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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > How Followers Are Formed

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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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10/2/2011
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How Followers Are Formed
John 17:6-10
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
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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43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

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

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

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Outline

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  1. The Father Reserves

    1. He Chooses Us for Himself

    2. He Chooses Us for His Son

    3. He Chooses Us Out of the World

  2. The Son Reveals

    1. Jesus Reveals God to Us

    2. Jesus Reveals Truth to Us

  3. The Follower Responds

    1. We Receive Truth

    2. We Believe Truth

    3. We Behave According to Truth

One question to ponder: What does it mean to you to be chosen out of the world to follow Jesus?

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. Followers of Jesus Christ: disciples
    2. We make choices
      1. The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost: "I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."
      2. Choosing to follow Jesus
    3. God the Son speaking to God the Father
      1. Followers are formed
      2. Disciples are made
      3. Divine election
    4. Disciples
      1. μαθητὴς; mathētēs - pupil, learner, student (mathematics)
      2. In the time of ancient philosophers, disciples pursued mentors
  2.  The Father Reserves
    1. He Chooses Us for Himself
      1. Who chose whom?
        1. Simon Peter and Andrew: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)
        2. James and John: "He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him." (Matthew 4:21-22)
        3. Matthew: "'Follow Me.' So he arose and followed Him." (Matthew 9:9)
      2. We make a decision
        1. "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve," (Joshua 24:15)
        2. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17)
        3. "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
        4. "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." (John 5:40)
        5. "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink." (John 7:37)
        6. "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17)
    2. He Chooses Us for His Son
      1. God reserves, elects, predestines, calls
      2. " No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;" (John 6:44)
      3. "Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love," (Ephesians 1:4)
      4. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." (John 6:37)
      5. What Jesus sought to harmonize, let's not polarize
    3. He Chooses Us Out of the World
  3.   The Son Reveals
    1. Jesus Reveals God to Us
      1. He has revealed God's nature to us: "I spelled out your character in detail" (John 17:6 MSG)
      2. Jesus shows us what God is like
        1. "He is the visible image of the invisible God." (Colossians 1:15 CJV)
        2. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus
        3. Jesus makes Yahweh (I AM WHO I AM [see Exodus 3:14]) approachable
          1. "I am the bread of life." (John 6:35)
          2. Living water (see John 4:10)
          3. "I am the good shepherd." (John 10:11)
          4. "I am the door of the sheep." (John 10:7)
        4. Brings God to a level we can understand; whatever we need
        5. "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father;" (John 14:9)
          1. When teaching, He reveals God cares that we know certain truths
          2. When healing, He reveals God cares about human suffering
          3. When weeping, He reveals God is brokenhearted over rejection by His people
    2. Jesus Reveals Truth to Us
      1. Truth about life, us, and God
        1. " For I have given to them the words which You have given Me;" (John 14:8)
        2. "I have given them Your word;" (John 14:14)
        3. "Your word is truth." (John 14:17)
      2. Jesus is the living Word: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)
      3. Jesus authenticated the Old Testament
        1. "The Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35)
        2. "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17)
      4. Jesus anticipates the New Testament
        1. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." (John 14:26)
        2. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." (John 16:12)
          1. Epistles
          2. Revelation
      5. Receiving the word of Christ generates faith
        1. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
        2. "For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me." (John 17:8)
  4. The Follower Responds: As yourself: "So what"— Many listen casually, forget it immediately, and never grow spiritually
    1.  We Receive Truth
      1. Like a phone
      2. Λαμβάνω; lambanó - accept, catch collect, grasp
        1. Ponder them to grip them
        2. Like a wide receiver
    2. We Believe Truth
      1. How the Christian walk begins
      2. When you hear truth you receive and believe it
      3. It is possible to listen to great Bible teaching and not grow
        1. Judas Iscariot
        2. Parable of the sower (See Matthew 13:3-23)
    3. We Behave According to Truth
      1. Does your life reflect that you are chosen out of the worldly system? Or does your life mirror the world system?
      2. True disciples are more than learners, they are livers
      3. Sometimes we don't believe what we believe
        1. Our formal theology differs from our practical theology
        2. What we say is not what we live
        3. Kids are Dogs, Teens are Cats, by Adair Lara
          "I just realized that while children are dogs ... loyal and affectionate ...
          teenagers are cats.
          It's so easy to be a dog owner. You feed it, train it, boss it around. It
          puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt
          painting. It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.
          Then around age 13, your adoring little puppy turns into a big old cat.
          When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who
          died and made you emperor. Instead of dogging your doorstep, it
          disappears. You won't see it again until it gets hungry ... then it pauses
          on its sprint through the kitchen long enough to turn its nose up at
          whatever you're serving. When you reach out to ruffle its head, in that
          old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you then gives you a blank
          stare, as if trying to remember where it has seen you before.
          You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think something must be
          desperately wrong with it. It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of
          depressed. It won't go on family outings. Since you're the one who
          raised it, taught it to fetch and stay and sit on command, you assume
          that you did something wrong. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble
          your efforts to make your pet behave.
          Only now you're dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before
          now produces the opposite of the desired result. Call it and it runs
          away. Tell it to sit and it jumps on the counter. The more you go toward
          it, wringing your hands, the more it moves away.
          Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you can learn to behave
          like a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door and let it come to
          you. But remember that a cat needs your help and your affection too.
          Sit still and it will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap it has not
          entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for it.
          One day your grown-up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big
          kiss and say, "You've been on your feet all day. Let me get those dishes
          for you."
          Then you'll realize your cat is a dog again."

