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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > Privileges of God's Employees

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Privileges of God's Employees - John 14:12-14

Taught on | Topic: Upper Room Discourse | Keywords: prayer, in Jesus' name, in Jesus name, works, greater works, purpose, meaning of life

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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5/29/2011
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Privileges of God's Employees
John 14:12-14
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
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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43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

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

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

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Outline

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  1. The Privilege of Purpose (v. 12a)

  2. The Privilege of Proportion (v. 12b)

  3. The Privilege of Prayer (vv. 13-14)

Pondering the Principles:

  1. Identify some "great works" that have been done since Jesus left the earth. What great works are you involved in for God's kingdom?

  2. Is your prayer life balanced and full? Could it be that your lack of involvement in doing a great work for God is tied to your lack of prayer, or lack of focus in prayer? (See James 4:2.)

  3. How would you describe the purpose of your life? (Be specific.)

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. We work for God; we are His employees
      1. "Workers together with Him" (2 Corinthians 6:1)
      2. We work for the best company in the world
        1. Our product works universally: The gospel works everywhere
        2. Offices worldwide: find believers around the globe
        3. Outstanding benefits
          1. Forgiveness for the past
          2. Meaning and peace of mind for the present
          3. Retirement package: out of this world (literally)
        4. Additional privileges
    2. Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16)
      1. Setting
        1.  Final Passover meal Jesus shares with the apostles
        2. Few hours before the cross
      2. Jesus teaching them to invest their lives in God's global plan (not entertaining or counseling)
      3. Interruptions
        1. Peter (See 13:36-38)
          1. Where are you going? Why can't we follow you?
          2. Jesus: Not now, but later
        2. Thomas (See John 14:4-6)
          1. Jesus: You know where I'm going and the way
          2. Thomas: We have no clue where you are going! How can we know the way?
          3. Jesus: I am the way, the truth and the life
        3. Philip (See John 14:8-11)
          1. Show us the Father!
          2. You're looking at Him!
      4. Jesus' focus is the future plan of God that includes the apostles
      5. Fabulous promises, often misunderstood
      6. Better than being there
        1. We can pause and focus
        2. Take what is written and separate it from the emotion of the moment
  2. The Privilege of Purpose (v. 12a)
    1. There is a divine purpose God wants us to spend our energy on
      1. amēn: truly
      2. erga: energy
    2. People wonder: Why am I here? What's the plan and purpose of my life?
      (Without that knowledge, life is disorienting)
      1. Like an Amazonian tribesman in Times Square, New York City
      2. Living in God's universe without understanding how we fit in
      3. "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation"—Henry David Thoreau
      4. Don't know the purpose
    3. In Christ, we have purpose:
      1. We understand that God is working out His plan in the present world, and we are a part of it
      2. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
    4. How it works
      1. Salvation
        1. Receive Christ
        2. Come to church and are fed
        3. Soon desire to give, not just receive
      2. Service
        1. Our purpose
        2. God's plan
        3. Ask: What are my spiritual gifts? What is my calling? How can I be equipped?
    5. "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only," (James 1:22)
    6. "It's like a son who is being brought into the family business. Instead of racing fast cars and running around with girls, he finally buckles down and says, 'Dad, I'm part of it. It's my business, too, and I'm going to work hard and undertake the burden of this work.' That is real maturity."
  3. The Privilege of Proportion (v. 12b)
    1. Miracles of Jesus
      1. 40 recorded miracles in the gospels (raising the dead, walking on water, calming the sea, turning water to wine, feeding thousands with a few loaves and fish)
      2. "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen." (John 21:25)
    2. Interpretations
      1. Miraculous physical works, confined to the apostles
        1. Replicating miracles Jesus did
          1. "And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people." (Acts 5:12)
          2. "And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed." (Acts 5:14-16)
        2. Problems
          1. Jesus didn't limit the promise to apostles: "He who believes"
          2. People other than apostles did miracles: Stephen, Philip
          3. Were the works of apostles greater? No!
          4. Reports in subsequent church history: Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Ignatius
      2. Physical signs and wonders done by everyone who has enough faith
        1. Faith movement
          1. Emphasize belief
          2. Not enough people with enough faith
          3. Speak in faith, make positive confession
        2. Problems
          1. Jesus said "He who believe in me" not "He who believes a miracle will be done"
          2. Jesus makes a declaration, not an offer
      3. Spiritual works
        1. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit
          1. "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever" (John 14:16)
          2. "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you." (John 16:6-7)
        2. Jesus is comforting the apostles
          1. They think that since Jesus is leaving, "there goes the power!"
          2. Jesus reassures them that it's not over, it is just beginning
        3. Works not greater in power, magnitude, or intensity, but greater in extent
          1. On the Day of Pentecost: 3000 came to faith in Christ
          2. Within 30 years, the apostles took the gospel to Judea, Samaria, Syria, Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, Macedonia, Greece, and Rome
          3. More were saved in the first few months after Jesus' ascension than in His entire lifetime upon the earth
          4. Within 300 years, millions came to faith in Christ
        4. Quantitatively (not qualitatively) greater
        5. Missions
          1. In Africa, 20,000 conversions to Christ daily
          2. In Latin America, 10,000 conversions to Christ daily
        6. Greatest work not a physical healing of the body, but getting a sinner to heaven
  4.  The Privilege of Prayer (vv. 13-14)
    1. How the job Jesus gives will be done
      1. Jesus had fed, helped them fish, provided tax money, now He is leaving
      2. Jesus may be going away, but just ask and He will give them the resources they need
    2. The gap between where Jesus is and where we are is closed when we pray
    3. Misunderstood: not a blanket promise to fulfill our whims when we say "In Jesus' name"
    4. In Jesus' name
      1. Name embodied all that a person was: character, reputation
      2. To pray for something consistent with His character
      3. "Lord I'm asking this for the sake of Jesus Christ because I know this will bring glory to Him and will ultimately glorify you."
      4. According to His mind, His will, for His sake, His glory
      5. "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15)
  5. Application
    1. When was the last time you prayed to see greater works accomplished in your life?
    2. Pray: Lord I want to be a part of what you are doing.
    3. The task is so big, the people are so many, and the work is too hard!
      1. You are not the manufacturer, you are the distributor
      2. The enormity of the work spurs us on. It's the great commission
      3. Great works accomplished by the combination of smaller parts (add your part, you can't do it all)

