March 4, 2001
First Sunday in Lent
Showdown In The Wilderness
Luke 4:1-13
There’s a showdown afoot in these verses. The good guy and the evil guy are facing off. The good guy wins. Why?
I. The Showdown
The devil knew exactly where and when to hit Jesus. The devil tried to hit Jesus where it hurt. Remember, Jesus had been fasting for some time. The idea of food was more than a simple, passing thought. Let me paraphrase the temptation. “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into loaves of bread. You must be very hungry after forty days with only water. Or maybe You’re unable to do it. Maybe You’re not really what You say You are! Anyone who was the true Son of God could do it!”
The devil hit Jesus doubly hard with a one-two punch. One fist went to Jesus’ ego while the other went to His hungry stomach. Jesus held firm.
Next, Satan tempted Jesus with worldly power. In the flash of a moment the devil showed Jesus the entire world with all its kingdoms. He said, “They are mine to give to anyone I please. If You bow down and worship me, I will give all these to You!”
Imagine the power, wealth and glory of ruling the entire world! Can you imagine ruling the world? We remember Jesus’ words in another time and place where He said, “What would it benefit a man to gain the entire world, yet lose his soul?” No, Jesus wasn’t going for it; He held firm.
Finally, Satan tempted Jesus to test God. He selectively misquoted scripture. Such a method is as old as the devil himself. Again, a paraphrase of the temptation. “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself off this pinnacle because the Bible says that God won’t let You hit the pavement! Doesn’t it say that He has given His angels charge over You? You believe the Bible, don’t You? As the Son of God You trust God, don’t You?”
Jesus saw through the Devil’s thin argument. The Son of God was not about to put God to the test. Jesus held firm. Then we read, “The devil left Him until an opportune time.” In this account the devil knew when, where and how to hit with his temptation. Why did he fail? A simple answer is that he was up against the Son of God. The devil failed because Jesus is the Son of God. True — but that is only partially correct. What do we learn about temptation from this account?
II. What do we learn?
We learn two important things as we watch Satan tempt Jesus. The first thing we learn is that Jesus knows what your experience of temptation is like because He has experienced temptation as well. It is true that Jesus is the Son of God. So, you might think that these offers roll off Jesus like water off a duck’s back. Not true. Let us not forget that Jesus was fully human as well as fully God. These were real feelings of temptation for Him as they would have been for us.
Remember the verses say that after forty days of fasting Jesus was very hungry. That hunger was real. Jesus stomach hurt with hunger just as yours would if you fasted forty days. In that hunger the devil tempted Jesus to misuse His power. It was a very real temptation that Jesus felt. That is the first thing these verses teach us, Jesus was tempted and knows what you experience in temptation.
The second thing we learn is how we should deal with times of temptation. Jesus prevailed by using scripture. Jesus knew that what He believed could be proven in the scriptures. He knew also when the scriptures were being misused and misquoted. We likewise need to know how to prove what we believe in the scriptures. The scriptures must be the foundation and a shield for our faith. We win this showdown not with a trusty six-shooter, but with the scriptures! That’s what we must draw and use when we’re tempted!
There are little showdowns every day of our lives If you follow Jesus’ example you will walk into those showdowns well armed and with a deadly aim. Be ready because the Bad Guy never sleeps! (Tim McQuade)
March 11, 2001
Second Sunday in Lent
My Fellow Citizens…
Philippians 3:17-21
Being born in the United States makes you an American citizen. In the same way being born again into everlasting life through Jesus Christ makes you a citizen of heaven.
I. A Citizen of Heaven?
On a mission trip to Bolivia I noticed that Americans stand out very boldly. We stood out because we were so different in appearance and language and conduct. That is the idea these verses communicate to us. We were easily identified as Americans while we were in Bolivia.
Americans are different than Bolivians. Citizens of heaven stand out boldly because there is a brilliant difference between citizens of heaven and citizens of this world. These verses remind us that we must live the reality of our heavenly citizenship.
There is good reason why Paul used this citizenship illustration. Philippi was a Roman colony filled with Roman citizens. Roman citizenship was prized in the ancient world. One lived their Roman citizenship in loyalty to the Empire. So also believers were expected to live their heavenly citizenship in loyalty to Christ.
There are clear differences between these who are citizens of heaven and those who are not.
