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.
  • From Death to Life, 21 April 2019

    From Death to Life (Easter)
    Series—The Quest of the Good Shepherd
    Luke 24:1-8

    Series Big Idea:
    Love is one of the most misunderstood words in our culture, yet it is at the heart of the two greatest biblical commandments: love God, love neighbor.

    Big Idea:
    The resurrection changes everything—past, present and future.

    He is risen! He is risen indeed!

    Welcome to Resurrection Sunday, our annual Easter celebration, the biggest day on the Church calendar. This is the day we remember the greatest moment in history, when the God who came to the world He created died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead. He was crucified on a cross, the most horrific torture known in the day, yet he conquered sin and death. He arose. Hallelujah!

    Although the vast majority of USAmericans believe Jesus died and resurrected, you may be skeptical. If you’re not convinced Jesus is alive, just imagine for a few moments that he is living, that he hears our prayers, that his promise to return is true, that his death was an acceptable sacrifice to pay for the sins of every man, woman and child who receives the gift of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation extended to them. Listen to this amazing story, the Easter story, the events recorded by a doctor named Luke of what happened following the horrifying death of Jesus:

    On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. (Luke 24:1)

    You just can’t make this stuff up! If Luke—or any other writer—was creating fiction, they would never mention women as the first eyewitnesses of the empty tomb. Women were second-class citizens in the Roman Empire. The authenticity of Dr. Luke’s account is strengthened by details such as this.

    All four gospels—or “good news” biographies of Jesus—mention the Resurrection occurring on the first day of the week. Sunday became the day of Christian worship as a result, so this detail is significant, too, since the Jewish Sabbath is from Friday night until Saturday night.

    Why did these women—named in other biographies of Jesus—go to the tomb? They brought spices to give his body a proper burial. The original Greek word for spices here is…
    aroma. Interesting.

    In Matthew’s biography, after the death of Jesus, we read:

    The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:62-64)

    It’s ironic that a group of unbelievers remembered Jesus’ prediction that he would rise from the dead, yet his own followers seemed clueless.

    “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. (Matthew 27:65-66)

    A Roman guard unit consisted of sixteen soldiers—four groups of four. Four would stand in front of that which they were guarding and the other twelve would be behind them, often sleeping in shifts.

    Sixteen soldiers were guarding the tomb on Friday, but they weren’t there on Sunday! Back to the women with their spices:

    They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, (Luke 24:2)

    The stone is believed to have been 1.5 to 2 tons!

    but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:3)

    I can’t imagine how they felt. Was the body stolen? Who moved the stone? I’m sure the main question was, “Where is the body of Jesus?”

    While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? (Luke 24:4-5)

    This is a great question!

    The universal symbol of the Christian faith is the…cross. It fits nicely on a necklace, is easily constructed with two pieces of wood, and can be found around the world. But the cross is an object of torture. It’s an image of death.

    The cross is incredibly important because on it Jesus died for the sins of all who follow him, declaring him LORD and Savior. He lived a perfect life so he could die as a perfect sacrifice for sinners like you and me—imperfect people stained by our failures that separate us from Almighty God.

    Our culture is filled with stereotypes and impressions of heaven and hell. Don’t expect heaven to be a place with people floating around playing harps, and don’t look for red guys with pitch forks running around in hell. Let me give you two simple definitions:

    Heaven is where God.
    Hell is where God isn’t.

    Because God is holy and intolerant of sin, our sin separates us from God. That’s why Jesus came, lived, and died—to pay the price, to take our punishment, to cover our sin. The wages of sin is death and we must pay…or we can let Jesus’ death pay it. It’s our choice.

    Contrary to statements about God sending people to hell, C.S. Lewis famously said, “All that are in Hell, choose it.” We choose to believe in Jesus, follow him now, and spend eternity with him in heaven—where God is—or we can reject him now and spend eternity in hell—where God isn’t.

    But back to our text:

    He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” (Luke 24:6-7)

    Jesus predicted not only his death, but his resurrection. Not even Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, or Criss Angel can do that!

    Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:8)

    Have you ever missed something someone told you? I admit sometimes I’m not the best listener and someone will say to me, “I told you…” Ugh!

    Jesus died and came back to life. Nice story. Even if it’s true,

    So What?

    I’m so glad you asked! In one statement:
    the empty tomb changes everything!

    First, the empty tomb changed the past.

    The past two thousand years have ushered in arguably the greatest movement in history. Jesus didn’t come to start another religion, but he did come to show us what it means to be human. He lived a perfect life, preached the greatest sermons, died to reconcile all humanity to God,…but didn’t stop there.

