On Sunday August 11th, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Last week we began looking at the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation (or Apocalypse) written by the Apostle John from the isolated island of Patmos. We are looking at the letters from both the historical perspective (What Jesus said to the actual historical church), a modern perspective (What does this letter say to the Church today) and a personal perspective (How can this apply to you personally). The structure of the all seven letters are very similar as they follow a consistent pattern; each letter begins with an address “To the angel of the church of [the city].…” They are always followed by the identification of Jesus Christ as the sender of the letter. In the seven letters, three of the churches receive commendation and criticism from Jesus. Two receive only praise from Jesus and two receive only criticism.
Last week I talked about the Letter to the Church in Ephesus. In this letter Jesus commends the church for not tolerating false teaching (especially the teachings of the Nicolaitans) and for persevering and enduring during times of trials and persecution. However, He did criticize the church because they had lost their first love. Jesus encourages them to remember where they had fallen, repent from their sins and return to Him so that presence of Jesus would remain in their church. This was also our takeaway for ourselves and as a congregation.
Today I want to go all the way to the final letter of revelation as we look at the words Jesus spoke to the Church of Laodicea.
City of Laodicea
Laodicea was also located in Asia Minor and it was a prosperous city; probably the wealthiest in the area due in part to the banking industry which was one of the features of the city. Their wealth was so great that it has been recorded that after an earthquake in 607 AD the city rebuilt without any financial assistance from Rome. Another contributing factor to the city’s wealth was that the countryside was perfect for raising sheep and they gained great wealth from the sale of the soft black wool from their sheep.
There was also a well-known medical school established in Laodicea and physicians followed the teachings of Herophilos who believed compound diseases require compound medicines. He would create mixtures of medicines including ointment for ears, and an eye salve made from a mixture of power and oil.
The city was located in an area where there were not many natural resources, so they had to bring water to the city from springs about six miles away through a system of stone pipes. During dry seasons it was not uncommon for the city to be left in a vulnerable and dangerous state.
The Letter to the Church of Laodicea
The Church of Laodicea, like the Church of Sardis, receives no word of praise or commendation from Jesus.
Verse 14: “The words of the Amen…” – This is a reference to Jesus.
Amen – So be it, trustworthy, firm. It is an expression of absolute confidence and trust. When used at the beginning of a discourse it means “truly, truly or of truth”. At the end means, “So be it, so it is, may it be fulfilled.” When we use this word (generally at the conclusion) in our prayers we are declaring that we put absolute trust and confidence in the one we are praying to. The word is almost identical to Hebrew word that means “believe” or “faithful”.
“the faithful and true witness” – This is a reference to Revelation 1:5 where it declares Jesus as the faithful witness.
“the beginning of God’s creation” – (The Alpha) – This is a reference to Colossians 1:15, 18 where Paul writes that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and He is the Beginning. In Revelation 22:13 Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, beginning and the end.” Jesus is beginning and He is end and he is the absolute trustworthy, faithful and true witness. Nothing exists before him and nothing can exist after him and nothing is more trustworthy or deserving of trust than Jesus. He is all… He is eternal.
Verse 15: “I know your works…” Once again Jesus declares (as with the letters to all the churches) that he is familiar with their works. He is actively watching their deeds. Unfortunately, in Laodicea’s case their works are not pleasing to Jesus at all. In fact, they are repulsive as we will soon see.
“you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!” The Church of Laodicea was an ineffective church at best. They didn’t do anything for the continuation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were seemingly just a church in name only. They were neither hot nor cold. Both hot and cold water can be useful, but lukewarm water rarely is.
Verse 16: Lukewarm – Tepid or ineffective. Since the city got its water from springs nearly six miles away the water of Laodicea was usually tepid and gross. So, the Laodiceans knew what Jesus was saying in his words. It is certainly symbolic to the faith of the Laodicean church. The lukewarm water was essentially ineffective as it came out of the pipes and Jesus states that the church is ineffective as well because of their lukewarm state.
“The adjectives “hot”, and “cold” are not necessarily to be taken as describing spiritual fervor (or lack of it) of the people.” The contrast is between the hot medicinal waters of Heiropolis and the cold, pure waters of Colosse. However, the church in Laodicea was ‘providing neither refreshment for the spiritually weary, nor healing for the spiritually sick.’”
Because they were lukewarm Jesus’ response is much like ours when we partake of something that is lukewarm (especially when you are expecting a hot or cold item).
“I will spit you out of my mouth” - Spew, vomit or throw up. Their sluggish and ineffective faith made Jesus want to vomit. These are very graphic words (and a very vivid). Because they were spiritually ineffective this was repulsive to Jesus and it made him sick.
Verse 17: (Their perception) “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” – Since the Church was in a prosperous city it is believed that the church was probably a wealthy church. Unfortunately, the people thought that since they were experiencing prosperity that God was ok with them (a common fallacy even today), maybe even blessing them. They believed he was blessing them, and they weren’t even seeking the counsel of God at all. This seems all to true of people and churches of great financial wealth today. So many churches believe that all is good, and God is ok with them or maybe even blessing them because of their prosperity. They all but forget about God and their attitude becomes more like this, “He doesn’t need to be active here because there are so many other churches that are struggling and need his assistance. Don’t bother with us Jesus we got everything under control.”
(The reality) However Jesus was telling them different. “not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” In their prosperity they failed to see the truth… “We are not all we thought we were. We may be rich financially, but Jesus isn’t pleased with us at all. In fact, we are making him sick.”
Verse 18: (What the Church needs to do) “buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich.” Because of their spiritual depravity Jesus counsels, them to take their eyes off of their physical wealth and invest in Spiritual wealth. The purchase, so to speak, is to be made from Jesus himself because only he can provide the true wealth and health they need. If they do this then they will become truly rich.
“and white garments so you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen.” Certainly, the individuals were well dressed because of their wealth. This may have given the illusion that they had everything together spiritually. However, Jesus says they are naked and pitiful. The white robes symbolize righteousness and the covering of their nakedness is symbolic of judgment. Jesus tells them to invest in these garments of white so they will be clothed in righteousness and escape judgment.
“and salve to anoint your eyes.” This is a reference to the school of medicine and Herophilos. The Laodicean church is spiritually blind. They cannot see the spiritual state they are in. Jesus counsels them to get eye salve from him and anoint their eyes. Quit trusting in the remedies of man and trust Jesus. When this happens then you will truly see.
Verse 19: Jesus is not turning his back on this church. He loves the Church of Laodicea; yes, he is not pleased with them, but he tells them, “I am telling you to do this because I love you. You may think I am being harsh and mean, but I am telling you this for your own good.” Overall, Jesus is admonishing the Church of Laodicea to wake up from their spiritually dead and ineffective state and seek him so they may be a church that is pleasing to Him and who will share in his glory. He tells them to be zealous (desire earnestly or strive after) for Him and repent.
Verse 20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door; I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus is addressing the believers in this congregation. The text suggests that Jesus has been at the door for some time. It also implies that he is continually knocking, patiently waiting to be invited in. He is at the threshold of their lives and church calling for them to open the door of repentance so that he may come in and have true fellowship with them once again.
“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.” If the believers at Laodicea will heed to his knocking he will then enter once again and sit at the table of fellowship. Jesus will be the guest and not the host. In the Middle Eastern culture eating a meal together is a sign of intimacy and trust. I believe the main idea behind this passage is Jesus’ desires to restore fellowship with the Laodicean believers and him. This can only happen through repentance, heeding to the call and responding to the knocking of Jesus that would ultimately lead to them being effective followers of Jesus Christ and of his Kingdom.
