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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > Follow Jesus But Don't Be Religious

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Follow Jesus But Don't Be Religious
John 7:14-24
Skip Heitzig

John 7 (NKJV™)
14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.
15 And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"
16 Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.
17 "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.
18 "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
19 "Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?"
20 The people answered and said, "You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?"
21 Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.
22 "Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.
23 "If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?
24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

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

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43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

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.

"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.

FREE - Download Entire Series (MP3) (Help) | Buy series

Outline

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  1. Doctrine is Essential (vv. 14-16)

    1. Jesus Teaches

    2. The Jews Marvel


  2. Discernment is Crucial (vv. 17-18, 24)

    1. Commanded

    2. Explained


  3. Religion Can be Harmful (vv. 19-24)

    1. It Justifies Evil

    2. It Minimizes Good


Making it more than a Sermon:
  1. Why do you think that most people are more comfortable being part of a religious system rather than following Christ personally?

  2. What was the source of confusion among the people concerning Jesus? Are there any parallels with our modern time?

  3. Can you think of an example of how lack of discernment has hurt someone?

Detailed Notes

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Religion is typically about doing certain things or believing a conformed set of ideals, rather than having a relationship with God through His Son. Religion is a set of beliefs and practices usually involving devotional and ritual observances. Following Jesus may involve those things, but they aren't the core. Jesus Christ is God's refreshing solution to man's failed religious attempts. According to E. Stanley Jones, Christianity has creeds, but is not a creed; it has rites, but is not a rite; it has institutions, is not an institution. Christianity is Christ and Our response to Him.

86% of the world population is religious. There isn't anything God hates more than religion. Religion is my coming to God on my own terms. Christianity is my coming to God on His terms, or rather God coming to us. Karl Marx said religion is the opiate of the masses. Jesus is the Savior of the world. God gave only one religion to man: Judaism. Jesus fulfilled that system – Matthew 5:17.

In this text, there is a clash between Jesus Christ and the religious elite about truth itself. It is the Feast of Tabernacles (one of three annual convocation feasts, males within 20 miles had to be there, celebration of God's provision during their 40 years in the desert).

  1. Doctrine is Essential (vv. 14-16)
    1. Jesus Teaches
      1. First thing Jesus does when he goes to the temple (not heal, not present Himself as a political king, not feed the multitude).
      2. Teaches doctrine (didasko - instruct, teach; didache - doctrine)
        1. Jesus said to teach 36 times in the Gospels.
        2. Jesus called Teacher 47 times. (didaskalos - teacher)
        3. "Doctrine" is mentioned 33 times in the New Testament
      3. Doctrine is important – Hosea 4:6; Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 4:1
      4. People live without consulting the "manual" until something is broken.
      5. When truth is sidelined, it's often replaced by religion.
      6. Many people aren't interested in teaching – 2 Timothy 4:3
    2. The Jews Marvel
      1. "How does this man know letters" derogatory
      2. Letters–grammata-rabbinical study of Old Testament writings
      3. Hung up on letters, looking at the Word
  2. Discernment is Crucial (vv. 17-18, 24)
    1. Commanded
      1. Judge a righteous judgment
      2. Don't harshly judge another person's motive - Matthew 7:1
      3. Evaluate what you hear; a spiritual man makes judgments about everything
        1 Corinthians 2:15
      4. Voicing the truth can get you called "judgmental" (i.e., Elijah, Paul, John, Jude)
      5. Discernment is necessary; False prophets will come to you in sheep's clothing Matthew 7:15
        1. You don't have to look for them
        2. They will be disguised as sheep
    2. Explained ­– Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 28:9
      1. Willing mind
        "95% of knowing the will of God consists in being willing to do it before you know what it is" – Donald Grey Barnhouse
      2. Worshipful heart
  3. Religion Can be Harmful (vv. 19-24)
    1. It Justifies Evil
      1. The Pharisees and Sadducees prided themselves on keeping the Law, but they were willing to kill Jesus in the name of religion
      2. Crusades- Christians killed in the name of religion
      3. September 11, 2001- radical Islam destroy Americans in the name of religion
    2. It Minimizes Good
      1. Jesus said "I did one work" referring to healing the man at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath
      2. Argument from lesser to greater "mutilate babies on the 8th day, I heal on the Sabbath"
      3. "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another," Jonathan Swift.

Comparison of Religion to the Gospel

  1. Religion emphasizes the outward; the gospel emphasizes the inward– Matthew 6:5-13
  2. Religion emphasizes prohibition; the gospel emphasizes freedom – John 8:32
  3. Religion sets up barriers; the gospel breaks barriers down– Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; Matthew 11:38
  4. Religion says, "work your way"; Jesus says, "I am the way"  John 14:6
Greek Terms: didasko - instruct, teach; didache - doctrine; didaskalos - teacher; grammata - rabbinical study of the Old Testament writings
Figures Referenced: E. Stanley Jones; Karl Marx, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Pope Urban II, Jonathan Swift
Cross References: Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Hosea 4:6; Matthew 5:17; Matthew 6:5-13; Matthew 7:1; Matthew 7:15; Matthew 11:38; John 8:32; John 14:6; Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 2:15; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3: 11; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:3

Topic: Religion

Keywords: religion, religious, relationship, doctrine, teaching, discernment

Transcript

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One of the mistakes, I believe, that people make about me sizing me up is that I'm a religious person. I've been called that before, "Oh, you're a religious person." And I'm very quick whenever I'm called that because I don't like being called that, is to let that person know courteously but definitely, you got me wrong. And here's why. Religion typically has to do with a system rather than a person. It's more about doing certain things or believing a conformed set of ideals rather than having a personal relationship with God through his son. One dictionary defines religion as a set of beliefs and practices usually involving devotional and ritual observances.



