Month: May, 2016

“You Shall Have NO Other Gods Before Me”

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ who together with the Holy Spirit are three in One. Please pray with me…

I appreciate it when people come to me and ask that I speak on this or that. It helps me in many ways. As you know, this year I decided that, instead of following the set Scriptures that are given by Synod for us to base our worship around, I would do sermon series covering different topics. Much of this idea came from someone who wanted me to preach on the Ten Commandments. So, today we will do just that.

It’s easy to disregard the commandments as just so many rules, but they are much more then that. They are the foundational laws of this great country and for our faith. They deserve to be given special attention by God’s people of which we are so blessed to be able to count ourselves a part.

I’d like to introduce our first commandment with a story about a little boy and his boat. This little boy was very proud of this boat because he had made it with his own hands. He would take it to the park every day and sail his little boat on the pond. He liked to watch the boat catch the wind in its homemade sail and coast around in the breeze and because he loved this boat so much he would be careful not to let it go out too far into the water where he couldn’t get it back.

But one day, as fate would have it, the boat sailed beyond where he could reach. He tried and tried to reach it but he only got himself soaked in trying. The boat had gone too far for the boy to rescue it.

He went home heartsick because he was sure he’d never see his precious boat again. But a few weeks later, as he was walking through town, he saw his boat in the window at the secondhand shop. He was so excited! He went into the store and said to the storeowner, “You’ve found my boat! It’s mine and I’d like to have it back.” But the storeowner said, “Well, maybe it was yours once, but now it’s my boat and if you want it, you’ll have to pay me $20 for it.”

“TWENTY DOLLARS!” the boy cried. It seemed like an enormous amount of money. He had no idea how he would ever come up with so much cash. He started to hang his head and walk out the store, but the storeowner said, “If you’d like to earn a little money, I could use some help around here.” And so it was agreed. Every week the boy would come and sweep floors and tidy up the shelves and the storeowner would pay him a few dollars.

Finally the day came when he brought his pocket full of waded up bills to the store and bought his boat back. He was thrilled. As he walked out of the store, holding his prized boat like a long-lost friend, he said, “You’re mine twice now! You were mine the first time because I made you; and now you’re mine again because I bought you.”

In Exodus 20:2 we see that before God gave us his commandments he said, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves.” He reminded his people that not only did He create them but that He redeemed them as well. He gave them life. He gave them freedom. Of course, we know that God later paid the ultimate price to buy back His most prized possession – His people.

That’s the relationship that God had with Israel and it is the relationship he has with us. We are His because He created us and we are also His because He redeemed us. And that is the basis for the commands that God gave Israel. God led His people out of Egypt and He leads us still by giving us words to live by.

Today we start by speaking of the first and greatest commandment, “You shall have no other God’s before me.” These words are very clear. They demanded that God’s people worship, love and serve only the one, true God. With this first commandment God makes his demand unmistakable, that His people are to have an exclusive and personal relationship with Him. Of course, Even though it says, “You should have no other God’s before me” it doesn’t mean you can worship all the God’s you want as long as you put God first. He is saying, “worship only me. I am to be your ONLY God.” Not money, not fame, not drugs or alcohol, or anything else we might put our hope in, only the one true God.

God sees our relationship much like we see a marriage relationship. It’s not enough to stand at the altar and say, “You’ll always be my favorite girlfriend!” The words are “Forsaking all others.”

It’s probably all but impossible for us to imagine how that must have sounded to the people of Israel because we’re used to thinking in terms of there being only one God. All three major religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are committed to what is called “monotheism” or the belief in only one God.

I took an on-line course a couple years back from Yale University entitled, “Introduction to the Old Testament.” What intrigued the Professor doing this lecture series most was that despite all their neighbors having many Gods, Israel had only one. The only example of its kind at the time.

Christianity and Islam were thousands of years in the future and the Jewish faith is in its infancy here in the book of Exodus. There was no such thing as “monotheism” because no one worshipped only one god. All of Israel’s neighbors worshipped a variety of gods. People of that time believed that certain gods ruled certain areas or some part of nature. There were national Gods like the Philistines Dagon or the Ammonites Molech but they didn’t worship just their national gods. They also had fertility gods, sun gods, sea gods, all kinds of gods.

And they all had to be kept happy. And while everyone had their favorite god, they would never think to worship that god alone. Often if a god from another nation was seen to have a particular power, that god would be added to the collection of neighboring nations.

The Philistines tried to do this with the God of the Israelites in 1 Samuel after they captured the ark of the covenant from Israel. After they had captured it they took it to Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When they arose and went to the temple the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They put him back only to find the same the next morning. This time, however, his arms and head had broken off. Eventually the Philistines thought better of it and returned the ark to Israel. I think this story from 1 Samuel illustrates the first commandment beautifully, “worship no god but ME!”

We might not know many people who have shrines in their homes today, but we live in a nation that prides itself on its tolerance of many opinions and many gods.

We may be more sophisticated about it, but the world still makes it easy to understand a culture that picks and chooses different gods or different attributes of religion to live by.