II. What are those differences?
Non-heavenly citizens, opposed the gospel, lived as enemies of the cross of Christ. Thinking it foolishness, many lived for their own pleasure. To use Paul’s words — their thoughts were earthly. This life was all there was for them, all they could see and all they lived for. That was not only true for the Philippians. It is also true our experience a well. How?
We also encounter non-heavenly citizens who are enemies of the cross of Christ. We also feel the hostility of the culture around us. We see that many things this culture values are the opposite of what God values. For example, our culture thinks little of the idea of absolute truth. The idea that Jesus claimed to be the only way to God ruffles feathers in our culture.
There are other clear differences between citizens of heaven and non-citizens. The opposition to our faith may be less intense than it was for the Philippian believers. But it is still there. Our question then is this: “How do you and I live as good citizens of heaven in this world?”
III. How Do We Live As Good Citizens?
How can we be sure we live as citizens of heaven? Let me suggest two things.
First, get closer to those who stand out as citizens of heaven. Remember how Paul phrased it? “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” We are urged to take note of those who live according the pattern set down by the gospel. When you find people who follow that pattern in their lives, stick with them! Get closer to those who stand out as citizens of heaven. Fellowship with them. Develop a friendship network with them.
Of course, these friends are not to be the exclusive group with whom you spend your time. You must develop friendship with non-believers so that they hear the gospel from you and see it in your life. This friendship network serves as a support group for you as you seek to live your heavenly citizenship in this life.
Second, remember your motivation for living your heavenly citizenship in this life. Constantly remember what is at stake: everlasting life! A citizen of heaven always remembers what is at stake for his life and for others. If we forget what’s at stake, complacency replaces faith. If we forget that those who do not hear and receive the gospel are forever lost, we lose our passion to live our citizenship.
Remember these two things. Get closer to those who stand out as citizens of heaven. Keep the motivation alive! (Tim McQuade)
March 18, 2001
Third Sunday in Lent
Come Home!
Isaiah 55:1-9
“I sat awestruck by the magnificence of the symphony”, he said. Tears were in his eyes. All who heard his expressions knew he had been greatly moved. It seemed that his very soul had been touched by this spiritual event. He would never forget how his thoughts and feelings raced through his soul. Every time his mind turned to the experience, it was as though a bit of heaven touched him. He wanted to shout “bravo!” even as he drove along in his car alone. Never again, he thought to himself, will I be so inspired. Surely no one could improve upon Ludwig van Beethoven’s artistry!
As the story goes some years later, he happened across a passage in the Hebrew Scriptures that he never knew was there. He wept and came to terms with Jesus Christ. Strange the passage didn’t even mention Him by name but that didn’t matter. “Wow!” it was even better than Beethoven’s genius. Of course, I mean the gracious invitation to God’s mercy found in Isaiah 55:1-9
I. “Come and have a right relationship with me” (vv. 1-2)
If we are thirsty for spiritual drink, it is available. The waters that will quench our thirst are in great supply. There is no need to languish with a parched mouth and throat. Our God says He never intended for things to be that way. His waters are pure and powerful. They are health-giving and healing. They are beyond the human beings ability to create or copy. Oh, and there is more too!
Precious people, you don’t need money. Put away those new bills. Close your checkbook. Forget about your Visa card. There is no bartering to be done. It’s free! Even as many times as some of us have heard this, often it is hard for us to believe. Money just won’t provide for you what you must have in order for salvation to come to your house.
Spiritual wine and milk are yours. Oh, there is no cost. Why try to put together so many dollars to buy what cannot be bought? Why spend, spend, spend on things that are not genuine? Why work so hard on having things that do not satisfy? Use your common sense. Jesus has nothing to sell, and your efforts to earn salvation are wasted energy. It is so much easier to do things the right way.
II. “Listen and see a miracle take place” (vv. 2-5)
Pay attention to what ultimately counts in all our lives. The richest of fare is yours. Eating what is spiritually good depends on the One in whom we find satisfaction and fulfillment. His name is Jesus the Christ. It is intended that your soul live and not be shriveled up, barely able to function. “Give thanks because My promise goes back to David. That faithful love manifested itself in My Son.
