Sermon 15 April 2018 Go to the light!!!

 

Scripture

 

John 1:9

Core Idea and purpose

 

Core
Idea: God's grace (unconditional love) is a light that is available to guide all people.


Purpose: To help people to follow the light (God's grace).

The Sermon

Back in September 2002 I was driving by myself through West Virginia on my way to watch a re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam. I was traveling through the night on a winding mountain road. It was an overcast, moonless, pitch black night. My headlights were the sole source of light. I couldn't see the edge of the mountain on my right and the side of the mountain on my left. The white dashed lines in the middle of the road were barely visible. I concentrated on those white lines to keep from driving off the cliff and falling to my death.

I drove on for about an hour when my lights suddenly turned off and the engine stopped. I tried to re-start the engine, but my ignition did absolutely nothing – not even a clicking sound. As I coasted down the road, I eased to the side of the road but didn't go completely onto the shoulder. I kept half the car on the road because I was afraid of driving off a cliff and tumbling down the side of a mountain. When my car finally came to a halt, I imagined another car slamming into my car. I had no flares and another driver wouldn't be able to see my car until it was too late.

So, there I was, sitting in a dead car on a small almost deserted mountain road, with absolutely no visibility. I had no cell phone. (Cell phones were still new back then.) I must admit, I was nervous, even scared. The idea of spending all night in my car hoping not to get rear ended by a big semi-truck didn't sit well with me. I didn't know where I was, couldn't see what was ahead of me and had no idea what would happen that night. I was alone, suffocating under a blanket of darkness.

That night reminds me of how life is often dark, lonely and scary. Car loans, education debts, terminal medical prognosis, broken relationships, addictions and malevolent acts can all add layers and layers of darkness to our lives. Life can be frighteningly dark, not knowing where we are, not seeing what's ahead of us and not knowing how we'll make it.

None of us, however, will ever be completely in the dark. God promises that a light is available to everyone. This light can guide our way, provide comfort & show us what's all around us. This light can even dispel the darkness of our own hearts. This light will never fail to penetrate the darkness.

What is this light? Where does this light come from? What's the source of this light? The answer is found in John 1:9, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." This true light is God's grace, which is also known as God's unconditional love. Jesus, as fully human and fully God, is the manifestation of this true light (grace). If you want to understand God's grace, meditate on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Notice that this verse explicitly states that this true light is the light that is given to every person. So, we can say that God's grace (unconditional love) is a light that is available to guide all people.

Although not everyone recognizes this light, it does enable everyone to make good, moral and loving choices. It enabled my good friend, Lisa, to be one of the most kind and loving person I ever met. I knew her back in high school and during my days as a young adult. She wasn't perfect – no one is. She had her moments of anger, jealousy & hate but compared to the average person, she has a most loving heart. She never had a harsh word to say about anyone and didn't participate in any of the high school gossip. If someone needed money, she was quick to give whatever she had. Her empathy was unlimited. She could always see the other person's point of view.

Yes, Lisa was an extremely loving person, but she never professed to know Jesus. She was agnostic – meaning she didn't know what to believe about God. Although she may not have recognized it, Lisa became such a loving person because of the 'light that gives light to every person'. It's up to us, as followers of Christ, to let her know that it is God's grace that enables her to be so loving towards other people.

The same is true with the many people who discover victory over addictions at Alcohol Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (AA). In these 12-step programs, people first admit that they are powerless over their addictions and only a power greater than themselves – a higher power – can restore them to sanity. This works! Many people become free of addictions through AA and NA. We, as Christians, know that the name of the higher power is Jesus and it is His light (grace) that freed them.

This 'light that gives light to every person' – this grace – not only enables us to make good choices, it also draws us into an intimate relationship with God through faith in Jesus. It woos us towards repentance so that we can receive God's forgiveness - like a moth being drawn to the light. But, unlike the moth, when we reach the light, we find eternal life rather than death.

Back in the early '90s, there was a sitcom called "Family Matters". In this sitcom there was this young socially-challenged nerd named Steve Urkel who had a colossal crush on the beautiful and popular Laura Winslow. Steve started to pursue Laura when he was about 13 years old. He constantly told her how much he cared for her, gave her flowers and invented outrageous gadgets for her. He was always ready to rush to her aid and defend her honor. Finally, after 9 years, Laura realized that she had fallen in love with Steve and agreed to marry him.

