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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > What God Really Wants

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What God Really Wants
John 4:20-24
Skip Heitzig

John 4 (NKJV™)
20 "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship."
21 Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 'You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23 'But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24 'God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

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.

"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. Worship Can be Confusing

  2. Worship Can't be Confined
    1. To a Single Place

    2. To a Single Activity

  3. Worship Must be Candid

  4. Worship Must be Credible

  5. Worship Will be Consequential


Talk Over These Things:
  1. What two elements bring proper balance to worship? Describe the role of both of these in your own experience.

  2. Read Psalm 51:15-17. What are the things that God is after in our worship?

  3. How has your own personal spiritual upbringing (or non-spiritual upbringing) clouded your view of true, biblical worship?

Detailed Notes

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There is no greater activity than the worship of God alone. AW Tozer called worship the missing jewel of the evangelical church. Worship is the dominant theme in scripture, mentioned over 400 times, 8 times in this text.

  1. Worship Can be Confusing
    1. Samaritan woman confused by her sinful past
      1. Looks at life through the lens of her experience
      2. Until sin is dealt with, we are confused about worship
    2. Samaritan woman confused by her background
      1. History of mixed race and mixed religion
        (722 Bc Assyrians captured the northern kingdom, intermarriage of Jews with Assyrians and pagans, Samaritans offered to help rebuild the temple, rejected by Jews, Samaritans tried to stop with a letter [Nehemiah 4:2] and with an army, built their own temple on Mt. Gerazim, their temple destroyed in 129 BC, but still offer blood sacrifices on the mountain, only accepted the first five books of the Bible)
    3. Our culture and upbringing shape our belief system
  2. Worship Can’t be Confined
    1. To a Single Place
      1. It's not where, it's whom (Acts 7:48)
      2. We think of God near or far spatially - not a building, seat or pilgrimage (Jeremiah 23:23)
    2. To A Single Activity
      1. Not an event, a lifestyle
      2. Has to affect life
      3. Submission of lifestyle to God
      4. Your life is a gospel
  3. Worship Must be Candid
    1. Truthful, honest, whole-hearted
    2. From your own human spirit - pneumati
    3. From depth of heart, core being, who you really are (Matthew 15:8)
    4. Not worship - right God, right manner, wrong attitude (Malachi 1:6-8, 1:12-13)
  4. Worship Must be Credible
    1. In Truth
      1. Based on the truth God has revealed about Himself in the Word
      2. Tethered to God's truth
    2. Failure in worship can be traced back to wrong thoughts about God
  5. Worship Will be Consequential
    1. Result of a relationship with God
    2. True worshiper is a believer
    3. Primary purpose of salvation not to make us happy or keep us out of punishment, but for God's glory.
Greek terms: pneumatic - spirit
Figures Referenced: AW Tozer, John Hercanus, Charles Spurgeon, George Smith, Stephen Charnock, Martin Luther, John Calvin
Publications Referenced: "The Source" by James Michener
Cross References: Psalm 15:1-7, Ezra 4, Nehemiah 4:2, Jeremiah 23:23, Malachi 1:6-8, 1:12-13, Matthew 15:8, Acts 7:48

Topic: Worship

Keywords: worship, spirit, truth, Samaritan

Transcript

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Stay standing and turn to Psalm 95 and a lot of churches do this and yet for us this would be considered non-traditional where we do a responsive reading and we're going to read the first seven verses of Psalm 95 and we're going to read it together and we're going to alternate. I'm going to read verse one and the odd numbered verses and you're going to read verse two and the even numbered verses and we'll go down to verse seven and so let's, and by the way, I'm reading out of the New King James version so if you've got the newer Amplified, Living, annotated, whatever, it's going to just sound really weird so we all want to be on the same page. Psalm 95. Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Let's pray…

