Category Archives: Cross

THINK LIKE JESUS


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The Health guru says, “You are what you eat.” But that is not correct.   “You are what you think!” The attitudes of your inner man is what you really are: “As a man thinks in His heart, so is he!” (Pr.23;7)

Christians are to live with each other in such a way that the reality of our salvation is fleshed out in the forum of human relationships within the body of Christ before a watching world. (Phil. 1:27).

There is an indication in our text that disunity within the congregation at Philippi threatened the effectiveness of their gospel outreach in Philippi.

  • “that I may hear that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the gospel (1:27)
  • “Fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (2:2)
  • “Do all things without complaining and disputing” (2:14)
  • Euodia and Syntche are implored to be of one mind in the Lord (4:1-3)

What follows is a pointed reminder that living worthy of Jesus is to live in unity with one another.  In our text Paul makes it clear to pull that off you have to THINK LIKE JESUS! This passage is about an example of “worthy living” that is down at our level. An example that we can grasp, one we must follow!

We are naturally bent toward self-centeredness and pride. We are so prone to demand rights – to struggle and fight to gain some advantage we believe is rightfully ours. This has caused untold harm to the church and hindered the proclamation of the gospel through the centuries.

The great tragedy of Paul’s day and the great tragedy of our day is that when God’s church is dominated by strife, pride and self-seeking the gospel suffers! We are diverted from issues of critical importance.

Paul points us to Christ as our example of true humility, servanthood and obedience.

THE HUMILITY OF HIS COMING TO EARTH (5-6)

Jesus refused to demand what was rightly His.

Jesus Christ is God (Heb 1:3). He shares the nature, the attributes, the person and the glory of God Himself. He is one with the Father, co-existant, co-equal in every way! This is the mystery of the Trinity – three persons, one God!

Jesus did not hold onto what was rightfully His.  When He came to earth He did not cease being God, rather He laid aside the “form” that is, the outward manifestation of the inner reality.  Jesus  took off the robe of glory and donned a robe of flesh!  What Humility!

He left the place & position that was rightfully His

Jesus Christ did not hold onto His glory as God as something He used for His own advantage. The pre-incarnate Christ was God in all majesty and glory yet he refused to demand what was rightfully His.

Instead Christ set that glory aside in heaven, and came down to take upon Himself flesh and blood. Rather than viewing His position with the Father as something to protect and a right to demand, He saw it as the qualification for Him to be the Savior of His people.

He left the throne of heaven for this wicket planet – imagine what the all-seeing eye of God and the all-knowing mind of God has seen on planet heart in the past 48hrs! (Rom. 1:20-32). The Cesspool of Humanity.

Application:

  1. How often do we hold tightly to our rights, we make demands based upon the perception that we have our own worth, achievements, position, place.
  2. We must live in humble obedient submission to the Father’s will, accepting from the times of disgrace, abuse and trials. It is through this that God prepares us and qualifies us as servants of Christ.

THE HUMILITY OF HIS SERVANTHOOD (7)

The form He took – a Bondservant (7b)

“Taking the form of” term used of button on outside clothing. He takes of His robe of glory and puts on the clothing of a slave!  This form was both in appearance and also in being. He was not identified by his halo and glowing face – he was identified by his servant spirit. (Lk 17:7-10)

His commitment to that form was clearly demonstrated when in the upper room He washed the disciples feet. The disciples right up to the cross argued about positioning in the kingdom. Jesus Christ washed their feet (Jn. 13:14-16).

  • You will serve the least
  • You will serve everyone

The humanness He embraced (7c)

Christ, the King of Glory came to our dirty little planet and made himself human. Born into a world dominated by the filth of unregenerate men, filthy passions, debased motives, filthy agendas. Like dogs gleefully rolling on a rotting carcass man revels in their sin.

It was into this world that Jesus Christ came, bringing Himself willingly and completely into our world – a world that despises the authority of God, rejects the laws of God, throws off all Divine restraint to madly pursue sin and drink it to the fullest.

Into this world Jesus came – what amazing humility!

HUMILITY OF HIS OBEDIENCE (8)

His humility was lived out in obedience to the father (8a)

The agony of obedience – Jesus knew what the cross meant! He was sorrowful unto death! (Mk 14:32-35)

“Jesus was about to be plunged into the raw sewerage of humanity to be defiled and separated from God the Father for the first time in all eternity!” – Chopo Mwanza

The horror of bearing the wrath of God – He would have to face the wrath of Almighty God upon Himself. The agony of bearing God’s displeasure.

His humility embraced obedience all the way to the cross (8b)

In the world of men it meant shame! Jesus Christ died one of the most scandalous deaths known to man. Humanity has not created a more degrading or loathsome experience than a cross. In Roman Society the mention of the cross was considered an obscenity.

If the last thought was not enough to cause us to fall to our knees and worship think of this: His humility was not something being forced upon Him by external forces, but it was His own doing!

As a real man He humbled Himself, he withheld His innate power and submitted in obedience to the will of the Father. This obedience was “even unto death.”

Christ’s self-humiliation brought ultimate obedience (2 Cor. 5:21, I Jn. 2:2)

CONCLUSION (9-11)

Let’s review what we have seen about Christ in this passage:

  • He humbled himself by setting aside His glory with the Father
  • He humbled himself by serving His Father
  • He humbled himself by obeying the Father

What now?  (9-11)

Therefore, God has highly exalted Him:

  • Exalted at the right hand of the Father
  • Exalted to a place of honor
  • Exalted through the worship of all created things
  • Exalted through the submission of all creation to Him as LORD – everyone will bow and everyone will confess!

