About sarhodes

I serve as the Pastor at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, Ohio. I am married to Meagan and we have been married since 2003. We have two children, Mercedes Grace and Abigail Elizabeth. Mercedes was born on September 1, 2011 and Abigail was born on December 4, 2013. I graduated in 2000 from Northmont High School in Clayton, Ohio (just northwest of Dayton). I graduated with a BA in pastoral studies from Cedarville University in 2006 and the an M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2010. I enjoy movies, especially action moves like Braveheart, the Patriot and Gladiator. I especially enjoy historical movies. I also enjoy documentaries. I enjoy reading: I love historical books, especially Revolutionary War biographies. I enjoy reading theological books as well. I enjoy spending time with Meagan, Mercedes and Abigail. I also enjoy fishing and watching football.

Not Ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16)

Not Ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, January 16 and Sunday, January 17, 2021

Please turn to Romans 1:16

I read the following a few years ago.

In January of 1925, Nome was this remote outpost, faced suddenly with a deadly outbreak of diphtheria, and virtually no vaccine to stop it. The National Health Department in Washington concluded “an epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable.” That meant up to 75% of the children in and around Nome could die.

Well, a train brought the needed antitoxin as far as the train could go – to Nenana. That’s 640 miles from Nome. From there, it had to be dog teams, taking the mail route that they called the Iditarod Trail. But that was usually a 25-day trip, and that was way too long to save the lives in Nome.

Knowing that their mission was life-or-death, the mushers and their dogs defied the weather; they defied the odds to do what had never been done before. Like the Pony Express, one team went as far as they could and then handed it off to another musher and his dogs. And history records that the winter of ’25 was one of the worst ever, with temperatures that plunged to 60 below. Then the blizzard closed in around them. The only doctor in Nome said, “All hope is in the hands of the dogs and their heroic mushers.” 

At 5:30 in the morning on January 30, the final musher drove his dogs – and the serum – into the streets of a sleeping Nome. It took twenty men; it took 150 dogs to get it there. Amazingly, they made the trip in just five and a half days, breaking the world record, and more importantly, saving hundreds of lives.

The drama of that desperate race to Nome touches something deep inside me, because it’s a picture of a race for life where the stakes are even higher; a race that began on an old rugged cross 2,000 years ago. Our word for today from the Word of God in 1 John 3:16 and chapter 4, verse 9, says this: “Jesus Christ laid down His life for us that we might live through Him.” The news of His death for our sins and His game-changing resurrection – that’s the only “serum” that can save a person from a hellish eternity and give them heaven instead.

And from generation to generation that life-saving message has been entrusted into the hands of every person who’s been saved by hearing it. And today, it’s in my hands and the hands of every person who belongs to this Jesus.

Getting Jesus’ message to the people within my reach is not some casual, “get around to it sometime” thing. It is urgent beyond words. In the Bible’s words, it’s snatching “others from the fire” (Jude 23 ), it’s rescuing “those who are being led away to death,” it’s holding “back those who are being led away to slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11 ). People I know. People I see all the time. People whose forever depends on what I know about Jesus. They are one heartbeat away from meeting God. Waiting any longer to tell them is gambling with their eternity.

Somewhere along the way, the cause for which Jesus died has become, well, like the Iditarod, a spectator sport, lots of activity but no thought about the lives at stake. But those of us who’ve been saved by the serum of the Gospel are responsible before God to get that serum to those who are going to die without it. Jesus expects that the driving passion of His people and His Church, will be the passion that kept Him on the cross, “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10 ). In a very real sense, we hold their eternities in our hands.

It really is a race for life[1]

So, this is the purpose of Romans. Romans is all about the Gospel. Romans is all about Paul getting the good news of our salvation out to the world. He wanted to spread the serum.

Let’s look at the thesis statement:

Read with me Romans 1:16-17:

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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Now, turn to Romans 15:20:

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation…

My theme and application:

Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. Take the Gospel seriously.

  1. Pray for a passion for the Gospel.
    • Look at Paul’s passion for the Gospel. 2 Timothy 2:10: Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
    • Let’s come back to Romans 1:16-17.
    • Paul says he is not ashamed of the Gospel.
    • Why?
    • The Gospel is the power of God for salvation.
    • Who are saved?
    • Paul says the Jew first. This is likely because salvation came through the Jewish people, through Jesus, and back to Abraham.
    • Paul says, “also the Greeks.” This was a big deal in that time period. Salvation is opened to everyone.
    • Verse 17 references “The righteous man shall live by faith” and this is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4: The Righteous shall live by faith
    • Now, let me talk about these two verses with applications for us:
  2. We must also be eager to preach the Gospel.
    • Paul says that he is not ashamed. If we go back and look at verse 14 he says that he is under obligation to preach the Gospel to Greeks and Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
    • Barbarians would be anyone who did not speak Greek. This is based off of their language.
    • 1 Cor. 9:16 Paul writes: For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 
  3. We must not be ashamed of the Gospel. Let’s make this more personal.
    • We must not be ashamed at school.
      • We must not be ashamed at work.
      • We must not be ashamed in public.
      • We must not be ashamed on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
      • We must not be ashamed at church. At church? You are wondering what I mean by this. Even churches are compromising the Gospel. We are compromising the Scriptures and compromising our Savior.
  4. We must proclaim the Gospel.
  5. We must have a Gospel mindset, always praying, and thinking of opportunities to share.
  6. We must recognize the exclusivity of salvation and the inclusivity of the Gospel.
    • The Gospel is the only means to salvation. So, in that way Salvation is exclusive, only through Jesus. But the Gospel is inclusive, opened to all.
    • John 3:16-18; 14:6
      • 16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. 18 The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 14:6:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

So, get this in John 3:18, rejecting the Son means rejecting the Father.

Notice John 14:6: Jesus is the only way.

Luke 9:23:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

We must recognize that the Gospel represents the power of God. I must be compelled to worship our mighty Savior.

We must recognize that God’s righteousness is revealed. We are only righteous by faith in Christ. We are only right before God by faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). This must compel us to worship. 

This passage, this phrase “righteousness of God is revealed” has brought a lot of theological debate. I had a note in my Bible that says “our faith alone for salvation, not works.” I think that is key.

Some would say this is talking about God’s righteousness in the way we are saved. Others would say that we only receive righteousness by trusting in Jesus. I really like both. God is righteous. But we only receive right standing before God by trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Close:

A bazaar was held in a village in northern India. Everyone brought his wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail. He had tied a string around one leg of each bird. The other ends of all the strings were tied to a ring which fit loosely over a central stick. He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle, around and around, like mules at a sugarcane mill. Nobody seemed interested in buying the birds until a devout Brahman came along. He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life, so his heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in their monotonous circles.

“I want to buy them all,” he told the merchant, who was elated. After receiving the money, he was surprised to hear the buyer say, “Now, I want you to set them all free.”

“What’s that, sir?”

“You heard me. Cut the strings from their legs and turn them loose. Set them all free!”

With a shrug, the old farmer bent down and snipped the strings off the quail. They were freed at last. What happened? The birds simply continued marching around and around in a circle. Finally, the man had to shoo them off. But even when they landed some distance away, they resumed their predictable march. Free, unfettered, released . . . yet they kept going around in circles as if still tied.

Until you give yourself permission to be the unique person God made you to be . . . and to do the unpredictable things grace allows you to do . . . you will be like that covey of quail, marching around in vicious circles of fear, timidity, and boredom.

Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

People need Jesus.

Do you see the Gospel as healing serum which people need?

Paul was not ashamed. He wanted to preach the Gospel. He wanted to preach to those who have never heard.

Let’s review the Romans road to Salvation:

Walking Down the “Romans Road” to Salvation . . . .

Because of our sin, we are separated from God.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God  (Romans 3:23).

The Penalty for our sin is death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).

The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins!
For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved  (Romans 10:13).
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9,10).[2]

Go and share the Gospel


[1] https://hutchcraft.com/a-word-with-you/your-mission/the-race-to-nome-6619

[2] http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/about/becoming_a_christian.aspx

Preach to those Who Have Never Heard (Romans 1:8-15; 15:20)

Preach to those Who Have Never Heard (Romans 1:8-15; 15:20)

Theme: An Intro to Romans

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Saturday, January 9 and Sunday, January 10, 2021

We are going to be turning to Romans 1 in a moment. First, allow me to introduce the passage with something I read from Rick Sams, the retired pastor of Alliance Friends.

WHITE OUTS by Pastor Rick Sams

  White outs come in the form of blizzards where you cannot see a thing.

  Then there’s the kind we used before computers. Wite-Out dates to 1966 when an insurance-company clerk named George Kloosterhouse and a guy who waterproofed basements developed a correction fluid for typing mistakes. It was originally called “Wite-Out WO-1 Erasing Liquid.”*

  Have you ever sent a text message that you regretted? Now you can electronically “white it out” by using Apple’s app called “Wiper Messenger.”**

  Don’t you wish we had a “white out” for all your words and actions?

  We try to use white out when we say we’ve “stretched the truth,” but we’ve flat out lied.

  We call it “spin” when it’s actually false reporting.

  “Re-inventing” products is really the same old stuff in a bigger package and bigger price.

  “Revisionist history” is just bad research and recall.

  “Pardon my French” is a cover up for swearing. I’ve heard French and what follows this phrase is not French.

  “Bless their heart,” is often used right after we’ve smeared someone, as if this makes it right.

  “Communication breakdown” is often a cover for laziness or somebody not doing their job.

  “Mistakes” are too often sins.

