Thursday, April 26, 2012

Resurrection

Part 2 of a Bible study series called Heaven



"Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body" (Phil. 3:20-21). 


Introduction 

The apostle Paul writes, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For the imperishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51-53). Jesus died for both our spirits and our bodies. It is not God’s plan for us to live forever as disembodied spirits.


Discussion

The Westminster Larger Catechism states, “The self-same bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls forever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ.” Yet many Christians don’t believe in the resurrection of the body. Why do you think this is so?

Naturally, we have many questions about our future bodies. What are some questions that you have?


Explanation 

When Christ returns, our bodies will be raised and “we will be like him” (1 John 3:2). Christ’s resurrected body is the model for ours. Read Luke 24:36-43. What does this passage tell us about the resurrected body of Jesus? 

Many Christians wonder if they will be recognizable in heaven. Read Luke 24:13-16 and John 20:11-16. Do these passages prove that Jesus was unrecognizable after his resurrection? 

You will be you in heaven. Read 1 Thess. 4:13-18. If we did not maintain our identities in heaven, how would this passage be less encouraging? 

Read 1 Cor. 15:42-44. What does this passage say about our new bodies? 


Application

Joni Eareckson Tada writes, “Somewhere in my broken, paralyzed body is the seed of what I shall be-come. The paralysis makes what I am to become all the more grand when you contrast atrophied, useless legs against splendorous resurrected legs. I’m convinced that if there are mirrors in heaven (and why not?), the image I’ll see will be unmistakably ‘Joni,’ although a much better, brighter Joni” (Heaven: Your Real Home, p. 37). How are you encouraged by the promise of a bodily resurrection?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

But God

Part 12 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to the sermon here.



"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (2:4-7)


God Helps Those Who Can't Help Themselves 

You’ve probably heard the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” Many people (even Christians) mistakenly think it’s in the Bible. (The saying is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but it actually has an earlier origin.) Concerning salvation, it can’t be said, “God helps those who help themselves.” Instead, God helps the helpless.

In 2:1-3, Paul describes our helpless condition prior to salvation. First, we were spiritually dead (v. 1). Second, we were enslaved by three evil forces: the world, the devil, and the flesh (vv. 2-3a). Third, we were destined for God’s wrath (v. 3b).


Amazing Grace 

“But God”! We were helpless, but God made a way of salvation. “By grace [we] have been saved” (v. 5b). Salvation is deliverance or rescue from danger (“wrath”).

1. We deserved wrath but God showed us mercy (v. 4). 

God is “rich in mercy.” “The person who is most compassionate is the one who has suffered a similar calamity. This is in keeping with God’s extension of mercy toward sinners, for he suffered the consequences of sin in his Son’s death” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, p. 327).

Why has God showed us mercy? “Because of the great love with which he loved us” (v. 4). God is “rich” in mercy because of his “great” love. His great love has been demon-strated by the cross. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

2. We were dead but God made us alive (v. 5a). 

God “made us alive together with Christ.” Jesus declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). He also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die [physically], yet shall he live [physically], and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die [spiritually]” (John 11:25-26).

3. We were in bondage to evil powers but God seated us with Christ (v. 6). 

God “raised us up and seated us with [Christ] in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” “God has allowed his people even now to share in a measure of the authority that Christ has, seated at the right hand of God (cf. 1:20-22; 6:10-18; James 4:7; 1 John 4:4), a truth that would be especially important in Ephesus with all of its occult practices” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2264).

In verses 5-6, we find three Greek words that Paul invented. He took existing Greek words and added to them the prefix syn, which means “together with”: “made…alive together with,” “raised…up with” (NASB) and “seated…with.” These words describe the believer’s union with Christ. We are “in Christ Jesus.” Since he has died, risen from the grave, and ascended to the right hand of God, so have we (spiritually)! 


Trophies of God's Grace 

Why did God save us? “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (v. 7).

As a trophy (like the Stanley Cup) is a testimony of a team’s talent and hard work, so we who have been saved by God are testimonies of his “immeasurable” grace.

We should live lives that show that God has saved us by grace alone. 

If we thought of God’s grace more, we would be less self-centered. We would be more humble and helpful.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Are You Looking Forward to Heaven?

Part 1 of a Bible study series called Heaven



"To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better" (Phil. 1:21, 23). 