I found a statement by M. Cherif Bassiouni, a law professor at DePaul University. He said at an interfaith conference in Chicago in Jan. of 2000, “All religions lead to God using different paths. Different religions and cultures are equal in the eyes of God and should be seen as equal in the eyes of man,”

Now whether you agree or disagree, millions of Americans – regardless of their own religious beliefs – would agree whole heartedly. After all, it sounds like a well thought out statement and inside we want to agree with it. We don’t want to be associated with hateful, arrogant, self-righteous people who say that their way is the only way.

But we have a problem and that problem is the first commandment, “You shall have no other Gods before me.” That’s saying that the Lord we worship is the only true God or, to put it a bit more negatively, “All religions do NOT lead to God using different paths.” There is only one God. His name is not Allah or Zeus or Hermes or any other name we could think of, and this God demands our exclusive worship and that grates against everything the world has taught us.

The world tells us, “But everyone is equal.” And yes, in the eyes of the law, everyone is equal. But not everyone is right when it comes to who God is.

The American ideal of religion has become, “You can have it all and you can believe it all.” Many people have taken a little bit of this god and a little bit of that god and formed some kind of franken-god. They don’t have a God who IS, but a god they invented from pieces of other gods. One that’s more comfortable and tolerant.

The first commandment doesn’t allow for this kind of “spirituality.” But, if you say that publically, you’re thought of as arrogant or even phobic. They say, “Who are you to say that YOUR way is the ONLY way?” and we think, “Well, I don’t want to be arrogant – Christians are suppose to be humble, not arrogant.”

Jesus told us, “I am THE way, THE truth, THE life. NO ONE comes to the Father except by me.” This isn’t something Christians just made up. It’s from a God who reveals himself by telling us, “You shall have no other Gods besides me.”

But too often people hear that and say, “well, I only believe in one God and since I only believe in one God I must be OK.” Even if the god they believe in is some sort of franken-god whom they’ve created out of bits and pieces of other gods. They’ve looked at different religions and taken a pinch of this and a sprinkle of that. “My god has the head of Buddha, the heart of Jesus and the hands of Ghandi…”

People might say, Well, I can’t believe in a god who would send people to hell” or “I can’t believe in a God who thinks homosexuality is wrong” or “I don’t believe in this kind of god or that kind of god.” And it makes me wonder if they are talking about God or their invisible friend.

Arrogance is not saying, “I believe that God is who He says He is” or in believing that He is the only true God. Arrogance is saying, “God is whoever I say he is.” Arrogance is not in saying, “I believe Jesus when He said He was the ONLY way to God.” Arrogance is saying, “I don’t like the ideas of Jesus as the only way, so I’ve decided that ‘all roads lead to God.” It’s in saying, “I’ve decided that as long as people are sincere in what they believe, they’ll go to heaven.” That’s saying, “I know more about God then Jesus ever did.”

The idea that “no matter what we believe, as long as we are sincere, we’ll be OK,” may sound really good. But think about any other context. Let’s say I have a bottle of arsenic in my medicine cabinet and you come over and you’ve got this terrible headache and you say, “Hey, do you have any aspirin?” So I open my medicine cabinet and say, “Darn it! I’m out of aspirin. But, hey, I have these arsenic pills and they LOOK like aspirin! As long as you SAY it’s aspirin, and you really BELIEVE its aspirin, it’ll be fine. After all, what’s important is the faith, right?”

What’s important is not the faith. What’s important is the object of that faith. The arsenic is going to affect you like arsenic does regardless of what you think those little aspirin looking pills are. The God who created the universe by the power of His Word is the one who has the right to tell US who HE is.

All roads DO NOT lead to heaven. All religions DO NOT teach the same things. We don’t all worship the same God’s even if it might be in the title of their church. And all gods are not the one true God of the scriptures.

Much of the problem with our nation is that Christians who claim to believe in the God of the Scriptures don’t know the Scriptures well enough to know who God really is. They don’t have an accurate view of God. All too often, Christians have constructed their own franken-gods from bible stories, a little Oprah, and things they heard from their mothers or some preacher. We can’t worship the God of the Bible if we don’t KNOW the God of the Bible.

In the book of Acts chapter 17, Paul sees the altars to the many gods of Athens and he also sees an altar, “to an unknown god.” He challenges them that the God they do not know is in fact the one true God. He says this in verses 29 and 30, “We should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent.”

Why is God so insistent that we discipline ourselves in such a way? It’s because he knows the benefits that we will receive because of the faith we share. If He is not the only God then we’re free to develop our own doctrine. We can believe what we want and create a God more suited to serving us then the other way around.

But this isn’t going to keep us on the narrow path to heaven. God doesn’t want most of you, He wants all of you, all the time. It’s an investment that will challenge you and it goes opposite of what the world has been teaching you, but it will certainly be worth it in the end.