God is a lot like Steve. (Maybe not as nerdy) God is constantly wooing us, given us the maximum opportunities to receive His forgiveness and have a loving relationship with us – with you. We can always say 'no' to God's offer of an intimate, loving relationship with Him, but God makes sure that we can also say 'yes' to Him. This is one of the works of grace - the 'light that gives light to every person'.

When I was on that old West Virginia mountain road, staring into the blackness, I stood there, shaking & nervous, for about 30 minutes. (It seemed like hours) Then, I saw in the distance, two little lights. I'd see the lights, then they would disappear. Then I'd see them again, only they would be bigger and brighter. Then they'd disappear again only to reappear a few seconds later, bigger & brighter. It was a car coming my way going in and out of my line-of-sight as it weaved its way through the winding mountain road. When I saw the car lights, I knew my deliverance had come. I waved the car down. The driver stopped and told me he would call a tow truck as soon as he got into town. About 30 to 40 minutes later a tow truck arrived. The tow truck driver took my car to a garage to be worked on the next morning and dropped me off at a motel. I was saved.

When the darkness of life is suffocating you, look for the light – the 'light that gives light to every person'. It's there. It will always be there – to guide you to Jesus and into an eternal, loving relationship with God. You're never without a light.

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Sermon 08 April 2018 Our absolute need for grace

Scripture

 

Jeremiah 13:23 & 17:9

 

Core Idea and purpose

 

Core
Idea: We cannot, on our own, become decent loving people. We have a desperate need for God's grace.


Purpose: To help people turn to God and rely totally upon God for a transformed heart.

The Sermon Summary

As a youngster, when I was about 10 years old, I became highly agitated whenever anyone implied that I needed help. I wanted everyone to know that I was smart and capable of doing just about anything on my own. As I look back on this, I realize that this desire to be self-sufficient was stemming from insecurity.

My dad recognized what was going on. Whenever he saw me attempting to repair a mechanical device or follow complex directions that involved a variety of tools, he would walk up to me, observe the chaos around me and ask, "David, do you know what it is you are doing?" I absolutely hated it when my dad asked me that question. I would feel like smacking him. Although I never actually hit my dad, I would gather up all my confidence and rudely exclaim, "Dad, I know what I'm doing! I don't need any help from you or anyone else!" As I look back on those moments, I realize my dad would have been justified if he had slapped me silly.

We live in a society that teaches us the myth of the self-made man. We learn from a young age that we must become independent and pull ourselves up by our boot straps. It's all up to the individual. We must learn to do it on our own. Well, that's a bunch of hogwash!

Yes, it's true. If you don't work hard, you won't be successful. If you want to be a success in life, you must put in the time. However, no one is successful in isolation. To think you can do it all on your own is just foolish arrogance. When I was 10 years old, I was foolish and arrogant because I thought I could do everything on my own.

The story of Kentucky Fried Chicken illustrates that success is never a solitary affair. In 1956 Harland Sander's long career seemed to be on the brink of ruin. His gas station, motel and restaurant were all going under. His three businesses were located at a fork on state highway 25 in Corbin, Kentucky. By 1956, few people were traveling on highway 25 because most people were using the new interstate highway system.

Harland Sanders, however, wasn't totally defeated by uncontrollable variables. He still had one ace up his sleeve. He patented a secret recipe for what he called Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). He sold his recipe to various restaurants and made a decent living until his daughter, Margaret, suggested that he develop his own restaurants that specialized in preparing his Kentucky Fried Chicken with its 11 herbs and spices. Thus was born the thousands of KFC restaurants that we've grown to love. They were an immediate success. The interstate highways that helped to close down his original businesses now became the main arteries that supplied millions of customers for his new KFC restaurants. By 1964, he was able to sell all his KFC restaurants for two million dollars and fees from TV commercials that featured him as Col. Sanders.

