Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter 2016 Sermon Notes

Easter Sunday 2016
Sermon Notes
Ephesians 1:15-23
The Power of God
Lynchburg, Virginia

At Easter we focus on the joy of the resurrection and well we should.  It is at the heart and soul of everything we believe.  Without it, we are of all men, the most to be pitied.  It is the resurrection that sets Christianity apart from every other world religion.  God declared Jesus to be the Son of God by raising Him from the dead.  We stake all of our hope on the fact that Jesus conquered death.  We see that without the resurrection we are just another group of people that were disappointed in their hope of a messiah.  We are on this side of the resurrection and have been for over two thousand years.  We should see many glories in it. 
But that was not the case with the apostles immediately after the resurrection. What is the big deal really?  So, Jesus rose from the dead?  What does that do for those who are left behind?  What does that do for Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, Peter, James, John, and Cleopas?  Jesus is alive but they are still in the world without a savior, without a prophet, without a king.  Of course, we know now that this is not true. Jesus did not leave us alone.  He said that He would be with us always, even to the end of the age. And so He is.  Holy Friday has passed, Easter is here, and Pentecost is coming. 
         We now have the hindsight to perceive that something happened at the resurrection that changed the world.  We see the victory.  But even after the resurrection, the disciples are still in a funk.  They were happy that Jesus was not dead but they still didn’t get it.  They want to believe but they don’t seem to have the ability to grasp the monumental events that are transpiring around them.  They wanted someone to restore the kingdom to Israel and they are disappointed that Jesus is not the one to do it. 
         We should get a sense of the gleam in the Lord’s eye as He watches the disciples and apostles struggle to understand.  He knows that it will soon dawn on them and then they will understand all that has come to pass.  This did not happen at the cross, it didn’t happen at the resurrection, it didn’t even happen in the days after the resurrection as Jesus ministered to them, it didn’t happen at the ascension as the disciples stood gazing up into the sky.  They were still disappointed that Jesus was leaving them. But it did happen at Pentecost.
Let us take a look at the disciples after the resurrection and before they understand the immensity of what has happened.
We think of the resurrection day as the day of victory.  It was but we are mistaken if we remember the disciples being overjoyed that day.  Some of them may have been awestruck but confusion and disappointment still dominate the day.  There is still unbelief for days.  They still do not understand that the resurrection marks the victory over the cross.  The Lord upbraids them for their unbelief. 
         Mary Magdalene was the first to go the sepulcher.  She is disappointed thinking that they have taken the body of Jesus and laid it somewhere where she cannot find it.  She apparently tells Peter about it and he runs to the grave with John to see for himself.  Joanna, Salome, and the other Mary, the mother of James, were with her. There were other women also with them. They see angels at the tomb who tell them that Jesus is not among the dead but among the living.  Immediately after this, Jesus Himself appears to Mary Magdalene.  They all tell the disciples that Jesus is risen from the dead but the disciples do not believe them.
         This is quite remarkable. These are not silly women. These are the women that have been closely involved in the ministry of the Lord. They have seen His miracles and have been a close part of all of things that have occurred. They were reliable witnesses.
         When the women tell about Jesus rising from the dead, the disciples, including the apostles, remark that what the women are telling them are as idle tales, tales that women make up when they are not keeping their hands busy.  The disciples should have known better.  They should have remembered the Lord’s words before He was crucified but they were too deafened in their own misery to hear, understand, and believe.