Introduction

The Bible doesn’t tell us everything about heaven, but it does give us lots to look forward to. Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, writes, “After examining what Scripture says [about heaven], I hope the next time you hear someone say, ‘We can’t begin to imagine what Heaven will be like,’ you’ll be able to tell them, ‘I can’” (p. 18).


Discussion

Going to heaven is like going to a country you have never visited before. If you were going to live in a foreign country for a year, how would you prepare? 

In theology books, heaven is often neglected. For example, in William Shedd’s three-volume Dogmatic Theology there are eighty-seven pages on eternal punishment, but only two on heaven. Why do you think there is this neglect of heaven? 


Explanation

D. L. Moody said, “Soon you will read in the newspaper that I am dead. Don’t believe it for a moment. I will be more alive than ever before.” Read 2 Cor. 5:6-8. Where do believers go when they die? 

There are many common misconceptions about heaven (e.g., heaven is boring). Jesus said that Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44). Why does Satan want people (both believers and unbelievers) to accept misconceptions about heaven? 

People often use 1 Cor. 2:9 to claim that heaven is beyond our imagination: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (KJV). But what does v. 10 say? Based on Scripture, what do you imagine heaven will be like? 

In the Bible, there is a present heaven (the place where believers go when they die) and an eternal heaven (the place where believers will live forever after the final resurrection). Wayne Grudem writes, “…Christians often talk about living with God ‘in heaven’ forever. But in fact the biblical teaching is richer than that: it tells us that there will be new heavens and a new earth—an entirely renewed creation—and we will live with God there…. There will also be a new kind of unification of heaven and earth…. There will be a joining of heaven and earth in this new creation” (Systematic Theology, p. 1158). Read Rev. 6:9-11. Based on this passage, Randy Alcorn lists twenty-one observations about the present heaven (Heaven, pp. 65-67). What do you observe about the present heaven in these verses? 


Application

Col. 3:1 commands us, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Most commands assume a resistance to obeying them. What can you do to become more heavenly-minded? 

In 1952, Florence Chadwick attempted to swim from Catalina Island to California. Unfortunately, she decided to quit when she was less than half a mile from the shore. At a news conference the next day Chadwick said, “All I could see was the fog…. I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” How can the vision of heaven keep you going during difficult times?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Way We Were

Part 11 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (2:1-3). 


The Walking Dead

Have you noticed that in popular culture there is a fascination with zombies? In 2011, the CDC posted a blog post entitled Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse. (It was a joke intended to raise awareness on preparedness for emergency situations.) In case you don’t know, a zombie is a reanimated corpse. It is dead, but also walking around. What Paul says about people without Christ in 3:1-3 reminds me of zombies: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (vv. 1-2a).

Our Former Lives

The word “once” is found twice in this passage (vv. 2, 3). In this passage, Paul describes the helpless condition of the Ephesians (and us) before conversion.

1. We were spiritually dead. 

We “were dead in the trespasses and sins” (v. 1). To be spiritually dead is to be separated from God. A dead person is helpless. There is nothing he can do to make himself alive.

2. We were controlled by three evil forces. 

How the Ephesians “once walked” (v. 2) refers to their former lifestyle (cf. 4:1, 17). They once lived in “trespasses and sins” because they were enslaved by two outward forces and one inward force. The first evil force is the world. We were “following the course of this world” (v. 2). The NIV says, “when you followed the ways of this world.” The values of the world are temporary, not eternal. The second evil force is the devil. We were “following the prince of the power of the air” (v. 2). The “prince of the power of the air” is obviously the devil. In Scripture, he is also known as the “prince of demons” (Matt. 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15), the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), and the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). The third evil force is the flesh. We were “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (v. 3). The “flesh” is “our fallen, self-centered human nature” (Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, p. 162). “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). “The works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21).

As believers, we struggle against temptation that comes from the world, the devil, and the flesh. Paul confessed, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18). But as believers, we are not controlled by these evil forces. We also have the Holy Spirit within us.

3. We were destined for God's wrath. 

We “were by nature children of wrath” (v. 3). Paul later warns, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things [sins] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (5:6). We were “sons of disobedience” (v. 2) by our actions, and we were “children of wrath” by our birth. “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and do death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Everyone born into this world is destined for the wrath of God (“like the rest of mankind,” v. 3). “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).


But God… 

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (vv. 4-5). We deserve wrath, but we were given mercy!

