In the below sermon, I challenge you to check your motivations for seeking Jesus the same way Jesus challenged those who were “seeking” Him in John 6. Are you truly seeking to worship and adore Him, or are you seeking the fringe benefits? What lies are you believing that are keeping you from worshiping Him in spirit and truth? Jesus confronts our bad motivations and self-centeredness. The only “work” He asks of us is belief.
Jesus calls us to new life in Him. But we don’t have to wait until our resurrection day to begin that new life. New life in Jesus begins now!
Before we look at what new life looks like, I must warn you: there is always a great temptation to stay in our old life or return to it again. Even the disciples experienced this setback. When Jesus called His first followers—Peter, James, and John—they were out on the Sea of Galilee fishing from a boat (and not doing too well at that!). Jesus challenged them to go out into deep water and put out their nets again. Peter was exasperated, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets” Luke 5:5, NRSV).
You remember the rest of the story. Peter, James, and John pulled in a miraculous catch. Thus began a great adventure with the incarnate Lord and Savior of the world as Jesus called them from their profession as fishermen to become fishers of men.
Fast-forward three years. Peter, James, and John have now experienced amazing things as disciples of Jesus. They have walked beside the Lord witnessing His mighty acts of healing, listened to his teaching, and even participated in miracles. And yet, even they returned to their old ways— fishing for fish instead of men (and not doing very well at that!). Read John 21:1-25.
After the dramatic events of the His death and resurrection, Jesus again appears where the men are fishing. He calls to them to cast their empty nets on the other side of the boat. Another miraculous catch. Recognizing Jesus, John whispers to Peter, “It is the Lord!” And in true “Peter” fashion…
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish… Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:7-12)
The story begs the question: why did Peter and the disciples go back to their regular jobs of fishing again? Jesus had called them to so much greater.
The reason is clear from an earlier account in John’s Gospel. Remember that before the crucifixion, Peter had denied Jesus three times. If that wasn’t bad enough, his denials were in spite of a personal vow that he would go to the death with Jesus: “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times” (John 13:37-38).
After his denials, Peter was acutely aware of his own inadequacy, his own failings, his own weakness. Rather than stepping into the Resurrected Life and moving forward with Jesus’ call on his life to be an apostle, Peter had reverted back to being merely a fisherman. And evidently, he had brought the others with him. Like an athlete who lets down the team in the big moment, Peter had fumbled the ball after vowing to be a superstar! He was discouraged and disillusioned.
In our own walks with the Lord, very often some major disappointment or failing on our parts hinders or blocks us from truly stepping out into the fullness of the Resurrected Life. Is there any disappointment in your life that would have you fishing again rather than boldly living for the Lord? Is there any unworthy feeling holding you back, some guilt or shame, that would prevent you from truly walking in the newness of life that the Lord has for you?
In a wonderful moment of restoration, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17). The disciple who once vowed, “I do not know the man!” now says to Jesus, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you” three times. In reversing his three denials, those affirmations became a reaffirmation of Peter’s calling to be a shepherd to the flock of the Lord. Jesus sealed Peter’s affirmations with, “Feed my sheep.” By taking Peter back to the beginning, to the moment of his calling, Jesus gave Peter a new start and a new challenge. Peter would indeed be fishing again for people!
The Lord would do the same for you. The Lord has a special call upon your life. It’s a call that will require you to step into a new reality, a new life. The temptation will be to return to the old ways and to the old life. And yet Jesus, your risen Lord, will meet you in your failings and challenge you to get back to your calling, to living once more for His kingdom.
What’s holding you back? Is there any failing in the Christian life that has disillusioned you and hindered you from living the Resurrected Life? Have you been fishing on the wrong side of the boat again? Jesus restored Peter, and he will restore you!
Excerpted from The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New
The Christian Life Trilogy (Houston, TX: Bible Study Media, Inc., 2014)
The Christian Life Trilogy is a formation tool for the church and individual. At the heart of the Christian faith stands the Cross, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus Christ. These three redemptive acts of Jesus shape the character of Christian formation for the church and the individual follower of Jesus.
The Christian Life Trilogy is a 20-week Bible study curriculum that is divided into 3 studies:
Each study is designed to bring transformational change through in-depth study of what the Apostle Paul calls the “things of first importance.” “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
The Crucified Life focuses on the Last Seven Words of Christ on the Cross, and it is intended for use during the season of Lent. The Resurrected Life is intended to begin at Easter and walk us through all the areas in which Christ brings us newness. The Spirit-Filled Life is intended for use around Pentecost, and it instructs believers in the power that can be found through life in the Holy Spirit.
