Evangelize now, 11 February 2024

Evangelize now
40 Days of Prayer
Matthew 28:18-20
Series Big Idea: We are beginning the new year on our knees, joining other Alliance churches for 40 Days of Prayer.
Big Idea: The “e-word” is not only a command of Jesus, it’s a joy…sharing good news.
“What would be good news in Toledo? What headline would you love to see in the Blade?”
I asked those questions to some of the most prominent people in our community several years ago when I was working on my doctoral thesis. What do you think? What would be good news to you? A big going-out-of-business sale at the mall? The birth of a baby? Your favorite team winning the big game? A job promotion with a big raise? A new car? An outstanding meal? A budding romance?
In 1985, there was a movie called Brewster’s Millions. Monty Brewster, a minor league baseball player, must choose between a $1 million inheritance upfront or an entire estate if he can spend $30 million in 30 days. There are several catches to the deal (he can’t give it away except for 5% to charity and 5% in gambling losses), but perhaps most challenging, he must keep it a secret.
Generally speaking, I don’t like secrets. I can keep a secret, but I usually don’t like to do so, especially when it’s good news. Good news needs to be shared!
Good news needs to be shared. Church people often talk about the gospel. We mentioned this last Sunday. Gospel simply means “good news.” Sharing the gospel, proclaiming the gospel is all about good news. When I interviewed people in UpTown about good news, I was trying to discern what it would mean to bring the gospel to our neighborhood. Many of the things shared answered that question. They spoke of jobs, safety, and health. Are those good? Yes! Does the gospel address them? Yes! Ultimately, the gospel is Jesus. Jesus is LORD. Jesus is King and wants all of humanity to submit to his Lordship, not because he wants to oppress us, but rather he wants to liberate us from the bondage of sin, addiction, poverty, and violence. He wants to be LORD of your life and mine…every day…every moment. Sometimes we let him!
The last recorded words in Matthew’s gospel—his biography of Jesus—say this:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18, NLT)
Jesus is LORD. This is the gospel. This is good news! He has been given all authority.
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19, NLT)
Because Jesus is LORD, because he has all authority, he can commission his friends to go. The original Greek word here is poreuomai. It means to traverse, to travel, to depart, to go! We can’t do it from our La-Z Boy recliners! We must take action, move, go! This is the calling of every follower of Jesus. This is the commission of every disciple of Jesus.
Which begs the question: what is a disciple? It is a student, an apprentice. I often hear people talk about how this football coach is a disciple of another one…a student becoming like his teacher. It was not uncommon in Jesus’ day for people to ask the rabbi to disciple them. It’s fascinating to me how Jesus chose his twelve rather than act upon their request.
The only way we can make disciples is by being a disciple. Who is discipling you? Who are you discipling? Do they know it?
Generally speaking, this can’t happen on Sunday morning. We gather to worship and study the Bible, which is great, but discipleship…spiritual formation…life transformation is “slow, incremental, over time, with others, and for others” as Alliance leader Richard Bush used to say.
What is the first step to becoming a disciple? It’s meeting Jesus!
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15, NLT)
Boom! There it is! Going and tell the gospel, the good news. That’s not written to professional clergy. That’s what disciples do. Disciples make disciples. Disciples share good news. Disciples go and make disciples…of all nations, which is why we’re so committed not only to Toledo but also Germany and the Dominican Republic and every nation, tribe and tongue…until all have heard the good news!
Imagine living your entire life and never tasting ice cream. I can’t imagine! How sad!
Imagine living your entire life having never experienced air conditioning or heat or running water or motorized transportation.
Imagine never hearing the name of Jesus, knowing nothing of this historical figure who changed the world. Imagine never knowing about the cross, the crucifixion, and the empty tomb. Imagine being completely clueless about God’s love, the invitation of salvation, the pathway to peace, and the opportunity to experience forgiveness and grace. I can’t imagine, but as I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve encountered people who have not rejected Jesus…they’ve never been introduced to him!
That’s our job! That’s our mission! The first part of disciple-making is evangelism, proclaiming good news, inviting people into the Kingdom of God, introducing them to Jesus!
I have two friends who were born in other countries and knew almost nothing about Jesus before we met. I can’t tell you how much joy I have sharing my story and His story. They are not my projects. I’m not trying to force anything upon them…but I want them to know my best friend. I want to faithfully represent what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and encourage them to follow him, too. It takes time. I’ve known one friend for several years, the other for almost a year. I love to get together with both of them, hang out, talk, play sports…It’s not scary or intimidating…it’s just being intentional. GO and make disciples.
What about you? How many unbelieving friends do you have? I’m not saying I have a lot, but I deeply love these two men and I’m committed to them…again, not because they’re projects, but they’re my friends. I like them! I like being with them! I have been praying for them and believe someday they will surrender their lives to Jesus and tell others, disciple others. That’s how we’ve gotten here after more than two thousand years…disciples making disciples, proclaiming Jesus in word and deed, living radical, alternative lifestyles filled with faith, hope, and love.
I know for some of you it’s hard to GO and make disciples. You’ll never travel to east Germany where less than 1% are Christians. Can you pray for our trip in June? Can you help us pay for the plane tickets? Can you volunteer at Mud Hens games and help us raise money for the trip?
Not all of you are called to go to Germany, but you can probably go next door. You can probably go across the street and meet your neighbor. It amazes me how many people don’t know their neighbors…even the people who live right next door!
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19, NLT)
GO and make disciples…of all nations. The Internet has certainly allowed us to reach people far away, and let’s not forget the hundreds (thousands?) of international students, immigrants, and refugees living right here in Toledo. You don’t need a passport to do global missions! Volunteering with Water for Ishmael would be a great first step.
The rest of Jesus’ commission says that once people are introduced to Jesus and surrender to him, then…
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NLT)
Discipleship is more than praying a magic prayer so you can go to heaven when you die. It’s a lifestyle of obedience. Christianity is not a spectator sport! Disciples make disciples, and it begins with proclaiming good news…evangelism.
Author and pastor Ed Stetzer says of this text, “Jesus’ last words should be our first priority.” Family, we’re on a mission from God. The mission is not to sing a few songs and listen to a sermon once a week. It’s not to be busy distributing religious goods and services. We’re on a mission to make disciples, to restore God’s masterpieces, to love God and others well. The greatest way to love another human is to introduce them to Jesus, to share good news…evangelism!
As we finish our 40 Days of Prayer series with our Christian & Missionary Alliance family, our subject is Evangelize Now. The “e-word” is not only a command of Jesus, it’s a joy…sharing good news.
Sharing good news is a joy! Sure, there are those who are imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for their faith. I don’t want to make light of that. In fact, I want to pause and remember those who truly suffer for Jesus. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is a classic collection of such stories, and Persecution.com has wonderful resources to help you pray for the persecuted church.
But we’ve been blessed with freedoms in this nation we must never take for granted. Instead, we should seize every opportunity to share good news. Not everyone will accept it, but that’s not the point. Sharing good news is a joy! I love to talk about my grandkids, even if the only person who is as excited as I am is their grandma!
We naturally talk about what we love—our family, pets, sports teams, hobbies…why not our faith? I know, we’re not supposed to talk about religion or politics, but what if it’s not about religion at all? What if it’s simply sharing the good news of what Jesus has done in our lives? We don’t need a megaphone. We don’t need to pressure anyone. Evangelism can be as easy as sharing our story…His story. At the end, I’m going to give you several tools to help you share good news, but first you need to see the urgency of doing so.
Our world is broken, desperate, and dark. People are lost, searching, and hopeless. I often say we are called to be hope dealers! Not everyone wants hope, but many people today are struggling with anxiety, fear, depression, loneliness, and a lack of purpose. We have the solution! We have good news! We have Jesus! I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad I’m living in this moment, this election year, this time in history where things seem to be falling apart. The darker the world, the brighter the light of Jesus can shine in and through us!
I used to hear people say the greatest time to introduce people to Jesus is when someone is in crisis…a divorce, a job loss, the death of a child…some life event that has them seeking, asking questions, looking for help. Sometimes that window is very small and once people get back to busyness, they won’t have time for or sense a need for God.
But right now, virtually everyone you meet is in crisis! COVID has been disorienting for all of us, but there’s more. In a 2018 Cigna health study—before the pandemic—nearly half of Americans said they sometimes or always feel alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent). More than one in four (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
In fact, loneliness is so bad, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said in terms of lifespan, loneliness is equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day! People are dying because they need a friend…just a friend!
Can you be a friend to someone? It’s not just going to happen. You can’t do it playing games on your phone. You need to go…and make disciples.
Before we get to some practical tools, let me remind you of the urgency. We need to evangelize now because people are dying…physically, but even more tragically physically. If you still don’t believe me, Barna released a report this past week which showed the top thing urban churches like ours can address is…loneliness. Church and unchurched people said loneliness is the top thing we can address…and the Surgeon General is urging faith communities to do so. We are uniquely equipped to meet one of the greatest needs in our city. Let’s go!
So What?
What now? How do I make a friend? How do I start a conversation? First, pray. Ask God to show you someone to love, to befriend. It might be someone next door, but it could be a co-worker, a family member, the cashier at the grocery store…it could be any human. Each is a masterpiece, and many are hurting, lonely, living in fear.
Last fall I was introduced to Heather and Ashley Holleman. Heather’s a professor at Penn State and she wrote a book called The Six Conversations. It might be the best tool I’ve seen for engaging people in relationships. This is for introverts and extroverts, by the way! She said the four most critical things to do to foster a warm and connected conversation are:
-       Be curious
-       Believe the best
-       Express concern
-       Share your life
It’s really a great book on how to ask good, engaging questions, build relationships, and love well. That’s the first step to evangelism. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. In our present day when the church has a PR crisis, we have to earn the right to be heard. Tragically, church and Christianity do not sound like good news to many in our culture. They sound like politics. They sound like judgment and condemnation. They sound like guilt and shame. They sound like boredom and stuffiness (as Kenny said last Sunday). Let’s change that, family!
“What would be good news in Toledo? The Gospel! Jesus is LORD! He loves and died for every man, woman, and child in our city and beyond. He offers abundant life, eternal life, forgiveness, mercy, grace, peace, meaning, and purpose. He’s not as concerned about where we’ve been but where we’re headed. He is the perfect example of what it means to be human, and he’s where the joy is!
I want to challenge you with three things:
1.    List three names of people you know that need salvation. If you can’t, pray that God leads you to some. Pray for them.
2.    Look for “divine appointments.” Commit to praying for them and asking God to provide you with an opportunity to share the gospel with them.
3.    Go and evangelize to someone! Share your story. Invite them to Dinner Church and Celebrate Recovery. Invite them to our Easter celebration next month. Invite them to our next Alpha Course.
Family, we have good news to share. Don’t hoard it. Don’t keep it to yourself. Let’s let the whole world know in word and deed that Jesus is LORD! 
Preach the gospel…it’s necessary to use words…and deeds!
You don’t have to have all of the answers to share the gospel. Just share your story. We just sang about it. Pray…Go…be intentional…take a risk…make a friend…share your story…share His story…for His glory!

