Tag Archives: Believe

The Missing Illustration


Yesterday we looked at “Are You A Christian, Evaluating Your Claim To Christianity” at Kitwe Church.  In Mark 4 Jesus answers the question why so many professing Christians “fall away” and never bear fruit.  Here is the “missing illustration” that for sake of time was dropped from that sermon, but is so helpful to our understanding of sharing the gospel message.  It comes directly from the book, Hells Best Kept Secret, written by Ray Comfort.

The way we present the gospel determines the kind of response the sinner makes. Let me illustrate.

Two men are seated in a plane. A stewardess gives the first man a parachute and instructs him to put it on because it will “improve his flight.”

Not understanding how a parachute could possibly improve his flight, the first passenger is a little skeptical. Finally he decides to see if the claim is true. After strapping on the parachute, he notices its burdensome weight, and he has difficulty sitting upright. Consoling himself with the promise of a better flight, our first passenger decides to give it a little time.

Because he’s the only one wearing a parachute, some of the other passengers begin smirking at him, which only adds to his humiliation. Unable to stand it any longer, our friend slumps in his seat, unstraps the parachute, and throws it to the floor. Disillusionment and bitterness fill his heart because as far as he is concerned, he was told a lie.

Another stewardess gives the second man a parachute, but listen to her instructions. She tells him to put it on because at any moment he will be jumping out of the plane at 25,000 feet.

Our second passenger gratefully straps the parachute on. He doesn’t notice its weight upon his shoulders nor that he can’t sit up upright. His mind is consumed with the thought of what would happen to him if he jumped without it. When other passengers laugh at him, he thinks, “You won’t be laughing when you’re falling to the ground!”

Inoculated Backsliders

Let’s now analyze the motive and the result of each passenger’s experience.

The first man’s motive for putting on the parachute was solely to improve his flight. As a result, he was humiliated by the passengers, disillusioned by an unkept promise, and embittered against the stewardess who gave it to him. As far as he is concerned, he will never put one of those things on his back again.

The second man put the parachute on to escape the danger of the coming jump. Because he knew what would happen to him without it, he had a deep-rooted joy and peace in his heart. Knowing he was saved from certain death gave him the ability to withstand the mockery of the other passengers. His attitude toward the stewardess who gave him the parachute was one of heartfelt gratitude.

Now listen to what the contemporary gospel says: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ; He will give you love, joy, peace, and fulfillment.” In other words, He will improve your flight. In an experimental fashion, the sinner puts the Savior to see if these claims are so.

What does he get? Temptation, tribulation, and persecution. The other passengers mock his decision. So what does he do? He takes off the Lord Jesus Christ; he is offended for the Word’s sake; he is disillusioned and embittered, and quite rightly so.

He was promised peace, joy, fulfillment, and all he got were trials and humiliation. His bitterness is directed at those who gave him the “good news.” His latter end is worse than the first – another inoculated, bitter backslider!

When the sinner sees the awful consequences of breaking the Law of God – that he cannot escape the certainty of judgment – he will see his need to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. When we preach future punishment by the Law, the sinner comes to Christ solely to flee from “the wrath to come.”

Instead of preaching that Jesus “improves the flight,” we must warn men about the inevitable jump. Everyone must pass through the door of death.

It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment – Hebrews 9:27.

But doesn’t Christianity offer the abundant life? You bet it does! Peace and joy are legitimate fruits of the Spirit. But we do sinners an injustice by enticing them with only the benefits of salvation. Our misguided efforts only result in sinners coming to Christ with an impure motive void of repentance.

Remember why the second passenger had joy and peace? Because he knew what that parachute was going to save him from. In the same way, the true convert has joy and peace in believing because he knows that the righteousness of Christ will deliver him from the wrath that is to come. “The kingdom of God is…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Why is righteousness coupled with peace and joy? Because “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4).

Man-Centered Preaching.

Now let’s take a look at an unfortunate incident on board the plane. During some unexpected turbulence, the stewardess accidentally drops a cup of hot coffee onto the lap of our second passenger.

What is his reaction? Does he cry out in pain, then rip the parachute off his back in anger?

No! He didn’t strap it on for any other reason than the jump. In fact, he doesn’t even relate the incident to his parachute. Instead, it only makes him cling more tightly to his hope of salvation and even look forward to the jump!

If we put on Christ to flee the wrath to come, when tribulation strikes we wont get angry at God. Why should we? We didn’t come for a better lifestyle. Trials drive us closer to the Lord, and we cling more tightly to Him. Like the apostle Paul, we only stay around to encourage other passengers to put on the parachute. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Sadly, multitudes of professing Christians lose their joy when the flight gets bumpy. They are the product of “man-centered” preaching.

Back to the Beginning: Meet Our Powerful God


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This morning I would like for you to meet God. When we make an introduction of someone we often give a framework by which others can understand and identify themselves. How would you introduce yourself?

Genesis means beginning and the first in our Bible is the Book of Genesis. Genesis gives us the beginning of almost everything: Universe, world, home, family, marriage, sin, redemption.

Right at the beginning we are given answers to life’s greatest questions:

  • Where did I come from?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where am I going?

We must get the beginning right so that when we reach the end we are in the right place!

The Physicist & Comologist Steven Hawking has received many prestigious awards for his work. In the 1980’s his wife Jane in an interview described her role as “simply to tell him that he’s not God”. In 2011, when narrating the first episode of the American television series Curiosity on the Discovery Channel, Hawking declared: “We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Hawking)

This brilliant and accomplished man has concluded that “everything began with a big bang and ends in a black hole.”

Overview of the Book:

Genesis written by Moses @ 1446-1406 B.C. so that the Jewish people would understand where they came from and how God chose them from among the peoples of the earth.

