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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > What a Friend We Have in Jesus

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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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7/17/2011
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What a Friend We Have in Jesus
John 15:12-17
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
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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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. Jesus Picks His Friends (v. 16)

  2. Jesus Helps His Friends

    1. By Sacrificing for Them (v. 13)

    2. By Speaking to Them (v. 15)

  3. Jesus Anticipates His Friends (vv. 12, 14, 17)

Friendly Questions:

  1. What is the greatest sacrifice that any friend made for you? What is the greatest sacrifice you've made for a friend? What were the results?

  2. What criteria do you use in choosing friends? How do friendships build you up?

  3. Friends are people you can count on; they respond when you ask them to. So how good of a friend have you been to Jesus?

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. What a Friend We Have in Jesus
      1. Poem by Joseph Scriven in 1855
      2. Background
        1. Fiancée drowned the day before their wedding
        2. Second fiancée, Eliza Roche, also passed away
        3. Never married
        4. Written to comfort his ill mother
      3. "Have we trials and temptations?
        Is there trouble anywhere?
        We should never be discouraged—
        Take it to the Lord in prayer.
        Can we find a friend so faithful,
        Who will all our sorrows share?
        Jesus knows our every weakness;
        Take it to the Lord in prayer."
    2. What is a friend?
      1. Dictionary
        1. Someone attached to someone else by esteem or affection
        2. Someone who is not hostile
      2. British newspaper contest
        1. Multiplies joy, divides sorrow
        2. Understands our silence
        3. A volume of sympathy wrapped in a cloth
        4. A watch that ever beats and never runs out
        5. Winner: Someone who comes in when the rest of the world goes out
      3. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:17)
      4. We have many acquaintances and few friends
      5. Survey: What do you want in a friend?
        1. Able to keep a confidence
        2. Loyal
        3. Warm and affectionate
    3. Context
      1. After the Last Supper
      2. Jesus walking with the 11 disciples toward the Garden of Gethsemane
      3. Judas is no longer with them; betrayal
  2. Jesus Picks His Friends (v. 16)
    1. Speaks of His Position
      1. Like a famous or wealthy person; His prerogative
        1. Only a friend when invited in
        2. "We love Him because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
    2. Speaks of His Election
      1. Predestination
        1. God, in advance, chooses those to be saved
        2. "Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world," (Ephesians 1:4)
      2. Altar calls: we must cooperate by choosing Him
    3. Speaks of His Affection
      1. Knew all about you, yet still chose you
      2. "I'm so glad that God chose me before the foundation of the world, because he never would have chosen me after I was born!"—C. H. Spurgeon
      3. The love of God is so amazing, that knowing all, He picked me anyway
        1. Knew Peter would deny Him
        2. Knew Thomas would doubt
        3. Knew James and John had violence in them
      4. Michelangelo sculpted "David" from a flawed piece of marble
    4. Speaks of His Intention
      1. He has a purpose for life now
      2. Appointed
        1. Τίθημι; tithémi - ordain for a very special purpose
        2. Service
        3. Go!
          1.  Motion implied
          2. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)
      3. Jesus picks friends, calls them out of the world, saves them, and sends them back into the world to do something about the world they were chosen out of.
      4. Fruit - converts from the unbelieving world
        1. Spiritual Harvest
        2. "Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.'" (John 4:34-36)
        3. Christian life is a purposeful life
        4. "'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'  'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.'" (Revelation 14:13)
  3. Jesus Helps His Friends
    1. By Sacrificing for Them (v. 13)
      1. The cross: greatest example of love
        1. Universal principle
        2. Jesus speaking of His own death: "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us." (1 John 3:16)
      2. Jesus doesn't just choose you to be a friend; He made it possible by His death on the cross
        1. All His friends are sinners
        2. All sinners need to be forgiven
        3. Forgiveness comes by His shed blood --"Without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22)
    2. By Speaking to Them (v. 15)
      1. He lets us in on the plan of God
      2. Servants, Bond slaves
        1. Paul, James, Peter, Jude
        2. To be His slave is to be a king
      3. Jesus calls us friends
        1. Friends of the king, in ancient times were close associates of the king
        2. We don't just blindly follow His orders, He explains
          1. "And the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?'  He answered and said to them, 'Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.'" (Matthew 13:10-11)
          2. "'All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.'  Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, 'Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.'" (Luke 10:22-24)
          3. What He has revealed
            1. How to get to heaven
            2. What heaven is like
            3. How to have joy and peace
            4. That the Holy Spirit would come
            5. The end of the age
            6. "The whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27)
            7. "Mysteries of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:10)
          4. Not all understand: "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)
            1. We know what no one else knows
            2. We have the secret of the universe
  4. Jesus Anticipates His Friends (vv. 12, 14, 17) (He expects something from them)
    1. His friends actively obey Him
      1. What you do for him
      2. Not all about negatives
    2. His friends repeatedly obey him
      1. "Do" in the present subjunctive text: continually, habitually, as a lifestyle
      2. Not do once and quit, or just when others are looking
    3. His friends unconditionally obey
      1. Anything He tells you to do
      2. "Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

