Wise Man, 29 December 2019

Wise Man: Christ
Series—Away in a Manger
Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew 1:1, Luke 2:11, Luke 2:22-39, Leviticus 12:1-8, Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6, Matthew 27:19, Matthew 27:29, Matthew 27:45, Matthew 27:54

Series Big Idea:
The Skit Guys have provided us with resources to view Advent from five different perspectives.

Big Idea:
Wise men and women still seek truth…and bring him presence.

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t Christmas over? We blew out Jesus’ birthday candles days ago. Sure, we haven’t taken down the tree yet, but it’s time to move on, to get ready for New Year’s Eve, the ball drop, the football bowl games…

Here’s a thought: Jesus is the reason for the season…every season! And wise men—and women—still seek truth…and bring him gifts.

We don’t know Jesus’ exact birthday. We know it was about 2000 years ago but there’s a 1-in-365 chance that Jesus was born on December 25. Mary and Joseph were there. Shepherds were there. Animals and angels were there. The three kings or wise men? Not a chance!

Here’s the story from Matthew’s gospel—“good news”:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

These are Magi from the east. It says nothing about kings. The names of the Magi—Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior—and their status as kings from the east or “Orient” are based upon legend and tradition, not the Bible. So what are Magi? They are learned Gentile men. They may have come from Arbia, Ethiopia, Persia, or even India. They were likely astrologers, paying attention to the stars, which was easier to do then—before electricity and lights! It may seem odd to us that people took cues from what they saw in the sky, but they believed everything we interconnected. When a something special appeared in the sky, they assumed something special was occurring on earth. Scholars aren’t sure what the Magi saw exactly, but some think it may have been the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter was the royal, kingly planet and Saturn was thought, by some, to represent the Jews. They came to Jerusalem, the Jewish capital, looking for the king of the Jews. However, Matthew wants us to know his rule is not limited to the Jews.

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. (Matthew 2:3-4)

No king wants to be overthrown. It is my understanding that the Romans were fine with the Jews so long as they were good, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. When stars announce a new king, that can be threatening! Herod was not someone you wanted to threaten, as he murdered his wife, his three sons, his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, and many others. And soon he would slaughter baby boys, too. He was not a descendant of David…or even Jacob, but rather Esau, causing hatred from most of the Jews.

Notice how a simple question from the Magi disturbs not only King Herod—the fake king of the Jews—but all Jerusalem.

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:5-6)

I still find it remarkable that the birthplace of Jesus was prophesied about 700 years before his birthday (Micah 5:2, 2 Samuel 5:2)!

It says “a ruler who will shepherd.” How many kings and rulers actually care for their people?

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:7-8)

Why did Herod call the Magi secretly? He was obviously scheming since he had no intention of worshipping this child…this king…or anyone!

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. (Matthew 2:9)

The star in the east reappears to the Magi. Though some believe these were actually planets, others think maybe it was the Shekinah glory of God that led the people of Israel for forty years in the wilderness as a pillar of fire and cloud.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. (Matthew 2:10)

We talked about joy last Sunday. They had great joy. They saw the star. It was moving until it reached the place where the child Jesus was, about five miles south of Jerusalem.

When I toured Israel many years ago, our tour guide told us to consider not only the historical buildings, fields, and bodies of water, but also the sky above us. Angels sung above Bethlehem. In this account, a star guided the Magi as they traveled and stopped above Jesus.

There’s a passage in the book of Isaiah that may prophesy this occasion.

Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD. (Isaiah 60:6)

Gold, incense, and praise. Where have I heard that before?

Psalm 72 makes some references which may be relevant.

May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts. (Psalm 72:10)

Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long. (Psalm 72:15)

Jewish tradition and the early church saw this as pertaining to the Messiah.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

We don’t know how many Magi were present; maybe two, maybe twenty. We sing “we three kings” because there were three gifts mentioned and those three men with three gifts look so nice in the nativity scene! The Roman Catholic Church states Orient tradition would favor at least twelve Magi. This is the only verse in the New Testament that lists the gifts given to Jesus.

We usually see Magi in Nativity scenes carrying small “samples” of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Magi were high-level dignitaries who likely brought great quantities of these gifts, perhaps even a whole train of pack animals loaded with them. When the Queen of Sheba brought a gift to king Solomon, for example, she gave 9000 pounds of gold (2 Chronicles 9:2)!

