Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio


It's Always Been Faith, 11 March 2018

It’s Always Been Faith
D6 Series—
By Faith Alone
Galatians 3:1-29

Series Overview: The purpose of this series from the book of Galatians is to emphasize the vital role of faith in our lives.

Big Idea: Justification has always been through faith, even in the Old Testament.


Last week we began our four-week study of the book of Galatians. Obviously four sermons can’t begin to contain all of the riches contained within this letter from Paul to some of the early churches in what is now Turkey, which is why many of our small groups and Sunday School classes are using the D6 curriculum with content synchronized not only with many of my sermons but also our children and youth studies.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Here’s the summary from last week: we are saved by faith in Jesus, not works.

Faith + nothing = salvation

Religion is the human quest to be good enough for a perfect, holy God. It always fails. Always. Whether it’s the Koran or the Old Testament Mosaic Law or even Christian traditions, none of us is perfect and, therefore, can never achieve what God requires—complete purity.

That’s why God the Father sent Jesus to live a perfect life, die for sinners like us, and rise from the dead, proving the sacrifice was sufficient.

Religion says it’s about what you do.
Jesus says it’s about what he has done.

Religion says if you behave like us and believe like us, then you can belong.
Jesus says you belong, believe, and then behave.

This past week someone told me it’s easier to live in legalism than to live in freedom. It requires no faith to follow the rules. Just obey the checklist.

Following Jesus is radically different. Freedom through Jesus means we’re not bound by rules, but rather we are granted a relationship with God and two commands which flow from knowing Christ:

Love God
Love Others

We are never to violate the teachings of the Bible, instruction meant to give life. But because our faith is based on Jesus’ work on the cross, not our good works, the pressure’s off. We were created to know and enjoy God and others. Life is all about relationships, and knowing Jesus is the most essential, life-giving, transformational relationship of all. Do you know him?

Paul, the writer of Galatians, was a Jewish leader who persecuted Christians prior to his life-changing encounter with Jesus. Many of the first Christians were trying to determine the role of the law of Moses, the Mosaic Law of 613 commands. Can a Christian eat pork? Do they have to be circumcised? What about the Sabbath? Are the standards different from Gentile and Jewish followers of Yeshua—Jesus? Religion was getting in the way of knowing and following Christ.

There’s one unfortunate thing about written communication: the lack of non-verbals. Bible translators work tirelessly to convert the original Greek of the New Testament to English. Note the intensity of Paul’s words and his rhetorical questions.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)

These Christians have been deceived by the Judaizers, believing circumcision and other works are necessary to know and follow Jesus. They’ve moved from freedom to legalism. Paul preached that Jesus was enough. His death on the cross offers a free and complete salvation for those who put their faith and trust in him.

Paul’s going to mention the Holy Spirit 16 times in this short book. His point here is both salvation—our justification—and sanctification—maturity to become like Jesus—are the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a God thing!

I would love to camp out here and discuss the Holy Spirit at length as I have done in past sermons. When you get Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit. It’s a two-for-one deal. Actually, it’s a three-for-one deal because when you surrender control of your life to Jesus and put your faith in him, he reconciles you to your heavenly Father and gives you the Holy Spirit to live inside of you, giving you the power to gradually become like Jesus.

Last Sunday I said religion says


The crazy thing is even if someone wanted to behave, if they don’t believe and have the power of the Holy Spirit, they
can’t behave!

The message of the gospel is reversed:


Jesus loves us and invites us into a relationship with him, to belong to his family. As we welcome people into life-giving community at First Alliance Church, many will inevitably believe simply because they see something different, something attractive about us—the Holy Spirit overflowing in us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Don’t you want to be around people like that? Are we people like that?

The Galatians began their spiritual journey relying on the Holy Spirit, but now they’re getting hung up on legalism, works, and their own power. As one writer notes, “As far as Paul is concerned, the Christian life starts, continues and ends in dependence on the Holy Spirit.”

Friends, ministry is a fascinating partnership between us and God. We can’t change people. We can’t make anyone trust Jesus. We can’t make anyone “behave” a certain way. We can influence others, but you cannot control another person. It’s difficult controlling one’s self! In fact, someone once said the only thing in the world you can control is your attitude. But I digress.

is sovereign and in control. As I mentioned last week:

“It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love.” ― Billy Graham

God does the work, but He amazingly invites us to be a part of the process, to proclaim good news, to set an example of righteousness for others to follow, to love others. But the people in Galatia were still hung up on the 613 commands of the Mosaic Law.

Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
(Galatians 3:4-6)

They’ve seen the Holy Spirit do miracles. Lives have been transformed, including Paul’s. Healings have occurred. The early church was a pretty dynamic community, as should ours!

Paul’s point is everything flows from faith, from Jesus, from the Holy Spirit. Even Abraham—the first Jew, the first to be circumcised—was made righteous not by his works but his faith in God. He did good works, too, but they flowed from his faith, not the other way around. Abraham was justified by faith. Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 which says

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”
So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)

Now Paul quotes Genesis 12:3, but replaces “peoples” with “nations” because “nations” meant everyone who was not a Jew. Jews and Gentiles are called children of Abraham here. This is amazing. The Jews were God’s chosen people, but Jesus allows Gentiles into the family.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” (Galatians 3:10-12)

Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4

“See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness — (Habakkuk 2:4)

If you rely on the law for your justification and salvation, you must be perfect. Faith is the path to righteousness. Christ has already dealt with our sin, Hallelujah!