Greek terms: μαθητὴς; mathētēs - pupil, learner, student; Λαμβάνω; lambanó - accept, catch collect, grasp
Publications Referenced: The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost; Kids are Dogs, Teens are Cats, by Adair Lara
Cross References: Exodus 3:14; Joshua 24:15; Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Matthew 4:19; Matthew 4:21-22; Matthew 5:17; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 11:28; Matthew 13:3-23; John 1:1; John 4:10; John 5:40; John 6:35; John 6:37; John 6:44; John 7:37; John 10:7; John 10:11; John 10:35; John 14:8; John 14:9; John 14:14; John 14:17; John 14:26; John 16:12; Romans 10:17;Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:15;Revelation 22:17;

Transcript

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Would you join me as we pray together?

Our Father, we want to say thank you.  Before we ask for anything from you, we just -- we marvel that we're your children, that we’re in this eternal covenant with you, this wonderful love relationship of grace that we enjoy with you.  We just say thank you.  Thank you, for what you've done for us which you’ve done to us, in us and what you're doing through our lives to reach other people.  We're so honored.  We just give you the glory for that and we do pray that you would help us to broaden our perspective, on how you shape and form disciples.  We ask that simply in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

I'm a follower of Jesus Christ.  When I used the term follower, I'm not using it in the Twitter kind of way.  If you do tweet or if you follow Twitter, if you want to keep up with what people are saying, you become their followers.  That’s what they're called.  You signup and you have so many followers.  And I've always been intrigued by that.  I decided to find out who's the most successful at Twitter and who has the most followers in Twitter world.  Lady Gaga is number one.  She has 14 million followers.  Justin Bieber is second.  He has 13 plus million followers and they have the top 50, top 100, top 1000.

It was interesting that Jesus Christ has a presence on Twitter.  He has a page.  I don’t know who it is but somebody took that hand of Jesus Christ and you can follow Jesus on Twitter.  He has 363,000 followers and not quite as many as the top 10, of course, it's not Jesus who's doing the twitting at somebody who's giving out messages in His name on His behalf.

But when I say I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, I mean that I'm a disciple of His.  I remember when I chose to become one.  I remember when I received the Lord into my life.  I remember where I was.  And I knew that when I was choosing that path, that was not the most popular path, that I would be a minority not a majority.

You probably know that the famous American poet Robert Frost did a little poem called, "The Road Not Taken."  In that poem, he talks about being in a forest and there is two paths that split off and he has to choose which road he's going to walk down.  And he knows that he can only invest himself in one path though he tells himself that he'll be back eventually one day to look at the other path though in all honesty he knows that will never work.

And so he writes, "I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."  By the end of the poem, you realized that Frost isn’t really talking about two paths in a forest as much as choices made on life's road.  And we make very important decisions of where we're going to go.  And when I chose to follow Christ, I knew I was choosing the road less traveled by and that made all the difference.