The book is divided into two main sections. The first section is in chapters 1-11 and spans a period of 2000yrs.(4000+BC – 2090 BC) and focuses on four great events:

  • Creation (1-2)
  • Fall (3-4) First sin – man is separated from God. Second sin – man is separated from man.
  • Flood (5-10) Man multiplies and sin multiplies. God destroys man with the exception of Noah.
  • Nations (11) We are all one nation and one human race but because of rebellion at the tower of Babel, God fragments a single culture and language and scatters the people over all the earth.

The second section begins in chapter 12 and goes to the end of the book. This section spans a period of 286yrs (2090 BC-1804BC) and focuses on four great people (12-50):

  • Abraham – Pivotal point in the book
  • Isaac – God established his covenant, the link to Abraham not Ishmael
  • Jacob – God transforms him from selfishness to servanthood.
  • Joseph (37-50) – Suffers at the hand of his brothers an eventually takes the 70 persons to Egypt.

This is really an incredible book of Beginnings! If you have never read it, I hope you will do so right away! Over the next three weeks I want us to go “Back to the Beginning” to get a right perspective of God that will set the context for everything else: our relationship to God, our relationship with one another, and God’s purpose for our life.

CREATION REVEALS PROOF OF GOD’S EXISTENCE (Genesis 1:1-2)

God is eternal – “in the beginning God…” God existed before the beginning. “Before Abram was I am!” God had no beginning and has no end, He is eternal. He has no need for anything or anyone outside of Himself!

“Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Ps 90:2

God is one yet exists in three persons:

  • God the Father (1)
  • God the Spirit (2)
  • God the Son (Col. 1:16-17; Jn. 1:1-3)

What does God say to those who deny His existence? He calls them fools! The fool says “no God.” (Ps. 14:1-3)

Fool – one whose judgment is warped and tainted by an evil mind and wicked desires, not someone who is a simpleton. The fool says “no God,” not for me, I’ll not have a God! To deny God is to make a bold declaration of faith in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

God is Creator – “God created…” God created all things:

“You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And You preserve them all….” Ne 9:6

Intelligent design requires an intelligent designer. Planets and moons spin in opposite directions. If a big bang they would all spin the same way. Wrist watch – The atheist, agnostic, and evolutionist would say: “No one planned this watch, no one made it. It just happened by accident as a result of forces and circumstances over thousands and millions of years.

God created all things for His pleasure

““You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”” Revelation 4:11

Implications of this: God created all things therefore He owns all things – all things belong to Him and exist for His purposes. We have no problem serving the boss for a paycheck, why do you have a problem serving God who created and gave us all things.

CREATION REVEALS THE POWER OF GOD (Genesis 1:3-26)

Day 1 – Let there be light (3-5)

Light precedes life (John 1:9-12,3:19) “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”” John 8:12.

Light is divided from darkness (I Jn. 1:6, 2:8-11)

Day 2 – Let there be heavens (6-8)

Consider God’s greatness:  Scientists tell us that the observable universe 13.8 billion light years. How do you understand a billion of anything? Stack 100 $1 bills and the stack would be 10mm high, a stack of 1000 bills – 10cm high, 1,000,000 bills – 109m high, 100m bills – 10.9km high, and a stack of 1 billion $1 bills would be 109 kilometers high!

Or think of it this way: it takes 30yrs to accumulate 1bn seconds. So if you were to place 1 billion bills on edge in a line beginning in Kitwe your line would stretch just past Nsobe Lodge and stacking them one per second it would take you 30 years to get there.

But wait… that is just to understand one billion… our observable universe is 13.8 billion light years. A light year is the distance light travels in one year moving at a speed of 299,792 km per second. Traveling at the speed of light a traveller would circle the equator 7.5x per second.  And God created it all in an instant by simply saying the words, “Let there be…”

Day 3 – Let there be dry land & plant life (9-13)

Life has in it the seeds for new life (11a). Life results in fruit

““But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”” Mark 4:8

Life results in fruit according to its kind (11b). If we are a child of God we will reproduce ourselves spiritually.

““You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:16-20

Day 4 – Let there be lights (14-19) ILL: Light, creation

Lights – different word from v. 3. Lit: Light-bearers.

We are to be light-bearers to a dark world ““You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

Day 5 – Let there be sea creatures and birds (20-23) ILL: Blue whale, 30mtr, 130 m. tons

Day 6 – Let there be earth creatures and man (24-26) ILL: Chameleon, watching the lions

Lessons:

God’s commands are God’s blessings… let there be… there was. God who created us knows what makes us tick, what will satisfy and fulfill us; so he blesses us by commanding us to do that very thing. Do God’s will!

If God is powerful enough to create the world, He is powerful enough to take care of the problem I am facing in my life today

“Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” Jeremiah 32:17

If God is powerful enough to create the world, He is powerful enough to help me when I call

“My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” Psalms 121:2

If God is powerful and wise enough to create the world, I can trust He knows best in my life.

“He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom…” Jeremiah 51:15

Because of creation, you are without excuse:

“because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” Romans 1:19,20

Accomplishing The Mission of Jesus


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Do we really understand the desperate needs that exist around us?

Late one afternoon staff at Faith Children’s Village brought a lone visitor to see out Administrator. The young visitor was a little girl, 11 years old.  She had walked all day, crossing the Kafue River to find this place where she heard that people cared for kids.  Both of her parents had died when she was a baby.  She was cared for by her grandmother who later died.  She was then in and out of various homes, some places she was mistreated and she was not in school. Finally she ran away. She would dance at bars for money.  Someone told her about Faith Children’s Village so on this day she came searching and pleading to be taken in.

Few of us here have faced a situation like this in our lives!  Desperation, pain, suffering, a loss of hope for the future.

We have been studying the church and today we will look at the mission of the church.  God has called us for a purpose – to glorify Him!  But what are we to do?  Why does the church exist, why do we come together in fellowship, to study the Word, encourage and edify one another?  What is it that all of this enables us to do that will bring God glory throughout eternity?