  “Affairs” are adultery.

  “Issues” are really problems–usually big and bad.

  But the Bible says there really are do-overs and white outs: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18b).

  What a Savior. What a white out.[1]

Okay, that is exactly what we are going to start talking about today. We are beginning a sermon series on Romans. For most of this year we will be preaching through Romans. We will not hit every verse, but instead I will be picking out key sections in each chapter. Romans is all about our great salvation. This is Paul’s treatise on salvation.

Do you think about your salvation?

What are you saved from?

How are you saved?

Are you saved by works?

Can you earn your salvation?

We find a lot of those answers in Romans. 

Today, I want to introduce Paul’s Thesis in Romans and give a little bit of background to Romans.

My theme and application:

Be Gospel Centric as Paul was Gospel Centric.

Read with me Romans 1:16-17:

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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Now, turn to Romans 15:20:

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation…

Let’s start with the point, person, and time of the writing of Romans.

Over a million people lived in Rome at the time of this writing.

Paul most likely wrote Romans from Corinth around A.D. 57.

The theme of Romans is the revelation of God’s judging and saving righteousness in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the cross of Christ, God judges sin and yet at the same time manifests his saving mercy.[2]

Let’s think more about Rome.

What are some things that you think of from Rome?

Anyone may answer this.

Has anyone here ever been to Rome?

The Colosseum is estimated to have seated more than 45,000 for gladiatorial spectacles.

Daily life in Rome could be luxurious for the wealthy but onerous for others. Multiple aqueducts and a huge sewer system provided for the immense water requirements of Rome, including the many bathhouses, fountains, and latrines. Food had to be imported to satisfy the needs of this thriving metropolis, and the emperor often directly oversaw the vital grain supply. Luxury villas in Rome were the privileged possessions of the wealthiest families (often of senatorial or equestrian rank) and especially of the emperors, but most of the housing in ancient Rome consisted of insulae (multistory apartment buildings often constructed above first-floor shops). Contemporary authors spoke of a severely overcrowded, loud, and smelly city—a place that provided every virtue and vice known to mankind. The residents of Rome were mostly pagan, although a sizable Jewish population also existed (as evidenced both by 1st-century literature and by later remains of inscriptions). The expulsion of the Jews under the emperor Claudius (a.d. 49) was a limited measure.

Getting into Romans:

Some specific theological topics include

principles of spiritual leadership (1:8–15);

God’s wrath against sinful mankind (1:18–32); principles of divine judgment (2:1–16);

the universality of sin (3:9–20);

an exposition and defense of justification by faith alone (3:21–4:25);

the security of salvation (5:1–11);

the transference of Adam’s sin (5:12–21);

sanctification (chs. 6–8);

sovereign election (ch. 9);

God’s plan for Israel (ch. 11);

spiritual gifts and practical godliness (ch. 12);

the believer’s responsibility to human government (ch. 13); and

principles of Christian liberty “(14:1–15:12).

The Epistle to the Romans is, by popular consent, the greatest of Paul’s writings. William Tyndale, the great English reformer and translator, referred to Romans as

“the principle and most excellent part of the New Testament.” He went on to say the following in his prologue to Romans that he wrote in the 1534 edition of his English New Testament:

“No man verily can read it too oft or study it too well; for the more it is studied the easier it is, the more it is chewed the pleasanter it is, and the more groundly [sic] it is searched the preciouser [sic] things are found in it, so great treasures of spiritual things lieth hid therein.”

Martin Luther wrote the following commendation of this epistle.  “[Romans] is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much…

We find Paul’s purpose written in Romans 1:16-17 and I believe in 15:20:

So, as we look at Romans, that is Paul’s Thesis:

Romans 1:16-17:

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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

We will come back to this next week.

But I see another core belief in Romans:

Now, turn to Romans 15:20:

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation…

Paul wanted to go to Rome and use Rome as staging point to launch a ministry to Spain, wow!

But as we look at this passage, are you Gospel Centric? Paul was centered on the Gospel.

Next are you sure of your salvation?

Think about “white-out.” Have your sins been whited out?

Walking Down the “Romans Road” to Salvation . . . .

Because of our sin, we are separated from God.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)

The Penalty for our sin is death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins!
For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Romans 10:13)
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
(Romans 10:9,10)[3]

So, have you asked God to use the “white out” on your sin?

Pray


[1] * I read this in Rick’s Ramblings from Rick Sams. He referenced: “Forgiveness Is God’s Gift to ‘Wite-Out’ Mistakes,” John Ortberg, PreachingToday.com 8/5/14 **“Delete Your Conversations from Other People’s Phones,” Kim Komando blog (9-9-14)

[2] ESV Study Bible

[3] http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/about/becoming_a_christian.aspx

Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope (Matt 1:18-25)

Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope (Matt 1:18-25)

Prepared and preached by pastor Steve Rhodes for the Saturday night service at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, December 26, and Sunday, December 27, 2020

They were always waiting for a Savior in the Old Testament. Are you waiting for a Savior? Do you know that you need a Savior?

Watch this clip

Nativity Story: Angel coming to Joseph

Read with me Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

My theme today is: Jesus, the gift of God’s hope

  1. Jesus will be born.
    • They were waiting for a Savior and He was to be born.
    • This is an amazing prophesy to Joseph. Here he has just received the news that his fiancé is pregnant, and not by him, but now he finds out this baby is the Messiah. Wow!
    • Joseph went from gloom to hope.
      • What Does Hope Do For Mankind?
        • Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.
        • Hope motivates when discouragement comes.
        • Hope energizes when the body is tired.
        • Hope sweetens while bitterness bites.
        • Hope sings when all melodies are gone.
        • Hope believes when evidence is eliminated.
        • Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.
        • Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.
        • Hope endures hardship when no one is caring.
        • Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.
        • Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.
        • Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.
        • Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.
        • Hope brings the victory when no one is winning. (John Maxwell from Think on These Things)
    • Joseph had hope and so do we. Jesus is our hope.
  1. Jesus will save us from our sins.
    • What brings salvation?
    • What, or who, are you trusting in?
    • Sometimes we think we don’t even need a Savior. Realize that when we mess with salvation we are trifling with the holiness of God. We need salvation because we sinned against a holy, righteous God. Psalm 51:4: against, you only have I sinned…
    • We need a Savior because of God’s holiness and when we say things such as “Everyone goes to Heaven with or without Jesus,” or we say, “there is no hell.” This means that we are messing with the cross, yes, but we are also messing with the holiness of God. We are changing all of Scripture, we are changing the whole Old Testament. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1 Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must go punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.
    • Jesus saves
  2. Jesus will be Immanuel, which means God with us.
    • Do you ever feel alone? I remember being in 6th grade and I played football. I was dropped off at a game and my parents drove away and then I thought I needed something and it was too late, my parents were gone. I felt all alone. I can go back a few years earlier. I must have watched children cry when my mom dropped my older brother off at preschool. I thought I wouldn’t do that. I always saw the children get dropped off at preschool and they cried and cried and cried. I remember that fear when my mom dropped me off and I cried as well. Fast forward some 15 years. My parents dropped me off at college in Georgia and drove away and I think we all cried.
    • Fast forward another eleven years. I was serving as a pastor of a church with a childcare and preschool. My office was in the main hallway. There were many days I heard children crying as their parents left them those first few days.
    • There is a fear in being alone, isn’t there?
    • A. W. Tozer shares: Most of the world’s great souls have been lonely.[1]
    • What is it like being alone? We are not alone. We have God with us. Jesus is our hope and He is with us.
    • Neil Strait shares: Loneliness is … spending your days alone with your thoughts, your discouragements, and having no one to share them with. [2]
    • You know that in Christ you can share your thoughts with Jesus anytime you want?
    • Think of how amazing it is that God is with us as Christians. The term is Immanuel and the term for God becoming a man is the “incarnation.” Winston Churchill described Russia as “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” That’s appropriate to describe the Incarnation also.[3]

Made Flesh

After the bright beam of hot annunciation

fused heaven with earth, His searing,

sharply focused light went out for a while,

eclipsed in amniotic gloom.

His cool immensity of splendor, His universal grace,

small folded in a warm, dim, female space,

the Word stern sentenced to be nine months dumb.

Infinity walled in a womb until the next enormity,

the mighty.

After submission to a woman’s pains,

helpless in a barn bare floor,

first tasting bitter earth.

But now I in Him surrender

to the crush and cry of birth.

Because eternity was closeted in time,

He is my open door to forever.

From His imprisonment my freedoms grow, find wings.

Part of His body, I transcend this flesh.

From His sweet silence my mouth sings.

Out of His dark I glow. My life,

as His, slips through death’s mesh times bar,

joins hands with heaven, speaks with stars.

Immanuel.

(Luci Shaw, Listen to the Green)[4]

  1. You and I, we are not alone.

Close:

Charles Swindoll:

Christmas comes each year to draw people in from the cold.

Like tiny frightened sparrows, shivering in the winter cold, many live their lives on the barren branches of heartbreak, disappointment, and loneliness, lost in thoughts of shame, self-pity, guilt, or failure. One blustery day follows another, and the only company they keep is the fellow-strugglers who land on the same branches, confused and unprotected.

We try so hard to attract them into the warmth. Week after week church bells ring. Choirs sing. Preachers preach. Lighted churches send out their beacon. But nothing seems to bring in those who need warmth the most.

Then, as the year draws to a close, Christmas offers its wonderful message. Immanuel. God with us. He who resided in Heaven, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, willingly descended into our world. He breathed our air, felt our pain, knew our sorrows, and died for our sins. He didn’t come to frighten us, but to show us the way to warmth and safety. . . .