I know that I'm also addressing fellow followers.  I don’t know that everyone in this room is a follower of Christ.  I would never dare to say that.  I suspect that there are a lot of you who are truly following Christ.  And if you are able to share your story now, you would have your own testimony at a certain time, in a certain place, maybe by the influence of a certain person, you came to realize how important that choice was.

And so you made a decision to follow Christ.  It might be I was lonely or I was searching or I was this or I was that or was after a divorce or after a difficult time in my life, whatever the circumstance is you would say, "I remember choosing to follow Jesus."  That's true, but it's only partly true.

There's another side of the coin.  We have seen it a few times in the Gospel of John already.  Now, Jesus is reiterating it in prayer form to His father.  What you have here, beginning in Verse 6 and we’re going to go from Verse 6 to Verse 10, that's our paragraph this morning.

We have God the Son, talking to God the Father, about how followers are formed, how disciples are made.  And this prayer lifts us above just the human choice to the divine choice or divine election.

Notice the wording as Jesus prays to His father in Verse 6 saying, "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.  They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.   Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.   For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.  I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world but for those whom you have given me for they are yours.  And all mine are yours and yours are mine and I am glorified in them."

When it come to the formation of the followers of Jesus, there's three components in this paragraph that I want you and I to see together.  First of all, the Father reserves them.  Jesus says, "They were Yours and you gave them to Me."  He says that in Verse 6.  "You gave them out of the world to Me."  That's repeated in so many words in Verse 9 and in Verse 10.

So to sum it up, the Father at some point before the world ever came to be the world we understand from the Bible, God had you in mind, God chose you, He reserved you and He then gave you as a gift to His son.  We covered that a little bit last week.  So you and I become part of a whole new company of people called the Church, Jesus said upon this rock, "I will build my church."  But what we see is, in listening to this part, in eavesdropping on Jesus talking to His father.

We're dealing with these holy mysteries of election and predestination.  It's some pretty heavy theological stuff.  Before we even dip our toe into those waters, however, let me just give you the definition of the disciple.  Now you know that term from the Bible, disciple but what you may not know is the term was common in usage a couple of thousand years ago.  The philosophers, the great mentors of the mind in the ancient world had many disciples.

The term in Greek is Mathetes, Mathetes.  It means a pupil, a learner, a student.  We get the word mathematics from the word disciple, Mathetes.  You wonder, "Well, I don’t see the connection."  Until you realized ancient philosophers took large sums of money from their students, from their disciples.

See, in those days, disciples were the ones that pursued the mentors, pursued the masters would ask to be mentored or a disciple by some great teacher or a philosopher and they would pay the money, they would choose where they would want to be mentored, what their master, who the master was.  And so, we see there's a difference between that kind of follower, that kind of disciple and these disciples.

Fist and foremost, who chose whom?  Well, it was Jesus who was walking by the Sea of Galilee, one day and saw Peter and Andrew.  They were casting a net and Jesus walked up to them and said, "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men."  He walked a little further, he saw out in a boat two other brothers, James and John mending their nets with their dad Zebedee in the boat.  And Jesus said, "Hey you guys, follow me."  It says immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

Later on in the same town was Mathew.  He was an IRS agent, a tax collector.  Jesus walked into his office and said, "Buddy, boy, it is quitting time."  In so many words, "Leave all these.  Follow me immediately." it says.  He left everything and he followed Jesus.

Some time later, our Lord will remind those disciples of that truth.  When He says to them, "You did not choose Me, I chose you.  I appointed you that you should bear fruit."  Now, in one sense Jesus did choose them, but in another sense they had to make the choice to cooperate, to follow.  Their own volition was involved in the choice

There’s always been this tug of war, these ankhs between two great biblical truces, God's election and man's volition, man's choice.

See, on one side you have all these texts in the bible that talked about us making a decision to cooperate with God.  Remember in the book of Joshua, when he said to the nation of Israel, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve?"  He appeals to their decision-making processes.

The first message of John the Baptist in Jesus was repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  Again, appealing to them to make a choice.  In Mathew Chapter 11 Jesus said, "Come unto Me all you who labor under heavy laden, I will give you rest."  To the leaders Jesus will say, "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life."  Again in John Chapter 7 Jesus says, "If anyone thirsts, let him come unto Me and drink."  All of these appeals for the exercise of human will.

