Third Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2000
What Jesus’ Followers Must Do
The Gospels tell us that Jesus called His disciples and taught them for three years. Read His Sermon on the Mount to see an example of His master teaching (Mat. 5-7). His disciples saw Jesus perform miracles which illustrated His teachings and showed that the Kingdom of God was coming on earth. Near the close of His ministry the disciples passed their oral exam: They were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God and Messiah.
The disciples ate the Passover meal with Jesus in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, and He instituted the Lord’s Supper on Thursday. Then they went to the Garden of Gethsemane outside the Jerusalem city wall. There Jesus prayed and was betrayed by Judas. He was crucified and buried. On the third day:
I. Jesus Appeared To Them In The Upper Room.
Imagine this remarkable scene. The eleven disciples were inside the locked room on the First Easter evening. Jesus suddenly appeared and said, “Peace to you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking He must be a ghost since Jesus did not enter through the locked door.
We find Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Great Commission to His eleven disciples (Mat. 28:16-20).
1. “Go and make disciples of all nations.” He taught them and us to go and share our faith with the unsaved and the unchurched.
2. “Baptize them in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” We do this on a profession of faith and as an act of dedication to the Lord Jesus.
3. “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This too, is a significant part of our ministry in obedience to Christ’s Command. Jesus promised to be with them and with us to the end of time.
In Luke 24:49 we see that Jesus promised the eleven apostles the Power of the Holy Spirit “from on high.” That promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. The word apostle means “one sent.” Our modern word for it is “Missionary.” This unique appearance of the Risen Christ is proof of His resurrection, the significance of prophetic Scripture and His Commission for His disciples and His Church.
The Risen Christ convinced them that He was real. He invited them to look at Him and touch Him. His body was resurrected from the dead. Then He ate a roasted fish with them, as He had often done before. They witnessed the reality of their Risen Lord. Their doubt turned to assurance, their fear to faith and their grief to joy!
II. Jesus Taught Them The Meaning Of The Scriptures.
He told them that the written Word of God had been fulfilled (v.44). The Jewish Scripture had three parts: The Law of Moses, the Prophecy of the prophets and the Psalms. The revelation of these Scriptures were fulfilled by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who came to show us the Father’s love.
III. Jesus Commissioned the Eleven Disciples.
He told them to preach the Gospel to all nations (v. 47). They were to invite people to repent of their sins and receive the assurance of divine forgiveness. That is what Peter preached at the Temple in Jerusalem, “Turn to God, give up your sins and you will be forgiven” (Acts 3:12-19). This is due to Jesus’ atoning death on our behalf. (Al McEachern)
Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 14, 2000
The Lord Is My Pastor
I. Jesus Said, “I am the Good Shepherd” (v. 11)
This is one of Jesus’ famous “I Am” sayings. The Latin word for shepherd is pastor. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock. In His arm He will gather the lambs, and carry them in His bosom and gently lead those who are with young” (Is. 40:11).
Psalm 100 declared, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” He is the great Shepherd/King David wrote of in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd….”
One autumn Sunday morning I drove into Western Kentucky to preach. My young daughter saw something we had never seen in Georgia: a green hill filled with a flock of sheep. I said, “Look Suzanne, look at the sheep!” She asked, “Where is Jesus?” Every picture she had seen of sheep also depicted Jesus.
Jesus said that He knows us and we know Him, as Jesus knows the Heavenly Father (vv. 14-15). There are 5,767,774,000 souls on earth today – and He knows us all. Jesus knows us, loves us and He laid down His life for the salvation of His sheep (vv. 11,15). He stays with His flock and does not dessert us (vv. 12-13). He gives us abundant life (v. 10).
II. “I Have Other Sheep” (v. 16)
When you enter the front entrance of Westminster Abbey in London you will see the grave of missionary David Livingston on the floor. He is buried there and his heart is buried in Africa. This text is engraved on Livingston’s tomb. This is a missionary text for God’s purpose is to bring all mankind to faith in Jesus as our Savior.
