Friday, July 29, 2011

John 17 – The High Priestly Prayer

Greetings Project Ezra! This week’s reading is John chapter 17, commonly called Jesus’ high priestly prayer. So this week is back to the basics, and we’ll focus the preaching on eternal life and salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

At the beginning of the chapter Jesus states that eternal life is to know the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. The exclusivity of Christ in salvation is very clear, and Jesus spends a good amount of the chapter discussing the relationship between the father and the Son. A great emphasis is given to the glory of God, and how God has given that glory to Christ. So the focus for the beginning of the reading is the nature of Christ and His deity, His authority and right to judge, and the fact that He came and died for our sins anyway. The creator, sustainer, and judge of the universe died on a Roman cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Now THAT is good news!

I pray this outline will be a blessing.

All for His glory,
Dan

READ JOHN 17

We are here today because we care about you, because we want you to understand, and because you need to understand, this truth.

Jesus says to the Father “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” So today, hear that truth, and consider carefully how you will respond.

The truth is there is only one true God, the God of the bible.

Re-read and emphasize verse 3

We want you to know this God, because only through Him, and through Jesus Christ whom He has sent, can you receive eternal life. And we want you to know this eternal life.

Jesus is not just another famous religious figure. Jesus is not just another wise teacher or prophet.

Jesus said He was not of this world, and He truly was not, and is not.

Jesus Christ is the creator Himself, in human flesh. He was and is God in human form.

Hear now what the bible says about Jesus Christ, and what He says about Himself.

Jesus says that God loved Him before the foundation of the world.

He said that He existed in the beginning, and was given glory by God himself.

READ and explain John 1:1-3, 14

But Jesus is more than just the creator. He is also the sustainer and judge of the world.

The book of Hebrews says that Jesus Christ is the exact imprint of God’s nature, and that He upholds the universe by the word of His power. God says of Jesus Christ, His Son, “Your throne, oh God, is forever and ever.”

Jesus said that God had given Him authority over all flesh. That means you and I are under Jesus Christ’s authority, whether you believe in Him or not.

Authority has been given to Christ to judge the living and the dead, and one day we will all stand before Him.

So, when you stand before the judge of the universe, how will you fare?

Will you be seen as good and righteous, or wicked and sinful, and thus deserving of judgment?

God has written His law on your heart, and your conscience bears witness to your condition before God.

If you consider yourself with a tender conscience, you will see that you are not right before God on your own, and neither am I

On that Day of Judgment, you will see yourself in truth, even if you don’t today.

On that day, you will stand before God, knowing that lying lips are an abomination
to Him, and knowing that you have lied.

You will stand before God, knowing that His name is above all other names, and you will know that you have used that name disrespectfully, and thus are a blasphemer.

You will stand before God and will know that you have committed adultery, either with your body or through lustful, impure thoughts

You will know that the true God is not like the god you have created in your mind to suit yourself, and know that you are an idolater.

You will stand before God and fully realize just how good, and gracious God has been in providing for you, and know how covetous you have been, always desiring more.

You will know, as I will know, just how short we have fallen of God’s holy standard.

We will see our sin in truth, and see God’s glory and holiness in truth, and begin to understand just how deserving of judgment we are.

Because God is just and good, and because He will and must punish sin completely, He created Hell.

The bible describes hell as fire and darkness and pain which will last for eternity. And it is exactly what we deserve for our rebellion again God.

Any sin is infinitely sinful against an infinitely perfect, holy God.

But thanks be to God, that he is more than just a judge, and a God of wrath.

The judge of the universe chose to come to earth for the sake of the condemned.

Jesus Christ, the creator and judge, humbled Himself, took on human flesh, and lived among us.

Then 30 or so years into that life he willingly went to a Roman Cross.

On that cross God the father poured out His wrath upon His son. The bible says it pleased the Father to crush him.

Thus Jesus Christ became the perfect sacrifice for sin who, because of who He was, could eradicate our sin forever, and thus commute our death sentence.

Then He rose again on the third day, as He has said He would, and proved His power over death.

Now Jesus sits at God’s right hand as our priest. The book of Hebrews says He is able to save completely because He always lives to intercede for us.

The bible says that there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.

