This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday February 16, 2020.
Today we are continuing in our new series titled “The Holy Spirit”. There is so much written in the Bible about the Holy Spirit and yet it is a topic we seem to shy away from. The Spirit plays a significant role in the transformative life and church and yet so many neglects to acknowledge the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives and churches. Last week we spent some time searching the Bible to answer the question… “What or who is the Holy Spirit?” The sermon is online now, and you can listen to it through our Facebook page or I can give you a physical copy of my manuscript from the sermon.
Today and next week we are going to spend some time parking in John chapter 14 where Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit and His purpose. In this passage Jesus’s actions are much like a parent preparing for leaving his children “home alone”, if you will, as he departs from this earth. His crucifixion is looming on the horizon and he has been giving his disciples instructions on how they should continue in him even after his departure from this world. As He prepares to leave this world Jesus is not going to abandon them or leave them orphaned when he does go. He ensures his followers that he will leave them fully equipped, well cared for and even though he will not be present with them physically, he will remain with them spiritually.
(Read John 14:15 - 21)
This is the first of many times Jesus specifically mentions the Holy Spirit. Up to this point he has referenced the Spirit very little, but in this “The Upper Room Discourse” Jesus introduces to his disciple the promise of another Counselor. In this passage He introduces them to the Holy Spirit (the Greek word paraclete) and the role He will play in the lives of believers.
Verse 15: In the previous verses Jesus gave the disciples the charge to love one another, to believe, to obey and to pray in his name. He speaks of the future and how after his departure from this world the disciples will do even greater things than they have witnessed up to this point.
In verse 15 He reminds his followers that if they truly love Him then they would obey his commands. If you go back to John chapter 13:34 Jesus gives a new command, ““I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” This was a command to love one another as Jesus had loved them (by loving them sacrificially.) He reminds them that words are empty if love is not practiced and obedience to Jesus is the sure sign of love. This is not a works based “if” and “then” kind of love and commitment. It is a “since you love me, you will keep my commandments” kind of commitment.
Verse 16, 17: Since the commandments are kept by his followers THEN Jesus will ask the Father to send another Counselor (or advocate) to be with them forever. This certainly was not a carrot he was dangling before them; this was a promise. The word translated in the Christian Standard Bible “Counselor”, or other versions call Him the “Helper” (ESV & NLT), “Advocate” (NIV), or “Comforter” (KJV) is the Greek word “paraclete” and is the Transliteration of a Greek word meaning “one who is called to someone’s aid” or “one who advocates for another… The Paraclete, also called “the Spirit of truth,” will lead them into all truth and aid them in their ability to recall correctly Jesus’ message. He is to become their special replacement for the departed Lord.” This is the “role”, if you will, of the Holy Spirit.
I find it interesting to note that Jesus is the original Paraclete’. If you notice Jesus says that the Father will send another Counselor. The Counselor or as Jesus calls him the Spirit of truth will be given by the Father and He will remain with the disciples forever. Obviously, Jesus will not and could not be with the disciples physically for much longer (this is the reason why he is giving this discourse) and even after his resurrection he is only going to be with them for a short time before he ascends to the Father. Through this promise of the Holy Spirit (or Spirit of Truth) we come to understand that through the Holy Spirit Jesus will dwell in or be in all who believe in him.
If you recall from last week I mentioned one of the challenges people have in trying to understand the Holy Spirit is that the world cannot know the Spirit of truth because world system is against God, it has no care for the works of the Spirit. Turn to I Cor. 2:14 and see that this passage tells us that a person who is godless (an unbeliever) cannot understand nor comprehend spiritual things. “But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluate] spiritually.” The unbeliever cannot receive what comes from God because it is folly or foolishness to them. However, those of us who do abide in and obey Jesus Christ can and do have the Spirit dwelling in us and we can understand and comprehend what comes from the Spirit because we have the mind of Christ in us.
This does not mean the Spirit has no role in the unbeliever’s life. We know this to be true because none of us can be called Christians if it weren’t so. The scripture tells us that the Spirit is the one who calls or awakens the dead man or woman to Christ and draws himself to the sinner. John chapter 16 shows us that the Spirit is the one who draws us to Jesus.
It is here in John 14:16, 17 that Jesus speaks of the one who remains in the world and cannot see the Spirit at work because he cannot humanly comprehend the Spirit and the Spirit has not enlightened him. But the one who believes in Jesus not only knows and comprehends the work of the Spirit, he receives the Spirit and the Spirit abides in Him forever.
Verse 18: It is in this verse that Jesus assures the disciples that they will not be left alone once He is gone. He will not abandon or leave the believers ill equipped. After his death and resurrection, the Spirit will be given to them (which we see right before Jesus ascends to heaven and at Pentecost when multiple disciples receive the Spirit). Jesus gives his disciples comfort in the truth that when he goes away, they will not be left to fend for themselves. He tells them that He is coming back to them and there are three ways this has/could be interpreted.
Verse 19: “In a little while…” is a reference to Jesus’ impending death. In a short period of time he will be handed over to the authorities and he will be crucified on the cross. This absolutely must happen; Jesus must give up his life so God’s plan of redemption can be complete. When he departs from this world, he will no longer be visible to the outside world. However, as people who obey his commands and believe in Him (Christians) they we will see him again. He will not only physically appear to the disciple’s post resurrection several times, but he also makes a promise that when he rises again, they will also receive the resurrection of life.
Since Jesus is alive, and as a result we are as well. His death and resurrection are for God’s glory and our benefit. In his departure we not only receive the Spirit; we also receive life eternal.
Verse 20: At the time when he reveals himself (both physically and through the coming of the Spirit) the disciples will then know that Jesus and the Father are one. They will have an “aha” moment where all becomes crystal clear regarding his teachings of the unity of Father and Son. Not only will they know the Father and Son are one, but they will also know that those who are in Christ are also unified in Him.
Verse 21: This is the promise Jesus makes… The ones who keep and obey Jesus’ commandments will show their love for him AND the one who loves Jesus will also be loved by the Father.
This promise Jesus makes to the disciples about not abandoning them and through giving the Spirit was not a one time offer for the disciples only. This promise is still available for us today. As followers of Jesus we, unfortunately, do not have the privilege of walking with a physical Jesus at our side. However, we have the Holy Spirit in us which we know is even more beneficial than having a physical Jesus on earth. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus resides in all who have placed their faith in him and obey his commands. We know from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that we are the new Temple in which the Holy Spirit lives. It is our bodies which serve as the Temple of the Spirit. Being that the Spirit lives in us we need to remember the words of Jesus in John 14:12, ““Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” This is Jesus’ promise that we will do far greater works when we receive the Holy Spirit. We are blessed individuals. We not only have the promise of life both here and for all eternity, we also have the Spirit of truth or the Holy Spirit in us. Jesus abides in us; he is here today and through his Spirit we can and will do great things in his name and for his glory. What those “far greater things” are, we can only wait and see as we pray for the Holy Spirit to move in our lives, and in our church so that we can be a church who is Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.
 Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). In Tyndale Bible dictionary (p. 990). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday February 9, 2020.
Today we are starting a new series titled “The Holy Spirit”. For the next 8-weeks I will be talking extensively about the Holy Spirit. There is so much written in the Bible about the Holy Spirit and yet it is a topic we seem to shy away from. The Spirit plays a significant role in the transformative life and church and yet so many neglect to acknowledge the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives and churches. Pastor Jim Cymbala wrote in his book FRESH POWER, “A Church cannot be a Church without the abiding and empowering of the Holy Spirit.” And I would ad that a Christian cannot be a Christian without the abiding and empowering Holy Spirit. This quote struck me because I have noticed that more and more Christians and/or churches are depending less and less on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today we are going to spend some time searching the Bible to answer the question… “What or who is the Holy Spirit?” This is message is in no way an exhaustive or complete revelation of what/who the Spirit is because the Holy Spirit cannot be sufficiently explained nor packaged in a nice little box of understanding and clarity. I think the early church theologian Cyril of Jerusalem said it best when he said, “When we speak of the Holy Spirit, whatever we say will be inadequate. There is nothing any theologian, preacher, priest, co-worker, teacher, spiritualist, author, believer, or I can say or write to paint sufficient picture or description the Holy Spirit. It is impossible. However, we can learn and understand what we do by searching the Scripture to see what God has revealed about the Holy Spirit in His Word.
Before we can answer the question, “Who or what is the Holy Spirit?” we will have to tackle some challenges that hinder a proper understanding of who or what the Holy Spirit is.
My goal and purpose for today is to open our Bible and look as comprehensively as time will permit about what it says about the Holy Spirit. So, in our remaining time together we will look at these three things…
A Biblical View of the Holy Spirit
Who or what is the Holy Spirit?” This is a question many have asked and will continue to ask. Keep in mind that a concise and complete definition does not exist.
Holy Spirit: The word Holy – Kodesh (Heb) or Hageos (GK) means “the most Holy thing, separate, sacred, or set apart. The word Spirit – Ruah (Heb) or Pneuma (GK) means breath, wind, or air in motion. So, we can define the Holy Spirit as a sacred or set apart from everything breath. What does that mean? Maybe this will be more helpful, it is the divine breath or wind of God. The Holy Spirit is the very essence of God. We know that the Holy Spirit is referred to as the third person in the trinity (who was present at the Creation of the World) and the Spirit is present in both the Old and New Testament. This Holy Spirit we have today is the same Spirit that indwelt the prophets, the Apostles and dwells in us today. The very essence or breath of God resides in the believer; as 1 Corinthians 6:19 states, “The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…” The Spirit dwells in the body of every believer in Christ. When one is called to become a follower of Jesus, the Spirit takes up residency in the believer’s life. We will talk more in the weeks to come.
Even though, it seems in the O.T. the Spirit would come and go as it pleased, we read in John 20:19 – 22 that Jesus gives the disciples the Holy Spirit and it dwells in them, “When it was evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said,[c] “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” and from this moment on the Spirit dwells and abides within a person once he/she believes.
The Holy Spirit has many names in the Bible… (Not an exhaustive list)
The Spirit is analogous to….
The Holy Spirit is a person not an unknowable force
The Holy Spirit is God
The Holy Spirit is omnipresent – Psalm 139:7 - 12
The Spirit is Creator – Job 33:4
The Spirit is eternal – Heb. 9:14
The Spirit is omniscient – 1 Cor. 2:10
The Spirit is the Truth – John 16:13, 14
The Spirit is a teacher/helper/comforter – John 14:26
He is unique because there is none like Him.
He is not matter but He is substance.
Fundamentally the Holy Spirit is not an optional part of Christianity… He isn’t something we can opt in or out of if we want Him. He is a vital part of the life of a Christian. In fact, he is essential to the Christian faith. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot live the Christian life. I conclude with these words that I believe to be true and will hopefully encourage us to be a people and church who are led by and dependent on the Holy Spirit. Just as Christianity without Christ is a dead religion so a congregation without the Spirit is a dead church. By the grace of God, may we be a congregation who is alive in the Spirit of God.
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday February 2,, 2020.
We are five weeks into our series “Neighborhoods and Nations”. This series has been designed to help us look at and talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church to both our neighborhood and to the nations. Ultimately, we will continue to discover how we can effectively be a neighborhood church (local) for the nations (global) and what that looks like.
Last week I talked about being salt and light. I talked about how God calls his people to be the salt by preserving the message he is preaching and sharing his message by letting the light (message of hope and salvation) they have shine brightly and unashamedly. I concluded with the reality that our job is to...Shine Brightly, Shine Naturally, Shine Openly, Shine Right Where You Are, the light of Christ in our Neighborhoods
Today, I am concluding this series as I talk about the church and the nations. Today’s message will be a nice segue for the next series I will begin next Sunday titled “The Holy Spirit”. In order for the church to be effective to the nations, it is important that a church be a Spirit-filled church made up of Spirit-filled individuals. Today, I aim to talk about and answer the question what does a Spirit-filled church and life look like? How do we live the Spirit empowered life? And how does living the Spirit-filled life and being a Spirit-filled church help us reach the nations for the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Overview of Acts 2:1 -13
Before we do this, it is important for us to look at the day we consider the birth of the church in Acts 2: 1 – 13. This extraordinary event happened day of Pentecost (50 days after Jesus’ resurrection). In this account we are told about a great sound of wind rushing in the room, tongues of fire appeared above everyone’s head and utterances of praise in foreign languages were all evidence that the Spirit of God had indeed fallen on the disciples this very day. God fearing Jews who came from all parts of the known world witnessed this event and were amazed at what they saw and more specifically what they heard. They were so perplexed and amazed that the only conclusion some came to was that the believers were drunk with wine. We will see in today’s passage as Peter, filled with the Spirit, addresses these accusations and explains exactly what was happening on this strange day.
Today I want to park at Acts 2:14 – 21 and look at a part of the passage that has become known as the great sermon of the Apostle Peter. I am not going to look at the full content of the sermon, but we will look at the amazing result of this Spirit-filled sermon and what we can learn from it today.
Verse 14: This is Peter’s first public sermon and boy was it a doozy. According to author and pastor R. Kent Hughes this was his greatest sermon because, “Of the place it occupies in history of redemption, greatest by its pure results (there were 3,000 converts), and greatest by virtue of it being a model for apostolic preaching (Gospel oriented and evangelical).” In this sermon he addresses the onlookers by explaining what was happening at this moment. He also counters the claim that they were drunk with wine, since it was only 9:00 a.m.
He begins by quoting the prophet Joel 2:28 – 32 which is a prophesy describing this specific time when the Spirit will be poured out on believers. Peter informs his listeners that they are witnesses to the coming of, indwelling, empowering and filling of the Holy Spirit in the believe which was prophesied by the Prophet Joel.