Across the centuries the Gospel has spread across the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia, South America and North America. Thank the Lord for those who brought the Gospel to our land. Today believers include members of many nationalities. “Other Sheep” have heard Jesus’ voice and become His followers.
There is a wonderful text of Christian unity in this passage, “There shall be one flock, one Shepherd” (v. 16). Our unity is not political, racial or linguistic; it is spiritual, based on our common faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ. He calls us to faith, to follow Him and to witness to others.
III. Jesus’ Sacrifice and Resurrection (vv. 17-18)
The Father loves Jesus and sent Him to reveal His love for us. Jesus Voluntarily sacrificed His life on the cross to atone for our sin (pay our sin debt) and redeem us.
Jesus was charged by the Father to die for us and He had the power to take His life again. He was raised from the dead and appeared to more than 500 of His disciples and then returned to heaven. He is present with us today as our Shepherd (pastor) in the person of God the Holy Spirit. We enjoy His care, love, and protection. He knows us and loves us, according to the Scripture. We are to share the good news of the Gospel with “other sheep.” We are all members of the “one flock” with “one Shepherd,” Jesus the Christ. (Al McEachern)
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 21, 2000
Jesus The True Vine Bears Fruit
I. “I Am the True Vine” (vv. 1-3)
The grape vine was an ancient symbol of Israel. It was the national emblem minted on Jewish coins in the Maccabean time. The prophet Jeremiah called Israel God’s choice vine which had gone wild (Jer. 2:2; 21; Is. 5:1-7). In Jesus’ time the Jerusalem Temple had a bronze door with a golden vine on it. It had branches and clusters of grapes. Jesus said that the Father is our Vinedresser and that we are expected to bear fruit.
II. “Abide In Me” (v. 4)
In the New Testament Greek the word meno is translated “abide” in English. We are to remain in constant faith in Jesus’ love and grace. We should rely on Him daily, as a branch draws it’s life from the vine. This is a command for us to be obedient disciples of Christ.
Jesus expects us to “bear much fruit” in our Christian life. This is beautifully described in Galatians 5:22-23. It’s characteristics are: love, joy, and peace. We are to treat others with patience, kindness, and goodness. Personally, we are to be faithful, gentle, and to exercise self-control. We witness to our faith — the fruit of a Christian is another Christian.
Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (v. 5). If we lack spiritual roots we will wither in a time of crisis. There will be no peace in our world or in our lives apart from the Prince of Peace. Cut off from Christ the Vine, we will wither and be thrown away (v. 6). If we do not use our opportunities for Christian service, we can lose them.
III. The Results of Abiding in Christ (vv. 7-8)
Jesus promises that as we abide in Him and obey His teachings, He will answer our prayers (v. 7). We are to pray in keeping with His will, as we discern the mind of Christ. Remember that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “Thy will be done.”
Our lives are to be Christ-centered. He said that when we bear much fruit, the Father is glorified, and we prove that we are His disciples (v. 8). Our faithful service and spiritual fruit-bearing demonstrate our love for Christ. We show our love for Him by living in obedience to His will and serving to meet the needs of others. Our stewardship of life is a measure of our love. It is a source of spiritual joy: Jesus’ joy is in us and our joy is complete (v. 22). Jesus is the True Vine and we are His fruit-bearing branches. To God be the glory. (Al McEachern)
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 28, 2000
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
Friendship has a long and significant history, including in the Bible. Abraham was called “The Friend of God” (Jam. 2:22). “The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with a friend” (Ex. 32:12). Proverbs teaches us that “A man who would have fiends must show himself friendly” (18:24). The Greek philosopher Cicero called a friend “our second self.”
Once Harvard University conducted a survey of 60,000 American families. They found that the most successful families had five or more friends. The Quakers must focus on this Scripture passage for they call themselves “The Society of Friends.”
I. Jesus’ Commandment for Us
He told His disciples and us to “Love one another”(vv. 12,17). Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends.” That is what Jesus did for us. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote, “The most transforming influences in life are personal friendships.” Our parents, teachers, mates, and friends have enriched our life and blessed us.
