Becoming Unleavened Bread

Becoming Unleavened Bread

Home Church Service 4/16/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.”

                                                                                    Exodus 12:17 (NASB95)

“Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

                                                                       1 Corinthians 5:7–8 (NASB95)

God has established seven feasts or festivals, four in the spring and three in the fall, to lay out His plan of salvation. The four feasts in the spring have found their fulfillment in Christ, while we eagerly anticipate the fulfillment of the final three feasts at the return of Christ. Last week we looked at the first feast, the Passover, and how it finds its fulfillment in Christ as Our Passover Sacrifice.

Today we look at the second of the spring feasts, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and how it finds its fulfillment in Christ. With the sacrifice of Christ, made on the cross, by the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood, we as Christ followers, find that sin has been removed from our lives allowing us to enter a new life – a life of Becoming Unleavened Bread.

Paul reminds the church in Corinth they are Becoming Unleavened Bread and must remove the leaven from among them. They are no longer the leaven of malice and wickedness but the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  

As Christ followers, we are Becoming Unleavened Bread because Christ has died on the cross to remove our sin. We no longer live our former life of evil and evil things but now we live in the new self of purity and things that are pure and true.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What does Becoming Unleavened Bread mean for the Christ follower?”

Becoming Unleavened Bread means we have accepted the sacrifice of Christ and died to our former way of life.

1). Becoming Unleavened Bread means that Christ died to remove our sin.

We are no longer in bondage to sin, death and the grave.

What exactly is leaven? Leaven is a substance that is used to begin the process of fermentation. This could be yeast, baking powder or baking soda. This is what causes the bread to rise. It is a process that requires time to complete. So, when we talk about leaven bread, it is bread that is in a high state of fermentation. Unleavened bread then, is bread that does not have the substance to cause fermentation. This is bread that is flat or resembles a cracker.

Unleavened bread is used when there is not time for bread to rise, there is short notice and bread must be made quickly. The ingredients are the same with the exception of the leavening agent. The Hebrew word for unleavened bread, is a word you have likely heard before, that word is matzah, as in matzah bread or matzah balls. This bread is commonly referred to as bread cakes.

Throughout the New Testament, leaven is used as a symbol of sin. It symbolizes being bred in corruption and spreading through the mass of that with which it is mixed; it is the pervasive character of evil.  To be unleavened then, is to be of a holy or set apart, spiritual condition, often seen as sincerity and truth. God established the Feast of Unleavened Bread after the Passover in Egypt. This feast lasts for seven days and all of Israel is to eat unleavened bread, modern day Israel celebrates this feast still today.

For Orthodox Jews, those who do not accept the New Testament or Jesus as Messiah, the Feast is to be a reminder of the day God freed them from bondage in Egypt. The bread is to remind them of the oppression and hardship experienced in Egypt. Those Jews who have accepted the New Testament and Jesus as Messiah celebrate the Feast, though with a view of what Christ has done for us, as foreshadowed in the original celebration of the Feast.

The removal of leaven is to symbolize the removal of sin from a person’s life. This is not something we are able to do on our own – we require an unblemished sacrifice, One who is perfect, without fault or flaw. This, of course, was Jesus Christ, our Passover sacrifice, who took away our sin as the Lamb of God. In Romans 6:10, Paul reminds us that Christ has “died to sin once for all” that sin may no more have mastery over us! Oh yes! We still yield to its temptations, but we cannot be put back into slavery to sin, unless we willingly go!

In his first letter, John reminds us we are to walk in the Light as Jesus is in the Light, that we have fellowship with one another, and more importantly, the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all sin. Notice the progression here, we walk in the Light. Light has a way of keeping us pure and turning away the temptation. It is only when we begin to touch the fringes of darkness that we are in danger of being sucked back into our old ways of darkness.

Then we have fellowship with one another, indicating the importance of being in fellowship with fellow Christ followers. That is not to say we should not mingle with those who do not believe, because we should, how else will they hear the good news or see the love of Christ? No, this is simply a reminder we must have fellowship with other Christ followers for encouragement, prayer, sharpening and for accountability. Above all this, the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin. These practices keep us white, free from sin, able to stand against temptation, prepared for the daily battles we face in life and the spiritual realm.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

What steps are you taking to remove or keep leaven (sin) from your life?

How do you “walk in the Light” of Christ Jesus?

Becoming Unleavened Bread means we have accepted the sacrifice of Christ and died to our former way of life.

2). Becoming Unleavened Bread means we have embraced our new life in Christ.

The old self held captive by sin has died to be replaced by the new self and freedom in Christ.

At one point in their history, the Hebrew people only knew oppression and hardship. For 400 years the Hebrew people we enslaved in Egypt, forced into hard labor under taskmasters who cared only about meeting or exceeding the expectations laid down by Pharoah. The Hebrew people cried out to God who hears their cry and raises up a deliverer – Moses. It wasn’t easy – it took ten plagues before Pharoah let the Hebrews go, and let them go he did, and life would be forever changed for the Hebrew people.

It is during the tenth plague when the Passover is established, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is first observed. During the night Pharoah is awoken because a great cry can be heard throughout Egypt – every household in Egypt, not covered by the blood of the lamb, has suffered the death of a loved one – the first born of each family. Pharoah called for Moses and Aaron, told them to take their people, their cattle, their flocks and herds – and leave! Leaving Egypt is more than just moving to a new home or hometown! Israel is leaving behind a way of life and beginning a journey into a new life!

We too embark on a new life. Israel walked out of a land of darkness to a land flowing with milk and honey. We have come out of darkness filled with every kind of evil into the Light that dispels evil and chaos. The chains of slavery in Egypt have been broken for Israel; the chains of slavery to sin have been broken for the Christ follower. No longer would Israel be subjected to slavery, as long as they followed the Lord their God. We may stumble and fall to temptation, but we no longer need to be subject to sin, as long as we remain faithful to Christ Jesus.

Israel packed up and left Egypt in a hurry! In fact, they packed up and left so fast, the dough in their bowls had not risen yet (Ex. 12:34), so Israel packed and left Egypt with unleavened bread. However, Moses instructed the people to request articles of gold and articles of silver and clothing, plundering Egypt and entering a new life with the riches of God, for it was God who acted to give Israel favor in the sight of the Egyptian people.

With leaven, or sin, removed from our lives, we are now a new creation in Christ. Paul tells us the old has gone and the new has come. What has gone and what has come? Gone is the old self full of anger, bitterness, lying, abusive language, selfishness and self-centeredness, to be replaced with those things that are pure, lovely, filled with excellence, honorable and right.

In coming out of our former lifestyle and leaving sin behind, we enter a new life filled with the riches of God in Christ Jesus. We have every spiritual blessing available in Christ. We have the power that raised Jesus from the dead available. We have the glories of His riches found in Christ Jesus. In Christ we have been freed from sin, no longer held captive, but free to become slaves to righteousness in Christ. We are free to live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving. We are free to live a life without fear. We are free to live a life without worry, or anxiety. We are free to live a life of abundance in Christ our Lord. In this way, we plunder the kingdom of darkness and spread the glorious Light of Christ Jesus.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How are you living a life of freedom in Christ?

How are you plundering the kingdom of darkness?

Becoming Unleavened Bread means we have accepted the sacrifice of Christ and died to our former way of life.

For the Christ follower, the Feast of Unleavened Bread finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus. The removal of sin, by His shed blood, allows us to stand before God the Father, fully justified in Christ and in His righteousness, granting us full access to the Father. It is the fulfillment of this Feast that we have the power to stand against the schemes of Satan. It is through the fulfillment of the Feast that we find a new life – called from darkness into the wonderful life and light of Christ. It is through the fulfillment of the Feast that we have access to the glorious riches found in Christ Jesus.

God’s plan of salvation is seen throughout the feasts and festivals established by the Father. It is in the feasts and festivals that God continues to reveal how deep His love goes for those who bear His image. As we study and embrace these feasts and festivals, I pray that you are drawn closer to Christ Jesus, that you sense the deep love the Father has for you and you find the new life we have been given in Christ, filled with all His glorious riches.

It is through the sacrifice of Christ that sin has been removed and we are now walking in the Light. This new life we now live, a life of Becoming Unleavened Bread, is a marathon journey. At times we find that sin, namely pride, has crept back into our lives. Pride acts as the agent of fermentation – being puffed up and full of self once again. It only takes a moment for life to kick us in the gut and knock the stuffing out of us – allowing humility to gain control once again.

If we are to be filled or puffed up with anything, Paul tells us it should be the leaven of sincerity and truth, that is, things that are pure and things that are right. These are the things the Holy Spirit has been sent to lead us into – the truth spoken by and about Christ Jesus. He leads us into the attributes and characteristics of Christ, leading us into Christlikeness. The Holy Spirit spurs us on by reminding us of the commandments and all that Jesus said and taught – causing us to grow into maturity. If we are, indeed, Becoming Unleavened Bread, it is through the sacrifice of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We do all things to the glory of God, through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

Next Week: The Feast of First Fruits Leviticus 23:9-11 & 1 Corinthians 15:16-21

Our Passover Sacrifice

Our Passover Sacrifice

Home Church Service 4/9/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.”                                     Exodus 12:3 & 5-6 (NASB95)

“Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.”                                                                         John 19:14–18 (NASB95)

I began my sales career, living in Elkhart, in the van and RV industry. More specifically, I worked at the largest distributor of van conversion accessories in the country. We sold a full line of accessories used to convert a blank van into a custom van – we had everything anyone would ever need to repair or customize their van. Back then, in the early to mid-80’s, competition was fierce, so naturally, we did everything imaginable to stay competitive. One of our biggest selling accessories was the continental kit, taking its name from the tire cover on the Lincoln Continental. The continental kits were a stainless-steel ring with a plastic or metal disc that could be painted or customized any way you wanted.

We were not the only ones who sold these kits – everyone who sold accessories sold them! So, we needed to find a way to beat the competition. What we found we named “Blems” because they had small blemishes somewhere on the ring or disc. Since most kits where dented within the first few weeks of being installed, most people didn’t mind a small blemish – the savings far outweighed any blemish and they sold out faster than we could get them in stock! A blemish might be fine on the back of a van – something so small you had to be right on top of it to see – but, as we will see in our message today, some things call for the unblemished – the perfect! Such is the case with Our Passover Sacrifice.

About the sixth hour on the day of preparation for the Passover, Jesus is presented as the King of the Jews! The Jews cried out to crucify Him after the chief priests declared they had no king but Caesar. Jesus went out with His own cross to the Place of a Skull, call Golgotha in Hebrew, where He was crucified between two men, becoming Our Passover Sacrifice.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “How does Jesus fulfill the requirements as Our Passover Sacrifice?”

As Our Passover Sacrifice, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

1). The first way Jesus fulfills the requirements as Our Passover Sacrifice is because He lived as the unblemished Lamb of God.

Even His place of birth points to Jesus as the Lamb of God, sent to take away the sin of the world.

According to Exodus 12:5-6, there are five requirements that must be met for an animal to be considered worthy to be a Passover sacrifice. The animal must be unblemished, a male, one year old, either a sheep or a goat, and it must be sacrificed at twilight on the day of Passover. Does Jesus really fit ALL five of these requirements to be Our Passover Sacrifice? The short answer – Yes! But we need to understand why so we can be prepared to answer those who ask this same question.

The first requirement is that the animal be unblemished. Miriam-Webster defines unblemished as “free from any unwanted marks or spots; having no fault or flaw.” In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds those in the church that God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf.” Jesus lived a sinless life, a life without fault or flaw. In addition, John the Baptist twice declared Jesus to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Only an unblemished animal is adequate to be the Passover sacrifice and Jesus absolutely fulfills this requirement.

The second requirement is the animal is to be male. This requirement stands as a symbol of the first-born son in the households of Israel and those who are struck down in the tenth and final plague against Egypt. The first-born son is also the heir to the father’s business, money and kingdom. Christ is, obviously, male, the first-born son to Mary and Joseph and the only Son of God, heir to His Father’s Kingdom. The Passover animal is to be one year old and no more; it may be slightly younger but no more than a week or so.

To be a year old is for the animal to be mature enough to be full grown but not old enough to consume more resources than it will return. This represents a year of hard work and investment – hard work in providing the necessary food, water and shelter and an investment in keeping it without fault or flaw. For some this represents Christ in His prime, regardless, it is clear that God wants our best, not an animal, or something else, that was going to be sacrificed any way.

