Read John 14:1 - 6
This morning I preached a message entitled "An Urgent Message" and I would like to share it with you all today.
Our passage for today is found John 14:1 – 6. Throughout the series, the key phrase is “God initiated change”. We all can attest that the word and concept of change makes us all a little uneasy. But when we talk about and promote God initiated change, the result is always good. Our God is a God who institutes change (Isaiah 43:19), yet He is a God who never changes (Malachi 3:6). The greatest change God made in history was done through the Gospel, which is never changing.
The John passage we just read initiates a sense of urgency in the Gospel and Jesus informs his followers that a change was coming. Jesus was leaving. Their teacher and leader was going away forever. He foretells his horrible death, how he will be raised from the dead and then ascend into heaven. This was a huge change the disciples were going to face and it was a God initiated change.
God speaks throughout the Bible with a sense of urgency. For example, in Isaiah 43:19 God says, “Get on board because I am doing a new thing.” And the introduction of Jesus’ earthly ministry begins with an urgent message, “repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus speaks with urgency in today’s passage, “I’m going away and leaving you with a job. You need to go out and share the good news. It may feel like a daunting task but don’t worry, I’m going to send you a helper, the Holy Spirit.”
Let’s look at the passage…
Verse 1: “Let your hearts not be troubled…” Why is Jesus telling the disciples to not be troubled? If we take into consideration what has just happened in chapter 13 the disciples could have had a lot to be worried about. First, Jesus said he is going to be betrayed by one of the 12. Second, Jesus is talking about to leave them. Third, where he is going they can’t go. Fourth, Jesus tells Peter that he is going to deny him soon. With all Jesus is telling his disciples they were probably more than a little unsettled. In fact, I would say, “The disciples were probably starting to freaking out.”
Jesus tells them, “Do not be troubled. Believe in God and believe in me.” He tells them, “Hold tight to your faith in God (because there will be a time where that is all you will have). Remember what you have seen me do. Trust that I am who I say I am, because this is what is going to get you through this troubling time (have faith).”
We could all learn a little from these two short sentences from Jesus, “Do not be troubled. Believe in God and believe in me.” These are words of comfort to all who believe. Notice Jesus does not say, “Do not be troubled everything is going to be ok.” He isn’t promising an easy road from here on out, if anything he is telling them it’s going to get tough, but hold on to your faith.
Verse 2: He informs his disciples that He is going away, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…” The word “rooms” more closely resembles the word for dwelling places. Theologian R.C Sproul writes, “The word calls attention to the idea of a suite.” These rooms are not a Microtel or Motel 6 economy room… These dwelling places are “royal suites” fit for kings or queens.
When he goes away (after his death and resurrection) he is going to go and prepare a dwelling place for his followers. These dwelling places of permanent residency in the house of God. This what we can look forward to when we leave this earth. It will be the best of the best, nothing on earth can even come close to comparing to it. It is a dwelling place prepared for you by the hands of the Creator… Now that’s a place and invitation that we should share with all.
Verse 3: Not only does Jesus promise to prepare a heavenly dwelling place but also promises to come and usher us in to our place of dwelling. He will come back so that His people (including us) can finally go to the place where we could not go to follow him. This dwelling place is where Jesus resides. How can one not look forward to the day when we will be with our Savior for all eternity? Does this excite you? Does this reality cause you to rejoice? Does this give you a sense of urgency to want to go out and proclaim this message of hope? I hope it does.
Verse 4: Up to this point Jesus’ ministry has been pointing people to the Kingdom of God. He has been sharing how one receives eternal life. His message has been clear and now he says, “You the way to where I am going.” The Gospel message of faith and obedience to Jesus are THE key to eternal life.
Verse 5: Apparently, the disciples did not quite grasp what Jesus has been talking about. Thomas (the one you and I have come to know as doubting Thomas) asks Jesus point blank, “How can we know the way if we don’t know where you are going?”
Verse 6: Jesus responds that he is the Way to the Father. If you want to know how to get to the Father’s house, then you must follow and obey Jesus. He is the way to the Father, because he embodies the truth of God (everything I say and do is given to me by the Father). D.A. Carson writes, “He is God’s gracious self-disclosure, His word made flesh.” Jesus is the life… In Jesus is life eternal. Since Jesus is truth and the source of eternal life He becomes the means (the way) to the Father. He tells Thomas that He is the ONLY way to God, there is no other way. Faith and obedience in Jesus is the key, period.