What is the result? The glory of God the Father! (11c)

God is calling you to love justice, love kindness and to walk humbly before your God. (Micah 6:8). You might be thinking – that will require grace!  “But He gives more grace, Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Jas. 4:6)

When you think like Jesus Christ you will:

  1. Choose Humility: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (3-5)
  2. Obey fully: This is a call to fulfill the command to live a life worthy of the gospel – the path for obedience is clearly spelled out in Christ.
  3. Serve faithfully: The message of Philippians is for all of us who are prone to ambition and vainglory: “in humility count others better than yourself, let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also the interests of others.”

Will you bow before Jesus now and acknowledge Him as your LORD?

You can listen to this sermon, or download it as an mp3  here:  http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?m=t&s=918161121232

ONE PLEA – Glorify God With Your Life


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We have all been guilty of offering habitual prayers, or even casual prayers. You know, the kind of thoughtless prayers like “Lord bless all the missionaries today.”

I will never forget the night Carman was born. It was 9:30 in the evening on April 8, 2002 when Lori said that she thought it was time. Having been through this routine with four other babies I was not in a big hurry.  When Lori was expecting Cherith I remember at the first sign of labor I bolted into motion, grabbed our gear and wisked Lori into the car and raced to the hospital at breakneck speed only to  wait another 12 hours before the baby was born.  Lori came back a few minutes later and said it was urgent that we go now!  We got to the clinic here in Kitwe and at 11:30pm Lori gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who we named Carman.

Carman was a cord birth.  I watched the midwife work frantically and finally get the cord off the baby’s neck.  She was a deep purple color, but slowly gained a more normal shade.  After things had settled down I went back to an empty room to sleep.  After a time, I felt a hand on my shoulder, it was Lori.  She said, you must come quick, the baby is in distress.  I ran back to the room and Carman was taking short little gasps of air.  Each time she exhaled bubbles came out of her nose. She was now an ashen grey color, drowning from the amnionic fluid she ingested during birth.  I grabbed Lori’s hand and began to pray. I remember that prayer, it came from deep in my heart, a cry for God to be merciful and intervene and spare her life.

This is the kind of prayer that we find in our text Philippians 1:9-11.  Paul is laying out his passionate prayer to God for the Philippians. He has spoken of his deep affection for them, “I have you in my heart” he says in v 7.  “I greatly long for you all with affection” he says in v 8. Now he shares with them his prayer.

Passionate prayer is praying from the overflow of a burdened heart with a sense of our own inability. It is the pursuit of God by one man on behalf of another.

“And this I pray!” (9) Here is the content of Paul’s prayer: He longs for them to glorify God with their life, to be the means by which praise and glory is rendered to God!

In these three short verses Paul lays out the essentials for a life that glorifies God! This is essentially a plea to glorify God with your life!

Glorifying God With My Life Begins With A Love That Is Constantly Growing (9a)

How does this happen?

We grow in knowledge of God through His Word.

As we know him our love increases but this overflowing love is more than just a head full of facts about God and His Word, it is the basis for obedience. (John 14:15,21,23)

Love and obedience are not the same thing. You can obey with the wrong attitude. You can obey without love, but you cannot love without obeying. Obedience is the natural expression of love.

The reason that so many Christians are indifferent and careless toward God is that they are in love with the wrong thing. We are prone to love the gifts God gives instead of loving Him!  We love the creation instead of the Creator! (Rom 1:21,25).  We love money, education, our occupation, sports, or entertainment but we do not passionately pursue Christ as greatest end.

The question for you today is not, do you know about Jesus, the question is do you know Him The question is not, “Do you love Jesus?” but, “Do you love Jesus more than anything else in this world?” (Lk. 14:26).

This growing love is the product of a growing knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ! It is not only a knowledge of facts but an experiential knowledge gained by walking with Him day by day.

What does this growth look like? How does a growing knowledge of God flesh out in everyday life?

We grow in discernment

Discernment is the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.  This is not a legalistic list of regulations and checklists used to evaluate spirituality, nor is it is it license to do whatever you want. This discernment is based upon a deep heart desire to please the object of our love. It is genuine holiness based upon a deepening knowledge of God through His Word. It is a life in balance, able to discern what is appropriate, what is helpful.

We are called to embrace the knowledge of God that produces holy living! The ability to make proper judgements for everyday living in line with the nature and character of God. The practical application of our knowledge of God to the realities of every-day life!

1Thessalonians 5:21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
1Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Glorifying God With My Life Means That I Choose What Is Best Over What Is Merely Acceptable! (10a)

Approve what is excellent

This is not to determine good and evil but to determine what is of real value so that you don’t waste your life!  Determine what is best! Live for what matters most! There are many things that can fill your time each day. There are opportunities that come in life that are not necessarily sinful. Paul is saying that the life that glorifies God evaluates each opportunity to determine what has real value!

Don’t waste your life on rubbish.