The fourth requirement is that the animal had to be from the sheep or goats. As mentioned earlier, Christ is declared to be the Lamb of God. Why the Lamb of God, a sheep and not a goat? The lamb is one of the most vulnerable animals, in fact, there is only one animal more vulnerable, the chick, for their parents will not defend them! When John declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God, his words could be understood to be saying, “Here is the most vulnerable One,” or “Here is the One making Himself the most vulnerable.” Jesus became the perfect human sacrifice for the restoration of God’s people, because He, like the lamb, did not resist nor protest.

Finally, the lamb had to be sacrificed at twilight. Twilight, as defined by Miriam-Webster is “the sky between full night and sunrise, or the sky between sunset and full night, produced by the diffusion of sunlight through the atmosphere and its dust. Matthew and Mark, both tell us it was evening when the body of Jesus was removed from the cross. Evening, in the Jewish day, occurs between 3 and 6 p.m., this would be the time of twilight in the Jewish day. Jesus died minutes before and His body is removed at twilight, meeting the final requirement to be Our Passover Sacrifice.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

What part of the requirements do you identify with most closely?

Is it Jesus being unblemished?

Christ in His prime?

The vulnerability of Christ?

Or the sacrifice of Christ?

As Our Passover Sacrifice, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

2). The second way in which Jesus fulfills the requirements as Our Passover Sacrifice is because we apply His shed blood to our lives.

Though we continue to commit sin, we stand, before God, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.

For Christ to be the Passover sacrifice adequate to apply to our lives, there are four steps or requirements, each foreshadowed in the first Passover in Egypt. The first step, or requirement, comes after the sacrifice of the animal at twilight, when the Hebrew families were to spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of homes where the Passover was eaten. However, the blood on the doorposts and lintels was not limited to just the Hebrew people – anyone who placed their faith in God could put the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel and be saved. This is a public commitment to God in a hostile land. Only those who are convinced God will be victorious can make such a public declaration.

So too it is for the Christ follower, as Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus, we have redemption in His blood. In Revelation 1:7, John the Apostle tells us we have been released from our sins by His blood, and in Revelation 7:14, we learn the saints have their robes washed white by the blood of the Lamb. Christ clearly meets this first requirement as a adequate sacrifice to apply His blood to our lives – His blood has covered our sins and washed us clean!

The second step in the original Passover, eating the flesh of the Passover sacrifice with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The original instructions for the Passover meal require the animal sacrificed to be roasted, not boiled or eaten raw. It was to be eaten, entirely, that night, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs – leaving nothing leftover. The roasting of the lamb creates a sweet aroma before the Lord, clearly seen throughout the Old Testament sacrifices and is also a foreshadowing of the sweet aroma of the prayers of the saints before God. The unleavened bread is to remind the Hebrews of their deliverance from Egypt, while the bitter herbs remind them of the oppression and hardship of slavery. Nothing is to be leftover, what cannot be eaten is to be burnt – utterly destroyed.

For the Christ follower, we find the “flesh” of Christ represented in the bread we take when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper or communion. In Luke 14, Jesus gives instructions at His final Passover meal with His disciples. Jesus takes bread, blesses it, and then He breaks it. Holding the bread – the broken bread – before the disciples, He says, “This is My body which is given for you.” Jesus then takes a cup saying, “The cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” The unleavened bread symbolizes the removal of sin from our lives, while the shed blood symbolizes the cleansing we receive from the oppression and bitterness of slavery to sin.

Jesus was buried before sunset, and in the eyes of Satan, He has been utterly destroyed. Jesus has promised us He will not eat this meal again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God, but He also said to do this, taking the bread and the cup, whenever we remember Him. In our remembrance of Jesus and in the celebrating of His broken body and shed blood, it is the works of Satan that are utterly destroyed! This is the very reason that Jesus came – to destroy the works of Satan!

Finally, the blood was a sign to pass over the house on which the blood of the lamb was found. It was a sign of life inside, covered by the blood of the Lamb. God did not check to see if the house contained Hebrew people or Egyptian people, the sign of the blood of the lamb was enough! God does not look at a person’s nationality, status, money, possessions or any other personal accomplishment – He looks for one sign, the sign of life found in the covering of the blood of the Lamb!

Questions for discussion/reflection:

As a Christ follower, what do you most closely identify with in applying the blood of the Lamb to your life?

Is it the covering and cleansing we receive?

The broken body and shed blood that destroys the works of Satan?

The sign of life found under the covering of the blood of the Lamb?

As Our Passover Sacrifice, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Christ offers Himself as the perfect, unblemished offering, a one-and-done sacrifice for all sin. Ancient priests stood at the same altar, morning after morning, making the same offering – every morning exactly like the last. God, through Christ, reconciled all things in heaven and on earth to Himself – thus bringing a deep shalom, a holy peace, through the blood of the Lamb of God.

Through the body of Christ, the Son of God knows what it is like to be betrayed by friends, crushed by the powers that be, and the feeling of searing pain. Thus, Jesus – the Lamb of God – is more than adequate to be Our Passover Sacrifice. God the Father, knows what it is like to watch a Son be misunderstood, mocked, and deserted by His friends, and worse yet, to lose a precious child. God has experienced what all of us have experienced living in this sin riddled world – pain, rejection, betrayal, loss, and grief. Thus, God can offer His children what no other religion can – He offers His children not just sympathy but empathy.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

Next week: The Feast of Unleavened Bread – Exodus 12:17 & 1

The Increase of Christ

The Increase of Christ

Home Church Service 4/2/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

                                                                                  John 3:28–36 (NASB95)

Our passage this morning comes as John, the author of the gospel account, turns our attention back to John the Baptist. Jesus and His disciples are baptizing in Judea, while the Baptist and his disciples are nearby at Aenon. A discussion breaks out between the disciples of the Baptists and some Jews about purification. No details are given about the discussion but the disciples of John return to him and complain about the people now going to Jesus to be baptized.

John the Baptist remains true to his mission and points out, once again, he is not the Christ. He reminds his disciples that a man can get nothing unless it has been given from above. Once more the Baptist repeats his ministry is to go before Jesus and announce His coming. The Increase of Christ is the next natural step in proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.

All attention is on the bridegroom as the wedding nears, even the friend of the bridegroom fades into the background. The Increase of Christ must take place because He is above all things, is loved by the Father, and He testifies to what He has seen and heard. Those who believe in the Son have eternal life, those who do not obey the Son will not see life.

When Christ, the bridegroom comes, all eyes will be on Him. Christ is to be honored above all things, for He alone can speak of the things of heaven. The Increase of Christ will bring eternal life to those who believe and obey, while those who do not obey will find only the wrath of God.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the purpose of The Increase of Christ?”

The purpose of The Increase of Christ is to place Christ above all things and to bring obedience to Christ above all things.

1). The first purpose of The Increase of Christ is to place Christ above all things.

Christ must be above our traditions, rituals, governments, habits, wants and desires.

John the Baptist compares himself to the best friend at a bridegrooms wedding who rejoices with the bridegroom but is not the center of attention. It is not his day! He rejoices with the bridegroom who is about to be united with his bride. There is only one bridegroom; and he is the focus of the friend’s attention. It is not the friend who brings joy to the guests, community or the bride; it is the bridegroom.

As the friend, John the Baptist had a specific ministry, for a specific time, with a specific purpose. His purpose was to prepare the guests, community and bride for the coming of the bridegroom. His purpose was to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus and to identify Him as the Messiah, the Lamb of God, when He arrived. In the Old Testament, God was likened to a bridegroom and His people to a bride. In saying that Jesus is the bridegroom who had the bride, John is implying that Jesus is the divine husband of God’s people. As such, all of God’s people belonged to Him.

John emphasized the fact that Jesus spoke what He had heard from the Father. He is the Father’s representative in word and deed. “From above” or “above all” means superior and preeminent. Jesus, who came from heaven, is the superior and preeminent One. He is above all. Jesus was “from heaven” or out of God Himself. A person of this world can only speak of the earth and of earthly things. They come out of the earth; thus, they can only know earthly things. To speak of heaven is to speak of ideas and speculations. Only one from heaven can speak of heavenly things. John sets out to make it clear this is Jesus alone.

From every perspective Jesus proved to be the One who is above all. The depth of our understanding and gratitude for the new birth God offers in Christ will always be shaped by our vision of what Jesus set aside when He came to earth. The One who is “above all” set aside all that was rightfully His in exchange for the single privilege of being our Savior. This thought alone should move us from beyond simple belief to belief with full trust and obedience.

Jesus makes a startling statement in Luke 14:26:

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”                                               

(Luke 14:26 NASB95)

How do we justify this statement coming from the One who gave His life for us? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that God is love? If God is love, how can He tell us to hate those who are closest to us? How do we honor our father and mother and hate them at the same time? The word “hate” has a comparative force here. While it may sound strange to us, to love this and to hate that, is a typical way of expressing comparison in the Bible.

The idea is not that we should hate our families or even our lives. What is in focus here is a comparative love. Your love for Jesus should be so evident, so all-consuming, that when compared to love for family, it almost seems like “hate.” There should be no question to those around you, that if a choice had to be made, between family and Jesus, the hands down winner would be Jesus. Now, listen carefully, we DO. NOT. STOP. loving people the way we do now – our love for Jesus must simply outgrow our love for others and other things.

Let’s face, for some in the first century, to choose Jesus was deciding against family, and there are many who face this same decision today! The point here is to count the cost of your life in Christ. He is to be above all people and all things. A life in Christ – call it discipleship – takes reflection and focus. If we cannot walk the path of rejection that Jesus walked, we are not ready for the journey of faith Jesus calls us to take.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How does your life point to Christ as the true joy-giver?

Does your life reflect an all-consuming love for Jesus? If so, how? If not, why?

Is there an area of your life where Jesus is not yet “above all?”

How have you experienced the path of rejection Jesus calls us to take?

The purpose of The Increase of Christ is to place Christ above all things and to bring obedience to Christ above all things.

2). The second purpose of The Increase of Christ is to bring obedience to the Son above all things.

We must move beyond belief to obedience in all things – even the hardest of His commandments.

Humankind is under condemnation, from God, because of sin, but there is greater condemnation for those who reject the testimony of Jesus. This testimony comes in several ways – through creation, through the revealed word of God, the Bible and through the testimony of those who believe and have placed their trust in Christ – thus, no one can say they have not heard the testimony of Christ. Those who hear and receive the testimony of Jesus, believe He is the Son of God come from heaven, the Messiah. These have tested the testimony and found it true. This is their “seal of approval” on the truthfulness of God’s actions.

I mentioned earlier that “from above” or “above all” means to be superior and preeminent. Jesus is superior because of origin. Jesus is from above, from heaven, from the very presence and heart of God. By contrast, John the Baptist is from earth, derived from a human process of generation – a human mother and father. Jesus is superior because of His word. Because Jesus is sent from the very presence of God, He testifies to what He has seen and heard. The words He speaks are God’s words. Because God is truthful and the very expression of truth, so too are the words of the One who came from Him.

Jesus is superior because of resource. Not only is the Spirit given to Jesus, because He is the beloved Son of the Father, everything the Father possesses has been made available to Him – everything has been placed in His hands, without measure. To “set your seal” to something is to say, “I have identified with this.” Those who trust and obey Jesus need not wonder if they have eternal life. He who has the Son, as in present ownership, has eternal life. Thus, eternal life begins with spiritual rebirth, the question then becomes, “How does our way of living demonstrate the fact that we expect to live eternally?”

To disobey the Son is to reject Him. To reject the Son’s testimony and the gospel is to cut ourselves off from the benefits available through Jesus. Those who are disobedient will not see life – they will not experience God’s eternal life. The words “no one,” simply mean the “vast majority.” In our day and age, there have been so many people reject the Lord’s word, it can be said that “mankind as a whole has rejected His message.” It is a sobering thought to read through the prophecies of the time before Christ’s return and see how many people die because they refuse to repent of their sin and believe the message of Jesus.

Jesus takes obedience a step further in John chapter 14.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”                                                     

  John 14:15–17 (NASB95)

Here Jesus equates our love for Him to our obedience. Notice that Jesus does not point to just a few of His commandments but rather to ALL of His commandments. And yes, it is the plural form indicating all of His commandments. We know how difficult it is to follow just His command to love one another, how in the world can we obey ALL of His commandments? Jesus gives us that answer as well. He is going to ask the Father to send the Helper to come and lead us into all truth.