Now, following Jesus is way different from that. It might involve those things, but it certainly isn't the core of those things. Jesus Christ is God's refreshing solution to man's failed religious attempts. He's very different. It was Eli Jones whom we usually refer to as E. Stanley Jones, the missionary to India who said, "Christianity has its creeds, but it is not a creed. It has its rites, R-I-T-E-S, but it is not a right. It has its institutions but it is not an institution." Said E. Stanley Jones, "Christianity is Christ," and our response to him. So the name of this message this morning is, follow Jesus but don't be religious.



Despite the concerted effort by some to secularize society, there is a huge push in some circles to make everything secular and nonreligious and more Darwinian in its system. Those people are fighting a losing battle because it is estimated conservatively that at least 86% of the 7 billion people on earth, 86% and upward are religious people. That is they hold some idea of a higher being, a God, something that transcends themselves, 86%. One author says, religious people build cathedrals and they build pyramids and even today, people slaughter goats and chickens on altars. Religious people sometimes forgo certain foods and some are even willing to die for their religious beliefs.



I'll put it to you plainly. I don't think there's anything that God hates more than religion. Is that plain enough? I think religion is responsible for sending people to hell. Let me sum it up for you in a little nutshell. Here's a simple definition of religion. It's my coming to God on my own terms. My coming to God, my own terms, my agenda, my ideas about who God is, my ideas about how God should be approached. That's religion, me coming to God on my terms. Jesus is not about that. It's about coming to God on his terms. In fact, God coming to man and presenting Christ who is far different. Karl Marx said, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." I happen to agree with Karl Marx on that one, religion is the opiate of the masses. Jesus, however, is the savior of the world and there's a marked difference and great distance between religion and Jesus Christ in following Him.



There was really only one religion that God ever gave to man and that's Judaism. It's easy to discern that if you look in your bibles and you get to Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy, there's that religious system that God gave to man, a set of laws and ceremonies and rituals and creeds and rights and things that they must conform to. That was the only religion God ever gave to man. But then God gave His son to complete all that and to fulfill all of that. That's what Jesus said he said, "Don't think that I've come to destroy the law of the prophets. I didn't come to destroy but to fulfill," complete, bring it to its completed end.



And we come to John Chapter 7 and we were there last week. In John Chapter 7, in this paragraph we're about to read, there's a clash that happens. And the clash is between Jesus Christ and the religious elite and the clash is over the nature of truth itself. That's where the fireworks happen. Let me give you the background and the setting. It's the Feast of Tabernacles, we saw that last week. Now, the Feast of Tabernacles you should know is one of the three huge convocation feasts where people from all over had to come to Jerusalem. In fact, if you were a Jewish male and you lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem, you had to be there three times a year, and this is one of those times.



What was it about? Well, the Jews were celebrating how God took care of their forefathers when they were in the desert, wondering around under the stars in the wilderness God provided for them for 40 years. Tabernacles reminded them of that. Do you know how they celebrated it? They built tabernacles or shacks, booths, little lean-to's made out of leafy branches and they were temporary but the family lived not in their homes but in those little tabernacles for one week a year. They would go about their business and do their thing but then every night they would sleep out under the stars. So if you were to come to Jerusalem at this time, get the picture in your mind, there were these little booths everywhere along the roads, down the alleys, on rooftops. People were camping out. I guess if it was happening today, it would be called the Jerusalem camping and recreational vehicle convention. Everybody was there camping, and Jesus comes to this feast.



Now, we're going to read Verse 14 down to Verse 24 and we want to see what the difference is between following Jesus and following a religion or being religious. Verse 14, now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and he thought. And the Jews marveled saying, "How does this man know letters, having never studied?" Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?" The people answered and said, "You have a demon." Can you imagine saying that to Jesus Christ? "You have a demon who is seeking to kill you." Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work and you all marvel. Moses therefore gave you circumcision, not that it's from Moses but from the Father's and you circumcised a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance but judge with righteous judgment."



Now, in looking at the difference between Christ personally and religion generally, there are three things I want you to note about this importance. Number one, doctrine is essential. Now, what's the first thing Jesus did when He goes up to the feast? What's the first thing He did? It says He taught. He went into the template and He taught. This grabbed my attention. First thing He did not do was heal people. The first thing He did not do was present himself as the political king that they wanted him to be in Chapter 6. The first thing He did not do is feed another multitude. The first thing He does in the temple midway of this week is He goes to the temple and He teaches. And what is it that He teaches? Thrice, twice He mentions the word, 'my doctrine'. So just get this picture in your mind, here's Jesus, our Savior, our Lord teaching doctrine.



Let's go a little deeper. Look at Verse 14, notice the word 'taught'. Let me give you a quick little language lesson. The word taught is the Greek word 'didasko'. Didasko means to instruct or to give a didactic discourse. It's what teachers do, they pass on information. That's what Jesus was doing. And then look at the Verse 16 and the word doctrine. It's the word 'didache'. Those words are similar sounding because they come from the same root word. A teacher is one who disseminates doctrine. Healthy sound words of truth. I discovered that in the four Gospels, Jesus is said to teach this very word didasko 36 times. There He is, He's teaching, there He is, He's teaching, there He is... 36 times, He's teaching.



