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Rise Up! - John 20:24-31

Taught on | Topic: Resurrection | Keywords: Thomas, doubting, resurrection

The apostle Thomas has been noted for his skeptical attitude. In fact, we refer to a skeptic as a "doubting Thomas." In this message from John 20, we consider four ways Thomas was able to rise up from doubt and become a joyful follower of Jesus.

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4/8/2012
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Rise Up!
John 20:24-31
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
The apostle Thomas has been noted for his skeptical attitude. In fact, we refer to a skeptic as a "doubting Thomas." In this message from John 20, we consider four ways Thomas was able to rise up from doubt and become a joyful follower of Jesus.
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43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.

Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.

Visit Believe879.com for more information on this series.

FREE - Download Entire Series (MP3) (Help)

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. Pessimist: a person who is always seasick in the voyage of life
    2. Thomas
      1. Not with the apostles when Jesus first appeared to them in the Upper Room
      2. Missed the joy
      3. Thought crucifixion was the end
      4. "Doubting Thomas"
      5. Didn't show up at the tomb on resurrection morning
  2. Rise up and Be Honest (vv. 24-25)
    1. Thomas wanted something substantive to believe in
      1. Others said they had seen the Lord
      2. Thomas thought they spoke from emotion or mystical experience
    2. Thomas' personality
      1. When Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem: "Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, 'Let us also go, that we may die with Him'" (John 11:16)
        1. Courage
        2. Loyalty
        3. Honesty
      2. Last Supper: "Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?'" (John 14:5)
      3. Cynical
      4. Honest
    3. Apostles wanted a rational faith
      1. Had been with Jesus
      2. Seen His miracles
      3. Heard His words
      4. He had died: what they believed was shattered
      5. His claims did not seem substantiated by rational evidence
      6. Saw Jesus alive, had reason to believe
    4. Christianity appeals to objective facts of history
      1. "The heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false"—Clark Pinnock
      2. God doesn't ask us to take a blind leap into the dark
      3. He asks us to take a balanced leap into the light
      4. "I took the evidence that I could gather and put it on the scales. The scales tipped the way of Christ being the Son of GOD and resurrected from the dead. It was so overwhelmingly leaning to Christ that when I became a Christian, it was a 'step into the light' rather than a 'leap into the darkness.'" Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell
    5. Dealing with doubt
      1. Investigate
      2. Talk to the Lord
      3. Be honest about life
        1. Unfulfilled needs
        2. Past: shame imperfection desires
        3. Sins
          1. Confession
          2. Forsake
          3. Repent
          4. Come to Christ
  3. Rise up and Be Amazed (v. 26)
    1. Jesus showed up; Thomas didn't expect it
      1. 8 days
      2. Hopeless
      3. Didn't know Jesus had risen from the dead
      4. Confusion
        1. "I'm confused... I always believed science would be the cure-all for my problems, but I don't know if I can keep living without eternal life. I guess I'll just have to find a way myself to make it through this meaningless existence. I just wish I knew of someone who could show me the path to eternal life. If science can't provide the answers, though, then who or what can!? *sigh* Doesn't it seem like there is a higher power that gives our lives purpose? Well, science says there isn't, so there isn't."
        2. If this is all there is, then life is meaningless
    2. Some churches do not believe in the literal resurrection
      1. Risen in spirit
      2. Risen in our hearts: as a concept or idea
      3. In the sense that His teaching live on (according to Time Magazine)
    3. Resurrection is not a creed or a concept
      1. He is a real person who is alive today and forevermore
      2. Non-negotiable
      3. Pivotal point of our faith
    4. If Jesus is not personally, literally alive from the dead
      1. He is a liar
      2. There is no forgiveness for sin, no salvation, no hope
    5. Thomas wasn't with the apostles when Jesus appeared to them
      1. "Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord" (John 20:19-20)
      2. He missed the appearance of Jesus Christ
      3. He missed the commission of Jesus Christ
      4. He missed the joy Jesus gave to His disciples
      5. Thomas was an out-of-fellowship Christian
        1. A believer; not a belonger
        2. Isolated
        3. Pessimistic
  4. Rise up and Be Diligent (v. 27)
    1. Thomas though Jesus wasn't there
    2. Jesus was gracious
      1. Use your methods
      2. Check out the evidence
    3. Jesus credentials
      1. His impact on history
      2. His claim
        1. God
        2. Die and rise again
        3. His resurrection
          1. No other spiritual leader claimed a resurrection
          2. Disciples died for it
          3. More details about the last hours of His life, His death, and the hours following than any other person in ancient history
    4. Truth
      1. "Everyone wants to know the truth"—Aristotle
      2. We need a bedrock of truth to base our life on
      3. "What is truth?"—Pontius Pilate (see John 18:38)
        1. Cynically
        2. Yearning for absolute truth
      4. Christianity is based on objective historical facts of the resurrection
        1. Not based on philosophical truth
        2. Not based on personal bias
  5. Rise up and Believe (vv. 27-31)
    1. The Lord called Thomas to belief: Stop becoming faithless
    2. Rises from doubt to faith
      1. My Lord: common
      2. My God: deity
    3. The twin
      1. Not named
      2. Are we like Thomas' twin?
    4. Everyone exercises faith
      1. To drive a car
      2. To cash a check
      3. To go to heaven

Publications referenced: Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell; Time Magazine
Figures referenced: Clark Pinnock
Cross references: John 11:16; John 14:5; John 18:38; John 20:19-20

Topic: Resurrection

Keywords: Thomas, doubting, resurrection

Transcript

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Would you turn in your Bibles this morning to John chapter 20.  I'll tell you I was thinking how good the Lord is.  We've been going through the gospel of John and we don't have to miss a beat.  We can go right on through and where we land this morning as a perfect message for this Resurrection Sunday, John chapter 20.  Would you join with me in prayer? Lord, I am struck by the truth that you love deeply every single one of us, that you know us, as David said you've searched us.  So there's not a thought that goes through our gray matter but you knew it was coming before we got it.  You know the struggles we face.  You know our anxieties - what makes us wake up at night, the things we worry about - in terms of our own family or budgets, our future.  And how you want us to enter in to an assurance and have a hope that transcends anything that we are dealing with.  And I pray that for your people, that as we gather today you would inspire hope that has been there perhaps dormant.  Resurrect that hope.  And I pray Lord for those who don't yet have the real hope of a personal relationship that comes from knowing your son.  I pray Lord that they would enter into that today, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Somebody once described a pessimist as a person who's always sea sick on the voyage of life.  Two pessimists met at a party one evening and instead of shaking hands they just shook heads.  There was a farmer who was always happy.  He was always optimistic about life, yet he had a neighbor who was exactly the opposite, he was that pessimist, everything was always bad.  So when the optimist would say, "What a beautiful day filled with sunshine", the pessimist would counter by saying, "It's going to scourge our crops and they'll die". And then on a day when it would rain, the optimist would say, "Isn't God good for watering the corn?" And the pessimist would counter with something like, "If it keeps raining it's going to flood".  So one day the optimist decided, "I'm going to get this guy and show him something that he can't even gripe about".  They went duck hunting; and they were in the boat and they both had their shotguns and ducks flew over and they both pulled the trigger and a few fell into the lake and the optimist smiled big and said to his dog gleaming his eye, "Go get them".  His dog got out of the boat, ran on top of the water retrieved the ducks and brought them back to the boat.  The optimist elbowed the guy saying, "What do you think about that?" The pessimist sneered and said, "He can't swim, can he?"

All of that reminds me of somebody in the New Testament that is similar to that named Thomas.  I call him the apostle from Missouri.  My dad lived there so I can say that, the show-me state, I won't believe until I see it.  Thomas wasn't there the first Sunday evening when Jesus appeared first to his men.  He missed the whole event.  And for Thomas the cross was the end of the road, it was that.  There was nothing after that, nothing left.  We usually associate Thomas with doubt, we call somebody who is skeptic, we typically call them a Doubting Thomas. As if Thomas is the patron saint of all skeptics.  In looking at the Bible, we'll discover that in coming across stories about Thomas, whenever he says something, it sounds to us negative or at least on the dark side.  If it were in musical terms, I would say Thomas is the guy who always sings in the minor key.  But something happens to him on this day that will change his life and will change his life forever.