Let us look at our text in Romans 10.  Have you ever encountered something that so deeply affected you that you felt deep searing anguish and grief in your heart? That is exactly what is happening with Paul in our text today!

Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.

He is so consumed with grief in HIs heart that he said this:

Romans 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,

What are the things that cause your heart to bleed? What are the things that causes you to cry out to God in heartfelt desperation?

Kent Hughes in his commentary on Romans is spot on when he wrote, “Romans 9 teaches divine election—chapter 10 teaches human responsibility. I emphasize this because it is possible to get just enough of the vertical theology of chapter 9 to make us horizontally irresponsible… We humans like being absolved of responsibility.”

Let’s be very clear: “If you are without Christ it is not because you are not elect – it is because you are rejecting Christ!” (21)

Our mission is to carry out God’s mission of reconciling sinful human beings to God through Christ!  So what is the world’s greatest need, and what must you do about it?

THE GOSPEL IS THE GREATEST NEED OF EVERY PEOPLE GROUP (1-13)

In the midst of human suffering, loss and the man ills that afflict modern-day man, why is the gospel the greatest need?

Because they are lost! (1)

Paul had a God-given passionate desire for the salvation of his own people group, the Jews. (10:1, 9:1-3).  They did not realize it, they were convinced otherwise – but they were hopelessly lost!

Isaiah put it this way:  All we like sheep have gone astray…  and Paul wrote earlier in this same letter that “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”

Because all people outside of Christ are trying and failing to establish their own righteousness. (2-3)

It is not enough that these people were sincere or zealous for God or committed to their religion. (2)

You can be zealous for church, zealous in Bible study, zealous in the choir, and be lost!

A couple years ago I was was in the USA for some speaking engagements.  On my trip home, I flew out of Boston on a Boeing 747 for Lusaka via London.  After we got up to 40,000 feet the stewardesses serviced the cabin and eventually dimmed the lights for the night flight.  I got up and went to the back of the plane.  In front of the toilet doors near the exit door a man had rolled out his prayer mat and was on his knees bowing in prayer toward Mecca.  There is no one who can question this man’s zeal toward his religion!

And this is exactly what Paul was talking about – these people were zealously working for God in an attempt to establish their own righteousness.  They were trying to be righteous by keeping the law.

Galatians 3: 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

God’s standard is His own righteous perfections, and nobody can pull that off, no matter how sincere they are or how hard they try! The problem is human wickedness and depravity. Everyone, everywhere has sinned and stands guilty before God.

Some people base their confidence of salvation on how good they are in relation to someone else.  Or they base their salvation on what they don’t do.  This is called moralism.  You can be moral, but man’s morality will never meet God’s standard of righteous perfection!

Because there is no other way to be reconciled to God – none! (4-13)

Salvation through Christ is the ONLY way to God. Faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross is the only way any person – Jew, Gentile, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu – can be saved.  Jesus Christ is the only way to God! (4-8).  You have to believe that!

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Now at this point, you might be asking a very fair question:  How can Paul say this?  If Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, what about those who have never heard of Jesus?

Remember our text is coming from chapter 10, so we are jumping into something that Paul has already been talking about for some time.  In fact he has already dealt with the answer to this very question.  Let’s quickly look at what he has said,

God speaks through creation.

God is a God who loves and calls to all mankind, now matter where they are.  First, God speaks through Creation.  Imagine that our hall this morning is in complete darkness, and I were to light a candle on the table at the front.  Would you be able to see that flame?  Of course!  It would be the one thing in the midst of darkness that jumps out and screams for your attention.  Now what if you rushed toward the light, not to embrace it, but to blow it out?  God has given all men the light of creation, reject that light and you have no excuse.  Here is how Paul explains it:

Romans 1:18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.* 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (NLT)

God speaks through Conscience

Our conscience is that inner voice in every one of us that tells us to do or not to do a thing.  It is true that our conscience can be corrupt or misinformed, but that voice is there speaking to us none-the-less!  It is interesting that anthropologists who reach formerly unreached peoples have yet to discover a society in some remote corner of the earth that is atheist!  Why? Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God “has put eternity in their hearts.”

Ro.2:14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. (NLT)

God speaks through Christ

Acts 17:22 So Paul, standing before the council,* addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. 24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man* he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. 27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your* own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. 30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

Salvation requires belief in two things (9-11):

  • That Jesus is Lord – that he shares the nature, character, holiness, power and authority of the one and only true God and thus He I supreme over me – I belong to Him!
  • That God raised Jesus from the dead – true belief of this will cause us to confess before others – “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

The salvation message is for EVERYONE!  It is universal (13)

For whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. There is no national distinction, no ethnic distinction, cultural distinction, no depraved condition too deep, no sin too great, no person too lost. The same Lord is over all people and is generous to all who call upon Him!

And here is the glorious crescendo to the gospel! Whoever will call upon Jesus will be delivered from the just condemnation of their rebellion and sin!

So how can verse 13 happen in Kitwe this week?  How can this happen in Blantyre? In Nairobi? In Juba? In Accra? In Mogadishu? 

If this is the world’s greatest need – what must we do to meet it?

How does this gospel get to those who must receive it?  How does it get to little orphaned girls that no one wants?  Little girls like the 11 year old girl who arrived at Faith Children’s Village?

Should maybe we fly over and drop illustrated leaflets explaining the gospel message?  Maybe we could send food to the nearly 1m people on the verge of starvation of S. Kordafan & Blue Nile State, living in caves to escape the bombing raids from Kartoum?  Maybe we should go to rural Zambia and dig some wells so people can have fresh water?

In Jesus’ ministry He went everywhere “doing good.”  But there were always more sick people to heal, more dead people to raise up, more mouths to feed… and they were begging him to do these things.  Mark 1:36–38 And Simon… said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”

PREACHING THE GOSPEL IS THE CHRISTIAN’S GREATEST RESPONSIBILITY (14-17)

Why is proclaiming the gospel the Christian’s greatest responsibility?