Another 47 times Jesus in the four Gospels is called the teacher, the 'didaskalos', same word, same root. Another 33 times in the New Testament, the word doctrine is used, 'didache', same word they used here. So when you put all of those things together, 36, 47, 33, Jesus is doing a lot of teaching and the New Testament puts a lot of emphasize on doctrine and teaching. So here's my question. Do you think from a New Testament perspective the doctrine is important? I guess that affirmative, right? I sort of closed that case, absolutely. So why is it that some people, including some well meaning Christians talk about doctrine like it was some dirty word? "Well, I'm not really in the doctrine." "You're not?" Because Jesus sure was but we make it sound like it's some bad thing. Well, doctrine is so technical. I'm not into doctrine. It sounds more spiritual like, "Well, I'm not into doctrine, man, I'm into Jesus." " Well, you got to know, man, that Jesus was in the doctrine."



You know, sort of like when you buy a gadget, I don't know if you're like me but I like gadgets. I don't always buy them but I am always interested in them. And when I finally get the gadget I've been interested in, if I open up the gadget box, I find usually three things: The gadget, peripherals like little plug in things for it and a manual that nobody ever reads. Am I right about that? Nobody reads a manual until the gadget breaks then you read the manual. Because the manual is like four times bigger than the gadget. Okay, so that's how many people who have their lives, we're the gadget, here's the manual and nobody reads the manual until the gadget breaks and it's like, "Oh my goodness I've got to find something about why the gadget broke."



What I'm saying is don't live your life that way. Consult the manual frequently. The manual of truth can never be disregarded. God said to Hosea, the Prophet; my people are destroyed from lack of what? Knowledge, you know that. "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." In the New Testament church, you know, these two, they devoted themselves steadfastly to the Apostle's doctrine. That was number on their list. Paul wrote to Timothy and he said, "Until I come, give attention to reading, exhortation and doctrine." Truth has a way of breaking through the haze of religion and letting us see Jesus plainly and that takes doctrine. However, whenever the truth gets sidelined and doctrine gets marginalized, it's often replaced by religion, religion and in some form. I've even heard people on a few occasions in talking about their church say things like, "Well, ours isn't a Bible teaching church. We're not about teaching the bible, it's more about providing an experience."



You know that in some churches, if you were to teach the bible, it would be like a shock to the system. It would be like... overload. I kid you not, I'm not kidding about this. I got a phone call from a pastor in Chicago, he is a beautiful brother in the Lord and he had been listening to our radio broadcast in the Chicago area. So he got me on the phone and said, "Skip, I saw as a pastor want to teach my congregation, the Bible. I was stunned, I went--I'm thinking like, "So why don't you do that?" And so I said, "So why don't you do that?" Because that's what I was thinking. And so he said, "Because I don't think you understand the setting that I'm in. I just can't just go in and teach the Bible, I would love to teach them through the bible, but I am given--I am given by my elders 15 minutes to talk. I'm thinking I don't even clear my throat in 15 minutes. Because I'm given 15 minutes to talk, because if I were to teach the Bible all the way through like you do," he goes, "I would split my church."



Well, Paul was right. He said the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. They won't put up with it, sound doctrine. As a pastor, it is my aim to make you the best fed and best loved congregation possible. That is why we make it our practice to go deep, to discuss background and language and context because that's the goal, to make you well fed and well loved and understand the truth. That's why Wednesday night is through the Bible, every chapter of every book in the Bible is for the sake of the truth.



Teaching, here's Jesus teaching them. I do also want to make a further distinction between teaching and preaching. And I know that preaching, the idea of Caruso, declaring truth is something we all are called to do, even teachers. But in a lot of circles it's preaching not teaching that is voted for and emphasized. And with the preaching is often was he loud enough, did he pound the pulpit enough, did he run back and forth and put on a show for us. How emotional was it?



There was an old Native American-Indian who attended a church service one Sunday where, in making up for the lack of biblical content and teaching, the preacher just ranted and raved then got loud and pounded the pulpit and put on quite a show. In fact, people said afterwards, "Boy, he preached up quite a storm." That's what they said, he preached up quite a storm. Well, they asked the old Native American-Indian about what he thought and he gave them six words and said, "High wind, big thunder, no rain." Yes, there was a lot of commotion, a lot of wind, a lot of movement, a lot of loudness, no rain. Jesus taught them.



Well, they listened to that, the Jews that were around him Verse 15 here's their response. The Jews marveled saying, "How does this man know letters having never studied?" Now, I know you might think that it sounds like a compliment, like they're going, "Wow, this guy is so smart." I submit to you that this is a derogatory statement, it's a derogatory statement. If I may take the liberty, I think this is how it was said. "How does this man know letters, having never studied?" Now, here is why I say that. Because the word for letters is the word grammata which actually means the rabbinical study of Old Testament writings, the rabbinical study of Old Testament writings. What they were saying is, this guy didn't go to one of our Rabbi schools, how does this--he's talking about Old Testament truth, he never went to one of our colleges, a recognized seminaries.



This makes me smile because they're hung up on letters and they're looking face-to-face with the word, the word of life, the word of God, the word made flesh and they're bumped out that he didn't go to Hebrew University. Doctrine is essential. Number two, discernment is crucial, discernment is crucial. Number seven, Jesus says to them, "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority." "You can tell the difference," Jesus said. You can discern and mark the difference.



Before I get to Verse 17 and 18, go down to Verse 24. There's something in this verse scripture that's often overlooked. He says, "Do not judge according to appearance but judge--" now that's a command "--but do judge with a righteous judgment. Yours shouldn't be a superficial kind of a judgment. On the surface, it should be a judgment that's honest and fair." So this is what I want you to notice. Here's Jesus giving an imperative, a command to judge, judge a righteous judgment that's a command.



