The Universal Church

Introduction:

John Fawcett is a name you may not immediately recognize. In the late 18th century, Fawcett pastored a small, poor church in Wainsgate, England, where his salary was only 25 pounds a year.

In 1773, Fawcett was invited to become the pastor of a much larger church in London. Initially, he accepted the new position. But as his belongings were being loaded for the journey, the people from his church came to bid him farewell.

The tearful goodbye was so moving that John’s wife, Mary, cried out, “John, I cannot bear to leave!” “Nor can I,” he responded. “We shall remain here with our people.” Their belongings were taken back off of the wagons, and John Fawcett remained in Wainsgate for the entirety of his 54-year ministry.

Years later, as he reflected on his decision to stay, Fawcett penned the words to his most-well-known hymn: Blest Be the Tie That Binds. The familiar words of that song resonate with the loyalty and love that characterized the pastor who wrote them.

Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne,

We pour our ardent prayers;

Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,

Our comforts, and our cares.

Fawcett’s story illustrates the legacy of long-term commitment in pastoral ministry.

SING THE SONG

My theme and challenge today is:

Jesus established the church, the church fathers guarded the church, we must defend the church and participate in the church.

The church is Jesus’ community to reach the lost, nurture faith and meet family needs.

Read with me Matthew 16:18:

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

  1. Let’s start by talking about the beginning of the church. Jesus established the church.
    1. We see in the passage that I read that Jesus said “‘I’ will build ‘my’ church.”
    2. But let’s go back. Jesus renames Peter in this passage. He was called “Simon” and now Jesus says that he is “Peter” which means “rock.” Jesus uses a play on words to say, “Upon this ‘rock’ I will build my church…”
    3. Why does Jesus do this?
    4. Let’s read verses 13-18 and see this in context.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

  1. Jesus acknowledged who Jesus was. Peter confessed Christ.
  2. So, the question debated is what rock is the church built upon? Some say, the rock is Peter. Peter was the first one to preach at Pentecost (Acts 2). Others say the rock was Peter’s confession that Jesus is Lord. Others say the rock is the Messiah Jesus Himself. I can see a strong case for all of the views. I believe it seems like Peter’s confession and Jesus being the Rock, go hand-in-hand. The Old Testament prophets likened Messiah to a Stone (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16), and Jesus claimed to be that Stone (21:42). Peter himself identified Jesus as that Stone (Acts 4:10-12; 1 Pet. 2:5-8), as Paul did (Rom. 9:32-33; 1 Cor. 3:11; 10:4; Eph. 2:20). Second, this interpretation explains the use of two different though related words for “rock.” Third, this view accounts for the use of “this” since Jesus was present when He said these words. Fourth, the Old Testament used the figure of a Rock to describe God (Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37; 2 Sam. 22:2; Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 28:1).[1]
  3. The church belongs to Jesus.
  4. Jesus further says that the gates of hades, or hell, will not overcome it.
  5. Listen, the church is secure.
  6. We may say that the church is falling apart in America, but know that the church is growing in China. The church is growing in Africa. The church is healthy.
  7. When I talk about the church, I am talking about the universal church. The adjective “catholic” mean “universal.” The catholic church really, originally, meant “universal church. John Wesley would write about the catholic church and that is what he meant.
  8. It is true that there are many churches closing in America every year, thousands, but this is not an emergency in Heaven. Jesus is watching over His church. The gates of Hades will not overcome it. Remember Jesus is great, the devil is small. The devil will not hurt Jesus’ church. The devil tries, but he will fail. The devil’s future is hell. Jesus’ future is reigning eternally. The church is in Jesus’ hands, He is the Lord of the church. The devil is like a swimming pool, but Jesus is the ocean. Jesus is so much greater and bigger and wiser and more powerful than the devil. There is no threat to God and there is no threat to the church. I actually believe that we are ripe for revival in America and even if not the church will not die. The church has faced this before.
  9. Jesus established the church.
  10. The church belongs to Jesus.
  11. Jesus is Lord of the church.
  12. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of the church.
  13. The church is Jesus’ community to reach the lost, nurture faith and meet family needs.
  1. The church Fathers protected the church.
    1. In the early church there were many church councils. These councils were watching over the church.
    2. The first council was the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
    3. These ended with about seven church council between AD 325 and 787.
    4. The church council happened because the church fathers defended the church. Why did they defend the church? They did this because Jesus built the church and we are called to be a part of the church. The church is Jesus’ community to reach the lost, nurture faith and meet family needs.
    5. In the early creeds we see the value of the church. The Nicene-Constantinople Creed it reads: In one holy catholic and apostolic Church….[2]
    6. They believed in a holy, universal, church.
  • Jesus established the church, the church fathers guarded the church, we must protect the church and participate in the church.
    1. Do we care about the church?
    2. Are we participating in the church?
    3. If you are a Christian are you giving to the church? I am not asking about tithing, I am asking about giving?
    4. Are you being a disciple and discipling others?
    5. Are you really involved, I mean involved?
    6. Are you praying for the church and the church leaders?
    7. Do you care?
    8. There was study done on church commitment. In the 1980’s people were asked about church commitment and they thought they were committed if they attended about three times a week. That would be Sunday morning, including Sunday School, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Now, people think they are committed if they attend three times a month. You see how far we have fallen. And those attending three times a month are oftentimes leaders. Often times the leaders don’t even value discipleship. YET, and this is a big YET, the church is secure. The church is protected by the King.
    9. The church is here for evangelism, discipleship, worship, ministry and fellowship.