Harland Sanders worked extremely hard to be successful but he wasn't successful all by himself. It was his daughter that told him to open his own stores and it was the interstate highway system that provided easy access for his millions of customers. Congress had to pass the Interstate Highway Act (IHA), President Eisenhower had to sign the act into law and thousands of workers had to pour the asphalt in order to make the interstate highway system a reality. Harland Sanders, like everyone else, was dependent upon many people for his success.

God didn't create us to live as isolated individuals. For a while, we may be able to survive on our own but we will never thrive on our own. God created us to depend on each other – each of us contributing our unique gifts to the betterment of society. Most of all, God created us to be dependent on HIM.

We are dependent upon God for our very existence and life. We depend on God for our food and hospitable environment. Perhaps even more significantly, we depend on God just to be decent people.

It is impossible for us to be decent & loving people without the presence of God. We have a sinful nature that causes us to be selfish – always wanting things our own way. We often hurt people when we don't get our way. We gossip, attack with hurtful words and even use knives or guns to kill people. If you have a hard time accepting this reality, just watch CNN or Fox News. We know we shouldn't be this way but we can't seem to help it.

Scripture describes this human predicament. In Jeremiah 13:23 it says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil." Yes, we are accustomed to evil.

We often try to cover up our tendency to do evil with deceit. We lie to ourselves. Jeremiah 17:9 teaches, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?"

This strong tendency to lie to ourselves is called rationalization. The word 'rationalize' comes from two words: 'rational' and 'lies'. Put the two together and you have 'rationalize'. We tell ourselves intelligent sounding falsehoods in order to justify bad behavior. This is a hard truth that's not easy to hear. We're all guilty of lying to ourselves. 

I remember using rationalization to convince myself to buy a lottery ticket. Although buying a lottery ticket is not necessarily a sin, it is hypocritical of me to buy one because I disagree with having a state lottery. A few years ago, while serving a different congregation, I was driving down I-95 while thinking about my congregation's tight financial situation. I started to imagine what I could do if I won the lottery. I told God how I would use the money to build up the church's ministries to serve His kingdom. After thinking on this for about 30 minutes, I found myself pulling into a gas station to buy a lottery ticket. I told myself I was buying the ticket because I wanted to help the church but, in reality, I bought the ticket because my faith was wavering and winning the lottery would alleviate the church's financial burdens. (By the way, I didn't win anything.)

We often rationalize our gossip. I hear many people say, "I know this is gossip but you need to hear this." or "I know this is gossip but we need to pray about this." People who make these statements tell themselves that they desire good for the person being talked about but, in reality, they just want to gossip.

That little word 'but' is packed with meaning. Whenever we use that word, we probably shouldn't do what we're about to do.

So, here is the bottom line, we are doomed if left to be good on our own. I know this is not an uplifting sermon. The main focus of this sermon is how bad we are. When you leave church today, you may not feel as uplifted as you normally do. BUT there is some really good news!!

God doesn't expect us to be good on our own and never leaves us alone. God responds to our sinful nature with grace!! This is great news! It's the type of news that causes us to leap with joy shouting GLORY HALLELUIA!! I'll be preaching about this great news for the next five Sundays.

For now, it's enough to know that God responds to our sinful nature with grace. What is grace? It is God's unconditional love and we experience this love through the Holy Spirit. Whenever you hear the word 'grace' think 1) God's unconditional love and 2) The Holy Spirit. For example, Ephesians 2:8 states, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" You could re-write this to say, "For it is by God's unconditional love you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" We are saved by God's unconditional love. Jesus demonstrated this love with His life, death & resurrection and the Holy Spirit makes us aware of this love by witnessing with our spirits.

This love is unconditional because we don't deserve it. Due to our strong sinful inclination, none of us has ever lived a perfect life worthy of God's love. God loves us simply because it's His nature to do so. God literally is love. This type of unconditional love can change us as long as we receive it.

The following is a first-hand account of how a mother's love changed Thomas Alva Edison's life. This incident occurred when Thomas was 7 years old.

One day I overheard the teacher tell the inspector that I was "addled" and it would not be worthwhile keeping me in school any longer. I was so hurt by this last straw that I burst out crying and went home and told my mother about it. Then I found out what a good thing a good mother is. She came out as my strong defender. Mother love was aroused, mother pride wounded to the quick. She brought me back to the school and angrily told the teacher that he didn't know what he was talking about, that I had more brains than he himself, and a lot more talk like that. In fact, she was the most enthusiastic champion a boy ever had, and I determined right then that I would be worthy of her and show her that her confidence was not misplaced.

