From Psalm 85
If you want to know what’s filling a person’s heart listen to what they talk about. If it’s a certain music filling their heart, they’ll talk about it. If it’s a hobby like golf or horseshoes they’ll talk about it. If it’s the latest television series, they’ll talk about it. If their heart is full of Jesus, they’ll talk about Him. I don’t mean that’s all you’ll talk about—but if you never or seldom speak about Jesus, you need to check your heart.
Those who know God intimately have come to see that He often allows us to face adversity in order to conform us to the image of Christ. God determined from the beginning that we should be shaped into the image of His Son. Part of this plan involves the painful removal of those things in our lives that don’t reflect this image.
I can stand up here and say anything, but that doesn’t make it true. I can say, “I’m a tree. I’m a flowering pear tree.” And if I insisted on saying that you’d say, “No, you’re not a flowering tree. You’re a blooming idiot.” The reason I’m not a tree is that I don’t have the inner nature of a tree. A person can say, “I’m a Christian.” But saying doesn’t make it so unless they have had their hearts changed by Jesus.
The manger is empty so we can be filled with the truth about God. The cross is empty so we can be filled with forgiveness. And the tomb is empty so we can be filled with hope. To put it another way, the manger, the cross, and the tomb are all empty so that Heaven can be filled with people who trust Jesus.
We live in a culture where the world, the devil and the flesh are doing everything possible to draw us away from Jesus. We can be drawn in two different directions. Have you ever been at the ocean and you’re in the surf near the shore? The waves are pulling you toward shore and the undertow is pulling you in the other direction. On the surface, there is so much in our culture trying to distract you and draw you away from Jesus.
We live in a hungry world. Every creature has an open mouth wanting to be fed. From the baby bird in the nest to the eagle soaring in the sky; from the minnow in the creek to the whale in the ocean; from the mouse nibbling on a crumb to the mighty elephant in jungle; every creature has to be fed. In fact, most creatures in the animal world devote most of their lives to finding food. But physical food only satisfies us temporarily.
When the disciples were caught in the storm at sea, they couldn’t see Jesus, but the good news was that Jesus could see the disciples. When you’re going through a dark struggle, you may look around and ask, “God where are you?” You may not think you can see God, but you can be certain that God sees you and He cares for you.
In the miracle of the fishes and loaves, there were five thousand men, plus women and children. All of them had been following Jesus all day. It was late and they were tired and hungry. On the surface, you would think their main problem was a lack of food. But that was just the surface problem; there was a deeper spiritual problem.
There’s a great deal of misunderstanding of what eternal life is. Many of us grew up on the good old King James Version which often translated it “everlasting life.” So it’s easy to get the idea that eternal life is talking about a length of existence. Eternal life really is a quality of life.
I’m always looking for ways to help you understand how the Holy Spirit lives in you. I usually drink coffee in the morning, but a few weeks ago, I was in a restaurant for breakfast and I ordered a cup of hot tea. The server brought a cup of hot water with a tea bag on the saucer beside the cup. I unwrapped the tea bag and started dipping it into the hot water. In that moment, the power of that tea was infused into the water and it changed it. Within a few minutes, the plain, tasteless water was transformed into something totally different. It looked, smelled and tasted differently. Just having the tea bag beside the cup of water didn’t change anything. It was only when it was in the water that it infused it. I was reminded that I am totally incapable of reproducing the life of Jesus in my personality. In order to live the Christian life, His life and power has to be infused into my personality. When you put a tea bag in hot water, you don’t even call it water any more. You call it tea.
Are you willing to leave your comfort zone to trust God completely? God didn’t save you to make your comfortable, but you make you obedient. You’ll never go on a mission trip is you’re not willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never start tithing until you are willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never start travailing in prayer until you are willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never vocally share your faith with others until you’re willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never volunteer to serve the Lord if you aren’t willing to leave your comfort zone.
We are surrounded by people who are living miserable lives. They have no peace, no joy, and no hope of life getting any better. It’s our job to tell them, “You know, I used to be like that, but what a wonderful change in my life has occurred since Jesus came into my heart.” If you’ve been changed, you’ll want to share your story.