II. Jesus’ Self-disclosure
He said, “I have shown you everything I heard from the Father” (v. 15). His heart is open to us, breaking down the barriers which separate us. These barriers include social, sexual, economic, and racial barriers.
Jesus no longer calls us servants, but friends. The Greek word doulos means someone who is hired for help or slaves. Jesus said, “I call you friends.” That is a high compliment to us and it is a significant gift. Though it is undeserved because of our sin, it is to be received with gratitude. “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). Leslie Weatherhead, a famous English Methodist preacher, said that Christianity is accepting the friendship of Christ.
The New Testament word for love of friends is philia. Philadelphia means “brotherly love” and philanthropy means the love of mankind.
A Scottish pastor went to visit an elderly man who was ill. He noticed that there was an empty chair beside his bed. He said to him, “I see that I am not your only visitor.” The man replied, “Ah, that! My pastor told me to sit before a chair and talk with Jesus as a friend.”
III. Jesus Chose Us to Bear Fruit (v. 16)
The Church is the family and fellowship of friends. Dr. D. M. Baillie, a Scottish theologian, contended that the Church is a huge circle holding hands with Christ in the center. We are included in the circle of faith and we reach out, caring with an inclusive attitude, to welcome others into the circle. We are a congregation of friends — the friends of Christ.
In the fifth century a Celtic Christian missionary evangelist named Columba took a group with him from Ireland to the Island of Iona off the coast of Scotland. From that base they went into the northern Britain area sharing the Christian faith and winning pagan Picts to the Gospel and to believe in Christ as the Son of God. St. Columba called the new converts in Scotland “soul friends.”
In this passage of Scripture Jesus told us to “love one another” We are friends in Christ obeying His command. He demonstrated His great love for us by giving His life on the cross for our redemption. What a friend we have in Jesus! (Al McEachern)
June 4, 2000
Really Open Minds
Calling someone “closed minded” is one of the worst insults you can direct at a person. To be closed minded is to deliberately choose to ignore information which may be true because it may challenge previously held ideas. Unfortunately Christians sometimes fall into this category because they fear some “new” truth will challenge important Biblical truths. In reality, Jesus “opens” the minds of Christians to the revelation of His truth.
Luke 24 tells us before Jesus ascended into Heaven, he opened his Disciples minds so they could understand the Scriptures. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus “breathed on them and said to Them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)” There are things in the Bible a person cannot truly believe unless God does such a work.
I remember reading Ernest Hemingway’s story, “The Short, Happy Life of Frances Macomber” in college. My English professor strongly disagreed with my interpretation of the story. I was so sure I was right, I wished out loud Hemingway could walk in and settle the matter.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to ask an author anytime you have a question about the meaning of a text? God gives us the Holy Spirit and opens our minds so the author of Scriptures can be with us, interpreting texts for us, answering our ques-tions, and giving us the faith to believe.
Once our minds have been “enlightened (Heb. 6:4),” we are not finished. Paul, in the Epistle for today, prays for “a spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:15)” for the Ephesians–and for us. Most prayer requests offered in church prayer meetings are for the sick. While these needs are important, Paul’s first named prayer requests are usually of thanksgiving or for spiritual growth. Our prayers for healing would have more power if we focused on these requests!
Our minds need continual openings by God’s Spirit as we grow and learn. No one understands all of the Scriptures; all of us need to continue reading and growing.
God uses different means to open our minds. Sometimes He reveals things to us while we are reading and meditating on the Bible, and other times He speaks to us in prayer. God speaks to us, opening our minds, through others (hymns and hymn writers, Sunday School teachers, scholars and commentaries, and even preachers!). God has used my children to teach me things from the Bible.
When I was in seminary, a young professor preached in chapel and ridiculed some devotional writers who lacked the highest academic degrees. “I don’t read anything unless the author has a Ph.D.”
I prayed, “God, if I will ever be that full of myself, stop me now from getting any more degrees!”
Later I was told some senior professors rebuked this young professor’s arrogance and demonstrated how God can use a very humble, uneducated person (like Simon Peter in Acts 4:13) to teach even the most educated.