Don’t forget David. He was chosen as My witness, leader and commander. Despite his frailty and sins, he is My son in the flesh. His greatness always looms large not because of his self-sufficiency but because of My sufficiency. Honor him but, of course, do not in any sense worship him. Learn that My dealings are like that. One day is like a thousand years and your immortality is a gift.”
“Be reminded I have spoken to a special people. They are to be an instrument of salvation for the whole world. My Son comes from a rich heritage that I provided centuries before He came among you. The Holy One of Israel cares for all of humanity and seeks that none be lost.” Nations will learn that only the fullness of God’s revelation comes from Jesus the Christ. He is Savior and Lord.
III. “Seek the Lord and know He can be found (vv. 6-9)
God loves us beyond Our comprehension. His heart aches for those who spurn Him. He is near and will always welcome us home. Those deep in their sins are earnestly invited to forsake their evil ways. The evil man and his thoughts to hurt others has access to the Father. His thinking can be pure and undefiled but he must leave his evil ways. He is called upon to turn to his eternal Father, Who longs for him.
Boundless mercy is available. No one can become good enough on his own. Something much more profound is at hand. The great God of the universe offers His pardon free of charge. It is a miracle that many — perhaps most — do not understand. Doesn’t everything have a price-tag on it? Well, maybe the answer is “Yes” and in this case it is humility. It is the admission we must kneel before our Lord.
One of the hardest lessons for us to learn seems to be our thoughts and ways are not His. Only God is all knowing and all powerful. We can never begin knowing that all beginnings and endings are with Him. In fact, He is before any beginning and after all endings, as we measure things. He is of the heavens and we are of the earth. Praise His holy and everlasting name the future is very bright! (Donald Charles Lacey)
March 25, 2001
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Forsake the Old, Receive the New
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
“Oh, sniff the wind and that will tell you what to do”, the old politician said. He had been in politics many years. That which had substance and depth to it didn’t impress him much. In fact, whatever was pragmatic or worked in order to win elections was paramount. Frankly, a great many people seem to live their lives like that. What God thinks or reveals through holy scripture is not given much consideration.
What is really strange about approaching life like this, is everyone yearns for something or someone of substance. Life is brief, to say the least, and to glide along the surface in the long run isn’t very smart. Look around you and you will see many solely interested in what it takes to get along in the world. Often this simply means how can I manage and/or manipulate people to get what I want. Yet study those about you carefully and for a long period of time. The yearning is there, isn’t it? Sniffing the wind to know what to do is not good enough to satisfy our depths.
I. “Let the old go and welcome the new” (vv. 16-17)
I believe there are literally countless numbers among us who are fed up with themselves. It is the same old same old! Their lives are saturated by worldly thoughts and actions. It is a style of living that leaves us impoverished and never satisfied for very long. A newness that promises and delivers a life of hope is desperately wanted. There is the need to become a new being or creation. This is discovered in a single Person.
His name is Jesus the Christ. He wants to be our Savior and Lord. He desires to be with us not only here and now but forever and ever. To be “in Christ” is to be changed into someone always wanting the highest good, even for an enemy. The centrality of Him makes all the difference in this world and the next. The old has gone and the new has come. There is now a striking difference in the way one lives his / her life.
Every serious Christian can tell you about this marvelous manifestation. It is as though the paltry riches and wisdom of the world fade into oblivion. One’s motivations become the big difference. We always seek to do the right thing for all involved. We count on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to show others a newness has come in our lives and we are very grateful. To be sure, others will notice!
II. “Become ministers of reconciliation” (vv. 18-20)
As the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding”. I believe written upon every Christian’s heart is the reality of loving one another. How are others to know we are Christians? By the simple fact we have love for one another. When the world witnesses this often in Our lives, they want it. The reconciliation the whole creation agonized for becomes as possibility. “Peace” becomes more than a cessation of hostilities!
Look into the lives of your parishioners and you will discover a ministry of reconciliation desperately needed. The need is in every aspect of their lives. It may be job, marriage, retirement or any number of other things. A pulling together in a meaningful and fruitful way of living is sought. Precious human beings find all of this a level playing field. The answer is found in Christ who gave Himself totally.
You and I are agents. We are called to be reconcilers for the sake of precious human beings. We dare not go it alone. It is in His strength, guidance and love we succeed. Our responsibility has been clear from the beginning of the Faith. The Father sent Jesus, His Son, to pay the full price. He did just that! We must claim and fully accept this responsibility. To be called to do something is to be equipped.