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:13-14)

It’s your choice, friends—religion or faith. Works or grace. The law or the cross. Jesus became a curse for us. He was our substitute. And even Gentiles can receive salvation…and the Holy Spirit, too! The book of Hebrews tells us

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Are you getting Paul’s point?!

Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”
meaning one person, who is Christ. (Galatians 3:15-16)

Christ is greater than Moses. Christ is greater than Abraham. Christ is God!

What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. (Galatians 3:17-18)

Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. (Galatians 3:19-20)

The law exposes sin. It makes us aware of our failures and need for God, for forgiveness, for a Savior. The law is associated with sin, not salvation and justification.
Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:21-22)

One writer notes:

All that the law could do was expose sin, it could not remove it. In fact, it locked up everything under the control of sin (3:22a). It was like a doctor telling a patient, “You are sick, and I know what is wrong with you, but I don’t have any medicine that can cure you.” The medicine that was needed was the coming of Christ.

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (Galatians 3:23-25)

Faith in Christ shows we are becoming mature. We love God and obey God because he first loved us. Our good works are response to God’s grace and our surrender to the Holy Spirit.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

Friends, we are invited to become children of God, adopted into his family, born again. It doesn’t matter your age, race, language, education, or social status. These things divided people in Paul’s day much like they do today. When we put on Christ, when we wear his uniform, so to speak, we are on his team, we are related by blood…his blood. Anything that divides believers into two groups is not of God. We are one, and we are all heirs of Christ.

That is truly good news!

So What?

If you’ve never surrendered your life to Jesus, been filled with the Holy Spirit, experienced freedom and forgiveness, been born again, adopted into God’s family, it’s as simple as accepting Jesus’ invitation, his gift, trusting him.

If you have trusted Jesus, is he truly LORD of your life? Are you daily asking the Holy Spirit to fill you and transform you to be more like Jesus, loving God and loving others? Those are the simple signs of spiritual maturity, not church attendance or Bible memorization or tithing ten percent of your income, though those are good things. Our works and sanctification flow from our faith and justification, not the other way around.

Today we celebrate the freedom that comes from faith rather than religion. Paul wrote to the church in Rome

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

Credits: some ideas from: D6, Galatians (Hippo/Africa Bible Commentary Series)

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

One Way, 4 March 2018

One Way
D6 Series—
By Faith Alone
Galatians 1:1-12; 2:15-21

Series Overview: The purpose of this series from the book of Galatians is to emphasize the vital role of faith in our lives.

Big Idea: Despite claims to the contrary, Jesus is the only way to God, not works or religion.


Today we begin not only a new series but a new church-wide curriculum designed to take us strategically through the entire Bible over the next six years. D6 is based upon the Deuteronomy 6 command to teach God’s Word to one’s children:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

At First Alliance, we believe the Bible is God’s timeless Word, our source of authority, and a living, breathing document guiding us to know and love God and others. We want to know and follow God’s commandments, teaching them to future generations. The free
Mission 119 app, Right Now Media, our Sunday gatherings, our small groups, and our children’s and student ministries are all grounded on the Holy Bible.

D6 is synchronizing the subject of our sermons with our children, youth, and many of our small groups. Parents, we’re going to explore the same scriptures your kids are studying today, and if you’re in one of our midweek small groups using D6, don’t sleep during my sermon! I’m going to feed you God’s Word and your group will be a great place to digest it, so to speak, interacting with the text and letting the Bible transform you from the inside out to become more like Jesus, our example for what it means to be human.

This month we’ll look at the New Testament book of Galatians. In April, we will examine several of the Old Testament Psalms. May will include a study of various attributes of God. Our series on Galatians is entitled, “By Faith Alone.” Before we look at today’s text, it’s important for us to understand what we’re reading. Context is vital when reading the Bible—or anything, for that matter.

Paul is a brilliantly educated man who was so committed to Judaism, he was a part of the execution of Christians…until Jesus miraculously introduced Himself to the man then known as Saul. Because God has a sense of humor, this Christian-hater became one of the most devoted and influential Christ-followers in history, writing many books of the Bible including this epistle or letter to a group of churches in a region called Galatia around AD 50, most likely when Nero is Emperor of Rome.

The Christian faith was relatively young. Jesus had arrived, died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven and the early church was trying to figure out what it meant for both Jews and Gentiles to follow Jesus. Many false teachers were polluting Jesus’ message. Some things never change! Paul begins

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia: (Galatians 1:1-2)

Paul begins by defending his authority as an apostle, a term that in Greek means “one who is sent.” He had seen Jesus and experienced a remarkable transformation as a result. His authority comes from Jesus and God the Father who raised Christ from the dead.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5)

Jesus gave himself for our sins. He died for you and me. Hallelujah!

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:6-9)

We recently talked about this word “gospel.” It means good news. In a word, the gospel is Jesus. In three, Jesus is LORD. Paul’s astonished, he marvels at people turning to a different gospel. He uses strong language. What’s going on here?

It might be helpful to look back. The Mosaic Law was a group of 613 commands, 365 negative and 248 positive. These Old Testament regulations covered moral, social, and ceremonial matters. Much controversy in the early church surrounded the relevance of Jewish laws upon Gentile Christians…and even Jewish Christians, for that matter. Paul writes later in Galatians:

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

Prior to the coming of the Messiah and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, obedience to God centered on the Mosaic Law. Jesus said

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)

The people in Galatia were beginning to think their salvation came from their works, their good deeds, following the law, something only Jesus was able to do perfectly. Paul’s message is simple: there’s one way to salvation and that’s through Jesus.