All the way to the last book of the bible, the last chapter of the last book of the bible, in Revelation 22 we read "The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"  And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirst, "Come!"  And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely"

But on the other hand, you have all of these other texts in the bible that speak about God doing the reserving and the electing and the calling and the predestining, etcetera.

For example, in John Chapter 6 Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws Him."  That's a sovereign work.  That's a divine work.  In Ephesians Chapter 1:4, "Just as He chose us in Him before the creation of the world."  You might say God had you in mind before the world began.  And even here in John Chapter 17 in the prayer that Jesus is formulating to His father, there's those same truce.  "They were Yours.  You gave them to Me."

Now for the life of me, I don’t understand the fight that has gone on and continues to rage.  And boy, in some church circles, it’s quite a fight between those who adhere to Calvinism and they want to emphasize divine election over human choice versus the other side who wants to emphasize human choice over divine election.

Here's the deal.  Both of these things are true and Jesus felt the freedom to include both of this truce in the same paragraph in fact sometimes in the same sentence, the same sentence.  I remind you of this verse.  This is John 6:37, we already covered it.  Listen to this.  Jesus said, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.  And he who comes to Me I will by no means cast out."

Now there's the combination of God choosing and electing and man cooperating and choosing from an earthly perspective.  So here's the deal, please, what Jesus has sought to harmonize, let's not polarize on.  He brings them together in one.  You can marvel at it, you can wonder at it.  You can scratch your head and go, "Hmm, interesting.  Wow!"  But at the end of the day, you know what you ought to do?  Enjoy it.  Because you know what it means?  It means He picked you.

I remember what it was like when I was in grade school, in high school.  Do you remember when they used to deviate teams and they would have team leaders and they would pick different students to be on their team?  I was always one of the last kids picked.  I love sports.  I've used to have a lot of fun.  I was never really good at one or the other team sport.  So I knew whenever, "Here it goes.  We're going to pick teams.  I'm going to be sitting here, twiddle with my thumbs." and finally somebody go, "Okay.  I'll take Skip." because there’s only two left.

I remember what that felt like but I also remembered what it felt like years later when I enrolled for a medical program with UCLA in San Bernardino, California and they selected out a thousands of students in California, just 13 to be part of this program and I was picked.

I remembered what that felt like.  It was like, "Oh! This is what it feels like to be picked, to be picked first.  Wow!"  And I get that same feeling when I read texts in the bible like this one in our prayer today or other ones that I mentioned.  God picked me.  I'm on his team.  Okay, I can read the books and I can muse over the literature and I can marvel at it.  But at the end of the day, enjoy it man.  I read the end of book.  We're on the winning team.  So just go, "Yeah!  I'm on the team!" the Father reserves.

The second component in formulating and forming disciples, followers, it's not only the Father reserving but the Son revealing.  Look at Verse 6.  Jesus speaking, "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world." Now, let me explain what that means.

That's an old way of saying that "I have manifested your name." That's an old way saying, "I have revealed Your nature to them." that's what it means.  "I've revealed your nature."  One translation says, "I spelled out Your character in detail to the men that You have given Me."  In other words, Jesus shows us what God is like.  Paul calls Jesus the visible image of the invisible God.  If you want to know what God is like, you look at Jesus.

So in the Old Testament, the name of God Yahweh means, "I am that I Am." and every Jew knew He was the great, mighty, powerful, "I am that I Am."  But Jesus took that name and made it more approachable, more understandable and more manageable.

He said things like, "I am the Bread of Life.  I am the Living Water.  I am the Good Shepherd.  I am the Door to the Sheepfold."  In other words, he brought God down to the level where we can understand Him and God becomes to us whatever we need.  "If you're thirsty, I'm the living water.  If you have spiritual hunger, I'm the bread of life."  So you might say Jesus Christ is God spelling Himself in a language that we can understand.

So Jesus said this, "If you have seen me--" you what?  You've seen the Father.  "Philip.  Have I been with you so long?  Don’t you know if you seen me, you've seen the Father?"  What could he mean by that?  Well, when you see Jesus for example, teaching the multitude.  And the fact that you're seeing God who cares that we know certain truths about Him and about us.  That’s God.