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

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

Resurrection Sunday: Finding the Cure, 12 April 2020

Resurrection Sunday: Finding the Cure

Big idea: Resurrection Sunday is all about a cure for sin and death.

Welcome to First Alliance Church Online Worship on this Resurrection Sunday. On Friday, we remembered Jesus experiencing death, a brutal crucifixion on the cross.

Many of you are experiencing pain, loss, and grief today. Jesus certainly knows those emotions. He understands.

You may be filled with fear and anxiety. Today we want to fill you with hope. The message of Easter is that God is with us, miracles do happen, eternal and abundant life is available, and Jesus is alive!

My name is Kirk and this morning our parking lot is empty.
Our sanctuary seats are empty.
But so is the tomb of Jesus Christ!

He is Risen! He is risen, indeed!

We want you to not only watch today…we want you to engage. You can chat, request prayer, give, even raise your hand online. Just for fun, can you chat your zip code right now. I think it’ll be fun to see who’s with us this morning.

I want to offer a warm welcome to our First Alliance family. I miss being with you in person, but great things are happening online. A special shout-out goes to family and friends joining us today, including international friends from the University of Toledo. Go Rockets!

COVID-19 has postponed the baseball season. It has cancelled the British Open golf tournament and the Wimbledon tennis tournament. It has disrupted all of our lives. But it can’t change the greatest story ever told, a story that continues to transform lives thousands of years later, for people all over the globe. Welcome to Resurrection Sunday!

It’s time to celebrate! It’s time to sing! Wherever you are, please join us!


If you could be famous for one thing right now in our world, what would you want it to be? In these interesting times, being a great actor doesn’t really matter. Athletes are irrelevant at the moment. Politicians should be worried about serving people rather than…well, let’s not go there! If you want to earn the attention and praise of humanity, there’s one simple thing you need to do: discover a cure for the virus.

Can you imagine what it would be like to find the cure? I don’t mean a vaccine, but a cure. Lives would be saved. Fear would diminish. The economy would rebound. We could find toilet paper! Perhaps best of all, I could see and hug our granddaughter again!

Although it’s hard to believe, there is something more devastating to our planet than coronavirus. It not only impacts every person on the planet, it has affected every human who has ever been on earth. It’s so common, we often fail to recognize it, though we encounter it every single day. The word itself has drifted from our vocabulary, yet its presence has never been more real. The greatest problem in our world is…sin. And there’s something greater than a vaccine. There’s a cure!

Pastor Kirk, it’s Easter and you want to talk about sin? Yes! It’s the reason we have Easter. Let me back up just a bit.

Why are you here…on this planet? Have you ever stopped to think about the meaning of life? Until recently, most of us have been so busy going to work, watching sports, being with friends, attending concerts, catching a show at the movies…do you remember those things?!?!?

We’ve been so busy…yet now (I’m told!) many people have extra time on their hands, time which inevitably leads us to think, to ask questions, to consider the deeper things in life. Why are you here?

Despite my workload growing through the pandemic, I’ve been pondering the meaning of life more recently. I’m grateful to have answers, but perhaps you’ve discovered there’s more to your identity than your job, hobbies, friends, or wealth.

Though it has its critics, I’ve found the Bible to be the best explanation for reality, the finest source of wisdom, the greatest collection of timeless stories, and the most satisfying book of hope.

In the beginning, God created. That’s how the Bible begins (Genesis 1:1). God made everything we see, from the sun and moon to the trees, dogs, and ants. Then He made man and woman…to take care of creation and—most of all—to have a relationship with us. We were created to know God. I don’t mean know God like we know about our governor or we know about Thomas Edison or we know about Tiger Woods. I mean we were created to know God like we know our best friend or favorite relative.

It seems hard to believe the Almighty would want to have a relationship with us, but that’s at the heart of why we’re here, why we were created, the meaning of life.

One famous document, the Westminster Shorter Catechism from 1648 states the chief end of man “is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.” Here are some of the supporting verses:

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. (Psalm 86:9)

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)   

Unfortunately, relationships can be broken. You probably have experienced that in your own life. Is there anything more painful than a broken relationship?

Our relationship with God was broken by sin. The book of Genesis talks about how God created Adam and Eve and they had a wonderful relationship until the tragic event known as The Fall, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, eating fruit from the one tree in the beautiful Garden of Eden that was forbidden. The sinned, they rebelled, and that broke the relationship. It introduced pain and suffering for humanity. It started the mess we know in our world, a planet filled with hunger, homelessness, violence, and—yes—viruses.

We were created to know God, but sin destroyed that relationship. Our sin is worse than any virus.

There are vaccines for virus’. We all know many men and women are hard at work right now trying to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, something that will make our bodies resistant to the virus.

But no vaccine has ever been developed for sin. We all sin. None of us is perfect. We all fail, mess up, forget, fall, rebel, make mistakes…sin. We rationalize it and call it a little white lie. We justify it by saying everyone does it. We mask it by pretending it wasn’t that big of a deal. We blame by saying it was someone else’s fault.

But we all sin. I sin. You sin. And the problem with sin is it eventually leads to death. The sin of a drunk driver might lead to the death of a human body. The sin of adultery might lead to the death of a marriage. The sin of a gambling addiction might lead to the death of a bank account. Worse of all, sin leads to the death of our relationship with God because He is intolerant of sin. He is holy and perfect…He’s God! He can’t get within six feet—within six yards–within six miles of sin!

There’s no vaccine for sin, but there’s a cure.
Jesus is the cure. He is the only person who was perfect, who was sinless. He came not only to teach and set an example for us of what it means to be human, He came to die for us, to become the cure for sin. His death on the cross paid the price, the penalty for our sin. The most famous verse in the Bible says,

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. (John 3:16)

The cross is the symbol of Christianity. It reminds us of the suffering and agony Jesus endured, not because he did anything wrong, but because we did. He died to offer forgiveness to us. He died to reconcile us to our heavenly Dad. When he died, it looked like hope was lost. It appeared that sin had won. It seemed that evil would rule. But that was Friday.

Jesus’ friends and family who watched him suffer and die didn’t understand what was taking place before their eyes. They didn’t realize death couldn’t hold him. They didn’t know the grave couldn’t keep him. They couldn’t imagine Sunday was coming!!! Here’s what happened…

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7)

Jesus defeated death.
Jesus defeated sin.
Jesus is the cure.

Here’s what Paul wrote to a church in modern-day Turkey…

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

Jesus destroyed death
He shamed sin!
He made a spectacle of satan.
He eliminated evil.

Jesus is the cure for sin.

Here’s the thing about cures: they don’t happen automatically. You need to receive the cure. Usually that means taking medicine, receiving a shot, or undergoing a treatment.

Jesus is the cure for sin, but you must
experience the cure. You must believe Jesus died for you and rose from the dead…and prove that belief by following Jesus, making him not only Savior but also LORD. The cure is not simply about going to heaven when you die. It’s about experiencing heaven—God’s presence—before you die.

You can experience the cure for sin by simply receiving the gift, by saying, “Jesus, I give you my life.” Jesus’ invitation was simple, “Follow me.” Have you experienced the cure? If not, today is a fantastic day to do so. As we celebrate Jesus conquering death, it’s a perfect day for you to experience abundant, eternal life.

I know many of you have been too busy for God. You’ve had no need for God. But now? It’s amazing how one virus can change our world…and us.

I urge you today to experience the cure. Say yes to Jesus. Surrender your life. Repent—turn away—from your sins and follow Jesus. I’m not talking about religion. It’s all about that relationship with God, the meaning of life, the purpose of our creation.

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

Some of you have experienced the cure. Maybe you prayed a prayer decades ago in Sunday School or at church camp. Maybe you’ve let your relationship with God drift and it’s time to reconnect. Today would be a great day to do that!

