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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > A Meal to Reveal the Heart

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A Meal to Reveal the Heart
John 12:1-11
Skip Heitzig

John 12 (NKJV™)
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.
2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.
3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
4 Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said,
5 "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"
6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
7 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.
8 "For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always."
9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also,
11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

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

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43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

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!

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

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

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Outline

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  1. Diverse Relationship (vv. 1-3)

  2. Dangerous Discipleship (vv. 4-6)

  3. Divine Stewardship (vv. 7-8)

  4. Diabolical Censorship (vv. 9-11)

Talking Points:


  1. If you had a year's wages to blow on one extravagant gift, what would you buy and for whom?

  2. If you had a year's wages to give to the cause of Christ, where would you give it? What's the most extravagant thing you ever did for the Lord? Did you regret it?

  3. What was the biggest difference between Mary's attitude and that of Judas? How can you pour perfume on Jesus this week?

Detailed Notes

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Your physical heart weights a pound or a little less, but it pumps 100,000 times a day--pushing 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of arteries, capillaries, and veins. The Bible speaks about the heart as the core or center of being. The heart is where you decide, desire, and deliberate: It is the core of your being. "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). 

According to the Bible, your heart is affected by the fall of mankind: ""The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT) Whether young or old, rich or poor, the same truth applies: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23). Some live their whole lives with a heart unchanged, unchallenged, unaltered: unsaved. Others meet Christ and He changes them from the inside out.

When we step into this scene at Bethany, we see some familiar faces: Jesus, Lazarus, Martha, Mary, the disciples. This occurs one week before His death on the cross. If we could step into their hearts, we would find different motives: good, bad, grateful, greedy, loving, and angry.

  1. Diverse Relationship (vv. 1-3)
    People who love Jesus in their own manner. They are gathered at the house of Simon the leper (Mark 14:3). Because we know that lepers didn't eat with others and were ostracized  we can determine that Simon was likely healed of leprosy by Jesus. There were at least seventeen people gathered at the meal.
    1. Lazarus - he sat
      1. Not a word recorded
      2. His life itself was a witness (a living testimony of the power of Jesus through the resurrection)
    2. Martha - she served
      1. Serving was her love language
      2. Martha has had a change of heart (see Luke 10:38-39)
        1. Not complaining
        2. Jesus is not rebuking her
      3. Serving with a different attitude
      4. Expressing worship through service
    3. Mary - she sits at Jesus' feet
      1. Oil of spikenard
        1. Plant of northern India, sold in alabaster flask or box; fibrous root 3-12" long, rooted 30-40 pikes; a sweet spicy, musky oil extracted used for baths and burial.
        2. Expensive: 300 denarii=one year's wage
    4. Three examples of unique relationships with Christ
      1. Allow for differences that exist between people and Christ
      2. God loves variety
      3. "There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us" (1 Corinthians 12:5-6).
      4. Allow individual relationships and expressions of worship as long as they are biblically based and not violating Scripture.
  2.  Dangerous Discipleship (vv. 4-6) Judas Iscariot
    1. First recorded words, chronologically
    2. Iscariot - from Kerioth; the only disciple not from Galilee
    3. Gospel writers always mention: disciple and betrayer
    4. Judas is a synonym for treachery
    5. He says the lavish gift is an extravagant waste
      1. He has a bitter view of life because he has a bitter heart
      2. What he sees is dependent on what is going on in his heart
      3. He is a thief: κλέπτης  kleptēs a thief who steals by stealth with a careful plan
    6. "That anyone could follow Christ as a disciple for three years, see all His miracles, hear all His teaching, receive at His hand repeated kindnesses, be counted an Apostle, and yet prove rotten at heart in the end, all this at first sight appears incredible and impossible! Yet the case of Judas shows plainly that the thing can be. Few things, perhaps, are so little realized as the extent of what desperate hardness and unbelief there is in the heart of man." J. C. Ryle
    7. Critical of people, hypocritical before God
    8. Judas is an illustration of Matthew 7:3
    9. : "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?"
    10. We should live like a set of forgiving golf clubs: with a bigger sweet spot.
  3.  Divine Stewardship (vv. 7-8)Jesus weighs in
    1. Affirms Mary
      1. Let her alone!
      2. Mary is a living prophecy
      3. Mary understands Jesus will die and be buried
      4. Mary is always at the feet of Jesus
        1. In her home (Luke 10:39)
        2. At the funeral of Lazarus (John 11:32)
        3. At this dinner (John 12:3)
      5. When at the feet of Jesus there is a special connection to understand His plan and will
      6. Hebrew idiom: to sit at someone's feet is to learn from that person
    2. Rebukes Judas
      1. "The poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always"
        1. Not endorsing poverty or apathy
        2. Quoting scripture: "There will always be some among you who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share your resources freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need" (Deuteronomy 15:11 NLT)
      2. There will always be opportunities for generous activity but you must seize opportunities for personal ministry
        1. Jesus will be alive only one more week
        2. We have unique opportunities in this life
          1. Give money
          2. Share the gospel
  4. Diabolical Censorship (vv. 9-11)
    1. Resurrection of Lazarus is big news; crowds are gathering
    2. Chief priests plot to put Lazarus to death
      1. Caiaphas: "One man should die for the people" (John 11:50)
      2. Now two must die
      3. Lazarus is the greatest piece of evidence to the power of Christ
      4. Get rid of the evidence!

The irreducible minimum: it is impossible to be neutral concerning Jesus Christ. "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad" (Matthew 12:30). The stand you take determines your own destiny, not His! Peter stated: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Your heart can be Christ's Home! (My Heart—Christ's Home by Robert Boyd Munger).

Greek terms: κλέπτης  kleptēs a thief who steals by stealth with a careful plan
Figures Referenced: J. C. Ryle
Publications Reference: My Heart—Christ's Home,  by Robert Boyd Munger
Cross References: Deuteronomy 15:11; Proverbs 4:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 7:3; Matthew 12:30; Mark 14:3; Luke 10:38-39; John 11:32; John 11:50; John 12:3; Acts 4:12; Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 12:5-6

Transcript

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Well, you've been waiting for it.  Ready?  Turn to John Chapter 12.  This is week 49 of our Gospel of John series and finally we made it into Chapter 12.

Let's pray together.  Lord in heaven, we thank you that you've afforded us the opportunity to not skim but to dig deep into your word, word by word and phrase by phrase and character by character that we can really not only examine but to digest internally the things that we're reading in the Gospel of John.  What a faithful witness that man was and thank you for the record that you left us, the stories that are told and the application, the timeless truths that apply to our daily lives. 