Vs 17: “And it will be in the last days…” Peter tells the listeners that the beginning of the end is at hand, because here the Spirit of God is being poured out onto believers. God will Pour out is derived from the imagery of Israel’s heavy winter rains; it speaks here of abundant provision.  When the Spirit was poured out it represented the beginning of an undisclosed time frame known as “the last days” which concludes with Judgment Day. We are still living in these last days and we, just like the believers back in the early first century, are anticipating the return of Jesus Christ is near. The result of God’s outpouring on all people is that sons and daughters will begin prophesying, young men are receiving visions from God and old men dreaming dreams. All peoples refers to all of Judah and more likely on Jews and Gentiles alike. This passage could be translated as, “There will be a day when God will pour out an abundant provision of His Spirit on both Jews and Gentiles alike.”
“Then your sons and daughters will prophesy…” His Spirit is being poured out and his people will prophesy. Let’s take a moment and pause here for a moment and look at what “sons and daughter will prophesy” means. When one prophesies, he/she speaks to the people and encourages, consoles, and uplifts “On the other hand, the person who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement, and consolation.” (1 Corinthians 14:3). Author Steve Thompson writes in his book You May All Prophesy, “Prophecy is not just speaking human encouragement; it is speaking divine encouragement. In simple terms, prophecy is ‘hearing’ from God and speaking what you hear in order to build, comfort, or encourage someone. To prophesy is to hear from God and speak to men.” If I may be so bold to suggest that prophesying is something the Church should be practicing more today. Now, I am not referring to predicting the future, proclaiming loudly and annoyingly end of the world judgment. I speak about the type of prophesy that involves the believer listening, seeking and hearing from God and then sharing these words with one another (not to control or get what you want) for the building up of the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul tells us Prophecy is the greater of the gifts when it comes to edification or building up the church body as a whole. It is not necessarily a greater gift, but in the church body it is more beneficial.
According to the Prophet Joel there will be no gender or age discrimination, His Spirit will fall on male and female, young and old, Jew and Gentile alike. Young men will see visions (this is noteworthy since visions were generally reserved for specific people but after God’s pouring of the Spirit it will be available to all). The Spirit will be active during the last days. God will reveal his plan, purpose and promises to his people of all ages and it will be for the building and edification of his Church. Peter tells us that this filling of the Spirit is no longer just reserved for the prophets, but it is now available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. This includes you and me; we just need to pray for the Spirit of God to fall upon us and be willing to receive it when it does come.
The sermon Peter preaches is an amazing display of the Holy Spirit empowering a believer to preach the Gospel because we he preaches with boldness and conviction about Jesus Christ. Remember, only fifty days earlier this same man denied three times the same Jesus he is boldly proclaiming. He feared for his own life just fifty days previous and now he stands before over 3,000 people publicly speaking about Jesus Christ. Another way we see evidence of Peter being empowered by the Spirit is by looking at the results of his sermon. Over 3,000 people became Christians on this day. Only the Spirit of God can pull this one off. Had Peter given this sermon in his abilities and power, it would have fallen on deaf ears and the result could have ended in a riot or death. As we see here, when the Spirit of God is actively present, great things happen.
If you are a student of history look at some of the great revivals and you will see a common thread in all of them…. Spirit-filled preaching. Look at the first Great Awakening in America which happened in the mid 1700’s when a man by the name of Jonathan Edwards gave a sermon entitled “Sinner’s the Hands of an Angry God”. Edwards stood behind a pulpit and solemnly read from his notes a sermon that could (and in many cases does) push someone farther away from God. But, the Holy Spirit was at work and the second time he gave this sermon the result was met with people weeping and crying out in repentance to God. It is even said that the bars were closed because there was no business because people were getting save. This led to the first Great Awakening and is one of many events in history where the Spirit of God did remarkable things. This revival was a result of the Holy Spirit as were all revivals in history. Many people today try or have tried to usher in revivals but are usually met with little to no response as a result. Why? Because we as humans cannot bring forth revival! This is the Spirit’s job and we must allow Him to do His work.
So, how does living the Spirit-filled life enable us to become a Spirit-filled church that brings the hope of salvation to the nations? Here are some suggestions…
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version. Includes index. (Joe 2:30). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Thompson, Steve. (2001). You May All Prophesy p. 9 Charlotte, NC: MorningStar Fellowship Church
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday January 26th, 2020.
We are four weeks into our series “Neighborhoods and Nations”. This series has been designed to help us look at and talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church to both our neighborhood and to the nations. Ultimately, we will continue to discover how we can effectively be a neighborhood church (local) for the nations (global) and what that looks like. Last Sunday I talked about expectations. I spent some time talking about the difference between Church Membership and Church Attendership. I talked about what a Church member is and is not.
So, as I have been spending the three-weeks talking a lot about our purpose (To glorify God in everything), what constitutes a church (The church is a people, not a program) and our expectations (I will…), and we now come to the nuts and bolts or foundation of what we have been talking about and it is our responsibility or our God-given call to our neighborhood.
God has established this church right here at 1604 17th Street West smack dab in the middle of Bradenton for a reason, and the reason is not to just show up every Sunday and have a service. We have a greater job to do and that job entails sharing and shining. God has called us to be a witness or light to this community and neighborhood. We have something this neighborhood (and the world for that matter) needs. We are God’s people and we have been given the gift of Salvation and we have been entrusted with the Gospel message. “For our exhortation didn’t come from error or impurity or an intent to deceive. Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people, but rather God, who examines our hearts. For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives—God is our witness— and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nurse nurtures her own children. We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3 - 8
The Gospel is the message Salvation it is this is the gift of God by grace. It has been given to us by grace (unmerited favor) through faith. Jesus came to save the world from sin. Therefore, we call him Savior. Through his life He came to show the way to the Kingdom of God and through his death and resurrection He made it possible to receive it. You see Jesus came to give us the ultimate gift… Because of his great love, He gave his life so that we could have life and have it abundantly. This is THE gift from God. He gave it, have you received it?
Salt & Light
Reminder There are 25,000 people living in a 1-mile radius from West B. Southside and this means that we have our work cut out for us. So I would like to spend the time we have together to “flesh out” what it is that we are called to be and do in our community and neighborhood.
In Matthew 5:13 – 16, this portion of Scripture is part of a sermon series that Jesus gave called “The Sermon on the Mount” and Jesus is speaking to his disciples. He is speaking to those who have dedicated their lives to following and serving him (his disciples and ultimately to us). In this passage Jesus uses the examples of salt and light to describe His people and to remind us what we are called to do.
He first describes believers as the salt of the earth. Salt was the most commonly used seasoning in antiquity: ‘Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt?’ (Job 6:6). Its preservative powers made it an absolute necessity of life and a virtual synonym for essential life-giving forces and, not surprisingly, endowed it with religious significance. One of the main purposes of Salt was for preservation and it was intended to keep an object in the state in which it was found and it was used to bring out the flavor in foods. But it was not intended to make it better. In Ancient Israel it was meant to keep meat and fish from spoiling. The purpose was to preserve, but it could not revive or refresh… thus it could not make spoiled meat fresh.
