The Resurrection, 25 April 2021

The Resurrection
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 12:18-27

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Someday all of the dead will be resurrected…are you ready?

Life is filled with questions and mysteries. How long will the COVID-19 last? Will the Cleveland Browns or Detroit Lions ever win a Super Bowl? What came first, the chicken or the egg? Is breakfast cereal soup?

Perhaps the greatest question of all-time is, “What happens after you die?” Religions and philosophers have an abundance of answers, but even the Bible leaves plenty of mystery.

This morning we’re talking about resurrection. No, not
the Resurrection that we celebrated three weeks ago. We’re actually going to look at your resurrection. I know what you’re thinking…I’m not dead…yet! There’s a good chance that someday you will die…and then what? In our text for today, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what’s on the other side of the grave and why it matters.

I often stress the importance of context. We’re in the middle of the book of Mark, the shortest of the four gospels—or good news—that tell us about Jesus. He has predicted his own death and the religious leaders are getting riled up over Jesus’ popularity and audacious claims to be God. The Pharisees and Herodians failed to trap Jesus in last week’s text. Mark chapter twelve, verse eighteen says,

Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. (Mark 12:18)

The Pharisees get a lot of attention in the Bible, but the Sadducees were a different group of religious leaders. The high priests Caiaphas and Annas were first-century Sadducees. They only believed in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible and there is no mention of the resurrection in those books of Moses. As Mark plainly states, they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, leading some people to conclude without hope of the resurrection, were “sad, you see.” They viewed the resurrection as a new, dangerous idea that depended upon dubious books like Daniel and groups like the Pharisees.

To better understand, listen to these words from N.T. Wright:

…the Sadducees saw belief in resurrection as politically risky. It had become popular particularly during the revolutionary movements of the second century BC, as a way of affirming that the martyrs had a glorious future awaiting them, not immediately after death, but in the eventual resurrection when they would be given new bodies. This belief was based on the fundamental idea of God as the maker, and therefore the remaker, of the world. People who believe that God is going to recreate the whole world, including Israel, and even including their own dead bodies, are much more likely to do daring and risky things. Wealthy ruling classes prefer people not to think thoughts like that.

Dr. Luke tells us in the book of Acts:

(The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.) (Acts 23:8)

Now they setup their question.

“Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. (Mark 12:19)

This is a fascinating instruction given by Moses. Obviously, it’s not something we follow today, nor are we obligated to do so since we are no longer under the 613 laws of Moses, the Mosaic Law. This particular command would certainly be practical a culture where women rarely earned income and Social Security did not exist. What’s a widow to do with her kids?

Genesis 38:8 and Deuteronomy 25:5-10 describe a scenario in which a man dies and his brother marries the widow. But now they offer an absurd scenario, seemingly in an attempt to discredit Jesus and other Jews who believed in the afterlife. You might call them skeptics.

Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. (Mark 12:20-22)

At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” (Mark 12:23)

Do you see how they were trying to twist the truth? Maybe they were even giggling. They put Jesus in the middle of a theological controversy between the Sadducees and Pharisees (who believed in the resurrection).

Perhaps you’ve had someone challenge your faith with a question like, “Can God create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it? (the answer is no because He cannot make a contradiction).

You can’t trick Jesus!

Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? (Mark 12:24)

Before Jesus addresses their question, he addresses their ignorance. They didn’t understand the power of God, denying the supernatural world of spirits and angels. They also didn’t understand the Scriptures. They refused to believe anything they couldn’t see.

This is true of many today, deists who believe in a Creator, they believe in God, but they deny miracles or supernatural activity today. Famous deists include Benjamin Franklin, Neil Armstrong, John Adams, Thomas Edison, Victor Hugo, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, and perhaps even Abraham Lincoln.

Our faith is not based upon merely a Creator, but the vital work of Jesus Christ the Messiah, dying for us, conquering sin and death, and the resurrection. The Sadducees ignored most of the Jewish Bible and failed to understand miracles and God’s power.

I don’t worship a weak God!
I don’t worship a dead God!
I don’t worship a God who is sleeping or distracted!

I worship a God who is omnipotent and all-powerful!
I worship a God who is omnipresent and with me always!
I worship a God who is omniscient and all-knowing!

Jesus answers their question—after asking one himself—and just like his response to the Pharisees in last week’s text, he amazes them. It’s mic-drop time!

When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. (Mark 12:25)

I love that phrase, “When the dead rise.” That’s hope! He doesn’t say, “If.” He’s very clear. The dead will rise!

Notice what Jesus doesn’t say. He doesn’t say we will become angels, get wings, fly, play the harp, or sit on a cloud. The only reference to angels is that the resurrected will not marry or be given in marriage.

He doesn’t say there won’t be married people in heaven.
He doesn’t say we will be without gender.

He never explicitly says spouses won’t be together in heaven or even that there won’t be marriage in heaven. He simply says there won’t be weddings in heaven. There won’t be new marriages.

If you examine the
purpose of marriage, one of the primary purposes is procreation. In the beginning, God made us male and female (Genesis 1:27) and said, “Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:22).” People in heaven are eternal and there will be no need to procreate in order to continue the family line as we do today (which was the point of the law about the widow marrying the brother).

Resurrection means transformation with a new and improved body.

Resurrection means a new, embodied life in the future…not necessarily at the moment of our death.

Resurrection is the reversal of death to enjoy life in the new heaven and the new earth. What God has created, He will recreate. That is good news indeed!

Again, there are many things we don’t know about the next life. Great mystery remains, but what is clear is the Sadducees were wrong. There will be a resurrection, and Jesus goes back to one of their five books—Exodus chapter 3—to show them.

Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Mark 12:26)

Here Jesus is confronting their ignorance of the Book of Moses. If God is the God of these deceased men, these men must continue to exist in some form. Their bodies may be dead, but not their souls.

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:27)

Jesus is trash-talking. Okay, maybe not exactly, but he clearly corrects them. “You are badly mistaken!”