You may not like the idea that Jesus alone can save us, and may think that is unfair and too exclusive

But truth by its nature is exclusive. When you say something is true you are, by implication, saying something else is false.

Jesus Christ said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”

He also said “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

That is what you must do. Repent, or turn from your sin, and believe in the Gospel, the good news that Christ died and rose to defeat sin and death, and that only through Him can you be saved.

There are only two choices; eternal life and eternal death. Eternal life is in Christ, and in Christ alone.

If you trust in yourself, your own good works, your sincerity in following another way, or anything other than Jesus Christ, you will spend eternity in Hell.

We don’t want that for you. And God said He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn and live. Turn and live today!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Acts 7 – God’s Promises and Patience

Greetings Project Ezra! This week’s reading is Acts chapter 7. In this chapter Stephen is standing before the Jewish council, reminding them of their heritage and history. It is a history of promises fulfilled on God’s part, and promises broken again and again on Israel’s part. There couldn’t be a more perfect example of God’s patience and mercy! It’s also a good reminder that His timing is not our timing. God chose to fulfill His promises to Israel over thousands of years, and some of His promises, regarding the end times and the final judgment, are yet to be fulfilled. Yet this history still shows His faithfulness, and also shows the extent of His mercy, even to those who disobeyed him time and time again.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, many folks choose to look at God, particularly as He is described in the Old Testament, as an angry, vengeful God. There is actually some truth to that claims, though not in the way most people think, since their fundamental misunderstanding of God’s character leads them to carry these ideas to the wrong conclusion. Yes, the bible does say that God is angry at the wicked (Psalm 7:11) and who will bring vengeance on those who reject the sacrifice of the Son (Hebrews 10:30). Justice and judgment are more than appropriate reactions from God to our rebellion. But, while God did execute justice on many occasions, the occasions of His patience and mercy for those who cried out to Him are as or more numerous. The nation of Israel, being frequent and obvious recipients of both of these, and to whom God had given verbal revelation of both through His prophets again and again, had more than adequate evidence of God’s direct actions.

While the evidence we have been given is different than that given to Israel, we have still been clearly shown that God exists, and what He expects of us. Even without His written word, the evidences of creation and conscience are clear. So let’s use this passage, as Stephen did, to point out to people that God has made His existence and His will plain to them, and urge them to avoid the kind of foolish behavior and rebellion that the nation of Israel engaged in. Let’s plead with them to repent and believe the gospel.

All for His glory
Dan


READ ACTS 7

In this passage, Stephen, an early follower of Jesus Christ, is giving his listeners, the Jewish council, a short reminder of their history and heritage.

Among other things, he is reminding them of God’s promises to them, and how God had revealed Himself.

The nation of Israel’s heritage is that of a people of God’s promise. Their position was unique, and very special.

Their history is a history of God redeeming His people, and eventually, through those people, redeeming all mankind, since God’s word said the Messiah would come through the Jews.

For thousands of years, starting with the creation, God has been revealing Himself to man. And since that time, since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, when we chose to rebel and go our own way, there has been a promise of redemption.

Stephen was reminding the Jews of how patient God had been with them, as He has been patient with us.

God sent His messengers, to make His will clear to them.

God revealed Himself through many miraculous works.

Yet every time God acted, the Jews rebelled, often almost immediately, and more often then not, they attacked or even killed God’s messengers.

In fact, just after finishing his message, after reminding the Jews of their history of hypocrisy and rejecting God’s messengers, Stephen himself became the first
Christian believer to die for his faith, being stoned to death by those he was trying to call back to God

Yet God continued His testimony of faithfulness and patience through other messengers, the church fathers, and through His inspired word. And He still does so today.

As the Israelites did in the days of Christ and His disciples, many of you have
willingly chosen to turn away from God.

You may say that if you saw the kind of works the Jews did, you would choose to believe in God.

But Jesus Himself said “If you do not believe Moses and the prophets, you will not even believe if someone rises from the dead.”

Man’s problem is not one of evidence, but of morality. If you have not turned to Christ then you, like the nation of Israel and the rest of mankind, love your sin and hate God’s law.

But God’s law, given through Moses and the Jews, is not a burden, but a gift. It is another way that God has blessed us, another example of God patiently making His will know.

God’s law is meant to lead us to repentance.

Romans 7:7 says:
If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."