We have come here, Father, as an act of worship to say that on this day, the first day of the week, the Lord's Day that our entire week belongs to you and we want to start the week off the right way by gathering together and getting primed and prepped by the word of eternal life for our life.  So we pray that you teach us, instruct us and we'll be quick to make that our own truth and apply it in Jesus' name, amen.

I'd like to talk to you this morning about your heart, your physical heart.  Your real heart is an amazing organ.  It weighs about a pound or a little less.  It's an amazing workhorse.  It pumps 100,000 times everyday and it pushes 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of arteries and capillaries and veins.  That's your physical heart.  But as a figure of speech, the Bible speaks about the heart of men and women as the very core of their being, the very center of their being.  It's the place where you decide and desire and deliberate.  We even speak about the heart of the matter or "I love you with all my heart."  We use the same metaphors they did in the Bible.  It is that heart, that core of your being that I want to talk about today.

The Bible says, "You are to keep your heart with all diligence for out of it precedes the very issues of life."  And according to the Bible, it's that core, that center of your being and mine that was affected by the fall of mankind back in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  So that now, Jeremiah sums it up in one sentence, "The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked who really knows how bad it is."  Well, the answer to that is God knows how bad it is and in this paragraph, God shows how bad it is.  He deals with hearts in the first paragraph of John Chapter 12.

I heard a story about a woman who was looking for a parking place in a mall; it was around Christmastime.  She was in her Mercedes.  She was an elderly gal and she was pulling around the corner of the parking lot.  All the places were taken but she saw a man walking out of the store with packages in hand and she thought she would just sort of wait until he got to his car, which he did.  He put the packages in, he got in the car and he pulled out.  She had been waiting the whole time.  And as the man pulled out and went away, before she could maneuver her car in, a young man, a young kid in a shiny Corvette swiped her space, pulled in and parked.  Well, she was livid and she rolled down the window and she said, "Hey, I've been waiting for this space for some time."  And he just smiled, grabbed his keys in hand and said, "Well, that's how it is when you're young and quick."  Well, before he can walk away, she grimaced in her face and she floored it and her Mercedes just jammed right into the right rear fender of that shiny new Corvette.  Of course, this kid was livid again and he said, "You can't do that."  She smiled and said, "That's how it is when you're old and rich."

[Laughter]

Whether you're young or old, rich or poor, the same truth applies "All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God."

Some people live there whole lives with their hearts unchanged, unchallenged, unaltered, unsaved.  Others meet Christ and when they do, they discover that he changes from the inside out, from the heart out.  If we were to step into the house at Bethany where this setting takes place, if we were to step into that dinner scene we're about to read about, we would discover familiar faces around the table.  There would be Jesus; he's the guest of honor.  There would be Lazarus; he's back from the dead and eating a meal.  There's Martha and Mary, the sisters.  There are the disciples following Jesus.  It's one week before his death on the cross.  And then outside will gather a crowd of people who are just really interested in what has happened with Lazarus and Jesus.  That's if you could step into the house.  Now, if you could step into the hearts of all of the people that I just mentioned, you would find different things, different motives, some good, some bad, some grateful hearts, some greedy hearts, some loving hearts, some angry hearts opposed to Christ, all of them at the same meal.  This then is a meal to reveal the heart.

Let's begin in Verse 1.  "Then six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus who had been dead, whom he had raised from the dead, there they made him a supper and Martha served but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with them.  Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil."

"One of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son who would betray him said, 'Why was this fragrant oil not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?'"  This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and had the moneybox and he used to take what was put in it.  But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of my burial.  For the poor you have with you always but me you do not always have."  Now, a great many of the Jews knew that he was there.  They came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead.  But the chief priest plotted to put Lazarus to death also because on account of him, many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

This is a meal to reveal the heart.  There are four dynamics going on at this meal.  They are mentioned and written in your worship folders.  There is diverse relationship.  There is dangerous discipleship.  There is divine stewardship and there is diabolical censorship.  Those are the dynamics and all four of them reveal the various hearts of the people that have gathered.

Let's take them one by one.  First of all, there are diverse relationships.  That is there are people who loved Christ, they're gathered around the table, they're so thankful and they're loving Jesus in their own unique individual manner, their own personal relationship.  We're not told here but there are two other Gospel accounts, Matthew and Mark, and one them tells us that the house that this meal took place was not the house of Lazarus.  This text doesn't say which house, but in Mark, it tells us it was the house of a man named Simon the Leper.  It's all what we're told.

Now, I'm going to put a few things together.  Given the fact that lepers don't eat meals in homes with people unless they're healed because of the contagion that would spread and given the fact that they were ostracized from society 2000 years ago, I'm going to guess that this was a guy who was an ex-leper and his leprosy was cured somewhere along the line by Jesus.  It was at his house.  Why?  Maybe it was a bigger house.  There's a lot of people, at least 17 that I can count at this meal.  Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Simon, Jesus, and his 12 disciples.  That's at least.  You're probably picturing that they sat around the table in chairs and had knives and forks.  That's because that's what we do.

Two thousand years ago in Israel, they didn't do that at all.  They reclined at a meal.  It's a cool way to eat, honestly.  I've done it when I've been in the Middle East.  You lean on one side on a pillow around a low table called a triclinium, a U-shaped table.  You're leaning on one side so that one hand is free.  Your feet are to the side and toward the back and everybody leisurely would recline around that meal.

I want you to notice three people, first of all.  All loved the Lord.  First is Lazarus; he sat.  Second is Martha; she served, not surprised.  And there's Mary, she pours out this ointment.  Let's consider Lazarus, first of all.  Here's what's interesting about Lazarus.  Never once does the Bible record a single word he spoke.  Now, we know he talked.  He was one of Jesus' friends but no word of Lazarus is recorded in the Bible.  And once again, he's here.  They're having probably a great meal, great conversation, but not a word is recorded.  And yet Lazarus is a witness; he's a witness.  All he has to do is sit there and eat and he's a witness because Verse 9 says there's a bunch of people that gathered just to see Lazarus because he was this living testimony of the power of Jesus to resurrection. 

Can you imagine the conversation around that table?  I'm going to guess.  Simon says, "You know, Lazarus, it was a real drag being a leper.  They've kicked me out of society, scabs grew on my body, I couldn't see my family.  I was put away.  I was smelly.  I lost feeling in my fingers and my toes.  Some of them began to fall off over time and I didn't know it because I lost feeling.  My hair fell out, eyebrows fell out, and then one day Jesus touched me.  I reached up and I could feel my eyebrows.  My fingers came back; I had feeling in them.  I was totally cured.  It was awesome.  Man, it was awesome."