God's love is about a million times better than a human mother's love. So, if a mother's love could do this for Thomas Edison, imagine what God's love can do for you. With God's love – God's grace - we can become good, decent & loving people and that's what I'll be talking about over the next five Sundays. I'll talk specifically about how God's grace changes our hearts so that we can become the holy & loving people God created us to be.


https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/thomas-edisons-mom-lied-about-a-letter-expelling-her-son-from-school/

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=7phFAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA695&lpg=PA695&dq=I+was+so+hurt+by+this+last+straw+that+I+burst+out+crying+and+went+home+and+told+my+mother+about+it.+Then+I+foimd+out+what+a+good+thing+a+good+mother+is.&source=bl&ots=g56S25HksR&sig=QxdFMabEfqAzCgxa0w3sRiKfUXk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjyibemsdPQAhVLy1QKHXCjDlAQ6AEIITAB#v=onepage&q=I%20was%20so%20hurt%20by%20this%20last%20straw%20that%20I%20burst%20out%20crying%20and%20went%20home%20and%20told%20my%20mother%20about%20it.%20Then%20I%20foimd%20out%20what%20a%20good%20thing%20a%20good%20mother%20is.&f=false

 

https://www.truthorfiction.com/after-a-schoolteacher-called-thomas-edison-addled-his-heroic-mother-stepped-in/

http://www.thomasedison.com/biography.html

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Sermon 08 April 2018 Our absolute need for grace

Scripture

 

Jeremiah 13:23 & 17:9

 

Core Idea and purpose

 

Core
Idea: We cannot, on our own, become decent loving people. We have a desperate need for God's grace.


Purpose: To help people turn to God and rely totally upon God for a transformed heart.

The Sermon Summary

As a youngster, when I was about 10 years old, I became highly agitated whenever anyone implied that I needed help. I wanted everyone to know that I was smart and capable of doing just about anything on my own. As I look back on this, I realize that this desire to be self-sufficient was stemming from insecurity.

My dad recognized what was going on. Whenever he saw me attempting to repair a mechanical device or follow complex directions that involved a variety of tools, he would walk up to me, observe the chaos around me and ask, "David, do you know what it is you are doing?" I absolutely hated it when my dad asked me that question. I would feel like smacking him. Although I never actually hit my dad, I would gather up all my confidence and rudely exclaim, "Dad, I know what I'm doing! I don't need any help from you or anyone else!" As I look back on those moments, I realize my dad would have been justified if he had slapped me silly.

We live in a society that teaches us the myth of the self-made man. We learn from a young age that we must become independent and pull ourselves up by our boot straps. It's all up to the individual. We must learn to do it on our own. Well, that's a bunch of hogwash!

Yes, it's true. If you don't work hard, you won't be successful. If you want to be a success in life, you must put in the time. However, no one is successful in isolation. To think you can do it all on your own is just foolish arrogance. When I was 10 years old, I was foolish and arrogant because I thought I could do everything on my own.

The story of Kentucky Fried Chicken illustrates that success is never a solitary affair. In 1956 Harland Sander's long career seemed to be on the brink of ruin. His gas station, motel and restaurant were all going under. His three businesses were located at a fork on state highway 25 in Corbin, Kentucky. By 1956, few people were traveling on highway 25 because most people were using the new interstate highway system.

Harland Sanders, however, wasn't totally defeated by uncontrollable variables. He still had one ace up his sleeve. He patented a secret recipe for what he called Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). He sold his recipe to various restaurants and made a decent living until his daughter, Margaret, suggested that he develop his own restaurants that specialized in preparing his Kentucky Fried Chicken with its 11 herbs and spices. Thus was born the thousands of KFC restaurants that we've grown to love. They were an immediate success. The interstate highways that helped to close down his original businesses now became the main arteries that supplied millions of customers for his new KFC restaurants. By 1964, he was able to sell all his KFC restaurants for two million dollars and fees from TV commercials that featured him as Col. Sanders.