It's possible that these gifts had special significance. They were appropriate presents for kings or even gods. Gold might reflect Jesus’ deity or purity, frankincense the fragrance of his life, and myrrh —which is used to embalm the dead—a foreshadowing of his death on the cross. It’s likely is these gifts provided the resources needed to flee to and live in Egypt until Herod died.

It’s worth noting years later, Pilate’s soldiers will be the first Gentiles wince the Magi to call Jesus the king of the Jews, though his crown would be made of thorns, his throne a cross, and instead of a star, darkness would cover the land while a Gentile man declares Jesus to really be God’s son.

We don’t know when the Magi arrived, either. It is probably months, possibly days, but it may have been up to two years since Herod wanted all baby boys up to two years old killed on a not-so-silent night. Matthew tells us the family was in a house, so this was definitely not Jesus’ birthday.

Every time the child Jesus and Mary are mentioned together, Jesus is mentioned first. Notice Matthew calls him a child now rather than a newborn infant.

Our text for today concludes,

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matthew 2:12)

What followed was Joseph taking his family to Egypt to escape King Herod’s slaughter of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.

So What?

Great, powerful men traveled far bringing gifts to a royal baby, one whose mission was to die. Other kings rule and reign, and when Jesus returns, that’s exactly what he will do…forever! He is the Lord of lords. He is the King of kings.

But as we look back at history, we see the most unlikely birth of a king. We see the most unexpected death of a king. We see here the king of the Jews pursued by wise Gentiles.

The wise men were searching for truth. Are you?

“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 truth. What he says is offensive to many, yet timeless and true. If we read and listened to Jesus as much as we do the news, I believe we would be different, to say nothing of the other 7+ billion people in this world.

The wise men were searching for truth. Are you?

One of the most searched, quoted, and misquoted verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The problem with this verse comes when you take it out of context. God is speaking to the Israelites exiled in Babylon. It’s not something to cut and paste onto a t-shirt. I’m not suggesting God wants to harm you, but that there’s more to the message. It continues:

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:12)

God’s inviting the people of Israel to get involved, to pursue, to pray. Then God adds:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Wise men still seek him. Wise women, too!

Jesus said,

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34)


The wise men brought gifts? Did you?

I must confess I always thought the gifts of the Magi were small samples that could fit in the palm of your hand. While that makes for a nice Nativity scene, it’s highly unlikely. Kings were given great, extravagant gifts. If you’re going to travel a distance, why not bring the best?

What did you get Jesus for his birthday? No, it’s not too late! Every day is a day worth celebrating the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

You might wonder what you can give? One of my favorite Christmas songs—perhaps because it’s about a musician—is The Little Drummer Boy. If you omit the “rum pump um pum,” you’re left with these words:

Come they told me A newborn King to see Our finest gifts we bring To lay before the King
I am a poor boy too I have no gift to bring That's fit to give a King
I played my drum for Him I played my best for Him Then He smiled at me Me and my drum

What’s the message? A poor boy brought what he had…his drum…his best.

Some of you have great financial wealth. Give Jesus your best. Invest in his church.

Some of you have great talents. Give Jesus your best. Sing. Dance. Serve. Design. Paint. Lead. Invite. Love.

Some of you have great quantities of time. Pray. Visit. Read. Encourage.

We all need to give of our time and talent and treasures…and give our best. It will look different for each person, but the point is we need to give God our very best. We’ll talk more about this next Sunday, but for now, think about your gift to the King of kings.

Do you know what he wants more than anything? You can’t get it at Walmart! He wants you! He wants your heart, your obedience, your worship, your witness.

I think he also wants you to seek him, to pursue him, to be fully present with him. Not just now. Not just on Sundays. Not just at Christmastime. Every day. Every hour. Every moment. I believe if Jesus walked into this room and we gave him one wish from us, he would say the same thing he said to his friends:

Follow me.

He says it six times in the book of Matthew (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:9; 10:38, 16:24, 19:21) and numerous times in Mark, Luke, and John.

Wise men and women still seek truth…and bring him presence.