Now, there's something else Jesus said and I know your minds are already going there because Christians a lot of times, we get hung up on this one little verse and it's in Matthew Chapter 7, Sermon on Mount where Jesus said, "Judge not lest you be judged." And so we kind of stop right there and we think what that means I can never voice any kind of a strong opinion because I don't want to be judgmental. So what does it mean when he said judge not? Just that, nobody has the right to censoriously pass judgment or harshly judge another person's motives. We can't do that, we don't see into their hearts.



Here, Jesus says, "Don't judge on appearance but make sure that your judgment is a righteous or a right judgment," fair. In other words, yes, we must evaluate what we hear in order to distinguish what is right and wrong, truth and error. It's called discernment, it's called discernment. It's explained in 1 Corinthians 2:15 where Paul says, "The spiritual man makes judgments about all things." Did you get that? Spiritual people judge everything. Spiritual man makes judgments about all things. You know that in some circles, if you hold a strong opinion about right and wrong, truth and error and you voice that you will be called judgmental.



Well, I wonder if Elijah, the prophet would have felt that way, if he ever would have approached King Ahab and Queen Jezebel about their lifestyle. Do you think he would have? No, it probably would be something like this. He probably kind of creep in and like a little milk toast and go, "Pardon me, Mr. King, but I sort of feel in my heart that this and such... but you know, whatever because look, I don't want to say anything bad." He never would have done that. So if Paul, the Apostle felt that you should make a righteous judgment, would he ever have written the way he wrote in the Bible about the legalistic group known as the Judaizers dividing his church? Or would John or Jude have ever written the kind of stuff they wrote about the Gnostics that were invading those churches? Not at all.



I just want to make plea for discernment, just a little discernment. It's so lacking in the church at large, it's so necessary and here's why Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, they will come to you." Did you get that? You don't have to look for them, they'll find you. They'll come to you in sheep's clothing. You don't have to wake up and then go, "Find me a false prophet." You don't have to do that, just stay where you're at, they'll come knocking on your door, they'll appear on your television set. And they'll come, Jesus said not as wolves but in sheep's clothing. They won't won't go... they'll go... and you'll go, "That's a sheep." Okay, maybe, but just look a little closer, that's all, just look a little closer. Dare to use discernment and look a little closer.



Remember the Wizard of Oz? Show up hands, put your hand up. Do you remember Wizard of Oz? Okay, that's like so--you're like not an American if you don't know the Wizard of Oz. So in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her friends were so scared because the Oz was speaking and then suddenly Dorothy turns and sees behind the curtain, it's just this little old man pulling levers making the face say that. And so what I'm telling you is the Bible repeatedly says, look behind the curtain, look behind the curtain, don't just go by the voice or the terror, look behind the curtain. Discernment is crucial, though it's commanded.



Now, look back at Verse 17 and 18, it's explained. If anyone wants to do his will, he shall know. He will be able to tell, he'll be able to understand the discerning difference. "Concerning the doctrine whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true and no unrighteousness is in him." This is so crucial. How do get discernment? How do you tell the difference? Two things are required. Number one, a willing mind, that's Verse 17. Anybody wills to do his will. I really want to do his will. Number two, a worshipful heart. A willing mind, Verse 17, a worshipful heart, Verse 18. It's all about him and his glory. Not about me, it's about him. Those two things are required. This is how it works.



When somebody genuinely humbles himself or herself and says, I really want to discover what God wants from my life no matter what it is. That will be discerning person. We get a lot of people and have for years in the counseling offices of Calvary. We provide free counseling. We feel we owe it to the body of Christ to give them biblical discipleship whenever we can to go through what the Bible says about their situations. But there's a question we often begin our counseling sessions with and it will determine how long that session will last. It usually goes like this. Are you willing to do God's will whatever it is once you discover what it is? Are you willing to do what God wants you to do once you discover what God's will is? Now, if they go, "Absolutely, that's why I'm here. I want to find out what God wants from my life." "Great, let's spend time together. Let's do this." But if the response is, maybe or it depends on what it is. Okay, that was like the world's shortest counseling session, we're done.



Because some people will come to a counseling session with no will at all to do his will. They've come with the few Bible verses and they hope to get a few more and the pat on the counselor's back of saying just do whatever you want to do man. It was Donald Grey Barnhouse who said, "I can say from experience that 95% of knowing the will of God consists in being prepared to do it before you know what it is." So a willing mind, Verse 17, a worshipful heart, Verse 18. Those are the elements of discernment.



Now, this truth is repeated by the way throughout the Bible, a couple of notable places. One is in Deuteronomy Chapter 4, "If you seek the lord your God you will find Him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your mind." Same truth. Another one is when David commissions his young son Solomon, 1 Chronicles Chapter 28, "Worship and serve him with your whole heart and with a willing mind--" worshipful heart, willing mind "--for the lord sees every heart and understands and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him you will find him but if you forsake him he will reject you forever." So here's how it works? A wiling mind and a worshipful heart makes a discerning person. If on the other hand, I'll flip the coin. One seeking to have his or her own way and own will, will be open to anything. That will give them whatever they want to hear.



Third and finally not only is doctrine essential, not only is discernment crucial and here's really the core of our message this morning, religion can be harmful. Religion can be harmful. He says, "Skip, those are some pretty hard words." Well, they were intended to be because that's the truth out of the text. Religion according to this text can do two things. Number one, it can justify evil. Look at Verse 19. Now, you'll get this just by a plain reading. Jesus says, "Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?" So do you get that? These pharisees, these strategists, these leaders prided themselves in keeping, being purveyors of and guarding the Law of Moses. But wait a minute, isn't there something in the Law of Moses like, thou shall not murder? Isn't that like the sixth commandment? So you see the fallacy? We are keepers of the law. We're going to kill this guy. Red flag, time out. That's the problem. It can justify evil. It can be harmful and actually take people's lives.