How many gods do you worship? Where do you put all of your trust? Can you honestly say that the only true God is your God? Don’t leave here today content with the worldly gods you have put your trust and faith in. Come to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The only Way, the only Truth and the only Life.

Because there is only one God – the one revealed in His holy Word, and we are commanded to serve Him only. Get rid of the other gods that control you and come to the one true God who waits patiently for you.

He is the only one who saves and He is the only one who would love us enough to sacrifice His Son despite our ignorance of Him. He waits for your repentance and His promises still stand. May the Triune God you worship on Sunday, be the only God you count on during the week. Amen.

Bible Study: The First Commandment


Why is this the very first commandment? Could it be a matter of putting first things first? Psalms 16:4, 121:1-8; Matthew 22:36-38; Mark 12:32; Luke 12:25-28

What does it mean to put first things first? Proverbs 1:7, 9:10

Why did God command that man have no other gods before Him? Deuteronomy 5:8-10; John 10:10

Describe God. Genesis 1:27; Job 9:1-10; Psalms 33:6-9, 139:7-14; Joel 2:13; Acts 17:24-28; John 4:24

What kind of relationship is He seeking from His people? Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 10:12-13; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18

Based on this commandment, what are our duties? 2 Timothy 3:16-17

What does this commandment prohibit?

What other god’s do we see when we look at our world?

How could these “god’s” come before our God? 1 Samuel 8:7; Romans 1:21-23

How might people profess to worship God and yet have other gods? John 4:22

Are we able to follow this commandment on our own? Psalms 51:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:19-24

Why would friends of the world be enemies of God? Romans 8:1-8; James 4:4

Why can’t a man serve two or more masters? Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Matthew 6:24

What negative outcomes might there be to not keeping this commandment? Psalms 106:36-39, Romans 1:20-25.

An atheist is also confronted with choices. How would he or she determine what is the right or wrong choice?

How could such an individual be certain that he or she made the right choice?

Why would it be foolish to live as if there is no God? Psalms 53:1; Jeremiah 18:11-12

Why can’t man direct his own steps? 1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 10:23-24, 17:9; Luke 18:19

How would placing God first in our lives, which is the essence of the First Commandment, relate to the other nine commandments?

Does our society believe and teach the importance of the First Commandment? Explain

Do you believe and teach the importance of the First Commandment?

“Before Abraham Was, I AM”

Text: John 8:48-59

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

For the last several weeks we have been witness to several remarkable comments in the Gospel of John from Jesus Christ about Himself. He has described Himself as the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door to heaven, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, and the Way, the Truth and the Life. All incredible statements that lead us to one conclusion. Jesus is telling us nothing less than that He is God Himself. Today, we will discuss the greatest of all His self-proclaiming statements.

In response to the Pharisee’s name-calling in our Gospel lesson for today, (and it was just that because in Jesus time to be called a Samaritan was harsh because any good Jew hated the Samaritan half-breeds and to claim someone had a demon was a whole level worse than that), Jesus says later, “Your Father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

The fireworks fly and they mock Him, “You are not yet 50 years old, and have seen Abraham?” Jesus responds. “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am,” and now, they know exactly what His claim is. Upon hearing this, which was blasphemy to them, they pick up stones to stone and kill Him, but it is not Jesus’ time and He hides Himself.

This violent reaction has everything to do with this incredible statement from Jesus. Clearly He is harkening back to our Old Testament lesson in Exodus chapter three where God the Father says, “I am who I am, say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.”  Their anger boils over because this statement of Jesus they clearly understand. He is saying he is none other than God incarnate, equal with the Father, the Messiah, the very Son of God.

But is this really what Jesus is saying? Let’s investigate. First, if it was Jesus’ desire to simply say that He existed even before Abraham, he would have been more clear saying, “Before Abraham was, I was.” But He didn’t say that. The Greek words translated “was,” in the case of Abraham, and “am,” in the case of Jesus are very different Greek words. The word that Jesus chose to describe Himself with expressed much more than simply living before Abraham. These words made it clear that Jesus was saying that Abraham was brought into being, but that He existed eternally, and only one person has existed forever, the one eternal God.

By their reaction we can see that the Pharisees clearly understood this implication because they were angry enough to kill Him for making Himself equal with God. The punishment for this kind of blasphemy according to Mosaic law was death by stoning.

But, as we know, Jesus didn’t commit any blasphemy because His statement would later ring true. He was and still remains God, the second person of the Trinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, equal in glory and power.

Now, it’s only fair to look at what led up to this showdown. Jesus has to take some of the blame for riling them up. In verse 44 he tells them “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desire.” Now them’s fightin’ words. So, some of this retaliation we see against Jesus is, at first, simply words of defense and revenge. On both sides we see radical and religious belittling. When you bring the devil into the argument, all time of courteous debate has been left to the wayside.

Of course, this is not the only time that Jesus has been accused of this. In verse 52 of our lesson the Jews say, “Now we know that you have a demon,” and in Matthew 9:34 the Pharisees accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons. But had they been listening, they would have heard that Jesus’ words were not that of a demon-possessed man because He wasn’t looking to glorify Himself. Unlike the Jews when they attacked Jesus, he was honoring the Father with the truth. Their attack on Him was also an attack on the Father. His attack on them is explained in verse 50 when Jesus says, “Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and He is the Judge.