         Later in the day, Cleopas and another disciple go to Emmaus.  They were sad as they walked and talked about the death of Jesus and the fact that the body was missing.  Their hopes of a conquering Messiah seem to be completely vanquished.  Jesus appears to them and asks them what they are talking about and why they are sad about it.  They figure that He is a new visitor in town and must not have been there for the crucifixion.  This implies that all the Jews must have known about these events. They tell Him that they thought that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel but that they were mistaken.
They even tell him about the story that the Marys, Joanna, and Salome, told and the other women told about seeing the angels.  But they didn’t believe the story.  They wanted to see in order to believe.
 Jesus upraids them for their slowness of heart. 25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?  But He is about to turn their sadness into joy.  He tells them all the things that they should have been talking about.  He preaches to them from the scriptures all about Himself.  It is good for us to remember that Jesus preaches to them about Himself from the Old Testament.  The scriptures concerning Jesus should now have been clear to the disciples but their eyes were still sleepy.
         They invite Jesus to eat with them and He accepts.  Their eyes are finally opened when He takes bread, blesses it and breaks it. 
         Cleopas and his friend go to tell the apostles in order to corroborate the story of the women and of Peter.  They specifically place significance in the fact that He was revealed to them in the breaking of bread.  The apostles don’t believe these two either. It is worth mentioning that there were now enough witnesses for a legal case.  There were even enough witnesses if we count them by groups, Mary Magdalene, the women, Peter, and Cleopas.  The testimony was valid in a court of law but the apostles were still not satisfied.
         Mark 16:9   Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.  10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.  11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.  12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.  13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
         While they are still trying to convince the apostles, Jesus appears to them.  He upbraids them for their unbelief because they did not believe the women, Peter, or Cleopas.
         They finally believe that Jesus is alive and can hardly believe it for joy.  Their unbelief has changed into awe and wonder that such a thing has occurred.  Jesus then tells them that all authority has been given to Him.  This is what they have been waiting for all along, for Jesus to take the authority.  But He leaves them standing gazing into the sky.  He commissions them to the work of establishing His authority in all the earth teaching all the nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This is the kingdom. This is the redemption of Israel and so much more.  This is the work that we have inherited to do.  But it is to be done knowing that Jesus has won the victory ahead of time.
         Imagine the disciples’ position. Jesus rises from the dead and they finally understand that He is more powerful than death. With such a leader, they must gain the victory. Now, all of their hopes and dreams will come true. Jesus will be the Messiah that saves them from their enemies. Israel will now be lifted up and exalted. The nation will be saved.
But then Jesus, as He always does, surprises them again. Instead of taking over himself as the immortal one, He leaves it all in the hands of the mortals. He says, I have all authority in Heaven and Earth, so I am going to commission you to do the work of saving not only Israel but every tribe and tongue and nation. Go for it! And then He goes away. And they stand there looking up in the clouds in utter disbelief that this is happening.
         As we remember the resurrection, let us look forward to grasping what it means for us.
         We should remember the resurrection, ascension and rule of Jesus Christ with eager anticipation of what God is doing in our midst.  Paul does this as he writes to the Ephesians.  We cannot fully comprehend the resurrection without the ascension and rule of Christ.  We should know that something is up that is far beyond our ability to grasp it.  The world is a changed place.  The Lord has risen and conquered every foe.  There is anticipation in the air.  What might happen?  Oh, just about anything and absolutely everything.

