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Psalm 121

Title: The Lord is my Keeper

Text: Psalm 121

Introduction: A kindergarten teacher told every student to draw a picture of what was important to them. In the back of the room, Johnny began to labor over his drawing. Everybody else finished and handed in their picture but Johnny didn’t. He was still drawing. The teacher graciously walked back and put her arm around Johnny’s shoulder and said, “Johnny, what are you drawing?” He didn’t look up; he just kept on working feverishly at his picture.

He said, “God.”

“But Johnny,” she said gently, “no one knows what God looks like.”

He answered, “They will when I’m through.”


Today I want to describe God to you in such a way that you’ll know Him better. I can’t say you’ll know what he looks like when I’m done, but I hope you’ll have a deeper, richer understanding of Him.


Open your copy of God’s Word to Psalm 119. I want to show you the flow of Psalms. Psalm 120;

This morning we move from Psalm 120 – a statement of distress and struggle, to a psalm of God’s magnificence. This Psalm is really all about God: His greatness and His goodness.

What a great lesson – even before we begin – to take our eyes off of us, off of our problems and focus in on God.

In this situation of distress and struggle, the Psalmist changes his tune (pardon the pun).

The Psalmist asks a rhetorical question to begin with: rd v 1 – I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

Let me give you some context quickly. This Psalm was originally set in the context of the King asking this question and responding to himself. In v.2 he answered himself. Then, in v.3, the Priest would take over the Psalm with this amazing declaration of God’s greatness. When the Israelites returned from exile, they used this Psalm in the context of themselves – those returning from exile. They would speak in v1-2 and the Priest would make the declaration in v3-8;

  • Confession of Faith: Where does my help come from?
  • Confidence in His Character:
    • He is steadfast, causing us to be Immoveable,
    • He is faithful. People will let you down. A Human Guard will fall asleep while on duty, while on the wall. Not so with God.
    • He is your protection, your guard, and your keeper.
    • Not just in this moment, but in your future, He can be trusted.

Transition: so, let’s begin with this first section – the voice of the people who are beginning their journey.

From where does my help come? They know.

I.     A Confession of Faith in the Creator God. (1-2)

exp.: rd v 1a; the hills, or mountains. There is this idea of lifting up the eyes to see where God is. You’ve probably noticed that Israel – against God’s demands, by the way – offered sacrifices on the ‘high places’. These folks had a perception that God dwelt on high and wanted to offer their sacrifices on high. But God told them that sacrificing on the high places was what the previous occupants of the land did and they weren’t to be like those people. The Israelites were given specific commands about sacrificing. Again, I don’t think this is a concerned question (i.e., like I’m scared and I don’t know where I’ll get the help I need.) I think this is rhetorical in nature. Rd v 1a again; rd 1b; I love this word ‘help’.

  • Help: We often think of help as that assistance that makes work or toil easier. That isn’t what this word means in Hebrew. Help in Hebrew doesn’t mean assist. It means without assistance, without intervention I would die or I would fail – I would not make it. The English idea of help has weakened this word. Consider: rescue, redeem or
  • Lord: Yahweh. God’s covenant name. And then, there is an answer you might not expect. My help comes from the Creator God – Yahweh. This is the very first characteristic we learn about God in Genesis 1.1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

ill.: As one stands in Jerusalem, at the Temple, you can see the mountains which surround the city – or, I guess in today’s understanding, make up the city. I was told there are 7 of these summits. I was drawn to them one day while I was at the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem. I was rooming up on a higher floor and stepped out onto the balcony where I was counting cell phone towers and noticed how the hills looped around the city. They are indeed impressive. I imagine a king making this statement and being encouraged and enthused, as he would see these mountains tops that God created. This same Yahweh, who created these massive, impressive features, is the same God who will rescue the king in his time of need. And it would be the same for the Israelite pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem. It would be a tremendous visual aid.

app.: This first, opening statement then wouldn’t be a question of concern, but rather a Confession of Faith.

t.s.: Based upon this confession, the priest would now declare his confidence in God. And this confidence is based upon God’s Character. Let’s look at that now:

II.   A Declaration of Confidence in the Character of God’s (3-8)

exp.: rd 3a; He will not let your foot be moved; this definitely fits with the journey motif of the pilgrims. For the king, the idea was that the king might be assassinated if his human guard failed him; rd 3b; He might ‘slip’ into Sheol or tumble into Sheol if his human guard fails him. But, as a reminder, The Creator God we serve is not like the ‘gods’ of the people or the human guards of the king. God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the one who keeps Israel, he will neither slumber nor sleep. Rd v4; So, here is our first characteristic as presented in Psalm 121:

  1. He is Steadfast. He will not be moved. So then, neither will you be moved.
  2. He is Protection. Rd v 5-6; The Lord stands to your right hand. Therefore, you are covered in the shade created by such a great God. Modern-day statements similar to this one: He hides you in the shadow of the Cross. Now, take yourself to the desert areas of the Holy Land. Try to walk from Jericho to Jerusalem in the heat of the day. The Sun would eat your lunch. I’m guessing that none of us could make that journey. First, we’d probably get lost. 2nd, we would become dehydrated and overheat. We would die out there in the barren land. The night wouldn’t be any better for us. It gets cold at night.

I see two different spheres of influence here. One is that of people. God protects his king in the one instance, and God protects his people in the 2nd instance. The 2nd sphere deals with nature. The elements can bring destruction, but God protects his king or his people from nature, too.

This isn’t the only time we see characteristics of God. The Bible is filled with “the Lord is” statements:

Today we read that the Lord is your keeper. I thought of some other verses that describe what the Lord is to me, to us and I decided to search my Bible for statements about the Lord. This is what I found: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The Lord is my strength and my song. The Lord is my refuge. The Lord is my banner. The Lord is holy. The Lord is with us. The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in love. The Lord is our inheritance. The Lord is mighty. The Lord is among us (in our midst). The Lord is Peace. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. The Lord is righteous. The Lord is able. The Lord is a stronghold. The Lord is king. The Lord is my cup and my portion. The Lord is my light. The Lord is my shield. The Lord is powerful. The Lord is upright. The Lord is good. The Lord is near. The Lord is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. The Lord is robed in majesty and glory. The Lord is merciful and gracious. The Lord is at your right hand. The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens. The Lord is on my side. The Lord is faithful. The Lord is a fountain of life. The Lord is the Maker of all. The Lord is safe for all who trust him. The Lord is justice. The Lord is exalted. The Lord is the judge. The Lord is the lawgiver. The Lord is our righteousness. The Lord is Awesome. The Lord is God. The Lord is the everlasting God. The Lord is the true God.

And I didn’t even type up all of them! I wonder how many there are? Someone could take each of those statements and create a devotional book expounding upon all of the declarations of who God is!

3. He is Eternal. In this 3rd declaration, the Psalmist moves from images and metaphors to generalizations with the purpose of expressing God’s steadfastness and his protection, not just for this moment, but forevermore. Rd v7-8;

  • For the king – this would be a statement that God would be with the king as he went out to battle and as he returned home.
  • For the Israelites – it would be a statement that God would go with them in their going out to the field to work and when they returned in the evening to their home.
  • For those in exile – it would be a declaration that God was indeed with them as they were sent away and that he would be with them as they returned.
  • For the pilgrims – it would be a declaration that God was with them as they traveled from their homes to festival or feast and that He would be with them as they returned home – until the next festival time. I think the context would be closer to say that he was with them as they left the festival or feast and be with them until they returned for the next festival or feast.

Conclusion: Consider the vivid imagery of the Psalm for a moment. If you were watching this Psalm on a TV screen, you might see the opening verses from outer space. God, the Creator God, Created all things. You could stay in outer space for some time observing the vast universe and slowly move in toward the earth as you take in the vastness of God’s creation. You might move in beyond the oceans to the land. You would see the mountains and lakes. You might move in closer and see the animals that dwell there: all the birds of the skies and the beasts of the fields and all that passes through the sea. You might move in even closer to the people, zooming in past all of the people to where you are. And, zooming in even closer to your foot you would see that this Creator God, who created all of that, he will not let your foot to stumble.

What a great picture of God. He is so great and grand, tremendous and magnificent. You can fly to the farthest, most remote part of our Universe and not escape his eye. Indeed, so close is he that he can move beyond all of those created things to see you right where you are. He knows your needs, your pains, your fears.

Ill.: You need a little perspective. Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a new member of the British Parliament took his 8-year-old daughter on a brief tour of his beloved London. They came to Westminster Abby and the awesomeness of it struck that little girl. She stood looking way up at those columns and studying the beauty and grandeur of the Gothic church building. Her father was struck at her concentration. He looked down and said, “Sweetheart, what are you thinking about?” She said, “Daddy, I was thinking how big you seem at home and how small you look in here.”

Psalm 121 gives us some perspective – of who we are and who we are to God.

Application: So, what are some take-a-ways from all of this?

  1. The Lord is your *helper. And I mean that in the Hebrew sense of the word: without him, you would not make it. You would surely fail. When I say ‘help’, I don’t mean to assist you. He’s not Onstar! He is your salvation, your rescue, your redemption.
  2. The Lord is your keeper. He is your guard. He is your eternal, steadfast, immovable protector. He guards your going out and your coming back in. In him, we live and move and breathe and find our very existence.
  3. But The Lord is only this to you if you’re His. If you’ve never surrendered your life to Him, you’re just out there on your own. Would you surrender your life to him today if you never have before?

Here’s how we do things at Calvary. I want to call you to surrender your life to Christ. I’m not going to ask you to come forward in front of everyone, but I am going to ask you to come to talk to me. If you want to know what it means to be a Christian, come to visit with me. If I’m talking with someone, be patient. I really want to visit with you.

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Romans 4.16-25

Title: The Nature of Faith

Text: Romans 4.16-25

CIT: We have Abraham’s faith when we believe like he did (God raises the dead [Jesus] and calls into existence things that are not yet).

CIS: When anyone believes Jesus was delivered up for our transgressions and raised for our justification, it is credited as righteousness and they can have a relationship with God, just like Abraham.

Introduction: We’re in Genesis 15 and 17 this morning, as well as in our main text Romans 4.16-25;

Billy Graham died this past week at the age of 99. What I love so much about him was the fact that he lived out his faith. I’m sure he wasn’t perfect. I heard him call himself a sinner when he preached. But what he did… his choices, his actions were all about living out the faith he professed.

That is what I want to talk to you about this morning: living out your faith in a public way.

In our text this morning Romans 4.16-25, v 16 acts as a transition verse of sorts. You see our topic… rd v 16, that is why it depends on faith… Faith is our subject. And more specifically, the faith of Abraham: in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all

So, we have some context before we even enter into the passage: Faith and narrowed down a little from such a broad subject, the Faith of Abraham, our father. To be sure, the faith of Abraham can be a pretty broad subject, too. So let’s get specific: in talking about faith, what Paul wants to do is describe for us the nature of Abraham’s faith in order that these Romans might apply it to their own situation. Paul wants the Romans to have the faith of Abraham – but what does that mean? How did Abraham demonstrate his faith and what he believed?

Opening illustration: I love Lisa. I trust that she loves me, too. But, words ring hollow if there is no action on my part (or hers for that matter) to demonstrate what I know to be true. My actions and reactions, well, that would be the nature of my love. Poems and songs are nice, but what we do in our day-to-day lives is what is true. What we do reveals what we believe.

Paul is going to spend the rest of this chapter outlining for us the Nature of Abraham’s faith, and then he will apply it to the Christian. Really, that would be the one point: The Nature of Abraham’s faith. Then, Paul cites three pieces of evidence from Abraham’s life which demonstrate his faith. Abraham believed God with the way he lived. (He persisted in Hope; His faith was not weakened at his physical condition; His faith was strengthened at God’s promise).

I.    The Nature of Abraham’s Faith (17)

exp.: rd v 17a; This is God’s Statement to Abraham. It is interesting to note in that quoted verse from Genesis 15, God speaks to Abraham in the present tense of a future event as if it has already happened. Let me repeat that: God speaks to Abraham in the present tense of a future event as if it has already happened. He says: “I have made you the father of many nations.”

That’s nice to say God, but where is the proof? That’s the thing about faith – it doesn’t need proof to act. Abraham and Sarah have room to say to God – that doesn’t make sense! We have no children! We have no son to carry on our name. Abraham is declared that father of many nations and yet, he has no children. Moreover, Gen 17.1 tells us Abraham was 99 years old when this was declared to him.

Paul tells us that Abraham believed God. Abraham, you already are the father of many nations. That is what I’ve made you. Which BTW, believed is the word for faith; you could read this (17b): in the presence of the God in whom he had faith… and just what was this that he believed? Rd 17c; who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Two parts to this: 1) bringing the dead to life (lit.: a compound word life maker) and 2) bringing into existence things that don’t exist (lit.: bringing the not being into being).

app.: When God says something, even if you can’t see it, even if it does not exist, do you believe it will come to be? Abraham did – that is the nature of his faith. He believed God. His faith in God was evident by what he then did. The nature of his faith is expressed in actions of his life.