Sometimes we fall into the same trap of thinking that worship is about a place, practice, or posture. It is not. It’s about the Lord. We call this the Worship Center, but there’s nothing more holy or sacred about this place than your prayer closet where you worship the Lord all alone. Or there’s nothing more sacred about this place you’re your kitchen table where you have family devotions. My automobile is a worship center, because every Sunday morning on my way here I am singing praises to God.
Whether you are looking for satisfaction in possessions, pleasure, prestige, or power–you will never be satisfied. All those pursuits are like the liquid water Jesus spoke about: You can drink it and feel refreshed momentarily but you will still get thirsty again. But He offers something so radical and powerful that once you experience it, you will find absolute and total satisfaction.
To borrow some baseball lingo, the Samaritan woman wasn’t close to being in the ballpark of the Kingdom of God. She was socially, racially, and morally way off base. But Jesus knocked it out of the park by telling her about living water. And for the Samaritan woman, it was a whole new ball game.
The Pharisees not only had to keep the laws of the Torah, but also obey all the laws written to explain the laws of the Torah. For instance, it was determined that tying a knot on the Sabbath constituted work. But there was an exception. A woman could tie a sash around her waist to remain modest. So this exception led to a loophole. If a man needed to get water from the well on a Sabbath and the bucket wasn’t tied to the rope, he couldn’t tie the rope; that was work. But he could tie one end of a woman’s sash to the rope and the other end to the bucket. That’s a loophole.
No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself. Guest speaker O.S. Hawkins.
We don’t want to follow the example of these lousy best men. We want to be like John the Baptist. We are friends of the groom, and we should commit our lives to making the bridegroom famous. Remember it’s not about me and it’s not about you—it’s all about Jesus. And when you come to understand who you are in relationship with Jesus, all your other relationships will be healthier.
Once we hear the truth about the good news of God’s forgiveness, it is like someone turning on a light in our soul. We’ve all seen the cartoons where a light bulb flashes on above a character’s head when they have an idea. That’s what happens when we receive the truth about Jesus. It’s like walking out of the darkness into the light. Suddenly, we can see everything clearly. Salvation occurs when Jesus moves us from the darkness into His glorious light.
The reason the Bible is such a long book is because God never gave up on us. It is the story of His repeated efforts to restore this loving relationship that our sin had broken. Otherwise the Bible could have been a short book. God created human beings because He wanted to love them. They didn’t love Him back. The end. But instead He kept trying and wouldn’t give up—and He won’t give up on you.
Here is one of the best examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament. The Israelites, who had a proven track record of rebellion, unbelief, and nagging didn’t deserve a cure for the snake bites. But because it is God’s nature, God graciously provided a means for healing. He had Moses make a brass snake and put it on a pole. Then God said, “Whoever looks at the serpent will be healed.”
Jesus cleaned house. He had the right to do it. It was the right of ownership. It was His Father’s house. If I come over to your house and it’s dirty, I’m not going to start cleaning it up. But I see something in my house that needs cleaning up I will take care of it as soon as my wife tells me to!
I like the fact that this was a quiet miracle. Because miracles don’t have to be loud to be miracles. There was no word of command, no hysterical shouting, no laying on of hands, or the binding of Satan. There was no hocus-pocus or mumbo jumbo. Jesus didn’t even touch the water. The water simply became wine.
John the Baptist was a curious looking preacher. His attire was unusual, too. There was much about him that created curiosity as well. He had never cut his hair or beard. He wore a camel hair coat with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild honey. Matthew and Mark tell us that huge crowds flocked out into the desert to hear him. Yet John the Baptist was so humble even he didn’t realize the full extent of how God was using him as the forerunner of the Messiah.
Everyone you meet this week is in one of three positions regarding the light. Some are walking in the light as He is in the light. Those folks know the Lord. Some you meet aren’t walking IN the light, but they are walking TOWARD the light. They are interested in knowing the truth about Jesus. Your job is to lovingly point them to Jesus. But then you are going to meet some people who have turned their backs and are walking away from the light. And they are at risk of dying without ever finding the truth about salvation.
