Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Jesus is our Healer, 18 February 2018

Jesus is our Healer
Series—
The Gospel Truth
James 5:13-15

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

Big Idea: Jesus still heals, even if it’s not always on our timetable.

We live in a broken world. There are wars. There are famines. There are hurricanes and natural disasters. There are bankruptcies and divorce and homelessness and hatred and hopelessness. There is disease.

We’ve come a long way from the Garden of Eden where God repeatedly saw that our world was good. Since sin entered our world, each of us has been in need of healing of one kind or another. As we live between the first and second coming of Christ, we neither experience perfection nor despair in this life, knowing that Jesus is our healer.

We’re in week three of a four-week series called The Gospel Truth. We said “gospel” means “good news” and in a word, the gospel is Jesus. In three, the gospel is Jesus is LORD. We are invited into the story, but first and foremost the gospel is all about Jesus. The Bible is all about Jesus. Our church is all about Jesus.

In week one, we examined Jesus as our Savior. He came to earth, died on the cross to reconcile us to God and forgive our sins, and he continues to seek and save the lost.

In week two, we looked as Jesus as our Sanctifier, setting us apart from sin and to God. Even the most mature Christian is still a work in progress, ideally becoming more like Jesus each day.

Today we look at perhaps the most controversial of the Fourfold Gospel components of A.B. Simpson, our church’s founder. Jesus is our Healer.

We could easily do a series on healing, but for now we’ll try to cover some of the most common questions related to healing.

What is healing?

Often the first thing people think of when it comes to healing is physical. When we are physically sick, we often take medicine or go to the
doctor. God heals through medicine. God heals through doctors. In fact, the writer of the books of Luke and Acts in the Bible was a doctor. Some religions frown upon such things, often to their own detriment. I, for one, am grateful for medicine and doctors, but when someone is physically sick, ideally the first doctor to consult is Jesus.

Our bodies are not the only thing in need of healing. Often our finances are a mess. God cares about our material needs—don’t forget he fed thousands of people on more than one occasion—and I can tell you many stories of God providing for me and my family in miraculous ways. Of course, running up your credit buying a new luxury car and the biggest TV you can fit inside it might not create the optimal conditions for God to bless you with unexpected wealth! But with the help of wise counsel such as Dave Ramsey, I’ve seen God do great healing in the area of finances.

Sometimes we find our relationships in need of healing, especially marriages. God is available to reverse the path to divorce, and I’ve seen it many times. It rarely occurs instantly, but God uses many resources—including Christian counselors—to heal relationships.

Perhaps the most controversial of healings involves mental and emotional brokenness. Earlier this month a prominent Christian leader posted this on Twitter:

We will find mental health when we stop staring in the mirror, and fix our eyes on the strength and beauty of God.

Good grief! That sounds so spiritual, but it amazes me how many people will see a doctor for the flu or cancer, yet ignore their mental health.

Why am I sick?

Now let me stop and say we often have a role in our brokenness…and healing. Driving drunk, running into a tree, blaming God for your broken neck, and demanding an instant healing might not be the most responsible thing to do! In the same way, there are mental and emotional and financial and relational illnesses we cause, exacerbate, or extend.

But sometimes our condition is not our fault. It’s not necessarily God’s, either. It may be the result of living in a sinful word. For example, if someone else’s drunk driving caused your neck to break, the pain would be just as real, but the blame far different.

In Jesus’ day, it was assumed the sick were that way due to their own sin. One time a man blind from birth was brought to Jesus with this question:

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,”
said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:2b-3)

Sickness often is the result of sin—Adam’s, ours, or that of others. Sometimes God allows satan to make us sick, as is the case of Job. In trials, we learn and grow in ways we could never otherwise experience. When we are sick, we must seek God’s will even while we beg God for healing.

But sickness is not necessarily the result of your sin. Your depression might have something to do with watching Fox News all day, comparing your body to Photoshopped magazine models, or refusing help or friendship from loving people concerned about you. But it also may stem from brain chemistry, childhood trauma, or abuse. Ignoring pain rarely heals and often makes things worse, whether it’s a toothache or a heart ache. We are to…

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)

Each of those areas can be broken…and healed. Sometimes it’s instant. Usually it involves time…and the help of others.

Because Jesus cared for the whole person, not just the spiritual, we want to do the same.