We're on John chapter 20.  We're going to begin at verse 24 and we're going to look at four ways, since our theme is "Rise Up", four ways that we can rise up today.  Number one, "We can rise up and be honest".  Be honest, Thomas was.  Verse 24, now Thomas called the twin, tuck that away in your mind, one of the 12 was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord!"  How do you think they said that? Do you think they said, "We have seen the Lord." Do you think they shouted that, like they were so excited after seeing him? And so he, Thomas said to them, get this, "Unless I see his hands, the print of his nails and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe".

Thomas was listening to these guys say, "We have seen the Lord", and he's probably thinking, "I'm not as weak as they are.  They're the emotional type.  They're the mystical type.  I've been down this road.  I see no evidence no proof." And he probably shrugged it off.  My early days as a believer were in college.  And because of my chosen major and profession, my professors, the scientific type, were typically agnostic or atheist they can be very down on my belief system.  And I was challenged daily by skeptics, and it put me in a really tough situation.  It was a dark season, but it got me thinking and looking for, searching for honest authentic evidence for Jesus Christ, which I found.  But back to Thomas.  Let me give you a little snapshot of this guy.  You hear what he said here.  If you went back a couple of years when Jesus was going to go up to Jerusalem - Again, listen to Thomas, Jesus says, "We're going up to Jerusalem".  The other disciples said, "Not a good idea; they want to kill you there".  Jesus says, "We're going none the less".  Here's Thomas' contribution, "Let us go that we may die with him".  What's up with that? I mean, how positive is that – Let's go we'll all die.

I'll tell you one thing, that's loyal and that's courageous and that's very honest.  Here's another time, upper room, Last Supper.  Jesus says "Where I'm going, you know and the way, you know".  Jesus has been talking about heaven and a lot of things and he says, "Where I'm going you know, and the way you know".  Everybody sitting around the table probably going like this, "Yeah".   Thomas speaks up, he goes, "Uh, excuse me.  We don't know where you're going so how can we know the way?" I've always loved that.

Here's a guy who will speak up when he doesn't get it, he doesn't understand it.  Thomas rose up and was honest.

A Sunday school teacher was teaching her class about the good Samaritan, how a man was left by the side of the road dying.  And so the teacher asked her class, "What would you do if you saw a man bleeding, beaten and dying by the side of the road?" One little thoughtful girl rose her hand up and said, "I think I'd throw up." She was honest.  Thomas could have been that student.  He was honest, he wasn't faking it.  Cynical, yes; hard-boiled, perhaps but honest.

At this point in the game, the disciples, including Thomas, needed a rational, reasonable explanation for them to believe. And here's why, they've been with Jesus, they put all their faith in him, they've heard all of his stories, all of the cool miracles he did, and then he died on the cross.  It's over, it's over.  Thomas hadn't seen the resurrected Lord, it's over.  Whatever that was that we saw that was so cool the last few years, it is over now.  At this point there's nothing substantive to substantiate believing in Jesus anymore or the claims that he made, until the resurrection, until Thomas actually sees the Lord.  That restores the reason for him to believe.

Why is this important? It's important because Christianity has always appealed to historical fact and rational belief.  You see we say that the heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false.  God is never asking anyone to take a leap into the darkness.  "Oh, he's going to take a leap of faith.  It's just a leap into the dark." No it's not, it's a leap into the light and its rational.  One skeptic who became a believer wrote these words, "I took the evidence that I could gather and put it on two scales".  The scales tip the way of Jesus being the son of God and resurrected from the dead.  It was so overwhelmingly leaning to Christ that when I became a Christian, it was a leap into the light, rather than a leap into the darkness.  But the first step is for you to be honest.  If you have doubts that's okay, voice them, be honest about them.  But then also, be honest about your life.  Do you sense that in your life, all of the status, all of the education, all of the materialism or lack thereof isn't enough to satisfy you?  Then be honest about them.  Be honest about your past.  You're not perfect.  Wouldn't you love to know that you're forgiven of anything and everything?

Be honest about that, be honest about your desires, about what you want.  Do you ever feel like there could be - you hope there is something more than what you've already experienced in life? And be honest about your sin.  Call it what it is, it's called confession in the Bible and bring that to the Lord.  Rise up and be honest, Thomas was.

Number two, rise up and be amazed.  Look at the next verse, verse 26.  After eight days, his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, the doors being shot and stood in the midst and said, "Peace to you".  What was Thomas' reaction at that point? Okay, I'm going to guess. "Wow, I didn't expect that to happen".  He's just been mouthing off, "I'm going to believe until I see", "Hi, peace to you", "Wow". Now there's a little couple words you may have missed, I did the first time read them.  Notice the phrase, "after eight days".  You mean the disciples had to put up with Thomas for 8 days, they had to listen for 8 days. "I don't believe that.  He didn't show up today either".  And then the third day, "Didn't show up today either" and then "He's not coming, not going to happen.  I will not believe until I can touch and see".

And I bet, a couple of those other disciples started feeling maybe a little bit like Thomas on the doubting side but after 8 days, guess who shows up for dinner.  Jesus pops in the room, Thomas saw, and it changed everything for him.  Do you know what - Thomas is like so many people who live their lives without Christ and thus without hope.

Life without God becomes an exercise in focusing on oneself and discovering the lack of meaning and lack of purpose.  Life is meaningless, more and more people without God are discovering.  I want to read something to you; I hope it really gets to your heart like it did to mine.  This was posted on an atheist website by a young woman who frequented that website and she left her comments.  And I quote, she writes, "I'm confused. I've always believed that science would be the cure-all for my problems but I don't know if I can keep living without eternal life.  I guess I'll just have to find a way myself to make it through this meaningless existence.  I just wish I knew of someone who could show me the path to eternal life.  If science can't provide the answers though, then who or what can? And then she writes, "[Sigh], Doesn't it seem like there's a higher power that gives our life purpose? Well, science says there isn't and so, there isn't."

How sad is that? That is the cry of the human heart.  Life is without any purpose or meaning.  So I've got to find, figure out, navigate something to make it worth living another day.  What the resurrection did though for Thomas, is rekindle hope - Wow, wonder, amazement.  Thomas rose up and was amazed.  Hey, get this – Did you know that there are many churches who don't believe that Jesus rose from the dead? They deny the resurrection.  I don't know what they do on Easter.  "Hi, what do we do? I don't know – what we always do".  They don't believe in resurrection, so what exactly do they believe in? There's a number of fallacies they hold to.  They will say number one, "That Jesus is risen in spirit".  What does that mean? Is that like my grandma? We say when somebody dies, "They're up in heaven looking down, there with us in spirit". Is that all? Is that what Jesus is, risen in spirit.  If that's true, let's go golfing instead of being here it's a nice day.  Why are we here if he has risen in spirit? Others will say, "He has risen in our hearts", that's what the resurrection is, Jesus is alive in our hearts.  We have the Christ consciousness.  We have the Christ concept.  We have the Christ Spirit.  Oh go away, how hopeless.  That's jibber jabber.

Another explanation by some so-called Christians and this comes from Time magazine always a reliable source of credible information, that Jesus is risen in the sense that his teachings live on.  He didn't really rise physically, bodily, literally but his teachings live on like Buddha or Gandhi.  Because we have his words and we keep saying his words, he keeps getting back up. What a joke.  Jesus is not some creed or some concept.  He's a person who's alive today and forevermore and without that we got nothing. And you have to understand something, this day is so special us because this teaching of the resurrection is the pivotal point of everything, it is the heart of everything we are about.  With no resurrection, there's no hope and we might agree to disagree in a number of things but not the resurrection.  If Jesus did not bodily, physically rise from the dead, then Jesus Christ is a liar, because he said he would die and rise again.  He said that and if he didn't do it, he's a liar.

Number two, if he didn't bodily physically rise from the dead there is no forgiveness of our sins.  There is no salvation and there's no hope.  And so Thomas was right in being utterly hopeless until he rose up and was honest and rose up and was amazed at seeing the risen Lord.  There is something to notice before we move on to the third point quickly.  It says in what we read, Thomas was with them when Jesus showed up Thomas was with them because if Thomas wasn't with them the first time Jesus showed up, go back to verse 19 and notice.  This is the first time now, "Then the same day at evening being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut, where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews.  Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you".  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side and the disciples were glad, overjoyed, rejoicing is the term when they saw the Lord.  Okay stop, Thomas wasn't there that first time.  He missed that.  He was out of fellowship, you might say.  He missed that.  He missed the appearance, the presence of Jesus, the commission of Jesus, the joy that everybody shared.  He missed-out on all of that, and I bet when Jesus showed up, one of the apostles were thinking, "I wish Tom were here". 