Greek terms: Τίθημι; tithémi - ordain for a very special purpose
Figures Referenced: Joseph Scriven; Eliza Roche; Mariah Carey; C. H. Spurgeon
Publications Referenced: What a Friend We Have in Jesus, by Joseph Scriven
Cross References: Proverbs 17:17; Matthew 13:10-11; Mark 16:15; Luke 8:10; Luke 10:22-24; John 4:34-36; Acts 20:27; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 1:4; James 4:4; Hebrews 9:22; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:19; Revelation 14:13

Transcript

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Let's turn on our Bibles this morning to John Chapter 15. Let's settle in. Cell phones off, Bibles open, hearts tuned into God and see what the Lord may want to speak to us. Let's pray.

Lord, we love the way Paul put it when he said that we present our bodies to you as living sacrifices, and so here we are. Our bodies are here. We have gotten up of bed. We've come in our vehicles. We've parked. We've entered this building. We're sitting here, Lord, because we want to hear a word from you. We present our bodies, our minds, our very spirit to you Lord. We pray that you would speak and that you would reveal to us deeper what our relationship to you is like. We know that we're your children. We know that we're the sheep of your pasture. We know that we're servants of the Most High God, but here we understand, today we understand, in this passage we understand that we are your friends. Help us to understand how great that is and what that means. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Back in 1855, a man by the name of Joseph Scriven wrote a poem for his mother who was living in Ireland. He had been from Ireland. He was now living in Canada. He wrote a poem to his mom to encourage his mom. It wasn't a song, but it became a song. It was simply a poem, you know it, "What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and grieves to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer." Now you've sang that as have I. But knowing the story behind it will help I think in whenever you sing it again, they'll understand the real depth of meaning behind it.

You see, Joseph Scriven was himself born in Ireland and fell in love. When he was 25 years old, he met a young lady and was engaged to her. And as the relationship developed and they were planning their wedding, they were so excited. But the day before the wedding, a tragedy happened and that girl died in a drowning accident one day before the wedding. He was broken hearted, and Joseph Scriven got on a boat, left Ireland, and went to Canada to heal from that experience and eventually, met another young lady by the name of Eliza Roach. He fell in love with Eliza, they got engaged, and seemingly as providence would have it, she came down with an illness and she died also before the wedding.

His heart was devastated. He never did marry his entire life. He stayed single. He devoted his life to preaching the Gospel and to showing compassion to those whose hearts were broken and who needed a friend. At the very same time or around the same time that his fiancé number two Eliza Roach died, word came to him that his mother in Ireland was sick and on her deathbed. He couldn't afford to get on a boat and go back to Ireland so he wrote the poem -- song.

In that second verse is so pointed especially coming from his own lips, "Have we trials and temptation? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer." It's one thing if somebody who never suffered wrote that song, but coming from his own life makes those words even more powerful, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

What is a friend? If you're to look up the word in a Webster's dictionary as I did this week, you would discover that the definitions in the dictionary are very inadequate. Definition number one: A friend is someone attached to someone else by esteem or affection. Okay, definition number two: Someone who is not hostile. In other words, the opposite of a friend is an enemy.