Choose the real thing!  A couple years back I was on safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana.  We spent the morning on the Chobe River viewing abundant wildlife.  After a wonderful lunch at the lodge we climbed into the open safari vehicles in search of big cats.  As we moved through the bush the drive suddenly slammed the brakes and pointed.  I missed it at first, but then I saw what the guide was pointing at.  Crossing the trail in front of us was a Dung Beetle. It’s front feet were down in the sand and the back legs were up on a ball of elephant dung.  It was pushing that ball back to wherever it lives.  A dung beetle spends his whole life pushing a ball of animal feces. Dung beetles will attack one another to steal the ball of dung!  As we continued our drive I sat back and prayed, “God, don’t let that be the parable of my life!”  What a tragedy to get to heaven one day and see our Christian life from heaven’s perspective only to realize that we did little more than push around balls of dung!

And Paul was concerned about this very thing! Notice what he writes in Philippians 3:3-8!!

For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as dung, that I may gain Christ

Paul had reached the pinnacle of success in Hebrew culture. He had a stellar pedigree, a Hebrew of the Hebrews.  He was religious and full of zeal.  In the eyes of his contemporaries Paul was to be admired!  But all of this he viewed as dung, compared to the excellencies of having Christ!

What really matters in life is serving God and living a life that brings Him glory. To live a life that is worthy of the gospel. (1:27)

As I come to know Christ, I see Him hanging on the cross in agony, I view His glorious character in the Word, I experience his grace in my life and my perspective changes. I no longer see ugly, unloveable people, I see people who Christ loves. I no longer see thieves and prostitutes and drunkards and rapists I see men and women who God loves and sacrificed His own Son on the cross to save!  When I know Christ my perspective changes. I no longer view people in light of how they affect me, or their impact on my life.  I view them through the eyes of the One who loved them and gave Himself for them! When Jesus saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion because they were wandering like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt. 9:36)

So what is best? Christ Himself! In Him alone the Christian finds satisfaction, fulfillment, love, and joy unspeakable and full of glory! Pursue Christ not for what He can give but for who He is!
Don’t waste your life on rubbish!

Glorifying God With My Life Means That My Life Is Characterized By Integrity. (10b)

Be sincere

Sincerely is to be without hypocrisy. Christ’s most scathing rebukes were reserved for the self-righteous, (Matthew 23:13-15, 23,25,27-28) those who appeared one way but inside they were something totally different.

When life turns up the heat, when your goals and plans begin to crumble, when trials or afflictions come, when people begin to falsely accuse you, you are suddenly presented an opportunity to demonstrate your sincerity. What you really believe about God, his love, his faithfulness and his goodness is actually lived out in the midst of the fiery trial.

Be blameless

To be blameless is to be a person of Christlike character. This is the extent and goal of integrity. (2:14-15). We were chosen by God to be blameless Eph. 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
Blamelessness is not only requirement for every pastor and deacon – it is the standard for every child of God. (I Tim 3:2,10)

Glorifying God With My Life Means That My Life Produces Good Works. (11a)

Christ produces in my life “fruits of righteousness.”

This is the external fruit of our internal love for God! This is seen in my response to suffering, in my graciousness when attacked, in my courage when threatened, my ability to suffer and even die if need be for the sake of Jesus Christ. The world is not at all impressed with our business success, with the size of our bank accounts, with our beautiful houses. What impacts the world is our response to suffering, pain, death, bankruptcy, or how we handle the death of our child. A dear friend who recently lost her daughter said to Lori at the funeral, “It hurts so much, but I know God is good!”  This is the genuine fruit that is produced by an overflowing love for God!

Don’t waste your life!

Several years ago someone gave me John Piper’s book entitled “Don’t waste your life!” Let me to borrow those words to press home the urgency of living for the glory of God!

  • Don’t waste your money
  • Don’t waste your influence
  • Don’t waste your education – use it to establish a beachhead for the gospel in some restricted access country in the 10/40 window.
  • Don’t waste your robberies
  • Don’t waste your dis-functional family upbringing
  • Don’t waste your death.  The first Administrator of Faith Children’s Village, Joe Mbewe, lost his wife in tragic circumstances.  I will never forget his testimony at the funeral of his wife. With his two year old daughter in his arms, he gave testimony of his faith and the confidence that he would see her again.  Joe then sang his wife’s favorite song, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”  This is what it means to not waste your death!

Jesus spoke of Peter’s death and then these words, “signifying by what death he should glorify God!” (Jn 21:19)

As God orchestrates the dark valleys and deep trials in your life, Don’t waste them!  Don’t waste these opportunities to magnify Christ (1:20)!  Allow His life to so saturate you that your very presence permeates Christ to the world around you. Whether in life or in death – glorify Christ!

Here is the culmination of Paul’s prayer! (11b) Paul’s passionate plea to God on their behalf all crescendos to this as its highest end: “to the glory and praise of God!”

Paul prayed that the Philippians’ love would increase through a growing knowledge of God that would result in the discernment to spend their lives for what really matters by living as men and women of integrity so that the righteousness of Christ might bear abundant fruit in them to the glory and praise of God.

Are you wasting your life or spending your life for what will count for eternity? Is your life bringing glory and praise to God?

What a tragedy it would be to get to heaven and suddenly realize that all you did was push around balls of dung your entire Christian existence!

Download the audio of this sermon

Chronology of Events the Week of Christ’s Death


passion week_wide_t_NVJesus determined to go to Jerusalem, knowing completely what was going to take place!  He would be crucified and on the third day rise from the dead.  His death and resurrection is the means by which any person can be reconciled to God.  Here is the Chronology of events of Passion week.