We care about your physical health. We partner with Cherry Street to serve meals, have outings to promote fitness, and are even shopping for Purell for the lobby!

We care about your relational health. Married People and Parents’ Night Out are just two of the tools we have to strengthen families.

We care about your financial health. This is an extremely generous church and we have blessed countless people with assistance in the midst of true crisis. We have and I hope will again offer Dave Ramsey’s
Financial Peace University.

We care about your mental and emotional health, too. In April, we are launching
Celebrate Recovery, a biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome our hurts, hang-ups, and habits. It is based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory and has brought healing to countless people worldwide.

Did Jesus Heal?

This question sounds basic, but the answer is yes. The Bible is filled with accounts of miracles, including healing for the blind, lame, sick, and even dead! We could spend all morning reading accounts of Jesus’ miracles, many witnessed by crowds of people.

Why did Jesus heal?

Jesus healed for several reasons. He did it to show his compassion and love. Miracles authenticated the message of Jesus…and the Messenger. Healing proved his authority to forgive sin. Also, the physical healings proved He is the LORD of our whole lives, not just the spiritual. God created you heart, soul, mind, and body…and He cares about all dimensions of your life.

Does Jesus heal today?

Absolutely. But first, a question: do you want to be healed?

One of the most fascinating stories in the Bible involves Jesus encounter with a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

‘Ya gotta wanna, and some people don’t want to be healed. They can’t imagine life without their addiction, their ailment, their disease. It seems obvious to everyone around them but they are unwilling to take the necessary steps to get well, be it prayer, asking for help, calling a Christian counselor, visiting a doctor, or attending a seminar.

We live in this space between Jesus’ first visit to our planet and his promised return. The kingdom of God is coming, but it’s also here right now. There are brilliant moments when heaven touches earth. Jesus taught us to pray, “On earth as it is in heaven.” Healings here are a kind of down payment on what is to come, the now and the not yet. We have something but not everything that will someday be ours. This applies to health, too.

Some have suggested miracles ceased when Jesus ascended into heaven, perhaps based on their own disappointments with God and his failure to respond to their prayers as they desire. Jesus himself told his friends,

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Here's an excerpt from the Alliance Statement of Faith:

Provision is made in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ for the healing of the mortal body.(25) Prayer for the sick and anointing with oil are taught in the Scriptures and are privileges for the Church in this present age.(26)

[25] Matthew 8:16–17[26] James 5:13–16

The power to heal comes from Jesus. We do not believe in faith healing. We are called to exercise faith in Christ, but any healing power is from God. When God chooses to heal, payments to televangelists are not required! You don’t have to be in a special place or do special things except ask. Jesus healed in a variety of ways, sometimes even healing people who were not in his presence.

The purpose of divine healing is to glorify Jesus. God loves us, but His glory is the top priority, not our happiness. We ask in faith…and wait. Sometimes we wait for moments, others for years.

Pastor and author Mark Batterson recently announced miraculous healing in his body after forty years of prayer. Forty years! That’s perseverance. That’s patience! He had severe asthma, unable to go a day without his inhaler for four decades until he realized a day had passed…and then several days…and then weeks and months. He even ran a marathon!

God’s timing is perfect and can be trusted, even when it’s so different from our timing. Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal their brother, Lazarus. Jesus waited…until Lazarus had died, yet Jesus was glorified by raising Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus is glorified in Mark Batterson’s healing from asthma.
Jesus is glorified when we are healed.

It’s all about Jesus!

What if I’m not healed?

It’s great to hear stories about healing, but what about those unanswered prayers?

I believe many times healing doesn’t occur is because we simply don’t ask. How many times have you had a headache and grabbed the medicine bottle before praying? I do it all the time! Again, God can and does use medicine and doctors, but He is also able to do the miraculous.

But what happens when you do pray and nothing seems to happen? Don’t give up. On New Year’s Eve, we heard Carol tell of God bringing relief to her migraines after 25 years, and even then they are not fully cured. Why would God allow her to suffer? Why does she still suffer? Why relief after 25 years? Only God knows. It’s often hard to understand how God can love us, be sovereign and in control, and yet allow us to suffer.