    Many people of history have lived extraordinary lives and done incredible things. Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle, Galileo, Alexander the Great, Plato, William Shakespeare…but they’re all dead. It would be foolish to try to talk to them, even if you were to visit their burial site.

    But Jesus is alive, and that changed everything. Paul, one of the leaders of the first Christians, wrote to the church in the Greek city of Corinth:

    And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

    I think that’s clear. Without the empty tomb, the Christian faith is useless. A few verses later, Paul writes,

    And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)

    That’s a pretty bold thing to say. Without the resurrection, our faith is futile, we are living a fantasy, our sins are eternal stains keeping us from Almighty God, there’s no hope for the dead, and we are most to be pitied.

    Most people today acknowledge Jesus as an historical figure. Muslims believe in him. Hindus believe in him. Even atheists believe Jesus walked the earth. The question is,

    “Who is Jesus?”

    The Bible plainly teaches several things:

    Jesus is fully God.
    Jesus is fully human.
    Jesus is perfect.
    Jesus died.
    Jesus rose from the dead.

    By the way, Paul also noted:

    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. (1 Corinthians 15:6)

    If you take all of the witnesses and brought them to court to testify for six minutes each, it would take more than 50 hours to get through the testimony. And countless followers of Jesus have become martyrs, dying for their belief not only in the person of Jesus, but also his death and resurrection.

    The empty tomb changed the past.
    The empty tomb changed the present.

    Think for a moment about something broken in your life, something seemingly hopeless.

    This past week a friend was devastated by a house sale that fell through. Another failed to get a job they really wanted. Our world witnessed the loss of part of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Every day we’re confronted disappointment, suffering, and even death.

    I can’t imagine the horror of Jesus’ friends as they watched him hanging on a cross, his life extinguished before their very eyes. It’s as if they invested three years building a house, only to watch it go up in flames…with no insurance!

    In the classic tale
    The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, there’s a scene where the great and mighty Aslan is killed on the Stone Table, devastating young Susan and Lucy. But that wasn't the end of the story.

    I’ve had many storms in my life which seemed like dead ends. Loss. Hopeless.

    But just as Jesus went from death to life, so also many things in my life have been resurrected. I’ve experienced redemption. I’ve found delightful surprises when I turned the page of my story. I’ve discovered miracles are real.

    I was reminded of this in the movie
    Breakthrough, a true story of boy who fell through the ice and was declared dead for 45 minutes before coming back to life, walking out of the hospital on his own, and living without brain damage three weeks later.

    The empty tomb changed the present, offering hope to those who believe in miracles, who embrace the supernatural, who have faith in the living Messiah.

    This doesn’t mean life is easy. In fact, Jesus promised us we would have troubles in this life, but he also promised to be with us through the storms of life…always.

    The empty tomb changed the present. Finally,

    The empty tomb changes the future.

    One famous song says, “Because he lives/I can face tomorrow/Because he lives/All fear is gone/Because I know he holds the future/And life is worth the living/Just because he lives.”

    Some people say Christianity is all about going to heaven when you die. Remember, heaven is where God is, and if you follow Jesus in this life, you will follow him in the next. 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)

    This isn’t just a reference to the next life, but to a whole and lasting life. An abundant life. A life filled with meaning and purpose and hope and peace. Christianity is all about going to heaven before you die, experiencing God’s presence and power now. But followers of Jesus are promised an incredible future, new bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body, eternity with God, a reality without temptation or sin. Here’s a sneak preview of what is to come:

    ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

    If Jesus is still dead, I’m hopeless, my faith is useless, my destiny is eternal separation from God in hell because of my sins, and I am, indeed, to be pitied.

    But I am convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus is alive, and that changed the past, the present, and the future.

    I have resurrection power.
    I have hope.
    I have peace.
    I have freedom—from sin, darkness, eternal death, and shame.

    All because of an empty tomb.

    Have you experienced the living Jesus? We can all read about dead people from the past, but Jesus is alive and wants a relationship with you. This isn’t about religion—trying to do good things to make God approve of you. He is already crazy in love with you and proved it by sending Jesus to die for you. This isn’t about tradition. This is about a person, a living person, Jesus.

    But no gift is yours until you accept it. A check is worthless until you cash it. A winning lottery ticket cannot buy anything until it is redeemed. And the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross—his claims of divinity validated by his resurrection—is only sufficient if you confess your sins, repent and turn away from your life of sin, and receive the gift of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love of Jesus.

    But it begins with surrender. Let go and let God. I know it’s hard. We all want power and control, but how’s that working out for you? Imagine how different your life could be if the Creator of the universe was in charge? The gospel—the good news—is more than just forgiveness of sins, though Jesus died to make that available to you. Our celebration today is that Jesus is risen. He has conquered all evil, he is seated beside God the Father, he rules the world by his presence until all things have been made subject. Make space for Jesus to be LORD, to be God, to lead your life, to rule your entire life.