Verse 21, 22: The continued promise to those who conquer or are victorious as they participate with Jesus in his sovereign rule. This is the promise given to all the churches (and individuals) who heed the words of Jesus in the letters to these churches.
The Church of Laodicea for Us Today
The one thing a church does not want to be known for is their ineffectiveness and spiritual poverty. The Church has a glorious calling to be the light of the world, to represent Jesus to the nations and to be the hands and feet of Christ. For a church to be considered tepid or ineffective by Jesus should be cause for concern not only for the Church of Laodicea but should be a wakeup call for many churches today. As a Church body I feel it is necessary to evaluate where we stand in the eyes of Jesus according to this letter. Are we cool waters that bring refreshment to the spiritually weary? Are we hot medicinal waters that bring about spiritual healing? Are we warm tepid water that is essentially useless and ineffective and infected with germs that cause harmful results?
How about you personally? How would you evaluate your personal relationship with Jesus in comparison to his words to the Church of Laodicea? Are you under the false impression that you have everything you need when in fact you are blind, poor, wretched and naked? Are you spiritually bankrupt? Is Jesus standing at the threshold of your life calling you back to fellowship with him? Bring your spiritual destitution to Jesus be zealous and repent. Personally, I believe Jesus stands at the threshold of our lives and desires to come and dine and fellowship with him. He wants intimacy with you. He desires for you to commune and converse with him. The fact is Jesus loves you and wants to restore or resume fellowship with you once again. He desires to sit and sup with you at the table of fellowship. As a follower of Jesus, how will you respond to his knocking?
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 125
On August 4th, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Revelation is an extremely difficult book to understand. I will admit if it weren’t true it would make for great science fiction reading. It is a difficult book to understand because it is heavy in symbolism and there are also many ways people have interpreted it. Regardless it is a wonderful book and a general reading may confuse the average reader, but the gist of the story is clear “God wins”! Today I would like to look at a small portion of the Revelation of John as He encounters Jesus in His full glory.
The word Greek word for Revelation is translated as Apocalypse. When you hear this word, you may think of the end of the world. It is thought as the conclusion of all things. However, the word itself simply means “unveiling of something hidden.” Revelation is a letter to seven churches that unveils God’s plan for history and His Church.
Revelation is written by the Apostle John from the island of Patmos. This was a rocky island located in the Aegean Sea. It was an exile island where people were sent who banished for religious or political reasons. The Apostle John was sent there for preaching the Gospel.
In the vision described in chapter one John is commanded to write down all that he sees and is told and then send the scroll to the churches in these seven cities.
The Seven Churches - The cities/churches mentioned were both postal and administrative centers. It is believed that the highest concentration of Christians was in these cities.
The Seven Letters of Revelation
In the next few weeks we are going to look at several of the letters sent to the churches of Revelation and we will look at how they can apply to us individually and to the church today. We will look at them first from a historical point of view (What was Jesus saying to this church at this time in history) and from a modern point of view (What does this letter say to the Church today).
The structure of the all seven letters are very similar as they follow a consistent pattern, beginning with the address, which is always “To the angel of the church of [the city].…” This is always followed by the identification of Jesus Christ as the sender of the letter, usually (though not in every case) describing him in some of the terms drawn from the vision of chapter one.
Jesus’ first message to each church is acknowledging their works: “I know your works.” The churches’ works are sometimes commendable, sometimes requiring chastising and sometimes both
Three of the churches have commendation and criticism. Two churches have only praise and two have only criticism.
Ephesus – The City
Today we will look at the letter to the Church of Ephesus.
The city of Ephesus was one of the largest and most important cities in the Roman province of Asia. It was a main import and export center for Asia. There were believed to have been about 250,000 people living in this area. The temple of Artemis (Diana) is one of the Seven Wonders of the World was in Ephesus. She was originally a fertility goddess, and under the influence of Greek culture she had become the focus of an extensive religious cult. It is also a city of great political importance. It had been granted by Rome the right to self-government. 
Ephesus – The Church
It is believed the Christian faith came to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla around AD 52. The church was planted in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul and he ministered there for two years. Some amazing things happened in Ephesus during his time one of which was a riot that Paul unintentionally instigated as a result of his preaching (Acts 19:21 – 41). Timothy (the one Paul wrote both 1 and 2 Timothy) was a resident of Ephesus and tradition states that he may have either been an elder or the Pastor of the church of Ephesus when Paul wrote his Epistles to him. According to some traditions the Apostle John and Mary the mother of Jesus resided in Ephesus. Mary may have died in Ephesus and it is believed John lived in Ephesus up to the point where he was banished to Patmos.
Ephesus – The Letter
Verse 2: Jesus acknowledges that he is familiar with the works of the church of Ephesus. He commends the church because they had been faithful in enduring hardships, they did not tolerated people who have an evil agenda and they exposed false teachers and Apostles. The false teachers Jesus speaks of are probably the Nicolaitans as He references them by name in verse 6.
The Church of Ephesus maintained integrity by denouncing and exposing the heretical teachings of the Nicolaitans. This is commended by Jesus.
Verse 3: Jesus also commends the church of Ephesus as they patiently endure for the sake of Jesus. The Ephesians not only turned away and exposed false teachers but they also patiently endured persecution and opposition. They did not grow weary and walk away from the faith during their trials and persecutions, instead they stayed true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Verses 4 – 5: However, Jesus did have something against the Church of Ephesus… They had abandoned their first love. Jesus is not specific in detailing what this first love was, but it was probably their lack of loving one another and/or their lack of loving God. Ultimately the two are directly related. Lacking love for God eventually leads to lacking love for others. The command of Jesus has always been very specific “Love God and love one another” and apparently the Ephesians had forgotten this, and they had abandoned their first love.
All is not lost though… Jesus gives them a remedy to fix this abandoning love problem…the Ephesians are to remember, repent and return. Jesus tells the Ephesians to heed his warning but if they do not do as he instructs then He will come and remove his lamp stand (His Spirit) from their midst. This means that if things don’t change soon the church will die; which unfortunately it did. The Church of Ephesus no longer exists today. This should remind us that a loveless Church is a Christless church and a Christless church is a dead church.
Verse 7: The promise – To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. To those who endure persecution and remain faithful they will be given permission to eat of the tree of life which means eternal life and ultimate victory over death.
Church of Ephesus Today
As I mentioned before there is no Church of Ephesus today, but this does not mean the letter has no relevance for us today. This letter does speak to us today just as it did to the Ephesians nearly 2000 years ago.
Good works cannot save us. The Gospel explicitly states that those who are believe are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the truth of the Gospel. Jesus provided salvation to us through his death and resurrection. We have eternal life all because of the Gospel. However, this does not mean our good works do not matter. What we do individually AND collectively as a Church matters greatly to God. Our works are an evidence of Jesus Christ in us. Our works do not save us, but they do reveal the Jesus we serve. God has called the Body of Christ to be the Light of the world. I think it is important for us to use this passage as a score card of sorts for the church of Jesus Christ and more so for Southside Baptist today. These are questions we should be asking…
If you are feeling hopeless, conflicted or convicted at this moment that is good because God is at work in your heart. As I was preparing for this message, I felt all three. However, I am encouraged because verse 4 doesn’t end with the problem. Jesus gives us a solution…
The key here is you cannot return if you skip steps 1 and 2. Remembering and repentance is necessary for you to return to the place where God desires for you to be. We all have ears and we must hear what the Spirit is saying. May God have mercy on us, and may we be faithful in responding.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 1:20). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 86
On July 7th, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Today I will be talking about praise and worship, or more precisely praising God through music. The word “Psalm” actually means “song” and there are 150 songs placed smack dab in the middle of your Bible that are musical forms of expression of personal and corporate praise and worship directed towards Almighty God. Personally, I believe the time believers spend together corporately singing praises to God is a vital, beautiful and holy time because this is the one time where we can truly open our hearts to God and proclaim freely how great, mighty and awesome He is.
