Monthly Archives: May 2010

Bookends for the Sermon on the Mount

I get the opportunity to preach again tomorrow. Here is the manuscript I wrote to help me prepare.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

Salt and Light

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Matthew 6:19–24 (NIV)

Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

I woke up really early one morning a couple of weeks ago and the verse from Matthew 6 about storing up treasure in heaven was in my mind. I sat there for a while thinking about those verses and why did God wake me up this early to think about them.  When I was asked to preach this morning, those verses were the first to come to mind.  So I read and reread this section thinking about what it meant and then I backed up and looked through Matthew up to this point to get the context.


The Gospel of John 3:22-36

We are now studying John 3:22-36. There are a couple of things going on at the same time here. Jesus and His disciples are outside of Judea and they are learning from Jesus and baptizing. At this same time John is at Aenon with his disciples. John’s disciples get into an argument with a certain Jew. We are not told who this certain Jew is or what exactly the argument about ceremonial washing was referring to.

I think we can safely assume that this argument was about baptism. This section starts off talking about baptism and immediately after we hear of the argument it goes back to baptism. So my guess is a Jewish person, probably a Pharisee like Nicodemus is trying to understand why Jesus and John are baptizing Jews. It also should be mentioned that Jesus was not baptizing himself but His disciples were (John 4:2).

So after this discussion John’s students go back to him and they are worried. They are afraid that this man Jesus is going to get a bigger following than John. I think today’s application on this is the church and it’s constant concern for other churches getting more members. I have heard church members talk about not wanting to work with a church on something because they are afraid they may lose some members. What we must realize is that God sees one church and one denomination. It should thrill us when we hear about a church growing. The angels are throwing a party so why aren’t we(Luke 15:10).

If you read the rest of this section with that in mind it will help you see that each of us are just a part of announcing that Christ has come. We should seek to be humbled and made small as we proclaim this news to the lost. We should be thrilled for the groom (Christ) when we hear of another coming to Him. Be it an individual or a growing church.


Friday’s Links 05/14/2010

Donald Whitney has an article that talks about how we can break down barriers with six simple words “How can I pray for you.”

Over and over I’ve seen one simple question open people’s hearts to hear the gospel. Until I asked this question, they showed no interest in spiritual matters. But then after six words—only seventeen letters in English—I’ve seen people suddenly begin to weep and their resistance fall. The question is, “How can I pray for you?”

Jim Hamilton asks are you ready to go to jail? A question that truly pastors today need to ask So Are You Ready to Go to Jail?

That’s what my sweet wife said to me yesterday morning: “So are you ready to go to jail?” I haven’t done anything illegal, but the meaning of the word “illegal” seems to be shifting.


The Gospel of John 3:16-21

This is the second part of my post on Nicodemus, If you haven’t read the first part yet, I recommend you go back and read it first to get a proper context of what is going on here. We will be talking about John 3:16-21 which is the conclusion of Jesus teaching Nicodemus. John 3:16 is also probably the best known verse in the entire bible. So remember we are looking at these verses at the same time that we are looking at the story of Nicodemus. Keep in mind Jesus has just explained to Nicodemus that through Him God is going to cleanse us of our sin and fill us with His Spirit. Jesus has also prophesied His death on the cross and shown Nicky through symbolization of the bronze serpent that Jesus on the cross is what allows us this forgiveness and eternal life. So with that in mind let’s move to verse 16.

I have to recite this from the KJV because it was so burnt into my memory that I have a deep love for the phrasing of this verse in that translation. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus is pointing out to Nicky that He is the true and not created Son of God and if you look upon His work on the cross and believe that His death gives you life and forgiveness, then you will have it.

Again it’s important that we keep the symbolization of the serpent, sin, and forgiveness I mentioned in the last post in mind here. This section is teaching us that Christ’s death on the cross is what brings cleansing, forgiveness, eternal life and allows us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Now we move on to verses 17and 18. Keep the reference point in mind that God is telling us how He loves the world. Today we live in a world where it is considered offensive to say that if you don’t believe in Jesus you will go to hell. The misunderstanding people have is that Jesus is here to condemn them. When you say something about Jesus they think you are condemning them and judging them. That is not what Jesus did on the cross.  I have heard so many fundamentalist preachers teach a graceless gospel where everybody but them are going to Hell. That is not what Jesus taught.

Jesus never condemned a sinner. Think about this for a moment. Jesus asked the woman caught in adultery , “Has no one condemned you?” In Matthew 9:2 Jesus does not condemn the paralytic but tells him his sins are forgiven. As Jesus eats with sinners at Matthews house He says He is there to heal them of their sin(Matthew 9:12-13). The Samaritan woman in John 4, Jesus does not condemn. Jesus did not condemn any sinners in the bible. That is what the church wrongfully does.

Let’s look at who He did condemn . Who did Jesus look at and say, you are going to burn in Hell? Look at Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.  Or 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

Jesus only condemned those who think they are righteous. Jesus does not condemn sinners, He came to save them. Now this isn’t to say that sinners are not condemned. Verse 18 tells us that if you do not believe in Jesus you are already condemned. We are under God’s curse. We do not need to be condemned, we already are. Jesus isn’t here to tell us we are going to Hell. He is here to show God’s love and grace and let us know that if we believe in Him we are saved.

