Communion Notes • June 19

Five Views from the Communion Table

Communion is the remembrance of the death of Jesus on the Cross. It reminds us of how He gave His body and shed His blood so that we might have the relationship with God, lost because of sin, renewed. While communion speaks of the Cross in general, various aspects of communion remind us of additional truths to remember. In I Corinthians 15:23-26 Paul detailed the communion service and gave us five different views presented this service.  

First, communion is a LOOK BACK. Paul reminds us that in taking communion we look back on our Lord’s death on the Cross (1 Corinthians 11:26). When we look back to the Cross we are reminded of our Lord’s sacrifice, of how He gave Himself for us, of how that death was an atonement for our sins. The communion service is a look back at a broken body and shed blood. It’s a look back at the suffering of the Cross and a reminder that it all took place for us while we were yet sinners. Looking back, we are reminded of the incredible love that took our Savior to that Cross. We remember His death as we take communion and praise Him for it because without the shedding of His blood we would forever be lost in our sins, condemned to everlasting separation from a holy God.

Communion is, however, not simply a look back, but it is a look at the present, a LOOK WITHIN. I Corinthians 11:28 tells us that one “ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” In the second look we take an honest look at where we stand in our present walk with the Lord. Certainly, that look includes an examination of our motive for taking communion. There are people who take communion out of a sense of duty or because a church requires it for maintaining membership. There are those who, unfortunately, take communion out of some superstition assuming that in taking it they bring some special blessing from God upon themselves. Our real motive ought to be the desire to simply remember all that our Savior did for us, to remember the great love displayed in that sacrifice and to re-commit ourselves to being the individuals He wants us to be. A look within should reveal not only our motive in taking communion but our current spiritual condition and the commitments we must make to grow spiritually. What are we doing spiritually with our lives? How are we living as redeemed children of God? Are we seriously and honestly striving for holiness? Is Jesus first in our lives? As we come to the communion table, we need to look not only back to the Cross but at ourselves. If in doing so we discover sin, we need to confess it. If in looking within we see areas of weakness, we need to commit them to the Lord, seeking His help to grow stronger in our faith. Communion is an opportunity to seek God’s strength as we seek to live for Him who loved us so much that He went to the Cross for us. Looking within should be a vital part of each communion service.

Third, communion is LOOK AT THE LOST in the community around us and is a testimony to the world of our faith. Paul said in verse 26 that when we take communion, we “proclaim the Lord’s death.” I know that very few, if any, unsaved individuals will watch us take communion but that does not mean that our partaking of communion cannot be a testimony. On Monday most Christians will have a conversation with someone that will begin with “So what did you do over the weekend?” That is an opportunity for you to say, “I mowed the lawn, shot a 76 round of golf and most importantly, I took communion at church.” Try to imagine the looks you will get when you say that. Then use it as an opportunity to share why taking communion is so important being, sure to include the truth of the gospel. Let the communion service be a means of “proclaiming the Lord’s death.” 

Fourth, as we partake of communion we need to LOOK AHEAD. I Corinthians 11:26 reminds us that as we take communion, we are to remember that He is coming again. In taking communion we remember all He has done for us “until He comes” This is a future look. We are told in Matthew 26:29 that as we take communion we are to look ahead to that glorious day when our Savior comes again, and we will take Communion with our Lord in His kingdom. 

There are two ways of looking at His return. There are those who sadly should be fearful when the issue of His return comes up because they have never made Him Lord and so His return means judgment. Hopefully none of us are in that category. But in addition, there are all of us who know Jesus as Savior and, therefore, look forward to His return with great joy and excitement. We do that because we know that when He comes again it will be for us and we will spend the rest of eternity in His glorious presence. And as we think of that return or of our going to be with Him first, we remember that God’s great provision on the Cross made that future possible. Communion reminds us of the truth that this service is in a real sense a temporary one with so much more to look forward to when our Lord returns.

Looking ahead is not only a question of how we will feel when He comes but how we are living each day considering His possible return. It is said that one day someone asked Dwight L. Moody, “If you knew the Lord would return tonight, how would you spend the rest of the day?” Mr. Moody is said to have replied without hesitation, “I wouldn’t do anything different than I do every day.” How wonderful if we all could say that! Then we could, with confidence, pray as it was prayed in Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus!” 

And in the chapter just before the one where Paul records for us the actual service we find achallenge for what we might say is a fifth look, a LOOK AROUND. I Corinthians 10:17 says, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” We come to the table of our Lord conscious of the truth that we are not alone. We individually remember what Jesus did for us personally on the Cross. We personally examine ourselves to determine not only our motive but our current spiritual condition. We look forward to the day when we personally will be at the throne with our Savior. We should also remember that we are not alone in our faith but we are a part of both a local church and a worldwide church made up of men and women who, like us, know and love the Lord and rejoice in so great a salvation provided for us. We really should not take of communion without giving thanks to God for our Christian family. We are not alone in our faith. We need one another and in a special way we are responsible for one another. We are responsible to encourage one another, to correct in love one another when we see a brother or sister entering into sin, to assist one another in growing spiritually, and in discovering his or her spiritual gifts. We are responsible to help each other raise their families. We are to be with those in the family of God who need special help because of age or illness. We are to care for the widows and orphans, to visit the sick and lonely etc. A view from the communion table must be a view of the brethren, those in the family of God.

What a privilege it is for us to come together and partake of the communion elements, elements that speak so vividly of God’s provision for us! Read again Paul account of the communion service as recorded in I Corinthians 11:23-26. Then as you think of communion, even if you do not physically partake of it at this time,  look back to the Cross, look within to evaluate not only motive but those areas that Jesus would have us improve on, look around to see how we can use the celebration of communion as a means of sharing the gospel, look ahead to the return of our Savior with joy and excitement and look at others who partake of communion with you and remember the responsibility we have to each other as well as the church in general.

Sermon Notes • June 5

Resolutions for all Christians: Philippians 3:7-14

Paul opened chapter 3 of Philippians with a detailed list of the many accomplishments that had been his in life. Read Philippians 3:4-6. Nothing had given him the peace he sought. Then Paul met Jesus on his way to Damascus, and when he made that personal commitment to Jesus everything changed.

In Philippians 3 Paul clearly stated that all the things he once thought were so important were, in fact, hindrances to finding the real peace and joy of life that he longed for. Paul used accounting language to describe them as belonging in the loss column compared to the real life he found in Jesus. Read Philippians 3:7-8. Gains were the things Paul once thought were important as listed in the opening verses of the chapter. They were considered a loss, not because they were necessarily bad, but because they kept him from finding the truly important things. In the context of Philippians, Paul was talking about salvation and was stressing that salvation does not come from works but by grace. As Paul went on, he applied that same principle of not allowing that which was less than the best to limit a growing walk with Jesus. The challenge we have is to determine what is truly important in our lives and in our family and make sure we do not allow the better to be squeezed out by the good or the best to be lost to the better. We need to be reminded often that the most important thing we can do for ourselves and our family is to ensure that we are growing spiritually. Three times in Philippians 3 Paul wrote about what really counts by evaluating everything “for the sake of Christ.”

Paul reminded us that the spiritual dimension of our lives really is the “surpassing greatness.” Knowing Jesus as Lord makes everything else insignificant. 

