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One of a Kind! - John 1:14-18

Taught on | Topic: Deity of Jesus | Keywords: deity, preexistence of Christ

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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11/22/2009
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One of a Kind!
John 1:14-18
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
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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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.

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Outline

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  1. Unique in His Nativity (vs. 14)

    1. Who He Was

    2. What He Became

  2. Unique in His Supremacy (vs. 15)

    1. John Was Older

    2. Jesus Was Greater

  3. Unique in His Generosity (vss. 16-17)

    1. Common Grace

    2. Covenant Grace

  4. Unique in His Clarity (vs. 18)

For Home Fellowships:

  1. Put yourself in John the Apostle’s sandals. What did he see that would make him leave his fishing business and follow Jesus?
  2. What do you think it was like for John the Baptist to discover that Jesus was more than just another man or prophet? When do you think he discovered this?
  3. Suggested reading: Jesus among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias (Word Publishing), Jesus Up Close by Skip Heitzig (Tyndale Publishing), God is Relevant, Luis Palau (Doubleday Books)

Detailed Notes

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81% of Americans "claim" to be Christians.  Asked "Who do you think Jesus is?" 70% said Jesus was not just another man.  42% stated he was God among men, 27% human, but divinely called, 9% said He was divine in that he embodied the best of humanity.  Most people don't have a handle on who he is.  John knew he was different, special, atypical, but he came to believe he was God. John 1:1.  World was not expecting Him in this way.  Jews expected a human ruler, not God in flesh.  Jesus really impressed John.  In chapter 1 alone John employs 22 different names/titles for Jesus, (Jesus, Christ, Lord, Light, the True Light…) Billy Sunday said 265 names for Jesus in the Bible, because he is infinitely beyond what one name can express.

  • Vs 1-18  Prologue to the Gospel of John
  • Vs 14-18 Summarize vs. 1-18, core of the summary

Message: Jesus is Unique
Jesus the unique one, God's only begotten Son.  John is the only one who uses that term.

  1. Unique in His Nativity (vs. 14)
    John records the Christmas story from heaven's point of view.  Matthew and Luke tell the historical perspective, John gives us the theological perspective.
    1. Who He Was
      1. The Word became flesh (logos)
        1. to the Greek the grand reason for existence of order
        2. to the Jew power of God Hebrews 1:1,2
    2. What He Became
      1. preexistence, not born, he always was
      2. most profound statement in history
        1. eternity came into time
        2. invisible became visible
        3. infinite became finite
        4. supernatural confined by the natural
        5. God moved into our neighborhood
      3. like King Arthur in Camelot, how He came did not reveal who He is
      4. Great imponderable - A.T. Robertson beyond the power of interpretation, Paul to Timothy
      5. How could and why would God become a person?
      6. John enjoyed it "We beheld His glory"
      7. The lives of the Apostles were changed by Jesus
      8. What did Jesus look like physically?  The writers of the NT never tell us what He looked like.  Not the tall, thin western image we see.  Based on history and archaeology He had dark eyes, bearded, short tightly curled hair.  12/02 Popular Mechanics, average build of Semite male at time of Christ 5'1" 110 pounds.  Since Jesus was carpenter, he was probably physically fit.  Not frail, pale and, effeminate. It wasn't important how He looked, what was important is who He was and what He did.
      9. The greatest gift is God wrapped in flesh.
  2. Unique in His Supremacy (vs. 15)
    John the Baptist referenced here.  John the Baptist a witness that Jesus is unique.  John the Baptist had a significant following, multitudes, some of which thought he was the messiah.  Still had a following in Ephesus after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  (Acts 19, baptism of John the Baptist)  John said Jesus is preferred before me, because He was before me.
    1. John Was Older - John was 6 months older and started his ministry first, but Jesus existed from eternity, and is God. Jesus is the only person who ever lived before He was born. Before Abraham was, I AM! Jews knew He was claiming to be God, they tried to stone Him.
    2. Jesus Was Greater- According to Michael Shapiro, author of the 100 Most Influential Jews of all time, Jesus number 2 to Moses.  On John's list, Jesus is supreme.  Is He supreme in your life?
  3. Unique in His Generosity (vss. 16-17) Grace mentioned 4 x in this paragraph.  The word fullness used by John only here, makes translation of this verse difficult. It's a favorite word of Paul. Jesus is the unique channel of blessing based on grace.
    1. Common Grace We all receive this grace. Health, air, knowledge, friendship, etc.
    2. Covenant Grace salvation, Holy Spirit, peace, heaven, all we need 2 Peter 1 to live victoriously. 
      1. Grace on top of Grace, like waves on the ocean.
      2. God's grace can handle everyone no matter how vile and hopeless.
      3. The law saves no one (Law through Moses, Grace through Christ)
        Righteousness demanded from man under the law/given to man under grace
        Righteousness based on man's good works under law/ based on Christ's righteousness under grace.
        Blessings accompanies obedience under the law/under grace blessings flow freely.
      4. God loves you a lot!
      5. Brilliant thinker, Karl Barth recognized the most profound truth to be "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…"
  4. Unique in His Clarity (vs. 18) If you want to see God clearly, look at Christ.  The word Son is not the word in the best manuscripts, but rather God.  Jesus is God, came to make God perfectly clear to the world.  No one has seen God in his undiminished glory and pure essence. If we did, we would die. Without Jesus, God would be distant, unclear and unknowable.  Jesus came so man can understand God. We are bound by time and space.  Jesus brought the supernatural into the natural.  "History is filled with men who would be god, but only one God who would be a Man." God gives grace when you believe the truth.  Grace and truth go hand in hand.