Regardless of where you on your spiritual journey, I want to encourage you to
share the cure. Imagine if someone had the cure for COVID-19 and decided to keep it to themselves. How selfish! How stupid!

Followers of Jesus have the cure for sin, Jesus Christ. We can’t keep it to ourselves. We need to share it—especially now! People all around us are dying—literally and figuratively. Our neighbors are searching for hope. Our friends are desperate for peace. Our families are filled with fear. Jesus is hope. Jesus is the Prince of peace. Jesus is the cure for fear and sin.

Share the cure. Share this video. Share your story. Share God’s story.

I want to give you an action step. On your screen, you can raise your hand. If you’d like to begin your journey today and experience the cure for the first time, please raise your hand now.

If you’ve experienced the cure but your relationship has drifted and you want to reconnect with God, raise your hand now.

If you’ve experienced the cure but kept it to yourself and you want to share it with others, raise your hand now.

Before you go, we want you to know God loves you—that’s what the cross and the empty tomb are all about. Jesus proved his love for you, now you just need to experience and share it.

We love you, too. Our campus is closed, but our staff and leaders remain committed to serving you and your family. More than anything, we want to help you get to know and become like Jesus.

If you’re not on our e-mail list, you can text your e-mail to 419.318.2066.

We have Zoom prayer each weekday morning at 9 AM.

I do a devotional each weekday at 4 PM on Facebook Live…and have some special guests joining me in the coming weeks.

We’ll be back here for FAC Online Worship next Sunday at 10:30 AM, continuing our series on the life of Jesus from the book of Mark.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • You can watch this online worship experience here.
  • Hope for our Broken World, 25 August 2019

    Hope for our Broken World
    August 25, 2019
    1 Cor. 6:9-11; John 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:8-9

    Series Big Idea:
    The gospel—“good news”—is powerful and transformative.

    Big Idea:
    Our broken world desperately needs to experience the Gospel.

    Jesus is the hope of the world! Our politicians, scientists, educators, or entertainers will never bring the healing our nation and planet desperately need. Only the love, grace, mercy, and redemption of God can cure what ails us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus and his power, not the evil of our world.

    Today we’re concluding our series The Power of the Gospel. We said the gospel—or good news—is ultimately about Jesus, Jesus is LORD. He is the good news. His life, death, and resurrection have wonderful implications for those who follow him, but the gospel is so much more than going to heaven when you die. It’s about Jesus—the way, the truth, and the life…now!

    We talked about how the good news needs to be shared, and last Sunday we saw an example of a remarkable transformation because of the gospel as Saul—an enemy of Christianity—encountered Jesus and became arguably the most important figure in the movement Jesus began. Today we conclude our series in a message entitled
    Hope for Our Broken World.

    Our world is desperate for hope. This is not only obvious, it’s nothing new.

    I know, some of you want to return to the good ol’ days, but did they ever really exist?

    What if today is tomorrow’s good ol’ days?

    I don’t know when America was actually great (though I heard a rumor that Queen Elizabeth has a hat which reads, “Make America Great Britain Again!”).

    Has there ever been a moment when our world was truly at peace?

    Our world is broken because of sin. It is desperate for hope.

    If you study world history—and especially church history—you’ll see how desperate humanity has been for hope. Consider this excerpt from a letter written to the church in ancient Corinth in Greece:

    Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NLT)

    As someone once said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Our world is desperate for hope.

    They seek it in the strangest places.

    • - Politics
    • - Entertainment
    • - Science
    • - Drugs and alcohol
    • - Sex
    • - Religion
    • - Greed and consumerism
    • - Adventure and danger

    The problem is none of those things will truly satisfy. Sure, they may bring temporary happiness, but they will all eventually fail to live up to their promises…and in many cases will create their own problems such as addiction or even death. Amazingly, people have been “lookin’ for hope in all the wrong places” for centuries!

    If my first statement would delight Captain Obvious, I’m even more convinced of my next declaration…

    Jesus is the hope of the world.

    Unfortunately, this is not obvious to everyone. In fact, billions of people know nothing about Jesus. They’re not offended by him. They haven’t had a bad experience with him. They’ve never even heard his name, much less met him!

    If we turn back to Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, it continues…

    Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11, NLT)

    Only Jesus offers real cleaning.
    Only Jesus can make us holy.
    Only Jesus can make us right with God.
    Only Jesus offers real hope.

    Many of you have heard this a thousand times, but listen again…

    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)

    The meaning of “so” is not about the amount of God’s love. It literally means the qualitative aspect of God’s love, the manner in which He loved the world. It is stating, “This is what the love of God looks like”…a sacrifice, a gift, …action!” To follow Jesus means we follow his example of sacrifice, of action, of sharing good news.

    How in the world did Jesus-followers get the reputation of being filled with hate when God loved?

    How can we be known as people who are after people’s money when God gave so generously to us, sending Jesus?

    How is it that so-called Christians can judge unbelievers when Jesus came to save them, not condemn them?

    Jesus is the hope of the world.

    Hope is good.
    Hope is attractive.
    Hope doesn’t need to be sold, only offered.

    For some Christians, there are only two dates that matter: the date they were saved and the date they die and go to heaven. What a tragedy!

    Jesus is not just the hope for you. God loved the world! Jesus is the hope of the world! It is a responsibility and a joy to proclaim the gospel…good news…Jesus…to the world!

    Some pathetic Christians are sitting around waiting for the world to end so they can get out of here, but that’s not God’s heart. That’s not a Jesus’ attitude. He sent us on mission, family. He commissioned us to make disciples, to love, to proclaim the Gospel. Peter wrote,

    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)

    Do you know how many of my kids I love? All of them!

    Jesus said he would return soon, and I think he’s a little slow, which is why I’m grateful for these words from Peter. See, if anything, God’s waiting for us. It’s not that He’s slow, but that He is love. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to repent, to turn from their sin, to surrender to Jesus. He’s not eager to judge us—though we will all be judged—but wants all to repent, to turn from sin, to follow Jesus. But…

    How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

    If the only thing that mattered was your salvation, you’d get zapped to heaven as soon as you surrendered your life to Jesus. But you’re still here! You’ve got work to do, and so do I.

    We are here to re-present Jesus.

    Followers of Jesus—Christians—are to look like and act like Jesus. He passed the baton to us. He told us to go and make disciples. This requires action. It’s not a suggestion. It’s why we’re here!

    What would happen if we really loved Jesus…and proved it not with our head but with our hearts and hands? What if we really took him seriously, got out of our comfort zones and loved this city that way Jesus would love it? Imagine if every person in Toledo was given an invitation to know and follow Christ? Wouldn’t it be great if we could participate in an earth-shaking spiritual awakening in our world which began here in Holy Toledo?

    I’m done with status quo, mediocre, boring Christianity. I want more of God! I want more of the Holy Spirit! I want to see revival…in me…in you…in our city…in our world. I’m sick of satan grabbing all of the news headlines! I want some good news! I’ve got some good news!

    We are called to be hope dealers!

    If Jesus is the hope of the world, we become that hope as we re-present Jesus, as we are the hands and feet of Jesus today.

    Our nation has had some revivals, including the Great Awakening.

    There’s a fascinating video called
    Transformations which documents communities transformed by the Gospel, by Jesus, by a miraculous move of the Holy Spirit when people come together in unity repentance, prayer, and evangelism.

    I want Him to do it again…here!

    Is anybody with me?

    This is our day. This is our world. Previous generations experienced revivals, but what about us? God never changes, friends. I believe He’s ready to pour out His Spirit on us, our city, and our world if we will repent, pray, and share the gospel. We have to go and make disciples. We have to proclaim in deed and word good news. We have follow Jesus and practice what we preach, 24/7/365.

    So What?

    “Great, pastor. You had too much caffeine this morning, you’re getting all excited, but now what?”

    I’m so glad you asked! I want to offer a few, simple, next steps. In a word, BLESS.

    BLESS your neighbor.

    Begin with prayer

    You don’t have to be a spiritual giant to share good news, to offer hope to our broken world, one life at a time. You can bring someone to Dinner Church tonight. You can ask open-ended questions to stimulate conversation such as, “Where are you at on your spiritual journey?” You can invite your neighbors over for a BBQ. You can buy someone a cup of coffee and chat.

    This fall you can be a conversation partner with Water for Ishmael.
    You can volunteer at the After School Klub and Rosa Parks Elementary.

    Barna research has concluded 97% of church members will never share their faith, yet I bet most of you want to. You want your neighbors to experience good news. You want them to have faith, hope, and love. You just feel awkward. I know. I don’t walk up to total strangers and say, “Hi, I’m Kirk. Do you know Jesus?” Some people actually do that! But you don’t have to do it alone. We’re a family. We partner together. We literally set the table once a month at Dinner Church. Our Christmastime gatherings will create great opportunities for people to encounter the Hope of the world.

    But there’s one more thing I want to tell you about. Coincidentally, this past week was the beginning of a movement which could be a catalyst to revival in our city and nation.

    Saturate Toledo

    We have been invited to join Toledo area churches in distributing bags to reach all 500,000 souls in our area. What an opportunity! We will pray, stuff bags, and deliver them to our neighbors. It’s that simple…and all of the resources have been donated!

    Area pastors are invited to a free lunch on October 1 at The Premiere Center. If you know a pastor—besides me!—make sure they know about it. Our plan is to assemble and distribute bags this fall. If you can walk, talk, and/or pray, you can participate.