We refer to praise and worship as the time where we worship God through music and music is a vital part of the church service. We can see this is true because so many churches pour a lot of their resources into the worship and music ministries. Why is that? I believe the answer to that is because music is a form of expression and a way of communicating in ways we don’t naturally communicate. This is made perfectly clear throughout the Psalms. This brings up a valid question…if praise and worship (or the music aspect of a church service) is such a vital part of the assembling of believers, then why is it such a point of contention in the church today? This seems ridiculous to me since praise and worship is intended to unify the body of Christ but has been a major force of division in the church today. While I will admit it is not necessarily the act of praise and worship that the root of division, but the dividing factor is generally a result of personal preference.
Every person in this room has a personal preference for the style of music they enjoy. I love listening to rock music, but I DO NOT like country and western music. Does this mean that one cannot praise God in country and western music? Yes, it does! I am kidding of course. No, we can praise God with any style of music… even country and western. Just because I do not like one type of music does not mean that people can’t use that style of music to praise God. The Psalms are clear in setting guidelines for praise and worship and I have found these to be true…
Unfortunately, I see less and less praise and worship done this way. As a pastor and a participant in church settings I sometimes wonder if there is any joy in praising God at all. So, to help us understand how we can praise God the way the Bible shows we will look at Psalm 98 and hopefully we will glean something from it as pertains to our hearts and attitude towards praising and worshiping God through song.
Psalm 98 (original intent)
Today’s Psalm is one of celebration of the Kingship of God through music. You may or may not know that this Psalm was the inspiration behind Sir Isaac Watts hymn “Joy to the World”. According to C. Michael Hall in his article “History of Hymns: ‘Joy to the World’”, “Joy to the world” was taken from the second part of the paraphrase (Psalm 98:4-9), entitled ‘The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom. ‘Watts, commenting on his paraphrase of the psalm, notes: ‘In these two hymns I have formed out of the 98th Psalm I have fully express what I esteem to be the first and chief Sense of the Holy.
Psalm 98 is broken down into three parts
1. God’s people singing praise to God for salvation.
2. Inviting the world to join in on the praise.
3. Creation joins in on praise for the righteous judgment of God.
Vs 1a: “Sing to the Lord a new song” … The part of this verse invites the people of God to sing. They are not called to only sing but we are called to sing a new song. This does not necessarily imply that the song needs to be a fresh composition, but it may mean that we are to sing a song in response to an experience of God’s grace. We are to sing with a new heart.
Vs 1b: “For he has done marvelous things…” The second part of this verse tells us why we should sing a new song because God has done marvelous things. God always does marvelous (extraordinary, far surpassing, great acts) things and should continually be praised for them.
In this song, God is to be praised for his “right hand and holy arm.” This is symbolic of God’s salvation. The right arm represents God’s strength and power and his holy arm represents His intervention. Through God’s almighty power and intervention, salvation is attained. In the OT salvation generally refers to God intervening in battle and thus saving, delivering or bringing victory to the Israelites. God saves His people from their enemies.
In the NT salvation means victory over spiritual powers. God has wonderfully intervened on our behalf through Jesus Christ and He has given us victory over death and evil. Our salvation is a great reason for us to sing about and celebrate God. Our salvation is not received by human means, or in an ordinary way. Salvation is through an unprecedented manner… Putting your faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead for our justification and who ascended to the right hand of the Father for our righteousness.
Vs. 2 -3: “For the LORD has made know his salvation;” God has revealed or uncovered his salvation for all to experience. He has done this for his righteous namesake. He showed his power in salvation to the Israelites and then He made his divine power of salvation known to the Gentiles. By God’s mercy (steadfast love) He brought salvation to Israel. He made a promise to the nation that He would be their God and they would be His people and God always remembers and fulfills His promise. As a result of God’s faithfulness, the nations have seen this marvelous work of salvation.
Vs. 4 – 6: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.” The response is an invitation for all of humanity to join in singing a song of celebration. However, they are not called to sing as they are called to joyfully make a noise to the Lord. “Joyful Noise” – shout war cry, a shout of triumph, to shout in applause - to the Lord.
“Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre… (and) With trumpets.” The Psalmist encourages the use of instruments in praising God. He instructs the people to play their instruments with heartfelt joy and complete praise to God. The use of instruments in music is not intended to be a time for the musician to show off his talents, but they are to genuinely play with all he has to the LORD with joy. We are to perform for an audience of ONE.
Vs. 7 – 9: “Let the sea roar,” Israel is singing about Gods salvation, humanity is joyously making a noise because of salvation and now creation joins in with the beautiful song of praise and adoration to God. Creation is rejoicing at the coming of God to righteously judge and rule the earth and thus set all things right. Creation rejoices because God is a fair and He is just judge and this time will be a wonderful time of renewal.
Psalm 98 (For us today)
Christians are called to sing to the Lord in praise and adoration of the marvelous and divine works God has done. We are invited to join with all of creation in singing about the greatness of our God and the salvation He has given to us. I have a hard time understanding how individuals do not get excited about salvation. I am blown away when I talk to individuals who say they have a relationship with Jesus and yet they have no apparent joy in the Lord and their commitment to God seems to be more of a burden than it does as an act of worship to a God who has given literally everything to us for our enjoyment and His glory.
Maybe I am naïve, but I do not understand how singing praises to God can be a dividing factor within the body of Christ. Sure, we all have preferences of styles of music, but we often look past the message of a song or hymn and base our worship experience on whether we prefer a certain style or not. I admittedly confessed that I do not like country western music, but I also am not so narrow-minded that I think that God cannot be glorified through the STYLE of country western music. If I went to a backwoods country western church and they broke out the banjo, washboard, upright bass and 50-gallon cowboy hats and led the congregation in God-glorifying praise then I would join with them and worship God joyfully. The same goes for organ music, rock music, acoustic, etc.
I so often hear people talk about the old hymns and refer to them as funeral dirges or irrelevant songs that are wordy and confusing. This is just as narrow-minded as mine is pertaining to country western praise. With hymns like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther is a hymn so filled with praise, inspiration, and joy that I cannot sing that song without being brought into the presence of God.
I recently read in an article entitled “Complaining About Worship” and the author writes, “Someone complained to pastor and author Francis Chan once and said that they didn’t think that the worship service was very good. He said that that was okay because “we weren’t worshiping you.” We must remember that worship is not for us, it is for God. We do not sing songs of praise for the sake of nostalgia or to make us feel better, it is intended solely for God and God alone.
If we can step back for a moment and look at how Psalm 98 and how it can apply to us today, I would like to ask and respond to three relevant questions.
My prayer today is that all of us see the value in worshiping God through song. I remind you that singing is not the only means to worshiping God. We can worship God in all sorts of ways and through various means. However, I think it is important to know that worship through music is valid, it is important, and it has been used throughout the centuries. In closing I ask wherever you are in your walk with God and what your views are concerning worship music, pray that the Lord gives you the right heart to come into His presence and give Him the proper worship He deserves and that you would open your heart to the joy of celebrating the salvation He has made available to all of us.