Greek Terms: monogenés ( only begotten), theaomai (beheld, study intently, gaze upon), pléromata (fullness)
Figures Referenced: Billy Sunday, AT Robertson, Billy Graham, Dr. Karl Barth, CS Lewis
Publications Referenced: Popular Mechanics, December 2002. The Jewish 100, A ranking of the Most Influential Jews of all Time, by Michael Shapiro.
Cross References: John 1:1, Hebrews 1:1,2, Acts 19, 2 Peter 1

Topic: Deity of Jesus

Keywords: deity, preexistence of Christ

Transcript

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Believe: 879. How far will you go to find the truth? He is among us.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word and we thank you for this man, John the apostle, and His testimony. He gave us so many rich things like the gospel of John and 1 John and 2 John and 3 John and the book of Revelation, all that are so exalting of Jesus. And I pray Lord that a little of that would rub off on us as we study his life and his message and his person. Lord I pray that we would indeed believe more and more and reap the benefits of that faith. In Jesus' name, amen.

A few years ago the Gallup Poll organization discovered in their polling of Americans that 81 percent of Americans claimed to be Christians. Eighty-one percent of the American population claims to be Christian. Operative word: "claims" to be Christian. Because you probe a little bit deeper, and what that means may be very different from what you and I know that means. In the poll, they discovered by asking a simple question, here's the question: What do you think of Jesus or who do you think Jesus is? They discovered 70 percent said Jesus was not just another man. Now that's a little ambiguous. So, He was a man but He wasn't just another man. He was a little bit special; a little bit different. Forty-two percent stated Jesus was God among men. Twenty-seven percent felt that Jesus was only a human, but divinely called. And nine percent said He was divine in that He embodied the best of humanity. So, here's Jesus. He's different; He's atypical and He embodies the very best of the human characteristics, thus that makes Him divine. So it's clear that the majority of people don't have a good handle on who Jesus was or what He was.

Now, even John the apostle, who wrote this book, he knew that Jesus was different and that Jesus was atypical and that Jesus was special. But eventually he came to believe that Jesus Christ, the guy he'd been hanging out with for three years, was God. And that's how he begins the book: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And we know who that is because we come to our verse today, verse 14: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." And it becomes clearer. Now, when Jesus came to this earth, we call that the incarnation—God becoming man. The world did not expect that to happen. First of all, they weren't expecting God to show up in human form. Second, those who were expecting Him, the Jewish people, didn't think He would be God. They thought Messiah would simply be a human ruler who would knock out their opposition—the Romans. And the Jews would stand tall at that time. They weren't expecting this.

