Not Just Another Gift

Luke 1 and 2

The Real Focus – Consider the Gift!

At the countdown to Christmas, let us focus on what is really most important.  Too many, including many Christians, miss it by way of their actions and attitudes.  The Gospel of Luke points us to this goal as it challenges us to consider the gift.

The Wrapping

Luke 2:12 – And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

This Child, this gift you are to look for, will not be surrounded by external splendor and outward glitter and glory, but instead by common wrappings.

The Trimmings

Luke 2:13-14 – And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Loud heavenly choruses announce this gift of God’s peace.  But do not miss where the choruses resound; not at the manger scene but in the distance fields where the shepherds are gathered.  At the manger, the trimmings are virtually non-existent and quite ordinary.

The Tag

Luke 1:30-31 – Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.

This name, Jesus, is no accident.  The full name in Hebrew is a sentence name:  “Yahweh” or Lord saves!”

The Contents

Luke 1:32-33 – He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

  • His excelling greatness!
  • His absolute exaltation!
  • His supreme power!
  • His eternal reign
  • His perpetual kingdom!

The Purpose

Luke 2:29-32 – Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word;   For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

To bring salvation to all peoples, including the Gentiles!  This gift is available to all, the invitation is to everyone, but the benefits are only for those who will act.

The Conclusion – Unwrap the Gift

The gift of Jesus Christ is God’s present to you.  Simply acknowledging the gift exists, or simply noting its presence does nothing for you personally.  You must unwrap the gift.  If you have, why not share the gift with others?

Come Out of the Tomb

John 11:38-44 – Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”  Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”  Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”  And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

We have all had situations when it seemed like it could not get worse and somehow it did. We have all had fears and pent-up emotions in crisis situations and just knew things were bad and going from bad to worse.

In these kinds of situations, we did not know where to turn.   All looked bleak on the horizon but then just in the nick of time, the tide turned.  The gray sky changed and things within began to calm.  The churning of the stomach, the wringing of the hands, the sleepless nights, the constant turmoil was gone.  Jesus had come on the scene.  Our heart was at rest.  We were again at peace.  Jesus was with us every step of the way.

Anyone here ever had a bad day?  We all have.  Those days seem to us dark, dreary, tomb like.  We feel alone.  Days like those we do not like, and do not want in our life.  

Lazarus was in the tomb – continued illness took his life.  All hope seemed to be lost.  All that was left for family and friends was to endure and hope that the pain would ease.  But then, in their despair, in their crisis, in their turmoil, in their helplessness, Jesus made His appearance.

In the story of Lazarus, we see emotions – in Mary, Martha, the crowd, and even Jesus.  In Mary and Martha’s loss, in their despair, their crisis, their turmoil, their helplessness, they had forgotten that this same Jesus, their friend, had stilled the waters, fed the multitudes, opened blinded eyes, healed the lepers, made the lame to walk again and much more.

In their despair and pent up emotions of hurt and possibly even bitterness, they had forgotten this same Jesus had spoken those fantastic words of blessing we refer to as the Beatitudes.  They had heard His parables, His sermons, His words and seen His works.  Yet after what had been almost daily contact for three plus years, they still did not understand, still did not believe.

…as He began to pray….”Father, I thank You that You have heard Me….And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing  by I said this,  that they may believe that You sent Me.”  And then with a loud voice He cried out “Lazarus, come forth.”  

And then, they saw him who had died as he came out of the tomb, hand and feet bound…. AND THEY BELIEVED.

Are you bound?  Come out of the tomb. Are you in bondage? Come out of the tomb.

When Jesus Christ saved you and brought you out of the tomb of sin and despair…he did not stop at “Come out of the tomb.”  He also said be loosed and set free.

We are doing our Lord discredit.  We are trampling again the Blood of Jesus under our feet when we continue to do those things that reflect negatively on our freedom in Christ.  Christ Jesus said COME OUT OF THE TOMB…BE LOOSED AND SET FREE…

I ask you here today…is that what He said? 

Did He say “COME OUT OF THE TOMB?”   Did He not also say…”He whom the Son sets free is free indeed?”