When you see Jesus healing people who are sick and the fact you are seeing a God who cares about human suffering.  When you see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and the fact that you're seeing God who is broken hearted over the rejection he has received from His very own people.  "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father."  So, the Father reserves, the Son Jesus reveals the nature and character of God.  If you want to know what God is like, you look at Jesus.

And it's more than just the nature and character of God.  It's the truth about life.  It's the truth about us.  It's the truth about God.  He gives us not just the nature of God but the truth in his words.  Look at Verse 8.  "For I have given to them the words." notice that, "The words that you have given me."  Go down to Verse 14, skip ahead.

"I have given them Your word and the world has hated them because they are not of the world just as I am not of the world."  Observe Verse 17, "Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth."

Not only is Jesus the living word going back to John 1:1, "In the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was God and the word became flesh."  But more than that, Jesus also authenticated the written word.  If you've read through gospels, you know that Jesus on many occasions referred back to the older testament and saw that as the very word of God except the scripture cannot be broken and He would often quote it, but He'd always speak of it as being the true inspired word of God.  That's how He's saw it.

He said, "Don’t think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets.  I came to fulfill not destroy."  And then He also anticipates the writing of the New Covenant, the New Testament.  I want you to look at that.  Go back a couple of chapters.  Go back to Chapter 14 in John.  I know we've covered it but it's a good time to remind ourselves because John 14 was probably a year ago.

John 14, look at Verse 26, "But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your name remembrance all things I said to you."  That's a very helpful verse.  It's helpful because we're sitting here today and wonder, "How could those disciples or fishermen?  How are they going to remember all the things Jesus said and did and do it?" So it's like accurate.  How are they going to do that?  "I forgot what happened yesterday.  How are they months later going to write these things down and have it corroborated with other sources?  Not without the Holy Spirit.  It's a super natural work Jesus anticipates.  The Holy Spirit is going to assist you and help you and cause you to remember all things.  "So that the gospels that were written were desirate."

Now, look at Chapter 16 for a moment on your way back to Chapter 17.  Stop up Verse 12 of John 16.  Jesus speaking, "I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bare them now."  Interesting.  A lot of truth I want to give you guys.  You guys can’t handle it.

"However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come He will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak and He will tell you things to come."  I believe Jesus is suggesting the writing of the Epistles that Peter and John were writing.  And the Book of Revelation, things to come that John were writing.

So here is Jesus who revealed the character and nature of God, but also authenticated the words of God from the Old Testament and anticipates the writing of scripture in the New Testament.  And this is why whenever we gather together we say, "Open your bibles to" and we turn to a scripture.  And we discuss and meditate upon a scripture.  And somebody might be wondering, "Why is it every time I come to church Skip always has to do a bible study.  Can we like have a dance one day or something?" because this is pure truth.  And if you want to grow in your faith, you're exposed to pure truth.  That's how we devote.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.  In fact, that principle is found in Verse 8.  Look at it -- of John 17, "For I have given to them the words which You have given Me and I have received them and have known surely that I came forth from You and they have believed that You sent me."  See, receiving the words of Christ generates faith.

You don’t close your bible and pray for faith.  You open your bible and that's how you develop faith.  So Jesus reveals the truth.  And there's a sense of authority and I'd say for me calmness, calm, knowing the scripture.

I've always loved the story about the clock tower in that Austrian village, the Glockenspiel.  Everybody could set their watches on their wrist to what the time was on the clock tower until one day the glass broke in the clock tower and someone looked at the wristwatch and said, "That's not what my wristwatch says.  That clock tower must be wrong." and reached it and changed the time.

Someone came by a couple of hours later and saw the time up there and saw his own wristwatch and said, "That clock must be wrong and set it back."  The next day somebody came by and she said, "That can't be right" and changed it and somebody else changed it well eventually no one in that village knew what time it was.  All authority had been lost.  It was all up to -- whatever you think the time it is, that's what time it is.  It's all relative.

So the Father reserves, the Son reveals.  Here's the third and final component as we bring this to a close.

The follower responds to what is revealed.  You should ask yourself a question.  Every time you enter a room or a bible study is being given or hear a radio program or open the bible on you own and read something, you should ask yourself this question, "So what?" Really?  "So what?  What am I going to do about this?"  You know why you should ask yourself that question because frankly most people don’t ask that question.