Because we were commissioned to this task by Jesus Himself!

Paul was cornered by Jesus on the Damascus Road and called as a gospel witness (Acts 9). We too have been cornered by Jesus and called to be gospel witnesses for Jesus! (Mt.28.18-20)

Because whoever calls upon the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved! (13)

Because those who don’t hear will be damned forever! (14-17)

Let us look at verses 14-15 in reverse:

  • If here is no sending, there is no preaching. (15)
  • If there is no preaching, there is no hearing. (14c)
  • If there is no hearing, there is no believing. (14b)
  • If there is no believing there is no calling. (14a)
  • If there is no calling on Jesus – they are DAMNED!  Forever!

John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Luke 16:23–24 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 

2 Thessalonians 1:8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 20:13–15 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.  14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Let’s conclude with Paul’s summary statement in verse 17: So then, Faith comes through hearing the Word of God! They must hear the word of God in order to believe!  We too must hear the Word of God if we are to believe and obey!

The Gospel:

You must know it!

You must receive it!

Have you received God’s free gift of salvation through Christ Jesus?  Do you believe Christ is man’s only way to heaven?

You must share it (17)

  • Locally – intentional engagement and proclamation of the gospel within your circle of influence.
  • Globally – through gospel partnerships.  For some through obedient abandonment to going cross-culturally to preach this gospel.

You have just heard the gospel – have you received it?  Is this truth your personal reality?

What is the all-consuming desire of your heart?  Does your heart burn for people to know Christ?

Download the pdf copy of Accomplishing the Mission of Jesus

Listen or download the free mp3 of this sermon here.

The Beginnings of Despair


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Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

The way down to despair is always predictable and preventable. Just as there is a way down, there is also a way out!! We don’t have to live in despair. We need to understand where despair begins so we can stop it at its source.

Rom 1:21 – When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God. Though Rom. 1:21 is referring to the unsaved man, it is still the natural bent of all of our hearts.

We think up vain imaginations about our God that are not true of Him. Then we try to live in the world He created and we wonder why we struggle with the truth.

Isa. 55:7-9 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts

We exchange the truth of God for a lie. “Let the wicked (speaking of God’s people who have sinned) forsake his way” … (note God’s disposition toward us) .. “He will abundantly pardon.” God is waiting like the Prodigal Son’s father, looking down the road, wanting us in fellowship with Him.

It all starts with Unbelief.

Unbelief is hard to see sometimes. God did not give this truth to us in the form of a chart, but the flow of thought comes from the Word.

For example, Moses did not get rebuked for his anger when he struck the rock (Num. 20). God said the he did not believe God and that is why he disobeyed (Num. 20:12). God connected his action to unbelief.

Disciples in the boat “Carest thou not that we perish?” Christ – “How is it that you have no faith” (belief)… that I care for you (Mark 4:38-40). It was their unbelief that was challenged.

Heb. 12:2-3 Christ endured the cross… consider him (think/meditate about Him) lest you be weary in mind. When Christ is not our focus, our belief, we have problems. It is always a problem with belief. God made this connection.

All of us have belief (spiritual) problems! You do and I. Being humble and admitting it is the first step to the way out of despair.

Unbelief—“The Great Disorder” of the Heart

      • Unbelief is a “disorder” because it accepts the reasonings of fallen man (“vain imaginations” Rom 1:21) over the revelation of God.
      • The lie—the fantasy—of “The Great Disorder” is that “God is not doing enough for me; God Himself is not enough for me. I need something more.”

You can’t be worried/ anxious/angry if you believe God has given you what you need. Try it! Once your thoughts focus not the truth of

We have interpreted what we know about God from our experience instead of interpreting our experiences in light of what is true about do from the Scriptures.

We think we need something more today … is a fantasy. If we think these things, we don’t know God well.

If we reject what God says to be true, all we can do is live in fantasy world of imagination, because the world as we are choosing to believe it does not exist.

  • A world where God does not love does not exist.
  • A world where God is not in control of all things for our good and His glory does not exist.
  • A world where God is not with me or does not hear my cry does not exist.
  • A world where God is overly tough and mean-spirited does not exist.
  • These worlds are fantasy world of our imaginations. To live in a fantasy world is to hasten our own disintegration.

This is reality!

Phil. 4:19 “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

God will always meet our genuine need. Always. What we have is what we needed because a loving, wise, powerful, caring God knew we did.

Our God exists, He has spoken, what He has said matters. The world is living a fantasy that will burn up soon. If we are not careful, we will also live in a fantasy world if we listen to our hearts deceptions.

Discontent

Discontent is the dissatisfaction of not having what we have decided we need.

The whining of our discontented heart is familiar.

  • “If only I had what I need.”
  • “I should be/have…”
  • “I don’t like…”

See if these statements of discontent sound familiar: If only my spouse/boss/parents would try to understand me. If only people appreciated me more. If only … I had more freedom/money/authority/better health/less pain/more answers about what’s going on in my life/ I hadn’t messed up/I had different parents or roommates/ I weren’t married /I was married. All these imply that I would have satisfaction if it had been different.

We might, in our minds, attempt to limit God’s ability to help our problems today because of problems in our past. With a God as powerful as ours, He does not need anything different in your past to make you different today.

Our past does not interfere with God’s ability to use us now.

Homework: Begin a list of your own “if only’s,” “I should’s,” and “I don’t likes.”

What’s the big deal?

1. God takes complaining personally. Why? Because He is the Provider. When we complain, we are denying the promise of God. Look at Numbers 11-16. God dealt with the Israelites discontent and He called it unbelief.

2. Complaining is dangerous because a “lust for more” its the basis for every temptation in the heart.

Once you think you have to have something, you are open to being tempted by it. You can’t be tempted with something that you don’t want. (Ever been tempted to pick up road kill for a cookout?)

James 1:14 – Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed.”

Legitimate concerns should be turned into prayer while surrendering the results to God.