If you trust in anything other than Jesus Christ, then you are not going to know eternal life. Trust in anything else is idolatry. Your certificate of baptism… not valid. Your membership to a church… not valid. You went to church your whole life… not valid. You tithed faithfully… not valid. You volunteered consistently at the church… not valid. All of them are great things (and outward expressions of your faith in Jesus) but they are not in any shape, way or form an alternate route to eternal life. Please hear these words. There is no other way to God than through faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. As believers, we must heed to, believe in and boldly proclaim the Gospel message with a sense of urgency. We must live our lives with this truth at the core of our faith. This is an urgent message (the Gospel) that God has entrusted to believers (2 Timothy 1:10 -14) and we need to be faithful in living it and proclaiming it.
I once read a story about a man who was very frustrated with the imperfections and hypocrisy of the the Christian Church. Because of his frustration he sought out and approached the great theologian and pastor Charles Spurgeon. He asked Spurgeon, "Can you help me find the perfect church. I am tired of all the hypocrisy in the Church establishment. Pastor Spurgeon looked at the man and responded, "If you find such a group anywhere on this earth, don't join it, because when you do , it will no longer be perfect."
There is no such thing as a perfect church. I think we all know this. There are only imperfect churches who worship a perfect God. The church is and always has been a community of flawed individuals who are saved by the grace of God. This has been the case since the birth of the Church at Pentecost. The first church was a growing church, it was a vibrant and Spirit-filled church. In all honesty it was probably the closest to perfect than any church in the history of the Church. But, it had flaws, it had problems and yes, they dealt with sin issues among the body of believers. We should take comfort in knowing that even the first Church was defective and dysfunctional because God worked mightily among this rag tag group of Christ followers then and he can work mightily among His people today.
One of the strong attributes of the early church was that it was a church that shared and gave. The author, Luke, reports that they had all things in common and they shared their possessions as needed. They had an attitude of giving and this attitude was infectious. People were selflessly sharing their possession, and they were meeting needs of those less fortunate. To show and example of the generosity of the church Luke tells us a story about Barnabas. He was a man who had some land and for whatever reason sold it and gave all the money to the church. He gave with an open and generous heart, he held back nothing. He wasn't looking for public praise or approval; he wanted to be a blessing to the church and gave as act of worship to God.
His story of generosity became public and a couple named Ananias and Sapphira heard this story and decided they would do the same. The unfortunate thing is that their motives weren't pure as Barnabas's were. They sold some possessions and decided to keep some of the money for themselves. The words "kept back", in verse 2 literally means to steal, embezzle or withdraw covertly to ones own use. This was a full on act of decption. They brought the money and laid it at the Apostles feet in hopes of receiving the same positive acknowledgement and praise that Barnabas received. They lied to the Apostles by telling them that they were giving them all the money and keeping none for themselves. The Apostle Peter catches them red handed and confronts them of their deception to God. The end result is quite disturbing as both Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead for their sinful deception.
So the act of keeping some of the money for themselves was not the sin that they lost their lives over. The act of deceiving God is. The punishment still seems a bit harsh but I think the author is trying to prove the point that God will not tolerate deception that leads to dishonoring His name (Read Proverbs 6:16 - 19).
Ultimately I think it is important to know that the early church did not deal lightly with sin. They could not allow this movement of God to start with corruption and deceit. Ajith Fernando writes in his commentary on Acts, "If there is true fellowship in a Christian community, then when sin appears in the body, it will be confronted. If we feel someone is lying, we must question him or her about it... If sin is not dealt with decisively the chances of healing for the one who has sinned is greatly reduced."
Read Acts 4:14 - 22
The leaders could not debunk this miraculous healing of the crippled man. The man stood before them in his own power, completely healed of his handicap. To deny this miracle would have made the leaders the laughing stock of Jerusalem. Feeling angered and frustrated the leaders ordered the disciples out of their sight.
The Sanhedrin call a meeting and discuss, "What are we going to do with these men? Everybody in Jerusalem knows that they did this miracle and we cannot deny it." Amazingly the they all admit among themselves that a miracle did happen, yet this wasn't going to stop them from making life miserable for Jesus' followers. They felt like they were trapped in a corner. So they said "But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." These leaders thought they could threaten the disciples and thus stop this movement of God. This is the best they could come up with, "Stop what you are doing, or else..." They had no leg to stand on, so they do what most people do when cannot stop something they don't like or want to happen, they resort to bullying tactics.
Peter responds (my paraphrase), "Tell us is it better for us to obey your or obey God? We cannot help but speak about what we are speaking because Jesus has commissioned us to go and spread the word and we will not stop talking about it." The Gospel message burned their souls. They needed to go out and spread the truth of Jesus Christ. Absolutely nothing was going to stop them, including a but of religious bullies. They were committed to the Gospel message 100%.