There are several suggested chronologies as to the timing of the events of passion week.  Christ may have been crucified on Wednesday and the chronology would look like this.

Merril F Unger charts the chronology of these events as follows:

Saturday

  • Supper at Bethany

Sunday

  • Disciples bring colt,
  • Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem,
  • Jesus in the city and temple,
  • Retirement to Bethany

Monday

  • The fig tree cursed,
  • Second cleansing of the temple

Tuesday

  • The last day in the temple,
  • Christ’s authority challenged,
  • Parable of the two sons,
  • Parable of the wicked husbandman,
  • Parable of the rejected stone,
  • Parable of the marriage feast,
  • The question of tribute to Caesar,
  • The question of the resurrection,
  • The greatest commandment,
  • David’s son and Lord,
  • Denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees,
  • Lament over Jerusalem,
  • The poor widow’s gift,
  • Greeks desire to see Jesus,
  • The Olivet Discourse,
  • Parables: The fig tree, The porter, The master of the house, The faithful and evil servants, The ten virgins, The talents, The sheep and the goats,
  • Judas bargains to betray Jesus

Wednesday

  • Day of quiet at Bethany

Thursday

  • Preparation for the Passover,
  • The Pascal meal and the Lord’s supper,
  • Jesus washed the disciples’ feet,
  • Judas signaled as the traitor,
  • Apostles warned against desertion,
  • The great upper room discourse (Jn. 13-17),
  • The agony in Gethsemane,
  • The betrayal and arrest,
  • Peter and the healing of Malchus’ ear

Friday

  • First Jewish trial – before Annas,
  • Second Jewish trial – before Caiaphas,
  • Third Jewish trial—before Sanhedrin,
  • Jesus declared His messiahship,
  • Jesus mocked; Peter’s denial and remorse,
  • First Roman trial – before Pilate,
  • Second Roman trial – before Herod,
  • Third Roman trial – before Pilate again,
  • Pilate handed over Jesus to the Jews,
  • Pilate again attempted to rescue Jesus,
  • Judas’ suicide,
  • The road to the cross,
  • On the cross: First three hours: 9:00 to 12:00 a.m. Three sayings: ‘Father forgive them…’ ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’ ‘Dear woman, here is your son’
  • Second three hours: 12:00-3:00 p.m. Four sayings: ‘My God, my God…’ ‘I am thirsty…’ ‘It is finished’ ‘Into your hands I commend my spirit’
  • Supernatural phenomena accompanying Jesus’ death: Darkness, earthquake, Rending of the temple veil,
  • Burial of the body in Joseph’s tomb

Saturday

  • Body in the tomb, spirit in Sheol

Sunday

  • The resurrection

Source: The New Unger’s Bible Handbook, Merrill F. Unger, Revised by Gary N. Larson, Moody Press, Chicago, 1984, p. 418

“And They Crucified Him” – A Doctor’s Explanation of Crucifixion


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A medical doctor provides insight into the pain and suffering of a Roman crucifixion… Jesus endured the cross, suffering the shame and is now seated at the right hand of the Father!

“The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.

The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified.

As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet.

As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.

Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.

It is now almost over—the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level—the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues—the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.

He can feel the chill of death creeping through is tissues. . .Finally he can allow his body to die.

All this the Bible records with the simple words, “And they crucified Him.” (Mark 15:24).

What wondrous love is this?”

Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8

The Need For The Cross


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Palm Sunday is typically remember for the triumphant entrance of Christ into Jerusalem. From the Jew’s point of view in that day, this was the highlight of His ministry. And yet by Friday He was hanging on the cross, dying the tortured death of a criminal. What went wrong in five days to fall from the most popular Jew in Israel to the depths of the same people calling for His crucifixion?

From a human perspective, this was a tragic end to a good man’s life. Yet when we look at what God has to say about it, there is a much bigger plan being worked out.

We will look at the “need for the Cross” and then finish with the “Cross meets the need.”  Here are the unmistakable gospel truths found in Scripture:

Everyone that is conceived will live forever … somewhere.

Matthew 25:46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

There are just two choices. What makes the difference in where we spend eternity? • Everything we do will be judged.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.

Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. We will all stand before God one day. What will make the difference in where we spend eternity?

By ourself, our good works are filthy when compared to the holiness of heaven.

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

If the best works I have are not good enough, what makes the difference in where we will spend eternity?

Good men are condemned.

Matthew 23:33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?

Spoken to men who were convinced that their good works earned them favor with God. If the best men of the day were not able to escape hell, what will make the difference for me?

This is hard to accept, but we must correctly diagnose our problem if we are going to be able to find the solution. To ignore the diagnosis, is to live in denial and ultimately to die in denial.

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

If I can’t identify the problem, I will never have access to the solution.

The sad news

I want to say this in all kindness for each of us sitting here. I am not passing judgment on any of our loved ones who are no longer with us, God knows their heart. I am saying this for us here to look at our own hearts. The sad news is that there are a lot of good men and women who are going to hell because good works will never replace the death penalty for sin.

Is this fair? If God was fair, the death penalty would already have been given and God would still be loving, merciful, and good. God is not fair, thankfully.