Paul, the man who wrote much of the New Testament, never received the healing he sought. He wrote of his thorn in the flesh

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

Our family spent nine years in five states getting help for our daughter. I can’t tell you how many prayers I prayed, how many times I asked, “Why?” She is doing well today but is far from “cured.” Looking back, we can see how God used her dreadful health to do great things, but it was a long, awful process. That’s why God provides us with family, spiritual siblings to pray, encourage, support, and heal. I know this: God can be trusted…and He can handle all of your questions and doubts, too. Honest to God.

But maybe after decades of prayers, your healing will finally come today.

So What?

Are you in need of healing today? Jesus’ half brother wrote these words:

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5:13-15)

Each Sunday our elders make themselves available to pray over you and anoint you with oil. We have invited other church members to join them in prayer to be a blessing to you. While elders possess spiritual authority, all followers of Jesus have access to the healing power and authority of Jesus Christ. We simply must ask.

We have seen God heal through these prayers. We celebrate when he says, “Yes” to our requests for healing and would love to pray for you.

We have also seen God say, “No” or “wait.” We don’t know why, but his timing is perfect. It is during that waiting that we often experience the most growth.

Remember, all healing is temporary. If you get over a cold, there’s no guarantee you will never have another cold. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but he ultimately died again. As long as we live in this world, we will have troubles of various kinds—physical, emotional, relational, financial, spiritual…but even in the most dire of situations there is hope with Jesus who said

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

In this life, all healing is temporary. Not matter how many times we may experience transformation, we will all someday die…and followers of Jesus are promised eternity with him and new, resurrected bodies. Hallelujah! One day

‘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)

Until then, let’s pray for one another, mourn with those who mourn, grieve with those who grieve, find ways to serve one another, and invite God’s power to come and heal.

Credits: Some ideas from A.B. Simpson and John Soper.

For the Alliance statement regarding Jesus our Healer:
https://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/healer

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

Jesus is our Sanctifier, 4 February 2018

Jesus is our Sanctifier
Series—
The Gospel Truth
John 15:1-8

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

Big Idea: Jesus is our Sanctifier, making us holy and set apart for God’s glory.

Introduction

Last Sunday we began a new series, The Gospel Truth. Our church’s founder, A.B. Simpson, described four unique aspects to Jesus: he is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. This is known as the Fourfold Gospel. Gospel means “good news” and if I were to describe the gospel in one word, it would be Jesus. In three words, Jesus is LORD. The gospel involves us, but it is first and foremost about Jesus—his life, death, burial, resurrection, appearances, ascension, and promised return.

Is Jesus your Savior?

Unlike other religions which teach if you are good enough, you can go to heaven when you die and spend eternity with God, the Bible teaches none of us is worthy of God’s perfect standard which is why He sent Jesus to our planet to live a perfect life and die for us. He took our punishment on the cross if we receive his gift of salvation. As a gift, you can’t earn it, you can’t do enough religious things to work for it, you simply have to believe and receive.

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

Luke wrote

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

Jesus died for you…and rose from the dead. Is he your Savior? If not, I invite you to simply trust Jesus today. Surrender your life to him. Thank him for his life, death on the cross, and resurrection. He paid for all of your sins—past, present and future—on the cross. He wants more than anything to know you, love you, and spend eternity with you. They way to heaven is simple—believe in Jesus. Here’s a sample prayer:

Jesus, thank you for your death and resurrection. I believe you love me and died for me and I want to receive you into my life. I want you to be my Savior and LORD. I want to follow you from this moment forward and let you lead my life. Amen.

There is nothing magical about that prayer, but it can be the beginning of your spiritual journey. However, it’s only the beginning. Tragically, many people stop with Jesus as their Savior and go about their normal lives with the benefit of “fire insurance.” Beginning your faith adventure is much like being born. Actually, Jesus says to be “born again.” A newborn baby has not reached the end of their life, but rather it has just begun. In the same way the life of a new believer is just beginning. They need to grow from infancy to spiritual maturity, with Jesus as the ultimate example.

Have you been underwhelmed by the change in your life since you were “saved?” Many have done a great disservice to people in “sharing their faith,” communicating false hope that if you just “pray a prayer and receive Jesus,” you’re done. You’re saved…and when you die, you’ll go to heaven. End of story.

Perhaps you have begun your spiritual journey and you are “saved” but, like the man in the video, you haven’t experienced the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, ESV)

Perhaps you know Jesus is your Savior—our topic last Sunday—and you know you’ll go to heaven when you die, but you wonder if there is any value to your faith before you die.