This, of course, is the Holy Spirit, here referred to as the Spirit of Truth. But here is the truly amazing thing about the Holy Spirit. Jesus says the world will not, in fact cannot, receive Him. The world cannot see Him or know Him, but He shall live with us forever. In this way, we are able to be obedient to all the commandments Jesus has given for those who call Him Lord and Savior. It is not easy, but we are expected to follow the commandments of Jesus without question and without hesitation. He has shown us how to live them out and He has now provided the support we need to see it through in our daily lives.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How does your life demonstrate you are expecting to live forever?

Where are you struggling to obey Jesus?

How are you experiencing being obedient to Jesus?

How have you felt the support of the Holy Spirit in trying to be obedient to Jesus?

The purpose of The Increase of Christ is to place Christ above all things and to bring obedience to Christ above all things.

We are responsible to decide today whom we will obey. God wants us to choose Him and to choose life. God’s wrath is His final judgment against those who disobey – against sinners – it is His rejection of the sinner. To put off the choice is to choose not to follow Christ. Indecision is a fatal decision. We have decided to follow Jesus, therefore our role is to build a following for Jesus, to make His name known, to compel others to praise Him and give their devotion to Him.

This was never going to be an easy lifestyle, but we have made the choice and Jesus has committed Himself fully to be with us until the end. Through the Helper, we have One who is with us always, leading us into all truth and acting as a guide that we may be faithful and obedient followers of Christ, living our lives in obedience before the world around us. As our bodies grow weary, Christ will be our strength; as our minds grow dim, Christ will be our wisdom and discernment; as our wills are tempted, Christ will be our reward, and as our souls grow discouraged, Christ will be our encouragement.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

Next week: Passover – Exodus 12:3 & 5-6 and John 19:14& 17-18

Life Changing Love

Life Changing Love

Home Church Service 3/26/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

                                                                                  John 3:16–21 (NASB95)

Many biblical scholars and commentators, believe that verse 16-21 of chapter three, are parenthetical comments added by John, the author of this gospel account. However, a close reading of the text makes it very clear that these are, indeed, the words of Jesus as He continues to talk with Nicodemus. This is a continuation of the conversation concerning the Son of Man and the eternal life He brings to those who put their trust in and believe in Him.

The statement “For God so loved the world,” changes everything Nicodemus has been taught as a Jew. Last week, we learned that Nicodemus and his contemporaries believed that ALL Jews would enter the kingdom of God through resurrection at the end of the world. Now he learns that this includes the whole world, and it was God’s plan form the beginning. The Son of God came because of God’s love for the whole world, this, indeed, is Life Changing Love.

God showed His love for the world by sending His only Son to save the world. Those who believe in the Son have eternal life; those who do not have already been judged. Life Changing Love separates those who practice truth and those who fears their deeds will be exposed.

This is how God showed us love, by sending Jesus Christ as the Light that brings Life Changing Love. Jesus calls us out of sin, lies, and deceptions, into His glorious Light that brings cleansing, truth, and honesty.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the importance of Life Changing Love?”

Life Changing Love shows the depth of care and concern God has for the world and those who bear His image.

1). Life Changing Love is important because it creates faith that believes and leads to eternal life.

This love requires faith in the One sent to bring eternal life to all who believe.

Two aspects of God’s love are in view here – the unfathomable depth of the love of God and the scope of the love of God. In His love, God went so far as to give up His most precious gift – His ONE and ONLY Son. If the depth of love is measured by the value of its gift, then God’s love could not have been greater, for His love gift is His most precious possession – His only, eternally beloved Son. God could not love more.

John’s readers would have been familiar with the idea or thought of God’s special love for Israel. The truth, however, is that God’s love is, and always has been, indiscriminate. God loves every man, woman, and child. What is truly amazing is the gracious embrace of God’s love, for the object of His love is the world. In John’s writings we find the world is fallen and has organized in rebellion against God. So, it is against the background of the wickedness of the world, that God’s love shines out in a most glorious way.

God’s love is not static or self-centered, it reaches out and draws others in. God’s actions defined the pattern of true love, the basis for all love relationships – when you love someone, you are willing to sacrifice dearly for that person. Sacrificial love expresses itself without assurance that the love will be returned in kind. Sacrificial love is also practical in seeking ways to meet the needs of those who are loved. In this case, God’s love was infinitely practical, for it set out to rescue those who had no hope of rescuing themselves.

Love is far more than just a mere emotion, far more than something we feel inside. Life Changing Love is a driving force, a dynamic that compels one to act. Love acts – it expresses itself! It does not sit still, doing nothing, it is not dormant, complacent or inactive. If love actually exists, it has to act and express itself, it has to do something good for those who are loved. Love is loving – that is, it is always demonstrating love to others. God’s love has acted, and continues to act, thus, revealing that God is love.

God has acted, and continues to act, in many different ways, towards all men, women, and children. But there is one act that stands far above all other acts – the giving of His only beloved Son. The NET translation of the Bible translates this verse like this, “For THIS is HOW God loved the world (emphasis mine.” That God loves the world is NOT in really in question. The question is HOW did God love the world and the answer is by giving His ONLY Son. God demonstrated His love in THE. MOST. PERFECT. WAY. POSSIBLE. He sacrificed His only Son. God is perfect so His love must be perfect, His sacrifice must be perfect. He must love to the utmost degree.

And that is exactly what God did – He loved to the ultimate degree and gave the ultimate act and expression of love, the sacrifice of His own Son’s life. There is, however, one small condition on this sacrifice. Yes, God gave the life of His Son for every man, woman, and child, but the only ones to receive the ultimate gift from this ultimate sacrifice, are those who believe in the Son who has been sacrificed. To believe is more than a mental or intellectual agreement that Jesus is God. It means putting your trust and confidence in Him, that He alone can save you. It is putting Christ in charge of your present plans and eternal destiny. Believing is both trusting His words as reliable and relying on Him for the power to change.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How has God expressed His love for you this past week?

How have you expressed (shown) love this past week?

What are of your life have you struggled with trusting Jesus this past week?

Life Changing Love shows the depth of care and concern God has for the world and those who bear His image.

2). Life Changing Love is important because it separates those who love light from those who love darkness.

Those who practice truth come to the light, while those who practice deception remain in darkness.

It must have been bad enough for Nicodemus to hear that God wanted to save the whole world, but now Jesus drops another bomb – judgment has already come! In the prologue to this gospel, John records that “the Light has come into the world.” We, of course, know this is Jesus. While Jesus has already said God sent His Son to save the world, not to judge it, there is one sense in which Jesus has come as Judge. This is part of the reason for the conversation with Nicodemus. From the Jewish perspective, Nicodemus is a well-respected teacher and leader, or shepherd. Jesus has come to judge the shepherds of Israel, who will begin to raise their voices and fists against the Lords Anointed One. We will examine this more deeply in chapter ten.

The full arrival of Light in the world would signal that God has now carried out His plan of salvation for His creation. “Light has come” means that, with the coming of Christ, we have an absolute source of truth; condemnation of sin; guidance for daily decisions; and illumination to learn about God more deeply. This means that everything is being revealed – EVERYTHING. GOOD. BAD. UGLY. It is all exposed by the Light that has come.

There is no more painful moment than when we confront our tendency to love darkness, to twist or withhold the truth. While the Son did not come to judge, in the light of His character, the sharp shadows of our sinfulness standout. Evil deeds are revealed by light. Those who want to do evil deeds must do it in the dark so they will not be caught in the act: those who commit these evil deeds – sins – are full of pride, they do not want to call what they do sin, let alone confess their sins, thus they become enslaved.

By contrast, those who practice truth come into the Light – they come to Christ. The contrast of those who come into the Light and live in the Light is clearly seen. The life of Christ is within them, and they are able to stand exposure to the bright light of Christ, for their deeds are honest, pure, and truthful. They know what is right and they do it. The Greek structure and wording here, indicates this is a continuous action – it speaks of practicing the truth, continually and habitually. Their changed lives prove that their faith is genuine.  

All people are under God’s judgment because of sin – specifically the sin of rejecting or not believing in God’s Son. The only way to avoid condemnation is to believe in God’s Son – to believe in Jesus. Jesus did not come to judge the world but to save the world. To be saved is to come into the Light – to believe in Jesus. Those who reject Jesus – who refuse to believe in Him and remain in darkness – are already condemned. God wants everyone to be saved, but they must come to faith in Jesus Christ. There are a multitude of reasons why a person rejects Jesus – ours is to plant the seed and live a life of truth, continually and habitually.

As a Christ follower, being in the Light is an ongoing process. We must continue to live a life of truth, continue confessing our sins, continue to search the Scriptures for God’s commands and promises, and we must continue to live in obedience. This includes those things in the Old Testament that today’s church claims are for Jews only. We must not forget that we have been grafted into Israel and we are now – spiritually – Jewish. We have somehow gotten away following the example of Jesus – except for a few “major points.”

We don’t murder; we don’t take the Lord’s name in vain; we promote marriage as one man and one woman; we don’t have illicit affairs and yet, the mainstream church continues to worship on Sunday, celebrate Good Friday, Easter and Christmas. Believers today pay no attention to the days that God has made holy, they ignore the dietary restriction and reduce the practices of the Old Testament as restricted to the Jews and Judaism, while holding up Christianity as a new religion started by Christ.

Our work is far from done – you might say it is only just beginning. Because God has called us into His Light, the spotlight is upon us, and the entire world will, one day, see the work that Christ is doing is each of us. Some will begin to take notice of the changes and begin to ask questions. Some will condemn you are being legalistic. Some will just ignore you. The point is this – we are all in the Light. Christ continues to expose and remove the worldliness that exists within us. Though it will be painful at times, the rewards far outweigh the light and momentary suffering we may face.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How are you practicing truth continually and habitually?

Is there an area of your life that you are keeping in darkness, away from the Light of conviction?

What has the Light of Christ exposed this week that has been an encouragement? A conviction?

Life Changing Love shows the depth of care and concern God has for the world and those who bear His image.

Everyone has a choice to make – to believe in Christ or to reject Christ. Each choice has a consequence. To believe is to have faith that leads to eternal life. To reject Jesus is to stand condemned and facing death – “to perish.” Those words add a sense of hopelessness to the fact of dying, for “to perish” is to come to a dead end. Escape from the tragic fate of “perishing” is to believe in God’s Son. In fact, this is the contrast, the exact opposite, for to believe is to have eternal life – life in the ageless age.

Some people may be repulsed by eternal life because their lives are miserable – they live in hunger, pain, poverty and disappointment. In fact, the bad news is so bad we could hardly stand to hear it. So, we try to protect ourselves from our fears by putting our faith in something we have or something we do: our good deeds; our skills; our intelligence; our money; our possessions. We see that perfection is so far out of reach, we settle for effort and end up one step ahead of despair. But eternal life is NOT an extension of this life, it is God’s life in Christ given as a guarantee they will live forever. It is a quality of life not just a quantity of years. In eternal life there is no death, no sickness, no enemy, no evil, and no sin.  

Only God can save us from the one thing we truly need to fear – eternal condemnation. God does not reveal everything about us that needs changing at once. As we move towards the Light, as our lives become filled with God’s presence, we become more aware of our sin, as well as the benefits God brings us. Like those in a dark room when the lights suddenly come on, we blink – hard – giving our eyes time to adjust and grow accustomed to seeing in the light. Once we are in the light, we must also guard against the temptation to squeeze our eyes shut tight when God is showing us something new. Still, the choice is up to each individual person.

Eternity awaits your decision.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

Next Week: John 3:29-36

Born of the Spirit

Born of the Spirit

Home Church Service 3/19/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

                                                                                      John 3:1–15 (NASB95)

Before I get into the message, I want to share a bit of background to help us better understand what is happening with this conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. The enter text of the document we know as the New Testament was written by Christ following Jews. We have been told this document was written in Greek, particularly koine Greek. Koine meaning common, and it is true that koine Greek was the common multi-lingual form of Greek spoken and written done during this time period. However, the Jewish writers of the New Testament wrote in a language that is accurately described as koine Judeo-Greek. Why the distinction?

Judeo-Greek is a form of Greek used by Jews to communicate. This language retained many of the words, phrases, grammatical structures and patterns of thought characteristic of the Hebrew language. It is Greek but it is Greek that inherited the patterns of Semitic thought and expression, thus it is written in Greek by people who thought Jewishly, and perhaps more importantly, multi-lingually. So, if we English speaking Christ followers truly want to get the most out of the Scriptures, we must grasp the Jewish thought behind the Greek language the New Testament is written.

