Harmony, 20 September 2015

Harmony: Christian Togetherness
Series: What In The World Is Going On? A Study of 1 Peter
1 Peter 1:22-2:10

Series Overview:
God’s grace is present in the midst of suffering.

Big Idea: When persecuted, we have not only hope and a call to holy living but also a harmonious family of God we are to love.


This morning we continue our series on 1 Peter, “What In The World Is Going On?” This short letter to the early, suffering church is a powerful message not only to an ancient people but is increasing relevant to modern Christians as we face persecution. We may never face the horrors of ISIS victims, but nevertheless we can—and perhaps should—feel in the minority as followers of Jesus in a world consumed with money, sex and power. The theme of this book may well be called hope and grace in the midst of suffering.

If you’re read through the book of 1 Peter this past week as I challenged you last Sunday, you may have found it lacking order. I was relieved to read one writer who said,

Once again, Peter’s style here—weaving in and out of topics, exhorting and then stating the foundation for the exhortation, and digressing to cover important ideas— prevents many readers from finding any logical sequence. (Scot McKnight)

If you like a neat, organized, three-point sermon with each point beginning with the same letter or forming an acrostic, you will not find it today or probably in any sermon in this series. You’ve been warned! But don’t take that to mean this letter is disorganized or unimportant. The messages are timeless, timely for us today, and a true treasure.

Two weeks ago the focus was hope. Last week the key word was holy, being and living different, set apart lives reflecting Jesus.

We ran out of time last week so I want to begin by looking at verses 17-21 before diving into today’s text.

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. (1 Peter 1:17)

This fear does not mean anxiety or scary, but rather awe. Dad is watching us now, and one day He will judge each of us. We can have awe or desire the approval of the world as citizens or we can be in awe of and seek the Father as foreigners; visitors.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

We have been redeemed, purchased with a price. Jesus died, shedding His blood for us. Our redemption makes us grateful for not only forgiveness but adoption into our new family and a desire to live in holiness and awe before God.

Our Father is the standard. He is holy. He shows us through Jesus what it means to truly be human, to live as we were created to live, full of faith, hope and love. He shows us the benefits of salvation, an eternal hope that cannot be taken away.

Is your faith and hope in God…or in the stock market?
Is your faith and hope in God…or in your friends?
Is your faith and hope in God…or in your job?
Is your faith and hope in God…or in your social media popularity?
Is your faith and hope in God…or in your stuff…the house, the cars, the vacations?
Is your faith and hope in God…or in our president, governor, or political party?
Is your faith and hope in God…or in your gifts, talents and abilities?
Is your faith and hope in God…or in your education and diplomas?

Is your faith and hope in the present…or in the future?

Peter encourages us to be aware of the future—God’s righteous judgment of our lives and also the hope of the joy of final salvation. The best is yet to come.

Today’s word is

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1:22-23)

Children of God have been born again (John 3). We have been born again through the word of God. Notice Peter connects obedience and loving one another. As we’re going to see, following Jesus is more than an individual journey. We are a part of a family. We have not only a Father and a Big Brother, Jesus, but also spiritual brothers and sisters we are to love…deeply…from the heart.

If we could just do this one thing—love one another deeply—we’d be almost done! The two greatest commands are love God and love others…and we love God by loving others.

The word “deeply” cannot be overstated. We use the word “love” in English to describe so many things, yet this is a radical commitment, fervency, constancy, and effort. We are to share both philadelphia love—brotherly love—and agape love which is godly sacrificial love. Loving deeply is not tolerance; it may be the opposite of tolerance!

When we are adopted into God’s family we experience a new birth, receive a new family, and are given an unconditional love we are to share with others.

When we were born naturally, we were given bodies that will die. When we are born again, we are given the eternal Word of God. Some modern Christians call the Bible the Word of God—and it is—but the same word, logos, is used in John 1 to describe Jesus Himself.

Remember, Peter’s readers did not have YouVersion on their iPhone or a leather-bound NIV Study Bible! He quotes Isaiah 40:6-8.


“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you. (1:24-25)

We’re like the grass. We will eventually die. No matter how strong, smart, cool, or talented you are, you’re going to die. God and His word are eternal.

Therefore, …(2:1a)

What’s it there for?

Because this world is temporary and God’s Word is eternal…
Because born people will die but born again people will live forever…
Because we are not merely children of our parents but children of God…

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (2:1-3)

We need to get rid of sin.

Malice is congealed anger; an unforgiving spirit. Are you bitter? Is there someone you need to forgive. They don’t deserve to be forgiven, but neither do you! That’s grace. That’s agape love from God. Get rid of malice. Give it up. Surrender it to God. Replace it with God’s grace.

Deceit is guile. Ananias and Sapphira were deceitful (Acts 5). The devil is a deceiver. We are to be filled with the truth.

Do we need to talk about hypocrisy? One of the greatest criticisms of Christians by non-Christians is we’re hypocrites. We say one thing on Sunday and do something different on Monday. None of us is perfect, but when children of God screw up, they confess and make it right.

Envy. This is one of those somewhat acceptable sins, perhaps because it’s easy to hide. Look around. Whose job do you want? Whose paycheck? Whose car? Whose family? Whose body? I believe the opposite of envy is gratefulness and contentment. God has showered all of us with a vast array of gifts, beginning with Jesus and continuing to our freedom to worship today.

Slander…of every kind. Gossip. Behind-the-back criticism. If you wouldn’t say it in their presence, don’t say it in their absence!

We need to get rid of all sin in our lives and replace it with Jesus, with the fruit of the Spirit, with character and godliness…because we’re God’s kids, children of the King!