God’s promise will demonstrate when it is fulfilled that He is the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. And Abraham then acts on what he knows about God – that God will do it. Paul seizes on this teaching moment by offering three pieces of evidence for Abraham’s faith, which demonstrate for us the nature of his faith. They are found in three subsequent verses (18, 19, 20):

  1. He persisted in hope when the physical told him it was impossible. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” Here is a 2nd quote from Genesis (15.5).
  2. His faith was not weakened even though he and Sarah were way to old for child-bearing. 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.
  3. He did not doubt God’s promise, but grew strong in his faith. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

And then Paul sums it all up in v22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

app.: So, the nature of Abraham’s faith is that he lived his life knowing that God would (1) bring life to what is considered dead and (2) that he would bring into existence things that don’t exist.

t.s.: So, let’s look a little closer now at Paul’s three examples:

  1. He persisted in hope when the physical told him it was impossible. (18) In hope he believed against hope.

exp.: We get the context of this verse from Genesis 15. If you have that bookmarked, turn with me there. 15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

ill.: I love looking up at the stars; have you ever tried to lay outside looking up into a clear night sky and count the stars? It is impossible like that. I’m sure there are computers and technology that would help with that today, but just laying out under the stars is… breathtakingly beautiful. Try to lay there and count them… practically impossible. Now, add to this story the idea that there are no street lights, porch lights, car lights, city lights. There is nothing quite like being out of the city – out in the wilderness and far away from lights and to see the night sky filled with millions of stars. As Abram looked up into the sky he would have seen it filled with stars innumerable.

app.: All of this from nothing. Abraham, a nation – no, a nation of nations… pretty hard to believe in that moment. But not for him… he didn’t live to see it, but he believe that God would accomplish what he said.

t.s.: 2nd demonstration as listed in Romans 4:

  1. His faith was not weakened even though he and Sarah were way too old for child-bearing. (19)

exp.: consider his body: he’s 99 years old in Genesis 17. In Gen 15, he’s probably about 85 years old. Rd 19b: which was a good as dead. Physically, he should produce the same as a dead body. That ain’t very productive. And his wife, Sarah? Rd 19c; or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. The Greek reads: or when he considered the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Twice in this sentence Paul uses the word: dead. He did not weaken in his faith, though physically his and his wife’s bodies were growing steadily weaker with their age.

ill.: I don’t consider myself old. I know I’m getting older, but I don’t think of myself as being old. But I feel the aging process. When I fall, it takes me longer to get up. I used to bounce back up. Now I kind of just go ‘thud’. Then I crawl back up slowly. I know it only gets harder as I see people who are 30 to 40 years older than me. I had lunch this week with Percy Werner and a couple of men from the church. Percy is 96. As he was getting in my car to go to lunch he told me to take a good look at 96. He said: this will be you one day. I told him I don’t think I’ll make it that long and he assured me that I will. That means I’d have to go another 43 years.

app.: Abraham feels old. He knows his wife is beyond child-bearing years. Her womb is dead. But there is something Abraham has come to know: This God who has called him, He is the life maker. He brings to life things others consider dead.

t.s.: He is aware of their situation, but knows that God is God and that he will do what he says. We see Abraham struggle, but he never weakens in his faith.

  1. He did not doubt God’s promise, but grew stronger in his faith. (20-21)

exp.: rd v 20-21; 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. The Greek structure puts the promise of God at the beginning – making it the emphasis of the sentence. Then it continues: he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in his faith… lit.: but was empowered. Passive voice. He didn’t pull himself up by his own bootstraps, but rather, an outside force strengthened his faith. Rd v 21; as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

ill.: In Genesis 22, Abraham is commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham goes through the motions to fulfill what God has required of him. And the writer of Hebrews lets us in Abraham’s faith in chapter 11: 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

app.: by his actions, Abraham declared that he believed in God who gives life to the dead. Here is what Abraham knew: God promised him descendants. God promised they would be through Isaac. He pleaded with God: Oh, that Ishmael might be my heir! God said no. He promised the heir would come through Sarah. Abraham knows this as he walks up the mountain to offer Isaac.

I have no idea what you’re facing today. But may I encourage you: if God is indeed in charge of your life, if you’ve trusted him to run your life, then let him run it! Be obedient and you’ll find His plan unfolding in your life.

We have 1,000’s of years to bank upon the promises of God. What God promised Abraham has been fulfilled in Jesus.

t.s.: Paul then notes: 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (Another quote from Genesis) Now, Paul brings his message home, making it applicable for the believer.

II.    The Nature of Our Faith in Christ (23-25)

exp.: rd 23-25: 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. The Nature of our faith is to demonstrate that we truly believe (1st) Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and sin and then (2), that he was raised from the dead for our justification. When we do, it is counted to our spiritual accounts as righteousness. When we do, we have the faith of Abraham.

app.: Abraham is our spiritual father – that is, if we’re Christians. We should expect that Abraham’s children would be counted as righteous in the same way that Abraham was counted righteous. We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead (24) – that God gave life to his dead body. V25 puts them together that he died for our sins and his dead body was brought to life for our justification.

t.s.: What we have in Abraham was recorded for us – that we might know what faith looks like.

Application: Our faith must be God-Centered.

Conclusion: some closing thoughts:

  1. God, in whom we trust, demonstrates his will with inconceivable power.
    1. We have the Old and New Testaments with plenty of demonstrations.
    2. We have Church History with plenty more.
  2. God, in whom we trust, demonstrates his incredible patience with the passing of centuries.
    1. How much time is left? I don’t know, but I don’t believe it will be long now.
    2. Why is he still waiting? That, I don’t know either, except for the opportunity for the lost to turn from their wicked ways and cling to the hope of salvation from sin.
  3. God, in whom we trust, demonstrates indescribable mercy to the penitent.
    1. God has structured all of history to bring about an indescribable display of mercy.
      1. He has told us who He is: Holy.
      2. He has declared to us our sinfulness and our separation due to this sinfulness.
      3. He has made a way for us to find forgiveness of sin and to be made right with Him.
        1. He gave his one and only son to die for our sin on the cross of Calvary.
        2. He was buried in a borrowed tomb.
        3. He was raised for our justification and now rules and reigns in glory.
    2. Today is the day of salvation.

And, when you and I commit our lives to this, through faith in Jesus – we, too, are like our father Abraham, who was counted as righteous before God – because he believed that God could raise the dead and make something out of nothing.

This morning, if you’ve never committed your life to Christ, I offer him to you. Today you can know what forgiveness is like. You can experience it first hand. Maybe there is another commitment on your mind. You want to join the church, get involved in our ministry and our mission. Let’s talk about that.

We’ll gather for a time of fellowship in the back in just a moment. But first, let’s sit quietly before the Lord and reflect on His great mercy and love and patience. Then, after a moment of silence, I’m going to ask ….. to dismiss us with a benedictory prayer. Then, Duffey, would you lead us in a song of praise… Then, we’ll be dismissed.

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East of Eden: Living in a Fallen World

Title: East of Eden: Living in a Fallen World

Text: Genesis 4-11

Introduction: We begin our study this morning in Genesis 4. We’ll make our way through each chapter to 11. We will look at 3 main stories today of life in the Fall. This isn’t to say that sins domination ends at Chapter 11, but that chapter 12 is where there is a significant change in the storyline:

  1. Cain & Abel (4-5)
  2. The Flood (6-10)
  3. The Tower of Babel (11)

Interspersed between these stories are the listings of their generations – their descendants. It is fun to look at them and study them, though we don’t have time for that today. Let me give you an example to whet your appetite: Adam to Noah: 10 generations; Noah had Shem – from Shem to Abram is 10 Generations.

“Preaching the Word Commentary Series” of these passages says: Moses has exercised great literary care in constructing the story because again, as in the creation account, sevens and multiples of seven are used to shape the narrative symmetry. Within verses 1-17, the name ‘Abel’ and the important designation ‘brother’ each occur seven times. Cain occurs 14 times. And whereas, in 1.1 – 2.3 the name God (Elohim) occurred 35 times. From 2.4 to the end of chapter 4 the words ‘God’, ‘the Lord’, and ‘the Lord God’ occur a total of 35 times. The careful Hebrew scholar Gordon Wenham observes: “the last verse of chapter 4, ‘At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord,’ thus contains the 70th mention of deity in Genesis.” Conclusion: There is vast intentionality in this narrative as it instructs us about the essential nature of all mankind.

Sometimes we read the 1st 11 chapters of Genesis and we feel like parts of the story are missing or there is a contradiction. But that is only because we are looking at it the wrong way. It’s like looking through binoculars backward. As you observe what might seem like controversies and contradictions let me point out that the literary goal of Moses might not fit the parameters you set up. When trying to understand Hebrew Literature, you’ve got to come to terms with Hebrew poetry, symmetry, and language. Don’t box your study in the context of a 21st Century culture.

Transition: My premise for this series is The Bible is One Story: His Story. It’s all about Jesus.

The bookends to this story are Creation and the Garden of Eden at the beginning and Heaven, where Eden is restored. The storyline progresses from where there was perfection in the Garden, but all was lost when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, to the hard cold fact of life in the fall. From that point forward, there is a constant desire and pursuit for the perfection of the Garden to be restored. We all want a place like that.

  • Adam: be fruitful and multiply, fill the land, have dominion.
  • Noah: same command – be fruitful and multiply, fill the land, have dominion.
  • Abraham: same thing – Go to a land, I will build you into a nation.

Two main parts: land and people.

  • We’ll see in the coming weeks that the people Israel had the chance to inherit a land flowing with milk and honey, but they rejected God, too.
  • I think at times, many in the United States think that this is the Promised Land – That these United States are God’s new Eden. We think if we just elect the right officials or enact the right laws, we’ll have the perfect place here – with God’s blessing. It’s like its built into our spiritual DNA. But according to Scripture, that’ll never happen in the US. As great as it is to be an American, The United States will never be heaven. As a matter of fact – The US has become more like Sodom and Gomorrah than the Garden of Eden!
  • The point is: we won’t have Eden restored until we all get to Heaven (and what a day of rejoicing that will be!).

Last week we looked at Creation and the perfection of Eden. Let’s turn our attention to this week’s topic of life in the fall. Our first story is…

I.     The Story of Cain and Abel (4-5)

exp.: Adam and Eve have been kicked out of the Garden. They have two sons, whose only experience of the garden is what their parents tell them. The story: God’s regard for Abel’s offering and his disregard for Cain’s offering. Cain was angry and his face fell; here we find the effects of sin: his anger, jealousy, pride and in a moment we’ll see Cain’s ‘in your face’ rebellion.

God’s Intercession: rd v 6-7; this really should be more of the focus for us. In Adam and Eve’s sinfulness, God was merciful. In Cain’s unsatisfactory offering, God intercedes. Just what his offense was, we don’t know. Rd v 7: if you do well… the idea is of action. What he ‘did’ in presenting his offering wasn’t regarded by God. Now, the question is: just what did he do? Much debate has ensued about the offering of Cain. Was it because it was a grain offering and not a blood sacrifice? Was it that Abel’s was from his first born, but Cain’s wasn’t the first fruits? The Bible doesn’t clarify. And because it doesn’t clarify, we must then ask ourselves, what is it God is communicating to us?

What we do know is that action is born out of attitude. A little boy brings a flower to his mother. Consider what this little boy is thinking. A little girl makes a card for her daddy all on her own. Consider her attitude.

There are two types of people in churches across the globe this morning: those whose presence is born out of an attitude of worship and sincere appreciation to God for who He is and all that He has done… and those who are fulfilling some sense of duty. Is my being here today a sense of duty – I’m getting paid to be here – or would I be here anyway, because I want to come praise and worship this God who loves me so?

app.: We see Cain’s behavior and we understand, because we can act that way, too. But more importantly, turn your focus to see how good and merciful God is to Cain. God gives Cain an opportunity to repent and do what is right. God warns Cain about what is waiting in the wings for an unrepentant man.

Instead of repentance, Cain doubles down, plots his brother’s death, lures him out to the field and kills him. When confronted by God, he doesn’t respond like Adam did. Adam was honest and truthful. Not that he did perfectly, it’s almost as if Adam blames God for his sinful rebellion, but not Cain. He lies. But God knows.

Something interesting here that I’d like to note: Abel’s blood and the ground are given anthropromorphic characteristics. Rd v10; Abel’s blood has a voice and the ground has a mouth. The word ground appears 15x’s in these 1st 4 chapters. Basically, his punishment is that he can no longer work the ground, but instead is to be nomad… a fugitive, a wanderer. It isn’t unusual to find anthropromorphic qualities in creation (i.e., the trees praise). What I find interesting is this connection between the ground that used to produce a harvest for Cain and the curse Cain receives that prevents him from ever working the soil again. He will no longer be able to work the ground for food.

At this moment He cries out in anguish. It all is too much for him. So, what does God do? God is merciful…once again and God will protect him.

So Cain leaves in 16 and settles in the land of Nod, but what does he do? He has a son and builds a city and names the city after his son. Mark that place in your Bible (v. 17). His punishment is to be a wanderer and a fugitive but in open rebellion, he builds a city and names it after his son. How’s that for “in your face rebellion”?