But actions speak louder than words. I’m sure Jesus’ teaching was informative, but his own resurrection was transformative.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

I can’t overstate the importance of the resurrection—both Jesus’ resurrection and ours. Paul said it so plainly to the church in Corinth:

But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, NLT)

The Christian faith rises and falls on the resurrection. The reason I get so excited about Resurrection Sunday and the empty tomb is because without it, we have a dead faith. Literally.

The old hymn “He Lives” contains these lyrics:

I serve a risen Savior/He’s in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy/I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him/He’s always near

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

So What?

For thousands of years, there have been people who believed in God but not the supernatural. Deists have a reverence for a Creator, but no relationship. I can’t imagine such a life, such a faith. If this life is all there is, we might as well just eat, drink, and be merry. But if there is a resurrection…if there is a Judgment Day…if there is eternal life waiting for us on the other side of the grave, we must seize every opportunity to get ready and get others ready for the resurrection.

Are you ready?

Are you getting others ready?

I want us to be people of the resurrection, celebrating Christ’s resurrection and anticipating our own and that of our loved ones.

Life is filled with questions and mysteries, but one thing is clear: Jesus is alive!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

New in Christ, 22 September 2019

New in Christ
Series—A Love Supreme
Colossians 3:1-17

Series Big Idea:
Christ is above all others. This is a study on the book of Colossians.

Big Idea:
When we put to death our old, sinful selves, we can become new in Christ.

New. For decades, marketers have been using it to sell their products. Try the new and improved cleaner. Taste the new burger. Drive the new car. Buy the new fashion. As an entrepreneur, I love new. But not everyone is so wired.

Some people are afraid of the new. “It’s an oldie but a goodie,” they might say. But when it comes to humanity, we’ve all been tainted by sin. We’re all broken. We’re all in need of grace, forgiveness, and salvation. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, you can be made new in Christ.

We’re continuing our series A Love Supreme, looking at Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Chapter three is loaded with contrasts between old and new, before Christ and after Christ, sin and Spirit-filled, selfish living and christoformity.

I may have just introduced you to a new word:
christoformity. Jesus invites us to be like him, to be formed to the pattern of his life. That’s radically different than self-actualization. Perhaps you noticed that our “tolerant” culture accepts the most outlandish behavior and identities…except for godliness. We have become a culture of self-idolatry, not only doing but being whatever or whomever we feel like, with no regard for our Creator and His vision and will for our lives.

This is why Christianity is revolutionary. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people come to life! But first, they must die to themselves, their agendas, their preferences, their desires. The first two commandments in Exodus 20 are no other gods or idols. In our self-absorbed society, nothing could be more offensive.

For two chapters, Paul has been telling this early church community about the supremacy of Christ. He has written about their freedom from sin and religion. He begins chapter three by saying,

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Some Christians are so heavenly-minded, they’re no earthly good! But too many of us live so focused on this life—on this moment—that we fail to see what’s ahead. This is obviously in the presence of little children. They can’t see the next minute, much less the next day, week, or year.

College students work for four years—or more!—in their quest for a piece of paper.

Olympic athletes train just as long for a piece of medal. As they lose sleep, sweat, endure injuries, and bleed, they’re not focused on the moment. They are looking ahead to that moment when crowds will cheer them to what they hope will be victory.

In the same way, we must set our minds on things above. Sure, we need to eat and find shelter and care for our health, but our focus should not be the same as that of unbelievers. We are in Christ. We are citizens of heaven. We need to be training for eternity, preparing for the next life while fully living this one for the glory of God.

What do you have your heart set on? Maybe it’s a new car, a home improvement project, or a job. Perhaps you’re consumed with stress over your debt, worried about your health, or counting down the days until vacation. None of those are necessarily bad things, but they’re all so temporary. In a hundred years—maybe in one year—it will be forgotten. Paul’s not saying don’t see earthly things, but rather don’t seek earthly things.

I’m speaking to myself here, too. Don’t think for a moment I’ve mastered this! Unlike many in this world, we have many choices to make, especially about our time, maybe our money, possibly our energy. Most of us don’t spend all day hunting for food to eat. We’re blessed with wealth in this nation, but that wealth can so easily become an idol.

New in Christ means we are dead to our old selves.

Is anyone else convicted? We need to put to death our old self, our sinful nature. You can’t serve God and yourself at the same time. There’s no such thing as a part-time LORD, even on Sunday morning! We need to see things from His perspective before we make it all about us, our pleasures, our desires, our will. It’s not about empty religion or self-righteousness, either. We are to be with Christ.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. (Colossians 3:5-7)

I’m glad no one in here has ever dealt with any of these sins! To put these to death means we should desire them as much as a dead person! It doesn’t say avoid them or manage them or not to play with them too often. Paul says put to death the earthly nature. Kill them!

There is no room for sexual immorality in the life of Christ-follower. Period. That means sexual activity is sacred and reserved for the marriage covenant, husband and wife. If you don’t believe me, there’s twenty more mentions of sexual immorality in the New Testament. Google it!

Impurity. That’s an umbrella term. The funny thing is, most of us know when we encounter something that is impure, whether it is entertainment, conversation, materialism, or even workaholism. Is your mind pure? Are your relationships pure? Are your words pure?

What about lust? Evil desires? Greed? Put it to death! You
used to be into that stuff, but you’re new in Christ.

New in Christ means we are dead to our old sins.

We can kill our sins or our sins will kill us! Literally. All sin leads to death, ultimately.

There are two reactions we can have toward our sin:

  1. 1. We can struggle and try to put it to death.
  2. 2. We can rationalize it and embrace it. I urge you to skip this option! All sin leads to death, ultimately.