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] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 354.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 354.

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 295.

[4] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 296.

God in a Manger

I recently read an author talk about this story:

Soren Kierkegaard, the great Danish theologian of another century, tells a story of a prince who wanted to find a maiden suitable to be his queen. One day while running an errand in the local village for his father, he passed through a poor section. As he glanced out the windows of the carriage his eyes fell upon a beautiful peasant maiden. During the ensuing days he often passed by the young lady and soon fell in love. But he had a problem. How would he seek her hand?

He could order her to marry him. But even a prince wants his bride to marry him freely and voluntarily and not through coercion. He could put on his most splendid uniform and drive up to her front door in a carriage drawn by six horses. But if he did this he would never be certain that the maiden loved him or was simply overwhelmed with all of the splendor. As you might have guessed, the prince came up with another solution. He would give up his kingly robe. He moved, into the village, entering not with a crown but in the garb of a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time the maiden grew to love him for who he was and because he had first loved her.


The author concludes: This very simple, almost child like story, written by one of the most brilliant minds of our time explains what we Christians mean by the incarnation. God came and lived among us. I am glad that this happened for two reasons. One, it shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is with us, that He is on our side, and that He loves us. Secondly, it gives us a first hand view of what the mind of God is really all about. When people ask what God is like, we, as Christians, point to the person of Jesus Christ.[1] 

Let’s read Luke 2:1-7:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

  1. Jesus, our hope is born.
    • “Mommy, Daddy, tell me a story.” Have you heard that recently? What about, “Grandma, grandpa, tell me a story,” have you heard that recently?
    • I love stories. I am drawn to stories. My children love stories. I have some of their books up here. I remember when my children were younger and could barely talk, they would just come and hand me a book. Mercedes would come to me and say, “Can you read Little House on the Prairie to me?” Abigail would come to me and hand me a book and ask me to read it. They love stories too.
    • Still most every night I read to them before bed.
    • It is true that kids grow up quick. I remember when Mercedes was in preschool and she was learning all about books. She liked to play teacher. I heard her at home telling Abigail all about books, “This is the cover and this is the back. This is the spine; the spine holds the book together. Who draws the pictures? The illustrator.” Later, we heard Abigail say the same things. It was great. Of course, now she is in third grade, so she still plays teacher, but she is trying to teach more advanced things.
    • The Bible is full of stories and we can read that Jesus told many stories. In fact, the Bible is mostly stories. The Bible is many short stories with one grand story. We have the grand story of God’s love for us and His plan to save us from our sins. That is the grand story. There are short stories. The short stories tell:
      • How God created us good;
      • How humans sinned against God;
      • How God sent Jesus to be born of a virgin and die on the cross for our sins;
      • How some day God will make all things right.
  2. How is Jesus our hope?
    • This is a true story; unlike the fantasies we like to read (and I love fantasy stories).
    • This is the story of the birth of the Anointed One, that is what Messiah means, Anointed One.
    • Jesus, born of the virgin Mary will save us from our sins, the wrong things we do.
    • Jesus is our hope in that He will save us.
    • Jesus is our hope in that He will eventually bring peace.
    • Jesus is our hope in that He will restore all creation and He will be the perfect King.
    • Jesus is our hope in that He is called Immanuel and that means God with us.
    • Jesus is our forever hope.

I hope with Christmas we take comfort and great joy in celebrating Jesus, our Lord’s birth. The Hope of the world was born. All through the Old Testament the Bible is filled with stories and all these stories are about people looking for the Messiah and now He has been born. Jesus born in a stable which, was a barn, and laid in a manger, which was a feeding trough, this is the story of how the Hope of the world entered the world. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the story of how shepherds came to worship Him and the angels worshipped Him too. This is God becoming a man.The Hope of the world was born in Bethlehem and we celebrate that at Christmas time.

The Hope of the world was born in Bethlehem and we celebrate that at Christmas time.

Our hope has come and He is Jesus.

I don’t know about you but many times I can focus my hope on things, but Jesus is my forever hope. I just need to keep telling myself that.

I don’t know about you, but I can easily focus my hope on politicians, but Jesus is our forever hope, again, I need to remind myself of this.

I don’t know about you, but I can put my hope in money. This is only temporary hope and Jesus takes care of my eternal, my forever, needs. He is my forever hope.

I don’t know about you, but I can put my hope in people, but there is only One person, Jesus, who will never let me down. Jesus is our forever hope.

These are all good things and there is nothing wrong with money, things, politics, people, but they do not take care of our forever.

Placing our hope in things can overwhelm us.

A few years ago, I was talking with a Christian athlete who was always trying to please the coach. It helped her when she realized that she only needs to please God. It helped her when she realized she plays for an audience of One.

Jesus is our Lord, not money, things, people, or even our boss. Jesus is our forever hope.

Jesus became a human being. In Philp Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew he shares this:

In London, looking toward the auditorium’s royal box where the queen and her family sat, I caught glimpses of the more typical way rulers stride through the world: with bodyguards, and a trumpet fanfare, and a flourish of bright clothes and flashing jewelry. Queen Elizabeth II had recently visited the United States, and reporters delighted in spelling out the logistics involved: her four thousand pounds of luggage included two outfits for every occasion, a mourning outfit in case someone died, forty pints of plasma, and white kid leather toilet seat covers. She brought along her own hairdresser, two valets, and a host of other attendants. A brief visit of royalty to a foreign country can easily cost twenty million dollars.

In meek contrast, God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn king but a feed trough. Indeed, the event that divided history, and even our calendars, into two parts may have had more animal than human witnesses. A mule could have stepped on him. “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.”

For just an instant the sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw that spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, “nobodies” who failed to leave their names. Shepherds had such a randy reputation that proper Jews lumped them together with the “godless,” restricting them to the outer courtyards of the temple. Fittingly, it was they whom God selected to help celebrate the birth of one who would be known as the friend of sinners.[1]

He came to save us. He came to live with us. He came to set us free. He will come again and bring peace and make things right. He is the Savior. This is the story of His birth.

Christmas is all about Jesus’ birth. God became a human being so that He could die for our salvation.

This is good news. I notice recently that all of the news headlines are negative. They are all bad news. Recently, I read about a book titled: “Stop Reading the News” by Rolf Dobelli. He shares the following:

Bad news is perceived as more relevant than good news. Negative information has twice the impact that positive information does. In psychology, this is called negativity bias, and it can be observed in even one-year-old infants. They respond more sensitively to negative stimuli than to positive ones. Adults are no different. A stock falling by ten per cent makes us twice as unhappy as a stock climbing by ten per cent makes us happy. Negativity bias is innate. The news media hasn’t inculcated into us our weakness for negative information; it simply exploits this weakness in expert fashion, delivering a stream of shocking stories that are tailor-made for our anxious brains.

Then he digs deeper:

The news continually stimulates our sympathetic nervous system, a part of our autonomic nervous system. Psychological stressors lead to the release of adrenaline by the hypothalamus. Adrenaline then leads to a rise in cortisol. So, every garish story can lead to the production of this stress hormone. Cortisol floods our bloodstream, weakening the immune system and inhibiting the production of growth hormones. By consuming the news, you’re putting your body under stress. Chronic stress leads to anxiety and digestive and growth problems and leaves us to infection. Other potential side effects of news consumption include panic attacks, aggression, tunnel vision and emotional desensitization. In short, consuming the news puts your psychological and physical health at risk

According to a study by the American Psychological Association, half of all adults suffer from the symptoms of stress caused by news consumption.[1]

So, that is the negative news. But Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is good news. This is good news to believe and to share. Focus on the good news these next few days. Focus on the good news this next year.


One of the most exciting things that you can do while celebrating Jesus’ birthday is to make it your spiritual birthday as well. You can accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation right now.

God’s presence is the gift here, and you just have to unwrap the gift. 

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him. (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie, or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must go punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.

pray


[1] https://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-outlines/23567/god-in-a-manger/

[1] Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew (pp. 36-37). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[1] Read this on Dr Scot McKnight’s Blog through Christianity Today. December 10, 2020: https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/december/news-consumption-and-your-health.html

Jesus the gift of God’s Love (John 3:1–17; 7:45–52; 19:38–40)

Jesus the gift of God’s Love (John 3:1–17; 7:45–52; 19:38–40)

Prepared and preached for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13, 2020

I will be talking about John 3. Please turn there. Children are dismissed to junior church.

What would we do without light?

How much does light change things?

Think about times when you have been in the dark and then all of a sudden the lights come back on. Maybe you were living through a power outage. Have you ever driven on dark roads? I drove two hours each way to seminary. I did that two days a week. When I was driving on interstate 75 through Cincinnati things were lit up and it was easy to stay awake. But then when I got south of Cincinnati, into the hills of Kentucky, it got dark really quickly.

Light helps us see, but more than that, light also makes us more comfortable, correct? In 2007, I took my youth ministry on a mission trip in Tampa, Florida. We left Cincinnati around midnight. I took over driving in the mountains of Tennessee around 2:30 in the morning. I could see the road, but I was uncomfortable at places not being able to see the broader area around me. Light makes us more comfortable.

Light can bring joy, can’t it? How do you feel when you see Christmas lights?

Today, we will see Jesus described as the “light” of the world.

This year, we have been talking about Jesus, the indescribable gift.

Two weeks ago, I talked about Jesus, the gift of God’s grace.