III. “Gospel’s logic revealed” (v. 21)
Could it be the Father made His own perfect Son become embroiled in sin for our sake? Could it be fallen human beings were given the opportunity of rescue by a sinless One. Of course, the answer is a resounding “Yes” to both questions. Revelation tells us from the time of Adam’s fall a way of escape was being planned for human beings to be saved. The eternal Father of the eternal ages carried out His plan in a methodical fashion.
He who had no sin would open the way for those filled with sin. This was and is the heavenly logic. It was revealed long ago and there really is no secret about it. Christ died that we might have life and have it abundantly. What was drab, degenerate and decadent could become quite the reverse. Humans could become bright, pure and even holy! Happy day when Jesus washed my sins away.
So by the Gospel of Jesus the Christ we are moved from an old and worldly being to a new creation. We are put in the position to be ministers of reconciliation, both laity and clergy. Furthermore, we see clearly the great love of God that reveals He was willing to give even His own Son for our spiritual well-being. May the angels sing and we sing with them for this privileged place in His Kingdom! (Donald Charles Lacy)
April 1, 2001
Fifth Sunday in Lent
The Upward Call
Philippians 3:4b-14
One thing I’m certain that all of us in this world possess is a desire to be satisfied. And often, to our own demise, we choose what the author of Hebrews calls the “passing pleasures of sin” to satiate us.
Whether it is pride or wealth, popularity or lust, or whatever your favorite sin, we are often found down on our knees drinking from the pool of worldly desires. And we believe our thirst will be quenched, so we return again and again.
As our text exhorts us today, there is nothing in this world that can fill our God-given hunger except God in Christ Jesus.
I. Putting confidence in the flesh (vv. 4b-6)
During the time of Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, there was a great danger that Christianity in Philippi would be debased into a religion of Jewish ritualism. Paul is arguing with these Judaizers using his life as the lesson. He says that “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more” (v. 4b). And he wasn’t kidding!
Paul was very popular in his day. He was a man of great social and religious status prior to his conversion. For those tempted to place their trust in themselves and there obedience to the law, Paul would have been an ideal example. But, as Paul will argue, it wasn’t enough.
II The surpassing value of Christ (vv. 7-11)
Paul understood the foundation of Christianity and the only thing that could satisfy the longings of his soul — “knowing Christ Jesus” (v. 8). There was no accomplishment or position that would fill this desire. In fact Paul classified all his previous merits as “rubbish”, or as the King James translates it, as “dung” compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ.
Paul had no righteousness of his own apart from the righteousness imputed to him by Jesus, and he wanted nothing more then to rest in that righteousness. The law points out our sin, only God can forgive it.
II. Press on (vv. 12-14)
Our eyes ought to be fixed on the One who can forgive us of our sins and empower us to live in freedom. None of us have lived perfect lives, and we’re bound to fail again and again. Yet we’re encouraged as Paul was to forget those failures, and even those accomplishments that might create sparks of self-righteousness; we’re to leave them at the cross and press on. We’re to press on toward a more worthy goal than any thing this world can offer, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Have you found the only One that can truly fill the longings of your heart? Do you see Him as being of surpassing value? Are you pressing on toward the upward call? (Jonathan Kever)
April 8, 2001
Palm Sunday
The Attitude of Servanthood
Philippians 2:5-11
Wafting in the air toward the city of Jerusalem comes the sounds of joy on what we now call Palm Sunday. The road from Bethany becomes packed with palms waving, shouting, singing, excited pilgrims journeying to the city for Passover. They have seen Jesus riding into the city and anticipate his time had arrived to become King and throw out the hated Romans. This expression of joy is a forerunner to that moment in their minds when Herod would abdicate the throne and Jesus will have the crown placed on his head. A moment when the Romans retreat and rush from the city in fear and trembling.
Their shouts of joy would soon turn to a volume of jeers. Much like the baseball player who hits a homer to tie the game hears the shouts of accolades from the crowd, but when he strikes out to lose the game he hears boos from the same crowd.
The Jews did not understand that Jesus had not come to seize the Romans’ political authority. Rather, Christ came to snatch away Satan’s authority over their spiritual lives! He did not come to be crowned with a gold crown by the political and religious leaders of Israel in an exalted position. No, he came to be crowned by thorns, robed in humility and self-emptied himself in the form of a suffering servant and limited himself of His holy glory so that he might come in the likeness of man to die for them and us!