The generations of Cain are listed in the rest of chapter 4 and there is an idea of continued descent of the sinfulness of man as we come to Lamech down in 4.23.

t.s.: In chapter 5 we have the 10 generations of Adam to Noah. Then, beginning in chapter 6, we have the story of the flood.

II.    The Flood (6-10)

exp.: the flood is the longest story in our section of living in the Fall. It begins with an odd story about the continued spiraling out of control sinful behavior of mankind. One result is that God will shorten the lifespan of man from hundreds of years down to 120. We will see that happen over the next 10 Generations. In v 5 – 6 we see a contrast between the heart of man and the heart of God; rd 5; every intention was only evil continually; rd v 6; God was sorry, God regretted. It is hard for us to comprehend the mind of God. We use anthropromorphic characteristics and traits to describe God in human language. But God isn’t human. So, when we do that, we limit him – we box him in, as it were. But how else are we to describe God? Remember this when you read about God. You’re reading words that are limited. God isn’t! So, if our words are limited, what then is the teaching, what then is the principle God would have us learn?

Here’s what we learn from God in this statement. He feels. There is emotion with God. There is feeling with God. Listen to Gordon Wenham who clarifies for us the depth of anguish and sting of pain God feels. He translates God was sorry or God regretted as: “He felt bitterly indignant”. This word… is used to express the most intense form of human emotion, a mixture of rage and bitter anguish. And then he gives examples of where this word appears else where in Scripture:

  • Dinah’s brothers felt this way after she had been raped (Gen 34.47).
  • Jonathan felt this way when he heard his father Saul planned to kill David (1 Sam 20.34)
  • David – when he heard of Absolam’s death… do you remember his mourning? (2 Sam 18)
  • A deserted wife feels this way in (Isaiah 54.6)
  • This word is used to describe God’s anguish three times: here, Psalm 78.40 and Isa. 63.10. both of those texts translate the word ‘grieved’…

ill.: But in God’s anguish against sinful man, He is still merciful. Noah acts in faith and obeys all of God’s instructions. Noah and his family is saved through faith. They pass safely through the waters and are protected by God.

app.: When you read these chapters, don’t chase after the Nephilim or the sons and daughters of whoever. If you focus too much on what you don’t know, you’ll miss the obvious before you. God’s heart is broken over man’s sinfulness. That’s what you need to know. That’s what you need to see. His anguish, described in human terms, is so we’ll see what our sin does to the heart of God.

exp.: So God chooses to destroy mankind from the face of the earth – all except Noah and his family (his wife, his three sons and their wives). But sin isn’t wiped out. Sinfulness still reigns supreme. Ham sins against his father and is cursed. It appears that Ham doesn’t share his father’s beliefs. Which is amazing considering what he endured on the Ark!

t.s.: Well, chapter 10 brings us to the Tower of Babel…

III.   The Tower of Babel (11)

exp.: v 1-9 are constructed in a beautiful, poetic, chiastic structure. Listen to Hughes: The careful structure is matched by a painstaking use of words and wordplays through assonance (words that sound the same), rhyme, and alliteration, which of course are hidden in the Hebrew. The result is a remarkably subtle and powerful story that leaves its mark on the hearers.

A   “The whole earth had one language” (v 1)

B          “there” (v. 2)

C                “each other” (v 3)

D                     “Come, let us make bricks” (v 3)

E                            “let us build for ourselves” (v 4)

F                                  “a city and a tower”

G                                       “the Lord came down … “ (v 5)

F1                                 “the city and the tower”

E1                           “which mankind had built”

D1                    “come … let us mix up” (v 7)

C1              “each other’s language”

B1        “from there” (v 8)

A1  “the language of the whole earth” (v 9)


As we read the story of Babel we are once again reminded that Man is sinful and God is merciful.





  1. The Arrogance of Sinful Man: rd v 4; let us make a name for ourselves; this echoes the ‘in your face’ rebellion of Cain who named a city he built after his son, Enoch, in light of his punishment as a wanderer and a fugitive and who lied to God and said: I don’t know where my brother is – am I my brother’s keeper? The Arrogance of Sinful Man!
  2. The Intercession of a Merciful God: God knows we are frail and fraught with our own arrogance. He knows we think we are ‘all that’ but instead in he intercedes for our benefit. Where we would destroy ourselves, He intercedes, protects and provides. He knows just what we need. He did it with Adam and Eve providing for them coverings to cover their nakedness and shame. He did it with Abel, giving him a Mark of some sort to protect him. He did so with Noah in 8.1, but God remembered Noah… and we actually see it here. These people can become even more wicked than the people God destroyed back in the flood. What God does is what is best for them.

Conclusion: My wife and kids tease me about what I like to watch on TV. They say I watch news, sports or sports news. Well, that isn’t so true anymore because those are the websites I cruise. I guess I get that from my dad. The down side is that these three genres rarely give you good news. In sports, the teams I root for lose. The players I root for don’t get a fair shake. In the news, rarely is there a story that lifts you up. If you think that man is basically good at heart, you don’t keep up with the news. Everyday there is another bombing. ISIS is now bombing Muslims – regularly. I was encouraged to hear that many Muslims in Mosul have been harboring up to 75 Christians from the extremists – over the last few years that Mosul has been under extremists control.

This morning I read a story about a teenage girl in Kerrville, TX. She left her two little girls in the car for 15 hours yesterday – and killed them: 1 year old and a 2 year old. I don’t know why, but that story just made me want to sit there and cry. The report said she could hear them crying for her as she lay down in her house.

My guess is that you don’t need more evidence of The Arrogance of Sinful Mankind. We can all take a look down deep inside and see the potential there. This would be a sad story indeed, if it weren’t for that 2nd lesson today: The Intercession of a Merciful God.

If left in our sinful state, we would perish – never having the opportunity to a right relationship with God. But God, who is merciful, interceded on our behalf. The Bible teaches us that God demonstrates his love us in this: while we were yet sinners – arrogant sinful human beings – Christ died for us.  He paid the penalty of sins for us to liberate us from the penalty of sin.

If you’ve never received the forgiveness of sin… I offer you Christ today.





Filed under Genesis, Sermon, Uncategorized

His Story: An Introduction

Title: His Story

Text: Genesis

Introduction: We’ll be in Genesis this morning, and then on through the Bible.

When we enter a book of the Bible, it is almost as if we do so as if we’re walking among the trees in a forest. We stop at different points and look at flowers, birds, leaves, limbs, pine needles, dirt, insects. We don’t just pass through the forest, we stop and smell the flowers; we run our fingers through the dirt; we look up into the trees and shield our eyes from the sun, trying to stay in the shadows; we feel the wind, we hear the wind as it passes through the branches. I love with the deepest of passion to go through books like that.

But I want to do something different – gain a different perspective, if you will. I want to rise above the trees – high above the trees; higher than a drone, higher than a bird. I want to approach the Bible from a bird’s eye view – or maybe an aerial perspective, like flying in a plane. From a plane, you can see how the river flows. You can see the bends in the road. You can see the shape of the lake.

If we were to fly across the US, we could see certain cities, towns, mountains, rivers, etc. We would notice certain landmarks from the sky: where the desert is and where the woods begin and where the mountains are and the plains.

Transition: Today, I want to show you the map we’ll be following through the summer. The first sighting on our map is Creation.

  1. Creation: “It was very good”

Ill.: Steven Curtis Chapman’s All Things New

You spoke and made the sunrise, to light up the very first day
You breathed across the water, and started the very first wave
It was You
You introduced Your glory, to every living creature on earth
And they started singing, the first song to ever be heard
They sang for You

You make all things new; You make all things new

I love the story of creation: broken up into six days. One of my Venture students pointed out something very interesting about those six days: the 2nd three days, mirror the 1st three days. On days 1-3 he separates and creates. On days 4-6, he fills what he has made on the 1st three days.


Day 1: Separated Light from Darkness                  Good


Day 2: Separated Expanse from the Waters



Day 3: Separated the Water from the Land                       Good; Brought forth plants, trees, vegetation            Good

Day 4: He filled the Expanse w/ Lights

Stars; moons; Sun                                         Good

Day 5: He filled the waters with Fish/Sea creatures; He filled the Expanse with Birds                       Good

Day 6: He filled the the lands, the vegetation

with animals, the beasts of the fields                      Good


Also, God made man in His own image:

1.27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. …. Then, 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Now in Gen. 2, we find deeper details to the creation story concerning the man and the woman. It was a wonderful existence. It wasn’t just that they were the only two people on earth, that they were the happiest people on earth! Rather, their existence with God has made it that there has been no one on earth as happy as they. No one has experienced the garden like they did. No one has walked and talked with the animals or enjoyed life quite like they did. It was all so very good.

But that ended the day Adam and Eve ate the fruit that had been forbidden to them. The serpent had lied to them. He disguised the truth and tricked them. That is so like him! Adam and Eve rebelled against what God had strictly instructed them to do – or rather, not to do. They were no longer perfect. Sin entered the picture. And because of their tarnished nature, they could no longer dwell with a perfect, untarnished God. It just wasn’t possible. So they were banished from the Garden. Things would never be the same again – at least not to them.

But God is so good. While it is true that he cursed them both and the serpent, too, God gave them a promise. The promise was that the offspring of the woman would always be at war with the offspring of the serpent. Now, that sounds bad in itself; however, the promise gets better. God promised that one of her descendants would eventually crush the head of that snake.

Just when that would take place…well, that wasn’t made known…. Yet! But, one day, He would come and he would crush the serpent’s head and restore things.

Transition: Next on the map is…

  1. The Fall: “It was not so very good anymore”

The bad news is that although the promise was in place, nothing appeared to be moving in the direction of the promise being fulfilled. The situation went from bad to worse. Adam and Eve had some kids; two brothers to start with. Abel loved God and his work showed it. Cain loved himself and his work showed it. Each brother brought his gift to God, but Cain’s was rejected. So, some of the very effects of sin rose up in Cain: Jealousy, Anger, and Pride. Cain let those things grab a hold of him and build up inside to the point that Cain plotted and planned how to kill his own brother. Oh, God was merciful to him and gave him a chance to repent and make things right, but he just couldn’t get over his Jealousy, Anger and Pride.

And so Cain killed his brother Abel. Now, that is a bad story in itself, but what is truly amazing is how sin spiraled further and further into chaos and trouble. In fact, the world got so nasty that God decided he would destroy it and start over. In Gen. 6 it records: The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

You see, God decided to flood the earth and wipe everything clean. Well, almost! God chose one family to save. The very next verse says: But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

So God flooded the whole earth, but saved one family by having them build an ark of gopher wood. God then commanded Noah to get his family and the animals on board. God brought the rain and flooded the earth. God’s anger was poured out on a world that had rejected him – and so he rejected them. He started over with a new Adam. There was one problem with this New Adam, though. He was just like the old Adam.

As a matter of fact, so much of the 1st story is repeated in this story. Noah is told to go and be fruitful and multiply just like Adam was. We see one of Noah’s son’s be cursed, just like we saw in the 1st story. Why, Noah and his family had barely gotten the animals off of the boat before Noah starts behaving badly.

And as the people multiplied, so did their sinful behavior. One story in Scripture records how a group of people decided to build a tower that would go up to heaven. They must have thought it was pretty big, but it couldn’t have been that big, because God had to come down to see it. The problem with this work that they were doing is that they thought they could do things without God. It appears they had the same thoughts that Adam and Eve had as the serpent had tricked them. So, God scattered the people and gave them different languages so that they couldn’t work together anymore.

But the story doesn’t end there; it really starts to get pretty good from there. God wasn’t done saving his people.

  1. Abraham: The Promise of a Nation

In the next chapter we meet a man named Abram. God chose him and told him to leave his kin and his country for a new land: a place that he would show him when he got there. From the beginning, God promises Abram some pretty big promises. These are the promises boiled down into a short presentation in 12.1-3:

  • Blessings upon anyone who bless Abram
  • Curses upon anyone who curses Abram
  • A land and a people to dwell in that land. Basically, God promised Abram that he would be the Father of a great nation and that all nations would be blessed through him.

Now, you might think that God chose Abram because he was such a great guy. But the truth of the matter is that Abram could be a liar and deceitful, just like everyone else. But there was something very special about Abram and it was simply this: He had the promise of God and he believed God would keep his promise.

It wasn’t that easy though. While Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham, held to the promise of God, it sometimes seemed like God was never going to keep his promise. For example, Abraham was 100 years old before he had his son Isaac. And added to this problem, God told Abraham to go to a special mountain and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. So great was Abraham’s faith in God’s promise, that he believed God would actually raise his son from the dead. But, just before Abraham sacrificed his son, God stopped it and gave a Ram to Abraham to offer instead. I guess it was God’s way of saying to Abraham – Never stop trusting me. I’ll always provide for you and keep my promise to you.

Well, Isaac grew up and got married and had two sons of his own: Esau and Jacob. Esau should have received the blessing because he was older, but God chose the younger brother, Jacob. For some reason, that is another theme we find repeated in Scripture. God doesn’t always do things in a logical manner. He has a plan – and he’s working that plan!