I think we can do a lot better than that. I've always loved the definition that came in a British newspaper years ago. This newspaper gave a cash price for anyone who could write in with the best definition of a friend. Thousands of entries were submitted. Typical ones like, "A friend is one who multiplies joy and divides grief," or "A friend is someone who understands our silence," or "A friend is a volume of sympathy wrapped in a cloth, or "A friend is a watch that ever beats and never runs out."

But the definition that won the prize for this English publication was this: A friend is someone who comes in when the rest of the world goes out. What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

Proverbs 17 says that, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." But you really know who your friends are when you are in adversity, right? They either come. They show up. They rise to the surface or where so and so. I thought they were my friend.

Would you agree with the statement that we have many acquaintances but few friends? I think that's true. You might know a lot of people as acquaintances but to be given the designation of a friend, you've got to be a special person because you're not going to just pour out your heart with anybody, right? It has to be a special person, very few friends.

What do you want in a friend? What's a good friend like? A survey was given to 40,000 Americans and they discovered the qualities most Americans want in friends -- listen to this lineup: Number one, the ability to keep a confidence. In other words, not a gossip, somebody who will zip the lip when needed. Number two, someone who is loyal. And number three, someone who's warm and affectionate. That's interesting. That's not number one, that was number three -- ability to keep a confidence, loyalty and then warmth and affection.

This morning in John Chapter 15, we look at a very special friendship. It's the friendship that Jesus has with His own. Now keep in mind the context, there's 11 disciples Jesus is walking with. Remember the story? Chapter 14 Jesus said, "Arise, let us go from here." They're in the upper room. They've had the Last Supper. He gets up from the supper. They walked out of the room. They're walking toward the Garden of Gethsemane. And somewhere along the road, Jesus speaks to them, Chapter 15 and 16 and we'll pray in Chapter 17 in the Garden of Gethsemane.

One of his friends, so-called Judas Iscariot, is no longer with them. At this very moment, he's perpetrating the betrayal of Jesus Christ. So these remaining 11, these are the good branches as opposed to the dead branch that bore no fruit, really, and that's Judas. These are the abiding branches. These are the fruitful branches. And to them, Jesus gives a special designation. Let's read it in its context beginning in Verse 12 of Chapter 15. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Greater love has no one than this, and to lay down ones life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a friend does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends for all the things I heard from my Father, I've made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and I appointed you that you should go and bear fruit; that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another."

So in looking at these verses, let's consider the kind of friendship that Jesus has with us and we can have with Him, and those are the basic two things we want to look at. We want to look at how good of a friend Jesus is to us and then finally, what kind of a friend are we to Him. So there are few things I want you to know based on this text: Number one, Jesus picks His friends. That seems legitimate, right? He has that prerogative, we would imagine. He would be able to choose whoever He wants as His friends.

Look at Verse 16 more carefully, "You did not choose me, but I chose you." Stop right there. Now, this is different in human friendship because in human friendship, there is a commonality and a mutuality about our friendships. We choose each other. Actually, if you ever encounter someone, there are three possibilities, three things that could happen, and only one would result in friendship.

Option number one, you meet a person and you're hanging around, you talk to the person, and you don't like that person. And that person doesn't care much for you. Are you going to be friends with that person? No. You might be polite and "Thank you very much" and dismiss it, but you'll never be friends. Option number two, you meet someone. You like them. They don't like you. You're probably not going to be friends. Option number three, you meet someone. You're fond of them. They're fond of you. You both invest in that and friendship will develop overtime and be nurtured. What's interesting here is that it seems to be at least at first unilateral.

Jesus say, "You didn't choose me, I chose you." Now, that to me is so significant that I want just a few minutes to unpack the meaning of that for us. For Jesus to say, "You didn't choose me, but I chose you," reveals some things. First of all, it speaks to us about His position -- that Jesus is so important and so high in rank that He can have this prerogative of choice. I'll give you an example. If you ever met a very famous person, a great person, a very wealthy person, you know that people like that tend to be very careful about who they allow into their circle of friends, right? They just don't allow anyone, because there are lots of people with ulterior motives that would want to take advantage of that relationship. So they're very slow to allow friends around them.