On June 30, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Psalms 46 is a song of celebration for Jerusalem as the special city of God; or as some call it a “hymn of Zion” or a “Zion Song”. This is another very familiar Psalm for many people especially those brought up in the Lutheran denomination. It was the inspiration behind Martin Luther’s timeless hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” which was written in 1529. It became known as the “Battle Hymn” of the Reformation as it was the song that helped gathered support for the cause of the Reformation.
Not only is this Psalm the inspiration behind the beloved hymn of Luther but is also one that has been held dear to many believers throughout history. I actually was surprised as to how many people told me this was one of their favorite Psalms of all time. I guess it should be no surprise it is held in such high regard after reading through these 11 inspiring verses as they show the reader how great, mighty and trustworthy our God is.
Psalm 46 resembles in content and structure Psalms 48; 76; 87; and 122 as they too are called “Zion Songs”. The song is broken down into three sections and are as follows
1.God is our security and might
2.God protects with His presence
3.Peace comes from God
This is a hymn written by the choirmaster for the chief musicians (Sons of Korah) of the Temple. “According to Alamoth” is probably a musical term and was intended to be for the female or soprano voice. We are not precisely sure what the occasion for writing this Psalm was but some believe it was written after Jerusalem was spared from imminent destruction from the Assyrians under the guidance of Sennacherib. You can read the account in 1 Chronicles 32 but the short story is God sending an angel to destroy all the warriors, commanders and officers of the Assyrian army thus saving Jerusalem.
Verse 1a – “God is our refuge and strength” = YHWH was Israel’s source of power, and security. Over the centuries they had witnessed God’s hand and favor for them in battle and they had absolute faith in God. They were secure in the fact that He would keep Israel safe and would be their source of victory in battle.
Verse 1b – “Present help in trouble” – When times got tumultuous, tense and dangerous God was present and made his presence known. He was a help that could be found when He was sought after.
Summary of Verse 1
God is not only a refuge and strength for Israel but is also our source of security and power. In this world we need to a place of safety and a source of strength to live the life of a believer and God is that source. As believers we must have an absolute trust and faith in God to be our strength, our provider, our deliverer etc. Do you trust God? Is He your source of strength? Is He your place of solace?
Verse 2 – 3: Since God is the refuge and strength and his presence was with the Israelites in the hard times they had no need to be afraid. Their confidence was in God and God alone. Their confidence was in Him when they were faced with attacks from their enemies, they were confident when natural disasters hit them, they were even confident when they were faced with what seemed to be impending death.
Summary of Verses 2 – 3
Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his inaugural speech, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Yet as Christians we can respond by saying we have no one and no thing to fear period. I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, perfect love casts out all fear.” Jesus Christ is our perfect love and in him there is no fear. Through his death, resurrection and ascension he has set us free from fear. We are no longer to have a paralyzing fear of anything that man; beast, nature or spiritual being can do to us.
Verses 4 – 7: God Protects With His Presence
Israel’s confidence and lack of fear came in the fact that the Temple “the holy habitation” was in Jerusalem. The Temple was a symbol of God’s presence among the people. Because Jerusalem was God’s special city He was expected to protect her. As the Israelites looked to the Temple, they felt secure because they were reminded that God was there among them, dwelling in their midst. There was a wall around the city that was built for protection but the people of Jerusalem didn’t put their complete trust and faith in the wall, they instead put their absolute faith and trust in God.
However the Temple was not always the symbol of God’s presence because as time passes on people began to place a false sense of security in the Temple. They began to view the Temple as their source of power and favor and placed it above the presence of God. They worshiped the created thing and not the Creator. The Bible is pretty clear telling us God will not take the back seat to anything or anyone including the Temple. The irony here is the people began to worship the Temple and not the God of the Temple. This edifice became the God and soon it went from being a Holy dwelling of God to a place of abhorrent evil and idolatry. Read Ezekiel 8 and 10 to see how God viewed the Temple at that time… The evil practices and idolatry that was going on in the Temple resulted in God’s presence “leaving the building” and eventually the Israelites are led into captivity.
Verses 4 – 7 refers to Jerusalem but also reference the New Jerusalem of Revelation. We know this because there is no river that flows through Jerusalem today, but Revelation 22:1 speaks of a river that runs from the throne of God that is the abundant life giving water that flows through the streets. Plus Jerusalem did fall to the Babylonians and the New Jerusalem will never fall and the presence of God will never leave.
Summary of verses 4 – 7
We do well to understand that God is still a protector of His people. However His favored nation is not one specific location. His favor lies in His people... believers. As Western Christians we sometimes place our future and current security in having a mighty army, a strong nation, and at times a decent and fairly stable economy. Thus we can begin to have a false sense of security in these things. We must realize that our protection and security comes from God and God alone. He is here among us we do not have a physical Temple that is made with hands where God dwells on this earth. Jesus tells us that the physical dwelling place for God has passed; we are now His temple. Corinthians tells us our bodies are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He is present in us we are protected from any powers, principalities and eternal death. We can take great strength and comfort in this.
Let me also note (as a side note) since God is present in His children let us not fall under the false precepts of the church edifice as the Holy place of God. Sure the church building can serve as a reminder that God is with us but it is not THE place where you go to be in God’s presence. It is the place you come to be with other people who have Christ in them. Certainly his presence is here because we are here. This building is just a shell. It is a shelter from the terrain. It’s a place of memories and history but it is not the dwelling place of God.
I need to make myself very clear right here and right now. Attending this place Sunday after Sunday (or even on occasion) does not save you. I don’t care if you have come here or another church your whole life or just started… church attendance is not your salvation. It is not the place where God is and you go to meet him. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to be assured an abundant life here and in eternity. You will get no brownie points from God for being present at church. Then why attend? I will leave that for another sermon but let me tell you this, it is good when God’s people do assemble together to worship in one place in one mind and in one body.
Verses 8 – 11: Peace comes from God
God is a God of peace. The song invites the people to see that God is the God of peace. He brings peace by destroying the tools of destruction… “”he breaks the bow and shatters the spear…” The Jews sought peace in all areas of their lives. They knew with all the death, destruction and war around them that peace was only able to come if God was the initiator of it.
The Psalmist then writes… “Be still and know that I am God.” I know many of us take this to mean, “calm down, relax and trust God”; which it does in the English rendition. However the original language suggests this is synonymous to “Cease and desist!” or “STOP what you are doing”, it is the referee whistle to put to end the turmoil around and pay attention. Only when they do this is when they can realize that God is God and He will be exalted or lifted up among the nations and in all the earth. True peace cannot happen until we stop, listen and acknowledge God as God.
Summary of verses 8 - 11
We are really no different than the ancient Israelites, we still want peace and we want to see wars ended. This cannot happen without God being the initiator. On a personal level we basically want peace in our own lives. None of us desire to be in constant turmoil and conflict. We often get caught up in trying to right wrongs, seeking justice or accusing someone of hurting us and we try to mend things in our own power. We can learn a great deal from looking at the context of Psalm 46:10 and stop trying to do things in our own strength. This verse doesn’t necessarily mean to be quiet or calm as much as it means “stop meddling and relax. Allow God to do his work.”
When we are faced with, turmoil, anxiety, despair, worry and etc let us take comfort in these words… “Be still and know I am God.” Jesus tells us in the gospels that worry and anxiety do nothing to help us so “relax (this is really what the words “be still” literally mean), stop doing what you are doing and trust me to take care of this.”
