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Sermon Series

 

June 29, 2014 A.D., by Pastor Ben Willis

Introduction

On and off across the past year or so Pastor Ben has been preaching through the Gospel of John. As our reading begins this morning, it is fall in Judea and the week-long Feast of Tabernacles is in full swing. Tabernacles is a “Thanksgiving”-type celebration: The final harvests have been gathered-in and there is much rejoicing going around giving God thanks for His provision. The religious leaders have decided that Jesus is a heretic, and have determined to arrest and kill Him when the opportunity arises.

Knowing this, Jesus has come to the Festival secretly, but here during the last days of the celebrations He has revealed Himself and begun preaching and teaching the gathered crowds…

John 7:17-30 [NLTse]

17 “Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether My teaching is from God or is merely My Own. 18 Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. 19 Moses gave you the Law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill Me.”

20 The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”

21 Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. 22 But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ Law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the Law of Moses.) 23 For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the Law of Moses. So why should you be angry with Me for healing a man on the Sabbath? 24 Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

25 Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the Man they are trying to kill? 26 But here He is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to Him. Could our leaders possibly believe that He is the Messiah? 27 But how could He be? For we know where this Man comes from. When the Messiah comes, He will simply appear; no one will know where He comes from.”

28 While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, He called out, “Yes, you know Me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on My Own. The One Who sent Me is true, and you don’t know Him. 29 But I know Him because I come from Him, and He sent Me to you.” 30 Then the leaders tried to arrest Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His time had not yet come.

Sermon

The Bible shows us that sometimes the Lord Jesus knew things that there was no way He should’ve been able to know.

In Matthew 9:4 Jesus forgives a paralyzed man his sins, and the Bible tells us that the religious teachers who were watching thought to themselves, “Blasphemy!” But Matthew records, “Jesus knew what they were thinking”…

In Matthew 12:25 Jesus has been working on the Sabbath – feeding the hungry, healing the deformed, and setting-free the demon-possessed – and the religious leaders who are watching are shown thinking to themselves that His power must have come from the devil. But again Matthew records, “Jesus knew their thoughts”

Earlier in John from our reading this morning, in John 2:24-25, Jesus had just cleared the Temple of all the money-changers and animal-salesmen, and John writes (starting in verse 23), “Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in Him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because He knew all about people. No one needed to tell Him about human nature, for He knew what was in each person’s heart.”

When the Lord encounters a Samaritan woman He knows her marital history and her current adultery. (John 4) Here in our reading Jesus knew that the people were questioning whether or not He was the Christ and so He responds, “Yes, you know Me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on My Own.” (v. 28)

People take Jesus’ having such miraculous knowledge in-stride saying, “Well, of course Jesus knows people’s thoughts: He is God!” And yet the Bible makes very clear that God the Son had taken off His divinity to be born Jesus of Nazareth. The knowledge Jesus exhibited was because He’d been baptized with the Holy Spirit and was demonstrating the spiritual Gift of Knowledge. And we know this because we see the Holy Spirit giving such knowledge to the apostles and other Christians across the Book of Acts, as well.

For instance, the apostle Peter somehow miraculously knows that Ananias and Sapphira sold their fields for more than what they told him they did. (Acts 5:1-10) In Acts 9 the Holy Spirit told a different Ananias the apostle Paul’s exact name, where he was staying, and the fact that Paul had just seen Jesus in a vision. (And in case we’re thinking that only the apostles or special Christians received such gifts, the Book of Acts reveals Ananias to be just as plain and everyday a Christian as they come!) (Acts 9:10-19)

In Acts 10 the Holy Spirit tells Peter that three men would soon arrive seeking him. (Vv. 19-20) And Acts 20 shows several believers, across different churches, each being given Words of Knowledge to tell Paul that jail and suffering await him in Jerusalem. (Vv. 22-23)

So, although Jesus’ sinlessness did result in His being perfectly filled with the Holy Spirit, and God giving Him the Spirit without limit (see John 3:34), the Lord Jesus’ signs and wonders were empowered by the Holy Spirit that had filled Him and come upon Him, even as God has given us His Spirit and desires to come upon us to demonstrate His glory, as well. So the apostles, and even the most common Christians, are seen being given gifts of knowledge to convict them and those around them of God’s truth, to convict them of those things God was trying to reveal to them, and to prepare them and others for what was about to happen to them, too.