God’s plan was to begin building a nation through Jacob’s sons. Jacob had 12 of them! And it wasn’t the 1st or the 2nd or even the 3rd son who got the blessing, but rather the 4th son! His name was Judah. He was told that through him a king would come – one whose scepter shall not depart from Judah. The kingly line would come through Judah, but even more, the promised one – or the one promised from the beginning would come from the line of Judah.

Now, we could take some time to talk about all of these men. I could spend the entire summer on these guys, telling you horror stories of their sinful, rebellious behavior. But I won’t. What I want to tell you is that in spite of these men, God kept his promises. And while they couldn’t see it exactly, they trusted God that he would keep his promises and bring the one who would crush the serpent’s head. They couldn’t see it because it was so far off in the distance.

  1. Israel: A Nation is Born

So far off indeed! Hundreds of years would pass before God would begin to work with this nation that they would become. More years than all the years of history that these United States have accumulated. Think about it. It would be like God promising the settlers of Jamestown a Messiah. Go back to 1608 – it has been 409 years since then and we would still be waiting! That’s a similar time period for these descendants of Jacob – or as he was also known, Israel. Do you remember the promise of God to Abraham: A land and a people to dwell in that land? That land would be like the garden that Adam and Eve lived in. At least, that is what they would be reminded of …. It would be a beautiful land – a land flowing with milk and honey! But for some reason, it didn’t turn out that way. The way it turned out was the people were enslaved in the land of Egypt. Egypt? You say! Enslaved? You ask! How did that happen? God had promised them the land of Canaan.

Well, it’s a long story about a bunch of brothers who hated their baby brother and sold him into slavery. He was a slave and later an inmate at the local prison. As the years passed he rose up through the ranks and eventually became 2nd in command of all of Egypt. A famine throughout the land brought the brothers there looking for food. Because of Joseph’s position, he took care of his brothers and their families. And for the next few hundred  years, they lived in Egypt.

Through time, a pharaoh rose to power who did not know Joseph and he was bothered by the multiplication thing going on with this tiny nation called, Israel. So he made them slaves. And as the years passed, their oppression was great. So, they cried out to God and God sent them a deliver: Moses! And Moses delivered them from their oppression. Actually, it wasn’t Moses, it was God – but it was Moses God chose to use. Moses was their leader, but God was doing the leading. God led them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He led them across the dry seabed to safety and he drowned the Egyptian army when they tried to follow. As Moses followed God, the people followed, too. God was always at work saving his people.

It’s funny… not funny ha-ha, but funny ironic that He was always having to save his people. When they were in the wilderness, he set them up to be distinct. He gave them his commandments. His commandments were outlined so they would know how to act as his people. If they would only obey his commands, then he would lead them to the Promised Land and life would be good. Their crops would be bountiful and their vats would brim over with new wine. Their storage bins would be too full to handle the plenty.

But, if you know the story, and I’m guessing most of you do: you know that they didn’t. They didn’t obey; they didn’t follow. Like Adam, Like Noah, Like the brothers, they rebelled against God’s design, too. God kept his promise and delivered the people to the promise land. They in turn, didn’t do what they were supposed to do to drive the other people out. That hurt them. Yes, because of their disobedience, but even more so, because the people were a thorn in their side. The people, who were supposed to be driven out, influenced God’s people to do bad things.

The Israelites were always fighting with them, or even worse, adopting their pagan ways and rejecting God’s commands. God sent them prophets to guide them. But they wouldn’t listen to them. God sent them kings to rule over them, but the kings made things even worse.

  1. Kings: A King like the Promised King

As the Israelites dwelt with the people of the land and failed to drive them out, their hearts began to desire the very things God hated. One such desire was for a king. God told them how bad it would be if they had a king, but they didn’t care. They wanted a king like all the other nations had. So God gave them a king.

Their first King was Saul. If we were to list his good traits, well, let’s just say there isn’t much to say. Well, he was tall, but that was about it. God decided to remove Saul and choose a man after his own heart. He did. His name is David. He was what you might have expected to fulfill the promise of God. As a matter of fact, other than that King – the Promised One – there isn’t any other King in all of Israel’s history who was better. That really isn’t saying a whole lot!

But, when David was good, man, was he good. Israel was blessed under David’s leadership. But here is where something interesting happens. When David was in his later years, he wanted to build a house for God. God told him no, but God did make him a promise: a promise that was built on the promises already given. He was told that he would always have a son who would sit on the throne. Remember the promise to Judah – a scepter would never depart from Judah; well, this promise was built upon that one. Now, the people would know that the Promised One would be a son of David.

To be sure, David’s son would not be that promised one. Solomon started off well. But, then, he didn’t finish strong. His son did an even poorer job, creating a split in the kingdom: 10 tribes to the north and 2 tribes to the south. The Northern 10 tribes were called Israel and the southern 2 tribes was called Judah. Israel never had a good king. Never! Nary a one! Every single King in the North – and there were 19 of them over the next couple of hundred years – every one of them led the people astray. The Southern Kings didn’t do much better. Many of them were wicked and evil, as well, leading the People of Judah astray. Every few kings, one would come along and try to make things right, but it never took. After 400 years of rebellion, idolatry, and wickedness, God vomited them out of his land, just as he said he would if they rejected him. They responded like Adam and Eve, like the people after Noah… and the list goes on.

The people were in darkness. Lost and without a land, without a Temple, and without a King. It all appeared that the promises of God were now null and void. It was a very dark time indeed.

  1. Prophets: The Nation will not listen

But God’s promises were never snuffed out! God had promised the Snack crusher, Abraham’s son, Judah’s lion, David’s descendant would come. Prophets were sent to assure the people of those very great and precious promises of God. They were told that he would be born in Bethlehem of Judea; that he’d be born of a virgin; that there would be a messenger to prepare the way. He gave these numerous promises through the prophets.

Israel’s problem was that they were so into themselves that they just disregarded much of what God had to say. The WEBS is in Isaiah. In Isaiah we’re reminded that the people of God would pay God lip service or they would do what they were supposed to do in sacrifices and rituals, but their hearts just weren’t in it.

So God sent them prophets; prophets to rebuke them; prophets to guide them; prophets to weep and mourn for them; prophets who would tell them God’s Word. These prophets came in all shapes and sizes and demeanors. God used these men over and over again. But the people of Israel rejected these prophets. They beat them and shamefully mistreated them. Some, they even killed. So God sent them a prophet to tell them that no more prophets would be coming. God told them through Amos that there would only be silence. 400 years of silence.

After all that God had done for them and their constant refusal to listen and follow – there was nothing from God for 400 years. Adam had failed; Noah had failed; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had failed. The nation of Israel had failed. Kings had failed. Priests had failed. None could image God like God had designed.

  1. The Messiah: The Promised King – but not like they thought…

And after 4 centuries of silence, God began to speak again. We find him at work in a tiny baby lying in a manger. In this tiny baby, God was giving his people a new prophet, priest and king. He was giving them a new law, a new hope, a new sacrifice. He was making all things new. In giving them this baby, he was keeping his promise.

But it wasn’t the way the people thought it should be. This baby grew into a boy and then into a man. His miracles were legendary. He fed the 5,000 and walked on water. He healed the sick, the lame, the blind and the diseased. He taught with such authority, like none they had ever seen or even heard of. He picked 12 men who didn’t seem to fit together. He rode the foal of a donkey and not a white stallion. He came bearing a cross and not a sword. Instead of riding into Jerusalem and taking his royal, rightful throne, he came to die on a cross between two thieves. This one who was supposed to crush the serpent’s head was crushed himself – by his own father!

And yet, this was the plan of God all along. He was keeping his promises all along. For when the savior died and was buried, that wasn’t the end of the story, but rather, a new beginning.

  1. The Resurrection: It is Finished

A new beginning because this one who died on the cross, didn’t stay that way – dead. No, he rose from the dead by coming back to life! His disciples saw him – not just the twelve, but all of his disciples, men and women, both. He appeared to them in the upper room where they were hiding. Paul records that some 500 people saw him at one time. They ate fish with him by the Sea of Galilee. They told their friends that he is raised from the dead! Many couldn’t believe it. Jesus was to be seen with them at various times over the next 40 days. But after 40 days, Jesus ascended to be with the Father – where he sits at his Father’s right hand. And you know what he did then? He sat down next to his Father. There, he rules and reigns in glory.

  1. The Holy Spirit: A gift for the followers

But Jesus didn’t leave his followers alone! No, he has sent us his precious Holy Spirit to guard and to guide – to protect and provide. He has given us the Holy Spirit to bring us peace. Not the kind of peace that world knows, but a peace that surpasses all human understanding. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up an abode in our spirits and lives within us. In his coming, he convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Jesus; 10 concerning righteousness, because Jesus has gone to the Father, and; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

  1. The Return: He’s Coming Again!

But there is even more to the promises of God – Jesus is coming again. The Snake Crusher, Abraham’s son, Judah’s Lion, David’s Descendant, Jesus, the Christ will come again just as he promised. He will come again to restore us to the Garden. One day, according to his promise, we will have a restored relationship where we will walk and talk with God. We will know what Adam and Eve had known as they walked and talked with God in the cool of the Day. And there we will be with him forever and ever. There we will know what it means to be perfectly happy. Oh, glorious day!

Conclusion: There you have His Story; 10 stops along a beautiful journey over the next 10 weeks. We’ll look at the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

Before we leave this morning, let me offer you an opportunity to respond to this incredible story.


Filed under Uncategorized

Genesis 1-2; Romans 14:12-14

Title: Accountability

Text: Genesis 1-2; Romans 14.12-14

Introduction: We’re in Genesis 1-3 and Romans 14 this morning. We’ll start w/ the Genesis passage – go to Romans 14 for a moment and then come back to Genesis.

I performed a wedding this week and I always try to start the wedding ceremony in Genesis 1 and creation. You see, God created marriage and for the Christian, that is important. If you’ve ever wondered why Christians are so up in arms about marriage, it isn’t because we hate anyone. It’s because we see the world messing with what God has created.

Well, I was reminded in preparing for that ceremony of something incredible; rd Gen 1.26-27; 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Here’s where I am going with this: God is plural – Elohim; Elohim said, Let ‘us’ make man in ‘our’ image, after ‘our’ likeness. The Triune God created a single man to be like the Triune God – his image, his likeness. Don’t you find that fascinating?

If you’re thinking to yourself that you just don’t get it. Well, that’s ok! No one does. There are a lot of people smarter than you and me who’ve never been able to process that!

So God creates a man and he creates him incomplete. A plural God. A Single man. God has created so much in the 1st 6 days and proclaims it is all good. But, when he creates the man and sees him working alone in the garden, God says, “it is not good for man to be alone.”

Now I’ve always taken that and understood that in the context of marriage. But, I want you to see that there is even more there that we can learn from the creation account. Three lessons of community in creation:

  • Lesson 1: The Trinity is a model for us. God has set for us an example of community in Himself.
  • Lesson 2, Man, that is, mankind, was created for relationships. He was created to exist within the context of community.
  • And Lesson 3, whereas God is the perfect example for us of what Community looks like through the Trinity, we have corrupted the opportunity for perfect community through our sinfulness.

t.s.: Let’s begin with this 1st Lesson…

I.     The Trinity is our model for Community (Genesis 1, 2)

exp.: We saw in Genesis 1 the Three in One at work. They are not independent of each other and they are not co-dependent on each other. They are interdependent – each functioning within the other. One writer commented on such unity and interdependence that it something like God (Father) speaks and The Word of God (Jesus) creates. The Holy Spirit is the breath of the One who is speaking. Perfect Unity and yet, Three persons.

ill.: Julie Gorman, author of Community that is Christian writes: Community is rooted in the very nature of God’s personhood and, therefore, existed before creation. Consider this: we understand our God as one God and yet he is expressed to us in three persons. Talk about perfect unity! So perfect are they and their unity that when Philip asked to see the father, Jesus said if you’ve seen me, you seen the father.

ill.: To be fair, this is mind blowing. No rational, logical person can truly wrap his mind around this concept. Listen to A.W. Tozer: Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption. Wow! That is deep what Tozer is saying is that we as humans will never be able to totally comprehend the Trinity. And if we do think that we have–we’re in deep trouble! No one can truly comprehend God.

app.: But we can begin to understand what he has made known to us. And what we know, what we understand is that God created us in his image. In other words, we were created to exist in relationships; we were created to exist in community.

I love in the next chapter in Genesis; God sees that the man he has made is alone. And he says – it is not good for man to be alone. I’ll make a helper suitable for him. He created, he fashioned a woman to be in relationship with the man.

t.s.: So, we see the Trinity is our model for community. But what exactly does that mean for us? What is the implication?

Implication: Because of this (The Trinity is our Model for Community), then Community is not a program.