You may think Christianity is just about following rules, and that all the law does is make people feel guilty. And you would be partially right. We should feel guilty. We feel guilty because we ARE guilty!

The bible says one day, every one of us will stand before God and give an account for everything we ever did, for every time we failed to act when we should have, and even for every careless word and thought.

One day you will stand before a God who says that lying lips are an abomination to Him, knowing you have lied.

You will stand before a God whose name is above all names, and you will know that you have used that name without proper respect, or even as a curse word, and thus are a blasphemer.

You will stand before a God who gave sex as a gift, and for pleasure, but which He gave only to be enjoyed within the context of biblical marriage. And you will know that you have committed adultery, in your imagination if not in physical fact.

You will see that the true God is not like the god you have created in your mind to suit yourself, and realize that you have committed idolatry.

You will stand before a God that is more just, and more holy, than you can imagine, and know that you are unholy, and deserving of that justice.

God says that those who are guilty will thrown into hell to suffer for eternity. Hell is a very real, very terrible place.

And the biblical dilemma is this: If God is good and just, He can not simply forgive you and still be consistent with His perfect, holy character. He must see that justice is satisfied.

God says in Proverbs 17:15
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

God’s word also tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

Someone had to die for sin! And God, in His mercy and love, sent His own son to die in our place.

Isaiah 53 says it pleased the Father to crush Him, to crush His only Son.

On the cross, 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God against sinful mankind.

Jesus Christ, God the Son, chose to lay down His own life, so that those who come to Him would be saved.

In John 10:18 Jesus said:
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.

1 Thessalonians tells us that Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come

So how can you escape God’s wrath?

You must repent of your sins, or turn from them, and trust in Christ alone to save you.

The bible says God gave us eternal life, and that life is in His son (1 Jn. 5:11-12). It says He who has the Son has life, but he who does not have the Son does not have life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Only Christ was God in the flesh. Only His infinite value could pay the infinite fine for our sins. Only He died for sins, so only through Him can you be saved.

So please, today, turn from you sins and trust in Christ alone to save you. Put your trust in Him only, and totally.

Please don’t be stubborn, and stiff-necked, resisting the Holy Spirit, as the Jewish leaders did.

Don’t be angry at the message or the messenger.

Don’t trust in your own goodness, and don’t turn to idols.

God’s patience will not last forever, so while He is patient, while you are still alive, turn from sin and trust in Christ.

It could be that the only reason you still draw breath is God’s patience with you, waiting for you to repent and trust in Him. So don’t presume on His patience.

God’s word says today is the appointed time, today is the day of salvation! So please, trust in Christ and be saved today.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jeremiah 7 - The Bible and Hypocrisy

Greetings Project Ezra! This week’s reading is Jeremiah chapter 7. We used this as our chapter just a little less than a year ago, but it is so relevant to what we are likely to deal with on the street, and in our every day Christian lives, that I thought it was appropriate to re-visit it. As Solomon said, there is truly nothing new under the sun. The issues addressed in these scriptures are the same issues we deal with today. Technology has changed as time has rolled on, but human hearts have not. This chapter could focus on a number of issues, but we will be looking specifically at hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is one of the biggest complaints you are likely to hear from non-believers, or from professing believers that choose not to attend a church or take part in “organized religion”. We are told “Christians are hypocrites!” and no one wants to be around hypocrites. It’s true to a certain extent that all Christians can be hypocritical, since any true believer would confess that they still struggle with sin. None of us will be perfected in this area until we reach heaven, though by God’s grace and the power of the Spirit, we are being sanctified day by day. But while some people are so determined to find any excuse to deny Christ that they will grasp at any straw in their attempt to discredit a Christian’s testimony and declare them a hypocrite, most are referring to those to claim the name of Christ but give no indication, by their behavior, that they take what they claim seriously.

The bible not only has an answer for hypocrisy, but predicts it. It says many will claim to trust in God, but do exactly the opposite. But God doesn’t turn a blind eye to this, or say it’s OK. He says those who claim His name but continue in their idolatry, living as if He doesn’t exist, are liars and the truth is not in them. Matthew 7 said that many, maybe even most, of those who claim His name will be turned away on the Day of Judgment, and He will tell them “I never knew you.” This is sobering to say the least, and should cause us to examine ourselves. It should also encourage us, not to try to categorize everyone we know into the “Saved” and “Unsaved” categories, but to encourage people to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), as scripture commands, and not assume they are right with God. After all, eternity is a long time to be wrong.