Now first and foremost this should lead us all to praise the Lord Jesus all the more because of His omniscience: He is God; He knows all things; and He doesn’t judge people by our outward appearances, He looks at and knows our very hearts! (1 Samuel 16:7)

But this should also lead us all to seek the Holy Spirit’s gifts of knowledge, like the Lord Jesus, the apostles, and other Christians before us have in order to help draw those around them to trust in Christ.

You see, “knowledge”, or what’s sometimes talked about as being given a “word of knowledge”, is nothing more than God revealing to you or me a fact or some truth about a person or a situation that we could never have known through our own reasoning, education, or training. And, of course, it’s never something that we can make the Lord give us, it is knowledge He chooses to give us according to His good pleasure and sovereign will!

Even so, as simple and straight-forward as the gift is, think about it: God is telling us secrets that He wants us to know and share so that people will be drawn to trust Him more! It’s so simple, and yet isn’t our Father so cool to share such wonders, and to let us build His Kingdom with Him?

I think such glory should also humble us as we live Jesus’ life together. What I mean is, I’ve talked to too many Christian people who have taken offense at too many other Christian people because of they thought those other Christians thought about them: “They don’t like me”; “they have it out for me”; “they think they’re so great”; etc… And the evidence for such knowledge and offenses has been a stray glance, or the other person walking by without saying hello, or some other flimsy happening. And when I’ve told different ones that they shouldn’t base such offenses on such flimsy events I’ve been told time and time again, “Nope, I know it’s true, Pastor. I know people. I’m sensitive to stuff like that,” or other such all-too-certain nonsense. Because only God knows a person’s heart. And 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that even the glorious and miraculous words of knowledge given by the Holy Spirit are “partial and incomplete.” (Vv. 8-9)

And then, of course, there are those things that Christians think they know about the Lord on account of how they interpret what they see or hear happening around them… Too often God’s people live by their five senses instead of living by faith in God’s Word, character, and promises…

So let’s be humble before the Lord, and if we think something’s true about the Lord then let’s search the Scriptures for evidence to make sure. And if we’re sure of something about some brother or sister, then let’s confirm it by asking them about it. And even if we find out we were right, then at least it’s out in the open and we can work together to be reconciled.

And let’s seek the gifts God’s Spirit wants to give us. Without exercising them in love none of them are anything more than an annoyance, but when exercised in love they provide opportunities to shake people’s worlds in ways that few other things can as they see God working miracles through us in their lives.

But perhaps most of all, let us worship God! and rest in the comfort that He knows all things: He knows the sincerity of our apologies when we fail; He knows the depths and genuineness of our needs when we pray; and He knows the burdens and desperations tempting to weigh us down when we find that we can’t pray. He knows our love for Him. He knows what’s been. He knows what’s coming. And He knows the angels surrounding us and the protection and provision that is often so invisible to our mortal eyes.

“The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the Earth be silent before Him.” (Habbakuk 2:20)



June 15, 2014 A.D., by Pastor Ben Willis

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [NLTse]
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Sermon

Who here is a dad? Do any of you who just raised your hands want to be a good dad? Yeah… God’s the great Dad! And loving Him and being close to Him, I think we can’t help but want to be more like Him: And for us dads that means wanting to be a good dad.
Well, here are some things I’ve gathered together from across the Scriptures and from several “wise ones” around the Kingdom about how to be a truly good dad, like the Lord our Dad…
First,

A GOOD DAD KNOWS GOD AND LOVES HIM. A good dad is a man who knows and delights in God more than anything else! So knowing God is not something that simply pastors and missionaries or church workers should do. Loving God with all our hearts, souls, and strength is the responsibility of all of us, and especially dads.
Let me ask you, dads: Do you know God better than you know the New York Giants (or whomever you cheer for)? Do you know Him better than what you’re working on at work? or your yard? or your car? or your house? or whatever? (Or, at least, are you striving to know God better than you know those things? Do you spend as much time seeking to know Him as you spend time on any of these things?) I’m not sure that many of us can say that. But we need that. And God wants that of us. And we, really, want that of us, don’t we, dads?
As a part of that,

A GOOD DAD KNOWS GOD’S VOICE AND TRUSTS HIM
, spending time reading the Bible to gain a deep understanding of God’s Word and getting to recognize God’s will and ways there, and committing wholeheartedly to living according to God’s commands as a way of showing Him our love and showing our kids and those around us that we love Him.
This includes apologizing to God and asking for and accepting His forgiveness when we fail and recognize sin in our lives, and asking for His grace so we might love Him better and more faithfully.
Deuteronomy 6 also tells us that

