witness. That is a daily prayer need. If they are in your sphere of influence they are part of your mission field.
    6. In reality, I hope that helps me to want to be a witness more and more as I go through my Spiritual journey, right? I must want to see the lost come to know Jesus. I must want someone to be delivered from things because he accepts Christ.
  1. Verse 30: Be sensitive to the other person’s needs.
    1. Look with me at verse 30.
    2. We see that Philip asked him if he understands. This leads to the next point.
  2. Verse 35: be skilled in Understanding God’s Word.
    1. We must always be ready to give an answer of the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).
    2. Grow as a disciple of Christ, studying God’s Word, being ready to share the Gospel.
  3. Applications:
    1. God loves all people and wants all to be saved.
    2. God wants all to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. (2 Peter 3:9) We must be encouraged by that.
    3. We must be encouraged that Philip went fishing with the Master. He was simply following the Holy Spirit’s lead.
    4. I want to re-emphasize warnings I gave earlier:
      1. Don’t expect the Lord to verbally tell you to share the Gospel with someone.
      2. Start talking about Jesus and see where the conversation goes. Once the person seems to not be interested change the subject or move on. As long as the person is engaged it is likely a Divine appointment.
      3. Sometimes we think it is not of God if the person is not saved. NOTHING CAN BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.
        1. Many of us are Divinely appointed to plant seeds.
        2. 1 Cor. 3:6-7: I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
      4. Lastly, PRAY for opportunities to share the Gospel. Get up in the morning and pray, “Lord, give me opportunities to share Your love today.” How exciting it should be to be part of someone’s salvation.
      5. Pray for those in your mission field to be saved.

Close:

Do you want to share Jesus with people?

According to the research, if I am not sharing the gospel, it is because I have lost my sense of awe and appreciation for it.

The reason the majority of the people in our churches don’t share the gospel is not because they haven’t been through a course. Nor is it because they failed to participate in a training seminar.

Not sharing the gospel reveals a loss of awe about the depths to which He plunged to rescue us. Not sharing the faith with others reveals a loss of amazement that He gave us His righteousness for our sin.

If we are still in awe that the holy and eternal God of the universe would pursue us in our sinfulness, humble Himself and suffer in our place, become the curse for our sin, and absorb our punishment to give us His peace, then we can’t help but share this news. If we are convinced that the news about Jesus is truly good news, we can’t help but spread it.

When the religious leaders asked Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, to stop speaking about Jesus, they replied, “We are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Their hearts were filled with awe for Jesus and His work for them; thus, there was no way they could be silent.

When Jeremiah considered not speaking for the Lord, he realized he could not hold the message inside without exploding: “If I say, ‘I won’t mention Him or speak any longer in His name,” His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Whatever we find amazing, we share. We spread what we are in awe of.

If a church leader is frustrated with a lack of personal evangelism among the people in the congregation, the wisest move is to continually remind the people of God’s amazing grace.

Do you have the awe and appreciation?

In 2001 I was a helper at a youth conference. As part of that conference there were evangelists sharing the Gospel in a Billy Graham type way with thousands every evening. Those that wanted to receive Christ were to come forward at the alter call. It was part of my job to lead the group up to the room where people would explain what it meant to receive Christ as Savior and answer questions. As I was up there with the hundreds and maybe thousands who were praying to receive Christ I was amazed. People were crying, they were desperate to be saved. I thought this is a miracle. These people are crossing from death to life.

The greatest miracle you can take part in is not a physical healing, but a spiritual rebirth.

Pray for Divine appointments.

Pray evangelical prayers.

Follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.

Pray

 

[1] Tozer, A. W.. Christ the Eternal Son (pp. 147-149). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[2] Boyd, Gregory A.. Across the Spectrum (p. 155). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Boyd, Gregory A.. Across the Spectrum (p. 155). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Whole New Testament is about Evangelism

The Whole New Testament is About the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20 and a survey of the New Testament)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, February 23, 2020

Over the past six weeks I talked about knowing Jesus. Once you realize that you know Jesus I hope you want others to know Him too. You want others to have the same relationship with Jesus that you have.

Today, I begin a series titled be contagious in 2020.