Conclusion: Learn to look for the roots of unbelief and discontent when you see the fruit of guilt, anxiety, anger, and despair.

Listen to the message: The Beginnings of Despair

Download the Beginnings of Despair Notes.

Material from Quieting a Noisy Soul by Dr. Jim Berg, BJU Press 2006 used with permission.

Why I Believe In The Resurrection


Why I Believe In The Resurrection.001Two days ago my wife’s uncle died after a long battle with cancer. Death is not natural to life. It is not part of the original created order. We recoil from death we wish to be far from it. When we hear the footsteps of death coming for us we fight and some fear it.

Yet none of us speak of death in terms of “if” but always with the word “when”. Deep inside we know that one day we will “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”

Why do people die? Why do humans face pain and death?

There is one answer – Sin. When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race (Romans 5:12). Adam’s sin brought death and death spread to everyone, for everyone has sinned.

So what is your perspective of death and life? For most of us we share the “ground-level” perspective of the sisters in our text. In John 11:1-45 I want us to consider the perspective Jesus gives to us. An accurate perspective changes everything! What do you believe about death and life?

Today I want to share with you two overwhelming, undeniable life-changing reasons why I believe in the resurrection.

I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION BECAUSE OF THE SUPERNATURAL CHARACTER AND NATURE OF GOD

Jesus loves (3)

When the message came they identified Lazarus, not by name but by the phrase, “the one whom you love.” The word for love speaks of friendship love (3). In other words these sisters were saying to Jesus “the friend who you love is sick!”

They knew Jesus loved them! In verse five we again see the word love. Here it is the Greek word agape and this refers to the sacrificial, undying faithful covenant love that finds its source in God Himself. They knew that Jesus loved them and we know that God loves us! He tells us that He loved us and he proved that love to us:

John 3:16 ¶ “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

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

Jesus knows (3)

Jesus knew everything about Mary & Martha and the situation with Lazarus and Jesus knows everything about the situation you are in today.

Jesus knew that Lazarus was sick (1,3). And the fact that Lazarus was terribly sick did not change the reality of Christ’s deep, passionate, abiding love for him (5). Jesus knew that Lazarus had died (11-14).

Jesus cares (4)

First Jesus cares about the glory of His Father! Christ’s delay in coming to Bethany was to fulfill God’s purpose, and that purpose was ultimately the glory of God.

We may not know why we are in the situation or circumstance that we are going through, but God does!

Jesus says, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (4) Even in death, sorrow, pain, and tragedy – God is with us and God is at work carrying out His plan.

Second we see that Jesus cares that we develop faith. “Lazarus is dead, but I am glad I was not there, so that you might believe!” (15). Later when he arrived at the funeral home “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” (33) Jesus wept (35). Jesus is our compassionate High Priest who feels our weaknesses and pain.

Heb. 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION BECAUSE JESUS IS THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE (25-26)

Jesus has the power over death and the power over life.

Mary & Martha believed in Him but their understanding of Him was incomplete. They were called to re-evaluate their faith. In times of tragedy, pain, death – we often respond this way: “IF ONLY!” “Lord, if you had been here, by brother would not have died” (21,32). God if only you had been here this would not have happened! But Jesus was fully aware of what was taking place and his delay was part of God’s plan. He could have rushed in and averted the death, but instead He was working for a greater purpose (6).

A couple years ago our family had traveled abroad and we took the kids to a fast-food restaurant that had an indoor play park. Corban was probably three at the time. A little bully pushed him off the top of the kids slide and then a minute or two later hit him in the face. All of my father-instinct wanted to snap up that little bully and teach him a lesson in defense of my boy. But instead I encouraged Corban to persevere – and yes if he gets hit again to defend himself. I think that incident gives me some insight into our text. Jesus could have saved Lazarus’ life and healed him from a distance, he could have spared Mary and Martha the pain, but instead He allowed it for a greater purpose – that they and us might believe!

Christ’s assurance – Jesus gave Mary and Martha the absolute certainty of the resurrection. “Your brother will rise again” (23). I know he will rise again at the last day was her response.

Job also believed this!

Job 19:25-26 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God.

Christ’s person – “I am the resurrection and the life.” (25) Jesus assured them that Lazarus would rise again because of who He is: I am LIFE!

Jn 14:6 – Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one will come to God the Father except through ME”

This is an exclusive claim! He is either telling the truth or he is the greatest deluded fool the world has ever produced! To stand in front of a grieving sister and claim to be the resurrector and giver of eternal life is either truth or the most wicked, gross kind of torture one could give to a grieving soul. Either Jesus Christ knew he was not what He claimed and thus He is a LIAR, or He really believed what He claimed but it was not true and He is a LUNATIC, or He is who He claims to be and you and I must fall before Him and acknowledge him as LORD.

Spiritual life cannot be extinguished by physical death

Those who believe in Jesus though they may die physically, they will live because He will raise them up. (25). In this text death is referred to as sleep because it was temporary (11,13-14)

Since everyone who lives and believes in Him has eternal life they will never die spiritually. Spiritual life cannot be extinguished by physical death. (26)

1Cor. 15:51 ¶ But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed.
1Cor. 15:52 It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die.
1Cor. 15:53 For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.
1Cor. 15:54 ¶ When this happens—when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die—then at last the Scriptures will come true:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
1Cor. 15:55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Jesus asks Mary & Martha a question that forces them to make a decision: Do you believe this? (26) Do you believe that I am the resurrection and the life?

This is question is for you today: DO YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS?

This is a penetrating question!  Do you personally believe that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life? It is one thing to hear it, discuss it, or argue about it, but it is another altogether to believe it , embrace it and trust it!

Death strips us of all pretense and exposes what we truly believe: “Yes Lord; I believe that you are the Christ (Savior) the Son of God (Diety) who is coming into the world.” (27). This is more than believing that Jesus is merely a historical figure, a great teacher, or a moral leader.