I love Peter’s metaphor of spiritual milk. He’s not writing to new Christians, but instead acknowledging how newborn babies crave milk. They long for it. They cry for it! Because we’ve tasted that the LORD is good! We used to crave sin and now we are to crave prayer, obedience, serving others, sharing Jesus…God. We can fill our lives with vices or virtues.

The psalmist famously wrote in Psalm 42:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. (Psalm 42:1)

The LORD is good! He’s so good! He’s greater, smarter, stronger, more present, more loving, more kind, more compassionate, more powerful…than anyone or anything.

One reason we gather is to be reminded we are children of a mighty God!

This week you may have faced criticism, bills, broken cars, broken bodies, bad news, sickness, addictions, temptations, fear, anxiety…but God is greater! The LORD is good! We must run to Him. We must flee sin and run into the arms of our Daddy who loves us unconditionally!

We are to desire the word of God, spiritual milk. We need to grow and will discover the goodness of the LORD. We need to worship. We also need to get into the word of God!

I often pray the prayer of a father who exclaimed to Jesus,

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Does your passion for God grow when you’re with other believers?
Does your passion for God grow when you’re in God’s Word?
Does your passion for God grow when you worship?

LORD, I want to want You! Give me a passion for You such that knowing You is truly the greatest thing in my life!

Now Peter shifts gears.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (2:4-5)

Precious is an interesting word, especially for a fisherman, but Peter used it liberally. Jesus said He would build His church. Peter was a little stone like us. God is building a living temple. A better translation is “build yourselves.” Take action. We are to come together as living stones connected to the living Stone to form one spiritual house where—like the old temple—God dwells.

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“ ‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:42-44)

The foundation is salvation. You come to the Stone broken.

The stone of judgment is also coming according to Daniel.

For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.” (2:6)

Jesus is this stone.

  Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”


“A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. (2:7-8)

These aren’t rolling stones but stable rocks.

We all choose to accept or reject Jesus. He’s a stepping stone or a stumbling stone.

Psalm 118:22 speaks of the temple.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:22-23)

We live in world that rejects Jesus. Peter’s audience was rejected by the world. We may be rejected, too, but the world’s rejection pails in comparison to the Father’s acceptance. The story is still being written. Vindication is coming.

Now we come to our focus today.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (2:9)

We are a chosen people/generation. An elect race. These people are a scattered diaspora but they’ve been chosen like the people of Israel. We choose Jesus because He’s chosen us. We love Him because He first loved us.

We are a royal priesthood. In the Old Testament God chose the nation of Israel to be priests. They sinned so God chose God fearing Jews and Gentiles to become priests. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a priest. We are royalty. In Peter’s day, royalty was inherited, but we have been adopted as sons and daughters to be not only children but priests who serve God.

Scot McKnight says, “To become a Christian is to be raised to the ultimate height in status because we suddenly become children of the God of the universe, and we have direct access to him because we are his children.” Hallelujah!

We are a holy nation. We’ve never been fully holy in conduct but we are holy in our relationship with God. Jesus is our righteousness.

Our purpose is to declare God’s praises. We are to announce good tidings of peace and joy. We are to show the light to our dark world. Some will accept and some will reject.

We are special people, a peculiar people, people of His own, a special possession. We are a ragamuffin collection of broken sinners who have found salvation in Jesus. We are God’s. We belong to HIm. He invites us to not only be with Him but also to love the people of this world and one another. This reminds me of Jesus’ prayer recording in John 17:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:20-24)

This is my favorite prayer in the Bible because Jesus prays for us! He says we have been given to Jesus by the Father.

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (2:10)

God is rich in mercy. Paul wrote

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)


God has not created us to know Him in isolation.
God has not created us to live in isolation.

God exists in community—Father, Son and Spirit—and created us to do life together, to be a family, a nation, a people, a group of priests that know God…and make Him known.

No matter what trials we face, we are to be a united, harmonious family, faithful to Jesus. We are God’s people. We are a priesthood, a nation, a people. We the people! Let’s live like it!!!


Some ideas from

Be Hopeful (1 Peter): How to Make the Best of Times Out of Your Worst of Times (The BE Series Commentary) by Warren

Thru The Bible audio messages by J. Vernon McGee

1 Peter (The NIV Application Commentary) by Scot McKnight

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

Jesus our Sanctifier, The Gospel Truth, 15 March 2015

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

Big Idea: Jesus is our Sanctifier, making us increasingly holy like Himself.


This week we continue our series
The Gospel Truth. We began last week looking at Jesus as Savior. Today we continue our look at the Fourfold Gospel examining Jesus as Sanctifier.

It’s not uncommon for song lyrics and passages of scripture to contain unusual words. Sanctifier is one of those Christianese words that few outside of the faith understand…and few inside the faith understand! When we say Jesus is our Sanctifier we are expressing that He makes us like Himself. A year ago we said that followers of Jesus are “in Christ.” What can be said of Jesus can be said of us in the eyes of our heavenly Father, not because we are God or perfect like Christ, but because we essentially wear Jesus’ uniform. His blood purifies our sins and we can stand before a holy God who cannot tolerate sin, not because of what we’ve done but because Jesus is our Savior which we studied last week.

Sanctification then is that God wants to make us in reality what we’ve already been declared to be in Christ. In other words, following Jesus is more than praying a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart so you’ll go to heaven when you die. Following Jesus is just that—following Him. Jesus is perfect. We are to be perfect. Jesus is holy. We are to be holy. Jesus has power and authority. We are to have power and authority.

To be sanctified is to be holy, set apart. In one sense it occurs when we surrender our lives to God, yet it is a progressive process in which we become increasingly like Him—separated from sin and evil.

Right about now you may be asking, “Why don’t I look like Jesus?” or “How is it possible for me to be like Christ?” That’s our topic today: sanctification, becoming holy and set apart like Jesus.