Far from being demon-possessed words, the Words that Jesus is using are the very words that God has given Him to say and the words the Jews think are prideful are anything but. It was to God’s glory that Jesus was obedient towards Him by speaking of warning and of truth.

We see then that Jesus continues on His divine discourse when he says, Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my Word, he will never see death.” And by this we know He means eternal death.

There is promise in His words but the Jews are deaf to it. Even today, we hear these words and we tend to skip over them. In our actions and in our thoughts we show we haven’t given these words the credit they’re due. We can look at the Jews and say, “shame on you, how could you misinterpret the words,” but all the while we, after having the very words of God within our grasp, treat them as if they are only so reliable and true. Even after being asked not only to read them but to live them out, we treat God’s Words sometimes as if they are words of warning and correction for other people. I say shame on us.

Rather than considering that Jesus was pointing to the possibility of eternal life, the Jews were blinded by their agenda to discredit Him and bring Him down with legalese and rhetoric. Though they didn’t grasp the truth, they did grasp the greatness He was claiming saying, in effect, just who do you think you are?

In our world today, we are seeing much of the same, but instead of coming to Christ’s defense, we turn our backs hoping someone else with take up the cause. As we see the Word of God discredited by those who want to be their own judge, we stay in our comfort zones hoping the chaos will go away. We have much to learn from this scene between the Jews and Jesus as we take a look at the world and see the same things affecting our generation, things we sometimes encourage with our silence.

Though the Jews claimed to know God, He was really not their God. This is what the prophets had been telling them for centuries. Again and again Israel would reject God in so many ways, they would remain ignorant to the knowledge of Him and they would ignore His commands. Eventually they would come to only have a superficial relationship with Him.

Today, we are the new Israel with the same attitude towards God. When Jesus claims He is the I AM, we find it interesting for a while but it soon fades from our minds as we walk like zombies through life hoping against hope that our worldly ways will be enough for Him. Even today, Jesus knows the Father but many of us do not.

Am I being harsh? Maybe. But no more direct than Jesus was to the Jews who questioned Him then. Do we deserve better treatment then they?

They, at least, thought they were being faithful. Sometimes our world is so blatantly disrespectful towards God that it’s clear to see that they honor only their unbelief. Thank our Almighty God above that he refuses to play the game.

Instead, He proves His love by forgiving our lapses, even those we have trouble forgiving ourselves for. In this, God shows us a better way and he waits for us to finally understand just how much we mean to Him, even after our blindness.

The climax of this whole lesson is found in Jesus words, “Truly truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” The seriousness is shown in using the Greek words “Amen, Amen,” which means, “this is most certainly true. This is a phrase that Jesus used 20 times to emphasis the lesson He was about to teach. They are words that say, “listen carefully, something very important is about to be said.”

His claim that we speak of today was the boldest of all of Christ’s declarations. It recalls a time before time when only God existed. These words hold the greatest power imaginable by telling us that Christ has been with us for all time and will remain with us for all time.

They are words of hope and promise soon to be proven when Jesus Christ would rise again. If only they had heard what He was saying and if only we would come to grasp the significance of these words today.

As we celebrate Trinity Sunday, our Gospel lesson reminds us of Christ’s place with in it. God humbled Himself (Slide) as we read in Hebrews 2:9, But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

This same Jesus, equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who would fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 49, This says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” This same Jesus who took on sin and death by offering Himself up to our abuse so that we might be saved. This same Jesus Christ who loved us enough to hang on a cursed tree, suffering even the rejection of the Father because of the sin He took upon Himself, so that we might have the life He has won for us through His blood. (Slide) This same Jesus who was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”

This same Jesus is willing to forgive you, even as you have treated Him with the same disrespect as the people of Israel did when He walked among us.

Are you going to accept His declaration or are you going to leave here today in ignorance? Are you going to worship Him as the great I AM or are you going to lose yourself in the lies of the world? Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life and the Light of the world. He is the Door to heaven and the Shepherd who gently guides you. He is the Resurrection and the Life and there is no one else. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

Let us all recognize the deity of Jesus. Let us all acknowledge His equality with the Father and Holy Spirit. He is God in the flesh who remains with us to this day. How well do you know Him?

Jesus wants nothing more than for you to believe in His words to you. He, who was willing to humble Himself on our behalf, waits for you. When He takes abuse, don’t turn a blind eye. When He is belittled, don’t hope it will all just go away so you don’t have to deal with it. make a stand for the truth. Believe in the I AM. Refuse to act in ignorance. Your Savior needs you. Amen.

Bible Study: John 8:48-59

 

What was the difference between Jesus’ argument and the Jews argument?

What didn’t the Jews choose to believe? Why?