Paul urged his readers to seriously “consider” what really mattered. Paul used the verb “consider” three times here, each with a slightly different meaning as he changed tenses. The first time he used the perfect tense which carries the idea of a complete evaluation. Then he used the present tense that implies a continuing evaluation that leads to the conclusion that what was previously examined thoroughly was properly evaluated and continues to prove to be the same. When “consider” is used with the term “rubbish” it reflected on the intensity of the conviction. One of the challenges we continually face is to seriously consider the spiritual goals and how serious we are about ensuring we keep them. 

Paul then set forth his goals which should be our goals. First Paul said in verse 10 “I want to know Christ.” Paul was not talking about salvation. That was settled years earlier on the road to Damascus. Paul used a verb here meaning “to know by experience” and was saying that his goal was to know Jesus in a deeper, more intimate way. It is one thing to know the stories about Jesus and a totally different thing to know Him in a personal way. We get to know Him personally as we spend time in prayer just talking to Him and allowing Him, through the Holy Spirit, to talk to us. 


Having set the goal of wanting to know Jesus better, Paul then set three specific goals that flow from knowing Jesus in a more personal way. First, he wanted to know “the power of his resurrection.”  Paul saw the power displayed in resurrection as illustrating the power that is essential to our Christian lives. Paul desired that power which would enable him to continue the growth toward being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. We should regularly ask God what changes He would like us to make and then seek His power to accomplish that. We cannot do it alone.  

The second goal for Paul, and one that should be ours also, was to know by experience “the fellowship of sharing in his suffering.” This isnot a desire to simply suffer for the sake of suffering but the realization that if we are truly seeking to live as God would have us live there may very well be persecution of some kind. Friends may not want us around and our neighbors may not understand us. The goal for Paul was to seek each day to live as God would have him, regardless of how others respond to that. As our cultural standards change and move further and further away from the unchanging Word of God, we will be called upon more and more to change with it. When we take a stand for God’s way we will be laughed at more and more. Paul was saying he’d rather suffer for Jesus than deny Him and His Word.

Finally, Paul said one of his goals was to “become like Jesus in death.” Paul wanted to face each moment as Jesus faced the impending Cross, with a simple commitment that says, “Not my will but Yours be done.” We have no idea what lies ahead but we must face it with the realization of God’s ultimate control. We need to live each day with the realization that if we accept His will, all things will work out for our good and His glory, even if it is not what we might have desired.

Paul then clarified the issue by telling us that he had not yet arrived but was seriously pursuing the blessings of the Christian life. Read Philippians 3:12. Knowing where Paul was spiritually when he wrote that, we are reminded that we have not arrived either. We must continue to grow in our walk with God. 

At the heart of Paul’s goal to grow was the realization that spiritual progress is possible and that should be our goal. While the ultimate goal of the Christian life will be ours only when we are with Him in glory, we must never become complacent Christians who assume we don’t have to grow spiritually. 

Knowing how important that goal was to Paul, and should be to us, he declared he was “pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me.”Press” was an athletic term that pictured the effort to push forward or pursue the goal at any cost. For the athlete, it implied strenuous effort, focused direction and commitment. There is no place for a complacent church or believer. We are either pressing on toward the goal or we have dropped out of the race. 

The idea that Jesus took hold of Paul for a purpose is critical. Paul saw his conversion as more than simply an escape from hell. He believed all of us have been saved for a purpose and a major part of that purpose is to enjoy a closer fellowship with Jesus. In addition, every one of us was grasped by Christ for some additional purpose. Jesus has a plan for everyone.  Paul believed that he was not saved to simply wait for the return of Jesus or his death but to enjoy fellowship with Jesus each day and to live for Him each day. 

Read 3:13 which is a repeat for emphasis. The moment we think we have gone as far as we can go, or as far as we need to go, we give Satan a victory. Satan desperately wants us to fall short of all God redeemed us to become.

Read 3:14. Past achievements are not the focus of one in a race. One does not win a race by looking back to see how much ground has been covered or looking around to see how he compares to others. One’s focus is always straight ahead at the goal. Pressing forward is building on the past but not living in the past. Forgetting what is behind is forgetting both that which we can be pleased with as well as the mistakes we have made. Our previous successes and failures can hinder us from moving forward. Paul continued with a picture of an athlete going flat out for the goal. It is a challenge to us to ask how seriously we pursue growth. Paul’s commitment was what every athlete has, that of continuing full steam to the finish line, to the victory. 

For Paul, the goal was to press on “To win the prize for which God has called me heavenward.” He looked forward to the eternal blessings that await us when we are finally in His presence. Heavenward is a reminder that there is more to the Christian life than the here and now. Paul would challenge all of us to keep a heavenly perspective in all we do. Read Hebrews 12:1-2. Paul’s goal for each day of his life and should also be our goal for each day.

Sermon Notes • May 29

Memorial Day 2022

We must thank God and the men and women who gave so much so we can have the freedom to worship and the many other blessings that we enjoy day by day as Americans. Truly freedom is not free. We must never forget the cost of that precious freedom or the men and women who in the past gave everything to secure it, along with those who are still in harm’s way to ensure we retain those freedoms and blessings. 

Also remember the many in the history of the church who have given everything so that you and I might know the gospel that gives us freedom from the penalty and power of sin, a gospel message that gives assurance of rich blessings not only now but throughout all eternity.

Paul wrote in II Timothy 2:3 that as Christians we are to be good soldiers. (See also Philippians 1:2.) The Bible talks of God’s people as being His soldiers, just as literally as those who serve in our military. We rightfully remember the men and women of America who gave their lives for us, and we ought to remember those who gave their lives as God’s soldiers.

Read about Stephen in Acts 7:54-60. The history of the church records literally thousands of Christian soldiers who followed Stephen in sacrificing everything in witness to the truth of who Jesus is and what He did for us on the Cross.

Early church history records that every one of the disciples except John died a martyr’s death, some of them dying in an ugly way. James the son of Zebedee and Paul were beheaded. Several crucified in a manner similar to that of Jesus. Luke was hanged and Mark dragged to death behind a horse. And it continues through the centuries. Weekly we read of Christians in various parts of the world who are imprisoned or slain for no other reason than they are soldiers of God.

Read the description of how biblical soldiers died in Hebrews 11:35-37. History records that many men and women who were faithful soldiers of God have been pulled apart on the rack, dropped alive into boiling water or oil, burned at the stake, fed to wild animals, cut apart and left to bleed to death, skinned alive etc. But in the end the faith they had and died for as witnesses for has come to us. As we remember American servicemen and women let’s not forget the soldiers of the Cross.

In thinking about soldiers of the Cross read II Timothy 2:3 and 4 and note the following:

First, Paul implied what is taught elsewhere, if we are Christians we are automatically soldiers of Jesus. Paul did not give Timothy an option of serving or not. Paul did not discuss enlistment but simply notes that as a soldier, which he was, he was expected to act accordingly. When Jesus called us unto Himself, He called us to be His soldiers. 

Elsewhere God’s Word records that as recruits in His army He has promised to train us and equip us for the battles that will be ours. In addition, He has assured us that when the war is over, we will be honored appropriately. Even more importantly, He has assured us that we are on the winning side regardless of what we may suffer here. The book of Revelation gives an insight into the fate of the martyrs and declares they are at God’s throne rejoicing in their victory and praising God with a new song of thanksgiving. God has declared that no one who has left home or family, given up anything or suffered in any way for Him will ever be forgotten. One minute after the Lord returns no one will remember the American patriots but for the rest of eternity the sacrifice of Christian soldiers will in some way not only be remembered but be rewarded.