In addition to the Christian Life Trilogy leadership materials, The campaign kit will include a sample study guide, a daily devotional book, and a teaching DVD for each of the three parts of the Christian Life Trilogy. Order your Christian Life Trilogy Campaign kit today!
Campaign Kit includes:
- 1 Campaign Training DVD
- 1 Campaign Manual
- 1 Crucified Life Devotional Book (Paperback)
- 1 Crucified Life Small Group DVD
- 1 Crucified Life Small Group Study Guide
- 1 Resurrected Life Devotional Book (Paperback)
- 1 Resurrected Life Small Group DVD
- 1 Resurrected Life Small Group Study Guide
- 1 Spirit-Filled Life Devotional Book (Paperback)
- 1 Spirit-Filled Life DVD
- 1 Spirit Filled Life Small Group Study Guide
Christian Life Trilogy Campaign Kit
On sale now for a limited time! Click here to purchase your Campaign Kit for only $99! Start now to plan your campaign for Lent 2018!
The Campaign Manual and DVD provide resources and training as to how to maximize the engagement of your congregation by doing the Christian Life Trilogy as a church-wide campaign. Each of the three titles can stand alone. Many congregations use the Crucified and Resurrected Life for Lent and Easter, and then kick off the Spirit-Filled Life in the Fall season.
The Training Videos provide teaching for the senior pastor and campaign leadership teams, as well as the small group hosts.
SESSION 1: FOCUS ON THINGS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE
SESSION 2: EXPONENTIAL THINKING
SESSION 3: BUILDING A TEAM
SESSION 4: PLAN YOUR CAMPAIGN
SESSION 5: HOW TO RECRUIT HOSTS
SESSION 6: HOST TRAINING SESSION
SESSION 7: THE VALUE OF A CHURCH-WIDE CAMPAIGN
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. –Romans 1:1-4
And so Paul begins his great letter to the Roman church. Paul identifies himself as a servant, a slave, of Jesus Christ who has been uniquely called to deliver a message from God—a message of Gospel, literally Good News. The Epiphany is the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ.
The Gospel was foretold
In these first four verses we learn several very important truths about the Gospel which illumine the true meaning of Epiphany and its implications for us. First, the Gospel is something which was foretold in ancient prophecy. Five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The name “Immanuel” is Hebrew for “God with us”.
Through his prophetic spokesmen, God foretold that he would visit us as a man. Could you fathom hearing such a thing for the first time? The creator of the Universe is going to be born as a baby? Unbelievable really, and yet that is what the prophets promised beforehand in the Holy Scriptures.
Jesus is Israel’s long awaited Messiah King
Paul then goes on to say that Jesus was “a descendent of David” with regard to his “earthly life”. Being a descendant of David meant that Jesus was qualified to be the human king of the nation of Israel. David’s heirs would not only be the line of kings but everyone was expecting that the Messiah, THE KING, would be revealed as a descendant of David. In Luke 2 where we read the birth story of Jesus, Luke is careful to explain that the reason Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary, had to return to Bethlehem for the Roman census was because they are descendants of David. The Angel of the Lord announced the “good news of great joy” that “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
The message announcing Jesus’ birth was good news not only because the promise of a human heir to the royal line of David was born, but more! Paul says, “through the Spirit of holiness [he] was appointed the Son of God…” Before Mary was with child, she was told by the angels of God, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” —Luke 1:35
Any one who bears the title “Son of God” by declaration of God is to be acknowledged by Israel as the rightful heir to David’s throne and there for the Messiah King of Israel.
Jesus is Salvation for all who believe!
Jesus is not only fully human and an earthly King, he is Yahweh God the Lord. Yes, Jesus is an earthly human king, but he is also the divine King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the creator and sustainer of the entire heavens and the earth. When Paul inscribed the letter to the church in Rome, he had the advantage of connecting the prophets of old with the full life events of Jesus. Paul saw that not only would Jesus’ nature as Yahweh God be revealed in his miraculous birth, but that his divinity was climactically on display for all the world to see and believe in Jesus’ glorious resurrection from the dead!
And so, Paul summarizes the heart of the Gospel message in three words: Jesus Christ Lord. Or if we were to connect them with their Old Testament equivalents: Jesus Messiah Yahweh. Those three words contain the message of the Gospel in its simplest expression as they frame the announcement: Jesus is the long awaited earthly Messiah, Jesus is Yahweh God in the flesh!