Honestly, there are a lot of people who'd listen to truth casually, forget it immediately and thus never grows spiritually.  They listen to it casually.  They forget it immediately.  I know people that even bring bibles to churches.  It is like, "I'm coming out with a bucket but a thimble."  They come with the thimble and the fill it up and then it's spilled by the time they get to their car.  "That's about it.  That's my expectation.  Just listen casually.  Forget it immediately and never grow spiritually."  I suggest a better way.  A true follower will do this and follow it here in the text in Verse 8 number one, by receiving the truth, by receiving the truth.  Jesus says, "I have given them the words that You have given Me and they have received them."  Pause with that thought for a moment.

If you get a phone call -- not during service.  I hope your phones are off right now.  When you pick it up, there's a receiver on the phone.  In your cell phone and your home phone, there's a little transmitter on one end and a receiver on the other.  When you have a conversation most people typically just can go -- and hung up.  They listen.  They're receiving words through the receiver.

The word here receive is the Greek word Lambano which means to accept.   It means also to catch or collect.  And here's a better word, it means to grip.  I like that.  Get a grip of those words.  Ponder them to grip them.

In football, there's a wide receiver.  When the ball is passed, the wide receiver doesn’t catch it like this.  If you've seen a wide receiver, he just grabs it.  Grip, grab it, receiving the ball, I got it.  So the idea of receiving truth is to be open to ponder it.  Let it grab your heart.  Let it do something inside.  That's step one.

Step two, believing the truth.  Again, Verse 8, he continues, "I've given them the words which You have given Me.  They have received them and have known surely that I came forth from You and they have believed that You sent Me."  That's the second part.  Not just receiving but believing.

And that's how we began this thing called the Christian walk.  That's how we began following Christ.  We receive certain truths that we heard.  We were there.  We listen when somebody told us or we read in the bible that we all are sinners and we need to be forgiven.  We go, "Huh?  Let me think about that in a awhile, okay?  I'm pondering that."  And then we heard that Jesus Christ is a great savior and will forgive us based upon his perfect life and substitutionary -- "Huh!  Okay, I'm receiving that." but there came a point where we cashed it in.  We believed it.  We said, "Yes!" to it.  Now, that that process must continue.

If you are a follower of Jesus, it's much more than saying Amen to those truths once and just moving on with your life.  It means that when you hear truth, you receive it and you believe it and you hear more and you receive it and you believe it and you keep repeating that over and over again and that eventuates in a mature follower of Christ.

Do you know that it is possible to listen to bible teaching and not grow at all?  Do you know it's possible to listen to great bible teaching and not grow at all?  Do you know who I'm thinking of in my mind when I said that?  Judas Iscariot.  Would you say he listen to good bible teaching?

Oh!  Yeah, let's see, God was teaching.  That's pretty good.  He was like unfolding what He meant when He said this.  You've heard that it was said but I'm saying it to you and he's just pushing it all together.  And those disciples heard that and Judas heard that, he didn’t really receive it, didn’t grab it, didn’t believe it, didn’t cash it and didn’t change him.  He's plotting.  He was plotting all behind the saints.

Remember that Jesus told a parable about this?  He said, "A sower went out to sow some seed.  Some of it fell on the path.  It didn’t even spring up.  It didn’t have a chance to take root.  Then some seed fell upon stony places.  It sprung up immediately, but the sun came out and it withered.  Other seeds fell upon a place where there weeds that grew up and choked up the seed."

Later on the disciples came to him and said, "What do you mean by that?  Explain to us that parable, that cool little story.  What does it mean?"  Jesus said, "The seed that is sown on the wayside are those who listen."  But as soon as they hear it he said 'The devil comes and steals away the truth.’"  As soon as they hear a truth, they marginalize it.  They rationalize it.  They don’t even ponder it long enough to let it sink in, to even believe him."

And then he said there are those who listen.  They're like the people on the stony places.  They get all emotional, all excited.  There's an immediate reaction but there's no depth in their lives so they last for a while.  But when tribulation and persecution arise, they're gone.  When the heat gets hot, they're out.