Second, Paul noted that it will not be easy in God’s army. Jesus never said being a Christian would be easy or without a price. In fact, He said that if the world persecuted Him then certainly it would persecute His soldiers. So, Paul wrote, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier.” Everyone who has ever served in a military will tell you it is not a picnic. Everything from basic training to actual combat is demanding and potentially dangerous. You don’t enlist for a party but for war. The same ought to be true for every one of us as Christians. We don’t become a Christian to party our way into eternity. We enlist in a winning army knowing it will be tough and maybe extremely costly for a time but in time we are going to enjoy the promised and assured victory.

Third, we are not left on our own to fight in this army. One of the neat things about being a soldier of the Lord is that our Commander and Chief has all of the details of our battles worked out and He has promised to fully equip us for both the hardships and the battles. Paul wrote in II Corinthians 10:3 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.” And then in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus he detailed how God’s soldiers are to fight and win. Read Ephesians 6:10-17 on the armor of God.

If we follow God’s plan everything is completely under His control. Following His plan means we have His presence along with His strength and power. It can’t get any better than that for a soldier. 

While we realize that it will not be easy, we know we will ultimately win. Paul wrote, however, that if we are going to win, we must avoid the temptation to follow our Commander half-heartedly but instead we must give Him our all. Paul puts it this way, “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs.” Paul was suggesting that in a real sense we don’t live in this world that is going to pass away so we must avoid making this world our primary focus. Paul supported himself as a tentmaker, but he was determined to not being committed to that which only lasts for a time at the expense of that which lasts for eternity. We read in Scripture that we are in the world but not a part of the world since our citizenship is really in our heavenly home. (See I Peter 2:9-12.) We live temporarily here and have responsibilities here but ultimately all we are and do should be focused not on here but on there, not on today but on eternity. Read Romans 12:1 and 2 and I John 2:1517. If as soldiers of the Cross, we hold the things of this world too closely we will focus on them and not on the spiritual battle before us.

Finally, Paul wrote that a soldier of the Cross is committed and faithful because he wants to please our Commanding Officer

American servicemen and women have given so much to us because they love America. Soldiers of the Cross should be willing to give everything to God because as Commander in Chief He has given so much to us. A good soldier of the Cross knows the price our Commander paid to enable us to be in His kingdom and serve in His army. A faithful soldier in God’s army knows that when the end comes, he will hear his Savior declare, “Well done” and with that he will know it has been worth it all.

This Memorial Day we definitely should pause as Christians and pray for our nation. We should thank God for the freedoms we have and blessings we enjoy. We should pray for our men and women in the military as well as others who serve as protectors of our nation. At the same time, we should thank God for the Christian soldiers of the past who have faithfully served as God’s soldiers, witnessing to the truth of the gospel often with their lives. We should offer a special prayer for the persecuted church, the persecuted soldiers of God in so many parts of the world. And we should re-commit ourselves to serving faithfully in His army where we are. 

Sermon Notes • May 22

Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32

This is one of three parables in Luke 15 that go together to show us the ministry of the triune God in reaching the lost. Verses 3-7 describe the ministry of the Good Shepherd. Verses 8-10 describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit and beginning in verse 11 we see the ministry of the Father in redeeming the lost.

Man, in the person of the prodigal son, went to God, in the person of the Father, and demanded his portion of goods that he felt belonged to him. In Genesis 3 we find that man received from God, in addition to a body, a soul. It is man’s soul that is his most valuable possession. We are told elsewhere in Scripture that if a man were to gain the world and lose his soul, he would have nothing. We can take it and yield it to God, or we can squander it by offering it to the gods of this world.

Verse 13 records that the son took a journey into a far country, which is the world. Meditate on the little word “far.” Man separated from God is far from so much that God would offer.  

Verse 13 also reads that he wasted his substance in riotous living. What a powerful picture of man as a sinner. He wastes his most valuable possession on what he feels is real living when in fact it is only riotous living. It is a lifestyle that neither satisfies nor lasts. 

Verse 14 records that he encounters a mighty famine. Note that the famine arose. It was not always there. It was not there until man separated himself from God. A life of sin is like a famine. a famine that results in dying of emptiness and want. Verse 14 adds, “He began to be in need.” A major ministry of the Holy Spirit, as seen in the parable just before this. The Holy Spirit seeks to bring individuals to the place where they will see their need of Jesus. 

Verse 15 records, “So he went and hired himself out to a citizen.” This vividly pictures man without God. Note, he did not return to God but rather turned to man and to work. The parable is as modern as today. Look about us and what do we see? We see a society in which there is obvious famine of everything that is important, trying anything to satisfy the wants of his soul and fill the emptiness that is always a part of being separated from God, attaching itself to the things of this world. The prodigals of our society are attaching themselves to drugs, to alcohol, to education, to materialism, to sex, to pleasure. The list could go on looking at the things a man, who is really in search of God, is turning to rather than God. They are searching for what we have found in Jesus. We need to tell them they will never find what satisfies in the things of this world.

Read Luke 15:15. Do not miss the fact that the son ends up tending pigs, remembering that the Jewish people wanted nothing to do with pigs. He went as low as he could go. 

Verse 17 records, “When he came to his senses.” No man ever came to God without first seeing the emptiness of his life as it is being lived here and now. There is an interesting study of the word “senses,” which is the root for our word “sanity” or literally to be in the right mind. Read Ephesians 4:17-18. The prodigal is beginning to think as God thinks. Verse 18 records, “I will go back to my Father.” First, he felt the famine, then discovered that no man could help him, then began to come to a right mind, and then began to return to the Father, who was his real hope.

The verse goes on “and tell him I have sinned.” There is no other way to come to God apart from an acknowledgement that we are sinners. But he did not yet fully understand the concept of salvation by faith alone, that it is grace and grace alone that saves. He said, “I will be a hired servant.” When we get to verse 21 and he meets the Father he realizes that it is not possible to earn a place in the Father’s house.

Verses 20-24 are among the most beautiful in the Bible. They picture God’s love and all that we have in Jesus. We must say, “Praise God for all He has given to us.” Verse 20 records that when he was yet a far off the Father saw him. How could the Father have seen him afar off if had he not been watching for him? God wants every prodigal to come back to him. The Holy Spirit pleads with us and God lovingly looks for the prodigals’ return. How far away were we? Read Ephesians 2:13. 

Notice that the Father had compassion. To appreciate this, we must picture what the prodigal son had to have looked like at that point. When we come to Jesus it is always the same. We come out a famine and out of wallowing in the garbage of a pig pen. And the Father has compassion. There was nothing lovely in the son. He was pitiful but the father still loved him.  

The Father ran to him. The son arose and went but the Father ran. This is the only place we know of in the Bible where we find God is in a hurry. He threw his arms around him and kissed him. It is an expression of love that the Father shows. 

Verse 21 reads, “I have sinned.” Not only did the prodigal son recognize his sinfulness but he was willing to confess it to God. “I am not worthy.” It is only as we come to grips with our unworthiness that we can truly come to God in confession of sin. It is only as we see our helplessness that we can begin to appreciate the graciousness of God. Note, there is no mention of working. When we come to grips with how sinful we are and how holy God is, we realize we can never earn our salvation. It is by grace alone. No amount of works can compensate for our sin.

Verse 22 reads, “Bring the best robe and put it on him.” They are outside the house. A banquet is ready inside but the son, is a sinner in filthy rags, and cannot enter God’s house. The robe is brought out. The robe is already made and waiting. Salvation has already been provided by Jesus on the Cross. And it is the best robe. That robe is nothing less than the righteousness of Jesus. Read Isaiah 61:10.