God is just.  The death penalty for our sin must and will be carried out or else God would not be holy or trustworthy. The death penalty cannot be canceled; it must happen. 

The good news is that God is also a God of love.

There is a solution to the diagnosis of sin.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The solution is that Someone had to die for your sin and mine.

The wages of sin will always be death.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He took our death penalty.

Remember Matt 25:46? There are two destinations.  God made the way, God did the work, we are left to believe this was for us or deny it.

This satisfies the death penalty for all our sins we have committed, are committing, and will ever commit in the future.

So why not get saved and then live however we want to? God did not save us from the pit latrine of sin only to have us jump back in and play. We underestimate the filthiness of sin and undervalue the gift of salvation if we do this. Christ’s death was to save us from the penalty of sin and from slavery to sin.

Romans 6:1–2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Romans 6:16–18 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

So let’s take a look at this death that was given for me. The suffering began in the garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

An angel had to come and strengthen Christ. This sorrow is the curse of sin (Gen. 3) that was placed on the world. He took our guilt on Himself (Isa. 53).

The pain of omniscience and anticipation

Luke 22:41–44 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Hematidrosis – bleeding from the sweat glands. This is a documented physical situation brought on by extreme stress and anguish. The first six documented cases went on to die of the same stress.

The pain of betrayal and abandonment

Co-workers – Matthew 26:47-48 – Judas betrays Him

Close Friends – Matthew 26:56b Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. 

Christ understands loneliness and betrayal.

The pain of mocking the truth of His Godhood

By the soldiers – mocked Him by saying “Hail, King of the Jews,” put a purple robe on Him, bowed to Him, and “worshiped” Him. By the Jews when on the cross – “He saved others, Himself He cannot save” Mk. 15:31

The pain of physical abuse and assault

  • Whipped – Mark 15:15 – this ripped and tore
  • Crown of Thorns – put on His head and hit with a reed or a staff
  • The Cross – Nails in the wrist severed the ulnar nerve. Nails, likely in the heel, fixed Him to the Cross Suffocation was the typical cause of death.

“Until we see the cross as that which was done by us, we will never fully appreciate that it was done for us” – John Stott

The pain of sin to holiness

Trinity rent – we don’t understand the Trinity as it is, but somehow the Trinity was severed as the Father turned His back on Christ as He bore my sins.

Who killed Christ?

The Jews?

The Romans?

Us?

God?

No one, He gave Himself willingly for you and me. He did not suffocate, He gave up His spirit.

John 10:15 … and I lay down My life for the sheep.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. This is the demonstration of love.

Romans 8:31–32 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

So what will you do with the cross?  Will you believe in Jesus and receive His work on the cross to be bridge that brings you to God?

Repent and believe in Jesus today!

Download a pdf version of The Cross.

Our Source of Power for Salvation and Godliness


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Life is tough. How can God expect us to live like He asks us to live? Too many of us have a testimony of frustration over our own inability to live life the way God asks.

Peter instructs us that God does in fact expect us to live righteously in this world.  (Therefore, beloved, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless. 3:14). BUT — HE DOES NOT STOP THERE! HE ACTUALLY TELLS US HOW THIS IS POSSIBLE – BY MEANS OF GOD’S POWER!

Living righteously in a wicked world (in any age) is only possible through a power that is greater than that of the world — God’s Power and this is the subject of our text in 1 Peter 1:3.

So let’s learn about this power.

The Truth Regarding His Power 1:3 (It Delivers and Enables Men)

as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

The Source and Nature of this Power

“As His divine power”

Source — God (specifically Christ).  The power is God’s and He has made it available to us. We can live righteously in a world as wicked as this one because the power comes from none other than Jesus Christ, the Creator.

We see His power best in the account of His Ministry:

  • Man with leprosy covering his body was healed
  • Blind Man was healed
  • Widow’s son was raised
  • Lazarus was raised

Nature — Divine (out of his power)

Not just the power of a good example, instruction, or mandate. It is real power —that comes right out of His divine nature. This power — out of His divine power — has given us everything we need to live righteously.

As we grow up, we are well aware of Satan and his power. Sometimes our respect and fear of Satan is greater that our respect and fear of God. On the level of power, who is the opposite of Satan?Many would say “God,” but we must realize that Satan is a created being, his closest opposite is likely Michael the archangel.

The Reason For and the Amount of this Power

All things that pertain to life and godliness

What is this power for? — life and godliness

Life — a reference to eternal life Jn. 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

It is having a relationship with Christ.

His power gave… (Jn 3:16).

For one to be saved, there must be a deep realization that the situation they are in is dangerous and that they need help.

If someone comes up to you and begins treating you as thought you are choking when you are not, you will probably punch them in the nose. If, however, you really are choking, you will be extremely grateful to anyone who will reach out and help you.

We are all “choking” to death in sin. Only when we realize our problem, will we desire and be grateful for Christ’s dying in our place to save us.

Isa 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

When we understand the distance between our sin and God’s holiness, it makes His work on the cross a greater act.

His power loved

Rom 5:8 God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Once we are aware of our desperate condition, we can start looking for something or someone to rescue us.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jn 14:6 – Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.

“Jesus Christ” – “Promised Savior”

His blood on the cross satisfied the required punishment for our sin. The power of God has provided everything you need to be saved.