Paul writing to the Philippians says to the believers of his day and to all believers that “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).
What is that attitude? Servanthood! Service does not come through arrogance and self-grandeur, but through humility and obedience.
I. The attitude of servanthood is real. (v. 7)
Paul uses the word morphe which means constant or never changing. Jesus was not play acting, but genuine in his appearance. Christ was really and truly man. He was so unlike the Greek or Roman gods who appeared as humans in the mythological stories who kept their divine privileges. He became genuinely human — real. So real that he hurt when they beat him at the end of his life and cried out in agony on the cross and died an authentic death!
Genuineness dominates servanthood. You cannot say one thing and act another. Ignoring the hurting, neglected, helpless of the world on a physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual level cannot be a part of the believer’s life. Genuine concern leads us to sacrifice of time, talent and treasure to redeem the lost and lift the hopeless from their slums of life.
What the world cries for from the Christian is to be real. No phonies allowed!
II. The Attitude of Servanthood is Humility, (v. 8)
Self-exaltation must be replaced with self-renunciation. Humility is not a desire to dominate but to help others.
Patrick M. Morley wrote of Christ’s desire for Christians. “Spiritual excellence is not ascending the ladder of leadership to greatness. It is about descending the ladder of humility to servanthood…. His goal for you is servanthood, not stardom…. His love for the Lord Jesus becomes such an intense fire that he abandons all desire to be liked, to do a good job, to have a winning way, to be a great man of God. He loses interest in who holds first place.”1
Humility’s icon is John the Baptist who said, “He must increase, I must decrease.” Is that your attitude?
III. The attitude of servanthood — obedience, (v. 8)
A children’s Sunday School class was studying the Lord’s Prayer and the teacher asked what the students thought of the phrase, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Several of the children responded with their answers. The teacher turned to one little girl and asked, “How do you think our Father’s will is done in heaven?” She responded, “It is done right away!” So should it be on earth. Let’s not argue with God, but do His will “right away.”
“If humility, obedience, and self-renunciation were the supreme characteristic of the life of Jesus Christ, then they must also be the hallmarks of the Christian, for the Christian must even be as his Lord. Christian greatness and Christian fellowship alike depend on the renunciation of self, and are destroyed by the exaltation of self. Selfishness, self-seeking and self-display destroy our likeness to Christ and our fellowship with each other.”2 (Derl Keefer)
1Patrick M. Morley, Walking With Christ in the Details of Life, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), p. 128.
2William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1957), p. 47.
April 15, 2001
Easter
A Case of Mistaken Identity
John 20:1-18
I don’t know what possessed me to do it! The truth is I love a great joke and enjoy playing pranks on people. I had been at the mall with my wife. She was shopping and I had sat at a restaurant in the mall working on a sermon and after finishing up I decided to try and find my wife. Entering a shoe store dressed in my suit and carrying an attache case one of the lady clerks asked if she could help me.
Bored and wanting a little humor to liven my life I said, “I’m from the I. R. S. and am here to audit the books.” Thinking she would laugh at me, I was surprised when her eyes widened and she excitedly said that she would have to get the manager and began her way quickly to the back. Instantly I realized my joke wasn’t a joke to her and I hurriedly followed her and stopped her from getting the manager. I lamely explained my sense of humor (or lack thereof). Somehow she didn’t see the humor in my “fun”. Fortunately she didn’t call security. I realized later that impersonating an I. R. S. official isn’t taken humorously by the I. R. S. people. The clerk had seriously mistaken my identity.
The scripture text describes Mary Magdalene’s mistaken identity of Jesus. She didn’t expect to see him and she thought he was the gardener (v. 15).
On this Easter Sunday, don’t let it be the case of mistaken identity. Know the real Jesus.
I. Jesus identifies with life.
Mary stood at the foot of the cross watching Jesus die. She heard his cry, “It is finished”… and watched as the Roman soldier pierced her Lord’s side with a spear and saw the sudden flow of blood and water… listened as the centurion exclaimed, “Surely he was the son of God.” She knew he was dead.