Eph 1:15-23 5 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Follow the argument through.
Paul prays that the Ephesians might understand what God has done when He raised Jesus from the dead.  We must keep in mind that these are Gentiles, that this letter is written many years after the Lord has been raised from the dead, and that Paul has ministered to them for a considerable length of time in person.  He still sees the need to pray that they understand more what God has done.  This means that they had not yet fully grasped it. He prays that they would have
1.   spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus
2.   that the eyes of their understanding might be enlightened
3.   that they might know what is the hope of His calling
4.   and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints
5.   and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us who believe according to the working of His mighty power

This was all done in Christ when
1.   God, the Father, raised Him from the dead
2.   and set Him at His own right hand
3.   in the heavenly places
4.   far above all principality, might, power and dominion and every name that is named in this world and the world to come (on earth and in heaven)
5.   and put all things under His feet
6.   and gave Him to be the head over all things
7.   to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all

He says in Eph. 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

         The Spirit of Promise-We grasp verses 15-22 in light of 13 and 14.  We have the Holy Spirit.
         Eph 1:13-14 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
         Pentecost is coming.  The power of the resurrection is realized in the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The promised Spirit seals us and is the earnest of our inheritance.  He is a down payment that holds our place in the heavenlies until our bodies are resurrected.  This is important because we must remember that the ones Paul is writing to here still don’t have an understanding of the glory that has been revealed.  They knew the gospel story. They had received the truth and the Holy Spirit and yet Paul still prays for them to receive more.  Jesus Christ has conquered all earthly and spiritual foes.
         We should realize that we need to expand our understanding of what God has done.  He has raised Jesus from the dead so that we can live in Christ and obey the Father. In Ephesians, Paul then goes on in typical apostolic fashion to preach.  He says that these great doctrines are true and here is what you must therefore do. He answers Schaeffer’s famous question, “How should we then live?”  The final three chapters of Ephesians give us what we must do.  This is the power of the gospel.  It changes lives so we are enabled to obey God and this is what God uses to transform the world. 
The truth of the resurrection will go forth to the very ends of the earth.  We glory in this.  But we must also remember that it cannot get to the ends of the earth if it doesn’t get to the ends of our fingers and our toes.  The gospel message must permeate every part of our lives if it is to permeate every part of our culture.  It is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit that enables us to live godly lives that He might fill the church with His glory and it is through the church that His glory will fill all in all.

Based on Eph. 3:14-21 Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, I pray That you would grant us, according to the riches of Your glory, to be strengthened with might by Your Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith; that we, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;  And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now unto You that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto You be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.


Today’s theme is life, resurrected, restored, and renewed. Jesus was raised with an imperishable body, one that can never die. We still exist in our pre-Resurrection bodies but the Lord has already given us a guarantee of the better things yet to come. He has given us His Holy Spirit. 

The Spirit testifies in our hearts that God is our Father, that Jesus is our elder brother, that our sins have been forgiven, that the Spirit, Himself, intercedes for us, that we have hope of eternal life in resurrected bodies and have already entered that life by the power of that same Spirit.

These are all glorious truths. They are almost too much to comprehend all at once. If so, remember this Jesus said, “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 shall never die. Do you believe this?”

And we all, like Martha, say, “Yes Lord, we believe, for we know that in You, we are alive.”

He is With Us

There is a lot going on in the Resurrection and the Ascension. The disciples had panicked and fled from Jesus thinking that Jesus was dead and the kingdom dream was over. And then He rose from the dead and their hopes were rekindled. He tells them in Matthew 28 that all power in heaven and earth are now His. The disciples rejoice. He then drifts up into the clouds and they are left alone again wondering what is going on.

         Before He drifted into the clouds, He said, “Lo, I am with you always.” And He was not kidding. He was leaving and He was staying. How can that be? The Holy Spirit is that power that raised Jesus. The Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus and the Father. He was with them. He is ever present. He is here.  Now and always, He is with us.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Good Friday Homily-Behold the Lamb of God

Behold the Lamb of God
Good Friday Homily
March 25, 2016
Lynchburg, Virginia

Prayer of Praise
         Our Father, we praise You as we remember that hour when You glorified Your Son so that He could glorify You. You gave Him authority over all flesh and to give eternal life to all whom You had given Him. This eternal life is to know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. Jesus glorified You on the Earth and accomplished all the work You gave Him to do. His greatest work was to die for sinners whom He came to save. We thank You and praise You in Jesus’s holy name. Amen.