In fact, I would even say that people who are that great have the prerogative. You won't only be their friends if they invite you in to their circle. I was watching a show sometime back. I think it was called "Cribs" or "Famous People's Cribs". It's about their home where they live. It showed the home of Mariah Carrey. It was "Mariah's Crib", her home. It was a beautiful home. And she went through every room, every level of every room, every building of that house. It was a massive mansion, "And that's what we do here and my friends do this here." Then she showed one lower room. It was beautiful, but it was the lower room. She goes, "This is reserved for people who aren't as closer friends. They get to be in this room, but no other room." So she was obviously in control of the relationships that she allows in that house, in her life.

Here is Jesus who allows us to be friends, makes the choice by virtue of His position. He says in 1 John Chapter 4, "We love Him because He first loved us." That's why we're friends. He first loved us. He by His position invited us closer. It tells us something else. Number two, it tells us not just about His position, but His election. He chose us. Verse 16, "You did not choose me, I chose you."

Now, go over to Verse 19. Look at that one, "If you were of this world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you." Now, we're speaking about election, predestination, and I personally have no problem with the doctrine of election or predestination that God in advance chooses those to be saved. I know a lot of people struggle with that. To me, it's not a struggle. Ephesians 1 tells us that you are chosen, we are chosen, predestined in Christ before the foundation of the world. It's His election of us.

So God chose people to be saved. Now you might, in-hearing that, say, "I believe that, Skip, but I have a problem whenever you call people forward in an ultra call." I've had people tell me that. They don't like ultra calls. So why do you ask people to come forward and choose Christ? Here's why: Because are true. He chooses us and we cooperate with His choice by choosing Him. He involves Himself in our human volition. You know what it's like? It's like a rope.

There's a drowning man in a body of water. In the lake, he's drowning. A rope gets thrown to him. Will the rope save him? No. The rope by itself won't save him. He has to do what? Grab a hold to the rope. But even that's not enough. The presence of a rope and the man grabs a hold of the rope, will that save him? No. There has to be somebody on the shore pulling him, pulling that rope to safety. So, put those together. God by predestination throws the rope. By election, draws the rope. We by our own volition, grab a hold of the rope. Both are true. He has chosen us. This is Divine Election.

Now, it could be then in hearing that, maybe it's the first time you've ever heard something like that. You might even be an unbeliever and you hear that God chooses people to be saved and you're thinking, "Boy, that's not fair, because what if He didn't choose me to be saved?" Well, I can prove to you that He did. At the end of this service, you come and give your life to Christ and I'll show you that you were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the Earth. "Oh, I don't know if I want to do that. What if I'm not ready?" Okay. Well, maybe you weren't chosen. "Well, that's not fair." Well then come and choose Christ. You'll discover that the choice has been made. It's like the old analogy of the man seeing a sign on the door that says, "Whosoever will, let them come." He opens the door, the doors closes behind him. The sign on the back of the door says, "Chosen in Christ before the foundations of the Earth."

So this tells us of His position. It tells is of His Election. There's something else this Jesus picking of His friends shows us. It shows us His affection, His love. I want you to think about this: God knew all about you before He chose you and He still chose you. Did you get that? He knew all about your weaknesses. He knew all about your mistakes. He knew all about your habits. He knows all the dumb things we do and think and He chose you anyway. Chosen in Christ before the foundations of the world, that's affection, that's love.

Charles Spurgeon used to say, "It's a good thing that God picked me before I was born. He never would have picked me after I was born." Of course he didn't really believe that. That was his way of saying, "The love of God is so amazing that knowing all that I am and all of my mistakes, He would pick me anyway." May I ask you a question, when Jesus picked His 12 disciples, did He understand what they were going to do to Him? Do you think He understood all that was going to happen? You bet He did. Did He know that Peter was going to deny Him? And did Jesus know that Thomas was going to doubt Him? Yup. And did he know that James and John would say, "Lord, let me just kill these Samaritans. Call down fire from Heaven and smoke them." Did He know that violence was in them? Yup, He picked them anyway. It speaks of His affection.

One of my favorite stories is the story of a huge block of marble that was cut out of a quarry in Carrara, Italy where all of the ancient statues, the marble for the statues was hewn and typically brought to the great artist for them to make something. And this stone was cut out. It was a massive block of marble and it was taken to Florence, Italy where the masters live. Artist after artist viewed that block of marble that sat in the churchyard week after week. And all of them rejected that block of marble.