They are present. They pursue. They listen. They read. They pray. They slow down. They love. They worship. They follow.

My prayer for all of us as we draw near the end of this year and decade is that we would seek truth, seek God’s Kingdom, and give all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, and all of our strength to the King of kings.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)

Credits: Some ideas from The Skit Guys.
  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Seeking the Savior, 28 April 2019

    Seeking the Savior
    Series—The Quest of the Good Shepherd
    Luke 19:1-10

    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:
    Lost people matter to God and He wants them found.

    One of the greatest controversies among students of the Bible is whether God chooses us or we choose God. If you are a follower of Jesus today, why? Is it what God did or what you did? Did God seek you to follow Him or did you seek out God?

    My short opinion—if you’re wondering—is yes!

    On the one hand, we are told to seek after God, to pursue a relationship with our Creator.

    Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. (Psalms 105:3)

    Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:11)

    The Hebrew word used in both verses is
    baqash. It means to seek, search, look for, inquire about.

    God wants us to seek Him. But ever since sin entered the world, we naturally want to pursue our own pleasures. We want to be god, the master of our own universe. We like to be in control. This led Paul to write to the church in Rome:

    As it is written:

    “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. (Romans 3:10-11)

    Here the verb “seek” is Greek, ekzeteo, meaning “to seek out, investigate diligently, scrutinize.” It’s as if we need God to pursue us because left to our own devices, we’ll selfishly do life our way, oblivious to the wisdom of the Almighty.

    A moment ago, I said my answer is yes—I believe we seek after God and God seeks after us. Who is responsible for my being married, my wife or me? Our relationship requires the participation of two parties, and I believe that’s the same for those in a relationship with God through King Jesus.

    Two weeks ago, we noted again how

    Lost people matter to God and He wants them found.

    Luke chapter 15 tells of the pursuit of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son where God pursues.

    Today we’re going to look at two spiritual seekers, people who pursued God. Both are rich men who want to follow, yet they end up with two very different outcomes.

    A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18)

    “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” (Luke 18:19-20)

    “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. (Luke 18:21)

    When Jesus heard this, he said to him,
    “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

    When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said,
    “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:23-25)

    This man seeks after God, but he became very sad because he was ultimately seeking money more than God.

    Our text for today in the following chapter is similar.

    Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. (Luke 19:1-2)

    Zacchaeus means “righteous one,” but this man was anything but righteous. He was not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector, hated and despised. The tax system was oppressive to the people (some things never change!). But seriously, he could charge taxes on most anything he wanted, at most any rate he wanted. The comment about his wealth is hardly necessary.

    As Zach walked around town, the people saw their money…used to purchase fancy clothes and expensive food. He could raise taxes and pocket the increase. To make matters worse, if you couldn’t pay the taxes, tax collectors would loan you the money at a huge interest rate, making even more money for themselves. If that wasn’t enough, the taxes went to pay for the unwanted Roman army to occupy your village.

    Zacchaeus was, no doubt, greedy and selfish. His world revolved around himself. Have you ever met someone like this? Maybe it’s your boss or a co-worker or neighbor. They’re climbing to the top and could care less about whatever is in their way, even if it’s you! They’ll beg, borrow or even steal to get what they want. Tragically—as we noted recently in our series on Ecclesiastes—they never have enough. They are never satisfied. They may seem to be beyond hope and help. But he was a masterpiece in the eyes of God.

    He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. (Luke 19:3-4)

    Kids love Zacchaeus. He was short like them. If you’ve ever taken a child to a parade, they usually struggle to see, not unlike Zacchaeus in this crowd. When I was little, I loved it when my dad put me on his shoulders at a parade so I could see over the tops of all of the adults. Zach takes advantage of tree to get a height advantage.

    Luke is the only biblical writer who tells us about Zacchaeus, though it’s a perfect story since he had just written about the problem of riches…and an encounter with Jesus.

    You might call this man a seeker. It says he ran, something unusual for a man in the culture, especially a wealthy government official. He may not have been seeking after God, but Jesus was a celebrity and perhaps he wants an autograph or even a selfie with the Messiah. That would look great on his social media account, right? Although it says he simply wanted to see who Jesus was, I believe God was at work in his heart.

