Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Do You Really Know Jesus? #3 New Priority

Do You Really Know Jesus? #3 New Priority

 Text: John 3:27-36

Introduction: Song leader/ Cop who gives songs with ticket to preacher.
Once there was a preacher who couldn't keep from speeding, ironically this preacher had in his congregation a Highway Patrolman who was his song leader.  One day on the way to a fellowship meeting clear across the state the pastor was blowing out the carbon, (speeding), and sure enough he was pulled over by his own song leader.  The pastor hoped he would let him off.  After taking quite a while in the patrol car, the patrolman came back.  He handed the pastor a ticket and a little note.  This is what the note said.

Dear  Pastor, here is a list of songs for you to sing while you are driving down the highway.
At 45 MPH sing, "God will take care of you."
At 55 MPH sing, "Peace, Be Still"
At 65 MPH sing, "Nearer, my God, to Thee."
At 75 MPH sing, "I’ll Fly Away"
At 85 MPH sing, "This world is not my Home."
At 95 MPH sing, "Lord, I'm coming Home."
At 100 MPH we'll be singing, "Precious Memories." at your funeral.

            That song leader understood that different speeds meant different levels of closeness to God, literally.  When it comes to our spiritual lives, we as Christians live at different levels of closeness to God as well.  From newborn babe, to child, to growing disciple, to servant and even to martyr.  John the Baptist obtained a level of relationship, which I would call "preparer".   He lived in such a way as to prepare peoples heart for the savior.  I would like to experience that level.  I would like to live there.  I would like to be one who could call out, "Behold, the Lamb of God," and people would recognize Jesus ready to come into their hearts.  If that is to happen, some of the same qualities and characteristics in John's life must be present in mine. So lets go to John 3 and down to verse 27 for the text of our next sermon in the Do You Really Know Jesus series and consider a new priority.
John chapter 3 is one of the most well know passages in the Bible because it contains John 3:16 but we often don’t consider what was written after Jesus famous encounter with Nicodemus. It is another encounter though this time it is not a face to face but is an encounter between two ministries, two prophets and two of the greatest names of the Jewish people, Jesus and John the Baptist.

The encounter takes place as both John and Jesus are baptizing near each other in the Jordan river. A dispute comes up between John’s disciples and the Jews, that question probably had to do with Jesus and his authority to do what John had been doing before Jesus come on the scene.  That question about who Jesus was and who John was, is answered in our passage this morning.

John    John 3:27-29  

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.  Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.  He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

John looks to himself

As we read these opening verses we can see something about John the Baptist, that he is a man who knows who he is and he knows why he was here.
He is a man who is blessed and humbled by the blessing vs. 27 “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven”

He is a man who is fulfilled by his calling vs. 28 “I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.”

He is a man who knew himself in and by his relationship with Jesus Christ.  vs. 29 “the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.”

Knowing who he is through his relationship with Jesus Christ gave John a purpose for his life, a purpose that would take him through this life and into eternity.

Have you looked at yourself?

There are three questions that come to mind that we should ask ourselves in light of John's words.
First, Do you see yourself as blessed and does that leave you humbled?

The Bible says in James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
This is what John understood and if we are to ever know ourselves and really know Jesus it is a foundation knowledge that we must understand.

Secondly, Are you fulfilled by a calling as John was?
Ephesians 1:11-12 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

All of us have a purpose, given to us from God, that we should be to the praise of His glory. I love that phrase and the sense of purpose it conveys. My life as a child of God serves one of the greatest purposes in eternity, that I should be, that my existence is defined in this, the praise of His glory.
Finally, we should ask ourselves, Are I fulfilled in my relationship with Jesus? Do I know who I am in relation to and with Jesus? Have you discovered your real identity, your true self? Do you realize who God created you to be because you have discovered Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?
Knowing Jesus is the only way you’ll ever really know yourself as God intended you to be.

Illustration: No need to embarrass him.

When I can answer these questions, then I know who I am, I am somebody, I have a purpose in Jesus Christ.  I am a Christian, I am God's child, I am a soldier of the cross.  I am somebody!

On a different level it is kind of like the young Texan boy who asked a stranger he had just met if he was from the great state of Texas.  His father overheard the question and before the man could answer he pulled his son aside. 
"Son, never ask a man if he is from Texas.” 
“Why not, Daddy? 
"Well, Son. Its like this. If a man comes from Texas, he'll tell you without being asked and if he isn’t from Texas then you wouldn’t want to embarrass Him by asking.”

Transition: John now expands upon the relationship he has with Jesus in verse 30.

Jesus and John - John 3:30-31  

He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

John's Emphasis was on Christ's Preeminence

John makes this powerful statement "He must increase but I must decrease." It is powerful because its very simplicity forces us to examine its depths. It is both an explanation to his disciples and a reiteration of his orders from God.