I pray this outline is a blessing.

All for His glory,
Dan

P.S. As you have probably noted, I don’t always write out every detail of every section of the gospel presentation every week. Part of that is in the interest of time, but primarily I want to encourage each of you to make sure you familiarize yourself with the relevant verses of scripture, and the basic gospel framework, so you can learn to share the gospel comfortably without an outline in front of you. If you have questions about which verses to use in a particular situation, go to past posts, or send me an email. I’d be happy to chat with you!


READ JEREMIAH 7


Today’s chapter talks about a major complaint of those at odds with the church; hypocrisy

In this chapter the prophet Jeremiah is commanded by God Himself to address hypocrites within His church, and give them a correction from God

Some of you may believe that all Christians are hypocrites, and would say that proves that Christianity is false

Are you staying away from the church because of the hypocrisy?

It is true that to some extent all Christians are hypocrites, since we all sin. No true Christian would claim to be perfect. But listen to how God addresses the hypocrites in Jeremiah 7, those who claim His name but live as if He doesn’t exist.

"Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'—only to go on doing all these abominations?

Hypocrisy in expected in the bible. In fact, God has another word for hypocrites. He calls them liars!

God’s word says not all those who claim the faith are of the faith. In fact, the bible is clear that many who claim to follow God, He will turn away.

Matthew 7:21-23 says – "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will
I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

1 John 1:6 says - If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

If someone says they are Christian and gives consistent evidence that they are not, they are probably not a Christian at all.

In fact the bible says a true follower of Christ CAN NOT go on sinning!

1 John 3:9-10 - No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

God is clear that He will severely punish those who claim to follow Him and yet do not.

But before you decide to point a finger at everyone around you, or at me, are you a hypocrite?

I want to encourage you to do what the bible says. It says in Philippians 2:12 to
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. It says in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. So as you are listening please do so.

So ask yourself, have you kept God’s law? Whether you claim to follow the God of the bible or not, one day you WILL stand before Him, and give an account of your life.

God is a just judge who must punish sin, so please don’t look at your sin lightly.

This chapter addresses five specific areas of God’s law, five of the 10 Commandments in fact. How have you done in keeping them?

GO THROUGH THEFT, MURDER, ADULTERY, LIEING AND IDOLOTRY, FROM VS. 9


If this is God’s standard of goodness, we are all hypocrites, all deserving of God’s judgment and hell

TALK ABOUT THE REALITY OF HELL. GIVE VERSES

Only one person ever lived a truly Godly life, with no hypocrisy. Only one person ever truly lived up to God’s standard for goodness.

That person was Jesus Christ, God in human flesh. The creator Himself humbled Himself, and walked among us to pay the price for our hypocrisy.

TALK ABOUT THE CROSS


Jesus did more than just die. On the third day He rose again from the dead, as He prophesied He would, and proved His power over death.

I Corinthians 15:54-57 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

So what does this mean to you? How can you have victory over death? Only through Jesus Christ.

TALK ABOUT REPENTANCE AND FAITH

Remember, eternity is a long time to be wrong, and none of us is promised a tomorrow. Turn to Christ now while He has graciously given you time.

Friday, July 8, 2011

1 Samuel 12 – God’s Goodness and Patience

Hello Project Ezra! This week’s reading is 2 Samuel chapter 12, and the focus for our recommended chapter will be the goodness of God. Many of you have likely heard arguments in the past for the vast difference between the angry, vindictive God of the Old Testament verses the good, loving, forgiving God of the New Testament. While there are differences between the old and new covenants to be sure, God and His character have never changed. Those who focus on the angry Old Testament God generally want to argue that God is either not worth believing or not worth worshipping because of His “evil” character, and those who focus only on the love of Christ in the New Testament want a god who smiles at their sin, and will forgive them without question no matter what they do. Obviously, neither of these descriptions is accurate.