    God the Holy Spirit draws people to Jesus.

    Only God can change a selfish, human heart, and that’s exactly what happens.

    When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him,
    “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. (Luke 19:5-6)

    Did Jesus just invite himself to Zacchaeus’ house? Yes he did, and Zacchaeus was happy to welcome him.

    Let’s face it, there are some celebrities who can do just about anything they want. I’m not suggesting Jesus had selfish motives because he had an agenda far greater than a free meal. But if Lebron James or Julia Roberts or David Jeremiah or Taylor Swift wanted to come over to your place, you’d probably welcome them gladly, right?

    Did Jesus seek after Zach or did Zach seek after Jesus? Yes! It’s a beautiful story! But then religion enters the scene.

    All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7)

    Zacchaeus wasn’t just any sinner. This is the man who has been stealing from them, padding his wallet with extra fees and taxes. He was a crook! I’m sure some were jealous simply because they would’ve liked Jesus to invite himself to their house. But beyond that,

    Jesus was criticized for being a friend of sinners.

    Tragically, many godly men and women today experience the same judgment from self-righteous religious people. Like Jonah or the older son in the Prodigal Son story, they want exclusive access to the Father, shunning the lost, the sinner, the broken…even when they come to their senses, repent, and follow God, which is exactly what Zach does here.

    But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8)

    What a statement! This is extravagant repentance. Zacchaeus doesn’t simply say, “I’m sorry everyone. I won’t let it happen again.” He makes amends. He turns and does what he can to not only pay back what he had taken, but also make fourfold restitution. Wow!

    Under the Mosaic law, restitution for a theft meant returning what was stolen plus twenty percent. The greatest penalty was if what was stolen could not be restored, then a fourfold repayment was required. Zach self-imposed the harshest penalty.

    The rich young ruler refused to sell his possessions, yet Zacchaeus seemingly gives away all of his cash. In Jesus, he has found something more valuable than all of the gold in the world, and he is forever transformed by his encounter with the Messiah.

    Jesus said to him,
    “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)

    Salvation comes to those who follow Jesus…with not only their heads but their hands. Faith without works is dead. Zacchaeus is a new man, a found man, a saved man, and now a truly rich man because of the gift of salvation.

    God encounters are transformative.

    Jesus mission was not only to die on the cross. It also included seeking the lost sheep. It involved spending time with sinners far from God. It required intentionality and action and pursuit. Jesus is the one that saves and changes us. It’s all about Jesus!

    I have two questions for you today. First,

    Are you a God-seeker?

    Really. Would you sell everything you have if God called you to do so? Do you generously give now? I believe 10% is the starting point—not the goal—for financial stewardship, giving to your local church.

    Singles, are you willing to honor God with your body and remain sexually pure?

    Does your calendar reflect your pursuit of God, or are your days filled with screens and personal pursuits?

    I know a lot of long-time Christians and I’ve seen spiritual newborns and there’s something exciting about a new believer. They’re hungry, eager to learn and grow. Are you? I pray we will all be God-seekers, regardless of where we are on our spiritual journey.

    How can you serve God-seekers?

    I believe the greatest way you can serve those pursuing God is to share Jesus, share your story, listen to their questions, guide them to the cross…and empty tomb.

    This past week a research study revealed although 56% of Protestant churchgoers said they pray for opportunities to share the Gospel—or good news—with non-Christians, 55% said they haven’t engaged in an “evangelistic conversation” in at least six months. One researcher replied, “Sharing the good news that Jesus paid for our sins through His death on the cross and rose again to bring us new life is the mission of the church, but it does not appear to be the priority of churchgoers.”

    Perhaps even more concerning is a recent report that 47% of Millennials agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. We’re never supposed to shove God down anyone’s throat, but there are people all around us who are asking questions, they’re seeking meaning and purpose in life, whether or not they define their search as seeking God.

    Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and he invites us to follow him. After all,

    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)

    I’m so grateful for this church. For more than thirteen decades we have been seeking and saving the lost, serving Toledo and the world. We have been local and global. We’ve had people serving as missionaries in our city and the ends of the earth. I want to challenge you with three simple yet powerful ways you can help seekers in Toledo and beyond.
    Pray. This is the primary work of God’s people. We are a praying church and I can’t imagine where we’d be without prayer. Transformation will not occur through great sermons and dynamic music alone. It comes through the power of God unleashed when we get on our knees and pray. Imagine what would happen if the Holy Spirit prompts people in Toledo like Zacchaeus to come and see, to pursue God through First Alliance Church. It has been exciting seeing new people join us, many simply because they saw our sign and beautiful campus. We pray that God would draw people to Himself. We pray for our city, its leaders, its churches, and ministries. We pray for spiritual awakening among the 500,000 souls in Northwest Ohio.

    On a global level, you can adopt an International Worker and pray for them. There’s a list of them in each week’s
    Prayer Connection which can be found both in the Information Center kiosk and in each edition of our e-newsletter, The FAC Focus. Please pray for Heather and me as we travel to Africa, not only for our health and safety but effective ministry to youth, leaders, and pastors.

    Give. Today is Great Commission Sunday. We promote the Great Commission Fund regularly because it is the way we support International Workers in The Alliance. Some groups ask individuals to do months of personal fundraising. We prefer to do the work for them so they can be involved in seeking the lost, sharing Jesus, inviting people to experience abundant life. You can give today, next week, or any week. You can put the Great Commission Fund in your estate and will, ensuring your wealth will be invested in people for eternity.
    This year The Alliance is sending 60 International Workers, the most we’ve ever sent in our history! We praise God for 60 people responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to go, but now we need people to respond to the call to support them financially through the Great Commission Fund.

    On a related global note, thank you to those who have invested in our trip next month to Burundi, Africa. I don’t know who contributed, but I can’t wait to share stories of God’s faithfulness as we train youth, leaders, and pastors next month.
    On a local level, you can also give to First Alliance Church and our Faith Missions and Home Missions partners. Our books are always open and I can assure you every dollar is spent carefully to maximize effectiveness.
    …to West Virginia or the Dominican Republic or Africa. Maybe God is calling you to leave Toledo for another state or country in the future. He does that sometimes! Maybe God is calling you to go launch a new ministry or church. I’d love to talk with you about that!
    You can go to your next door neighbor or co-worker or family member. Ask them where they are on their spiritual journey. Take them out for coffee and listen to their story. Show them love through random acts of kindness. Take a risk! It can be as simple as inviting them to…
    Dinner Church?

    I know there are some questions about Dinner Church and I want to do my best to address them now. We start with why, and it’s simply to seek and save the lost, following Jesus. He is the one who said,

    Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

    Who is going to set the table? We are! We are creating space for sinners, seculars, and strangers to have dinner with Jesus. He said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” What if he wasn’t speaking metaphorically?

    Although I first heard about the Dinner Church movement two years ago at a conference, it’s nearly identical to the church Heather and I started in Ann Arbor twenty years ago, Frontline. We sat at round tables, met on Sunday evenings, began with dinner, and offered a non-traditional, interactive God experience for people young and old, rich and poor, religious and non-religious. I could spend hours telling stories of the transformed lives we witnessed during those fruitful years.

    Dinner Church is not a soup kitchen, but a community meal for the mind, body, and soul. From 5-6 PM we’ll gather in the Fellowship Hall at round tables, eating together, extending hospitality to our guests, just hanging out with these masterpieces in need of God’s restoration, just like each of us needs.

    The 6 PM hour will include music and the arts, an interactive teaching, Q&A, and prayer. Kids are welcome, though we will have child care available for those who need it. The entire evening will be kid-friendly, casual, and engaging. I’m praying God brings spiritual seekers like Zacchaeus to connect with us and with Him.

    As we’ve said, this is designed for the unchurched, whether they be Christians or not. If you’re a regular on Sunday morning, we’d love for you to either serve or bring an unchurched friend. We want to make sure there’s room for God seekers.

    If you have such a friend, please prayerfully invite them. You might say, “My church is doing an experiment called Dinner Church and we’d love your feedback. Would you come as my guest and tell me what you think, kind of like a mystery shopper? We’ll even treat you to dinner!”

    Next Sunday, Cinco de Mayo, will be our sneak preview gathering. On May 26, we’ll begin meeting on the last Sunday of the month from 5-7 PM.