For example, Donatello, the great sculptor, looked at it and said, "I don't want it," because there was a crack in it, there was a flaw that ran through the marble. And one after another rejected the flawed marble until one artist came by and he smiled and he got really excited and he said, "There's an angel trapped inside and I'm going to set it free." That man was Michaelangelo.

For two years, he worked on that flawed block of marble and brought forth, after two years on January 25, 1504 what is called his greatest work ever, the Statue of David which still adorns the courtyards of Florence, Italy. That's affection. That's how God looks at us. God looks at your life, sees the flaw and says, "Yeah, I know. But there's something trapped in there. I'm going to release it. I'm going to work on that person. I'm going to make them useful."

So here's Jesus picking His friends. "You didn't choose me, I chose you," speaks of His position, speaks of His election, speaks of His affection, and finally the fourth thing it does, it speaks to us of His intention.

Now, listen carefully, God has an intention, a purpose for your life now, a job for you to do. I want you to look at the second important word in that sentence, Verse 16, "You did not chose me, but I chose you," and what? Appointed – it's a very, very important word. It's the Greek word "Titheme". It means to select, appoint, ordain for a very special purpose.

So the first part, "I have chosen you out of the world," that's salvation. The second word, "Ordained" that's service. First, salvation and then comes service, "I chose you, I ordained you." But keep going, look what it says, "You didn't choose me, I chose you and appointed you that you should--" what's the next word? I want to hear it from everybody -- go. Stop there.

I love this. It's so good. "I've chosen you and I've specially ordained you that you should go." Listen, God never selects any Christian to stop. "I picked you to stop right there. Go no further." There's motion implied here. He didn't want us to just sit around, look at each other, sing a few songs, just watch life go on. He said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."

So here's the pattern and this is so important. I just don't want anybody to miss it. This is what He does: Jesus picks friends, calls them out of the world, saves them and then sends them right back in the world, because now they have the world with all to do, something about the world they were chosen out of. "I've chosen you. I've ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain." What does it mean here, by fruit? You say, "Skip, you've been through this already. Move on. You talked about fruit last week." I did. I talked about fruit especially as the fruit of the spirit, right? Galatians 5, the characteristics of Christ.

Here, the context is a little different because He's speaking of being chosen and going out into the world. I think that the fruit he is, especially in particular referring to, the graces of Christian character, about the converts from the unbelieving world. It's people that you influence and they come to Christ. There's a spiritual harvest, the fruit is gathered in.

Stay right here. You don't have to turn to it. I'm going to turn to John chapter 4. We've been through this before but I don't know. It was like 40 years ago. This is Jesus in Samaria, right? He's in Samaria. A lot of unbelievers come to faith in Him there. In Chapter 4 of John's gospel, I'm reading out of Verse 34. Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." Do not say there are still four months and then comes the harvest. "Behold, I say to you. Lift up your eyes and look at the fields for they are already white for harvest. And he who reaps, and he who receives wages, gathers fruit for eternal life that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together."

Every time you have the opportunity to lead somebody to Christ, even if you don't even make it that far, if you just say a word that will influence them later to do so or you show an act of love in the name of Christ that will eventually add to their conversion, that is eternal fruit. And I'll tell you, that's the way to live. There's purpose in the Christian life.

I'll tell you, there's one way I don't want to live. I don't want to live my life standing around and watching the world go on, just sort of meaninglessly living my life, watching things happen without influencing somebody else. I would much rather live with the intention of I'm saved and I'm ordained to bear forth fruit and bring people to know Christ because that's eternal fruit.

By the way, did you know that every person that you influence, every fruit, follows you into eternity, "That your fruit would remain," Jesus said.

One of the passages we often share at funerals for those believers who live this kind of a life, Revelation 14 says, "And blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on, for they will rest from their labors and their works will follow them." Your fruit will follow you into eternity. Jesus picks His friends.

The second great truth we see here is that Jesus helps His friends. That's good and then if He picks you as His friend, you want Him to help you. You say, "Well, what kind of help will He give?"