 

 

Close:

 

On a dangerous seacoast notorious for shipwrecks, there was a crude little lifesaving station. Actually, the station was merely a hut with only one boat . . . but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the turbulent sea. With little thought for themselves, they would go out day and night tirelessly searching for those in danger as well as the lost. Many, many lives were saved by this brave band of men who faithfully worked as a team in and out of the lifesaving station. By and by, it became a famous place.

Some of those who had been saved as well as others along the seacoast wanted to become associated with this little station. They were willing to give their time and energy and money in support of its objectives. New boats were purchased. New crews were trained. The station that was once obscure and crude and virtually insignificant began to grow. Some of its members were unhappy that the hut was so unattractive and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided. Emergency cots were replaced with lovely furniture. Rough, hand-made equipment was discarded and sophisticated, classy systems were installed. The hut, of course, had to be torn down to make room for all the additional equipment, furniture, systems, and appointments. By its completion, the life-saving station had become a popular gathering place, and its objectives had begun to shift. It was now used as sort of a clubhouse, an attractive building for public gatherings. Saving lives, feeding the hungry, strengthening the fearful, and calming the disturbed rarely occurred by now.

Fewer members were now interested in braving the sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do this work. The original goal of the station wasn’t altogether forgotten, however. The lifesaving motifs still prevailed in the club’s decorations. In fact, there was a liturgical lifeboat preserved in the Room of Sweet Memories with soft, indirect lighting, which helped hide the layer of dust upon the once-used vessel.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the boat crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, some terribly sick and lonely. Others were “different” from the majority of the club members. The beautiful new club suddenly became messy and cluttered. A special committee saw to it that a shower house was immediately built outside and away from the club so victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting there were strong words and angry feelings, which resulted in a division among the members. Most of the people wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities and all involvements with shipwreck victims . . . (“it’s too unpleasant, it’s a hindrance to our social life, it’s opening the door to folks who are not our kind“). As you’d expect, some still insisted upon saving lives, that this was their primary objective—that their only reason for existence was ministering to anyone needing help regardless of their club’s beauty or size or decorations. They were voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast! They did.

As years passed, the new station experienced the same old changes. It evolved into another club . . . and yet another lifesaving station was begun. History continued to repeat itself . . . and if you visit that coast today you’ll find a large number of exclusive, impressive clubs along the shoreline owned and operated by slick professionals who have lost all involvement with the saving of lives.

Shipwrecks still occur in those waters, but now most of the victims are not saved. Every day they drown at sea, and so few seem to care . . . so very few.

Do you?[3]

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

[1] http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/matthew.pdf

 

[3] https://www.insight.org/resources/daily-devotional/individual/a-parable-saving-lives

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Christians have always been people of the book

Voltaire:

Voltaire, the noted 18th century French philosopher, said that it took centuries to built up Christianity, but “I’ll show how just one Frenchman can destroy it within 50 years.” Taking his pen, he dipped it into the ink of unbelief and wrote against God.

 Twenty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society purchased his house for printing the Bible. And it later became the Paris headquarters for the British and Foreign Bible Society. The Bible is still a best-seller; an entire 6-volume set of Voltaire’s works was once sold for 90¢. 

I love stories such as that. I like poetic justice.

I am preaching through a series about historic Christian beliefs. I am talking about things which Christians agree upon, or more specifically, answering the question, Can we agree? YES WE CAN.

Listen, what binds us together is stronger than what pulls us apart. Christians have always valued the Bible.

The early Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (Nicene Creed AD 325 edited at the Council of Constantinople in 381) which I read last week states “According to the Scriptures.” From the early days of the church we have valued the Scriptures.

We have valued the Scriptures all throughout church history.

A few months ago I spoke about the reformation and this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis which was on October 31, 1517. Martin Luther learned Greek and was studying Romans. You see a year before 1517, the first Greek translation of the New Testament was published. Prior to this time the people used the Latin Vulgate. In 1516 the Greek New Testament was published. When Luther got ahold of that Greek New Testament, Luther realized that the Latin Vulgate was wrong. The Latin vulgate had translated the word, best translated in English as “repent,” as “do penance.”

Reformation, the real hero was the Bible, being the Greek New Testament. But I want to show you that long before this time, Christians, Catholics from early on, valued the Bible.

My theme today: Christians have always, ALWAYS, been people of the book.

Application: read Psalm 119 this week.

This sermon will be more left brained, which means more “heady.” I will never do it again.

  1. Let’s start with Scripture. Scripture affirms Scripture.
    1. If you have been with First Baptist for the last few years you know some of these passages.
    2. 2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    3. 2 Peter 1:20-21: Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
    4. 2 Peter 3:16: He [The Apostle Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.
    5. Just a few noted before we move on. We can tell based on those passages that Scripture values Scripture. I say that and you could easily say, “duh,” but realize that the Bible was written by 39 or 40 different Realize the Bible was written over about a 2400 year period. All of these authors affirm the value of the Bible.
    6. The first two passages I shared with you show that the authors affirm the Old Testament. But the last passage lumps Paul in with the other Scriptures. So, the Apostle Peter considered Paul on the same level as the Old Testament prophets and Scriptures.
    7. Listen, be encouraged, the Bible is our foundation and it is solid. Be encouraged we can trust our source.
  2. We value the Bible today, they valued the Bible is the Bible times, what about Church History?
    1. Let’s start with some of the early church fathers.
    2. Hippolytus, d. c. AD 235: If there is a day on which there is no instruction, let each one at home take a holy book and read in it sufficiently what seems profitable. (Apostolic Tradition36:1)

Tradition defined by Irenaeus and Tertullian is simply the teaching of Scripture. It was Irenaeus who stated that while the Apostles at first preached orally, their teaching was later committed to writing (the Scriptures), and the Scriptures had since that day become the pillar and ground of the Churches faith. His exact statement is as follows: “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.”

  1. There are over 5700 copies of the manuscripts. They are being found all the time.
  2. This is evidence of its validity.
  3. “In evaluating the significance of these statistics…one should consider, by way of contrast, the number of manuscripts which preserve the text of the ancient classics. Homer’sIliad…is preserved by 457 papyri, 2 uncial [all capital letters] manuscripts, and 188 minuscule [small or lower case letters] manuscripts. Among the tragedians the witnesses to Euripides are the most abundant; his extant works are preserved in 54 papyri and 276 parchment manuscripts, almost all of the later dating from the Byzantine period…the time between the composition of the books of the New Testament and the earliest extant copies is relatively brief. Instead of the lapse of a millennium or more, as is the case of not a few classical authors, several papyrus manuscripts of portions of the New Testament are extant which were copies within a century or so after the composition of the original documents.” Metzger, Bruce M. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-19-516667-1
  4. Yes, some are torn, but we have copies going back to A.D. 125 (The John Ryland’s Manuscript), this is phenomenal.
  5. David Bauer: The very earliest manuscripts are largely fragments; but we also have almost complete early and reliable texts, such as Alexandrinus [ Fifth Century the majority of the Old Testament LXX and the New Testament] and Vaticanus [Fourth century Old and New Testaments, likely 325 A.D].  The argument that the manuscript tradition of the NT is such that we do not have a reliable text is specious; your speaker was apparently repeating the Muslim critique of Christianity, viz., that the text of our Scriptures is corrupt.
  6. If we lost all of our New Testament manuscripts, we could put the New Testament back together simply based off of the writings of the church father. The church fathers quoted the New Testament that much. That must lead a conclusion that they valued the New Testament.
  7. Martin Luther said: “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”
  8. Listen, be encouraged, the Bible is our foundation and it is solid. Be encouraged we can trust our source.
  1. Scripture
    1. 1 Corinthians 14:37: Paul wrote: If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.
    2. Listen, be encouraged, the Bible is our foundation and it is solid. Be encouraged we can trust our source.
    3. The Bible in the early creed, the Bible was valued by the church fathers. The Bible was valued heavily during the renaissance/reformation period. The Bible is valued today.
    4. Christians agree on the value of the Bible. What do Christians agree on?
      1. The Bible
      2. The church
  • The resurrection
  1. The deity of Christ
  2. The virgin birth
  3. The Holy Trinity
  • Salvation by Jesus alone.

Conclusion:

We must read the Bible

We must value the Bible

We must love the Bible

We must submit to the Bible

The Bible is the judge of us, we are not the judge of the Bible.

 

Let me say a word about discouragement. Sometimes we do not read or study the Bible because we are discouraged. We see such a huge book and we think, “Where do I begin?” Please don’t let this happen. The devil wants to keep you from this book. Begin one book at a time. Begin with John’s Gospel. Begin with one Psalm or one Proverb a day. Just read small bits.

 

The message of the Bible in one sentence:

Kevin DeYoung:

A holy God sends his righteous Son to die for unrighteous sinners so we can be holy and live happily with God forever.

Ray Ortlund:

The Lover of our souls won’t let the romance die, but is rekindling it forever.

 

Application:

Read Psalm 119 this week.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

 

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

Can Christians Agree? (John 17)

Introduction:

I was recently talking with someone about the pro-football Hall of Fame. He told me that when he talks with the Hall of Famers what they miss the most is… what do you think they miss?

It is not the money.

It is not the fame.

It is not the fame.

It is the locker room. They miss the camaraderie amongst the players. They miss the unity.

So, if you think about it, with a sport, a team can’t win when they are divided. They must be united to move the ball down the field. If the frontline want the spotlight they won’t protect the quarterback, right?

But who really cares about football? Big deal, this is just a 10 billion dollar business. Seriously, I thought it was 9 billion and then I was running with someone and he told me it is more like 10 billion, wow! But I enjoy it.

But if the football teams can be united for a common cause, can’t we? We have the Gospel of eternal life. I would tell anyone that the denominations are a stain on the church. One can drive down State Street and see First Baptist and then Alliance Friends, turn the corner and see Union Ave United Methodist and keep driving and see other churches in a matter of minutes.

Let’s read John 17:20-21:

John 17:20-21:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

Theme: Christians have disagreed on much but there are core beliefs that bind us together.

  1. In John 17, Jesus prayed for us, in verses 20-21 Jesus prayed that we would be one.
    1. I find this very important.
    2. Here is Jesus, almost ready to be crucified, and in His prayer, He considers it important that we will be one.
    3. He prays for the current disciples and all those who will believe.
    4. The Moody Bible commentary points out The prayer is answered foremost through Spirit baptism in which every believer is placed into the one body of Christ (cf. 10:16; 1Co 12:13; Rm 12:5; Gl 3:28; Eph 4:4).
    5. On a broader scale, Jesus’ whole prayer is about Unity. Eugene Peterson, the author of the Message Bible writes in Tell it Slant:
    6. 45 references (“they,” “these,” “their,” “them,” “those) to the 11 disciples who are in the room with Jesus including those still to become disciples over the centuries
    7. 6 times to be united: vs 11, 20-21, 21, 22, 23, 26
    8. Peterson writes as an application: “If we stay in the room with Jesus as He prays for us, we will acquire a readiness to embrace all the baptized as brothers and sisters. It may be slow in coming, but Jesus’ prayer will have its way with us. We will no longer define other Christians as competitors or rivals. Jesus doesn’t evaluate or grade His followers as He prays. He does not lay out plans to settle the controversies that he knows will arise. He is praying us into easy camaraderie. The longer we stay in Jesus’ praying presence the more we will understand that our impulses toward schism and sectarianism, our rivalries and denunciations, have no place in the room while Jesus is praying for “us to be one.” (page 225)
    9. Jesus compared the church being one to the Trinity. The Father and Son are united as one.
  2. We agree more than we disagree.
    1. So, I am beginning a sermon series going way back to the early church. In the early church there were many church councils and at these councils the codified certain beliefs. These beliefs are Biblical and they still unite us today.
    2. Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (Nicene Creed AD 325 edited at the Council of Constantinople in 381)

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;

Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.[1]

  1. These are our core Christian beliefs. There are other things that Christians have argued about for centuries, but we are united at the core.
  2. We have the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit within us.
  3. We have the same God. Listen to:
  4. 1 Cor. 12:25-31

25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

  1. Listen to: Ephesians 4:1-5:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

  1. We are called to be united.
  2. What binds us together is stronger than what drives us apart.
  • How do we apply this?
    1. Realize that we are united at the core.
    2. Realize that our divisions may stand out, but through church history we have been united in certain core doctrines.
    3. Please, please don’t emphasize Baptist above Christian.
    4. Please, please let’s act like we are united.
    5. God is the master card shuffler. What do I mean by that? If God sends a family out of our church to another church, let’s pray they can serve God and be served by that church. Pray for them and celebrate. Sometimes God will also send us people from another church or area. Let’s not get upset, or blame another church for taking our people. We are on the same team.
    6. Let’s work together as much as we can.
    7. Let’s emphasize our unite more than our disunity.

Close:

When I was in Cincinnati I was good friends with a Methodist pastor. He told me he used to connect with a Catholic Priest and the priest was in his church library and picked up a book on the denominations and said something like, “You split and you just kept splitting.” That is true. The reformation happened and now we have all these denominations. BUT we do agree on more than we realize. What binds us together is more than what drives us apart.

Please join me for the rest of this series as we emphasize the core Christian beliefs that unite us:

The Bible

The Universal Church and its importance

Salvation through Jesus

The Holy Trinity:

God the Father

God the Son

God the Holy Spirit

In the early creeds, we also see an emphasis on the Virgin birth and certainly the resurrection.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

[1]  Elliot Ritzema, “Nicene Creed,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Wise men seek the Lord

It’s funny how busy our American Christmas celebration has become. Are you glad it is over?:

One of Norman Rockwell’s delightful Post illustrations pictures a salesgirl in the toy department of one of our great stores. The date on the calendar is December 24; the hands on the clock point to five minutes past five. The poor clerk has slumped upon a pile of toys behind the counter—dress askew, hair disheveled, and arms limp at her sides. She has slipped off her shoes, and her eyes are rolled back as if she were to breathe her last. She has just made it through another great American Christmas!

—Christianity Today[1]

Maybe you get a break after Christmas but Joseph and his family didn’t. In Matthew chapter 1 we see Jesus born but then we come to Matthew chapter 2 and someone is already trying to kill Him. I want to look at this passage, but I wish to emphasize those seeking Jesus in contrast to the one trying to kill Him.

Theme: when we are wise we seek the Lord.