As we close today may this also be a Psalm of celebration for us as believers. May we celebrate and rejoice in the fact that God is our source of power and security; God is our protector from evil; and He is our peace. Let us take great comfort and security in this Psalm and know that God is God and He is worthy of all our praise. So let us trust Him as our God to be all of these things to us.
On June 9, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Introduction to the Psalms
The book of Psalms is broken down into 5 books and consists of 150 Psalms written by dozens of authors written over a 1,000-year span. Contrary to popular belief David did not write all the Psalms, but He did write the majority. Many note the author at the beginning of each Psalm. The Psalms are songs, prayers or poems offered to God that express a wide range in not the full range of human emotions. For example, there are Psalms that express joy, faith, happiness, anger, frustration, thankfulness, despair, loneliness, fear, grief and the list goes on and on. They represent a list of emotions that vary from the positive to the negative and they are unified by one element; the one and only God.
John Calvin articulated well when he wrote, “I may truly call this book an anatomy of all the parts of the soul, for no one can feel a moment of the spirit which is not reflected in the mirror. All sorrows, troubles, fears, doubts, hopes, pain, perplexities and stormy outbreaks by which the hearts of men are tossed have been depicted here to the very life.” C.S. Lewis writes, “Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all incense and all formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than the logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry.” What both men are saying is the Psalms are meant to speak to the heart more than the brain. We are not merely meant to read them as intellectual observations as much as we are to see the raw emotion as they speak to our heart and souls. Many Psalms leave little doubt as to how the writer is feeling at that moment.
There are five types of Psalms represented in the Bible.
These Psalms do reflect or stir a certain emotion and can be easily applicable in our lives today. However, we do need to be careful in reading, interpreting and applying certain Psalms to our everyday life (allowing our emotions to get the best of us). We need to pay attention regarding imprecatory Psalms which call down curses on the wicked because many of them were written specifically for the Jews and were appropriate only for the Jews but were not intended for believers of this Church age.
With this background, we now turn our attention to Psalm 8.
Introduction to Psalm 8
Is there something that has literally taken your breath away? Has something ever left you completely speechless when you encounter it? Have these things ever caused you to sit back and truly ponder the awe-inspiring things of this life? There are several things that come to mind for me… Sitting at the falls of Niagara I am reminded of the majesty of creation. Standing atop the multicolored formations of the Badlands in South Dakota I am awestruck at the beauty of God’s creation. Traveling along “The Rim of the World highway” in California and looking down the mountains into the valley literally takes my breath away.
I remember one evening shortly after I moved to the country in Wisconsin I went outside of our townhouse and looked up at the night sky. My jaw dropped as I gazed up into the sky and saw what seemed like an infinite array of stars that spanned the heavens for as far as the naked eye could see. I stared at the sky and I was reminded of how small I am in comparison to the massive universe that we live in.
I imagine that what I experienced this evening was like the thoughts and insights of a shepherd boy named David, the Psalmist for today’s passage, as he sat in the fields at night and pondered God, the universe (the heavens) and the meaning of life. I am convinced his words mirror the thoughts of millions of people as they search and ponder the purpose of life and seek answers to life’s most puzzling questions.
I can imagine this young shepherd David had many nights to watch over his flock to stargaze and ponder the questions of life. I would imagine that even as the King of Israel David was even more amazed at the mighty hand of God and his infinite glory as He kept watch over him and the nation of Israel. I wouldn’t be surprised if David asked God, “Why me? Why did you choose me of all people to be the leader of your nation? Who am I that you would choose me?” There were probably times when he asked God, “Why do you even bother with humanity? We keep letting you down and yet, you remain faithful.” His list of questions, I am sure, was lengthy at best.
Today we are going to look at one of those questions David had as we look at Psalm 8. It is uncertain when this Psalm was written, some speculate it was after David slew the giant Goliath, others say it was penned as he was in the fields watching his flock at night. Truth be told we have no clue as to when it was written, all do know is this is a hymn or Psalm of praise and adoration to God. It was intended to be a song that would help humanity celebrate the privileged place God has given to us in the created order. It is a Psalm that expresses wonder and awe at the majestic and magnificent nature of God.
The Psalm opens with “O LORD, our Lord” and this is a proclamation of the majesty of God's name and his authority over his life and over the nation of Israel.
LORD – YHWH (Yehovah) All capital letters is the proper name for God. In God’s name, his nature is revealed. In Exodus 3:13 -14, Moses meets the LORD on Mt. Sinai and says, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God’s name is who He is; the Existing One; the One without beginning or end; the One who was not created, but has always been; the One who is I AM.
Lord – (awdone) – Capital “L” and lower-case letters is a reference to God’s position. Sovereign Master, general recognition of superior, king.
So, another way to read this first verse is “O Eternal One (YHWH) our sovereign master (Lord)…”
“how majestic” – (adeer) – Famous, great, excellent, glorious. The response of the psalmist to God is adoration and awe. To one who does not believe or know God His name instills fear and trepidation. His name is a power that is visible and is on display for everyone to see.
“is your name” – reputation, glory, fame. The name of God is an extension of himself.
David acknowledges that God’s fame and reputation are visible for all to see throughout creation. Even in Romans 1:20 the Apostle Paul acknowledges the visible glory of God for all to see. The glory and splendor of the invisible God can be seen throughout creation. God has revealed himself to us through creation, this is called general revelation. When we look around, we don’t see creation as God, but we see God and his attributes in creation.
“You have set your glory…” – Splendor (magnificence), majesty, vigor (strength)
The planets, the stars, the seemingly limitless universe give only a partial view of how very great God really is. Yet sophisticated men shrug off the evidence as if it didn’t exist. God is exalted above them all and to know his glory is to know him as he really is at the core of his being.
As the psalmist looks up into the sky he is in awe of the beauty of God’s creation. He looks at the night sky and is in wonder of the creative work of God’s hand. They all belong to God and are a result of God’s handiwork. He gives God credit for all that is around him. The beauty that surrounds us is authored by God and to give anything other than Him credit is plagiarism.
David realizes the “smallness” of man in comparison to the expanse of the universe. He is in awe to know that in our “smallness” God still remembers us. He is not a distant God who is far off. God doesn’t just acknowledge us, but we are on his mind and He thinks about us.
No branch of science proclaims God’s greatness and man’s insignificance more eloquently than astronomy. The simple fact that distances must be reckoned in light-years (the distance that light travels in a year) illustrates the point. Light travels 186,000 miles per second, and there are 31.5 million seconds in a year, so light travels roughly six trillion miles in a single year! Yet some stars are billions of light-years from the earth. No wonder we call such computation astronomical.
One would almost imagine that God is too busy running the universe that he would have the time to take part in any of our lives. Sometimes we have the tendency to think of Him as a busy and distant father who is so involved in his work of running the “big things” that he has little time for His family (children). David knows better though; God is not too busy for us. We are always on his mind.
“son of man” – emphasizes the frail mortality of the human. David’s question is, “Why does an infinite God even care about mortal man?” The answer is found in Jesus… Jesus referred to himself as the son of man. In fact, this term is Jesus' favorite self-designation, and it indicates the true meaning of his identity and ministry:
“care for him” – This means pay attention, to visit, to look after. God cares so much for humanity that he became human, the lowest of humans and gave his life as a ransom so we could forever be in fellowship with our loving Creator.