My prayer is that this would be the same for you and me. I pray for the passion of the Gospel to be present in our lives that we can't not share the the Good News. I pray that we would commit to following and sharing Jesus. I know we all have passion in life. I see the enthusiasm of people for sports, music, literature, and you name it. There is a fire burning in all of us and may that fire be passion for know and sharing Jesus Christ unashamedly.
Read Acts 4:13
Peter and John are standing confidently before the religious leaders and they were amazed at the courage these men had. They were also astonished that these two men, who were far from scholars, had no formal training and were not experts in the law had the wisdom that they had. They were two average men who spent a few years with this Jesus of Nazareth.
This passage always brings a smile to my face, because I see the paradox of God at work. I can't help but think that God has a sense of humor. These religious leaders, who spent their whole lives learning the Scriputres and the law looked on in amazemnt of these two men. in this passage the religious leaders speak of John and Peter as "uneducated and ordinary men." They were uneducated because they did not have formal rabbinical training. They were ordinary in the sense that they were not experts in religion or the law. They were simple men who had a bold faith in their God. This is encouraging to me, because this is proof that God does work through ordinary people. God is not looking for the best of the best to use to accomplish His will. Instead He uses, as the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:27, "The foolish things of the world to shame the wise..."
God does not necessarily choose philosophers, teachers and scholars to accomplish His work here on earth. He may in some instances, but He typically uses the weak, base and foolish. There are oridnary people throughout history that God has used mightily like A.W. Tozer, D.L Moody and Charles Spurgeon who were all men without formal training in ministry. These men, much like Peter and John, were ordinary people filled with the Holy Spirit and used by God.
Let the truth that God uses simple men and women like you and me for His glory and His Kingdom bring joy to our hearts. God doesn't need our intellect, but He does desire to use each one of us to accomplish His will. Never ever think that God cannot use you.
Read Acts 4:1 - 12
For the past couple of days I wrote about how a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way one can truly know and experience happiness and peace. The Apostle Peter shared this message of hope and peace with the onlookers and they were amazed at the miracle that just happened (The crippled man was healed). As a result of Peter's message the number of believers increased to 5,000 strong. Truly the Holy Spirit was at work.
One would think that upon hearing the news of this man's healing would have brought much rejoicing and praise to God but instead the religious leaders were indignant and “greatly disturbed.” They were so angry and incensed that they had the two Apostles thrown in jail overnight. This miracle was the first recorded miracle of the Apostles post Jesus' ascension and it led to discrimination and persecution against Christians.
The next morning the Apostles were brought before the Priests (official ministers or worship leaders in the nation of Israel who represented the people before God and conducted various rituals to atone for their sins.), the Temple Guard (He was the second most powerful person in Jerusalem, apart from the Roman guard and army), the Sadducees (the Sadducees came from the leading families of the nation—the priests, merchants, and aristocrats. The high priests and the most powerful members of the priesthood were mainly Sadducees), the rules, elders and teachers of the law. Then there was Annas who was the true high priest and Caiaphas who was the acting high priest. Pastor James Montgomery Boice writes, “These two men conspired in the trial of Christ, Jesus having appeared before each of them.” So naturally they would be against anything that had to do with Jesus.
Why were the rulers so upset? It has been suggested that they were mad because these unlearned men were teaching people and others and this threatened the religious leader’s authority. Often when the Spirit of God empowers or moves on His people those who are not Spiritually minded will see it as a threat and oppose it no matter what. They will use whatever tactics they can to intimidate believers to back down from doing the work of God.
Throwing these men in jail was just an act of intimidation. The disciples posed no threat to the community. The leaders were using bullying tactics and just like the leaders of their time the world continues to use these tactics to try and stop what God is doing. Boice writes again, “The world thinks it can stop a spiritual movement by threats, force, imprisonment, and death, but it cannot. A good idea, especially a true spiritual idea, will always spread.”
Peter was not going to be intimidated. Verse 8 says, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit…” This is a key phrase. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, he did not back down to their intimidation rather he uses this opportunity to give testimony of Jesus Christ. Had he been scared and intimidated, he would have back down and tried to make everything nice. Peter knew he was a servant of God and He had the greatest message in the world to give so nothing was going to stop him.
What can we learn from this? The world, people who oppose Christianity, will always try and intimidate and try to discredit our faith. We have the same message to proclaim today that Peter did and the same Spirit to empower us. We cannot let the world intimidate us or keep us quiet. Jesus Christ can and will bring true peace, joy and happiness to your life if you would just surrender your life to him. What a wonderful message to proclaim!