Nicodemus is named as a ruler of the Judean Jews, he is a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin, though he has an uneasy connection with the Judean Jews. The name Nicodemus means “conqueror of the people.” In a twist of irony, the “Conqueror of the People,” is consistently afraid of the Judean Jews of the Sanhedrin, a closed group of people of which he is an honored member as long as he complies with the agenda and follows their rules. 

There are many theories as to why Nicodemus came by night to visit Jesus. First, Nicodemus came by night as a symbol that he was walking in spiritual darkness. This doesn’t seem likely as Nicodemus came to Jesus – though why he really came, we do not know. Second, Nicodemus came by night because he was afraid to be seen with Jesus. We do know that Nicodemus has several confrontations with the ruling group, yet at the same time, “we know” seems to indicate there are others in the ruling body who feel as Nicodemus does. Finally, Nicodemus came by night because of the busy schedules both Nicodemus and Jesus. This is plausible because Nicodemus would be hearing cases throughout the day and Jesus was teaching during the day. These three theories have the most support – any of the three could be right…or any of the three could be wrong.

The greeting of “Rabbi” extended by Nicodemus is cordial and leans towards being warm. However, it also shows that Nicodemus has no idea of the true identity of Jesus – Jesus is no ordinary Rabbi, He is the Rabbi of all Rabbi’s. In His previous visit to Jerusalem, many saw the miracles and believed in Jesus, thus it is easy for Nicodemus to conclude that Jesus is a teacher who has “come from God.” These comments from Nicodemus remind us of the last two verses from chapter two – Jesus “was not entrusting Himself to them…” Nicodemus is representative of one of these groups – one’s Jesus would NOT entrust Himself to or the contrast of one whom Jesus COULD entrust Himself. With this background in mind, we can dig into the rest of this passage.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, comes to Jesus by night to acknowledge he knows Jesus is from God. Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be Born of the Spirit to see and enter the Kingdom of God. The confused Nicodemus cannot believe the testimony of Jesus, even after Jesus tells him the Son of Man must be lifted up, giving eternal life to those who believe in Him.

Like Nicodemus, we too recognize Jesus only when it is safe for us to do so. We have been Born of the Spirit, able to see and enter the Kingdom of God, even though our faith is still confusing at times. By turning to the cross of Jesus and believing in Him, we have been given eternal life.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the purpose of being Born of the Spirit?”

The purpose of being Born of the Spirit is for the Christ follower to be able to see, hear, and understand both earthly and heavenly things.

1). The first purpose of being Born in the Spirit is for the Christ follower to be able to see and enter the Kingdom of God.

Spiritual rebirth comes from God the Father, after we acknowledge His calling.

Nicodemus comes with the best of credentials, a member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee and a highly regarded teacher in Israel. But Nicodemus is immediately rocked back on his heels as Jesus completely reverses the conversation. Regardless of the translation you use, the words that open the reply of Jesus mean you need to pay close attention to what Jesus is about to say. “Truly, truly,” or “Amen, amen,” and “I tell you the truth,” all mean Jesus is getting serious – SO PAY ATTENTION!! Jewish life is marked out in stages – birth and circumcision, to coming of age and so on until death and burial. So, when Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born again to see the kingdom of God, Nicodemus is rocked to his core.

Nicodemus is in his final stage of such a life cycle and now this teacher tells him he must be born again. Nicodemus and his contemporaries believed that all Jews would enter the kingdom of God through resurrection on the last day – the exception being those who denied the faith. To be born a Jew was to be an heir of the kingdom of God. The Greek word translated “again” can also be translated as “from above.”

If the word is translated as “again,” the emphasis is on the nature of the experience into the kingdom – this relates it to the process of physical birth. If the word is translated as “from above,” the emphasis is on the origin of the experience – from the heavenly realm, a supernatural experience. As a devout and well-taught Jew, Nicodemus anticipated the arrival of the kingdom at the end of history. Nicodemus is confused and doesn’t understand Jesus is speaking spiritually, while Nicodemus is thinking literally.

Nicodemus questions how an old man, such as himself, can enter the womb to be born once again – a second physical birth. Jesus uses two examples to help Nicodemus understand. The first is water and Spirit. Here again, we find several interpretations of what Jesus is saying. The first is physical birth and spiritual birth. Here the water is associated with the amniotic fluid of physical birth. The second is the water of baptism and spiritual rebirth. There is a clear example of this in Ezekiel 36:25-27 which refers to the new order of the Messianic age in which there will be a new experience of cleansing. Finally, there is the thought that both words refer to the Spirit. The Greek word translated as “and” can also be translated as “even.” So, Jesus could actually be saying “one is born of water, even the Spirit.” I want to read the Ezekiel passage for you because I believe it helps put things in context.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”                                                                                       Ezekiel 36:25–27 (NASB95)

This is clearly the new covenant God has established by placing His Spirit within us – within our hearts. If Jesus is referring to the new order and the new cleansing of the Messianic age it is the Spirit who brings the cleansing. Water baptism is the symbol of our death to the old life and while it is important, the other two positions seem to give water baptism a place and importance not supported by Scripture. We must be careful not to place too much importance on the act of baptism. Yes, it is important, but water baptism does not bring us cleansing, that comes from the Holy Spirit.

The second example Jesus uses is the wind. We can hear the wind; we can feel the wind, but we do not see or know where the wind comes from or where it is goes. The Greek word here is pneuma, it can be translated as “wind,” or as “breath,” or as “spirit.” It is easy to see what comparisons can be made. What Jesus wanted Nicodemus to see is that God’s Spirit is an unbridled personal cosmic force that submits to the authority of God alone.

For the Christ follower, it is this personal cosmic force that brings about the new birth allowing us to be counted among those who belong to the kingdom of God. Therefore, no one who is relying on their own merits can see the kingdom of God – not the Jews, not the pious Pharisees or the Sadducees. It is also a reminder for us not to tie our experience of being born of the Spirit to a particular “Christian formula.”

For many, seeing and entering the kingdom are, essentially, the same thing. However, I think we need to clarify how we understand seeing the kingdom and entering the kingdom. I do agree that there is a sense in which seeing and entering are the same thing. The kingdom of God is the sphere of God’s rule in heaven and on earth. Jesus reveals that this kingdom is personal, not national or ethnic and the entrance requirements are the same for all – repentance and spiritual rebirth. So, to see the kingdom of God means, in part, to have a special perception or insight concerning God’s absolute sovereign control. In addition, there is also sense of belonging, or citizenship, included.

For the Christ follower, to “see” the kingdom is to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to understand both earthly things and heavenly things. It is to have a perception or insight into what God is doing and where He is working, both within us and in the world around us. To “enter” into the kingdom is to be a citizen without yet being able to exercise all the rights and privileges of that citizenship – we have them available to us in a limited scope. We must be careful because people can come near the kingdom and yet not see or enter into the kingdom. Those who have not yet experienced spiritual rebirth or have not fully submitted to God’s authority cannot assume citizenship.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How often do you find it difficult to pay attention to Jesus as He speaks to you?

How do you sense the Holy Spirit working in you today?

What personal insight have you gained recently concerning the kingdom of God?

The purpose of being Born of the Spirit is for the Christ follower to be able to see, hear, and understand both earthly and heavenly things.

2). The second purpose of being Born of the Spirit is to give the Christ follower eternal life.

We lift our eyes to Jesus, the One who reveals both earthly and heavenly things.

At this point it appears as if Nicodemus is completely out of his depth. “How can these things be true?” His question to Jesus indicates that, while Nicodemus knew the Scripture, he clearly did not understand them. Nicodemus is one of the most respected teachers in Israel and he misses the points that are clearly taught in Scripture. Jesus came into the world to make His Father known, to testify to the truth, and to offer eternal life. When Jesus spoke of these things, He does so because He is uniquely qualified to speak of them, for He is speaking from His own experience.

Jesus has already spoken of earthly things, the need to be born of the Spirit – an earthly experience and the condition for entrance into the kingdom of God. Jesus identifies Himself as the heavenly figure of sovereign authority, the Son of Man, who came down from heaven and is therefore qualified to speak with authority of heavenly things. Jesus does this by turning to a figure Nicodemus should be very well acquainted with – Moses. Jesus points to Numbers 21:4-9, a wilderness experience where God sent serpents into the camp of the Israelite people. These venomous snakes bite the people and many of them died. God instructs Moses to make a snake, put it on a pole, and lift it up before the people. Anyone who has been bitten only needs to look up at the snake and live.

The “lifting up” of the snake is God’s provision for salvation to those who have been bitten by the snake – it is salvation for the rebellious Israelites! So too, the “lifting up” of the Son of Man will be God’s salvation from eternal death for people from all nations. God has now provided salvation from the consequences of sin for all peoples by the death of His Son and those who put their faith in Jesus will have eternal life. The Son of Man came from heaven and became flesh in order to die – but His death would have special importance. Jesus used this incident to picture His coming salvation work on the cross.

Salvation happens when we “lift up” our eyes to Jesus, believing He will save us. God has now provided the way for us to be healed of sin’s deadly, poisonous bite. Those who believe in Jesus are spared destruction and given eternal life. There is no other way to be healed and to be given eternal life than taking our eyes off of self and the world around us and lifting our eyes to Jesus.

Those who have been given eternal life have experienced spiritual rebirth through the power and cleansing of the Holy Spirit, and they have “lifted up” their eyes to Jesus and His work on the cross. These have been given spiritual insight that they may “see” the kingdom of God and will now “enter” the kingdom of God by putting their faith in the Son of Man.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Is there an area of your life that needs healing from sins poisonous bite?

How often do you need to remind yourself to “fix your eyes” on Jesus?

When did you first realize you had “entered” the kingdom of God?

The purpose of being Born of the Spirit is for the Christ follower to be able to see, hear, and understand both earthly and heavenly things.

Nicodemus had a searching heart, he believed that Jesus had some answers. We need to remember that no matter how intelligent or well-educated we may be, we must come before Jesus with an open mind and heart so He can teach us the truth about God. Is your heart searching? A searching heart is a humble heart, seeking and admitting personal need. A searching heart is filled with perseverance to overcome obstacles that may keep us from coming to Jesus. The searching heart has insight that the gospel message relates to our lives even today.

A searching heart has a willingness to submit to the authority and lordship of Christ Jesus. A searching heart is obedient in going beyond the mental assent to achieve dependence on God’s promises and guidance. If we are hungry, God will be the source. He has provided His Word, His presence, and the freedom of prayer to place any question before Him. Jesus is more than a topic of discussion – He has answer for our soul!

We do all things to the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen,

Next Week: John 3:16-21

Flawless in Christ

This is a reprise of an earlier message. Family emergencies and illness kept us from meeting this week. May the Lord bless you this week and always.

Flawless in Christ

Galatians 2: 19 – 20

“For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

                                                                          Galatians 2:19–20 (NASB95)

There is hardly a day go by when I get online to check email and there is a news story from Twitter or Instagram about a photo some celebrity has posted. It doesn’t matter if it is a vacation picture or a shopping trip or a day in, if a celebrity has posted a picture of themselves it has to be news…right? Then there are those stories about a housewife who has posted a picture post-baby and the internet has gone crazy. It might be a workout picture or just baby and mom cuddling; something has triggered a response and again the internet goes crazy.

Interestingly enough, most of the news stories have to do with body shaming, which is surprising when it is a celebrity. We seem to have become a society obsessed with the body and finding the perfect body to hold up as the standard for men and women to try and attain. Some go as far as using some kind of app or program to make their picture look better than it truly is. Why this obsession with perfection? Why do people have such a hard time accepting themselves as they are and being comfortable in their own skin?

Sadly, we Christians are not immune to this desire for our self-image to be better than it truly might be. We come to church on Sunday morning hurting, broken, depressed, lonely, sad and heartbroken; yet when someone asks, we “put on a brave face” and say we are fine. Why? We are a community of broken people who have found healing through One who has experienced all that we are going through. When Jesus came as a human child. God put on flesh that He might know and understand how we feel on our worst day. His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary not only defeated death and sin, but for those found in Him we have been made Flawless in Christ.

Paul reminds the church in Galatia they have died to the Law that they might live to God. Having been crucified with Christ, it is no longer they who live but Christ who lives in them. The life they live in the flesh is lived by faith, having been made Flawless in Christ who gave His life for them.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are no longer under the old covenant but having been made Flawless in Christ, we live our lives in obedience to God. The old self has died, it is no longer us who lives, but Christ within us who lives. Our lives are now lived by faith in God’s Son who gave His life for us.