Don't you wish Tom could see this? This should be so good for Tom.  Ever say that, when you're at church and you hear something and you go, "I wish Jack could hear this or I wish Shelly were here to hear this".  I bet they were saying that about Thomas, but Thomas was absent.  Thomas was an isolated, out of fellowship Christian.  You might call him a believer but not 'belonger'.  And people who are isolationists, they don't stay in regular fellowship, become pessimistic like Thomas over time, brittle, hardened, hard-boiled.  They miss-out on so much.

Here's the third thing, "Rise up and be diligent".  What do I mean? Well, you can read and see for yourself.  Then he, Jesus said to Thomas, "reach your finger here and look at my hands and reach your hand here and put it into my side".  You know what we call this, we call this 'Busted'.  Thomas mouthing off, "I'm only going to believe if Jesus shows up here" uh-oh.  When I was in highschool, this is what this reminds me of.  I had a similar example or incident.  It was PE class, afternoon, I was senior in highschool and there was this kid on the team that didn't get along with me.  I didn't get along with him.  And I was mouthing off about he wasn't a good athlete, he wasn't a good runner, he wasn't this, he's that. He was standing right behind me the whole time I'm mouthing off. And were it not for the coach standing there, I would have got decked, because he was superior to me in all the ways that I was ditching him on.

What Thomas' experience is like that - a hundredfold, because Jesus shows up and says, "Peace to you Thomas, by the way reach forth and touch and see that it is me".  I love this about Jesus, he condescend so graciously to Thomas' doubt and he invites Thomas, "Okay Tommy boy, Mr. empirical, Mr.  I won't believe unless it's science, touch, see, feel". I challenge you to do the same, if you want evidence of the Christian experience there's plenty of it but be honest and be diligent and be ready to be amazed.  Because you'll discover that Christianity, that Jesus Christ has three basic credentials.  And as you examine three lines of evidence, you'll be amazed but be diligent.

Number one, "Jesus' impact upon human history unlike anybody else".  The impact that Christ has made upon human history is unique, singular, unparalleled.  Number two, "The claims that Jesus made about himself".  Number three, "A bodily resurrection".  Nobody ever claimed, no other religious leader, a bodily resurrection for themselves.  Only Jesus claimed, there would be an empty tomb and there was.  And his followers went to the death believing that.  Not one broke.

Aristotle said, "Everyone desires to know truth".  That is true.  Everybody wants to know truth.  We all have a fundamental conviction that we build our lives upon truth, whatever we really believe is true, we form everything from that basis.  And so, the day Pilate said to Jesus, "What is truth?" On one hand it was a cynical question on the other hand it was the deep yearning of his heart.  "Please, is there anybody out there to show me truth?" and then Pilate walked out of the room as if to say, "I don't think that anybody could do it, it's  not possible".

A friend of mine is a teacher.  True story, he does this frequently but on one occasion, he put a jar of marbles on his desk and he asked the students, "Guess how many marbles are on the jar?" One student said, "168"; another student, "221", another student, "250".  There were actually announced 188 marbles in the jar.  Then the teacher asked, "Which of all the answers so far was the closest to being right?" and everybody agreed, it was 168, that was the answer that was closest to 188.  He goes, "Okay, that's provable, that's an objective truth.  We can count the marbles and see that, 188 marbles".

Then the teacher passed out those little starburst candies, different flavors to all the students, different flavors to each student.  And then the teacher asked the students this question, "Which flavor is the right flavor?" and the students looked back like, "What, that didn't make any sense.  What do you mean what's the right flavor?" The right flavor is whatever you personally prefer as the right flavor.  Some might like orange.  I don't know anybody who likes orange.  Most people like red or yellow or whatever.  Then the teacher said, "Okay, when it comes to religious claims, spiritual claims – Are spiritual claims like the marbles in the jar or the candies I passed out?" You know, most of the students said, it's like the candies you passed out.  One might prefer this belief, one might prefer that belief, one might prefer red or nobody orange or green or yellow.  They said it's a personal preference, whatever road you choose and belief system and the teacher, my friend, said, "That's wrong, when it comes to Christianity, Christianity is based on objective, historical fact of the resurrection. Either that tomb was empty or it was not empty". And that's what we have to examine.

I'm encouraging you to make whatever belief system you're going to get into not based upon your personal bias or your prejudice disposition or philosophical outlook but actually look at the facts.  Thomas was confronted with that.  He rose up and was honest, he rose up and was amazed, he rose up and by the beckoning of Jesus was diligent to examine the evidence.

Fourth and finally, "Rise up and believe".  Verse 27, at the very end of that verse, "Do not be unbelieving but believing".  And Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God", Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed". A better translation, "Oh, how happy", my translation, "Totally stoked are those who have not seen and yet have believed".  And then John adds this postscript to the story, "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in his name".

Isn't it amazing how just a few verses ago, Thomas said, "I will not believe". And here he is doing what? Believing, because he was honest, he was diligent, he was amazed, he believed. He was so adamant that he wouldn't believe, that's it's a strong phrase.  "I positively will not believe".  And hearing that for 8 days, he kind of believed it himself.  Aren't people funny? You can tell a man that there are 735,688,000,000 stars out there and he'll say, "I believe that".  Show that same man a sign that says, "Wet paint", and he feels like he has to stop and personally investigate it.

So Thomas was there to personally investigate it, and it was a good thing that he did because he believed.  Thomas rises from the lowest depths of despair and disbelief to the highest pinnacle of faith. He says, "My Lord", that's the typical way to address Jesus, "and my God", that's his deity name, "You are my Lord and you are my God". Oh what joy must have flooded Thomas' soul.  Because just as the others, it says, "they were glad when they saw the Lord" but Thomas wasn't there.  Now Thomas is there and he too was glad.

Now I asked you to tuck something away in your mind at the beginning of this message and so I close with this.  Thomas has given another title, did you notice in verse 24? Now, Thomas called the twin, you know that Thomas typically, when he's mentioned in the Bible they always say Thomas the twin.  Did you ever wonder who his twin was? Well, we don't know that.  And I'm not bringing that up to frustrate you.  Great if they would tell us the answers.  I don't know who his twin is, just the other guy.  He is called the twin, but I have a hunch that there are even some of you sitting here today who could be Thomas' twin, you think like Thomas and you pride at yourself in the fact that you think like Thomas.  That's okay, maybe you're Thomas' twin.

You could rise up and with honesty and diligence, you too like Thomas come to believe.  If you're thinking, "Well, I'm just not that kind of person." Like coming on Easter Sunday, this is a lot of fun but I'm not that sort. I'm not the believing sort.  I beg to differ with you.  You can be an atheist this morning, you have faith, you believe something, you exercise faith in something.  As an example, for you to get up and drive your car, that takes faith.  I've seen some of your cars, takes a lot of faith. I've seen how some of you drive, lot more faith, plus you live in New Mexico.  So you need a lot of faith to get out on the roads here.  No, but honestly, you might know nothing about the combustion engine, but you believe if you put your key in that little hole and turn it that way.  You're going to hear a noise and it's going to start. And if you'd grab that little stick and move it back – zoom, you go backwards, you believe that. You may not understand it but you believe it. You have faith.

It takes faith to go to a bank, especially these days.  You've got this little paper in your hand.  You go to the bank to get some cash for it.  How do you know they'll give it to you? All that is, is a piece of paper.  All that is, is a promise somebody made to you but you have faith that that promise is good at that institution.  That takes faith. It takes faith to go to a restaurant, some restaurants more faith than others. If you believe that you're going to get nourished, that you're not going to get sick, or you're not going to die, that they prepared it the right way, that they follow all the rules and regulations.  For you to go to the doctor, it takes faith.  When the doctor says, "You're a bilateral blah-blah-blah", you go, "Okay cool, I have no idea what that is but I trust you totally doc." And, it takes faith to get you to heaven. But it's not a leap in the dark, it's a leap into the light.

But it takes faith, it takes active faith where you will say, "I recognize that Jesus is the one who can fulfill my life, that he is the savior.  I'm willing to make a step and stand on that.  I believe that.  I also believe that I'm a sinner and that I need him, you have to believe that.  And I'm willing to leave that behind and give my life to him and have him, make that transaction for me.  That's active faith. And Easter is all about that. Easter is all about giving life, eternal life.  And we want to invite some of you to make that step this morning.