Godliness — word for godliness or piety — means living in such a way that pleases God (makes God’s smile). The overall idea when the two words are joined together is a Christian Life that pleases God — a godly, holy life.

The power of God has also provided everything we need to live a godly life anywhere He places us in this world.

How much power has He given? — all things that pertain

God has given us everything that is necessary for living a life that pleases him. So, in practical terms, we have everything we need to have godly families, marriages, lives, and churches!

The Availability and Accessibility of this Power

Through the knowledge of Him that called us by glory and virtue. Availability — has given to us. In the perfect tense — this is a permanent gift (salvation and godliness). Lavish gift — the word here is unusual. Not just the word for a gift but the term one would use to describe a royal grant or imperial gift.

God has made a very lavish gift available — all things that pertain to salvation and living a godly life. It will never run out. This gift is out of His divine power — it is able and sufficient and it is permanently available to any believer no matter how wicked the world is around him!

Accessibility — through the knowledge of him.  There is just one catch — there is only one way to access this power — through Jesus Christ. That is through a personal relationship with Christ, a relationship that is more than just head knowledge and information but a daily growing relationship with Christ! It begins with knowing Him personally as the one who saved you. How do you think of God when you think of Him?

If I show you a picture of my wife Rachel, you will be able to point her out in a crowd and say, “I know who she is.” This is informational knowledge. However, you don’t “know” her like I do. I know what makes her happy; I know what makes her sad. I know what kind of flowers she likes and what kind of holiday she enjoys. I know when her mouth is set a certain way that we will need to have a “discussion” later on. I KNOW Rachel.

“Know” in this verse is not informational, it is relational. This is the word we are talking about that is the means of this power. How did I get to know Rachel so well? It take time spent with the person to get this kind of knowledge. To get to know Jesus Christ, we must spend time in the Word of God. This is how we get this power to live the way He wants, knowing Him. What makes Him happy? What makes Him sad?

Without this relationship don’t be surprised if you can’t win against sin. Your leaf fades if you are not daily building your relationship with God.

So let’s draw this to a conclusion: God has given us everything we need to live a righteous life in a wicked world. That provision is powerful — backed by His divine power — and it is our permanent possession (perfect tense.)

It is also sufficient — everything we need! But it is only available if you come to a place where you know that you need a Savior. A time when you have repented or turned your back on your normal way of life and you want Christ to save you from it.

But it is only available as we grow in our personal daily relationship with Jesus Christ.
The strength of God’s power to live a godly life is equal to the strength of our relationship with Jesus Christ. So, if we are not growing in our daily relationship with Christ, we should not be surprised when the world and wickedness overpowers our lives.

Notes adapted from Dr. Sam Horn’s class on II Peter in Zambia 2006

Download: Power of God

Responding to Perfect Love


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Last week we began a new series on the theme of love.

The need for love is a powerful thing isn’t it? I mean everyone needs love. Even the toughest of men who act as if they don’t need anything or anyone still crave to be loved by someone. That is why every action film ever made always has a subplot of romantic love woven between all the scenes of martial arts, bullets, and bombs. We can’t turn on the television, computer, or radio without being bombarded with the world’s messages of love. Therapists even include it as one of man’s basic needs. But you know, we don’t need to site all the movies, music, and academic studies to prove man’s need of love. We all know it, because it is inside of us. We feel it. There is no doubt that we all need and crave love. That is why this series is so important. There is an old song entitled, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” I think that is how most people feel. So where do we find love – perfect love? It will be found in the Bible – God’s love letter to us – his most precious creation.

Last Sunday’s message was entitled “finding perfect love.” Phil took us to I John 4 where we saw three important truths. (1) the Person of love – God is love. (2) the purpose of love – so we can know & abide in Christ and so we can have confidence on the day of judgment (3) the power of love – it frees us from phobias, frees us from torment, and frees us from doubt..

Today’s message is entitled “Responding to Perfect Love.

Last week Phil started us off with a question. He asked, “Do you love God?” This morning, I want to start us off with another question: “Does God love you?”

You say, of course he does. Phil said so last week. Okay, but we need this head knowledge to transfer to our hearts as well. This is a truly fundamental question. It is one thing to say, “God so loved the world.” That is a theological truth of John 3:16 and yes we are part of the world. But we need to make it very personal. Do you feel, do you sense, do you believe with absolute certainty that God loves you?

This week I asked my son Warrick, “Do you know that I love you?” He said, “Yeah, but not all the time. Sometime you are angry when I disobey and I think you hate me.” I responded, “Yes, it makes me sad and angry when you disobey, but I will always love you no matter what. I will never, ever hate you.” He smiled and went to bed with peace in his little heart.

Maybe when it comes to your relationship with God you feel a lot like Warrick. “Yeah, I know you say you love me God, but there are a lot of things in the Bible I don’t obey and sometimes when bad things happen to me I feel like you hate me.” Have you ever felt that way? I think we all have. So the question today is, “Does God love you?” This question is of the highest importance because if we don’t believe that God loves us then we will never allow ourselves to receive his perfect love.

If you have been to this Bible study for any length of time, you have heard us speak about this perfect love of God. When we are presented with a message we then have to respond to it. Our goal and prayer is that each person who attends this Bible study will research the claim that God loves you and that each person will eventually come to the point where you choose to accept this love – to receive it – to make it your own. But people do not receive things that they think are fake. They may tolerate it. They may refuse it, but they don’t receive it. So, today’s question is very important for you.