    There’s no pressure. There’s no guilt. There’s no manipulation. There’s only an invitation.

    Jesus said, “Follow me.”

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

    He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; (John 11:25b)

    Jesus is calling your name today. He wants to call you from darkness to light, from sin to forgiveness, from bondage to freedom.

    Have you experienced Jesus, the living Messiah? The empty tomb changed the past, it can change your present, and it can tranform your future.

    But you must respond. You must say yes. You must make Jesus your Savior…and LORD.

    If you have said yes, if Jesus is your LORD, it’s time to celebrate!

    He is risen. He is risen indeed!

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

    Gift of Jesus, 24 December 2017

    The Gift of Jesus
    Series—The Gifts of Christmas
    Luke 2:1-11

    Big Idea: The greatest gift in human history was Jesus Christ.

    Skit Guys Video


    Christy, I bought you a gift. I hope you like fruitcake! Merry Christmas!

    Who loves Christmas cookies? I’m sorry, I don’t have any to throw out this morning, but I sure love them better than fruitcake! I’ve rarely met a cookie I didn’t like. I love sugar cookies, shortbread, …yes, I love buckeyes…but to clarify, I love to EAT buckeyes! My favorite cookie is gingerbread. I LOVE gingerbread!

    Have you ever eaten cookie dough?

    Have you ever made chocolate chip cookies and then poured the final chips from the bag into your mouth?

    Have you ever poured the extra flour from the bag into your mouth? Of course not! But the flour and baking powder are essential. Skipping that tiny teaspoon of baking powder can destroy a batch of cookies.

    History is filled with tiny things making a huge impact on our world. As Christy said in the drama, “Big things can come from really little places.” Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow—and today—came from a “little town” of Bethlehem two thousand years ago. The greatest gift came from the smallest place.

    What are some of your favorite Christmas gifts? What are some of your least favorite Christmas gifts? That list might be more interesting!

    One of my favorite Christmas traditions is the white elephant gift exchange. I’ve received some very interesting gifts at those parties! I think we can all agree there are some gifts we really don’t want!

    During this Advent season of arrival, of waiting, we have looked at the gifts of expectancy, grace, reconciliation, and adoption. None of those can be wrapped or shoved into a gift bag, but those who choose to receive those gifts experience things far greater than an iPhone which will be obsolete in a few years or a sweater which will be eventually sent to Goodwill.

    Today we conclude our series,
    The Gifts of Christmas. It has been my experience that there is no greater gift than the gift of Jesus. But like all gifts, you must choose to receive it or not.

    The Christmas Story

    Most of us have heard the Christmas story read by a friend, family member, someone at church, or even Linus on A Charlie Brown Christmas. A doctor named Luke wrote a biography of Jesus and our text for today comes from the gospel—or good news—of Luke.

    In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

    The scene is the Roman empire about two thousand years ago. Transportation was difficult, yet required by the government.

    So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

    Joe and Mary travel about eighty miles to this little town of Bethlehem. The timing of the census was terrible as Mary was eight or nine months pregnant, although it is possible they were in Bethlehem for some time before the birth, as stated in the next verse.

    While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6-7)

    That nativity set you may have in your home might not be 100% accurate, though the same can be said for many things regarding our understanding of the Christmas story. I like the biblical account as it is ancient, tested, and trusted around the world. Most likely Bethlehem was filled with travelers and with no guest room available, they slept with the animals in the downstairs of a home. Tim Chaffey writes,

    Archaeologists have excavated first century homes from the Judean hill country. They have discovered that the upper level served as a guest chamber while the lower level served as the living and dining rooms. Oftentimes, the more vulnerable animals would be brought in at night to protect them from the cold and theft. This sounds strange to many of us, since we wouldn't dream of bringing some of our cattle into the house at night, but even today in some countries of Europe (e.g., Germany and Austria), the farmhouse and the animal quarters are often different parts of the same building.

    There was no inn, no innkeeper, no stable…they were probably staying with family in an overcrowded house.

    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (Luke 2:8)

    What a scene! There are scholars who believe these weren’t just any shepherds, but rather Levitical shepherds tending to animals which would be used for Passover sacrifices in the Jewish rituals. These were special lambs who had to be without defect, creatures given great care, even swaddled by their shepherd in order to be acceptable in the temple as a payment for the sins of the owner. What an image for Luke to highlight while telling the story of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who would be in swaddling cloths. These shepherds were in for a big surprise!

    An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news 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 2:9-11)

    There are so many ancient prophesies fulfilled in these eleven verses. I wish we had time to explore them, but suffice it to say this was no ordinary baby and no ordinary birth, though the event occurred among ordinary people in a small, ordinary town.