Well, the first and most important thing is He saves you. He'll sacrifice His life for you. Verse 13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." We always look to the cross, do we not, as the prime greatest quintessential example of love? Jesus did that. He loves me that much.

By the way, the principle in Verse 13 is the universal principle. Everybody knows it to be true. Every culture knows that it to be true. The greatest example of love or friendship is when a friend would give his life. He would sacrifice his life for another. That's the best example, highest example of love. But here, Jesus is speaking of His own death. You can now fast forward in John writes 1 John, and in that book John says, "By this, we know love that He laid down His life for us."

We really know that He came to help us. We really know that He loves us because He was willing to lay His life down for us. Do you understand the principle? Jesus doesn't just choose you to be His friends. He came to this earth and paid the bill for you to become His friends -- by washing away your sin, by dying on the cross.

Now, somebody will listen to that and go, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's the one problem I have with Christianity, is this whole death on the cross thing." Now, I like to think of Jesus as just a good person, a good fellow, a good example, a good teacher. And why can't we just say that Jesus came to this earth to say some nice words, do a few miraculous tricks to stun everybody and then He just left. Isn't that good enough? Do we have to make a big deal about Him dying on the cross? Yes, we do and here's why: Because all of Jesus' friends are sinners, and all sinners need to be forgiven and forgiveness comes by shed blood. The Old Testament says it, "Only by the shedding of blood is there remission of sins," or "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins." That's number one. He came to sacrifice for us to pay the penalty, to be our atonement.

Look at Verse 15. Here's something else He does and helps us, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant doesn't know what his master is doing. I have called you friends for all things that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you." Jesus speaks to us. Jesus reveals to us. Jesus lets us in -- His friends, on the plan of God. "All things that I've learned from my Father, I told you. But I don't call you servants anymore, I call you friends."

Now, just think about this for a moment: When you read through the epistles like Romans etcetera, you find that a lot of the gospel writers love to call themselves servants. It's one of Paul's favorite terms for himself. So in Romans, in 2 Corinthians, in Galatians, in Philippians and in Titus, those five books, all five books, Paul calls himself "a bond-slave of Jesus". Have you heard that term, "Bondservant of Jesus"? He loved to call himself a bondservant, a slave of Jesus. He wasn't the only one. James, in his book, calls himself a slave. Peter in 2 Peter calls himself a bondservant. Jude calls himself a bondservant. But all of these authors love to call themselves servants. Why? Because they knew they had a great boss, because as the old saying goes, "To be His slave is to be a king." They loved being called a servant.

So then, why does Jesus here make a differentiation between servants and friends? "I'm not going to call you servants anymore. I'm going to call you friends." Well then, He explains it. "For everything I've heard from my Father, I've told you."

Did you know in ancient times, slaves work for their master without any explanation at all? A master never told the servant why he had to do work just that he had to do work, just do the work. And servants would do the work, slaves would do the work. They do the work to get paid, just to grind it out, just to get the job done. They didn't really particularly love their master necessarily. They could, but typically not. So often you'd have a slave who had a bad attitude anyway toward the master –- just cranking it out, just doing the work, just wanting to get paid. The master would never go to a slave and say, "I'll let you in on my secrets, my plans, my dreams, my hopes, my aspirations, my agenda." Now, that was something reserved for only friends who were close confidants, not slaves. Servants didn't understand, friends did.

Did you know that 2000 years ago when this was written, the Roman emperor had a group of people around him in his court? They were known as friends of the king. And the friends of the king were more than political advisers. They were actually close associates. They had access to the king at anytime. They could even go into his bed chamber and talk about the deepest issues of life, and the king typically would run everything by his friends of the king before he would tell anybody else. "I don't call you servants. I call you friends." If I would have been a disciple, I'll go, "Yeah." I would know what that meant. What an honor. They just got promoted. They just got elevated. And then He tells them why once again, "For all things that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you." In other words, we, His friends, we don't just blindly follow His orders. We know why we follow His orders. He has revealed to us the whole scope of life from the beginning of creation to the end of the consummation. We're in on the deal. We're in on the details.