  1. Community is not a program.

ill.: Joy & Shelton, in their book The People of God: The only thing strong enough to build and sustain Christian Community is the gospel and the refuge found therein. Demographics, money, location, shared interests, curriculum, or good causes will not create the deep, true community for which God designed us.

exp.: just like marriage isn’t a program; raising your children isn’t a program; it is real life. Church isn’t supposed to be a program. And sure, you can be a part of organizations that do good things, but the Church was designed to be more than just a civic organization. It is designed to be a community.

app.: 1st, the Trinity is our Model for Community and the implications is that Community, then, isn’t a program.

t.s.: 2nd lesson, we see…

II.    Humans were created for Community.

exp.: You were created for community. You were created for relationships. As you begin to understand the Trinity is our model for community, you then need to wrap your mind around the truth that God is completely and perfectly happy in Himself. It is interesting to do a word search on the word pleasing and then to link that concept with God and what pleases him, verses people and what pleases them. Are you aware of what brings God pleasure – that is, when he is most pleased? I say the word pleasure and most of you think: bad – no! Me no likey pleasure! God no likey pleasure! This is where you hear the record player scratch across the record…eerrrpt! The reason you think pleasure is wrong is because the sinful nature has corrupted this beautiful trait of the Trinity! God designed us for pleasure – but Satan corrupted that beautiful gift.

ill.: This is so beautifully illustrated in Genesis 2 as our story continues; God creates this couple and places them in the perfect environment for community to take place. 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

In this moment of Genesis, we find perfection. This couple is experiencing community in perfection. But something happens … and that is our 3rd lesson…

III.   Humans corrupt Community with our sinful behavior.

exp.: let me read that last verse again: 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

What? Naked, and unashamed?!? I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but we’re all wearing clothes here today. And isn’t it wonderful! That’s a big change from what we see at the close of Genesis 2. But something happens in chapter three that mars this perfection, this innocence. Adam and Eve reject and rebel against God’s design. 3.7 reads: Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

app.: here’s the point: You and I were designed to find pleasure in this life through our relationships! We find pleasure in our relationships when we live them out perfectly through community. The problem is this corruption of sin in our lives. We will never be that way – living in community in perfect unity – as long as we have sin in the world. Imperfect people make an imperfect community.

t.s.: So what are further implications are here for us?


  1. Community takes work.

exp.: relationships are hard. You’ve heard me say that before, but it fits here so well. You and I are marred by sin’s affects and we have to fight through our desire for sin and self. We argue that others don’t behave that way so why should we? But God doesn’t set our brothers and our sisters as examples. He set himself! The truth that relationships are hard work rings true across the board as it comes to community.

ill.: People leave churches because they’re unhappy. It is easier to leave than to sit down and talk through our differences. In Smith County there are over 400 churches you can move to. You can go to a church for 1 year, then go to another for a year. If you do that, you’ll never have to worry about relationships. With 100 Southern Baptist Churches in Smith County, you won’t even have to change denominations! It is just too easy.

Here’s another implication:

  1. Community brings accountability.

exp.: The Bible teaches us that Community is the source to help us with accountability. Accountability implies responsibility. You are responsible to someone for something. And, for that, you are to give an account. But, here is the problem. As sinful humans, we don’t want to be responsible for each others and we don’t want others to be responsible for us. Because of our sinful nature we don’t want people holding us accountable.

ill.: Bruce Larson,  There’s a Lot More to Health Than Not Being Sick:

Behavioral Sciences in recent years have expounded the simple truth that “Behavior that is observed changes.” People who are accountable by their own choice to a group of friends, to a therapy group, to a psychiatrist or a pastoral counselor, to a study group or prayer group, are people who are serious about changing their behavior, and they are finding that change is possible.

Studies done in factories have proven that both quality and quantity of work increase when the employees know they are being observed. If only God knows what I’m doing, since I know He won’t tell, I tend to make all kinds of excuses for myself. But if I must report to another or a group of others, I begin to monitor my behavior. If someone is keeping an eye on me, my behavior improves.

exp.: Scripture teaches us that we need accountability because we have responsibility. Romans 14.12ff

  1. To God:12 – 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. This is 1st and greatest responsibility.
  2. To each other: 14.13 – 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I think this passage is often times misquoted to make others behave in a manner that lines up with our beliefs. We say to someone – you shouldn’t do that because a weaker brother might stumble. The reality is our pharisaical rules and regulations and traditions go against that behavior. What this verse isn’t saying is to make your brother in Christ behave the way you want him to behave. But, what this verse is clearly saying is that we have a responsibility to our brothers and for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, behave that way.
  3. To ourselves:14 – 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. You are accountable and responsible to yourself. Your conscience should be clear before God.

t.s.: Community helps us in regard to relationships – through accountability, through the hard work of relationships. You were created for relationships. It is hard work, but hard work can be so rewarding. So,

  • The Trinity is a model for us of what community means and looks like.
  • Second, you were created for relationship. And those relationships bring responsibility.
  • And Third, whereas God is the perfect example for us of what Community looks like through the Trinity, we have corrupted the opportunity for perfect community through our sinfulness.

Conclusion: Pamela Reeve in her book Relationships (as recorded by Chuck Swindoll) writes: Not long ago I walked by a wall poster that brought me back for a second look. I can’t remember the artwork, but I’ve never forgotten the pithy, pointed message: “Involvement with people is always a very delicate thing….It requires real maturity to become involved and not get all messed up.”

Community groups are important because they involve relationships – Relationships on a much deeper level than in any other church related activity: It requires real maturity to become involved and not get all messed up.”

Let’s pray…

Invitation: remember the fig leaves – a weak attempt to cover themselves. The end of that chapter tells us that God covered them. He made clothes for them out of animal skins. That was the first sacrifice. That penalty is still the same – the wages of sin. Jesus paid that penalty for us.

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Fellowship (In light of Community Groups) Outside These Walls: 2017

Title: Fellowship (In light of Community Groups; Outside These Walls 2017)

Text: Philippians 1.27-2.1

Introduction: Last summer we experienced with a change of pace: Outside these Walls. For the most part, it went well. We chose to not meet inside these facilities on Wednesday nights, but rather to gather outside the confinement of these walls and instead to meet out in the community. We served, we played, we worshipped. The elders want to build on that idea of going outside these walls this summer.

Outside These Walls: 2017 is similar in fashion but different in design. Here’s how: we still want to meet outside these walls, but we want to refine our attempts by setting some goals.

  1. We want higher participation.

Consider this: if we have 80 people on Sunday morning, we had half of our people participating in OTW in the summer of 2016. That’s ok, but not good. Are you ready for this? I’m praying for 100 people to be participating in Community Groups in 2017. Some of you are thinking I’m crazy. I know, I know! If we only have 85 people in worship, how is it that we’d have 100 in Community Groups? It really is a no-brainer! You and I have to invite families to join ours.

  1. We want bigger buy in.

Consider this: one week we’d have 40 participants and the next week we’d have 12. There are so many reasons folks drop off the next week. Often times, people participate in activities where they have a vested interest. My hope and my prayer is that you’ll buy into a Community Group. There are so many reasons why, and these messages over the rest of May will present some of those reasons. I hoping that everyone will buy into this concept.

Warning: Some of you have started tuning me out. You have a bad attitude about Community Groups and you’re not going to give it a 2nd thought. But can I stop you there. What is your reason? Did you have a bad experience? Please don’t judge all small groups by your bad experience. I find often times that our attitude skews the event we’re participating in. Are you worried about your Bible Study group that meets on Sunday morning? Don’t be. We’re not recommending canceling Sunday morning activities for this.

  1. We want to personalize it.

Each group will be different. Sunday morning Bible Study right now is studying the Gospel Project. I love the Gospel Project. Community Groups will study what they want. Marriage 101, Grace Based Parenting, A book (Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, Dennis Rainey, Jonathan Leeman) A book of the Bible, Digging Deeper into this past week’s sermon. The elders want to provide you with resources.

You might want to choose your group because of the teacher, you might want to choose your group based on its location and closeness to your home or your office, you might choose it based on the curriculum.

This month, you’ll be reading about it in the bulletin and hearing about it in the sermons. I’m hoping to begin having sign-ups for our groups by the 21st of May.

Now, I’m rambling. I know this is a long introduction. However, I felt it important to offer a bit of what’s coming and just how these sermons will impact that event. You see, I don’t want to talk about Community Groups as much as I want to talk about purpose and direction. Community Groups will only be used if they can help us accomplish the principles found in Scripture of what and who we are to be.

Our purpose statement is …developing passionate followers of Christ. Michael Wright led the church to develop this purpose statement. I like it and so have kept it through the years. It contains the elements of worship, discipleship, evangelism, fellowship and ministry. I wonder if we might need an update – only because I’d like the glory of God in it somehow. You know… all for the glory of God; maybe to clean up and clear up and verbiage so that it is concise and says exactly what we do and who we are.

So, who are we? What do we do? I’d like to turn our focus upon answering this question during the Month of May. Turn your attention to Philippians 1.

κοινωνία is the word from which we get our word fellowship. Our biggest problem with this word in English is that, when it is spoken and used in our language, it simply connotes the idea of eating together after church. Rarely do Baptists convey the idea of fellowship without the involvement of food!

ill.: Announcement: we’re having a fellowship in the Fellowship Hall after worship today. What did you think? Most of us identify whatever we’re meeting for and whatever we’re going to accomplish with food being served; at least a desert or sweet of some kind will be served.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he uses this word κοινωνία quite often. It appear 6x’s total in 4 chapters in its lexical form or in a compound form. Let me give those to you for your own personal study: 1.5, 7; 2.1; 3.10; 4.14, 15.

These six references form three sections on κοινωνία; however, they have nothing to do with food or fun. This has been eye opening for me. I knew this, but through the years have been lazy about it meaning in the church. Maybe, as we make our way through Philippians this month, you’ll see you’ve taken a laxidazical attitude about this matter as well. Here is my outline: Read the verses where κοινωνία is…

  1. Fellowship in the Gospel (Ministry/Mission) 1.3-11
  2. Fellowship in Unity (Being like minded; one Body; Evangelism; Witness) 1.27-2.2
  3. Fellowship in Christ (Discipleship) 3.1-10
  4. Fellowship in Unity (Being like minded; one Body; Evangelism; Witness) 4.1-9
  5. Fellowship in the Gospel (Ministry/Mission) 4.10-20

Maybe we should call the church The Fellowship. Because fellowship is more of a word that describes more of what we do: Evangelism, Discipleship, Missions, Ministry, and Prayer, Worship.

We could use other synonyms: Sharing, Participating, Partnering, and Having in Common;

Warning: Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying when I say fellowship. You see I did! I wrote out a prospectus for community groups and gave it to our elders. And, in preparing these messages, I’ve found I wasn’t seeing things clearly. I want you to grasp what we’re trying to do here.

ill.: – James Hewett tells the story of a woman who was in between flights at an airport. She had about an hour and a half wait and decided that she would spend the time looking over the newspaper. She had a little twinge of hunger, so she dropped by the lounge and picked up a small package of cookies and sat down at a table to look over her paper.

While she was reading, she began to detect a small rustling sound, almost like cellophane being crinkled and torn. She looked over the top of the newsprint and, to her amazement, a well-dressed man, sitting at the same table, a total stranger to her, was opening her cookies and helping himself.

Flabbergasted, she didn’t want to make a scene, and so she just kept the paper up in front of her face and reached around and deliberately took the package of cookies and slid them toward her and took out one and began to eat it.

About a minute passed and, to her amazement, she heard more crinkling of the cellophane. She looked around the paper and the man, not looking at her, was simply eating another of her cookies.

Before she could reach over (by now they were at the bottom of the stack), he looked at the last cookie and broke it in two and with a frown slid it across to her side. He finished his half cookie, picked up his briefcase, and made his way down the terminal.

She was fuming as she munched on her last half of cookie. Then she heard the call for her flight and began to make her way to the gate where she would get on the plane. She needed her ticket, and so she opened her purse and, to her shock, she saw her package of unopened cookies still in her purse.

Somewhere in that same airport was a man still shaking his head, wondering how this strange lady had the nerve to eat part of his cookies!

app.: Funny how we misread what is right before us. You know you do it, too. I was wrong on this word Fellowship. Let me show you…

Calvary Baptist Church

Community Groups

Outside These Walls 2017


He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3.30


Purpose: The purpose of Calvary Community Groups is to foster a sense of community among Calvary Members as we develop passionate followers of Christ.

Community is not the goal in the mission of God; bringing Himself glory through the making of disciples is the goal. Community is the primary context God designed to take the church there. (The People of God, p. 78)

So let me reiterate: the purpose is to foster a sense of community.


Goals: To enable members to experience community through (or simply: Making Community Possible through):

  1. F-fellowship
  2. A-accountability
  3. D-discipleship
  4. E-evangelism

Correction: Making Community Possible through fellowship (John 6.58) 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

  1. B-breaking bread
  2. R-relationship building
  3. E-evangelism
  4. A-accountability
  5. D-discipleship


Benefits: So much of our gatherings at Calvary are only surface deep. My heart’s desire is that the membership will benefit as they:

  • Grow in Christ through digging deeper into Scripture
  • Grow in their personal relationships with other community group members
  • Reach out to their community by inviting a lost family

What is Fellowship (κοινωνία)? The Dictionary of Bible Themes (2009) defines it this way…

Fellowship: An association based upon the sharing of something in common.

ill.: I’m reading Steven Curtis Chapman’s Book, Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story. He tells the story in there about how his community group got together to watch the National Championship Game involving the Tennessee Volunteers against Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl. Some of the women left early for various reasons. After the game, Steven writes that their family was all in bed when the phone rings. He learns that a vehicle of one family – a mother and her two daughters was in a tragic car accident. Mary Beth, his wife, stayed at home with their children, but Steven changed into some clothes and headed up to the hospital, where he learned that the mom and one daughter were in critical condition, but one of the little girls had died. A teenage, driving way too fast, lost control of his car and hit them broadside.