Harland Sanders worked extremely hard to be successful but he wasn't successful all by himself. It was his daughter that told him to open his own stores and it was the interstate highway system that provided easy access for his millions of customers. Congress had to pass the Interstate Highway Act (IHA), President Eisenhower had to sign the act into law and thousands of workers had to pour the asphalt in order to make the interstate highway system a reality. Harland Sanders, like everyone else, was dependent upon many people for his success.

God didn't create us to live as isolated individuals. For a while, we may be able to survive on our own but we will never thrive on our own. God created us to depend on each other – each of us contributing our unique gifts to the betterment of society. Most of all, God created us to be dependent on HIM.

We are dependent upon God for our very existence and life. We depend on God for our food and hospitable environment. Perhaps even more significantly, we depend on God just to be decent people.

It is impossible for us to be decent & loving people without the presence of God. We have a sinful nature that causes us to be selfish – always wanting things our own way. We often hurt people when we don't get our way. We gossip, attack with hurtful words and even use knives or guns to kill people. If you have a hard time accepting this reality, just watch CNN or Fox News. We know we shouldn't be this way but we can't seem to help it.

Scripture describes this human predicament. In Jeremiah 13:23 it says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil." Yes, we are accustomed to evil.

We often try to cover up our tendency to do evil with deceit. We lie to ourselves. Jeremiah 17:9 teaches, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?"

This strong tendency to lie to ourselves is called rationalization. The word 'rationalize' comes from two words: 'rational' and 'lies'. Put the two together and you have 'rationalize'. We tell ourselves intelligent sounding falsehoods in order to justify bad behavior. This is a hard truth that's not easy to hear. We're all guilty of lying to ourselves. 

I remember using rationalization to convince myself to buy a lottery ticket. Although buying a lottery ticket is not necessarily a sin, it is hypocritical of me to buy one because I disagree with having a state lottery. A few years ago, while serving a different congregation, I was driving down I-95 while thinking about my congregation's tight financial situation. I started to imagine what I could do if I won the lottery. I told God how I would use the money to build up the church's ministries to serve His kingdom. After thinking on this for about 30 minutes, I found myself pulling into a gas station to buy a lottery ticket. I told myself I was buying the ticket because I wanted to help the church but, in reality, I bought the ticket because my faith was wavering and winning the lottery would alleviate the church's financial burdens. (By the way, I didn't win anything.)

We often rationalize our gossip. I hear many people say, "I know this is gossip but you need to hear this." or "I know this is gossip but we need to pray about this." People who make these statements tell themselves that they desire good for the person being talked about but, in reality, they just want to gossip.

That little word 'but' is packed with meaning. Whenever we use that word, we probably shouldn't do what we're about to do.

So, here is the bottom line, we are doomed if left to be good on our own. I know this is not an uplifting sermon. The main focus of this sermon is how bad we are. When you leave church today, you may not feel as uplifted as you normally do. BUT there is some really good news!!

God doesn't expect us to be good on our own and never leaves us alone. God responds to our sinful nature with grace!! This is great news! It's the type of news that causes us to leap with joy shouting GLORY HALLELUIA!! I'll be preaching about this great news for the next five Sundays.

For now, it's enough to know that God responds to our sinful nature with grace. What is grace? It is God's unconditional love and we experience this love through the Holy Spirit. Whenever you hear the word 'grace' think 1) God's unconditional love and 2) The Holy Spirit. For example, Ephesians 2:8 states, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" You could re-write this to say, "For it is by God's unconditional love you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" We are saved by God's unconditional love. Jesus demonstrated this love with His life, death & resurrection and the Holy Spirit makes us aware of this love by witnessing with our spirits.

This love is unconditional because we don't deserve it. Due to our strong sinful inclination, none of us has ever lived a perfect life worthy of God's love. God loves us simply because it's His nature to do so. God literally is love. This type of unconditional love can change us as long as we receive it.

The following is a first-hand account of how a mother's love changed Thomas Alva Edison's life. This incident occurred when Thomas was 7 years old.