Put it on him. Everything is done for us when we come to God. The best robe is provided and put on. Read Zechariah 3:4.

Verse 22 goes on, “Put a ring on his hand.” The ring is both provided and put on, not handed to him. The ring represents the Holy Spirit given to each believer and speaks of both love and ownership. 

And shoes are provided. God has not missed a thing. A kiss of welcome and reconciliation, a robe to replace our filthy rags, a ring to show ownership and now shoes for our daily walk with Him. Read Isaiah 52:7. Not only are we saved but we are equipped to walk in this life as ambassadors of Him. The son said, “I will return as a hired servant,” but God says, “You are now my ambassadors.”

Verse 23 reads, “Bring the fatted calf.” The Greek is clear. The scene has shifted from outside to inside the Father’s house. With the new robe now on we can enter into His presence. We are not outside looking to that day when we shall be with Him in heaven, but we are already at His banquet table as seen in Revelation 3:20. It is a fatted calf. Mediate upon that and how that compares to where he was when he was in the world. The pigsty has been exchanged for a feast. “Let us eat.”  Fellowship is restored. Be merry. What joy there is in Jesus. You cannot appreciate verses 22 and 23 without reading again verse 15 and 16. How great is our salvation in Christ!

The message of this parable is so clear. God’s grace is so rich it cannot be understood. God’s grace comes when we least deserve it. Don’t read the parable of the Prodigal Son without marveling at the extravagant grace of God that makes us fully restored members of His family. The parable of the Prodigal Son is a parable of love and grace.  Our response should be to praise Him for so great an undeserved salvation. 

Sermon Notes • May 1

Characteristics of the Christian Life: Philippians 4:4-7

As Paul nears the end of his letter to the Philippians, he gave four key characteristics of a Christian. 

1. A Christian is one who rejoices in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice! See Philippians 3:1. This is a command, not a request or suggestion. Christians ought to be the happiest people on earth. God never intended fun and laughter to be crowded out of our lives. Paul wrote in what follows what the key to such joy is. Jesus related the relationship with the Father to a wedding feast which was always fun. God rejoices when a single soul comes to the Lord. The result of the Prodigal son returning home was a feast as the Father representing God said, “let’s celebrate.” Read I Thessalonians 5:16 Joy is one characteristic that should be evident in every Christian life.

Why should we be joyful? Because joy is the outward expression of an inner peace that comes from the assurance that God has everything under control. An infectious joy goes far in convincing the world that Christianity is real. The Christians to whom this was written had little external reason to have joy but when God is first, joy is present. The celebration of joy is always achieved best in community, in the fellowship of others who share the joy. The church is not an option for joyful people but a place to rejoice together.

The world talks of a happy hour when they come under the influence of alcohol. How about a happy 24 hours when we are literally drunk with the Holy Spirit for Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18, “Be not drunk with wine but be filled by the Holy Spirit.”

2. Let your gentleness be evident to all.” The word “gentleness” carried the sense of acting beyond pure justice when the circumstances warranted mercy and understanding. Gentleness, mercy, or patience is a characteristic of God and one of the Fruit of the Spirit that should characterize our Christian walk. It carries the idea of graciously giving to another what might otherwise be seen as our right. We who have known the gentleness of God because of Jesus ought to always be ready to show the same to the world. 

The reason for being joyful and gentle is that the Lord is near.  The term carries the concept of time so means the Lord’s coming is near in time. This reminded the Christians to be ready for His return and that when He comes, He will vindicate His own. It also carries the idea of space. That means the Lord is near to us where we are. The Lord is close. 

3. Christians are not to be anxious about anything. This too is a command. Literally “stop worrying.” Why not be anxious? Because the Lord is near. Read Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:24-30 In the world there is a great deal of uncertainty but because the Lord is close to us and is going to return we do not need to be anxious. Being anxious is the opposite of rejoicing. It’s the opposite of trusting in the ever present and soon returning Lord. When we do not trust God, we become anxious, but when we know He is there, we not only lack anxiousness but possess joy. This is not an argument for pretending that there is nothing to worry about but a challenge to live above worry because of the one who is with us and all He has promised to do in us and for us.

4. A Christian is a person of prayer. We overcome worry when we take everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving and present it to our God. The word “everything” is important to see. Nothing is too big for an all-powerful God and nothing is too insignificant for Him who loves and cares in ways we will never comprehend. Prayer is the alternative to worry.

Paul uses 3 words here to describe prayer. A. Prayer: Simply talking to God. B. Petition: Asking Him for things. C. Thanksgiving: Reflecting on what He has done for us and saying thanks. You do not need to worry about anything because you have taken everything to God in prayer. Thanksgiving may be the key word here. You cannot give thanks and worry at the same time. 

5. The Christian life is characterized by peace, the peace of God: Read John 14:27. It is a peace that is beyond our imagination. The Greek carries the idea of a peace that we could never conceive of or initiate ourselves. God gives it. 

This is not peace with God as a result of salvation. That is the critical first step. Joy, gentleness, a lack of being anxious and the peace that passes all understanding are available only to those who belong to Him. Spiritual benefits are always for His redeemed. 

Paul describes this peace as that which transcends all understanding. As the world looks at us in what they would consider the most trying or difficult of times they discover that we have peace they cannot understand, and we cannot explain. Because of this they will marvel at what our God does. The tendency of the world is to work on some elaborate system or scheme to ensure peace so we can rid ourselves of worry. Turning everything over to God, however, is the only real answer. When we take our cares to Him in prayer, He has a way of assuring us that He is in control and He gives us a peace that we would not have even imagined possible let alone know how to achieve by ourselves.

God gives us that peace by guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Literally He stands garrisonover our hearts. Paul uses a military term associated with standing guard. God is not subject to anxiety as we are and when we trust Him and take all of our cares to Him in prayer and thanksgiving He sets Himself up as the shield against unrest, depression, tension or fear. Those things do not exist in Him and cannot get through Him to us. This allows us to have real joy in the midst of everything.

Notice what He guards. First, He places His protective peace and assurance over our hearts. The term “heart” is used in the New Testament to refer to the seat of emotions and our source of thought and moral choice. His peace gives us emotional tranquility that cannot be found in anything the world suggests as an answer. 

And then He guards our minds. The word “minds” is used to describe our thoughts and thought process. God puts a shield upon our minds. We only need a few moments in the presence of Him who has all power and loves us so much that He gently says, “It’s OK, I am with you.” 

Psychologists earn upwards of a couple of hundred dollars an hour to try and bring a little peace to a troubled society. God says “My peace, I leave my peace with you. I give it, not like the world that charges or gives and takes back.” What the world offers is actually only a shadow of real peace. God gives a peace that comes freely and complete.

Christians are different, even peculiar. We know what life is all about and know that God had a standard of right and wrong that He calls sin. Christians are also different because in a world that seemingly is falling apart, we have joy. In a world where the prevailing philosophy is to get the other guy before he gets you, we know gentleness and show it to others. Christians are different because in a world that seems so uncertain and unstable, we know Him who is the same yesterday today and forever and therefore we are not anxious. We are different because in a world that needs drugs, alcohol and more toys to bring even a measure of peace, we have a peace that passes our ability to understand it because we have the God of peace within. We are different and how glorious that difference is. It’s a difference to be celebrated and to recognize each day.