Last week, we talked about Jesus the gift of God’s Truth.

Today, we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Love.

On Christmas Eve we will talk about Jesus, the Indescribable Gift, God in the Manger (Luke 2:1-20; 2 Cor. 9:15).

On December 27 we will talk about Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope.

My theme today:

Jesus tells Nicodemus that He is the gift of God’s love, the Light of the World, Nicodemus becomes a disciple (John 7:50).

Application:

Are you seeking the Light of the world? Are you seeking Jesus?

I am not going to read the whole passage. I will summarize parts and read a few verses here and there. Please turn to John 3.

  1. Jesus teaches that we must be born again (John 3:1-8).
    1. In verse 1 we see there was a man of the Pharisees. That clues us into some things. He is a pharisee, being a religious teacher.
    2. The verse lists him as a ruler of the Jews. He was on the Sanhedrin, which would be like their supreme court.
    3. We only see Nicodemus a couple more times in the Bible: John 7:50; 19:39
    4. He came to Jesus at night which is why some call him “nick at night.”
    5. He calls Jesus Rabbi, which means “teacher.”
    6. He begins acknowledging that Jesus is from God.
    7. He refers to Jesus’ miracles.
    8. No one can do the signs unless God is with Him.
    9. In verse 3, we now see Jesus answers and the conversation begins.
    10. We must be born again. John 3:3: Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
    11. There was something wrong with the first birth.
    12. The first birth was into the fallen world. We need born of the Spirit.
    13. In verse 4 we see that Nicodemus was very confused.
    14. Nicodemus was being very literal. He thought we would have to enter the womb again, picture that as an adult.
    15. So, in verse 5 Jesus clarifies we must be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God. Verse 5 reads: Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
    16. This is restating verse 3, but now mentioning what “born again means.”
    17. There are two key Old Testament texts about this.
    18. Isaiah 44:3 uses poetic parallelism to equate water and the spirit. The Old Testament oftentimes talked about the Holy Spirit being poured out like water (Proverbs 1:23; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10).
    19. Ezek 36:25-27 is the other one. In that Passage the Lord is talking about cleansing: There the Lord is affirming the promise of the new covenant to Israel, and He says,
    20. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.[1]
    21. This is regeneration.
    22. We had something wrong with our first birth so Jesus gives us a rebirth. Look at 2 Cor 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
    23. Verse 6 continues about birth. Born of the flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit. This means that the flesh represents our sin nature and the Spirit represents our re-birth.
    24. In verses 7-8 Jesus tells him not to be amazed about what He has said. Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to the wind. We know the wind is there, but we do not know where it has come from or is going, and that is the same with the Holy Spirit. Wind and Spirit translate the same Greek and Hebrew words.
  2. Jesus teaches the dichotomy between our ways and the Spirit’s ways (John 3:9-15).  
    1. Jesus rebukes Nicodemus for not understanding these things. In verse 9 he asks how these things can be and in verse 10 Jesus says that he is the teacher of Israel and yet he does not understand.
    2. Look at verses 11-15: Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
    3. Jesus is speaking of what He knows and has seen. Jesus uses the plural “we” which is mostly referring to the Trinity.
    4. In verse 12 Jesus is saying how can He teach him more when he does not understand things so far.
    5. In verses 13-15 we see that Jesus has ascended into Heaven and descended from Heaven.
    6. Jesus must be lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness.
    7. Jesus is alluding to Numbers 21:9 and the bronze serpent that saved the people.
    8. Jesus will be lifted up on the cross to save them and us. This is God’s love.
  3. God’s love sent Jesus, the Light of the world, but some loved the darkness rather than the light (John 3:14-21).
    1. Let’s read verses 16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
    2. I am using the ESV today because it flows better.
    3. You will notice that the ESV does not use the word “begotten” but instead “only.” I prefer “one and only.” A few years ago I did extensive research on that Greek term and shared that with you. There is more about that in the notes which I will not share at this time.
    4. Some think “begotten” is better because it means that Jesus was not born, but that is incorrect. “Begotten” has been controversial in the past going all the way back to the Arian controversy. You can look that up on your own, or talk to me later.
    5. The best translation is “unique” not begotten.
    6. God gave his only “begotten” Son, or His “one and only Son” or His “unique” Son.
    7. I was required to study Greek in seminary but I am not that good with it so I contacted two Greek scholars to look into that specific word. The Jehovah’s Witness like the word “Begotten” best because it literally means that Jesus was born. It literally means, “only born.” Again, that is the Arian controversy.
    8. But Jesus was never born we know that. One Greek scholar, Dr. Long from Asbury Theological Seminary believes “Unique” is the best translation of the adjective. The Greek adjective from which we get “begotten” is monogenḗs and literally means “one and only” or “only born.” This is a case where tracing a words derivation is not helpful because as I stated Jesus was never born. This adjective was also applied to Isaac that Isaac was the only monogenḗs of Abraham. Of course, Isaac was born, and Abraham did have another son. Yet, Isaac was the child of promise.
    9. So, as we consider which term is best to translate the Greek remember that the Greek adjective monogenḗs literally does mean only born.
    10. However, also remember we do not form Theology based on one verse. We form Theology, in this case, Christology, based on the whole Bible. Look at John 1:1-14 and we see that Jesus was not born.
    11. Notice that God loved.
    12. Notice further that God loved to the point where God gave.
    13. One Bible scholar points out: The Greek construction puts some emphasis on the actuality of the gift: it is not ‘God loved enough to give,’ but ‘God loved so that he gave.
    14. The same scholar continues The construction of the Greek sentence stresses the intensity of God’s love. He gave His best, His unique and loved Son. The Jews believed that God loved the children of Israel, but John affirmed that God loved all people regardless of race.[2]
    15. God so loved the world that He gave His unique Son…The rest of the passage picks up the purpose: that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
    16. Salvation is opened to all people but only through Jesus. Look at John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God
    17. Rejecting Jesus is rejecting God the Father.
    18. In verses 19-21 we see that Jesus came into the world as the Light, but people loved darkness rather than the light.
    19. People who are in sin, don’t want the Light to expose their sin. But people who do what is true come to the Light with the purpose that they may clearly see that His works have been carried out in God.
  4. Remember that this is a message first given to Nicodemus.
    1. It seems that Nicodemus became a disciple.
    2. In John 7:45-52 Nicodemus defends Jesus.
    3. In John 19:38-40 Nicodemus is at Jesus’ burial.
    4. Jesus came as God with us to be the gift of God’s love.
    5. This passage is all about Jesus declaring God’s love.
  5. Applications:
    1. Nicodemus was the teacher of Israel (verse 1 and verse 10) and yet he did not understand, we must seek the Lord to truly understand what God is doing.
    2. We must understand that we need to be born again. Our first birth had a sin problem, we need a new heart. We need born again (verses 3-5).
    3. We cannot understand spiritual truths, we cannot seek the Kingdom of God without a re-birth.
    4. We must trust the Lord. The Lord speaks of what He knows (verse 11).
      1. Too often we may doubt not realizing that the Lord knows the whole picture.
        1. We must understand that we really cannot understand.
        1. Oftentimes, we are confounded by spiritual truths so we doubt them and that is not right.
    5. The Holy Spirit has a will, we can see the works of the Holy Spirit, but we will not know where He comes from or is going. God is sovereign.
    6. God loved so He gave. We must sacrifice for those that we love too.
    7. We must always trust in Jesus for eternal life.
    8. Jesus is the only way to Heaven, we must share this Truth.
    9. We must look for every opportunity to share the Gospel.
    10. We must set the example for other believers.
    11. We must seek truth.
    12. We must seek the Light of the world.

Close:

Are any of you giving away Christmas gifts this year?

Make sure you share Jesus with the gifts. Share the true message of Christmas, God’s love.

prayer


[1]https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B181214?utm_source=mailerlite&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=grace_to_you_blog_what_jesus_meant_by_water_and_the_spirit&utm_term=2018-12-14

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Jn 3:16–18.

Jesus, the gift of God’s Truth (John 1:14-18; 8:31-32; 14:1-6)

Jesus, the gift of God’s Truth (John 1:14-18; 8:31-32; 14:1-6)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6

Children are dismissed to junior church

We will be going to John 14 in just a minute.

We know the poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” but listen to this one.

’Twas the Night before Jesus Came

’Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house

Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.

Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care

In hopes that Jesus would not come in there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed,

Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head,

And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap

Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter,

I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.

With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray

I knew in a moment that this must be THE DAY!

The light of His face made me cover my head

It was Jesus! Returning just like He had said.

And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,

I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which He held in His hand

Was written the name of every saved man.

He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;

When He said, “It’s not here,” my head hung in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love

He gathered to take to His Father above.

With those who were ready He rose without sound

While all of the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late;

I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.

I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight.

Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;

The coming of Jesus is soon drawing near.

There’s only one life and when comes the last call—

We’ll find that the Bible was true after all!

—Anonymous[1]

Jesus is the way, the Truth and the Life. Do we believe that? How do we show that with our Christmas traditions?

How important is truth to us?

Mrs. Fisher was recovering from surgery and got a card from her fourth-grade class: “Dear Mrs. Fisher, Your fourth-grade class wishes you a speedy recovery by a vote of 15–14.”