Please have a seat—that is, if you're done hugging. And turn to John chapter four. There is no higher calling and there is no greater activity than worship, than worship and the worship of God alone. No greater activity than the worship of God alone. There was a little boy who was being tucked in on a Sunday night. It was a classic moment but he shocked his parents when the little boy bowed his head and said, dear God, thank you for church today. We had such a great time but boy I wish You could've been there! Amen. Now why would he say that? Well there are a number of reasons a child might say it but truth be told, some churches worship the culture. It's all about being culturally relevant. How can we adjust who we are so the culture likes who we are? There's the worship of the unbeliever, at least it would seem that some churches so worship the unbeliever, the non-worshiper, that the big deal is how many non-worshipers can we get in our building. In fact, I'll even find out what the unbeliever wants and then reorient their church and their worship service to cater to the non-worshiper. There are a few examples. There was a pastor in Little Rock, Arkansas who held, on a Sunday, a Who Wants to be a Millionaire game at church. Two winners took home $1,000 each when they answered biblical questions. That would be worshiping the culture. A church in Texas concludes its Sunday services in time for Dallas Cowboy football games which are shown on a big screen outside the church. Now some of you guys are going, yeah? The pastor in Bryant, Texas pays ten dollars to people who come to church on his bus and perhaps the one that would beat them all, if they were trying to that, would be a Baptist church in Hammond, Indiana that boasted a record attendance when they sent out a fleet of 68 buses over a 60 mile radius to bring in people for what was called Heaven Sunday—Heaven Sunday. Included an organist without arms or legs. Hmm. A karate expert, a former Hollywood stunt cowboy, an ex-football hero, a rodeo star, Santa Claus, and a ventriloquist. That was church. It was A.W. Tozer, it's emblazoned in my mind, said, "Worship is the missing jewel of the evangelical church." The missing jewel of the evangelical church. And he wrote, "It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God's professed children are bored with Him." Bored? With God? Yep. Bored with God. We gotta do something else to get people to be attracted to come because people are bored with God. Now the passage of John chapter four is interesting on a number of levels and we have for the past two weeks, and now again today, look at this chapter. On one level, it shows us about spiritual refreshment. That was the first week we looked at John chapter four. Here's a woman who needed living water and Jesus presents Himself as the One who can give that to her. The second level is about modeling. How do we, like Jesus, approach the unbeliever and lead that person to water? And the third level we look at today. We just read through the passage previously, but we look at the essence of true worship. the essence of true worship. and we're going to begin in a minute in verse 20. Now here's the set-up. In the conversation that our Lord has with this woman from the well of Samaria, He shoots an arrow right into her heart when she, in a very cynical manner, says, I have no husband. And Jesus goes, bingo! You've had five of them and you're not even bothering to get married to number six, you're just living with him. and she suddenly gets spiritual and says, Sir, I perceive you're a prophet! And then she brings up the idea of worship. she asks a penetrating question. She doesn't deny her immorality, her failed relationships. She acknowledges that He's a prophet, that He reads secrets, that He knows her heart, her mind, her life. But He, in so doing, causes a response in this woman and so she poses an issue. A penetrating question about worship that sets up the whole discussion of worship. now before we read verse 20 to 24, there's something about worship you need to know about the Bible as a whole. It is the dominant theme in Scripture. How do I know that? Because it appears over 400 times. That's a lot of times. Worship, worship, worship. 400 times from cover to cover. Now John chapter four for the New Testament is vital. The word worship appears eight times in our text. It's the most significant passage on worship, perhaps, in the New Testament. Verse 20 the woman says, "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain," that was Mount Gerizim, they were standing right in front of it as they were at the well at Sychar. So our fathers, the Samaritan fathers, worshiped on this mountain, Mount Gerizim, "and you Jews say that in Jerusalem," that's Mount Zion, that's where the temple stood, "is the place where one ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The first thing that emerges about worship in this text, the most obvious, is that worship can be confusing. This woman was confused about worship. what is the right place? Is it, is it Mount Gerizim, is it Mount Zion? Now she's confused for a couple of reasons. Number one, her own sinful past clouded her view of God thus her view of worship. She's the cynical woman and the conversation shifts when Jesus uncovers her past. And when she recognizes that she is talking to someone who knows everything and is a spokesperson for God, what she calls a prophet, in essence what she is saying is, if you speak for God, sir, then would you please answer one question: where does a person go to worship? what is the right place? She has longed for that. Now her sin has obscured her view of life, of God, of worship, because she's looking at everything in life through the lens of her own personal experience. We all do that. And hers was one of failed relationships. And it could be that she just got so burned out on who's right and who's wrong and the whole religious argument of the Samaritans versus the Jews, that