What is your favorite food? Although my favorite dessert is ice cream, my favorite food is fruit. I love fruit! I’m not sure if it’s because most fruits are sweet or colorful or uniquely shaped or the texture but I love fruit. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a fruit I didn’t enjoy…unless it was bad fruit!

Where does fruit come from? Meijer! Believe it or not, it does not just appear in the produce section!

The Bible is filled with organic metaphors. God created our world, so it should come as no surprise He would use physical things to help us understand spiritual realities.

Gardening is a powerful way to understand life. I’m an expert gardener…in growing weeds! I admire people who understand soil and plants and who can grow things
other than weeds!

Last week I listened to a brilliant podcast interview with Christine Sine in which she described the numerous parallels between the cultivation of her garden and the cultivation of her soul. Producing beautiful fruit requires preparation of the soil, generous fertilizer and water, enough sunlight, protection from hungry creatures, and the eradication of weeds that can choke the plants.

Likewise if we want our lives to bear fruit we must confess our sins, flee temptation, fill our minds with the Word of God, feed upon Jesus, the Bread of Life, receive support from godly brothers and sisters, and pursue a deeper relationship with God and others. Jesus said it plainly in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of John.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4)

How do we become like Jesus? We know Him.
How do we know Jesus? We spend time with Him.
How do we spend time with Jesus? We pray. We study the Bible. We spend time with people who know Jesus.

They say many old couples look alike after years of marriage. They can finish each other’s sentences. They know what the other is thinking. That’s what happens when two people do life together, spend time with one another, know each other, and grow together. That’s what happens when we do life with Jesus—we begin to resemble Him!

It takes time. It requires intentionality. It involves effort.

When I placed a wedding ring on my bride’s finger nearly 25 years ago that wasn’t the end of our relationship. It was a tremendously significant moment, yet it was just the beginning. More than two decades later we’ve both invested in our relationship, and it has produced fruit (including three amazing children!). I didn’t just say vows and then tell her, “Have a nice life!” Over the years I have grown to be like her, and she has grown to be like me. We are both works in process, becoming like one another, but most of all both seeking to be like Jesus.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

It’s great to ask What Would Jesus Do? It’s far better to know Jesus so intimately and be so filled with the Holy Spirit that you don’t stop and ask—you instinctively do it! It’s natural. That’s sanctification. Jesus is our Sanctifier means He wants us to become like Him. He wants us to become Christians—little Christs. He wants us to love Him and love others, re-presenting Him to our desperate world.

Are you connected to the vine? Do know know what God is saying to you? Are you obediently following Him?

If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:6-8)

If you know anything at all about plants, you know every branch must be connected to the trunk which must be connected to the roots. Any disconnect will result in poor or no fruit.

When I was a kid I remember enjoying a pretty substantial tree in our front yard. One day I had the brilliant idea of taking a hatchet and carving my name into the tree. When my parents realized what I had done, they weren’t very pleased! Fortunately I did no permanent damage to the tree, but I could’ve killed it!

Like many of you, I witnessed first-hand the destruction of trees by a very small bug known as the emerald ash borer. The nasty beetle from Asia was first formally identified in Canton, Michigan in 2002, believed to be introduced by overseas shipping materials. They attack ash trees through larval feeding that disrupts the flow of nutrients and water. This small bug is responsible for the destruction of literally tens of millions of ash trees and threatens to kill most of the 8.7 billion ash trees throughout North America.

What a perfect metaphor for sin! Small, unsuspected sins invade our life, slowly disconnecting us from our source of life, Jesus. Sure, robbing a bank or killing your neighbor will damage your relationship with God—and keep you away from others as you sit in prison—but most often it’s small temptations that cause us to drift from our nourishment. We get too busy to pray, too busy to study the Bible, too busy to attend worship and Life Groups, too busy to share Jesus with others. We get greedy, buying things we don’t need until we can no longer be generous and serve those in desperate need. We compromise in small things like taxes, speed limits, truth-telling, and pride until we are able to rationalize the most blatant of sins.

A Healthy Tree

The first words of the Psalms paint an entirely different picture.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

That’s what I want my life to depict!

What kind of fruit are you bearing? It could be no fruit, the result of disconnect from Jesus. It could be bad fruit such as

sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mark 7:21-22)

Or it could be the fruit of the Spirit:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

If we abide in Jesus, if we devote ourselves to Him, we will bear much, good fruit.

The Alliance website says it like this:

Many Christians understand God’s promise of salvation but do not experience the ongoing sanctifying work of Jesus Christ in their lives. For those who neither understand nor allow the Holy Spirit's control in their lives, the results have a profound effect.

Unsuccessful struggle against sin and a lack of power in life and ministry frustrate those who have asked Jesus to be their Savior but not their Sanctifier, resulting in a lack of joy in their walk with Christ. At the point when we are born again, we become members of God’s family. We believe He paid the price for our sin and that his followers are—set apart from those are not born again—and are seen as holy because of what Christ has done.

The Bible is filled with biological metaphors. We are a family—brothers and sisters. We are dead in our sins and resurrected with Christ as beautifully illustrated through baptism. In the book of Romans we read these powerful words:

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)

Some mistakenly think Christianity is a morality-based religion in which we are supposed to do good and be good. They see Jesus as someone who makes bad people good. Friends, the reality is Jesus came to make dead people come alive! Following Jesus is not merely an exercise in doing the right things. It is a vibrant, joy-filled journey in which possess—and are possessed by—the Holy Spirit. How?

  1. We thirst. We desire God, or at least want to want God.
  2. We ask. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you. Daily. Maybe hourly!
  3. We surrender. In essence, let go and let God. This means letting go of your time, talents and treasures. It means placing everything on the altar. Open your hands!
  4. Abide. Love is spelled T-I-M-E. There are no shortcuts.


