The world is watching the church right now like never before. This is an opportunity for us to show a true joy. You can shut down the church house, but you never take away the joy that is found in Jesus Christ, because our joy is not dependent on our circumstance or what is happening around us. Our joy is found in the fact that Jesus Christ took the plight of man and made a way for us to be reunited with God once again. John 15:9-17.
One of the most valuable commodities in this world is hope, because it’s so rare. And the Bible promises you can find hope in Jesus Christ. In our vocabulary, we’ve reduced the meaning of hope to something that may or may not happen. We say, “I hope I’ll pass that test.” Or “I hope we’ll win the game.” You can ask someone, “Are you going to heaven when you die?” And their answer is, “I hope so!” We’ve diluted the word hope until it’s something you want to happen, but you aren’t certain that it will. But in the Bible, hope carries the meaning of absolute certainty.
What are we to think about those little boys who were killed by Herod? God delivered Jesus, Joseph, and Mary—why didn’t He protect the other children? I don’t know why God chooses to protect some and not others. As we learned earlier, God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts. However, I do believe these little boys will occupy a special place in heaven. Stephen is often called the first Christian martyr, but these little boys were actually the first Christian martyrs. They were the first to shed their blood for the One who would later shed His blood for them. I believe God the Father welcomed them into heaven and gave them the special prominence only reserved for His martyrs.
I can pick up this glove and tell it to pick up this Bible, and it can’t do it. I can fuss at it and even demonstrate how to do it, but it still can’t do it. But when I put my hand in it, that’s when it becomes alive and can do anything I do. That’s a simple but profound picture of the Christian life. Galatians 2:20 says, “Not I but Christ lives in me.” Jesus can give you the strength to do anything. God says to love your enemies, and we don’t have the strength to do it, but Christ in you can love your enemies. God tell us to give thanks in all things, but we don’t have the strength to do it, but Christ in you can do it. He is my strength and I can do all things through Christ!
If the corpse of Jesus was stolen and hidden, either His enemies did it, or His friends did it. If His enemies took the body, when the message of the resurrection started spreading, all they had to do was produce the body and the movement would have died quickly and quietly. And suppose for argument’s sake, that the disciples took the body of Jesus, and then they made up the legend of the resurrection. If they were deceitful enough to do that, surely they would have had a selfish motive leading to some personal benefit for them. So what did the disciples receive? History tells us all of them were abused and tortured; and except for John, they all died by execution. Surely, one or more of them would have recanted their story in the face of the death–but all of them went to their deaths with unshakable profession that Jesus rose from the dead. Would dishonest men be willing to die for a lie?
If I were to ask you what you were doing last year, you may try to remember. At least that would be a valid question, because you were doing something a year ago. But if I asked you what you were doing a thousand years ago, you couldn’t answer that. You weren’t doing anything because you didn’t exist!
Jesus was in existence long before the world came to be. We find His own supporting testimony of this when He said, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58)
The word “home” is a powerful word. It means so much more than a house or an apartment where you live; it’s a place dear to your heart. Have you ever lived somewhere or visited somewhere and you seemed “out of place?” In your heart you felt a longing and a tugging to return home? We call that homesickness. As you grow closer to Jesus through your relationship with Him, the more out of place you will feel in this world. You’ll find yourself becoming homesick for heaven, and the pleasures and allures of this world become less and less appetizing.
Jesus said we’ll be LIKE the angels, but He said we ARE the children of God. Does that mean we’ll all look and act like little children in heaven? Is God going to be operating a day care in heaven? No, it means we’ll have the same simple, carefree attitude of kids. When you were a kid, life was so simple it consisted of just getting up, getting dressed, and eating the food placed in front of you. Somebody else was handling all the details of your life. In the same way, I believe heaven will allow us to be kids again—God’s children. There will be no deadlines, no funerals, no hospitals, no wars, no arthritis, no Alzheimer’s. You won’t have to spend time worrying about your kids and grand kids—you’ll BE a kid! As Isaiah says, “the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)
There’s a standard everyone uses to determine what is truth or error and your basis for truth is either man’s wisdom or God’s Word. The Bible calls man’s wisdom the “wisdom of this world.” Some people have chosen to reject the Bible as an outdated book of fairy tales and myths. They have designated their source of authority to be what some other person has said or written, or in most cases, their source of authority is their own intelligence.
Zacchaeus had an itch in his heart all his wealth couldn’t scratch. He probably didn’t even know what he needed. He just knew he desperately needed something. When he heard Jesus was in town, he was hoping Jesus might have the solution to his problem. He didn’t know it, but he was looking for God.
At the beginning of His ministry, large multitudes crowded around Jesus because they were amazed by His miracles and wisdom. After all, when you see that a man can feed five thousand people with five biscuits and two sardines, you follow Him because He’s your fast food source. When you learn He can heal any disease, you’ve got your own walking, talking HMO. And teaching? Why go to college, when you can go out into a beautiful grassy field and listen to this Rabbi? But Jesus didn’t come to heal, teach, or to do miracles. He came to die.