Why was being called a Samaritan such a bed thing? 1 Kings 16:24; 2 Kings 17:1-2; Ezra. 4:1-6, 12-24; Nehemiah 4:1-6; John 8:48

What is the history of the demon name-calling in the Bible? Matthew 11:18, 12:24-32; John 7: 1-20, 8:48-52, 8:48-52, 10:20-21

Why do you think they did this to Jesus and why do you think he felt he had to defend Himself?

What does Jesus mean when He says that some will never see death? John 5:24-29, 6:40-47, 63-68, 11:25-26; Romans 6:23, 8:1-2, 37-39

Does being a descendant of Abraham really save you as the Jews believed? Exodus 32:33-35; Numbers 11:1; 14:37; 16:32-35; 25:4-4; Deuteronomy 1:35

What does he promise instead? Genesis 17:7-8; Isaiah 41:8-13; Malachi 1:2-3; John 4:15; Romans 4:11-18; 9:7; Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 2:12-18; 6:15-17; 11:9

How is Jesus greater than Abraham?

Why didn’t Jesus seek His own glory if he is God?

How has the covenant of God been fulfilled in Jesus? Genesis 22:7-20; Acts 4:12; Hebrews 12:1-2

Why was Jesus’ statement, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” so bold? Exodus 3:14; John 1:1-1; 8:24, 17:5

Why did they pick up stones to kill Jesus? Exodus 17:4; Leviticus 24:16; Numbers 14:10; 1 Samuel 30:6; Matthew 26:65; John 10:31, 11:45-57

If the Jews were doing what they thought was right by opposing blasphemy, did they sin?

How do you suppose Jesus was able to hide Himself? Was it super-natural? Jeremiah 36:26; John 7:33, 44, 18:6

Why did the people in this passage refuse to reason or search the Scriptures (Keep in mind; these were the most educated people of their time and knew better)?

Why did the religious leaders have such highly intensified hatred toward Jesus? Do we see this is our world today? Is it for the same reason?

Why do some Christians see their lives of faith like a buffet, picking and poking only at what looks and feels good, ignoring what is needed to be fed and healthy? Are you guilty?

I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE

 

John 14:1-14

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.” The boy replied, “I don’t think I’ll be there…You don’t even know your way to the post office.
In our I Am series we have covered much ground. In the last two parts,  we’ll try to sum up everything. In doing so I’ll try to show you just how everything works together. I’ll also try to show you why the words “I AM” are even more important than the descriptions that follow them. In my next offering we’ll look at Christ’s words in John 14:6, “I Am the way, the Truth and the Life.”

The young man in our opening story was quick to catch on to an apparent problem. If Billy Graham didn’t even know the way to the post office, how could he possibly know the way to heaven, a much harder place to find?

Our Gospel lesson takes us back to the time of the last supper where Jesus and His disciples have gathered to share their last meal together.

Jesus used this opportunity of fellowship to prepare His disciples for what they were about to endure in the days ahead. They had been together for the better part of three years now and His followers had learned much. We could rightly say that, during that entire time, Jesus had been preparing them step by step for this moment. Through many signs and wonders He had proven His divinity to them. In His teaching, he showed them the way to heaven. Now, He will attempt to sum up His teaching in one statement.

During their whole time with the Messiah, they were being prepared for life without His bodily form at their side. They were learning from His teachings and even more by His example. As time went on their faith in Him grew, so much so that by now they had placed all of their hope in Him.

Yet they still didn’t understand completely nor did they know how their deliverance would happen. This is made clear in our Gospel lesson when Thomas says to Him in verse 5, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

You have to love Thomas. He was never afraid to ask questions. He was never embarrassed because he lacked knowledge. He just did what any of us should do in similar circumstances. He asked questions so he might arrive at the truth.

Let’s be honest. Many of us could learn a lesson or two from this scene. In reality, we too have to confess that sometimes we don’t truly understand the way. We show it in our actions, we show it in our unwillingness to put Christ before all things, in our lack of personal time with our Creator, in our ignorance of His promises. We are no better than Thomas, in fact most of us are worse because we’re not even willing to ask the hard questions that will bring us to the knowledge of the truth because we’re too embarrassed, or even worse, to preoccupied with lesser things.

In John 13:33, Jesus said, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I will also say to you, where I am going you cannot come.”

In verse 36 we see that Peter had the same question for Jesus after hearing this statement asking, “Lord, where are you going? And later in verse 37, “Lord, why can’t I follow You now?” Thomas was not the only one confused.

In His patience with His disciples, we come to our Gospel lesson where Jesus speaks more plainly about heaven, describing it as a place that he was to go prepare for them. He even reassures them that they do know the way, even if they cannot completely comprehend it at the moment.

 

So, speaking for all the rest of the disciples, Thomas asks his question. In Jesus’ answer, He takes them on three paths. First He tells them that He is the Way. At first glance, we have the same problem we had last week where we heard Jesus describe Himself as “The Resurrection.” How can someone be the Resurrection? How can someone be the way? It’s bad English. As we will learn, It all makes sense if you know who Jesus is.