—Howard G. Hendricks, Say It with Love[2]

Chuck Swindoll writes:

When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, he concluded his speech by quoting a Russian proverb: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” If I could change a couple of words in that proverb, I would say, “One person of truth impacts the whole world.”[3]

Swindoll writes: In a world of incessant lies, Jesus embodied absolute, unvarnished truth. Jesus as the source of all truth. Jesus never lied or manipulated anyone. He never left a false impression or appeared to be someone He wasn’t. As we believe and follow His teachings, we will know what’s real and valuable in a world of falsehoods and fakes. Jesus—Truth in the flesh—will lead us to truth’s treasures: eternal life and freedom from sin. If you’re searching for truth, be assured that in Jesus your search has ended!”[1]

This year, over the next several weeks I wish to talk about Jesus the indescribable gift.

Last week, I talked about Jesus, the gift of God’s grace.

Today, we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Truth.

Then, we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Love

On Christmas Eve we will talk about: Jesus, the Indescribable Gift, God in the Manger (Luke 2:1-20; 2 Cor. 9:15)

On December 27th, we will talk about Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope

Let’s turn to John 14:1-6.

My theme is Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

My application: Trust Him.

John 14:1-6: (ESV)

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

  • Jesus comforts the disciples encouraging them to trust Him.
    • John MacArthur shares: This whole chapter centers in the promise that Christ is the One who gives the believer comfort, not only in his future return but also in the present with the ministry of the Holy Spirit (v. 26). The scene continues to be the upper room where the disciples had gathered with Jesus before he was arrested. Judas had been dismissed (13:30) and Jesus had begun his valedictory address to the remaining 11. The world of the disciples was about to be shattered; they would be bewildered, confused, and ridden with anxiety because of the events that would soon transpire. Anticipating their devastation, Jesus spoke to comfort their hearts.[4]
    • This passage is known as the upper room discourse from John chapters 13- 17
    • Jesus has told them that He will die. The disciples must have been discouraged. Jesus had said that He would die in the previous verses.
    • The disciples had traveled with Jesus for some 3 years. Jesus was a close friend and teacher.
    • They shared a special relationship. In fact, students of Rabbis would even call the teacher/Rabbi father. Later on, in John 15:15 Jesus calls them friends.
    • Jesus told His students and friends that soon He would die. Within a day of this He will die.
    • John 13:1-17 included the foot washing.
    • In John 13:18-30 Jesus predicted His betrayal.
    • In John 13:38 Jesus predicted being denied by Peter.
    • Jesus told them all of this difficult news and now we come to John 14.
    • Jesus tries to encourage them.
    • Do not let your heart be troubled. This is a command.
    • Jesus says “Do Not let your heart be troubled,” or “distressed.”
    • NET Bible: The same verb is used to describe Jesus’ own state in John 11:33, 12:27, and 13:21. Jesus is looking ahead to the events of the evening and the next day, his arrest, trials, crucifixion, and death, which will cause his disciples extreme emotional distress.[5]
    • Jesus thinks empathetically of how they may feel.
    • Jesus says “you believe in God, believe also in Me…”
    • Belief means to trust.
    • Jesus is encouraging them to Trust in Him.
      • Do we trust Him?
      • Do we trust Him when we may face a difficult time?
      • Do we trust Him when we have the bad news?
      • Do we trust Him with the cancer diagnosis?
      • Do we trust Him when it seems like the world is crumbling?
      • For them, their discipler and friend said He was going to die, their world was falling apart. Jesus says to trust Him.
    • In verse 2 Jesus has apparently told them before that He is going to prepare a place for them. This could be from John 13:36. He says now, His Father’s house has many rooms. He would NOT have told them that if He did not know.
    • This is a reason to trust Him.
    • In John 14:1 Jesus told them to believe Him, to trust in Him, and now He expands on why they can trust Him.
    • Jesus is going to prepare a place for them.
    • The word often translated as “mansion” just means “dwelling places.” It likely has the idea of a big building with lots of rooms.
    • Jesus is preparing a place for us through His death and resurrection.
    • In verses 2-3 Jesus is going to prepare a place for us and He will come back.
    • John MacArthur and others believe Jesus’ return is the pre-tribulation rapture. He will come back in the rapture to take us to be with Him.
    • In verse 4 Jesus says they know the way. He is the way. They know Jesus so they know the way.
      • This is the same for us. If we know Jesus, we know the way to Heaven.
      • How do we get to Heaven? We must know Jesus. He is the way (verse 6).
      • The way He was going was the cross. The NET Bible note below: Where he was going was back to the Father, and they could not follow him there, but later he would return for them and they could join him then. The way he was going was via the cross. This he had also mentioned previously (e.g., 12:32) although his disciples did not understand at the time (cf. 12:33). As Jesus would explain in v. 6, although for him the way back to the Father was via the cross, for his disciples the “way” to where he was going was Jesus himself.[6]
  • Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Look at verses 5-6.
    • In verse 5 Thomas speaks up.
    • Thomas is bold in asking the question.
    • Thomas was bold, we think of him as “doubting Thomas” but look at John 11:16: So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” That was when they were going to go near Jerusalem for Lazarus but people wanted to kill Jesus.
    • Russell Moore writes: This is when, I expect, that murmuring commenced, and one can easily see why. Thomas is wrongly caricatured as “doubting” in our age, but Thomas, it seems to me, displays a need for certainty lacking in, say, Simon Peter, who often believes he can debate or sword fight his way out of difficulty. Thomas probably realized how often this band of disciples misunderstood Jesus’ sayings and parables, not to mention how often they fell asleep while he was praying. Thomas probably wondered if Jesus had given directions for them to meet somewhere on a mountain, to recite a particular incantation, in order to be received into this heavenly reality about which he was talking. If so, no one seemed to know what these directions were.[7]
    • In verse 6 Jesus clarifies.
    • He is the way.
    • He is the truth.
    • He is the life.
    • No one comes to the Father but through Him.
    • He is the only way.
    • This is an exclusive statement.
    • John 10:9: I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.[8]
    • Romans 5:2: Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God[9]
    • Ephesians 2:18: For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
    • Hebrews 10:20: by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh…
    • 1 John 5:20: And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
    • See also John 1:14
    • “Without the way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing, without the life there is no living.”[10]
    • MacArthur shares: This is the sixth “I am” statement of Jesus in John (see 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 15:1, 5). In response to Thomas’s query (14:4), Jesus declared that he is the way to God because he is the truth of God (1:14) and the life of God (1:4; 3:15; 11:25). In this verse, the exclusiveness of Jesus as the only approach to the Father is emphatic. Only one way, not many ways, exist to God, i.e., Jesus Christ (10:7–9; cf. Matt. 7:13–14; Luke 13:24; Acts 4:12).[11]
  • Let’s makes some applications:
    • Do we trust Jesus? In verse 1 Jesus says to believe in God, believe also in Me. “Believe” could be translated as “trust.” Do we trust Jesus?
    • Do we trust Jesus with our eternal life?
    • Do we trust Jesus with our life now?
    • What if we get a really bad diagnosis, can we still trust in Jesus?
    • What if we are persecuted for our faith? Can we trust Jesus?
    • Is Jesus enough for us?
    • The disciples were going to lose most everything for Him, Jesus tells them to trust Him.
    • Can we look forward to Heaven?
    • Can we trust Jesus’ words as truth?
    • Can we trust Jesus as the way?
    • Can we trust that Jesus’ death on the cross is the way to Heaven?
    • Can we trust that Jesus give us life?
    • Can we trust that Jesus is the only way to truly get life now (John 10:10)?
    • Are we trusting in Jesus?
    • Or, are we trusting in possessions?
    • What is our worldview about Christmas?
    • Is Christmas about materialism, or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about family gatherings, or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about gift giving, or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about a new age “Christmas spirit” which is nothing about Jesus or is Christmas about Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about Santa Claus or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • Is Christmas about Christmas lights and pretty decorations or Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?
    • How are we holding to a Christian worldview about Christmas?
    • How are we teaching ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren of the Christian worldview about Christmas?

How important is truth to us?

When truth unmasks wrong, those who are exposed get very nervous, like the two brothers in a story I heard recently.

These brothers were rich. They were also wicked. Both lived a wild, unprofitable existence, using their wealth to cover up the dark side of their lives. On the surface, however, few would have guessed it, for these consummate cover-up artists attended the same church almost every Sunday and contributed large sums to various church-related projects.

Then the church called a new pastor, a young man who preached the truth with zeal and courage. Before long, attendance had grown so much that the church needed a larger worship center. Being a man of keen insight and strong integrity, this young pastor had also seen through the hypocritical lifestyles of the two brothers.

Suddenly one of the brothers died, and the young pastor was asked to preach his funeral. The day before the funeral, the surviving brother pulled the minister aside and handed him an envelope. “There’s a check in here that is large enough to pay the entire amount you need for the new sanctuary,” he whispered. “All I ask is one favor: Tell the people at the funeral that he was a saint.” The minister gave the brother his word; he would do precisely what was asked. That afternoon he deposited the check into the church’s account.

The next day the young pastor stood before the casket at the funeral service and said with firm conviction, “This man was an ungodly sinner, wicked to the core. He was unfaithful to his wife, hot-tempered with his children, ruthless in his business, and a hypocrite at church.… but compared to his brother, he was a saint.”

Leadership magazine, Fall 1995[12]

Pray


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 86–87.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 588.

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 589.

[4] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[5] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Jn 14:1.

[6] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Jn 14:4.

[7] https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/what-is-the-basis-for-christian-ethics/

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 10:9.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 5:2.

[10] The Gospel of Belief by a Wheaton College professor quoted by Swindoll on Insight for Living on April 17, 2019

[11] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[12] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 587–588.