And then Lazarus could have said, "Well, that's cool but I was dead."  That sort of takes the cake on that one.  "And I was four days in a tomb and I got to tell you, I was in paradise, my spirit.  I saw Abraham and David, and then suddenly I was brought back.  And I stood in front of the tomb I was buried in and the first person I saw as they unwrapped me was Jesus who raised me from the dead."  I'm just guessing.  Good food, good fellowship, good friends, Jesus loved to eat we're told in the Bible.  That's Lazarus.

Second, you'll notice it says that Mary served; she served.  Now please, don't fault Mary for doing this.  I read a lot of commentators and hear a lot of preachers and even people faulting Mary for always being on her feet and always serving and always busy.  Listen, that's what see loved to do.  To put on a modern vernacular, this was her love language.  She liked to serve, she loved to cook.  I can just imagine that the night before, she pulled out her best recipes and prepared meals in advance so that on that day, she could bring meal after meal, course after course in a meal and Jesus loved every one of them.

Stop here.  Let's compare something.  Let's compare this story with the very first time we read about Martha and this is where she gets the bad rep from.  Let's compare these two events, these two dinners.  Go back one book to Luke.  Let's take a look at Luke Chapter 10.  Yeah, I know.  Luke Chapter 10, turn back.  What a great sound, the Bible pages.  Luke 10 Verse 38, "Now it happened as they went that he entered a certain village and a certain woman named Martha welcomed him, Jesus, into her house."  This is some months earlier; it's at Lazarus' house, Martha and Mary's house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard his word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving.  She approached him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore, tell her to help me."  Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things but one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that good part which will not be taken away from her."

Compare what we just read with where we're at in John Chapter 12.  In those months, something happened.  I'm guessing the resurrection of Lazarus.  I'm guessing all the lessons she learned from point A to point B, but clearly she's changed in John Chapter 12.  She is not the same woman.  First of all, she's not complaining and she's cooking for at least 17 people now.  You got to give her that.  She's not complaining.  Jesus is not rebuking.  She is still serving but now with a whole different attitude, an attitude of gratitude.  Love is in her heart.  She's expressing her worship through her work, through her service.  I think that's important.  If you cook, if you do laundry, if you fix tires during the week, if you work at a desk job, all of those activities can became activities of worship if you have the right attitude, if you're not complaining and if it's for the Lord and I'm doing this unto the Lord.  That can be a form of worship.  That's part of your relationship with him.

I love the sign that one creative woman puts above her kitchen sink that reads, "Divine service rendered here three times daily."  She saw the meals that she cooks for her family as part of her worship for the Lord.  So we have Lazarus, we have Martha, now we have Mary.  Mary bust out the perfume.  She probably thought, "Man, I want to honor Jesus.  I want to show him how much I love him and how grateful I am that he raised my brother from the dead.  And I've had this perfume; it costs a lot.  I'll get to that in a moment.  I don't care how much it costs.  I'm going to break it out and I want to use it on him."  So she pulls out the perfume.  It's called oil of spikenard.  Let me explain what that is.

Oil of spikenard came from Northern India.  It was shipped 2,000 years ago in little alabaster boxes, sealed in flasks or boxes.  The plant, spikenard, was a plant that shoots out fibrous roots about 3 to 12 inches in length.  Once the plant is rooted, it then shoots out between 30 and 40 spikes out of the root that pierce the ground.  And so, when you're walking along, you see these little spikes.  The spikes penetrated and extracted from those spikes is a sweet, spicy, musty kind of an oil that was used typically by the wealthy for baths and for burial to mitigate against the smell that would be in the first few days.  Now, it's costly.  According to Judas, it could have been sold for 300 denarii.  Now, 300 denarii was what a typical laborer earned in a year.

So let's just throw a figure at it for the sake of argument, $10,000.  This could have been sold for $10,000 and the money given to the poor.  She broke it out, she pours it on Jesus' feet, she wipes Jesus feet with her hair.  That was her gift.  That was her relationship.  That's what she did, not Martha.  Martha's worship was perspiration, work.  Mary was perfume; she's into that stuff.  Martha could probably care less about perfume.  It was work, service, labor; that's fine.  It's valid.  Both are valid.  Both are valid and both honor Christ.  So you got three people with three unique individual relationships with Christ, all which are beautiful and valid.

Here's my point.  Let's allow for the differences that exist between one Christian and another Christian, between one group and another group in their relationship with Christ.  Let's not be so narrow in our thinking.  So what do you mean narrow?  Well, church leaders can sometimes be narrow.  Sometimes church leaders can have conversations and it's sort of like, "Oh yeah, they now go to that other church but this is really the real church.  And if they were real believers with real spiritual desires, they would be here."

There's a good Greek word for that -- hogwash.  It's nonsense; it's too narrow.  That narrowness also comes up within individual churches among individual members who are involved in a particular kind of a ministry.  It might be the prayer ministry or the helps ministry or that group or this group.  And all of them would love to see more people involved in their group.  And they might think or even say, "Boy, wouldn't it be great if there were other spiritual people like us who thought the same way we do, who can do the same work that we do and do it as unto the Lord this way?"

We got to be careful against that.  Last time I checked, God loves variety.  Listen to what Paul writes, 1 Corinthians 12:5-6.  There are different kinds of service in the church but it's the same Lord we are serving.  There are different ways that God works in our lives but it's the same God who does the work through all of us.

So can't we allow the individual relationships based upon the individual persons with God as long it's biblically based, they are not violating the scripture, it's a true relationship?  Why do we think that once we see people saved, we have to stick it in a mold?  It says "This is the version of the Bible you must now read."  "This is the music you must now listen to, and this beat of music you must now listen to."  "These are the clothes and the appropriate attire you must now wear."

You probably heard of that clever, cute little legend about all the tools and Jesus' carpentry shop having a convention one day, and it was presided over by Brother Hammer.  And this Brother Hammer began to noisily share his view.  The other tools protested saying that Brother Hammer needed to leave because he was too noisy.  And Brother Hammer said, "Well, if I have to leave, then Brother Screw also has to leave because you got to turn him around and around to get him to do anything."  Brother Screw then took on bridge to that and he said, "Well, if you want me to leave, then Brother Plane also has to be kicked out of this meeting because -- well, look at him, he has no depth.  All of his work is surface work."  And Brother Plane piped up and said, "Well, you want me to leave, then Brother Rule also has to leave because he's always measuring everything and everyone by his own standard.  He thinks he's the only one right."  Brother Rule spoke and he said, "Well, okay.  But if you want me to leave, you got to kick out Brother Sandpaper because he's so rough and he rubs people the wrong way."