The important thing to remember is if we feed regularly on God’s Word, and we pray for continued growth, we need not close our minds to other sources of truth for fear of contamination. God will lead us in truth.
Thus the real “closed mind” is a person whose mind has yet to be opened by faith to the Scriptures, though I wouldn’t suggest pointing this fact out to skeptics. It would be better to simply listen with an open mind to what they have to say, express some appreciation for their ideas, and then let them know what God has given you the faith to understand and believe through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Bill Groover)
Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 11, 2000
The Power of a Testimony
1 John 5:9-13
Today’s text introduces us to the power, and the dangers, of human testimony.
Human testimony, or witness as some Bibles translate marturia, refers here to an explanation of ultimate truth. We have many human witnesses offering us various theologies and philosophies, each attempting to lead us to ultimate truth. Others offer interpretations of ethics, interpreting what is right and wrong. Some even deny you can know what is ultimately true or right. So how do we know which witness to trust?
John tells us the testimony of God is greater than that of humans. It would be hard for anyone to argue the truth of this statement. The only problem is, unless the Heavens open and God speaks as he did when Jesus was baptized, how do we know when God is speaking? How do we sort out God’s true testimony from the books that claim to record conversations with the Creator?
To the believer, the answer is easy. God has spoken in the Bible, and in the life of Jesus as recorded in the Bible. But when you tell a skeptic, “The Bible is God’s word,” he or she may remind you Moslems say the same thing about the Koran, and the Buddhists say the same about their holy writ, and so on.
To add to your challenge, the skeptic may know of others who have claimed to preach the truth of God as he has revealed it to them. Preachers like David Koresh in Waco and James Jones in Guayana have made our tasks more difficult.
After Charles Barkley retired from professional basketball, he said in an interview people should listen to him and respect his opinions because he was a highly paid athlete. While his ability to play ball may not give his opinions any credibility among most people, it will among some. Unfortunately he will have an influence.
So, in today’s “marketplace of ideas,” how can you objectively prove the Bible is God’s superior testimony?
We do it through our testimonies. Most personal evangelism training programs begin by teaching the learner how to share their testimony of what God has done in their lives. The person to whom you are talking may deny they believe the Bible, but rarely will they deny what has happened in your life.
That is, assuming your life reflects God’s changing power. Samuel Johnson quoted Sir Frances Bacon saying the difference in a testimony and an argument is the difference in a long bow and a crossbow. Any finger can release the arrow from a crossbow, just as any person, regardless of morals, can quote an argument. But the power and accuracy of an arrow released by a long bow depends upon the strength and skill of the hand that draws the bow, just as the strength of your testimony depends on the character of your life.
Only the Holy Spirit can give someone the faith needed to believe the Bible is true. You cannot convince a skeptic a great fish swallowed a prophet. But you can tell someone, “I once felt separated from God, but now I feel him present in my life.” “I once felt guilty for my sinfulness, but now I feel forgiven.” “Before I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I had no control over my life. Now I feel his help.” It is very hard to argue against your personal experience since you are the expert!
The power of your testimony to convince will come from the change in your life brought about by the power of the testimony of God described in this text. People must be able to see Christ in you. (Bill Groover)
June 18, 2000
The Holy Spirit’s Ministry
John 16: 4b-15
How easy it is to look at distress in our lives and allow it to consume us. Perhaps we’re struggling financially, or maybe there’s conflict between you and a friend. It may even be the recent loss of a loved one. Whatever the circumstance, we often find ourselves focusing on our present sufferings.
What God has in store is clouded by the weight of our present concerns. And so it was with the disciples on this day as they listened to the words of their Master.
As He told them of their suffering to come and of His departure, the Scriptures say that their hearts were filled with sorrow (v. 6). All they heard at this moment was that Jesus was leaving. They didn’t yet understand the eternal purpose of Jesus’ time on earth. And they didn’t understand, as He was about to explain, that His leaving would be to their advantage.
I. The Coming of The Spirit (v. 7)
What was the advantage? Christ would send to them the Helper, the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Spirit upon the Church was dependent on Christ’s departure. After the ascension, Acts depicts the coming of the Spirit during the feast of Pentecost as the birth of the Church. The Helper came like a mighty rushing wind filling those who had put their trust in Christ.