One day I overheard the teacher tell the inspector that I was "addled" and it would not be worthwhile keeping me in school any longer. I was so hurt by this last straw that I burst out crying and went home and told my mother about it. Then I found out what a good thing a good mother is. She came out as my strong defender. Mother love was aroused, mother pride wounded to the quick. She brought me back to the school and angrily told the teacher that he didn't know what he was talking about, that I had more brains than he himself, and a lot more talk like that. In fact, she was the most enthusiastic champion a boy ever had, and I determined right then that I would be worthy of her and show her that her confidence was not misplaced.

God's love is about a million times better than a human mother's love. So, if a mother's love could do this for Thomas Edison, imagine what God's love can do for you. With God's love – God's grace - we can become good, decent & loving people and that's what I'll be talking about over the next five Sundays. I'll talk specifically about how God's grace changes our hearts so that we can become the holy & loving people God created us to be.


https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/thomas-edisons-mom-lied-about-a-letter-expelling-her-son-from-school/

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=7phFAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA695&lpg=PA695&dq=I+was+so+hurt+by+this+last+straw+that+I+burst+out+crying+and+went+home+and+told+my+mother+about+it.+Then+I+foimd+out+what+a+good+thing+a+good+mother+is.&source=bl&ots=g56S25HksR&sig=QxdFMabEfqAzCgxa0w3sRiKfUXk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjyibemsdPQAhVLy1QKHXCjDlAQ6AEIITAB#v=onepage&q=I%20was%20so%20hurt%20by%20this%20last%20straw%20that%20I%20burst%20out%20crying%20and%20went%20home%20and%20told%20my%20mother%20about%20it.%20Then%20I%20foimd%20out%20what%20a%20good%20thing%20a%20good%20mother%20is.&f=false

 

https://www.truthorfiction.com/after-a-schoolteacher-called-thomas-edison-addled-his-heroic-mother-stepped-in/

http://www.thomasedison.com/biography.html

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Easter 10 AM Sermon

Scripture

 

John 19:30

Core Idea and purpose

 

Core
Idea: The resurrection demonstrates that death is finished. When Jesus stated, "It is finished" he was speaking of death coming to its final moment. With death defeated, we have a new beginning.


Purpose: To bring people encouragement as they live in the power of the resurrection

The Sermon Summary

Sometimes, for the sake of everyone's sanity, certain events must come to an end. When my first wife tricked me into seeing "The English Patient" all I could think was, "When is this going to end!!?" She told me it was a movie set in WWII. So, I went expecting to see a war movie. There were no war scenes. It turned out to be the most mind-numbing, catatonic love story I ever had the misfortune of seeing. That movie just had to end and it didn't end soon enough.

A similar situation occurred when I attended a Jacksonville Jaguars game in October 2010. The Jaguars were playing against the Tennessee Titans and it was a total blow out. The Titans seemed to have the ball 90% of the time and consistently gained yardage with each play. They won 30 to 3. It was excruciating to watch. It just needed to end.

Some things just need to end.

I wonder if this is what Jesus was thinking when he cried out, "It is finished" and then died moments later. Was He thinking, "How much more of this can I take…death is almost here….it just needs to end"? It's understandable if he was thinking this. He spent the last 24 hours enduring intense ridicule, extreme hunger & thirst, severe whippings & beatings and nails being pounded through His flesh. But I think he was thinking something much deeper.

When Jesus stated, "It is finished" he wasn't referring to his pain & suffering. He was referring to death. The word 'it' can be replaced with death – Death is finished. He was stating that death was about to be defeated - permanently done away with. Jesus was on the verge of enduring death so that He could conquer death on our behalf. So, just before experiencing death, Jesus tells death, "You are finished"!!!!

Boxers love to brag about what they're going to do to their opponent. They say, "You're going down!" and then take them down. In the same way, Jesus told death, "It is finished" and then defeated death forever. We know this to be true because Jesus died on Friday but rose from the dead on Sunday.

When Jesus rose on Sunday, He didn't simply come back to life. He rose from the dead in a glorified, resurrected physical body that will never die again. That's the difference between a resurrection and a simple rising from the dead. Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus died again. Jesus rose from the dead to live forever from that moment on. Jesus finished death once and for all.