Most of us live busy lives. God created us to work, but also to rest. Most people work hard during the week and crash on the weekend. We are designed to work from a place of rest, not rest from work.

Semi-circle copy

The semi-circle depicts a pendulum moving from rest to work and back. There are daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythms of rest and work. When Jesus speaks in John 15 of remaining or abiding, He’s speaking of resting in Him. We need times of rest and recreation with Jesus and our our families. If we ignore Sabbath and rest with God, we will eventually crash. If we allow Him to prune us and renew us as we abide with Him during times of rest, we will bear much fruit when we work.

Are you abiding in Christ? Are you resting with Him? Are you spending quality time with Jesus, letting Him invite you into a deeper life of intimacy and faith while challenging you to greater levels of obedience and trust?

When we talk about Jesus as fully God yet fully man, it’s easy to think since Jesus was God He was never really tempted. Sure, Hebrews 4:15 says He was tempted in every way like us, but didn’t He brush it away like a mosquito and then do all of His magic tricks, healing the sick and opening the eyes of the blind and raising the dead?

Jesus said no to temptation and did supernatural works because He was filled with the Holy Spirit…the same Holy Spirit available to you and me. If we abide with Jesus, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will change. We will grow. We will bear fruit. We will look increasingly like Jesus.

Paul wrote these words to the Church in Corinth:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

That’s remarkable!


Dallas Willard famously referred to those seeking salvation apart from sanctification and lordship as “vampire Christians” who only want a little blood but have no interest in following Jesus now. It’s one thing for Jesus to be our Savior and another to be truly LORD.

A few weeks ago we said one of our family rules is the Make Disciples. Disciples are students or imitators of their discipler. We are to be students and followers and imitators of Jesus.

It’s a life-long process, but if we hunger after God, if we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, if we confess our sins and surrender our will, and if we abide, He will make us new. He will transform us into new creations like Jesus. He is able to take whatever mess we offer Him and make it beautiful. That’s our Sanctifier!


Some material taken from
The Fourfold Gospel, a C&MA/DNA publication.

Semi-circle LifeShape from Mike Breen and

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

Zephaniah, 27 July 2014

Big Idea: God loves His children through wrath and blessings.

Overview: God is going to remove and restore everything: Israel, Judah, the surrounding nations—everything will be judged, and then everything will be made much, much better.


I have had many defining moments in my life, but one day changed my life more than any other. It was on that day that I became a daddy as my bride gave birth to our first child, Kailey.

Since I became a dad, I have cherished my relationship with each of our three kids. There have been moments when we have had our differences, but they have always known my unconditional love for them, and though they have occasionally said otherwise in the heat of the moment, I have been secure in their love for me. Next to God, my family is the most important thing in my life. When our kids are good, I’m almost always good. When they struggle, it’s hard for me to think of anything but their struggles. When they are sick, I am burdened to pray and seek any possible healing resource.

Imagine after raising, feeding, clothing, and sheltering our children they left. I don’t mean they moved away, I mean they left the family. They went to the court and changed their last name to…Jones! Imagine they unfriended me on Facebook, changed their phone numbers, and did everything possible to prevent me from having a relationship with them. How would I feel? How would you feel?

God is all about relationships. From the very beginning He has created males and females for the purpose of relationships—relationships with Him and one another. Thousands of years ago after our first ancestors broke God’s heart by turning away from Him and rebelling, He made a covenant with Abraham which began the nation of Israel and God was their God, their King. Perhaps there was no greater pleasure God experienced than being with His people who enjoyed being with Him.

The Old Testament is filled with stories of Israel following God and rejecting Him, running to Him and wandering off, obeying Him and ignoring Him. It’s starting to sound a little like
The Giving Tree, isn’t it?!

Although they had no King but God, eventually the people wanted a human king like the surrounding nations. God reluctantly granted them their wish, installing Saul as king, then David and Solomon. As they turned their attention from God and to the world, the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Both kingdoms fell as enemy armies invaded, first Israel and then Judah.

We are in the middle of a
series called the most unread books of the Bible as discovered by

First we looked at Jonah.
Then we examined Joel.
Last week we studied Jude.
Our book of the week is Zephaniah.

The book of Zephaniah was written after fall of Israel and before the fall of Judah while Josiah was good, arguably the last good king of Judah. Zephaniah was a prophet—not to be confused with Zechariah (something I did all last week!). Prophets did not predict the future, but they spoke for God on behalf of the people, serving as messengers, in most cases calling God’s people to repentance before judgment, a time often referred to as “the day of the LORD.” It is a phrase used throughout the Bible, especially in the prophets (we saw it in Joel two weeks ago).

Zephaniah presents two radically different messages:

  1. Woe to those the reject God
  2. Blessings to those who follow God

This was true thousands of years ago and it’s still true today.

For the sake of time, we cannot read every verse in the book, despite it being only three chapters long. Instead, I want to highlight the beginning and the end (as read earlier during Scripture reading).

Zephaniah 1

The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah: (1)

We get great details about Zephaniah’s family. He was not the only one with the name Zephaniah so this distinguishes himself from the others and offers the historical note of Josiah as king.

“I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. “I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all who live in Jerusalem. I will cut off from this place every remnant of Baal, the names of the pagan and the idolatrous priests — those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by the LORD and who also swear by Molech, those who turn back from following the LORD and neither seek the LORD nor inquire of him.

This does not sound pleasant! God’s more than a little angry, but it is holy anger. Daddy knows best and He knows what is best is for people to love, follow and serve Him, not themselves, and certainly not idols.

Once again we go back to the first two Commandments—no other gods and no idols.