Jesus also called his disciples to be the light of the world. Israel were the people God intended to shine his bright light into the world’s dark corners, not simply to expose evil but to help people who were blundering in the dark to find their way. They didn’t do a great job at that. So here Jesus is calling his followers to complete the job originally set out for Israel.
So, it is in this passage Jesus is calling his people to preserve the message he is preaching by being salt and sharing this message by letting the light (message of hope and salvation) they have shine brightly and unashamedly.
Jesus talks about a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Jerusalem was a city set on a hill and they were called to be the light of the world. They were to show the world the way to the one true God and that He should be worshiped. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. It is impossible. It is already exposed.
A City on a Hill (The Church)
A lamp is not put under a basket
We are God’s people. We have received THE gift of God. So, what is our call or response to our neighborhood and the nations?
As Disciples of Christ we are called to be the salt and light of the world. This is THE job of the believer. This is the GIFT God has given to us.
God has given you the greatest gift you could ever want or ask for… life. This is the gift that keeps on giving. This is the gift we must share with our neighbors. Let us not be ashamed of this gift. Let us work hard to be salt and light and refuse to work hard to keep it hidden and useless.
 Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 893). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday January 19th, 2020.
Three weeks ago, we began our current series titled “Neighborhoods and Nations”. This five-week series is designed to help us look at and talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church. Ultimately, we will discover how we can effectively be a neighborhood church (local) for the nations (global). Last Sunday I talked about the church and how the church is not an organization (programs, leadership, and building) Church≠ Building + Clergy + Program, but is an organism (a body made up of multiple parts and Jesus in which Jesus is the head) Church = Body (people) + Mission (our objective) + Kingdom (God’s plan).
Today, my aim is to continue to talk about the church, but more specifically the local church and the importance of being connected to a local congregation through membership. Now, some of you may be thinking, “I do not need to be a member of a church in order to be a Christian.” And you would be technically be right. However, I would challenge your statement by saying that a person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and does not see the value of corporate worship, to the extent of neglecting regular attendance and participation in the local church. In fact, the idea of believers living outside of fellowship with other believers was a completely foreign idea. When you look back to the Ancient Church of the New Testament, the evidence of salvation was synonymous to joining or gathering regularly with an assembled group of believers. So, essentially, when one became of follower or believer in Jesus Christ it meant they entered in to fellowship with other believers. I like how John MacArthur answers the question of why the local church matters when he writes, “The church is the only institution the Lord established and promised to bless. Why would anyone who claims to love the Lord want to keep His people at arm’s length?”
Church Membership vs. Church Attendership
Now, the goal for today is not to guilt you, make you feel bad or twist your arm to join the church, if you haven’t already, but it is to encourage you to see the importance being connected to a church body where you regularly attend and worship. In a few moments I will be talking primarily about church membership and expectations, but before I do this, I think it is important to define the difference between Church Membership and Church Attendership.
Romans 12:4 – 5, “ Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.”
The word “expectations” tends to scare people when it comes to the church. Often people join a church with ulterior motives, (i.e. a place to bury and marry you, it’s good for your social status, some even use it as “fire insurance” … If I am a member of a church, then I will go to heaven.) I am not quite sure why expectations scares people. But, not only does it scare some, it also offends others. People are offended because the church desires and asks that members be active and moving so that the body of Christ can function properly. The text above talks about the various parts that make up the body of Christ and 1 Corinthians 12: 18 – 24 says, “But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted. 19 And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. 23 And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unrespectable parts are treated with greater respect, 24 which our respectable parts do not need.” And this tells us that parts of the body need to work together in order to work effectively. So, the expectation for each church member is that you be a fully functioning part of the body so the other parts can function properly as well.
At West Bradenton Southside we do have expectations of our members. I don’t view these expectations as overbearing or demanding, but life-giving and edifying to the church body as a whole. The following are six expectations of every church member…
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday January 12th, 2020.
Last week we began our new series titled “Neighborhoods and Nations”. This five week series is designed to help us look at and talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church and how we can effectively be a neighborhood church for the nations. As I mentioned last Sunday, West Bradenton Southside’s primary objective is to be “A church who glorifies God in all we do.” Today as we continue, I will talk specifically about Church. I will talk about what Church is and what the church is not, how the church is a local and global organization, what a God glorifying church looks like, and conclude with three reasons why Jesus established the Church.
God’s Church is not a place.
Church≠ Building + Clergy + Program. The church is not an organization or a building with the Pastor as the CEO, the members as the employees and the product as clever gimmicks, and a plethora of programs designed to keep members busy and happy. The church is not designed for consumerism where the job of church leadership is to craft and create a program or experience for people to consume and be entertained in the name of Jesus. This quote from Pastor John MacArthur says it perfectly, “So, when you look for a church, look for a church where preaching centers on God, on His Glory, and not you. Where God is constantly being exalted. Look for a church that exalts Christ, not where they sneak him in here and there.”
The Church is a people
Church = Body (people) + Mission (our objective) + Kingdom (God’s plan)
The Bible is specific in telling us the Church is THE BODY of Christ (His people) and this body (believers) is intended to glorify God and bring the Gospel message locally and to all nations.
(Read I Corinthians 12:12 – 27)
The Apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Corinthians and in this passage, he describes the body of Christ, or the Church body, as a living organism (singular) made up of many individual parts (plural). Paul uses the human body as an analogy to show how the Church body should function the same way as our own physical bodies. Our bodies have many parts (or members) and they have specific functions. The eyes are for seeing, the ears are for hearing and the nose is for smelling etc. Likewise, the Church (body of Christ) has many parts and each part has a specific function. In verse 17b Paul writes, “God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose.” And he writes in verse 27, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Let’s pause for a moment. What does Paul mean when he writes, “God has arranged the members as he chooses” and “You are the body of Christ.”? Paul says that the Church is made up of people. When I speak of members of individuals, I am not merely speaking of people who have attended a membership class or have a little piece of paper that says they are members of such and such church. I am referring to individuals who are born again believers in Jesus Christ and have an active role in the Church body. The word “member” in this passage is derived from the Greek word Melos which is translated as someone who is part of a larger unit. If you are a believer, then you are part of a larger unit called the body of Christ whether you have a certificate or not.
The Church is both local and global
When we talk about the church, we are not talking about an organization, but we are talking about a large living organism. It is believed that there are over 2 billion Christians on this planet. Now this includes people who would identify themselves as Christian. This is the whole of Christianity… all denominations. Since we live in the United States, I think we sometimes unintentionally forget that the church is both a local and global organism. We must be willing to look past the truth that the church exists beyond the West and English-speaking people. We see the expansion of Christianity throughout the globe from Roman governed Israel to Europe. From Asia to the Middle East. From South and Central America to North America and beyond. When we look at the whole of Christian history can see how God has moved across the globe among the family of Christian believers. Thus, the church is universal in the sense that there are Christians all over the world and the way people worship varies from region to region, country to country and culture to culture. However, the universal church is made up of a conglomeration of local churches.