maybe she's just sort of given up on the God thing altogether. Like well I don't even get this. What's the right place to worship? see her own lifestyle has made worship confusing to her. I heard about a couple who drove into a service station. Now I gotta explain that because we don't have those around anymore. But I wonder how many of you remember, before the days of gas stations, service stations? Do you remember that? That was a long time ago. You'd drive your car in, they would pump gas for you and they would wash your window. Sometimes every window. I used to do that job—I know. So this couple pulls into a service station and the guy's pumping their gas and he starts washing the windshields and the man inside, after the attendant washed the windshield, said, wash it again, it's still dirty. So the attendant obliged, squirted a little more juice on there, wiped a bug spot away. The man put his neck out again, wash it again, it's still dirty. Just then his wife reached over to her husband, took his glasses off, cleaned them, put them back on his head and it was suddenly clean. The problem wasn't the windshield, it was his own vision. His own eyesight. Well it's the same with sin and worship. until our sin is dealt with, worship will always seem confusing and imperfect. That's one of the reasons she's confused. I think there's another reason that she is confused. And that is her own frame of reference, her own background. She was a Samaritan. Now I told you a little bit about the Samaritans a couple weeks ago. I'm gonna talk a little bit about it again and add a few things to it so you understand the passage. Way back before this, in 722 BC, the Assyrian army captured the northern kingdom of Israel. That was Samaria—captured them, the land. Took the population out back to Assyria as slaves but left in the land the very lowest of the people, the very poorest of the people, and then brought in other people from other lands that they had conquered, into that area so now you have not just Jewish people, but you have other peoples from other countries, a lot of different pagan peoples who married the Jewish people and brought their gods and goddesses and worship systems along with Judaism. So eventually you had not only an intermarriage and a mixed race, you had a mixed religion with elements of Judaism, elements of paganism, all combined into one. That became Samaritan worship. Later on when the Jews came back from the Babylonian captivity to rebuild their temple down in Jerusalem, the Samaritans offered their help. But the Jews in Jerusalem said you're not gonna help us, you worship a lot of other gods and goddesses and we're not gonna mix the pure worship of God with that nonsense. So when that happened the Samaritans got really mad and tried to stop the Jews from building their temple. How'd they do it? Number one, by sending a letter, Ezra chapter four. Number two, by sending an army, Nehemiah chapter four. In fact listen to the Samaritans in the book of Nehemiah. I'll read it to you as they mocked the Jews down south building the temple: What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish, the stones that are burned? That's from Nehemiah chapter four. Now this blunt refusal to allow the Samaritans up north to help them rebuild their temple only exacerbated the animosity that was between these two groups. So you know what they did up north? They said forget you and your stupid temple down south, we'll build our own temple. So they built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, the very place where Jesus is standing with the woman. So when she says, what's the right place, this mountain or Jerusalem, she was referring to a rival worship system. Ok that temple stood on Mount Gerizim until about 129 BC when a guy named John Hercanus destroyed it, he was a Maccabean ruler. They had no temple at this time but they were still offering blood sacrifices every year on top of that mountain. Oh by the way, they still do. To this very day, there's 600-700 Samaritans, still alive, still once a year doing blood sacrifices on Mount Gerizim. Seven weeks ago the latest high priest of the Samaritans died. It was in the newspapers over there and they have searched for a new one. Ok these Samaritans only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament. The Law. They did not accept the prophets, the Psalms, the writings, so they didn't have the full revelation of God and here's my point. Their own religious background tainted their worship of the true God. Because they didn't have all the information, right? So this woman is confused because of not only her sinful activity personally but her religious beliefs corporately. Now here's the point I want to make. Our culture and upbringing shaped our belief systems. You have come here today from a variety of backgrounds and some are done with the struggle, others of you perhaps are still struggling with that. Maybe you were raised in a home that was loose and existential and your parents said, doesn't matter what you believe. There's so many belief systems. You know, they're all the same. Just choose one and be happy and be sincere and go your merry way. Others of you, however, were raised in religious homes. Some in strict religious homes. Some in very legalistic religious homes and you bring that to the table. I've discovered something about tradition. It is so hard for some people to deal with their tradition. I've talked to people who are clear, logical thinkers until you talk about their religious traditions. And they go into a whole different mental state. They're not even able to deal with it rationally. Oh, I've always done it that way. Yeah and if it's right, good, keep doing it. But what if it's wrong? Well it can't be wrong because I've always done it that way. When I first gave my life to Jesus Christ, I went through that civil war inside. I knew that I did the right thing but I had all these traditions that were a part of my life and so