To me this is one of the saddest stories in the Bible. Jesus didn’t ask everyone He met to follow Him. He said that to the original twelve disciples–and He invited the Rich Young Ruler to follow Him. Who knows what might have been? He could have become the 13th disciple. If he had only followed Jesus today, we might be studying the gospel according to Benjamin! There was only one thing he lacked, but it was a big obstacle. Would you buy a car if the salesman said, “It’s a good car, only one thing is missing–the engine.” What is the one thing in your life that may be preventing you from following Jesus? “The saddest words of tongue or pen are these four words: What might have been?”
Too many people today are living in denial. They don’t want to admit their need because they look around and they can usually find someone worse than themselves. Because we live in a spiritual leper colony called America, there are plenty of chances to think, “I’m not so bad. I’ve never robbed a bank, I’ve never murdered anyone. I’m not a drug pusher or a child molester. In fact, I’m better than many of those hypocrites who go to church!”
Before Jesus can help you, friend, you must quit fooling yourself and admit you have a problem, but that’s not enough, you must cry out to Jesus. All the twelve-step programs agree the first step for recovery is to admit your problem. But that’s not enough, you must seek help. Before you can have a relationship with Jesus you must say, “I am a rotten sinner! Jesus, have mercy on me! Help me Jesus!
There is a great deal of talk these days in America about what the true God is really like. People think all the gods of all the religions are the same. We need to SHOW them the God of the Bible is a God of love, a God of mercy, and a God of kindness. He is a God who loves people so much that He sent His one and only Son into this world to suffer and die in agony on the cross so our sins could be forgiven. That’s the kind of loving God we need to show this world.
When you are carrying the cross of Jesus, you have already died to self. You can’t scare a dead man. When you’re carrying the cross, it’s a liberating experience because you don’t have to be afraid of anybody or anything…The Bible says, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” (I John 4:18) That’s why Jesus wasn’t afraid, because He possessed a perfect love for us. And we don’t have to be afraid because of His perfect love for us. Jesus laughed in the face of the fear of death. When you are carrying the cross, you can laugh at any other threat, too.
There is a difference between being “childish” and “childlike.” The Bible warns us many times about the dangers of spiritual immaturity, but there are some wonderful qualities in children that are necessary for us to enter God’s Kingdom. If you don’t reflect these qualities, you’ll never see it. There are three simple qualities describing a childlike spirit: a sense of awe and wonder, simple trust and a spirit of forgiveness.
You can choose to enter heaven’s door today. Jesus said it’s a narrow door. Think about that for a minute. It’s so narrow only one person can walk through it at one time. In other words, you can’t walk through heaven’s door holding your daddy’s hand, or your mother’s hand. I thank God my parents told me about Jesus, but when it came time for me to give Him my life, I walked through that door all by myself. Some of you think because your grandfather was a preacher or your mother was a godly saint that you can walk through with them–but you can’t. The narrow door to heaven says, “One person at a time, please.”
Fire will only keep burning as long as it has fuel and oxygen, but when it runs out of either, it will go out. Now, God is eternal, but the power He provides us is not something we can just take for granted as always being there. We must tend the fire in order to keep it burning. There’s a great lesson we can learn from the fire on the altar of the temple. God gave these instructions in Leviticus 6:12: “The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire.”
One common thread running through these miracles in Luke 9 was that everyone was at the Point of Total Desperation. They were all “POTD.” Do you need God’s power? Do you want to see a miracle in your life? Then you’ve got to be “POTD” as well. What do you do when you get to the end of your rope? What do you do when your rope breaks?
God knows suffering makes us stronger, and it makes us depend on God. I’ve often said the name of God’s college is the University of Affliction, and although the tuition is steep, the classes and the degrees we receive are priceless. Some of you are enrolled right now in the University of Affliction.
I think we can make the mistake of trying to determine whether our problems are demon-induced or not. Remember, we saw the Bible never uses the term “demon possession.” We are all demonized in different ways. Any obsession, addiction, or impure habit is a demonic influence that must be addressed but you must admit it–name it–before you can deal with it. You can’t just shift the blame to some “demon,” because we are all ultimately responsible for all of our actions and reactions, but admitting your problem, naming the demon, is your first step toward wholeness with Jesus.
Just as the Roman centurion got his authority from a higher power, he recognized Jesus had access to higher authority–His Father in heaven. God has set up a clearly defined system of authority in our world. When God’s chain of authority is followed, there is peace. When God’s chain of authority is ignored, chaos and misery ensue.
I have seen it happen hundreds of times. People can be going along fine in life until adversity suddenly strikes–and they find they are knocked off their feet and their foundation crumbles. This just serves to show them “something is missing.” Forget the popular TV show–we are all survivors! You are wise if you will allow that collapse to motivate you to rebuild your life upon the foundation of the rock of Jesus, because there will be more storms. What might have been the worst experience of your life actually becomes the experience leading to a new and better life for you.
One of the most important disciplines of the Christian Life is the discipline of stewardship. Some of you in the investment business work very hard to understand our local and national economy so you can make wise investments for yourselves and your clients. Nowadays, you also have to understand what we call the global economy. Sharpen your pencils, because God has His very own economy, and understanding God’s economy is absolutely essential if you want to be a good steward.