Sermon Notes • Easter Sunday

 Easter 2022

Easter is the most important day in the year and the message of Easter the most important message we must share. It is the most challenging message the world will ever hear. 

Jesus spoke often of His death, but never once did He speak of His death and not reference His resurrection. Read Mark 8:31. The Cross was necessary to provide salvation, but the resurrection was essential if that provision was to be available to us. If Jesus had not risen as He said He would, everything else He said would be open to question.

The message of the resurrection is either the most important event in all of history or the most horrific deception ever fostered on mankind. If Jesus died and was raised from the dead, then all who believe in Jesus have the assurance that they too will be resurrected. If the accounts express only the false dreams of the early Christians, millions of Christians who staked everything on those reports are, in the word of Saint Paul himself, the most miserable of all people.  Read I Corinthians 15:17. The resurrection is at the heart of our faith. If it never happened, then everything else we say falls apart

What evidence is there for the truth of the resurrection? First, it is clear Jesus really died on the Cross. The beatings Jesus received in Pilates palace would have weakened Him sufficiently to ensure He could not have survived a crucifixion. The Roman soldiers, trained in death, verified He died. The embalming process guaranteed He died. 

Since He was dead the only way to come to life again was to be revived as Lazarus was, or be resurrected to life. A revival to life meant in time one would die again. A resurrection was a return to a permanent life that death could never again touch. Jesus was resurrected to a life that would never end. The descriptions given of His post-resurrection appearance and doing things, like walking through closed door and coming and disappearing at will, testify to the fact that Jesus was not merely revived to life. He was resurrected to a new and glorious body. 

The resurrection is key to the message of the church. What evidence is there that Jesus was resurrected?  There are 3 proofs that verify beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus was resurrected. 

The first evidence is the empty tomb. Matthew 27:51-61 details the burial of Jesus. His body was placed in the tomb and a stone that might have weighed a ton rolled in front of the entrance. A Roman guard of 16 soldiers was stationed to guard the body. They added a Roman seal that meant certain death to anyone who broke it.  

And the body was gone. There is no way to explain the empty tomb apart from a resurrection. The Romans would never have taken it. The guards risked death for losing a body they were called upon to guard. The last thing the Romans wanted was a story of a Messiah that would disrupt Roman rule and peace. They did not move it.

The Jews would never have moved it. They did not want the story of Jesus being the Messiah to go any further and the idea of a resurrection would fuel that belief. If they had taken it, they certainly would have displayed it to prove Jesus was not alive.

Some suggested Jesus’ Disciples took His body to perpetrate the rumor that He was the Messiah. But those Disciples were no match for the Romans. They would never have attempted to take the body from them. They were so scared they were hiding in a locked room. Attacking the Romans was not an option.  

The tomb was empty and the only reasonable way to explain that is that it was empty because of a resurrection.

A second evidence that Jesus is alive is the testimony of those who saw Him following that resurrection. Paul detailed some of those appearances in I Corinthians 15:3-6. There were at least 515 individuals who saw Jesus alive. Can you imagine a court trial today with either side providing over 500 eyewitnesses to prove their case? That would be a no brainer for the jury. 

An empty tomb and 500 plus witnesses should settle the case. Jesus died but did not stay dead. The third evidence is the changed lives of the Disciples who saw Him alive. It was not by accident that the Gospels detailed the response of the Disciples to the arrest and death of Jesus. When Jesus was arrested, they scattered in fear. Peter, who followed for a while, finally denied he knew Jesus and ran away. Only John dared to approach the crucifixion itself. The Disciples were so afraid of what might happen to them they rushed to an upper room, locked the door and hid out. Then Jesus appeared to them. Everything changed. This group of wimps suddenly became men of great courage who boldly stood up to angry mobs and Jewish leaders determined to silence them. They declared they had no other choice but to speak of Jesus. Absolutely nothing but the reality of Jesus’ resurrection could transform them that way. 

It got more dramatic. According to history, every one of the Disciples, with the exception of John, died a horrible death for their faith. Want to know how easy it would have been to avoid an excruciating death? All they had to say was “We made it all up. He is dead.” But they refused to say that because they knew He was alive just as He had said over and over again He would be. 

The fourth evidence for the reality of the resurrection is the countless lives that have been changed as down through the centuries millions of individuals have committed themselves to Jesus because they were certain He died for them and was alive. When they made that commitment, He transformed their lives just as He did the Disciples. 

Jesus is alive. The next question is even more important. So what? Does His resurrection have meaning to us today?

Because He lives. we can have constant fellowship with Him. You cannot fellowship with a dead Savior, but He is not only alive but has promised to never leave us. Jesus can be with us 24/7. 

Because He lives, He can intercede for us with the Father. Read Romans 8:34.

Because He lives, we have a power to victoriously live the Christian life. We are called upon to be different, but we are not left to live that life on our own. Read Romans 6:4, 

Finally, in I Corinthians 15 Paul gives us probably the most important truth when looked at from an eternal perspective. The Bible teaches that Jesus’ resurrection was the first but because of His resurrection God will provide a resurrection for all who believe in Him as Savior. 

We have 100% confidence that Jesus really was raised from the dead and given a new, glorified body. We know He was the first to be resurrected and all who believe in Jesus will share in the resurrection. Because He lives, we can have fellowship with Him. Because He lives, He intercedes for us in heaven. Because He lives, we have His power to live each day as He would have us live. The resurrection is a fact of history relevant each day until we join Him in glory.

Sermon Notes • April 10

Palm Sunday: Jesus Weeping over Jerusalem 

Mark 11:1-11 and Luke 19:41-44

Jesus wept! Any time we see someone in tears we stop and think about it. Our hearts go out to people who are legitimately crying because they are hurting. When we read that in the midst of the account of Palm Sunday that Jesus wept it causes us to want to know more.

This is the second time we read in the Gospels that we read that Jesus wept. Earlier Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. The Greek has two different words to describe one crying. At the tomb of Lazarus, the Greek tells us that Jesus wept (dakruo) what might be called “silent tears”, that is tears that simply rolled down His cheeks. Here the word is different (klaio) and tells us that His weeping was aloud. The word describes when one is overcome with grief and expresses it in an audible crying.

Luke 19:28 tells us that Jesus was approaching Jerusalem from the east, that is from Bethany. He came over the area known as the Mount of Olives and according to verse 37 was about to descend into the Kidron Valley. From there He was able to see the whole city of Jerusalem, It was a magnificent sight especially at the time of the Passover when thousands of Jews from all over Israel and the world had journeyed there to celebrate God leading them out of bondage to Egypt. Jesus saw that great city that was preparing to welcome Him. Verse 37 tells us that the disciples and others began to joyfully praise God. Then, without warning and certainly unexpectedly according to verse 41, Jesus burst into audible crying.

We cannot even imagine what must have gone through minds of the disciples. Why would Jesus be crying on such an important and glorious day? And then Jesus spoke these words of Luke 19:42-44. Read that passage.

There were two parts to His message. The first concerned “this day” according to verse 42 and the second the “day that will” come. “This day” referred to that very day when Jesus entered Jerusalem. He who was the King of kings and Lord of lords had come but, as John noted in the introduction to his Gospel, “He came unto His own and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). Had they received Him things would have been so different, but they refused despite their reception of Him that day. Because they would not accept Him as Savior then verses 43, 44 would become a reality.