Baal and Molech were two common idols of surrounding nations adopted by Zephaniah’s contemporaries and mentioned throughout the Old Testament. Molech, in particular, was associated with death and the underworld. There is some debate as to whether people would fire-walk to appease Molech or even sacrifice children in fire. Either way, worshipping Baal and Molech was detestable to God, a Father heartbroken by His wayward children.

We get a clue as to why the people abandoned God.

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.’ (1:12)

They underestimated God. He will do nothing good or bad. They think God is dead…or sleeping…or aloof. Perhaps they simply forgot about God’s judgment. This was the first lie of satan in the Garden of Eden.

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

“The great day of the LORD is near — near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. (1:14)

Here we see the phrase “the day of the LORD” as mentioned in Joel and elsewhere, a day in which God will judge. For the ungodly, it will be a terrible day.

That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.” (1:15-18)

will judge sin. He is a jealous God, not an insecure lover, but a loving Father who knows what’s best for His children. He wants an intimate relationship with them. He wants to be with them, to bless them, and to know them. When they run off and abandon Him, there is no greater pain, no greater loss.

Does that fit our view of a “loving” God? Theologian Miroslav Volf had a shift in his thinking after watching his country of Yugoslavia destroyed.

“I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.”

So the people are in trouble with God. What are they to do?

Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation, before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’s wrath comes upon you. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger. (2:1-3)

Seek the LORD.
Seek righteousness.
Seek humility.

That’s their only hope.

Seek the LORD. Jesus said it plainly:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

How much time do you spend seeking the LORD?

Seek righteousness. Do the right thing. Follow the perfect example of Jesus. Fill your mind with God’s Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of any unknown sins. Get right with God.

Finally, seek humility. Don’t try to be humble. As soon as you think you’re humble, you’re not! We underestimate God when we overestimate ourselves. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. It is how you think of others and God. How great is your God? It should put things in perspective quickly. Idolatry today does not usually involve statues of Baal and Molech but for me, at least, it involves the man in the mirror. Perhaps the best way to attack pride is serving those who cannot return the favor, anonymously blessing the poor, sacrificing your preferences for those of others. As Paul told the Church in Philippi:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

So What?

I wish I could view Zephaniah’s audience as a bizarre tribe doing unimaginable things, but it sounds too much like our culture. We often revel in arrogance and pride, praising ourselves for our accomplishments, all the while ignoring our Creator whose very purpose in creating us was relationship.

God is not a monster out to harm people that don’t obey Him. He’s a loving Father longing to know and be known by His children.

This week my daughter will move away from her Father, but that won’t end our relationship (thanks to the phone, texting, FaceTime, and transportation). If she ever abandoned me—or if any of our kids renounced our family—I would pursue her out of love, knowing her life and mine will be more satisfying in relationship.

We serve a gracious God who loves prodigals. He is eager to welcome home the departed. He is a God of wrath to those that dishonor Him, but He’s also a loving Father when His children seek Him.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” “The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the LORD. (3:17-20)

No matter who you are or what you’ve done, God longs to know you. He takes great delight in His children, singing over us!

When our kids were little, I loved to sing to them. I loved to hold them and I still do! We can celebrate today knowing that God is alive, He is active, He loves us, and one day we will be with Him forever.

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

Miracles at Breakfast, John 21:1-14, 24 November 2013

Big Idea: God will surprise and delight us if we look to Him and follow.


Have you ever experienced a miracle? Perhaps we should begin with defining a miracle.

- an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God
- a very amazing or unusual event, thing or achievement

The Bible is full of them. Well, our Bible is full of them. Thomas Jefferson literally cut all miracles out of his Bible, unable to acknowledge the presence of our Creator in our world, despite the gift of Emmanuel, God with us, and later the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer.

Do you believe in miracles?

As we approach the conclusion of our series on the gospel or good news of John, we have read this compelling biography of Jesus, from His arrival on our planet to His death, resurrection, and two surprising appearances to His disciples in locked rooms. In John chapter 21, He makes a third appearance.

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus ), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (1-3)

Why did Peter go fishing? Wasn’t he supposed to be fishing for men? Perhaps he thinks his ministry future is over since he denied Christ, returning to his former occupation.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (4)

John may be reminding us of another recent even involving Jesus early in the morning, a time when Mary did not recognize Him in the garden. He’s about 100 yards—or a football field—away. They could not see Him from that distance.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

These were experienced fishermen. They knew the sea. They spent all night fishing with no success. They’re even less likely to catch fish in the daytime.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (6)

They could’ve said, “Jesus, you’re crazy. We are professionals. The fish aren’t biting. What difference does one side of the boat make versus the other? Clearly this is a miracle.

Have you been frustrated, unable to make progress in an arena of life? Maybe you just can’t land a job, fix a broken relationship, or break an addiction.

I often find myself stressed about things—money, parenting, preparing a good sermon, a tough decision—only to discover Jesus waiting for me to notice Him, listen and obey. Pride tells me to do it my way, but His ways are far better than mine.

Much earlier in an account recorded by Luke Jesus gave fishing lessons to His followers and they had an unbelievable catch of fish. Then, Peter begged Jesus to get away from him because he realized he was a sinner unworthy of Christ (Luke 5:1-10). This time he races toward Jesus.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (7)

Peter had some unfinished business with Jesus which we’ll examine next Sunday. Days earlier he had denied Christ three times and was undoubtedly filled with shame and guilt. Here he impulsively jumps in the water, leaving the others in the boat to work with the fish.

Note, too, that rather than taking off clothes to swim, he puts them on. Perhaps he was hiding his shame like Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden.

The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. (8-9)

Why did John mention the charcoal? Smell is the most sensitive of the senses. Visual recall is about 50% after three months. We can remember smells with 65% accuracy…after a year! Furthermore, 75% of emotions are triggered by smell which is linked to pleasure, emotion and memory. One survey found 85% of participants remembering their childhood when they smelled Crayola crayons.