The three Hebrew children were in the worst turmoil, the worst situation anybody could be in….but they weren’t in a tomb…and the scripture says they weren’t bound either.  In fact the old king said they were walking around down there in that fiery furnace.  They were not walking around down there bound but they were free and Jesus was walking with them. 

You may be in a terrible spot…you may be in a predicament, and you may be in a devil’s torment that you have never seen before and don’t want to see again…but YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACT LIKE YOU ARE IN A TOMB AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE BOUND. 

WHAT IS YOUR CHOICE?

Do you want to stay in the tomb?  Do you want to stay bound?

OR

Do you want to come out of the tomb and be set free?

We can say we can’t…

But He says…”We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us.” – Philippians 4:13

We can say we are afraid

But He says… “I have not given you the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

COME OUT OF THE TOMB AND BE SET FREE.

We can say we don’t have

 But He says… “I shall supply all of your need according to my riches in glory.”  – Philippians 4:19

We can say I am defeated

But He says…”GOD ALWAYS CAUSES ME TO TRIUMPH IN CHRIST JESUS.” – 2 Corinthians 2:14

COME OUT OF THE TOMB….BE SET FREE

We can say I’m bound

But He says …”Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

We can say I’m under condemnation

But He says…”There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” – Romans 8:1

COME OUT OF THE TOMB… BE SET FREE

We can say we are sick

But He says…”By my stripes you are healed.”  1 Peter 2:24

We can say Satan has me overpowered

But He says…”Greater am I that is in you that he that is in the world.” – 1 John 4:4

COME OUT OF THE TOMB….BE SET FREE

We can say we have too many doubts and don’t have enough faith

But He says…”I have given to everyone a measure of faith.” – Romans 12:3

What is your need today?  Come out of the tomb….be set free.  

Desperate Situations Call for Drastic Actions

John 11:14-15 – Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.  And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless, let us go to him.”

  • Joseph in Genesis 39 faced a desperate situation as Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him.  He ran and ended up in jail.  Yet in all his desperate situations – sold as a slave by his brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, in jail, he trusted God.

Genesis 39:2 – The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian

Genesis 39:23 – The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.

  • Paul and Silas found themselves in a desperate situation when they were beaten and put in jail in Philippi.  But they trusted in God and sang praises to Him.

Acts 16:25 – But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

  • The three Hebrew children were in a desperate situation when threatened with the fiery furnace if they would not bow down and worship the image of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 3:17-18 – If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

  • In Acts 27 Paul and those with him faced a desperate situation when they were shipwrecked.  But Paul had already prayed and had God’s assurance that all would be safe.

Acts 27:39-44 – When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible.  And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore.  But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.  And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape.  But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.

  • In Acts 28 Paul faced a desperate situation when a poisonous snake bit him.  But he knew that God had sent him on this journey and no snake could kill him.

Acts 28:3-5 – But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.  So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.”  But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.

  • Lazarus and his sisters faced a desperate situation when Lazarus became sick – and died.  They wondered why Jesus did not come and heal Lazarus.  But Jesus had a better plan.

John 11:14-15 – Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.  And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

What is happening right now in your life?

  • Are you facing a desperate situation?
  • What drastic act do you need to take?
  • Do you have loved ones who are not ready to meet the Lord?
  • Do you have problems that you do not know how to handle?
  • Are your children, grandchildren in need of making right choices?
  • Are you failing to do what you know is right?
  • Are you desperate enough to take those situations to God? 
  • Will you be like Joseph and trust in God no matter what the situation?
  • Will you be like Paul and Silas and praise God in spite of the situation?
  • Will you be like the three Hebrew children and refuse to bow down to other gods but keep on serving the one true God no matter what difficulties may come as a result of that decision?
  • Will you be like Paul and be prayed up before the desperate situations come and then trust Him in that situation?
  • Will you trust that, like Lazarus, Mary and Martha, even though God may not seem to answer our prayers as want them answered, He is in control and He will make all things right in His time and in His way?  Are you willing to let your desperate situation bring glory to God?