While it is important for the church to have a global mindset, we must also acknowledge and understand the importance of the local church as well. The New Testament continually emphasizes the importance of local congregations. We read this is Hebrews 10:24 – 25, “And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, 25 not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
What Does a God Glorifying Church Look Like?
There is no such thing as a perfect church, congregation or pastor. The only perfect thing about the church the is the Head; who is Jesus Christ. Since both sinners and redeemed sinners make up the she will always be imperfect. So, the best we can do is look at the early church as our model and example so we can glean insights and characteristics as to what a God glorifying church should look like.
Read Acts 2:42 – 47
There are four characteristics I found in this passage that hopefully and prayerfully will inspire us as a church and as individuals to become the God glorifying church that God wants us to be.
Three Reasons Why Jesus Established the Church
Jesus did not establish the church because He needed us finish the work that He started. He did not establish the church for His people to have a place to go on Sundays, and He did not establish the church because He needed an institutional organization to keep His people in line. He established His church for a much bigger picture. Here are three reasons He established His Church.
Now the church, which has been granted the life of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, is called to display the character and glory of God to all the universe, testifying in word and action to his great wisdom and work of salvation.
Friend, what are you looking for in a church? Good music? A happening atmosphere? A traditional order of service? How about:
A group of pardoned rebels…
Whom God wants to use to display his glory…
Before all the heavenly host…
Because they tell the truth about him…
And look increasingly just like him – holy, loving, united?”
 Three Reasons… taken and adapted from Dever, Mark Built Upon the Rock: The Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012 p. 42 -43
 Dever, Mark: What Is A Healthy Church? Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007, p. 48
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday January 5th, 2020.
Now that 2019 is behind us and 2020 is just beginning people all around the world like to step back and look at or reflect on their lives and the previous year to see how they did and how they can better themselves. On January 1st millions of people evaluate their year (look at successes and failures) and then resolve to do things differently for the next year. Some of the top New Year’s resolutions may be
As the campus Pastor of this church one of the main jobs I have, aside from preaching, is to work with leadership and the congregation to clearly communicate and implement the primary objective of our church. This simply means I need to ensure we know what we are supposed to do, why we need to do it and how we will do it. In doing this I need to ensure that we have developed an atmosphere or platform where we are encouraged and empowered to take actions to fulfill them.
So, it is fitting that today start a new series titled “Neighborhoods and Nations”. For the next five weeks we are going to talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church and how we can effectively be a neighborhood church for the nations. Today we will begin by talking about and fleshing out our primary objective, in other words answering the question why we exist (personally and congregationally).
Read Matthew 9:35 – 38 (highlight 37 & 38)
Before we begin, I believe this passage is a great reminder to all of us the call and the challenge God has placed on us.
Vs. 35 – 38: Jesus’s ministry consisted of going out, preaching the Good News, and healing the sick. He had a ministry of mercy and compassion. He saw the crowds of people and he had compassion on them. He saw the state of their nation and the people as they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were abused, rejected and lost… they had no spiritual leadership or guidance.
This is when Jesus says to the disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” Jesus was telling his disciples that there was a lot of work to do and pray that God will send out willing and qualified people to go out and do the work of the kingdom (bring the sheep back to the Shepherd, Jesus).
The Abundant Harvest in Bradenton – Facts
Here are a few hard truths about the area in which we are located.
Every Saturday our church hosts DOWNTOWN Ministries who provides food, clothing and other necessities to the less fortunate and homeless in our community. This can be up to 200 people a weekend.
There are 25,000 people living in a 1-mile radius from West B. Southside.
There are over 100,000 people that live within 10 minutes of Southside and 42% of them are minorities.
We are uncertain how many are churched as a opposed to unchurched, but the fact remains there are plenty of people in the surrounding area of our church that do no know Jesus Christ and have no church to call home.
There were close to 200 accidental drug deaths in Manatee County in 2019.
There were over 600 non-fatal overdoses in Manatee County in 2019.
Just with these statistics I think it is obvious that we are living in an abundant harvest field. The truth remains that we are small, and we are few, but we must pray that the Lord of the harvest sends out workers for the harvest.
Read Matthew 28:16 - 20
So, what is our response? It is extremely important for us as Christian individuals and as a church body to know our objective. We do have a reason for existence. Aside from God; having a purpose or objective in life should be what gets us up and keeps us going day after day. Hopefully you/we aren’t just eeking our way through life without a plan or a purpose (like so many do) because you/we have no clue what our purposes are. The Bible has much to say about our objective. If we look at the passage, we see…
We have looked at two key passages and how they apply to us individually and congregationally. Thus, our primary objective for West Bradenton Southside and for us individually can summed up like this… Our primary purpose is to glorify God in all we do. This excites me because Our objective aligns perfectly with first question of The Westminster Shorter Catechism. The Westminster shorter catechism is the condensed version of the Westminster Confession of Faith which was drawn up in 1648 by the Westminster Assembly that was made up primarily of the Church of England as a document that provides advice on worship, doctrine and church government. The Second London Baptist Confession is adapted from this confession. The shorter catechism is a confession of faith that was written in a question answer format and reads like this, Q1: “What is the chief end of man?” Or what is our purpose? Answer “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” This is a beautiful statement and clearly defines our core objective perfectly. The authors of this confession site 1 Cor. 10:31… “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” The church (and we for that matter) were created for more than mere existence, we were created to worship God and to praise his name. That is why we gather week after week. We are not a social club. We are not a governing entity. We are a group of believers who gather to worship and glorify God. Not only are we to start with worshiping God, but we are also to called to continue our worship through enjoying him. I think we sometimes forget this part. Isaiah 43:5 – 7: We were created by God for him. We bring pleasure to God. So, our response should be to take pleasure in him.
Glory to God and God’s Glory
What is Glory? When we talk about bringing glory to God it means that we speak of his splendor, we proclaim his praise, we live our lives in admiration to Him as we do all for him and through Him.
Since we define glory as the above, I believe the next question to answer is “What does the glory of God mean or look like? God’s glory is His manifest presence. It is the revelation of God’s nature, being, and presence to humanity.
His glory is magnificent and far beyond our comprehension
We see this in Exodus 33:18 – 20. Moses desired one thing… To see the glory of God. The result was Moses saw the back side of God’s glory, because nobody can see God in his full glory and live.
Isaiah 6:1 – 6 we see the hem of God filling the temple. When the prophet Isaiah sees the partial glory of the LORD, his response is fitting. “Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Armies.”
God’s Glory and Our Primary Objective
So, what does this mean? We have looked at our primary objective… To glorify God in all things. We have looked at what glory means and what God’s glory looks like. As we have looked at these, I am fully convinced that it leads us to a question we must continually ask ourselves, “Does what we do glorify God, or does it glorify us? If it is for our glory, then it is not worth investing.” “You will find only emptiness when you pursue your own glory. You will find complete assurance in the pursuit of God’s glory.”
I have established that West Bradenton Southside is a neighborhood church for the Nations and this means we are intentional in all we do. Our worship, our activities, events, and even our church logo has intentionality behind it.