A GOOD DAD TEACHES THE FAITH TO HIS CHILDREN AND DRAWS HIS FAMILY TO CHRIST
Now, Moses isn’t just talking to dads in this passage, but it is surely true for us dads. And I know that some of you men may say, “But my wife is smarter, and she understands the Scripture far better than I do.” But our responsibility, dads, is not to be God for our family but only to lead our family to God. We don’t have to do it all! Maybe all we’re actually doing is getting everybody together saying, “Alright kids, let’s talk about this morning’s sermon,” or “we’re going to read some of the Bible together right now.” And then perhaps we pray, and then let others pray, and then maybe we have someone read a couple verses from the Bible, and then discuss what was read and try to explain things together along with our wives, and commit to try and get answers for those questions we didn’t know the answers to. Dads, we don’t have to do everything, but God is calling us to lead: To get prayer, Bible reading, and spiritual discussions started.

Not only that but our kids need to see an example of Christ in us, dads. Paul says to his spiritual children (in 1 Corinthians 11:1), “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” Dads, until by faith we are following after Jesus ourselves, we cannot be godly examples for our own children. Only when we are living for and seeking to imitate Jesus in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions can we properly train and disciple our kids. And raising our kids to know God as their Father and to follow Christ themselves is the heart of what it means to be a good father!
Moses goes on to tell us that

GOOD DADS DO WHATEVER IT TAKES
, including talking about God all the time, wearing special things that will remind us of the Lord, and even putting things up around our homes and cars and workspaces to help us keep God on our minds, and to help remind us of being a good man and a good husband and a good dad and a good worker and a good minister and a good friend and a good neighbor. Whatever it takes!

To close, dads, I’d like to tell a story, and then end by adding one last characteristic of being a good dad the way that our Father in Heaven is such a good Dad to us.
Right around the time when I was born my dad got a job with Chrysler Corporation. We lived in this great house in Massachusetts for a year or two, and then he got transferred. And so we moved to another great house in Massachusetts for another year or two, and then he got transferred to Florida.
His job meant that he got to bring home all the latest and greatest new cars that Chrysler, Plymouth, and Dodge were putting out at the time! And we lived in Florida for a year or two, and I made some good friends, and then he was transferred to another place in Florida for a year or two, and I made some more good friends there. And then he got transferred to Michigan…

And Dad was climbing the ladder. He was making it! He was doing well and we were doing well. But while in Michigan he and my mom realized that continuing to move around would always be a part of his moving up in Chrysler: In a house and a community and neighbors and friends for a couple of years; and then needing to move on to another house and community and neighbors and friends, and again and again and again. And so he quit. And we moved to Maryland, where my mom had some family. And though we moved around several times even while we were in Maryland, it was always around the same community, and we kept our same neighbors and schools and friends.

I didn’t realize it then, but my dad chose being a dad in making that decision. I was seven at the time – so it’s been forty-plus years – but to the best of my knowledge he has never since had the level of financial security or success he had while he was with Chrysler. But he chose my mom and my brothers and me in making that decision, and he changed our lives for the better, and he let us know that we were what was important to him.

And now, though it’s not in our reading from Deuteronomy this morning, here is one last characteristic of a good dad that’s in the likeness of our great Dad in Heaven:

A GOOD FATHER LOVES HIS CHILDREN UNCONDITIONALLY
Now “unconditionally” is a huge word. “Unconditionally” means that a dad’s love cannot be earned and that his treatment of his kids does not change depending on what they can offer him in return. I know that some fathers want their kids to be something or accomplish something to make dad look good or feel good in order to love them. But dad’s, that puts our focus merely on ourselves and on what we can gain from our kids, rather than simply unconditionally loving our children.
In the Bible I think of the father of “the prodigal son” who, though his son had treated him so badly, seems to have always kept an eye out in the hopes of his son’s return (Luke 15:20). And when the young man finally did return, the father didn’t judge the son or force him to earn back his favor, love, and approval. He simply embraced him and threw a great party for him (Luke 15:21-24). That father could do this because his love for his son wasn’t based upon what his son could do for him but simply and strictly upon the fact that he was his son. Such a great picture of unconditional love.