As they were arguing, in walked the carpenter of Nazareth, Jesus, to build a pulpit of wood from which to preach and he employed the hammer, the screw, the plane, the rule, and the sandpaper, all of the tools together to make this singular work of ministry.  So we have three hearts.  They are grateful hearts.  They are unique in their relationship to Christ, and so we have that first dynamic, diverse relationship.

Here is the second, dangerous discipleship.  Now, everything is good so far.  And then Judas speaks and ruins the whole perfect scene, Verse 4.  One of his disciples noticed that Judas Iscariot, Simon's son who would betray him said, "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?"  John gives us the rest of the story in Verse 6.  This he said not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief.  The word is "klepto".  It means somebody who steals by a carefully thought out and devised plan in advance.  He had this all thought out.  He was a thief and had the money box and used to take what was put in it.

Now, chronologically in the flow of time, these are the first words Judas speaks in the New Testament.  And on the surface, they sound pretty good.  Just a couple of notes about Judas, a little profile.  Judas was the only disciple that we know of not from Galilee.  He was Judas Iscariot, which means he was from the town of Kerioth which was down in Judea, not up north.  So he was from the lower regions around Jerusalem, that area.  In the New Testament, the gospel writers, whenever they mention Judas always mention two things about him.  Number one, he was a disciple.  And number two, he was a traitor; he betrayed Christ.  So heinous was that crime that forever that would be mentioned whenever Judas' name would be mentioned.

By the way, if you were to look up the word "Judas" in a dictionary, you'd discover it's a synonym for treachery.  A person can be called a Judas if he is a traitor in a friendship.  It's entered the human language as a metaphor, a synonym for treachery.  That's why you'll never find parents naming their children Judas.  Can you think of one?  "Here's my son, Judas."  That is never going to go over well.  You'll pick lots of other Biblical names and you'll leave that one out.

Well, his remark as I mentioned sounds so noble.  It sounds like, "Why, this is the guy you want around."  This is the guy who says, "No, I just want to save us a little bit of money here.  I'm all about doing that."  But he was a dangerous disciple and John tells us why.  He was thief.  Now, here's Judas who misinterprets a gift.  Please understand this.  He sees an extravagant -- or I should say lavish gift as an extravagant waste.  Judas has a bitter view of life because Judas has a bitter heart.  Judas has a bitter view of life because Judas has a bitter heart.  What a man sees with his eyes depend on what is going on inside that man's heart.  You know what it's like.

If you like somebody, they can do no wrong.  If you don't like someone even if they do right, every little action they do is misinterpreted by you as some ulterior motive, something else is going on.  They're doing it for another reason.  That's a bitter heart.

J.C. Ryle, a commentator, writes that anyone could follow Christ as a disciple for three years, see all of his miracles, hear all of his teaching, receive at his hand repeated kindnesses and be counted as an apostle.  And yet prove rotten in the heart in the end all of this at first sight appears incredible and impossible.  Yet the case of Judas shows plainly that this can be.

Few things perhaps are so little realized as the extent of the fall of men.  This is dangerous discipleship, and dangerous discipleship is when you try to follow Christ critically and hypocritically -- critical to people, hypocritically before God.  Judas had a good mouth and a bad heart.  He said the right things and people go, "Wow!  That's good.  He is trying to save us some money."  Ulterior motive, he had a bad heart, didn't care for the poor.  He was a thief.  Judas is a great illustration of something Jesus said in his sermon on the mountain.  You'll recognize it; I'll paraphrase it.  Jesus said, "So why do you care so much about the speck in your brother's eye when you've got a telephone pole hanging out of your eye?"  That's a paraphrase.  You're so worried about other people's problems when you've got bigger problems of your own.  Here's Judas that's so narrow, so critical, so harsh toward others -- critical, hypocritical before God.

My brother's a golf pro out in Palm Springs and he tries to help me every chance he gets, to no avail, but he tries to help.  And he told me to get bigger clubs, bigger drivers, and this is what he said.  He goes, "Skip, the new drivers, the new clubs today," his words, "are more forgiving."  I like that term, "more forgiving".  "Well, explain what you mean."  He goes, "Well, they're bigger so it is harder to miss."  And because they're big and hollow, he says they have a bigger sweet spot.  That means you can hit the ball toward the heel or the toe of the club and still have a reasonable chance of getting a decent shot, so he's trying to help me once again.

More forgiving, bigger sweet spot, isn't that a great way to describe a Christian?  Their heart is so large they have such a big sweet spot, they are more forgiving.  Some people who name the name of Christ, their sweet spot is so small it's indiscernible.  It's not enlarged.  They're not forgiving.  That's Judas.  He jumped to conclusions.

Whenever you jump to conclusions, you're sure to have a bad landing.  He does, which brings us to the next dynamic and that is divine stewardship.  Jesus now weighs in on the matter, Verse 7.  Jesus said, "Let her alone."  Now, those are good words to a critical person.  You now have scriptural precedent, the words of Jesus himself.  Leave here alone, bug off, go away, let it go.  First thing he says to Judas, "Let her alone.  She has kept this for the day of my burial for the poor you have with you always but me you do not have always."  First thing he does is affirm Mary.

And as it turns out, Mary won't be able to anoint Jesus' body after he dies.  In fact, the women who will come to the tomb early on resurrection morning will come with spices to anoint the body, they'll discover Jesus already is out of the tomb.  He was resurrected.

So Jesus says, "She is doing this and she saved this for my burial."  This is what he means.  "Judas, this is not a lavish or extravagant waste; this is a living prophecy.  Mary knows something that has escaped everybody else around here's knowledge and view, and that is that I am going to die and be buried."  I want you to think about that.  It seems that Mary knew that Jesus was going to die and I say that that's not worthy because even the disciples didn't get that, although Christ told them plainly on a couple occasions and the last time he told them was on the way up to Bethany.  He's going up from Jericho, the other accounts tell us, and he tells his disciples, "Boys, I'm going to Jerusalem.  I'm going to be arrested.  I'm going to be beaten.  They're going to kill me.  I'm going to be buried and on the third day, I'm going to rise again from the dead."  They didn't get it.  It's like here are the disciples and here is what Jesus said.  It just sort of completely went over their head.  He said it a couple of times and, "Oh, cool."  They didn't get it.  She understood it.  The question is, why and how did Mary understand it when some others so close did not?

Well, here's perhaps the secret.  Where do we always find Mary when we discover her on the pages of the scripture?  At the feet of Jesus, all three occasions, the first time at the feet of Jesus, Luke Chapter 10.  The second time at the funeral of Lazarus, down at Jesus' feet, grieving but at the feet nonetheless.  Here, washing Jesus' feet, wiping them with her hair.  When you're at the feet of Jesus and you observe and you listen and you study everything he says, there is that special connection where you understand his plan and his will.