Do you think this charcoal fire triggered a memory for Peter? It was around a similar fire that he denied Jesus three times (John 18:18). Again, we’ll address that next Sunday.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. (10-11)

That’s a lot of fish! Miracles abound, not only in the size of the catch but the strength of the net.

A first-century fishing boat was recently found by members of Kibbutz Ginosar in Galilee. I saw the boat, 26.5 feet long and 7.5 wide. If it was similar to Peter’s boat, it would be too small for seven men, so it is believed two boats may have been used.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. (12)

This is an odd verse. They knew it was him but they didn’t ask? N.T. Wright says this only makes sense if Jesus is recognizable yet somehow different. His body was obviously different, no longer subject to death or decay.

Wright compares it to someone in the sixteenth century seeing someone surf the Internet. They didn’t have electricity, much less computers! Jesus’ risen body is something from the future—our future. It isn’t magic. It’s real, but different.

God has blessed them with a huge catch of fish.
He has blessed them with breakfast.
He has blessed them with His presence.

Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (13-14)

God’s cooking breakfast! He didn’t need their fish. He had His own—and bread, too. Loaves and fish. That reminds me of another story!

Jesus already had fish on the fire because He doesn’t need what we bring, but He wants it!

While they ate, He was sending a message: I love you.

So What?

This story has some unusual moments. The fact that it appears after the previous chapter which seemed to wrap up the entire book is unique. Jesus cooking fish while the disciples fail to catch any and then become inundated with them is interesting, to say the least. What are we to make of it all?

I think it’s a great reminder that God is alive, He is accomplishing His purposes, and we must always be ready to be surprised by God. At any moment He may ask us to do something crazy, like give away more money than is in our budget, engage in a conversation with someone that makes us uncomfortable, or sacrifice comfort and convenience for making space to serve strangers. We don’t always see God, we don’t always hear His voice, but He is here. He is with us. He lives inside us. How would our lives look differently if we truly pursued God and followed Him. Jesus provided daily bread—and fish—for His friends, and He still provides for us, today. So…

What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it?

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

Away In A Manger, Carols, 16 December 2012

Away In A Manger

Big Idea: Jesus is more than a little baby. He is LORD.

Welcome to the third Sunday of Advent. Advent is about expectant waiting and preparation. For generations, the Israelites awaited the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We are awaiting His return. We are in between His first and second visits to our planet. We look back
and forward.

During these four weeks of preparation for Jesus’ birthday celebration, we’re looking at four classic Christmas Carols, their lyrics, and their biblical message. It is my hope and prayer that as you hear these songs, you’ll not only hum the melody, you’ll think about the timeless message. This week’s carol is
Away In A Manger.


It was first published in 1885 in Philadelphia. The texts was credited for many years to Martin Luther, but that seems to be only a fable. It is one of the most popular carols in Britain.


Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head. The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever, and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, And fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.


Before we get started, I want to dispel two myths.

First, the manger probably did not look most of our wood and straw mangers found in nativity sets. It most likely was a hard, stone trough.

Second, it says “But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” He cried! Babies cry! Jesus cried! We know He even cried as an adult, but that’s another story.

Two weeks ago we talked about “O Holy Night” and how because of Jesus the weary world rejoices.

Last week we looked at “O Come All Ye Faithful” and said that although we are not always faithful, joyful, and triumphant, Jesus is and He allows us to experience faith, joy and victory.

This message will be more challenging. It challenged me! The phrase is simply this…“The little Lord Jesus.” There’s more to Jesus than just a 8 lb. 6 oz sweet little baby Jesus Jesus is LORD. 740 times in the NT He is referred to as LORD.

In Luke 2, the most detailed description of Jesus’ birthday, the shepherds were minding their own business in the fields and then an angel terrifies them!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

We don’t use that word “lord” much outside of church.

What does it mean for Christ to be LORD?

The Greek word, kyrios, means master or lord, as in a master of property or slaves. It means supreme in authority, controller.

How does that sound? Jesus as master and you as slave?

Controller is a challenging word because we all want to be in control.

Jesus is LORD. How do we make Him LORD in our life? We don’t. God made Him LORD long ago. We surrender to what already is. We surrender to the One who is in control.

I believe there are three types of people in this world.

The first are what I call the
unsurrendered. These are the people that have no illusions about Jesus as LORD. To them He’s a swear word, a myth, or a good teacher. They don’t pretend to follow Jesus. They live their lives for themselves or some other lord. While this group is apparently growing rapidly in the west, it creates exciting opportunities for us to share how and why Jesus has become LORD to so many, especially those in 2nd and 3rd world nations where the Gospel is spreading like wildfire.

The second type of person is the partially-surrendered life. This is where the majority of USAmerican Christians live. Casual or cultural Christians. Christian atheists believe in God but act as if He does not exist. Jesus said to the partially-surrendered that surrounded Him

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

Jesus is not an accessory that you add to your life. A LORD seizes control of everything!

Jesus is not a part-time LORD and He doesn’t want part-time followers.

We come under His Lordship.

If there’s one question I want you to think about, it’s this...

What have I not surrendered to the LORD?

What area am I still trying to control?

Kids? Future? A relationship? Money?

For me, money has been one of my greatest struggles—not so much giving, but worrying about having enough. It’s a trust thing for me, which is silly because God has been faithful to our family so many times that
Great Is Thy Faithfulness has been our family hymn.

The more I follow Jesus, the more I have learned to trust Him.

In a similar way, I daily need to surrender my family to the LORD. It’s easy for them to become idols in my life, obsessed with their health and well-being rather than trusting that God loves them even more than I love them.