John knows that he must fade while Jesus must grow.  John was the first prophet to Israel in 400 years.  John was the forerunner to the Messiah, and had been prophesied over a 1000 years before, but he must now fade from sight. This was to occur very quickly now that Jesus was on the scene. Ultimately this take place when John is imprisoned by Herod. When Jesus hears this, he begins his public ministry in Israel.

Who is Preeminent in Your Life?      

I must decrease in myself if Jesus is to increase in my life.
Let me give you an illustration, to rise higher in a balloon, ballast must be tossed over board. 
To rise even higher more valuable things must be sacrificed. So it is with the Christian seeking a higher and closer relationship with Christ.

Survey this truth in Colossians
Colossians 1:27 1st step Launch with the right pilot, Christ in you
  To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Col. 2:6-7 2nd step Stay the course, As ye received so walk.
  As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Col. 2:20-22 3rd step Let go the regulation rope, tied to the world.
  Therefore if ye are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,  (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 

Col. 3:1-2  4th step Breath the rarefied air.
 If ye then were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 

We are alive with Christ, we must then look towards Christ, have a love for things of Christ, because our life is hid in Christ.

If you're going to this height, then your own efforts, attempts, discipline, will power must cease. They must be thrown overboard and I must let Christ pilot me.  "He will increase as I decrease."

Illustration  Paul just before shipwreck on Melita  Acts 28

1st they threw over the Cargo: They lightened the ship;  Then the Reserves: And the third day we cast out the tackling of the ship.  Then the Bible says, their Hope in others: all hope taken away.  Their only means of Escape in another ship was tossed: when they cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.  Even their Future was jettison when they lightened the ship, and cast the wheat into the sea. Finally they even tossed themselves into the care of God: Paul told them they should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land.  When all they had was gone, then they knew that all they needed was God. And so it came to pass, that they all escaped safe to land. They cast away everything until all they had left was God.

"When you come to the place in your life where God is all you have left, then for the first time in your life you realize that God is all you need."

Transition: John the apostle and writer of this book, now adds his own emphasis to the answer of John the Baptist, that commentary turns the focus directly on us.

Jesus and You  John 3:32-36  

And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.  He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

John (the Evangelist) looks to those who follow after John (the Baptist) in believing Jesus.
They would set their seal that God is true. In the days of John in order to witness something and to show that you knew it to be true you would have a signet ring or seal and you would press that ring into hot wax to leave an impression, a record that said, I am a witness this is true. John says that is what we will do we set to our seal that God is true. They do this not with a ring on hot wax but with a living witness and testimony. Those who set their seal leave their mark by their faith.
They would believe what Jesus said. Every word, every promise, every lesson, every parable as true and vital.

They would believe who Jesus was. Sent by God, filled with the Spirit, loved by the Father, and empowered over all things.

They would believe what faith in Jesus would do. Give everlasting life, and believe that those without faith would be left in everlasting death and under the abiding wrath of God.

Are We Following?

I want to set to do what John said, I want to set the seal of my life to show that God is true.
Do I really believe what Jesus says? If so then I will decrease my own words, my own thoughts, my own voice, that Jesus might increase His words in me.

Do I really believe who Jesus is? Then I will decrease my confidence, my plans, my way and He will increase His presence and person in my life.

Do I really believe what faith in Jesus can do? Then I will decrease my apathy, my ignorance, my fear and He will increase his power in my life. I will tell others of Christ and his power to save because if they don’t believe then eternity for them is the wrath of God’s judgment because they rejected His Son.

Illustration:  William Booth and the Salvation Army

William Booth walked among the poor, hungry, sick, and lonely people of London, England. The people were crammed into crumbling buildings that were full of rats. They had no jobs. There was no one to help them.  Worst of all, there was no one to tell them that Jesus cared. They did not know that Jesus died to be their Saviour and lives again to be their Lord.

William Booth told his wife, "I have given myself to work for God among those sick souls." The work that was begun at that time is today known as the Salvation Army.

Years later when someone asked General Booth the secret of his success, he said, "God has had all there was of me to have! From the day I got the poor of London on my heart, and a vision of what Jesus Christ would do for them, I made up my mind that God would have all there was of William Booth. God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life."

William Booth gave Jesus complete charge of his life. He made Jesus Lord of all. He decreased so that Jesus would increase.

Conclusion:  Would you be like John?

Would you be like John?  Can you lose yourself that Jesus might more be found?  Will you hang like a banner in your heart the deep powerful truth he understood, lived and died to uphold? "He must increase, I must decrease.”

Friday, September 14, 2018

James: Faith in Action #3 Words and Works 1:19-2:13

Faith Working James 1:19-4:12

Words and Works 1:19-2:13

1:19-20 How does the preceding admonition from James about understanding trials bring us to the conclusion he states here in vs. 19? Once I understand the way God uses trials in my life I also learn patience, that patience keeps me from reacting too quickly and hurting the work of God with my anger.

How should I apply James statement of man’s wrath? In what ways do I try to use anger to accomplish God purposes? Is it ever justified? I must guard against the idea that my anger is a strength that I can use to accomplish God’s work. Anger toward another person or toward God will always be a trap Satan uses to hurt rather than help the work of God.