If you are struggling with your sin, you’re not alone. This is why we need one another. I think it’s why Jesus’ half-brother said,

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

We can’t run this race alone. We need to help one another. Pray for one another. Encourage one another. We need to put to death our old sins, but that may take a lifetime to be fully realized. The struggle is real. Paul himself said,

…the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19)

Admitting and confessing our sins, Celebrate Recovery, small groups, one-on-one relationships, scripture memorization, Christian counseling, and quality time with God are all useful in helping us stay on the path of godliness. Spiritual practices—sometimes called spiritual disciplines—are proactive steps we can all take to grow closer to God. One of my favorite books on the subject is John Ortberg’s
The Life You’ve Always Wanted. He has some great insights on prayer, confession, celebration, servanthood, scripture, and even suffering.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. (Colossians 3:5-7)

The wrath of God is coming, family. Paul’s saying put sin to death. You used to do those things.

Maybe you’ve mastered this list of sins. You’re not off the hook!

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:8-11)

The invitation to be new in Christ is available to everyone…Jews and Gentiles, men and women, black and white, young and old…we’re all invited to follow Jesus…and die to our old selves and our old sins. Jesus transcends all barriers and unites us as one family.

New in Christ means we put on the new self, we become a new creation. What does that look like?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Let’s camp out here for a bit! It’s nearly impossible to simply stop a habit. You need to replace it with something else. A new focus is required. If I say, “Don’t think of a purple elephant,” how many of you are thinking of a purple elephant?

But if I said imagine the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen…

Paul provides a great list to describe the new self.


New in Christ means we are alive to love.

I really wish we had another word for “love” in the English language. It feels too soft and mushy. Some equate it with fondness or even lust. I love ice cream. I love the Mud Hens.

Scot McKnight offer what may be my favorite definition of biblical love:

Love is a rugged commitment to be with other people, to be for other people, and to grow together in Christ-likeness.

Love is a rugged commitment (covenant).
Love is a presence. It is “with.” It’s not expressed from afar.
Love is advocacy. It is “for.” It has their back.
Love is transformation. The goal is for us and them to become like Jesus.

I believe the only way you can truly love is to first experience love. You can’t give what you don’t have.

Have you experienced God’s love? Really? Put on love. Wear it. Share it. That’s what “the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” is all about. Love.

Is that what Christians are known for in our culture?

Paul understands the struggle to love, to obey. He wrote,

For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15b)

Again, the struggle is real, but if we allow Him access to our lives, if we truly surrender, if we pursue God, we will gradually become more like Jesus.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)


Is that what Christians are known for in our culture?

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)

I love the image of Christ dwelling among us. He is here! The Holy Spirit lives inside every man, woman and child who is new in Christ. This is why we gather, we teach, we admonish one another, we sing, and we are filled with gratitude. We’re no longer dead. We’re not taking our cues from the culture. We’ve put to death our sin, selfishness, and idolatry. We’re new in Christ, alive in Christ, followers of Christ, and we are becoming like Christ.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

Whatever you do, it’s all about Jesus.

You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory.

How does your work reflect this?
How do your relationships declare this?
How does your calendar and checkbook reveal this?
How does your heart communicate this?

So What?

Every Sunday, sermons are preached all around the world with the same basic message expressed in an old song by Mylon LeFevre: Love God, Hate Sin. If only it were that easy! Life is a struggle. Following Jesus is battle…because we have a real enemy who wants us to sin, who tempts us to disobey God, who literally is trying to kill us. But we’re not powerless.

We’ve been given the Holy Spirit. It comes when you invite Jesus to be your leader, your master, your LORD. In a word, it’s about surrender. That’s what this entire passage is about…dying to self and being made new in Christ. There are two parts. We must surrender and die…
and we must allow the power of God to be unleashed in our lives.

Our actions do not earn salvation, but they do follow salvation. Christoformity—and sanctification—occur as we die to ourselves and become like Jesus.

Perhaps today is the day for you to begin your journey with God. You can do so with a simple prayer:
Jesus, I give you my life. That’s it. Total surrender.

Maybe today is the day for you to put to death your sin. Kill it! No more white lies, pornography peeks, greedy thoughts, or toxic words. Total surrender.

You might think you’re a good Christian, avoiding sin, but are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Would others use words like compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, peaceful, and loving to describe you? Total surrender.

Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people come to life! It’s a process. It’s ongoing.

It involves our focus. It starts in the mind.
It involves our actions. It moves to our hands.

New in Christ. It’s not about trying harder. It begins with total surrender.

Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Matters of Life & Death, 12 November 2017

    Matters of Life & Death
    Psalm 90:9-12

    Big Idea: You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die…spiritually and otherwise.


    Death and taxes. It has been said they are the only sure things in this life. We’re not going to talk about taxes this morning. Given this is the Sunday after an election we’ve all heard enough about taxes and government and politicians! But we are talking about death. What a cheery subject! But here’s the truth:

    You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready?

    The odds are very good that someday you’re going to die. Yes, there will be a generation of followers of Jesus who will be alive when Christ returns, but billions of people have been waiting thousands of years for that day and have all…died! People ask me all the time if I think such and such event is a sign that Jesus will return in our lifetime and my answer is always the same: we’re one day closer than we were yesterday.

    If we set aside the statistically unlikely possibility we will be living when Christ returns, we must face the reality we will someday die. Perhaps the most difficult thing is we don’t know when. We all have an unknown expiration date!

    The media reminds us constantly how our death could come suddenly. We might die of old age like my dear friend Harold whose life we celebrated yesterday, but we could die this morning unexpectedly as dozens did last Sunday morning in Texas. Jesus told a fantastic parable in Luke 12:

    And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ (Luke 12:16-17)

    “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ (Luke 12:18-19)

    But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:20)

    Today is the first day of the rest of your life…but it could also be the last day of your life!

    We’re talking today about matters of life and death. I promise there is some encouragement at the end, but it’s so important we are prepared to die. Most of you are aware of the large number of funerals we’ve already done this year, some very unexpected. Some were ready, others not so much.