When it comes to praise, we can’t just THINK praiseworthy thoughts about God, we must express these thoughts with our lips—it must be verbal and vocal. It’s not enough to have a feeling of gratitude to God; you don’t complete the praise requirement until it is sung or spoken. An inner attitude of gratitude is the root of praise, but it doesn’t become praise it until it becomes the fruit of praise expressed by our lips.
Is death the end and there is no afterlife as Dr. Stephen Hawking claimed? Or as Dr. Billy Graham said, is there an afterlife where we may spend eternity with God in a place called heaven? Both of them cannot be correct. And the most important decision in your short life is to decide which position is correct.
God put us in this world to deliver his message to others. And we do this by putting our faith to work. Hospitality, prison ministry, and marriage may seem to be three random topics. But they all show us how believers relate to others. First, our relationship to strangers should be one of hospitality. Second, our relationship with prisoners and those mistreated should be one of compassion and caring. And third, our relationship in marriage should be one of commitment and purity.
Bitterness is created when you harbor a hurt in your heart. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Bitterness writes down every single slight and offense. Bitterness is like an iceberg. You can only see the cold top of an iceberg, but most of it is submerged Bitterness exists when you have a cold heart toward someone, yet most of the resentment is still below the surface.
Have you ever had this experience? You’re reading along in the Bible, and you are studying a passage of scripture you’ve read many times before. And suddenly, you see truth in that passage you had never experienced before. That has happened to me hundreds of times. Do you know what is happening? God is breathing life into His Word in your presence.
Stephen tells us Moses was forty years old when he made a momentous decision. He could continue to live in palace and enjoy all fringe benefits of being the grandson of the Pharaoh but he decided to turn his back on the trappings of royalty and identify with the plight of the Hebrew slaves. He knew that choice would cause him to suffer alongside them.
It wasn’t so much how Jacob started, but how he finished the race. Maybe you’ve left a trail of mistakes behind you as well. But God can change your life without changing your name. There’s still time to grab hold of His grace and let him turn you from a cheater to someone who is a blessing to others.
Every relationship you have here with Believers will be deepened and enhanced in Heaven. Yes, you will know your loved ones who are in heaven. You will maintain your distinct identity. People want to know, “How old will I be in heaven?” Ready for the answer? You will be the perfect age. And you will know people of faith in Heaven that you’ve never met before. You’ll get to ask David how tall Goliath really was. You can ask Jonah what it was like to sleep on a foam blubber mattress for three nights. You can ask Ruth to tell you her love story with Boaz.
Let’s face it. God must have an interesting sense of humor. He chose a couple of super seniors to begin his chosen nation. We know God laughs because Psalms 2 says that he who sits enthroned in the heavens laughs. If we had been making that plan we would have chosen a couple of young twenty-something’s.
God has placed us in a wicked and corrupt culture and we are to do what Noah did. We don’t need to build an ark, because we already have one. Jesus is our ark who will carry us safely through the waters of God’s final judgment. So our job is to warn the people around us that there is going to be a final judgment against sin. And don’t be surprised if people mock you the same way they mocked Noah.
God didn’t primarily save us to serve Him. He has an innumerable company of angels to serve Him. He created us to have fellowship with Him. God doesn’t want you to think of Him as some impersonal force on the backside of the universe who doesn’t care about your life. He wants you to know Him intimately as a loving Father who cares about the details of your life. He wants you to walk with Him every day.
Scientists have devoted centuries of studies trying to figure out HOW the universe was created. But the Bible isn’t so concerned with HOW it happened, it’s more about WHY God created the universe. Scientists aren’t even interested in the “why,” they just want to know the “how.” God created the heavens and the earth. Then He created plants and animals. And finally, His ultimate creation was a man and woman. If you can understand why God made them, then you can understand why God made you—it’s the same reason.
What’s the difference between a deserter and a disciple? It’s the difference between a son and a pig. A son may wander away from his father, but he will always be the child of his father and have his nature. Sons return, but pigs love the mud too much to leave. Believers sin, but we feel filthy when we sin. A make-believer can wallow in sin like a pig in mud and never feel bad.