False teachers begin by causing confusion. Then they try to get one to leave their faith, and then they introduce a perverted gospel. In Galatia, the false teachers told Gentiles to become Jews. They added religion and works to the requirements, but Paul is saying faith in Christ alone is what is required to be accepted by God. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, 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)

Works will come, but they are they flow from our relationship with God, they don’t establish it.

We are saved by grace through faith, a gift from God for us to accept.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Throughout history, many have tried to please people rather than God. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz started the AO1 Foundation “to demonstrate the love of God by providing opportunities and support for the less fortunate and those in need.” What I love about AO1 besides the mission is the meaning of AO1: Audience of One.

Every day we can choose to follow the world or follow God. What will you do today? What will you do tomorrow?

Clearly Paul is trying to establish his authority over the false teachers.

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)

I wish we had time to cover the entire text, but jump to the next chapter, Galatians 2:15. Here Paul addresses the lies of works for salvation after a sharp disagreement with Peter regarding circumcision for the Gentiles and the simplicity of the gospel.

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16)

Justified is a legal term meaning “to declare righteous,” the opposite of condemnation. We are all condemned sinners but we can be justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Unless you’re perfect, your good works will not be enough to satisfy God’s judgment. Only faith in Jesus can do that.

Paul abandoned some Jewish observances, causing alarm among the religious.

“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. (Galatians 2:17-18)

God’s grace doesn’t mean we are encouraged to sin. Quite the opposite. In fact, the more we understand God’s grace and sacrifice for us, the more we want to obey God and live lives that bring Him honor and glory. If our emphasis is on doing good things, the temptation to be arrogant, judgmental, and self-righteous like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day is staggering. If our focus is on Jesus and what he has done for us and our desperate need for his mercy, his kindness will lead us to repentance and righteousness.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:19-21)

When we trust Jesus, we participate in his victory over sin.

Let me make this as simple as I possibly can:

1. Jesus died to pay the price of our sins and bring us abundant life now and eternal life with God beyond the grave.

2. It’s all about Jesus. You can’t get to heaven—or experience the ultimate life now—without Jesus.

3. With all due respect to other religions, our faith is unique in that it’s not what we do but what Jesus did that gives us life. If there were other ways to know God, Jesus would’ve gladly skipped the cross and let us earn salvation through our good works.

4. Jesus is the way, the one way to God. Jesus is the way, the one way to God.

D6 Doorposts: The fact that no one can earn justification through works of the Law demonstrates that I cannot save myself; I need a Savior. God offers salvation and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.

So What?

A few days ago, I met two twentysomething men at the UpTown Association Annual Meeting. I told them I hate organized religion—which often gets a response, especially after I told them I’m a pastor! I said, “I’m all about Jesus, but I hate religion.”

Some church people have told me, “That’s a little harsh.” But the recent Mission 119 study of the book of Luke has reminded me of Jesus’ attitude toward the religious people who piled rules and regulations upon people, missing the point of God’s quest for a relationship with us. I’m reminded of these precious words from the late Billy Graham:

“It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love.” ― Billy Graham

Love the sinner and hate your own sin!

Religion is all about humans trying to earn God’s favor. Faith in Jesus demands we confess our sins, repent, and receive God’s amazing grace through Jesus. The cross was enough!

Essentially our text for today is Paul’s attack on religion. It’s all about Jesus, not our good works.

Some things never change. It never ceases to amaze me how many people will take tradition and culture and turn them into idols. In Paul’s day, it was eating kosher and circumcision, among other things.

Tragically, we have sent a message to our culture that we’re against everything.

We’re against abortion.
We’re against smoking.
We’re against drinking.
We’re against swearing.

Now I’m not saying I encourage those things, but I just wonder how often we add things to the gospel. And what if we became known for what we are for? We are for life, love, peace, joy, kindness, goodness, generosity…people!

As I’ve said before, religion says


Do the right things (or appear to do the right things), believe like us, and then you can belong.

Jesus reversed it time and time again. I was reminded of this several times during our Mission 119 study of Luke.


The message I long to send to our city is, “You belong here.” Jesus welcomed everyone into a relationship with him…and the Father. “Come as you are…but don’t stay that way” might be another way to say it since we are all called to grow, mature, and follow Jesus.

When people feel loved and belonging, the gospel becomes almost irresistible. Jesus saw it and I’ve seen it…people belong and want to believe. They ask the reason for the hope we have. Few in our post-Christian culture will respond to megaphone-touting street preachers, but when we are in relationship with people far from God, our faith will leak. If we live lives worth following, belonging will lead to belief. People begin their journey of following Jesus…and get the Holy Spirit who then gives them the power to behave.

When we focus on the external behavior without the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s almost impossible for someone to change. When the focus is on belonging, belief and behavior will follow.

So here’s the challenge: do you have a relationship with an unchurched person? Let me be more specific: have you shared a meal or coffee with a non-Christian in the past six months? I don't mean a religious conversation; just a simple friendship.

If not, perhaps legalism and religion have kept you from engaging with people Jesus died to save. It’s not by your good works or theirs that salvation is achieved. It’s only by God’s grace and the work of Jesus on the cross. That’s good news…and good news needs to be shared!

If you’ve never trusted Jesus with your life, why not begin today? He loves you and proved it by dying for you. You can try to earn your way into God’s favor, but you’ll never succeed because we’re all sinners. Jesus died so we can live! You can’t save yourself. We need a Savior and that’s why we love and worship Jesus.