I’ve got great news for you! Jesus is not only our Savior, he is our Sanctifier.

Jesus is our Sanctifier

The word “sanctify” is another one of those often misunderstood words like “gospel.” It simply means to make holy, set apart as sacred, to purify, to consecrate. In a word, sanctification means separation.

-
Separation from sin: “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15-16.

-
Separation to God: “(He) has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father…” Revelation 1:6.

Some believe sanctification occurs the moment we are saved, when we receive Jesus. A baby Christian is made holy and set apart. Others believe sanctification is a lifelong process of growth and maturity, something no newborn can possess. Our understanding as a church and the Alliance movement is it is both.

The Alliance Statement of Faith says

It is the will of God that each believer should be filled with the Holy Spirit and be sanctified wholly,(22) being separated from sin and the world and fully dedicated to the will of God, thereby receiving power for holy living and effective service.(23) This is both a crisis and a progressive experience wrought in the life of the believer subsequent to conversion.(24)
[22] 1 Thessalonians 5:23[23] Acts 1:8[24] Romans 6:1–14,

The
Laver—or basin—represents the daily cleansing from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. To clarify three theological words,

- I have been saved: Justification
- I am being saved: Sanctification
- I will be saved: Glorification

God’s Will

Do you want to know God’s will? I hear people often say they are trying to discern God’s will for their lives. After all, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done.” Paul wrote to the church in Thessaloniki, Greece these words:

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified:(1 Thessalonians 4:3a)

It is God’s will for you to be sanctified. That’s pretty clear. He continues to elaborate on what sanctification looks like.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.
(1 Thessalonians 4:3-6a)

To stress the importance of sanctification, Paul adds:

The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:6b-8)

It is God’s will for you to be sanctified, to be set apart, to be holy, to become like Jesus.

We can only become like Jesus if we know him, spend time talking with him in prayer, spend time learning about him through the Bible, and spend time surrendering our lives to God the Holy Spirit. That requires…time! It requires intentionality. It doesn’t just magically happen any more than your body just magically grows muscles or your mind just magically earns college degrees. Growth—except, perhaps, for your belly—requires discipline, training, effort, and dare I say work. All relationships take work. If you’re waiting for me to have you over for dinner, maybe you should invite me over for dinner. If you want me to send you an e-mail, perhaps you should initiate and send me one. And just like it takes time to truly know me or a friend, it takes time—a lifetime—to know Jesus.

And you are your friends. Over time, it is almost a certainty you will become like your friends. If you hang out with Philadelphia Eagles fans, you’re likely to become an Eagles fan. If you hang out with people who work out or ride bikes or watch movies, it’s likely you’ll be inclined to work out, ride bikes, or watch movies. If you hang out with Jesus, you will become like Jesus.

When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we also receive the Holy Spirit, the most underrated Member of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit draws us to God and then leads us to mature in our faith. The reason so many people call themselves Christians and act nothing like Jesus is because they are not filled with the Spirit, connected to God, following Jesus our Sanctifier.

In today’s text, Jesus paints a beautiful picture of what it means to truly be a Christian.

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

When I was a young boy, I was fascinated by a large tree in our front yard. I was equally fascinated with the discovery of a hatchet amongst my dad’s tools in the garage. For some reason, I thought it would be great to use the hatchet on the tree!

I don’t think I ever thought of actually chopping down the tree with the hatchet. I knew that would take hours, but if memory serves correct, I used the blade to carve my name in the trunk of the tree. When my parents saw what I was doing, they were horrified and sent me a not-so-subtle message to stop. Fortunately the tree survived after some treatment, but imagine what would’ve happened to the tree if I had chopped it down. Would it grow? Would branches grow? Would leaves grow? Without a connection to the trunk, the entire tree would die. The trunk and roots supply food to the branches as well as stability in storms. It is impossible for fruit to grow on a dead tree.

Some people pray a prayer to receive Jesus as Savior and expect to instantly bear fruit, to immediately be changed. Sometimes miracles occur at one’s spiritual birth. Some people trust Christ and instantly lose their desire for alcohol or temptation to be violent, but regardless of the sanctification at the moment of surrendering to Jesus, there is a need for ongoing maturity and sanctification which takes time…a lifetime. I have never met a person who has become perfect. We are all in process, growing one day at a time…if we remain in Jesus, if we follow Jesus, if we confess our sins daily and invite the Holy Spirit to fill us with the fruit of the Spirit.