Our logo… what it means.
Arrow up – Represents God’s glory and also represents the church We are a church who glorifies God.
Circles – (Acts 1:8) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Each circle represents Judea (local), Samaria (the lost) and the nations (world)
Circles represent movement – We are to go in the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Jesus Christ locally, to the lost and to the world.
It is safe to say that the church is not a destination for crowds. The church is a vehicle to send people into neighborhoods and to the nations. We do not exist to put on great performances to entertain or attract people to us. We do not invite others to the church to be an experience or for people to be spectators. We invite and we exist so we may glorify God in all we do. When we know why we exist this helps us to determine what we say yes to and what we say no to It gives us a simple template to follow… Is what we are currently putting our energy, time, and resources into glorifying God or glorifying us?”
How do we bring glory to God?
Be Intentional in the Gospel – outreach, evangelization, inviting
Be prayerful – What do we invest in? What is God calling us to do? Praying for one another. Praying for the lost.
Be ready to move - When God moves, we need to be ready to move when he does
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday December 29th, 2019
Read Jonah 1 – 4
Jonah is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament. It is a short book that is packed with many life lessons. The overall theme of the book is the struggles people have giving up their desires for God’s plans and purposes. In simple terms it is about the struggles we have when our lives become more about God’s ways verses ours.
When we look at the person Jonah, we believe he had an uneventful life as a prophet. Aside from his story in this book he is only mentioned one other time in the Old Testament (2 Kings 14:23 – 29) where he allegedly spoke a prophecy to the King of Judah which helped restore the nations boundaries with Israel.
Chap. 1: 1- 2: Since we don’t read much about him, we assume Jonah had a good, quiet life; he was probably comfortable and happy where he was in life. Then one day God showed up with a command to bring a message of judgment and repentance to the wicked city of Nineveh. Jonah was not going to endanger his life by going to this violent city and he certainly was not going to ruin his reputation with the people of Israel by reaching out to this horrible city. So, Jonah does what so many of us do when we don’t want to do something for God… he ran. Why did Jonah run to Tarshish? At the time of this account Tarshish was known as the westernmost place in the Mediterranean world. It was common for people who were rebelling against God to physically leave the place where had God spoken to them or even met with them and go the opposite direction. Tarshish was just that place for Jonah. In this story Tarshish is anywhere – anywhere but the place where God calls you; in fact, it is the opposite direction a person takes when he turns his back on God’s call and command… Tarshish is the excuse we give for not going.
Twice in Jonah 1:3 it tells us that Jonah flees from the presence of the Lord. This is significant because it emphasizes what Jonah is NOT going to do. He is not going to go to Nineveh; in fact, he is going as far away from the presence of the Lord as possible. You see God’s instruction to Jonah was simple and specific
1) Get up
Jonah’s decision to run was rebellion and he was going to go to any extreme to get away from God. Jonah runs away to avoid God. Jonah was going to a city and culture where he would not hear about God’s faithfulness, God’s mercy, or any references to God. He wanted nothing to do with God.
This is exactly what people do when they live in rebellion to God. The first thing a rebellious person does is not only disassociate himself with God, but with places and people who are also following God. A person who turns his back on God does not run to be with other believers, no, he goes to the place or places where he believes God is not present.
Jonah ran because he did not love in the way God loves. Jonah had no love for the people of Nineveh, and he had no desire to see them spared by God. This was the main reason Jonah rebelled. He knew God was compassionate and would spare them if they repented and He wanted none of that.
The good news for those who have been caught up or are in a life of rebellion and sin is… God will pursue you no matter how far you are from him. This is good news for those who are actively running from God, because it shows God values you, loves you and desires to get you back into a right relationship with him. The hard truth is He will use whatever measures needed to get you back. God will pursue you in his great and radical love for you. James Bruckner writes in his commentary of Jonah, “The good news is that God pursues him. God does not let him go but finds him out in order to rescue him.” The truth is one can ever run from the presence of God and no one can be so rebellious and sinful that God cannot or will not forgive you and set you on the right track. Rosemary Nixon writes in her commentary of Jonah, “Jonah’s contest with God is ill-matched. The account illustrates the impossibility of escaping God’s presence and folly of attempting such a thing.” Resistance to God is futile because when He wants to accomplish something, he will go to any extreme to get it done.
Verse 1:17 “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” The key word for me in this passage is “appointed” … some translations say, “prepared”, “provided”, or “sent” and all these words have the same meaning. God ordained or designated this fish for this task. God had a task for the great fish and swallowing Jonah was the task. Many people read the great fish as a judgment against Jonah but fail to see the fish is a sign of God’s mercy. The fish saved the life of Jonah. Had it not been appointed then he would have died at sea and this would be the end of the story; but God lovingly and mercifully pursues and provides safety for him. I am sure Jonah didn’t see it this way (as most of us don’t see God’s mercy in times of rebellion). He now finds himself in the most unpleasant of places (In the belly of the great fish) and soon he will come to the realization of God’s grace and mercy in this situation. This is very common among men and women in rebellion to God.
God lets us continue in rebellion. He allows us to turn our backs on him and He will let us face the consequences of our bad choices. In other words, He allows us to hit rock bottom; not out of spite and anger but out of love and mercy. God does not usually protect us from the consequences of our bad choices. However, he will meet you where you are, and He will walk alongside you to get you to the point where you need to be with Him. Call it tough love or call it discipline the fact remains when you hit rock bottom, God is there with you to lift you up.
Chap. 2:1 – “Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish:” After Jonah was engulfed by the great fish and I think the response of Jonah in chapter 2 is a bit surprising because he turns to God in prayer. Personally, I would expect to read, “God I didn’t want to do what you called me to do in the first place. I think you got the wrong man to do the job, so I ran as far away from you as possible. Couldn’t you have just left me alone safe and secure in my comfortable life?” This however is not what we read at all. This whole chapter is a prayer of thanksgiving from Jonah for being saved and delivered. Really, it only took a potential shipwreck, being thrown into the sea, left for dead and a large fish engulfing him to get him to this point. Is Jonah finally getting the big picture here? Well, let’s not get too hasty because there is still a bit of defiance in this man’s heart even after this time of praise to a God who has taken him captive.
The situation we find Jonah in is like what many of us find ourselves when we hit the bottom of the barrel. Sometimes it takes some pretty extreme events and possibly even fear of death to get us to acknowledge our rebellion. When we get to this point, we will either respond in anger, bitterness, and blame or we will respond as Jonah did in thankfulness, gratitude and praise. However, there is one important ingredient missing in this prayer that we should note and that’s true repentance. This is where Jonah’s slight defiance comes into play. Sure, Jonah is thankful God spared his life, but the problem is the same rebellious Jonah is still in the belly of the fish. It doesn’t appear that he has a change in heart. He is a man who has reached rock bottom and has nowhere else to go. The beautiful thing here is that even in Jonah’s slight defiance God hears and accepts his prayer for what it is… “Thank you for not letting me die and for keeping me safe, I’ll do whatever you want me to do even though I don’t like it.”