June 8, 2014 A.D., by Pastor Ben Willis

Acts 2:1- 21

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from Heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”

14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out My Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out My Spirit even on My servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy. 19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds of smoke. 20 The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. 21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Sermon

The person and work of the Holy Spirit are filled and surrounded by much controversy. But we need to get past the controversy and into a place of receiving this blessing that Jesus Christ has offered us to prepare us for being His witnesses.

The night Jesus was raised from the dead, after showing Himself alive to His disciples, opening the Scriptures to them, and proving to them that He was indeed alive, He told them, “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as My Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from Heaven.” (Luke 24:49) Another time, during the forty days the Lord spent with the disciples before He ascended into Heaven, when He was eating with them, Jesus commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5) And once when they were asking Him about God the Father’s plans for restoring His Kingdom to the Earth, Jesus responded, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

Nobody knew Jesus better than those first disciples: They’d all lived together with Him for three years! Yet Jesus told them, “Wait until you receive power from Heaven.” Their love for Him, knowing Him, trusting Him, all that was excellent, but according to Jesus, it was not enough. They would need God’s Spirit to be His disciples and to make disciples of others.

Christians can be so surface and emotional these days when talking about the Spirit of God. After attending a Worship Service where worshipers raised their hands and where tongues were spoken you might hear someone say, “It was a real Spirit-filled church!” But does that mean that a more staid and reserved Service where the gospel is rightly preached and taught and where people are merely quietly moved towards greater Christ-likeness isn’t Spirit-filled?

The Scriptures demonstrate two very different but complimentary expressions of the Holy Spirit’s work with human beings. One is an “outside” work, and the Bible talks about the Holy Spirit coming upon someone. In its context, this work of God’s Spirit is seen to equip and empower believers towards advancing the Kingdom of God around them and around the world. Some aspect of power is required, some type of activity needs doing, so the Holy Spirit comes upon the Christian.

But there is another expression of the Holy Spirit’s work with people that is more “inside” and gets spoken of using words and images that show the Holy Spirit living within a believer in Christ. This work begins with justification when the sins of the new Christian are forgiven and washed away on account of their faith and trust in Jesus. In justification, their sinfulness is exchanged for His righteousness and He stops being someone they’ve heard about and becomes someone that they know. It is now when the new Christian has entered into a personal relationship with the Lord. That Holy Spirit working within a person for forgiveness and washing leads to the Spirit’s inner work of sanctification where changes begin to take place in the person’s character and morality and relationships with others and the world around them. Their hearts soften in some ways and strengthen in others to correspond with Jesus’ Own meekness and strength over time. In the person of the Holy Spirit the person of Jesus dwells inside every true Christian’s soul!

What we see happening that first Christian Pentecost is born-again believers being empowered for Christian ministry. That is, disciples who had already been inwardly-filled with the Holy Spirit to trust in Christ being outwardly-filled with the Holy Spirit for the very first time to equip and empower them for the ministry God wanted done: And that day it was Peter and the others preaching and teaching the crowd resulting in 3,000 persons becoming Christians that day! Only God could do that! And so He sent the Holy Spirit upon – to equip and empower for the work He wanted done – those He’d already filled – having brought them to faith in Jesus and growing them into greater Christ-likeness by producing the fruits of the Holy Spirit through them.

So every true Christian is inwardly-filled with the Holy Spirit (nobody can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit!), but not every true Christian is necessarily outwardly-filled with the Holy Spirit to equip and empower them for sharing Jesus with those around us. Yet we need both!

We all need to grow in Jesus’ character, and for our relationships to exhibit His forgiveness and love, etc… And we all need to grow in seeking and receiving God’s empowerment so that we might do Jesus’ works and change the world so that His Kingdom might come and His will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven! And when the (outward) power and the (inward) love are both exhibited, those around us notice, and believe, and come to Him, and the church grows. “More love, more power, more of You in my life!”

We need to get past the controversy and into a place of receiving this blessing that Jesus Christ has offered us to prepare us for being His witnesses!

Are you facing the challenge of doing impossible work for Jesus Christ? Are you burned out in ministry or discouraged with having so little lasting fruit in your life? Are you tired of depending on your own strength to follow Jesus? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then it is time to move beyond all the questions and doubts concerning the Holy Spirit. Now is the time to pray to receive this promise the Lord Jesus has made to all His disciples: The equipping for missions and ministry that Jesus Christ has promised all of us in the person and work of the Holy Spirit!