As followers of Jesus Christ, how are believers made Flawless in Christ?

Believers are made Flawless in Christ by dying to the Law and by dying to self.

1). Believers are made Flawless in Christ by dying with Christ.

As believers we are justified by living for God. The believer lives for God by dying to the law. The law shows people that they are a sinner and that they come ever so short of perfection and righteousness. The law shows people that they are to be punished and separated from the society of God forever. The law shows people that they stand no chance of ever being accepted by Godnot if they have to approach God by keeping the law. We just cannot keep the lawnot continually, not consistentlyfor we are always coming short of the law and of God’s glory. The law slays people; it kills them and condemns them to death. The only hope people ever have of being acceptable to God is to die to the lawsomehow, some way to be delivered out from under the lawto be removed so far away from the law that it has no bearing upon him. How can people do this? By turning away from the law and finding Someone who can stir God to count them righteous and to accept them. The first thing that a people must do in order to live for God is to die to the law and to self-righteous works.

The believer lives for God by being crucified with Christ. How in the world can a person be crucified with Christ when Christ died so many centuries ago? Scripture tells us how. When a person believes that Jesus Christ died for themthat Jesus Christ bore the punishment of sin for themGod takes that person’s faith and counts their faith as them having died in Christ; He counts their faith as their identification with Christ in death; He counts their faith as having already been punished for sin in the death of Christ. As Scripture says, the person, the old self is “crucified with Christ.” God counts or credits the believer as having already diedas having died with Christ.

The law itself could not save because no one can keep its perfect standards. The law thus cannot earn God’s approval; instead, it offers only failure and death. So, what is its usefulness? The law was a necessary instrument to show people the ultimate futility of trying to live up to God’s standard on their own. But that very hopelessness created by the law can have a positive impact if it leads a person to the true hope, Christ himself. Christ took upon himself that death penalty—the death we deserved for being lawbreakers.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB95) Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Gone are the old fleshly desires of self-fulfillment and self-promotion to be replaced by putting the needs of others first. Gone are the bad habits that enslaved us to be replaced with new good habits that set us free to serve the Risen Lord. Gone is the old mind shaped and trained by the world to “look out for number one” renewed with the new mind set on kingdom principles of caring and concern for others. Gone are the old worldly thoughts of evil and sin to be replaced with new kingdom thoughts of love and grace. 

Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus 4:22-24, concerning the old self writing, “…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” The thought here is that of changing clothes. You take off the old garments and replace them with freshly pressed, crisp, white, robes of righteousness through Jesus Christ. Instead, Paul was a “new person” because, he explained, Christ lives in me. In other words, Paul had turned over his life to Christ.

Each of the phrases is a crucial aspect of the sequence of salvation: We relinquish our old life and turn to Christ for his life. The self-centered self now becomes the Christ-centered self. It is as if Paul was saying, “My old life, my old goals and plans, even old relationships were nailed to the cross with Christ. Now I have a new life because Christ came in and filled the empty spaces all those old pursuits could not fill. Now he lives in me and is the focus of my life.” To accomplish this, there must be a radical cleansing of our old selfish nature. But there must also be a turning to the empowering of Christ. Just as in repentance we turn away from sin and toward Christ, we must turn from the self in the flesh to the self-hidden in Christ. In Him, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and your dying to self, you are made Flawless!

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Is there a part of your life that you have not crucified with Christ? What is holding you back?

Are there aspects of your former life that you continue to cling to as a new creation in Christ?

What attitudes or actions of the old self do you continue to fight against today?

Believers are made Flawless in Christ by dying to the Law and by dying to self.

2). Believers are made Flawless in Christ by trusting in God’s grace.

The believer lives for God by allowing Christ to live His life through their body. The believer is “crucified with Christ,” yet they are still living upon earth. However, they are not to be the one in charge of their life. By faith they have died with Christ; therefore, they are to live with Christ. They are to allow Christ to live in and through their body, to control and to be in charge of their life. The believer is to be so merged into Christ that it is as though Christ is walking upon the earth in their body. The believer is to be so much in union and fellowship with Christ that it is as though they are but a branch drawing their very life and nourishment from Christ.

The believer lives for God by trusting the grace of God, that is, by trusting Jesus Christ who is God’s righteousness. Paul states he does not nullify or set aside the grace of God. If a man sets aside the grace of God and seeks righteousness by the law, then Christ died in vain. The person who preaches that a man can be good enoughthat he can work enough and keep enough lawto become righteous and acceptable to God voids and does away with the love and grace of God; makes the death of Christ empty and meaningless. The only way a man can live for God is by trusting the grace and love of God, that is, by trusting the death of Jesus Christ for His righteousness.

Paul no longer focused his life on trying to please God by obeying laws; instead, with Christ in him, I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Believers live in their bodies that are prone to sin while they remain on earth. But with Christ in charge, they are new creations, living life by faith. This faith is an attitude, a lifestyle.

The world says your ugliness does not fit with us; grace says you are the image bearing creation of God – you are Flawless in Christ. The world says telling people they have sinned is hate speech and we will silence you; grace says the word of truth lives inside of you to speak the truth gently and in love – you are Flawless in Christ. The world says this is who I am – take me or leave me; grace says God accepts you as you are, but He loves you enough to never leave you as you are – you are Flawless in Christ. The world says you are too far gone for God to save you; grace says God loves you and will never leave you or forget you – you are Flawless in Christ. The world says your addiction, your disease, your doubt and your shame will always be yours, never to be taken, never to find healing; grace says you are a new creation in Christ, the old has gone and the new has come – you are Flawless in Christ.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Is Christ in charge of ALL areas of your life today?

Are you still trying to “work” your way to being good enough for God?

Where, in your life, do you need help in trusting Christ?

Believers are made Flawless in Christ by dying to the Law and by dying to self.

It is time that we, as Christians, learn who we are in Christ. The letter to the Galatians has one theme and one theme only, the supremacy of Christ. In Christ we are a new creation. Gone are the old fleshly desires of self-fulfillment and self-promotion; gone are the bad habits that enslaved us; gone is the old mind shaped and trained by the world to “look out for number one”; gone are the old worldly thoughts of evil and sin. You are Flawless in Christ.  It doesn’t matter that the world says your ugliness does not fit with us; it doesn’t matter that the world says telling people they have sinned is hate speech and we will silence you; it doesn’t matter that the world says this is who I am – take me or leave me; it doesn’t matter the world says you are too far gone for God to save you; it doesn’t matter that the world says your addiction, your disease, your doubt and your shame will always be yours, never to be taken, never to find healing. You are Flawless in Christ!

God has moved in the lives of people in countless ways. For those who were once slaves to addiction, disease, depression, loneliness, sadness and broken heartedness they have discovered who they are in Christ. No longer do they wear the chains of slavery but now they wear a robe of righteousness found only in Christ. That same power exists here today, ready for you to call upon; ready to set you free from whatever might be keeping you captive. I pray that you will learn who you are and that you have been made Flawless in Christ.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

The Power of Messiah

The Power of Messiah

Home Church Service 3/5/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”

                                                                                   John 2:18–25 (NASB95)

Our passage this morning comes right after John records the cleansing of the Temple in verses 12-17. Following the first sign performed by Jesus at the wedding in Cana, John tells us that Jesus, His mother, His brothers and His disciples all went to Capernaum for a few days. The Passover is near, so Jesus and the disciples head to Jerusalem for the Feast. This sets the stage for what is about to happen at the Temple. John tells us the Jewish Passover was near. Why does John specify the “Jewish” Passover? Aren’t all Jews the same?

As a matter of fact, they are not! Remember, when we examined the prologue to this gospel account, we learned that “those who were His own,” refers to the Judean Jews, but we lose that in the translation to English. This gospel account is written to include Samaritan Jews as well, which we will see again in chapter four. The Samaritan Jews rejected the legitimacy of the Jerusalem Temple thus, they had no reason to celebrate its cleansing or rededication. In addition, there are different Israelite calendars in use to celebrate the Passover and other Feasts. Jesus was not a Samaritan, He was Judean, thus John clarifies which Passover He celebrated.

When Jesus enters the Temple, He finds it filled with merchants buying and selling animals, a necessary function to make sacrifice during the Passover Feast. If this is a necessary function during the Passover, why is Jesus so upset? Two reasons: 1). This is the Court of the Gentiles, the only place where Gentiles are allowed to enter for worship and prayer. 2). This is an echo from the Old Testament, this time from Malachi 3:1-3:

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.”

                                                                                   Malachi 3:1–3 (NASB95)

Expectation of the coming Messiah is at an all-time high and the religious elite of Israel miss His coming with each passing sign!

Jesus does not object to the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice, He objects to the fact that it is being done IN the Temple. Imagine a God-fearing Gentile coming to worship and pray to the God they fear, only to find the only place you are allowed to enter, filled with animals for sacrifice. The chaos would be distracting to say the least! Thus, we find the disciples remembering Psalm 69:9. With this background we can now examine this morning passage and The Power of Messiah

The Jews question the authority of Jesus to cleanse the Temple. His answer is misunderstood by the Jews, but His disciples remembered what He said and believed the Scriptures. At the Passover Feast, Jesus performed signs, showing The Power of Messiah and many believed in His name, though Jesus did not entrust Himself to them.

Like the Jews, we too question the authority of Jesus as He begins to cleanse the temple of our body. Many times, we misunderstand what Jesus is doing because we do not remember or have not read, what He said in the Scriptures. We must place our full trust in Jesus, for The Power of Messiah must be at work within us, for Jesus knows the heart of all people.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the purpose of The Power of Messiah in the life of the Christ follower?”

The purpose of The Power of Messiah in the life of the Christ follower is for cleansing and in preparation of the resurrection of life.

1). The first purpose for The Power of Messiah in the life of the Christ follower is to move us from death to life.

Being moved from death to life is part of our preparation for the resurrection of life.

As we begin to examine our passage this morning, we, once again, find the Jews questioning the authority of someone – this time they question the authority of Jesus. Specifically, they ask Jesus what sign He will show as His authority to cleanse the Temple and claim to be the Messiah. How do we know this? Because Jesus claimed the Temple to be His Father’s house, thus laying claim as Messiah. Again, these Jews will miss the sign Jesus gives them. His answer is the same answer He gives them in Matthew 12:39-40:

“But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

                                                                        Matthew 12:39–40 (NASB95)

The Jews miss the sign completely. “It took 46 years to build this Temple! You will rebuild it in three days?” In their minds, Jesus has lost all credibility, but Jesus turns the tables on the Jews. Remember, this is the Passover, the Temple is crowded with people from all over, returning to Jerusalem to observe the Feast. All eyes must be on what is unfolding. The Jews authorities could not have been more devalued; without bothering to explain what He meant, Jesus denied the authority of the Jews. From the standpoint of the Jews, it was their authority alone to validate Jesus’ candidacy for Messiahship, and it was not being honored. Jesus consistently stated His miracles, and the witness of His Father were enough to establish Him as God’s Messiah. So, Jesus refused to acknowledge the Jews authority over Him, and by extension, the whole of Israel. Jesus is the One in whom God had placed such trust and authority, so for Jesus to submit to the illegitimate authority, or at least the lower-level authority, of the Judean Jews, was simply out of the question.

John flashes forward to tell us that when Jesus was raised from the dead the disciples remembered what Jesus had said, believed the Scriptures and the words Jesus had spoken. By the power of the Holy Spirit, these Scriptures were illuminated for the disciples, Jesus was right – the Jews destroyed His temple, His body, and He did raise it three days later, just as He predicted. All of this points to the fact that the Judean Jews are missing The Power of Messiah. Granted, it would take the disciples three more years to fully understand, but at least they showed signs they were beginning to get the point.

For the Christ follower, we need to look carefully at all that Jesus says in this passage, those words are the key for us today. First of all, the cleansing of the Temple is a reminder for us to keep our worship pure. Worshiping God is not always convenient, it demands true devotion and self-sacrifice. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by our achievements or circumstances. We must focus on God alone, for we are to worship sincerely, reverently and humbly. In the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus is angered by an attitude that cheapens worship.

Secondly, the only sign Jesus offered the Jews was the same sign offered in Matthew 12. Though stated in different terms, it is the same sign. The destruction of the temple – His body – and the sign of Jonah, both point to His death and resurrection. This is the hope of the Christ follower, to be moved from death to life, which is exactly what happens when we repent and believe on the name of Jesus. This is also described as moving from darkness into light.