Through faith in Jesus' defeat of death, we too can look forward to the resurrection and eternal life. No matter how bad things get here on earth, we can always say, "This is temporary. I have the resurrection to look forward to and eternal life to enjoy." This gives us courage to face the future. No matter what the situation may be, we can always take the right & loving course of action because we know that in the end we have the victory!

The cross reminds us that Jesus defeated death on our behalf. It was an instrument of death used by the Roman government to execute criminals and political dissidents. The resurrection has transformed the cross into a symbol of hope, joy, love & life. On that first Easter Sunday morning, the cross began its victorious new beginning as a symbol of God's loving and transformative power.

To really appreciate the significance of Jesus' victory over death, we must understand that eternal life is not simply living forever. It is having a loving relationship with God that will never end. So, when Jesus defeated death, He made it possible for us to have a never ending loving relationship with God. When we receive God's forgiveness and begin this loving relationship we do not remain the same. We become a new creation and the Holy Spirit begins to change our hearts in order to make us more holy & loving like Christ. Thus, we have a victorious new beginning. If you're addicted to alcohol or drugs, you don't have to remain that way. You can have a victorious new beginning. If you're a sex fiend, you don't have to remain that way. You can have a victorious new beginning. If you're a lover of money and power or if you're a control freak, you don't have to remain that way. You can have a victorious new beginning. If you're constantly jealous, angry or bitter, you don't have to remain that way. With Jesus' defeat of death, we all can have a new beginning.

John Long is experiencing his victorious new beginning. About a month ago he received God's forgiveness and surrendered his life over to the loving authority of Jesus. Previously, John was ruled by his sinful nature. Now, with the power of the Holy Spirit, he will have dominion over his sinful nature. This doesn't mean that he's automatically perfect, but it does mean that he is on the journey towards perfection as the Holy Spirit changes his heart. Let me tell you a story to illustrate this.

Much of John's family lives near here on Camp Road. A few weeks ago, John overheard this person talking bad about people who live on Camp Road. He stated that they are all junkies and criminals. When the person went to his room, the old John wanted to follow and confront him. The old John wanted to challenge the man and say something like, "Hey, my family lives on Camp Road. You insulted my family!" This, of course, would likely have ended in a fight. But that was the old John. The new John didn't do that. The new John allowed the Holy Spirit to direct his words and actions. The new John thought, "I know God loves me and my family, so why does it matter what this guy says?" The new John was then able to walk away.

Jesus said, "It is finished" and three days later death was finished. As we partake of communion, we remember that Jesus defeated death for you and me. We all can look forward to the resurrection and enjoy eternal life. We invite you to participate in this sacrament and remember Jesus' victory.

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Easter Sunrise Sermon

Scripture

 

John 21:1-19

Core Idea and purpose

 

Core
Idea: The resurrection of Jesus is our victorious beginning.


Purpose: To encourage people with the assurance of having as many victorious beginnings as necessary to become the holy & loving people God created us to be.

The Sermon Summary

During the summer between my junior and senior year in college, I attended the U.S. Marine Corp Officer Candidate School (Marine OCS). I thought I was well prepared. My Naval Reserve Officer Training Corp (NROTC) unit put me through rigorous training. I was in peak physical condition and I sincerely believed I was tougher than just about any person I met. I had no doubt I would pass Marine OCS but, as it turned out, my perceptions didn't match up with reality. I found out that being physically tough and exceeding all the strenuous fitness requirements wasn't enough.

Within the first week of OCS I made some mistakes and created a negative and lasting impression on the Sergeant Instructors. As the Sergeant Instructors put the pressure on me, I made more mistakes and flunked some of the leadership evaluations. About ¾ of the way through the course, I flunked out. I went home in disgrace.

For the first time in my life, I failed to achieve a major goal. It was as if my entire life came to a screeching halt. In my mind, I was going to become a great general fighting off the communist hordes. With my dismal failure at Marine OCS, what was I going to do? My life needed to begin anew. I was in desperate need of a victorious new beginning.

All of us, at various points in our lives, need a new beginning. We've all failed at a major undertaking or had a serious lapse in moral judgment. Many of us have succumbed to some sort of addiction and fractured our relationships with family & friends. At these gloomy & seemingly hopeless points in our lives, we cry out to God and yell, "I need a re-start! Give me a second chance!"