Then there are those Jesus said who are sown and they start to take root but the cares of this world like the weeds choke out the seed.  The desire for other things chokes out the seed.  The distractions of life choke out the seed.  It becomes untruthful.   But Jesus said there are those 25% in that parable, a minority who listened, who believe it.  It takes root and they bring forth fruit, some 30, some 60 and some a hundredfold.   Do you understand the process?  First of all, receiving and then second believing.

Here's a third that completes the process.  It completes the response.  Behaving according to what you've received and believed.  Verse 6, "I've manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.  They were Yours, You gave them to Me and they have kept your word."  Allow that word to just sip right now into your heart.  They've kept your word.

It's not enough to appreciate the bible.  It's not enough to just hear the bible.  It's not enough to underline the bible.  It's not enough to memorize the bible.  There comes a point where you say, "I'm going to try that on for a size today.  I'm going to apply it.  I'm going to behave according to it."

Did you notice in Verse 6 how Jesus words this?  They were chosen out of the world.  "They were yours that chosen out of the world.  You've given them to me."  Did your life reflect the fact that you've been chosen out of this worldly system?  But, does your life mirror the worldly system?  You've been chosen out of the world.  Do you see now?  True disciples, followers are more than learners.  They're livers.  I don’t mean that in the organ sense, the spleen and the liver.  They're not just those who learn.  They are those who live the truth.

Here is the problem and I include myself in this.  I'm preaching to myself not just you.  Our problem is that we don’t really believe what we believe sometimes.  We have two sets of theological books.  We have our formal theology but we have our practical theology.  This is what we say we believe.  This is how we live our lives.  And a lot of times, they don’t even match.

In our formal theology we say, "Jesus is Lord."  But in our practical theology our life says, "I am lord.  It's all about me and Jesus will be my Lord as long as he doesn't upset my little deal."

Now, we have a discrepancy.  What we say is not what we live.  And Jesus said, "The response is receiving, believing and behaving."

I want to close to something that I read.  Now, at first you're going to think, "What does this have to do with this?"  It's about dogs and cats first of all.  And really, it's a little piece written by a parent raising teenagers.  And I’ll apply it at the end.  I’ll tie it up together hopefully.

This parent begins by saying, "I just realized that while children are dogs."  Now, let me don’t -- tuned off today.  I can't believe he said that.  Listen to the context, "I just realized that while children are dogs, loyal and affectionate, teenagers are cats.   It's easy to be a dog owner.  You feed it.  You train it.  You boss it around and it puts its head on your knee and gazes up at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting, right?  That's a dog owner.  It bounces in doors with enthusiasm when you call it.

Then, around age 13, your adoring little puppy turns into a big old cat.  When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed as if wondering who died and made you emperor.  Instead of dogging your doorstep, it disappears.  You won't see it again until it gets hungry.  And then it pauses on its sprint through the kitchen long enough to turn up its nose at whatever you're serving for supper.

When you reach out to ruffle its head in that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you and gives you a blank stare as if trying to remember where it has seen you before.  You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat thinks that something must be desperately wrong with it.  It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of depressed.  It won't go on family outings.

Since you're the one who raised it and taught it to fetch and stay and sit on command, you assume that you did something wrong.  Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave -- only now you're dealing with a cat.

So, everything that worked before now produces the opposite of the desired result.  You call it, it runs away.  You tell it to sit, it jumps on the counter.  The more you go towards it ringing your hands, the more it moves away.

Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you could learn to behave like a cat owner.  Put a dish of food near the door and let it come to you.  But remember that a cat needs your help and affection too.  Sit still and it will come seeking that warm comforting lap that it has not entirely forgotten.  Be there to open the door for it.  And one day, your grownup child will walk into the kitchen give you a big kiss and say, 'Mom, you've been on your feet all day, let me get those dishes for you.’  And then you'll realize that your cat is a dog again."

That's raising teenagers.  When I read this little piece, what went through my mind is "I want to be like a dog before the Lord.  I don’t want to be like a cat, aloof and like -- I want to just -- "You want me to sit?  Okay.  You want me to jump?  All right." and gazing up like he's a Rembrandt.  That’s the kind of immediate loving response.

Father, we just pray that we "church people" would be "Jesus people", we follow.

