Posts filed under: Sermons

3 Things Jesus Prayed For Us

John 17 is commonly known as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. It is a beautiful scene of the Son of God praying like never before. It takes place just moments before Jesus is betrayed by one of His closest followers, arrested by the mob, taken through a mock trial, and sentenced to crucifixion.

This prayer can be broken up into three sections: Jesus praying for Himself (v 1-5), Jesus praying for the disciples that had followed Him while He walked the earth (v 6-19), and Jesus praying for believers that would come as the current disciples shared the gospel (v 20-26).

It is interesting to me to think that while Jesus prayed here in the first century, He was praying for me. Not only was He praying for me, but Jesus was praying for every single person who would hear and respond to the gospel from that time forward. Long before I was a thought in my parents’ minds, I was on Jesus’ prayer list.

Another intersting point of this prayer is that it was prayed long before I became a follower of Jesus. It is easy to pray for those who are “in the family.” How do we do in praying for those who do not yet know the Lord? As followers of Jesus, we should do as our Savior did for us. We should be praying for those who do not know (or yet want to know) the Lord.

The 3 Things That Jesus Prayed For Us

1. Unity (v 21)

Jesus prays that those who place their faith in Him would be a unified people. Though they would come from different walks of life, they would have a common bond in Jesus. Just as the the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are individual in person, they are one in nature and make up the Trinity (Along with the Holy Spirit) that we know as God. Jesus prays that believers would share in this unity, and a result of this unity would be that others would see the truth of the gospel.

2.  Tools For the Mission (v 22-23)

Jesus knows that the future of the mission of God would be carried out by these believers. This mission of telling others the good news of the gospel would need tools to be carried out. Jesus prays and shares His glory with those who trust in Him. This glory is the strength that we need to carry out the mission. Every believer is given everything they need to take the gospel to those who have not heard it.

3.  Security (v 24)

Jesus prays that those who would come to believe in Him would be held and kept secure by the power of God. We do not have to worry about losing our salvation if we have truly received it. If we have been saved by God, then our lives will demonstrate it by taking part in the mission that God has given His church to do. There may be bumps in the road and moments where we fall short, but we will never fall out of the grasp of God’s gracious hand.

It should be an encouragement to us to know that Jesus Himself was praying for us before we were thought about by anyone else. If that’s not enough, then know this: Jesus is still praying for you.

Who then will condemn us? No one – for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and Hd is sitting in the place if honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. (Romans 8:34 NLT)

May we as the church be encouraged to be faithful and carry out the mission that God has given to us – to take the gospel to those who need it in word and deed.

God’s Standard Never Changes

I recently shared a message with the church I serve as pastor on Matthew 25:31-46. In this passage, Jesus tells about an event that will take place in the future. It is a wonderful event for those who have faithfully followed Christ. It is also a traumatic event for those who haven’t.

Jesus says that those who are welcomed into heaven are not just those who say that they are followers but show it by their actions. He gives some pretty specific ways that people either demonstrate their faith or don’t.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (Matthew 25:35-36)

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. (Matthew 25:42-43)

Jesus said that the demonstration of our faith will determine whether we are in or out. This is not to be mistaken as salvation by merits. The Bible is clear that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10).  But that faith is also one that will show itself to be true through actions in our lives (James 2:14-26).

I found this scene that Jesus talks about in Matthew 25 very sobering. We can talk a big game about believing in Jesus and being associated with Him. The truth is (from His mouth) the proof is in the fruit. We can say whatever we want, but it is only true when you can back it up.

I had wondered why this was the only place where this was talked about in such detail… that is until I read Job 31.

In Job 31, one can see this man who was having a “rough week” making a final appeal about why the trouble he was experiencing was not a result of sin in his life. In his appeal, Job exclaims…

if I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused eyes if the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow), if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep… (Job 31:16-20)

The sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler (Job 31:32)

After reading this chapter, my mind was blown. There it was in plain sight. The ways in which Jesus said that true faith is demonstrated was done by Job in his life.

God’s standards never change.  The Bible tells us that He is an unchanging God (Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).  When it comes to His standards, we should not be surprised when He says that those standards do not change either. God still demands that His followers be those who are transformed by the love of God to the point where it effects their actions.

The Church is a Place of Boldness

We have been going through a sermon series at the church where I serve as Pastor this month called “Rethinking the Church.”  If you were to ask the common person on the street what they thought of when they heard the word “church,” you would get a variety of answers.  It is for this reason that I believe that we should look to the Bible to give us a clear understanding of what the church should be.

The church is to be a group of people that come from different walks of life and encourage one another as we seek to fulfill God’s purposes here on the earth. This is called community.

As the Bible shows us that the church is to be a community that is dependent upon one another, the question may come up “Why?” Why is it so important that the church be a community that shares life together with one another?

I would answer that question by saying that the church community is important because it is a part of God’s plan in building us into who we are supposed to be.