when I walked into another church, a Protestant church, I felt so guilty at first, so weird. I'm like looking around, is lightning going to strike me, is this really bad? I mean I'm growing in Christ and I'm reading my Bible and I'm praying but the religious tradition of the past made worship so confusing. So that's the first thing to note. Here's the second thing to note from our passage. Though worship can be confusing worship cannot be confined. And that woman is about to learn something. It can't be confined to a single place. It can't be confined to a single activity. Notice verse 21: "Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain [Mount Gerizim], nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." You see what she was doing? She was confining worship to what? A place. What's the right place? Is it Mount Gerizim, is it Mount Zion, what is the right place? And Jesus says it's not about the place. It's about the Person. You've made it about the place. It's not about a place. It's not where—it's Whom you worship. Now several years later Stephen, in the book of Acts, will stand in front of the Jewish leaders and he will say this, in Acts chapter seven, for the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands. As the prophets said Heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool, what house are you going to build for Me says the Lord. What is the place of My rest? Has not My hand made all of these things? So Jesus says neither. It's not about the place—it's about the Person. Here's the mistake we often make. We often make the error in thinking of God as being near or far spatially, in terms of space, in terms of geography. You gotta go to a place. God is in that place. I remember when we first moved from the Lakes Apartments where we held our Thursday night Bible study to our first Sunday morning real church meeting which was the theatre, Far North Cinema Theatre, and some people just couldn't hang with that. They just thought I don't feel the Lord here. Because it was so cavernous. I mean it sat 200 people. it was huge for us then. This little Bible study in a theatre that sat 200 people. and people were saying it's just not the same. We like the apartment. I met God in the apartment! Ok get over the apartment—now we're in the theatre. You don't have to like the popcorn, but come for worship. but then we left the theatre and we went to a couple other buildings and we came to this building and again I remember people saying to me, the Holy Spirit isn't here! He was there but He's not here! I'm thinking what is it the metal building? He doesn't like metal buildings? Is that the deal? Here's another scenario. You come to church but on this particular week you come just a little late. Just a few minutes late than your normal time and other people who didn't get the memo came a little early and took your seat. So you walk up to your normal seat and you're thinking how on earth could they do that? That's appalling! They took my—that's my seat! That's where God speaks to me! They gotta get out of my seat. Next week I'll make sure I get earlier so I can get my seat back. Now I don't want to marginalize it. You can have a legitimate experience in a particular place but once you start regarding the place more than the Person there's a problem. This is the whole thought behind the pilgrimage. People need to go to a place, a pilgrimage, and in that place they're gonna have a special experience because that's a special place. So over in Madgugoria, Yugoslavia ten million people have gone to that village because of a supposed apparition and if they take a pilgrimage to the special place they'll have a special experience. Every year two million Muslims go to Mecca on what they call the Hajj for a special experience in a special place. In this state of New Mexico, on Good Friday, many people will take a trek up north to Sanctuario Chimayo to get some special holy dirt that will transform their lives forever. That's the pilgrimage. I remember I used to think if I could only go to Jerusalem and sit in the Garden of Gethsemane something special would happen because I heard people that did that. They went there and it was overwhelming and I wanted the overwhelming experience. So I saved up, I've been to Israel now 31, this will be the 32nd trip coming up and I remember the first time, I'm a young kid working on a farm in Israel. I got to go to the Garden of Gethsemane and I heard this is the place, this is the place. So I sat on a rock in the Garden of Gethsemane and I waited and I went, ok, God, go ahead. No, no. God, go ahead! Go ahead. Now You, You go ahead, You can do it now. God? Didn't happen. Didn't happen! Now some people have gone and it has happened. For me it didn't happen so I fly back home but one night I'm in my apartment in Santa Ana, a little low flea-bitten apartment and I'm in my apartment and I open my Bible and I came across a passage that spoke to my heart so powerfully and it was like an epiphanal moment and I experienced the presence of God in a very powerful and unique manner and I thought isn't this odd? It didn't happen in Gethsemane. It happens in Santa Ana. So now I'm thinking I didn't have to save up that money and take a trip to Israel. I could've saved my money and stayed in Santa Ana. No. please if you're saving up your money and you're going to go Israel, we're going to have a meeting after third service today, don't be dissuaded by that. Just know this: Jeremiah 23. God says am I a God who is only in one place asks the Lord. Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and the earth? Worship can't be confined to a place. Here's something else worship can't be confined to. A single experience. You know that when this woman said which is the right place to worship, you know what she was thinking of in terms of worship? an activity of worship. you go to the temple, you bring your animal, you sacrifice, you say some prayers, you sing a song, you do the liturgy. She confined worship to a single activity in a single place much like some of us do. We have our worship service at our church or we have worship seminars or we have worship conferences and we limit worship to an event rather than it being a lifestyle. You got to agree that you can come to a worship service, your mind can be a million miles away, and you're not even close to worship. Charles Spurgeon stunned his congregation one Lord's Day when he said, "I believe a very large majority of churchgoers are merely unthinking slumbering worshipers of an unknown God." Think of it this way. If I come and I sing and I raise my hands and I clap my hands but if I don't go out and my life is under the submission of the Lord Jesus Christ, am I really a worshiper? Am I what Jesus called the true worshiper? No, it just means I can act really well and play the part and on cue say the words really well. Now true worship has to be more than an event, it has to affect a life. There has to be life change. When thieves stop stealing and when adulterers stop the affair and when cheaters stop cheating because God changed their lives that's true worship. George Smith said something profound. I love it. He said, "There are not four gospels, there are five gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian. And most people will never read the first four." That's true, isn't it? That's really good, isn't it? I mean, a lot of people won't read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, but they'll read you, they'll read your life because you read those gospels. So worship can be confusing but worship can't be confined to a place or an activity. Here's the third truth the passage reveals. Worship must be candid. That is, truthful. Honest. Whole-hearted. And Jesus put it this way, "The hour is coming, and now is," verse 23, "when the true worshipers will worship the Father," here it is, "in spirit and truth." What does it mean to worship in spirit? Does that mean the Holy Spirit? It's not what it's referring to. I know that because in Greek it lacks the article. The article would be in Greek ha but the article is missing. The is missing. And it simply says, in spirit, not in the Spirit, formal, just in spirit. And it's not referring to the Holy Spirit, it's referring to the human spirit. The human spirit. It talks about from, the idea is from the depth of your heart, from the core of your being, from who you really are in essence. Worshiping God. You see man is a trinity—body, soul, and spirit. Body, soul, and spirit. You can worship with your body, hands up, eyes up, mouth singing. You can worship with your soul, you're all emotional and involved and it's exciting. But if in the core of your being, your spirit, is not worshiping than you are not worshiping. Jesus referred to this when He said these people honor Me with their lips but their heart is far from Me, in vain do they worship Me. So true worship must come from the depth of our inner being, it is not external, it is more internal. I'm gonna read to you a little paragraph by an English Puritan named Steven Charnock who said, "Without the heart it is not worship. It is a stage play. An actor acting a part without being that person really. A hypocrite. We may truly be said to worship God even though we lack perfection but we cannot be said to worship Him if we lack sincerity." You know God doesn't care about your voices, He cares about your heart. That's why He said make a joyful noise—that covers all the bases. All the bases. You can go, Ahhhh, and God will go, love that, if it's from the heart, love that! More of that! Make a joyful noise! It's not about how we articulate things; it's about the temperature of our heart. Now wouldn't you agree it's possible to worship the right God in the right manner but with the wrong attitude. And then we're not worshiping in spirit. Right God, right manner, wrong attitude. I want to show you something. You have your Bibles. Turn back to Malachi. You know where Malachi is, just go to Matthew, first Gospel, turn left one block. It's the last book of the Old Testament. Malachi. Malachi got his rebuking religious formalism when they made it all about the externals not the heart. And he's rebuking not the people but the priests, the pastors, the worship leaders. Verse six chapter one, God says, "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name." Verse seven: "You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.' And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil?" They're plopping sacrifices on the altar, they didn't care about what quality, it's like whatever, we've done this last week, we'll do it this week and next week. Here. Whatever. Look what God says, "Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" says the Lord of hosts," verse twelve, "But you profane it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled and its fruit, its food, is contemptible.' You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!'" Modern translation: what a drag! What a pain! "Oh, what a weariness! And you sneer at it," and in Hebrew it's you puff at it. They do this: psh. That's the idea of sneering at it. Psh. Worship. Yeah, whatever. To them worship was a pain, it was a drag, so I can sing and I can go through the motions but if my heart isn't in it that doesn't fulfill what Jesus said in spirit, worship must be candid. Here's the fourth truth that comes out of this section on worship in John four. Worship must be not only candid, but credible. Credible. It's a solid foundation, well-grounded in the truth. That's why Jesus balances it out by saying, "True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit," verse 24, "and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." What does that mean to worship in the truth? Simple. It means your worship must be based, my worship must be based, on the truth that God has revealed about Himself right here in the Word of God. You see sincerity is not