Greek Terms: amēn: truly; erga: energy
Figures Referenced: Henry David Thoreau; Irenaeus; Tertullian; Justin Martyr; Ignatius; Linda Claire;
Cross References: John 13:36-38; John 14:4-6; John 14:8-11; John 14:16; John 16:6-7; John 21:25; Acts 5:14-16; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Ephesians 2:10; James 1:22; 1 John 5:14-15

Topic: Upper Room Discourse

Keywords: prayer, in Jesus' name, in Jesus name, works, greater works, purpose, meaning of life

Transcript

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John Chapter 14, let's have a word of prayer.  Lord we do this weekend pray especially for those families who are lending their loved ones overseas on the field in a military station.  This weekend, we commemorate those who have fallen.  We honor their memory.  We're thankful for the freedoms we possess because of their sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice of their life.  But we also remember those who are overseas now, who are in the military now.  And especially for their families who are eagerly waiting for their loved ones to come home and we do pray they would return safely.

We look forward to the day when men will beat their swords into plough-shears, and their spears into pruning hooks.  When nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn to make war anymore.  Until that time Lord, we're most thankful for Jesus who fought the ultimate battle, giving his life for the salvation of millions.  We are recipients of that great mercy and grace.  And to that end, we thank you and we pray you'd open our eyes to behold wondrous things from your word, in Jesus name.  Amen.

I want to begin this morning by reading to you part of an actual job application form.  This is an application by a 17-year-old boy who is applying for a job at McDonald's in Florida.  It seems that that McDonald's decided to hire this 17-year-old boy shearly on the basis of the honesty and humor in the application.  Name, Greg Bulmash(ph), Desired Position; Company President or Vice President.  But seriously, whatever is available.

If I was in a position to be picky, I wouldn't be applying here in the first place.  Desired salary, $185,000.00 a year plus stock options and a Michael Ovitz style severance package, if that's not possible, make an offer and we can haggle.  Education; Yes, Last Position Held; target for middle management hostility, Salary; less than I'm worth, Hours Available To Work; any, Preferred Hours; 1:30-3:30 PM, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.  May we contact your current employer; he writes, "Oh come on.  If I had one would I be here?"