You say, "Okay.  Well, that's cool, Skip.  But Jesus is gone physically.  I can't sit at Jesus' feet today."  But did you know it's a Hebrew idiom?  To sit at somebody's feet means to learn from that person, to be the disciple, to listen to the words.  When you study the Bible and you make that a daily activity where you're studying, you're reading, you're taking it in, you're sitting at Jesus' feet and you will learn his ways and learn his will.

We're used to seeing, or some of us years ago, this little homespun hem -- simple words.  If you want to know the power of God, get down at Jesus' feet.  If you want to know the love of God, get down at Jesus' feet.  If you want to know the truth of God, get down at Jesus' feet, get down sinner, get down saint, get down at Jesus' feet.  That's where Mary abode at the feet of Jesus.

So Christ affirmed Mary.  "She's kept this for the day of my burial."  And notice also he rebukes Judas, "For the poor you have with you always but me you do not have always."  What does that mean?  Is he endorsing poverty?  Is he endorsing apathy toward those who are in poverty?  No.  First of all, he's quoting a scripture.  Deuteronomy 15 says, "There will always be some among you who are poor; therefore, freely share."  In other words, you'll have an opportunity all the time, so always be open to share because of the poverty that exists in this world.  What Christ is doing to Judas is setting forth a divine stewardship.  You say you got to keep you priorities.  Here is the principle, if I may paraphrase.  There will always be opportunities for generous activity but you have got to seize the opportunities for personal intimacy with God.

There's always going to be opportunity for generous activity helping the poor, but you've got to seize those opportunities for personal intimacy.  There's a principle.  Just as Jesus was only going to be alive before his death and burial one week, Mary knew he was going to the cross.  Mary takes care of this, sort of giving the roses before the funeral instead of bringing them to the family afterwards, showing Jesus her love.  Likewise, we also have very unique opportunities only afforded us in this life.  We've got to seize those opportunities.  While we're on this side of heaven, this is the time to write checks and give money to God's work and share our valuable possessions to get the gospel out.  This is the opportunity we have to help people who are struggling get into heaven by sharing the gospel with them.  So as you evaluate your life and I evaluate my life, what a value do we have that we can give to Christ for his honor and glory now.

Three so far, three dynamics that we have seen; let's close with a fourth.  There's diabolical censorship, last two verses, "Now a great many of the Jews knew that he was there and they came not for Jesus' sake only but that they might also see Lazarus whom he'd raised from the dead."  This was big news.  When was the last time a dead guy got up in your neighborhood?  And so, just them coming to Bethany unannounced, a few people seeing it here and there spread the news around.  Now, a crowd has gathered.  The camera pans to the outside of the house.  They're eating and there's this group that's gathered around looking in the windows, "Check it out, dude.  There's Lazarus eating a falafel.  He's alive!  I heard about this but he is alive!  There is the evidence."  And then we're told that the chief priest plotted to put Lazarus to death also because on account of him, many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.  You see how diabolical and sinister this is?  Remember how Caiaphas last time -- remember -- just rewind the tape a bit.

Caiaphas announced to the council it's expedient that one man should die for the nation and not the whole nation perish.  Well, now it seems that you need to have two men die because the greatest piece of evidence to the power of Christ that's causing all these people to believe is the dead guy who's now eating the falafels.  He's the evidence.  And so, if you don't accept the evidence, you got to get rid of it.  That's what they tried to do.  So there you have all of those various hearts at one meal -- Lazarus, Martha, Mary, Judas, the indifferent crowd just sort of scoping it out and the chief priest who so hate Jesus that they want to even destroy the evidence of a changed life.

If I were to put all of what we've just read, this study of hearts down to one irreducible minimum, one bottom line I would say this, it's impossible to be neutral concerning Jesus Christ.  Jesus said "You were either for me or you're against me."  You help gather or you help scatter.  And today, you might love him, you might serve him like Martha or Mary.  You've got your own relationship but it's real, it's dynamic, or you might be like the crowd looking in the window, indifferent, or like Judas and the chief priest who hate Christ and abhor him.

But somewhere along the line, you will make a decision regarding him.  You must make a stand about this one and it's the stand that you take that will determine not his destiny but yours.  Peter was also at the meal.  In Acts Chapter 4, he will announce to this city of Jerusalem "For there is no other name given among men under heaven by which we must be saved except for the name of Jesus."

So how is your heart?  The Bible says, "Keep you heart with all diligence, out of it precedes the very issues of life."  That's your core; that's the center of who you are, the authentic you.  Where is it with the Lord?

Back in 1954 before I was born, Robert Boyd Munger wrote a little booklet, a little tract booklet and it was entitled "My Heart Christ's Home".  I don't have time to really tell you about it or read it to you.  But just think of that thought, My Heart Christ's Home.  What a possibility.  If I were to invite Jesus Christ personally into my heart, into my life, if you were to reside and abide as his home into my life, how would I be different?  And how would others around me be different?  My sin forgiven, a new purpose and a new passion put into my life, awesome thought.  Let's pray for that.

Heavenly Father, we thank you that you are the revealer of all hearts.  You reveal to us when we take time to listen what our true motives are as we examine them before you.  Moreover, your word tells us there is nothing hidden from his sight.  All things are naked and open before the eyes of the one with whom we have to give an account.