Oh, real quickly, if you don't mind, I want you to turn your Bibles to Matthew Chapter 13. There are lots of verses and scriptures that I could use. I just want to poke at a couple of them to let you see the meaning of this and to reinforce it. Matthew Chapter 13, this is Jesus giving parables. Look at this, Verse 10, "And as the disciples came to Him and said, 'Why do you speak to them in parables? What's up with all these stories? Why are you doing that?" Look at what He says. He answered them and said, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given." Isn't that interesting? They're going to hear a story and go, "I don't get it. That's a kind of funny little story. It was cute but I don't get. I don't understand." But the friends, the close associates, they'll understand the meaning that lies behind the clever little story in a deeper fashion.

Something else, turn with me to the Gospel of Luke Chapter 10. You're going back to John. Go two blocks to the right on the way back to John. Luke Chapter 10. In Verse 22 of Luke 10, "All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."

And then He turned to His disciples privately and said, "Blessed are your eyes, it would see the things you see for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear and have not heard it." Jesus told them everything. Jesus told them how to get to heaven. Jesus told them a little bit about what heaven would be like. Jesus told them how to have joy, how to have peace. Jesus told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus even told them about what will happen at the end of the world and how it's all going to come down sequentially in Matthew Chapter 24.

So He passed that on to them. They in turn wrote it down and passed that on to us, so we have what Paul called "The whole council of God". We have what Paul called "The mystery of the knowledge of His will". We have all of the sacred secrets given to us in the Bible. Now, somebody is going to say, "Okay. Well, if it's in the Bible, then anybody can just buy a Bible and they'll have all the sacred secrets -- anybody, believer or unbeliever, right?" Wrong. You know what it says in 1 Corinthians Chapters 1 and 2, "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit, their foolishness unto Him. He can know them. They're spiritually discerned.

I know people who own Bibles and they don't have a clue what's written in it. They have no knowledge of spiritual truth. They own the Bible. They own the book maybe even try to read it, they don't get it. It's something the Holy Spirit of God must unlock and He does that to His friends. That's what I want you to walk away within this point. We know what nobody else knows.

You have the secret of the universe. I honestly don't think we really appreciate that. I really think we take it for granted how much we know. It means that the greatest philosopher, the smartest scientist, all on their quest for the truth, they're like babies in the crib compared to a simple, man or woman with the Bible and the Holy Spirit of God bringing the revelation of knowledge to their heart. "Everything the Father has told me, I've passed it on."

So Jesus picks His friends. He helps His friends. Third and we close on this, we better do it quickly, He anticipates His friends. He expects His friends to do something. One verse, look at Verse 14, "You are my friends," notice there's not a period there. He say, "You know what, I've picked a lot of friends and you are my friends." Notice how it goes on after the comma, "You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you."

Okay. So we've been talking about how great a friend Jesus is. Now, I have a question for you: How good of a friend to Jesus are you? Well, how can I be a good friend? "If you do whatever I command you." Notice something about that. Jesus' friends actively obey Him. The word "do" is a positive word. He didn't say, "You're my friends if you don't do this and you don't do that." And for a lot of people, their Christianity is all about negatives, what they don't do. "I don't smoke. I don't chew. I don't go with girls that do." Whoopie! What do you do that's positive?

So Jesus' friends will actively obey. Not only that, Jesus' friends will repeatedly obey. You see the word "do", it's a little word. It's in the present subjunctive. It means continually, habitually as a lifestyle do. Not, "You are my disciples, if you do something once and then quit it forever. You are my disciples if you do what I tell you to do on Sundays but on Monday and the rest, you could do whatever you want. You are my disciples if you do what I tell you to do when everybody's looking. But when nobody is looking, do whatever you want." It's a continual, habitual lifestyle of obedience.

And finally, look at the word "whatever". This tells me that Jesus' friends unconditionally obey Him. "You are my disciples if you do whatever." It's not like, "If you do, whatever." That's sort of the modern thing, "What do you got to do?" "Whatever." No. It means anything He tells you to do, right? Here's the deal: You and I can never pick and choose what area of life we're going to allow Jesus Christ into. We can't say, "Well, I'm going to obey Him in my business life, but I won't obey Him in my marriage. I've got something else going on the side. Well, I'm going to obey Jesus in my marriage and in my business, but I'm not going to obey Him when I file for my income tax returns. Well, I'm going to obey Jesus there, but when it comes to my vacation and my leisure, I'm going to sort of do what I want." No. It's a continual, habitual and it includes whatever, whatever.