Jesus, the Gift of God’s Grace (John 1:1-5)

Jesus, the Gift of God’s Grace (John 1:1-5)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, November 28 and Sunday, November 29

Immanuel means: “God with us.”

This is the first Sunday of Advent and so we are looking forward to Jesus’ birth. The word “advent” actually means “coming.” The idea is the coming of the Christ child.

With that in mind, I was recently thinking back to my beliefs about Jesus from when I was a child. As a child, what were your beliefs about Jesus? Think way back, way back to some of your earliest comprehensions about Jesus. When I was a very young child, I thought that Jesus was the first man created. I actually thought that Jesus was before Adam and Eve. I didn’t understand or comprehend that Jesus was coming to earth at Christmas time. But later on, I did begin to understand that the idea of Christmas was Jesus’ birth, but then I thought God just decided to have a son. I even thought that maybe someday God would consider having another son. I wonder if you have had any similar views. At some point I realized, or God taught me, that Jesus did not have His beginning when He came to earth.  This is exactly what I want to talk about today.

This year, over the next several weeks, I wish to talk about Jesus, the indescribable gift.

Today, I wish to talk about Jesus, the gift of God’s grace.

Next week we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Truth.

Then, we will talk about Jesus the gift of God’s Love

On Christmas Eve we will talk about: Jesus, the Indescribable Gift, God in the Manger (Luke 2:1-20; 2 Cor. 9:15)

On December 27, we will talk about Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope

As we look at John 1:1-5 we are going to see that Jesus’ beginning was in eternity past, actually Jesus had no beginning at all. But, Jesus did choose to come to earth to become our sacrifice for our sins. God chose to come to be with us. John 1:1-5 also shows that Jesus is fully God, yet separate. Are you confused? That is okay; let’s get into this passage and clear things up.

Let’s read John 1:1-5:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Humpty Dumpty had an unsolvable problem. We have a problem too, but ours has a solution.

Jesus Christ came to our wall,

Jesus Christ died for our fall;

So that regardless of death and in spite of sin,

Through grace, He might put us together again.[1]

  1. Let me give some context to this passage and in so doing allow me to show you how this passage relates to our Advent season.
    • Matthew’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ birth from Joseph’s perspective.
      1. More specifically, Matthew’s Gospel begins with the lineage of Jesus beginning with Abraham and ending with Joseph.
      1. Then in Matthew chapter 3 he writes about John the Baptizer.
    • Luke’s Gospel begins with John the baptizer preparing the way for Jesus.
    • Later in Luke’s Gospel, Luke gives the lineage of Jesus beginning with Adam (Luke 3:23ff).
    • Mark’s Gospel begins with John the baptizer preparing the way for Jesus.
    • The point is that the other three Gospels focus on John preparing the way for Jesus and the Gospel according to John will do that as well.
    • But two of the other three Gospels focus on Jesus’ physical lineage. They do this for a reason. It was important to establish that Jesus was the rightful King of Israel as He came from the family line of King David. But John’s Gospel is focusing on Jesus’ eternal past. That is what I want to focus on today. In a few weeks we will get to the narrative of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, but first let’s look at Jesus’ eternal past. Long before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem He already existed, and He was active in creation. This is important as many false religions and many cults have this false doctrine about Jesus which can be cleared up here in John 1:1-5.
    • Notice that as Jesus took on flesh, He became the light of the world. This was all because of God’s grace.
    • Jesus took on flesh in order to save us from our sins.
    • This is God’s grace.
  2. Beginning: Notice the passage says in verse 1: In the beginning… stop right there.
    • Now, let’s think about that. This is stating that what John is about to write about has to do with the beginning.
    • More specifically this has to do with the very beginning of time as we know it. Think about that for just a minute.
    • What is it like to think about a time before time? It is difficult to even state that isn’t it? How do I write “time before time”? I believe as John is here writing this phrase, he is intentionally echoing Genesis 1:1 and Genesis says, “In the beginning God created…”
    • Since Genesis writes, “In the beginning,” and John writes, “In the beginning,” we can conclude that Jesus is beyond our timeline.
  3. The Word: Now, John continues by stating that in the beginning was the Word.
    • John does not say that The Word was created in the beginning.
    • No, John is saying that the Word was already in existence in the beginning.
    • He just was. In Revelation Jesus says, “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13). But what does John mean by saying the Word? Basically, he is writing about Jesus. We know this by context, right?
    • I mean as soon as he completes this first section, he will begin writing about John the baptizer (John 1:6-9), then in the very next verse, he uses the male pronoun translated as “he” to refer to “the Word” (John 1:10). He is writing about Jesus.
    • So, we can gather that he is writing about a man. But in the first century, during this time period, the Jews and the Greeks would know that the Word embodies reason which gives order to the universe. The Jewish people may have had a little more of a concept of the Word as God and as the creator.
    • John’s audience would have known that John is writing about God and context will later show that John is writing about Jesus. Later on, in verse 14 John writes that the Word became flesh. So, it is clear that the Word is Jesus’ eternal past.
    • Jesus’ beginning was not being born of Mary; no Jesus was with God from the beginning.
    • Jesus chose to become a man in order to die for us and save us by His grace. Jesus is the Gift of God’s grace.
  4. with God, was God, He was in the beginning with God: Notice this.
    • The Word, Jesus, was with God. Jesus has always existed with God and now the text also says that Jesus was God.
    • Now, this is not simply an eternity past concept. John is writing about this as an eternity past idea, but Jesus is still with God and Jesus still is God. Notice that Jesus was with God and Jesus was God.
    • Jesus is both the same as God and separate from God at the same time. That is what this passage is saying. Jesus was with God and was God.
    • Don’t try to understand this. If I could understand God, He would not be that great. Yet, God still has revealed certain things about Himself to us and so we should educate ourselves as much as we can.  
    • Immanuel means God with us.
    • It is also critical that we understand that this verse is NOT saying that Jesus was a God or the Word was a God. No, Jesus is God and Jesus is with God. We don’t worship three gods.
  5.  All things came into being…
    • Another critical idea that we must focus on is that all of creation came into being by Him. Look at this in verse 3. Everything you see was created by Him.
    • Jesus created everything that we see in the night sky. Jesus created those stars and those planets. It is mind boggling when we think of how amazingly large outer space is, but Jesus created all that is in existence.
    • Jesus created everything we see on this planet. He created the materials that we are made out of. He created the materials that exist all around us. He created everything (see Colossians 1:16-17 and Psalm 8).
    • According to this passage, things are not only created by Jesus, they are also held together by Jesus. Now, think about that for just a moment, what does that mean for who we put our trust in?
    • Shouldn’t we put our trust in Jesus as the One who holds all things together?
    • Shouldn’t we put our trust in Jesus as the One who owns all things?
    • Doesn’t the One who creates have ownership of all that He created?
      • I think about the things that I fear. I fear snakes, most you know this. Oftentimes, I have been running and saw a garter snake on the trail and jumped 10 feet. I hate snakes!
      • My fears have changed the past 9 years or more.
      • I fear danger happening to my children. When Mercedes was a baby a situation happened that really stressed this in my life. We had a baby monitor that would go off if Mercedes or Abigail quit breathing, but this can also go off if one of them would move to the corner of the crib. In 2012, the monitor went off in the night and as I was still half asleep, I walked into her room. But I was about to wake up really quickly. I started feeling around in the crib to move Mercedes, but I didn’t feel her in the crib. Instantaneously, in a split second, I woke up and had the worst thoughts come into my mind. I thought about whether she crawled out of the crib, or whether someone got into our house. Then, I found her in the corner of the crib, the opposite corner that I was looking for her in. But, I had fear.
      • As a father I hear different sounds in the night and have different concerns as I have children to watch out for. I have different fears.
      • Why fear? God is in control. It is okay and good to have a healthy respect for the dangers of certain snakes, and other more serious dangers in life, but we have no ultimate fear. As this passage goes on to say, we have life in Jesus. 
      • Jesus, the gift of God’s grace.
      • Also, this passage is likely stating that things in Heaven and on earth were created by Him. I believe this is stating that the angels and the demons were created by Jesus. If Jesus loves us, which John 3:16 and many other passages says He does, and Jesus created all things, who do we have to fear? We have nothing to fear because Jesus loves us, and Jesus created all things.
  6. In Him Is life: This is more about God’s grace.
    • Now as we look at verse 4, we must grasp the idea that life is in Jesus. In Him was life.  This is a repeated concept in John’s gospel.
    • We have eternal life in Him.
    • We have true life in Him.
    • John uses the word for “life” more than 36 times in his Gospel. In Him was life. We have life in Him.
    • Do you have life in Him?
    • Have you accepted Him as your Savior?
    • Have you believed in Him? If so, then be encouraged. You do have life in Him.
  7. He Is the Light:
    • the final verse of this section says that He is the light.
    • The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.
    • Jesus is like a flashlight shining truth into a world of false realities.
    • It is a false reality that money and materialism lead to happiness.
    • It is a false reality that life is meaningless. No, life has meaning, and we can have a fuller life and eternal life in Jesus.  There are many false realities out there, but Jesus sheds light on these.
    • May that be a challenge to us.
  8. Context again:
    • Now, if we continued reading this passage we would see in verse 14 that John begins to write about Jesus becoming a human being.
    • Eugene Peterson writes that “the Word put on flesh and blood and moved into our neighborhood.”
    • As we move towards Christmas and as we look towards Advent we can be encouraged that Jesus is God with Us.
    • Jesus chose, out of His great love for us, to come into our neighborhood. He chose to be born of a virgin.
    • He chose to be reared in poverty and live a fully human life to give us grace.