Before Levi started following Jesus, his life revolved around his job. He was going to make a boatload of money because he was fixed for life in this lucrative occupation. When Jesus called him, he had to choose whether his life would revolve around making money or around pleasing and obeying Jesus. Let me ask you today: What or who is at the center of your life?
There are many needy people around us. Some need housing, others need food, and others need clothing. We see poor people who need money. We see sick people who need health. We see confused people who need peace of mind. So many needs surround us, we often feel overwhelmed. But the greatest need everyone possesses is the need for forgiveness. That’s why the very best thing you can do for your friends is to bring them to Jesus, because He is the only one who can do anything about their greatest need.
In the Bible, leprosy is often used as a symbol for sin. While none of us have the disease of leprosy, we have been afflicted with a terrible malady worse than leprosy–a sin sickness. I believe there is a remarkable parallel between leprosy and sin. Four ways in which leprosy and sin are alike.
Some people wonder why Jesus even allowed the old devil to tempt Him. Didn’t Jesus have power and authority to banish Satan from His presence? I believe He did. Just as Jesus cast out a thousand demons from one man, I think Jesus could have kicked Satan right out of the desert too. Why then, did He endure this temptation? I believe He did it to teach us how to overcome temptation. Just as He refused to call on His Divine Authority to turn the stones into bread, I believe He refused to zap Satan. Instead He met him and defeated him with exactly the same resources we have available today: The Power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. That’s why Jesus quoted three verses from Deuteronomy. To show us how to do it.
Throughout your life, you will find problems are lined up like cars at a tollbooth. When you get rid of one problem, and the gate falls down on an unpleasant episode of your life. You breathe a sigh of relief and then—ding! There’s another problem (and others are lined up behind that one). The Christian life isn’t devoid of problems but God gives us strength to cope with them.
Luke’s description of the birth of Jesus is far more detailed than any other gospel writer. In order to help us grasp the fullest significance of who Jesus Christ was and what He accomplished, Luke takes us back to the very beginning of Jesus’ life. He describes more fully than any other gospel writer the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth and the announcement of Jesus’ birth, then the birth of John and the birth of Jesus. By describing the origin of John and the origin of Jesus side by side he shows how their destinies dovetail in God’s plan, but also how Jesus is vastly superior to his forerunner.
If at the end of this message you do not believe that the Bible is anything more than a collection of myths and legends, then you really don’t have any hope for the future, because this business about heaven could be just a myth. If however, you believe, as I do, that this Bible is the totally inspired Word of God–and is totally without error–then I expect to see you continue to base your entire life on what we find in its pages. And you can be certain that your hope of heaven is sure!
Wherever God has something genuine, the devil has his cheap imitation. Satan takes God’s pure agape love and offers a cheap imitation to the world. A lot of people think that they are in love or they think they know what love is and it’s just a cheap imitation of the real thing. Agape love is never demanding, but perverted love is always dominating and demanding and controlling.
The very first promise in the Bible is found in Genesis 2:17 where God said to Adam and Eve “Eat of all the trees in the Garden that you want to but don’t eat of this tree, and the day that you eat of this tree, I promise you shall surely die!” That’s the first promise and that’s the promise that got us into trouble. Sin! But the last promise of the Bible is Jesus said, “I am coming soon.”
Some people have the weirdest ideas about Satan. They really Satan is some guy in red longjohns down in Hell with a pitchfork and a whip cracking a whip over people shoveling coals into some furnace. The Bible says Jesus, said Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels but he is not there yet. The Bible calls Satan, “The Prince of the Power of this Air.” Jesus calls him, “The God of this world.” The Bible says he roams about seeking whom he may devour. You see that’s where he is right now but the time is going to come when he is going to be cast out of his access to heaven.
Somebody needs to tell Indiana Jones he will never find the Ark of the Covenant, because it is in heaven. How did it get there? I don’t know but the Bible says there it is! The beautiful thing about the temple is that this temple in heaven is the dwelling place of the power of God but the glorious news about the temple is this all of this is in the future. The temple John measured at the beginning of the book is going to be in Jerusalem; the temple we see at the end of this chapter is in heaven but right now there is a temple of God.
Do any of you have a hobby where you create things? Maybe you do a little woodworking in your shop. And when somebody asks why, you say, “I just enjoy doing it.” It’s an awesome thought, but do you know why God created this planet? It just gave him pleasure. An angel said, “God, why did you create earth? Why did you create the heavens? Why did you create all of those people in Tyler, Texas?” God said, “It just gives me pleasure to do it. I enjoy the fellowship and the praise these, my creatures, give to me.” I’ll tell you what. When we get to heaven, we are going to know who is boss and who is worthy of praise!
When you see Jesus what do you think he will look like? Most of us have in our mind what we think Jesus looked like when he ministered for three years. Then we have in our mind what he looked like in his post-resurrection appearance when they recognized him but sometimes they didn’t, how he could appear through walls. But the description in the Bible is not his earthly appearance, nor his post-resurrection appearance it is his post-ascension appearance, after he went back to heaven where he is right now. We’re going to see what he looks like.