Seeing Jesus

John 9:8-41 –

Therefore, the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”  Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.”  He said, “I am he.”  Therefore, they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”  He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.”  Then they said to him, “Where is He?”  He said, “I do not know.”  They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.  Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.  Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”  Therefore, some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”  Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.  They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?” 

He said, “He is a prophet.”  But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight.  And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”  His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.”  His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.  Therefore, his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”  So, they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.” 

He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”  Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”  He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”  Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.  We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”  The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!  Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.  Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.  If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”  They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.  Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”  And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”  Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.  And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”  Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore, your sin remains.

Seeing Jesus as a man – The blind man was

  • Confronted by Jesus
  • Commanded to do something
  • Was obedient to the commands of Jesus
  • Was delivered from darkness and given light

The healed man knew that it was “a man that is called Jesus” who had healed him.  He was blessed by Jesus despite an inadequate understanding of Christ.  His heart was right toward Jesus.  It was tender and willing to do what Jesus said.  A man must learn about Jesus before he can learn of Jesus, before he can ever come to know Jesus personally.  The blind man could have stopped at any stage and failed in his spiritual journey. 

Matthew 11:28-29 – Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Seeing Jesus as a Helper or a Healer – The blind man still saw Jesus as a man, but as a man who had done a great thing by helping him and healing him.  Many confess Jesus was:

  • Great teacher
  • Great moralist
  • Great teacher
  • Great example

But this concept of Jesus still falls far short of the truth. 

Luke 4:22 – So all bore witness to Him and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Luke 4:32 – And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.

Seeing Jesus as a prophet – The blind man recognized Jesus as a man chosen by God, but still only a man. 

Matthew 16:13-14 – When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Matthew 21:10-11 – And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”  So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Matthew 21:46 – But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

Seeing Jesus as the Savior

The man who had received his sight now confessed the immortal words, “One thing I know, I was blind, now I see.  He was confessing his personal experience; he was blind, but now he could see.  He could not answer the theological question – Is Jesus a mere man as all other men, or is He of God?  But he could answer one thing – his own personal experience.  He saw that Jesus was more than a mere man.  Like a child, he did not know the theological terms nor how to express the nature of Jesus, but he did know one thing – Jesus had delivered and saved him from blindness. 

John 3:17 – For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

1 Timothy 1:15 – This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Seeing Jesus as being “of God”

This was the man’s final answer to those who questioned him.  He confessed that Jesus was “of God.”  He knew that the works of Jesus were proof that He was from God. 

John 7:28-29 – Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, “You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.”

John 8:42 – Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.

Seeing Jesus as the Son of God

Matthew 14:33 – Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

John 1:34 – And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

John 3:16-18 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 10:36 – do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

1 John 4:15 – Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Believing Jesus to be the Son of God and worshipping Him

John 5:24 – Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

Romans 10:9-10 – that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Jesus Passed By

John 9:1-7 – Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.  And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So, he went and washed, and came back seeing.

Spiritual Sight – man is spiritually blind and his eyes need to be opened.  The mission of Jesus is to open the eyes of man.

Jesus “saw” him.  He had concern and compassion. 

It was a common belief that a man suffered because of sin, his own or his parents’ sin.  Jesus said the man’s suffering was not because of sin, but to demonstrate God’s power.

Man suffers…..

So that God canSo that man can
Have an opportunity to workGive God an opportunity to show what He can do in a life
Show His compassionLearn to trust God more and more
Prove His powerDemonstrate a special strength and endurance
Demonstrate that He does care and look after menSet forth a dynamic example of God’s care and power to a lost world
Lead unbelievers to trust HimBetter learn and know that he lives in a sinful, corruptible world and desperately needs deliverance

Jesus carried the discussion beyond the man’s blindness.  The disciples were perplexed over this man’s situation, wondering and asking questions about the problem of suffering and sin.  Jesus picked up the question and moved it to His world-wide mission as the Light of the world.  He dealt with the problem of suffering and sin throughout the whole world.  His very mission upon earth was to work the works of God.

Jesus Christ’s mission

  • The work of seeking man – Jesus took the initiate with this man, reaching out to help him. 