“You have made him…” Talking about humanity. We are created by God. We are not an afterthought or an accident of nature, but we are a beautifully crafted creation of God. (Genesis 1:26-27)
“a little lower” … in the created order we are created a little lower than the divine beings. This is a position of distinction and honor. God has placed humanity in the highest position of honor over all earthly creatures. We are a little lower than heavenly beings, but God has put us in a place of honor. If we are not in awe of the fact that God cares for humanity, then certainly it is awe-inspiring to know that we are exalted to a place of honor.
“crowned with glory and honor” … God has placed on our heads the right to be his Kingly representatives. We have the honor of bearing the image of God since we are made in his likeness. We represent God… Let that sink in a bit. I would imagine this would help you determine how you live your life here on earth.
“You have given him dominion…” God has appointed humanity to have authority and rule over His creation. This does not mean abusive, careless and dictatorial authority but as one who is lovingly and carefully tending for someone else’s belongings. (Genesis 1:26-28)
If it wasn’t enough to be thought of and cared for by God, and placed in a position of honor, we are also given charge to care for His creation. He has entrusted us with all He has created.
I am truly amazed by God and this Psalm reflects my heart. In the scope of the eternity, the universe and even this small sphere we live on called earth we may seem so small and insignificant. Regardless of how we may feel God doesn’t see us as this way. He sees us as His beautiful children, whom He has loved so much that He sent His son Jesus to the earth to redeem us from the shackles of sin, and as a result, He has entrusted everything to us. He has done this not because we are worthy, but because He is good.
On the many evenings when going outside and looked up at the sky and saw a full moon with millions of stars spread across the sky and my only thought was, or sit at an evening sunset at the beach this Psalm comes to mind... “When I consider your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” I am constantly in awe when I consider God and his handiwork. I am blown away when I think about how the God of this universe and all of creation has you and me on his mind and He has invested everything in us because we are His children. When I think of these things, I can’t help but respond in praise and worship as David does at the beginning and the end of this Psalm… “O LORD our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
My challenge to you today is to take some time this week and go out in the evening and look up to the heavens and consider how great our God is! Thank Him, praise Him and give Him the worship He deserves because He has entrusted you with his wonderful creation and He has crowned you with glory and honor because you belong to Him.
 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Ps 8:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Ps 8:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
On June 2, 2019 I preached at Palmetto Presbyterian Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
It’s Better Than Winning the Lottery!
Acts 3:11 – 26
Have you ever wished you could win the lottery? Maybe you believe that if you could only win the lottery all your troubles would be gone. I’m sure some of you have thought this and maybe you even believe it. But is winning the lottery all it’s cracked up to be? Is money really capable of making you happy? Hear the stories of three individuals from an article on THEPENNYHOARDER.COM titled “From Rags to Riches to Rags Again: 21 Lottery Winners Who Lost Everything” and see for yourself…
David Lee Edwards split a $280 million Powerball jackpot with three others, a win that came while he was unemployed and living in his parents’ basement. After taxes, he received a lump sum of $27 million. He bought a $600,000 house, a $1 million fleet of cars, a $78,000 watch, a $1.9 million jet, 200 swords and other medieval weapons, and a $4.5 million fiber-optics installation company. He also married a woman 19 years younger than he was.
Within a year, he had spent $12 million. The house was soon lost to foreclosure, his wife was arrested for stabbing a boyfriend, and David died at age 58 in 2013.
Sharon Tirabassi, of Hamilton, Ontario, won $10.5 million in 2004. She treated friends to vacations in Cancun, Las Vegas, California, Florida and the Caribbean. She got married and bought a house for $515,000 — and got a $360,000 mortgage loan rather than paying all cash. She bought numerous cars, including one that cost more than $200,000, and gave millions of dollars to family and friends.
By 2007, half of her money was gone. By 2008, with her husband in jail for a DUI, Tiribassi lost their home. Now, to pay the rent and support her kids, she takes the bus to her part-time job.
Lara and Robert Griffith won £1.8 million ($2.1 million today) in the Lotto in 2005. They bought a home for £670,000 ($790,000), along with a Lexus 4×4 and a Porsche convertible. Robert paid for his band to have a record made, and Lara splurged on designer handbags. They set up a beauty salon business.
Then, six years later, Roger disappeared with the Porsche and Lara discovered suspicious emails on his computer. He denied having an affair, but the marriage ended, the money was gone and now Lara is an employee at the salon they used to own.
Money, it can be a blessing and it can be a curse. I am sure the crippled man in our passage today would have been one who would agree that money does not bring true happiness.
Read Acts 3:1 – 10
In Acts 3:1 – 10 we meet a crippled beggar (we do not know the name of this individual) who was handicapped from birth. We read that he would daily sit at the temple gate called “Beautiful” and beg for money. Pastor and author R. Kent Hughes wrote in his commentary on Acts, “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.” He continues, “Judaism considered almsgiving a meritorious art. So, the man’s position at Israel’s religious center would profit him well.”
Everything started off as a regular day for the crippled beggar until three o’clock in the afternoon where his life would be forever changed. As the Apostle’s Peter and John approached this man, Peter tells the beggar to look up at him. As the beggar looked at the Apostle in anticipation to receive a gift, Peter says, “I have no silver or gold”. Upon hearing this I am sure these were words that the beggar did not want to hear, but when the Apostle says, “…but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” He is forever changed at that very instance.
At this point the author and physician, Luke, describes in detail the miraculous event that takes place as the man is completely restored to health. Luke writes that he “jumped to his feet and he began to walk.” At this very moment he did something he has never done in his life. He began to stand and walk on his own. He then ran and jumped and praised God for this miracle. He was elated! When the onlookers saw what was happening, they were all amazed.
The crippled man got more than he bargained for on this day. What started out as a regular day where the man was hoping for some spare change, ends up being healed of a lifelong handicap.
What is Happiness?
This healing account recalls the topic of happiness. What constitutes happiness? Where does one find true happiness? Is it found in money, power, sex, love or circumstances? No! True happiness is found in Jesus Christ. If you were able to go back two thousand years and interview the crippled beggar, do you think he would say, “Well on the day I met Peter and John all I wanted was some money, but instead I was healed of my lifelong handicap. I wish those guys would have just given me money.” I would have been much happier! I he would say that. At this point in this man’s life, I believe 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? Is your happiness rooted in things like money, power or status? Or is there a void in all of us that can only truly be satisfied by Jesus Christ alone? Nothing can bring true peace and joy than a life devoted to Jesus Christ. So today I want to make sure that everyone who hears this message understands to have true happiness in Jesus Christ and what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
Read Acts 3:11 - 26
In Peter’s second sermon since Pentecost he responds to the people’s amazement by taking the focus off himself and directs it to Jesus Christ. He stresses the importance of knowing that Jesus was the one responsible for the miracle. Peter clearly presents the Gospel message by proclaiming this Jesus is also the same man who died on the cross for the sins of the world and He was raised again by the power of God. Peter spoke about repentance and about Jesus who was both the Son of God and fully man, He is the Messiah spoken of in prophecy.
Peter tells the onlookers about the Gospel of Jesus, it is important for us to understand that this truth still applies to us today. Jesus Christ is both man and God and He gave His life for you, so you would not have to face the penalties of death. He died and He rose from the dead to show that He had indeed conquered death for our benefit. We need to repent of our sins and believe in faith that Jesus Christ is Lord, Savior and God. 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. Sin is a disease we are all born with. 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 by birth, but we are declared righteous by Jesus to those who believe and put their trust in Him. Sin and repentance are big issues. We must all deal with our sin issues; this is all a part of being a Christian. 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.”