          I pray Father that we would enjoy the truth that you selected us but not get too hung up on that.  I pray that we will respond to Jesus as He reveals the nature and character of God in terms as humans can get and all the truth that comes along with it, the Old and New Testament.  But then we would respond.  We perceived, we'd ponder and listen and open up our hearts long enough to even believe what we receive and then to behave accordingly.  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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7/17/2011
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What a Friend We Have in Jesus
John 15:12-17
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We can get through almost anything in life with friends to share our sorrow and divide our grief. A Chinese word for friend is peng-yu and it has a much fuller meaning than in English. It means "one who brings completion and sums up beauty." The ancient Hebrews saw true friendship as an ideal to pursue and a blessing to enjoy. In these final moments with His followers, Jesus uses a most tender term for their relationship—they were friends! What does that friendship look like?
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7/24/2011
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Why Does Everyone Hate Me?
John 15:18-25
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There is a flipside to being a friend of Jesus. That's true of any friendship. Whenever you ally yourself and make friends with someone, you will incur some enemies because of it. Likewise, some who don't like Jesus won't like us either—and we discover there are quite a few who don't! Let's find out why, and how we can raise our heads high and prevail.
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7/31/2011
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Two Thirds Is Not Enough
John 15:26-16:15
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We love God the Father who created us and God the Son who redeemed us, but what about the Holy Spirit? We hear His name a lot, but who is He? What exactly does He do? What does He want from us? The Holy Spirit is the "quiet One," active in the life of believers but sometimes not acknowledged as being vital. Oswald Chambers noted, "The Holy Spirit cannot be located as a guest in a house. He invades everything!" Today, we consider Him and His role in our lives.
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8/7/2011
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The Holy Hound of Heaven
John 16:5-11
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Having understood Who the Holy Spirit is (Person not just power; Deity not just dignitary) we now find out what He does in the world of unbelieving people. Since the greatest gift God ever gave to the world was His only Son (John 3:16) it stands to reason that the greatest sin one can commit is to reject the Son (John 16:9). How does the Holy Spirit both sentence the world as prosecutor and lead people away from judgment? And what role do we play in all of this?
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8/14/2011
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When Sorrow Turns to Joy
John 16:16-22
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The flamboyant baseball-legend-turned-preacher Billy Sunday stated, "If you have no joy in your religion, there's a leak in your Christianity somewhere!" That's not to say that life is all laughs. Hardly! Jesus anticipated His followers' deep sorrow. He predicted it. But He also assured them that their experience of sadness would be eclipsed by a greater experience of lasting joy.
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8/21/2011
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How to Send Knee-Mail
John 16:23-28
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Today you can be anywhere in the world and send or receive messages digitally via email. Sending email has eclipsed traditional mail for years now. Sending knee-mail is similar (you can be anywhere)—but with better results! You don't need wifi or a modem; you don't need an electronic device or a computer. Before Jesus left His disciples, He wanted them to get "online" with the Father and stay connected through the simple yet powerful means of prayer.
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9/4/2011
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I've Fallen, but I CAN Get Up!
John 16:29-33
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I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail! So said President Woodrow Wilson. Our Lord knows us better than we know ourselves and is not surprised by our weaknesses. We all fall and fail, even though we may commit to standing strong. What can we learn about ourselves and our God in such valleys? Even more, what kind of restoration can we hope for after our bout with failure?
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9/18/2011
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Holy Eavesdropping
John 17:1
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Imagine if you could sit and listen to Jesus talking to His Father—what would Jesus say to Him? In this prayer (which comprises all of John 17) we step onto holy ground. His instruction to His followers is now over. His preparation of them is done. He now turns His attention heavenward to talk directly to His Father about Himself, about His disciples, and about His future church. This prayer is unique for four reasons:
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9/25/2011
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The Gifts That Keep On Giving
John 17:1-5
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It's possible to give without loving but it's impossible to love without giving— Richard Braunstein. Part of God's nature is that He shows His love by His generous gifts. "For God so loved the world that He gave..." (John 3: 16). Here, in the opening lines of Jesus' prayer to His Father, He requests a gift from His Father and acknowledges three other gifts—two given to the Son by the Father, and one given by the Son to us. These are the gifts that keep on giving!
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10/9/2011
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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.