    The goal is 60 million homes by the end of 2020. So far, 28 million have been adopted and nearly 13 million have already been saturated…that’s 40 million people who have received a bag in 45 states!

    One of the exciting things is donors are making this available to our church and city for free! All we have to do is assemble the materials and pass them out to our neighbors.

    Saturate Toledo is a simple way we can make sure everyone has a chance to encounter the Hope of the world, Jesus Christ.


    Our world is desperate for hope. They’re never going to find it in Columbus or Washington, Hollywood or Broadway. Money, sex and power will never truly satisfy. It won’t come through Facebook or Apple or Instagram.

    Jesus is the Hope of the world…and we get to re-present him to every person we encounter, online or in person.

    It’s time for us to rise up and proclaim good news. No pressure, no manipulation, just love. BLESSing. Hope. Our world desperately needs it. It couldn’t be more obvious. What are we going to do about it?

    LORD, give us Your heart for the lost, the lonely, the least of these that we may re-present Jesus, the hope of the world.

    Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Transformed, 18 August 2019

    Series—The Power of the Gospel
    Acts 9:1-31

    Series Big Idea:
    The gospel—“good news”—is powerful and transformative.

    Big Idea:
    Every person you encounter is a masterpiece with tremendous potential, regardless of their present condition.

    Several years ago, my late mother-in-law invited Heather and I to her new home in central Michigan. She had warned us it was a fixer-upper, but we were not prepared for the mess she purchased. I have been in nicer tents! Perhaps we should’ve planned on sleeping in the car!

    Rather than embarrassment, she was proud of her purchase. She described in detail all of the things she was going to do to this shack. Any person in their right mind would’ve done exactly one thing: knocked it down and started over! She didn’t have another place to stay, so she lived in this structure for months and months while it was renovated around her. The woman had vision, and the end result was nothing short of amazing.

    Have you met people like that cottage? Their physical health might be a train wreck. Their finances are in shambles. Their relationships are a disaster. They need serious mental and emotional help.

    Perhaps the person is you…or it used to be you.

    In our series “The Power of the Gospel,” we’ve noted how the gospel—or good news—is, indeed, powerful. It’s all about Jesus, and this world needs Jesus. I need Jesus. We all need Jesus, whether we know it or not. It’s both a responsibility and a joy to share good news, to introduce people to Jesus. It’s up to them what they do with Jesus, but at this moment there are literally billions of people on our planet that have never been introduced to Jesus. Many have never even heard his name. This is why it’s so important for us to go and make disciples, to proclaim good news.

    But what if you proclaim Jesus to someone who wants to kill you because of Jesus? We’re going to look at a true story about just such a man today. His transformation may be the greatest in human history…and it offers hope for everyone.

    It’s the first century. That Jewish man Jesus has died and then resurrected. He ascended into heaven and his followers are telling everyone about him and his promised return. The early Christians are seeking to follow Jesus’ two primary commands, to love God and to love others as they love themselves. It’s a radical faith, spreading rapidly, among both Jews and Gentiles. But there’s opposition. Many of the Romans could care less about religion, but the Pharisees—the religious leaders who wanted Jesus killed in the first place—are attacking these early believers in Yeshua, Jesus. One of their leaders is a man named Saul.

    Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

    How would you like to run into this guy? The first Christians were called people of the Way, and Saul was threatening to kill them while taking them as prisoners. This is not a nice man, though he thought was doing the right thing. He was religious, and he saw these Christians as opponents of his Jewish religion. Persecuting them was doing God’s word, he thought.

    As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him,
    “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:3-4)

    Has this ever happened to you? You’re on your way to visit the high priest and you’re confronted by a bright light and a voice speaking your name! It must’ve been quite the scene. After all, it literally changed the course of history.

    “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

    “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5-6)

    Do you think Saul had a choice?!

    Although this is an unusual miracle,

    God still speaks today.

    He speaks primarily through the Bible—which is why we must read and study it—but He does use other things to communicate with us. In my life, God has spoken through other people, circumstances, an idea at 3 o’clock in the morning, and His still, small voice. Others have experienced life-changing dreams. Prophecy, music, prayer, and nature are all conduits of God’s messages. He is speaking. Are you quiet enough to hear?

    One thing that’s essential to know is
    God will never contradict Himself. In other words, He’ll never tell you something which goes against the Bible. If you’re not sure a message or idea is from God, I’d recommend sharing it with someone who knows God and the Bible and see what they think.

    Back to our story…

    The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. (Acts 9:7-9)

    Saul was blind for three days. That’s a popular period of time in the Bible!

    In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision,

    “Yes, Lord,” he answered. (Acts 9:10)

    The Lord told him,
    “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” (Acts 9:11-12)

    Normally if God speaks, the appropriate response is, “Yes, LORD!”

    The actual response is sometime, “What?!”

    “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13-14)

    Even without radio, tv, or even newspapers, Ananias knew about Saul. His picture was posted at the Christian post office (ha!). The thought of going to Saul made as much sense to Ananias as an American scheduling a meeting with Osama bin Ladin when he was alive. You’ve got to be crazy! This guy’s on a man hunt…for you and your people!

    But the Lord said to Ananias,
    “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)

    If I’m Ananias, I’m thinking “must suffer” is appropriate after all the Christians persecuted and killed on Saul’s watch. God said “go!” and Ananias obeyed, even though he must’ve been scared stiff!

    Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:17-19a)

    This was a miracle! Saul’s conversion is—to this day—one of the most radical in history. This religious Jew encounters Jesus and becomes not only a follower, but one of the two leaders of the early Church, along with Peter.

    What follows in Acts chapter 9 is a descriptions of Saul’s first days as a Christian, preaching and proclaiming the gospel, the good news, Jesus is the Son of God. His transformation was so amazing, the Jews conspired to kill him! A verses later,

    When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:26-27)

    It took Barnabus to convince the others that Saul had really joined their team. Sure, it seemed too good to be true, but

    The Gospel can reach anyone. There is no such thing as a hopeless causes with our God. There’s no person on earth Jesus’ blood can’t forgive. Good news is for everyone.

    About two thousand years ago, some shepherds were in their fields when an angel appeared and terrified them.

    But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

    Good news…Jesus…the Gospel…for all the people. The Gospel can reach anyone. Kirk Franklin sings in a song, “I’m the reason why God made grace.” I love that! I am that reason. We are all in need of grace, of love, of God’s forgiveness, of reconciliation with God and one another, and that’s why Jesus came. He is the ultimate good news in a world full of bad news. And this is why I want the world to know about Jesus!

    I mentioned Osama bin Ladin earlier, but I prayed many times for his salvation. I thought if he were to follow Jesus, countless lives would be influenced for good rather than evil. As far as I know, bin Ladin never trusted Jesus with his life, but even though he had done terrible things, he was forgivable. The 23
    rd chapter of Luke tells of a criminal on the cross next to Jesus.

    Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

    Jesus answered him,
    “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

    Is that even fair?! Does he spend eternity in the same place as Mother Theresa and Billy Graham? We don’t know the details for their afterlife, but Jesus seems to be telling this criminal in his final moments his faith is valid. God can reach anyone; even your boss, your son or daughter, your friend, your enemy. God so loved the world, which includes everyone in the world. In God’s eyes, there’s no such thing as a hopeless cause. God can reach anyone. Even me. Hallelujah!

    So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,
    but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. (Acts 9:28-30)

    Saul’s ministry grew, as did his Jewish opposition.

    Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:31)

    This was a brilliant, yet dangerous, time in the life of the early Church. The opposition was real, yet the testimony of one Pharisee who would later be known as Paul was a game-changer.

    So What?

    I want to challenge you today with a simple next step: pray for your greatest enemy. It might be a parent or child or some other family member. Maybe it’s your boss or neighbor. It could be a political figure you’ve never met, or a prisoner who wronged you. Whoever it is, they would be a better human being to themself and the world if they would surrender their life to Jesus. You may seek revenge, but you surely don’t want their bad behavior to continue. What if they had a Damascus Road encounter with God like Saul? Imagine their testimony for the Kingdom of God.

    You might be thinking, “They don’t deserve God’s grace after all they’ve done,” but that’s a misunderstanding of grace. They
    don’t deserve it. Neither do we. Grace is unmerited favor, so by definition, you cannot earn or deserve it. Jesus said to

    …love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44b)

    Love and pray for your enemies.
    Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
    But seriously, Jesus commands us to love and pray for them. That’s not easy, but it is possible with the power of the Holy Spirit. And there’s not greater power than love. There’s no force which can transform like love. We can pray for anyone to encounter Jesus! That’s the first step in proclaiming the gospel, the good news, Jesus. If the greatest gift we can give anyone is Jesus, prayer is like wrapping the gift. It’s getting it ready to be received. We can’t guarantee acceptance of Jesus, but we can pray and ask God to open their hearts, to use our deeds and words, and to transform the person.

    Many people think of Christianity is all about not doing bad things. I was once told Christians don’t drink, smoke, chew, or go with girls who do! Avoiding bad behavior—or worse, hiding bad behavior—is not what it means to follow Jesus. Yes, there are many things harmful to us and God which are never good for us, but Christianity is not just about what we’re against. It’s also what we’re for. It’s about
    who we’re for. We are for people. We are for sinners. We are for saints. We are for Toledo. Why? Because Jesus is, and a real Christian is someone who acts like Jesus. They love…even their enemies. They pray…for their friends and even their enemies. They aren’t afraid to get dirty, uncomfortable, or inconvenienced. They know the value of listening, even when they want to speak. They are generous, even when it might seem extravagant. They care for the least of these—the stranger, orphan and widow. You might say the SOW into the stranger, orphan, and widow. They engage with the “least of these.”