I heard about a little church up in the mountains and they're located on a, on a main road where truckers go by. And as truckers go by and they get on their CB radios and they send signals to each other, sometimes the frequency gets caught in the church PA system. So it was very dramatic when one evening somebody in church prayed out loud and said, "Oh God, come and help us," and just then the signal over the PA was a trucker saying, "Ten-four, ten-four, I'll be right down."

Essentially, that is what God has done. He has come down to help us in our hour of need. And that impressed John. It's easy to see that Jesus really impressed John. And here's how I know that. In chapter one alone of John, chapter one alone, John employs 22 different names, titles, for Jesus. Twenty-two different ones. He calls Him Jesus, calls Him Christ, calls Him Lord, calls Him the Word, calls Him God, calls Him Light, calls Him Life, calls Him the True Light—22 different titles for Him.

Billy Sunday was an evangelist 100 years ago and he wrote, "There are 265 different names in the Bible for the Lord Jesus Christ and I suppose it's because He was infinitely beyond all that any one name could ever express." I think John would go, "Amen! I agree with that." Well, we're today in verses 14 through 18 of John chapter one and as a reminder, we're in the introduction. This is the prologue, verses one through 18 is one long message, though we've broken it up into three. One long message that is the prologue. It's the briefing. What John is doing is giving us the whole book summarized in 18 verses. So verses one through 18 summarize the whole book. But verses 14 through 18 summarize verses one through 18. So it's sort of like an even more encapsulated form of the entire book. It is sort of the core of the summary; it is the capstone of what he wants to tell us.

And what John wants us to know clearly is that Jesus Christ is unique. He is unique. And he wants us to know how unique He is. I think that is the best term to describe Him, given this paragraph. He is one-of-a-kind. That's why I've called the name of this message, "One of a Kind." And John uses a word to help us. In verse 14, he uses the word "only begotten." Now I know you're thinking, you don't know your math very well—those are two words. But in Greek it's one word. "Only begotten" is the word monogenés. And it means one and only or only begotten or the unique one. And it appears again in verse 18: "The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."

Now John is the only one in all of Scripture who uses that term. "Only begotten." Monogenés. There's no one like Jesus, John wants us to know. He is unique. If you were in France and you were in Sunday school, French Sunday school children are taught to memorize John 3:16. But their translation goes literally like this: "For God so loved the world that He gave His unique Son." So we want to look today at four ways from our paragraph that Jesus Christ is the unique One. Let's begin in verse 14 and read to verse 18:

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'" And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."

So verse 14 basically says, "Here's the first way Jesus Christ is unique. He was unique in His nativity—in the way He was born." It's fascinating, is it not, that 2,000 years after the fact, people are still celebrating the birth of Jesus? And I mean, everywhere. I was shocked when I went to Baghdad, in Iraq, some years ago, and there were Christmas decorations everywhere. There were Christmas trees and manger scenes, with Jesus, in Iraq. So He is unique in His nativity. The Word became flesh.

Now Christmas, and we're coming into the season, is viewed differently by different people. To a child, Christmas is the, it's the best time of the year—it's the most exciting time of the year. But to a child it means shiny lights and trees and gifts and Santa Claus and just, excitement. To teenagers, it means a time out of school, get to sleep in, maybe a new wardrobe. To adults, it's very different. It means time spent with family and friends, it means going to the mall and having overcharged credit cards and checkbooks and it means wondering if your relatives gained weight or lost weight and if you're going to buy a size that will insult them or not. All of that stuff goes through our minds. If you're a believer, Christmas is usually taken off the information given in Matthew and Luke. For Christians, Christmas means shepherds and wise men and the manger and Joseph and Mary and all of that.