Now standing in the garden in front of the rock tomb that was to have encased her fallen leader, she weeps. Thinking that someone had come in the middle of the night and stolen his body she is heartbroken. This is the final insult! Someone asks, “Woman, why are you crying?” Mistaking the identity of Jesus for the gardener she replies, and asks that he tell her where he has taken the body.
He calls her name, “Mary.” Instant recognition. Instant exclamation, “Rabboni,” “Teacher.” She now knows the true identity of the one who has engaged her in conversation. It is Jesus. He is alive! Life’s genesis for eternity has begun because Jesus has brought life on this resurrection morning.
“Coming up out of the depths of death, He (Jesus) has announced to all who are gathered here in this life on earth: ‘It’s OK; it’s safe. You can enter into death, into the darkness and the unknown. It’s safe because I have checked it out. It has not been victorious over me. I have overcome it. I will be with you in death even as I have been with you in life.”1
II. Jesus identifies with light.
All the accounts of this incident relate that Mary goes early in the morning, but John adds the detail that it was “still dark” (v. 1). Rodney Whitacre writes, “Earlier the image of darkness symbolized the period of deadly conflict with the prince of this world, but now Jesus has been victorious. So if this darkness at the tomb is symbolic, it would reflect Mary’s condition…This chapter shows the great light breaking in on a series of disciples who are in various forms of darkness.”2
What brings darkness to your life? Emptiness? Loneliness? Frustration? Hatred? Hopelessness? Which of these envelops you in a shroud of pain?
When Jesus spoke Mary’s name — hope returned. As long as there is life there is hope for genuine life. Jesus can help us to contribute value into a world destitute of meaningful value. He longs to bring us companionship and purpose. That can only happen if he is alive! Christ longs to resurrect your life and mold it into his likeness. Choose life by choosing Jesus.
III. Jesus identifies with eternity.
Dr. Robert Leslie Holmes reported a true story of an adventuresome young man who went to Alaska’s remotest area to find himself among the natural mysteries of the region. He bought 1,400 pounds of provision and 500 rolls of film and several notebooks to record his adventures, experiences and thoughts.
His writing was exhilarating and exciting. Days passed as he commented on the beauty of the magnificent scenery. His pictures documented the splendor. Suddenly one day the whole tenor of his writing changed. He made an awful discovery. A detail foolishly overlooked. He had failed to make provisions for his return to civilization. He was stranded with no way to communicate with the outside world.
In frightening words, he recorded his fears after eating his last meal. He wrote, “I should have used more foresight. I should have planned for my departure. I’m so sorry.” He then records in his diary the fears and unquenchable hunger pains. A search team finally located his emaciated, frozen body many months later.3
Christ came to give us the eternal escape as we exit this life. Only Jesus Christ can bring universal satisfaction to life’s eternal yearning. His death on the cross was the prelude to his resurrection and victory over death, hell and the grave. He has led the way and because of this we too can have victory over death, hell and the grave. All one has to do is ask for forgiveness of sin, believe in the Christ of eternity and receive him into life — now! (Deryl Keefer)
1Hewitt Jones, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988), p. 140
2Rodney A. Whitacre, John, The JVP N.T. Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 471-472.
3Robert Leslie Holmes, Lifelines (Belfast, Ireland: Ambassador – Emerald, Int’l., 2000), p. 161-162.
April 12, 2001
Second Sunday after Easter
Blessed Are They…
John 20:19-31.
I recently attended the funeral of my wife’s uncle. This is the fifth one in our family in the past two years. As her uncle’s pastor shared, I was reminded that, as Christians, our death is merely a passing from the earthly to the heavenly. And though there is a great temptation to doubt the providential care of God when tragedy strikes, we ought to stay focused on the promises of our Lord. However, I understand the difficulty in doing so when everything around you seems to be falling apart. And so it was for the disciples, especially a disciple named Thomas, in our text today.
I. Peace be with you. (vv. 19-23)
We find the disciples in verse 19 hiding out from the Jewish authorities. They’re overcome with fear for their lives. The One whom they believed to be the Messiah was recently crucified on a cross, and now they’re worried they’ll be next. But as you know, the prophecies of old were fulfilled and Jesus was raised from the dead. And He is here now appearing to the disciples.
I can’t even imagine the look on the disciples’ faces when they heard the words “Peace be with you” (v. 19) and looked up to see Jesus. The text says that they rejoiced when they saw Him, and I think that’s probably an understatement! Jesus again says to the disciples “Peace be with you” (v.21).