Credits: some ideas from: D6, Galatians (Hippo/Africa Bible Commentary Series)

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

Healing: Woman & Girl, 3 September 2017

Healing: Woman & Girl
Series— Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
Mark 5:21-43
Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!
Big Idea: Jesus healed—and still heals—those who believe.
Faith. Do you have it? Sure you do. We all have faith…in something…or someone! The book of Hebrews states
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
As we continue to look at the life of Jesus through Mark’s biography, we come to two stories of faith…and physical healing.
They are very similar. They both involve females. Both of their stories began twelve years prior.
They are very different. One female is young, the other old. One is the daughter of an important synagogue officer, the other an anonymous woman. The officer was about to lose a daughter who brought him twelve years of happiness while the woman lost an affliction that brought her twelve years of grief.
These are documented, historical incidents but God never changes…and He continues to heal today.
Jesus is the Son of God, the way, the truth, and the life.
Two weeks ago, we saw his power over the natural world, calming a huge storm.
Last week we saw his power over the supernatural, exorcising demons.
Today we will see his power over sickness and death.
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet.  He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  So Jesus went with him. (Mark 5:21-24a)
We’re back in Jewish territory, probably Capernaum. The crowds are back. They religious leaders are back. Instead of being a critic, Jairus is a believer. He’s obviously desperate, willing to lose his religious friends who despise Jesus in his quest to save his twelve-year-old daughter’s life. He has faith that if Jesus only touches his dying girl, she will be healed and live.
Note all healing in this life is temporary. Lazarus was raised from the dead but eventually died again. If Jairus’ daughter is healed from her deadly condition, she will eventually die. We are constantly praying for the sick in our church family and beyond, but even the most miraculous healing of diseases or cancers merely prolongs life in these mortal bodies. Of course, each day we are both closer to the death of these temples and to the new bodies that will resemble Jesus’ resurrected form.
So crowds surround Jesus, a religious leader begs Jesus to come to his home and touch his daughter, and Jesus goes.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. (Mark 5:24b-26)
This woman had been suffering with a bleeding condition for twelve years. That means for twelve years she was probably considered unclean. She couldn’t touch people. She couldn’t be around people, yet here she is in a crowd, desperate. She wasn’t passive about healing. She had spent all of her money and likely most of her time seeing doctors…and only got worse. How frustrating. Some of you can relate. Health care is not a new problem!
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (Mark 5:27-29)
What faith! She merely wanted to touch Jesus’ clothes. She didn’t need him to touch her. She didn’t need Jesus to pray for her. She didn’t even feel the need to touch Jesus—just his clothes. She was instantly healed. Praise God! But then look what happens next.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30)
Jesus knew power had gone out, but even he notices it was not his flesh but rather his clothes that were touched. Then the disciples say what I would’ve said…and if you’re honest, you probably would’ve thought it, too.
Jesus once said,
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)
Paul tells us in Philippians (2:5-11) that Jesus “made himself nothing” when he came to earth, “taking the very nature of a servant.” The power he had was the Holy Spirit, the same power available to all followers of Jesus.
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” (Mark 5:31)
Jesus ignores his disciples!
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:32-34)
She’s caught touching Jesus’ clothes! How embarrassing! She’s trembling with fear and confesses, but instead of a rebuke, she receives a blessing…and healing. What a wonderful gift. What a great story she has for her friends of the healing power of Jesus. He heals her body and soul, granting her peace—
shalom, completeness—and calling her “daughter” while commending her faith.
But what about that girl?
While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” (Mark 5:35)
She’s dead? Jesus, if you weren’t listening to that lady’s story maybe you would’ve been able to save my daughter. You’re too late now. So much for your perfect timing.
Jesus missed the death of Lazarus.
Jesus missed the death of Jairus’ daughter.
Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (Mark 5:36)
Easy for you to say, Jesus. You don’t even know this girl. And what do you mean, “Just believe?” What good is faith? We were hoping you could just touch her but now she’s dead!
Before moving on, I want to focus on those words: don’t be afraid; just believe. That’s faith. Max Lucado wrote,
“Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see. Eyes see the prowling lion. Faith sees Daniel’s angel. Eyes see storms. Faith sees Noah’s rainbow. Eyes see giants. Faith sees Canaan. Your eyes see your faults. Your faith sees your Savior.”
Don’t be afraid; just believe.
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. (Mark 5:37-40a)
Here we see Jesus’ three best friends—Peter, James and John—receive a special invitation. The crowds aren’t allowed to follow. Perhaps even the other nine disciples were snubbed. They arrive on the scene of this twelve year-old girl’s tragic death. It’s a hot mess of commotion and wailing. It’s interesting to note in the culture professional mourners were often hired to wail at funerals. The Jewish Mishna, completed around 220 AD, quotes Rabbi Judah as saying even the poorest in Israel should hire two or more flutes and one weeping woman for a burial.
Then Jesus makes the laughable suggestion that she’s merely asleep…and they laugh…at Jesus. They go from wailing to laughing. Why not? They’re probably there just to “perform” with no real attachment to the girl.
Then Jesus gets to work!
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). (Mark 5:40b-41)
Jesus kicks everyone out—except for his three friends and the parents. Six adults encounter the girl, Jesus touches her and commands her to get up. It’s a private moment for those with considerable faith, not a public spectacle to rile up the fans and critics.
Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:42-43)
They were completely astonished! Amazing!
We have noted before the seemingly random details Mark includes, such as Jesus telling them to grab a granola bar for the girl (or whatever they ate then!). It’s an incredible scene, yet Jesus wants them to keep quiet about it (like that’s going to happen!).
When I was in college, I spent a summer in Bolivia with Campus Crusade for Christ—now known as Cru—showing the Jesus film. It is based upon the Good News Translation of the book of Luke, but it is very similar to Mark’s account. My favorite moment in the film—besides the resurrection—is the healing of Jarius’ daughter. I’d like to take a moment and share it with you.
In the original language Jesus said, “Lamb, get up!” What a tender wake-up call.
So What?
Jesus spoke to the sea and it calmed.
Jesus spoke to the demons and sent them into the pigs.
Jesus spoke to the girl and she was raised…after healing a woman.
Someday Jesus will say, “Wake up” to the dead.
Does Jesus still heal today? Yes! How do I know? I have heard countless stories throughout my life…and I’d like you to hear one now!
My Story: Kendra Sankovich
The fifth chapter of Mark is quite remarkable.
Jesus casts out demons.
Jesus heals the woman.
Jesus raises the dead girl.
And he’s not done yet!
Perhaps you would like healing…for yourself or even for someone else. If Jesus were here, you’d reach out and try to touch his clothes in hopes of being healed. His power and presence are here through the Holy Spirit. Do you believe he can heal? Do you have faith? The woman had faith. Jairus had faith. Jesus still heals.
Credits: some ideas from Stephen Leston, Mark Strauss, Ian Fair, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Scott Pinzon, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