…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

One of my favorite questions at the end of the year to ask myself and others is are we more like Jesus than at the beginning of the year. Look at this list. Are you growing in love? What about joy? Are you becoming more peaceful? Would those around you say you are becoming a more patient person? Kind? Good? Faithful? Gentle? Self-controlled?

Jesus continued in the fifteenth chapter of John:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)

If we remain, abide, do life with Jesus, we will bear fruit.

John 15:7 is a popular verse:

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

This does not mean God is a genie who does whatever we want. On the contrary, when we do what God wants, when we follow Jesus, we will desire only what God wants to give us.

Many Christians understand Jesus as Savior. They know he died on the cross to save them from the punishment of their sin. But they do not experience the ongoing sanctifying work of Jesus Christ in their lives. God is not in control of their lives.

The book of Romans has incredible truths about God and his wisdom and power and chapter twelve begins:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

Worship is not just singing songs. It’s a lifestyle. It’s surrender, sacrifice, sanctification. That might not sound as fun as a trip to Cedar Point or an evening of binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix, but actually following Jesus, abiding, remaining, doing life with Jesus offers more than a temporary thrill or a momentary distraction from the pains of life.

Knowing Jesus brings love. I have experienced God’s unconditional love, and it’s amazing. I know I don’t deserve it, but God’s loves me—and you—because he created us and wants more than anything else a relationship with us—forever.

Knowing Jesus brings joy. Our founding fathers believed in the pursuit of happiness, but joy is so much more. It’s deeper and not so temporary.

Knowing Jesus brings peace. I sleep well at night knowing God is in control and I’m not.

Knowing Jesus brings patience. I’m certainly not the most patient person but Jesus has all of the time in the world. I can trust his perfect timing.

Knowing Jesus brings hope. I know regardless of what happens today, one day I will spend eternity with Jesus in a perfect world.

I could go on and on.
Steps To A Spirit-Filled Life

The path to the Spirit-filled life involves faith-filled risks that always involve change.

- Surrender: You cannot make yourself holy any more than you can make yourself saved. 
Romans 6:11Romans 12:1–2

- Accept: Christ is your Sanctifier in the same way that He is your Savior! 
Colossians 2:6Galatians 2:20

- Abide: Maintain a continuous relationship with Jesus through obedience to His Word. 
John 15:1–11

Here’s artist and author Lecrae describing what it means to experience Jesus as Savior and Sanctifer.

So What?

Jesus is our Sanctifier. He has set us apart to live holy lives. Sanctification is a process of becoming like Christ as we surrender our will to God’s and are filled with the Holy Spirit who produces fruit in our lives.
It could be said that in contrasting Jesus as Savior and Sanctifier…

Savior: Deliverance from penalty of sin
Sanctifier: Deliverance from the power of sin

Savior: Freedom from death
Sanctifier: Freedom to live

Savior: Release from the guilt of the past
Sanctifier: Equips for the temptations of the future

Savior: Christ’s righteousness is imputed (credited) to us
Sanctifier: Christ’s righteousness is manifest in us

Savior: Jesus lives in us
Sanctifier: Jesus lives through us

Is Jesus your Savior? Have you received the gift we celebrate today in communion, his body and blood broken and poured out for you on the cross?

Is Jesus your Sanctifier? Are you seeking to live your life for the glory of God? None of us is perfect, but true believers are growing, abiding, remaining, doing life with Jesus and looking increasingly like him.

Jesus said,

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:9-14)

Credits: Some ideas from A.B. Simpson and John Soper.

For further study, listen to Thomas George’s sermon at FAC on January 22, 2017.
http://www.factoledo.org/?page_id=162&sermon_id=298

For the Alliance statement regarding Jesus as our Sanctifier:
https://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/sanctifier

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

Jesus is our Savior, 28 January 2018

Jesus is our Savior
Series—
The Gospel Truth
Romans 3:21-26

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

Big Idea: Jesus is our Savior, saving us from sin and death.