Jesus knew that because of their refusal to accept Him as the Messiah judgment would come and 40 years later, in 70A.D, the Roman armies came and totally destroyed the city, leaving it in ruin just as Jesus described it. The Roman army simply sat for well over 4 years allowing no one in or out of the city. Food was long gone so when those who had not already died of starvation or disease were too weak to resist, the Roman army simply walked in as victors. Josephus tells us over a million were killed and nearly that many more taken as slaves to Rome. Jesus knew that was going to happen, knowing it because He was God. Everyone, however, should have known it was coming. God had repeatedly declared that if His people did not follow, obey, and worship Him judgment was inevitable. Like us, however, few Jews believed God would do that to His people. 

(Two important truths from the events of Palm Sunday are first, only God really knows the future and second, that fulfilled prophecy is one of the most powerful testimonies we have to who Jesus was.) 

What should strike us all is how those tears demonstrated so vividly God’s love for mankind, a love that was so strong that God sent His only Son to be our Savior. His love is so strong that He rejoices when a sinner accepts the provision of the Cross. It is so strong that we are assured nothing in heaven or earth, in time or eternity will separate us from it. The picture of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem is an incredible testimony to the depth of God’s love for us.

For a moment think about the city He was weeping over. This was the city that had every reason to love God, obey, and worship God. It was the city in which He made His presence known in a special way in the temple that was there. They had, however, chosen to reject Him and what He had said to them in His word. Read what Jesus said about the religious leaders in Matthew 23:33.

There should have been incredible praise to God in Jerusalem for all He had done for them but instead of following His commands they set up a system of religious activities that only vaguely represented what God wanted. They refused to worship God, accept His Messiah or live the holy life demanded of them. 

If it had been us that day knowing what Jesus knew we would probably have been looking to heaven and saying to the Father, “It’s about time.” Jesus knew what they were like and what they had done but read Matthew 23:27. The love of God is beyond anything we can even begin to comprehend, love displayed so loudly and vividly when Jesus wept over the impending judgment on Jerusalem.

The tears Jesus shed that day should speak volumes to us about the nature of God. Satan wants us to think that God is out to get us, that somehow God delights in zapping us. Unfortunately, too often the church has helped Satan get that idea across. In our zeal to encourage people to live holy lives we have sometimes pictured God’s anger at sin as an overriding characteristic of His. Too often the picture we have of God is of One sitting in heaven making a list and checking it twice to be sure He has down every time we slip up.  

Of course, sin is wrong and every time we sin it hurts God and there are often consequences for us, but God does not delight in discipline or judgment. Sin sometimes angers God. Within a few hours of Jesus entering Jerusalem, He was in the temple area and was so angered by the sin He saw there that He turned the tables of the sinning money changers upside down. But the primary response of God to our sinfulness is tears, tears because He knows full well what we are missing out on because of sin. 

Jesus introduced us to the creator of the universe, the all-powerful God who holds everything together, who knows everything and is everywhere, by declaring we can call Him our Father who is in heaven. Jude tells us we are loved by the one we call father. Read I John 3:1. The tears Jesus shed on Palm Sunday because it was necessary for God to judge Israel for its sin should speak as clearly as possible to us about God’s love.

As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Good Friday and Easter may I suggest we keep two things in mind. First, let’s keep the seriousness of sin before us. Sin hurts. Sin hurts us and sin hurts God. Sin separates. Sin caused Jesus to have to go to the Cross. But second, Holy Week and Good Friday are not about an angry God striking out against our sin but a loving God taking the judgment of our sin upon Himself. God loves us as the events of Palm Sunday so vividly demonstrate. Let’s remember that the whole week speaks loudly and clearly about how deep His love is for us.

Sermon Notes • April 3

I Thirst  John 19:28

Among the more mystifying words from the Cross are the words that are before us today. “I thirst.” They are the only words from the Cross that begin with “I” and, therefore, point attention to Himself. It was not a request although it resulted in the soldiers placing a sponge of vinegar to His lips. That cry was not merely to announce His physical thirst but to point beyond that to something much deeper.

“I thirst.” Jesus began His ministry with the temptation of Satan and there He was hungry. He ended His ministry on a Cross and there, He was thirsty. Jesus confronted a Samaritan woman at the well He offered her water. Read John 4:14. He thirsted in our place but offers that which eliminates thirst. 

The timing of the request was important. First, it was “after this.” We can assume that referred to after the darkness and the separation of Jesus from His Father. It was “knowing that all things were accomplished,” that is knowing that our needs had been met. At a bare minimum it would tell us that the most important thing on the mind of Jesus that day was not His suffering but our salvation. Once the price of our sins had been paid for, He could turn attention to Himself and speak of its cost in ways that He could not have before that hour. Redemption was accomplished and He could think of His own thirst.

This cry was after the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy. That prophecy is found in Psalm 69:21 where we read, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” Everything He was going through was known ahead of time to the God who is above time.  Over 20 Old Testament Scriptures were fulfilled during the last 24 hours of Jesus’ earthly life. The fulfillment of prophecy was God’s way of further identifying Him as the promised Messiah. 

Jesus was the one spoken of in the Old Testament. The cry of thirst from the Cross did not point so much to the physical as it did to the deeper price of our redemption. The Jesus of the Cross was not merely a good man whose goodness was misunderstood. He was not merely a prophet whose message was not accepted. He was not merely the victim of political intrigue. He was the Promised One of the Old Testament. When He came in the fullness of time He could truly be identified as the promised Savior. The words were spoken as a testimony to who Jesus was and why He was on that Cross. It is a reminder to us that nothing that day happened by chance. Every last detail was planned in advance by the Father who loved us so deeply that He gave His Only Son to die in our place.

For a moment think about Him thirsting.. He was part of creation. Read John 1:3. That means that the one who thirsted on the Cross had made every river that existed. He had made every spring that fed every well on earth. Not only had He made them, He controlled them. Scripture tells us He commanded the rains to cease for 3 years during the time of Elijah and then directed them to begin again. He told the waves of the sea to be calm and they were. But on the Cross, He thirsted. With one word He could have ordered a river to literally flow through His mouth, but He thirsted. He thirsted because men thirst. He was one of us, taking our place on the Cross.

“I thirst” certainly speaks to the physical suffering of Jesus on the Cross. The night before Jesus met with His disciples in an upper room and celebrated the Passover Meal. After that celebration He went out to the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed. Then He was arrested and that was followed by a night of illegal trials, beatings by the soldiers, mockery by the masses, being taken to Golgotha and then crucifixion. It was 9 in the morning when He was placed upon that Cross. For 6 hours He hung there. From noon to 3 it was dark and, as far as we can tell He declared “I thirst” shortly after the sun shone again. Simple calculations will tell us that under those difficult conditions, some of them in the hot Judean sun and all in the hot Judean temperatures, Jesus had gone 20 plus hours with nothing to drink. To merely note that He was thirsty had to have been an understatement. His mouth must have been incredibly dry, His lips swollen, His throat parched. He was thirsty for sure. He had been thirsty long before He spoke those words.

Some have suggested that He wanted a drink so that His throat would be better and His voice muscle sufficiently strong to be able to say the last few words of the Cross. History tells us that many on crosses became so dehydrated, so dry overall, with throats so swollen and vocal cords so parched that they could not even cry out in pain. But Jesus was still able to speak with only a few words left to declare.