You know our hearts.  More than that, you had a plan that you enacted to take care of the problem of our simple hearts.  We know it's redemption.  To the person of your son, the Lord Jesus Christ who have stepped onto this planet and offer himself through a horrible death as the atoning sacrifice once and for all time so that anyone who would trust in him would have everlasting life.  It's a wonderful plan, it's a wonderful escape.  Lord, I would pray for everyone who is listening to this message.  As we realize that you know us, you've searched us, you know when we sit down and rise up, you know what we think before we think it, in short, you know our heart.  You know if our hearts have been surrendered to you, if our lives are lived for you or not, and I pray as we examine them that we would make a choice to do so in Jesus' name, amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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10/25/2009
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Believe:879
John 20:30-31
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Is your faith in need of bolstering? Do you find yourself saying "Help my unbelief?" The book of John presents a unique, up close and personal look at the life of Christ, focusing on Jesus as God Incarnate. As we dive into a thorough study of each of John's 879 verses, we'll walk with disciples who were eyewitnesses of His ministry, His death, and His resurrection, and we'll experience abundant life in His name.
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11/1/2009
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The World's Most Important Word
John 1:1-5
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It may be difficult to say what the most important word is in any language, but not for the Apostle John. He begins his gospel with the identification of Jesus as, "The Word." Starting with the very beginning of beginnings, John shows us the fundamental truths about the Jesus that he writes about in the rest of this book. The language is simple and unmistakable and yet the truths presented are deep and extremely profound. Let's see how John presents Jesus and Who Jesus is according to one who was closest to Him.
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11/15/2009
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Step Into Son-Light
John 1:6-13
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I love early mornings when sunlight first comes up over the eastern sky. But if you’ve ever had the experience of the sun suddenly shining into your eyes (like when you turn westward while the sun is going down), it's not so pleasant. Most people wince when light is shined in their eyes. Jesus is presented here as being "the light of men" and "shining in darkness". But the world cries out, "Turn off that light!" How can Jesus enlighten your life and how will you respond to Him?
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11/22/2009
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One of a Kind!
John 1:14-18
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It is a mistake to think of Jesus as "one among many" options in the pantheon of deities. He is unique, matchless, unrivaled, singular, and incomparable. From His birth to His Resurrection, there is no one who even comes close to the majestic Christ. Jesus was One-Of-A-Kind! Let’s consider four distinct ways that Jesus was unique and what these mean to us today.
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12/6/2009
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The Greatest Man Meets the Greatest Lamb
John 1:19-34
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Everyone is good at something, maybe even great at something. Maybe you're a great artist or a great mom or even a great leader. Jesus said that John the Baptizer was the greatest man who had ever lived (Matt. 11:11). But John knew Jesus to be the greatest One ever—past, present and future - the Sacrificial Lamb sent to remove sin. Today we discover from John the Baptist how to witness for Christ and we look at the identity and the activity of this most unusual man.
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12/13/2009
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Are You a Follower-Really?
John 1:35-42
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You can't make it through much of the Bible without coming to the word Disciple. Just the four Gospels alone use this term 228 times. Basically a disciple is the follower of a teacher: one who observes, learns, and practices what the teacher shares. We now come to the first time John uses this term in his book. So today we assess ourselves by asking, "Are YOU a follower?" Lets look at five characteristics of the first disciples of Jesus and see if they’re reflected in our lives.
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1/3/2010
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Finding the God Who Found You
John 1:43-51
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When the first disciples encountered Jesus, they chose to follow Him--only to discover that they had already been chosen by Him! Without getting drowned in that theological tide pool, let's consider and marvel at how both of these realities work together. The Bible teaches that God sovereignly elects people for salvation while at the same time teaches our responsibility to believe in Christ. Let’s see how both Philip and Nathanael encountered Jesus for the first time.
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1/10/2010
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The Wedding Guest
John 2:1-12
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How cool (and also potentially scary) would it be to have Jesus as a guest at your own wedding! The unnamed couple at the village wedding of Cana had that privilege. Jesus was the wedding guest who brought the best gift. His first miraculous sign was performed while celebrating that marriage. But far more than just attending a nuptial party, Jesus demonstrated who He was in relation to four entities: His mother, the moment, a miracle, and His men.
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1/17/2010
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Trouble in the Temple
John 2:13-22
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A hymn by Charles Wesley begins, "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child..." It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful thought. However, Jesus is anything but gentle and mild in John chapter two. Here in the temple at Jerusalem, He displays His righteous anger as He overturns tables and beats the religious businesspeople with whips! But Jesus was using this trouble in the temple to predict a greater sign—the triumph of His own physical temple—His bodily resurrection!
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1/24/2010
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Uncommitted!
John 2:23-25
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These three verses are some of the most unusual in the New Testament. They describe a scene in the life of Jesus that explains His popularity and fame. The response of people to the miracles of Jesus is understandable. What is not readily understandable is Jesus' response to the interested and excited crowd. Though they believed in Him, He was not too energized over their kind of faith. Understanding this will help us to understand Jesus and His mission.
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1/31/2010
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Nick at Nite!
John 3:1-8
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The meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus at night is one of the most famous and compelling stories in Scripture. This man's inner curiosity and spiritual thirst drove him to want to know more. What he heard puzzled and astonished him, but he heard from Jesus' own lips the only way to be saved. Jesus' words here divide all of humanity into two groups: those who are born again and those who are not.
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2/7/2010
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Extreme Makeover: Soul Edition!
John 3:9-21
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For years ABC has aired two different versions of a show called Extreme Makeover. One is a total body makeover designed to enhance the physical beauty of a selected individual. The other is a Home Edition that rebuilds or adds to a struggling family's residence. But only Jesus can give the soul a makeover; only Jesus can ready a person for eternity. Here Jesus answers Nicodemus' question of how a person can have the New Life that comes from the New Birth.
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2/14/2010
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God's Valentine
John 3:16
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Today we take a look at the Bible's most famous verse and probe its depth while preparing to take the Lord's Supper together. Though most everyone knows this verse, John 3:16 is much more than just a slogan; it is a summary statement of God's love through Jesus Christ. This single verse of scripture gives us the salient truths of God's plan of salvation in abridged form. Let's consider God's great plan for us as we unpack it phrase by phrase.
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2/21/2010
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To Grow Up, You Must Grow Down!
John 3:22-30
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"They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud!" That's what British Puritan John Flavel once said. And that’s how John the Baptist once lived! John the Baptist and his followers provide some great applicational fodder for how Christians should get along and humble themselves before one another and God. For any Christian believer who wants to spiritually grow up and grow strong, he must first grow down.
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2/28/2010
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The Nail Everything Hangs On
John 3:31-36
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Imagine if everything you valued was in a sack, hanging on the wall from one nail. It surely must be a strong nail, or you're lost! If life could all be boiled down to one thing or one word or one most important principle, what would it be? What is the irreducible minimum for everything and everyone? John answers that here, saying that Jesus Christ is the nail that everything hangs on. He determined what has been and what will be. Thus our knowledge of Him and relationship to Him is paramount above everything else.
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3/7/2010