Last week Phil closed our time by looking at 1 John 4: 19 “We love him because he first loved us. “ There is a cause and an effect. God’s love for us causes us to love him. That takes us back to last week’s question: Do you love God? I mean do you adore him. Does your heart crave him? Do you invest time in building a relationship with him? If not, it is likely that you do not fully grasp how much he loves you.

So many people have a misconception about Christianity. They think of it primarily as a religion – a list of do’s and don’ts to gain the favor of a harsh, but all-powerful God. That is not what Christianity is all about! Christianity is primarily a relationship – a relationship between God and man. It is a relationship of love.

By the end of today I hope that you will be totally convinced that God LOVES you! I mean, that he is totally crazy about you! And I hope that by the end of the message today your heart will cry out – I want to love Him too! I hope you will come running to him saying, “This love that you offer me is the love I have looked for all of my life and nothing, absolutely NOTHING will keep me from this love.”

First, let’s be reminded of God’s Perfect Love for us, but let’s make this personal. God love’s you! How do I know this? More importantly, how can you believe this? Because God demonstrated his perfect love for you (VIDEO: “Sacrifice” from Bluefishtv.com)

God demonstrated his perfect love for you!

Romans 5:6-8 “6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

From this passage we see some amazing truths about God’s love for you.

God pursued you when you were unlovely! Vs. 6-8a

None of us are naturally godly. None of us are naturally lovely. We are sinners who are difficult to love because of our own selfishness, and yet God loves us anyway.

God sacrificed for you! Vs. 8b

Jesus left the comforts and joy of heaven to come to the harshness of life on earth.  Jesus left the praise of angels to endure the accusations and mockery of those he came to save. Jesus did the messy work that no one else could do.

What do I mean by that? Perfect love is not clean & sterile. That is romance. That is a pleasant emotion. It is a kind of love. It is pleasant and it is fun. But it is not perfect love. Perfect love is “Agape love,” which Phil spoke of last week. Agape is one of 4 Greek words for our 1 English word “love.” The essence of agape love is self- sacrifice. Agape love is not a feeling; it’s a motivation for action that we are free to choose or reject. Agape is a sacrificial love that voluntarily suffers inconvenience, discomfort, and even death for the benefit of another without expecting anything in return. This is perfect love!

When Mandy and I were teenagers there was a man named Joshua Harris who wrote several excellent books on love. Here is what he said about perfect love: “The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, ‘This is love.’ God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, ‘This is love.’”

Have any of you seen the movie, “The Passion of the Christ?” Well, that movie has put the price of God’s love on display. Perfect love is messy! I am going to show you 2 photos on the next slide, but be warned. It is not pretty. If you can’t handle the sight of blood you might want to close your eyes for just a second. You see, perfect love is bloody. Perfect love is spoken of in beautiful words but demonstrated by painful sacrifice. This is the price of loving me. This is the price of loving you. It is the price that Jesus willingly paid to demonstrate the love of God – WHILE we were still sinners. This is perfect love.

Well, now that we’ve clearly seen the demonstration of God’s love – I hope you are becoming more convinced that God loves you. But now…

You must recognize the barriers preventing perfect love.

As Nathan said last week during our worship time. Each of us was created with a void – a hole that only God could fill. He created us to crave a relationship with Him that no human being could ever satisfy. We have just seen the great lengths to which he went to prove his love. So the question we must ask is, “Why wouldn’t a person respond by accepting it? Love is being offered! Why would you refuse it?

Well, back in August 1996, a new family with 2 teenage girls came to visit the church I attended. I new how intimidating it could be to visit for the first time so I always went and greeted all visitors to try to help them feel welcome & fit in. One of those girls was Mandy, who is obviously now my wife. Now I have already asked her permission to share this information with you today, so don’t worry. We won’t have marital problems after this message. On that day when we first met I tried to be loving by welcoming her, but it was very obvious she didn’t want anything to do with me…or anyone else at this church. The next day was the first day of our school year. As it turned out, she attended my school. Again, I wanted to help her feel welcome in a very large school. I tried being loving, but she made it very clear that she didn’t want anything to do with me at church or at school. Well the weeks turned into months and the more we saw each other the more she could see that I was sincere and we became friends. Love had triumphed! It was during that time that I discovered she wanted to be a missionary to Africa, just as I did. Suddenly a new kind of love started working in my heart – I developed a romantic interest in her, but again it was obvious she wanted nothing to do with me in that way. I figured that our “friendship love” was as far as things would ever go. Still, I would occasionally test the waters to see if she might be interested. Time after time I was rejected and my suggestions of dating were shot down. It took about 18 months before she became open to that idea. Then we ended up going off to separate colleges. Our potential “romantic love” would have to wait another 12 months. Well, since we are married now, I think you know how the story goes from there. The point of that story is that there were many barriers that I had to overcome as I pursued a loving relationship with Mandy.

So too, there are many obstacles that Christ faces in each of our hearts as he pursues a loving relationship with us.

Fear in our hearts.

Disbelief that such love exists/fear of disappointment. Perhaps others have let us down. Perhaps we’ve seen bad examples in our families of people who professed love, but didn’t live it out. Now this has caused us to be skeptical of God’s love as well.