I once heard that no one in hell is upset that someone shared the Gospel with them. What do you think? Why are we so afraid to talk about Jesus with other people? Are we afraid to talk about our children with someone else? Are we afraid to talk about our job with someone else? Are we afraid to talk about our spouse with someone else? Are we afraid to talk about our hobbies? Why are we afraid to share the Gospel? I think it is spiritual warfare. The devil does not want us to talk about the Gospel.

The Gospel is about abundant life now and eternal life later (John 10:10).

Today’s sermon is a survey through the New Testament. I want to show you that the whole New Testament has an evangelism undercurrent. Sometimes the New Testament is quite blunt about evangelism, other times it is an undercurrent. The whole New Testament is about the Gospel.

Sometimes I do a workout called high intensity interval training in which a leader is leading me through intense cardio. It is called Insanity. It is intimidating when we are stretching and the leader says, “Are you as nervous as I am about this workout?” Let me tell you this message will be like insanity, meaning, a lot of intensity really fast in a short amount of time. There is a lot of Bible in this message and a lot of content so fasten your seatbelt and let’s get going.

My theme is: The whole New Testament is about the Gospel.

My application: be an evangelist

A number of years ago on a Friday night I received a text from another pastor and it said, “Are you in season?” I instantly knew what it meant. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 says to preach the Word in season and out of season. The next day was their turn to find a speaker for the Men’s Breakfast and he was asking me to preach. Usually, when it is last minute, I recycle a message, but this time I was convicted to write something new. I am not a last minute guy, but I believe the Holy Spirit was working in that message. Recently, I was going through some files and found that message. This message is edited from that message theme.

Thom Rainer shares “When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the Gospel, the church is dying.”

Are we passionate about the Gospel? Would we give up certain things we like in church if it meant more people will be saved?