Youngblood, Ronald F. ; Bruce, F. F. ; Harrison, R. K. ; Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville : T. Nelson, 1995
Youngblood, Ronald F. ; Bruce, F. F. ; Harrison, R. K. ; Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville : T. Nelson, 1995
Read Acts 3: 11 - 26
This is Peter’s second sermon he has given since Pentecost. As the onlookers were amazed at the miracle that the Apostle performed he responds by taking the focus off of himself and puts it on Jesus. Peter speaks about Jesus who was both the Son of God and fully man, He was the Messiah spoken of in prophecy.
Jesus Christ is both man and God. He died and rose from the dead to show that He had indeed conquered death for His glory and your benefit. Without Jesus we don’t have Christianity and to be a Christian you need to have a personal relationship with Him.
Peter also addresses the issue of sin. We are all sinners, according to Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is something that we cannot change. However in verse 24 of this same chapter it says, “…and are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” We are sinners but we are also declared righteous by Jesus to those who believe and put their trust in Him.
Sin is a big issue. We must all deal with our sin issues; this is all a part of being a Christian. Pastor James Montgomery Boice writes, “We need to realize that we are all to blame for the death of Christ in one way or another. Even though we were not there at the time Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified, it was our sin that took him there.”
You may be guilty of sin but you must also know that God will always forgive if only you repent and flee to Jesus who is our refuge from sin. Repentance is more than feeling sorry for what you did. Sorrow is not repentance. Repentance is feeling sorry enough to quit doing what you are doing wrong and turning your back on it and turning to Jesus. Peter makes it clear that we all need to “repent and turn to God.” Repenting and turning to God go hand in hand, you can’t do one without the other.
Lastly, Peter’s sermon tells about forgiveness. Many of us get stuck in the past and start thinking that what we did in the past could never be forgiven by anyone, especially a Holy God. The truth is just the opposite. People may withhold forgiveness but God will always extend forgiveness if you repent. Only God is capable of forgiving sin and He will forgive willingly if you confess, repent and seek forgiveness. You may live your life in guilt, but God wants you to be free from the guilt of past sins. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” God has forgiven you of your sins; it is time to start allowing yourself to be forgiven.
Peter’s sermon is the Gospel message. Confessing, repenting and forgiveness in Jesus Christ is the only way to finding true happiness. Many of us go looking for ways to make ourselves happy. Often we tell God what would make us happy (like a little more money, a new car, understanding parents, a new job, a bigger house etc.) but He knows that these will not bring happiness. People may think silver and gold will bring happiness, but when we see that God has far greater plans than making you rich.
If you have never sought a personal relationship with Jesus Christ would you consider it today? Do you feel a little tugging at your heart that is telling you that it’s time to stop clinging to the sin in your life and turn it all over to Jesus Christ? If you say yes, the Holy Spirit is calling you to Jesus this very moment. Jesus wants you to repent and He is eager to forgive your sins. He wants you to enter into a relationship with Him and to forever submit your life to Him.
Read Acts 3:1 - 10
The day was a regular old day for the crippled beggar. However at three o’clock in the afternoon his life would be forever changed. The Apostle’s Peter and John approached the temple gate called “Beautiful” where the man was beging for money. According to R. Kent Hughes in his commentary of Acts he writes, “His begging post was one of the best spots in the entire city because of its location. It was the perfect place to solicit funds.”
The Apostle Peter apporaches the man and says, “Silver and gold I do not have”. Words that the beggar probably did not want to hear, and then says, “…but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” At this point the physician, Luke, describes in detail the miraculous event that takes place as the man is completely restored to health. The Bible tells us that he “jumped to his feet and he began to walk.” At that moment he did something he has never done before in his life, he began to walk on his own. He runs, jumps and praises God for this miracle. When the onlookers saw this they were all amazed.
This crippled man got more than he bargained for on this day. What started out as a regular day where the man was seaking some spare change ends up being healed of a lifelong handicap. I am sure his views about the important things in life changed very quickly. Beginning that day his concern was for money and that evening when he laid his head down to sleep he was able to walk to his bed in his own strength, healed from a lifelong ailment.
This raises the question, "what is true happiness?" I can safely say that happiiness is not found in stuff like money, power or status. As Christians our true happiness comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. If we were able to go back two thousand years and interview this crippled beggar do you think he would answer, “Well all I wanted was some money that day and instead I was healed of my handicap. I wish those guys would have just given me money instead.”? I doubt that’s what he would say. At this point in this man’s life he could have cared less about money, what he found this day was far greater than a few coins of silver and gold.
Is this true for you today? Do you find true happiness in stuff like money, power or status? Happiness is found in Jesus Christ and nothing can bring true peace and joy in your life than having a personal relationship with Him.
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