Would you stand with me as we close in prayer? Father, this morning on this wonderful beautiful day that you have given, the most beautiful thing about it is the hope that continues to live in our lives daily, actively in reality, in time and space, because of the promise Jesus made that he would die and rise again and the evidence that shows he did - conquering death, giving us hope even in the face of our own mortality.  Lord, I now pray for the hearts who have heard this message.  A seed has been sewn into soil, may it bear fruit.  May the good sunshine of your spirit warm that soil, breaking up the – ground, watering it and letting it blossom in our midst here this morning.

As we're bringing this Easter message to a close, you're about to go out, meet with family, friends or maybe not, maybe just alone, maybe it's going to be a lonely day for you.  Maybe you're from another state and you just moved here and you don't know anybody. Or your family is broken up and there's pain in your life because of it.  No matter who you are, no matter where you're from, no matter what your background, you need to know this.  You can have hope.  You can live in hope.  And it doesn't have to be hope for one day.  You're going to fix one day, and you hope it lasts a year.  It can be every single day for you, as Jesus steps inside the cavern, the house of your heart and lives there is the king.  He can make everything brand-new.  But you have to let him in.

He's knocking at the door but you have the control to open or close it. You can close every word out and walk away or you can open your heart maybe for the first time.  Some of you are simply religious people.  You believe in the notion of gathering together and believing in a higher power.  You like the ritual of it. Others of you who have trusted in your own goodness, you say, "You don't need religion".  It has gotten you by without for a long time, you don't need anything else now.  I agree with you, God doesn't like religion either.  He has something infinitely better, a relationship with his Son. Maybe you made a commitment years ago to Christ as a younger person.  You're not walking with him today, you would love to know that you can come back home, you can.

As we sing this final song, I'm going to ask many of you who don't know Jesus personally, who don't know your sins are forgiven, who aren't certain that if you were to die, you'd be in heaven.  I want you to come and be sure.  I want you to rise up and come forward and receive Christ as your Lord and savior.  So as we sing this final song.  I'm going to ask you to get up from where you are standing.  Find the nearest isle. Stand right up here in front and allow me to lead you in a prayer to receive Christ into your life.  So there's no doubt that you're a child of God, your sins are forgiven and you can live with hope as we sing, "You come, we'll wait for you" you should come right now.