Finally, we must be in the Word, not because I am your pastor and I am encouraging you to do so, but because this is the way we hide the Word in our hearts and minds, this allows the Holy Spirit to bring them to our mind when times get difficult. There is likely a time coming when someone will come for our Bibles. We will not have physical or electronic copies to turn to, so we must spend time now reading, meditating and studying the words of Jesus, so they are hidden where no man can take them.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Where does the temple of your body need cleansing from Jesus?

How are you refusing to acknowledge the authority of Jesus?

What are you doing to keep the words of Jesus hidden in your heart and mind?

The purpose of The Power of Messiah in the life of the Christ follower is for cleansing and in preparation of the resurrection of life.

2). The second purpose for The Power of Messiah in the life the Christ follower is to establish our complete and genuine faith in Christ.

The Christ follower must be cleansed of dependence on anyone or anything other than Christ, full trust in Christ is a must for the Christ follower.

John now tells us that Jesus is at the Passover in Jerusalem, and many have believed in Him because of the signs He has been doing. We need to remember that Passover is followed by two more feasts and continues for a total of nine days. There is the Passover, followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread which continues for seven days and concludes with the Feast of First Fruits. This gives Jesus ample time to be seen, heard, teach, and to perform signs. Because of this many people have believed in His name. These three feasts were to remind the Jewish people of how God freed them from captivity in Egypt. There is, equally, significance in these feasts for the Christ follower but we will examine that at a later date.

But there is a problem that arises here. At the end of this passage, John notes that Jesus “was not entrusting Himself to them.” The words believed and entrusting come from the same Greek root word meaning “to believe.” What we find here is an example of genuine faith and a false profession of faith. We might call this saving faith today. Saving faith is not head knowledge – it is more than a mental conviction or intellectual agreement. Saving faith is believing in Jesus – who and what He is, Lord and Savior of life. Saving faith is commitment – the commitment of your total being and life to Jesus.

There are three steps to saving faith and these three steps are clearly seen in this passage, in the disciples. The first step is seeing or hearing. A person must be willing to listen to the message of Christ – the revelation of truth. The disciples spent three years seeing the works of Jesus and hearing Him teach in synagogues, on mountainsides and in private. The second step is one mental assent. A person must agree that the message is true – that the facts of the case presented are true and so. Which must lead to the third step to be saving faith – commitment.

When the New Testament talks about faith it is talking about commitment – a personal commitment to truth. A person must hear the truth, agree that it is true and then do something about it! That person must commit and yield their life to truth. The truth becomes a part of their behavior and life. Jesus knows all people and because of this, Jesus knew that some of those who professed to believe in Him, had made false professions.  

We too must make certain we have a saving faith – a personal commitment to live a life seeking and revealing truth. When Jesus made the statement, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days,” it wasn’t a riddle to throw people off the scent of truth, it was, in fact, an invitation to THINK and INQUIRE more deeply. In all things, Jesus seeks to develop within His followers a more complete and genuine faith. Remember the words Jesus spoke to Nathanael after his profession? “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?” Jesus told him there were greater things yet to see, an invitation to think and inquire more deeply!

The opposite of saving faith is deficient faith. Faith in Jesus can become deficient in two ways. First, our faith can become deficient when our motives are wrong. We should not believe in Jesus by asking what’s in it for me – what can Jesus do for me – or because of some miracle He may have done for us. We must believe in Jesus because of who He is – the Christ, Messiah and the Son of God. The second way our faith can become deficient is by thinking that trust is the arrival point rather than the departure point. Once we come to a complete and genuine faith that trusts fully in Christ Jesus, doesn’t mean we have arrived and can now relax, no! Far from it! This is the point where Christ begins to use us in His ministry. Trust leads us to obedience that goes where Jesus calls and does what Jesus instructs, without questioning why or how, but trusts Jesus for the outcome.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Where do you find yourself in the journey to saving faith?

Step 1,2 or 3?

How are you developing your life as a commitment to seeking and revealing truth?

Where do you find deficiency in your faith?

Jesus is looking for trustworthy followers – have you developed into a trustworthy follower?

The purpose of The Power of Messiah in the life of the Christ follower is for cleansing and in preparation of the resurrection of life.

Our journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, time is growing short and there is still much to be done. However, we are not in this alone. By keeping our focus on Jesus and trusting Him for all we need, we can handle all the world has to throw at us. The key is becoming a trustworthy follower of Christ with no deficiencies in our faith. This can only be done through The Power of Messiah.

So, seek Jesus for cleansing. Trust Him to point out the areas in your life that need to be removed or refined. Then submit fully to His authority. If there is an area you have struggled to submit to Jesus, call on Him and He will begin the process of bringing that area under His authority. Once again, He knows you so allow Him to work in those areas you find a struggle. Cleansing and submitting to the authority of Jesus are not easy for our fallen flesh, but the blessings we find far outweigh the light and momentary suffering we may have to face.

Now is the time to get in the word! Use a guided devotional or year-long reading program or develop a list of topics to read through on your own. Whatever you choose, stick with it! Even if you miss a few days in a row, stick with it. Pick up where you left off but stick with it. We must hide the word of God in our hearts and minds to face any situation we may have to face in the coming days. God has sworn that His word would not return to Him without first accomplishing His desire. It is His desire that we carry His word with us always!

Finally, continue to seek and reveal truth. This may be the hardest point to accomplish. It seems as if everyone has their own idea of what truth is today. Jesus said two very important things about truth that we as Christ followers must cling to. In John 14:6 Jesus said, I am the Way, the truth and the Life. If we are committed to living a life of truth, then we must live our lives in truth the way Jesus has shown us. In John 17:7 Jesus prayed for His disciples, including disciples of future generations, that God would sanctify us in truth – “Your word,” Jesus said, “is truth.”

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

Next week: John 3:1-15

The Power of Change

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”

                                                                                     John 2:1–11 (NASB95)

Why does change get such a bad rap? Change is all around us, and some of the change around us we hardly even notice. In the past two weeks we have seen changes that were hard to miss. We have had days in the 50’s filled with sunshine and blue skies, followed by days in the 20’s filled with clouds and snow showers. Yeah, I know…we all noticed those changes because we had to drive in the snow and shovel it out of the way. Those are dramatic changes that are hard to miss! But what about sunrise and sunset? The sun is rising earlier and going down later, so we have more daylight hours now. That has been a gradual change, a change we take for granted because it happens year in and year out.

Not all change is bad. We enjoy the change of the seasons as winter leaves and spring arrives. Some of us prefer to see summer leave and fall arrive. So, all change is not bad…right? There are many ways for change to happen. It can happen as you alter something, such as someone making a change to their will. Or it can be a radical change as in a transformation. And then there is the more subtle nature of change as when we change the subject during a conversation. So, not all change is bad. In fact, we experience change throughout our day, every day of the year. Some more subtle than others but the point is we experience change often.

Well, change is the topic of our message this morning. More accurately it is about transformation, it is about stepping out in faith, it is about leaving your comfort zone, today we are looking at The Power of Change in John chapter 2. What we see on the surface doesn’t tell the whole story so we will need to take a deeper dive into the first sign of Jesus – changing water to wine.

An invitation has been given to Jesus and His disciples to attend a wedding in Cana of Galilee. The wine runs out and the servants are told to do whatever Jesus says. He instructs them to fill empty waterpots, used for ritual cleaning, with water. Jesus then turns the water to wine and has some sent to the headwaiter. The Power of Change astonishes the headwaiter, manifests the glory of Jesus and caused the disciples to believe.

Jesus has extended the invitation to follow Him. During our time with Jesus, we are sure to run out of faith at times. As His servants we are to be obedient to what He says. In our obedience Jesus will fill our empty rituals through The Power of Change, that will astonish those around us, show the change Jesus has caused within us and fill and strengthen us with genuine faith.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the purpose of The Power of Change in the Christ follower’s life?”

The purpose of The Power of Change is to call the Christ follower out of empty rituals and fill them with genuine faith.

1). The Power of Change is an invitation to step out in faith.

When Jesus invites us to follow Him, He is inviting us to step out of our comfort zones.

This passage opens with John recording a wedding at Cana of Galilee on the third day. Traditionally, this has been interpreted as the third day after John the Baptist declares Jesus the Lamb of God. While this is very likely true from a simple reading of the Scriptures, the mention of a wedding that same day, sheds a different light upon the matter. The mention of a wedding being on the third day would capture the attention of the Jewish mind. The third day of the week, Tuesday for us, carried certain importance. In Genesis 1:9-13 the phrase, “God saw that it was good,” is mentioned twice, so in the Jewish mind God has blessed this day and thus, the wedding held on the third day.

Wine symbolizes several things in Scripture, and, oddly enough, one of those is blessing. It is the mother of Jesus who approaches Him to say the wine has run out. This would be absolutely devastating to the family and in particular, to the bridegroom. Has the wedding couple suddenly lost their blessing? As we will find out, no, they have not lost their blessing, but that discussion happens in our second point. When the mother of Jesus approaches Him, she receives a gentle rebuke when Jesus says, “My hour has not yet come.” At this point she gives instructions to the servants to do whatever Jesus says and then simply walks away.

We see the mother of Jesus stepping out in faith, she has made her request known and leaves, trusting that Jesus will respond in the best way. She makes no further requests or demands – she simply walks away, trusting Jesus will act…somehow. Jesus does in fact respond. He instructs the servants to fill six waterpots used for ritual cleaning with water. In obedience, the servants do as they have been instructed, not having a clue about what is going to happen. They fill the waterpots to the brim – there is absolutely no doubt this is nothing but water! We are not given any clue as to how long between the filling of the waterpots and the drawing of the wine might have been, but now it is the servants who must step out in faith.

The servants have been instructed to draw some of the water that has become wine and take it to the headwaiter. Can you imagine the fear that must have filled the hearts of these servants? If this is dirty, nasty water, the headwaiter is likely to spit it out and turn on the unlucky servant who gave him the water! That servant will be dressed down and humiliated before the entire wedding party and guests. These servants are putting a great amount of trust in someone they have only just met! Well, this turns out to be the best wine of the wedding and the headwaiter is absolutely astonished.

Finally, it is the disciples who step out in faith. The step the disciples make is not yet as public as the other steps that have been taken, but the disciples are said to have believed in Him. We know from the way the first five disciples have been gathered that they are all seeking the coming Messiah. John and Andrew were introduced to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Philip is convinced they have found the One written about in the Scriptures, and Nathanael has confessed Jesus to be the Son of God and the King of Israel.

Scripture records many other times when people, including the disciples, are called to step out in faith. Peter walks on water when called to step out in faith. Several times the disciples are told to cast their nets one last time, only to find a catch when they were called to step out in faith. A royal official has a son healed by stepping out in faith. A woman who has been bleeding for many years steps out in faith just to touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment, she finds healing in the moment she stepped out in faith. The list goes on, but the point is clear – at some point we must step out in faith. There is one common factor shared by all of those who stepped out in faith – everyone responded immediately to the call to step out in faith. No other words needed to be spoken, no other request need be given – just obedience.

Anyone who considers themselves to be a Christ follower has heard the call to step out in faith. In each case, not only are we called to step out in faith, but we are also called to come out of our comfort zones. We are called to leave behind those things that are familiar, comfortable, safe, known and consistent, to enter into a new world of the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable, the dangerous, the unknown, and the inconsistent. Once this new world is not so new anymore, we find ourselves being stretched and moved into something new and scary once again. And so goes the journey for those who are called Christ followers. We are not to grow complacent, stagnant, or comfortable. We are to always be on the move, stepping out in faith, trusting that Jesus will respond in the best way.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

When was the last time you were able to approach Jesus and leave your request, trusting Him to respond in the best way? (This means no further requests of demands and no trying to take it back!)

When was the last time you responded in immediate obedience to Jesus, trusting Him for the right outcome?

Where is Jesus calling you to step out in faith?

The purpose of The Power of Change is to call the Christ follower out of empty rituals and fill them with genuine faith.

2). The Power of Change will fill our empty rituals and bring us to genuine faith.

As we follow Jesus, we are filled with genuine faith that brings about an amazing transformation in the Christ follower.

I mentioned earlier that wine symbolizes several things in Scripture. I have already mentioned blessing, but wine also symbolized love and faith, the Blood of Christ, and finally, fulfillment. In addition to this, in the water turning to wine we see transformation. The first transformation we see is in the mother of Jesus. When we read that the mother of Jesus approached Him about the wine, she is approaching Him as His mother. The transformation comes as Jesus offers a gentle rebuke in His response, “My hour has not yet come.” The mother of Jesus does not respond as any other mother would, with the expectation that her son would show respect and obedience.