God responds to our desperate pleas for a new beginning with the resurrection. He explains and reassures us that the resurrection of Jesus is all about having victorious new beginnings. The Apostle Peter learned this when the resurrected Christ appeared to him and six other Apostles on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The 7 Apostles spent all night fishing in their boat but didn't catch a single fish. Then, just as the sun was rising, they saw a figure standing on the shore. The figure suggested they lower their net on the right side of the boat. Figuring they might as well try this, they lowered the net and immediately caught so much fish they couldn't bring the net into the boat. They had to drag it behind the boat. Then the Apostle John recognized the figure as Jesus. Upon learning that the figure was Jesus, the Apostle Peter jumped into the water and swam towards Jesus while everyone else hauled in the huge catch of fish.

When everyone came ashore, Jesus prepared breakfast for them. That's when Peter experienced his victorious new beginning. Remember, on the night Jesus was betrayed, Peter played it safe and denied even knowing Jesus. For the rest of that night, Peter wept bitterly. Now, he was face to face with Jesus, wondering what Jesus was going to do with him. After all, when it counted the most, Peter shrunk in fear and betrayed Him. Would Jesus allow him to continue on as an apostle or force him out of his inner circle? At this point, Peter needed a second chance, a re-start, a victorious new beginning.

Peter discovered that an encounter with the resurrected Jesus produces a victorious new beginning. Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved him and three times Peter replied with yes. Jesus then explained that he would continue to be his disciple even unto death. This was the beginning of Peter's tenure as the first Bishop of the Christian church. It was a victorious new beginning for Peter.

The resurrection of Jesus is our victorious new beginning. The cross was an instrument of death used by the Roman government to execute criminals and political dissidents. The resurrection has transformed the cross into a symbol of hope, joy, love & life. On that first Easter Sunday morning, the cross began its victorious new beginning as a symbol of God's loving and transformative power.

Jesus' resurrection demonstrates that He conquered death on our behalf. On Friday, Jesus died and endured death so that on Sunday He could rise triumphantly over death and provide us all with eternal life. We must understand that eternal life is not simply living forever. It is having a loving relationship with God that will never end. So, when Jesus defeated death, He made it possible for us to have a never ending loving relationship with God. When we receive God's forgiveness and begin this loving relationship we do not remain the same. We become a new creation and the Holy Spirit begins to change our hearts in order to make us more holy & loving like Christ. Thus, we have a victorious new beginning. If you're addicted to alcohol or drugs, you don't have to remain that way. You can have a victorious new beginning. If you're a sex fiend, you don't have to remain that way. You can have a victorious new beginning. If you're a lover of money and power or if you're a control freak, you don't have to remain that way. You can have a victorious new beginning. If you're constantly jealous, angry or bitter, you don't have to remain that way. You can have a victorious new beginning.

John Long is experiencing his victorious new beginning. About a month ago he received God's forgiveness and surrendered his life over to the loving authority of Jesus. In just a few moments, he will be baptized. By undergoing baptism, John publically declares his faith in Jesus. As the water signifies the washing away of his sins, it also signifies his victorious new beginning with Christ. Previously, John was ruled by his sinful nature. Now, with the power of the Holy Spirit, he will have dominion over his sinful nature. This doesn't mean that he's automatically perfect but it does mean that he is on the journey towards perfection as the Holy Spirit changes his heart. Let me tell you a story to illustrate this.

Much of John's family lives near here on Camp Road. A few weeks ago, John overheard this person talking bad about people who live on Camp Road. He stated that they are all junkies and criminals. When the person went to his room, the old John wanted to follow and confront him. The old John wanted to challenge the man and say something like, "Hey, my family lives on Camp Road. You insulted my family!" This, of course, would likely have ended in a fight. But that was the old John. The new John didn't do that. The new John allowed the Holy Spirit to direct his words and actions. The new John thought, "I know God loves me and my family, so why does it matter what this guy says?" The new John was then able to walk away.

We all need a victorious new beginning. If you want a victorious new beginning, repent of your sins and receive God's forgiveness through faith in Jesus. Do this right now! Come to Jesus just as you are but come expecting a victorious new beginning.

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