God has a plan of bringing redemption to our fallen world. Sin has entered in and wreaked havoc on everything. It has messed up our relationship with God, our relationship with other people, nature, and everything else.

God did not desire all of this destruction that has been left in the path of sin. This is why, from the beginning, He had a plan to make things right. He planned to come Himself and make things right. This is why Jesus Christ came to earth. He lived the life that we were supposed to live. He died our death – paying our penalty of sin. He arose from the grave to give us hope and assurance that His plan was at work.

Before Jesus left this world, He charged His followers (the church) to continue the mission that He began. We see that most clearly in what is called the Great Commission.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

This is a mighty task that we as the church have been given. We are responsible for taking the message of the gospel to all who need it. There is no place under the sun where this gospel is not needed. It seems that everywhere you turn there are people who are living in the shackles of sin’s clutches.

It would seem easy enough to understand that we as followers of Jesus Christ would need to take this gospel to those who we come in contact with and who need it so desperately. The question that continues to pop up in my mind is “why don’t we?”

I think sometimes the greatest hindrance that we have to doing what God has tasked us to do is a lack of boldness.

Boldness

If you were to look up the word boldness in the dictionary, it would say something like “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; courageous and daring.” Sadly, this is a term that has dropped in its usage over the past 200 years.

The presence of danger or resistance has been around since sin entered into our world. We do not like danger or resistance. We would like to have a comfortable life, but Jesus warned us very plainly that in this world where sin is present, that would not happen.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

It is because of the ever-presence of danger in our sin-filled world and the amazing task to share the gospel with all who need it that we need the church. The church is to be a place where this boldness needed to carry out our task is shared and grown in our lives.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12–14)

 

Paul wrote to the church at Philippi about the situation that he was in. He was in prison for his commitment to the task of sharing the gospel with people. No doubt there were many who were concerned for him. Not only concerned for Paul but for themselves. Would this fate come upon them?

Adversity is not something that many would willingly put on their “to-do” list each day. Most of us strive to steer clear of any adversity that would try to come our way. It is seen as a type of plague that we should stay away from at all costs.

Adversity can be a good thing though. Adversity can actually build and reveal the quality of what is inside of us.

Paul states that the adversity that he was going through at the moment of writing (imprisonment) was actually serving to advance the gospel message to places and people it had never been before.

There is a teaching that is becoming more and more popular today that if one follows Christ then everything will be fine and dandy for them. They should not face any kind of adversity if they just have enough faith. That is a good definition of one ancient Hebrew phrase that Dr. Chuck Kelley (President of NOBTS) likes to use: “bologna.”

If Jesus said that this world will be filled with tribulations and adversities of all kinds, who do we think that we are to say that isn’t so?

God can use any adversity that comes against the church to accomplish His plan, and more importantly He will.

How does God use adversity in the life of the church?

God uses adversity to build boldness in the life of the church to accomplish the mission.

And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  (Philippians 1:14)

 

Paul said that most of the Christians who had heard about his circumstances were not fearful or scared, but that they were speaking more boldly the gospel message.

There have been people from the very beginning days of the church who have believed that if they can simply persecute or instill fear in the church, then they could shut it down. The truth is that the church has only become bolder in its mission when it faces adversity.

When adversity comes against the church and the church seeks the Lord, the Holy Spirit rises up a boldness to stand strong. We realize that God gives us armor for the fight and the ability to stand strong together as the Body of Christ.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  (Ephesians 6:13)

When people see the church standing not in their own strength but in the strength of the Lord, it causes a curiosity as to what does the church have that is missing from everywhere else. This gives the church the opportunity to share the great gospel of Jesus Christ with those who need it.

Adversity is never a fun thing. It will tend to last much longer than anyone would desire. It will cost more than many would like to pay. But for the church, it is a builder of boldness to accomplish the mission that we have been given.

The church is so much more than just a place where we come to sing songs and listen to a person speak. It is a community where we come together under the banner of Jesus Christ and bear one another’s burdens. We see the Holy Spirit build boldness in each member to be faithful to the task of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who need it.

Get Out of the Way

2016 is coming to a close rather quickly. There is not much time to finish up those “to-do” lists. You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those lists that had things you wanted to do or accomplish in 2016.

I’m not one that is big on New Year’s resolutions. I am growing more on the making goals and working towards them though. There is something that is motivating and productive about having some things that you want to see in your life.

I’m learning more and more each year that as a year comes to its end, there are some things that are left undone. I don’t like to leave things unfinished, but sometimes it is just the way it goes. Those certain items get moved on to the next year’s goals.

Jesus gave us an example 

I remember hearing early in my walk with Christ that “Jesus is our example.” That is a good saying. As followers of Jesus, we should look to Him as an example (Hebrews 12:2).