So, they decided to take him on, hire him, and work at McDonald's.  I had a position like that once.  It wasn't in McDonald's.  I worked at a turkey farm.  My job, no benefits, no retirement package, no severance, my job was to take dead turkeys and put them on meat hooks all day long.  I lasted one day, and I quit.  I couldn't handle it.

We work for God.  We are God's employees, or to put it in the language of Paul in II Corinthians 6, "We are fellow workers together with him."  If you think about it, we work for the best company in the world.  Our product works universally.  No matter where you are, the gospel works everywhere.

We have offices worldwide, go anywhere in the world and you will find at least a few believers who represent our company.  Number three, we have a benefits package that's outstanding.  Forgiveness for the past, meaning for the present, peace of mind, and we have a retirement package that's out of this world, literally.  Those are the benefits.

There are also shear privileges for working for God and it's because of those benefits and those privileges that God has managed to create such a brand loyalty in his followers.

Now, let's remember where we are in the gospel of John.  We've been in it for some time.  But we are dealing with the upper room this course right now.  Chapters 13, 14, 15 and 16 all happen in one setting, one scene and that is the last final meal, pass over meal Jesus shares with his men, his followers, his disciples.  We call them the "Apostles".

There's just a few hours left before Jesus will go to the cross, what is Jesus doing in the last few hours before he goes to the cross?  He's teaching.  He's teaching his men.  He's not entertaining them.  He's not really counseling them.  He's not telling them to invest in the money market.  He's teaching them to invest their lives in God's global plan that includes them.

Now, let me remind you, in the course of this last meeting, this upper room, this course, as Jesus starts talking, he is interrupted or at least fire back upon by three of the apostles.  The first was Peter.  Peter said, "Lord, where are you going and why can't I follow you now?"  And Jesus said, "Well Peter, you can't follow me right now, but you will afterwards, later on." 

The second was Thomas when Jesus said, "Well, you know where I'm going and you know the way."  And Thomas said, "We have no clue where you're going, so how can we know the way?"  And Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  The third was by the apostle named Philip.  And Philip, tired of the ambiguity and wanting something concrete just said, "Lord, show us the Father and we'll be happy."  And in effect Jesus said, "You're looking at him.  Have I been with you so long, you don't know who I am?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  And if you don't believe that I am in such intimate concert with my heavenly Father, at least believe on the basis of the works that you've seen me do."

Now, at this point, beginning in Verse 12 of Chapter 14, the focus of our Lord is upon the future plan of God that includes them.  This morning, we want to look at just three verses, beginning at Verse 12.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also.  And greater works than these, he will do because I go to my Father.  And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

These are fabulous promises, but they're misunderstood promises.  And here's what's great about having this written down, when it's written down like this, we can pause and focus just on a little section like we're going to do.  It's almost better than actually being there.  Now, I know everybody says, "Boy I'd love to have been in that upper room and heard Jesus and seen him."  I understand that, but what I think is better is it is.

We have the opportunity to take what is written, divorced from the emotion of the moment.  The disciples in that upper room, their emotions were surging. They were dealing with doubts and questions and fears.  And so, a lot of what they heard was lost at that moment.  We get the opportunity to take a few verses and unpack them, and go deep, and answer the questions.  That's what we want to do in these three verses.

So, I want to talk to you about three privileges of working for God, of being a part of his plan, of being God's employees.  Number one, privilege number one is the privilege of purpose, Verse 12.  Most assuredly, or verily, verily, if you had the Old King Jimmy version, in Greek, Amen, Amen, it's put putting the emphatic.

In other words, what I'm about to say, listen up.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also.  And greater works than these, he will do because I go to my Father.  You'll notice that Jesus speaks of doing works.  The Greek word is "ergan" or "erga".  We get the word energy form it.  It means "Activities" or "Energy Expended".

In other words, there is some divine activity that God wants you and I to spend our energy on, some purpose.  I've discovered that this is one of the greatest issues people wrestle with in life.  What is the purpose of my life?  Why am I here?  What's the plan and the purpose of my life upon the earth? 

You see, without knowing that, life can be very disorienting.  Let me tell you what it's like.  Imagine if you were to take an Amazonian tribesman and place him in New York City without any briefing, without any prep.  You just stick in the middle of Time Square and say fend for yourself.  He doesn't understand English.  He doesn't understand traffic laws.  He's never seen cars.  He doesn't understand that in this culture, you buy your food, you don't kill it, hunt for it.  He doesn't know how he fits in.
It would be cruel to do that.  So too is it to live in God's universe without understanding God's plan and God's purpose and how we fit in.  Henry David Thoreau once said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation."  You know why?  They don't know what their purpose is.  In Christ, we have purpose.  In Christ, we understand that God is working out his plan in the present world and we're a part of it.

