Disciple: Battling Your Demons
The other day I saw on Facebook that a person was trying to start a movement – not quite as far reaching as Jesus, but… Their goal was to saturate Social Media with pictures of cute kittens doing cute things. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal – but the goal was to help get rid of negativity and be positive.
Who would be opposed to a picture of a cute kitten?
Answer: Lots of people.
People who like dogs.
People who were downright mean.
People who told her to get a life and that the kittens needed to be her profile pic because she was so ugly.
Here’s the reality -- movements always have opposition – even harmless cat picture movements have opposition.
And so does Jesus.
The American Revolution had the British Forces.
The Civil Rights movement had the KKK.
Even in the fantasy world -- the Rebel Alliance was opposed by the Imperial Forces.
Movements always have opposition and so does Jesus’ discipleship movement.
Last week we learned that disciples are those who follow Jesus’ call. Today we want to dig into Scripture and learn from Jesus himself who our real opponents are and how we can defeat them. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story
The lesson for today is from Mark 1:21. It takes place less than a week after the account about Jesus calling the first disciples on the fishing docks. In fact, verse 21 says it was on the next Sabbath Day. Since the fishermen were fishing in the last account, that means they were working. They wouldn’t have been working if it was the Sabbath Day (Saturday); so, it has been at most six days since Peter, Andrew, James and John started following Jesus.
That isn’t a lot of time.
It means they were still in the orientation part of becoming a disciple. They were still at the basics of their training. They were learning about their employer, about the benefits package and the specific role that they would play in the company.
And on this particular day class was outside the local synagogue.
And Jesus was on a roll.
“He is so amazing!”
“I know. His message is so on point. So different.”
“Yep. He talks about forgiveness. He talks about grace. I’m starting to feel like even I could be a part of his kingdom.”
“And it’s not like he’s making it up. Those Pharisees – that’s what they always say. They say, ‘I think’, ‘I surmise’ and ‘my personal opinion is.’ Not Jesus. He says, “This is God’s Word,’ ‘God says,” and “This is truth.”
As the disciples listened to the crowds’ reactions, they couldn’t help but feel excited. This thing had legs.
People were listening.
People were excited.
People wanted to be a part of this.
At least, most people…
WHAT DO YOU WANT WITH US JESUS OF NAZARETH!?!
All heads from the crowd immediately turned to the back.
There stood a man. Disheveled. Hair eschew. A bit of drool coming from his mouth as a wild-eyed gaze stared hatefully at Jesus.
He didn’t look good. And the vein that was throbbing from the top of his head screamed evil.
He spoke again.
What do you want with us? Did you come to Destroy us?
As he spoke, he motioned with his hands to the crowd around them. He meant to call into question Jesus’ motivation for this movement. He was implying that Jesus wasn’t really there to help, but to cause total and absolute destruction.
“I know who you are…!” He made his way forward – inching closer to Jesus as he pointed at him violently – “You are the Holy One of God.” (v..24)
At this, the disciples started to get a bit uncomfortable. Maybe it was the violence the man was spewing or the possibility that he was right! Regardless the crowd’s whispers had changed:
Who is this guy?
Is he right?
Is Jesus really against us? Or is this guy just a demon?
John’s ears perked up. A demon? If that last one was right, maybe this discipling wasn’t really worth it. After all, they had signed up to be fishers of men not fighters of demons. John’s eyes started darting as he looked for an escape route.
At this point, the man was feet away from Jesus.
The tension was building.
The drama was at a high.
The uncertainty of who would win was palpable.
Then, Jesus spoke:
“Be quiet and come out of the man.” (v.25)
No sooner did Jesus finish the “m” on the Hebrew word for “man” than the intruder began to shake.
He fell to his knees and let out a terrifying shriek and fell to the floor. Limp.
Jesus checked on him and the man sat up.
No longer looking evil but exhausted.
No longer hateful, but thankful.
No longer a demon, but a follower.
This is a very important account. It teaches what we said earlier -- there is opposition to Jesus’ message and it’s scarier than you think:
Jesus is opposed by the all too real demons of hell itself.
II. The Terrifying Reality of the Opposition
Have you ever seen Ghost Hunters before? It’s a documentary show on one of the cable channels. The premise is that a bunch of scientists will spend the night in a place that’s “haunted” and try to figure out if it’s real or fake. And they always come back with footage that’s questionable. A floating light. A moving picture. A high-pitched noise.
And…I don’t know. It could be a weird coincidence. It could be camera editing. It could be some guy in the background throwing things on camera.
I’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not ghosts. The Bible doesn’t teach ghosts. The Bible teaches that when people die their souls do not hang out on earth to try and get done some unfinished business. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, “The dust returns to the ground it came from and the spirit return to God who gave it.” This means that those noises and weird instances on ghost hunters cannot be caused by ghosts.
But it could something much worse.
If you are skeptical, this account of Jesus is very helpful. Consider the following:
1. Visible Immediacy of the Change
Notice: as soon as Jesus says, “get out of the man,” there is a violent reaction. It describes him as shaking, a violent shake and screaming. The original Greek sentence says, “And he loud noised a very loud noise.”