Luke 19:10 – for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

  • The work of caring for man – Jesus cared that the man was blind

Matthew 20:28 – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

1 Peter 5:7 – casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

  • The work of love and compassion

Hebrews 4:15-16 – For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

  • The work of delivering from darkness and giving sight

Colossians 1:13 – He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.

Urgency of mission

  • The word ‘must” means compulsion and necessity.  There are no questions, no suggestions about the matter.  The works of God must be done.
  • The time for work is limited.  Only so much time has been given.  Whatever is to be done must be done today, while there is still time.

John 9:4 – I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.

Ephesians 5:16 – redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Jesus is the Light of the world.

  • If man wishes to be delivered from darkness, he must come to Christ.  He is the only One who can give sight to man and his world.

John 1:4 – In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 8:12 – Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

2 Corinthians 4:6 – For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual sight comes by faith and obedience

  • The man’s faith needed to be aroused.  Jesus used two things to awaken the man’s faith.
  • He used a point of contact – he anointed the man’s eyes with clay.
  • He instructed him to go wash his eyes.  He “sent” him. 
  • As the man obeyed Jesus, he was given sight.

Man can be delivered from the darkness of sin, death and corruption by coming to Jesus Christ and obeying Him.

Romans 4:20-22 – He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.  And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Psalm 31:119 — Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!

Psalm 37:5 – Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.

Free

John 8:31-36 – Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”  Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

There are 1,522 “if’s” in the Bible (King James Version).  They all express a condition.  IF believers are to remain as true disciples and have freedom from sin, there is a condition.  Continue in the Word of God.

If a believer continues in sin, he becomes the servant of sin.

Knowing the truth is the secret of freedom from sin and all the problems this life has.  Christ died to set men free.

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

James 1:5-8 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

False claim

They claimed they were Abraham’s descendants and had never been in bondage to anyone.  False statement.  What about Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greece, and Rome as well as many smaller nations during the time of the Judges.

We say we are free in Christ.  But are we?  Are we

  • Free from fear?
  • Free from oppression?
  • Free from the habits of the world?
  • Free from depression?
  • Free from bad attitudes?

Our freedom comes from

  • Knowing the Word of God
  • Believing the Word of God
  • Obeying the Word of God

Romans 6:16-23 – Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?  But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.  But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:1-13 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

I’m free!  So free! I’ve life in the Spirit and the Spirit’s in me. I’m rejoicing because I am not what I was. Thanks for Calvary I’m free!

Who Can Cast the First Stone?

John 8:1-11 – But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.  Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”  This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.  So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

The Mosaic Law stated that adultery was punishable by death.  As Jesus taught in the temple, the scribes and Pharisees interrupted His teaching to bring a woman caught in adultery.  They were not really interested in following the Law of Moses.  If they were, where was the man involved in this?  He was just as guilty as the woman.  If they had actually caught this woman “in the very act”, then the man would have been present.  Judging was not really on their mind.  They wanted to trap Jesus.  If He said they should stone her according to the Law, they would have accused Him of lacking compassion and mercy.  He also would have been guilty of suggesting the Roman law should be broken because under the Roman’s rule, the Jews could not condemn anyone to death and death by stoning had been outlawed.

On the other hand, if He said not to stone her, they would have accused Him of contradicting the Law of Moses and declared Him to be a false teacher.  So He did what we should do so much of the time, He kept silent.

Deuteronomy 22:22 – If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.

He wrote in the sand.  No one knows what He wrote, but there have been many conjectures on our part.  Maybe He wrote the words about judging from His “Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 7:1-5 – Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Maybe He wrote His condemnations of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy found in Matthew 23:13-33

Matthew 23:13-33 – But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!….Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites….

Perhaps He wrote something similar to what Paul later wrote about judging.

Romans 2:1 – Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

How much time elapsed while they continued to argue their point of view is unknown.  I am sure the longer they talked, the louder they got.  I am also sure that He knew the right time to raise up and look them in the eye and make one simply statement.  “He who is without sin among you, let him first throw a stone at her.first.”

If He wrote in the sand the sins of those present, what did He write?