This is what James said, James Chapter 4, and here's the choice everybody has to make. James said, "Whoever would be a friend of this world is an enemy toward God." A man or a woman must come basically to that choice, "Am I going to be the world's friend or am I going to be God's friend?" Because down the long hall you won't be able to do both.

And so Father, we commit ourselves to Your with that choice in mind knowing that Jesus picks His friends and what an honor that is to be chosen, to be predestined, to be loved because You knew us before you picked us. And to have the kind of intentionality in our lives where You would say, "Not only have I chosen you as my friends, I have chosen you as my ambassadors. I have ordained you, appointed you to go and to bear forth fruit that will last." Thank you for that, what a privilege. Thank you for helping us by paying the bill that would cost to get us to heaven, by revealing Your will to us to the Scripture, by telling us everything we need to know about life and Godliness. And Lord, thank you that this friendship is a two-way street. It's not just what You have done and what You continue to do, but it's reciprocal. We're Your friends if we do whatever you tell us. What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and grieves to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Thank you for that access as friends of the King. 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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5/29/2011
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Privileges of God's Employees
John 14:12-14
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Most companies have benefits for employees: things like overtime pay, health insurance, and sick pay. In 2 Corinthians 6:1, Paul calls us "workers together with Him" (NLT renders it "God's partners"). We have been called to a high and lofty task—to be His representatives here on earth. You might say we're part of the "family business." So what has God called us to do? And how has He provided for us in terms of resources? In short, what are the benefits of being God's employees?
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6/5/2011
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Four Part Harmony
John 14:15-18
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Some of the best moments on American Idol aren't the solo performances, but when all the singers join together and blend their voices in harmony. There's nothing sweeter than well-trained voices blended together in first, thirds, and fifths. Spiritual harmony is much the same—when believers blend with the triune Godhead there is an alignment that results in a deep sense of fulfillment. And what is the note we are to sing in this spiritual song? It is the note of loving obedience!
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6/12/2011
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Promises, Promises!
John 14:19-26
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Someone once mused, "Promises may get friends, but it's performance that keeps them." No wonder God has so many friends! He makes promises and keeps them. On this final night that Jesus spent with His friends, as both sorrow and confusion assailed them, Jesus made several promises that would sustain them in the days, months, and years ahead. What about you? Will you dare to trust the promises of God? It's the only way to see if they really work.
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6/26/2011
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Peace Where You Least Expect It
John 14:27-31
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On countless American gravestones this epitaph could be written: Hurried, Worried, Buried. What a sad way to live! Fear, anxiety, and distress have literally become part of our national culture. Odd, isn't it? Though we have such abundance in this country, most don't experience abundant life—especially as Jesus described it. Sure, everyone has his or her share of trouble and anxieties, but let's consider one of the greatest gifts Jesus gives to followers—the gift of peace!
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7/3/2011
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Life-Lessons from Grape-Growers - Part 1
John 15:1-7
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My parents grew grapes on their little plot of land in Southern California. There weren't many, but enough for me to know that getting fruit at harvest depended on three things: the solid connection of branch to vine, the vigilant care of the workers, and the consistency of those things over time. Jesus, walking with the disciples toward the Garden of Gethsemane, gives life lessons to His men using the familiar example of growing grapes. With that analogy in mind, let's consider the three ways our relationship to God is described by Jesus.
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7/10/2011
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Life-Lessons From Grape-Growers - Part 2
John 15:8-11
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As we grow older, we mature. In our spiritual lives we should become spiritually mature. The Bible calls it being fruitful. Spiritual fruit is the indication that we're truly connected to Christ. But there are others, as we'll see today. Last week we examined how the relationship with Christ is described (Connected to Christ, Cared for by the Father, and Consistent Over Time). Today let's consider how this relationship is demonstrated. When we're rightly connected to God we'll be:
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7/24/2011
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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.