The seriousness of our sin magnifies the greatness of God’s grace.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Full of Hope

You can listen to this sermon here.



Rosebud 

One of my favorite movies is Citizen Kane. It was released in 1941, starring Orson Welles, who was also the director. Citizen Kane is often considered the greatest film of all time. (Probably, you’ll either love it or hate it.)

The film begins at the end. Charles Foster Kane, is dying. Once extremely powerful and popular, now he is all alone. Holding a snow globe, he utters his final word: “Rosebud.” What did “Rosebud” mean?

In the film a reporter becomes intrigued by the mystery of “Rosebud” and attempts to discover its meaning. In a series of flashbacks, it’s revealed that Kane’s childhood was spent in poverty. But his life changed when the world’s third largest gold mine was discovered on a piece of land owned by his mother. Kane is then sent away from his parents to be educated. To make a long story short, he becomes incredibly wealthy, but never finds true happiness.

At the end of the film, the reporter gives up trying to solve the meaning of “Rosebud” and concludes that it will forever remain a mystery. However, the film’s audience is shown the meaning of “Rosebud.” In the final scene, several workers are throwing into a furnace some of Kane’s possessions that are considered “junk.” One of the pieces of junk is Kane’s childhood sled—the same sled he was playing with on the day he was taken from his home. The camera zooms in toward the sled and reveals that its name is “Rosebud.”

Charles Foster Kane had gained everything under the sun. But the only time he was ever truly happy was as a child, sliding down the snowy hills on Rosebud.


Two Ways of Life

Life can be lived one of two ways: under the sun or with the Son.

Life under the sun is full of vanity. 

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?” (Eccles. 1:1-3).

The Hebrew word for “vanity” is hebel, which means “vapor,” “wind,” or “breath.” Life “under the sun” probably refers to life in a fallen world. As Paul writes in Romans 8:20, “Creation was subjected to futility.” 

Life under the sun is frustrating (like chasing the wind) and fleeting (like a vapor). “Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor” (Ps. 39:5). “What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Many people are filled with emptiness. They are constantly chasing after something (money, possessions, pleasure, power, etc.), but in the end (like Charles Foster Kane) they are left unsatisfied.

Life with the Son is full of hope.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

Because the grave is empty, our lives don’t have to be empty. 

1. Our faith is not empty (1 Cor. 15:12-19). 

Don’t despair, your sins are forgiven! 

2. Our future is not empty (1 Cor. 15:20-24, 35-38, 42-57). 

Don’t despair, your reality will be transformed!

3. Our labor is not empty (1 Cor. 15:30-32, 58). 

Don’t despair, your service matters!

If all you know is life under the sun, you will always be searching for “something more.” But if you have experienced life through the death and resurrection of the Son, you are promised “something more.”

Keep on believing; keep on hoping; keep on working!


A Life-Changing Weekend

There are over 100 books in print with titles that include the phrase “…That Changed the World.” Here are a few examples:

Gunpowder: The History of the Explosive That Changed the World 
Mayflower: The Voyage That Changed the World 
Model T Ford: The Car That Changed the World 
Glass: The Story of the Substance That Changed the World 
The Cable: The Wire That Changed the World 
Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World 
The Twist: The Story of the Song and Dance That Changed the World 
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World 

You might wonder how the twist or mauve changed the world, but there is another book on the list that really is about a world-changing subject: The Weekend That Changed the World: The Mystery of Jerusalem’s Empty Tomb. The empty grave has changed my world. Has it changed yours?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Am Barabbas



Yes, Good Friday was yesterday, but below is what I shared last night in our Good Friday service.

Who was Barabbas? Barabbas is mentioned in all four Gospels (Matt. 27:15-23; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:18-25; John 18:38b-40). According to Matthew, he was a “notorious prisoner” (Matt. 27:16). According to Mark, he had “committed murder in the insurrection” (Mark 15:7; cf. Acts 3:14). According to John, he was a “robber” (John 18:40).

We are introduced to Barabbas in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial. In that day, there was a custom during the Passover of releasing a prisoner chosen by the people. Pilate gave the people a choice: Jesus or Barabbas. Sadly, the crowd chose Barabbas.

Imagine how Barabbas must have felt when the door of the prison was opened and he was set free. We don't know what he did after his release. Perhaps he watched crucifixion of Jesus. If he did, Barabbas would have thought, “I was supposed to be on that cross, but this man Jesus is dying in my place.”