You are not being challenged to believe a fantasy.

Jesus proved He was who He claimed to be – He raised Lazarus from the dead, after four days, after the processes of death and decay were undeniable. (39,44) Jesus went on to demonstrate His power over death by rising from the dead on the third day! (20:11,15; 19-20; 24-29). He arose – death cannot dominate Him!

Rom. 6:9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.

Heb. 2:14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

The proof that the gospel is true is that Jesus rose from the dead. The good news is that you can be forgiven for your sins and made a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection.

Rom. 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

There is a coming resurrection of the dead (Jn. 5:24-29): one resurrection to eternal life, the other to eternal judgment.

Acts 17:30-31 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

There are three powerful implications of the resurrection:

  1. The resurrection gives authority & credence to everything He claimed!
  2. The resurrection proves His power over sin that is the cause of death and over Satan who places people in bondage through sin..
  3. The resurrection testifies to all mankind that Jesus is LORD!

And there are two possible responses to the resurrection:

  1. Some believe – they witnessed the resurrection power of Christ and put their trust in Him. (45)
  2. Some reject – in spite of the undeniable reality that Lazarus had died and was now alive, they rejected Jesus. (46)

What about you? Will you believe in Jesus today?

Download pdf Why I Believe In The Resurrection

A Model Church For A Modern World


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A Christian is someone who “has been reconciled to God in Christ. A Christian is someone who by virtue of his reconciliation with God, has been reconciled to God’s people.  This is where the great commandment comes in.  A lawyer asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment out of over 600 commands in the Old Testament.   Without hesitation Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; and the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:34-40)

A church is not a building with a steeple, a church is people.  These are people who have responded to God’s call to be reconciled to Him through Christ Jesus.  A church is a gathering of Christians for the purpose of displaying God’s glory by becoming increasingly like Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:10-11).

“The church is God’s missile of salt and light hurled into the world to proclaim the triumphant message of sins forgiven and lives transformed.” – R. Kent Hughes, Acts

The world craves what God has provided for in the church and offers people a substitute to meet their need.  Each of us crave fellowship and acceptance, so the world offers us the Pub.  We see the mess around us in the world and we long to make a difference so the world offers us the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) to address these social problems.  People crave spiritual connections so the wold offers the Masonic Lodge or Transcendental Meditation or the Horoscope and occult.

In our previous study we saw the first of three truths for our modern world gleaned from the first church at Jerusalem: The Characteristics of a Model Church.

  • The people who make up the church are saved through faith in Jesus Christ (36-41)
  • The people who make up the church are committed to Scripture (42b)
  • The people who make up a church are committed to fellowship (42c)
  • The people who make up a church are committed to being Christ-centered (42d)
  • The people who make up a church are committed to prayer (42e)

In today’s study we want to look at two other truths we glean from this model church in Acts 2:44-47.

THE ATTITUDES OF A MODEL CHURCH (44-47A)

In my younger days I was fascinated with flying and spent a couple years working on attaining a private pilots license.  One of the first things a pilot learns is about how important the attitude of the aircraft is to executing a safe and successful flight.  Attitude simply means the direction you are pointing. In the cockpit there is an instrument called an “attitude indicator” that allows the pilot to see the attitude of the aircraft in relation to the ground.

So what were the attitudes of this model church that allowed them to successfully witness to Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth? (Acts 1:8)

In their relationship with each other they demonstrated LOVE (44-45)

They were unified – They shared the same love, focus and desires with the others in the assembly.

Eph 4.1-3 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

They were selfless – they had all in common, through love they served one another by putting the news of others before their own (Gal. 5:13).

They were giving – Selling personal property to meet genuine needs demonstrated their love toward one another.  We clearly see in verse 46a that they still owned homes 46a, yet they were willing to give up extra in order to meet the needs of those suffering. Day by day demonstrated hospitality to one another. They willing gave to the work of God and the needs of others.

1 John 3:16-18 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

In their relationship with God they demonstrated WORSHIP (46a)

What Is Worship?

“Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause, but which we call Our Father Which Are in Heaven. “ – A. W. Tozer

“Worship is the believers’ response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, and body – to what God is and says and does… Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.” – W. Weirs

These Christians lived lives of worship. Day by day they met formally in the temple and informally from house to house. Worship for them was not an event that happened once a week for an hour.  They lived in an attitude of worship.

In their relationship with their daily circumstances they demonstrated JOY. (46b-47a)

Remember that it was not a popular thing in that day to be a Christian.  The events of Acts 2 are taking place in Jerusalem just a few short weeks after Pilate and the Chief Priests had crucified Jesus Christ!  To publicly step out and identify with this condemned man was not an easy thing.  Remember that soon after this event a great persecution against Christians broke out across the Empire.  In Roman cities people wishing to do business would be required to have a trading license and to obtain it they must declare Ceasar as their god.  To refuse to do so would mean you were unable to do business and you might arrested and used in the gladiatorial games in the colosseum.

Gladness of heart means to rejoice from a sincere heart.  Sincere here can mean “free from rocks,” in other words there were no stones of selfishness in their heart.

Praising God produces joy. Those who fellowship together to exalt the Lord will have true happiness, while those who seek to glorify themselves  will not have lasting joy (Phil. 2.1-2).

IMPACT OF A MODEL CHURCH (43, 47b)

It was an awe-inspiring church (43)

The fear mentioned here is a holy fear,a reverence that controls you because you know God is near. When Jesus visited the region of Gadara and cast the legion of demons from the possessed man the  people of Gadara feared Jesus and begged him to leave their coasts (Lk. 8.37).

This first church was an awe-inspiring church. They took the church seriously because they recognized God was there! (See Acts 5:13).

The people in Jerusalem were not in awe of their facilities, equipment, sound system, choir or church program, but they were in awe of the supernatural character of the life of this church.