    Here’s a rather poignant photo taken not long ago with two of our sisters who are now in the presence of Almighty God.

    All our days pass away under your wrath;
    we finish our years with a moan.
    Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
    yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
    If only we knew the power of your anger!
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
    Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalms 90:9-12)

    You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.

    I know many of you are thinking, “I’m ready. I can’t wait to die and meet Jesus!” But what about those who are left behind? What will your loved ones experience as they grieve your loss? A blessed inheritance? Wishes for your funeral? Keepsake letters of wisdom? Or a mess?

    Financial Preparation

    When people think of preparing for their death, the first thing they usually think about is their…will. Do you have one? Or do you have a Revocable Living Trust, which has additional benefits? Are beneficiaries named on your assets? What about passwords? Is there a place people can access your login information for bank accounts, bills, and other websites? Is there a list of your assets, including insurance policies, properties, and investments? Proverbs says

    A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. (Proverbs 13:22)

    My dad died several years ago of Alzheimer’s. We had years to prepare…and mom did. His transition to the next life was smooth and easy.

    My mother-in-law also died several years ago…unexpectedly. When we took her to the hospital, we never imagined she would never come home. She had assets without beneficiaries, an under-water apartment, boxes of papers, and we spent needless time and money in probate court. It was a stressful mess.

    If you died today, will your loved ones be grateful or grumbling about your estate? I’m not merely saying leave millions of dollars behind for your kids. Even if your assets are modest, are they organized? Are your plans written in a legal document? Will your possessions easily transfer? I might add have you considered charities in your directives as well as individuals? Do you have a “cheat sheet” with passwords for those left behind to settle your affairs? Are your financial wishes clear?

    Medical Preparation

    Preparation for death does not always involve death itself. Do you have a living will? A health care power of attorney? Who will make medical decisions if you are unable to do so?

    Recently a member of our church family was knocking at death’s door. When his medical records were examined, he listed First Alliance Church as next of kin! Needless to say, the phone call to the church office was quite challenging. Fortunately, he survived and signed papers designating a person to make decisions should he again be incapacitated.

    It is imperative that you communicate with loved ones your wishes regarding medical care, especially in regard to prolonging your life. Don’t burden others with decisions you can make today.

    Are your medical wishes clear?

    Funeral Preparation

    Financial and medical preparation are vitally important. Communicating your desires need not be complicated, but must be done…before it’s too late

    What about your body? Do you want to be buried? Cremated? A funeral or memorial service? Who do you want to officiate your ceremony? Do you have special songs you want sung, a favorite Bible passage read? Some of us will have months to consider such decisions, but there may be no better time than the present to sketch out some ideas of how you want to be remembered. Are your funeral wishes clear?


    Obviously, none of us has complete control over how we will be remembered. Even if we plan the most memorable funeral, we will have no say in how others remember us once we’re gone.

    The most important thing you can pass down to your loved ones is not money or even a well-planned memorial service but your legacy, your story, your wisdom, your life. I’ve attended countless funerals and the legacy of the deceased is always apparent.

    What do you want on your tombstone? He worked hard and made a lot of money? She was devoted to her hobbies and loved to shop? They generously invested their lives in the next generation, mentoring and tutoring? Their life resembled Jesus and they helped others to know Christ, too?

    This is where things get personal in a hurry. Your legacy will not be established during your final breaths. It is established now, today, on an ordinary day, over the course of ordinary days, months, years, decades.

    While you’re at it, write notes to your loved ones. Videotape stories of your childhood. Preserve your memories for future generations.

    What will people say at your funeral?

    Are You Ready?

    We’ve talked about ensuring your loved ones are ready for your death, but what about you? You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready? I know many of you are, but many of you are not. You hope you’ll make it to heaven when you die, but are you sure? How can you know for sure?

    First, contrary to popular belief, we don’t get to heaven by being good…because God’s standard is perfection. If you’re not perfect, you’re out of luck! Going to church and giving money to the poor, and volunteering at Cherry Street Mission will not erase the sins you’ve committed…those sins we’ve all committed. The book of Romans is quite clear:

    for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

    You, me, Billy Graham, we’ve all sinned and fall short of God’s glory, His perfection. On our own, we deserve eternal punishment for our sins, our mistakes, our rebellion against the Almighty. But this is where Jesus comes in. People often take Romans 3:23 out of context, ignoring the fact it completes a sentence…and ends with a comma! Here’s the complete sentence.

    This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)

    What this means, simply, is Jesus came, lived, and died to pay for our sins. The next verses say

    God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)

    Some translations use this word “propitiation,” a word meaning appeasement or satisfaction. Throughout history, people have tried to appease God by offering gifts, sacrifices, and doing certain practices. The problem is God requires perfection, and Jesus lived a perfect life so his death on the cross was able to satisfy, appease, and wash away our sins.

    This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10, NIV)

    Another translation uses that word “propitiation.”

    In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10, ESV)

    The difference between Christianity and other religions is how they are spelled. Religion is spelled D-O…what we do to appease God. Our faith can be spelled D-O-N-E…it’s about what Jesus has done on the cross. You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it. You can only accept it as a gift of grace…unmerited favor.

    You may wonder what you have to do. Simple: surrender.

    We often look at Ephesians 2:8-9 because it’s such a powerful text:

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

    Grace is a gift…the greatest gift.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

    You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready?

    It my hope and prayer that you surrender your life to Jesus today if you haven’t already. He died for you. He gave everything he had to show God’s love. He wants to be your Savior—forgiving you of all of your sins—and LORD—becoming the leader of your life. It’s not that he wants to manipulate you, God simply loves you and wants what’s best for you. The Bible shows us how to live the most exciting, satisfying life imaginable…while preparing us for the next life.

    Death is morbid to many, yet for followers of Jesus it can be an anticipated reunion with our Creator.

    Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalms 116:15)

    Paul wrote to a church…

    For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

    So What?