Here's what we're going to do now.  I'm going to lead you in a prayer.  I'm going to pray something out loud and I'm going to ask you to pray this out loud after me.  Pray these words from your heart to the Lord.  This is you asking Jesus to take control of you.  Let's pray, Lord, I give you my life.  I admit I'm a sinner.  Forgive me.  I believe that Jesus died for me and that he rose again for me.  I turn from my sin; I turn to you as my savior.  Help me to live for you as my Lord in Jesus' name, Amen, Amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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10/25/2009
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Believe:879
John 20:30-31
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Is your faith in need of bolstering? Do you find yourself saying "Help my unbelief?" The book of John presents a unique, up close and personal look at the life of Christ, focusing on Jesus as God Incarnate. As we dive into a thorough study of each of John's 879 verses, we'll walk with disciples who were eyewitnesses of His ministry, His death, and His resurrection, and we'll experience abundant life in His name.
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11/1/2009
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The World's Most Important Word
John 1:1-5
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It may be difficult to say what the most important word is in any language, but not for the Apostle John. He begins his gospel with the identification of Jesus as, "The Word." Starting with the very beginning of beginnings, John shows us the fundamental truths about the Jesus that he writes about in the rest of this book. The language is simple and unmistakable and yet the truths presented are deep and extremely profound. Let's see how John presents Jesus and Who Jesus is according to one who was closest to Him.
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11/15/2009
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Step Into Son-Light
John 1:6-13
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I love early mornings when sunlight first comes up over the eastern sky. But if you’ve ever had the experience of the sun suddenly shining into your eyes (like when you turn westward while the sun is going down), it's not so pleasant. Most people wince when light is shined in their eyes. Jesus is presented here as being "the light of men" and "shining in darkness". But the world cries out, "Turn off that light!" How can Jesus enlighten your life and how will you respond to Him?
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11/22/2009
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One of a Kind!
John 1:14-18
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It is a mistake to think of Jesus as "one among many" options in the pantheon of deities. He is unique, matchless, unrivaled, singular, and incomparable. From His birth to His Resurrection, there is no one who even comes close to the majestic Christ. Jesus was One-Of-A-Kind! Let’s consider four distinct ways that Jesus was unique and what these mean to us today.
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12/6/2009
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The Greatest Man Meets the Greatest Lamb
John 1:19-34
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Everyone is good at something, maybe even great at something. Maybe you're a great artist or a great mom or even a great leader. Jesus said that John the Baptizer was the greatest man who had ever lived (Matt. 11:11). But John knew Jesus to be the greatest One ever—past, present and future - the Sacrificial Lamb sent to remove sin. Today we discover from John the Baptist how to witness for Christ and we look at the identity and the activity of this most unusual man.
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12/13/2009
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Are You a Follower-Really?
John 1:35-42
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You can't make it through much of the Bible without coming to the word Disciple. Just the four Gospels alone use this term 228 times. Basically a disciple is the follower of a teacher: one who observes, learns, and practices what the teacher shares. We now come to the first time John uses this term in his book. So today we assess ourselves by asking, "Are YOU a follower?" Lets look at five characteristics of the first disciples of Jesus and see if they’re reflected in our lives.
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1/3/2010
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Finding the God Who Found You
John 1:43-51
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When the first disciples encountered Jesus, they chose to follow Him--only to discover that they had already been chosen by Him! Without getting drowned in that theological tide pool, let's consider and marvel at how both of these realities work together. The Bible teaches that God sovereignly elects people for salvation while at the same time teaches our responsibility to believe in Christ. Let’s see how both Philip and Nathanael encountered Jesus for the first time.
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1/10/2010
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The Wedding Guest
John 2:1-12
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How cool (and also potentially scary) would it be to have Jesus as a guest at your own wedding! The unnamed couple at the village wedding of Cana had that privilege. Jesus was the wedding guest who brought the best gift. His first miraculous sign was performed while celebrating that marriage. But far more than just attending a nuptial party, Jesus demonstrated who He was in relation to four entities: His mother, the moment, a miracle, and His men.
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1/17/2010
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Trouble in the Temple
John 2:13-22
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A hymn by Charles Wesley begins, "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child..." It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful thought. However, Jesus is anything but gentle and mild in John chapter two. Here in the temple at Jerusalem, He displays His righteous anger as He overturns tables and beats the religious businesspeople with whips! But Jesus was using this trouble in the temple to predict a greater sign—the triumph of His own physical temple—His bodily resurrection!
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1/24/2010
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Uncommitted!
John 2:23-25
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These three verses are some of the most unusual in the New Testament. They describe a scene in the life of Jesus that explains His popularity and fame. The response of people to the miracles of Jesus is understandable. What is not readily understandable is Jesus' response to the interested and excited crowd. Though they believed in Him, He was not too energized over their kind of faith. Understanding this will help us to understand Jesus and His mission.
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1/31/2010
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Nick at Nite!
John 3:1-8
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The meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus at night is one of the most famous and compelling stories in Scripture. This man's inner curiosity and spiritual thirst drove him to want to know more. What he heard puzzled and astonished him, but he heard from Jesus' own lips the only way to be saved. Jesus' words here divide all of humanity into two groups: those who are born again and those who are not.
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2/7/2010
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Extreme Makeover: Soul Edition!
John 3:9-21
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For years ABC has aired two different versions of a show called Extreme Makeover. One is a total body makeover designed to enhance the physical beauty of a selected individual. The other is a Home Edition that rebuilds or adds to a struggling family's residence. But only Jesus can give the soul a makeover; only Jesus can ready a person for eternity. Here Jesus answers Nicodemus' question of how a person can have the New Life that comes from the New Birth.
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2/14/2010
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God's Valentine
John 3:16
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Today we take a look at the Bible's most famous verse and probe its depth while preparing to take the Lord's Supper together. Though most everyone knows this verse, John 3:16 is much more than just a slogan; it is a summary statement of God's love through Jesus Christ. This single verse of scripture gives us the salient truths of God's plan of salvation in abridged form. Let's consider God's great plan for us as we unpack it phrase by phrase.
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2/21/2010
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To Grow Up, You Must Grow Down!
John 3:22-30
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"They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud!" That's what British Puritan John Flavel once said. And that’s how John the Baptist once lived! John the Baptist and his followers provide some great applicational fodder for how Christians should get along and humble themselves before one another and God. For any Christian believer who wants to spiritually grow up and grow strong, he must first grow down.
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2/28/2010
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The Nail Everything Hangs On
John 3:31-36
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Imagine if everything you valued was in a sack, hanging on the wall from one nail. It surely must be a strong nail, or you're lost! If life could all be boiled down to one thing or one word or one most important principle, what would it be? What is the irreducible minimum for everything and everyone? John answers that here, saying that Jesus Christ is the nail that everything hangs on. He determined what has been and what will be. Thus our knowledge of Him and relationship to Him is paramount above everything else.
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3/7/2010
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Refreshment!
John 4:1-14
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You know the feeling of swallowing ice-cold water on a hot day or after a savory meal—it's refreshing! That cool, invigorating sip revitalizes you from the inside out and makes you say, "Ahh!" Well, that experience is not limited to the physical realm, but is even more satisfying in the spiritual realm when dealing with Living Water. Jesus came to give thirst-quenching spiritual life to every parched soul on the planet. When was the last time you drank deeply?
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3/14/2010
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How to Lead People to Water
John 4:10-30
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The world is thirsty and doesn't even know it, or won't admit it, or will look to be satisfied by everything else but Jesus Christ. So your job and mine is to lead them to water (living water, that is). Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman illustrates perhaps the best approach for personal evangelism to be found anywhere. Leading someone to the place of spiritual satisfaction is a process that rests upon two pillars—the pillar of attitude and the pillar of approach:
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3/21/2010
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What God Really Wants
John 4:20-24
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Worship conferences, worship seminars and worship experiences abound within the landscape of the American church, but in all these there's something that seems to be always lacking—worship is confined to the activity of singing songs. When the subject is brought up in this chapter, Jesus talks plainly and openly about true worship: what it is and what it isn't. Let's explore these few verses to discover what God is seeking after and how to be part of fulfilling that.
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3/28/2010
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Spiritual Farming 101
John 4:28-42
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Farmers live for the harvest season--a time when their crops are taken in and profits are made. But crops don’t grow on their own. Seeds must be sown and plants must be garnered by a whole group of active farm workers. God is the head Farmer and we are His farmhands, all working together to produce a bumper-crop of people who believe that Jesus is the Savior--Are you in?
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4/18/2010
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Everyone Needs a Faith-Lift!
John 4:43-54
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Like any muscle in our physical body, our faith too must be exercised in order for it to develop. Faith is developed in virtually every circumstance in life, but especially in hard times. Peter put it best, "These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold" (1 Peter 1:7). Let's look at a real-life story of one who came to Jesus in his trial and had his faith lifted to a higher dimension.
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4/25/2010
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Healing Misery with Mercy
John 5:1-16
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One of Jesus' most distinguishing characteristics in His earthly ministry was His mercy toward people who were hurting. This is not astonishing, for the prophet Micah announced that "God delights in mercy" (Micah 7:18). Jesus standing among the squalid misery of sickness and hopelessness while at a feast in Jerusalem is a perfect setting to show how Christians can show mercy to a world in misery. But be warned: not everyone will be sympathetic to your cause!
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5/23/2010
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Like Father, Like Son
John 5:16-24
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The most important question you could ever ask is not, "Who am I?" but rather, "Who is Christ?" That was the supreme question Jesus presented to His disciples when He said, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Jesus made the most astonishing claim ever when He confronted the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem here in John 5. What do these claims have to do with us today? Absolutely everything!
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5/30/2010
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Everyone Lives Forever
John 5:25-29
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My mom used to wake me up early every morning with her sweet voice saying, "Rise and Shine!" It took a few times but I eventually got up out of bed. As Jesus declares that He will be in charge of the future judgment, He too will usher the call to everyone who has died to "Rise up!" But not everyone will rise up to shine; some will rise up to suffer. Let’s consider three inevitable and unalterable truths about the future for all of us: We will all die, we will all be judged, and we will all rise again to live forever... but where?