But John tells us the story behind the story. John basically, in verse 14, tells us about Christmas without even mentioning Bethlehem, without even mentioning shepherds or wise men or mangers or Joseph and Mary. He gives us the real behind-the-scene information. He gives us Christmas, not historically, but theologically. Theologically. This is the kind of stuff, if you were on the hillside and heard the angels, you wouldn't know, unless you got this information from God. And if you were in the manger and saw the baby born, you wouldn't get the whole story unless you get John's testimony. And so he gives it to us; he answers the question: What Child is this? And this is what he says: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we, we beheld His glory, as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." So here's John, sort of peering over the shoulder of the wise men and the shepherds into the crib and says, "That, that baby there—is the Word!"

Now, that term, "the Word," we discussed it a few weeks ago; it's an odd term to our ears. It's so impersonal. If you walked up to somebody and said, "Hey, I want you to meet my friend—the Word." People would like at you like you're weird or he's weird. But it was a term, as we discussed, that both Jews and Greeks understood well. Because the Greeks believed in the word, they called it the logos, that's the Greek term. And they said, "There's got to be some reason for order in the universe; why we can observe the ordered rotation of the earth and the sun rising and setting and all this great reason, has to have an explanation." And they called it the logos; the word. So John is going, "Hey you Greeks! This word you talk about, this reason, this logic, this power—you got to know something. It's found in a Person called Jesus Christ. He was the Word. He was with God, He was God, and now He became flesh."

And the Jewish people, that was a term they were used to. They talked about the Word of God; the Word was the source of all that God did and all who God was. So that in the Old Testament, God spoke His Word and when He created the world, He created it with His Word. And the Word of the Lord came to so-and-so, and the Word of the Lord came to that prophet. So they were all about the Word and so John says to the Jewish audience, "The Word is Christ. He is the final Word." And that's why I love the way Hebrews opens up to the Jewish people: "God, who at different times and in different ways, spoke in the past to the prophets or to the fathers by the prophets has in these last days spoken to us by His Son." In other words, God always gets the last Word. And the last and final Word is Jesus Christ. And so he uses that term.

Notice what it says: "The Word," what? Was born? Was created? No, the "Word became flesh." That's an interesting construction. See, John wants us to know that the idea isn't that God created Jesus out of nothing, like everything else was created. But that the Word, Christ, already was existing and then He became flesh. "In the beginning was the Word," "The Word was with God, the Word was God," "He was in the beginning with God." And now the Word "became" a man. It's a very simple statement but it's a very, very profound statement. In fact, I think it is the most profound statement in all of history. Think about it. Infinity became finite. The invisible now is visible. Eternity is now squeezed into time. The supernatural is confined by the natural. Or if you please, God just moved in to our neighborhood for 33 years. "The Word became flesh."

In one of the opening scenes of Camelot, King Arthur is seen standing in a field, not dressed like a king, but like a peasant, in common garb. Nobody recognizes him because he's not dressed like a king. In fact, when Guinevere first meets King Arthur she has no clue that this guy is the king over all of Camelot. Because what he is wearing doesn't reveal his status. And so the way Jesus came did not reveal apparently to the eyes who they were dealing with. But John saw it. This is one of the great imponderables of the Bible. It really is impossible to get our minds around this; I tried. On my best day, I tried to understand this. I thought, "I'll have a lot of espresso and I'll take some time and I'm going to wrestle this one down." You know what happened? I blew a fuse. I know you're thinking, "Oh, that's what happened to you!" But the greatest minds can't figure this one out. And I'm not one of them, but there are some who are and they can't figure it out. A.T. Robertson, the greatest Greek scholar of the 20th century said, "This is beyond the power of interpretation." This is just a simple statement that you take based upon the evidence. And that's why Paul said to Timothy, "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness that God was manifest in the flesh."

Ok, question: How could, and why would, God ever become a person? Why would God ever want to do that? Hold that thought; hold that question, we'll get back to it. But for now, what we should see in verse 14 is here's John basking in it. He says, "We beheld His glory." Now the word "beheld" is theaomai, we get our word "theater" from it. You know what a theater is, you sit in it and you gaze at one direction for an hour or two or three. And you look at something; it means "to study intently; to gaze upon." It even connotes scientific research. There's John saying, "We looked. We gazed intently. This is the Word of life. We beheld His glory." Now at some point, we don't know when, but at some point, who Jesus was dawned on John. At first John saw that this is Jesus, He's saying some cool stuff and we're going to follow Him, but as time went on, he had to have thoughts like, "Oh my goodness—that's God eating chicken! That's the chicken He made! He's eating it! Those are the people He made that are going against Him and rejecting Him and saying those things!" "We beheld His glory." We studied Him. We really checked Him out.