enough. Being earnest is not enough. You must be tethered to the truth. The most sincere, heartfelt worship without Scriptural truth is not worship at all. And yet I always hear even Christians say, oh, but he's so sincere and so earnest and he means so well! But if worship is not tethered to God's truth it is not true worship. that's what Jesus means in verse 22. He says to the woman, "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews." Remember what I said? The Samaritans only held to the first five books of the Old Testament so they had a very limited revelation and knowledge of God. And so what Jesus is saying is we have the divine revelation—you don't. We have been and are the repository of divine truth—you are not. We worship the true God in the true manner. We know the truth about the true God. Worship in spirit and in truth. Every failure in worship can be traced back to wrong thoughts about God. That's why theology is so important. It's not well, you know, just whatever you believe, just pick something and be happy and be sincere. That's not, that's not based on truth. This is why I'm committed to Bible exposition. Just in case you're wondering how come every time I go to that Calvary church they gotta open the Bible and have a long Bible study? Can't we just sing for an hour and just move back and forth and go ahhh and feel real… you could. We could. And it might feel really good but it might not necessarily be true worship. Don't you understand that we always need our thinking realigned and readjusted every week a couple times a week according to truth because we live in a world that doesn't give us the truth? So we get reoriented and our worship is balanced. It's spirited, it's from the heart, it's sincere, it's heartfelt. But it's tethered on God's holy Word. This, by the way, is why the Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin, when churches en masse converted to the Reformation, they tore the altars out and put a pulpit in the front with a Bible on it to say the Word of God is where we will take all of our keys from. Here's the fifth and final truth that this passage reveals. Worship will be consequential. Worship will be consequential. In other words, it's a consequence or a result of coming into relation with God. You will become, in Jesus' words, a true worshiper. That's just a synonym for a believer. A Christian. A true worshiper. Notice that Jesus said in verse 23. This is a great part: "But the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth," here it is, "for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." This is what God really wants. This is what God really wants. God really wants and is seeking for worshipers. And this helps answer the question that rises in verse four. It said He needed to go through Samaria. You go why does He need to go through Samaria? To get a hold of a lost woman and turn her into what? A worshiper. A worshiper. Here's the really big truth about worship. It's not that you're seeking God—it's that God is seeking you. He is seeking to find true worshipers. So once we who are lost have been found, once we who have been blind see and come to Him, we're transformed into true worshipers. That's what God wants. Jesus said the Son has come to seek and to save those who are lost. And once those who are lost are found, He turns them into worshipers. That's why God sent Christ. And that's why we're redeemed. You know why you're redeemed? You know why you're saved? It's not to make you happy. It's not?! It's not?! No. The consequence of being a true worshiper will be the happiness and the joy that comes from deeper things than circumstances. But He did not save you or I to make us happy. Nor did He save and redeem us just to keep us out of eternal punishment. He saved us for His glory to give Him glory—to worship Him. So that means to the extent that we worship we are fulfilling the purpose for our existence. So to sum it up it's not about the place, it's about a Person. It's not about where, it's about Whom. It's not about externals, it's about the internals. And it's not about feeling, it is about spirit and truth. And that's transforming. James Michener wrote a famous book called The Source. Some of you may have seen that book. In that book he tells of a man by the name of Ur Bale or Ur Baal who lived in 2200 BC and was a farmer. Ur Baal worshiped two gods, says Michener. The god of death and the goddess of fertility. That was common to do in that era. As he was out plowing his fields one day, one of the priests of the temples came by and said, you must sacrifice your son if you want your crops to grow. That was also common practice. So on the appointed day he brought his little boy and his wife and drug them to the temple and offered his son as the priests plunged a knife and killed his boy and engulfed his son in flames to appease the gods and give them good crops. Then the priest announced to him and to the other men who had also brought their children for sacrifice, one of you will be chosen to spend the next week with the new temple prostitute, which was also a common way to worship the goddess of fertility. Ur Baal's wife looked at her husband's wife and was stunned when she saw an intense desire come over him like she had never seen before. And then the priest called his name Ur Baal and he almost lunged forward toward that prostitute to spend the week with her in that temple. So Michener writes, picture this scene, the woman leaves the temple alone. Not with her son, her son's been killed, not with her husband, he's with the prostitute. And she says if he had different gods he would've been a different man. What a profound truth that is. You become like the god your worship. If your god is false, you become false. If your God is true and living, you become truthful and full of life. If he would've had different gods, he would've been a different man. God is looking for worshipers and when He finds them they become different people.