    Get your finances in order: will, passwords

    Get your medical directives in order: living will, power of attorney

    Get your funeral wishes in order

    Get your spiritual life in order: do you know Jesus or just about him?

    A message like this can be a downer, but it need not be depressing. Actually, planning for your death can be a tremendous blessing to your loved ones and even to you. As followers of Jesus, we have hope that we truly are going to a better place. Jesus said

    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

    Heaven is where Jesus is, and those who know Jesus as LORD will be with him…forever!
    "We're afraid to die because we've actually been afraid to live." - Erwin McManus
    "The only proof of life after death is life before death." - Erwin McManus
    Now go live like you’re dying…because you are!


    Financial Planning

    Medical Planning

    Advanced Directives Packet (Ohio)

    Funeral Planning

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Addiction, 1 June 2014

    Big Idea: We are all addicted to sin and need God’s grace.

    At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.

    And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.



    One of the assumptions of this series is many—if not all—of us struggle with life in ways we’re not always comfortable in sharing. Is it acceptable to discuss sex with other Christians? What about mental illness or doubt? Today we explore the subject of addiction.

    What comes to mind when you think of an addict?

    For many, they think of a drug addict or alcoholic (which is also a drug addict since alcohol is a drug). Perhaps you thought of someone addicted to gambling or food or porn. Yet a confession by myself—or any Christian, for that matter—that I was addicted to drugs or porn or gambling would probably affect how you viewed me. As the
    Relevant magazine article states:

    At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.

    The number one word to describe Scio Community Church is “family.” The magazine article continues:

    And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.

    I’m ashamed to announce that I am an addict…of sin. While I battle all sorts of sins and am tempted in countless ways, I’m especially prone to the root of all sins—pride. Hopefully I hide it well but I compare myself to people; I judge some and feel like an underachiever around others.

    How do you know you are addicted to something? When it controls you.

    The most common addictions in the USA, according to one report, are

    1. alcohol
    2. smoking
    3. drugs
    4. gambling
    5. food
    6. video games
    7. Internet
    8. sex
    9. shopping
    10. work

    It has been said that we are most vulnerable to desire and temptation when we are HALT:


    Both the Old and New Testament declare we all sin. None of us is perfect. None is righteous. We all struggle with the holy and righteous standard God requires.

    Jesus’ half brother wrote…

    When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

    There is a clear progression: temptation > desire > sin > death

    We are all addicted to sin, anything that keeps us from God. You might be struggling with what I call a capital A addiction like drugs or gambling or a small a addiction which is any number of sins for which there are no 12-step groups. It could be pride, selfishness, materialism, white lies, gossip, or even fear. Yes, fear. The most common command in the Bible is “fear not.” It occurs 366 times, one for every day of the year including leap year!

    The solution to dealing with sin is not to try harder. Sure, you may be able to improve your life, do less bad stuff, and feel less guilty, but the reality is we all sin. We’re all messed up. We all desperately need help.

    The reality is we are all broken and need healing. I want to encourage you to do one simple yet difficult thing. This is really the only way to deal with addiction or sin. Die!

    That is, of course, what Jesus did. He died for us. He invites us to die, too. Die of our pride. Die of our self. Die so that paradoxically we might come alive. He said

    Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

    There is a spiritual principle here, but also a physical one. Jesus is saying that we need to die in order to truly live in HIm.

    The image of baptism is so rich. I love baptisms! The significance is that of a water grave. We put to death our old, human, broken self and then are resurrected to new life with Jesus Christ.

    Paul, the most prolific author of the New Testament in the Bible wrote

    I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

    This may sound odd at first. In order to truly know Christ, we must die.

    He also wrote

    Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

    It doesn’t say to manage your sin, try harder, or do better. He says to die.

    Addicts can’t begin recovery until they first admit they have a problem.

    Sinners can’t begin recovery until they admit they have a problem...sin!

    But first we must die!

    “Oh, but I don’t really need to die. I can just remodel my life a bit,“ you say. No. Die. This is why there are so many people that call themselves Christians and so few that truly look like Jesus. We must die first.

    A few years ago I was driving on Washtenaw and I noticed something missing... a McDonald’s! They demolished the entire restaurant and built a new one. Most builders will tell you it’s much easier to start from scratch than it is to remodel, and that’s why Jesus said to die.

    He wants nothing short of total surrender. Some of you are still hanging on to your past, your secret sins, your security, your money, your habits...He wants total surrender. We must be broken. Brokenness is painful, but it’s wonderful.

    We must die, but when we do, God does great things.

    One of the most important things we can do in dying and surrender is to give up control. I often say I cannot control another person, and I struggle enough trying to control myself.

    The Serenity Prayer offers a powerful declaration of surrender. It says…

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    The more we die, the more Jesus can truly live in and through us. Amazingly…

    God loves to use broken pots.

    Too often the church is a place for condemnation rather than grace and forgiveness. As David said in the video, addicts need encouragement and support, not judgment and shame.

    We are all broken and in need of healing and grace as sin addicts.

    Paul wrote to the church in Corinth…

    But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

    But we must first be broken. We must first surrender. We must first die...and then we can truly live.

    I want to invite and challenge you to die. Die to your flesh. Die to your desires, hopes and dreams. Surrender your time, talents and treasures to the One we call LORD. For Him to truly be LORD and for us to truly be free from sin and addiction we must surrender all to Jesus. He set the ultimate example for us when He willingly surrendered His life for us.

    The beauty of dying to ourselves is how it frees us and allows us to be resurrected with Christ. Grace—unmerited favor—is generously offered. Forgiveness is lavished upon us.

    Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good; He came to make dead people alive.

    We are made new. Paul declared…

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

    There is hope!

    He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. (Psalm 40:2-4)

    One of the most effective tools for fighting addiction is a program called Celebrate Recovery ( Similar to twelve-step groups, it clearly identifies the “higher power” as God. Here are the eight principles from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5):

    1. Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.