    They know every person they meet is God’s masterpiece, created in His image with dignity, value and worth. Broken? Yes. Waiting for restoration? Yes.

    The gospel changes lives…for eternity! You might see a mess—like what I saw in my mother-in-law’s house—but God sees potential. He has a plan and a purpose for every member of the human race, if we’ll only let them know…and if they’ll only surrender.

    And one more thing…Jesus died for you, too. He’s good news for you. His grace—unmerited favor—means nothing you can do can make him love you more, and nothing you can do can make him love you less. He wants to be Savior, but also LORD. Let’s all obey him this week, proclaiming the gospel, praying for the not-yet-saved, and watching the greatest miracle of all take place right in front of us, the transformation of a human life.

    Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Power in the Blood, 4 August 2019

    Power in the Blood
    Series—The Power of the Gospel
    1 Cor. 15:1-8; Romans 1:16-17; Galatians 3:1-14, 23-29; 1 Cor. 1:18-2:5

    Series Big Idea: The gospel—“good news”—is powerful and transformative.

    Big Idea: The gospel—“good news”—is powerful because it’s all about Jesus.

    What’s the best thing that has happened to you so far this summer? Think of one highlight and share it with someone.

    Our world is filled with bad news. I still think one of the most depressing things you can do is watch television news—it doesn’t even matter what channel! They’re all filled with doom and gloom. Meanwhile, babies are being born, the beauty of God’s colorful creation is on full display, poverty in Africa is falling, families are experiencing reconciliation, Toledo is tied for the fifth-fastest growing construction job market in the country, you’re in an air conditioned building…

    Today we’re beginning a new series entitled The Power of the Gospel. The word “gospel” simply means “good news” and that’s something we all could use more of, amen?

    Before we go any further, let’s begin with a seemingly simple question:

    What is the gospel?

    The Greek word euangelion means “good news,” but what comes to mind when you hear the word “gospel?”

    Here are some common expressions I’ve heard:

    Gospel music (black gospel and southern gospel)
    Full gospel
    Gospel truth
    Preach the gospel

    I’ve heard people explain the gospel by saying if you pray a special prayer, you’ll go to heaven when you die. Salvation for sinners is good news, but the gospel is so much more. Paul once wrote to a church in the Greek city of Corinth these words:

    Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

    Okay, Paul, what is the gospel?

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

    The gospel is not merely justification by faith. It’s not just personal salvation. There’s more to it than who’s in and who’s out, though many Christians have reduced the gospel to who gets to go to heaven when they die and who goes to hell, which is tragic.

    If you imagine a theatrical play, some of said the Bible unfolds like six acts:

    God creates His Kingdom
    Rebellion in the Kingdom
    The King chooses Israel
    The Coming of the King
    Growth of the Kingdom
    Return of the King

    The word “gospel” belongs to the biblical story. It is the announcement, the heralding, the declaration that Jesus is Messiah, the goal of the narrative, the climax of Israel’s story.

    There are seven gospel sermons in the book of Acts (2, 3, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17), each a narrative of Israel which climaxes in Jesus as LORD and Messiah.

    The gospel is all about Jesus.

    It’s about who he is and what he did. It’s the story of the Messiah, the preexisted Son of God becoming king.

    Paul wrote to Timothy,

    Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, (2Timothy 2:8)

    Scot McKnight writes,
    “The gospel is the redemptive story about what God has done in Jesus the Savior Lord. It is the story about the redemptive Jesus. First Christology, then soteriology. Not either or, but both, in that order. When the second is first, Jesus becomes a means; when the first is first, Jesus becomes the subject and our redemption the effect of Jesus.”

    In other words, the gospel is first about Jesus, and then our salvation. Jesus is LORD and our Savior.

    Many have reduced the gospel to the plan of salvation, yet nobody in the New Testament would’ve ever thought of the gospel in such a narrow way.

    I’m not suggesting the Four Spiritual Laws or the Romans Road or anything other “plan of salvation” is bad. For those unfamiliar with the plan of salvation, it goes something like this:

    God loves us and wants a relationship with us.
    Our sinful rebellion breaks the relationship.
    Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us to God, paying for our sins.
    We can choose to accept or reject Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, receive forgiveness and eternal life, and be reconciled to the Father by faith.

    This month we’re talking about the gospel and I want you to understand it’s more than a prayer you pray to go to heaven when you die. It’s all about Jesus. The good news is the Messiah came to earth, showed us what it means to be human, taught timeless truths and wisdom, died for every man, woman, and child who follows Him, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will return soon.

    We have four books in the Bible that are called the gospel…the gospel of Matthew, the gospel of Mark, the gospel of Luke, and the gospel of John. They are all about…Jesus! They are four biographies of Jesus. Jesus is the gospel. He is the good news. He preached good news and is good news.

    The gospel is the power of God.

    Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

    The context is important. The Roman empire was the definition of power. The Greek word for power, dunamis, speaks of supernatural power, miracles or mighty works. The gospel is more than just words or religion or ideology or dogma. It is powerful.

    Jesus is the power of God, God in the flesh, God incarnate. Jesus came as a Jew into a Jewish culture that often despised Gentiles, but Jesus came, died, and rose for Jews and Gentiles. This might not seem like a big deal today, but it was radical 2000 years ago.

    Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, of Jesus. He risked his life to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God which Jesus brought to our planet, making righteousness–right living—is available by faith to everyone. They can go from death to life, from hopeless to hope-filled, from condemned to redeemed.

    It’s not about what we do. It’s about Jesus has done. It’s not about our works, but faith in Jesus.

    There’s power in the name of Jesus.
    There’s power in the death of Jesus.
    There’s power in the blood of Jesus.
    There’s power in the teachings of Jesus.
    There’s power in the resurrection of Jesus.

    And that power, that Jesus, that

    …gospel is for everyone.

    Praise God, that means you and me. That means black and white, rich and poor, male and female, Republican and Democrat. The gospel—Jesus—and his bride—the Church—should be the most unifying, healing, welcoming people on earth.

    So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

    We’ve looked at this text before and it’s truly wonderful. The entire third chapter of Galatians tells us we are all invited to follow Jesus, regardless of language, geography, gender, or ethnicity. This is why racism is satanic. This is why denominationalism is satanic. This is why looking down upon the poor or judging the rich or hating anyone is satanic.

    Jesus came for everyone.
    Jesus died for everyone.
    Jesus loves everyone.

    But we all choose whether to make Jesus the leader of our lives or push him to the side and live life our way. The consequences are eternal, so this is a big deal. We can do now and eternity with God or we can do this life and the next without Him. It’s our choice.

    I don’t know how anyone could reject God, His love, His grace and mercy, His forgiveness, His power, His relationship, His freedom, His joy, …

    Some simply don’t know any better. They’ve never heard about Jesus or have a distorted view of who Jesus is based upon the poor witness—in word and/or deed—of his so-called followers…Christians.

    Tragically, here and around the world the gospel—the good news, Jesus— has been replaced by rules, legalism, and religion. People have been led to believe it’s about going to church rather than being the church, that is, doing life together in radical community. They think it’s about what we’re against instead of what we’re for…them!


    Jesus is for Toledo. Jesus is for the planet.
    We must be for Toledo. We must be for every man, woman and child on earth.

    That includes those in prison, immigrants, refugees, those with AIDS, Muslims, atheists, child molesters, human traffickers, and terrorists. Jesus is for them, too. Their only hope is Jesus. The only way they can change is Jesus. The only power available to them is through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

    Some Christians get frustrated when non-Christians act like…non-Christians! They wonder why non-Christians don’t change. It’s because without Jesus and his supernatural power, they couldn’t change if they wanted to!

    If you remember one thing today, remember there is supernatural power in Jesus Christ…and we are all invited to trust in God and His supernatural power.

    The gospel is not merely good news, it’s great news! Why in the world would you want to keep it to yourself?

    The gospel must be shared.

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

    As humans, we naturally want to do things, accomplish things, earn things. This is why so many in our culture believe they’ll go to heaven when they die because they’re “good” people. God doesn’t grade on a curve, though. Any sin, mistake, failure on our part is enough to separate us from a holy God. The gospel reveals Jesus and his mission to seek and save the lost, to die for us, to shed his blood, to pay our debt, to create an invitation so compelling it seems unbelievable. Grace—unmerited favor—it truly amazing!

    Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)

    The Jews were following 613 laws from centuries earlier, hoping their religion would earn them favor with God. Paul’s saying Jesus changed everything. He shattered their expectations with his life and teachings. He shocked them with his death and resurrection. He said the first will be last, to save your life you have to lose it, the greatest is the servant, the wisdom of man is foolishness compared to God. Jesus turned everything upside down.

    Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)

    I wonder what Paul would say to us in the USA today, given our knowledge, technology, and philosophy.

    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. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

    I love this! I’m privileged to have been raised in a stable home, given a good education, never deprived of food, and live in a country that has given me freedom and opportunity. Yet many of you and certainly many of our brothers and sisters around the world have been foolish, weak, lowly, or despised by the world’s standards…yet they are precious, loved, powerful children of God.

    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 1:30-31)

    And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. (1 Corinthians 2:1-3)

    My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

    Paul said it’s all about God’s wisdom, God’s power, Jesus Christ, the gospel. May the evidence of the gospel be the way it transforms lives, including ours!