Instead, we see the mother of Jesus turning to the servants and instructing them to “do whatever He says,” and then simply walking away. The mother of Jesus responds as any believer should respond to Jesus. This is an excellent example for our prayer life. The request has been made known to Jesus and then left there, trusting that Jesus will respond in the best way, and then our faith will be honored. There were no additional requests made, no coming back to “take matters into my own hands,” just simple faith and trust in the One who created all things.

Next, we see the transformation in the waterpots. Whenever a Jewish person saw these types of pots, they knew they were used for one of two things – one, for holding water, two, for ritual cleansing. These waterpots either held fresh clean water to quench your thirst, or they held water to wash hands and clean eating utensils. That’s it…no other options! The waterpots in this case are empty, they represent the empty Jewish rituals when true faith is not present. When Jesus has the waterpots filled, He is giving context to an empty religion. These jars help visualize what Jesus meant when He said, “I have not come to abolish but to fulfill.” In addition, these jars have been given a wider usefulness – now they are containers for the gifts of Jesus!

Now we come to the transformation of the water. This water – plain, ordinary, thirst-quenching water – has been given a new identity as wine, and not just any wine, but the best wine of the wedding. Not only is it the best, but it is also in abundance! Now that is a blessing upon a wedding!!! The best wine coming near the end of the wedding illustrates the emptiness of Jewish rituals versus what Jesus came to bring. The abundance of wine is a picture of the salvation He came to offer, and a revelation of who He was. This is also a picture of what Jesus does in our lives – He fills us with the Spirit and goodness when we are lacking.

Finally, we come to the transformation of the disciples. Just three short days ago, this group of ragtag disciples were seeking the coming Messiah virtually on their own. Only two of them, that we know of for certain, were following John the Baptist and came to Jesus when the Baptist proclaimed Jesus to be the Lamb of God. We have no idea what Peter and Philip were doing but if we guessed fishing we couldn’t be too far off base; And all we know of Nathanael is that he was under the fig tree. Now they have been front and center to the first sign of Jesus and will become part of the team that turns the world upside down for all generations.

Our transformation, while not complete, is nonetheless just as dramatic. At some point we were all called to step out in faith and trust Jesus. When we did our transformation began. If your experience is anything like mine, you learned to do things the “Christian way,” because “that’s the way we do things.” There was no explanation as to the meaning behind these things nor was there any Scripture to support these things. For many of us, these were empty rituals that did nothing to fill our empty vessels. Now we have a fuller understanding, and we are learning more each week, and our vessels are beginning to find a new usefulness – we too are beginning to carry the gifts of Jesus!

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Where are you in your transformation from a “deer in the headlights” disciple to one with a front row seat of the miracles of Jesus?

What new identity has Jesus given you during your transformation?

Where do you need the abundant filling of Jesus today?

The purpose of The Power of Change is to call the Christ follower out of empty rituals and fill them with genuine faith.

I don’t want anyone to be misled about what Jesus was doing or why He came? Jesus did not come to start a new religion; He came to build a new body while fulfilling the empty rituals of the practices of Judaism. Not once does Jesus strike down the Law or denounce the commandments of God. He simply corrected the course because manmade rituals and traditions had caused far too much confusion and distanced people from God.

Left to our own resources, we will run dry. Life is too complicated, its problems to challenging, and our strength is too limited to allow us to cope without help. But recognizing our own emptiness before Christ will allow Him to work a miracle in us. He will apply His powerful resources to work a miracle in our lives. This sign was a partial unveiling of the full identity of Jesus. How power over nature, sin, death, and evil reveal Him to be the promised Messiah.

This miracle, or sign, along with the remaining six recorded in John’s gospel account, all point to how creation is subject to Jesus. They point to His authority to do what He does and say what He says. These miracles reveal Jesus’ glory, just as we are to reveal the glory of Jesus, for we too are miracles. Those who believe in Jesus, those who are Christ followers, but run into situations they cannot understand, must continue to trust that He will work in the best way.

Real trust focuses on the source rather than on the shape of the help that will be supplied. We are to lay our requests before Jesus, stepping out in faith, and trusting Him to respond as He wills. Further. We are to step out in faith in immediate obedience to His word when He speaks. We must ask ourselves how clearly we understand the Jesus we claim to know.

Are you ready to do whatever Jesus says?

We do all things to the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen

Next Week: John 2:12-25

The Skeptic Within Us

The Skeptic Within Us

Home Church Service 2/19/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

                                                                                  John 1:43–51 (NASB95)

Jesus enters Galilee and finds Philip, inviting him to, “Follow Me.” Philip finds Nathanael who is skeptical that anything good can come from Nazareth. Nathanael moves from doubt to belief when Jesus says He saw him under the fig tree, promising him he would see greater things to yet to come.

At some point we have all heard the call to, “Follow Me.” Jesus then revealed to us our sinful ways as He moved us from doubt to belief, while showing us He is the Son of God. However, The Skeptic Within Us is telling us, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” yet Jesus continues to tell us we will see greater things yet to come.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “How do we satisfy The Skeptic Within Us?”

The Skeptic Within Us seeks proof positive that what seems to be too good to be true, really is true!

1). As Christ followers, to satisfy The Skeptic Within Us we must first come and see. The Skeptic Within Us must come, see and engage Jesus to be moved from doubt to belief.

Scripture clearly teaches that salvation is entirely, and only, of God. There are no other “players” in our salvation story. Our path to salvation does not begin with us seeking God, but rather, it begins with God seeking us. We see this with the experience of Philip. With a straightforward reading of the Scriptures, it appears as if Jesus specifically wanted to go to Galilee to find Philip. “He purposed to go into Galilee…” and “He found Philip.” The term “He” is used twice and both times it is capitalized, indicating they refer to Jesus.

We all know that Jesus will go to any length to find someone, and that appears to be the case with Philip. There is no doubt Jesus could, would and does go to any length to save those the Father has drawn to Him, but let’s back up a couple of verses and see if there just might be something else at play here. Verse 40 tells us that one of the disciples that heard John speak was Andrew. Verse 42 tells us that Andrew “…found FIRST his own brother Simon…” Simon is the first-person Andrew found. Why then would John the author use the term “first” if there were not going to be a “second” or a “next.” Could it be that Andrew purposed to go to Galilee and it was Andrew who knew Philip? Verse 44 says that Philip is from the same town as Andrew and Peter.

Did Andrew know Philip and want to go looking for him because he knew Philip was also looking for the coming Messiah? All three are from Bethsaida which means “House of Fishers,” or “Fishertown.” Could it be that Andrew and Peter knew Philip because they were all fishermen? Perhaps Andrew is so convinced that Jesus is the Messiah that he simply had to tell those he knew best and was closest to about Jesus. Of course, there is no concrete evidence to support this, but it does give us something to think about.

For our purposes we will continue on the premise that it is Jesus simply fulfilling His mission to seek and save the lost. All we have of the conversation with Philip is two words, “Follow Me.” Two simple words but we must notice the note of authority in the command, “Follow Me.” If this conversation, the command to “Follow Me,” is Jesus fulfilling His mission, it fits with the way Jesus is portrayed as the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture throughout this gospel. Jesus is seen as the Prophet Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy 18:15-19; He is the Lord’s anointed; Jesus is foretold of by the prophets; He came to establish worldwide righteousness; He came to establish peace and the knowledge and fear of God.

When was the last time the Lord did something so unexpected and so exciting, you just wanted to shout it at the top of your lungs? The way the number of Christ followers, increases is the same today as it was back then – one finds another and shares the good news. Whether it is something so exciting you can barely contain yourself or if it is a small, insignificant nothing, we must be willing to share the good news. You see, it is each individual person’s responsibility to respond promptly when the opportunity presents itself and they sense Christ is seeking them.

What if you are the one who is to present someone the opportunity to respond to Christ? What if they never get the opportunity to respond? That is highly unlikely, but what if? As Christ followers, we must be willing to go wherever we are needed – we must go any distance – no matter the condition or the attitude of the people we are called to serve. As Christ followers, our responsibility is to family, extended family, friends, coworkers and then the lost of the world. At times, it may seem like an overwhelming task, but you cannot save everyone, or even anyone. Your responsibility is to be obedient to the leading of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In your obedience, Christ will supply all you need for each individual circumstance and thus, you become a participant in the Great Commission.  

Questions for discussion/reflection:

To what lengths has Jesus gone to bring you to salvation?

What area of your life is the skeptic within you keeping you from following Jesus?

In what ways has the skeptic within you convinced you not to share Jesus?

Who has the Spirit been “nudging” you to invite to “Come and see?”

The Skeptic Within Us must come, see and engage Jesus to be moved from doubt to belief.

2). As Christ followers, we satisfy The Skeptic Within Us by engaging and believing in Jesus.

We engage Jesus by asking questions and believe by learning the depth of who Jesus truly is.

The way this passage is laid out, you would have to wonder if the first five disciples didn’t already know one another. It is assumed the other disciple to leave the Baptist and follow Jesus with Andrew was John, the author of this gospel. So, obviously John and Andrew knew each other. Andrew then goes and finds his brother – whom he obviously knew. Next comes Philip, who lives in the same town as Andrew and Peter – so perhaps they knew one another as well. And now we come to Philip finding Nathanael. It appears Philip knows Nathanael by the way he tells him about Jesus – “We found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote about.”

Again, there is no concrete evidence for this, but it is interesting to think about how quickly and easily word spread about Jesus. Perhaps these first five men were likeminded individuals and had met at a synagogue for worship and stayed in contact afterwards. Whatever the situation might have been, we see a willingness to go where Jesus goes and to follow His example to invite others to “Come and see.” Which brings us to the reaction of Nathanael when he first hears about Jesus. What we see from Nathanael is someone who is not only skeptical but someone who knows hopelessness and despair. Nathanael seems to have some prejudice, or at least, strong feelings about Nazareth. The despair in Nathanael is seen as he rejects Philip’s testimony in a way that reveals his skeptical, reactionary spirit. We see hopelessness in the question he asked of Philip – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Why this prejudice against Nazareth? Why such a sense of hopelessness at a time when anticipation for the Messiah is so high? It appears as though Nathanael is a crowd follower, as seen in the slur used against Jesus and Nazareth. According to archeological evidence, Nazareth appeared to be a small village of no more than 200 residents. Some evidence shows there was a Roman outpost in the village. But the bigger issue, by far, is that Nazareth was viewed as a Judean affiliate in Galilee by those who did not embrace Jerusalem or the current leadership of Jerusalem.

So, we can, to a certain extent, understand the skeptical answer given by Nathanael. Whatever the case may be, the confrontation between Jesus and Nathanael is dramatic! Jesus greets Nathanael as “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” The word deceit here can also be translated as guile. The statement from Jesus immediately grabs the attention of Nathanael – “How do you know me?” Nathanael has accepted the invitation from Philip to “Come and see” and now Nathanael is engaged with Jesus in a conversation that will change his life.

Let’s take a deeper look at this statement by Jesus – “An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” “An Israelite indeed” is everything an Israelite is supposed to be – one who believed the promises of God, who believed and followed the standard God set for Israel and one who was looking for the coming Messiah. “In whom there is no deceit” meaning without guile, points to the fact that Nathanael did not manipulate or deceive people; he did not hide what he thought; he was straightforward, open, and honest; he was not hypocritical, and he said and acted as he thought. The reply to Philip was a fully honest reply – a bit prejudiced but honest, nonetheless.

Jesus doesn’t stop there, however, His next statement rocks Nathanael to his core and changes his life forever. “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” We need to unpack this because there is so much here that we can learn as Christ followers. When Jesus called Nathanael “an Israelite indeed” those words could be paraphrased as “one who is all Israel and no Jacob.” This passage is ripe with echoes from the Old Testament and here, from Genesis in particular. And there is also some word play going on here as well!

The name Jacob is associated with deceit. This goes back to when he used deceit to take his brothers blessing. As “an Israelite indeed,” Nathanael is different from the father of the Israelites. When Jesus told Nathanael He saw him “under the fig tree,” Nathanael’s doubt vanished instantly because of the intimate nature of what Jesus shared with him. Jesus has to be the One to which the Scriptures point! Nathanael’s experience under the fig tree had some significance for him and Nathanael proclaims Jesus to be the Son of God and the King of Israel – both Messianic in nature.