Chap. 3:1 – “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time…” In this chapter we are witness to God’s second call. As far as we know Jonah is the only biblical prophet who had to have God repeat himself on what He wants the person to do. I can just imagine God saying, “Ok Jonah, have you learned your lesson? I am going to get this job done and you are going to be the one who accomplishes it. Now, go to Nineveh and tell them of my impending judgment.” The beauty of God’s second call to Jonah is that He doesn’t remind Jonah of his rebellion, nor does he say, “I saved you so you owe me your obedience; you even said you would do what I want in the belly of the fish so I am here to collect on your promise.” Nothing of that sort was spoken at all. God is not one to hold grudges, he does not keep bringing up our sins after we have confessed them nor does he hold us accountable to the flippant promises we make in order to get out of the mess we have created for ourselves. He simply and lovingly restates what He has called Jonah to do.
“Jonah got up and went to Nineveh” Jonah’s second response is very different from his first response. I don’t think it would be too far off base to say Jonah’s response was reluctant obedience to God. His response of obedience was probably out of not wanting to go through again what he just went through. In other words, he learned his lesson the hard way. Doesn’t this always seem to be the case? God is placing a call on Jonah’s life and in his sovereignty, He was going to accomplish his will through Jonah. Up to this point I believe Jonah’s account is mostly about God accomplishing his will regardless of how the prophet did or did not respond to Him. Does this make God a power-hungry dictator who is set out to take away our freedom to choose? No, the opposite is true. God knows what is best for us in all circumstance and He desires that we trust him at His word in our lives. God wants us to trust him exclusively so that our only response to him will be obedience no matter what the cost.
This does bring up the question as to why God calls us to do some things that seem to be unconventional and radical. Nearly every time God calls us to do something spectacular it will go against the status quo and challenge the “way we have always done it” mentality. Yet God calls us to trust Him and to go out in faith to accomplish what he has set out to accomplish through us.
It should be noted that God does not beg or negotiate with us. Even in the instance of Jonah he doesn’t make a deal with him. Despite Jonah’s less than enthusiastic message to the Ninevites God still worked a mighty miracle that day. After Jonah’s little excursion at the beach he sets out for the city of Nineveh. Upon entering the city, he yells out in his best condemning hellfire and brimstone preacher voice, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!” The response of the Ninevites is astounding! This desperately wicked and prideful race that was despised by all turned from their evil ways. The Ninevites were anything but compassionate and loving towards anyone who dared speak evil of them. To hear the response of the people was repentance is unbelievable but to also hear the King responds in repentance was literally unheard of. Don’t you love it when God does the unthinkable?
What was the response of the Ninevites? Chapter 3:5 says, “Then the people of Nineveh believed God.” They heard the words of the prophet and they fully believed they were receiving a warning from God. They may not have fully understood what the judgment, but I am sure they knew it meant complete and utter destruction. They repented in hopes that their lives would be spared. We know that their repentance was genuine as the decree was to fast and put on sackcloth for their sins. These are outward signs of repentance and seeking mercy. However, it wasn’t the act of fasting and sackcloth that God saw, He instead saw their hearts and how they were according to verse 10“turning from their wicked ways”. This is true repentance. The king of Nineveh’s response was even unique. He may have been uncertain that God was going to have compassion on them as he says, “Who knows? May God turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger so that we may not perish.” These words of the king imply that he has humbled himself and is truly repentant.
The story gets better, in chapter 3:10 says that God “relented” which basically means he had compassion or felt sorrow. Literally God’s heart was moved by the people’s response and his only response was compassion. Some people have a problem with this because it implies that God changed his mind; but I don’t see it that way at all. There is no reason to get upset or even defend God’s response because He was just doing what He always does… extending grace and compassion on those who are truly repentant.
Chapter 4: Jonah was witness to one of the greatest movements of God in history and his response is displeasure and anger. Instead of rejoicing and thanking God for his wonderful mercy Jonah gets angry with because He didn’t destroy the city. In fact, the account says, “Jonah was greatly displeased, and he became furious.” The word displeased is translated “hot with anger, burning with anger or stewing in fury.” He wasn’t just mad; he was furious. The problem was he allowed this fury take root in his heart.
He says, “(This is) why I fled to Tarshish in the first place” which literally means, “I ran as fast as I could, I hurried away, and I took flight”. He intended to get away from God. He is so angry that Jonah asked God to kill him and be done with it. Jonah’s anger is burning so hot he would rather die than rejoice with God. God asks Jonah, “Is this anger really doing anyone (yourself included) any good?”
Jonah ends on a somber note. There is no closure to this story. It ends with a rebuke from God and we do not know how Jonah responds to this rebuke. I think we all would like to believe he came to his senses and repented and got right with God, but we just don’t know. However, I believe the book ends the way it does because it leaves you and me with a challenge… How should we respond when God calls us to things we don’t want to do? How are our hearts? What is God calling us to do? Is he calling you and me out of our comfortable lives to go out to places where we wouldn’t normally go and proclaim the message of repentance? Could that place be right outside our church doors and across the street and to the surrounding community? These are the questions we will continue to ask and answers to discover in the new year. The main question is, how will we respond when God says, “GET UP! GO! And PROCLAIM”?
Today we conclude our advent series titled “The Nativity”. We will continue to look at the biblical Christmas story and the key role individuals have played in the account of our Saviors birth. So far, we have looked at Mary and Joseph, The Angels and the shepherds and last week we looked at Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Today I want look at nativity story from the eyes of the wise men or more appropriately the Magi.
Our text for today will be Matthew 2:1 -12, and in this passage, we are introduced to a group of men known as the Magi, or “the three wise men”, and we meet Herod the king. It is often believed and portrayed in the Nativity story that there were three kings or wise men, but the truth is we do not know how many of them there were, and they were almost certainly not kings (we will look at them in a bit). The reason we believe there were three of them was because of the three gifts given, but it is probable that there were more than three present when they encountered the young baby Jesus.
(Read Matthew 2: 1- 12)
Who was Herod? Why did he care about this newborn child called the “King of the Jews”? According to commentator J. Nolland, “The Herod here is Herod the Great, who ruled as king from 37 to 4 b.c. He was a figure of heroic proportions, whose rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple represented a major feat of ancient architecture, but whose rule was tyrannical, ruthless, and cruel”
We know that he was a brutish and oppressive king was also very protective of his position and jealous of anyone who would threaten his rule. He felt threatened by this infant king because Herod considered himself the “King of the Jews and he went to any length to protect this title and position. We see this in Matthew 2:16 when Herod realized he had been tricked by the magi and then ordered all male children in Bethlehem two years and under to be murdered. Only a maniacal, insecure, and jealous ruler could do such an atrocious thing.
Who were the Magi? Why were they following a star? Why were they seeking this King of Kings? “Originally, they (the Magi) were a class of priests among the Persians and Medes, who acted as the king’s advisers, and cultivated astrology, medicine, and occult natural science. They are frequently referred to by ancient authors.”