Listen to what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, "We are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do."  That's what Jesus is telling these disciples.  There are works that I want you to do.  I prepared you to do them and prepared them for you.  Roll up your sleeves boys.  You have the privilege of knowing the purpose for your existence.

This is how it works:  The first stage of your Christianity is salvation.  You get safe.  You start growing.  You come to church.  You get fed.  You get more fed.  You get maybe a little bit spiritually fat even.  And after a while, that's not enough.  After a while, you don't want to just keep receiving.  You come to a point where you want to start giving.  You want to start engaging in the plan.  You want to be a part of it.  It's more blessed to give than receive.

So you enter into phase two, from salvation to service.  In this phase, you're interested in your purpose, the plan of your life.  What are my spiritual gifts?  What is my calling from God?  How can I be equipped to be a part of the global plan of God?  Like James said, "Be doers of the word, not just hearers only."

One author explains, "It's like a son who's being brought into the family business.  Instead of racing fast cars and running around with the girls he finally buckles down and says, 'Dad, I want to be a part of it.  It's my business too and I'm going to work hard and undertake the burden of this work."  That, says this author, is real maturity.

So, our Lord is growing up, maturing these disciples by showing them the first privilege of working for God and that is knowing the purpose of your life, engaging in the works.  Here's the second privilege if that isn't good enough; proportion, the privilege of proportion.

Now watch this and I wonder if it's going to blow you away like it blew me away.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he believes in me.  The works that I do, he will do also.  Here it is, "And greater works than these he will do because I go to my Father."  Now what could Jesus possibly mean by that?  Greater works than Jesus did?

I did a little snooping around in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and I discovered that there are 40 miracles recorded that Jesus did, and I mean real miracles; raising the dead, walking on water, not walking near water, not swimming under the water, walking on top of walker.  While doing that, calming a sea, the wind and the seas obeyed him, turning water into wine, feeding thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and fish.

And here Jesus says, "And greater works than these shall he do."  And by the way, those are just the recorded works.  Did you know that John, the author of this gospel, at the end of his book says, "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book."  I've never raised the dead, have you?  I've never walked on water, have you?  I've prayed for people, sometimes they've gotten better, sometimes they've died.

So, what could Jesus possibly mean in telling his disciples the works that I've done you're going to do and greater works than these you will do?  Let me give you three possibilities.  Since we're only taking three verses this morning, I can go a little bit deeper.  Let me give you three possible interpretations.

Number one, maybe Jesus means miraculous, physical works that the apostles will do.  It's confined to just those apostles in that room.  They're going to do the same kind of miracles that Jesus performed.  That's interpretation number one.  And of course, they did.

You turn to the Book of Acts.  In fact, do you mind turning to Acts Chapter 5?  It's just one block over to the right.  Acts Chapter 5, let's just scoop up a couple of verses.  Acts Chapter 5:12, "And through the hands of the apostles, many signs and wonders were done among the people."  Verse 15, "So that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them."  That's power

Verse 16, "And also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits."  Now watch this, "And they were all healed."  That's a lot of power, physical miraculous power.

So we have the disciples basically replicating the miraculous signs and wonders that Jesus did in his own ministry.  But, if we say that when Jesus made the promise in John 14 that you're going to do the works and greater works, we have a problem.  If we say that it just means miraculous works are just for the apostles, we have a problem.

We have a problem, first of all, because Jesus didn't seem to limit it to the apostles.  Notice what he said, "Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in me."  He seems to include anybody, right?  Not just apostles, anybody who believes in him.

Number two, when we turn to the Book of Acts, yes, the apostles did miracles.  But did you know that people other than the apostles did miracles?  Two deacons come to mind, Steven was one of them.  Philip, not the apostle, Philip the Deacon also did signs and wonders.

Number three, they did signs and wonders, the apostles, but can we say that what they did was greater than the signs and wonders that Jesus performed?  I don't think so.