  • Murderer
  • Liar
  • Thief
  • Adulterer
  • Unfaithful to God’s house
  • Deceiver
  • Gossiper
  • Prideful
  • Unloving
  • Unkind
  • Envier

Had you been standing there; would you have been the first to cast the first stone?  We sometimes look at ourselves with bias.

I am not like him/her

I do not do this or that

If you want to throw stones, throw them at the devil.  Put him to flight.  He is the accuser of the brethren.

Revelation 12:10 – Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.

Before you judge someone else, point at yourself in the mirror and say, “I am totally free from all sin, all fault, and all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8-9 – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 3:10 – As it is written:  “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

No condemnation.  When Jesus looked up the second time from writing in the sand, not one of the accusers remained.  When she told Him no man remained to condemn her, He spoke words of comfort to her.  “Neither do I condemn you.  God and sin no more.”

There is no condemnation for us today from God.

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

John 3:17 – For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Our unconfessed sin and lack of believing on Jesus is what will condemn us.

John 3:18 – He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 8:11 – And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Make a Joyful Sound

John 7:37-39 – On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Isaiah 55:1-2 – “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat.  Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.

John 15:9-11 – As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

Isaiah 12:3 – Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Psalm 66:1 – Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands.

Psalm 81:1 – Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.

Psalm 95:1-2 – O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.  Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

Psalm 98:4 – Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

Psalm 100:1 – Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands.

Make a Joyful Sound

  • When things are going right,
  • Make a joyful sound.
  • When things are going wrong,
  • Make a joyful sound.
  • When you are well in body and soul,
  • Make a joyful sound.
  • When you are sick physically or spiritually,
  • Make a joyful sound.
  • When you have many friends,
  • Make a joyful sound.
  • When all your friends are gone,
  • Make a joyful sound.
  • When you are blessed with this world’s goods,
  • When you are poor and destitute.

In all things, make a joyful sound.

Your joy will see you through,

Because it does not come from you.

Feeding the Five Thousand

John 6:1-14

After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.  Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.  And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.  Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.  Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”  But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.  Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”  One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”  Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.  And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.  So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”  Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.  Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

When we look at this great event we are amazed at its magnitude.  But any miracle or sign from God, great or small, is an amazing event for us to comprehend and/or experience.

We look at the Scripture and we immediately try to grasp the amount of food that was consumed, or we ask ourselves how was this accomplished?  Truly, it was from God for man could not even begin to duplicate a spontaneous sit-down lunch for this many people.  (5,000 men plus the women and children – another 15,000 with a total of at least 20,000.)

But there is much more to understand in this passage.

  • Verse 2 – He is the God of healing – Prior to the feeding of the five thousand, it was the same people who had been healed and delivered of disease that followed Jesus and He would feed them.
  • Verse 3 – He is the God of  Communication and Teaching – He sat with His disciples and taught them, explaining what had just transpired.
  • Verse 4 – He is the God of Celebration – Passover was the celebration of being freed from Egyptian bondage.
  • Verse 5 – He is the God of compassion – Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat.”
  • Verse 6 – He is the God of glory and in control – But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
  • Verses 7-9 – He is the God of the impossible – Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”  One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him,   “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
  • Verse 10 – He is the God of order – Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
  • Verse 10 – He is the God community – fellowship.
  • Verse 11 – He is the God of servant hood – And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
  • Verse 12 – He is the God who satisfies – So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”
  • Verse 13 – He is the God of blessing and frugality – Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
  • Verse 14 – He is the God of revelation – Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Looking at these varied descriptions of who Jesus is in this miracle we find:

  • Verse 5 – He really cares about our needs, wants, concerns like no other.  He wants to meet our needs right where we are.
  • Verse 6 – Everywhere we see the miracle workings of Jesus we catch a glimpse of His glory.  Think for a moment and realize what His glory will be like when we experience it personally in heaven.
  • Verses 7-9 – Just think of the logistics of providing free food to such a large crowd in the place that they were gathered.
  • Verse 10 – Order was the only way it could be accomplished.  Otherwise some might be afraid they would not have enough to go around.  It could have cause chaos.
  • Verse 11 – He used His followers to assist in the orderly distribution of the food.  After all, He had taught them about being servants.
  • Verse 12 – Everyone ate their fill and was content with what had been provided.  Are we always content with our supply?
  • Verse 13 – There was more than enough for all and plenty left over for the disciples to have a snack later.
  • Verse 14 – God truly revealed His greatness on this day.  No mere sleight of hand or a magician could have accomplished such a feat.