Introduction

In the classic film
The Princess Bride, Vizzini the Sicilian repeatedly calls things “inconceivable.” After hearing it said several times, Inigo Montoya utters a line which has become iconic among moviegoers. He says,

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Often, we use words
we don’t fully understand. Take, for instance, the gospel. What is the gospel?

Today we begin a series entitled,
The Gospel Truth. I think we all understand the concept of truth, but what is the gospel? The Greek word is euaggelion and it literally means “good news.”

When I was working on my doctorate, I interviewed several leaders in our neighborhood. I wanted to know what it would look like to bring the gospel to UpTown Toledo. Recognizing how odd it would be to ask strangers, “What would be the gospel for our community?” I asked, “What would be good news here?”

Parenthetically, nearly everyone said development, new businesses and housing to bring new life to Toledo…something we are doing through Claro Coffee Bar. I’m pleased to say there are many in our neighborhood grateful for First Alliance Church and our investment on Adams Street.

What is the gospel?

Here's rapper/pastor/artist Trip Lee's take on the gospel.

What is the gospel?

Perhaps like me you’ve heard the gospel is Jesus died so you can go to heaven when you die. It’s a get out of hell free card. The gospel is about being saved.

Let me give you the slightly longer version of what many have called the gospel:

- God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.

- People are sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.

- Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin, and through him we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.

- We must individually receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord in order to know and experience his love and plan for our lives.

These four statements are from a booklet called
The Four Spiritual Laws written by Bill Bright in 1965 and has been shared around the world in hundreds of languages. I’ve actually shared it with people in both English and Spanish over the years. There is good news in those statements and elements of the gospel are found here, but calling this the gospel would’ve seemed odd to the first Christians. It would’ve seemed odd to great church leaders like Finney and Wesley.

What is the gospel?

I think a good place to start might be the Bible. Here’s what Paul said…

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

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,
and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

Paul says this is the gospel:

- Jesus died
- Jesus was buried
- Jesus was raised from the dead
- Jesus appeared to people

What is Paul’s focus when he describes the gospel? Jesus. He says it again to Timothy.

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

The gospel is about remembering Jesus is the Messiah, raised from the dead. The gospel is first and foremost to the story of Jesus, not the story of how to get saved.

Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and Bill Bright—the three Bills—talked a lot about salvation, our topic for today. But before we focus on soteriology—salvation—I want you to understand the gospel is first and foremost about Christology…it’s all about Jesus.

The gospel is all about Jesus. In a word, the gospel is Jesus. In three words, the gospel is Jesus Is LORD.

In Acts 2:14-36, Peter declares the gospel is all about Jesus.
In Acts 10:34-43, Peter again declares the gospel is all about Jesus.
The Bible declares the gospel is all about Jesus.

There’s a temptation in our USAmerican culture to make the gospel all about us.

God loves us.
We sinned.
Jesus died for us.
We need to believe.

These are all true. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying salvation is not important or we’re not important, but simply that the gospel begins and ends with Jesus.

Jesus is the King.
Jesus is the LORD.

That’s the central gospel of the New Testament. We need to focus on Jesus, not how we can be happy when we die or what happens when we die. The story is not about us. It’s about Jesus and we are called to tell this story. In fact, the first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—are called gospels because they tell the story of Jesus.

For the next four weeks, we are going to examine Jesus. Actually, every Sunday is an opportunity to learn about, get to know, and become like Jesus. But this new series, The Gospel Truth, borrows from something called the Fourfold Gospel.

Our church was founded by a remarkable man, Albert Benjamin Simpson. He influenced not only the launch of our church but also the Assemblies of God, the Foursquare Church, and our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance.

Perhaps you’ve seen the logo of the Alliance. It depicts Jesus as our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King.

Jesus is our Savior

What does it mean for Jesus to be our Savior? As we saw earlier, our sin separates us from God. Sin leads to death, including the death of our relationship with a perfect, holy God. Jesus came to this earth to show us what it means to be human and also to die—instead of us—for our sins.

None of us is perfect and righteous like God, but Jesus is fully human and fully God, holy and without sin.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

That’s quite a passage! Here it is in a slightly more modern translation:

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (Romans 3:21-22, NLT)

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26, NLT)

This is, indeed, good news.

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

Many have heard of John 3:16, but the next verse is powerful, too. Jesus came to save us…from our sins, from ourselves.