And number four, if it only means miraculous physical signs and wonders to the apostles, what about all of the reports we have in subsequent church history?  From men like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, in the first, second, third, fourth centuries of all of the miracles that were done at their hands.

So that's interpretation number one, physical signs and wonders done by the apostles.  Okay now, that thought for a moment.  Just put it on hold.  Move it to the side.  

Interpretation number two, Jesus is referring to physical signs and wonders done by everyone who has enough faith to believe.  And those who hold this view emphasize the word "Believe", except they would say, "Believe".

And this group espouses the idea that the reason we don't see miraculous signs and wonders is that there's not enough people with enough faith to get it done, that we need to speak in faith and speak positive confessions and never speak negative confessions.  You should never say, "I'm sick."  You should never say, "I might lose my job" because then you will.  You'll speak into existence.  You have to speak by faith.

One of my favorite stories is about three guys.  They were driving in a car.  Two were in the front seat, one was in the backseat and the guy in the backseat believed this stuff, the faith movement stuff.  And he said to the driver, "Hey, how's your uncle doing?  I sure love him.  It's been a long time since I've seen him."  And the driver said, "Oh, my uncle's really sick."  The guy in the backseat said, "Don't say he is sick.  That's a negative confession.  You can say, 'He thinks he's sick."  He says, "Okay, whatever.  He thinks he's sick."  "Okay.  That's better."

A little while later, the guy in the backseat said to the passenger, "Hey how's your uncle?  I sure love him as well.  And I miss him."  And he says, "Oh, he thinks he is dead."
Now, here's the reason I don't think it refers to those who have enough faith for the miracle because Jesus says, "He who believes in me," not believes that the miracle will be done, not believes with the sufficient intensity or degree of faith, simply, "He who believes in me," and Jesus makes a declaration, not an offer.  "Whoever believes in me will do," not might do, not should do if they have enough faith, will do these great works.

So, now that thought and move that to the side.  I think there's a third way to look at it.  I think it means something totally different.  Let me ask you a question, what could be greater than physical works?  Spiritual works, the key to understanding the statement is the phrase, the last phrase where Jesus says, "Because I go to my father."  Notice this, "And greater works than these, he will do because I go to my Father."  Why is that important?  Because when Jesus would go to the Father, he would send the Holy Spirit.

In fact he said, "I can't send the Holy Spirit until I go to the Father.  But when I go to the Father, I will send the Holy Spirit."  Now watch, follow.  Follow the context, go down a few verses.  Go down to Verse 16.  "And I will pray to Father and He will give you another helper that He may abide with you forever."  Jesus explains that's the Holy Spirit.

Turn the page to the right to Chapter 16.  Some of you might have to turn two pages.  John 16:6, "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  Nevertheless, I tell you the truth.  It is to your advantage that I go away for if I do not go away, the helper will not come to you, but if I depart, I will send Him to you."

Now, can you see how these would be a comfort to these apostles?  You've got to understand at this point they're thinking, "Man, Jesus is leaving us.  There goes the power.  This whole thing is over.  We're downhill from here."  Jesus turns it completely around and promises them, basically, "It's not over.  It's just beginning.  I'm going to go to the Father and send the Holy Spirit and He's going to be living in you and all the works that I have done is going to be replicated in a whole different manner, in a whole different fashion."

Now when Jesus says, "Greater Works", He doesn't mean greater in power, greater in magnitude, greater in intensity.  That never happened.  It means, listen carefully, greater in extent.  Now think for a moment of what Jesus actually had done while He was on the earth.  And compare that say to Peter on the day of Pentecost, after Jesus had died, resurrected and ascended.  There's Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost 3,000 people in a single day came to faith in Christ.  Did that ever happened during Jesus' ministry?  Never, did Jesus ever take the Gospel to Asia Minor or to Europe or to Rome?
Never, but did you know that within 30 years, those men in this upper room in Jerusalem, these apostles within 30 years are going to take the Gospel and see results in Judea, Samaria, Syria, Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, Macedonia, Greece and Rome.  More people were saved in the first few months after Jesus ascended into heaven than His entire lifetime upon the earth.  And within 300 years of church history, millions came to faith in Christ in the Roman Empire.

So the works were quantitatively, not qualitatively, quantitatively greater because Jesus ascended to His Father, dispatched the Holy Spirit who would live inside of all of us, and wherever we go, we would carry that message and people would come to faith in Christ.