You have to understand, the apostles were not just a bunch of "yes" men who really needed to believe in some Messianic figurehead. No. You know what the New Testament says about some of these guys. Thomas was a pessimist, far from that. Peter was a pragmatist. Simon the zealot was a terrorist. And they were all on the same team and the they're all hanging around Jesus, but after three, three and a half years, their lives were totally transformed by what they saw—by what they gazed upon. By what they beheld. Now I have a question because I'm asked this question a lot and I'll bring it up: What did Jesus look like physically? I get asked that a lot. A lot of people wonder, "What did He look like?" Well here's what's interesting. As much as John or the other apostles hung out with Him and gazed upon Him—they never told us what He looked like. There's never a physical description in all of the Gospels of what He looked like. Now, if you look at Western depictions of Christ, He is sort of tall and thin and has light brown hair. I got to tell you, if He looked like that, the Gospels probably would've written it because He would look so unlike everyone else that they would have noted that He looked that way.

But, according to the best clues that are based upon history and archaeology and even DNA samples of first century male Jews, Jesus had dark eyes, not light eyes. He would have been bearded, because that's Jewish tradition. And probably His hair was shorter and tightly curled. I know that defies every picture you've ever seen. According to an article a few years ago, December of '02 in Popular Mechanics, one researcher wrote, "The analysis of skeletal remains of archaeologists firmly establish that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus Christ was 5'1 with the average weight of 110 pounds. Now Jesus worked outdoors as a carpenter, and since He did until He was 30, it's reasonable to assume that He was more muscular and physically fit than Westernized portraits suggest." I'm glad I found that article and I'm glad I read it, because I always wondered when I saw those Westernized portraits, I thought, "He can't look like that." I mean, we picture Him as so frail and so light and so almost effeminate. And then He's glowing, on top of that. I look at the pictures and I think, "You need to get sun!" But He didn't look like that. But here's what I want you to know: it wasn't important how He looked. If it was important, they would have told us. What was important is who He was and what He did. And what we need to know is that the greatest Christmas gift ever given isn't some shiny toy in a shiny wrapping paper with a shiny bow. The greatest gift was God in a package of skin put upon this earth. He is unique in His nativity. "The Word became flesh."

Second, Jesus was unique in His supremacy. Verse 15 is all about that. He writes, "John bore witness of Him." This is John the Baptist, not John the apostle. John the apostle, the writer, never mentions himself in the book. And so when he talks about John, it's always the other John, John the Baptist. "John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said," This is John the Baptist talking, "'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'" Now I suppose that the whole point so far of John's writing the gospel of John in chapter one has been about how uniquely supreme Jesus Christ is, right? "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God." He made everything; He's the source of all life, all light. So John is exalting Him from the very get-go. Now he brings John the Baptist in again as a witness that Jesus Christ is not only unique in His nativity, but unique in His supremacy.

Now, John the Baptist had a following. He was quite popular; he was a very fiery, confrontive preacher. And he had a lot of people interested in him. They even thought, some of them, he was the Messiah. And when he said, "I'm not the Messiah," he still had people following him. In fact, it says in Luke, "multitudes" followed him. Multitudes. Mark's gospel says, "All of Judea and Jerusalem came out to hear him." So he was quite popular. In fact, John the Baptist was so popular that after Jesus came and died and rose, and the gospel spread through the world, there already were John the Baptist followers still in Ephesus. In Acts chapter 19, Paul comes to Ephesus and he asks this question, "Have you guys received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" And they go, "What's that? We never even heard there was a Holy Spirit." So Paul goes, "Really? So then, what were you baptized into?" And they said, "John's baptism." That's all they knew. There was still this little John the Baptist cult, if you will, following. It was all about John and John is the only preacher that we listen to, that kind of thing.