  1. The church’s marching orders come from: Matthew 28:19-20
    1. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
    2. So, if you are here and you are a believer in Jesus Christ that means that you are here to reach other people with the Gospel. Do you realize this? Our churches have for far too long been filled with people who are gluttonous with everything but passion for the Gospel. We have been gluttonous about our preferences. We have been gluttonous about our favorite Theology, and theology is great, but it must convict and compel us to the Gospel, otherwise we are stuck in 2 Timothy 3:7: Always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the Truth. For too long we have been coming to great knowledge, but the knowledge doesn’t compel and convict us to set the captive free. So, if you are a believer in Christ, you are now in the Lord’s army. My job is to be a drill sergeant.
    3. Imagine a war scene. You are all in the military and you are on a rescue operation. People have been taken prisoner. People are taken hostage. They are taken hostage by the devil and he holds them hostage in sin. They don’t even know they are hostages. They are caught in Stockholm syndrome. It is your job, it is our job, to get them out. We have to rescue them. Once they are saved, they become disciples in order to rescue others.
    4. Let’s look at another example of the Great Commission:
    5. Mark 16:15: And He said to them,“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
    6. Why did John write his Gospel? John 20:31: but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
  2. The whole New Testament is about the Gospel, but so was the Old Testament. Check this out:
    1. Luke: 24:45: Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, [Old Testament] 46 and said to them,“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
    2. Do you know that even in the Old Testament God wanted a relationship with people? Go home and read Jonah. Jonah was the reluctant, racist prophet and yet God sent him to Nineveh to lead them to repentance.
  • The Great Commission is in Acts again.
    1. Acts 1:8: but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
    2. The whole New Testament is about the Gospel.
    3. The word Gospel means (Gk. euangelion, ‘good news’). In classical literature the word designated the reward given for good tidings. It also indicated the message itself, originally the announcement of victory, but later applied to other messages bringing joy[1]
    4. The word Gospel is used 97 times.
    5. For the most part, every New Testament letter, or book is about evangelism.
  1. Survey of the New Testament.
    1. Matthew: Matthew seemed to address problems that were primarily where Jewish Christians were a prominent part of the audience and where these Jewish Christians kept a closer relationship with the synagogue and non Christian Jews. There is a tension focused on in Matthew between an exclusive mission to Israel and the mission to non Jewish nations. (Mt. 10:5-6; 23;15:24; 1:5;2:1-12;8:5-13; 12:21; 13:38; 15:21-28; 21:33-43; 22:1-10; 24:14; 27:54; 28:19-20) According to D.A. Hagner we cannot take one side of the other on these. Matthew still has a message on target to gentile Christians. These are to gentile Christians who may fail to value the Jewishness of Jewish Christians pressuring them to minimize all Jewish practices that were a threat to the gentile believer’s sense of equality (DeSilva 237-238).
    2. We already read the Great Commission from Matthew.
    3. Additionally, I believe the whole sermon on the mount is point out that they need a Savior.
    4. Mark: One of the purposes assuming a pre 70 AD date is to help Christians dealing with the persecution under Nero. (or after) Another purpose is that the shape of discipleship must follow the pattern of the rejected Messiah. Mark writes about the purpose of discipleship as well as maybe to comfort Christians or also to encourage Christians who are reserved about sharing their faith in persecution.
    5. Luke: Luke and John are the only Gospels that give their purpose: “an orderly account that he hopes will enable Theophilus to know the truth about the things which you have been instructed.” Not merely a historical work but to confirm the commitment made and instruction received by Theophilus and other Christian readers like him as they joined the movement. Luke clarifies the position of the church with regard to the Roman Empire. Luke focuses on the Gentiles as well as the Jewish people. He does talk about Theodicy which is how God did in fact fulfill the promises of the OT to the house of David. There is a Christocentric reading of the Jewish Scriptures extending this to the early church  (DeSilva 307-310).
    6. Of course we already read about how Jesus opened the disciples eyes at the end of Luke’s Gospel to reveal that the Scriptures taught about Him.
    7. John: Many suggest that this Gospel was written as an evangelical Gospel. We can even make John 20:31 as a purpose statement. “These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”
    8. Acts: I already read Acts 1:8. Acts is all about the spread of the church from Jerusalem to Rome. Acts is all about what Mark Driscoll calls Riot evangelism. Paul comes into an area, a riot breaks out, people are saved and he moves on. Maybe that is what we need in our area.
    9. Romans: 1:14-16: 14 I amunder obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 
    10. Romans 15:20-2120 And thus I aspired topreach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation…
    11. 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians are written to a church that had been planted and now needed some discipleship.
      1. 1 Corinthians 9:16: 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, forI am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.
      2. Verses 19-23:
  • 19 For though I amfree from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
  1. So, we have 1 Corinthians 15:1-15:
  2. NowI make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve… 
  1. The Prison Epistles: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon are all full of evangelical Theology, these are fresh, new churches.
    1. Ephesians chapters 1-3 are all about soteriology, the theology of salvation.
    2. Ephesians 3 is all about this mystery about Jews and Gentiles united.
  • Galatians is all about our salvation by grace.
  1. 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians have a theme of people who have lost loved ones and were worried that they were going to miss the resurrection. So we have:
  2. 1 Thessalonians 4:16: 16 For the LordHimself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
  1. The Pastoral Epistles, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus: Building up the church in proper Theology for the church’s purpose. Proper Theology leads us all to evangelism, convicts us all to evangelism.
  2. 2 Timothy 2:10: For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
  3. 2 Timothy 4:5: Paul’s dying words: do the work of an evangelist.
  4. Hebrews: New Jewish believers struggling to live the Christian life in persecution. So, they start thinking that the old way, the Jewish way, would be easier. The writer is proving that Jesus is greater than Moses, that Jesus is greater than the Angels.
  5. Hebrews 10:11-12: 11 Every priest stands daily ministering andoffering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God
  6. James: The Proverbs of the New Testament, making sure the Christian’s works match their belief.
  7. 1 Peter, 2 Peter: How about 1 Peter 3:15: but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
  8. 1 John, 2 John, 3 John: Just look at 1 John 1:1-4: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
  9. 2 and 3 John are trying to keep heresy out of the church.
  10. Jude: Jude had turned aside from writing a letter concerning the “salvation they share” to instead write a letter addressing a problem with itinerant teachers bearing a message that Jude considers incompatible with the Apostolic Gospel.
  11. Then Revelation: The transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, the law that we could not keep to Christ who took care of our sin.

Close:

Where would you be without Christ in your life? Go home and think about that. Then, pray for opportunities to create God space in your life this week.

I hope and pray that we all have prayer partners and accountability partners. Here is an idea. Have that person hold you accountable to Gospel conversations. This week tell your prayer partner that you want him or her to ask you every week how many God space conversations you have had the previous week. What is a God space conversation? Here are examples of God space conversations. These are conversations that you would have with someone who is not living the Christian life. It is not saying that they are not saved, maybe they need to come back to the Lord, only He knows that:

How are you with the Lord?