So in the first century, people took the message by foot, by horseback, by boat, later on by shortwave radio, later on by real radio, by television, now by the internet, MP3s.  We are seeing greater things today than Jesus ever saw in His lifetime.  That's by His design.  He saw them in His mind, in His heart, He predicted it, but he never saw it.

It's amazing.  I was walking through Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago, and the two ladies from Hong Kong walked up to me and recognized me, internet and said, "We download your messages on the internet and we listen to them."  I went, "Really?"  Later on, same day, I'm walking up from the Temple Mount area up into the upper part of Jewish quarter of Jerusalem and this guy stopped me and said, "Is your name Skip?"  I said, "Yes."  He goes, "I'm from Australia.  I listen to you on the internet and I downloaded the DVD 'Learning from the Land', and I decided I wanted to come and see the land."

Now, if you really want to see the greater works thing in a real magnanimous way, get involved to missions.  Get outside of our little American bubble and go see what's happening, for instance, in Africa.  It's estimated in Africa 20,000 conversions to Christ happened every single day.  In Latin America, the conversion rate is 10,000 per day.  Well that's greater works.  That's greater works.

Listen, the greatest work is not the physical healing of a body.  The greatest possible work is to get a sinner from earth to heaven and we're part of that enterprise, the greater works that Jesus spoke about.

So two privileges:  Privilege of purpose, privilege of proportion.  The third privilege is the privilege of prayer.  So what Jesus does in Verse 13 and 14 is help the disciples understand how the job is going to get done.  You can imagine what it would be like to hear this promise.  You're sitting in that upper room and Jesus said, "Greater works."  And you're thinking, "Really?"  And where are we going to get the resources for this?  Verse 13, "Whatever you ask in my name that I will do that the Father maybe glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in my name, I will do it."

Now you can imagine the panic that's running through the minds of the apostles.  Jesus is going away, "Where are we going to get the resources, the power?"  I mean, Jesus fed them.  Jesus had helped them get their fish.  Jesus even provided tax money on one occasion.  Remember he said, "Go open the fish."  The first fish you get from the lake today open it up and you'll find enough up money to pay your taxes.  Wouldn't that be cool?

Right around the April you get a package of fish in the mail.  You got enough money in there to pay your taxes.  And now Jesus is leaving, but what He's basically saying is, "I maybe going away, but whatever you need, just ask and I'll ship it to you right away.  I'll give you the resources you need."

This is momentous to me.  I sat stunned as I realized the meaning of this.  The gap between where Jesus is ascended to God, the gap between where Jesus is and where you are is closed the moment you pray.  There's no gap.  When you pray, it closes the gap and it dispenses the resource.  That's the promise.

Now, I think it's fair to say that these verses have been grossly misunderstood.  I mean look what it says, "Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do."  Verse 14, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it," that's a huge promise and I've had people say, "Well, I prayed and He never answered."  Well, "No" is an answer.  Well, what does Jesus mean then?

Well listen, they're reading something into this package that was never intended to be there.  Do you think for a moment that this is some blank of promise that whatever whim comes into your mind, whatever request you have, as long as you say, "In Jesus', name abracadabra, over and out," it's going to happen?  Absolutely not, there's a qualifying phrase that helps you understand what Jesus is saying.  And it's the phrase "In my name."

I want you to notice it's mentioned twice, one in each verse, "Whatever you ask in my name that I will do," Verse 14, "If you ask anything in my name I will do it."

Now in ancient times, a person's name was the person's character and reputation and it embodied all that that person was, it was more than a tag.  If a friend said to you, "Hey, go to this new restaurant.  I know the owner.  Mention my name and he will give you the best table in the house."

Now, you are using that person's name, character, reputation to make an approach and a request.  To pray in the name of Jesus means that you are praying for something making a request for that which is consistent to His character.  To pray in His name is to pray according to what you know he wants for His sake.

So, try this.  At the end of every request that you make to say, "Lord, I'm asking this for the sake of Jesus Christ because I know that this will bring glory to Him and will ultimately glorify you."  And that's going to weed out a lot of prayer requests, right?

All those "Give me, give me, give me" prayer requests are going to be gone pretty quick, right?  I mean it's awfully hard to say, "Lord, I want a new TV and I'm saying this for Jesus' sake and because I know this is going to glorify --" which just falls flat.  And what it does is it lifts prayer up to the loftiest level, the level it was meant to be to pray according to those things that are in His mind, His will that will glorify Him for His sake.