    “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.”

    2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the pose to help me recover.

    “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

    3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.

    “Happy are the meek.”

    4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.

    “Happy are the pure in heart.”

    5. Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.

    “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.”

    6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.

    “Happy are the peacemakers.”

    7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.

    8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.

    “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.”

    Effective June 1, 2014, Celebrate Recovery is being offered on Tuesdays at 6:30 PM at Ann Arbor Church of the Nazarene on Packard Road in Ann Arbor.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Blood & Water, John 19:31-37, 13 October 2013

    Big Idea: Jesus died, predicted centuries prior in amazing detail lending credibility to the Bible and its message.

    If you could know the future, would you want to?

    Heather and I decided we did not want to know the sex of our children until they were born. Well, we almost decided! Actually, when our girls were born, it was a surprise. In fact, my mother-in-law was so convinced that our second child was a boy that she made blue outfits for him—uh, her. When I said, “It’s a girl!” she was in denial!

    With our third, we wanted to keep it a surprise…until the doctor asked us if we wanted to know since she was 100% sure from the ultrasound. I said, “That must mean it’s a boy” and she said, “Not necessarily. The baby is just perfectly positioned.” The doctor left the room, Heather asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to know?” and in a moment of weakness when the doctor returned, I said, “OK, tell us!” much to the surprise of my wife. I cried tears of joy when I learned a baby boy was joining our family.

    In that moment, I was able to know the future. We told one couple our news, but it was a complete surprise to the rest of the world when Trevor entered the visible world seventeen years ago.

    If you could know the future, would you want to?

    What about your death? If I could tell you when and how you would die, would you want to know?

    Jesus knew. “Sure,” you say, “He’s God,” but any Jew familiar with the Old Testament had clear descriptions of the Messiah, how He would be conceived, where He would be born, and how He would die. Just to give you an idea, here is one list of Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus:

    Simply put, Jesus uniquely fulfilled hundreds of prophecies that were written hundreds and even thousands of years before His birth.

    John 19:31-37

    Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. (31)

    The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. (32-33)

    Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (34-35)

    These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” (36)

    he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Psalm 34:20)

    and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (37)

    “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zechariah 12:10)

    Jesus probably did not die of a broken heart but with a broken heart. I declare Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, and even in His death many came to pass. Oh, and one more thing…
    Jesus died. This may not sound radical, but to many, it is unimaginable. The Muslim Quaran, for example, states…

    And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. (Surat An-Nisa 4:157)

    They believe someone that looked like Jesus died that resembled Him, but if Jesus did not die, we have no hope. If Jesus did not die, the ten martyred disciples wasted their lives, and the countless since. If Jesus did not die, we cannot know God, experience forgiveness, or have eternal life.

    But John, an eyewitness, was there and saw what happened. He said plainly that Jesus died.

    Believe it or not, some believe Jesus survived the crucifixion, which is utterly ludicrous. It is true that crucified people often remained alive, or half alive, for days, but Jesus was so badly beaten prior that it is little wonder He hung for three hours before declaring, “It is finished.”

    No Roman soldier would let a condemned criminal escape death. It would cost them their life.

    Jesus really died—so that we could live—and today we remember His death as He told his original twelve to do. We take the bread and remember His body that was broken and pierced for us. We drink the cup and remember His blood that was poured out for us. Jesus really died, and John was an eyewitness of the tragic yet wonderful event. Jesus died to show His love for us, to reconcile us to a holy God who cannot tolerate sin, to provide forgiveness of our messed up lives, to offer mercy and amazing grace.

    Water and blood are so symbolic, not only in the Jesus story but the entire Bible, pointing to life, cleansing, purification, and forgiveness. Moses inaugurated the first covenant with blood and water. Jesus inaugurates another covenant through His death.

    Jesus is the true Passover lamb who takes away the sin of the world, a lamb that, according to Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12, could not have any broken bones.

    It has been said that we don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. Actually, the holy Scriptures tell us much about the future, and among its revelations is that we will one day stand before a holy God and have to give an account for our lives. How did we live them? Who did we serve? How did we use our time, talents and treasures?

    Jesus came and died…but that’s not the end of the story. Hallelujah! Because He lives, we can face tomorrow…and today…and prepare for His return.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Hurt: The Death of Jesus, John 19:25-30, 29 September 2013

    Big Idea: We are hurt, we hurt one another, and we hurt Jesus with our sin.


    Have you ever been hurt? Of course! What hurt first came to mind? Physical? Emotional?

    We all hurt others. They say that hurt people hurt people. Sometimes we intentionally hurt others, sometimes it is accidental, and sometimes we don’t even know we hurt someone. Have you ever learned after the fact that you hurt someone unknowingly?

    There is a difference between hurt and harm. A vaccination shot at the doctor’s office hurts, but it is not meant to harm.

    Last week we looked at the crucifixion of Jesus. The physical pain and agony He suffered is hard to imagine, yet the harm done to Him was more than physical.

    Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)

    It is believed by most that John is the disciple mentioned. What is noteworthy is the likelihood that John was the only one of the eleven disciples that watched Jesus die.

    In many wars and conflicts, while women are free to come and go since they are not viewed as a threat and they need to maintain the household including shopping. Men, however, are vulnerable to attack, kidnapping, or even murder.

    In this scene, we see women at the foot of the cross, but John, too. He was probably very young and not viewed as a serious revolutionary. He may not have even had a beard, a common feature of grown men.

    Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. (John 19:28-29)

    Here we see another Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in the Messiah. In Psalm 69:21 it says

    They put gall in my food
    and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
    (Psalm 69:21)

    The symbolism in these two verses is vast.

    Jesus often spoke of water. Sign one was Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into premium wine, providing for the thirst of others (John 2). Now he receives low-grade sour wine. He offered living water to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). In John 7 He invites the thirsty to come to HIm and drink (7:37).