The fig tree is important for Israel, and I will only point out a few here. If you are sitting under your own fig tree it is a sign of prosperity and Jewish scholars studied the Law under the fig tree. The fig tree is also mentioned several times in the New Testament, but we are not going to dig into those today. Jesus doesn’t stop with the fig tree either, He goes on to mention Jacob’s experience at Bethel. This is where Jacob has his vision, what we know as Jacob’s Ladder. Bethel is the place where Jacob encounters God – where God reveals His plans for Jacob. This vision – Jacob’s Ladder – is also what changes his character, and a new name is given to reflect that change – Jacob is given the name Israel.

Nathanael also knows that all true members of Israel would receive a vision experience such as was granted Jacob. In alluding to Jacob’s experience at Bethel, a place where Jacob encounters God, Jesus is implying that the place where people encounter God, is now His Son, Jesus. God is now revealing truth through His Son, for Jesus is now the mediator between God and man. So, in the last portion of this passage we have echoes from Genesis 27, 28 and 32. The word play we encounter is found in the names Jacob and Israel. Jacob was associated with deceit but after his encounter with God there was no Jacob, only Israel. This was a dramatic encounter for Nathanael, one that changed his life, for Jesus responds to our faith, no matter how small that faith might be.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

What intimate details about you has Jesus shown you that made your doubt vanish instantly?

Can you identify with Nathanael, in some way, in this passage? If so, how?

What has been your Bethel moment with God?

Do you still harbor some prejudice that keeps you from fully following Jesus?

How have the “voices of the world” led you to hopelessness and/or despair?

The Skeptic Within Us must come, see and engage Jesus to be moved from doubt to belief.

We all have this skeptic within us. Doubt creeps in and the questions begin to rise? Can I fully trust Jesus? Can His promises really be for me? Can Jesus really do everything He has promised? How can Jesus really know how I feel? To satisfy the skeptic within us we need to remember from where we have come and the lengths that Jesus has gone too to bring us to salvation. Life is hard, it is not fair. The battles we have faced, many times, have been stacked against us. And yet, here we are, still standing, still fighting, still breathing, still laughing, loving and crying. The one constant through it all has been Jesus.

Our experience, like Nathanael, began with someone who cared for us. Now, as Christ followers, we must be willing to do the same. Think about what Philip would have missed if he hadn’t shared Jesus. Think about what Nathanael would have missed if Philip hadn’t shared Jesus with him. Think about those people in your life, what might they miss of you don’t share Jesus. Remember, this is not easy, but we were never promised it would be easy. But there are many ways to share Jesus other than with words.

People will object and bring up any number of arguments or any number of topics to deflect or change the subject – our task is to keep the focus on Christ. Prejudice is dangerous, it disregards the wrong within ourselves; it overlooks our own wrongdoings, shortcomings, weaknesses and error – in short, it disregards SIN! Remember, no matter the sin, condition or the attitude we must still invite people to “Come and see.”

Jesus will respond to our faith – even the smallest amount. He will go to any length, even to the dirtiest, most vile of sinners, to bring someone to salvation. As the Son of Man, Jesus is what every person – what every Christ follower – ought to be. He is the perfect pattern, the perfect model, and the perfect example for the Christ follower. He is the standard for concern, caring and serving other people.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Next week: John 2:1-11

Follow Jesus

Follow Jesus

Home Church Service 2/12/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?”

He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).”

                                                                                  John 1:35–42 (NASB95)

Last week we examined the testimony of John the Baptist as he faced questioning put to him by priests and Levites sent by the Pharisees. The Baptist freely confessed that he was not the Christ, Elijah or the Prophet. In the end we find those questioning John are simply looking for his credentials as they are having difficulty Recognizing Jesus, the Christ.

In this morning’s passage, John the Baptist holds true to his testimony as he points the way, once again, to Jesus – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Baptist does this as he is standing with his disciples the day after being questioned by the priests and Levites. John the Baptists mission has NOT changed – he still points the way to Jesus that others might Follow Jesus.

John the Baptist proclaims Jesus to his disciples who immediately follow Him. When asked what they were seeking, they asked where He was staying. Jesus answered, “Come and you will see.” So, the disciples came, they saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Jesus. The next day, Andrew, one of the disciples, found his brother Peter and told him so that he too might Follow Jesus as the Messiah.  

As Christ followers, it is our responsibility to proclaim Jesus to those around us. Our task is to help people seek and engage Jesus so they will, first, come to Jesus, then see where He is staying and finally, stay with Him from that day forward. Then they will be ready to help others Follow Jesus as the Christ.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “As Christ followers, how do we help other Follow Jesus?”

We help others Follow Jesus by proclaiming who Jesus is, then helping others seek and engage Jesus.

1). As Christ followers, we must first understand that we help others Follow Jesus by proclaiming Him where others can hear us speak.

Our task is to help other people seek and engage so they will come, see, and stay.

Every time I read or preach through the gospel account of John, something new jumps out at me – this message has been no different. It simply does not matter how many times I read this gospel account I find something new and fresh. As I have been studying the Jewish thought behind this gospel – after all John the author was Jewish – the newness has been intensified. For example, the connection to the Old Testament has always been, at least somewhat, obvious. But as I have learned more about the Torah, it is the depth of the connection to the Old Testament that has intensified. We will look at those connections as we come to them.

There are, certainly, several things that stand out about this passage for our faith as Christ followers. Last week we learned it is our responsibility, as Christ followers, to help people in Recognizing Jesus, the Christ. The witness of John the Baptist bears this out as well. We are to know who we are in Christ – a child of the king, joint heirs with Christ; we are to be confident in our mission – proclaiming Jesus the Christ; we are to trust fully in the One who sent us – we are sent on a mission from God; we are to speak the message that has been given to us – your life in Christ.

That brings us to this morning’s passage. In this passage, we must again follow the lead of John the Baptist. The Baptist is standing with his disciples, only two are mentioned but I would venture a guess there were others there, for John had many disciples, even after he died. So, what is John doing with his disciples? The most likely answer is teaching. We know the Baptist is in Bethany beyond the Jordan, for this is the very next day following his questioning by the priests and Levites. If we read the description of John the Baptist, found in Mark, we know the Baptist is in the wilderness and is, likely, poor.

So, this is a public ministry, not hidden away in a private room, but open to all who would freely come. Again, the passage in Mark tells us that the area of Judea and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him. Let me put this in perspective with today’s world. John the Baptist is a no-name preacher, leading a poor country church, that brings folks from miles around. He does not have a megachurch with a fancy building and more programs than there are days in the week. There is no stage with lights and a fog machine. There is no full-sized worship band playing “Christian rock” music. There is just John the Baptist preaching, proclaiming, and pointing the way to Jesus.

We must see ourselves in the disciples of the Baptist. The preaching of John the Baptist is pure and simple. The message of the Baptist is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His purpose is to point the way to Jesus, even for his very own disciples. He wanted people to be where they could grow the most. Finally, he is filled with humility – he is completely selfless. He points the way to Christ and encourages his disciples to follow Him. So, like the disciples of John the Baptist, we must stand, go, or be where the Word is being preached. We must have a hunger that drives us to hear the message.

Then we must hear the Word, the announcement, the proclamation of the Lamb of God. Finally, it is our responsibility to bring people where Jesus is being preached, proclaimed, and announced. One of the biggest reasons people miss Jesus Christ is because they are not in a place that preaches, proclaims, and announces Jesus. They are stuck standing elsewhere in the world of materialism, self and flesh. We must be diligent in helping others hear the Word – the announcement of Jesus as the Lamb of God, that we can then help people Follow Jesus. Another big reason people miss Jesus is because they are not hearing the Word. They are allowing their minds to wander; they are distracted, disinterested, and inattentive. Why? Because most churches are preaching something other than Jesus and His love for us that leads to eternal life. 

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Are you in a place where Jesus, the Lamb of God, is being preached, announced, and proclaimed?

In your own experience, how do you feel when others ask you about your faith? Are you confident in your mission? Do you trust the message you have been given? Or are you filled with far and uncertainty?

Keeping in mind there are ways other than words to proclaim Jesus, how can you help people from missing Jesus?

We help others Follow Jesus by proclaiming who Jesus is, then helping others seek and engage Jesus.

2). The second thing we must understand is that we help others Follow Jesus so they can share what they have found in Jesus.

Jesus will change the lives of those who will seek and engage, then come, see, and stay with Him.

Our end goal in helping people Follow Jesus is, of course, that they share what they have found in Jesus with others. However, there are several things that must happen before we can get to the end goal of sharing their faith. We notice that when the two disciples heard the Baptist speak, they immediately followed Jesus. When Jesus takes notice that they are following Him, He asks them a simple question, “What do you seek?” Notice the question is not WHO do you seek but rather, WHAT do you seek. The question posed by Jesus is meant to continue to draw the two disciples in and engage them. The answer given by the disciples seems to be a bit unusual, but there is truly something deeper here.

The disciples simply ask, “Where are You staying?” It is almost as if they were caught off guard, not expecting Him to speak to them. In reality this question is much deeper than the surface we see. This question is really a form of commitment, in reality they are asking, “Where can we find you?” These disciples are committed to following Jesus, this is not some experiment, and they have no ulterior motives. Jesus asked His question to draw the disciples in and to test their motives for following Him. The disciples answer in such a way to indicate they are committed to follow Jesus. In the Greek, the word followed means a continuous act, a once-for-all act. These disciples are committed to Jesus. 

Jesus now answers the disciples with, “Come and you will see.” This brings us to an important point about the invitation to “Come and you will see.” How many times have you seen a church sign that simply said, “Come and see?” This is an invitation that only Jesus can give. There is a big difference in the King of the Universe inviting you to, “Come and you will see,” and the mandate that has been given to the church by Jesus. Matthew 28:18-20 makes it clear how the church is to make disciples.

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 

                                                                         Matthew 28:18–20 (NASB95)

The church has forgotten that we are to be a force on the move…we are to GO!!We do not and cannot make disciples by sitting in the safety of the four walls of the church. We are to live our lives among people, sinful people, people who may hurt us, cause us to get dirty and may even hate us. Our job is to preach, proclaim and announce Jesus. Our responsibility is to point the way to Jesus, regardless of the attitude of the people. But we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus has promised, “…I am with you always.”

In verse 39 we see the results we truly want for those who do not currently know Jesus. First, we want them to accept the invitation offered by Jesus to come. We have announced and pointed the way to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Jesus will extend the invitation; it then becomes our responsibility to help them see where Jesus is staying. Is it at your church? A small group or Bible study? Wherever Jesus is staying, and people are coming, that is where we want others to be as well. And then, of course, we want them to stay with Jesus. We want them to be in His presence so they can know Him and learn more about Him. We want others to be in the place where they can grow the most.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Do you hear Jesus asking you, “What do you seek?” Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What do I want from Jesus?”

In what area of your life do you sense Jesus inviting you to, “Come and you will see?”

Where do you sense Jesus challenging you to “GO” as a Christ follower?

We help others Follow Jesus by proclaiming who Jesus is, then helping others seek and engage Jesus.

Our task is not an easy one, but it is our task, nonetheless. At some point Jesus extended the invitation for you to, “Come and you will see.” You have accepted that invitation. I know from my personal experience living a life as a Christ follower is not easy. But it certainly beats the alternative – life without Christ. As I grow older and realize the direction our world is heading, it chills me to the bone at times to think about friends and family who have rejected Christ or are at least turning their backs to Him. But I am also confident that I have been called to be a Christ follower for this time, a time when it appears we are facing the end of the ages.

We must all make the choice if we will follow Jesus or reject Him. No one can make that decision for you or anyone else. It is and always has been a personal choice and decision. Our part is to preach, announce and proclaim Jesus the Christ, the Lamb of God. We must be a voice that is heard and what is heard must always and only be Christ Jesus. We must also keep in mind there are ways to preach, announce and proclaim Jesus without using words. We all know that actions speak louder than words and sometimes, our actions are all we may need.

I encourage you to do a little self-examination. If you have never asked yourself what you want from Jesus, now is the time. If you have never asked the Holy Spirit to come in and shine light on those area’s keeping you from God, now is the time. If you have never examined your motivation for following Jesus, now is the time. Do you follow Him for personal gain or His glory? This life is not easy because if it were – everyone would be doing it. But we can take comfort in knowing that in the response of Jesus to Simon, we can see how He treats us. Jesus looks at us, He studies us and knows us intimately. This can be either a comfort or a warning depending on how you respond to Jesus. Perhaps most importantly, Jesus sees the potential within all of us and He longs to change us to make us everything we can become.

We do all things for the glory of God, through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Next week: John 1:43:51