Steven’s relating the story is so incredible as you watch this community group that he is a part of come together and minister to the family. But what adds to the storyline is that in 10 years, the Chapman’s world would be rocked in the loss of their own little girl, Maria – also involving a vehicle. This family who had been ministered to by their small group, would now minister to the Chapman family and walk with them through their struggle.

app.: Community Groups bring the larger fellowship stability. As individuals come together in fellowship, they experience: relationships; accountability; acceptance, discipleship, evangelism and ministry. And, can I say, this cannot be accomplished in the corporate setting.

Transition: Stephen’s story shows us the extremes of fellowship – from a football game to a hospital emergency room.

Conclusion: Believers have fellowship with one another simply on the basis of:

  • Their common relationship with God in Christ, (which puts them in relationship with each other); Philippians has 104 verses using 433 different words. Christ appears 61 times in those 104 verses in various forms of nouns and pronouns.
  • Their participation in the blessings of the gospel (Did you know that? You participate in the blessings of the gospel through your marriage, your children, your church…) at times the word κοινωνία appears or is implied in Philippians, so does the word εὐαγγέλιον. 1.5, 6; 1.27 (2); 3.10
  • Their common task of missions and evangelism (I am so proud of our work in missions! It is my prayer, however, that our fellowship may refine and get even better at missions through community groups. I can’t say I have the same pride in our evangelism. It is my prayer that evangelism will begin to take place as we partner together in community groups.) You probably remember from earlier in the message, this letter is bookended with the idea of their partnership in Paul’s work of missions and evangelism. : in 4.15; no church partnered in word with me, but you alone. It appears they committed to this fellowship with Paul in ministry and mission with their words and so followed through with their deeds.

In light of all this, you could then say: True fellowship is demonstrated through personal concern for and practical commitment to one another. Note these two words: Concern/Commitment.


  1. I hope you’ll begin praying for how you can participate in a community group. Over the next couple of weeks, leading up to June 7th (our launch date), we will be posting our leaders, their groups and their curriculum. This will allow you to pick a group based on location, subject, or your peers. Please start praying now.
  2. We know you can’t be at every Wednesday night session of your community group; however, you can plan to be at most. You will only go to the group meetings you make plans to be at.
  3. Sign up!

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1 Thessalonians 1:2-2:10

Title: We Persuade Others

Text: 1 Thessalonians 1.2-2.10

Introduction: We’re going to be in 1 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy and Acts 17 this morning.

I want to talk to you today about Building a culture of evangelism at Calvary…it isn’t easy, but how powerful when you feel confident that you can invite someone to an activity at Calvary and you’ll have confidence that Christ will be shared? A culture of evangelism is not a program – it’s a way of life. It is the confidence that you can participate in an activity at Calvary and know that the Gospel will be demonstrated and communicated.

This week and next week, I’d like to focus our attention on creating a culture of evangelism.

This morning I would like to answer this simple question: What is Evangelism?

Evangelism is communicating the Gospel with the sole purpose of converting someone to Christ.

Note the four components:

  1. Communication
  2. The Gospel
  3. Purpose
  4. Conversion

My hope is that we’ll identify these marks in the passage I’ve chosen: 1 Thessalonians. Let’s begin by looking at this first mark.

Transition: Evangelism is

I.     Communication (2.1-10)

exp.: people don’t just come to Christ by osmosis. It isn’t your smile or your stride that makes them turn to Jesus. It isn’t beautiful facilities or awesome programs. People chose to follow Christ because someone tells them. We’ve heard stories of people getting a Bible and reading it and being converted. That means:

  • Going: rd 1.5; 2.1, 5;
  • Speaking: rd 2.2-5; 8-9; 12-13;

While it is true that there are some saved by reading the Bible in a hotel or in a vision during a dream, that isn’t the method God has given to us. You and I have been sent to share. And, the way we do that is with our words.

ill.: There is a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words. That’s nice, but I’m not the way Jesus told us to Evangelize.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. said in a sermon at the Evangelism Conference in Euless some years ago: You can’t live well enough to save yourself. How can you expect to live well enough to save others?

app.: The truth is that a life lived in a manner unworthy of the Gospel of Christ destroys the testimony of the one sharing it. So, yes, you must demonstrate that what you’re proclaiming to others really does work. You should be able to say: Just look at my life. But, in the same breath I must warn you that a life well lived just isn’t good enough. You must choose to share the same way God did. He used words.

t.s.: And what is it you share? Evangelism is communicating the Gospel…

II.    The Gospel (2)

exp.: εὐαγγέλιον; Translitterated: evangelism; Translated, lit.: good message or good news; 1 Thessalonians teaches us three truths about this Gospel and the 1st is…

  1. The Gospel is a story that is told. Rd v 2.2; In this verse, it is reiterated that the Gospel is something that is communicated, proclaimed, declared; that is what point #1 is all about, so let’s move on.
  2. The Gospel is a precious gift with which we have been entrusted. rd 2.4; Turn to 1 Timothy, I want to show you something. We could go to one of 20 different verses that declare the Gospel is a precious gift entrusted to us to share with others, but 1 Timothy presents this in a beautiful way. The context of 1 Tim 1 is that of unsound doctrine. Rd 1.11-18; he closes the letter with this reminder – rd 6.20; rd 2 Tim 2.1-2; he touches on this gospel in v 8; back to 1 Thessalonians
  3. The Gospel is a story made relevant through your life as it is lived out before others. Rd 1 Thess 2.8-10; Your verbal witness is made relevant by the way you love the ones you’re witnessing to. Some of you may be saying…love? Who said anything about love? Well, you see that word translated ‘dear’? That is the word you know as ἀγάπη in the noun form. ἀγάπη is a verb – ἀγαπητός is the noun. He is saying that they were willing to share their very lives with these folks because of the love they have for the Thessalonians.

app.: Don’t miss this incredible truth: Your words are given meaning when you love the ones you’re talking to. The Gospel is made relevant when we live out this gospel with which we’ve been entrusted before the eyes of those with whom we share.

t.s.: Evangelism is communicating the Gospel with the sole purpose…

III.   Purpose ()

exp.: When I say purpose, I think of the following words: intent, aim, goal, focus. That’s probably our biggest problem in this day and age – believers aren’t purposeful in sharing Christ.

  1. The Gospel was never intended to be passed on by accident. You will not communicate the gospel of Christ on accident. You have to have purpose. You have to make it your intention.

ill.: Read from Evangelism: How the whole church speaks of Jesus by J. Mack Stiles. P. 76-78app.:

app.: wouldn’t it be wonderful if you and I could adopt a philosophy of intention? Maybe you’re thinking that right now. How can I be intentional?

  • Invite them over for dinner. Maybe it is BBQ or a novelty meal, or something foreign. Do one of those fon doo meals. Don’t do it just to show them what nice people you are, but to share with them that God loves them and gave his Son to die for their sin.
  • Go to the shooting range; play a round of golf; invite your lost friend fishing;

t.s.: Evangelism is communicating the gospel with the sole purpose of converting someone to Christ. Let me talk to you lastly about…

IV.  Conversion (Acts 17.1-4)

exp.: When we share, the goal or intent of sharing the gospel is that someone might be saved.

2 Cor 5.11 says: We persuade others. That’s what we do. We’ve been given this ministry of reconciliation – and our job is to persuade others to be reconciled to Christ.

But how is that measured? When do you know if someone truly accepts the Lord? Is it enough to just share, let them pray and leave them to it? No! The end game of Evangelism is conversion. That has to be something that can be measured and seen. Article 4 of the BF&M 2000 states:

Article IV. Salvation

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

  1. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.
  • Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God.
  • Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.
  1. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.
  2. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.
  3. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

Note the two parts of our work:

  1. Work on the part of the converted:
    1. Repentance: rd 1.9; how you turned to God from idols. That’s repentance. It is the idea of doing a 180 from your old life to your new life in Christ. When you share Christ with someone and you’re intention is conversion – repentance is a true indicator that someone has been converted.
    2. Faith: rd 1.9b-10; to serve and to wait; you see, when someone is converted, they begin to live by faith. They serve God in faith and they watch for his return in faith. This was true for the Thessalonians: rd 1.2-3; Now that’s the work of the converted… there is more…
  2. Work on the part of God:
    1. Chosen because they are loved: rd v 4; Deut. 7.6-9; that’s the church now. That’s you! That’s the converted.
    2. The Power of the Holy Spirit: when you share, it isn’t your job to guilt or shame someone to Christ. Your job, my job is faithfulness to the story. God’s job is to do the convicting by the power of the Holy Spirit.

app.: He loves, He chooses, He convicts. Conversion is truly a demonstration of God’s power at work through the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion: Dale Galloway in his book rebuild your life tells the story of a little boy name Chad. Little Chad was a shy, quiet young fellow. When he came home and told his mother, he’d like to make a Valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, I wish he wouldn’t do that! Because she had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 Valentines.

Valentines day dawned and Chad was beside himself with excitement! He carefully stacked them up, put them in the bag, and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake him His favorite cookies and serve them up warm and nice with a cold glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he’d be disappointed; maybe that would ease his pain a little. It hurt her to think that he wouldn’t get many Valentines –maybe none at all. That afternoon she had the cookies and milk out on the table. When she heard the children outside she looked out the window. Sure enough here they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door open she choked back the tears.

“Mommy has some warm cookies and milk for you.”

But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face a glow, and all he could say was: not a one… Not a single one. Her heart sank. And then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”

Oh to have a heart that isn’t so focused on me. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be so focused on the lost around us that we’d work hard to bring them the most incredible valentine ever? To say,  “Christ loves you!”


Let’s pray. God give us hearts that see people as you see them. Move us, in our hearts to determine not to forget a one, not a single one – but that we’d share this incredible story of Christ with purpose and intent. Oh God, make us Evangelists.

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Mark 15:21-39

Title: The Son of God

Text: Mark 15.21-39

Introduction: We’ll be in two texts this morning: here (Mark 15) and Psalm 22.

The Events leading up to the crucifixion –

  • Our series began in Chapter 14.1 where Jesus was anointed for burial. That event caused quite a stir among some, especially Judas who was so offended, he betrayed Jesus into the hands of those who wanted him dead.
  • Jesus celebrated the Passover Meal with his disciples – including Judas – on the night before his death. It is sometime during this meal that Judas slipped out and went to the religious leaders, having already agreed to betray Jesus into their hands.
    • As a side note: tomorrow night, Jews around the world will begin celebrating the Passover. Calvary is privileged to have an Orthodox Jewish man who was converted to Christianity through a VBS trophy. He’ll come and share with us how the meal was observed by Jesus and his disciples, and, what the different parts to the meal mean to the Christian. You’ll want to be here and take notes. 6 pm…
    • At the end of the Passover meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. These events are what we remember every time we partake.
  • There is the prediction of the falling away of all the disciples and of course, Peter’s denial – which of course he denied. Jesus takes the disciples up to the Monte of Olives and then the three to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is here the three who were adamant about their faithfulness cannot watch and pray for one hour with him.
  • Judas comes to the camp bringing a mob. Jesus is then arrested and led away to the High Priest. I believe Matthew tells us this is Caiaphas. Jesus will spend the night before an informal gathering of the Sanhedrin. They will accuse Jesus falsely, but in the end, get him to say what they need to condemn him. Peter will be just outside in the courtyard denying he knows or is a part of Jesus.
  • In the morning, the Council (Sanhedrin) will gather and officially charge Jesus, but then take him to Pilate to deal with this issue of Jesus being the ‘King of the Jews’.
  • Pilate, of course, will find no fault in him.
  • Pilate appealed to the crowd to release to them Jesus, as was the tradition he had begun some years before at this time. But instead, the crowd chose Barabbas, a man who had committed murder and was a revolutionary. The crowd’s desire was to have Jesus be crucified.
  • So, Pilate had him scourged and turned over to the soldiers. That is where our story picks up this morning… we begin in v 21; however, the language dictates that this section actually starts in v 16

I’ve outlined the message this way:

  1. The Crucifixion of the Son of God
  2. The Rejection of the Son of God
  3. The Death of the Son of God

Transition: I think Mark’s story is simple, brief and restrained. He doesn’t try to move us to sympathy for Christ as he is tortured and punished; Nor, does he try to make us angry at Christ’s enemies. So, let’s pick up in Mark 15, v21 Where we see…

I.     The Crucifixion of the Son of God (21-28)

exp.: The crucifixion is a process of execution. Pilate commissions his Roman soldiers to carry out that execution. Mark is very matter-of-fact about his storytelling. He almost lists these moments and actions as bullets. For example, he begins each sentence with And they… did such and such. Notice, Mark begins this for us in v 16 and continues through v 24; “and they”;

Mark is making it clear for us that these soldiers are the ones acting here. In our section, their first action is to keep the process going. Jesus has been so mistreated that he can’t keep going. He is just too weak. It was customary for the victim to carry his own cross. It is most likely that he didn’t carry the whole thing himself, but rather just the traverse beam. He fell beneath its weight and needed someone else to carry his cross beam. So, (rd v 21) they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. It is amazing that Mark includes some interesting information her for us.