When Jesus came to earth, He came with a pretty hefty “to-do” list. Among those things He had to do was:

  • Live a sinless life. Jesus would walk this earth for some 33 years or so. He was to remain sinless every minute of every day. I don’t think that I made it 33 minutes in life without sinning.
  • Remain obedient to the Father’s will. While Jesus was here on the earth, He didn’t seek out His own will. Over and over again, Jesus laid His will down to accomplish the Father’s. We see it when Jesus honors his earthly parents by obeying their wishes (Luke 2:41-51). We also see it moments before Jesus was arrested when He begged for another way but willingly laid His desires aside (Mark 14:32-42).
  • Die in a very specific manner. Jesus knew that He had come to earth to die for the sins of the world. His death would not be in just any fashion. His death would have to be exactly like it happened in order to fulfill the many prophecies that had been given for centuries by God.

With all of these things (and many more) on His “to-do” list, Jesus was able to say with His final words before His death, “It is finished!”(John 19:30)

Jesus finished the tasks that He came to earth to do. He did live the sinless life. He was obedient to the Father. He did fulfill all the prophecies about the Messiah’s death. He did arise from the grave to put an exclamation point on His work.

Jesus is still our example 

When Jesus ascended into heaven, He didn’t go into retirement. He started His next work: perfecting His followers.

Paul would state boldly in Philippians 1:6 that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

If there are undone things in our lives, it is not because Jesus quit. He is faithful to the task that lies before Him. His timetable may not be the same as ours, but it is always on time.

Get out of the way

If the undone things in our lives are not because Jesus quit, then what could be the cause of them? It might just be that we are in the way and need to move.

As we took down our “live” Christmas tree, I asked my youngest son to hold the front door open so I could take it out. He ran over and held the door open, but we had a problem: he was standing in the middle of the doorway while he held the door open.

I had to tell my son that I couldn’t take the tree out because he was standing in the way. He thought that he was doing what was right. He had a proud look on his face because he was “helping Daddy.” He was still in the way.

Could it be that the one thing keeping us from seeing God move and do what we thought He would in our lives is us? Are we standing in the way… doing what we think is right… trying to help God get His plan done our way… when what He needs is for us to step to the side or fully let go of something?

As 2016 comes to a close, I would encourage you to take an inventory of the past year. Are there things left undone? Are there things that you need to let go or step aside from to see God finish that work in you?  Do it and await that day when you stand before Jesus and hear Him say again, “It is finished!”

The Promise of Joy



This Christmas season, we have been looking at a series of messages at the church where I serve as pastor called “The Promises of Christmas.”  Throughout the Bible, one can see many different places where God made promises to people. As we close this series, we will look at one final promise that God made. The special thing about this promise is that it applies to us. It may have been first told to Joseph, but the implications of this promise fall to every human being.

“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. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:18-19‬

A Man Known as a Joseph

Joseph was a known to be a good, upstanding man who was hard-working and honest. He was also a man in love. He was betrothed to a young lady named Mary. He was ready to spend the rest of his life with this young lady, but there was one problem: she was pregnant and the child was not his. Joseph shows his character by not wanting to disgrace Mary, but he couldn’t stay with her.

Joseph’s Visitor 

“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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:20-23‬

An angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream with a message. The angel explained that the child inside Mary’s womb was from God… He was in fact the Son of God… the promised Messiah.

This is good news. This is the same good news that an angel would deliver to the shepherds in the Bethlehem pastures in Luke 2:10 – And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” 

How does Christmas bring joy? 

In a day where so many people break their promises, it is good to know that God is not that way. He promised way back in the Garden of Eden that He would send a Savior.

It would be easy for the holy God of the universe to turn away and run in the opposite direction from the creation that was tainted with sin. He would be no less holy if He did so. In spite of our impure state, the holy God of the universe chose to come near His prized creation in their time of most need. He did not send someone or something else to handle our situation. He chose to come Himself.

I don’t know what you were wishing to be under the Christmas tree, but I do know what each of us needed (hope, forgiveness, power over sin and the grave). Jesus’ brought all of that when He came that first Christmas morning.

For while the picture of the baby in the manger warms our hearts, that baby would grow up and take our place on an old rugged cross. He would hang there suffering for our sins, and doing so because He loved us so much. If that weren’t enough, He would defeat the grave three days later. Talk about a Christmas present!

Conclusion

That first Christmas morning, God was not worried about bringing us new toys or the latest gadgets. He was concerned most in giving us what we needed: true joy.  Joy is a happiness that springs from the depths of our hearts. It is not found in any department store or online. It is only found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

That joy is available to you today. If you have never trusted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you can do that today. That would be the best Christmas present you could ever receive.

If you have received that gift of grace, my prayer is that you are reminded of just how great that gift is. May it continue to bring you joy each and every day.

We have joy unspeakable given to us because Jesus conquered the grave, but He never would have if there was never a cross for Him to bear… and there would be no cross if there was not first a manger.