Signs and wonders were designed to draw attention to spiritual truth. (Acts 3.6-9). The ability to perform miracles was not given to all but to the Apostles and their closest associates (Acts. 8.13, Heb 2.3-4). Miracles confirmed Apostles as God’s messengers. Today we determine who speaks for God by comparing their teaching with God’s revelation of Scripture.  To the church in Galatia Paul writes,

Galatians 1.8 … if we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel… let him be accursed!

It was an attractive church (47b)

Their duties and their character granted them favor with the people (Gal. 5.22-23).  They were open about their faith so all could see and experience their transformed lives.

Mt 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

They evidenced a Spirit-filled life in their character and personal relationships that was extremely attractive.

It was a growing church (47c)

They were engaged in every-day evangelism. Evangelism flows from the life of a healthy church. People were continually being saved as they observed the daily conduct of these believers.

A Greek Philosopher by the name of Aristides wrote the following report to the King about fifty years or so after the events in the Book of Acts.  It is no wonder that the early church made a powerful impact in their world!

Now the Christians, O King, by going about and seeking have found the truth. For they know and trust in God, the Maker of heaven and earth, who has no fellow. From him they received those commandments which they have engraved on their minds, and which they observe in the hope of the world to come.

For this reason they do not commit adultery or immorality; they do not bear false witness, or embezzle, nor do they covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother, and do good to those who are their neighbors. Whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols made in the image of man. Whatever they do not wish that others should do to them, they in turn do not do; and they do not eat the food sacrificed to idols.

Those who oppress them they exhort and make them their friends. They do good to their enemies. Their wives, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest. Their men abstain from all unlawful sexual contact and from impurity, in the hope of recompense that is to come in another world.

As for their bondmen and bondwomen, and their children, if there are any, they persuade them to become Christians; and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction.
They refuse to worship strange gods; and they go their way in all humility and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them. They love one another; the widow’s needs are not ignored, and they rescue the orphaned from the person who does him violence. He who has give to him who has not, ungrudgingly and without boasting. When the Christians find a stranger, they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as a true brother. They do not call brothers those who are bound by blood ties alone, but those who are brethren after the Spirit and in God.

When one of their poor passes away from the world, each provides for his burial according to his ability. If they hear of any of their number who are imprisoned or oppressed for the name of the Messiah, they all provide for his needs, and if it is possible to redeem him, they set him free.
If they find poverty in their midst, and they do not have spare food, they fast two or three days in order that the needy might be supplied with the necessities. They observe scrupulously the commandments of their Messiah, living honestly and soberly as the Lord their God ordered them. Every morning and every hour they praise and thank God for his goodness to them; and for their food and drink they offer thanksgiving.

Such, O King, is the commandment given to the Christians, and such is their conduct.

(Apology of Aristides, Translated by Rendel Harris, 1893)

Are you a Christian? Does Christ live in you?  If Christ lives in you then you are part of the church! He is producing the fruit of His character in you.

If you have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that you need to become a Christian, you can become one right now!  Like these people in Jerusalem you may be saying, “what shall we do?” (37b)

Repent of your sin, and receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Lord and Savior! (38,36)  A person is not saved by praying a prayer, but often the decision to receive Christ is expressed in prayer.  Cry out to Jesus right now, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!”

Download pdf of A Model Church for a Modern World

The BACKSTORY of Christmas


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In 1979, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth visited the city of Kitwe, Zambia.  Old-timers who were present and met the queen still talk about that glorious day!  When you experience a wonderful and life-changing visit by a special or important person, everyone you meet must know the story!

That is why after 2000 years the majority of the world pauses in one way or another to acknowledge Christmas day.  For centuries the world has stopped to decorate, celebrate and help their fellow man. Christmas is a time for giving and family and good-will!   Even those who don’t believe in God often find themselves caught up in the festivities of the season.

During World War I a spontaneous event took place along the Western Front between the British and German troops.  It has been called the Christmas truce of 1914. German & British troops met in no-man’s land on the Western Front to exchange gifts and sing carols.

There is something about Christmas that is extremely powerful!

It all centers around the day that God showed up! Have you ever wondered about the back-story of that visit?  What did God do, and what does it all mean to us?  We refer to the whole event as “Christmas!”

In our text in Matthew 1:18-25 God is continuing to unfold His redemptive plan through the incarnation (God became flesh) of Jesus Christ (v23). God with us!

Down through the pages of OT Scripture God demonstrated that He wants to be with us. From walking with Adam in the garden, to being with Noah in the midst of a perverse generation, to his presence with the people in the wilderness tabernacle and later the temple at Jerusalem. God desires to be with us!

In our text we find the backstory of this great work of God as He became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1.14).

Those who will place their faith in Him will live with Him eternally in His heavenly kingdom. When God became flesh He entrusted the care for His Son to a simple young couple named Joseph & Mary.

GOD USED COMMON PEOPLE (18-20,23-25)

Mary

She was betrothed – in the culture of the day she could have well still been in her teens. In our text a young couple by the name of Joseph and Mary had committed themselves to one another. Their marriage arrangement was according to the Hebrew tradition and involved three steps:

  • Engagement – the arrangement between parents of children. This often took place when the children were still young.
  • Betrothal – at a determined time the couple agreed or disagreed with the engagement. If they agreed the betrothal was immediately binding. The betrothal lasted for one year. When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant they were already betrothed.
  • Marriage – the consummation of the marriage in which the groom fetched the bride to his home which he had worked hard to prepare, and they lived as husband and wife.

She was a virgin (23) – significant that she had not “known” a man! Virgins don’t have babies! (Lk. 1:26-35)

She was a sinner (Lk. 1:47).  In her own song (Magnificat) Mary cries out in adoration to God at the news that she had been chosen as mother to the Messiah:

Lk 1:47 – And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Some believe a doctrine called the “Immaculate Conception.”  This teaching is false, completely unsupported in the Word of God. Mary was a sinner and she needed a Savior – just like you and I need a Savior. She acknowledges that need with her words “my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Joseph

He was a common working man – carpenter by trade, knew how to work with his hands. (Mk. 6:3)

He was a godly man (19).