Additional Messages in this Series

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10/25/2009
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Believe:879
John 20:30-31
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Is your faith in need of bolstering? Do you find yourself saying "Help my unbelief?" The book of John presents a unique, up close and personal look at the life of Christ, focusing on Jesus as God Incarnate. As we dive into a thorough study of each of John's 879 verses, we'll walk with disciples who were eyewitnesses of His ministry, His death, and His resurrection, and we'll experience abundant life in His name.
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11/1/2009
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The World's Most Important Word
John 1:1-5
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It may be difficult to say what the most important word is in any language, but not for the Apostle John. He begins his gospel with the identification of Jesus as, "The Word." Starting with the very beginning of beginnings, John shows us the fundamental truths about the Jesus that he writes about in the rest of this book. The language is simple and unmistakable and yet the truths presented are deep and extremely profound. Let's see how John presents Jesus and Who Jesus is according to one who was closest to Him.
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11/15/2009
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Step Into Son-Light
John 1:6-13
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I love early mornings when sunlight first comes up over the eastern sky. But if you’ve ever had the experience of the sun suddenly shining into your eyes (like when you turn westward while the sun is going down), it's not so pleasant. Most people wince when light is shined in their eyes. Jesus is presented here as being "the light of men" and "shining in darkness". But the world cries out, "Turn off that light!" How can Jesus enlighten your life and how will you respond to Him?
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11/22/2009
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One of a Kind!
John 1:14-18
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It is a mistake to think of Jesus as "one among many" options in the pantheon of deities. He is unique, matchless, unrivaled, singular, and incomparable. From His birth to His Resurrection, there is no one who even comes close to the majestic Christ. Jesus was One-Of-A-Kind! Let’s consider four distinct ways that Jesus was unique and what these mean to us today.
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12/6/2009
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The Greatest Man Meets the Greatest Lamb
John 1:19-34
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Everyone is good at something, maybe even great at something. Maybe you're a great artist or a great mom or even a great leader. Jesus said that John the Baptizer was the greatest man who had ever lived (Matt. 11:11). But John knew Jesus to be the greatest One ever—past, present and future - the Sacrificial Lamb sent to remove sin. Today we discover from John the Baptist how to witness for Christ and we look at the identity and the activity of this most unusual man.
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12/13/2009
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Are You a Follower-Really?
John 1:35-42
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You can't make it through much of the Bible without coming to the word Disciple. Just the four Gospels alone use this term 228 times. Basically a disciple is the follower of a teacher: one who observes, learns, and practices what the teacher shares. We now come to the first time John uses this term in his book. So today we assess ourselves by asking, "Are YOU a follower?" Lets look at five characteristics of the first disciples of Jesus and see if they’re reflected in our lives.
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1/3/2010
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Finding the God Who Found You
John 1:43-51
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When the first disciples encountered Jesus, they chose to follow Him--only to discover that they had already been chosen by Him! Without getting drowned in that theological tide pool, let's consider and marvel at how both of these realities work together. The Bible teaches that God sovereignly elects people for salvation while at the same time teaches our responsibility to believe in Christ. Let’s see how both Philip and Nathanael encountered Jesus for the first time.
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1/10/2010
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The Wedding Guest
John 2:1-12
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How cool (and also potentially scary) would it be to have Jesus as a guest at your own wedding! The unnamed couple at the village wedding of Cana had that privilege. Jesus was the wedding guest who brought the best gift. His first miraculous sign was performed while celebrating that marriage. But far more than just attending a nuptial party, Jesus demonstrated who He was in relation to four entities: His mother, the moment, a miracle, and His men.
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1/17/2010
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Trouble in the Temple
John 2:13-22
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A hymn by Charles Wesley begins, "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child..." It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful thought. However, Jesus is anything but gentle and mild in John chapter two. Here in the temple at Jerusalem, He displays His righteous anger as He overturns tables and beats the religious businesspeople with whips! But Jesus was using this trouble in the temple to predict a greater sign—the triumph of His own physical temple—His bodily resurrection!