Behold, the Lamb of God
The cross is a bloody spectacle. If you have seen the movie the Passion of the Christ, you will get some idea of just how bloody it was. It was brutal. It was horrific.
Why is Jesus so bloody? Because we are bloody. We are bloody in our appetites to advance over others, even at the expense of blood. If you are angry towards your brother in your heart, you have committed murder in your heart. Blood.
We are a bloody nation. You have to look no further than the abortion mills, Planned Murderhood, and all nice and legal like, too. A majority of Americans like this blood, want to keep it flowing. Jesus’s blood has to cover our bloody spectacle. If He is going to save the world, if He is going to save the United States, it has to cover that bloody mess, too.
Why is He stricken, smitten and afflicted? Because we deserve to be punished for our many sins. The tormentors laid stripes on him. They scourged Him. They spit in His face. They mocked Him. They beat a bloody crown into His sinless head. They pierced His side. Why? Because we deserve all that, like the thief on the cross who said to the other thief who cast insults at Jesus, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
         You see, we deserve the beating, we deserve the insults, we deserve the affliction, we deserve the cross. Handed out to us, it would be justice. But we don’t want justice. We wouldn’t’ survive it. We need Jesus to suffer for us so we can receive mercy and grace.
Why is He murdered? Because we are murderers. Jesus didn’t die to save the good people, the upright, the whole, the healthy, the wise. He died to save murderers. Father forgive them who crucify me, for they know not what they do.
Who put Jesus on the cross? The Romans? The Jews? We can think of them as bad people. But who put Jesus on the cross? Was it not Judas? Was it not those who forsook Him and fled? Was it not the very ones He came to save? Was it not you? He is murdered to save murderers, who in their hearts would have even betrayed the Lord of glory. We hate to admit it because now we love Jesus. But apart from His grace, regeneration and salvation, you would kill Him. You would have Him die the death. Why was He murdered? To save envious, jealous, ambitious, and guilty men, women and children like you. Thank God Jesus does not leave us in that condition!
Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. In the Old Covenant, a lamb was to be brought and killed for a sacrifice. It had to be an unblemished lamb. That is a high requirement but no lamb is perfectly perfect. And the fact that no lamb is perfect reveals the need for a better sacrifice. The Bible teaches us that the blood of animals can never take away sins. God received the sacrifices as offered in good faith and He reckoned that faith as righteousness.
But something more glorious is happening with Jesus. Because He really is the perfect Lamb, the sacrifice is perfectly efficacious. It accomplishes exactly what the Lord intends. The sacrifice of Jesus takes away sins. It purges us. And it does not need repeated year after year. We remember the sacrifice year after year but it was only performed once for all.
One time on the cross for all sins. One time on the cross for the salvation of men. One time on the cross for all time. One time on the cross to propitiate the Father. One time on the cross to defeat the devil and make a show of him openly. One time on the cross to endure death. One time on the cross to secure life. One time on the cross to end all sacrifice. One time on the cross to pay it all.
Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.

Let us Pray
Our Father, who sent Jesus to the cross for our sins and raised Him for our justification, we hallow Your name. We confess our sins to You and thank You that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We were worthy of His death but not capable of paying for our own sins. Only the perfect Lamb of God could do that.
Father, we thank You for the obedience of Jesus, even to death on the cross. We thank You also for the joy that He saw on the other side in the Resurrection. As we leave here tonight in a solemn manner, prepare us for the overwhelming joy of the glory of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead, defeating sin and death that we would have abundant life.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Good Communication Principles

These are great communication principles. I am trying to work on them. These come from How To Win Friends and Influence People, the book by Dale Carnegie. The title sounds like he was interested in manipulating people but the principles comport well with a Biblical worldview that shows love for others.

Good Communication Principles- Dale Carnegie

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
1.    Don’t criticize, complain or condemn.
2.    Give honest and sincere appreciation.
3.    Arouse in the other person and eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You
1.    Become genuinely interested in other people.
2.    Smile
3.    Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4.    Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5.    Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
6.    Make the other person feel important- and do it sincerely.

How To Win People to Your Way of Thinking
1.    The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
2.    Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
3.    If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4.    Begin in a friendly way.
5.    Get the other person saying, “yes, yes” immediately.
6.    Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
7.    Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
8.    Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
9.    Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader:
How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
1.    Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
2.    Call attention to peoples mistakes indirectly.
3.    Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
4.    Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
5.    Let the other person save face.
6.    Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
7.    Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
8.    Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
9.    Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.