I'll give you another verse that I think helps flush this out written by the same author, this is 1 John Chapter 5.  Now this is the confidence that we have in Him that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know He hears us, whatever we ask we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.  In Jesus name, according to his character, reputation for His sake by His will.

So we have the privilege of purpose, the privilege of proportion and the privilege of prayer.  Now let me ask you a question, when was the last time you asked God, you prayed to see greater works in your life accomplished in your life?  Lord, I want to find out what you're up to and I just want to be a part of what you're up to.

Now some will say, "Well, I haven't done that because frankly, the task is so big."  The people are so many, the work is too hard.  Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel."  That's just so big of a task.

Let me give you a couple of things as we close on that.  Number one, you're not the manufacturer, you're just the distributor.  It's not your work.  You don't have to make anything up.  The burden isn't on you.  You don't have to say, "Okay, What do I --?"  Just tell them the truth, give them the Gospel.  You're not the manufacturer, He is, just be the distributor, let God use you but just dispense the truth.

Number two; it's the enormity of the work that spurs us on.  Okay, it's a big task, granted, but would you have it any other way?  It's called the "Great Commission" going to all the world.  It's not called the "Mediocre Commission" or the "Small Commission", the "Manageable Commission".  It's this enormous task that rises us up.  It's sort of like the communists in the heyday of the Communist Party in Russia.  They said that when they would call people to the impossible task, that's when they saw the most recruits.  People want a noble task to rise up to.

And number three; great works are done by the combination of smaller parts.  Great works are done by the combination of smaller parts, add your part.  You can't do it all. You're not called to do it all.  You're simply called to add your part to my part, to his part, to her part and all together we'll be a part of the greater work.

I love the story about Linda Clare form Eugene, Oregon.  She was a childcare provider, a believer.  She was struggling with this whole idea of purpose and proportion, "Is this what I'm called to do, be a babysitter?  Is this all that I'm called to do?  Is this the proportion?  That's it?  Maybe God wants something great for my life."  Until one day, one of the parents, a dad, came to her and said, "You taught my daughter to pray, didn't you?"  She's thinking, "Uh-oh, I'm in trouble."  And this father said, "Every evening, when KC comes home, she prays before meals.  And she said you taught her to do that.  And you know, my wife and I were thinking, we ought to be getting back to church after hearing my daughter pray and we were wondering if you could recommend a good church for us?"

Linda Claire said that was the clarifying moment for her.  That was the epiphanal moment.  She discovered she is a part of God's great plan.  And so, now whenever anybody asks her, "What do you do for a living?"  She says, "I'm a babysitter for God, for the glory of God."

Let's pray.  Father, we are fellow workers with you.  That's what Paul described us as co-laborers with Christ.  Discovering our purpose, our purpose is to fulfill your plan and it's huge.  You promised great proportions, greater works.  It can only be done by the power of your Holy Spirit operating in each one of us, all working together.  But then Lord to realize that whatever distance there is between Jesus and heaven and us on earth is immediately closed when we go to prayer and the resources are sent.  Whatever we need for the task to get that job done, whatever we ask in the name of Jesus, to glorify God and to do those greater works will be given.  That's wonderful Lord.  If any of us have felt isolated, alienated or alone, that is diminished when we hear these promises.