    Credits: some ideas from Scott McKnight, D6.

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

    On Your Mark, 23 April 2017

    On Your Mark—An Intro to the Gospel of Mark
    Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
    Mark 1:1

    Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

    Big Idea: Mark wrote a stunning biography of Jesus, our Messiah and God.


    He is still risen! He is still risen indeed!

    Welcome back! My name is Kirk and last Sunday we had a fantastic celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. But listen to these profound words from N.T. Wright:
    But my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

    …Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?

    …we should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins…

    …if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again—well, of course. Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative…. The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be able to do it only for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about.”

    As I said, last Sunday we had a fantastic celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. He is alive! But who is Jesus, really?

    If you ask ten people who Jesus is, you may end up with ten different answers. But how can we know for sure? I submit to you two things:

    - The Bible provides us with four biographies of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
    - Jesus is alive and knowable—personally—through prayer and the Bible

    One of my greatest frustrations as a pastor is reading about “biblical scholars” who are atheists. It seems like every Eastertime they get busy promoting another book, another theory, hoping to make a buck off some naïve shopper in line at the grocery store with tabloid headlines about another new discovery, a new theory, a secret revealed. With all due respect to intellectuals who study the Biblical texts, the atheists among them miss the point. Jesus is a living Person. He wants us to know Him. He wants to know us. The first thing I want to know about a Bible scholar is if they know the Author…of the Bible, of life. Our faith is completely dependent upon the cross and the empty tomb. If you know the Bible but don’t know Jesus, it’s as useless as analyzing the penmanship of a love letter, missing its message.

    The Bible is, in fact, a love letter. It is not written to us, exactly, but for us. Today we’re going to look at the background of the Gospel—or good news—of Mark and the most important question in life.

    Why Four Gospels?

    Matthew: Hebrew, religious audience, “Son of David,” advertising and announcements
    Mark: Roman, strong, rulers, power, emphasizes Jesus the suffering Servant, headlines
    Luke: also wrote Acts, Gentile author, historian, “Son of Man,” special features
    John: emphasizes deity of Christ, Savior, “Son of God,” editorials/columns

    This biography of Jesus will inspire, inform, and hopefully transform you and me to become more like Jesus.

    Before we dive into the Gospel of Mark, I want to give you some background.

    It’s the first gospel written, one of the first NT books to be written

    It was written by John Mark. He was not an apostle, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, but he was an important figure in the early Church

    He appears in the book of Acts

    When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. (Acts 12:12)

    He was a cousin of Barnabus.

    My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) (Colossians 4:10)

    He was the spiritual son of Simon Peter.

    She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. (1 Peter 5:13)

    This has long been considered Simon Peter’s gospel. John Mark traveled with Paul and later Barnabus.

    Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. (Acts 15:37-40)

    John Mark made good. Paul later called for him in his letter to Timothy.

    Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11)

    Mark learned about Jesus from Peter and Paul. Mark was also an eyewitness to the events in the life of Christ.

    Mark emphasizes Christ as the suffering Servant, the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many. Mark likely wrote this book in Rome. A servant needs references, not a birth certificate (no genealogy as in Matthew).

    Here’s J. Vernon McGee’s outline of the book:

    John introduces the Servant
    God the Father identifies the Servant
    The temptation initiates the Servant
    Works and words illustrate the Servant

    It’s filled with more miracles than the other gospels.

    Healing: Physical
    Nature: Natural
    Casting out of demons: spiritual
    Raised from the dead: supernatural

    Mark 1

    The book begins with what might be the most important verse in the entire book. It answers what might be the most important question in all of life:

    Who is Jesus?

    John Mark’s gospel or “good news” begins…

    The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1 (NIV)
    The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1, NASB)

    The purpose of the book of Mark is not history. It’s not merely a biography of Jesus. In fact, Jesus’ birth and childhood are omitted. The book begins with Jesus around age 30. No manger. No puberty. No teenage years! Mark begins with the gospel or “good news.” His purpose is “good news.”

    The original Greek word for gospel,
    euaggelion, was often used in a military context. The army would send a message back to the city and proclaim, “A victory has been won. We are not going to die! We are going to live!”

    That’s what Mark does. He tells us Jesus is alive and, therefore, a victory has been won for you and me. Life is available for us. Not just survival, but abundant life (John 10:10).

    He also tells us two things about Jesus’ identity. First, Christ is not Jesus’ last name! The word means “an anointed, royal figure” in Greek. In Hebrew, it is translated, “the Messiah.” A victory has been won for us by Jesus, the Messiah, the anointed, royal figure proclaimed for generations. Some English translations of this verse replace “Christ” with “The Messiah.”

    The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1, NIV 2011)

    Second, Jesus is the Son of God. He’s not just the Messiah, He’s God!

    Jesus is Messiah and God. This statement is a dividing line of faith. You can accept or reject the claim. If you believe Jesus is God, the miracles and teachings and resurrection are not difficult to accept. If you don’t believe Jesus is God, the rest of the book of Mark—the rest of the New Testament—will not make much sense.

    If you don’t believe Jesus is God, there’s no shame. You belong here. Keep seeking. Keep asking.

    Some contemporary Jews believe Jesus is not the Messiah because He did not bring the Kingdom to Israel. He was a failed Messiah. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of people who claimed to be the Messiah. You’ve probably never heard of any of them.

    If Jesus is just another failed Messiah, how would you explain His influence two thousand years later? His Church is still growing, His Name is being worshipped in every part of the world.

    What if Mark was correct? Let’s assume Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, God. Let’s assume He really died and rose again. Why do I believe that and others don’t?

    When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13)

    They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14)

    “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

    Who do you say Jesus is?

    Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

    Look at how Jesus replies.

    Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)

    If you believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God, it was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by God the Father. It’s not because of your intellect or morality or a great argument. It’s because your Heavenly Father revealed it. The original Greek word for “revealed” here means “to take the cover off of something.”

    Simon Peter is blessed by God.

    Believers in Jesus Christ are blessed by God. The truth has been revealed.

    The greatest longing in any heart may be to receive the blessing of their father and mother.

    If you believe Jesus is the Christ, it’s because God the Father blessed you. Followers of Jesus are blessed sons and daughters of the King of kings.

    Who is Jesus?

    This is the question we will be answering each week in this series as we examine the gospel of Mark.

    Listen to Jesus' answer to the question from the gospel of John:

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

    Jesus is the way…to truth, to life, to the Father.
    Jesus is the truth.
    Jesus is life. He is alive. He conquered death. He offers you and me eternal life. He offers us abundant life.

    The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1, NIV 2011)

    Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the LORD of all.

    Credits: some ideas from Matt Carter (Austin Stone Community Church), Warren Wiersbe, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church 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 3DMovements.com.

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

    Jesus Our Savior, The Gospel Truth, 8 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 Savior, saving us from sin and death.

    What is the
    gospel? It is good news.

    Many have said the gospel is the plan of salvation. It often goes something like this:

    1. God loves you.
    2. You sinned and are separated from God.
    3. Jesus died to reconcile you to God.
    4. If you pray to ask Jesus into your heart you’ll go to heaven when you die.

    I literally spent years telling a version of that story to students in both the United States and Bolivia. Pray to receive Christ and you’re guaranteed a “Get Out Of Hell Free” card.

    That is certainly good news, but the gospel is more. Much more. Pastor Bruxy Cavey defines the gospel with these thirty words:

    “The gospel is the good news that God has come to us through Christ to show us His love, save us from sin, set us in community, and shut down religion.”

    Last week we noted scholar N.T. Wright’s description of the grand story of history as a play with multiple acts:

    Act 1: creation
    Act 2: the Fall
    Act 3: Israel
    Act 4: Jesus
    Act 5: New Testament and the people of God (the Church)

    Some have suggested we are in Act 6, with Act 7 being the new heaven and new earth mentioned in Revelation.

    If we skip Act 3, we miss a huge part of human history. Jesus was, Himself, a Jew, after all.

    One of my professors wrote

    “…the word gospel was used in the world of Jews at the time of the apostles to
    announce something, to declare something as good news — the word evangelion
    always means good news. “To gospel” is to herald, to proclaim, and to declare
    something about something. To put this together: the gospel is to announce good
    news about key events in the life of Jesus Christ. To gospel for Paul was to tell,
    announce, declare, and shout aloud the Story of Jesus Christ as the saving news of
    God.” (Scot McKnight,
    King Jesus Gospel)

    In three words, the gospel is Jesus is Lord. In one word, the gospel is Jesus.

    Today we begin a new series, The Gospel Truth, looking at Jesus.

    The Fourfold Gospel

    Last week I mentioned A.B. Simpson, the founder of The Christian & Missionary Alliance, our denomination. After doing some research on his life a few years ago I was surprised to learn his influence not only in the C&MA but also the founding of the Assemblies of God and Foursquare denominations.

    The Fourfold Gospel is the Christological summary on which the core values of The Alliance is based. Simpson saw Jesus as not only Savior—our focus today—but also his Sanctifier and Healer and Coming King. As we saw in the video earlier, it’s all about Jesus.

    Who Is Jesus?

    Last Sunday CNN began a series called Finding Jesus. I was pleasantly surprised at both its research and results. Part 2 will be shown tonight at 9 PM and you can view episodes at CNN.com.