    The prophet Micah wrote about 700 years before the birth of Jesus these words:

    “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

    There is so much solid evidence for faith in Jesus, including dozens of Old Testament prophesies uniquely fulfilled in Christ hundreds of years later. This is one. You can’t choose where you’re born, but Jesus’ birthplace was prophesied. O little town of Bethlehem! Big things can come from really little places.

    Boaz, Barley, and Jesus

    Jesus came from a little town that means “house of bread” as Christy mentioned in the drama. There are more than 5000 biblical references to baking bread…from unleavened bread during the Exodus to Jesus breaking bread and saying to His friends, “This is my body.” Ezekiel Bread can be found in grocery stores nationwide, a unique recipe found in the Bible.

    One of the most fascinating stories in the Bible involves two women, Ruth and Naomi, distance ancestors of Jesus.

    Naomi’s husband dies, her sons had died, and she is alone with her two daughters in-law. She urges them to find new husbands. One does but Ruth stays with her mother in-law, Naomi. They travel to Bethlehem…1000 years before Jesus is born.

    At the time, if you owned a field, you were not allowed to harvest the corners of it, instead making it available to the poor and hungry. One day Ruth “gleans” from the field of Boaz, gathering ingredients to make bread. Boaz sees her, likes her, gives her more food, and eventually Boaz marries her. Ruth goes to Bethlehem and finds not only the gift of bread but the gift of a bread winner. Ruth and Boaz have a son named Obed, a blessing to not only them but also grandma Naomi. She was overjoyed at the gift.

    The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15)

    Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him.  Ruth 4:16
    The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:16-17)

    Ruth was King David’s great-grandmother and Naomi was his great, great-grandmother! The little town of Bethlehem became known as the City of David, and centuries later that label will be used by angel’s announcement to the shepherds.

    Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

    A Kinsman-Redeemer of all people was arriving in Bethlehem. Jesus came to rescue and redeem humanity in the same town where Boaz had redeemed His ancestor Ruth. If you’ve ever read through the Bible, you know there are some genealogies that can be extremely boring, but this one is quite fascinating:

    Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. 

    David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, (Matthew 1:5-6)

    Two of Jesus’ ancestors met during the barley harvest and a part in the ongoing gift-giving which would lead to the birth of Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

    So What?

    We can talk all day long about big things coming from really little places. We can read the Christmas story of the birth of the Messiah. We can sing songs, exchange gifts, and eat cookies, but what difference does Jesus make two thousand years later? Jesus is the greatest gift. The story doesn’t end with a baby in a manger. Sweet baby Jesus would grow up, teach with wisdom which amazed the most brilliant minds of His day, perform countless miracles, willingly surrender His own life on a cross for the sake of every man, woman and child who follows Him, rise from the dead, ascend to heaven, and promise to return.

    Jesus is the greatest gift. He came as Emmanuel, God with us. He came to our world to be with us, to relate to us, to love us, to show us what it means to truly be human. And He’s coming back for all who receive the gift, who receive Him, who follow Him.

    Jesus is the greatest thing in my life. He has given me life—bountiful life! I live every day knowing my sins are forgiven which gives me peace. I know He is returning someday to our broken world which gives me hope. He is present here and now by the Holy Spirit living inside of me which gives me great joy. I’ve experience meaning and purpose for life, surrendering to the Creator God who knows me and still loves me.

    And all of this can be true for you, too. There’s nothing special about me. I just said, “Yes” to the gift. And you can, too. 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)

    That’s a promise of eternity with God after you die, but also the promise of His presence and power and peace in this life, here and now. It’s not about religion or even being good. It’s simply about welcoming Jesus into your heart, your life, your world and inviting Him to lead and guide Your life. It’s about a relationship with Almighty God, a journey in which you can actually know your Creator, be adopted into a faith family of love, receive a fresh start in life, conquer your fears, and truly experience joy. If Jesus is not the main ingredient in your life, you’re missing out on the greatest ingredient, the greatest gift. I urge you to receive the gift, the gift of Jesus. Let Him lead and guide you and who you through His Word, the Bible, real wisdom, life, and joy.

    One of my favorite songs of the season is “Joy to the World.” One of the lines says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Is there room in your heart for Jesus? He’s the main ingredient in my life and He can do incredible things with yours if you let Him in, if you receive the greatest gift this Christmas, the gift of Jesus.

    Credits: title, drama, and some ideas from The Skit Guys.

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

  • Identity: Family & Foes, 30 July 2017

    Identity: Family & Foes
    Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
    Mark 3:20-35

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

    Big Idea: Jesus’ followers are his true family…and you are welcome to join it!