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6/6/2010
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Why Should You Believe?
John 5:30-47
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The theme of John's gospel is "believe." The whole reason he wrote this book is so that people who read it will believe in Jesus (see John 20:31). But why should they believe? And even more applicable, why should we believe? After all, the events of the New Testament are over 2,000 years removed from us today. Jesus' confrontation with the religious leaders in John 5 tells us why we should believe. Like a skilled lawyer, Jesus calls upon four witnesses to testify to His claims and these four give the reasons for our believing in Jesus Christ.
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6/13/2010
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Lessons From a Picnic
John 6:1-14
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This story ranks in the "top ten" of the most famous miracles of Jesus Christ. In fact this is the most famous of all His miracles as it alone is recorded by all four gospel accounts. But this is far more than a Sunday school tale. This extraordinary picnic was not just a free meal for five thousand folks; it provided lessons for both ancient and modern disciples. Here are four profound truths that emerge from this lakeside lunch.
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6/20/2010
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What Storm Goers Need to Know
John 6:15-21
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Have you ever been on the ocean in a raging storm? If so, you know that a well-trained crew follows an immediate protocol until the storm is over. Their knowledge and experience about violent weather are invaluable for those who want to survive. Using the story of Jesus walking on the waves to His disciples, let’s discover a few things about the stormy trials of life.
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7/4/2010
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The Right Thing, The Wrong Way
John 6:22-29
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Our text reads that crowds of people came "seeking Jesus." That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And yet Jesus challenges them as to their motive because they were seeking Him (the right thing) in order to satisfy themselves only (the wrong motive). Let’s consider three monumental truths about how people interact with spiritual things in general and Jesus Christ in particular. Let’s also reconsider the starting point for anyone who wants anything to do with Christ.
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7/11/2010
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Wonder Bread!
John 6:30-50
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The Hostess Company has for years advertised that its Wonder bread "helps build strong bodies 12 ways" and that just two slices has the calcium of eight ounces of milk and the fiber of 100% whole wheat. Wow! The crowd that Jesus was speaking to would have loved that! But our Lord presents something to them far greater than what they were wanting. He knew what they needed.
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7/18/2010
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Plain Truths About the Bread of Life
John 6:51-71
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Mark Twain once remarked that "A lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is still lacing up its boots!" This section of John's Gospel has generated much confusion and misunderstanding. Even Jesus' original audience had trouble understanding His meaning, and when they did, they found the truth was difficult to bear. These "hard truths," however, are "the words of eternal life" (v. 68). Let's look at these four realities today.
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8/1/2010
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Seeing Jesus Through the Fog
John 7:1-13
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There was always a fog surrounding Jesus! It was a fog of uncertainty, of unbelief, and of conflicting opinion. He was misunderstood about both His mission and His message. His friends, His family, and His foes were often bewildered about who He was and what He was doing. That remains true even today. But in this passage our view becomes clearer. Jesus had clearly defined objectives that He reveals here and they are extremely practical for us today.
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8/8/2010
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Follow Jesus But Don't Be Religious
John 7:14-24
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Jesus clashed with religious leaders more than any other group of people. He went against their spiritual grain and challenged their legalistic ideas. Christ made it clear that He hadn’t come to establish a new religion but rather to show the way to God His Father. He didn’t give people another “system of beliefs and practices”; instead He said that He Himself was the way, truth, and life. In this public confrontation, we learn how to follow Christ in truth and not be religious.
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8/15/2010
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Standing by a Waterfall (Dying of Thirst)
John 7:25-53
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All the diverse and assorted experiences offered by this world can never satisfy the deepest longing of the human soul. What we really want isn't what we really need. The rest of John chapter 7 illustrates this truth. In the midst of a crowd of people clamoring for deep spiritual satisfaction stands the only One who can provide it. He offers them the drink that really satisfies and all but a few refuse it, preferring rather to die of thirst. How painfully ironic!
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8/22/2010
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Scribbling on the Ground
John 8:1-11
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Can you imagine what a surviving copy of Jesus' autograph would be worth today? Or what about a letter to His disciples? The fact is, there is no existing document or copy of anything Jesus ever wrote. We only have this story of Him scribbling something in transient dust on the Temple stones. Though John doesn't tell what Jesus wrote that day, his account does reveal a lot about Jesus Himself and how He interacted with three different kinds of folks.
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8/29/2010
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Blinded by the Light
John 8:12-20
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When the sun shines right in your eyes, your immediate inclination is to squint, turn away, or put sunglasses on. Light can be blinding! Though light penetrates our world, providing illumination and energy for our very existence, big doses of it can be difficult to handle. That's true spiritually as well. Jesus, by His teaching and work, illuminated this world darkened by sin. Some rejoiced in that light, able to see where they were going. But others, who'd been so accustomed to spiritual darkness, could only wince when Jesus was around.
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9/5/2010
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The Worst Way & Best Way to Die
John 8:21-30
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One person put it this way, "Death is the big flaw. Sometimes we can postpone it, lessen its physical pains, deny its existence—but we can't escape it!" Since that is universally true, why don't people take death seriously enough to plan for it? While we are alive in this world, everyone should be thinking more about the next. But what's the best (and worst) way to die?
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9/19/2010
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The Best Way & Worst Way to Live
John 8:31-36
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Everyone has an opinion on what "The Good Life" is. For some, it's financial independence. For others, it’s autonomy from government control. For still others, it’s the ability to do whatever you want whenever you feel like it. Jesus offers a different kind of freedom and a better brand of life. Here Jesus tells us what the best way to live really is: It’s the freedom to be a genuine disciple. And He tells us what the worst way to live really is: It’s the slavery of a sinful lifestyle. Today consider how free you really are and what areas of life you may still be in bondage to.
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9/26/2010
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The Devil's DNA
John 8:37-47
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Your body has 100 trillion cells. Inside each one is a nucleus and in each nucleus are DNA molecules. DNA is like an instruction manual for life with densely coded information telling each cell what to do. A simple paternity test would prove that my father was really my father. Here Jesus gives His audience a spiritual paternity test that reveals their spiritual father to be the devil himself. No matter what your physical ancestry, you can always tell one's spiritual heritage.
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10/3/2010
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Who IS This Guy?
John 8:48-59
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Jesus had friends and He had enemies. But besides those, He also had some "frenemies" (enemies who pretended to be friends). To this crowd who at first pretended to believe (v. 31) Jesus is both confrontational and controversial. This paragraph highlights three possible identities of Jesus: two of them were his enemies' accusations and one was Jesus' own claim.
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10/10/2010
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Life Hurts! Where's God?
John 9:1-12
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"Why is there so much pain in the world?" is the most frequently asked question ever! We hate it when we, or those we love, are in pain. Today we see Jesus confront a hurting world. As we do, consider these words by Elizabeth Elliot (whose husband was murdered): "If God is in charge and loves us, then whatever is given is subject to His control and is meant ultimately for our joy."
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10/17/2010
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The Truth About Your Neighbors
John 9:13-34
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Those of us who are Christians live in a sea of unbelievers who work with us, live next to us, shop where we shop, and send their kids to the same schools. Some have a mild case of unbelief disguised by religious practices. Others are more demonstrable in their agnosticism or atheism. Let's watch a local Jerusalem neighborhood struggle against faith in spite of clear evidence.
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10/24/2010
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Got Any Blind Spots?
John 9:35-41
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When you drive, you encounter "blind spots"—it could be part of your own car or it could be a tree that hides traffic on the other side. Those blind spots hinder both progress and ultimately, safety. When Jesus healed a blind man in Jerusalem, the same man was also healed of his spiritual blindness. But others who thought their spiritual perception was keen were as blind as a bat! As we consider this story, can you think of any blind spots in your spiritual journey?
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10/31/2010
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The Good Shepherd (and a bunch of happy sheep!)
John 10:1-10
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This is one of the most beloved passages to be found anywhere in Scripture. But it's not a stand-alone passage: The healing of the blind man in chapter 9 was more than a miracle. It was part of the process of Jesus forming His flock. The leadership had cast the healed man out of the synagogue. Jesus found him, accepted him, saved him, and placed him in His own fold.
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11/21/2010
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What's So Great About the Good Shepherd?
John 10:11-21
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"What's so great about being a Christian?" some people ask. The answer lies in the kind of care, provision, and protection we get from Jesus Christ, our Shepherd. Have you ever stopped to make a list of the benefits that are yours as a follower of Christ? Consider this short list of advantages that you, as a child of God, have. When was the last time you thanked Him for being your Shepherd? This would be a great week to do that!
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12/5/2010
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To BElieve or Not to BElieve...
John 10:22-42
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"In all unbelief there are two things: a good opinion of one's self and a bad opinion about God."— Horatius Bonar. It's true, isn't it? Humanism is man-centered and rejects God's existence or His relevance. But Jesus appealed to two things: the plain evidence of His supernatural works and the testimony of those who witnessed them. Jesus here asserts His deity, and the reaction is predictable—some believed while others did not believe. Which camp do you fall into?
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1/9/2011
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The Great Physician's Patient Dies
John 11:1-16
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When a doctor loses a patient on the operating table, there is a deep sense of remorse and sadness in the surgical theater. Doctors are trained to save lives but sometimes even the best trained physicians are unable to control complications that lead to death. But here we discover that Christ, the Great Physician, not only knows that His patient is sick--He allows him to die! Here are three principles about Divine Medicine that we can all learn.
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1/16/2011
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A Tale of Two Sisters
John 11:17-32
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In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote his famous work, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The story before us is set in Bethany near Jerusalem and highlights the personal relationship that two sisters had with Jesus Christ. Their broken hearts provide an excellent platform to consider how Christ deals with people in grief and loss. Let's actively probe not only their responses but ours to the incredible promise Jesus makes.
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1/23/2011
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The Strangest Funeral Ever
John 11:33-44