    Our faith is built upon Jesus—not a dream, not an idea…not even a book. It’s built upon a Person. I realize most of you are familiar with Jesus. If you’re like me you might be overly familiar with Him. This is a huge danger in any relationship. We can become so familiar and so comfortable with someone—a parent, spouse, child, friend—that we take them for granted and forget just how unique and special they are to us. That’s why we remember them by celebrating their birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or some other occasion.

    Who is Jesus? So much can be said about Jesus. In fact, John concluded his biography of Jesus by saying

    Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)

    There are, in fact, four biographies of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We refer to them as the four gospels because they are good news. They are about Jesus.


    This week I was talking with our daughter about her favorite names for children. People name their kids after movie stars, athletes, biblical characters, and for a host of other reasons. Ancient Hebrews chose names that would speak prophecy about the mission or character of their children.

    When my parents named me Kirk, they liked the sound of the name, but also its meaning: “church dweller.” They were quite prophetic!

    In a similar way Jesus was not simply a name Mary and Joseph liked, but one carefully chosen to convey His mission. An angel of the LORD came to Joseph and said of Mary:

    She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

    He is our Savior, saving us from our sins. Luke expressed this, as well, quoting Jesus:

    For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

    Romans 3:21-26

    The third chapter of Romans provides us with one of the clearest portraits of Jesus as Savior.

    But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 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. 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 3:21-26)

    God loves us. We all sin and fall short of His standard of perfection. Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross to save us, to forgive us, to enable us to be reconciled to a perfect and holy God.

    Because Jesus is our Savior.

    1. Our sins have been forgiven. (Colossians 1:14)
    2. We have peace with God. (Romans 5:1)
    3. We have been declared righteous. (Romans 5:19)
    4. We are new creatures. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
    5. We have eternal life. (John 3:16)
    6. We have been adopted by God. (Ephesians 1:5)
    7. His Holy Spirit lives in us. (Galatians 4:6)
    8. Jesus is our advocate. (1 John 2:1)
    9. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:35)
    10. Death has no more power over us. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
    11. We have an inheritance that can never perish. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

    That’s quite a list! Which is the most meaningful to you?

    Universal and Exclusive

    Jesus is both a universal Savior and an exclusive Savior. John 3:16 says

    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. (John 3:16)

    God loves the whole world and died for the whole world, but salvation is for those who believe in Jesus.

    By the way, believe is not something simply done in your head, like you might believe in the Easter Bunny or that the Detroit Lions will win the next Super Bowl. Biblical belief requires action. It’s like believing a parachute will work and therefore you jump out of the airplane. You believe the odd-looking food is nourishing so you eat it. Faith is never passive.

    Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

    Contrary to what contemporary culture tells us, there are not multiple paths to God. There is only one—Jesus Christ. Only One died for us. Only One conquered sin and death. Only One is alive thousands of years later!

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

    This is, admittedly, politically incorrect. It can be downright offensive, except for the fact that Jesus died of all. He offers Himself as a gift to all…who receive the gift.

    The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:9-13)

    In his book
    Radical, David Platt tells of a conversation outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader. One said, “We may have different views about small issues, but when it comes down to essential issues, each of our religions is the same.” Platt said, “It sounds as though you both picture God (or whatever you call god) at the top of a mountain. It seems as if you believe that we are all at the bottom of the mountain, and I may take one route up the mountain, you may take another, and in the end we will all end up in the same place.” They smiled as I spoke. Happily they replied, “Exactly! You understand!” Then I leaned in and said, “Now let me ask you a question. What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are? What would you think if I told you that God doesn’t wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?” They thought for a moment and then responded, “That would be great.” I replied, “Let me introduce you to Jesus.”

    This is the gospel. The gospel is Jesus. He is our Savior who lived and died and rose for us. He offers each of us Himself as the greatest gift, a gift we can reject or receive.

    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)

    We don’t deserve it; that’s grace, unmerited favor. It’s amazing!

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

    Best Kept Secret, Resurrection Sunday 2014

    April 20, 2014

    Big Idea: Jesus is alive but does anyone really know? If you’ve encountered Jesus, you cannot keep Him to yourself. Love isn’t love until you give it away.


    Happy Resurrection Sunday! He is risen! He is risen indeed!


    You know the story. You know why we celebrate. Just to summarize the events of the past few days that we have commemorated, the Apostle’s Creed states that Jesus

    Suffered under Pontius Pilate
    was crucified
    dead and buried
    He descended into hell
    The third day he rose again from the dead

    We serve a living Savior who is in the world today. Jesus is alive!!!

    So what? What does the resurrection mean to you?

    After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)

    There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

    The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7)

    So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:8)

    Best Kept Secret

    How does it feel when someone tells you a secret? Can you keep a secret?

    One phrase I’ve often heard people use to describe a business is “the best kept secret in town.”
    Have you ever said or heard that about a business? What business? Why?

    One of the primary fields within business is marketing. One of my undergraduate degrees is in marketing. What is marketing? According to Wikipedia it is “the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service.” Communicating value. What are some tools used in marketing to communicate value? Billboards, television commercials, spam e-mails, radio spots, newspaper ads, storefront signs, product placement in a movie, direct mail postcards…

    What is the most effective form of marketing? Word of mouth!

    If a business is the best kept secret in town, there are only a few possible reasons:

    1. The product or service is mediocre, despite the owner’s opinion!
    2. Few people have experienced the product or service so few can communicate.
    3. The people that have experienced the product or service don’t tell others.

    In a recent survey, people tell an average of nine people about a good experience and sixteen about a poor one.


    With social media, it’s possible to communicate with more people than ever. A simple Facebook or Twitter post praising or trashing a company can impact countless others.

    Here’s the point:
    nobody wants to be the best kept secret in town—unless they are doing something illegal! If you have a great restaurant, you want the world to know. If you sell Amway or Pampered Chef or Mary Kay you want to make sure your friends know to buy from you. If you have a chiropractic office, you want the community to be aware of the health benefits they can experience under your care.

    Marketing Jesus?

    Many have balked at the idea of marketing Jesus. He’s not a business or a product to be sold. Remember the definition of marketing? Communicating value.

    Do you value Jesus? Do you value His love? Do you value the sacrifice He made dying on the cross for you?

    I believe Jesus Christ is the best-kept secret in town. It should not be!

    You may think, “Everyone knows about Jesus,” but that’s simply not true. Many think they know about Jesus, but are there understandings correct?

    A few years ago a group of churches in our region got together to form
    EACH: Everyone A Chance to Hear. The goal was and remains to allow every man, woman and child in southeastern Michigan to hear about Jesus—the real story.

    The goal has not been to get everyone in the area to attend church, pray a prayer, or give money. The goal is simply to give everyone a chance to hear about Jesus, to receive an invitation to follow Jesus which they can choose to accept or reject.

    Good News

    Sharing Jesus is not selling Jesus. It’s not a consumerist exercise. It is sharing good news.

    Everyone likes good news. Unfortunately, what is good for one person is not always perceived as good for another.

    For example, I love the
    Philadelphia Phillies (they play baseball!). When I was a boy our family took a trip out east to visit the 13 Original Colonies. George Washington and Ben Franklin were among my boyhood heroes and my favorite city was Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. That same summer I started getting interested in sports and collecting baseball cards and being the strange kid that I was—am!—I adopted Philadelphia’s sports teams as my favorites (I cheer for my Detroit home teams, too).

    If I told you the Phillies won their game last night (they did/didn’t), would that be good news to you? Probably not. It would be great news to me…and the more you get to know and love me, the more you may grow interested in the Phillies. Over time, she has gotten to know me, the things and people I love, and is now a raging fan of the Fightin’ Phils! In my dreams!

    Several weeks ago I was at the greenroom and I realized two friends of mine, Vince and Brad, had never met. Knowing they both played guitar, loved music, and had a passion for the poor, I was thrilled to introduce them to one another. You might call me a matchmaker, in a sense, and it brought me great joy to see them connect.

    Sharing our faith is not about selling a product. It’s about introducing friends. It’s about introducing our best friend, Jesus, to those we know and love. It’s about sharing our story—His story—and encouraging others to journey with us toward knowing, loving, serving and obeying the One who demonstrated what it means to be truly human.

    If you can’t get excited about Jesus, you’ve never truly encountered Him. You can’t know Jesus and not be changed. For many of us, it happened so long ago we can’t remember life without Him and we take Him for granted.

    Meanwhile, our world is messed up, desperately searching for answers to life’s most challenging questions regarding purpose, meaning, peace, contentment and joy.

    If you know Jesus and you keep Him to yourself, you are selfish! There, I said it! Good news is meant to be shared!

    Why is sharing the good news of Jesus so much more difficult than talking about our favorite sports team, announcing a new job, or sending out party invitations?

    1. Never discuss politics or religion. The problem with such discussions is they usually become debates with a winner and loser rather than a dialogue that seeks to build on common ground and further a relationship.

    2. Fear of rejection. It might happen. In many parts of the world, merely talking about Jesus can get you arrested or even killed. We enjoy immense freedoms in this nation…and most of us take them for granted. You might get rejected. Jesus was rejected. There is a price to pay in following Jesus, but it is SO worth it!

    Some of you have heard this quote:

    “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

    Do you know who said it? There is a legend that states it was said by St. Francis of Assisi, but it is, in fact, just a legend. St. Francis never said such a thing because it is simply impossible to preach the Gospel without words. The Gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the Gospel is inherently verbal behavior.

    It is true that our credibility is vital. Some have said we are the only Bible many will ever read. One of the greatest objections people have with Christianity is how so-called Christians live and behave.