God can be trusted with our money, our children, our future, ...everything.

That’s what lords do...they are in control of everything! That leads to the
the fully-surrendered life. This is a person who is a slave to Jesus, an indentured servant.

Slavery is obvious not a popular subject in our culture. Race-based slavery is one of the great embarrassments of our nation’s history. Tragically, there are more slaves today than at any time in human history, many of them children.

Not all slavery is evil, however.
Not all masters are cruel and self-serving.

In the book of Exodus, God made a provision for a freed servant to stay with his master.

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life. (Exodus 21:2-6)

An indentured servant is one who chooses to serve their master.

This is the image of a person fully-surrendered to Jesus. They have made Him Lord. They give up their rights and entrust their time, talent, treasures, comfort, convenience, hopes, dreams,...everything to their Master. Their lives are not their own but rather belong to the LORD.

Paul’s letter to the people of Rome begins...

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — (Romans 1:1)

The third word of his letter is servant, doulos in Greek. It means “servant, slave.”

“In the NT a person owned as a possession for various lengths of times (Hebrew slaves no more than seven years, Gentile slaves without time limit), of lower social status than free persons or masters; slaves could earn or purchase their freedom.”

Later in the letter Paul writes...

For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:7-8)

Are you living? If we live, it is to honor…the LORD.

On my wedding day I was given a ring. I keep my wedding ring on. I belong to my wife.

I gave her a ring on our wedding day. How much did the ring cost her? Nothing. But when she received the gift, it cost her everything. She belongs to me. She’s mine. I belong to her. I’m hers. We belong to each other.

When Jesus died for you, He offered a free gift to you. Salvation costs Jesus everything and you nothing, but when you say yes, you surrender the rights of your life. Your life is no longer your own.

He is the supremely ruling, reigning King of the universe!!!

We don’t surrender in the areas of life where we don’t know Him. He is all-powerful, holy, good, trustworthy, …

If I truly believe God is my Provider and I am a steward, giving is how I surrender.

We need some reverent fear of God. He’s not your co-pilot! Get in the trunk!

Do you really know Him?

Jesus warned His followers...

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

These are sobering words.

What will He say to you?

We surrender to the lordship of Christ.

Jesus is no longer a little baby. He is the King of kings and the LORD of lords. Is He your King? Is He your Lord...of everything in your life?

Credits: Series theme and various ideas from Craig Groeschel,

You can listen to the podcast here.
You can view a music video of
Away In A Manger from here.

Deserting Disciples, John 6:60-71, 5 August 2012

Big Idea: Following Jesus is not easy, but it’s worth it.


Who do you follow, and why?

Who do you follow on Twitter?
Whose blog do you read?
radio or television show do you listen to or watch?
What authors do you read?


I would like to propose that most everything that we do is based upon what we hope to get in return. For example, we eat so we are not hungry. We buy cars that we expect will transport us safely and effectively. Even our generosity has some measure of personal pleasure to it, that good feeling that we are helping someone in need.

One writer put it this way: “We use relationships for what they can do for us and what they can get us, but not for what we give to others and receive from them. We keep our distance from intimacy and trust through our cynicism and calloused hearts.”

Last week we looked at Jesus’ claim to be the Bread of Life.

Jesus feeds thousands of people. They not only enjoy the free lunch, they assume He will overthrow Rome, set them free, and be the ultimate political leader creating a utopian society. Quite simply, they liked Jesus for what they could get from Jesus.

Jesus knows us all too well. Nobody knows the human heart like its Creator. As He is teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, He tells them

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. (John 6:54-58)

Last week each person was offered a generous piece of bread. Would anyone like some of the leftovers? Of course not! Jesus says don’t pursue things that spoil. The bread you ate last week has gone bad. Jesus does not go bad. In fact, He is eternal.

While you may not be here today for physical bread, there are many that pursue fast-food spirituality. Give me a spiritual diet pill, minimize my inconvenience, serve me, feed me, tickle my ears, make me feel good, promise me that I will be blessed and rich and happy.

John 6:60-71

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:60-63)

Deep, authentic relationships are costly. They don’t always taste sweet. In fact, sometimes we have to swallow bitter pills. Sometimes, though, those difficult conversations help us grow. They help us become more like Christ. Sometimes, like a horse pill prescribed by the doctor, we need to take a big gulp and endure the momentary discomfort for long-term health.

The cup for us is sweet, but it was bitter for Jesus.

As we said last week, Jesus isn’t promoting cannibalism or Twilight vampires. He doesn’t mean to actually eat Him for lunch! The words are Spirit. Remember John 1:1, in the beginning was the Word, the logos, Jesus?

Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6:64-65)

Whosoever will may come.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:66)

Can you imagine deserting Jesus?

This doesn’t just say the crowds, but disciples. Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Why? Is it because of what Jesus can do for you?

This verse shows that it is not necessarily a permanent condition.

The Bible was not written with chapter and verse numbers. They were added much later to aid study. Nevertheless, notice the reference of this verse—666. This may be the only 6:66 in the Bible!

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)

Why did Peter stay? He was chosen. John 6:37, 44, 57.

As a fisherman, Peter had to learn patience. He knows sometimes the net is empty and you endure hunger. He’s also seen Jesus perform miracles, feed crowds, and even instruct him on where and when to fish, to the point of his nets breaking from the weight of the fish!

One author wrote, “Whereas Judas steals form the money bag, Jesus has stolen Peter’s heart. Peter has both torn nets and a torn and broken spirit A broken and contrite heart before God is the most beautiful thing in the world. The true Christ-followers or disciples, like Peter, hold tightly to Jesus’ hard teaching, even if they don’t get what Jesus is saying. No doubt it’s because Jesus holds tightly to them. But it’s also because such followers have come to the end of themselves, the end of their resources, the end of self-sufficiency.”