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1/24/2010
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Uncommitted!
John 2:23-25
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These three verses are some of the most unusual in the New Testament. They describe a scene in the life of Jesus that explains His popularity and fame. The response of people to the miracles of Jesus is understandable. What is not readily understandable is Jesus' response to the interested and excited crowd. Though they believed in Him, He was not too energized over their kind of faith. Understanding this will help us to understand Jesus and His mission.
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1/31/2010
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Nick at Nite!
John 3:1-8
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The meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus at night is one of the most famous and compelling stories in Scripture. This man's inner curiosity and spiritual thirst drove him to want to know more. What he heard puzzled and astonished him, but he heard from Jesus' own lips the only way to be saved. Jesus' words here divide all of humanity into two groups: those who are born again and those who are not.
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2/7/2010
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Extreme Makeover: Soul Edition!
John 3:9-21
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For years ABC has aired two different versions of a show called Extreme Makeover. One is a total body makeover designed to enhance the physical beauty of a selected individual. The other is a Home Edition that rebuilds or adds to a struggling family's residence. But only Jesus can give the soul a makeover; only Jesus can ready a person for eternity. Here Jesus answers Nicodemus' question of how a person can have the New Life that comes from the New Birth.
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2/14/2010
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God's Valentine
John 3:16
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Today we take a look at the Bible's most famous verse and probe its depth while preparing to take the Lord's Supper together. Though most everyone knows this verse, John 3:16 is much more than just a slogan; it is a summary statement of God's love through Jesus Christ. This single verse of scripture gives us the salient truths of God's plan of salvation in abridged form. Let's consider God's great plan for us as we unpack it phrase by phrase.
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2/21/2010
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To Grow Up, You Must Grow Down!
John 3:22-30
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"They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud!" That's what British Puritan John Flavel once said. And that’s how John the Baptist once lived! John the Baptist and his followers provide some great applicational fodder for how Christians should get along and humble themselves before one another and God. For any Christian believer who wants to spiritually grow up and grow strong, he must first grow down.
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2/28/2010
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The Nail Everything Hangs On
John 3:31-36
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Imagine if everything you valued was in a sack, hanging on the wall from one nail. It surely must be a strong nail, or you're lost! If life could all be boiled down to one thing or one word or one most important principle, what would it be? What is the irreducible minimum for everything and everyone? John answers that here, saying that Jesus Christ is the nail that everything hangs on. He determined what has been and what will be. Thus our knowledge of Him and relationship to Him is paramount above everything else.
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3/7/2010
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Refreshment!
John 4:1-14
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You know the feeling of swallowing ice-cold water on a hot day or after a savory meal—it's refreshing! That cool, invigorating sip revitalizes you from the inside out and makes you say, "Ahh!" Well, that experience is not limited to the physical realm, but is even more satisfying in the spiritual realm when dealing with Living Water. Jesus came to give thirst-quenching spiritual life to every parched soul on the planet. When was the last time you drank deeply?
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3/14/2010
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How to Lead People to Water
John 4:10-30
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The world is thirsty and doesn't even know it, or won't admit it, or will look to be satisfied by everything else but Jesus Christ. So your job and mine is to lead them to water (living water, that is). Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman illustrates perhaps the best approach for personal evangelism to be found anywhere. Leading someone to the place of spiritual satisfaction is a process that rests upon two pillars—the pillar of attitude and the pillar of approach:
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3/28/2010
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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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There are 95 additional messages in this series.