Can I pray with you?

How can I pray for you?

We are going to pray for our food can we pray for you?

There are others, but I am talking about things that open the spiritual with people.

I pray that we will all take this seriously.

Thom Rainer

“When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the Gospel, the church is dying.”

What are you most passionate about? Put aside your preferences. The Bible is about the Gospel:

1 Corinthians 9:16: 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 

Prayer

 

[1] R. H. Mounce, “Gospel,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 426.

Abide in Jesus (John 15:4)

Knowing Christ in 2020, Conclusion (John 10:10 and John 15:1-6)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, February 16, 2020

A woman was driving home one night. The weather was really nasty. Rain was coming down in buckets and visibility was very poor. Seeing taillights ahead of her, she followed the car in front. Not being able to see, the car in front seemed to be going in the right direction. So she stuck with it. All of a sudden the car in front of her came to a stop. She began to wonder what had happened; perhaps the car in front had hit a deer or some thing like that. She began to feel uncomfortable; thinking being stopped in the middle of the road can often lead to accidents. Much to her alarm the car in front of her turned off their lights. Her concern was now growing as well as her anger, and she was then startled by a knocking on her window. She looked up and there was a man standing in the pouring rain wanting to speak to her. She cracked the window open and asked the man what the problem was. The man replied by stating that that was the question he was going to ask her. She retorted that she wasn’t the one who had stopped in the middle of the road and then turned off the car lights. The man’s reply was that they were not in the middle of the road, but in his driveway. Obviously, this woman had chosen the wrong leader to follow. She had chosen a leader who would not take her to where she wanted and needed to go. She had chosen the wrong leader and the wrong road.

Are we following Christ? Are we living with Christ? Are we living in a relationship with Christ?

Today, I wrap up the sermon series about Knowing Christ in 2020. Today, I wish to talk about abiding in Christ.

A.W. Tozer wrote:

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”

We need to live with Jesus and we do that through the Holy Spirit.

My theme and application:

We must abide (remain) in Christ and we cannot bear fruit apart from Him.