In Colossians 1:15-23 we see just who Jesus is: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven,

This is the man that the disciples were yet to fully grasp. It wouldn’t be until His resurrection and ascension that they would be able to truly believe just who Jesus really was. It wouldn’t be until that first Pentecost of which we celebrate today that they would genuinely understand just who the Way, the Truth and the Life was. Even after following Him, it took the Holy Spirit to descend on them before they were thoroughly prepared for what was to lie ahead for them.

So now we ponder the same questions. What does Jesus mean when He tells us that He is the Way and the Truth and the Life?

If we look at the Greek, we find that Jesus uses the definite article to describe Himself. In other words, Jesus is saying, “I am the only way, the only Truth and the only Life,” by which you might find your eternal rest. There are several places in Scripture that Jesus does this:

In Matthew 22:32 He first reminded His listeners of what God had said in Exodus 3:6, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

In John 8:28: He is speaking to the Pharisees when he says, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father has taught me.”

 

And in verse 58 of that same chapter, “Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was, I Am.” A statement that almost got Him killed right there on the spot.

The disciples clearly understood what Jesus was talking about because of the force behind His teachings so when He said, “I Am the way,” they understood that He was saying He was the only way.

We understand a way to be a path to something, a route to reach a goal. Clearly Jesus was pointing the way towards something but the disciples couldn’t yet grasp what. He had told them from the beginning of His time with them that they were to follow Him, that there was no other way on earth to find heaven, no other path to the Father. Peter restated this truth in Acts 14 saying, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Just as Jesus was the resurrection so is He the Way because the way can only be found in Christ Jesus who has cleared the path by His blood. The exclusive purpose of The Way is to bring the faithful to salvation. Because of Jesus the route has been made clear, the goal is attainable and hope is received. By calling Himself the Way He is giving you the greatest answer to all of life’s questions.

 

Again Jesus uses the definite article when He calls Himself “The Truth.” Here we can go back to the Old testament to find out just what He was saying. In Psalm 119:142 it says, Your righteousness is righteous forever, and Your law is true.” In saying He is the Truth, Jesus is saying that He is the fulfillment of the law. Throughout Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he reminds His listeners of what the law says but in each case he follows it up with the words, “But I say unto you…” Thereby equating Himself with the law. He is declaring His unique authority and portrays Himself as the very standard of righteousness.

In fact, Jesus declares that He came to fulfill the law and the prophets saying in that same chapter, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” So when Jesus says He is THE Truth, He is saying He is the fulfillment of truth. In His righteousness he came to do what we could not do. He provided the truth that would set us free from the tyranny of the law we could not obey. And because of that He has given us life, not just on earth but eternally in heaven with Him. Which brings us to our third definite article. Jesus calls Himself, “The Life.”

For three years now Jesus had repeatedly told His disciples about what would happen the day after this final meal.

Tomorrow he would die, yet here he is claiming that He is the source of life. No wonder the disciples became so confused after the crucifixion. In John 10:17-18, Jesus declared that he was going to lay down His life for His sheep and then take it back again. Here He declares His authority over life and death. In our Gospel in verse 19 Jesus declares, ….Because I live, you also will live.” The deliverance He was to provide them was greater than what any military leader could provide. It was superior to anything that any politician could promise. It was grander than any rich man could afford.. It was not the political or social deliverance that the Jews were seeking, but a true deliverance from a life of bondage to sin and death. He was offering them and offers us an everlasting life of freedom.

In these words, “I Am the Way the Truth and the Life,” Jesus is declaring Himself to be the “I Am” spoken about in Scripture. That’s why the first two words of every one of His descriptions were the most important. He is the only path to salvation, He is the only fulfillment of the law and He is the only way to everlasting life. He is staking His claim on our lives and promising in return our salvation.

Once the disciples finally understood just what Jesus was talking about that 1st day of Pentecost, their lives changed forever. The knowledge of the truth was given to them to pass on to us. Now we are called to carry it on to a new generation.

What are you prepared to do to bring the truth to those who so desperately need to hear it? How will you follow Him today? Is He your way or are you still trying to find your own way? Is He your truth or are you still forming your own truth? Is He your life, or have you decided to create your own life in the world?

Long ago a group of everyday people decided to follow the path Jesus was laying out for them and eventually they began to understand just how important that path was. They heard Him teach and they used those lessons to change the world. They confessed their sins and counted on the forgiveness only Christ could provide them by overcoming the law. They finally believed that His death meant something. They followed His example and command to tell others the truth about sin, righteousness and the judgement to come.

But they were only the beginning. Soon others would follow their example in teaching lost souls about the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life. For thousands of years that chain has continued and it is with us today with the same command.

Who are you going to show the way? Who are going to declare the Truth to? Who are you going to offer the only life worth living? Are you prepared to do what it takes to carry on the plan?

Christ will lead you to the right path in truth and life, Amen.