Now, of course they say you have a demon who's seeking to kill you but both Verse 1 which says Jesus stayed in Galilee and didn't go to the feast immediately is because they were trying to kill him. In Verse 25, notice this, now, some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not he whom they seek to kill?" So they let the cat out of the bag. Some were trying to hide the fact but the fact is they want to kill him in the name of their religion, the name of it--protecting our religion. I'm reading a book, I've been reading it since May, either I'm a slow reader or it's a long book and really both are true. It's a book of over a thousand pages. It's on crusades and I wanted to kind of bone up on that period of history that I wasn't too familiar with and I've always been interested in.



So it amazed me that in 1095 when Pope Urban II issued a command to find what he called Christian soldiers to be commissioned to go the Holy Land and reclaim the lands lost back to God in the name of Christ, to expunge that land of all of its evil inhabitants that he gave these Christian soldiers the permission to kill people in the name of Christ. Saying to them, if you die in the process, you will be given instant indulgence, instant heaven and all of your family members as well. In fact, the rant that went on was this and I quote, "Fight for the salvation of your souls." That is religion at its lowest. It's a blot on the history of Christendom. It doesn't end there. Fast-forward to few years ago when America suddenly woke up to the understanding that there are lots of religious people out there who want to kill us and the realization happened on September 11, 2001 when 20 people boarded their planes and thought we can crash them into buildings and kill lots of people in the name of our God.



And now, we discover there's not just a few of these because we like to just say, "Oh, there's just a few of them." The few is about conservatively 13 million with radical ideas like we have to destroy the great Satan, and say, who's that? You are, you're the great Satan. You're an American, you're the great Satan, we're going to destroy you in the name of religion. So here is how religion can be harmful. It justifies evil. Secondly, it minimizes good Verse 21, Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work and you all marvel." What is the one work he was referring to, do you thing? You know what it was? It was the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda a year and a half before this. A year and a half before this when Jesus was in Jerusalem, John Chapter 5, it was the Passover. There was a man at the pool of Bethesda, he'd been paralyzed 38 years. Remember the story? Jesus said, "Hey, you want to get better?" He goes, "Well, nobody would put me in the pool." Until Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." And it happened to be what day? Sabbath Day. Now, do you think Jesus thought, "Oh, I forgot it was Sabbath Day." No, he knew exactly what it was.



And so the guy picked up his mat, he didn't want to run home, he ran into the temple to give thanks to God first and on his way out of the temple the religious people stopped him, you can't carry that, it's the Sabbath. "I did one work," Jesus said, "You all marvel, you're all open arms about that. You claim all over his case in my case because of that." He continues verse 22, Moses therefore gave you circumcision not that it's from Moses but from the Father's and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, "Are your angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?"



Here's what you need to know. Jesus is giving a classic rabbinical argument. The argument is from lesser to greater, from circumcision to healing that is his argument. So here's the problem, there seems to be a contradiction in the Old Testament law that our lord brings out. One hand, you have the Sabbath and the Sabbath says on that day you don't do any ordinary work. The other law, Leviticus 13, another is that every male child born in Israel on the eighth day after his birth has to be circumcised as the outward sign of the covenant. So Jesus says, "So, what happens when the date of circumcision happens to be on your Sabbath?" Because, you know, kids don't schedule when they're going to be born, they're just born and you count eight days and if the eighth day falls on the Sabbath, now you got a problem because you can't do any ordinary work which means you can't circumcise, but you guys seemed to be okay with that.



In fact, one of the Rabbi said and I quote, "Great is circumcision which overrides even the rigors of the Sabbath." So here's his argument, from lesser to greater, saying, "You guys mutilate a baby's flesh on the eighth day and that's okay. I heal a man's flesh on the Sabbath and it's not okay. What's wrong with that picture?" And that's what religion will do, it will minimize good. Jonathan Swift back in 1711 wrote, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another." Huge difference, so clear here, a huge difference.



As we close I want to just give you four quick comparisons, sort of to sum this up, other fundamental differences between religion and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So if you're taking notes, here's number one. Religion emphasizes the outward. The Gospel of Jesus Christ emphasizes the inward. You notice that here, the conversation is about circumcision, the ritual. What Rabbi school did he go to, all the outward stuff, the external stuff. It's all about the outward. Jesus is all about the inward. Remember in the Sermon in the Mount when Jesus was teaching us to pray and he said, "Okay, when you guys pray, don't be like the religious people. They love to stand on the street corners and pray so that everybody can see them. They do it to be seen by man."



And again, look at Verse 24, "Do not judge according to appearance." That's what religion does. There are even some circles within Christendom, let's say, if you dress anything or in anyway except just a plain way. If you try to make yourself look good at all, any make up at all, any nice clothes, it's just not good, it's not spiritual. So the idea is--if you look really narrowly you must be really spiritual. Look at that person, that person must be holy. Why? He looks so bad. They're judging by appearance, religion emphasizes the outward; Jesus emphasizes the inward not the outward.



Second, religion emphasizes prohibition, what you can't do. The Gospel is all about freedom. You know, they'll say, "You can't heal on the Sabbath. You can't walk and carry your mat on the Sabbath." Jesus said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Theirs was a righteousness of negatives, like little pious teenager in Sunday school who said, "I don't smoke and I don't chew and I don't go with girls that do." "What do you do?" If you're only known for what you're against but not for, you've got a problem, a righteousness of negatives.