In fact, history says a John the Baptist following persisted into the second century AD. But here is John and John is saying, in effect, "I'm not supreme. He's supreme!" And this is how he says it: "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'" Now what does that mean? Well John was born first. He's older than Jesus by six months. He also started his ministry first and this is John saying, "I know I'm older, I know I started my ministry first, but you got to know something. This guy, Jesus, is God. He existed from eternity." That's the meaning of that little statement. He is supreme. Let me give you a little mind-bender based on this. Jesus is the only Person who ever lived before He was born. He's the only Person who ever existed before He was born. Now He's going to say that. He's going to say that to the Jewish people who will confront Jesus on one occasion. This is what they say; they go, "Ok. Are you greater than our father Abraham?" Remember what He said? "Hey, before Abraham was, I AM." And you might go, "That's not, like, good English." It's great theology. "Before Abraham was, I AM." And the Jews knew exactly what He was saying because they picked up what? Stones to kill Him. Because that was blasphemy and they said, "You being a man are making yourself out to be God." Duh. That's the whole point. And John the Baptist is saying that, "He is before me. He existed long before I ever came." Greater than everyone and greater than me, this noted preacher in Judea.

There was a book put out a few years ago by Michael Shapiro, a Jewish author. It was called The Jewish One Hundred, subtitled A Ranking of the Most Influential Jews of All Time. Number one on Shapiro's list? Moses. Number two on Shapiro's list? Jesus. Number three, according to his book, Albert Einstein. Number four: Sigmund Freud. Number six, Paul the Apostle. Number seven, Karl Marx. Number nine, the Virgin Mary, and number 98, Sandy Koufax, the pitching great for the Dodgers. Well, if John the Baptist had his list, number one: Jesus. And you know why? Because that's God's list. "He was before me, He's preferred before me, because He was before me." Now Jesus is supreme. Here's my question to you and to I, myself, this morning: Is He supreme in your life? I mean, here's John the Baptist, a great guy, a notable guy, a famous guy at his time, and he goes, "I've got to tell you something. It's all about Him. I live for Him. I exist for Him. He was before me and He is the Supreme One." And so we who claim to be followers of Christ: is He supreme or are we just once-a-week giving homage to the figurehead of Christ or twice a year? Or is He supreme? John said He is supreme and He deserves honor because of that.

Third, Jesus Christ is unique in His generosity. In His nativity, number one. Number two, according to John in chapter 15, His supremacy and now His generosity. Look at verse 16. "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth," he likes that word grace. Already four times in this paragraph, he mentions grace. "But grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Verse 16, I will admit, is a difficult verse to translate and that's because of the word "fullness." And here's why it's difficult. John never uses that word in all of his writings, plērōmatos is the word. He never uses it except right here. But Paul does use the term. In fact, it's a favorite word of Paul. Paul uses it a lot; John never uses it except here. And I think this is what he's saying, he means that Jesus Christ is the unique channel of God's blessing to us and it's based upon grace. It's based upon grace—not what we deserve, it's based upon grace.

Now, we all receive grace. "Of His fullness," it says, "we have all received." Everybody receives what we call common grace. Whether you're a believer, an unbeliever, a Muslim, a Mormon, a Catholic, an evangelical, have no faith at all—we all receive common grace. Things like health, air, knowledge, friendship, good times, that's common grace that God gives to all. But once we say, "I believe in Jesus Christ," and we come to Him by faith we enjoy something else: covenant grace. Salvation, Holy Spirit living within us, peace, heaven to boot. All of that is covenant grace. And, and listen carefully, every single resource we need to live the Christian life is given to us when we come to Christ. Everything. Second Peter chapter one: "He's given us all things that pertain to life and godliness." Everything you will ever need to please Him, to live for Him, to live victoriously, is yours. And you might be thinking, "Oh, but I failed! I failed along the way!" That's why it says right after that, "And grace," what? "Grace for grace." You know what that means? Grace on top of grace on top of grace on top of grace. It means when grace leaves, more grace comes. Sort of like the ocean. You go and look at the ocean, and one wave comes and then it crashes, then it recedes, then another wave comes and crashes, and it recedes and it comes and goes and more comes. And go back in an hour, it's doing this. And come back in a week, and it's doing this. And come back in 20 years, and you know what's happening? This. It keeps coming. And send your grandkids in a hundred years and it's doing this again. In other words, it's inexhaustible. That's the point of it. "Of His fullness we have all received." He's so generous.