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

Belief & Doubt, John 20:24-31, 17 November 2013

Big Idea: Belief and doubt are not opposites, but rather related components of faith.


Jesus asks one thing of us…believe. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy. Just ask Thomas.

And what does it mean to believe? It’s one thing to intellectually agree with propositional statements, but it’s another to take actions that prove belief.

It reminds of the old story of ham and eggs. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed!

Thomas heard his friends talk about a risen Christ, but he needed to see for himself. He even stated that unless he saw, he would not believe.

Does that sound familiar? “Prove it,” shouts the skeptic. “If I could see Jesus, I would believe,” says the agnostic.

Yet here we are, two thousand years later with at least an element of belief in someone we have never seen. Yet questions remain. Doubts appear. What does that say about our faith?

As we continue to celebrate Easter in November, we’re going to look at this tension between
doubt and belief.

John 20:24ff

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. (John 20:24)

Didymus means “the Twin.”

Where was he? We don’t know, but he missed the miraculous appearance of Jesus in a locked room, a passage (John 20:19-23) we examined last week.

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

One writer said, “Hardheaded skepticism can scarcely go further than this.”

Have you ever been skeptical or even obstinate about a situation?

Why did Thomas doubt? Sure, he spent time with Jesus, but He also watched Him slaughtered. Imagine someone tells you they saw your friend that was buried days earlier. You’d think they were crazy! They saw a ghost or a vision, but dead people don’t walk—except in zombie movies, right?

Thomas gets a bad rap for his skepticism, but don’t be fooled. The other ten disciples were just as surprised a week earlier. Remember it was John himself who wrote at the empty tomb, “He saw and believed.” (20:8b)

Jesus knows the human heart like no other. He said to the Capernaum official back in 4:48

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” (John 4:48)

Why did Thomas doubt? Why do we doubt?

Faith contains an element of mystery because, by definition, you
can’t prove it. Sure, Thomas was able to see Jesus, but what faith is required of something that you can prove? As Paul said, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (26)

Does this sound familiar? Last week we looked at the same people in the same house with the same doors locked with the same Jesus suddenly appearing among them saying, “Peace be with you!”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (27)

Stop doubting and believe. Jesus says, “Bring it on!” If you need proof, I’ll give you proof. We don’t know if Thomas moved his finger and hand, but his response is legendary.

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (28)

It has been said that “the most outrageous doubter of the resurrection of Jesus utters the greatest confession of the Lord who rose from the dead.” (Beasley-Murray)

Notice how Thomas’ response is not merely, “My Savior” but “My Lord and my God.” He is the first person in John to call Jesus “God.” Many want Jesus as good teacher or even Savior, but Lord and God is something entirely different.

John began his Gospel by announcing that

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Now as John approaches the finish line of his biography, the deity of Christ as God is crystal clear.

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (29)

This is the climax of the passage. It is Thomas’ seeing that is credited with his faith. He sees and believes.

Not everyone that saw Jesus believed. Many saw Jesus perform miracles and refused to believe. Nevertheless, Thomas’ faith is connected to his sight.

I love that Jesus speaks here about us! We have not seen Jesus or His wounds, but we’ve heard the story. We have been reading the eyewitness account from John.


Do you doubt? Do you believe? Perhaps your answer to both is “yes.” You’re in good company, not only with Thomas, but countless men, women and children through the centuries that struggle with faith. Many agnostics
want to believe but have lingering questions that hold them back. I read this week about a man who believed, then renounced his faith, then returned to it.

Faith is a gift. I can’t force it upon you. I can’t make you believe. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal the truth of Jesus to you. But even Jesus-followers have doubts.

When do people seem to doubt their faith? During trials and tragedies.

Matthew 28:16 is in intriguing passage as Jesus prepares to ascend:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17)

So much could be said about the doubts of believers, but perhaps the best thing I can share with you is a short interview between John Ortberg and Dallas Willard, two of my favorite authors. Ortberg asks Willard, who died earlier this year after decades of teaching at USC, about doubt.

Doubt is okay. Questions are okay. If we’re honest, we all have them, which is why we need one another. We need to be able to ask, discuss, probe, and be challenged. Personally, I welcome your questions. I don’t promise answers since God is both knowable and mysterious. I’d love to serve you in any way possible, however, and guide you to people and resources that can help you on your journey.

This is especially true if you are listening via podcast or blog. I’d love to hear from you at

Again, I don’t promise to have all of the answers, but I’d love to encourage you on your faith adventure.