Praise God that Jesus chose to become one of us. Billy Graham tells a story of walking a beach with his son, trying to save ants, but the ants were scared not knowing they were trying to help them, and his son said, “What if we could become an ant and tell them we want to save them?” That is why Jesus came into our realm of existence. He came to communicate to us and to die for us.

Here are some applications from this message:

Close: applications:

  1. Jesus has always existed this means we can trust Him. If He existed prior to the beginning He must know the future, again, we can trust Him (verse 1).
    • This is especially true corresponding to Gen 1:1 with the idea that Jesus created time.
    • We must trust Jesus. He has the whole world in His hands and past, present and future in His hands.
  2. If all things came into being by Christ we must surrender to Him as the owner of all things (verse 3).
    • Jesus owns our money
      • Jesus owns our house
      • Jesus owns everything we have and treasure.
  3. On the positive side, given that all has come into being by Jesus we can trust Him.
    • He is in control as the Amy Grant song says.
    • We must trust Jesus as He owns everything.
  4. Jesus is the only way to receive and have life, true life and life eternal. We must follow and embrace His life (verse 4).
  5. We must and will comprehend Jesus’ light and allow His light to shine in us and through us (verse 5).

Can you appreciate this cartoon of Dennis the Menace? He rushes into the room, with his mother standing there with her mouth open, and he says, holding a big box in his hand, “We’d better tell Santa Claus to forget about the train set I asked for. I just found one on the top shelf of Dad’s closet.”[2]

Jesus, God’s greatest Christmas present. A present is grace, grace is a gift. Jesus gifts us with His presence.

Do you know Him?

prayer


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 251.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 82.

Rejoice in Your Salvation

Rejoice in Your Salvation (1 Chron 16:23; Psalm 20:5; 2 Cor. 9:15)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, November 21 and Sunday, November 22

How do you respond to the devil’s attacks?

Martin Luther said the devil came to him every night “to dispute with him.” Luther said he learned two things would chase the devil away. One was to say, “Satan, I am baptized. I have left your wilderness. You have no more jurisdiction.”

The other way — and I’m not sure how else to say this — was to pass gas. Luther believed that because the devil was proud and hated mockery, passing gas in his face was a way of mocking him and making Satan flee. I kid you not.[1]

Baptism follows salvation and to Martin Luther he was clinging to his salvation when the devil attacked him. Baptism sealed the deal for Luther. Baptism tangibly represents the intangible.

Where would you be without Jesus? What would your life be like without Jesus?

Does your salvation give you hope for eternity?

What do you think about at funerals? Does your salvation give you hope when you think about death?

Does your salvation give you answers?

I have a thank-you card in my hand, do any of you send thank-you cards? Do any of you receive thank-you cards? Do any of you say thank-you?

Now, what are you thankful for? Food, clothing, shelter, children, family, friends, work, retirement, money, our country, etc.

When you thank God, do you thank Him for your salvation?

Theme:

Today we will look at Colossians 1:12-14 and talk about thankfulness for salvation.

Let’s read Col. 1:12-14:

giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

  1. In Col. 1:12-13 we see God’s great rescue mission.
    • I know verse 12 starts midsentence. Paul is in the middle of one long sentence. Paul was the master of long sentences. This sentence starts in verse 9 and is an extended sentence with 218 words. So, verses 9-20 are one long sentence in the Greek.
    • This is a prayer that Paul is praying.
    • These three verses are about giving thanks to God for our salvation.
    • The 2011 NIV says “Joyful” thanks.
    • God has qualified us, you, to share in the inheritance.
    • Who qualified you? God qualified you. Only Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-10 says that we are saved by grace.
    • We give thanks for gifts and our salvation is a free gift.
    • We don’t have to give thanks for what we earn. We give thanks for gifts.
    • Psalm 51:12 says to restore to me the “joy” of your salvation. Do you ever ask God for that restored joy? I think that joy would cause us to be thankful.
    • We have an inheritance in Christ. We are considered sons and daughters of God. We are family (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:5). We have an inheritance in Heaven.
    • We are part of the Light, as opposed to darkness, which was a common contrast which Paul would use.
    • Our salvation was God’s great rescue mission.
    • Verse 13 says that God rescued us from darkness.
    • Think about a rescue. This makes me think of a good action movie in which a character is going to rescue someone.
    • In “The Patriot” Mel Gibson’s character rescued prisoners by outwitting the British
    • Maybe show clip
    • God outwitted the devil and rescued us.
    • We aren’t simply rescued from darkness and left wondering. No, we are transferred to the Kingdom of Jesus.
    • Verse 14 says that He redeemed us and this means that He bought us, just like you buy a slave.
    • Verse 14 says that we also are forgiven.
    • So, are you thankful for your salvation?
    • John Macarthur shares:
    • First Chronicles 16:23Psalm 96:2 says, “Proclaim the good tidings of His salvation day to day”. Way back in 1 Chronicles, way back in the Psalms, people were proclaiming on a daily basis the good news of the salvation of God. That has always been the greatest preoccupation of the people of God, to praise Him for salvation. Revelation 7, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb,” that’s heaven. All the beings in heaven are praising God and the Lamb for salvation.
    • So we can say it is the theme of the Holy Spirit’s revelation…the theme of the Holy Spirit’s revelation. I will simplify the Bible for you. The main theme in the Bible is salvation, right? That’s the theme of the Bible. It goes from corruption to salvation, from the Fall to eternal glory. The theme of the Bible is salvation and so it is the theme of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Everything that the prophets in the Old Testament knew about salvation was given to them by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was revealing the sufferings of Christ in Psalm 22, Psalm 69, Isaiah 52, Isaiah 53, Daniel 9, Zechariah 12, Zechariah 13. The Holy Spirit was revealing all of this, the sufferings, death, trial, beating, crucifixion and the glories to follow. The Holy Spirit revealed truth about the resurrection, the ascension, the enthronement. The resurrection, obviously, implied everywhere that the Messiah is seen reigning because if He dies, He has to rise to reign. The resurrection in Psalm 16, the resurrection in Psalm 22, the resurrection in Psalm 69, the resurrection, exaltation of Christ, Isaiah 9, Isaiah 53, the end of the chapter, Daniel 2, Daniel 7, Zechariah 2, Zechariah 14. They were prophesying about His suffering and about His glory because that was the message of the Holy Spirit. Those two things were the theme of Old Testament prophecy.[2]
    •  Are we thankful?

Are we thankful?

Swindoll tells of a story from WW II: the Americans had advanced into the German territory, Germans and Americans are shooting at each other, a German family is hiding in a barn. Then a 3 year old girl breaks free from her parents and runs between the allies and the Germans. All firing stops. Then after she is safe they start firing at each other again. You know that in our salvation we have peace with God?

I encourage you to go home and write a thankful prayer to God. Are you thankful for salvation?

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] http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-408/praising-god-for-your-salvation

[2] http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-408/praising-god-for-your-salvation

Worldview Wrap-Up: Learn from Israel and don’t forsake God (2 Kings 17:7-18; 1 Thess 5:17-22)

Worldview Wrap-Up: Learn from Israel and don’t forsake God (2 Kings 17:7-18; 1 Thess 5:17-22)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, November 14 and Sunday, November 15, 2020

Children are dismissed to junior church.

We are going to be going to 2 Kings 17:7-18 in a minute.

Over the last several weeks we have talked about having a Biblical worldview. The Biblical worldview goes like this: creation-fall-redemption-restoration. Everything was created good, as we see in Genesis chapters 1-2. Creation fell in Genesis 3. All of creation is fallen (Romans 8:22-23). Jesus has redeemed us (John 3:16), but the world is still fallen. Someday God will restore all things (Revelation 21-22).

We have talked at great length about each of these parts of a Biblical worldview. Why is there pain and suffering? This is because we live in a fallen world. Is this how things are meant to be? No, absolutely not. We are redeemed by Jesus, but things are not restored yet. We needed Divine intervention. We need police because we live in a fallen world. There is racism and all kinds of bad stuff because we live in a fallen world. Someday, God will make things right.

What does it look like to lose the Biblical worldview?

What does it look like to forget God?

Today, we will look at 2 Kings 17:7-18 and see an example of that.

My theme is:

Learn from Israel and don’t forsake God

Let’s read 2 Kings 17:7-18:

Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced. The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the Lord their God. Moreover, they built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 11 and there they burned incense on all the high places as the nations did which the Lord had carried away to exile before them; and they did evil things provoking the Lord. 12 They served idols, concerning which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” 13 Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.” 14 However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the Lord had commanded them not to do like them. 16 They forsook all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. 17 Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him. 18 So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.