The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to what Paul calls the “obedience of faith”. Once the Gospel message is heard, one cannot remain neutral about Jesus; it is to be believed in faithful action. The revelation of Jesus Christ as Lord of the World, means salvation for all who believe in that message.
Paul would go on to write in Romans chapter 1:16:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
The Gospel announcement is powerful. Those who believe in Jesus as Lord and God will find a glorious eternal salvation in Him. Indeed, salvation is found in no other name!
What is your response?
“Do you believe that Jesus Messiah is God? Does he reign over every aspect of your life? Do you obey him as your King and God? The invitation of the Gospel is for everyone, and everyone who calls upon Jesus Christ the Lord will be saved. That is the good news promised from the messengers of God to you, both old and new! Listen to the wonderful promise given in the Gospel of God:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (NIV, Romans 10:9-13)
Today is the day, give your life to Him! Do not doubt, believe! Follow Jesus as your Lord and receive salvation in His Name!
Some of the simplest things in life are those we most take for granted.
The last speaker in the clip mentions three powerful sources of growth and unity for our community as a people:
- The Townhall
- The Church
- The Family Table
He says that we no longer have the first two, and that the family dinner table is the “last bastion of the great power to be united as a people”. Do you agree with him? Why or why not? From your experience and perspective what is the great power of unity in the table and how does this translate to the Communion Table?
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids
In our Gospel reading this Sunday from Matthew (25:1-13), we are challenged to compare and contrast the behavior of the wise and foolish bridesmaids. As with the parable of the wise and foolish builders, Jesus is encouraging us to emulate the behavior of the wise while eschewing the behavior of the foolish. The key question to ask ourselves is: which bridesmaid is representative of my life?
Key Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13
At a basic level, the parable is a lesson in the importance of being prepared for the Day of the Lord. The foolish bridesmaids did not bring extra oil. They failed to plan for the possibility of a delay of the coming Bridegroom. The wise bridesmaids, however, provided themselves with an extra flask of oil, anticipating a worst-case situation. As a tool for self-examination, we might reflect on the threat to holiness of procrastination; or the human tendency to live for this life only rather than eternity; or the importance of short term costly sacrifice for long term security.
However, I would like to focus on another major theme in this parable: the issue of spiritual codependency. Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s faithlessness, sin, bad habits, immaturity, or irresponsibility. The wise (and spiritually healthy) person does not allow another person’s immaturity to drag him down into folly.
Here are the key verses (Matthew 25:7-8):
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
The foolish bridesmaids expected that the wise bridesmaids would give them some of their reserved oil. The foolish bridesmaids did not ask. They demanded. They did not take into account the grave damage which their demands would cause to their wise counterparts. Their only focus was on their own crisis caused by their own personal short-sightedness, laxness, and foolishness.
Many of us have people in our lives who make demands on us which might cause grave damage to our own relationship with God. No person has the right or authority to demand or prevent us from truly living under the Lordship of Jesus. He is the King.
Sadly, there are marriages, where one spouse demands of the other spouse that he or she give up the very things that lead to a vital and thriving Christian life such as, church participation, a ministry using the spouse’s spiritual gifts, or spiritual growth in study groups. Indeed, any relationship can become an occasion where one person sacrifices that which is precious to them in order to appease the self-centered demand of a foolish person.
A wise bridesmaid knows not to give away her precious oil reserves. In the parable, the wise bridesmaids refused to help the other bridesmaids by sharing their oil because to do so would jeopardize their own secure places at the wedding banquet. The wise refused to jeopardize their attainment of the prize of the Bridegroom and the banquet.
The key behavior in this parable is personal responsibility. Wise bridesmaids will not compromise their own place at the groom’s wedding banquet to help anyone who refuses to take personal responsibility for her own relationship with the Bridegroom. The wise bridesmaids establish boundaries. They say, “No”. They encourage the foolish to take responsibility for their own lives: “Go buy some for yourself!”
Learning to say “no” at the right time is healthy. So, when I allow a foolish bridesmaid to have some of my oil, not only does my apparent generosity not help them to become wise, it makes me as foolish as they are.
Ultimately, each person must be responsible for his or her own relationship with the Lord. Faith cannot be outsourced or delegated. No one can be or will be saved by riding on “coat tails” of another’s faith. One person’s faith cannot make up for another person’s lack of faith.
The idea of saying “no” to a fellow bridesmaid may seem a little harsh. Aren’t Christians supposed to share, give and sacrifice for others? After all, Jesus taught us to give to those who ask, to go the extra mile. Yes, that is true with respect to the material things of this world. But Jesus never asks his people to give away either their salvation or their personal relationship with God. Indeed, we Christians are actually forbidden to compromise or capitulate in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
So when another person asks us to give up the things of our faith in order to enable his or her lack of faith, the answer has to be “No”. The wise bridesmaids recognize that foolish bridesmaids do not take either the Bridegroom or the wedding banquet seriously. That is to their detriment– do not make it yours as well. The wise bridesmaids will not let anything or anyone prevent them from being a part of that heavenly banquet and their secure relationship with the Lord. Say “no” to the foolish person when a “yes” would cost you your soul.
In this week’s gospel (see below), we learned about a man who came to the party at the King’s invitation but ultimately was thrown out for not being properly dressed. What does this man signify for the kingdom of God, and how do we avoid facing the same embarrassment?
Earlier in the story there was a group of people who were invited first to the King’s son’s wedding banquet, and yet they rejected the invitation. In the original context of Jesus’ story, these were the unbelieving Jewish people who were unresponsive to the announcement of the Messiah. The day of the Lord’s visitation was upon them, only they were too focused on their own lives and businesses to give any heed to the invitation of the Gospel.
In our day many people are so focused on the things of this world, such as building their careers or retirement lifestyle, that they miss the incredible invitation offered in the Kingdom of God. To them the question is rightly raised, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
As the story continued, the party’s heralds went out to the streets to invite others. Again, in Jesus day this could include people from other nations other than Israel, Gentiles. Interestingly, Jesus’ story mentions that the new invitees were both “good and bad”. Truly the offer of the Gospel is an invitation of forgiveness and grace. No one is truly worthy or deserving of an invitation to the King’s party. As Paul says in Ephesians, “it is by grace we have been saved”. (Ephesians 2:5)
Evangelists call this the free offer of the Gospel. The kingdom of God is offered to everyone on the planet regardless of ethnicity, race, creed, gender, age, or social status. Someone might say, “I am not worthy to go to the party, you do not know how bad I am or what I have done.” The invitation is even to those who have sinned greatly. The offer of the Gospel is to everyone.
The man with the wrong clothes was a person who responded affirmatively to the invitation of the Gospel. He had come to the party and was included among its participants, but something was amiss.
Come as you are?
There is an old evangelical hymn entitled “Just as I am…” It is often played at altar calls as a way of encouraging people to come to faith in Jesus. It is a bit of a miss-invitation. The invitation to the king’s party included a line about “proper attire”. Today at church, I did an inspection of the attire. Some were dressed in suits and ties; others were wearing flip-flops and tee-shirts. But that’s not the type of attire mentioned here. We are not called to a dress code of externalities; it is an internal dress code. Consider Paul’s words to the Ephesians. He was addressing the problem of the new Gentile converts who were continuing “to live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” He writes: “That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17-23)
Paul reveals for us the wardrobe change required before coming to the party. God calls us to “put off” the “old self”. There is a false Gospel making its rounds in the church again that trumpets inclusivity without conversion. The invitation of the Gospel is a call to obedience of life. Jesus would see us transformed into his likeness and holiness. The unconverted heart may make it through the doors of the church building and into the fellowship of the people of God, but it has no place in the Kingdom of God.
For Paul, the transformation of our minds overcomes the natural carnal desires of our hearts. A new mindset leads to a heart reset. Yes, this man came to the party, unlike those who refused the invitation. Unfortunately for him, he still had the same heart condition as those who had outright rejected the invitation. His heart was enamored with the things of the world rather than with the King and his Son. Even though he was at the party, his heart wasn’t there. This fact was made obvious by his lack of appropriate attire, and the King was not impressed.
The man without the party clothes represents a person in the fellowship of the church who is continuing “to live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” Yes the King says, “come all” but not “come as you are”.
Proper attire required!
As we consider our own response to the King’s invite, make sure you notice the wording about “proper attire”. The King is not merely expecting our presence at the banquet; he wants us to come as fully dressed participants. Parties are much more fun anyway when we dress up and get with the program. So put off the old self, put on your new party clothes through the renewing of your minds. Let’s celebrate and have a great time at the King’s Son’s wedding party!
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”