Lord, I pray that we would close that gap more often than we do.  I pray that our dependence upon you would be greater than it has been before.  And I pray that we would see the shear privilege as we add our part to see greater works done.  Thank you for the privilege of being a part of it.  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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2/6/2011
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A Meal to Reveal the Heart
John 12:1-11
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If you were to step into the home of Simon at Bethany (Mark 14:3) on that night, you would've seen Jesus and His disciples along with Lazarus and His two sisters reclining at a low table for a meal in honor of Christ. But if you were to step into the hearts of those people, you would discover they were all very different from each other. Those inside the house and outside represent the gamut of feelings about Jesus—from adoring love to intense hatred. What a complicated meal!
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2/13/2011
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A Day, a Donkey, a Deliverer, and a Decision
John 12:12-19
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2000 years ago, on the final Sunday of Jesus’ earthly life before His crucifixion, He did the most unusual thing—He sat on a donkey and was carried into the city of Jerusalem in parade fashion. This formal presentation of Him as Deliverer was both profound and predicted. What’s the significance of such an act as this? What overarching principles emerge for us today? We’ll dig in and discover them, but today you’ve got to write them down yourself:
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2/20/2011
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Living the Right Life
John 12:20-26
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If this sermon was a book and I wanted to sell lots of copies, the title would cause it to fail. Now if it were entitled "Living the High Life" or "Living the Successful Life," then I may have a winner. But many have lived with both success and riches who didn't live right! So what is the right life? Or to frame it with a better question: What kind of life is most pleasing to God? Through a series of paradoxes, John gives us the answer—it wasn't the answer most people are looking for!
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2/27/2011
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Cross-Culture
John 12:27-36
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The term cross-culture emerges from the social sciences and typically refers to interaction of one culture or language with another. But that's not how I'm using it today. I'm thinking of it in the biblical sense, the salvation sense. Jesus' whole life was immersed in the culture of the cross and He referred to His impending death on the cross as "His hour." Let's consider today the culture of the cross of Christ: what it meant to Jesus personally and the world ultimately.
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3/6/2011
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Believe It or Not!
John 12:37-50
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Most of you reading this are believers. Some are not. Both are dangerous positions to take but for different reasons—vastly different reasons! This paragraph in John's Gospel is the summary of all that has been written, from chapters 1 through 13. It reviews the two different responses people have to Jesus and then gives us Jesus' own synopsis on faith and unbelief. Today you will be able to understand the real differences and consequences of faith and unbelief.
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3/13/2011
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A Night Unforgettable
John 13:1-5
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Some days are frozen in time because of the magnitude of an event. You will always remember September 11, 2001 and where you were when the towers fell. The night America bombed Baghdad or the night John Lennon was murdered may be permanent memories captured in your mind. This was the final night Jesus spent with His own disciples and it would be unforgettable. Let’s discover how what seem like ordinary moments can be extraordinary appointments.
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3/20/2011
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Basin Theology 101
John 13:6-17
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At the final Passover meal that Jesus shared with His closest friends, He gave new meaning to the bread and wine, using them to point to His upcoming sacrificial death on the cross. Today we share Communion as a church family and reflect on that meal, as well as the lessons Jesus was teaching His first followers. After dinner Jesus took a basin of water and began to wash the feet of his students and taught them life principles about stooping, cleansing and serving.
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3/27/2011
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Betrayed!
John 13:18-30
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Relationships can withstand an enormous amount of pressure, but betrayal is sure to end most. The old English word means to hand over or to deliver. Think of it: while Jesus was about to deliver the world from sin and its destruction, Judas was about to deliver the Savior over to His enemies. If you've ever felt betrayed by someone, this study will have special application to you.
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4/10/2011
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A Brand New Way of Life!
John 13:31-35
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To follow Jesus is to have a brand new way of life. When these twelve men sitting around the dinner table started hanging around Jesus, they had no idea just how new and different their lives would become. At this final meal on that last night, they were still learning just how new their lives should be. (Jesus can still teach old dogs new tricks!) As present-day followers of Christ, let’s consider three aspects of life that become new once we become His disciples.
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4/17/2011
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F.A.Q.
John 13:36-38
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An old Persian Proverb reads, "It's harder to ask a sensible question than to supply a sensible answer." Many times our questions to God are reactive—based on a sort of knee-jerk reaction to painful circumstances. Peter asked Jesus two questions of this sort. But whenever we ask God questions we must hang around to get the supplied answers. The questions Peter asked are similar to ones we frequently ask. Let's consider and apply Jesus' outstanding answer
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5/1/2011
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A Theology for Messy Lives
John 14:1-6
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Life can be pretty messy sometimes: plans fail, people leave, money diminishes, and taxes rise. There are plenty of reasons to be troubled these days but there are better reasons not to be! Life was about to get real messy for those disciples around that Jerusalem dinner table. At times like that, there are some basic instructions we need to fall back on so our hearts inside us won't be swallowed up by the mess around us.
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5/8/2011
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How Can I Know God?
John 14:7-11
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What a thought—that a mere human can know God! The agnostic asserts this is impossible. The atheist insists that the very idea is an arrogant and purely metaphysical pursuit. But one of the reasons Jesus came was to reveal God's character and nature clearly and perfectly! Let's consider two roadblocks to knowing God and four resources that help us know Him better.
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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.