In all the various thoughts that might run through one’s mind as you ponder this story, there is one thing we must remember.  God is able to do more than we dare to imagine for He is truly the God of all Gods, the Great and Mighty One that transcends all possible explanation of greatness. 

Verily, Verily

John 5:24-25

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.

The King James Version of the Bible uses the phrase, “verily I say unto you”, a total of 115 times.  Out of the 115 times, 78 times are in the Gospels.  John’s Gospel is the only book in the Bible that uses the words “verily, verily, I say unto you”, twice in succession and it does so twenty-five times.   That word stands out.  In other Versions, a similar word is used.

  • New King James Version – “assuredly, I say unto you”
  • New International Version – “I tell you the truth”   
  • Amplified Version – “Truly I tell you”
  • Contemporary English – “I Promise You”
  • Message Bible – “Listen to this carefully”
  • God’s Word Translation – “I guarantee this truth”
  • Holman Christian Standard – “I assure you”

In everyday language we would probably say something like:

  • Listen Up
  • Pay close attention
  • Hear this
  • Listen very carefully
  • Listen to me now

All of these draw special attention to the statement that follows the word “verily” or “verily, verily” or whatever phrase they use.  But John, alone, used the word twice in succession.   Perhaps the era in which he lived, he felt that extra emphasis was necessary to get people’s attention to the truth that followed.  He lived longer than many of the others who were close followers of our Lord and influenced more people because of that long life.  Remember, John is the one who, in Revelations, Chapter 2 and 3 used the phrase “He that has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches” seven times.  He may have been following the example of Jesus, and followed closely Jesus’ use of that phrase “verily, verily.” 

John was the writer of a unique Gospel and a unique Revelation prophecy.  His Gospel is topical, dealing with specific details, not primarily chronological like the other three Gospels, and the same topic is not always covered in other Gospels.  His Gospel revolved around seven miracles and seven “I am” statements of Christ.  His purpose is crystal clear.  It was written to spark believing faith in the reader.   Four of the miracles in John’s Gospel do not appear in any of the other three.  Only John spoke about Lazarus being raised from the dead and has more to say about this particular miracle of Jesus than any other in any Gospel.

Martin Luther King used the same tactic when he gave that speech titled “I have a dream” and he used that phrase over and over.  Most public speakers do the same kind of thing when speaking.  I, myself, quite often do so also.

Are the statements you make around your family, around your friends clear to those you are speaking to and do you use words or phrases, like John did that will get their attention?  Are you following Jesus closely or afar off?  Are you making a difference in others’ lives?  

John 5:24-25 – Most assuredly, (or verily, verily) I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, (WOW, WHAT A TRUTH) and shall not come into judgment, (ANOTHER GREAT TRUTH) but has passed (NOTE “has passed” IS PAST TENSE) from death into life.  Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 

Shortly after this statement Lazarus was raised from the dead.  What God promised, He fulfilled.

Life and judgment are through the Son – Verse 24 speaks of life, everlasting life.

  • If one has heard the Word of the Lord
  • If one has believed in the Father who sent the Son
  • If one has asked forgiveness of the Son through the Father
  • If one has come to the foot of the cross
  • If one has made peace with their past
  • If one has placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • If one lives faithfully for the Lord

Then judgment for those sins that one has committed has already taken place; that one has everlasting life.  Though that one may go by way of the grave they are dead in Christ physically, but alive spiritually.  That one shall hear the voice of the Son of God when He comes in His glory at the sound of the trumpet. 

John 3:16-18 – For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.  For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.  He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation–he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ’s name.]  (Amplified Bible)

John 6:47 – Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.

John 6:47 – I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, he who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, relies on, and has faith in Me] has (now possesses) eternal life.  (Amplified Bible)

1 John 3:14 – We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.