  • A just man has a commitment to doing right based on his belief in God – No one can be just without belief in God.
  • A just man has a commitment to doing right based on the standard of God’s Word – There is no ultimate “right” outside God’s Word

He was a simple man – did not have high formal education. He was a man of incredible simple faith! He heard and believed!

You might think: well if I had an angel show up and talk with me – I would believe too! Really? We have the words of God preserved for us in a book! Rich man wanted someone to go from the dead to warn his brothers, the answer: they have Moses & prophets, if they will not listen to them, they will not be convinced if someone rose from the dead.

Aren’t you glad! If we all had to wait for a message from an angel we would all likely be in trouble! But we have God’s message – his letter that tells us of his unstoppable love for us!
He was a man of simple obedience. The law was made to protect an innocent man – the guilt were to marry the pregnant fiancee. In marrying Mary, Joseph was in essence assuming responsibility for her pregnancy. He was also assuming a measure of shame. In each case the response of Joseph to each crisis – Obedience!!!

  • Obedience characterized by no questioning
  • Obedience characterized by immediate response.

Application: When God prepares to do a great work and His eyes run too and fro throughout the whole earth – are you the kind of person that God would be willing to use?

GOD USED A MIRACULOUS PROCESS (20,23)

It was a miraculous announcement – angel!

Angels are not human beings who have gone before us. Angels are not all-powerful, but they are powerful spirit beings created to serve God.

Here are 27 facts about Angels from Scripture:

1. They are mentioned 273 times in 34 biblical books.

2. They were all created by God.

Gen. 2:1; Neh. 9:6; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16

3. They report directly to God.

Job 1:6; 2:1

4. They were present at the Creation of the world.

Job 38:1, 4, 7

5. They announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds.

Luke 2:10–14

6. They do not marry.

Matt. 22:30

7. They were created to live forever.

Rev. 4:8

8. Their purpose is to glorify God.

Rev. 4:8

9. Some angels help human beings.

Heb. 1:14

10. Some angels harm human beings.

Mark 5:1–5

11. They are spirit beings.

Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:7, 14

12. They are invisible beings.

Rom. 1:18–32; Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9

13. They are innumerable.

Deut. 33:2; Ps 68:17; Dan. 7:9–10; Matt. 26:53; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 5:11

14. They possess intelligence.

Dan. 9:21–22; 10:14; Rev. 19:10; 22:8–9

15. They possess will.

Isa. 14:12–15; Jude 6

16. They display joy.

Job 38:7; Luke 2:13

17. They display desire.

1 Pet. 1:12

18. They are stronger than men.

Ps. 103:20; 2 Thess. 1:7; 2 Pet. 2:11

19. They are more intelligent than men.

Dan. 9:21–22; 10:14

20. They are swifter than men.

Dan. 9:21; Rev 14:6

21. They are not omnipresent.

Dan. 10:12

22. They are not omnipotent.

Dan. 10:13; Jude 9

23. They are not omniscient.

Matt. 24:36

24. Some are cherubim.

Ezek. 1:1–28; 10:20

25. Some are seraphim.

Isa. 6:1–8

26. The majority remained true to God.

Rev. 5:11–12

27. They will join all believers in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Heb. 12:22–23

It was a miraculous pregnancy – virgin conceives (Is. 7:14)

Source of the pregnancy is the supernatural Work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.

Lk. 1:34-35 – Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 – And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

The importance of the Virgin Birth!

John MacArthur writes, “The virgin birth is an underlying assumption in everything the Bible says about Jesus. To throw out the virgin birth is to reject Christ’s deity, the accuracy and authority of Scripture, and a host of other related doctrines central to the Christian faith. No issue is more important than the virgin birth to our understanding of who Jesus is.

If we deny that Jesus is God, we have denied the very essence of Christianity. Everything else the Bible teaches about Christ hinges on the truth we celebrate at Christmas—that Jesus is God in human flesh. If the story of His birth is merely a fabricated or trumped-up legend, then so is the rest of what Scripture tells us about Him. The virgin birth is as crucial as the resurrection in substantiating His deity. It is not an optional truth. Anyone who rejects Christ’s deity rejects Christ absolutely—even if he pretends otherwise (1 John 4:1-3).”’

GOD KEPT AN AMAZING PROMISE (19-23)

The Promise that Assured Joseph

An instruction not to fear the social stigma (19b).

An instruction not to fear trusting his wife. (19c)

The promise of a Savior that Assures us!

Immanuel = God with us!  God came to be with us! God came to rescue us! God came to make what is wrong, right!

No wonder Christmas is a time for joyful celebrations! God is with us! He knows us, he feels what we feel, he understands our weakness, He knows how to sustain us!

Heb. 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

His Identity – Jesus (21)

He was the prophesied One. Would be a descendent of David (20).

What are the chances of prophecies of Messiah coming to pass by chance? The odds of one man (Jesus or any man) fulfilling only “eight” Old Testament Messianic prophecies was one chance out of one with “seventeen” zeros after it (100,000,000,000,000,000)! And Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies of Scripture!

He would be a Son – Son of Mary and Son of God!

He would save his people!  We need a Savior! We need someone to rush in and deliver us… someone big enough and wise enough to rescue us!  He will save them from their sin!

Our lives have been messed up by sin! We have gotten ourselves into situations: Relationship situations, work situations, personal situations! Though it may look a hopeless tangle – He came to deliver us!

God is with us!

The birth of Jesus, the long-awaited Lamb who would save His people from their sins!  God selected a simple young couple from a little village called Bethlehem to care for the Baby Jesus. A young virgin girl and her young carpenter husband.  What grace!

Won’t you believe God’s message to you this Christmas and receive Jesus as your God? He can be YOUR Immanuel – God with you!