We used to live in a world that was totally literal. You had literal friends and literal experiences. But today we live in a virtual world. You can have virtual friends and you can have virtual experiences. Some people today are looking for a virtual church experience but the writer of Hebrews stresses that we need to have a literal experience of gathering with other believers.
Let me give you three words to describe our culture without Christ. They are darkened, they are depraved, and they are doomed without Christ. There are fifteen blocks in Hollywood that feature 2,600 stars listing the names of people our culture calls stars. But in God’s accounting, the real stars are His children who allow the light of the word of God to shine through their lives.
Our founders believed in absolute moral truth. They believed there is a basis of right and wrong. Truth is not relative. Truth isn’t what the King or the British Parliament decreed. The Bible teaches there is a God-given sense of right and wrong placed in every human heart: A conscience. This truth is self-evident.
Shadows are real, but they are dead. If I walked up to you to greet you and you tried to shake hands with my shadow I would infer one of two things: A) that you are probably crazy, or B) you like my shadow more than you like me. How the heart of Jesus must have been broken when some many of the Jewish people loved the shadow of legalism more that the substance of the Son of the Living God.
We see the important role that blood atonement plays in the Old Testament and the New Testament. This trail of blood redemption begins in the first pages of the Bible and goes all the way to the last pages of Revelation. As we trace this scarlet thread through the pages of scripture we will keep circling back to the key verse that speaks about the importance of the shedding of blood.
Some of you are on a life-long guilt trip, and that’s one trip you should cancel. Too many Christians lose their joy and effectiveness because they spend all their time looking in the rear-view mirror, regretting all their past mistakes. The reason that rearview mirror is so small and that windshield in front is so large is because where you’ve been isn’t nearly as important as where you’re going!
Have you ever told a lie? The first time you told a lie, you felt badly about it. But the next time you told it, the lie came a little easier. We have all known people who were so good at lying that they can look you right in the eye and lie without any sign of moral compunction or remorse. They have convinced themselves that telling a little lie is actually not so bad.
Thank God we are no longer under the Old Covenant. God has given us a new covenant that is New and Improved. The faith of the Bible is all about newness. We read about it in a new Testament; we enter through a new birth; we become a new creation; we receive a new name; and one day we’ll live in a new heaven and a new earth. And on the last page of our Bible Jesus says, “Behold, I make ALL things new!”
It is all seen in God’s affinity for the number three. In the Bible, numbers mean something. Three is the number of God. Of course, we know there is one God but He reveals Himself through His triune nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are created in God’s image in that we are a tri-unity as well. We are body, soul, and spirit. We are one person, but like the tabernacle pattern, we are comprised of three elements. This triune theme is repeated throughout God’s creation.
In 2007, Discovery Channel aired a show called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” claiming Jesus’ tomb had been found. One of the most implausible things about the claims of this show is that IF Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a son, what would be the odds of them naming him after the betrayer of Jesus, Judas? That would be as likely as a couple Holocaust survivors naming their son Adolph Hitler Goldberg. But on this Easter, let’s entertain the possibility that they found the bones of Jesus. What would it mean?
How were people saved in the Old Testament? Not by keeping the law. They were saved the same way we are, by faith. They had faith in God’s plan for redemption. We know God’s plan for redemption is named Jesus. They couldn’t see Jesus clearly yet, but they had faith that God would deliver His people and forgive their sins. They had faith that God had a better priest, a better bridge, and His name was Jesus.
Melchizedek was unusual because he was both a priest and a king. Later, when Israel had a king, the king could never be a priest, and a priest could never be a king. They came from two separate tribes. But Melchizedek was both. That’s why he is a great picture of Jesus. His name represented both righteousness and peace. And Jesus is the source of our righteousness and peace.
Loving your neighbor as you love yourself simply means you see yourself as God sees you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we are all made with flaws. But God loves us in spite of our imperfections. You and I are trophies of His grace. When you see yourself as a sinner saved by grace, but deeply loved by God, you are free to love others.
I not only believe in the security of the believer, but I believe in the insecurity of the unbeliever. There might be people whose names are on a church roll but they haven’t darkened the doors of a church in decades. If they are hiding behind a “once saved always saved” belief, they are deceiving themselves.