Verses 19-21 just further states this by saying man is evil and because we are ashamed of our deeds we do not want to hear about Jesus. When we accept the cleansing and filling of Spirit we become a new creation with the heart of God and we can then step into the light. Then our lives show that what we have do we do through the Spirit of God.


The Gospel of John 2:21-3:15

I have finally gotten around to writing about Jesus teaching Nicodemus. There is no way I can make a short post of this since it is a large and deep section, so I’m going to break it up into two parts. We will be covering John 2:23-3:15 in the first part and 3:16-21 in the second post.

It’s unfortunate that the chapter break is here at verse 21 because it really needs to be included in this section. All of this is immediately after Jesus clearing the temple. These verses 23-25 are talking about “unsaved believers”. That is people who believe in Jesus but don’t trust in Him and this is what Nicodemus is when he goes to Jesus.  He admits in verse 2 that he knows Jesus was sent from God, but he denies the authority that Jesus has.

Nicodemus has gotten curious about Jesus and goes to Him.  It’s kind of funny how this conversation starts in verse 2-3. Nicodemus comes in telling Jesus what a powerful servant of God He is being able to perform miracles and stuff. Jesus knowing what is truly in his heart though, cuts him off. Jesus immediately turns to what is on Nicodemus’ mind. Nicodemus has come to ask a prophet when will the kingdom of God come and free them from Roman rule.

Let’s try to put ourselves in Nicodemus’ place for a minute. You are a teacher of the law. You are living in a city surrounded by pagan Caesar worshipping Romans. Every decision about the land promised to you by God is controlled by pagans. You hate these vile, violent, and offensive people. You look forward to the time of the kingdom of God. It will be a time when God will take control and remove these pagans and God will rule here. You pray for it daily. You make tons of rules so that you can live righteously and force others to obey them in hopes that this will please God and He will deliver you.

Then one day after 400 years without the voice of a prophet, a man shows up and with a whip chases greedy men from the temple. Then this man goes into the courts and performs miracles and healings.(John 2:23) You look to the heavens and asks God if this is a prophet that can tell you when this kingdom will appear? You feel unexplainably drawn to this man.

You listen to the other Pharisees and they are talking about this man. “How dare He stop our temple markets?” “How dare He build up followers that listen to Him more faithfully than us? How dare He claim God as His father? You are embarrassed for believing that Jesus was sent by God so in the evening you sneak off and go to talk to Him. But then when you start talking to Him, He knows your very thoughts. He knows the prayers that you have only shared with God.

You stare startled as He emphatically tells you, that you must be born again to see the kingdom of God. You don’t understand. How can one be born again? As you wrestle with this he states with the same emphasis that you must be “born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” How can this be you ask. Jesus asks you, how can you not understand this when you are a teacher?”

I want to switch gears here and take a moment to talk about this being born of water and spirit. There seems to be much confusion over what it means. It is not baptism. The Jews knew what baptism was. It was used when converting people to Judaism and some crazy man on the banks of the Jordan was doing it to Jews, but to Nicodemus this would not be something that could or should make sense to him. Jesus tells him in verse 10 that the Old Testament explains Water and Spirit.

Let’s go to Jeremiah 31:15  and try to make sense of this. Jeremiah makes a prophecy of Jesus. We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in Matthew 2:18. Jeremiah is speaking of a new covenant(Jeremiah 31:31) that Jesus will make with Israel. Now go to Ezekiel 36:25-26 to find the understanding of water and spirit. Verse 25 says I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean and verse 26 says I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.

This being born again is putting faith in Jesus Which cleanses us from the guilt of our sin (Jeremiah 33:8) and fills us with the Holy Spirit so that we can live by God’s law.  Now for us today we know of the cross. So our faith is in the fact that Jesus came and lived a sinless life and died as a perfect sacrifice so that He could suffer God’s wrath for us. It also includes faith in the resurrection of Jesus on the third day and that we will be raised with Jesus.

Now Nicky would not have known of the cross during the conversation but Jesus gives him a clue. In verse 14 Jesus mentions the bronze snake that was lifted up and says that He shall have to be lifted up just as the bronze snake was. Nicodemus would have immediately thought of the people that had been bit by the serpents in Numbers 21:8-9. They were dying but when they looked upon the bronze snake on the pole they would be forgiven and live.

I love this symbolism. We have been infected with the poison of the serpent’s lies but when we look upon Jesus on the cross we can be forgiven and live. Nicodemus would have saw this symbolization immediately at the crucifixion and would understand the prophesy Jesus made that night.


Amazing Grace

Well It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I have had very little time for writing. I got to preach this weekend at a church other than my home church so I spent most of my time getting my sermon ready for last Sunday.

I’m posting a video of my daughter and Brooke Cole singing Amazing Grace at the WMU convention in Gatlinburg. This was at Connection back in March.

Amazing Grace Savannah & Brooke