    Pray. Give. Go.

    What a privilege we have to join God in His work seeking and saving the lost. Amen!

    One more thing

    Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. We have the privilege of joining him in that mission, the mission of restoring masterpieces, of making disciples, of sharing good news. And according to Matthew 24:14, this is not merely good for the sake of the lost and for the sake of God, but it will hasten the return of the King.

    A New York reporter once asked Alliance founder A. B. Simpson, “Can you tell us when Jesus will return?” Simpson replied, “Yes, I will tell you, as long as you promise to print what I say word for word.” The reporter agreed, at which time Simpson quoted Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

    More than 4,000 people groups have not yet had opportunity to receive and respond to Christ’s invitation to experience life with Him now and evermore. Who’s going to tell them?
    VIDEO: The Kingdom Now Snapshot

    I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Jesus to return, but in the meantime, we’re on a mission from God! Let’s get to work, let’s follow Christ and his mission of seeking and saving the lost.

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

    So Loved, John 3:1-21, 10 June 2012

    Big Idea: God gave. Seekers can find.

    John 3:1-21

    But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. (John 2:24-25)

    Jesus knew what was in each person. He knows what is in you and me. He is God.

    He also knew what was in the heart of a guy named Nicodemus.

    Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. (John 3:1)

    He was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, likely a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. He was an outstanding man. Today he would wear an Italian suit, drive a sports car, be a member at the country club, and command attention in every room he enters.

    He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (3:2)

    Nick at night! He could not “see” spiritually. He came with a mask. “We” know. They recognized the miracles.

    Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (3:3)

    Jesus interrupts him and starts talking about the kingdom of God. Born again or born from above.

    “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (3:4)

    This is a great question! Jesus wasn’t talking about a physical birth, though.

    Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

    Water could refer to baptism or the womb but likely the sanctifying, cleaning power of the Word of God (Ezek. 36:25-27) through the Holy Spirit taking the Scripture and using it. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God through the man of God.

    Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (3:6)

    Our old, sinful nature does not change. It will die with our body.

    The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:7)

    The spiritual birth is necessary. We are given a new nature because our old nature is put to death (baptism).

    You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (3:7-8)

    We still know little about the wind. We can’t stop tornados. We can barely predict them! We can recognize when it is blowing, though, despite the fact that we can’t see the wind. “You” must be born again is plural. The same Greek word for wind means Spirit. We can’t see or control the Holy Spirit, but we can experience His power and presence and observe His movement.

    “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. (3:9)

    Nick is no longer a Pharisee or a ruler but a spiritual seeker. The masks are gone. He gets real with Jesus, and that’s what we must do, too. I believe the greatest reason that people in the west reject God is they refuse to humble themselves and admit that they need God. We can’t impress God. We can’t put on a show for Him. We can only come on our knees in respectful reverence, awe, wonder, and desperation.

    “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? (3:10)

    Don’t miss Jesus’ sarcasm here!

    Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. (3:11-13)

    See Daniel 7:13-14

    I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (John 16:28)

    Jesus is the only One who can speak of heaven because He’s the only One who has been there. Prior to Jesus, the righteous dead went to Abraham’s bosom.

    Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (3:14-15)

    The serpent represented the sin of the people. Christ was made sin for us on the cross. See Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus repeats that message in the most famous verse in the Bible:

    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. (3:16)

    The son of man must be lifted up. We must be born again. The love of God cannot save a sinner. It is by grace that we are saved. He loved so He gave. To believe in Christ means to trust Him for your sins. Believe is more than just mental agreement. Demons “believe” in Jesus, but they don’t trust Him for their sins and soul. They have not surrendered their lives to follow Him.

    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (3:17)

    Jesus did not come to judge the first time. He came as the Savior. Next time He will come as the judge.

    Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (3:18)

    The name of Jesus, the Savior of the world. The Pharisees believed that the Messiah would come as a Savior and judge. They were correct, but those two roles would occur during two different occasions.

    This week I heard a great quote from Billy Graham:

    God judges. The Holy Spirit convicts. We are to love.

    This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (3:19)

    Nothing that grows in the dark would be welcome in your home!

    Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (3:20-21)

    Credits: Some ideas taken from J. Vernon McGee.
    You can listen to the podcast here.