    Let’s face it, Christians don’t have a great reputation in our culture, especially in Ann Arbor. We’re associated with hate, hypocrisy, and politics far more than faith, hope and love. We can change that. We MUST change that. We do it by living out our faith every day. We’re not perfect examples, but we’re living examples. When we screw up, we admit it, say we’re sorry, and seek forgiveness.

    In some instances, our lives will be so radical, people will ask what’s different about our lives. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, said

    But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

    Of course, if we only spend time with Christians, it’s tough. Have you ever told someone some exciting news only to discover they already knew! Ugh!

    Friends, we must
    Love the lost. The word “lost” sounds negative, but Jesus used it. Perhaps you want to call it not-yet-found! We must know people that don’t know Jesus. Who do you know that is far from God. Love them. This is an area in which I struggle. I say that I love lost people, but I have few friends in my life that do not follow Jesus. I am striving to be more intentional about building friendships with non-Christians. Being a pastor can be an occupational hazard!

    Pray for the lost. Last week we looked at these words from Paul in the book of Ephesians:

    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

    Some people are afraid to talk about Jesus because they might not say the right things. There are two reasons not everyone on the planet follows Jesus:

    1. They’ve never been introduced to Him.
    2. They have rejected Him.

    When we talk about Jesus, we can address objection one and often deal with objection two as well. Do they really know the Jesus of the Bible or just the aroma of religious people? We’re dealing with spiritual realities. It’s important to know the Bible, but few follow Jesus because someone answered all of their intellectual questions. Most just get to know Jesus and discover His plans, love, and will are far better than our own.

    We are not called to be sales people sent to get people to pray a prayer. We have been sent on a mission to seek and save the lost. We offer a compelling
    invitation and leave it up to the Holy Spirit of God to guide them to accept it. The greatest miracle is not when the sick are healed or the crippled can walk but when a sinner surrenders their life to Jesus. We can’t make that happen; we can only extend the invitation.

    Talk with the lost. I did not say talk to them! We have two ears and one mouth. Listen. Inquire. One of my favorite questions is, “Where are you at on your spiritual journey?” You might ask simply, “Do you believe in God?” and ask why or why not. The goal is not necessarily to get them to repent on the spot and surrender their life to Jesus! The objective is to invite others to meet Jesus and take one step toward Him. It might be the defining moment or it might be an opportunity for one of many barriers between them and God to be removed. Actions may speak louder than words, but we need words, too. What do you say? Tell your story. That’s one of the best parts of baptism—hearing before and after stories. Nobody can argue with your story.

    “I was blind but now I see.” (John 9:25b)

    “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and violent man, I was shown mercy. (1 Timothy 1:13a)

    “I was depressed and suicidal and Jesus has given me purpose and hope.”

    “I was addicted and out of control and now I have peace in my life.”

    What has God done in your life? Anything? If so, share it!

    Give to the lost. I don’t mean money; I mean ourselves and our community. Following Jesus is not a solo effort but a team activity, a family experience. Throw parties, inviting Christians and not-yet-Christians to connect. Tell people about our weekly gatherings where others like myself can join you in teaching others about the truths of God’s Word, the Bible. Without time and energy, no relationship can survive, much less thrive.

    Welcome to the Family

    This is all about family. Without babies, families will eventually die. Jesus’ message was simple: love God and love our neighbor. He said as we go about our lives to make disciples, and there’s nothing more loving than living like Jesus and inviting others to join us on the journey. It’s not about morality, rules, or organized religion. It’s about being a family on mission, living lives filled with faith, hope and love.

    I believe as our world gets more chaotic, the search for meaning and purpose is only going to increase. We have an incredible opportunity to invite others to join us on the journey, to join us as adopted children of our Creator God in following our big brother Jesus who died and rose again to give us life—radical, abundant life now and forever (John 10:10).


    A few weeks ago as I was walking into one of my favorite stores I saw “Store Closing” signs everywhere. I was saddened to learn this great business will soon be gone. Perhaps it was the best kept secret in town and, although I shopped there frequently, I rarely told others about my good experiences.

    Good news must be shared.

    It’s one thing to remain quiet about a store or restaurant but quite another to be silent about the greatest news ever, the love of God. John 3:16 says

    “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. (John 3:16)

    Jesus did not die just for us. He died for the world.
    Jesus was not raised from the dead just for us. He was raised for the world.

    But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? (Romans 10:14,
    The Message)

    We have good news. We’ve got great news! Don’t keep it to yourself. Let’s share it!

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

    Mary Magdalene and the Risen Jesus, John 20:11-18, 3 November 2013

    Big Idea: Jesus is alive! Let’s tell the world!

    We often approach communion with great reflection, and well we should. However, the story does not end on the cross. Last week we saw Mary Magdalene and others shocked to find the tomb of Jesus empty.

    Jewish people spent seven days mourning the loss of a loved one. This meant they could not wash, work, study the law, or even have intercourse for a week. They knew how to express grief! An empty tomb prevented final acts of love to be done to Jesus. Even tomb raiders would usually leave behind the body.

    We know “the rest of the story,” but those at the empty tomb

    still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. (20:9)

    What does this mean? It means they did not understand! Have you ever read the Bible and seen something you never saw previously? Some Scriptures require experience to fully understand.

    Jesus had said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? (John 16:19b)

    Jesus had said, “You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20b)

    Jesus had said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)

    Sometimes we are just filled with disbelief.

    When we ended last Sunday, we read that

    Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. (10)

    Jesus died. The tomb is empty.

    Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. (20:11-12)

    Imagine the week Mary has had. This is a woman that deeply loved Jesus. He had expelled numerous demons from her. He showed her great compassion. She cried at the foot of the cross as her hope literally died.

    His body was buried quickly and two days later she comes with friends to bring spices for the body. The tomb is empty. Peter and John leave. Now she is crying outside the tomb…and she encounters two angels, two angels dressed in white, hardly appropriate during a time of mourning!

    Where were the angels when the boys were around?

    They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (13a)

    Why do they ask? They’re angels! They know. Jesus is alive, but Mary remains clueless.

    “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

    She thinks someone moved the body.

    At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

    Mary didn’t recognize Jesus. Unbelief is blind. He was the last Person Mary expected to see. Did her tears mask His face?

    He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (15a)

    Jesus echoes the angels, asking the reason for her tears. She hears His voice now and still has no idea who is before her.

    Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (15b)

    Was it common for gardeners to open tombs and hide bodies? Hardly! They were at the bottom of the social ladder and tended to gardening.

    Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (16a)

    The most important word in the world is your name. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. One word changed everything for her.

    She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (16b)

    This means “my teacher” or “master.”

    It’s easy for us to miss images and symbols John’s initial readers would recognize.

    John is the only Gospel writer that tells us these events take place in a garden, a garden filled with spices, suggesting the imagery of the Song of Songs. Mary is a woman who finds the one she loves in a spice-filled garden and wants to be with Him.

    Dr. Gary Burge notes,

    “Miriam was the most famous sister of Moses, who oversaw her little brother’s journey down the Nile. In an ancient Jewish synagogue at Dura Europos on the Euphrates a fresco depicts this scene carefully. The floating bed of Moses becomes a coffin and tomb from which the baby Moses is raised to life (thus avoiding death).42 Old Testament Miriam even becomes a prophet (Ex. 15:20–21; Num. 12:1–2) who bears a message to Israel. While John refers to Mary in the narrative with the Greek word Maria, when Jesus (the new Moses) meets her in 20:16, oddly, he employs the Hebrew form of the name: Miriam (Gk. Mariam, Heb. Miryam). He names her “Miriam Magdalene”— where Magdalene connotes the Hebrew noun migdal, “tower.” This caretaker of the new Moses, this intimate helper, is now transformed from a mere “Mary” into a Miriam, into a migdal that now bears a prophetic message to the apostles.” (The NIV Application Commentary, John)

    A woman in “paradise” encounters the Creator and Ruler of the Garden, Jesus.

    Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (17)

    Why did He say not to touch Him? Scholars have wondered for two thousand years. Some believe Jesus literally meant don’t touch His body, but Thomas would soon. Some have translated it “do not fear,” but that seems unlikely. Others suggest it is preparation for His ascension, His return to the Father. In other words, He may be saying, “Do not cling to Me. Go tell the disciples I will soon return to the Father.” He will leave our planet, but also leave the Holy Spirit, an even more intimate expression of God who will live inside every believer.

    Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (18)

    John records her as the first one to see the resurrected Messiah.

    She has seen the empty tomb.
    She has seen the LORD.

    So What?

    Mary Magdalene told the disciples the good news: Jesus is alive.

    It is our privilege to tell our friends, neighbors and co-workers the good news: Jesus is alive!!!

    Last week it struck me how the Gospel is good news. Who doesn’t want to share good news? It’s hard to deliver bad news, but it should be a joy to announce good news.

    This text perhaps raises more questions than it answers, but one thing is clear…Jesus is alive! The One who died for us, who redeems us from sin and death, lives.

    We don’t worship an idea, a concept, or a book. We worship a Person who entered human history and transformed it.

    Listen to the words of John Updike in his poem “Seven Stanzas at Easter.”

    Make no mistake: if He rose at all it was as His body;
    if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse,
    the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
    the church will fall. . . .

    Let us not mock God with metaphor, Analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
    Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
    Let us walk through the door.

    The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché, Not a stone in a story,

    But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us,
    The wide light of day.

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