Number three, religion sets up barriers. The Gospel breaks barriers down. You know, where Jesus was teaching at the temple, he was teaching in a court called the court public court of the Gentiles. That means that everybody, Jew or Gentile could be in that court and listen to anybody teaching, that's why he went there. But there were other courts within the temple, there was on court for women that was Jewish women. If you're a Gentile, you couldn't go in there, they'll kill you. But if you're a Jewish woman, you could go in that court. There was another court for Jewish men if you're a woman you couldn't go in there, Gentiles women, men and then one for the priest. And what did Paul say in the New Testament concerning Christ? There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, civilian, bond or free we are all one in Christ. That's the Gospel. It tears down the barriers. Jesus said, "Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."



Fourth and finally, religion says, work your way. It does, it always says work your way. You want to get to heaven, better work hard, better be really sincere and try really hard to be a good person. If you want to get to heaven you work your way. If you want to get close to God you work your way. You know what Jesus says, "I am the way." You want to get to heaven? "Yes, I'm the way. I'm the way, the truth and life, no one comes to the Father except through me." So different.



I want to end on this note, back to that whole thing of learning and teaching and doctrine. I discovered something, it just sort of stopped me again and I was reminded of it this week. On four occasions in the New Testament, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders and he said to them--asking this question, "Have you not read? Haven't you read Moses? Haven't you read the Psalms where it says this and this?" As if holding them accountable for knowing things? So all these religious leaders around and Jesus goes, "Excuse me, do you guys ever read you bibles? Because it says there... haven't you read that?" I just want to encourage you that as a Christian become a learner, a reader, a thinker, reason through these things to have a devotion to a steady spiritual diet of truth.



I was on an airplane coming back to Albuquerque southwest flight. I sit next to a guy who was focused. He was devoted to a book that was on his lap. It was a book of crossword puzzles. And I was actually--I was amazed because he was just--he was into it and he was just totally focused and he's writing things down, he timed himself when he started and when he stopped, timed it started and stopped. Here's a guy who could see patterns of letters in the maze that was before, and these were big pages, it was a thick book.



And so, I started talking to him, I said, "Excuse me, but you're like--you're into this, aren't you?" He goes, "Uh-huh." And he goes, "You want to know what my record is?" I said, "Sure." "I wrote it down. 33 words in nine minutes." And I don't know what that means but I went, "Wow." That sounded impressive to me knowing nothing about crossword puzzles. I swear I never do one. But he timed, he goes, "My record is 33 words in 9 minutes on this big things. So I went, "Wow." He goes, "You know what? Whenever I travel, the first thing I pack, my book of crossword puzzles, the first thing I pack." I said, "Why is that?" He goes, "Keeps my mind up flying,]." He must not like the flying experience, so I respect that.



But I walked away thinking, man, I wonder if that's my--like my first concern is, the book. I got to pack this, I'm going on vacation, this has to come with me. I'm traveling, this has to come. I'm getting up in the morning, got to get this. I just wonder if that manual of truth sits unopened where there's a steady diet of that truth worked in our lives because it's essential. And with that essentiality and that openness to it comes the discernment that is necessary and we see the difference between Christ, the refreshing person of history and all of the religious nonsense that is in opposition to him. Let's pray for that.



Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, this unique individual so different from the status quo that was going on in Jerusalem and is going on even still in many religious circles. This person is so compelling to us. We're taken in by him. But when we realize that this Jesus wasn't a man from history long ago but is still alive to this very day having risen from the dead and has power to change and work people's lives, ours included, we're even more compelled. And we come to that place hopefully where we will to do his will and we come making and not about us but about him and with a worshipful heart and a willing mind. Lord, I pray you'd work those things in us and I pray for anyone who doesn't know Christ yet personally though they might be wonderful people, sweet people, devoted people, contributing people, religious folks but they don't personally know Jesus yet. I pray that today would be the day when you would invade their lives with your grace and show them the difference between a system of beliefs and a personal relationship.