Grace for grace. Some of you hearing that might think, "Skip, you don't know my problems." You're right, I don't know your problems but I know Christ and He has no problems. And He's given us everything we need. You might be thinking, "Still, but you don't know what I've been through." You're right. But I know what He's been through. And what He's been through enables you to have all that He promises. So, no matter how bad you are or filthy or vile or hopeless you are, listen. Grace can handle you. Grace can handle you. "Oh, but you don't know..." Grace can handle you. There's a great text of Scripture in Romans 5. It says this, "When sin abounds grace overflows." How cool is that! Literally, when sin reaches the high watermark and you go, "This is just so bad," grace comes higher. Listen, I was going to church as a young boy, taking drugs, and believing God wanted me to take drugs because it made me happy, that's how far gone my thinking was. And God's grace could handle me. And so God's grace can handle you.

Verse 17, just to continue that thought: "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." See what he's doing? He's drawing a line between the old covenant of law under Moses and the new covenant under grace under Christ. The law did come by Moses, but grace and truth came through Christ. The law just convicted sinners of their inability to keep God's perfect standard. That's what it did. People looked at the law and said, "Man, have I blown it! I've done that and that. It says, 'Thou shalt not,' but I've done it!" So all it does is convict sinners of their inability to keep God's righteous standard. It only takes one sin to make a sinner. That's all: one sin. You ask people, "Are you a sinner?" "Well, I'm not a sinner; I've just done a few..." You're a sinner. One thing wrong; it takes one sin and one sin under the Law is enough to kill you. The Law came by Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus. We could exhaust this further, but I want to move on. Let me just sort of sum it up by giving you the difference. Under the Law, God demanded righteousness from man. Under grace, God gives righteousness to man in Christ. Huge difference. One, God demands it; second, God gives it, and says, "I declare you righteous." Under the Law, righteousness is based upon good works—yours. Under grace, righteousness is based upon a good work—His. His good work on the cross is enough. Under the Law, blessing accompanies obedience, but under grace, blessing now flows freely as gifts. As it says here, "grace upon grace" upon grace.

You will never find another system of religious belief in all the world that has this kind of grace built into it. Grace upon grace. Tremendous truths. Here's the bottom line, really, to sum up these two verses. This is what you need to know, ready? It's really profound: God loves you—a lot. I used to be amazed hearing Dr. Billy Graham preach. Every couple of minutes, you could almost time your watch to it, he would say, "And God loves you." And then he'd say some more truths, "And don't forget, God loves you. And God loves you." And he'd keep on. It's like, "Ok, I get it." But he wanted us to get it. Dr. Carl Barth, a 20th century theologian, one of the greatest theologians ever. I disagree with a lot of his premises, but nonetheless, a brilliant thinker. And he was interviewed by a reporter who said, "Dr. Barth, of all of the thoughts you have ever had in that brain of yours, what is the deepest and most profound truth you've ever come across?" And the reporter waited for some deep kind of wordy statement and Dr. Carl Barth paused a moment and he said, "Ok. Here it is, ready? Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." Simple that a child can sing it; profound and deep enough that a theologian could drown in it. It's that deep.