  1. The wise men came seeking the Lord to worship Him (verses 1-2)
    1. We usually see kings, or wise men, in our manger scenes. But notice verse 11 which says that Jesus was in a house. So, Jesus is obviously older. Most would say that Jesus was about two years old. This is based off of Herod’s order to kill all male children two years and younger. (2:16-17)
    2. These wise men were from the east and there were likely more than three. It is more likely that this was a large group of maybe even 100 people. Now, notice that Herod tries to trick the wise men so that he could kill Jesus. But God is bigger than Herod and verse 12 reveals that the wise men were warned in a dream and left by another route.
    3. Notice the magi are from the East and they arrived in Jerusalem.
    4. They saw a star. They define the star as His star. They have come to worship Him. There are a lot of implications here. (Numbers 24:17 is a good reference and references this star)
    5. The chief priests and the scribes knew enough to know where the Christ was to be born
    6. They quote Micah 5:2
    7. This is not unlike our modern political game. The magi, or wise men did not care about power. Herod wanted power.
    8. Herod says that he also wants to worship Him, but he is a lying politician wanting power.
    9. The star stood over the place where the child was born.
    10. Verse 10 they rejoiced in seeing the star
    11. Verse 11: Jesus is in a house and the family is very hospitable
    12. They worshipped the baby
    13. àJesus was God then as well
    14. The wise men left another way because of a dream
    15. The wise men give gifts: these will be important because of the upcoming travels
    16. This story is not in the other gospels
    17. The wise men outwitted Herod. (verse 16), or should I say the Lord outwitted Herod and this happened in two occasions. The Lord told the wise men to leave another way. (verse 12) Then in verse 13 God tells Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt. Early Jewish readers would recall how God protected the Israelites in Egypt in Genesis and Exodus. We know in verse 16 that Herod thought the wise men outwitted him.
    18. Who is wise? The person who seeks the Lord.
  2. Herod wanted to kill Jesus.
    1. He wanted to kill Jesus, because he wanted to be the king, not Jesus.
    2. In verse 3 it says that Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him.
    3. That is interesting. Why are others troubled? People like things as they are.
  • Who is our King?
    1. Our King has come, are we surrendered to Him.
    2. Wisdom means self-sacrifice as Jesus was not selfish. (Phil. 2:3-11)
    3. Wisdom means casting my crowns at Jesus’ feet (Rev. 4:8-11, notice verse 10)
    4. Proverbs 11:2 tells us that humility means seeking the Lord. It says: When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
    5. Proverbs 15:33: Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the LORD, and humility comes before honor. I must fear the Lord.
    6. S. Lewis wrote that humility doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself; it means thinking of yourself less.
    7. What I see in this passage is that Herod wanted to remain king and so he would not seek the Lord. But the wise men did not care about power and they sought after the Lord.
    8. In wisdom, this year, let’s cast our crowns at Jesus’ feet.
    9. What is first in our life? Can we set aside our interest for the interests of Jesus?
    10. Can we follow what is right, even if it means humility?
    11. Can we follow Jesus, even if it hurts our pocket book?
    12. Can we follow Jesus when it is difficult?
    13. All of Jerusalem was troubled with Herod, they were worried about change. They liked the stability Herod gave, but sometimes following Jesus means discomfort and change.
    14. The wise men saw the star and traveled, extensively for months, if not over a year, to see the King.
    15. What can we do to seek the Lord?

Conclusion:

In wisdom, the wise men sought the Lord and worshipped Him. How can we express this tangibly this year?

I am going to ask that you list something on a note card and fold it in half and put it in the envelope which is in the bulletin. Write your name and address on the envelope. We will mail them to you in a few weeks.

You can write:

I am going to seek the Lord by spending more time in Bible study.

I am going to seek the Lord by volunteering at the food pantry.

I will seek the Lord by attending a new Christian Connections group.

I will seek the Lord by volunteering at Alliance of Churches.

I will seek the Lord by healing a relationship in my family.

I will seek the Lord by joining a ministry.

I will seek the Lord by fasting.

I will seek the Lord by reading through the whole Bible in a year.

I will seek the Lord by working on a problem I have been ignoring.

I will seek the Lord by tithing.

You can write something else.

I am going to ask that you place those in the box in the back of the sanctuary and we will mail them to you in a few weeks.

Let’s pray.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

Our Hope is with us

Introduction:

Happy New Year! I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas.

Here we are, we have another new year. In Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country they quoted Shakespeare talking about the future as the Undiscovered Country. This comes from Hamlet, Acts III, Scene I. Do we have to be afraid of the future? I think not. We have talked about Jesus as the Hope of the world. Now, the Hope of the world has come. Jesus has not left us. He is still with us. We are not alone.

Today, let’s talk about the Hope of the world being with us. The Hope of the world indwells us.

My theme is Our Hope is With us.

  1. In Matthew 1:23 the angel says that Jesus will be called Immanuel which means God with us.
    1. The point is that God became a man and He lived with us and died for us and we celebrate that.
    2. But I think there is more to it than that. Jesus is not literally with us now, is He? No, He ascended to Heaven.
    3. We talk about hope and I talk about fear of the future and in some ways I am sure we can have times when we do not wish to face tomorrow. Maybe this is because we are really not good at giving something to God. Maybe this is because we just have a tough day. But as Christians we do not need to fear the ultimate future. We do not need to fear death. Jesus us our Hope.
    4. Further as Christians we do have hope for the tough days we face. We are not alone. Our Hope IS with us.
  2. Let’s read John 14:16-17: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 
    1. Jesus left us but He sent us the Holy Spirit.
    2. Jesus is with us through the Holy Spirit.
    3. The Spirit’s work is usually quiet.
    4. In Christianity Today, John Ortberg writes[1]:

Dale Bruner, in an essay on the Trinity, begins with the person of the Holy Spirit:

One of the most surprising discoveries in my own study of the doctrine and experience of the Spirit in the New Testament is what I can only call the shyness of the Spirit …

What I mean here is not the shyness of timidity (cf. 2 Tim. 1:7) but the shyness of deference, the shyness of a concentrated attention on another; it is not the shyness (which we often experience) of self-centeredness, but the shyness of an other-centeredness.