    N.T. Wright sees a series of signs in Jesus’ ministry, beginning with the first miracle during which He made wine at a wedding, revealing His glory. The second sign is the healing of the nobleman’s son at Capernaum (4:46-54). The third is the healing of the paralyzed man at the pool (5:1-9). Then He multiplied the loaves and fishes (6:1-14), healed the man born blind (9:1-12) and raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44).

    Seven is a biblical number and Wright believes the seventh sign to reveal God’s glory is Jesus being lifted up. It is fitting then that…

    When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (19:30)

    In the original language, this phrase means, “It’s all done!” It’s a single word that is written on a bill after it has been paid. The price has been paid. Jesus’ work is complete. It’s finished. It’s done. Jesus has accomplished His mission.

    So much happened in that moment. Although I’ve focused this series on John’s Gospel, Matthew records fascinating details.

    And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

    At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. (Matthew 27:50-52)

    Let’s go back to Jesus’ mission that He accomplished. The hurt Jesus experienced was not only physical, but profoundly spiritual. The writer of Romans tells us

    You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

    Paul is explicit in his letter to the people in the city of Corinth.

    God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

    I killed Jesus.
    I nailed Jesus to the cross.
    It was my sin that prompted His agonizing mission.

    Hurt by Johnny Cash (originally by Nine Inch Nails)

    The sins of others hurts me.
    My sin causes others to hurt.
    Our sins caused Jesus to hurt.

    I killed Jesus.
    I nailed Jesus to the cross.
    It was my sin that prompted His agonizing mission.

    Reflection and Confession

    It’s easy to reflect on the cross and appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus for us without acknowledging our sins that necessitated it.

    Each of us has a long history of sin. Big sins, small sins, public sins, hidden sins. Sins of things we did. Sins of things we failed to do.

    Sin separates us from God. Sin is deadly to relationships and sometimes even human life.

    That guilt you feel…it’s probably the result of sin. The number one reason people feel guilty is because they are guilty! There is false guilt, but Romans 3:23 tells us that all of us sin and fall short of God’s glory. All of us. You. Me. Billy Graham. All of us.

    This isn’t about shame, but it is about honestly assessing our lives. How have we loved or hated God? How have we loved or hated our neighbor? How have we loved or hated ourselves?

    Kyrie eleison (Greek: Κύριε, ἐλέησον "Lord, have mercy"). The phrase predates Christian usage.

    There’s an old prayer of the Church that says, “LORD, have mercy”

    I urge you to reflect upon your sin. Confess it to God. Repent and turn away from it. Experience His love and forgiveness. That’s why He died. That’s why we call it Good Friday.

    LORD, Have Mercy

    John later wrote

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

    That is truly Good News! Hallelujah!

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Enough, John 11:1-37, 10 March 2013

    Big Idea: Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is Jesus enough…or is your love for Him conditional?

    Song: I Give You My Heart by Rueben Morgan

    Do you trust God? Completely?

    LORD, I give You my heart
    I give You my soul
    I live for You alone
    With every breath that I take
    Every moment I’m awake
    LORD have Your way in me

    What would lead You to so fully surrender your life?

    Is it because Jesus died for you?
    Is it because God created you?
    Is it because you have experienced His presence and power?
    Is it because you have witnessed answered prayer?
    Is it because someone told you it’s the proper thing to do?

    Or is it simply because you love and want Jesus for who He is?


    We continue our series on the Gospel of John, a biography written by one of Jesus’ best friends. His purpose in writing can be found in chapter 20:

    Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:30-31)

    The first ten chapters have presented Jesus as a controversial figure, attracting great crowds through miracles and teachings while creating great hatred among the envious, legalistic, judgmental religious leaders.

    It’s easy to skim through familiar stories, but as we read the narrative, imagine you had never heard it previously. Imagine that you have no idea what follows and each word is a choice morsel in your ears. I’ll warn you: we are not going to finish the story today. You may know the ending, but suspend that information and absorb just today’s Scripture with me.

    Much like a stage play, this story has several scenes.

    Scene One: The Death of Lazarus (1-16)

    Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (1-3)

    There are three siblings. They are not especially wealthy as Beth-any means “house of the poor.” Martha was a busybody who we’re told in Luke 10 worked around the house while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. Jesus loved Lazarus their brother and he was sick.

    When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (4-6)

    The Father is glorified through the glory of the Son.

    I’m sure they were relieved to know that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death. Still, if Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, why did He linger for two days? Most likely He was praying, praying for Lazarus and wisdom. Remember, everything Jesus said and did had tremendous consequences from both the crowds and critics. He was a wanted man, in two different ways.

    Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (7)

    “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (8)

    Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” (9-10)

    Jesus is the light of the world.

    After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (11)

    His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. (12-13)

    Death has a new name for the believer: sleep. Only the body dies. The soul does not. Resurrection always refers to the body. Our bodies do not have souls. Rather, our souls have bodies.

    So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (14-15)

    Jesus was glad? Jesus had spent time with the Father and obeyed His plan. God would redeem this tragic death and use it for His glory.

    Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (16)

    Thomas was hardly an optimist but at least he was willing to die. If you recall, Jesus is a wanted man and His followers would also be a threat to the religious authorities.

    Jesus rarely follows conventional wisdom. When Lazarus was sick, He stayed away. When He said sleep, He meant dead. He said to go in the daytime to avoid tripping in the dark. N.T. Wright notes,

    “If you try to steer your course by your own understanding, you’ll trip up, because you’ll be in the dark. But if you stick close to him, and see the situation from his point of view, then, even if it means days and perhaps years of puzzlement, wondering why nothing seems to be happening, you will come out at the right place in the end.”

    Scene Two: The Resurrection and the Life (17-27)

    On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. (17-20)

    There is a small crowd here. Many Jews were there to comfort the sisters.

    Four days in the tomb was significant because the rabbinic teachings believed that when a person died, their spirit hovered over the body for three days so if the body was resuscitated, the spirit would return to it. After three days, the spirit was gone and there was no hope for the body.