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Refreshment!
John 4:1-14
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You know the feeling of swallowing ice-cold water on a hot day or after a savory meal—it's refreshing! That cool, invigorating sip revitalizes you from the inside out and makes you say, "Ahh!" Well, that experience is not limited to the physical realm, but is even more satisfying in the spiritual realm when dealing with Living Water. Jesus came to give thirst-quenching spiritual life to every parched soul on the planet. When was the last time you drank deeply?
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3/14/2010
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How to Lead People to Water
John 4:10-30
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The world is thirsty and doesn't even know it, or won't admit it, or will look to be satisfied by everything else but Jesus Christ. So your job and mine is to lead them to water (living water, that is). Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman illustrates perhaps the best approach for personal evangelism to be found anywhere. Leading someone to the place of spiritual satisfaction is a process that rests upon two pillars—the pillar of attitude and the pillar of approach:
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3/21/2010
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What God Really Wants
John 4:20-24
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Worship conferences, worship seminars and worship experiences abound within the landscape of the American church, but in all these there's something that seems to be always lacking—worship is confined to the activity of singing songs. When the subject is brought up in this chapter, Jesus talks plainly and openly about true worship: what it is and what it isn't. Let's explore these few verses to discover what God is seeking after and how to be part of fulfilling that.
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3/28/2010
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Spiritual Farming 101
John 4:28-42
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Farmers live for the harvest season--a time when their crops are taken in and profits are made. But crops don’t grow on their own. Seeds must be sown and plants must be garnered by a whole group of active farm workers. God is the head Farmer and we are His farmhands, all working together to produce a bumper-crop of people who believe that Jesus is the Savior--Are you in?
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4/18/2010
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Everyone Needs a Faith-Lift!
John 4:43-54
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Like any muscle in our physical body, our faith too must be exercised in order for it to develop. Faith is developed in virtually every circumstance in life, but especially in hard times. Peter put it best, "These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold" (1 Peter 1:7). Let's look at a real-life story of one who came to Jesus in his trial and had his faith lifted to a higher dimension.
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4/25/2010
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Healing Misery with Mercy
John 5:1-16
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One of Jesus' most distinguishing characteristics in His earthly ministry was His mercy toward people who were hurting. This is not astonishing, for the prophet Micah announced that "God delights in mercy" (Micah 7:18). Jesus standing among the squalid misery of sickness and hopelessness while at a feast in Jerusalem is a perfect setting to show how Christians can show mercy to a world in misery. But be warned: not everyone will be sympathetic to your cause!
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5/23/2010
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Like Father, Like Son
John 5:16-24
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The most important question you could ever ask is not, "Who am I?" but rather, "Who is Christ?" That was the supreme question Jesus presented to His disciples when He said, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Jesus made the most astonishing claim ever when He confronted the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem here in John 5. What do these claims have to do with us today? Absolutely everything!
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5/30/2010
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Everyone Lives Forever
John 5:25-29
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My mom used to wake me up early every morning with her sweet voice saying, "Rise and Shine!" It took a few times but I eventually got up out of bed. As Jesus declares that He will be in charge of the future judgment, He too will usher the call to everyone who has died to "Rise up!" But not everyone will rise up to shine; some will rise up to suffer. Let’s consider three inevitable and unalterable truths about the future for all of us: We will all die, we will all be judged, and we will all rise again to live forever... but where?
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6/6/2010
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Why Should You Believe?
John 5:30-47
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The theme of John's gospel is "believe." The whole reason he wrote this book is so that people who read it will believe in Jesus (see John 20:31). But why should they believe? And even more applicable, why should we believe? After all, the events of the New Testament are over 2,000 years removed from us today. Jesus' confrontation with the religious leaders in John 5 tells us why we should believe. Like a skilled lawyer, Jesus calls upon four witnesses to testify to His claims and these four give the reasons for our believing in Jesus Christ.
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6/13/2010
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Lessons From a Picnic
John 6:1-14
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This story ranks in the "top ten" of the most famous miracles of Jesus Christ. In fact this is the most famous of all His miracles as it alone is recorded by all four gospel accounts. But this is far more than a Sunday school tale. This extraordinary picnic was not just a free meal for five thousand folks; it provided lessons for both ancient and modern disciples. Here are four profound truths that emerge from this lakeside lunch.
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6/20/2010
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What Storm Goers Need to Know
John 6:15-21
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Have you ever been on the ocean in a raging storm? If so, you know that a well-trained crew follows an immediate protocol until the storm is over. Their knowledge and experience about violent weather are invaluable for those who want to survive. Using the story of Jesus walking on the waves to His disciples, let’s discover a few things about the stormy trials of life.
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7/4/2010
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The Right Thing, The Wrong Way
John 6:22-29
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Our text reads that crowds of people came "seeking Jesus." That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And yet Jesus challenges them as to their motive because they were seeking Him (the right thing) in order to satisfy themselves only (the wrong motive). Let’s consider three monumental truths about how people interact with spiritual things in general and Jesus Christ in particular. Let’s also reconsider the starting point for anyone who wants anything to do with Christ.
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7/11/2010
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Wonder Bread!
John 6:30-50
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The Hostess Company has for years advertised that its Wonder bread "helps build strong bodies 12 ways" and that just two slices has the calcium of eight ounces of milk and the fiber of 100% whole wheat. Wow! The crowd that Jesus was speaking to would have loved that! But our Lord presents something to them far greater than what they were wanting. He knew what they needed.
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7/18/2010
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Plain Truths About the Bread of Life
John 6:51-71
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Mark Twain once remarked that "A lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is still lacing up its boots!" This section of John's Gospel has generated much confusion and misunderstanding. Even Jesus' original audience had trouble understanding His meaning, and when they did, they found the truth was difficult to bear. These "hard truths," however, are "the words of eternal life" (v. 68). Let's look at these four realities today.
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8/1/2010
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Seeing Jesus Through the Fog
John 7:1-13
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There was always a fog surrounding Jesus! It was a fog of uncertainty, of unbelief, and of conflicting opinion. He was misunderstood about both His mission and His message. His friends, His family, and His foes were often bewildered about who He was and what He was doing. That remains true even today. But in this passage our view becomes clearer. Jesus had clearly defined objectives that He reveals here and they are extremely practical for us today.
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8/8/2010
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Follow Jesus But Don't Be Religious
John 7:14-24
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Jesus clashed with religious leaders more than any other group of people. He went against their spiritual grain and challenged their legalistic ideas. Christ made it clear that He hadn’t come to establish a new religion but rather to show the way to God His Father. He didn’t give people another “system of beliefs and practices”; instead He said that He Himself was the way, truth, and life. In this public confrontation, we learn how to follow Christ in truth and not be religious.
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8/15/2010
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Standing by a Waterfall (Dying of Thirst)
John 7:25-53
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All the diverse and assorted experiences offered by this world can never satisfy the deepest longing of the human soul. What we really want isn't what we really need. The rest of John chapter 7 illustrates this truth. In the midst of a crowd of people clamoring for deep spiritual satisfaction stands the only One who can provide it. He offers them the drink that really satisfies and all but a few refuse it, preferring rather to die of thirst. How painfully ironic!