Bible Study: John 14:1-14

 

Why were the disciples troubled in heart? John 13:33,36

What did he promise the disciples? What hope does this promise give? 2 Corinthians 5:1-5;  1 Peter 1:3-5

What does Christ mean when He says that He is preparing a place for us?

What difference does it make to believe this promise? Hebrews 11:9-10

Why didn’t Thomas know where Christ was going?

Why is Jesus the only way? John 1:1-18; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; Matthew 7:13-14

Why is Jesus the truth? John 1:14, 12:45, 18:37; Romans 1:18-20, 25 What are some characteristics of truth?

What does it mean that Jesus is the life? John 1:4, 5:24; 20:30-31; 1 John 5:12

How did Philip respond? What do you think was his problem? Vss. 8-11

Where else do we witness the confusion of the disciples? John 13:36; John 14:5,8,22; John 16:17-19 Does this help you to believe in Scripture or does it hinder you?

What did Jesus teach him about the relationship of the Father and the Son? What can we learn here about belief?

What promise does Jesus make to anyone who has faith?

How can one do greater things than Jesus? Mark 11:23-24, 16:13-18; 1 John 5:14

Christ tells us that He will give us anything we ask of Him in His name. Anything? What is important about how we ask? Verse 13-14. John 15:7

How do these verses refer to the impossibility of a sinful human being seeing God? Exodus 20:9, 33:18-23; 1 Kings 19:13 Isaiah 6:5; John 1:18;   1 Timothy 6:16

Why should the disciples (and we) be happy that Christ is returning to the Father?

When you imagine heaven, what comes to mind?  In what ways is your imagination about heaven limited?

 

I AM The Resurrection and The Life

 

John 11:17-27

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Mary and Martha are in deep sorrow. Their brother Lazarus has died. Everybody knows that death is the end of all things. She believes time is the one insurmountable obstacle to life. No longer will they eat at the same table as Lazarus, or hear one of his jokes. No more could they count on him in times of trouble. No longer could they be there for him when he needed them. He has died and he has been dead for some time now. Why wasn’t their master there with them? Why did Jesus take so long to return? Maybe He could have saved him. Maybe if He would have been here, they would not have to live through this great distress. He had saved others, why wasn’t he there to save the one they loved?  In their panic they had sent word to Jesus that their brother was on death’s doorstep. Maybe, just maybe, He would return in time. The truth, however, was probably that Lazarus was dead even before Jesus received the message. But rather than rush back, Jesus stays for two more days before He returns to them. By now, Lazarus has been dead four days.  As Jesus makes it to the outskirts of the town, Martha is told and she rushes to Him carrying the burden of sadness with her.  As she approaches Him, her voice cries out, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Perhaps catching the accusatory tone in her voice, she says in faith, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Her words of desperation don’t fall on deaf ears as Jesus gives her the promise, “Your brother shall rise again.”

Martha, still in shock from her brother’s passing, assumes Jesus is talking about the last days. He has spoken of them often and she knows, by now, that Jesus would be the one who would come again to resurrect all believers.

No doubt many had come to see Martha as Lazarus lie in his tomb with similar condolences. As they hugged and kissed her they would remind her of God’s promise to raise the faithful one day. She had probably heard it so much that the words meant less with each passing wish.  But, instead of agreeing with her statement then and there, Jesus says the “I Am” statement that we will look at today. Upon hearing of Martha’s understanding He says, “I Am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”  So what is Jesus claiming? How can one be the resurrection and the life? Well, when Jesus was saying this, His claim was great, because He was claiming to be the source of both. He is saying that there is no resurrection apart from Him, and there is no eternal life apart from Him. Beyond that Jesus is also claiming His relationship with the Father and His divine nature. He does more than give reason for a resurrection. He does more than give life; He is the resurrection! He is life!! Therefore death has no power over Him. To those who believe, He gives life by overcoming even their death. In His power we triumph over sin and death because He died and rose again. In this He modeled what we can one day expect when He comes in those final days. Believers in Jesus Christ will experience resurrection because, having been given life in the name of Christ, it is impossible for death to defeat us.  And then Jesus shows all of those present that neither death nor time is an obstacle to Him by raising Lazarus. This same Lazarus who has been dead for four days now. This same Lazarus that his sisters thought was dead and gone until the end of time.  Jesus says, “Take away the stone.” They wonder what He is doing. Lord, they say, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” They still did not understand the power of the Son of Man.  They still doubted. So Jesus reminds them, Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” And after praying to His Father he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And He did just that. The man who had been dead four days was alive again. The power of Christ had overcome the obstacles once more.  It’s one thing to claim to be the Resurrection and the Life, it’s entirely another to prove it in such a bold way. Truly, with Christ, death is just sleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 dramatically describe this saying: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”  