  • Simon is a Jewish name – so we assume that this man was a Jew. Of Cyrene means he was from North Africa, making him a Jew of the Diaspora – i.e.: the Exile.

The question would be why? Why would Mark add this to his story.

  1. I believe he wants us to see there are witnesses to what is happening. Sure, the disciples wimped and ran, but not others. In a moment, mark will add to these folks, some women who were present.
  2. It is highly possible that this Rufus, probably just a child here, is the same Rufus mentioned in Romans 16.13. Consider, Mark served in Rome under Peter. This Gospel is considered written to those people. This would be a natural tie. However, with that said – it doesn’t make it so. But, if that is the case, it would make sense that Mark would add witnesses who they would know.
  3. In 1941, an Israeli archeologist unearthed a burial cave used by a family from Cyrene. This burial cave was used just before the destruction of the Temple and found on the western slope of the Kidron Valley. The valley that links the Temple and the Mt of Olives. What got the attention of these scholars was an inscription on one ossuary. It was written twice in Greek: Alexander, son of Simon. To be sure, these were common names by people in that day. I’m sure there were other Jews from Cyrene who had moved back Israel. But it is interesting, nonetheless.

So what is Mark doing? I think he’s just dropping names. Here are the witnesses and you know them or can easily find them and ask them yourselves!

ill.: As a boy I was a huge fan of Earl Campbell. I just dropped a name. A famous name – in Tyler nonetheless. He lives here near us and we can all bear witness to his athletic prowess. Even those of you who don’t follow sports probably know who Earl Campbell is!

exp.: Well, they (the soldiers) brought him to Golgatha – the place of the skull.

ill.: Show Pictures. The 1st one is from the early 20th Century… the 1900’s. the 2nd, is a pic from modern times – probably in the last 30 years. Now look at this past summer. Should Jesus tarry in his return, our children will only be able to see old pictures. The decay is occurring at an alarming rate – and because it is Arab owned, there is nothing that can be done to preserve it.

exp.: So, they offer him some wine mixed with myrrh. I was taught growing up that this was probably used as a painkiller. There are stories of women who would mix frankincense with wine and offer it to the condemned. However, consider that those who offer the wine aren’t the women, but the soldiers. Because of this, it is possible that this is more of the mockery they have been pouring out on Jesus – offering him the finest of wines for a King.

Then, after this long processional, v 24 tells us that Jesus is crucified. Rd v 24; I think this is much more important to Mark in the story telling – Jesus is fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies concerning him. Here, Mark quotes from Psalm 22 – Specifically, v 18. Turn there. Mark makes clear references to:

V1:        My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

V6-8:     But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

    All who see me mock me;

they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

    “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;

let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”


V15-16, 18: 15  my strength is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

you lay me in the dust of death.

16     For dogs encompass me;

a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet—

18     they divide my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots.


app.: Truthfully, you can read so much more into Mark from Psalm, especially when you know this story through the eyes of the other Gospels. Mark’s intent is for us, the reader, to see that Jesus is fulfilling what was spoken of him through the Prophets and the Writings.

exp.: Mark gives us a timeline in v 25 – 9 am when he was crucified. The place a placard – an inscription with this charge: King of the Jews. And they crucified him between two thieves.

t.s.: First, The Son of God is Crucified and 2nd, he is rejected.

II.    The Rejection of the Son of God (29-36)

exp.: Jesus is rejected while hanging on the cross. There are people who pass by and mock him on the cross. The religious leaders also continue mocking him (29-32). But something very interesting happens about noon: Darkness. Man I wish we had time to spend taking about darkness.

  • Not a solar eclipse: it lasted 3 hours – vs. 2min and 25 sec.
  • I think of the 9th plague: darkness: a Darkness to be felt! I think of Isaiah 9.2: 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

For to Us a Child Is Born

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

    The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shone.

That famous passage on the promised coming Messiah…

What is going on here? Well, I believe it is a demonstration of the Father’s reaction to the sin of the world. This becomes clearer for us as Jesus cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You probably noted this earlier when we read Psalm 22. At this point I can’t help but think of the song:

How deep the Father’s love for us– How fast beyond all measure

That he should give his only son– to make a wretch his treasure

How great the pain of searing the loss– The father turns his face away

As wounds which mar the Chosen One– Bring many sons to glory

If you’re having a tough time with this – the actions of God – Can I let you in on a little secret? There in Psalm 22.24 we read: All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. God sacrificed his Son for our sins. But he did not abandon him. I think that is important.

exp.: I believe the mocking continues as someone grabs a sponge and offers Jesus a drink, but hesitates to see if Elijah will come to his rescue (33-36).

app.: I picture this ‘someone’ with the reed in his hand as Jesus dies…

t.s.: The Son of God is Crucified, is rejected and finally he dies…

III.   The Death of the Son of God (37-39)

exp.: Jesus cries out and breathes his last breath. It is finished. He is dead. But something absolutely incredible happens: the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Many have asked if this could be true. Well, for the believer, we have God’s word. But as for secular history, the answer is yes. Listen to Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah:


“And now a shudder ran through Nature, as its Sun had set. We dare not do more than follow the rapid outlines of the Evangelistic narrative. As the first token, it records the rending of the Temple-Veil in two from the top downward to the bottom; as the second, the quaking of the earth, the rending of the rocks and the opening of the graves… while the rending of the Veil is recorded first, as being the most significant token to Israel, it may have been connected with the earthquake, although this alone might scarcely account for the tearing of so heavy a Veil from the top to the bottom. Even the latter circumstance has its significance. That some great catastrophe, betokening the impending destruction of the Temple, had occurred in the Sanctuary about this very time, is confirmed by not less than four mutually independent testimonies: those of Tacitus, of Josephus, of the Talmud, and of earliest Christian tradition. The most important of these are, of course, the Talmud and Josephus. The latter speaks of the mysterious extinction of the middle and chief light in the Golden Candlestick, forty years before the destruction of the Temple; and both he and the Talmud refer to a supernatural opening by themselves of the great Temple-gates that had been previously closed, which was regarded as a portent of the coming destruction of the Temple”

Well, all of these miraculous, supernatural events take place as bulleted notes by Mark. Then, the centurion, who has charge over the detail, stood facing Jesus. As he witnesses the death of Jesus he remarks, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”(37-39).

app.: this statement is in line with what we’ve been reading in Mark for a year now. In chapter 1 Mark tells us this in the first verse. Then, in v 13, God says, this is my son! The demons recognize him as the chapters roll by. In about Chapter 9, on the Mt. of Transfiguration, God once again declares the identity of who this is: His Son! Not once does a human acknowledge this, until now. And Mark closes out his book with this revelation. Theologians call this a melodic line. There is a phrase that echoes through the book called a melodic line.

t.s.: And for Mark, it is this: Jesus is the Son of God.

Conclusion: so, let me wrap this up.  Let me leave you with a couple of thoughts.


  1. The Christians of the early church who were suffering persecution would have been encouraged by this story. Persecution, suffering and death are not necessarily a sign of God’s absence, but rather his active work in our lives and in the lives of others.
  2. There is irony here:
    1. In how Jesus is treated; what they call him and who he really is.
    2. They call him to save himself, but by staying on the cross he will make it possible for them to be saved.
    3. Although all rejected Christ, he will not reject anyone who comes by faith.
  3. God judges sin and the penalty for sin is death. Therefore, all sinners must die. However, Christ died for the unjust, giving us hope. Let Christ pay your death penalty and set you free today.



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Mark 15:1-20

Title: Who Killed Jesus?

Text: Mark 15.1-20

Introduction: Who killed Jesus? Don’t answer too quickly and don’t give me a Sunday School answer! You probably have some ideas, but it isn’t as easy as just blurting out an answer. You blame one person or group and there are answers to clear them. So, who killed Jesus?

This question has cause many throughout the last couple of millennium to cast accusations and stir up hate. People have gone to war over such things. Even before the holocaust in the 30’s and 40’s which I’m sure you’re familiar with…

Well, let’s look at the text and walk through the possible candidates responsible for killing Jesus:

  1. The Jews
  2. The Romans
  3. The People
  4. The Soldiers

I’d like to identify these 1st three groups as those who didn’t want him…

I.     The Jewish Authorities didn’t want him… (1)

exp.: rd v1;

  1. As soon as it was morning; Their work was done in during the night hours; from this, we actually get a time line;
    1. 1: as soon as it was morning
    2. 25: it was now the 3rd hour
    3. 33: the 6th hour to the 9th hour
    4. 34: the 9th hour
    5. 42: and when evening had come;
  2. …the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole counsel;
    1. Many have argued that they did put Jesus to death and that has cause anti-Semitism to spread down through the centuries. As early as 66 AD; massacres occurred in the Nile Delta in Egypt; 113-115 AD another report of massacres. Repeated ad nauseam to the Holocaust of the early 1900’s; This has led others to rise up in their defense of the Jews.
    2. Many other scholars have reported that the Council couldn’t put Jesus to death. They say it would have illegal for the Jews to put anyone to death. But if that is truly the case, explain Stephen in Acts 8; They put Stephen to death by stoning him and Saul was there holding the coats of those who cast their stones and giving approval.
    3. No, I think they held their consultation with the whole counsel for the purpose of determining this particular charge. If Jesus claims to be King, well, that’s high treason, punishable by death. I think that is why they didn’t kill him themselves. They could get someone else to do that – and they did. Besides, a Roman death would be so much more public and humiliating. With the holidays upon them, they wouldn’t have to break their own laws by executing someone during the festival.
  3. Two words stick out here; they’re repetitive as we continue reading v1. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him; (14.53, 15.1, 10, 15, 16, 20); these two words direct us through the timeline and the process;

app.: these two words will help us identify that none of these folks wanted Jesus – so they led him away and delivered him over to someone else.

t.s.: So, Did the Jews kill Jesus? To be sure, these religious leaders started all this, but they didn’t actually execute the charge. Instead, they delivered Jesus over to Pilate;

II.    The Roman Authorities didn’t want him… (2-5)

exp.: rd v2a; King of the Jews; I think Mark is giving us some direction here; this term King of the Jews is another repetition; after not appearing in Mark at all, it now appears 6x’s in this chapter; here in v 2, 9, 12, 18, 26, and as King of Israel in v 32; So, this is probably the charge the religious authorities present to Pilate; rd v 2b; now in English, we cringe! Did he just condemn himself? Well, in the Greek it is so ambiguous that your just not sure what he said; The English translation try to make it that way, but it just doesn’t work:

  • ESV: You have said so…
  • NASB: It is as you say… this is so far from a literal translation I don’t know where to begin. If you have a NASB, you’ll not the first three words are in italics, meaning those words have been supplied.
  • NIV: gets even further away… Yes, it is as you say.
  • CSB: You have said it… closer than the others, but still not correct.
  • KJV: Even the King James adds words to make a sentence. Thou sayest it.

Why? Because Jesus is ambiguous in his reply: Subject: You; Verb: say, It’s like an incomplete sentence – an incomplete thought.

Now the Religious Leaders throw accusation after accusation, but Jesus doesn’t respond – to Pilate’s amazement.

There is something else I’d like to note: the other Gospels tell us of how Jesus was sent to Herod, but Herod didn’t want him either; Mark doesn’t tell us this part. I guess for him, it wasn’t necessary to tell us this story. But something I think, that is important about that detail is that it shows Pilate really didn’t want to deat with this. Pilate didn’t want Jesus either.

app.: And, with the help of the other gospels, we know that Pilate found no guilt in this man. So he sought to pass this problem on to Herod; and then, he sought to release him;

t.s.: We find out something very interesting by the way that Mark presents this release and it’s found in this third section…

III.   The Crowds didn’t want him… (6-15)

exp.: I think the way this works actually begins in v 8, but Mark fills us in on the details in 6-7, so v 8 will make sense; they initiate a release, not Pilate; A question you might have is: who is the ‘crowd’? v 11 tells us the religious leaders have worked the crowds, but who made the request?

  • Was it followers and supporters of Barabbas? We often think of him as a criminal and a murderer, but there are those who love that he was zealous and rising up against the Romans.
  • The ‘crowd’ could have been the high priest’s henchmen who started this up. It might have just been circumstantial or situational as the religious leaders see it – you know, an auspicious occasion in their eyes. So, in v 11, they begin working the crowds for Barabbas’ release.