The advantage of the coming of the Holy Spirit was realized in the hearts of the disciples as they ministered with great boldness and assurance and with the authority of God’s word.
What a different picture we have of the disciples in Acts than in the Gospels.
II. The Spirit’s Ministry of Conviction (vv. 8-11)
As He shared with the disciples, Jesus explained that The Spirit would convict the world “concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.” (v. 8).
The Spirit’s ministry convinces the non-Believer of his or her responsibility as a sinner and the consequences thereof. We observe at Pentecost a situation where conviction took place in the hearts of those listening to Peter as he preached his Spirit-filled message.
In verse 36 of Acts chapter two Peter proclaims to the Jews: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified.” According to the next verse the listener’s hearts were pierced by the words of Peter. Because of the Spirit’s intervention, their sin had become evident and their response was repentance.
III. The Spirit’s Ministry of Exaltation (vv. 12-15)
Jesus also tells the disciples that the Spirit of truth would seek to glorify Him. This is the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit.
As our eyes are opened wide to the truth of our sin and we stand naked before the justice of God, the Spirit offers us the righteousness of Jesus Christ to clothe ourselves. The Spirit illumines the Word in order that we might understand that Christ stands victorious over sin and the ruler of this world.
Just as the Spirit glorified Christ at Pentecost, He continues to exalt Him today. To our advantage, the Spirit works to glorify Jesus in order that we might receive the gift of salvation by grace through faith and walk in humble obedience to Him. (Jonathan Kever)
June 25, 2000
Living According To The Spirit
Often while journeying through the Christian life we find ourselves standing at a crossroad. Will we choose obedience to our Savior or the passing pleasures of sin? To our dismay, many times we choose to travel down the smoothly paved road of sin. And we end up asking the same question as the apostle Paul: “Why do I do what I don’t want to do?”
I think the answer to this question is that sin is set in front of obedience on the table of life, and we have to reach over the cake to get to the steak. Our passage today exhorts us to do just that — to reach over the cake and take the road less traveled. It reminds us of where our obligations lie and consequently, where they don’t.
I. No Obligation To The Flesh (vv. 12-13a)
We may observe from these verses one of the great blessings of salvation — we are under no obligation to live according to the flesh. In chapter six we read Paul’s explanation this way: “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart… and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (vv. 17-18). Our nature and our obligations have changed. Sin and death no longer bind us; we have been made alive in Christ.
II. Living According To The Spirit (vv. 13b-14)
As the redeemed, we now put off our former way of life and live according to the Spirit. This isn’t to say that the flesh isn’t attractive at times. We’ve all stood at the crossroads and made wrong turns. However our lives are no longer characterized by the flesh but by the Spirit. We live life in a process of transformation, of sanctification.
Much of this process involves rejecting conformity to the patterns of this world and embracing a life according to the will of our Father. And since we live according to the Spirit, our lives produce the fruit of the Spirit.
III. Living According To Our Positions (vv. 15-17)
How common it is these days for the Church to forget its position before God. Paul reminds us that we have not received a spirit of slavery but a spirit of adoption as sons. And if indeed we are children of the most high God, then we are fellow heirs with Christ.
There is a price we pay by living according to the Spirit. At times that price looks far too costly for many. But is it? Those who reject the great gift of salvation may perhaps seal for themselves a life of worldly comfort, but they pay a price, and the cost of fulfilling their selfish desires is far greater, eternally and infinitely greater.
But the word of God comforts those who have rejected the flesh to live according to the Spirit: “…indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (v. 17). May we, as children and fellow heirs of our Lord, adopt the attitude of Paul in the very next verse: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Jonathan Kever)
Sermon briefs in this issue are provided by: Al McEachern, Staff Associate Clergy, Proactive Evangelism Ministries, Inc., Douglasville, GA; Bill Groover, Pastor, East Hill Baptist Church, Tallahassee, FL; Jonathan Kever, Managing Editor, Preaching
Third Sunday of Easter