Disbelief because of painful experiences in life. You want to believe that God is loving, but you wonder how can it be when there is suffering in your life. You ask, “If God loves me then why did he allow my husband to get cancer?” “If he loves me then why did he allow the thieves to come through and attack us before taking our things?”

Fear of rejection – Perhaps you believe such love exists, but you do not view yourself as worthy to receive it. You think you are too bad, that you have sinned too much for him to love you. These fears are a major hindrance to receiving God’s love. But, there is another type of barrier.

Pride in our hearts

Don’t want to be seen as “needing this love.” Someone who feels this way might say things like…

Christianity is a crutch. I am self-sufficient. To receive God’s love by putting faith in Jesus will be admitting I need someone other than myself.

I don’t want someone to save me. I want to save myself. I am a good person. I don’t need to be “forgiven.” I’m insulted that he thinks I need forgiveness. If I become a Christian it first means I must admit I am not the good person I have always thought of myself as being. It means I admit I am a sinner who has offended a holy God and I need to apologize. I need to ask forgiveness and I need to repent of (turn away from) the sins I enjoy.

Don’t want love from this person -“Jesus”. I admit I need love.  I admit I am a sinner. But I don’t want Jesus. I don’t want “this God.” I want one that is more fashionable. I want one that serves me. I want one that let’s love be a one-way street. He loves me. He serves me. He exists for my happiness and therefore will not require any love in return. Here’s the problem with that. You are describing a slave, a servant, a genie in a bottle – but you are not describing God. By very definition, God is the all-powerful creator worthy of worship. He has every right to demand love and service from us. We don’t have the right to demand it of him. He could make it a one-way street flowing from us to him, but in his love and mercy and grace he has made it a two way street.

To really drive this point home, let’s read Romans 5:6-8 again, but this time make it personal by replacing the word “we” with our own names.

“6 For while “Jamie” was still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly “Jamie”. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for “Jamie” in that while “Jamie” was still a sinner, Christ died for “Jamie”.”

Did you insert your name there? It is true. His expression of love is that personal and that real.

We have now, seen these are the barriers that hinder us from experiencing the love we crave. Each of us face barriers to God’s love. Before we move on, I want you to identify which one is the one that is a hindrance to your relationship with God. Now, let’s quickly address the solutions:

  • Fear

1 John 4:18 “Perfect love casts out fear.”

  • Pride

James 4:8-9 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God and he will draw near to you.”

Now, with our barriers being identified let’s be reminded that God has demonstrated his love for us. He continues to demonstrate it in a millions ways from the moment of our birth. Everyday he shows kindness. Every day he gives us blessings we don’t deserve. Everyday he patiently, kindly waits for us to look past all the negative experiences of life to see just how much he loves us. He started his pursuit of you the very day Adam & Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden for committing the first sin. He intensified that pursuit the day he was born as the baby in Bethlehem. He then demonstrated it in the clearest way possible as he hung on the cross. He now keeps exposing you to his daily love and kindness waiting for you to respond to his love. He is offering you a relationship of love with Him – the creator of the world – but he will not force it upon you. It has to be your choice. He knows all the love he wants to pour out on you. He has paid your debt. He has made his proposal. Now he awaits your response.

You Must Respond to God’s Perfect Love for you.

Acts 17:30-34 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

In that passage we see the three possible responses we can give God today.

  • Refuse him – vs. 32a
  • Research him more vs. 32b
  • Receive him – vs. 34

Earlier we said that God has been pursuing you because he wants a relationship with you. Some of you may have chosen to refuse Christ earlier in your life, but God has continued to gently lovingly pursue you. He knew that moving too far too fast ends up pushing you away, but he has been pursuing you and maybe you are reconsidering his offer. Some of you have been coming here to the Bible study for a long time. You had bad experiences before maybe at another church that reduced Christianity to a list of do’s and don’ts. But you have been researching Jesus more and you are convinced he is all he claims to be. You have heard of his offer of salvation from Phil, from Nathan, and from Dave. Now you are ready, but you wonder if the offer of entering a relationship with him still stands of if you have waited too long. The answer is no. It is available to you today. Perhaps you are ready to receive him.

Earlier I told you about how I pursued Mandy because I desired a relationship with her. Well, when I was absolutely convinced she was the right one and I believed she felt the same way I took the biggest risk of my life. I asked her if she would marry me. It was in June of 2000 and it happened right here in Zambia at Victoria Falls. That day I confessed again my love for her and then asked her to make a decision. Would she spend the rest of her life with me letting me love her, care for her, provide for and protect her. Thankfully she said yes. Today, Jesus is asking you that same question. Will you spend the rest of your life in a relationship with him – letting him love you, care for you, provide for you, and protect you. Well, here is how you respond if you want to receive him as your Savior.

Romans 10:9-10, 13 9 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

As we come to a close today, I would like to do something just a bit different. I want to give you some time before leaving here to think through what you have just heard. I want to give you an opportunity before leaving here to respond to God’s perfect love. I am going to play a song as background music while you take this opportunity to reflect on what you have heard today and spend some time talking to God in prayer. Perhaps this is your opportunity to respond to God and accept his perfect love. Perhaps you need to keep researching him and his claims. Perhaps you are already a Christian but you want to thank him for his great love that we have been reminded of today. Whatever your response, let’s spend some time talking to him before we dismiss.

Jamie Smith

Download the .pdf version of Responding to Perfect Love