Now, v 10 lets us in on Pilate’s thinking – that he perceived this whole circus was orchestrated by the religious leaders and they did all that they were doing because of envy or sometimes translated jealousy. I love the Gk word, its’ spelling beings phth – φθόνος; Isn’t it funny, I mean ‘odd’ or ‘peculiar’ what jealousy can lead us to do to others?

t.s.: There is one last group here… you could add them to the list of those we might accuse of killing Jesus.

IV.  The Persecution of Jesus (16-20)

exp.: at this stage of our story, Jesus is mocked, beaten, and ridiculed by those entrusted with his execution; they humiliate him repeatedly.

t.s.: Who killed Jesus and why?


  1. The Jewish leadership pushed for Christ’s death at the hands of the Romans. It was their plan from as early as Mark 3.6 to destroy him. They may have instigated it all, but they didn’t pull the trigger.
  2. Pilate clearly found no fault in him and wanted to release him. When he found a way, the crowds rejected his proposal and asked for Barabbas’ release. You could add Herod here to the list of Roman Authorities. Although Mark doesn’t add that part of the story, the other Gospels let us in on it. Herod was interested as far as observing Jesus as a sideshow, but nothing more.
  3. The crowds may have been worked up into a frenzy; however, their call for his crucifixion wasn’t as if they pulled the trigger either.
  4. The Battalion cruelly mistreated Christ, but only a few will actually carry out the orders to crucify Christ. And I’m not so sure these guys are all on board, even though they’re obedient, for we will see next week the Centurion standing at the foot of the cross proclaiming, Truly this man was the son of God.

So, which one of these killed Jesus?

  1. I think they all did. Not one is more responsible than the others. Furthermore, the Bible teaches us that it was God’s Will to accomplish this. Let that sink in – these people all acted within their won free will to exercise their jealousies and hate, but God was in charge the whole time. And, I guess added to this you and I killed him. It was because it was for your sin and my sin that Jesus died.

Transition: I think it is interesting how each one wielded what power they had to do their deeds. And that brings me to the application for this morning.

Application: Power is a scary force.

  1. The Religious Leaders use their power to bring Jesus before Pilate. They use their power as influence over the crowd.
  2. Pilate uses his power as authority to execute Jesus.
  3. The crowd uses its power as a vote to release Barabbas and vote to crucify Jesus.
  4. The soldiers use their power to humiliate and mistreat Jesus.

So, let me ask you:

  1. Where is your power and how do you use it?
  • With your family? – over your wife or husband, over your kids. Sometimes one of the spouses holds the purse strings and lords it over the other. Spouses us their power to without favor – sexual favor, getting their husband or wife to behave or do or act or… Sometimes, the oldest in the family use their power to get what they want. Maybe it is money they have and they use their money to get their grown up kids to do and act and … I’ve even seen little children run a family – using their power over their parents.
  • In your work or business? – over other employees or coworkers? Do people have to come to you to get things done? Do they need your permission and you hold it over them until they perform or do or act or behave…
  • What about at church? Elders, Deacons, Teachers, Pastor and staff…we all have power through position and influence. Where do you use your power and how do you use it?

Here is the point: you do have power. I think of little children at school, even, who use their power as influence over other children.

Ill.: years ago I was taken a group of children to Children’s Camp. There were a group of three boys in the group of children. One of these boys would play the other two against each other, wielding his power like a mob boss. On the trip, he pulled out a bag of candy. He then proceeded to give one of the other boys some of his stash. The 3rd boy asked for some and was refused. This little boy began to offer money for a piece of candy. Eventually, the little boy offered all the money he had brought for the week. That little mob boss refused to sell his candy to the other boy at that inflated rate.

Pause: This sinful nature never seems to leave us does it? It will rule over us, unless of course, there is a change.

You see, the one person in this story who doesn’t execute the power he has – and he has the ultimate power – is Jesus. I think of Phil 2: although Jesus had the right of heaven, he let go of his rights to the throne of heaven and became a man – a simple man, a humble man. Through his obedience to his father, he humble himself and became obedient to death. That’s what we see going on here.

In that passage in Philippians, Paul urges his readers to become more like Jesus – to take his attitude in all things. And his plea to take on the mind of Christ comes from his plea in v1-4; 2.So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Paul’s talking about relationships within the church. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Let’s pray…


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Mark 14:53-72

Title: A Tale of Two Stories

Text: Mark 14.53-72

Introduction: Mark 14.53; Psalm 88; Daniel 7; I’d like to begin by looking at an outline of the overall story we’re following in Mark and where we’re headed over the next few weeks leading up to Easter:

His Arrest leads to the following events:

  1. He is brought before Caiaphas, the High Priest
  2. The Inquisition before The Sanhedrin
    1. Lack of Witnesses
    2. Lack of agreement between Witnesses
    3. Before the frustrated High Priest once again
    4. His testimony condemns him
  3. The Trial before the Sanhedrin the next morning where he is found guilty and sentenced to death
  4. Sent to Pilate
    1. Found not guilty
    2. Pilate brings him before the Crowd who find him guilty
  5. He is Delivered to the Battalion to be Crucified
  6. He is Crucified between two thieves
  7. His Death
  8. His Burial
  9. His Resurrection

In our text this morning, two events are occurring simultaneously: Jesus remains silent while he is being falsely accused by the religious leaders and Peter is blatantly denying any connection to Christ while being accurately identified as one of his followers by a servant girl.

We see this in the form of writing Mark employs. His introduction is in v 53-54; then the two stories are told in 55-65 and 66-72.

I.     A Contrast of Two Responses (53-54)

exp.: v 53 tells us to events; He is brought before the High Priest. The High Priest summons the Council. The events we’ll be looking at took place over many hours in the dark of night. In the time in between his trials, Jesus was probably held in a cell – something more like a dungeon. When I went to Israel last year, we went to the place where Jesus would have been held. He would have been brought out before the High Priest and then again, with the Council. And each time they wanted to deliberate, they would have sent him back to the dungeon. We went down into this dungeon, this holding pit, and read Psalm 88.

I think there is so much more that goes on between these sentences. I’m sure, the religious leaders are scrambling – but what to do with a prisoner waiting to stand before them. He would have been held here while the members of the Sanhedrin are summoned. According to their rules, they only need 23 of the 70 members to form a quorum. So, they don’t have to get every member – just the ones they want.

In the times between, Jesus would have been lowered into this holding pit. He would have been alone. It would have been absolute darkness. Maybe they hung a torch above, but why waste that resource? He might hear other prisoners crying out in agony. But, other than that, he would have only his own heartbeat and breathing. I wonder if Psalm 88 crossed his mind. Read Psalm 88;

exp.: at the same time, Jesus was going through his struggles, Peter was outside waiting and watching. Rd v 54a; I’m having a moment here because I can picture this; Jesus is in the pit and Peter is right outside – waiting and watching. I’m guessing as Jesus is brought in and out and back and forth, Peter saw him. rd v 54b;

app.: So, Mark has set us up using a form of writing that indicates for us that these two stories are to be understood in light of each other: Two different responses to each situation – Jesus, before the religious leaders and Peter outside by the fire.

t.s.: Let’s look first, as Mark has outlined it for us, at Jesus …

II.    The Integrity of Christ (55-65)

exp.: rd v 55; 1st, I don’t think whole indicates all 70 were there; I think it indicates that there was enough to have a full quorum. Enough is there to conduct business as it were. Their business is focused – to fulfill the goal they’ve set way before – kill Jesus. According to Scripture, the only way to do this is with enough witnesses who can verify that he is guilty. But they found none!

  1. First of all, they were lying. Rd 56; So they found some other liars; rd 57-59;
  2. 2ndly, they couldn’t get their testimonies to agree. Remember this is all taking place in the night hours.

So it all ends in frustration. They are unable to find 3 witnesses who have the same story. So, the high priest stands up and takes over; rd v 60-61a; silence; rd 61b; Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” That’s a loaded question!

  • Christ: the anointed one; the messiah; this is something only God can confer upon someone. We’ve seen it in the book of Mark already (this is my beloved son…);
  • Son of the Blessed: The Blessed One is God. i.e.: are you God’s Son.

And Jesus answered quite simply: “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

The High Priest tore his garments; that means he probably isn’t wearing his priestly garments; these guys finally have what they’ve wanted; you see, Jesus says some pretty bold statements here:

I kind of picture the High Priest responding like Tom Cruise at Jack Nicholson’s confession to issuing the Code Red. But instead of stepping aside and saying; if it pleases the court, I suggest the members be dismissed so that we can move to an immediate Article 39a session. The witness has rights. This high priest tears his clothes and cries Blasphemy. Why? There are two verses of Scripture Jesus alludes to when he speaks. The 1st is Psalm 110.1: The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”  Which is a clear reference to the Messiah. Probably, the most quoted verse in the OT! I don’t know that for sure, but it has to be in the top 10. 2ndly, he quotes from Daniel 7. Turn there and let’s read that together.

Rd 7.9-14; Jesus isn’t claiming to be an earthly king – he’s claiming to be part of the Godhead. When he says, sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven, He’s making a definitive statement about who he is and, the High Priest gets it – as does everyone else in the room. Rd 63b: “What further witnesses do we need? Rd 64; 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.

Now it gets ugly. It’s one thing to despise a man because you think him an idiot or you hate his politics or theology. It is another to physically abuse him because you don’t like him. Rd v 65: so these godly, humble men…spit on him! They cover his face and hit him! They deliver him over to the Temple guards and the beat on him, too.

t.s.: I’m guessing some of this is even seen by Peter. Remember he’s right there.

III.   The Failure of Peter (66-72)

exp.: rd 66-68; Jesus is peppered with questions and accusations that are false. Peter is hit with questions and accusations that are totally true. But, Peter denies it. In v 70 the same girl speaks up.

  1. The 1st time it was to him alone.
  2. The 2nd time she speaks to the bystanders
  3. The 3rd time one of the bystanders speaks up – according to another Gospel, it is his accent that sticks out.

ill.: note the contrast between these two men:

  • Peter is accused by a servant Girl; Jesus, by a mob.
  • Peter is faced with true accusations; The accusations against Jesus are all false
  • Peter lies to his crowd but is left alone; Jesus tells the truth and is condemned for it

Rd v 72; Luke’s narrative has always intrigued me. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to read what Luke writes:

60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

This verse moves me because I can only imagine what the eyes of Jesus communicated to Peter. Were his eyes blackened? Swollen? Bloodied? Here is a man who has been more than a friend. The look; the rooster crows; the remembrance of the prediction – all of these culminate in a moment of realization for Peter. And in that moment and in those eyes were the compassion of a messiah whose heart is filled with forgiveness for those who reject and deny him, even this fallen apostle.

Conclusion: Oh, the countless times I’ve failed or denied my savior. And Oh, the gravity of his forgiveness that haunts my mind, as I understand I am so undeserving of his mercy.

Application: Well, what do I want you to remember from this message? Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Son of God. He rules and reigns in power. He alone will stand as judge over the earth. In light of this, I want you to know:

  1. The actions of his life demonstrate perfect faithfulness and truth.
  2. The promises in his words are perfectly sure and trustworthy. ‘then Peter remembered how Jesus had said’…What he has said will come to pass.
  3. Because of these two truths:
    1. Restoration is now our hope.

Oh sure, we can live in failure, but why? It is interesting that Mark records neither Peter’s restoration, nor Judas’ suicide. If we were left with, ‘And he broke down and wept’ But never heard anything of Peter again, those would be sad words indeed.

I got the following story from Chuck Swindoll. He got it from Nicholas Halasz, as quoted by Robert Raines, in Creative Brooding:

One morning in 1888, Alfred Noble, inventor of dynamite, the man who had spent his life amassing a fortune from the manufacture and sale of weapons, awoke to read his own obituary. The obituary was printed as a result of a simple journalistic error. Alfred’s brother had died, and a French reporter carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother. Any man would be disturbed under the circumstances, but to Alfred the shock was overwhelming because he saw himself as the world saw him–“The dynamite King (the weapon maker),” the great industrialist who had made an immense fortune from explosives. This– as far as the general public was concerned–was the entire purpose of his life (so said the obituary). None of his true intentions–to break down the barriers that separated men and ideas– were recognized or given serious consideration. He was quite simply in the eyes of the public a merchant of death, and for that alone he would be remembered….

As he read his obituary with shocking horror, he resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning and purpose of his life. This could be done through the final disposition of his fortune. His last will and testament would be the expression of his life’s ideals… and the result was the most valued of prizes given to this day to those who have done the most for the cause of world peace–the Nobel Peace Prize.

It makes you think for a moment, doesn’t it? What will I be remembered for? Who will I be remembered as? Our text today compares two stories: Jesus, the faithful and Peter, the faithless one. But I’d like to close comparing two other stories.

Mark interestingly doesn’t include Peter’s restoration. He also doesn’t include Judas’ suicide. But we remember both of them, don’t we?

If your obituary were written and published this morning in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, which of two stories would be told? Would you be remembered like Judas, whose failure stamped his life? Or, would you be remembered like Peter, whose failure was a stepping stone to a great and influential life: a life like his Master’s?

Let’s pray. God, thank you for the hope of restoration.

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