But we are not forever condemned as Peter talks of repentance. We may be guilty of sin, but we also know that God will always forgive us if we 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 speaks about forgiveness. Because of our past sins most of us live our lives carrying a heavy load of guilt. We may get stuck in the past and start thinking that what we did could never be forgiven by anyone, especially a Holy God. The truth is just the opposite. People may never forgive but God will always forgive if we truly repent. Only God is capable of forgiving sin and He will forgive willingly if we confess, repent and seek forgiveness. We may live our lives in guilt, but God wants us 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.
Peter’s sermon is the Gospel message. Trusting Jesus Christ, confessing, repenting and seeking forgiveness in Jesus Christ is the only way to finding true happiness. So often we go looking for ways to make ourselves happy. So often we tell God what would make us happy (a little more money, a new car, understanding parents, a new job, a bigger house etc.) but God knows that these will not bring true happiness. We may think that silver and gold will make us happy, but when we see that God has far greater plans and purpose for us, and it is exceedingly more valuable than anything we could ever imagine.
Today, 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, then know this is the Holy Spirit calling you to Jesus this very moment. Jesus wants you to repent and He is eager to forgive our sins. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you have been a member of a church, or how many church or denominational committees or fellowship groups you belong to. Jesus wants you to enter into a relationship with Him and to forever submit your life to Him.
On May 26th, 2019 I preached at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Timothy Keller writes in his book Center Church, “Christians typically identify two ways to respond to God: follow him and do his will or reject him and do your own thing. You can reject God by rejecting his law and living the way you see fit. And you can also reject God by embracing God’s law so as to earn your salvation. The problem is that people in this last group look as if they are doing God’s will. There are not just two ways to respond to God but three: irreligion, religion, and the gospel.
Irreligion is avoiding God as Lord and Savior by ignoring him altogether. “Religion”, or moralism is avoiding God as Lord and Savior by developing a moral righteousness and then presenting it to God in an effort to show that he ‘owes’ you. The gospel, however, has nothing to do with our developing a righteousness we give God, so he owes us; it is God’s developing and giving us righteousness through Jesus Christ.”[i]
Today I would like to spend some time in the Gospel of John. The account in the passage that was just read is one that many of you are probably familiar with. In the text we read about an encounter between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. The goal of this message is two-fold.
Our text for today is John 3:1 – 7
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
Verse 1: Nicodemus – Very little is known about Nicodemus because there is little written about him in the Gospels. However, we do know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee who was a member of the Sanhedrin and he comes to Jesus in the night hour to have a conversation with him.
(Background info) The Pharisees were men who prided themselves on keeping the laws of God to the “T”. They may not have been overly moral in character, but they were fastidious in knowing and enforcing the law. The law was their “righteousness”. They believed they were “more holy” than others because they understood and enforced the laws of Moses.
Verse 2: We are unsure exactly as to what Nicodemus’ motives were in talking to Jesus that evening. Some have suggested that since he was a respected Jewish leader (an older man) he didn’t want others to know he was going to Jesus to learn from him or even associate with him. Others have said he met with him at night because he was afraid. Some believe he went in the evening because this was the time Rabbi’s and teachers studied. Some even think that the night meeting was symbolic of his spiritual state and He may have come at nighttime because he was living in spiritual darkness and wanted to inquire of the light (Jesus). All of these are plausible possibilities, but truth be told we do not know why he met with Jesus, but we do know it was a divine and sovereign meeting.
As their conversation starts Nicodemus says, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God…” This meant that the consensus among the some of the Jewish leaders was that he was a teacher who had the hand of God on his life and in his ministry. Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus was a man with God’s hand on his ministry because of the miracles and wonders he saw Jesus perform. The rulers knew there was something special about Jesus but they (Nicodemus) certainly were not proclaiming that Jesus was a prophet, THE Prophet or even the Messiah. Regardless he knew there was something unique about Jesus and this may have been the reason he wanted to talk to Him.
Verse 3: Before Nicodemus can even ask a question Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter (quite possibly because he knew Nicodemus’ motive, inquiry or he just needed to tell him the truth right up front). Jesus says, “Truly, truly unless a person is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” By saying, “Truly, truly” Jesus is emphasizing that what he is about to say is absolutely true.
There are two items we need to look at in order to understand the absolute truth Jesus spoke to Nicodemus… They are “The Kingdom of God” and “Born again”
Kingdom of God
This term only exists in the NT, however much of the OT points to the concept, reality and anticipation of the Kingdom of God. In the OT the implication of the Kingdom of God was a future day when God is the sovereign ruler of all nations and over all of creation. The prophets longed for the day when God would physically bring peace to the nations of Israel and Judah (They would be one again) and justice, peace and mercy would spill over to all nations and over all of creation or in it’s finality the Kingdom of God is Heaven… The abiding place of God the Father and Son Jesus Christ.
“Seeing the kingdom’ is equivalent to the more familiar expression in (the Gospel of) John of eternal life.[ii] The kingdom or eternal life is the central message of Jesus Christ in NT. It is mentioned twice in John (3:3,5 & 18:36) and is defined as the rule, reign and sovereignty of God over all creation. So in short the Kingdom of God is equivalent to eternal life and the future reign of God as sovereign king.
At the time of this writing, Jews and Christians lived under Roman rule and the Apostle Paul, Peter and Jesus all say that the world is in the grasps of the evil one (often times Rome was considered all that is evil and other times the devil). This does not mean that God is not the true ruler of the world, it just means the world is in bondage to Satan and evil because of sin and the fall of humanity. We live in a sinful world where it seems as though evil is running rampant and Satan seems to be the god of the world. However, this is a false perception in part because God is sovereign (Supreme Rule) today and his Kingdom has already begun on earth through us (those who believe in Jesus and are obedient to His call). This Kingdom was inaugurated in the person, works and message of Jesus Christ. Eternal life starts the moment you trust Jesus as Lord and Savior thus God’s Kingdom is now.
This, however, does not negate the reality that there will also be a future day when Jesus physically returns to set up His Kingdom here on earth and rule and reign sovereignly over all nations and creation. So in order for one to receive, enter, or be part of the Kingdom of God, one must be born again.
So what is Jesus saying when he says one must be “born again”? This statement is just as confusing to some today as it was to Nicodemus back then. Some may even respond as Nicodemus does… “Can one be born a second time? One certainly cannot enter the womb (as a grown adult) and be reborn!”
There are two interpretations to Nicodemus’ response…
Jesus said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Entrance into the Kingdom, Heaven or more simply salvation is not attained by keeping, enforcing and living the law; it was about being re-born (or as the Greek states, “Born from above). Rebirth or regeneration means repenting of your sins, responding to Jesus and trusting in him for salvation, being cleansed from sin, and the result is a transformed heart and one becoming a new creation in Christ.
Regeneration is not individuals trying to be a better person by cleaning up his act and becoming a moral person. Regeneration is not about become a better version of yourself (Jeff 2.0) it means that you are a brand-new version of yourself that is transformed by Jesus Christ.
In short, Jesus tells us that unless one is cleansed from sin (through confession and repentance) and reborn in the Spirit of God (faith in Christ and becoming a new creation) one cannot enter or see the Kingdom of God.
Verses 7: “Do not marvel…” Jesus’ words are clear you (the you is actually plural which properly interpreted is ‘you all’ or in the south Y’all) MUST be born again. This is THE central message of Jesus in this passage and it is certainly a central message for us today.