Finally, John concludes this chapter with the following:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (30-31)

Jesus did many other signs or miracles.

Jesus is the Christ (Greek:
Christos, Hebrew Mashiach, the “anointed one”)

Do you believe in Jesus? Faith is more about relationship than creed. Perhaps the question should be asked, “Do you know Jesus?” He wants you to know Him, and we have the Bible and prayer as tools to develop that relationship.

Scholars have debated whether John intended to write to bring people to faith or to deepen the faith of Christians, one leading to evangelism and the other encouragement. In either case, he wrote that we may know Christ, the Good Shepherd who not only takes care of His sheep but lays down His life for them.

John tells us throughout His biography that Jesus is under trial. The religious leaders, high priest and Pilate made judgments about Jesus, but ultimately you and I must decide—who is Jesus? As C.S. Lewis stated, Jesus is a lunatic, a liar, or LORD? He is “Mad, Bad, or God.” John’s answer is crystal clear, and he should know. Jesus was his best friend. He was discipled for three years under the rabbi. As we saw a few weeks ago,

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside.
He saw and believed. (John 20:8)

His faith was tested. He ultimately suffered for his faith in Christ, thrown in a vat of boiling oil.

The twentieth chapter of John provides us with four examples of faith:

Peter and John who race to the empty tomb
Mary Magdalene who is the first to encounter the risen Christ
The ten disciples who huddle in a locked room only to find Jesus in their midst
Thomas, a man like most of us who demands evidence

You either believe Jesus is God or you don’t. Even if you do believe, faith can be fragile. One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is in Mark 9. A man’s son is possessed by an evil spirit.

“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:22-24)

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief. That is one of my most common prayers.

I believe there are two types of faith—theoretical and tested. I can believe a chair will hold me, but until I sit in it, I’m not certain that the object of my faith is true.

I can believe someone will catch me when I fall, but the real test of my faith is my leaning back.

It’s possible to intellectual believe in an historical Jesus that lived, died, and rose but if I live my life as a practical atheist—filled with worry, selfishness, idolatry, and pride—is my faith actualized?

Jesus is not an idea or a religion, but an historical Person who walked the earth and will return soon.

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. (John 11:25-26a)

Do you believe this? John wrote so that we may believe.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)

N.T. Wright says, “The resurrection is not an alien power breaking into God’s world; it is what happens when the creator himself comes to heal and restore his world, and bring it to its appointed goal. The resurrection is not only
new creation; it is new creation.”

John never uses the noun “faith,” but rather the verb “believe” almost a hundred times. Faith is more about relationship than creed. Jesus wants to know you. He wants to be not only Savior but Lord and King and God.

And He can be trusted.

Do you believe?

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

O Come, All Ye Faithful, 1 Peter 1:1-9, 9 December 2012

O Come All Ye Faithful
1 Peter 1:1-9

Big Idea: Jesus can make us faithful, joyful and triumphant.


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

During these four weeks during our preparation for Jesus’ birthday celebration, we’re looking at four classic Christmas Carols, their lyrics, and their biblical message. It is my hope and prayer that as you hear these songs, you’ll not only hum the melody, you’ll think about the timeless message.

This morning’s carol is
O Come All Ye Faithful.


"Adeste Fideles," the original Latin name for the song, was likely written in the 13th century, most likely by John Francis Wade. The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages. The English translation of "O Come, All Ye Faithful", by the English Catholic priest, Frederick Oakeley is widespread in most English speaking countries.

O come all ye faithful Joyful and triumphant O come ye O come ye to Bethlehem Come and behold Him Born the King of angels
O come let us adore Him O come let us adore Him O come let us adore Him Christ the Lord
Sing choirs of angels Sing in exultation O sing all ye bright Hosts of heav'n above Glory to God All glory in the highest
Yea Lord we greet Thee Born this happy morning Jesus to Thee be all glory giv'n Word of the Father Now in flesh appearing
- C. Frederick Oakeley | John Francis Wade

O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant!

Have you been faithful to God’s calling? Have you been obedient to everything He has asked you to do? Has your faithfulness matched His?

Let’s move to the second line. Joyful and triumphant.

Are you joyful? Triumphant?

If you’re like me, you often feel more defeated than triumphant.

I can’t say I’m always joyful—certainly not always happy.

Uh oh!!!

Are you ready for the good news? Jesus rarely calls the joyful and triumphant.

He calls the weary and burdened!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Can you relate?

Wait, just in case you thought Jesus was talking about eggs, a yoke is a device that harnesses oxen together.

Why does He want the weary and burdened? They need rest. They need Him! Have you ever tried to share Jesus with someone who had everything together? There are exceptions, but it seems that the people most likely to follow Jesus are those that are broken and desperate. One of the reasons that serving those in need is so powerful is because those that have physical needs often have the most glaring spiritual needs…and openness.

He not only calls the weary and burdened, He calls sinners.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)

That’s me!

Here’s even better news: He not only calls the weary and burdened sinners, He doesn’t leave us weary and burdened.

He doesn’t leave you that way!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

He helps us to become a new creation. He is in the transformation business!

How does that happen, you might ask?

First, Jesus helps us to become more faithful.

After the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11, Paul writes

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

If you’re waiting for God to just zap you with faith and power and discipline you’ll be greatly disappointed. We must join Him in His work. Action is required on our part.

First, get rid of the junk. The sin. The time wasting. The selfish spending. The addictions.