  1. Why Israel fell
    • Years ago John Steinbeck wrote a letter to Adlai Stevenson. In it he said, “There is a creeping all-pervading gas of immorality which starts in the nursery and does not stop until it reaches the highest offices both corporate and governmental.”—Billy Graham, World Aflame[1]
    • We see the immorality reach a climax and then consequences here.
    • Israel has neglected the Biblical Worldview.
    • Likewise, America is also leaving the Biblical worldview. We, as Christians, must test everything and hold true to a Biblical Worldview. We must be different.
    • If we read verse 6, 2 Kings 17:6, we read that the King of Assyria captured Samaria. Now, Samaria was the capitol of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
    • What we need to know at this point is that Israel and Judah had been separated. They have had a divided kingdom since around 930 BC and it is now around 722 BC.
    • MacArthur shares: The capture of Samaria marked the end of the northern kingdom. According to Assyrian records, the Assyrians deported 27,290 inhabitants of Israel to distant locations. The relocation of populations was characteristic of Assyrian policy during that era. The Israelites were resettled in the upper Tigris-Euphrates Valley and never returned to the Promised Land. “Halah” was a city northeast of Nineveh. The “Habor” River was a northern tributary of the Euphrates. The “cities of the Medes” were northeast of Nineveh. Samaria was resettled with foreigners (v. 24). God did what he said he would do in Deut. 28. The Jews were carried as far east as Susa, where the book of Esther later took place.[2]
    • Israel had lost their Biblical worldview and that is why God rejected them.
    • Starting in verse 7 we see why Israel fell.
    • Verse 7: now, this came about because Israel had sinned against the Lord.
    • The verse continues to share about their history. The Lord brought them up from the land of Egypt. The passage says they feared other gods.  The NET Bible says they worshipped other gods, which is probably more accurate. Judges 6:10 tells them not to fear other gods.
    • Verse 8 continues what is going on.
    • They walked in the customs of the nations. These were the nations that the Lord had driven out before them. But the kings of Israel even introduced these customs.
    • God had told them not to do this. Lev 18:3; Deut 18:9 both talk about not being like the other nations.
    • 2 Kings 16:3 says they even made their sons pass through the fire, which most likely means child sacrifice.
    • Verse 9 shares that they did things secretly which were not right, and these were against the Lord. More likely, this had to do with speaking things against the Lord. They built high places which were places of pagan worship.
    • We must always guard about what we do in secret. They are not in secret to God.
    • MacArthur shares: In direct disobedience to Deut. 12:1–4, the Israelites built new raised altars in the Canaanite pattern after the temple was constructed. These “high places” were in all the habitations of Israel, from small fortified structures to large garrison cities, i.e., from the smallest to largest towns. The altars were on wooded hills with images representing the false gods (2 Kings 17:10; cf. Deut. 16:21–22).[3]
    • Verses 10-11 continue about their pagan worship.
    • They setup sacred pillars and asherim. Asherim would be wooden symbols of a female deity. So, they were worshipping pagan gods and the passage said they did that on every high hill and under every green tree.
    • They did these things which Ex 34:12–14 warns against.
    • Verse 11 says they burned incense, this would be a worship practice but they were doing this to pagan deities. They did this on the high places as the pagans did.
    • They did evil things provoking the Lord to anger.
    • Verse 12 shows that they served idols, even though the Lord said not to do that (see Ex 20:4).
  2. The Lord warned them, but they would not listen (verses 13-17).
    • Verse 13 begins with “yet.” This is a contrast. The Lord warned Israel, and Judah as well.  
    • How did the Lord warn them?
    • The Lord warned them through His prophets and every seer.
    • There is probably a subtle difference between the two. A name sometimes applied to the prophets because of the visions granted to them.[4]
    • The Lord had also warned them by His Word.
    • The prophets and the seers exhorted them to turn back.
    • The Lord exhorted them to turn and also keep His law.
    • Verse 14 shares that they did not listen.
    • They got more stubborn like their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord.
    • Verse 15 picks up on this. They rejected the Lord’s statutes and His covenant which He had made with their ancestors. They followed like the other nations, though the Lord had warned them not to do like them.
    • In verse 16 we see that they disobeyed the Lord’s commandment about idols. They made idols: molten images, two calves, an asherah, which was a wooden symbol of a female deity. They worshipped the stars and served baal.
    • The molten images of calves or bulls were typical cult items in Canaan.[5]
    • Worship of the starry hosts refers worship of the celestial gods (sun god, moon god and Venus particularly; in Babylonia, Shamash, Sin and Ishtar respectively), who were primary in most ancient religions. Controlling the calendar and time, seasons and weather, they were viewed as the most powerful of the gods. They provided signs by which omens were read and they looked down on all. [6]
    • In verse 17 we see how bad they got. They made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, which would be child sacrifice. They practiced divination and enchantments, that would not be of God. Then they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord. They provoked God.
    • Forms of witchcraft, fortune-telling, and black magic were forbidden by God ( Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ). They were wrong because they sought power and guidance totally apart from God, his law, and his Word. Isaiah echoed this law and prophesied of the complete destruction these occult practices would bring to those who participated in them ( Isaiah 8:19-22 ).[7]
    • Divination and enchantments were also well-known in Mesopotamia. Divination assumed that there was knowledge to be gained about the activities and motives of the gods through the use of various indicators (such as entrails of sacrificed animals). Thousands of omens and incantations have been uncovered in the past one hundred and fifty years of archaeological research.[8]
    • In verse 18 we see that God gave them up. God had them conquered. Only Judah was left.
    • Likewise, America is also leaving the Biblical worldview. We, as Christians, must test everything and hold true to a Biblical Worldview. We must be different.
  3. Learn from Israel’s mistakes
    • Swindoll shares: First corinthians 5:6 says, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.” I remember hearing an interesting story one of my Greek professors told on one of his students. He taught a class at eight o’clock in the morning. Now at that hour, some people just don’t function well, especially in Greek. One student was struggling to translate 1 Corinthians 5:6. He knew how the King James Version read, but knew he could not quote that because the professor would know he was not translating the Greek. So he came out with the familiar “a little dab’ll do you.” That was the best he could do.
    • That’s true! A little dab will affect the whole bunch. You put a little, rotten, insignificant apple in a bucket of good apples, and the good apples will never make that rotten apple good. What will happen? Just the opposite. First, those around that rotten apple will begin to become rotten and decayed. And leave them there long enough and you’ve got a bucket of waste, ruined by that little dab of rottenness.[9]
      • This passage is sad, but it is also a reminder. Israel was taken into exile just like the prophets had warned. Whatever God promises will come to pass. We must trust in the Lord today. When the Lord says there is a punishment for sin, we must believe Him.
      • Verse 7 reminds the reader and us that the Lord had brought them out from Egypt. We just never forget how the Lord provides for us. We must take time to give thanks to the Lord. We must take time to reflect on how the Lord provides.
      • Verse 7 says they feared or worshipped other gods. We must make sure that things and people do not become idols.
        1. Television must not be more important than God.
        1. Books and learning must not be more important than God.
        1. Work must not be more important than God.
        1. Video games must not be more important than God.
        1. Money must not be more important than God.
        1. People, even spouses and children must not be more important than God.
        1. Stuff must not be more important than God.
        1. Allegiance to one’s country must not be more important than God.
      • Verse 8 shares that they became like the other nations. We must not be like the world. Friendship with the world makes us enemies of God (James 4:4). We must not be conformed to the world, but we must be transformed (Romans 12:1-2).
      • Verse 9 shares that they did things secretly which were not right. We must guard against secret sins. We must repent. Numbers 32:23 be sure your sin will find you out.
      • Verse 13 shares that the Lord warned them. The Lord warns us too. We must repent when we hear a warning about sins of omission or commission. Sins of omission are things that we do not do that we should do. Sins of commission are sins that we do that we should not do.
      • Praise God that He gives second chances. God gives opportunities to repent.
      • God wants us to repent and follow Him.
      • Verse 15 shows that they rejected God’s statutes, His rules, and expectations. They followed vanity. We must listen to the Lord and not follow vain, worthless things.
      • We must follow the Lord.
      • We must test everything (1 Thess. 5:21).

Israel was stubborn. They rejected God. They rejected His ways. They rejected the Lord’s authority. They needed discipline to make them repent.

Many years ago, James Dobson told a story about a 10‑year‑old boy named Robert. He was a patient of a California pediatrician. When Robert was scheduled for a visit to the doctor’s office, the news would spread like wildfire. To sum up the story, the boy would not obey and if you tried to get him to obey, he would threaten to take off his clothes. Well, one dentist called his bluff. The dentist said, “fine take off your clothes.” The boy takes off all his clothes! The dentist does the work on his teeth, then the boy wants them back. The dentist says that his mother can pick up his clothes tomorrow. The boy walks out totally naked passed everyone up and goes home. Next day the mom comes and thanks the dentist. The next day the mother came for her son’s clothes and asked to speak to the dentist.

When he came out, she said:

“Doctor, I want to thank you for what you did to Robert yesterday. For as long as I can remember, he has threatened us with just about everything.

“But his favorite [threat] has been that he’ll take off his clothes if he doesn’t get his way. You’re the first person that has ever called his bluff, and he’s already become a different child!”

I know, that same story in today’s world would find the dentist in jail. But that’s the problem. We’re asking kids permission to change their diapers and having to sue to get them to leave their bedrooms.[10]

Listen, we are a society that has lost, rule and authority. We have lost discipline. We have lost right and wrong. We must repent. Seek the Lord. Share the Gospel. Test everything and cling to a Biblical worldview (1 Thess 5:17-22).

Prayer


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 292.

[2] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[3] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[4] M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893).

[5] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 2 Ki 17:16–17.

[6] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 2 Ki 17:16–17.

[7] Tyndale House Publishers. Life Application Study Bible NLT (Kindle Locations 129105-129106). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[8] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 2 Ki 17:16–17.

[9] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 293.

[10] https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-james-emery-white/parents-losing-control.html

Kashmira Gander, “Ask Your Baby’s Permission Before Changing Diaper, Says Sexual Consent Expert,” Newsweek, May 10, 2018, read online.

Michelle Singletary, “Parents Who Went to Court to Evict Their Unemployed 30-Year-Old Son Did the Right Thing,” The Washington Post, May 24, 2018, read online.

Ed Young, From Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings.