Sacrifice Series – Just the Facts

 COACH’S PLAYBOOK

In the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at this series called “Sacrifice”. Today I wanted to make sure I built a firm Biblical foundation for this series. Notice with me Psalms 54:

Psalms 54:1-7 1Save me by your power, O God; set me free by your might! 2Hear my prayer, O God; listen to my words! 3Proud people are coming to attack me; cruel people are trying to kill me – those who do not care about God. 4But God is my helper. The Lord is my defender. 5May God use their own evil to punish my enemies. He will destroy them because he is faithful. 6I will gladly offer you a sacrifice, O Lord; I will give you thanks because you are good. 7You have rescued me from all my troubles, and I have seen my enemies defeated.

Look closely at what it says in verse 6, “I will gladly offer you a sacrifice O Lord; I will give you thanks because you are good.” So this idea of sacrifice should come from a grateful heart, not because of an obligation. It should be a response to all that God has done in us and is doing for us.

Notice Psalms 103:1-5:

Psalms 103:1-5 1Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies, 5Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Again, take special note how the Psalmist in verse 2 encourages all people of God not to forget the benefits of being a part of the family of God. Our sins have been forgiven; we have been healed from disease; we have been redeemed from destruction; and on and on it goes.

With that in mind, let me share the Facts of Biblical Giving:

Just the Facts of Biblical Giving

1. Giving is an expression of THANKSGIVING.

Over and over again within the word of God we read of examples of those who have expressed their thanks for all that God has done by giving. Out of this expression of thanks comes a sacrifice – giving financially. Our giving must never be viewed as repayment, as if we must repay God for His good things. No, it is a natural response of thanksgiving.

2. Giving is to be done CHEERFULLY.

Notice what Paul says in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 9:7-8 7Each of you should give whatever you have decided. You shouldn’t be sorry that you gave or feel forced to give, since God loves a cheerful giver. 8Besides, God will give you his constantly overflowing kindness. Then, when you always have everything you need, you can do more and more good things.

See how Paul says that God loves a cheerful giver? Giving in the New Testament Church should never be done because God is forcing us to give. Neither is there a direct correlation that if we give THIS, God will give us THAT. The New Testament teaches that we are to give not only sacrificially, but also cheerfully.

3. Giving is to be done SYSTEMATICALLY.

Notice the direction Paul gives to the New Testament church in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 16:1 2Every Sunday each of you must put aside some money, in proportion to what you have earned, and save it up, so that there will be no need to collect money when I come. 

Notice the opening phrase in this verse “Every Sunday each of you must put aside some money.” Too many times giving is only done after we see what is left over. If we have any money left, then we will give that. There are several bad things about this kind of mentality. Life is expensive, many of us are not disciplined, and many times there is more month than money left at the end of the month. With this kind of thinking, people do not give because they do not plan to give. The Bible tells us to do the opposite. We must plan to give, think carefully about how much to give, and do it in a systematic manner.

4. Giving is to be done PROPORTIONALLY.

2 Corinthians 9:6 {GNT} 6Remember that the person who plants few seeds will have a small crop; the one who plants many seeds will have a large crop.

As I wrap up this series on Sacrifice, notice how God’s Word challenges us in 2 Corinthians that giving is to be a faith transaction. If God has given to us, then we are given an opportunity to give in return. If we have been given much but we choose to give to God very little, this is actually evidence of a lack of faith and the absence of Christian benevolence. This is the behavior of a miser who wants to hold on to more than what they should. We must learn to give proportionally, according to what we have been blessed with.

The Bible’s promise “Give and it shall be given unto you” is true! One thing I have personally learned through years of serving the Lord and giving to ministry is that you can never out-give God!

Sacrifice Series – Why?

 COACH’S PLAYBOOK

Let me begin this message with a brief review of a great Old Testament story. It’s the story of Noah, the Ark, and the Great Flood. We know that it rained 40 days and 40 nights, but how long did Noah and his family actually spend on the Ark? How long was it from the time they entered until the time God said for them to leave? It may be surprising to know that it was quite a bit longer than just the 40 days and 40 nights. It was actually 1 year and 10 days. I would imagine that after leaving he reflected on his time on the Ark. He may have said something like, “Whew, it’s a zoo in there!” Or maybe he made the decision right then and there that he would never be taking his family on any kind of cruise in celebration of a special event for him and the Mrs.

Putting aside the humor, what really was the first thing Noah did when he exited the Ark? According to Genesis 8:18-21, and specifically verse 20, the Bible says Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered a sacrifice on the altar.

Genesis 8:18-21 18So Noah went out of the boat with his wife, his sons, and their wives. 19All the animals and birds went out of the boat in groups of their own kind. 20Noah built an altar to the Lord; he took one of each kind of ritually clean animal and bird, and burned them whole as a sacrifice on the altar. 21The odor of the sacrifice pleased the Lord . . .

This act of worship and devotion spoke volumes about his faith and trust in God. Through Noah’s sacrifice, we can learn much about our own personal giving and the stewardship of our personal finances.

So why did Noah build the altar? Really, there are just two answers.

1.         It ended the debate of OWNERSHIP.

You see, Noah could have exited the Ark, looked out on the world and said, “We are the sole family that survived the Flood. I am the head of that family. I own it all.” He also could have looked at every animal that came off the Ark, remembered how he had tended to those animals for such a long time and said “I own them all.” If he had been an entrepreneur like Donald Trump, this sacrifice and act of worship would probably not have been his first response. The Donald perhaps would have envisioned Trump Ark Casinos. Or if Noah had been an ambitious businessman like Warren Buffet, he might have seen this fresh start as an opportunity to divide and sell the Ark to reap a great profit. But Noah was not like Trump, Buffet, or any other entrepreneur or corporate raider. Noah was a man of faith. He was exceedingly grateful for the grace and salvation of God, and how God had provided for himself and his family. So instead of declaring that he had any ownership of the world, Noah declared by his sacrifice that God was the owner of all.

Malachi chapter 3 challenges each of us today to end any debate of ownership. The things we have are not ours; everything we have, everything we are, belongs to God.

Malachi 3:10-11 10Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 10Try it! Put me to the test!

By the way, we cannot overlook what a risk it was for Noah to make this animal sacrifice. We all realize that the future existence of all animal species were dependent upon the animals that came off the Ark. If Noah had not believed that God could multiply the animals despite the sacrifice, then this would have been a foolish risk. But Noah did not see the sacrifice as a foolish risk, an act to appease some unknown, unproven, untested god. No, he viewed it as an act of praise and worship, knowing that God would provide what he needed and bless what was left over. True, it may be a risk, but it is a risk that God says we are to take, trusting that he will provide what we need.

Let me end with the final reason that Noah immediately built an altar and gave a sacrifice upon leaving the Ark. It not only ended the debate of Ownership, it also,

2.         It ended the debate of DEVOTION.

Through his sacrifice, Noah not only declared that God owned everything in the world, but also deserved Noah’s devotion and thanks. His sacrifice was a sign of thanksgiving that Noah and his family had survived and therefore God was worthy of all of his devotion.

Mark chapter 12 tells us of a time when Jesus was able to assess the devotion of different individuals during the time of offering at the temple.

Mark 12:41-44 41As Jesus sat near the Temple treasury, he watched the people as they dropped in their money. Many rich men dropped in a lot of money; 42then a poor widow came along and dropped in two little copper coins, worth about a penny. 43He called his disciples together and said to them, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others. 44For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had-she gave all she had to live on.”

Each of us are faced with this same test, will we trust God with a sacrifice or not? After God has rescued us, saved us from certain destruction, and given us life, will we respond as Noah did? Like the poor widow woman did? Or will we proclaim through our actions that everything we have is “Mine”, and we are truly devoted to another person or thing.

May we respond as Noah and the poor widow woman did. God will bless our sacrifice.

Luke 6:38 38Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Any debate over Ownership and Devotion is over. God owns all that we have. He is worthy of our sacrifice and devotion, and He waits to bless us for our act of worship.

Sacrifice Series – Preparing for Miracles

COACH’S PLAYBOOK 

There is a basic principle taught in the Bible in response to all that God does for us. This basic principle is called a Sacrifice. The idea behind it is that God gives to us, and out of His giving it should be a natural response for us to give back to him. Before we look at a passage in Genesis, let me emphasize a few things. This passage tells us of the time before there is a church, temple, priest, preacher, etc. Even before God’s Word explains the concept of sacrifice as seen later in the word, notice that in this passage the first two people ever born in this world gave a gift to God, making a sacrifice.

Genesis 4:3-5 (NLT) 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift-the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

We must remember an important fact about a sacrifice: No giving happens without feeling some pain. No sacrifice happens without feeling some pain. Who knows this better than God? In the New Testament we are reminded:

Ephesians 5:2 (NLT) 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

So this idea of a sacrifice did not originate with humans – it started with God. God is always the first giver – He gives us life, He gave us His Son, everything we have is a gift from Him. Our natural response should be to give back to Him. Let’s see how that is expressed in the life of Jesus. Even before the cross and his crucifixion, Jesus said,

John 10:18 (NLT) 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. . .”

Notice, the powerful words “I sacrifice it voluntarily.” Jesus wants to make sure we know he GAVE up his life – voluntarily! This shows us that everything about God is giving – even in sacrifices. Why do we sacrifice? Because God built giving into our DNA.

Now let’s turn to a result of sacrifice – a miracle. We may have forgotten that we are called upon to prepare for miracles. You will quickly discover that preparing for a miracle begins with a sacrifice.

Let’s look at a classic story in John chapter 6 that illustrates this preparation. Here we have the story of Jesus feeding over 5,000 people.

John 6:1-12 (NKJV) 1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”

Let’s unpack this story of sacrifice and the resultant miracle.

In verse 10 Jesus called for the people to:

1. SIT down.   REST in His promises.

If there is any one thing that is almost unnatural during a time of need and want, where we may be begging God for a miracle, it is sitting down and resting. During a stressful moment, everything within us wants to pace, or run around trying to figure it out on our own. Notice how Jesus, during this time of a great need where the people had no food to eat and were hungry, said to them, “Sit down, relax, chill out, just rest. I’ve got this.” Verse 10 says, “Make the people sit down.” That’s exactly what we have to make ourselves do when we are looking for a miracle – sit down, relax and rest in His promises. He’s got this!

2. Prepare for THE BLESSING.

This fact goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Notice that Jesus had all of the people to sit down and the people sat down in groups of 100. What were they doing? Getting ready to receive a miracle. They didn’t know how it would come, when it would come, or what it was, but they were ready!

3. Give THANKS.

Just after the sacrifice and right before the miracle, Jesus bowed his head and gave thanks. You know, it’s never easy to give thanks for a miracle before you see the actual results. We want to “see it to believe it.” But that is not what Jesus was teaching here. We need to give thanks before we ever see God providing the blessing. It’s seldom easy, but that is exactly what we are called to do.

4.  Get INVOLVED & WATCH.

This is a key element we must discover from this story. It was during the time the people gave away, the more they continued to distribute the food, that the miracle continued to come their way. With each handful of food that the disciples distributed, every time they reached their hand back into the basket, there was always more. This important principle of giving and sacrifice is something God wants every believer to discover – and not just discover but implement. The more we give away, the more we will have. That may not adhere to generally accepted business principles in our world today, but God does not adhere to generally accepted business principles. We may think we are giving away our last dollar, but according to this story, that is impossible. He will always replenish. That’s His promise. God doesn’t want us to be spectators or bystanders in giving and sacrifice, He wants us to get involved and watch Him work.

5. Gather up the LEFTOVERS SO NOTHING IS LOST.

Along with the principle of giving and sacrifice, there’s still another great truth taught within this passage of scripture: God cannot stand for anything to be lost! He cannot tolerate the idea of a lost coin, or a lost or prodigal son or daughter, or leftovers not being gathered. He wants everything that’s lost to be found. The reason why the church calls upon those who have already received the greatest gift of eternal life to share it with others is so that God can gather the lost in our world so that nothing, no one is lost!

Next week I will share with you one of the oldest stories in the Bible: the story of Noah and his sacrifice.

Jesus Series – The Only One Who Is Ever With Us!

 Let me share with you today the final message in this series entitled Jesus. As you have heard me say many times in this series, No One has impacted this world like Jesus! No One loves us like Jesus! No One cares for us like Jesus! No One forgives like Jesus!

You see I believe that someday in the future, we will stand before Jesus and hear Him say one of two statements that are firmly established within the Scriptures: Either “Well done” to His followers, or “Depart from me” to those who have never believed. Let me be clear today, Jesus WILL say one of those two statements to each and every one. In this sermon, I want us to think about what WE need to say to Jesus today. Before you answer, remember that this Jesus is the one who died for you on the cross; he paid the penalty for your sin; after dying for you, he then conquered the grave. When you reflect on all of that, I believe the very first thing we will say when we stand before Jesus is “Thank You! Thank You for saving me. Thank You for never leaving me. Thank You for always being with me.”

Let’s look at some verses from the Bible that demonstrate Christ’s objective while he was here on earth.

Matthew 28:18-20 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Psalm 23:1-6 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

I love these passages of Scripture because they clearly explain that Jesus always wants us to know that He will be there for us. In fact, according to Psalms 23, Jesus may even show us how he was leading us as a shepherd throughout our lives, beside still waters and through valleys in the shadow of death.

Let’s look now at a few thoughts related to Jesus being with us always.

 For “Jesus to be with us always” - it doesn’t mean:

1. We have an exemption from PROBLEMS AND TROUBLES.

Just because Jesus is always with us it doesn’t mean that we will not have problems. In fact, notice what Jesus tells his disciples in the Gospel of John:

John 16:33 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Since Jesus is always with us but we are not exempt from problems and troubles, we must remember that:

2. We will NOT be POWERLESS.

Revelation 1:18 18 I am the living one. I died, but look-I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.

So what does it mean – For “Jesus to be with us always”?

3. Jesus will BE THERE FOR US.

4. Jesus will COMFORT US.

John 14:16 & 18 16 and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. 18 No, I will not abandon you or leave you as orphans in the storm-I will come to you.

5. Jesus will STRENGTHEN US.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

In conclusion, I believe there are days ahead of us that will be troublesome, so trying to our faith that we will not survive unless our Savior is with us. We may not know what those days will bring, but we can be assured today that the God that has led us this far, is the God that will lead us into the future. Each of us should choose today to have a Savior that not only forgives our sins of the past and strengthens us, but will also walk with us in the future.

Watch this sermon preached HERE

Jesus Series – No One FORGIVES Like Jesus!

COACH’S PLAYBOOK

Let me start with wishing all of you Pastors and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re like me, then you appreciate some days off and time spent with family.

In this next installment of the Jesus Series, I want to share with you that No One Forgives Like Jesus! Out of all the characteristics Jesus is known for, I believe this is number one. Some might debate and say that Jesus’s number one contribution is his teachings, or maybe his miracles, or the way that he helped the poor, or the way he stood up to the religious crowds. But I believe that the number one reason why Jesus is followed is because No One Forgives Like Jesus! In fact, when you study other world religions, you do not find the forgiveness of sin, mistakes, and wrongs, freely given, like you do in Christianity. Christ offers a forgiveness that sets it apart and far above all other religions.

This idea of forgiveness of sin that God offers is not a new thing. Leviticus chapter 16 tells us that when the Old Testament priest offered a sin offering, two goats were chosen: one was slain, and the other received the pronouncement of the sins of the people upon it, and then the goat was allowed to go free and walk away. Thus we have the idea of the “scape goat.” Literally, that’s what God offers all of us; a forgiveness that someone else paid the price for and we get to walk away free. Ultimately Jesus became a sacrificial lamb that paid the price, not a sin offering.

To prove the case that No One Forgives Like Jesus, in Luke chapter 7 Jesus crossed paths with a woman who was a prostitute. To help his followers understand how Jesus was able to allow the prostitute to be in His presence, he tells the story as follows:

Luke 7:36-38 (TLB) 36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his home for lunch and Jesus accepted the invitation. As they sat down to eat, 37 a woman of the streets-a prostitute-heard he was there and brought an exquisite flask filled with expensive perfume. 38 Going in, she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping, with her tears falling down upon his feet; and she wiped them off with her hair and kissed them and poured the perfume on them.
 

Luke 7:41-48 (TLB) 41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people-$5,000 to one and $500 to the other. 42 But neither of them could pay him back, so he kindly forgave them both, letting them keep the money! Which do you suppose loved him most after that?” 43 “I suppose the one who had owed him the most,” Simon answered. “Correct,” Jesus agreed. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look! See this woman kneeling here! When I entered your home, you didn’t bother to offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You refused me the customary kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in. 46 You neglected the usual courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has covered my feet with rare perfume. 47 Therefore her sins-and they are many-are forgiven, for she loved me much; but one who is forgiven little, shows little love.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

From this example we understand that:

FORGIVENESS is available, when:

1. My sin debt is UNPAYABLE.

Luke 7:42 But neither of them could pay him back, so he kindly forgave them both,

Notice that in Jesus’s story, he tells us that everyone has a sin debt. In other words, every sin has a price tag on it that someone must pay. We need to realize that every day there is sin, every day the sin is accumulating, and like the two men in the story we have a price that we cannot pay. When Jesus allowed this prostitute to come near him, he was communicating, the same way that the scape goat walked away after the sin debt was paid, that we also can walk away – forgiven!

2. I am YOUNG, INEXPERIENCED & EASILY FOOLED.

Luke 15:20-24 (NLT) 20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ 22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

This is an important story that Jesus wants each of us to hear, even though part of our sin debt came about when we were young, inexperienced and easily fooled. Regardless of when and where you accumulated your sin debt, Jesus wants us to know that we can be forgiven.

3. I am a FOLLOWER & SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

John 21:3-4 (NLT) 3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. 4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was.

John 21:14-15 (NLT) 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead. 15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

This falls underneath the category of “stupid sins.” We read this and probably think, Peter should have known better! Peter had walked with Jesus, spent days and days in His presence, but still he chose to deny Christ, chose to walk away and go back to his former life. Yes, he should have known better, but Peter could still be forgiven.

It’s important to remember that when we choose to live life on our own and walk away from God, we will always come up empty. We may try hard to make life work and fill it with all sorts of things, but like Peter’s empty nets, we will still come up empty.

4. I am AT THE END OF MY ROPE.

Luke 23:42-43 (NLT) 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

When you think about the forgiveness of God, this attribute of forgiveness is all the more remarkable when you think about His infallible memory. God forgives us AND also forgets it. He only forgets after he forgives. He can remember everything about us, but he still chooses to forgive. How awesome!

Yes, I am thankful every day that No One Forgives Like Jesus!

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday!

Watch video for Part 3 here: http://vimeo.com/77443733

Watch video for Part 4 here: http://vimeo.com/78113069

Jesus Is Like No Other

COACH’S PLAYBOOK

Jesus Part 3 – Jesus Is Like No Other

No life has impacted or changed the world more than Jesus. The same is true in this next statement: No life has been more scrutinized or investigated than the life of Jesus. When you consider his claims, when you look at his miracles, and when you read his teachings, Jesus has been judged and tried in many courts of opinion. The reason why he has been the most debated individual in history is because of the uniqueness of who he is. Simply put, Jesus is like no one who has ever lived throughout history. Jesus was fully man and fully God at the same time. What do I mean by this? I mean that Jesus was completely a man physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, while at the same time being completely God, the eternal God.

John chapter 1 gives us a glimpse into this distinction:

John 1:6-14 6 God sent John the Baptist 7as a witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the true Light. 8 John himself was not the Light; he was only a witness to identify it. 9 Later on, the one who is the true Light arrived to shine on everyone coming into the world. 10 But although he made the world, the world didn’t recognize him when he came. 11 Even in his own land and among his own people, the Jews, he was not accepted. Only a few would welcome and receive him. 12 But to all who received him, he gave the right to become children of God. All they needed to do was to trust him to save them. 13 All those who believe this are reborn!-not a physical rebirth resulting from human passion or plan-but from the will of God. 14 And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen his glory -the glory of the only Son of the heavenly Father!

Notice verse 10 where it says the world didn’t recognize him when he came. Verse 11 says he was not accepted by his own people, the Jews. According to the scriptures, it sounds as if Jesus’ life has always been debated, even from the very beginning.

Today I will share with you several passages of scripture that show Jesus not only as a man, but also as God.

Matthew 8:23-27 23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly all was calm. 27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Here we see Jesus being fully man, according to verse 24, when he was asleep. Yes, Jesus knew how to be tired and weary, he connects with the entire human race when we get tired and need sleep. Jesus slept. But during this great storm Jesus also showed that he was indeed the God-man. After his disciples woke him up, he performed a miracle in nature by calling for a storm to end. The Bible says the wind and waves were suddenly calm. Even the disciples asked themselves “Who is this man?” They couldn’t understand how the winds and waves could obey him. The answer: Jesus is like no other – he is the God-man.

The second passage of scripture is found in John 11. Here we see the very human side of Jesus, the man-side. While at the tomb of his close friend Lazarus, Jesus was struck with grief and cried. We see Jesus responding just like anyone else responds to grief and loss. Experiencing and responding to sorrow is a basic human reaction. But in verses 41-44 the scriptures reveal that Jesus was not just a man at Lazarus’s tomb, but he was also the God-man. He spoke to his friend’s tomb and caused the dead man Lazarus to come out of the grave very much alive.

John 11:33-37 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

John 11:41-44 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out,

Again, Jesus is like no other!

In John 19, Jesus, as a man, is being crucified. After officials had arrested him, tried him, beaten him, had him bear the weight of his own cross, they crucified him. While on the cross Jesus shows his humanity by saying the words, “I am thirsty.”

John 19:28-30 28 After this, Jesus knew that everything had been done. So that the Scripture would come true, he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 There was a jar full of vinegar there, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a branch of a hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth. 30 When Jesus tasted the vinegar, he said, “It is finished.”

Not only did he say the words expressing a physical reaction that humanity can identify with, Jesus also said, “It is finished.” When Jesus said these words, he was saying that man’s redemption was complete and his sin debt paid in full by the precious blood shed by the Son of God. Even the Roman officer acknowledged that Jesus “truly was the Son of God!”

Mark 15:37-39 37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

But the story of the God-man doesn’t end at the crucifixion, or even at his burial. The story continues, as recorded in Mark 16, when the angels announced that Jesus, who had been crucified, had risen from the dead.

Mark 16:5-6 5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, 6 but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body.

No human being has ever been able to come back to life through his own power, yet Jesus, the God-man did! Our only response to who Jesus is must be to place our trust in him. Jesus gave clear directions in John 3:

John 3:6-7 6 Human life comes from human parents, but spiritual life comes from the Spirit. 7 Don’t be surprised when I tell you, ‘You must all be born again.’

Jesus did not say that maybe we should be born again; he said we must be born again. No truer statement could ever be said about this God-man, Jesus, that: No one is like our SAVIOR!

You can see this message being preached

Jesus 10.27.13
Jesus 10.27.13

 

Jesus – Part 2 Dealing With The Dark Side

COACH’S PLAYBOOK

No one has impacted human history and all aspects of life like Jesus did. Because of the way he lived, the people of his day were able to say that no one cared like Jesus did. Not only was it because of the way he lived, but also his teachings. Soon after his ascension, Christ followers began to heed his teachings. It was Christ followers who started caring for those who were sick, gathering together orphaned children and providing for their every need, and establishing schools for children. If you look around our world, there seems to be no place where the touch of Jesus cannot be seen.

If it’s true in all of these areas, then it is definitely true in the area of dealing with Satan, demons, and the Dark Side. You see, until Jesus came this dark network of demons was able to work in our world without a lot of direct resistance. This dark side was able to work in history in relative silence, little competition. There are only four references to the Devil or demons in the Old Testament. That reminds us of the hopelessness of the world before Jesus came.

In Luke 4 early in his ministry, Jesus intersected with demons from the Dark Side. Here’s how the story plays out:

Luke 4:31-37 (NLT) 31 Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught there in the synagogue every Sabbath day. 32 There, too, the people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority. 33 Once when he was in the synagogue, a man possessed by a demon-an evil spirit-began shouting at Jesus, 34 “Go away! Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One sent from God!” 35 Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the demon threw the man to the floor as the crowd watched; then it came out of him without hurting him further. 36 Amazed, the people exclaimed, “What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey him, and they flee at his command!” 37 The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region.

What can we discover from this passage of scripture?

1.   Demonic forces are REAL.

Satan is real and demons are real. In this passage of scripture it is interesting that the place where this demon-possessed man felt very comfortable was in the synagogue among God’s people. If there were ever a right place among the right people, you would have thought a synagogue would have been that place; a place where the Dark Side would not be found. Yet, in this right place, among the right people, Jesus reveals this demonic possession.

This leads me to second thing we can discover:

2.   Demonic forces love SECRECY.

In fact, I believe this secrecy is the number one tool of Satan. How long had this man been coming to this synagogue? How many years had this problem been kept a secret? Only when Jesus came did the problem see the light of day. Can you imagine that gathering of worshippers when the demons began to speak to Jesus? It’s not hard to envision that everyone was surprised and shocked at this man’s secret possession. Something that all of us can learn from this passage is that possession continues if we operate in a realm of secrecy.

In Matthew 8:16, it tells us that demon possession is not an isolated, simple problem. Actually, it is more widespread than believed. It says,

Matthew 8:16 (NLT) 16 That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command. . .

This says “many” were brought to Jesus. Now I cannot prove this Biblically from the scripture, but it is my opinion that the “many” were family members bringing sons and daughters, or grandparents bringing grandchildren, held captive by these demonic possession. But then they heard the good news about Jesus that he could cast out demons and they HAD to get their loved ones to him. When you look at Luke 4, Matthew 8, and other scriptures contained within the gospels, you see reference after reference of demon possession.

This leaves us with the question still today, “Can a person still be demon-possessed?” I believe there are five steps that combine into a formula for possession. While these may be different than in Biblical times, they are no less powerful.

Possession begins with, a

1. DECISION or CHOICE. It is my belief that every possession begins when a person opens the door, makes a decision, chooses to invite sin and Satan into their lives.

The next step is,

2. CONTINUATION. This is where a habit begins to develop. It’s harder at this step to stop a behavior because of the continuation of our prior decision. Now people chase after and long for a “high”, a “stupor”, a “rush”, and it’s all because they continued with their sin.

This leads to a

3. PROGRESSION. This is where the demonic forces inside of us say, “If you like this    (drug/drink/act, etc.)   , you will really like this     (drug/drink/act, etc.)   . Satan always has a plan to take us deeper and deeper and farther and farther into sin than we ever intended to go. The Devil never keeps us on a level playing field.

This takes us to the fourth step,

4. SEPARATION. Here’s where a person withdraws from family and friends in the pursuit of the “high”. The pursuit of that “high” becomes their true focal point, rational thinking and behavior is non-existent. This pursuit causes isolation from the very people who can help deliver us from its hold. Satan and his forces never want us to be around healthy folks, but always in a crowd where everyone is going toward the wrong direction.

Then there’s the final step, Satan’s number one tool,

5. SECRECY. This is how the possession gets more and more ingrained into our makeup, our personality, our minds, our lives. This step is where we want no one to know about the depth of our possession, our loss of control, our sin. How many today still struggle with secret habits?

But this series is not about demons or their power upon us. This series is about JESUS! Jesus is the solution! Jesus not only wants to change the world, but also wants to set people free from demonic possessions. If we return to Luke 4, we see a man in a synagogue gathering with fellow worshippers. The story opens with possession, but it ends with deliverance.

So what are the elements by which this deliverance comes?

A. JESUS MUST BE PRESENT. This is the main step to deliverance. This man’s possession in the synagogue would have continued on, perhaps for the remainder of his life, except that Jesus showed up on that Sabbath Day, to that synagogue, for that man, and the secret came out. That’s what happens when Jesus shows up in our lives!

Not only does Jesus need to be present and accepted by us, but the

B. WORD OF GOD MUST BE POWERFULLY DISPLAYED. On that Sabbath, in that synagogue, Jesus taught the Word of God and he taught it with great authority. People were amazed at his teaching. I still believe today that when the Word of God is present, Satan MUST show his hand and he must flee. The Light shines into Satan’s dark places.

Next, it takes,

C. THE RIGHT PEOPLE at THE RIGHT PLACE. Until Jesus came, the synagogue and those worshippers were never enough to achieve deliverance. But once Jesus came to the right people in the right place, then deliverance can happen.

My best advice to anyone who is still troubled by a dark side, who is still dealing with demons: develop the habit of being with the right people at the right place, do not keep secrets but be open, and do not heed Satan’s lies but instead hear and apply the truth of God’s Word. Jesus knows how to deal with the Dark Side. He wants to deliver you. Just like it was in Jesus’ day, people can still be delivered from demonic possession. Jesus can not only change the world, he can change US!

You can see this message being preached HERE

JESUS: Is He Who He Says He Is? Part 1

COACH’S PLAYBOOK

In this new series, we’re going to take a close look at this man named Jesus. No life has impacted our world more than the life of Jesus. Because of the way he lived, the way he interacted with people, and the way he taught, the world has never been the same. No, he was not in government nor a military leader. He was not an author or in any other way would be considered famous, yet his fame and popularity continues to grow, even after 2000 years. Let me share with you just a couple of examples of how Jesus’s life has impacted our lives even to this day.

You see, long ago there were some people who listened and remembered Jesus’s words during times of plague and grave illness. Due to the continued advancement of disease, families were forced to take their sick loved ones and cast them out into the streets where they had to die alone. But some Christ followers began to gather up the sick and took them to a place where they could be cared for and ministered to in Jesus’ name. Thus, if you were to trace the origins of hospitals today, they can all be traced back to Christ followers heeding what a carpenter once said: “I was sick and you visited me.”

The same is true for orphanages. Rulers believed children had no value. They couldn’t vote, couldn’t fight in armies, and couldn’t pay taxes. Children were nothing more than pebbles in a road. If they were born weak, they were considered of even less value and left to die on their own. But because of what a man said, “Let the little children come to me,” Christ followers gathered together these forgotten children and fed them, clothed them, housed them, and loved them. Where would our world be today if it were not for the loving kindness of these Christians?

It can also be said that there was one Christ follower who could not bear the thought of men dying alone on the battlefield. After they were wounded, he would take it up on himself to go and care for them, seeing to their needs, and sitting beside them as they died. Yes, the Red Cross was founded by a Christ follower.

One last area that is important to note is how Jesus treated the female gender. If you go to many Middle Eastern countries, you find women who are prohibited from being educated. Women are considered property and considered to have only a fraction of the value of males. There is no debate that Jesus valued and gave respect and honor to women.

So who is this man Jesus? Some people today say that Jesus was a good person who taught many good things, but that is as far as they will go. Others might say he was just a mythological character who didn’t really exist but there are some great stories about his character. So who is he?

The debate continues today and mainly focuses on these two aspects: Jesus’ claims to be God, and Jesus’s ability to forgive sin.

Let’s look at two passages of scripture that address these two issues.

Matthew 9:2-3 2 Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” 3 But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?”

John 10:31-38 31 Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” 33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.” 34 Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ 35 And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ 36 why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. 37 Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. 38 But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”

One thing we see in this second passage of scripture is:

1. It’s ok to ASK QUESTIONS, but I need to realize Jesus does have the ANSWERS.

Some people believe that you can’t ask God questions. Never ask “Why”? Never express any doubt or skepticism. But this passage in John shows us that questions are not only allowed, but actually encouraged. For us to honestly seek to discover whether Jesus is who he really says he is, does not offend God, he is not afraid of it. He actually looks forward to answering the question. What we need to know today is that Jesus really does want to introduce himself to us. Many politicians or public figures might want to dodge the tough questions, but Jesus does not. C.S. Lewis was the first to lay out an argument regarding Jesus’s claims and his power and ability to forgive sin. Lewis stated:

2. Jesus is either a LIAR, a LUNATIC, or Jesus is LORD.

Let’s consider these options a little closer. The world has seen many Liars. There are lots of people who can stand and tell a good story, whether it be a religious leader, politician, salesman, or a student as to why they don’t have their homework. Deception has long been a problem for those who are looking to believe. Many come down on the side that Jesus was not who he said he was, and he knew he was not who he said he was, but the charade had to go on. One of the problems with saying Jesus was a liar is explaining all of the fulfilled prophetic promises written hundreds of years before the Messiah’s birth. Anyone doing a study and knowing the statistical odds will quickly discover the chances of one person fulfilling two or three of these prophecies – especially the ones he had no control over whatsoever – are astronomical. But Jesus didn’t just fill one, two or three of these prophecies; he fulfills them all! The possibilities of Jesus being a Liar and still being who he said he was are statistically impossible.

There’s also the consideration that Jesus was a Lunatic. Many people have caught the world’s attention by making outrageous claims. But after some investigation, we find that some kind of severe mental illness or other psychological problem affected their behavior and caused them to act erratic and out of control. Some might say their mental capabilities were diminished in some way and they could not be held accountable for their actions. Yet, when you see Jesus, you never see a man out of control, no outrageous behavior, and no loss of his ability to reason or debate the greatest minds of the time. If anything, his ability to clearly answer questions so quickly shows and proves that Jesus was not a Lunatic.

So if Jesus was not a Liar, and he was not a Lunatic, then there is only one other choice: HE MUST BE WHO HE SAYS HE IS! He IS the Son of God. Jesus’ claims of being the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and even as he told Phillip, “When you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father,” his claims must be true. His ability to heal diseases and deformities on the outside was just to prove that he had the power to forgive sin on the inside where no one could ever see the spiritual healing being done.

In this series, I will be sharing with you that no one loves as Jesus loves. No one cares like Jesus cares. No one is as great a friend as Jesus is. No one offers grace like Jesus. If all of this is true, then there should be only one response for all of us. We must heed his words in Revelation 3:20 and,

3. INVITE JESUS IN!

Revelation 3:20 20 “Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me.

In 1975, I made the decision as a young man to invite Jesus Christ into my life. As I look back on that decision so many years ago, I can still say unequivocally that it is STILL the best decision that I have ever made. I would hands-down make that same decision all over again, even after knowing everything I know now. I am so glad I decided to follow Jesus. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He IS who he says he is!

Next week in this series I’m going to share with you how Jesus dealt with the dark side as he did battle with Satan and his demons.

You can see this message being preached HERE.

The Gospel in the Last Days

Coach’s Playbook:  Part 6

The movie producers of our world are fascinated with “end of the world”, doomsday-type theories. Hollywood loves to produce their movies like Independent Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and The Book of Eli. It’s interesting to note that those types of movies are being written and produced in unparalleled numbers. According to Wikipedia, prior to 1950 Hollywood only produced 3 of these types of movies. During the 1950’s, there were 7 such movies. The 1960’s saw 14, the 1970’s had 25, and the 1980’s had 32. Perhaps they thought a saturation point had been reached in the 1990’s so they only produced 32. Then 9/11 seemed to renew their fervor and from 2000-2009 there were 59 movies. So how is Hollywood doing from 2010 to the present? 39 movies have been produced about the last days in the past 3½ years!

This phenomena is not confined to movies. Even the Weather Channel has a new TV series called Forecasting the End. When you look on the internet, the webpages are almost numberless with all of the doomsday theories and lists of websites that will tell you how the world will come to an end. These lists most definitely contain an option for a massive war which produces either a nuclear holocaust or the use of chemical or biological weapons. If it’s not war, then the end may come from extreme weather, like drought or flood. Perhaps a Super Volcano eruption will occur where one volcano eruption will trigger an underground disturbance of such magnitude that one volcano after another will erupt filling the atmosphere with poisonous gases that wipes out the population of the world. Let’s forget about war and weather and consider that something from outer space may strike the earth, like a meteor or comet. Then there’s the space option that aliens will invade the earth. And of course our young people, with their fascination for the “undead” or zombies, believe that the world will end with a zombie inhabitation.

Hollywood and the media of our world may be fascinated with theories of doomsday scenarios, but let me share with you today some truth. It’s found in the Bible. The Bible does make clear that one day the world will come to an end. Just as surely as there was a beginning, so there will also be an end. As believers and church leaders, we can be consumed and get caught up in all of the last days/doomsday theories, or we can be doing exactly what Jesus told us to do. Jesus said in Mark 16:

Mark 16:15 (NKJV) 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Jesus restated our commission in Acts 1:8 just before his ascension back to heaven:

Acts 1:8 (NKJV) 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The church should not be offended with this absolute responsibility; Jesus just wants us to do what He was busy doing while here on earth. In Luke 19, Jesus explained to us exactly what He was doing here:

Luke 19:10 (NKJV) 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Let me share with you now the final message in this series, The Gospel. Let’s look at the Gospel in the Last Days.

I’ve already shared with you that the word “Gospel” is not found a single time in the Old Testament. It is found some 103 times in the New Testament, and it is found in the book of Revelation only one time. 

Revelation 14:6-7 (NKJV) 6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth–to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

Notice how God wants to make sure that the gospel will be declared in the last days. He is so concerned about it that He will commission an angel to accomplish this. The angel will proclaim the “everlasting gospel”. Just think about it: if the church is no longer present, having been raptured out by the time the events in Revelation 14 come to pass, God will still want to make sure that the gospel is preached to the inhabitants of the world. Our job as a church and individual believers is to make sure that we do our part to carry the gospel throughout our lifetimes. We must give it to our children, extended family, friends and neighbors, so that it can continue to be passed on through them, all the way to the Last Days, until the church is raptured out.

One more passage of scripture I want to share does not mention the word “gospel”, but it demonstrates God’s desire to have the gospel present in the last days, even in the absence of the New Testament church. In Revelation 11, we see that God WILL have two special witnesses:

Revelation 11:3-7 (NKJV) 3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. 6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. 7 When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.

Unfortunately, time does not allow me to get into great speculation of who these two witnesses might be, but I do want to take just a moment and expound upon these two witnesses. Scholars do have some opinions on who these two witnesses may be. Perhaps one of these witnesses will be Elijah, since we know that he used fire in his Old Testament ministry just as these two witnesses will use fire in the last days. Another option might be Moses, since he has experience with striking plagues upon a land and turning water into blood. Elijah and Moses also met with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. While those two might be the prominent choices, a couple other names also make the speculative list: there’s John the Baptist who got to announce Christ’s first appearance and just might get to be the announcer of Jesus’s second coming; and then there’s Enoch, because he, like Elijah, did not taste death. Remember that these names are only speculation. Really, we have no idea who the two witnesses will be. But we can have two clear ideas about the gospel in the Last Days. The first is:

1.  THE GOSPEL NEVER EXPIRES. 

The angel of Revelation 14:6 describes the gospel as being “everlasting.” Thus, the gospel never has an expiration date. To prove this, we see that it will be impossible for these two witnesses to be killed by any world leader or even the Devil himself. These two men cannot be harmed or hurt. The gospel they proclaim is too powerful! They will never expire until God says it’s time for them to expire. We can take hope in that same good news that nothing in this world will truly be able to harm those who have received the gospel. The body may be destroyed, but our souls, implanted with the gospel, will never die and can never be killed. The gospel doesn’t spoil, like expired food; it doesn’t lose its power like expired medicine. The gospel is just as powerful today as it was in Jesus’s day and in John’s day when he wrote the book of Revelation. The gospel never expires.

2.  THE GOSPEL IS NEVER LIMITED. 

Jesus said in his Great Commission that we are to go into all the world. We are to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The angel with the everlasting gospel was to preach to every nation, tribe, tongue and people. By the way, this is why General Baptist proclaims the gospel to everyone in various places around the world, partnering with other denominations to reach all areas of the world. The gospel is not only for the shores of the United States, but also for the farthest reaches of our world. The gospel is NEVER to be limited.

Let me wrap up this series by proposing that we ask ourselves these questions:

Since the witnesses are not named, what if God chose ME to be one of his witnesses?

Will I be prepared in that day to be bold and not ashamed of the gospel?

These two witnesses will have huge assignments. They will proclaim the gospel continuously until God decides their job is finished and their lives are over. Revelation 11:7 says, “When they finish their testimony . . .” God has allowed us to remain in our homes, with our families, at our jobs, in our communities, so that we can finish our testimony. 

Am I telling my story continuously of how the gospel saved me until that one day that God says I am finished?

May God help us to deliver the gospel all the way to the Last Days.

Watch this week and last weeks sermon at http://vimeo.com/75886165.  

 

The Gospel – It Is Only The Beginning

 

 Coach’s Playbook

 

Jesus Lived

 Jesus Died

Jesus Substituted

Jesus Rose

Jesus Saves

In this series, we have discovered that the gospel is the message of the story of Jesus’s life, death, burial and resurrection. The gospel is not the end of the journey in our search for Christ – it is only the beginning. The gospel is more than just saving us for heaven – the gospel is about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, it is true that the gospel saves souls. Yes, it is true that at one moment you can be walking away from God on a highway to hell, and the next moment receive the gospel and be walking with Him on a straight and narrow pathway to heaven. Therefore, the gospel is more than fire insurance – just meant to save us from a fiery hell. It is about a continuing relationship with Jesus Christ, a new lifestyle, a new motivation for living.

Let me share with you perhaps the greatest example in the Bible of a 180° turn in an individual’s life, proving that receiving the gospel is only the beginning. In Acts 9, we read about a troubled man named Saul.

Acts 9:1-8 1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them-both men and women-back to Jerusalem in chains. 3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” 5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8 Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus.

Acts 9:19-20 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”

Acts 9:28 28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.

What I want you to see in these particular passages of scripture is the radical change that happened in Saul’s life. In the beginning of Acts 9, you notice how he was working against God, intent on a mission to destroy and annihilate the church of Christ. But by the conclusion of Acts 9, he is working for God. When we think of him now, we know him as the Apostle Paul, the great church planter, missionary, and New Testament author.

In my research for this series I came across this profound statement:

“Receiving the gospel is not a one time inaugural moment, but a continuation!” (Author unknown)

How true this statement is. We must recognize that when we receive the gospel, it is not a one-time event but a continuous journey. The proof of our receipt of the gospel is visible by the changes within us. The gospel changes our:

1. DIRECTION

Clearly in this Bible passage we see that Paul’s direction was radically changed – a 180° change! We see how he was relentless in his campaign against Jesus by arresting, torturing and killing Christians, definitely going in an extreme, opposite direction of God’s plan for his life. Then, when he encountered Christ and did an about-face, Paul found himself preaching convincingly, for the rest of his life, that Jesus really was who he says he was. This proves that the gospel was not a one-time event for Saul; it was only the beginning of his life. And that beginning for each of us starts with a change in our Direction.

The gospel also changes our:

2. DEVOTION

Before Christ, Saul devoted himself to a diligent crusade against Christ. These extreme measures captured his full attention, his full time and his full energy. After receiving Christ, he found himself devoted to a different crusade – the advancement of the gospel. Just like the new believers did after the Day of Pentecost. Notice their “devotion”.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The evidence of the gospel in our lives is not to be discovered just one day in heaven. It should be seen through what we devote ourselves to each and every day. What do you focus your attention on? Where and how do you fill your time? Where does Christ and His story fit into the priorities of your life? The evidence of our Devotion demonstrates that the gospel is only the beginning of our spiritual journey.

Finally, the gospel also changes our:

3. DESTINATION

I believe there are a lot of people who have had some exposure to the teachings of the church and of Christ, whether great or small, that desire to have eternal life in heaven. They truly want to live in heaven after they die. But our final Destination is determined not by our wants, desire or good intentions, but by our Direction.

As a pastor, I often have people say to me: “I don’t know how I ended up here.” “I didn’t mean to get addicted.” “I didn’t mean to hurt my marriage.” In other words, they did not think their Direction made that much of a difference in their overall life. They wanted a different outcome, but the Direction they chose to go did not move them toward the right Destination. Likewise, we can want, desire and intend to go to heaven all we care to, but if the Direction we are going is taking us away from the gospel, away from Christ’s teaching, away from His church, we will not end up at a heavenly Destination.

The gospel, when it changes our Direction and our Devotion, ultimately changes our Destination.

The most prudent thing anyone can do is to look at their life right here, right now, and ask:

“Where am I going right now?”

Then look into the future and ask:

“If I continue in this same direction, where will I be 5 years from now? 10 years from now? 20 years from now? After I take my last breath? Where will I be?”

After we take this inventory of our life, if we can’t honestly say that we are going to end up where we want to, today is the best day for us to change our Direction, Devotion and Destination and believe the Gospel.

There’s only one more sermon in this series that you don’t want to miss: The Gospel in the Last Days.

See you next week!