Thus, the Magi were non-Jewish religious astrologers who, from astronomical observations, inferred the birth of a great Jewish king. After inquiring of Jewish authorities, they came to do homage to this child king. Whether ‘the East’ from which they came is Arabia, Babylon or elsewhere is uncertain. The Magi came to Jerusalem to seek a king who was prophesied to be born. We know from Daniel that the magi or wise men were among some of the highest-ranking officials in Babylon and Daniel was appointed over and respected by all of them (Daniel 2:48). It is quite possible that since Daniel had influence over the Magi that he spoke of the God of Israel and his future plans, namely the prophecy of the coming Messiah (Numbers 24:17). They were familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah (even though they were pagan priests). Daniel’s prophecies were made known to them; and the calculations by which he pointed to the very time when Christ should be born became, through the book of Daniel, a part of their ancient literature.—Ed.) 
Herod & the Magi
The Magi came to Jerusalem because of a star. They went to King Herod to inquire of this child’s whereabouts. This concerned Herod because this “so called” King who was to be born had the potential to put his “job” in jeopardy. Many people in Jerusalem didn’t think he deserved to be the King since he was not from the lineage of David.
After hearing about this child king Herod inquired of the Chief Priests and they concluded that this King they sought was to be born in Bethlehem (according to Micah 5:2). So, Herod met with the Magi secretly to commission them to find this child and return to tell him where he was. The magi never did return because they were
warned in a dream not to go back.
The Magi followed this star in the sky. Being star gazers, this came natural to them. As they followed the star it rested over the house Mary, Joseph and Jesus were in. Upon their arrival they “rejoiced with exceeding joy”. These pagan star gazers came seeking the Messiah and they found him. Then we see the very first response of the Magi upon seeing the child… They fell to their knees and worshiped him and then gave their gifts.
I love how Warren Weirsbe defines this moment… The magi were seeking the King; Herod was opposing the King; and the Jewish priests were ignoring the King. 
Contrary to what most believe and have been taught the Magi did not come to visit a baby in a manger on the night he was born. Matthew tells us they visited the child in a home. The way the story is told certainly sounds like everything happens one event right after the other in one night. The truth is the Magi had to travel from a far distance, they went to Jerusalem first to find out where the King was supposed to be born and we are told Herod had all children from the ages of one to two years old murdered. So, this would suggest the Magi visited a child who was possibly 1 to 2 years old (probably 2 years).
It is interesting as we look at what the Magi can represent in the Christmas story. We see in the Gospel the Magi came seeking the “King of the Jews” so they could come and worship him. It is here in Matthew we see Jesus is not only the King to the Jews but also the King to all nations as these Gentile (even pagan) priests from the East came to visit AND worship the Messiah. Matthew through the Holy Spirit thought it was significant to begin his Gospel account by writing about these gentiles and how God ultimately accepted their worship.
The Significance of the Gifts
I think there is something important in this story… before we can truly give our gifts and talents to the King, He first desires that we offer them as an act of worship. Then there is also significance in the gifts themselves. Offering gold, frankincense and myrrh do have a symbolic meaning to them.
What Can We Learn From the Magi?
So, what can we take with us today? The Magi knew they were in the presence of a King and we see this simply by the way they inquired about him (We come seeking the King of the Jews) and how they approached him (they knelt down and worshiped him) and by the costly gifts they brought him. Unlike the Magi, we do not need to come to the king and offer kingly and expensive gifts to the Lord of lords; the only thing God desires from us is that we give ourselves as living sacrifices (offerings) to him and. We can understand that by giving ourselves to Jesus fully we are offering the greatest gift God desires from us… ourselves. In return his presence or Spirit in us is indeed the greatest gift any of us can receive this Christmas season. We are confirmed once again (as I have made it very clear in the previous sermons) that Jesus is not an exclusive Messiah who is only to be worshiped by the Jewish people, the privileged, the powerful and the pious. He is the King of all nations both Jew and Gentile have the honor and privilege of worshiping the humble Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He is the Savior of all who come to worship him and put their complete faith in him. We see that if God accepts the worship of Pagan Priests who offer themselves fully to him, He will accept worship from us who comes to the manger and the cross to worship him.
As I conclude today, I leave you with a question today… Do you have the attitude of Herod who considers himself the only worthy and rightful king of your life? Herod wanted nobody else but himself on the throne and nobody else but himself in charge. Are you like the Jewish Chief Priests who even though they knew the Savior was coming, he ignores this truth and goes on with business as usual? We know he never fully acknowledged that Jesus was and is the True Son of God? He was hard-hearted and an enemy of the Savior. Or will you be like the magi and will leave all behind and seek after the King and Savior and offer to him the greatest gift you can give (yourself) as a means of worship and offer yourself to him in humble adoration? Will you acknowledge that He is the true King of your life and worthy of all praise, adoration and worship?
 Nolland, J. (2005). The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 108). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (713). InterVarsity Press.
Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Mt 2:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday December 15th, 2019
Today is the third Sunday of Advent and we are getting closer and closer to Christmas. It is during this time that we both look back at the greatest gift God has given to his people, which is Jesus Christ. It is also during this time that we look forward in anticipation for the day when Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom here on earth. However, in his second advent he will not come back as a child born in a humble manner to peasant parents, instead he will come back as the great and sovereign warrior King above of all kings and Lord over all lords.
In the past two weeks we have looked respectively both Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds and the Angels and the roles they all played in the first Advent of Jesus Christ. So far, we have looked at Jesus’ humble beginnings and the impact these beginnings have had on that first Christmas day.
Today we will continue to look at two individuals who played a role in the Christmas story, but they are not usually associated with the Nativity. However, both play a significant part in having a better understanding of the purpose of the Christmas story. Some of you may not recall these individuals at all, but I assure you the part they play in this story is significant and we can learn much from them. In our passage today we are introduced to and elderly man named Simeon and an elderly widow named Anna. Their story is told in 15 short verses in Luke chapter 2 and then we do not hear about either one ever again. Since their is story is short and they are never referenced again I have found that the preparations for today’s message a bit challenging, but in the end I believe that what we can all learn from these two elderly people should encourage us, because it is a reminder that God is never fully done with His children no matter what age or stage of life you are in.
Read Luke 2:21 – 38
Vs 21: “When 8 days were completed… circumcision.” – According to Jewish custom and Old Testament Law a male child was to be brought before the priest and circumcised.
(Read Genesis 17:12, 13)
Circumcision – (Hebrew Muwl) – To be cut off.
Vs. 22: “days of purification” – when a child was born a mother went through a time of ritual cleansing.
(Read Lev. 12:1 – 8)
Vs 23: “As written in the Law of the Lord” – Jesus’ parents were practicing Jews
(Read Deut. 15:19)
Vs 25: Simeon – We do not know much about Simeon, but here are some things we do know about him.
What We Know About Simeon (2:25 – 35)
Both Simeon and Anna were living in patient hope, where suffering had become a way of life.
How Can We Live in Patient Expectancy?
 Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Lk 2:25). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
 Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 830). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Preview or buy my books
I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.