People are searching today.

Do you want to leave Jesus? Check out the alternatives. We’re the only ones with grace! It’s the best deal in town! Only Jesus has the words of eternal life. Only Jesus died for you and proved His love.

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) (John 6:70-71)

John gives us a sneak preview of what is to come.

Jesus chose a devil to follow Him!

“I came from heaven. I came to give you life. I want you to surrender your life.”

Are you going to leave Jesus? When God doesn’t make sense, when our understanding of God goes south, are we going to desert Him?

Who are you going to live for? Who are you going to follow?

What areas of your life do you need to surrender to Jesus? He wants everything, not just your scraps and leftovers.

There’s an old expression that says, “You are what you eat.” I like to say that I love fruits and nuts!

We can feed on Jesus or on the things of this world. Think about this past week. How much time did you spend feeding your brain Jesus? How much time did you spend with Him, talking with HIm, reading His world, praising Him, talking about Him? How much time did you spend feeding your brain the things of this world? Music, movies, television, websites, advertising? Some of it is hard to avoid, but we are what we eat. We become what or Whom we follow.

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The First Recruits, John 1:35-51, 20 May 2012

Big Idea: Jesus recruits four disciples: Andy, Pete, Phil and Nate

John 1:35-51

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” (John 1:35-38)

We talked about this last week. Jesus is again called the Lamb of God.

Because of John’s witness, two of his own disciples leave him and start to follow Jesus. John realizes he is number two. What humility!

Bestselling author Jim Collins who wrote
Good To Great says that the highest form of leadership requires leadership. His formula is Humility + Will = Level 5 Leadership.

As we said previously, John prepared the way. He humbled himself for the sake of helping people encounter Jesus. That’s our role today.

This wasn’t a case of them getting a better offer, but John saying, “He’s the One I’ve been preparing you to meet.” They shift their allegiance from John the Baptist to Jesus...and it’s ok. It’s great. It’s supposed to happen.

Jesus asks why they are following Him! “What do you want?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
(John 1:39)

Jesus says, “Come and see.” John includes a detail about it being 4:00. He was likely an eyewitness, and maybe one of the unnamed disciples in the previous verses.

Jesus invites them to spend the day with Him.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).
42 And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
(John 1:40-42)

Was Andrew excited about finding the Messiah? Had he heard Jesus was in the neighborhood?

“The first thing” Andrew did...

Andrew is often seen bringing people to Jesus (6:8; 12:22). What about you?

Cephas is also known as Simon and is renamed Peter which means “rock.” The Greek is petros. This is a nickname more than a common name, like we would call someone “Rocky” today.

Jesus’ authority to change Simon’s name is significant. He is casting a vision for what Simon will become, a rock.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)

Galilee is about one hundred miles north.

Jesus “finds” Philip and invites him to follow.

Philip is a popular Greek name that means “horse lover.”

It’s a simple invitation. He doesn’t beg, coerce, force, or yell. He just invites.

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote —Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
(John 1:44-46)

Philip recruits Nathanael, who might also be called Bartholomew.

Andrew recruits his brother Peter.

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
(John 1:46a)

Nazareth obviously does not have a good reputation! Actually, it was probably not bad, just small. Nathanael was from Cana, a rival village. He had seen others claim to be the Messiah.

Don’t judge a book by its cover!

Philip replies...

“Come and see,” said Philip.
(John 1:46b)

Do you see how Philip is already following Jesus. He says what Jesus said earlier: “Come and see.”

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
(John 1:47-48)

How do you know me?

Jesus knew Nathanael before Nathanael knew Him.

Jesus knows you, too, whether you are aware of it or not.

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (John 1:49)

Nathanael gets it! He changes his tune about Jesus. He experiences a miracle and believes.

In one sentence we see three names for Jesus:

Rabbi, which we saw earlier literally means “teacher”
Son of God (deity)
King of Israel

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
(John 1:50-51)

The “you” is plural. He is no longer just speaking to Nathanael.

There is another instance of angels ascending and descending in Genesis 28.

Jesus is the stairway to heaven. He is greater than Jacob and greater than the ladder. He is the place where we meet God!

John is telling us in the first chapter of his Gospel that the entire Scriptures point to Jesus. He sees history through the story of Christ.


We have come to the conclusion of the first chapter of John. Only 20 more to go!

We have seen John the Baptist prepare the way for Jesus.

We have seen Jesus’ first recruits, though we know little about them. The focus is on Jesus.

We see that contact with Jesus leads to self-denial. This is true for John the Baptist and the first disciples of Christ.

Note that conversion is not about merely learning information; it is about personally taking action and following Jesus.

This passage shows us that loving God must be connected to knowing God. Christian faith is both commitment and content.

Who is Jesus? We have been introduced to Him in several ways...

  • Messiah (20, 41)
  • the Prophet (21)
  • Jesus (29)
  • Lamb of God (29, 36)
  • one who baptizes with the Spirit (33)
  • chosen [Son] of God (34)
  • rabbi/teacher (38, 49)
  • Christ/anointed one (41)
  • son of Joseph (45)
  • Nazarene (45)
  • Son of God (49)
  • King of Israel (49)
  • Son of Man (51)

  • In conclusion, we have been introduced throughout John’s first chapter to Jesus. He is God. He is human. He created everything. He came on mission. He invites others to follow Him, but doing so is not a casual thing. We must commit both our minds and our hearts.

    The great news is that when we fully surrender to Jesus, He remains faithful to us...always. We don’t risk devoting ourselves to someone who will betray, abandon, or harm us. When we draw near to Him, He promises to draw near to us and be with us always, to the very end of the age.

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