The best commentary on Scripture is Scripture itself. Thirst in the Bible often represents the emptiness of life without a relationship to God. That was what Jesus was referring to when He told the Samaritan woman that He had water that would ensure she never thirsted again. We have a parable of Jesus that helps us understand a little more fully the implications of “I thirst.” In Luke 16, beginning in verse 19, we have the parable of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. In life the rich man had everything while the beggar had nothing. Jesus said that the rich man had everything except faith and Lazarus had nothing but faith. They both died. The rich man, who had no faith, went to Hell. Every now and then I hear of someone who denies the reality of Hell, but you need to remember that regardless of what others may say, Jesus believed in Hell. It was because of His belief in Hell that He went to the Cross. There is no other way to explain the Cross if there was no Hell and God did not love us enough to want to ensure that we never have to go there. In that parable we are told that the rich man prayed.  Read Luke 16:24 for what he asked for.  

On the Cross Jesus took our sins upon Himself and that meant the separation or thirst that rightfully belonged to us. His thirst was our thirst. It was a thirst He had never felt before.

The idea that He thirsted by taking our place helps us understand the price of our redemption and it also helps us understand the glories of our redemption. Read John 7:37-38 and Revelation 22:1. In John we read that Jesus say, “I thirst” and then in Revelation we read of the river of life that ensures that you and I will never thirst again. He thirsted that we need not. He who offers us the water of life died thirsty.

Revelation 7 tells of those who had been martyred for their faith in the tribulation and records of them in Revelation 7:14 that they are now at the throne with the Father. Read Revelation 7:16. Hear Jesus say, “I thirst” and then listen again to His promise to those who are faithful to Him, “never again will they thirst.” 

On the Cross Jesus declared that He thirsted. We must not minimize the agony of those hours or the love that took Him there. At the same time, we must never think that all it cost Jesus to secure our redemption was a few hours of pain on a Cross. The battle was not for our physical lives but for our souls. The price of that was spiritual death which includes a thirst for fellowship with God. Jesus loved us enough to pay the full price and all He asks of us in return is that we accept His offer of forgiveness All He asks is that we take unto ourselves the redemption purchased at so great a price. The offer is very simple. Accept the water of life Jesus died to provide or spend all eternity thirsting after God and unable to find Him.

Had you been at the foot of the Cross that day and heard Jesus declare He was thirsty, would you have given Him a drink? I am sure we would have. Here is the good news. You can still offer that water. Read Matthew 25:35-40.  He took our thirst. Now He asks us to give a cup of water in His name to others who are thirsting physically so that we may introduce them to the one who can give them the water that will mean they will never have to thirst spiritually. Is that too much to ask of us when we consider all He went through so we would not thirst?

Sermon Notes • March 27

My God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46

Today we are looking at the words “My God, why have you forsaken me?” as spoken by Jesus from the Cross. 

I know of no words in all of Scripture that portray the cost of our redemption better than those words. The Cross was designed for torture. Many believe it was the most gruesome form of putting a man to death that humanity has ever devised. Crucifixion was considered so ugly by the Romans who devised it that they forbade it being used on any Roman citizen regardless of the severity of the crime. Yet the real agony of the crucifixion is not the physical torture but the weight of our sin upon the Jesus. He who knew no sin or the effect of sin in His relationship with the Father, suddenly felt the separation that sin causes. We are going to look at those words today in their setting and then as they relate to Jesus, to the Father and finally to us. 

The setting of these words is important. They were spoken during the hours of darkness. Read Matthew 27:45. That darkness presents an interesting study in itself. The Greek word used here indicates that, unlike an eclipse, suddenly it turned dark. We know it was not an eclipse not only because of the suddenness with which it appeared, but also from its length. It lasted for 3 hours and no eclipse lasts that long. This was God’s doing, a supernatural event. Some have called it the original Black Friday.  Usually darkness in Scripture is related to judgment and certainly those hours were judgment on sin. In addition, it was also designed to hide the physical suffering of Jesus. One can well appreciate the idea that God would not want mankind to look at His Son so disfigured as to be all but unrecognizable and in such extreme pain.  Perhaps even more than that, it was designed to force our attention off the physical and onto the even more ugly suffering of the soul that was separated from God. 

There are some who would say Jesus was never forsaken but He only felt that way. It was really just a normal feeling like we would have in such a situation when one has gone through as much as Jesus had gone through in the previous 24 hours. He had suffered so much and felt as if there was no relief. It is certainly true that we sometimes, inaccurately, feel like we have been forsaken by God.  That was, however, not the case with Jesus. He was truly forsaken by God.

The Prophet Habakkuk wrote that God is so holy that He cannot tolerate sin in any form. Read Habakkuk 1:13. That’s man’s problem. As sinners we cannot enter into the presence of the Holy God. Unless our sin problem is cared for we must forever be separated from God.  Paul, however, wrote that Jesus paid the price of our sin. Read II Corinthians 5:21, I Peter 2:24 and Galatians 3:13. When Jesus became sin, His Holy Father could no longer look upon Him and for that time He had to forsake His Son. Jesus was literally forsaken by God as He hung on that Cross with the weight of our sins upon Him.

We cannot begin to imagine how Jesus had to have felt when our sin caused the broken fellowship with the Father. The agony of those words is found in the distance between the perfect fellowship that Jesus and the Father had enjoyed for all eternity and the broken fellowship that then separated. On the Cross, with our sins upon Him, He was cut off from the love of the Father. He was cut off from all communication with Him. He was cut off from all of the rights and prerogatives of Sonship. As Richard Bodey put it, “Now He hung between earth and heaven with no home in either. His Father’s smile was hidden. His Father’s favor was withdrawn. Laden with the sins of others, the sinless One sank into the lowest depths of hell as the waves and billows of God’s wrath swept over him.”

Imagine, if you can, the horror of Him being separated from God and then realize that had Jesus not endured the Cross we would be crying out for all eternity, “God, where are you?” 

The agony of separation is the wage of sin. You and I should have to experience it, but He took our place. Read I Peter 3:18. Death in Scripture always means separation. On the Cross Jesus experienced the physical death of separation of body and soul that would occur shortly after when He commended His spirit to the Father. In addition, with our sin upon Himself He experienced spiritual death as He was separated spiritually from His Father. He was forsaken when we deserved that separation. 

What must those words have meant to the Father in heaven? How do you suppose the Father felt when He heard them uttered? Sometimes, in our thinking we see Jesus as the one who loves and the Father as the one who judges. But God is love in the fullest sense of the word and He perfectly loved both His Son and lost mankind. God the Father had to have felt incredible anguish and heartbreak that hour. As the Son had had perfect fellowship with the Father for all eternity, so too had the Father had perfect fellowship with the Son. Then He was unable to help, to intervene, to share the burden. He was unable to send 10,000 angels to take Jesus off that Cross. He was unable to do any of that if the plan of redemption was to be accomplished for mankind. How do you think God the Father felt as He saw our sins placed on His sinless Son? The love of the Father for His Son was no less. At no moment did He stop loving Jesus because of the sin. He could not, however, love the sin so He had to allow His Son to suffer the separation that sin required of Him as the Holy One. We rightfully thank Jesus for going to the Cross but let us never forget the agony that the Father felt that day or the love He displayed for us in allowing His Son to bear our sins and die in our place.

Think also of how the Father in heaven had to have felt at that very hour. Here was the Son whom He had delighted in for all eternity and He must watch Him die and could not, for our sakes, intervene. That was love. The Cross was a demonstration of the love of the Godhead.