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According to one source, there are approximately 2 million funerals in America per year, which means that about 5,479 funerals take place every single day! Most of those funerals are pretty typical: a formal service followed by an interment. But the funeral service we're looking at was really different--and not just because of a resurrection. Here Jesus does three things that are pretty normal for most people at a funeral, but strikingly odd for Jesus.
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1/30/2011
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What to Do with Jesus?
John 11:45-57
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Any lawyer can tell you that whenever the star witness is a resurrected corpse, you have a pretty good case! But Lazarus being alive from the dead doesn’t seem to persuade everyone. And so the big issue becomes what shall we do with Jesus? The decisions made here set the clock in motion for an impending hate crime—the crucifixion of Christ. But from heaven’s vantage point, this is all part of God’s plan for redemption. Let’s see the responses and how we can make a difference.
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2/6/2011
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A Meal to Reveal the Heart
John 12:1-11
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If you were to step into the home of Simon at Bethany (Mark 14:3) on that night, you would've seen Jesus and His disciples along with Lazarus and His two sisters reclining at a low table for a meal in honor of Christ. But if you were to step into the hearts of those people, you would discover they were all very different from each other. Those inside the house and outside represent the gamut of feelings about Jesus—from adoring love to intense hatred. What a complicated meal!
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2/13/2011
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A Day, a Donkey, a Deliverer, and a Decision
John 12:12-19
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2000 years ago, on the final Sunday of Jesus’ earthly life before His crucifixion, He did the most unusual thing—He sat on a donkey and was carried into the city of Jerusalem in parade fashion. This formal presentation of Him as Deliverer was both profound and predicted. What’s the significance of such an act as this? What overarching principles emerge for us today? We’ll dig in and discover them, but today you’ve got to write them down yourself:
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2/20/2011
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Living the Right Life
John 12:20-26
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If this sermon was a book and I wanted to sell lots of copies, the title would cause it to fail. Now if it were entitled "Living the High Life" or "Living the Successful Life," then I may have a winner. But many have lived with both success and riches who didn't live right! So what is the right life? Or to frame it with a better question: What kind of life is most pleasing to God? Through a series of paradoxes, John gives us the answer—it wasn't the answer most people are looking for!
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2/27/2011
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Cross-Culture
John 12:27-36
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The term cross-culture emerges from the social sciences and typically refers to interaction of one culture or language with another. But that's not how I'm using it today. I'm thinking of it in the biblical sense, the salvation sense. Jesus' whole life was immersed in the culture of the cross and He referred to His impending death on the cross as "His hour." Let's consider today the culture of the cross of Christ: what it meant to Jesus personally and the world ultimately.
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3/6/2011
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Believe It or Not!
John 12:37-50
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Most of you reading this are believers. Some are not. Both are dangerous positions to take but for different reasons—vastly different reasons! This paragraph in John's Gospel is the summary of all that has been written, from chapters 1 through 13. It reviews the two different responses people have to Jesus and then gives us Jesus' own synopsis on faith and unbelief. Today you will be able to understand the real differences and consequences of faith and unbelief.
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3/13/2011
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A Night Unforgettable
John 13:1-5
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Some days are frozen in time because of the magnitude of an event. You will always remember September 11, 2001 and where you were when the towers fell. The night America bombed Baghdad or the night John Lennon was murdered may be permanent memories captured in your mind. This was the final night Jesus spent with His own disciples and it would be unforgettable. Let’s discover how what seem like ordinary moments can be extraordinary appointments.
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3/20/2011
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Basin Theology 101
John 13:6-17
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At the final Passover meal that Jesus shared with His closest friends, He gave new meaning to the bread and wine, using them to point to His upcoming sacrificial death on the cross. Today we share Communion as a church family and reflect on that meal, as well as the lessons Jesus was teaching His first followers. After dinner Jesus took a basin of water and began to wash the feet of his students and taught them life principles about stooping, cleansing and serving.
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3/27/2011
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Betrayed!
John 13:18-30
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Relationships can withstand an enormous amount of pressure, but betrayal is sure to end most. The old English word means to hand over or to deliver. Think of it: while Jesus was about to deliver the world from sin and its destruction, Judas was about to deliver the Savior over to His enemies. If you've ever felt betrayed by someone, this study will have special application to you.
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4/10/2011
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A Brand New Way of Life!
John 13:31-35
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To follow Jesus is to have a brand new way of life. When these twelve men sitting around the dinner table started hanging around Jesus, they had no idea just how new and different their lives would become. At this final meal on that last night, they were still learning just how new their lives should be. (Jesus can still teach old dogs new tricks!) As present-day followers of Christ, let’s consider three aspects of life that become new once we become His disciples.
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4/17/2011
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F.A.Q.
John 13:36-38
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An old Persian Proverb reads, "It's harder to ask a sensible question than to supply a sensible answer." Many times our questions to God are reactive—based on a sort of knee-jerk reaction to painful circumstances. Peter asked Jesus two questions of this sort. But whenever we ask God questions we must hang around to get the supplied answers. The questions Peter asked are similar to ones we frequently ask. Let's consider and apply Jesus' outstanding answer
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5/1/2011
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A Theology for Messy Lives
John 14:1-6
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Life can be pretty messy sometimes: plans fail, people leave, money diminishes, and taxes rise. There are plenty of reasons to be troubled these days but there are better reasons not to be! Life was about to get real messy for those disciples around that Jerusalem dinner table. At times like that, there are some basic instructions we need to fall back on so our hearts inside us won't be swallowed up by the mess around us.
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5/8/2011
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How Can I Know God?
John 14:7-11
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What a thought—that a mere human can know God! The agnostic asserts this is impossible. The atheist insists that the very idea is an arrogant and purely metaphysical pursuit. But one of the reasons Jesus came was to reveal God's character and nature clearly and perfectly! Let's consider two roadblocks to knowing God and four resources that help us know Him better.
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5/29/2011
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Privileges of God's Employees
John 14:12-14
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Most companies have benefits for employees: things like overtime pay, health insurance, and sick pay. In 2 Corinthians 6:1, Paul calls us "workers together with Him" (NLT renders it "God's partners"). We have been called to a high and lofty task—to be His representatives here on earth. You might say we're part of the "family business." So what has God called us to do? And how has He provided for us in terms of resources? In short, what are the benefits of being God's employees?
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6/5/2011
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Four Part Harmony
John 14:15-18
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Some of the best moments on American Idol aren't the solo performances, but when all the singers join together and blend their voices in harmony. There's nothing sweeter than well-trained voices blended together in first, thirds, and fifths. Spiritual harmony is much the same—when believers blend with the triune Godhead there is an alignment that results in a deep sense of fulfillment. And what is the note we are to sing in this spiritual song? It is the note of loving obedience!
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6/12/2011
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Promises, Promises!
John 14:19-26
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Someone once mused, "Promises may get friends, but it's performance that keeps them." No wonder God has so many friends! He makes promises and keeps them. On this final night that Jesus spent with His friends, as both sorrow and confusion assailed them, Jesus made several promises that would sustain them in the days, months, and years ahead. What about you? Will you dare to trust the promises of God? It's the only way to see if they really work.
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6/26/2011
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Peace Where You Least Expect It
John 14:27-31
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On countless American gravestones this epitaph could be written: Hurried, Worried, Buried. What a sad way to live! Fear, anxiety, and distress have literally become part of our national culture. Odd, isn't it? Though we have such abundance in this country, most don't experience abundant life—especially as Jesus described it. Sure, everyone has his or her share of trouble and anxieties, but let's consider one of the greatest gifts Jesus gives to followers—the gift of peace!
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7/3/2011
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Life-Lessons from Grape-Growers - Part 1
John 15:1-7
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My parents grew grapes on their little plot of land in Southern California. There weren't many, but enough for me to know that getting fruit at harvest depended on three things: the solid connection of branch to vine, the vigilant care of the workers, and the consistency of those things over time. Jesus, walking with the disciples toward the Garden of Gethsemane, gives life lessons to His men using the familiar example of growing grapes. With that analogy in mind, let's consider the three ways our relationship to God is described by Jesus.
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7/10/2011
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Life-Lessons From Grape-Growers - Part 2
John 15:8-11
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As we grow older, we mature. In our spiritual lives we should become spiritually mature. The Bible calls it being fruitful. Spiritual fruit is the indication that we're truly connected to Christ. But there are others, as we'll see today. Last week we examined how the relationship with Christ is described (Connected to Christ, Cared for by the Father, and Consistent Over Time). Today let's consider how this relationship is demonstrated. When we're rightly connected to God we'll be:
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7/17/2011
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What a Friend We Have in Jesus
John 15:12-17
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We can get through almost anything in life with friends to share our sorrow and divide our grief. A Chinese word for friend is peng-yu and it has a much fuller meaning than in English. It means "one who brings completion and sums up beauty." The ancient Hebrews saw true friendship as an ideal to pursue and a blessing to enjoy. In these final moments with His followers, Jesus uses a most tender term for their relationship—they were friends! What does that friendship look like?
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7/24/2011
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Why Does Everyone Hate Me?
John 15:18-25
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There is a flipside to being a friend of Jesus. That's true of any friendship. Whenever you ally yourself and make friends with someone, you will incur some enemies because of it. Likewise, some who don't like Jesus won't like us either—and we discover there are quite a few who don't! Let's find out why, and how we can raise our heads high and prevail.
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7/31/2011
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Two Thirds Is Not Enough
John 15:26-16:15
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We love God the Father who created us and God the Son who redeemed us, but what about the Holy Spirit? We hear His name a lot, but who is He? What exactly does He do? What does He want from us? The Holy Spirit is the "quiet One," active in the life of believers but sometimes not acknowledged as being vital. Oswald Chambers noted, "The Holy Spirit cannot be located as a guest in a house. He invades everything!" Today, we consider Him and His role in our lives.
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8/7/2011
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The Holy Hound of Heaven
John 16:5-11
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Having understood Who the Holy Spirit is (Person not just power; Deity not just dignitary) we now find out what He does in the world of unbelieving people. Since the greatest gift God ever gave to the world was His only Son (John 3:16) it stands to reason that the greatest sin one can commit is to reject the Son (John 16:9). How does the Holy Spirit both sentence the world as prosecutor and lead people away from judgment? And what role do we play in all of this?
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8/14/2011