The challenge for today is simple… Ask yourself… Am I born again? Have I trusted or put my faith in Jesus Christ? Is He my Lord and my Savior? Have I been washed and cleansed by the blood of Christ? Do I have a transformed heart and am I a new creation in Christ? Does God have complete (not just some) but complete rule and reign in my life? Have I experienced the new (second) birth in Christ? I don’t care how young or old you are. I don’t care how long you have been a member of this or any other church. I don’t care how many church or Christians functions you attend a week. Have you been born-again? If you say, “yes!” then, by all means. enjoy the life God has given you, continue to love and serve in your church, and be edified at all your Christian and church functions. But if you can honestly say that either you are not sure or you definitely are not born-again then I pray you would not hesitate and do so now. If you are still unsure how you would do this, please feel free to talk to me afterwards and I would be happy to pray with you.
Today is one encounter with Christ that you must respond to in your life. I have preached the central message of Jesus Christ today. Jesus came to give you life, and He came to give it in abundance, and it is available to all who believe. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand… Are you part of His Kingdom?
[i] Keller, Timothy J (2012). Center Church, p.63 Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[ii] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) (Jn 3:1). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
On April 28th, 2019 I preached at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Who Are You?
Genesis 1:26 – 31 & 2:4 – 7, Ephesians 2: 1- 10
“Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Am I important?” “What is my purpose in life?” These are questions you may have asked, you may be contemplating or struggling with them today. These are good questions. These are important questions. These are questions I am hoping to answer today.
Do you believe there is a God who created everything? Do you believe there is a God in heaven who cares about you and about the world we live in? Do you know that you are a unique creation of God? We are not here by accident.
Today we will look at 3 observations about God’s relation to humanity in regards to our purpose in life. These observations are foundational to the understanding of your uniqueness and purpose.
In this we have seen that we are his reflection. We are created in His image we have dignity. We have worth. My friends we are truly God’s beloved creation and we have purpose.
So what is your purpose?
So to go back to the questions I asked at the beginning of this message…“Why am I here?” “How did I get here?” “Is there a point to my life?” “Do I have a higher calling in life that just existing?” “Am I important?” “What’s the purpose of life?” I would hope that you can see the answers to these questions are yes. You have purpose and your purpose is to worship God and to enjoy him forever. It is to do good works in the name of Jesus Christ, and it is to offer hope by promoting Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.
If you take anything with you today, please know you are a unique creation of God. You have purpose and that purpose is established in your understanding and relationship to God, who loves you and has a plan for you.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Ge 2:4–7). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Ge 2:21). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
Scripture Read: John 3 - 4
Title: The Living Water
(H) Highlight verse: "Jesus said to her, 'whoever drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that will give him will never thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'" John 4:13, 14
(E) Explain: As Jesus was travelling at around the noon hour he was tired, hot and thirsty as he came to Jacob’s well. It is traditionally believed this well is located on the land Jacob (Israel) gave to Joseph in Genesis 48:22. Interestingly it is still a functioning well/spring to this day. Since it was noon the sun was at its peak and Jesus was weary from his travels. He encounters a woman at this well and asks her for a drink.
Water was drawn in the morning hours or the cool of the day by the women. Typically the women came in groups so they could assist one another in drawing water before it became too hot. In this passage we meet a woman who comes later in the day and alone. This tells us that she is probably a shunned woman because she comes at the point of day when she knows no one will be around and she comes by herself.
Jesus asks her for some water and the woman is certainly surprised because a Jewish male is asking her for a drink of water. He has no utensils so he would have to use her cup. According to Jews Samaritans were ceremonially unclean and a Jew who used a Samaritan’s cup would also be considered unclean as well. This is what the writer John meant when he wrote that Jews and Samaritans use nothing in common.
She apparently has no reason to even know that she is speaking to the Messiah. She was exasperated that this tired Jewish traveler was talking to her but as Jesus said had she known who she was talking to she would not only be getting him water but would be asking him for the living water. Living water – literally translated as flowing water or moving water. In the Bible water is symbolic for cleansing, refreshing and in the Holy Spirit. Jesus is speaking to this woman in spiritual terms as D.A. Carson writes, “(Living Water is) the satisfying eternal life mediated by the Spirit that only Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the world can provide.” As Jesus talks about this water the woman thinks he is speaking of some unknown water source (or Jesus is speaking literally) so she asks Jesus how he plans on giving her this water since he has no utensils. She doesn’t understand Jesus is speaking in a spiritual sense.
He takes the opportunity to further explain what he is talking about. He says the physical water that we drink is temporary and never TRULY satisfies (much like worldly possessions). We can drink all the water we want (to the point of getting sick) but eventually we will get thirsty again. The living water, which is not a liquid but the everlasting life of God through the Holy Spirit satisfies our spiritual thirst. In our search for satisfaction and contentment in life we seek fulfillment in physical things (cars, homes, electronics, substances, food, drink etc.) and we can never truly be satisfied. Satisfaction is only attained when we have drunk of the living water of Jesus Christ. Not only will the water of life satisfy but it will spring up or gush up like an artesian well of eternal life and life here on earth through the Holy Spirit (an abundant life).
Hearing Jesus’ description of this water the woman now desires this water and asks how to get it. Jesus then makes a prophecy about her life and her immoral acts which cuts to her heart and convicts her of her immoral lifestyle. This shows that when we desire to drink the living water of Jesus we will also have to confront our sins. Sure, it is easy to come to Jesus and drink of the living water, the hard part is realizing our sins and handing them over to God.
(A) Application: This passage tells me a lot about Jesus and the life he has to offer. Here are four truths from this encounter Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well.
(R) Respond: Thank you that the water of life is available to all who believe. Thank you that you have offered this living water to me. Thank you that you promised that not only will the water of life satisfy, but that it will never stop satisfying.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 219 Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Scripture Read: Luke 12
Title: Anxiety, Worry, and Trust
(H) Highlight verse: "Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" Luke 12:25
(E) Explain: In chapter 12 Jesus is speaking to his disciples about hypocrisy, fear, heavenly treasures, worry, anxiety, trust, and being prepared for the end times. He speaks specifically in 12:22 - 34 about worry the uselessness of worry, anxiety, and doubt. He tells his disciples not to be anxious about their lives, and the food they will eat. He essentially tells them that anxiety accomplishes nothing. Worrying about things that they could not change was pointless because there was absolutely nothing they could do to change things just by worrying. He also alludes to the truth that worry and anxiety can lead to doubt and lack of faith. Jesus says that instead of worrying about the trivial things in life they should focus their energy and and efforts on seeking God and his kingdom, because when they do the trivial things they were worrying about will be taken care of by God the Father. For if their treasure is in following God and seeking his kingdom, this will reveal their true heart and love for God.
(A) Application: I am very good at worrying and I don't really know why I worry so much. I understand the as a human my natural inclination is to worry, doubt and fear and I believe this is why Jesus speaks about these things so often in scripture. I understand that being anxious, and worrying is a waste of time because I can't change a single thing when I worry... Worry is a time waster, it leads me down the roads of unbelief and lack of faith. Jesus reminds me often throughout scripture that God is trustworthy and He will take care of those who belong to him. This doesn't mean that I will have an easy life and everything will go my way, it simply means that God will take care of me in the good and the bad times and I can trust him no matter what.
(R) Respond: Lord, I pray that I won't worry so much. May I give me worry, and anxiety over to you so I don't waste my time worrying about things that I have no control over. May I use my time wisely by seeking first your kingdom and trusting you to care of my trivial needs, wants, and desires.
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I live in Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with 20 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.