Additional Messages in this Series

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10/25/2009
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Believe:879
John 20:30-31
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Is your faith in need of bolstering? Do you find yourself saying "Help my unbelief?" The book of John presents a unique, up close and personal look at the life of Christ, focusing on Jesus as God Incarnate. As we dive into a thorough study of each of John's 879 verses, we'll walk with disciples who were eyewitnesses of His ministry, His death, and His resurrection, and we'll experience abundant life in His name.
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11/1/2009
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The World's Most Important Word
John 1:1-5
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It may be difficult to say what the most important word is in any language, but not for the Apostle John. He begins his gospel with the identification of Jesus as, "The Word." Starting with the very beginning of beginnings, John shows us the fundamental truths about the Jesus that he writes about in the rest of this book. The language is simple and unmistakable and yet the truths presented are deep and extremely profound. Let's see how John presents Jesus and Who Jesus is according to one who was closest to Him.
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11/15/2009
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Step Into Son-Light
John 1:6-13
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I love early mornings when sunlight first comes up over the eastern sky. But if you’ve ever had the experience of the sun suddenly shining into your eyes (like when you turn westward while the sun is going down), it's not so pleasant. Most people wince when light is shined in their eyes. Jesus is presented here as being "the light of men" and "shining in darkness". But the world cries out, "Turn off that light!" How can Jesus enlighten your life and how will you respond to Him?
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11/22/2009
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One of a Kind!
John 1:14-18
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It is a mistake to think of Jesus as "one among many" options in the pantheon of deities. He is unique, matchless, unrivaled, singular, and incomparable. From His birth to His Resurrection, there is no one who even comes close to the majestic Christ. Jesus was One-Of-A-Kind! Let’s consider four distinct ways that Jesus was unique and what these mean to us today.
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12/6/2009
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The Greatest Man Meets the Greatest Lamb
John 1:19-34
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Everyone is good at something, maybe even great at something. Maybe you're a great artist or a great mom or even a great leader. Jesus said that John the Baptizer was the greatest man who had ever lived (Matt. 11:11). But John knew Jesus to be the greatest One ever—past, present and future - the Sacrificial Lamb sent to remove sin. Today we discover from John the Baptist how to witness for Christ and we look at the identity and the activity of this most unusual man.
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12/13/2009
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Are You a Follower-Really?
John 1:35-42
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You can't make it through much of the Bible without coming to the word Disciple. Just the four Gospels alone use this term 228 times. Basically a disciple is the follower of a teacher: one who observes, learns, and practices what the teacher shares. We now come to the first time John uses this term in his book. So today we assess ourselves by asking, "Are YOU a follower?" Lets look at five characteristics of the first disciples of Jesus and see if they’re reflected in our lives.
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1/3/2010
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Finding the God Who Found You
John 1:43-51
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When the first disciples encountered Jesus, they chose to follow Him--only to discover that they had already been chosen by Him! Without getting drowned in that theological tide pool, let's consider and marvel at how both of these realities work together. The Bible teaches that God sovereignly elects people for salvation while at the same time teaches our responsibility to believe in Christ. Let’s see how both Philip and Nathanael encountered Jesus for the first time.
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1/10/2010
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The Wedding Guest
John 2:1-12
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How cool (and also potentially scary) would it be to have Jesus as a guest at your own wedding! The unnamed couple at the village wedding of Cana had that privilege. Jesus was the wedding guest who brought the best gift. His first miraculous sign was performed while celebrating that marriage. But far more than just attending a nuptial party, Jesus demonstrated who He was in relation to four entities: His mother, the moment, a miracle, and His men.
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1/17/2010
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Trouble in the Temple
John 2:13-22
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A hymn by Charles Wesley begins, "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child..." It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful thought. However, Jesus is anything but gentle and mild in John chapter two. Here in the temple at Jerusalem, He displays His righteous anger as He overturns tables and beats the religious businesspeople with whips! But Jesus was using this trouble in the temple to predict a greater sign—the triumph of His own physical temple—His bodily resurrection!
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1/24/2010
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Uncommitted!
John 2:23-25
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These three verses are some of the most unusual in the New Testament. They describe a scene in the life of Jesus that explains His popularity and fame. The response of people to the miracles of Jesus is understandable. What is not readily understandable is Jesus' response to the interested and excited crowd. Though they believed in Him, He was not too energized over their kind of faith. Understanding this will help us to understand Jesus and His mission.
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1/31/2010
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Nick at Nite!
John 3:1-8
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The meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus at night is one of the most famous and compelling stories in Scripture. This man's inner curiosity and spiritual thirst drove him to want to know more. What he heard puzzled and astonished him, but he heard from Jesus' own lips the only way to be saved. Jesus' words here divide all of humanity into two groups: those who are born again and those who are not.
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2/7/2010
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Extreme Makeover: Soul Edition!
John 3:9-21
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For years ABC has aired two different versions of a show called Extreme Makeover. One is a total body makeover designed to enhance the physical beauty of a selected individual. The other is a Home Edition that rebuilds or adds to a struggling family's residence. But only Jesus can give the soul a makeover; only Jesus can ready a person for eternity. Here Jesus answers Nicodemus' question of how a person can have the New Life that comes from the New Birth.
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2/14/2010
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God's Valentine
John 3:16
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Today we take a look at the Bible's most famous verse and probe its depth while preparing to take the Lord's Supper together. Though most everyone knows this verse, John 3:16 is much more than just a slogan; it is a summary statement of God's love through Jesus Christ. This single verse of scripture gives us the salient truths of God's plan of salvation in abridged form. Let's consider God's great plan for us as we unpack it phrase by phrase.
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2/21/2010
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To Grow Up, You Must Grow Down!
John 3:22-30
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"They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud!" That's what British Puritan John Flavel once said. And that’s how John the Baptist once lived! John the Baptist and his followers provide some great applicational fodder for how Christians should get along and humble themselves before one another and God. For any Christian believer who wants to spiritually grow up and grow strong, he must first grow down.
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2/28/2010
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The Nail Everything Hangs On
John 3:31-36
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Imagine if everything you valued was in a sack, hanging on the wall from one nail. It surely must be a strong nail, or you're lost! If life could all be boiled down to one thing or one word or one most important principle, what would it be? What is the irreducible minimum for everything and everyone? John answers that here, saying that Jesus Christ is the nail that everything hangs on. He determined what has been and what will be. Thus our knowledge of Him and relationship to Him is paramount above everything else.