    Earlier this year we did a series entitled Ideal Family. Throughout the series I said there are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

    The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families.

    As we continue our series on The Real Jesus from the gospel or “good news” of Mark, we are told Jesus’ popularity—and opposition—is growing. The crowds love Jesus because he teaches them, heals them, and loves them. The religious people hate him because he’s more popular than they are…and he seems to have a great comeback for all of their questions and criticisms. In a word, they are envious.

    Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21)

    As I said, all of our families are messed up. All of them. If you don’t think yours is messed up, yours is REALLY messed up! Jesus is trying to eat, a huge crowd mobs him, and his family think he’s crazy. They want to get him in line! “Make Jesus stop,” they say! Jesus’ family wants Jesus to stop his ministry because they don’t understand what he’s doing.

    On the other hand the religious people know what he’s doing…and they’re hostile.

    And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” (Mark 3:22)

    This must be one of the dumbest statements in the Bible! I’m not saying the Bible is stupid, of course, but the religious leaders accuse Jesus of being demonic…and driving out demons. Huh?

    So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:
    “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. (Mark 3:23-26)

    This is just common sense…but Jesus obviously needed to say it. A divided kingdom or house cannot stand. You may have noticed our nation is a bit divided these days. It’s scary to think what could happen if we remain this way. It seems like the options are to be overtaken by another country or find ourselves in civil war…because a house divided cannot stand. This is why unity is one of my top four prayers for First Alliance Church. United we stand, divided we fall (a phrase possibly used first by Aesop in his fable of “The Four Oxen and the Lion”). When we rally around a common mission, vision, strategy, and LORD, there is no limit to our potential. If we experience division, the ballgame is over. And we see this all the time…well-intended Christians arguing over things that often lead to awful results, including church splits and even people losing their faith in God altogether.

    Satan knows this. He knows if he can divide us, he can conquer. And again I say we need to always be praying for unity. I pray for direction, protection, passion, and unity. I know unity is a God-honoring prayer because it is Jesus’ prayer for us…right now. In John chapter 17, he says

    “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)

    Jesus is praying that we would be one…so that the world may believe!

    As if Jesus has not already made his point about division and unity clear, he adds these words:

    In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. (Mark 3:27)

    It’s easy to miss his message. Satan is like a strong man. Jesus is a stronger man! Jewish listeners may have been reminded of this passage in Isaiah:

    Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives be rescued from the fierce?

    But this is what the LORD says: 

    “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. (Isaiah 49:24-25)

    Jesus also may have been thinking about this text:

    After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
    by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
    Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, 
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
    because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
    For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:11-12)

    The Messiah is right before their eyes, yet they are unable to see.

    Returning to the verse…

    In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.
    (Mark 3:27)

    We have a real enemy, brothers and sisters. He is a liar, a thief, an accuser, a big fat jerk! He is powerful and destructive…but our God is greater!!! Be encouraged. There are battles, but we will win. Love prevails. Truth reigns. Peace conquers. Jesus rules!

    I want to add one more thing about unity…Dave Ramsey’s five enemies of unity. These five destroyers are true in the marketplace, but they can be found in churches and even homes, too.

    1. Poor communication
    2. Lack of shared purpose/mission/goals
    3. Gossip (Ramsey’s employees are warned once and fired if it occurs again)
    4. Unresolved disagreements
    5. Sanctioned incompetence (John Maxwell), keeping poor performers on the team

    That was just for fun! Back to Jesus…

    Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,
    but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:28-29)

    Throughout my life I’ve heard people talk about these verses. Did I commit the unforgivable sin? If you have to ask, the answer is a resounding no.

    Nobody disputed Jesus’ miracles. They were real. The healings were real. The exorcisms were real. The resurrection was real. Since the religious leaders couldn’t deny Jesus’ power, the only way they could discredit him was to attack the source of his power, claiming it is satanic. They knew better, but they were obviously desperate.

    Jesus presents a paradox, a self-contradictory statement. He says all sins and blasphemies can be forgiven and then says the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. Which is it?

    Forgiveness of sins comes only from God. If you claim God is evil, who can forgive your sins?

    If you choose to deny God, it’s impossible to receive his forgiveness.

    Jesus doesn’t even say these religious leaders have committed the unforgiveable sin, but it’s a stern warning.

    He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” (Mark 3:30)

    Now we see Jesus’ family again.

    Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” (Mark 3:31-32)

    When is the last time someone said, “Where have you been? We’ve been looking all over for you!”? Mary and the boys are outside, unable to get to their popular son and brother. Then Jesus asks a simple question.

    “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. (Mark 3:33)

    No wonder they thought Jesus lost his mind! He couldn’t even identify his mom and siblings?

    Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
    “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34-35)

    Wow! That’s radical! Jesus is starting a new family, a holy people. He’s willing to sacrifice his biological family for a new tribe, club, group. This is shocking!

    Growing up in a “good, Christian home,” I always felt close to my sister and parents, my grandparents, and even my aunts, uncles, and cousins. If we were visiting family out of town, we would always attend church with them on Sundays, reinforcing our Christian heritage and bond in Jesus. I married into a family that was…different. Church was generally reserved for Christmas and Easter.

    So imagine my surprise at my life in 2017. Two weddings last year led to major division among my Christian family members, while many members of Heather’s family are closer to me than my own flesh and blood. I keep reminding myself all families are messed up…including mine!

    I’m beginning to better understand Jesus’ words about family. Perhaps what matters most isn’t your blood but your relationships. I’m certainly not saying family doesn’t matter. Quite the opposite. Family is incredibly important, but to Jesus’ point, relationships matter more than family. Jesus did not abandon his mom and brothers. He merely extended his family to include all God seekers, or more accurately all God followers.

    So What?

    Are you a part of Jesus’ family? I didn’t ask if you attend this church or believe in God or were born in the USA. I’m asking if you are part of Jesus’ family. Do you do God’s will? Do you obey God? Are you truly a follower of Jesus, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his teachings. I’m not talking about religion, but rather righteousness and relationship.

    Jesus invites you and me to join his family. We are welcome to become sons and daughters of the Most High God, thus becoming the brothers and sisters of Jesus. In fact, if we follow Jesus today, we are closer kin to Jesus than even his mother and brothers! That’s incredible! No matter your family of origin, you can be born again, become a new creation, receive the gift of eternal life…and an abundant life now. I’m so glad I’m a part of God’s family…not because of anything I have done, but rather because of what Jesus did in inviting us to follow him.

    See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)

    some ideas from NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Scott Pinzon, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • We Are Saved, 2 February 2014

    Big Idea: We are saved by grace. We were dead but now we’re alive. Hallelujah!

    Ephesians 2:1-10


    One of my many weaknesses is my propensity to see things in black and white in a world of grey. I tend to be all or nothing, going to extremes. I’ve learned this about myself and I am working to avoid the tendency but when I was younger it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to turn the volume of the radio down to 1 when someone complained that 11 was a little much, or if someone said I talked too much I would resort to silence.

    Although much of life is grey, some things are clearly black or white, on or off, yes or no, Seattle or Denver!

    The Wrath of God

    Our series on the book of Ephesians is called
    Who Do You Think You Are? This is one of the most important questions in life. How you see yourself determines how you think and act and live. We live in a culture where most people see themselves as good people, at least in comparison to the criminals we see paraded in front of us on the nightly news. People will say, “I haven’t killed anyone, I paid—most of—my taxes, and I’m kind to animals so I’m pretty good.” But they’re not. I’m not. Romans 3:23 says that

    “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

    We tend to focus on the first part, but what about the latter. God’s glory is perfection. He is holy. He is righteous. He hates sin—all sin!

    I want to begin today with God’s wrath. It’s politically incorrect to discuss, but it’s real. We can deny it but does not change it. God hates sin and

    “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)

    Ephesians 2 could’ve begun like this:

    You are dead in your transgressions and sins in which you live, following the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also live among them, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we are by nature objects of wrath.

    Objects of wrath. That means all sin will be destroyed. It’s like cancer. You wouldn’t want a doctor to remove 10% of your cancer or even 90%. The goal is to live 100% cancer free. God can only live in a sin-free environment. His wrath will come and destroy all sin…and that’s a good think—unless we are sinners. But we are! We are all sinners.

    Celebrate Jesus

    Today is a day of celebration. We’re not celebrating my birthday or yours. We’re not celebrating a Super Bowl championship since it is hours away. Today we are celebrating Jesus, and every day should be a celebration of Christ. Our text for today actually begins

    As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

    It’s all past-tense because of Jesus!!!

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

    But God. God butts in! He invades our broken planet that has been decimated by sin like our state has been invaded by snow and cold temperatures.

    We were dead. Now we’re alive…with Christ. We are alive…in Christ.

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

    I didn’t do it. You didn’t do it. Jesus did it!

    We were dead and then Jesus made us alive!

    I have a friend, Tony, who died six years ago at St. Joe’s Hospital. His heart was the worst the hospital had ever seen, but then a miracle occurred; he came back to life, and has never been the same since—in a good way. He was dead and now he’s alive.

    What did Tony do to move from death to life? Nothing! He laid in the hospital bed and was healed in the midst of an ocean of prayer and a supernatural event not even the doctors can explain.