Fourth and finally, Jesus Christ is unique in His clarity. Verse 18, what I mean by that is, if you want to see God clearly, you look at Jesus. He came to make Him clear. Verse 18: "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." Now I got to tell you about a translation issue. Some of the better, newer translations render this differently and some of your Bibles perhaps, already render it that way. The word "Son" isn't in the best manuscript; it is thought "God" is. And that is really the thought of John. "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father." "The Word was with God." "He has declared Him." It's a very powerful statement that Jesus Christ, who is God, begotten in human flesh, came to make God perfectly clear to the world. What does he mean when he says nobody has seen God? You know what it means? It means nobody has seen God. Nobody has seen God in His pure essence. Nobody has seen God in His full and undiminished glory. Yeah, I know. Moses had a vision of God and wanted to see the full glory of God but God said, "You know, Moses, if you do that, you know what's going to happen to you? You'll die. You can't handle it." And other people got theophanies and visions but they never really saw God in fullness but the only begotten God, God the Son, who's with God, He has declared Him. He's made Him known. The word "declare" means "explained." We get our word exegesis from that word. He broke it apart; He came and He explained and He lived and He reflected. And so when Jesus came, people could go, "Oh! I get it! That's what God is like! He moved into our neighborhood and we beheld His glory!" And now we know what He's like.

Now, without Jesus Christ, God would still be fuzzy and unclear and distant and unknowable. So Jesus came in a way that men can understand God. That's the reason for Bethlehem. And that's the reason for the manger. And that's the reason for Christmas: is to make God clear in a package we can understand. He became like us. Now we asked a question toward the beginning. Why would God ever become a person? What's up with this whole incarnation? Why would He do that? Now I want to explain it in closing. You and I are in the natural world and we are bound by the natural world. Our boundaries are time and space. We live in the time-space continuum. We don't live outside of that—that's the supernatural. That's where God is. We live in a confinement of space and time. The natural world. You may want to get out of it, but you can't go into a phone booth and become Superman and now have a super nature. You just have a human nature. Time and space—you're bound by it. Though I do want to escape my natural world, I want to get in touch with God. And every now and then, somebody will come by and say something like, "Well, if you read the Koran and pray five times a day toward Mecca, you can poke a hole in that box and you'll be in the supernatural." And somebody else will say, "No, you can't do that, that's not the way. But if you read the Bhagavad-Gita you could poke a hole through the box and you're in the supernatural." And somebody else will say, "Well, that's not true. But if you meditate on these crystals for a long period of time, you can poke a hole through the box and you're in the supernatural."

You know what? You can't poke a hole through the box. The only solution is that God has to crawl inside the box. And did He do that? Boy, did He! He blasted in to our natural world as "the Word became flesh" and we checked Him out. And He was the only begotten God full of grace and truth. So He brought the supernatural into the natural world. That's why Jesus could say, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father. We have the same nature."

Christmas is coming and we're going to get lots of cards. I get lots of Christmas cards and eventually I throw them away. You do, too. When I get them we do pray for the ones that send them, we make that our policy, but then we throw them away. Unless it's a very unusual card. And I've kept a couple very unusual cards. Let me tell you about one. The front of the card is alarming because there's a picture of world dictators, Mao Test-Tung, Stalin, Adolf Hitler, on and on and on. That's enough to arrest most people at Christmas. And you open up the card and then is the explanation. It says, "History is filled with men who would be god. But only one God who would be a Man." Such a powerful statement. There are people who puff themselves up, but there's one God who humbled Himself and became a Man. And why? C.S. Lewis said, "God, or the Son of God, became a Man that men and women might become sons and daughters of God." And that is the truth. That is the truth and it can't be divorced from grace because He's full of what? Grace and truth. And that's mentioned twice. Grace and truth.

So here's the deal about grace, this generous, unmerited favor. God gives you grace when you believe the truth. If you don't believe the truth, you won't enjoy the covenant grace. You'll have air to breathe and friendships and good times, but covenant grace comes when you believe truth and when you believe truth, grace becomes a part of that experience.

Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for the Truth that is in Christ, that is expressed in the words of the Old and New Testament, but is seen ultimately in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is full of grace and full of truth. And because You are so generous, Lord, we ought to be the happiest, most confident people on the earth because we have received the fullness and everything we need. Lord help us, by Your grace, once again to tap into that and to tap into those resources and to be all that You want us to be. Thank You for this congregation. Thank You for their love for You, and thank You that we can all gather and celebrate Your love for us, and we do that again as we close. In Jesus' name, 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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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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4/8/2012
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Rise Up!
John 20:24-31
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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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4/15/2012
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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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