It's interesting that the name “Barabbas” means “son of the father.” Like Barabbas, all of us are either sons or daughters of a father. You and I should see ourselves in Barabbas.

1. Barabbas was a lawbreaker. 

He was a man who had committed multiple crimes, including robbery, insurrection, and murder. The Bible says, “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). We have all broken God’s law. I am Barabbas. You are Barabbas. 

2. Barabbas deserved punishment. 

The punishment for his crimes was death. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). We deserve to be punished because of our sin. I am Barabbas. You are Barabbas. 

3. Barabbas was freed because Jesus died instead of him. 

Jesus was not a lawbreaker. Pilate said, “I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38). Jesus did not deserve punishment. Yet Barabbas was set free, and Jesus was crucified. The Bible says that Jesus “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus died in our place. I am Barabbas. You are Barabbas. 

Second Corinthians 5:21 is one of the most important verses in the Bible: “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). On the cross, Jesus became our substitute. He took our sin so that we could receive his righteousness through faith in him.

I am Barabbas. You are Barabbas. Jesus died for us!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's Not Foolish to Follow Jesus

Part 10 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



"According to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (1:19b-23).


Are We Fools? 

[This sermon was preached on April Fool's Day, which was also Palm Sunday.]

Today is April Fool’s Day. The Museum of Hoaxes (museumofhoaxes.com) has a list of the Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time. Here are a few: flying penguins (2008), the left-handed Whopper (1998), instant color TV (1962), Sidd Finch (1985), the Taco Liberty Bell (1996), and the Swiss spaghetti harvest (1957).

It’s been said that April Fool’s Day is the atheists’ holiday: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). But others would say that Christians are the gullible fools for putting their faith in Jesus. 

Today is also Palm Sunday. The enemies of Jesus thought the people in Jerusalem were fools for shouting, “Hosanna.”


Jesus Is No Joke

Why is it not foolish to follow Jesus? If what Paul says about Jesus in 1:19b-23 is true, it would be foolish not to follow Jesus. In vv. 18-19a, Paul writes that he prays that the Ephesians “know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” Then he goes on to say more about God’s power. The same power that worked in the life of Jesus works in our lives today (“according to the working of his great power that he worked in Christ”). As God’s plan for Jesus succeeded, his plan for us will also succeed.

1. Jesus is the risen Savior. 

The Father “raised [Christ] from the dead” (v. 20). Before his crucifixion, Jesus predicted his resurrection. He said, “The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise again” (Mark 10:33-34). Jesus was the first person who was raised from the dead and never died again (unlike Lazarus who later died a second time). Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, there is salvation and hope. He “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).

2. Jesus is the exalted Lord. 

The Father “seated [Christ] at his right hand in the heavenly places” (v. 20). When Paul wrote these words, he was probably thinking of Psalm 110:1, which says, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Concerning this verse, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son” (Matt. 22:44; cf. Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42). Jesus was showing them that the Messiah (the Son of David) would be greater than David. He would not merely be a great man; he would be the God-man.

Christ is now “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (v. 21). These powers probably refer to both human and angelic powers. Paul refers to evil angelic powers in 6:12: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The “heavenly places” is the unseen world.

These powers are no match for Christ. “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them [he put them to shame], triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15, NIV). And since believers are in Christ, these powers cannot defeat us. Paul asks in Romans 8:33, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (Rom. 8:33). He goes on to day, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 38-39).

3. Jesus is the sovereign King. 

The Father “put all things under [Christ’s] feet” (v. 22a). This statement goes back to Psalm 8:6: “You have put all things under his feet.” Psalm 8 refers to “the son of man” (v. 4). When man was created, God gave him dominion over creation (Gen. 1:28). Jesus is the ultimate Son of Man (cf. Heb. 2:5-9). (He often called himself the “Son of Man.”) The prophet Daniel was given a vision in which he saw “one like a son of man” (Dan. 7:13). “To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom on that shall not be destroyed” (v. 14).

Jesus is now King over his church. The Father “gave [Christ] as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (vv. 22b-23). The “church” refers to the universal church (every true Christian everywhere).


We're Not Fools!

We are not fools for following Jesus. He is the risen Savior, the exalted Lord, and the sovereign King. In the end, it will be shown that it was foolish not to follow Jesus.