1:21 What does James exhort us to lay apart (once for all)? Filthiness is immorality while superfluity of naughtiness is any excess or overflow that is in us. We keep trying to be what God wants us to be by laying aside every sin, big and little.

Where does the power come from to lay apart these things? It comes from receiving the engrafted, implanted word.

What parable of Jesus could James be thinking of when talking about the engrafted word? The parable of the soils. Matthew 13:8  But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

How do we deceive ourselves when we only hear the word? We don’t fool anyone but ourselves. We are the only ones thinking that we are getting away with something by our pretense.

In the Greek, the word beholdeth and looketh are two different words, the first means to contemplate the second literally means “stoops down to take a close look at.” How do these two words contrast the hearer and the doer? The hearer only give a passing glance, while the doer stays long and studies his own image intently.

What is the “perfect law of liberty and how do we continue there? It is the gospel, the fulfillment of the law which was accomplished in Christ. We “continue there,” by being with Him.

1:26 What is the mark of a self-deceived hearer? What is James’ judgment of him? He pretends to be religious but cannot control his tongue.  He deceives his own heart and his religion is vain, empty and worthless.

1:27 Does James mean to say that this is the only things we must do? Is he saying this is the greatest practice we can do? How is he using the visitation of troubled orphans and widows? He uses visitation as an example of mercy, love and selflessness. These and remaining free from the worlds entanglements are marks of a true doer of the word.

The Sin of Favoritism James 2:1-13

In vss. 2:1-9 James definitely considers favoritism as sin, but why would favoritism be a greater sin for Christians? As Christians we are all equal before God. It was Jesus’ merit that made as acceptable to God not our own. If we show favoritism we deny the equality we share in Christ and glory in our self rather than God.

Vss. 10-13 How does James show by his example of the law that the sin of favoritism is no small thing? He shows that to break any part of the law is to break it all. To ignore poor brothers or sisters in Christ, because of favoritism to rich brothers and sisters, is to go against all that Christ stands for.

How will God deal with such a person? The person who shows favoritism, who makes a distinction between the rich and poor, will be judged by God without mercy, because they have shown no understanding of mercy.

What does “mercy rejoices against judgment mean?” Mercy rejoices or boasts over judgment, means that mercy does not fear judgment because it cannot be touched by it.

What does this mean to the Christian? What does it mean to the biased Christian who practices favoritism not showing mercy himself? The Christian has experienced mercy not judgment by accepting God’s gift of his son Jesus Christ. He no longer fears God’s judgment against him but the opposite is true of the Christian who shows favoritism. He is judged instead of receiving mercy, since he has disregarded the mercy God had given him at salvation.

Faith Without Works James 2:14-26

This is by far the most difficult section of James. If you will keep in mind who James was writing to and carefully read the passage you will have no trouble properly understanding it.

What is the overall purpose of James according to vs 14? To show that real faith is always accompanied by works of faith.

What does James say exactly about man in vs. 14? Is he telling us he is saved or is he merely making a profession? Though a man says, is what James states. This is an example of a profession which can only be show true by true works of faith.

Vs. 17 After the example of not helping a brother or sister in need, James says “Faith if it has not works is dead.” What kind of faith is James talking about? Is it a true saving faith or a false faith?
It is false the absences of works shows that is was never genuine. If it had been real then works would have followed. It would not have been alone.

In vs. 18 James issues a challenge of showing faith by works. Is there anyway to show true faith except by works, obedience and faithfulness? No, only God sees the heart but James say that true faith in order to be seen of man must be shown by works.

In vs. 19 James compares faith without works with the belief of demons in one God. Is a mere belief in God enough to save?  No, one must believe in God but also accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He must repent and believe. This again shows that James is talking about an empty faith, not a true faith unto salvation but merely one of the mouth without the heart.

In vs. 20 James plainly states that “Faith without works is dead.” Again this is not saving faith but an empty profession. He then in vs. 21 and 22 uses example of Abraham and Rahab the harlot to complete his argument.

What is the same and what is different about Paul’s example using Abraham in Romans 4 and James example here? Both us the same man but different acts and times. Paul talks of Abraham’s faith before salvation while James speaks of it afterward. There is no contradiction, both are using Abraham to prove a different point.

What does James mean in vs. 22 by works was faith made perfect? How does it help us understand what James is trying to explain to the Christian Jews he was writing to? Faith was completed, or better, it was fulfilled by the works that were seen. This shows those James is writing to prove that works accompany true faith and cannot be separated from it.

In vs. 24 in whose eyes is faith justified by works? James states it plainly, “Ye see.” It is not God that needs to see faith proved but men who can see true faith by works.

Vs. 26 What kind of faith is James condemning? Is this a faith that saves? No he calls it “dead faith.” James whole purpose is to show that dead faith saves no one. True saving faith is always accompanied by works and can be seen by others through the works they do.