In truth, God demonstrates His love and patience over and over again in the Old Testament, particularly in the case of the nation of Israel. Although God certainly did demonstrate His wrath, His patience with Israel was amazing. The nation of Israel was given greater blessings than any other nation on earth, and delivered from attack and conquest many times. Yet even mere weeks after the exile from Egypt, where they saw God work in miraculous ways, they still doubted and rebelled. After seeing God send plague after plague on Egypt in response to Pharaoh’s hard heart, watching the Red Sea part for them and then swallow up Pharaoh’s army, and watching God lead them with a pillar of smoke by day and of fire by night, they could not wait even forty days for Moses to return from meeting with God before they were grumbling and creating false gods. God did demonstrate His wrath, and rightfully so, but when He could have rightly destroyed the entire nation of Israel, He did not. And this pattern repeats itself throughout the Old Testament.

I am praying that this chapter will help communicate several things. One is God’s amazing goodness and patience toward the nation of Israel, despite their rebellion. Secondly, God’s goodness and patience toward us, though if we are outside of the grace of Jesus Christ we are in rebellion just as Israel was, and are just as deserving of judgment as they were. And third, that God will not be patient for ever, and there will be a day of reckoning for those who continue to rebel against Him. And of course, the only remedy to our rebellion and just judgment is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And there is no greater demonstration of God’s goodness and love that that.

The outline is below. I pray it will be a blessing.

All for His glory,
Dan


Tonight I will be reading a chapter for the word of God, from the Old Testament, written prior to the life of Jesus.

If you have read the Old Testament, or heard any of its stories, you may have come to the conclusion that God is angry or vindictive, and thus, if He is real, He is not worthy of worship.

I would ask you to take the time to listen to this account of God’s treatment of the nation of Israel. When you hear of the amazing patience God had with a people who constantly rebelled against Him, you may have a different perspective.

READ 1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 12


God was amazingly good and patient to the nation of Israel, yet they rebelled against God time and time again. This passage is just one example among many.

God sent prophets, judges and kings to lead, guide and warn Israel, yet they continued to rebel.

You and I are very much like the nation of Israel.

God is good, and has been amazingly good to us. He has given us far more than we deserve.

Yet we have been, or are now, in rebellion against God.

Though we may proclaim His name, we very often live as if He doesn’t exist.
Everything we love or desire more than God is an idol, and we all have made many idols.

Or you may choose to deny Him completely, and pretend that He doesn’t exist, despite the evidence to the contrary.

You may say that there in not adequate evidence to believe in God, but His existence is obvious from His creation. On the day when we stand before Him, you will not be able to plead ignorance. You will be without excuse.

The mere fact that God allows our continued existence is evidence of his mercy and goodness.

Take a moment to look at God’s law, His standard for goodness, and we will see that we fall short.

God’s law is written on our hearts. We know when we have done wrong, and our conscience bears witness to our rebellion.

GO THROUGH THE LAW


Anyone who looks at God’s law honestly knows that he has fallen short.

And because of God’s goodness, and His justice, He hates and must punish evil. That is why hell exists.

Every one of us, myself included, deserves an eternity of torment for our moral crimes against the perfect, holy God.

But God performed an unbelievable act of love and mercy toward a rebellious people.

God demonstrated His love in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We were sinners deserving of judgment, and Jesus paid our fine, in His blood, on the
cross.

Jesus Christ, God the Son, humbled Himself, came to earth, lived a perfect human life, and then died a perfect death, providing the perfect sacrifice for our sin.

Then He rose again on the third day, and is seated at the right hand of God as our advocate, our lawyer for the Day of Judgment.

So now, if we do as God’s word says, repent of our sins and put our trust in Christ alone for our salvation, then when we stand before God on the day of judgment, instead of seeing our sin He will see Christ’s righteousness laid to our account.

There is no greater act of love and mercy that could ever be done. And there is no greater demonstration of God’s goodness.

Yet God will not be patient for ever. There will be a day of accounting, and none of us know when that day will come.

I hope every one of you has a long, happy life. But in truth, none of us is promised a tomorrow.

There will come a day when we will stand before God’s throne, and will be judged by our actions. And as 2 Samuel 12 says, if you still do wickedly, you will be swept away.

But God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn and live.

It may be that the only reason you are still drawing breath, is because God is being
patient with you, waiting for you to come to repentance.

Do not presume on God’s patience. Repent and trust in Him, while He has graciously given you time. Turn and live today.