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8/22/2010
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Scribbling on the Ground
John 8:1-11
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Can you imagine what a surviving copy of Jesus' autograph would be worth today? Or what about a letter to His disciples? The fact is, there is no existing document or copy of anything Jesus ever wrote. We only have this story of Him scribbling something in transient dust on the Temple stones. Though John doesn't tell what Jesus wrote that day, his account does reveal a lot about Jesus Himself and how He interacted with three different kinds of folks.
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8/29/2010
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Blinded by the Light
John 8:12-20
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When the sun shines right in your eyes, your immediate inclination is to squint, turn away, or put sunglasses on. Light can be blinding! Though light penetrates our world, providing illumination and energy for our very existence, big doses of it can be difficult to handle. That's true spiritually as well. Jesus, by His teaching and work, illuminated this world darkened by sin. Some rejoiced in that light, able to see where they were going. But others, who'd been so accustomed to spiritual darkness, could only wince when Jesus was around.
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9/5/2010
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The Worst Way & Best Way to Die
John 8:21-30
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One person put it this way, "Death is the big flaw. Sometimes we can postpone it, lessen its physical pains, deny its existence—but we can't escape it!" Since that is universally true, why don't people take death seriously enough to plan for it? While we are alive in this world, everyone should be thinking more about the next. But what's the best (and worst) way to die?
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9/19/2010
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The Best Way & Worst Way to Live
John 8:31-36
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Everyone has an opinion on what "The Good Life" is. For some, it's financial independence. For others, it’s autonomy from government control. For still others, it’s the ability to do whatever you want whenever you feel like it. Jesus offers a different kind of freedom and a better brand of life. Here Jesus tells us what the best way to live really is: It’s the freedom to be a genuine disciple. And He tells us what the worst way to live really is: It’s the slavery of a sinful lifestyle. Today consider how free you really are and what areas of life you may still be in bondage to.
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9/26/2010
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The Devil's DNA
John 8:37-47
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Your body has 100 trillion cells. Inside each one is a nucleus and in each nucleus are DNA molecules. DNA is like an instruction manual for life with densely coded information telling each cell what to do. A simple paternity test would prove that my father was really my father. Here Jesus gives His audience a spiritual paternity test that reveals their spiritual father to be the devil himself. No matter what your physical ancestry, you can always tell one's spiritual heritage.
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10/3/2010
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Who IS This Guy?
John 8:48-59
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Jesus had friends and He had enemies. But besides those, He also had some "frenemies" (enemies who pretended to be friends). To this crowd who at first pretended to believe (v. 31) Jesus is both confrontational and controversial. This paragraph highlights three possible identities of Jesus: two of them were his enemies' accusations and one was Jesus' own claim.
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10/10/2010
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Life Hurts! Where's God?
John 9:1-12
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"Why is there so much pain in the world?" is the most frequently asked question ever! We hate it when we, or those we love, are in pain. Today we see Jesus confront a hurting world. As we do, consider these words by Elizabeth Elliot (whose husband was murdered): "If God is in charge and loves us, then whatever is given is subject to His control and is meant ultimately for our joy."
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10/17/2010
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The Truth About Your Neighbors
John 9:13-34
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Those of us who are Christians live in a sea of unbelievers who work with us, live next to us, shop where we shop, and send their kids to the same schools. Some have a mild case of unbelief disguised by religious practices. Others are more demonstrable in their agnosticism or atheism. Let's watch a local Jerusalem neighborhood struggle against faith in spite of clear evidence.
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10/24/2010
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Got Any Blind Spots?
John 9:35-41
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When you drive, you encounter "blind spots"—it could be part of your own car or it could be a tree that hides traffic on the other side. Those blind spots hinder both progress and ultimately, safety. When Jesus healed a blind man in Jerusalem, the same man was also healed of his spiritual blindness. But others who thought their spiritual perception was keen were as blind as a bat! As we consider this story, can you think of any blind spots in your spiritual journey?
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10/31/2010
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The Good Shepherd (and a bunch of happy sheep!)
John 10:1-10
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This is one of the most beloved passages to be found anywhere in Scripture. But it's not a stand-alone passage: The healing of the blind man in chapter 9 was more than a miracle. It was part of the process of Jesus forming His flock. The leadership had cast the healed man out of the synagogue. Jesus found him, accepted him, saved him, and placed him in His own fold.
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11/21/2010
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What's So Great About the Good Shepherd?
John 10:11-21
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"What's so great about being a Christian?" some people ask. The answer lies in the kind of care, provision, and protection we get from Jesus Christ, our Shepherd. Have you ever stopped to make a list of the benefits that are yours as a follower of Christ? Consider this short list of advantages that you, as a child of God, have. When was the last time you thanked Him for being your Shepherd? This would be a great week to do that!
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12/5/2010
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To BElieve or Not to BElieve...
John 10:22-42
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"In all unbelief there are two things: a good opinion of one's self and a bad opinion about God."— Horatius Bonar. It's true, isn't it? Humanism is man-centered and rejects God's existence or His relevance. But Jesus appealed to two things: the plain evidence of His supernatural works and the testimony of those who witnessed them. Jesus here asserts His deity, and the reaction is predictable—some believed while others did not believe. Which camp do you fall into?
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1/9/2011
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The Great Physician's Patient Dies
John 11:1-16
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When a doctor loses a patient on the operating table, there is a deep sense of remorse and sadness in the surgical theater. Doctors are trained to save lives but sometimes even the best trained physicians are unable to control complications that lead to death. But here we discover that Christ, the Great Physician, not only knows that His patient is sick--He allows him to die! Here are three principles about Divine Medicine that we can all learn.
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1/16/2011
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A Tale of Two Sisters
John 11:17-32
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In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote his famous work, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The story before us is set in Bethany near Jerusalem and highlights the personal relationship that two sisters had with Jesus Christ. Their broken hearts provide an excellent platform to consider how Christ deals with people in grief and loss. Let's actively probe not only their responses but ours to the incredible promise Jesus makes.
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1/23/2011
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The Strangest Funeral Ever
John 11:33-44
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According to one source, there are approximately 2 million funerals in America per year, which means that about 5,479 funerals take place every single day! Most of those funerals are pretty typical: a formal service followed by an interment. But the funeral service we're looking at was really different--and not just because of a resurrection. Here Jesus does three things that are pretty normal for most people at a funeral, but strikingly odd for Jesus.
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1/30/2011
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What to Do with Jesus?
John 11:45-57
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Any lawyer can tell you that whenever the star witness is a resurrected corpse, you have a pretty good case! But Lazarus being alive from the dead doesn’t seem to persuade everyone. And so the big issue becomes what shall we do with Jesus? The decisions made here set the clock in motion for an impending hate crime—the crucifixion of Christ. But from heaven’s vantage point, this is all part of God’s plan for redemption. Let’s see the responses and how we can make a difference.
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2/13/2011
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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.