Peter, one of Jesus’ best friends, proclaimed…

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

This is why Jesus is such a big deal. It’s why we don’t believe all religious roads lead to God. If we get to heaven by being good, Jesus was stupid for being crucified. Instead, he alone suffered and died for you and me. Paul wrote,

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

We praise him for his sacrifice on the cross, for salvation, for God’s gift of Jesus.

Conclusion

Many the gospel is about going to heaven when you die. I would like to suggest the gospel is going to heaven before you die. If heaven is where God is, we can experience God in the here and now. Through the Holy Spirit, God is present here with us, living inside of every believer.

Do you love Jesus? I’m afraid we’ve often turned Jesus into a product to sell so people can avoid hell. Believe these propositions, pray a prayer, and you’re done. Jesus never said make decisions. He said to make disciples. He said to follow him, not merely be a fan.

Although the gospel is more than just salvation, Jesus
is our Savior and that’s a wonderful truth. No matter your past, Jesus loved you, and he proved that love by dying on the cross to offer forgiveness for all of yours sins and mistakes—past, present, and future.

Jesus is our Savior. Hallelujah!

Credits: Some ideas from Scot McKnight.

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

Fan or Follower, 21 January 2018

Fan or Follower?
John 1:40
-43

Big Idea:
Are you a follower of Jesus or just a fan?

I’ll never forget the day I met Kirk. No, I don’t mean myself. I actually don’t remember the first time I met myself, though I’m quite sure I was very young! It was a warm day in Chicagoland and I met my neighbor, Kirk. Two things were memorable. First, his name was Kirk…and he couldn’t believe another Kirk would be his neighbor. It was almost as if he wanted me to change my name so he could be the only Kirk in the neighborhood!

The second thing was even more remarkable. He told me he loved the Chicago Bears. I didn’t find this terribly surprising given we were in a suburb of Chicago, quite close, actually, to the training camp for Chicago’s professional football team. He was wearing a Bears shirt, ended a previous conversation with, “Go Bears!” and he had a huge Bears logo on the hood of his car (it looked like the eagle on an old Trans Am). And this wasn’t even football season!

Before I go any further, you need to understand Kirk did not appear to be a very wealthy individual. His car was aging, his clothes looked well-used, and he lived in a small apartment above an old garage which looked like it could collapse at any moment! He very well could’ve been nearly homeless for all I could tell.

Kirk continued to tell me about his passion for the Bears. “I go to every game,” he said. “And I don’t just mean the home games.” He went on to describe how for years he had driven his car from Illinois to every away game including Seattle, California, Miami, and the east coast. Then he uttered nine words I might never forget: “I even went to the exhibition game in Berlin.”

To call Kirk a fan of the Bears may be the understatement of the year. He lives, breathes, and sleeps the Chicago Bears and is a fully devoted follower.

Contrast that with one of the students I met Thursday at the After School Klub. We were playing a game and the question was posed, “Who’s going to win the Super Bowl?” One of the kids said, “I love the Broncos!” The trouble is, there are only four teams left this year, two games today will determine who goes to the Super Bowl, and the Broncos are already out of the playoffs. This Denver Broncos fan had no idea this was a losing season for their favorite team. Needless to say, there’s a huge difference between the Bronco fan and the Bears follower.

Are you a fan or follower of Jesus?

Most USAmericans identify themselves as Christians, but what does that really mean? The word is commonly used to identify a political party. It is viewed by many as a group of people who are always against things and are filled with hate. Many within the church think because they believe in God and devote an hour a week to religious activity they are guaranteed a mansion in heaven when they die while others who haven’t prayed the prayer burn in hell for eternity.

Many are fans of Jesus, content with belief in historical events, but unwilling to devote their daily lives to the One who invites us to follow Him. It’s one thing to pray a prayer and ask Jesus to be your Savior and quite another to fully surrender and make Jesus your LORD.

Are you a fan or follower of Jesus?

Happy New Year! I know, we’re three weeks into the new year but this is my first chance to preach in 2018. How many of you are doing well with your new year’s resolutions? Oh never mind!

Actually, I was interviewed for an article
The Toledo Blade recently did on new year’s resolutions related to reading the Bible. Just over 60 percent of American adults say they want to read the Bible more than they do. I’m excited so many of you are using the free Mission 119 app and website to not only read but study and apply the Bible.