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3/7/2010
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Refreshment!
John 4:1-14
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You know the feeling of swallowing ice-cold water on a hot day or after a savory meal—it's refreshing! That cool, invigorating sip revitalizes you from the inside out and makes you say, "Ahh!" Well, that experience is not limited to the physical realm, but is even more satisfying in the spiritual realm when dealing with Living Water. Jesus came to give thirst-quenching spiritual life to every parched soul on the planet. When was the last time you drank deeply?
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3/14/2010
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How to Lead People to Water
John 4:10-30
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The world is thirsty and doesn't even know it, or won't admit it, or will look to be satisfied by everything else but Jesus Christ. So your job and mine is to lead them to water (living water, that is). Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman illustrates perhaps the best approach for personal evangelism to be found anywhere. Leading someone to the place of spiritual satisfaction is a process that rests upon two pillars—the pillar of attitude and the pillar of approach:
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3/21/2010
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What God Really Wants
John 4:20-24
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Worship conferences, worship seminars and worship experiences abound within the landscape of the American church, but in all these there's something that seems to be always lacking—worship is confined to the activity of singing songs. When the subject is brought up in this chapter, Jesus talks plainly and openly about true worship: what it is and what it isn't. Let's explore these few verses to discover what God is seeking after and how to be part of fulfilling that.
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3/28/2010
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Spiritual Farming 101
John 4:28-42
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Farmers live for the harvest season--a time when their crops are taken in and profits are made. But crops don’t grow on their own. Seeds must be sown and plants must be garnered by a whole group of active farm workers. God is the head Farmer and we are His farmhands, all working together to produce a bumper-crop of people who believe that Jesus is the Savior--Are you in?
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4/18/2010
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Everyone Needs a Faith-Lift!
John 4:43-54
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Like any muscle in our physical body, our faith too must be exercised in order for it to develop. Faith is developed in virtually every circumstance in life, but especially in hard times. Peter put it best, "These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold" (1 Peter 1:7). Let's look at a real-life story of one who came to Jesus in his trial and had his faith lifted to a higher dimension.
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4/25/2010
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Healing Misery with Mercy
John 5:1-16
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One of Jesus' most distinguishing characteristics in His earthly ministry was His mercy toward people who were hurting. This is not astonishing, for the prophet Micah announced that "God delights in mercy" (Micah 7:18). Jesus standing among the squalid misery of sickness and hopelessness while at a feast in Jerusalem is a perfect setting to show how Christians can show mercy to a world in misery. But be warned: not everyone will be sympathetic to your cause!
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5/23/2010
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Like Father, Like Son
John 5:16-24
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The most important question you could ever ask is not, "Who am I?" but rather, "Who is Christ?" That was the supreme question Jesus presented to His disciples when He said, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Jesus made the most astonishing claim ever when He confronted the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem here in John 5. What do these claims have to do with us today? Absolutely everything!
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5/30/2010
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Everyone Lives Forever
John 5:25-29
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My mom used to wake me up early every morning with her sweet voice saying, "Rise and Shine!" It took a few times but I eventually got up out of bed. As Jesus declares that He will be in charge of the future judgment, He too will usher the call to everyone who has died to "Rise up!" But not everyone will rise up to shine; some will rise up to suffer. Let’s consider three inevitable and unalterable truths about the future for all of us: We will all die, we will all be judged, and we will all rise again to live forever... but where?
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6/6/2010
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Why Should You Believe?
John 5:30-47
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The theme of John's gospel is "believe." The whole reason he wrote this book is so that people who read it will believe in Jesus (see John 20:31). But why should they believe? And even more applicable, why should we believe? After all, the events of the New Testament are over 2,000 years removed from us today. Jesus' confrontation with the religious leaders in John 5 tells us why we should believe. Like a skilled lawyer, Jesus calls upon four witnesses to testify to His claims and these four give the reasons for our believing in Jesus Christ.
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6/13/2010
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Lessons From a Picnic
John 6:1-14
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This story ranks in the "top ten" of the most famous miracles of Jesus Christ. In fact this is the most famous of all His miracles as it alone is recorded by all four gospel accounts. But this is far more than a Sunday school tale. This extraordinary picnic was not just a free meal for five thousand folks; it provided lessons for both ancient and modern disciples. Here are four profound truths that emerge from this lakeside lunch.
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6/20/2010
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What Storm Goers Need to Know
John 6:15-21
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Have you ever been on the ocean in a raging storm? If so, you know that a well-trained crew follows an immediate protocol until the storm is over. Their knowledge and experience about violent weather are invaluable for those who want to survive. Using the story of Jesus walking on the waves to His disciples, let’s discover a few things about the stormy trials of life.
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7/4/2010
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The Right Thing, The Wrong Way
John 6:22-29
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Our text reads that crowds of people came "seeking Jesus." That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And yet Jesus challenges them as to their motive because they were seeking Him (the right thing) in order to satisfy themselves only (the wrong motive). Let’s consider three monumental truths about how people interact with spiritual things in general and Jesus Christ in particular. Let’s also reconsider the starting point for anyone who wants anything to do with Christ.
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7/11/2010
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Wonder Bread!
John 6:30-50
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The Hostess Company has for years advertised that its Wonder bread "helps build strong bodies 12 ways" and that just two slices has the calcium of eight ounces of milk and the fiber of 100% whole wheat. Wow! The crowd that Jesus was speaking to would have loved that! But our Lord presents something to them far greater than what they were wanting. He knew what they needed.
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7/18/2010
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Plain Truths About the Bread of Life
John 6:51-71
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Mark Twain once remarked that "A lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is still lacing up its boots!" This section of John's Gospel has generated much confusion and misunderstanding. Even Jesus' original audience had trouble understanding His meaning, and when they did, they found the truth was difficult to bear. These "hard truths," however, are "the words of eternal life" (v. 68). Let's look at these four realities today.
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8/1/2010
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Seeing Jesus Through the Fog
John 7:1-13
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There was always a fog surrounding Jesus! It was a fog of uncertainty, of unbelief, and of conflicting opinion. He was misunderstood about both His mission and His message. His friends, His family, and His foes were often bewildered about who He was and what He was doing. That remains true even today. But in this passage our view becomes clearer. Jesus had clearly defined objectives that He reveals here and they are extremely practical for us today.
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8/15/2010
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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.