This is quite a loaded phrase, for the peace Jesus was speaking of, though a common greeting among the Jews, was from the mouth of God. These words calmed their anxieties and stilled their hearts. We too can hear the words of Jesus during troubled times, for the peace of God extends to all those who will placed their trust in Him.
II. I’ll believe it when I see it! (vv. 24-25)
The text tells us in verse 24 that Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus had appeared to them. Now Thomas is often not given much credit because of his questioning. We’ve all probably heard the expression: “he’s a doubting Thomas.”
When I look back on the many trials in my own life though, I can easily empathize with Thomas here. I don’t know how many times I’ve said in my heart to God: “I’ll believe it when I see it.” And I challenge you to remember your own shortcomings when those around you are going through difficulties so that your words are gentle and encouraging.
III. I’ll believe it when I don’t see it! (vv. 26-31)
Praise God that He doesn’t deal with us in the same manner that we often deal with one another! Jesus was gracious enough to visit the disciples again with Thomas present, and He said to Thomas: “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here with your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing” (v. 27). Thomas response was one of faith and worship. This was indeed Jesus his Lord and God.
Jesus response was not a condemnation of Thomas’ doubt, but an exhortation to us that we who have not seen and yet have believed are blessed. This chapter concludes with the writer, John’s theme: “but these have been written so that you may believe” (v. 31). Have you placed your trust in Christ as your savior? And to those of us who call ourselves disciples, are we living a life characterized by faith, even amidst tribulation? We have a blessed opportunity to place our faith in the Unseen to carry us through anything we might face in this world. For the God of peace is with us. (Jonathan Kever)
April 29, 2001
Third Sunday after Easter
Will You Believe?
Acts 9:1-6
I don’t know about you, but when I look back on my conversion I don’t see an event quite like the one described in our text today. Since I placed my trust in Christ at an early age, my life didn’t take quite as drastic a turn as Saul’s either. But what I do have in common with the apostle is that my sins were forgiven — all my sins, big and small. And I have the freedom and opportunity to continue walking in faithful obedience.
I. Permission to sin please (vv. 1-2)
We enter the scene with Saul, who is more well known by his changed name, Paul, asking the high priest for permission to arrest followers of the Way. “The Way” is what the disciples called their new movement “emphasizing their belief that Jesus would lead His followers to the Kingdom of God.”1 And it was this belief in Jesus that Saul hated with every ounce of his being.
Though we may not have been breathing threats and murder against Christians prior to our conversion, we were in the same state as Saul. God’s word says that apart from Christ we are enemies of Him (Rom. 5:10), dead in our sin (Eph. 2:1) and children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). We have all fallen short of God’s glory and are in need, just as Saul was, of a savior.
II. The road to Damascus (vv. 3-4)
With the blessing of the high priest Paul began his journey to Damascus. As he approached the city, he was stopped in his tracks by a blinding light from heaven. Paul fell to the ground and heard the voice of God saying: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Are you listening to the voice of God’s Word calling out to you, revealing your sin? The journey of life is unpredictable, and even a full live on this earth is but speck in view of eternity. When the Light begins to illumine the dark places in your heart, what will your response be?
III. Saul’s conversion (vv. 5-6)
Saul calls out to the voice asking it to declare itself. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” the voice responded. At this moment the blinders were removed, and Saul awoke to the reality of who Jesus is: the Way, the Truth and the Life. The God he was attempting so serve had really been the object of his persecution. And what could he do but humbly repent and believe?
What can any of us do but believe? That is the essence of the Gospel. We were dead in our sin, enemies of God, unable to bridge the great chasm with our own righteousness. What can any of us do but believe? And that is exactly what the Lord Jesus is calling us to do. Will you heed His words and respond in faith? (Jonathan Kever)
1Bruce L. Shelley. Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd Edition. (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1995), p. 16-17.
Sermon Briefs in this issue provided by: Tim McQuade, Pastor, Highland Presbyterian Church, New Castle, TN; Donald Charles Lacy, Pastor, Yorktown United Methodist, Yorktown, IN; Derl Keefer, Pastor, Three Rivers Church of the Nazarene, Three Rivers, Ml; Jonathan Kever, Managing Editor, Preaching.

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