On Thanksgiving Day—upon the invitation of my oldest daughter—I participated in my first race. Well, technically it was a Turkey Trot. Both words were appropriate for me! I didn’t just wake up on Thanksgiving and jog 5K. I had to train. First I had to make it to the end of my short driveway! Later I got up to a mile, then two, then three and I was nearly there.

I did not carry a backpack with me!
I did not carry a bag of groceries with me!
I didn’t even carry my iPad with me!

Runners want to be as light as possible and free from distractions.

I also learned that they need focus. They need a goal.

I ran with a program called Map My Run that would call out when I reached a mile…and two...and three. I set a target distance each time knowing that otherwise I’d just jog to the mailbox and then go eat gingerbread cookies!

On the final days of my training I determined in advance how far I was going to jog (you can hardly call my pace running!) and I refused to stop until I reached that goal. It’s about focus.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

We have to focus on Jesus, not Oprah or ESPN or Facebook…but Jesus. Only Jesus can help you become a new creation. Only Jesus brings true joy. Notice this verse. He experienced joy while He was on the cross. Is that crazy?

Joy is not happiness. It is far deeper. Joy comes from a right relationship with God, and that’s what Jesus had on the cross. His joy was not in the pain and agony He experienced, but knowing that He was glorifying the Father and doing His will.

One of the great things about fixing our eyes upon Jesus is He understands. We’re going to talk about this more in two weeks, but He knows suffering. He knows grief. He knows pain. He knows weary and burdened. He conquered sin and death.

What does it mean to fix our eyes on Jesus? It starts with the Word of God.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

As we saw a few months ago in John 1…

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
(John 1:1)

Maybe your faith is being tried by the loss of a loved one, a dream, a job, health. Look to Jesus. Get in the Word. There is power and hope and joy in the Word.

If it’s hard to read, grab the New Living Translation or the Message. If you don’t know what to read, join us as we read through the entire Bible together at If you missed the first 49 weeks, not problem! Finish this year in God’s Word. Start up again in January. The Word is life. The Word is power.

As an example, a few weeks ago I was discouraged, living in Cleveland, spending my days in a hospital waiting room with my daughter. The Scio Journal passage for the day included this…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5; 4:8-10)

Wow! My faith began to rise. I was reminded that God was with me, that He understood, and that there was a purpose in my trouble—to let Christ overflow in my life and comfort others.

We need to fill our minds with the Word of God. The word of the world too often fills our minds with lies.

As we are in His Word, our faith grows. Jesus helps us to become more faithful.

Jesus helps us to become more joyful.

Our joy comes from a right relation with God, not something we produce.

Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit. Joy (depends on Jesus) and happiness (depends on happenings) are worlds apart.

In Luke 2—the most detailed account of Jesus’ birth—it says

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:8-11)

Good news of great joy. For all the people. That’s Jesus!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Peter and Paul had a thing about long sentences! Notice that he is speaking in the present tense.

They have been given new birth into a living hope.

“That’s great,” you may be thinking, “but that was then and this is now. You don’t understand my messed-up life.”

Peter is writing to people that are in the midst of suffering. Look at the next verse:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6)

How can they rejoice in the midst of suffering? How can we? It’s really quite simple: what is your hope?

Pastor Tim Keller says this so beautifully: any hope that is a finite object will disappoint. If your hope is in your health, family, job, wealth, fame…it can and will eventually be gone. For most people hope is a circumstance that can change, but if our hope is a living hope, it is fixed; it is not based upon circumstances.

Let’s go back for a moment to the previous verses…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Without the living hope, you either have joy or sorrow.

These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7)

When you put gold into the fire, it gets brighter and more refined. A living hope not based upon circumstances means the sorrow actually drives you into joy and into Christ. Sorrow kicks on the joy. Sorrow doesn’t kill the joy because it’s not circumstantial.

The joy enables the sorrow. When most people experience grief, they run into indifference or anger.

With a living hope, sorrow makes you wiser. You don’t run from it, it deepens you. The joy gets brighter with the sorrow like the stars get brighter as it gets darker.

Your heart with a living hope is always great and growing.

Earlier we looked at Jesus’ joy on the cross.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

He sweated blood. He screamed on the cross. He had a living hope.

is the living hope?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

It is an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

It is kept. It is secure. It is guaranteed. It cannot be removed.

It is the coming of the salvation…the last time, the end, but what is it?

These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7)

Those who believe…praise, glory and honor…we will praise, glory and honor Jesus, right?

No! It says your faith may be proved genuine. The Greek grammar is not referring to praise, glory and honor to Jesus, but
from Jesus.

We are going to get praise, glory and honor on the last day!

Jesus prayed at the end of His time on earth…

I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:23)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus took everything that we deserve. If you believe in Jesus, you get everything that He deserved.

This isn’t about what you have done, but what the death and resurrection of Jesus did. At the end, you will receive everything that Jesus deserved! Love, applause, approval, perfection, and purity.

It is kept! It is secure.

This is the new hope. What’s coming is the ultimate wealth, the approval of the King.

The foundation of your character is not your personality but your hope.

The Gospel is not if I try hard, maybe God will bless me someday. It is because Jesus died for me, I have a hope that is kept for me and someday I will be changed forever and even now it gives me hope so I can handle anything.

Religion: trying to be good, gambling that someday God will accept them; you’re saving yourself; I give God a righteous record and He owes me

The Gospel: live in the light of being accepted; you receive and rest in His salvation; God gives me a righteous record in Jesus Christ and I live for Him

To be born again is to live in the living hope that it is kept.


Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Unspeakable joy!

Jesus was even able to have joy at the cross. What was Jesus’ living hope?