Let’s read John 15:1-6:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 

  • Abide in Christ.
    • Let’s put this passage in context. We are in the upper room discourse. This is John chapters 13-17.
    • One writes, “It is possible that if the text of this discourse was spoken as they walked from the upper room in Jerusalem down into the Kidron Valley and across to the Mount of Olives, they could have seen the great golden vine, the national emblem of Israel, on the front of the temple.”476[1]
    • Verse 1 shares, Jesus is the Vine and the Father is the Vinedresser.
    • We have an Old Testament idea of Israel as the vine, but the idea was that Israel was the rebellious vine. This is clearly showing that Jesus is the perfect vine. These are different metaphors in Scripture.
    • We could look at this as God, the Father, as the Farmer.
    • The NET Bible: There are numerous OT passages which refer to Israel as a vine: Ps 80:8–16, Isa 5:1–7, Jer 2:21, Ezek 15:1–8, 17:5–10, 19:10–14, and Hos 10:1. The vine became symbolic of Israel, and even appeared on some coins issued by the Maccabees. The OT passages which use this symbol appear to regard Israel as faithless to Yahweh (typically rendered as “Lord” in the OT) and/or the object of severe punishment.
    • Jesus is the Vine, this means we must be connected to Him. We will come back to that with verse 4.
    • Verse 2 shows that we’re are connected to Jesus we are to bear fruit. God the Father prunes us so that we do bear fruit. But if we do not bear fruit we are cut off. Literally the branches that do not bear fruit He lifts up. There are two different views on this.
      • Does this mean that branches that do not bear fruit are cut off and thrown into judgment? If this is the case then were they true believers who lost their salvation or were they never believers to begin with? This is difficult because Jesus says that every branch “in Me…” If the unfruitful branch is in Him that seems to mean that they are a believer. But when we get to verse 6 Jesus shares that unfruitful branches are thrown into the fire which seems to be judgment.
      • Some believe that what verse 2 is saying is that branches that do not bear fruit are “lifted up” which would mean they get special treatment like a farmer would do and this would make them bear fruit. This would be like using a trellis or something to help it out.
  • Others could say they are not truly in Jesus, like Judas. This connects it to verse 6. 1 John 2:19 talks about people leaving the church that were never really part of the church. This fits with verse 6 and the idea of judgment.
  • However, in agriculture the pruning of verse 2 would happen in the spring and the removal of disconnected branches of verse 6 would happen in the fall.
  • Either way, I believe what Jesus is saying is that branches that do not bear fruit are not truly connected to Him and so they are cut off. Branches that bear fruit are pruned to bear more fruit. The point is that we must be connected to Jesus.
  • In verse 3 Jesus shares the disciples are clean, but they are clean because of what Jesus spoke to them. Jesus cleansed them. In this sense, they are clean, meaning they are already pruned.
  • In John 17:17 Jesus says that God’s Word is truth and Jesus prays that they will be sanctified by the Truth.
  • Verse 4 is key:
    • Abide in Jesus.
    • This means to “remain” in Him or to “live” in Him.
  • Jesus says why they must remain in Him. A branch cannot bear fruit on its own. We need to be in Jesus to bear fruit.
  • This is our key application.
  • This whole sermon series has been about having a relationship with Jesus. We need to know Jesus. We must abide in Him.
  • Brother Lawrence shares: The most holy practice, the nearest to daily life, and the most essential for the spiritual life, is the practice of the presence of God, that is to find joy in his divine company and to make it a habit of life, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with him at all times, every moment, without rule or restriction, above all at times of temptation, distress, dryness, and revulsion, and even of faithlessness and sin.[2]
  • Think of this like a power strip. I have here a power strip, but does it have power? No, it needs plugged in. That is how we are without Christ.
  • In verse 5 Jesus adds to verse 4: Jesus clarifies that He is the vine and we are the branches. This adds to the metaphor. A branch must be connected to the vine, so we also must be connected to the Vine. If we are connected to Him, we bear fruit, apart from Him we can do nothing.
    • Think about it: Have any of you cut live tree branches off of a tree?
    • At first, we see them all green with leaves, but within a week they are dead and drying up.
  • The branch must be connected to the tree. We must be connected to the Vine and the Vine is Jesus.
  • Verse 6 tells us what happens if we do not abide in Him. If we do not live in Him we are thrown away like a dead branch. The farmer gathers dead branches and burns them. That is the description of those that do not abide in Him and bear fruit.
  1. Applications:
    1. We must abide (remain) in Jesus (verse 4).
      1. How do we abide in Jesus?
      2. That is what this has been about. I have been preaching and teaching on that for 6 weeks.
        1. Spend time in His Word daily.
        2. Spend time in prayer.
        3. Meditate on His Word.
        4. Go deeper in Bible study.
        5. Spend time with the church family.
      3. We must bear fruit showing that we remain in Jesus (verse 2).
      4. We must worship God that we can live life with Jesus (verse 4).

 

So, where are you at? Don’t give up.

 

Conclusion:

A man once bought a home with a tree in the backyard. It was winter, and nothing marked this tree as different from any other tree. When spring came, the tree grew leaves and tiny pink buds. “How wonderful,” thought the man. “A flower tree! I will enjoy its beauty all summer.” But before he had time to enjoy the flowers, the wind began to blow and soon all the petals were strewn in the yard. “What a mess,” he thought “This tree isn’t any use after all.”

The summer passed, and one day the man noticed the tree was full of green fruit the size of large nuts. He picked a large one and took a bite, “Bleagh!” he cried and threw it to the ground. “What a horrible taste! This tree is worthless. Its flowers are so fragile the wind blows them away, and its fruit is terrible and bitter. When winter comes, I’m cutting it down.” But the tree took no notice of the man and continued to draw water from the ground and warmth from the sun and in late fall produced crisp red apples.

Some of us see Christians with their early blossoms of happiness and think they should be that way forever. Or we see bitterness in their lives, and we’re sure they will never bear the better fruit of joy. Could it be that we forget some of the best fruit ripens late?[3]

 

Do you know Him?

Luke 9:23

Confess, believe, trust, commit

 

Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.

 

prayer

 

476 476. Tenney, “John,” p. 150.

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Jn 14:30.

[2] Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God. Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 13.

[3] https://www.preachingtoday.com/search/?query=john%2015&type=scripture&sourcename=illustrations