    It’s the same way with us. We were dead and then Jesus made us alive. That’s grace!


    Grace is unmerited favor. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair. You can’t do anything to get it. It’s amazing!

    A week ago I was DJing with a friend and I explained it this way:

    If you recklessly smash your car into mine (please don’t!), justice means you pay to get my car fixed—and me, too, if I’m injured.

    Mercy means I shrug it off, forgive you, and pretend the accident never happened. Who likes mercy?!

    Grace means I not only refuse payment to fix my car, I offer to pay to fix yours…and take you out for ice cream!

    That’s insane, right? That’s grace! That’s what Jesus offers every man, woman and child.

    And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7)

    We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. This means we are invited to spend eternity with Almighty God. We are welcomed into His Kingdom, not because we were good, but because of grace.

    Notice again the phrase “in Christ” and “with Christ.” It’s all Jesus. We’re just along for the ride. Literally.

    I have a friend who owns a Ferrari. It’s a beautiful car probably worth more than my house. He has two sons and if he were to ever let them drive the Ferrari into town, it would be obvious that there is only one reason they were driving such nice wheels—their dad! They did nothing to deserve the privilege except be born.

    That’s grace!

    Don’t miss these next two verses. This is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible.

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

    What is our role in salvation? Nothing! It’s all a gift. Even faith is a gift of God!

    We all deserve God’s wrath. You, me, Billy Graham, and—fill in the blank!

    Religion has always tried to work hard to make God like us. Every religion I have ever encountered is spelled
    D-O; it’s about what we do. The problem is our works compared to God are like me trying to jump from here to the moon. It doesn’t matter how much I practice or how hard I work, there’s no way I could ever jump to the moon.

    What I love about the movement of Jesus is we are the only ones with grace. Grace is spelled
    D-O-N-E. It’s not what we do, but what’s been done by Jesus. I’ve encouraged my three kids to check out other religions. Explore. We’re the only ones with grace. It’s amazing, it’s extravagant, it’s almost unbelievable!

    For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

    There’s so much that can be said about this verse but I want to briefly highlight a few thoughts

    We are God’s workmanship, His masterpiece, His creation, His treasure. He doesn’t make junk!

    We were created “in Christ.” We were created by Christ and then recreated in Christ because of grace.

    We were created to do good works. We don’t do good works and then get in. We encounter Jesus and do good works as a result. Our lives are lived not out of obligation but gratitude. One of the most important works we can do is
    let dead people know they are dead, and how they can become alive in Christ!

    God knew us in our mother’s womb and prepared good words for us to do. He wants us to do two things: love Him and love others. When you ponder grace, don’t you want to dance, sing, and then obey whatever He says?!

    We were dead. Because of Jesus we’re alive!


    Some ideas from

    J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
    Mark Driscoll,
    Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
    GLO Bible
    Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
    J. Vernon McGee
    , Thru The Bible,

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

    Radical Urgency, 9 October 2011

  • Big Idea: The time is now to share our story and fulfill our mission. Our days are numbered.

  • John 4:27-42

  • Introduction

  • We are in the middle of a series called Radical, largely inspired by the David Platt book of the same name. It’s really an attempt to fulfill our church’s mission:

  • We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 

  • - serving our communities
  • - sharing our story
  • - sending disciples to bless the nations

  • so that God is glorified.

  • This week’s message title—planned many weeks ago—is Radical Urgency.

  • I was deeply moved by an event that occurred this past week. Our generation’s Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, passed away. I don’t think a more influential human being has died in my lifetime. As many of you know, I’ve been an avid Apple user since 1994. I love Pixar films, too, a company that Jobs launched.

  • As I was reading a tribute to Jobs in USA Today, I was gripped by two sentences. The first one said

  • Jobs was a Buddhist.

  • The second one said

  • After a stint as a video-game designer at Atari, Jobs trekked to India in 1974, where he embraced Eastern culture and religion.

  • At age 19, Steve Jobs was searching for meaning and truth and he encountered Buddhism.

  • I have great respect for Buddhists. Our dear neighbors open their home each week for Buddhist services and are wonderful people. However, Buddhism will not lead you to heaven. In fact, they don’t even believe in an eternal heaven.

  • Here’s my point: what if Steve Jobs encountered fully-devoted followers of Jesus at age 19? What if a friend introduced him to Christ as a teenager?

  • I told Heather that of all of the people I have never met, I hope Steve Jobs is in heaven. God only knows where Steve will spend eternity, but the Bible makes it clear that without Jesus, it won’t be pleasant.

  • Platt tells of a conversation with two friends.