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11)

Us! Being with us forever!

You being His living hope is what makes Him your living hope.

Love Him!

Is this just for superstar Christians?

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: (1 Peter 1:1-2a)

Peter is writing to all of the Christians in the region. It’s for everyone. It’s for you!

Jesus helps us to become more triumphant.

We often feel defeated. Life is hard…but God is good. Our God is an awesome God. Our God will someday soon right all wrongs. The enemy may be winning some battles, but our LORD will win the war!

Isaiah understood Jesus was not just an 8 pound, 6 ounce sweet baby Jesus.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

That’s our God. That’s our King! He will rule and reign forever!

The baby in the manger is the Creator of the universe, the King of kings, …

There is power in the presence of God.
There is faith in the presence of God.
There is joy in the presence of God.
There is victory in the presence of God.
He is born the King of angels.
We have come to adore Him.

Come all ye faithful (He is faithful even when we are not)
Joyful and triumphant
He is Christ the LORD


Jesus calls the weary and the burdened. Some of you need to come back to God.

Credits: Series theme and various ideas from Craig Groeschel,

Some notes from Tim Keller,
Born Into Hope sermon

You can listen to the podcast here.
You can view a music video of
O Come All Ye Faithful from here.

Faith Works, 7 August 2011

Big Idea: Faith and works are marks of true believers.

When I was in middle school, I asked the question of friends, all of whom said heaven. “Why?” I asked. “Because I’m a good person and haven’t killed anyone,” they would usually respond.

“There’s a problem, though” I would say. “You’re not good enough. I’m not good enough.”

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

All of my goodness is as filthy rags it says in Isaiah 64:6.

Let’s look at some of Paul’s writings for a moment:

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

How are we saved? By grace. Through faith. By God.

This is one of the most vital passages in the Bible. You are not good enough to go to heaven.

It’s not what you do that gets you to heaven but what was done by Jesus.

So does that mean that all dogs go to heaven, and people, too? No. We must receive the gift. Action is required. Faith is not merely something in your head, but something that is expressed.

Niagara Falls story

The Great Blondin - the man who invented the high wire act, announced to the world that he intended to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. More than five thousand people gathered to watch. Halfway across, Blondin suddenly stopped, steadied himself, back flipped into the air, landed squarely on the rope, and then continued safely to the other side. Blondin crossed the Falls again and again; blindfolded, carrying a stove, in chains, and on a bicycle. Just as he was about to begin yet another crossing, this time pushing a wheelbarrow, he turned to the crowd and shouted, "Who trusts that I can cross pushing this wheelbarrow?" Every hand in the crowd went up. Blondin pointed at one man:

"Do you trust that I can do it?" he asked.
"Yes, I trust you can." said the man.
"Are you certain that you trust me?" said Blondin.
"Yes" said the man.
"Absolute trust? Absolutely certain?"
"Yes, absolute trust, with absolute certainty."
"Thank you," said Blondin, "please get into the wheelbarrow."

On Thursday I took my son and two friends to see the Detroit Tigers. They were losing 5-0 near the end of the game and I told my friend, “If I was a betting man, I’d say the Tigers will lose.” After the Tigers scored two runs and had opportunities for more, I leaned over and said, “I’m glad I’m not a betting man.”

There’s a difference between saying you believe something and putting action behind it. It’s one thing to say the Tigers will win and another to put money on it, not that I’m advocating gambling!

Are you willing to get in the wheelbarrow?

Let’s look at today’s passage from the book of James.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Here James refers to the poor again as he did in his definition of “pure religion.”

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (1:27)

Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. That’s why I love Jesus. He didn’t just tell people, “I love you.” He demonstrated His love by giving His very life for us, dying on the cross in our place, receiving the punishment of
our sins.

Martin Luther took issue with James, arguing that we are not saved by works, but instead by faith.

James' point is not to argue whether we are saved by faith or by works. His point is that our belief, which saves us, is only true belief if it is confirmed by our actions, if it is confirmed by hopping in the wheelbarrow.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.

Check this out—satan believes in God, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to heaven!

It’s not enough to say you believe in God. Again, talk is cheap. Knowledge isn’t enough. Following Jesus is a verb, it involves action. Demons may believe in God, but they don’t serve Him, they don’t call Him LORD, they haven’t died to themselves in order to let Jesus live in and through them. Jesus said if we want to follow Him we must pick up our cross daily. We must die. We must put our faith into action.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (2:20-24)

Real faith requires action.

At this point it should be obvious that in context James is talking about works and faith being so tightly interwoven that to suggest you are saved, but do not do good works in response to that salvation then it's likely you are not really saved.  Notice that James does not say, "You are justified by works alone." He very clearly unites works and faith. Either one alone is useless. It’s like a screen door on a submarine.

It’s so useless that James equates it to a body without a spirit, which is a dead body. The living dead. Those who claim to have faith but have no works are living with a dead thing; their dead spirit.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (2:25-26)

Jesus did not die 2000 years ago to simply make history. His butchered body didn’t hang on a cross for people to say they witnessed a death. He died to demonstrate His love for us that we would die to ourselves, be recreated in His image, and make a difference in our world. Christians are to do more than talk the talk...we are to walk the walk. The world can’t see our mental beliefs, but they can see our actions...and often they FAIL to see our actions, making us hypocrites.

Jesus’ ministry was filled with good works as he healed the sick and fed the poor. That opened the door to dialogue about faith.

We need to walk in faith, not sit in faith.

So my challenge to you...and to to walk the walk and put are faith into action. That’s what our Master did.

You can listen to the podcast here.