It is, in short, the shyness of love. Bruner points out the ministry of the Spirit in the Gospel of John, a ministry constantly to draw attention not to himself but to the Son—the Spirit comes in the Son’s name, bears witness to the Son, glorifies the Son (cf. John 14:26; 16:13).

The ministry of the Spirit could be pictured, Bruner says, by my drawing a stick figure (representing Jesus) on a blackboard. Then, to express what the Spirit does, I stand behind the blackboard, reach around with one hand, and point with a single finger to the image of Jesus: “Look at him, listen to him, learn from him, follow him, worship him, be devoted to him, serve him, love him, be preoccupied with him.”

The Spirit says, “I will be poured out on earth, and in mostly silent, invisible ways I will offer to lead and guide; never exalting myself, always pointing to the Son.” To a large extent, the Spirit’s promptings will be ignored or even denied. The Spirit will be quenched on Earth. The Spirit, to use New Testament language, will be grieved. The Spirit had never known grief through all eternity, but he will be grieved now, day after day, century after century. The Spirit says, “This price I will pay so that any who will might enter our fellowship.”

  • Picking up from that, how is the Spirit with us?
    1. Why do we look for the big? Can the Spirit be with us in the small?
    2. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher of spiritual truths. Have you ever thought of something and thought, “How’d I figure that out?” The Holy Spirit helped you. Have you ever thought of Bible verses and wondered where they came from? That is the Holy Spirit.
    3. Jesus, our hope of the world is with us, through the Holy Spirit, as we witness. The Holy Spirit is our mouthpiece when we witness. He will bring things to mind and guide the conversation.
    4. In the passage we read from John 14:16-17 the Holy Spirit is called an “advocate.” The idea is that the word used means, “One who comes alongside to help.” We can do many things because the Spirit is with us. Sometimes we don’t know this because we don’t try.
    5. Peter did not know he could walk on water until he got out of the boat (Matthew 14:28ff). Peter saw Jesus walk on water and he looked to Jesus and got out of the boat. When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus he sunk.
    6. This year how can you keep your eyes on Jesus like Peter and boldly follow Jesus.
    7. I am not asking you to jump off a building, but is there a new ministry you are being called to get involved in?
    8. How do you know?
      1. First step, seek Jesus. Take time and pray, take time and read your Bible. Spend time in Bible study with the church.
      2. Second step, seek Jesus. Keep seeking Jesus and as you do watch to see what ideas or opportunities come your way.
      3. Step three: evaluate. When you get an idea or an opportunity and you think it is from God, think about it. Pray about it, ask some Christian friends about it.
      4. Step four: think, “why wouldn’t this be from God?”
      5. Act
    9. Is God calling you to forgive? You can do that with the Holy Spirit. You are not alone.
    10. Is God calling you to heal a relationship? You can do that with the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    11. Is God calling you to help someone? You can do that through the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    12. Is God calling you to the Mission Field? You can do that through the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    13. Is God calling you to share Jesus with a loved one? You can do that through the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    14. Is God calling you to spend extra time with someone? You can do that through the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    15. Is God calling you to commit to something but you are afraid? You can do that through the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    16. Is God calling you to volunteer somewhere? You can do that through the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    17. Is God calling you to quit something? You can do that through the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    18. Is God calling you to get help for an addiction? You can do that through the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    19. Is God calling you to help someone else with an addiction? You can do that through the Holy Spirit, you are not alone.
    20. God is with us. God is with you.

 

Close:

Have you ever been scared? I have and it is not fun. Have you ever felt alone? That is not fun either. As a Christian we are never really alone. God is with us. Immanuel.

 

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

 

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

[1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/february5/32.66.html?start=2