What do those words mean to the lost, to those who have never accepted Jesus as personal Savior? They mean nothing except an example of the cry they will make for all eternity. In our age there are many who deny the existence of a hell or say that God surely would not send anyone to a hell. That would be nice were it true. But what kind of a God would we have if, after all He allowed Jesus to go through, He did not send anyone to Hell who refused to accept His provision? It is impossible to believe that God would pour out His wrath on His Sinless Son and then not judge those who reject His love. There will be judgment. The Cross assures us of that.

What does this to say all to who have made Jesus their Savior? First, it meanswe do not have to face that separation we otherwise deserved. He took our separation upon Himself. Read I Corinthians 15:57. More than just thanks is needed. I Corinthians 15:58. William Barclay, in his book The Mind of Jesus, wrote about the incredible love of Jesus and His grace that makes redemption possible. Barkley then wrote, “Grace is the greatest gift in the world. Grace is a gift; and grace is a gift of love; to offer that grace to men cost God all He had to give; and therefore, there is laid on every man the awe-inspiring obligation of doing all he can to deserve that grace. That he can never do; but he can and must respond to that grace by seeking throughout all his life to be what that grace desires him to be. He must say: ‘If I have been loved like that I dare not break the heart of that love’”

 “My God, why have you forsaken me?” They are words with deep meaning. Who can even hope to comprehend the fulness of their meaning? Yet in the process of contemplating them, we should be reminded of why we must share God’s love with all, so they too may be saved. In contemplating them we are reminded again not only of how much God loves us but what that love should mean each and every day to the way we live. 

Sermon Notes • March 13

Love that Transforms: Luke 23:32, 39-43

The second set of words spoken by Jesus on the Cross are “Today you will be with me in paradise.” They speak of the love of God that transforms.  In these words, we have the heart of God displayed. They are words of grace and love

Picture the setting. Three men had come to the most crucial point in one’s existence, that moment between life and death, lingering in life and yet about to exit this world. One was Jesus and the other two were criminals. They were going to die on a cross so as to suffer and become an example to others who might be contemplating a life of crime or rebellion. 

The two men who died with Jesus that day were very much alike. Both had lived lives of sin and were known for their wickedness. The word that Matthew and Mark use to describe them was the common word for a terrorist or individual who led a band of outlaws known to prey on travelers and even whole communities. Both men had been arrested, tried and found guilty. Now they hung together dying and facing the same fears and uncertainties.

Both men had been eyewitnesses to some of the events of that day, especially the events that centered about Jesus. Both had walked with Jesus to the place of crucifixion bearing crosses like Jesus. Both had seen Jesus fall, unable to carry His Cross. Both had seen Jesus placed upon a Cross. Both had undoubtedly fought and cursed but they Jesus heard Jesus lift His voice upwards in prayer and ask His Father to forgive those who were killing Him. Both saw in Him someone special. 

They were two men in a desperate plight, two men deep in sin and two men in need of divine forgiveness. How very much alike they were in life and yet how different they would be in death. One died as he lived, as a self-sufficient, hardened, sinner. The other recognized Jesus as one so different and special that he turned to Him and, in simple faith and complete dependence, asked to be remembered when Jesus came into His kingdom. By that act of faith, he entered eternity in a very different way than the other who died with Jesus.

It’s marvelous to see that God was in complete control of that crucifixion. Jesus was hung in the middle of the two thieves.  It’s assumed that both men were companions in crime and sentenced to die together. If that was so, then the logical way to place the crosses would have been to put those two beside each other. But Jesus was placed in the middle so both men could talk to Jesus. In Jesus’ most agonizing hours God arranged it so those men could see that He was a King. God is not willing that any should perish.

One thief had come to the place where he could admit his own sin and thus his own guilt. He declared he was there justly for crimes that he had committed. Many throughout history, and in our society today, have not come to the place of acknowledging that they are sinners. Some acknowledge some failures but add quickly that for the most part they have lived well so they deserve heaven. That thief knew he was a sinner deserving death, even death on a cross. He saw the innocence in Jesus and declared He had done nothing wrong. It is easy to compare our righteousness to others and decide we are pretty good but that’s the wrong comparison. We must compare our supposedly righteousness with that of Jesus. 

Keep in mind the setting in which Jesus answers that plea. He Himself was dying and in incredible agony. He had His disciples on His mind and He was concerned about his mother. He was utterly exhausted, having been up all night in illegal trials. He had been beaten and whipped and all manner of evil done to Him and now He hung in excruciating pain. He was weighed down by the incredible weight of humanities’ sins. 

Jesus not only heard the plea of one dying with Him, but He sensed his faith. So, in mercy and love, He turned to him and declared, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus promised, “He that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” The answer to that request at the hour he made it, is a reminder that God is never too busy to hear our prayers or to reach out in love to meet our needs.

If a man with the character and background of that thief could come to Jesus when he did, and gain both the attention and pardon of Jesus certainly we can be confident that whoever approaches Him, not as one dying but as a risen Savior, will find a listening ear, mercy, love, and forgiveness. 

The request of that man on the cross was a simple act of faith in what he believed Jesus could do for him and not in what he might do for Jesus. That thief came to Jesus with nothing. He was in no position to promise Him anything. He came totally dependent upon His mercy. It was too late to promise to turn over a new leaf and live better. It was too late to promise to walk in the path of righteousness, for he was already nailed to a cross. All that the thief could do was come, cut off from all self-righteousness and cast himself in faith on the mercy and love of Jesus. That is what saving faith is always all about. Casting ourselves totally on Him.  

He asked simply to be remembered. We don’t know what he wanted, and probably he himself did not know, but he asked to be remembered and Jesus declared that that day he would be with Him in paradise. He was given so much more than he asked for but then that is the nature of God. God has promised to give far more than we ask for. 

The word today is important. There are churches today that do not teach this. Some teach a soul sleep in which the souls of the departed are all sleeping until the day of Christ’s return. There are those who teach some intermediate state sometimes called purgatory where one goes awaiting further purification. But God’s Word teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord and so that word “today” is important. For the believer, whose separation has been canceled because his sins were paid for on the Cross, the moment the soul departs the body he is with the Lord.  

The word paradise is important. We wonder what heaven going to be like. The best we can say is that it will be paradise. Read I Corinthians 2:9. 

The most important part of that promise is, “You will be with me.” Heaven can be described in many ways but, in the end, the real feature of heaven is that God is there, that we will spend eternity with our Savior. Being with Him is all the paradise we will ever need.

When God created man, He created us in His image so that we might have fellowship with Him. Sin destroyed that fellowship and man was not only cast out of the garden, but he could no longer walk and talk with God as he had previously done. Man became the sinner, and no one typified it more than that thief on the cross who had lived a life of gross sin. On the Cross sin was cared for as Jesus paid the price of that sin and thereby removed the barrier to reconciliation.  Renewed fellowship was/is now possible. Because of that, Jesus was able to declare to that thief, “Today you will be with me.” 

The prophet Isaiah wrote that in His death, the Messiah would save many. The thief on the cross that day was the first of the many His love would save. The account is a reminder that it is never too late to accept Jesus. One can wait until just before he dies, if he is sure he will be able to tell when that time will come. But since none of us really knows that, today is the day to make that commitment. 

Today you will be with me in paradise.” What a precious promise that was for one who was about to die. What a promise that is for all who know Jesus as Savior for it is appointed unto man to die. For those without Jesus that is also an appointment to judgment but for the Christian it is an appointment to paradise.