But why? Why read the Bible? What’s the purpose of prayer? Why give money and time to the church? Why are we here week after week?

I have enjoyed the Mission 119 readings in Genesis, beginning with God’s amazing creation and moving to the fall of Adam and Eve, the covenant with Abraham, and the outrageous behavior of Abraham’s family. You just can’t make up some of those stories! The entire Old Testament creates anticipation for the Messiah to come and heal the brokenness, forgive the sin, and renew all things.

Jesus comes, models a perfect life, offers supernatural wisdom, performs miracles, dies on the cross for us, crushes sin and death, rises from the dead, ascends into heaven, and promises to return. Among his final words were these:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)


It’s almost cliché around here to talk about discipleship, making disciples. That’s the mission. That’s the Great Commission. Make disciples.

But what’s a disciple? We know Jesus had twelve disciples. What did that mean? Simply, they were fully-devoted followers. They weren’t fans, though Jesus had thousands of fans, fair-weather people who wanted to see him do tricks and critique his lectures. But these twelve—or at least eleven of them—were true followers, real disciples.

That journey began with a simple, two-word invitation: follow me.

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

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

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:40-43)


We don’t know if all twelve were invited this simply, but the invitation continues to this day, offered to every man, woman and child: follow me.

Tragically, many have flirted with Jesus but never truly followed. They put a fish on the back of their car or checked the “Christian” box in an application asking for religious preference, but never fully surrendered. Many have actually done many religious things, but missed the bottom-line message.

That message? Four words:

Love God
Love Others

When asked the greatest commandment,


Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Love God
Love Others

This is not new. It is not complicated. But before we get too deep into 2018, I want to challenge you with the simple question

Are you a fan of Jesus or a follower?

One dictionary defines fan as “an enthusiastic admirer.” That describes so many so-called Christians. They say they believe in God (satan believes there is a God, too!). They consider themselves to be good people. They might even be able to answer some Bible trivia from their time in church, but Jesus never said, “Admire me.” He never said, “Believe in your head I died and rose again.”

Jesus defined what it means to be a follower.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:23-25)


Last Sunday Jake was baptized. He was immersed in what is symbolically a water grave, dying, surrendering his will and desires before coming out of the water symbolizing resurrection, his new life in Jesus.

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

The world “Christian” only appears three times in the Bible, each in reference to Jesus’ disciples. However, “disciple” is found more than 250 times. A disciple does everything to know and model the one they are following. They are a learner, but not just a head learner. Their heart and hands are changed, too, to love God and love others. They not only follow the Golden Rule of treating others as they want to be treated, they live out the Platinum Rule, loving others the way God loves you and me.

Humility

I would like to suggest one way to love God and love others. It’s not popular. In fact, it’s quite rare. I believe it is a pathway to peace, a bridge to unity. In our culture of division, hatred, and violence, one simple character trait would transform conversations and relationships. I must confess I have struggled my entire life to embody this word so nobody is more challenged than yours truly. The world is humility.

Paul wrote to the church in Philippi these radical words:


Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)


Brothers and sisters, so much is at stake. Our city, nation and world are growing weary of Christians who don’t follow Jesus, they’re just fans. To be honest, there are atheists who are fans of Jesus, appreciating the wisdom of his teachings without embracing his resurrection or invitation to follow.

I see so much pride in the USA church today. Close-minded critics blast their spiritual siblings on Facebook and blog posts for controversial theological differences. So-called evangelicals seemingly more concerned with acquiring and supporting political power than emulating the homeless Messiah who said we would be judged by how we treat the least of these. I’m sick of self-righteous Pharisees concerned about the speck in the eyes of others while refusing to acknowledge the log in their own eye. This is nothing new, obviously, but I believe it needs to be said: we need more people to follow Jesus, our model for humility.


And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

The invitation to follow Jesus is not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. It involves nothing short of complete surrender—death to yourself and possibly even martyrdom. But I can tell you there’s nothing greater than knowing Jesus Christ.

In the next chapter Paul wrote

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


Those are words from a follower, not a fan.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his classic book,
The Cost of Discipleship, wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Then the new life begins!

Jesus said

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)

That’s a disciple.

Are you a follower of Jesus or just a fan?


  • 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

Introduction

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.

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