With these mighty words, Paul gave those in Thessalonica hope as he continues to do in His letters today. For those who think Resurrection is an event, we can now inform them that the true resurrection is a person. For those who equate life with breathing and a conscience, we can now show that life is indeed found in the person of Christ. For those who think eternity is just an abstract equation we can show them that it originated with the author of life and has everything to do with a personal relationship with our creator. And for those who think that victory over death is just wishful thinking, we can show them how we know in Christ that it is a future expectation.  Christ is indeed our resurrection because through Him our resurrection is assured. But have you ever noticed how His resurrection on that first Easter day was different than all the other resurrections of the Bible? Have you ever wondered what Paul meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”   There have been many resurrections in Scripture and they are found in both testaments. For example: In 1 Kings chapter 17 Elijah raises from the dead the Sidonian widow’s son.  In 2 Kings, Elisha this time raises the Shunammite woman’s son We also find in 2 Kings the account of a dead man thrown onto Elisha’s bones during a Moabite raid and as he touches the bones, he is raised to life.  In the new Testament in Mark we read of the raising of Jairus’s daughter.  In Luke 7 the raising of the Son of the widow of Nain and here in our Gospel lesson the Raising of Lazarus. Even Christ’s disciples raised people after His death. So how did all of these differ with Christ’s resurrection? They differ in that they all died once again. Yet today, during Ascension Sunday we celebrate that our Lord rose again and lives today. He is the author of life and the victor over death. He is the resurrection and the life.  There was a Muslim in Africa who had been converted to Christianity. When his friends asked him why, he replied, “Well, it’s like this, suppose you were going down a road and suddenly the road forked in two directions and you didn’t know which way to go. Now suppose that you meet two men at the fork – one dead and one alive – which one would you ask to show you the way? It is the one who has life.”

In Christ’s triumph over the grave, He became life for us. Jesus promises us in verse 26 of John 11, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies and who ever lives and believes in me will never die.” That’s because death no longer can claim us because Christ has changed our verdict from guilty to redeemed, from sinner to forgiven.  After Jesus claims to be the Resurrection and the Life, He looks at Martha and asks her if she believed. He wanted to know if she believed that He was there to offer Lazarus and her life. He wanted her to know that He was the very source of life. He had stated it earlier in John 5:21 saying, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. Just as the Father, Jesus lays claim to life and He is the life. Just like the Father He gives power to resurrection because He is the Resurrection. Jesus defines life in John 17:3:  “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  It is belief that gives you life. It is trust in the Savior of us all that provides for you eternal life. It is the surrender of one’s life that starts the process of resurrection.  The Resurrection is so much more than an historical event just as the one who called Himself the Resurrection and the Life was so much more than a man.  Because Christ rose from the grave, we are able to have a supernatural relationship with Him that will pave the way to heaven. Because He ascended and lives today, He is able to touch our lives even as we live them day to day.  In forensic science, there is a rule known as the Lockyear principle that simply states that “every touch leaves an impression.” As people of Christ we know that to be true because with every touch of the Messiah our lives are left with His impression and our lives are changed. When we rededicate our lives to Christ, the impression of this transformation is clear for others to see. This is because the life that Christ has won for us becomes more precious and the resurrection He has promised us becomes more real.  There are a few of you here today that still might not get it when Jesus calls Himself the Resurrection and the Life. It’s not an easy concept to grasp. Conventional wisdom would tell us that it can’t be true. But for those who understand it, the statement rings true. There are many here who can testify to the truth of God’s goodness. When Jesus said to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” It wasn’t just platitudes, it was a statement of truth, a truth that He hopes you can also see. It wasn’t just a statement of theology, to Martha it was a challenge as it is to us. Do you believe Him when He makes this claim? Do you want the Resurrection and the life He is offering you? He waits for your sincere reply. Amen.

 

Bible Study: John 11:17-27

 

What gives Jesus the authority to call Himself the Resurrection and the Life? Colossians 1:15-20

Jesus’ best friend had died, resulting in chaos and confusion as to how and why this had happened. If Jesus healed and raised others, why did He allow Lazarus to die?

Why should the grief over death from a Christian be different for someone who has no God?   I Thessalonians 4:13

What is eternal life? John 17:3 How can we gain it? John 3:36, 5:24; 6:35,37,47, 11:25-26

What does it mean to “know” The Father and the Son?

How long had Lazarus been dead when Jesus arrived, why did He wait and how does this add to the miracle?

What surprising comment does Jesus add earlier in verse 15? Why do you think He said this?

What did Jesus tell Martha would happen, and when did she think it would happen? What did she not understand?

How does verse 22 speak to Martha’s unbelief? How about after reading verse 27?

Have you ever questioned “why?” Give an example

Why do you think Mary didn’t accompany Martha to see Jesus?

In what sense will believers never die?

 

Woody Allen once said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” Why are we afraid to die?

 

What does Jesus really mean when He calls Himself the Resurrection and the Life?

 

Is this a statement of trust? Explain

 

Why did Jesus ask Martha if she believed?

 

Have you ever lost a dear loved one? How did you feel and how did it change your life?

 

Even though Martha questioned and may have doubted Jesus, she remained gracious and faithful. What can you learn from this?

How does Jesus’ declaration in this passage affect (influence) and effect (have a result in) you? What helps you to focus on God and not on circumstances?