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When Sorrow Turns to Joy
John 16:16-22
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The flamboyant baseball-legend-turned-preacher Billy Sunday stated, "If you have no joy in your religion, there's a leak in your Christianity somewhere!" That's not to say that life is all laughs. Hardly! Jesus anticipated His followers' deep sorrow. He predicted it. But He also assured them that their experience of sadness would be eclipsed by a greater experience of lasting joy.
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8/21/2011
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How to Send Knee-Mail
John 16:23-28
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Today you can be anywhere in the world and send or receive messages digitally via email. Sending email has eclipsed traditional mail for years now. Sending knee-mail is similar (you can be anywhere)—but with better results! You don't need wifi or a modem; you don't need an electronic device or a computer. Before Jesus left His disciples, He wanted them to get "online" with the Father and stay connected through the simple yet powerful means of prayer.
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9/4/2011
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I've Fallen, but I CAN Get Up!
John 16:29-33
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I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail! So said President Woodrow Wilson. Our Lord knows us better than we know ourselves and is not surprised by our weaknesses. We all fall and fail, even though we may commit to standing strong. What can we learn about ourselves and our God in such valleys? Even more, what kind of restoration can we hope for after our bout with failure?
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9/18/2011
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Holy Eavesdropping
John 17:1
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Imagine if you could sit and listen to Jesus talking to His Father—what would Jesus say to Him? In this prayer (which comprises all of John 17) we step onto holy ground. His instruction to His followers is now over. His preparation of them is done. He now turns His attention heavenward to talk directly to His Father about Himself, about His disciples, and about His future church. This prayer is unique for four reasons:
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9/25/2011
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The Gifts That Keep On Giving
John 17:1-5
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It's possible to give without loving but it's impossible to love without giving— Richard Braunstein. Part of God's nature is that He shows His love by His generous gifts. "For God so loved the world that He gave..." (John 3: 16). Here, in the opening lines of Jesus' prayer to His Father, He requests a gift from His Father and acknowledges three other gifts—two given to the Son by the Father, and one given by the Son to us. These are the gifts that keep on giving!
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10/2/2011
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How Followers Are Formed
John 17:6-10
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Okay, so which is it? Did I choose God or did God choose me? Perspective is everything! If you look at it from the divine viewpoint, you'll say God chose. If you're looking at it from a human viewpoint, you'll say we do the choosing. But why can't both be true? I suppose you can sit around, scratch your head, and try to ponder such imponderables, or you can sigh happily and say with a grateful heart, "I'm elated that He chose me!" But you should also ask yourself another question while you're at it—What am I going to do about it now?
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10/9/2011
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Missionaries or Monasteries?
John 17:11-19
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How can you leave your mark on the world? Most everyone wants to be remembered for some contribution made to society. Well, Jesus wants us to do that, too. In fact, He prays for that. God wants you to make an imprint on life's road so people will say, "Hey look! God's kids were here!" We can't do that by isolating ourselves. We have marching orders!
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10/23/2011
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Listen Up! Jesus is Praying—for YOU!
John 17:20-26
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What's God's general will for you? Look no further than this text! Now as we listen to Jesus pray for us, we also find what our priorities in life are to be. These words are the "Last Will and Testament" of Jesus Christ. So pay close attention and you'll get it right from the heart of Jesus Himself.
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10/30/2011
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I've Got It Under Control
John 18:1-11
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Sometimes life appears to be spinning out of control. Events happen we didn't plan for, people do things we didn't expect, we find ourselves in places we never thought we'd be in. But though you can't always control what happens to you, you are responsible for what happens in you (attitudes and responses). What do we really believe about God's authority and power in our lives? Is there ever a time when God can't say, "I've got it under control"?
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11/20/2011
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The Darkest Night!
John 18:12-27
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On a dark spring night in Jerusalem, it seemed everyone was against Jesus Christ. The religious system had long been opposed to and jealous of His burgeoning ministry. The mock trial designed to get rid of Jesus was only going through the technical motions to achieve their end. And Peter, Jesus' closest friend, was in a downward process of disassociating himself from Him. But in the midst of the darkest night, the sunrise of God's grace was beginning to shine!
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1/8/2012
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A King, a Kingdom, and a Courtroom
John 18:28-40
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What kind of a King is Jesus, and what is the nature of His Kingdom? And what does it mean to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done"? These are the questions faced in the text before us. As Jesus nears the cross, a nation denies His reign over them, while a Roman ruler questions Him and then cynically admits his own confusion and despair.
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1/22/2012
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How Do You Handle Jesus?
John 19:1-16
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Pontius Pilate was like every other person who has ever lived. The fundamental question of his life was, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:22). Everyone has to deal with Jesus, to decide about Him and His claims. In one setting, we can see how one man (Pilate) was influenced to deal with Jesus in three different ways. These three ways are how many people today still choose to deal with Jesus Christ.
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1/29/2012
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Execution of a King
John 19:17-22
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Regicide is the official word used for the execution of a king. Most countries reserve the stiffest of punishments for subjects or assassins who would kill their royalty. John records the execution of the King of kings on a Roman cross outside the city of Jerusalem. But the rest of Scripture reveals that it was more than an execution; it was sacrifice that brought salvation. The next few weeks, we will consider the cross in depth and what it means for the world and for us.
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2/5/2012
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The Cross on the Billboard of Eternity
John 19:23-24
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Did you know that the cross of Christ was always God's plan from the very beginning? It wasn't a reaction to mankind's rejection of His Son, nor was it an accommodation to a Roman and Jewish miscarriage of justice. It was according to "the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). Today we will take a journey back and connect the dots of God's unfolding plan of the cross throughout the ages.
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2/12/2012
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How to Love Your Mother
John 19:25-27
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A mother's love for her children is distinctive and irreplaceable. To watch a child suffer is crushing and almost intolerable for any mom. In this touching scene revealed in three verses, we not only see Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the foot of her Son's cross, we also learn how Jesus cared for His mother. Even from His place of extreme suffering, Jesus was thinking of others and His love for Mary is noteworthy for us.
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2/19/2012
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iThirst
John 19:28-29
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The world is filled with Apple's i-technology, which delivers on its promise to make connectivity and information readily accessible. But there is a deeper need within everyone, a thirst to be right with God, that no app or gadget can fulfill. How ironic that Jesus, the great Thirst-Quencher, would Himself be thirsty. It was part of the great exchange—His temporary thirst enabled yours to be quenched eternally!
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2/26/2012
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It's Done!
John 19:30
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While Jesus was doing His greatest work, He uttered His greatest words! Through the excruciating pain of a tormenting death, Jesus gave the most meaningful statements worthy of careful consideration. John records three of Jesus' seven statements uttered while on the cross. The sixth—and perhaps the most hopeful—is the one we consider today.
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3/4/2012
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Death Under Control
John 19:31-37
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Watching someone you love die is always a heart-wrenching experience, especially when the victim experiences great suffering. For the apostle John, the death of Jesus was likewise difficult-but he saw a glimmer of hope, a silver lining in the dark clouds of death. This death was long ago anticipated and was being carefully monitored from the control center of heaven. Today we see why that's important.
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3/11/2012
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Disciples on the Graveyard Shift
John 19:38-42
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You can find an unending supply of books, pamphlets, and articles on discipleship in Christian churches and bookstores. Many of them will be predictably regimented and conventional, giving solid biblical references and calling Christians to ardently follow Christ—all great stuff. But not everyone's spiritual journey is identical. Some disciples are unexpected, and so is their story. Here are two disciples of Jesus who've been in the background and now step forward to care for the body of Christ after His death. Let's allow their story to inspire us.
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3/18/2012
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A Not-Quite-Empty Tomb
John 20:1-10
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There was a lot of confusion happening on the first Easter morning. The resurrection had happened but it was neither expected nor accepted by all at first. Mary Magdalene ran to tell the disciples what she saw, and they ran to check out her report. What they saw was compelling evidence of a resurrection, but only one of them really connected all the dots. Let's see why.
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3/25/2012
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Hope Rekindled
John 20:11-18
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When people grieve, they usually run the gamut of the emotional spectrum, from denial to bargaining to despair to anger to eventually hope. Mary Magdalene was in hopeless despair as she stood weeping by the grave of Jesus. The resurrected Christ deals tenderly with this woman as he reveals Himself to her and conveys hope for her future. Let's glean some principles for dealing with brokenhearted people.
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4/1/2012
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From Closed Doors to the Open Road
John 20:19-23
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Our relationship with Jesus isn't a secret to be hoarded; it is a story to be heralded! The disciples were seated behind closed doors (sounds like a lot of churches). Jesus wanted them out, giving away what they had been given. Let's see how these early followers went from panic to peace, from perplexity to purpose, and from protection to power. It's a great journey. Are you up for it?
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4/15/2012
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Gone Fishing! (Relating to a Risen & Returning Lord)
John 21:1-14
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I am not a great fisherman. I don't do it often and when I catch something, it's pure luck! My dad was the opposite—he loved it and was great at it. At least seven of Jesus' disciples were fishermen and here we see them plying their trade after the resurrection. Some beautiful lessons can be discovered about how to live while we wait for Jesus to come back for us.
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4/22/2012
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I Failed! Now What?
John 21:15-19
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One of life's harshest realities is failure. The very sound of the word seems harsh to our sensibilities. We even harbor the age-old axiom, "Failure is not an option!" But failure is an option; in fact, it's a certainty. But discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping-stones to victory. In a post-resurrection interview, Jesus restores Peter with a fresh commission. If you have failed in your spiritual experience (and who hasn't), these principles will inspire.
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4/29/2012
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Final Instructions
John 21:20-25
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As John closes off his singular testimony of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he features some closing words of Jesus and Peter about himself (John). These final sentences provide some instructions for us as we await Christ's return. How should we live in light of who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and when Jesus will return?
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There are 95 additional messages in this series.