  • I remember sitting outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia. Men and women filled the elaborate, colorful temple grounds, where they daily performed their religious rituals. Meanwhile, I was engaged in a conversation with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader in this particular community. They were discussing how all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different. “We may have different views about small issues,” one of them said, “but when it comes down to essential issues, each of our religions is the same.”

  • I listened for a while, and then they asked me what I thought. I 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.

  • This is the gospel, friends. It’s a gospel that Steve Jobs needs. It’s a gospel that you and I need. It’s a gospel that the world needs.

  • We don’t have time to waste. Our days are numbered. You can be a world-famous, creative genius billionaire and your days are still numbered.

  • We must have a radical urgency for the things of God and the two things He cares most deeply about are the lost and the poor. The Bible is jam-packed with God’s heart for the spiritual and physically needy.
  • The Gospel demands radical urgency. It is something we are all given the privilege to share. If you have encountered Jesus, there’s no way you could remain unchanged.

  • One of my great frustrations as a pastor is the myth that you pay me to do ministry. The reality is we are all Christ’s ambassadors. I get paid to equip you to do ministry.

  • A related myth is that you are unqualified to do ministry. Since I’ve been to seminary and you have not, I’m the expert and you don’t know enough.

  • Radical urgency does not come from what we know; it only comes from who we know.

    There’s a great story of Jesus encountering a woman at a well. She is a Samaritan woman, a group despised by the Jews. Jesus had a radical disregard for the prejudices and hatred of men. His radical urgency transcended tribal boundaries. As I said a moment ago, you cannot encounter Jesus and not be changed, and this woman was no exception.

    John 4:27 begins

    Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” (John 4:27)

    Did I mention not only did Jews not talk to Samaritans, men did not usually talk to women, certainly not alone, and certainly not rabbis. Jesus’ radical urgency for the lost person trumps all of our cultural and religious traditions.
    Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:28-30)

  • She shared her story with everyone she knew. How long was she a follower of Jesus? Minutes! How long did she attend seminary? Zero! She was not even a righteous woman, yet God used her.

  • Have you ever felt too ordinary to be used by God? Have you ever felt unqualified? Check out this video.

  • In the next verses, Jesus has a conversation with His disciples about food.

  • “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:34-38)

  • We often think that no one is particularly interested in hearing—let alone responding to—the Gospel, the good news.

  • This week I met a woman who told me after 38 years, she knew nothing about Jesus. At age 38, here in the United States, someone finally told her the story. His story. The simple story that God created, man destroyed, Jesus restored, and He is returning to establish a new heaven and a new earth. That’s it. That’s the story. It’s not good news, it’s great news! We’re not worthy. He is. We deserve death for our sins. He did it for us if we believe and accept the gift of His life and follow Him.

  • What does Jesus say here? The fields are ripe for harvest now. This is an appropriate time of year to talk about harvest. Last week we noted that harvest often refers to judgment, but here Jesus is clearly saying some plant seeds, other water, and others bring in the fruit. We all like to pick the fruit, but each person in the process is critical. You don’t just stick a seed in the ground and eat its fruit the next day. In the same way it’s unlikely that your first conversation with someone will lead to them dropping to their knees in surrender to Jesus. Then again, it might happen if others have been planting and watering the spiritual seeds in their life.

  • In today’s scripture, Jesus does not go into a town, have a revival meeting, and count the conversions. A despised, sinful Samaritan woman is a vital part of the process. She is not guilted into sharing her story. She doesn’t take a class. She is overjoyed to let others know what Jesus has done in her life. She simply invited people to meet Jesus. Should we also be just inviting people to encounter Jesus? What would that look like for us? What would that look like for you?

  • Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. (John 4:39-41)

  • They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

  • God used a woman—a rather sinful woman, at that—to bring the Gospel to her town. It had nothing to do with her education. It had nothing to do with her character. She encountered Jesus and had to share her story.

  • What’s your story? Earlier this year we developed two-word stories. Of course, it helps to have someone to share it with.

    This week I was reminded of radical urgency. My days on earth are numbered and when they end I have to give an account of how I spent them. There is a radical urgency that I do not waste a precious second.

    Those around us are also going to face judgment someday. One conversation be all that is needed for their eternities to be transformed. Most of us live as if we’re indestructible with at least 80 or 90 years before we reach our expiration date, but some may die at 70 or 60…or 56.

    This week you might encounter a 19 year-old searching for meaning and purpose in life. They may choose to follow Jesus because of your conversation or they may choose an alternate path, change the world, and spend eternity apart from God.

    Steve Jobs, in his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, said some timely words about his life and ours.

    "No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

  • Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

  • We must serve our communities NOW.
  • We must share our story NOW.
  • We must make disciples to send to the nations NOW.
  • Tomorrow may be too late.

  • You can listen to the podcast here.