    “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (21-22)

    Martha says,
    “If only…”

    Perhaps the tone (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

    Have you ever felt like that? God, if only…then…

    Why didn’t you intervene? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did I have to experience…? Why didn’t you do a miracle for me? Why didn’t I get chosen to win the lottery?

    Notice her faith, though. She knew the Father would do whatever Jesus asked. She held out hope for a miracle. Jesus tells her to look forward to the future rather than remaining stuck in the present moment.

    Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (23)

    Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (24)

    There were two popular religious tribe, the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who did not.

    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (25-26)

    This is a great declaration! It is the fifth of seven “I am” statements Jesus will make in John. When He says He is the resurrection and the life, He is saying that He is the very power of God unto life. He is life for all of His people. If you believe in Him, you will never die. He doesn’t say He can perform resurrections, He says that He
    is the resurrection…and the life. Jesus is life (John 10:10)!

    “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

    This was the testimony of Simon Peter, too.

    Scene Three: Jesus Goes To The Tomb (28-37)

    And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

    There is something powerful about the presence of friends in the midst of grief. It can be frustrating when we comfort others. What do we say? What do we do? I have learned that often words are unnecessary. “I’m sorry for your loss” and possibly a hug are enough.

    When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (32)

    Mary says,
    “If only…”

    Perhaps the tone again (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

    It’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit than to have Jesus in the flesh.

    When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

    “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

    There are two words here that need to be clarified. In the Greek, the word translated “weeping” is better stated as “loud wailing and crying.” The word “troubled” in the original Greek was more accurately translated “irate.”

    When Jesus saw her wailing, and the Jews who had come along with her also wailing, he was outraged and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

    “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
    (33-34; edited)

    Jesus saw everyone around Him weeping and He groaned in anger. Why? The sisters’ lack of faith? I believe it was the reality of death. He created our beautiful universe and sin has been slowly destroying it. This world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Sometimes I get angry at death, at cancer, at disease, at injustice. In Jesus’ case, He knew that in a few days
    He would encounter death.

    Jesus wept. (35)

    There it is—the shortest verse in the Bible!

    Jesus, the Son of God, the eternal Word of God, cried. Why? He lost a dear friend, but knew that loss would be reversed. Was it because of their unbelief? Most likely He cried as He grieved with Mary and Martha and their great loss. He could’ve said, “Hey! Stop crying! Watch this!” Instead, He has empathy and shares their heartache and pain.

    Death is a horrible reality in our broken world and we need to grieve. Jesus grieved. Perhaps you’ve been told to ignore grief and sadness since “all things work together for the good” but that is to deny the emotions given to us by God and experienced by God. Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

    Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (36-37)

    It was obvious that Jesus loved Lazarus. The Jews asked a fair question, and of course Jesus could’ve kept Lazarus from dying, but God’s ways are higher than our ways. His plans and purposes and timing far exceed our imagination. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to ask, “Why, LORD?” The Scriptures are filled with God-fearing men and women that asked questions of God.

    Ultimately the question is
    do you trust God?

    It’s rather audacious for us to think that we know better than God. Last Sunday night we watched the first episode of The Bible on The History Channel. It was a violent, bloody show depicting many Old Testament scenes that caused many to question how God could endorse the slaughter of first-born Egyptians, the destruction of Sodom, and let’s not forget the complete annihilation of every living creature that failed to get on Noah’s ark.

    Doubt and questions expressed with humility and respect are one thing. Shaking your fist at God, judging
    Him, is quite another. After Job’s life was all but destroyed, God provided some perspective beginning with the 38th chapter.

    Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? (Job 38:3-5)

    “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? (Job 38:12-13)

    “Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? (Job 39:19-20)

    The LORD said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

    Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:1-5)

    If you judge God, remember that God himself got out of His judgment seat to become the chief of sinners and be judged with you and by you. God feels our pain more than we can imagine because He suffered and died…for us and for our sin. Nobody knows and understands pain like Jesus.

    God is sovereign and in control.
    God is omnipotent and all-powerful.
    God is omniscient and knows all.
    God is omnipresent and everywhere.

    Again, I think it’s appropriate to ask questions of God, but making demands of Him is ludicrous. He’s God and we’re not. We can rejoice that He is not only all of those “omnis” but also that He is slow to anger and abounding in love, gracious, merciful and compassionate. We can celebrate that we
    don’t get what we deserve, for we have all offended the Holy God and fall short of His standards of righteousness.

    This does not mean that we should turn funerals into parties and dance for joy in the midst of tragedy. It does mean, however, that God has a plan. He always has a plan. His timing can be trusted. His ways can be trusted. Yet knowing He is sovereign and in control and watching Him ignore or delay our cries for help necessitates and even increases our grief, but it is a hopeful grief—a very, very bitter but hopeful grief. The bottom line is not happiness, but His glory. LORD, be glorified!

    I’m in the midst of one of the most urgent seasons of prayer in my life, begging God to heal my girl. The medical experts thought she should improve after three weeks of intense treatments, yet more than six months later she remains unable to walk.

    What is your plan, LORD? What are You waiting for? I know You can heal her. Show Your power. The doctors gave up so now You can get all of the glory. We’ll even post her healing on Facebook for all of the world to see!

    I believe with all of my heart that she will walk again. For months I have been wrestling with God about the timing! This week I cried, “Uncle!” and surrendered it to Him. Until I start to worry and get impatient again!

    The story is not over. Your story is not over. There is more to come. An exciting future awaits us. In the meantime, we must trust God and wait patiently (Psalm 40).

    One of my favorite musical artists, Kirk Franklin, posted this on Tuesday:

    So if God has my problem already worked out, why do I still go through it? Because what He DOESN'T have worked out yet is your attitude...That's what the problem is for. Go.

    Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is your love for Him conditional...or is Jesus enough?

    You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.