And it isn’t just a show! There are hundreds of people presents who absolutely believe something very strange just happened. The Bible says, “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this?...He gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”
And we know it wasn’t something that they were unsure about. Because do you really want your neighbors to call you crazy? Yet the people were so certain of this happening that they told anyone they could. In fact, the Bible says, “News about Jesus spread throughout the whole region”
This leads to the second point.
2. The Public Nature of the Event
Because this miracle was not done in vacuum.
It wasn’t behind closed doors.
It isn’t like only a few people saw it.
It was at the synagogue.
Lots of people saw it.
Lots of people knew the man who had been possessed.
And lots of people knew that after Jesus talked to him, there was a giant shriek, shaking and suddenly the man was perfectly sane.
And guess what? These people were still around by the time this document from Mark was circulating. Mark’s Gospel is written only about 10 years after the event. The people who read about the demon defeat near at the Synagogue near Galilee could have said “This isn’t true. I was there. It’s fake!”
But they didn’t.
Because they saw it.
And it was real.
In fact, it isn’t the only time.
3. Only One of Many Instances
The Gospel writers report that Jesus drove out other demons. What’s very interesting is that when he did so, there was always a visible, public, instantaneous change that took place in the person which proved to onlookers this was not phoniness.
Jesus drove out a mute man’s demon in Luke 11. The proof it was real? The man spoke -- for the first time in ages.
Jesus drove out a young boy’s demon in Mark 9. The proof it was real? The boy stopped convulsing on the ground, he was held by his father and his father confirmed his healing. (Think about it – would the dad really force his son into convulsions and cutting himself in order to pull one over on some gullible people? No way!)
And then, there’s the story of Legion. Legion who lived on an island. His name wasn’t really Legion – Legion is just the name that the demons referred to themselves because like the Roman Legion – they were many. Legion had been on an island because people were terrified of him because they knew he was demon possessed. They were so terrified that they chained him up.
Jesus went to see him. Terrified the demons, said, “Don’t get rid of us – send us into that herd of pigs over there.”
And instantly – the man fell to his knees healed.
But at the same instant – the pigs started squealing. The crowd with Jesus looked over to the fields and saw a stampede of pigs heading to the lake – to drown themselves.
And you might think? How cruel Jesus!
But understand this – If Jesus had simply said, “be well.” And the man was well – who would believe anything happened?
Instead, Jesus made it very clear –
This wasn’t a ruse.
This wasn’t phoniness.
This wasn’t a trick.
Demons were real.
Very real opposition for his disciples.
All of this leads to one very important truth for you to take home. BE WARY. The Bible says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) And to be fair – lions don’t usually come running out, roaring and making as much noise possible in a bum rush attack. Nor do demons.
Instead, they tend to prowl. They hide. They make you think that there is no possible way that they exist…that you are safe…that you don’t need Jesus...that the sin isn’t so bad…that the temptation will be ok…
III. The Awesome Reality of Being Jesus’ Disciple
But don’t be afraid.
Because in the account, did you notice something?
There wasn’t a battle.
Jesus simply spoke, and he utterly destroyed the demon.
Later on – with that Legion guy – when the demons saw Jesus coming, the demons are the ones who scream!
Because while demons might be the things of a horror film for us – Jesus is the thing of horror to them.
THEY DON’T STAND A CHANCE.
Not even years later – when they had successfully tempted people.
When the devil entered Judas to betray him.
When the demons had led people into vitriol and violence that they angrily scream, “Crucify Him!”
And Jesus is nailed to a giant piece of wood to hang and die.
The demons celebrated and drank in the wine of this violence….
…About 5 am Sunday morning. The demons were still waking up from the hangover of their celebration…when…an earthquake, an empty grave – Jesus was alive!
He was not defeated.
He defeated the thing – death – that defeats us all.
He defeated thing – sin – that causes death.
And he defeated the things – demons – that tempt us to sin which leads to death.
Jesus defeated the devil and his demons on the cross!
And that’s the Jesus who is on your side.
So. Do not be afraid. If he was able to take their best shot and turn it around on their heads in devastating defeat while he was dead… What will he do while he lives?
He’ll protect you.
He’ll keep you safe.
He’ll destroy Satan’s attacks.
IV. What Now?
A. Don’t Play with Fire
Have you heard that one before? It makes sense. If you prefer not to get burned, it would be wise not to grab burning logs from your fire place for something to cuddle with. Stay away from the fire and you won’t get burned.
It’s the same thing with these demons. Because maybe you’re thinking: “This isn’t a problem for me. I don’t like the devil and I don’t worship him. It’s all good.”
Ouija board with my Friday night group – It’s just a joke.
Visit to a psychic? It’ll just be fun.
Some kind of mirror trick that I saw on YouTube? It isn’t real - -is it?
Careful. That’s playing with fire. You’ll get burned.
Even the movies we watch. We need to reevaluate. Because horror films – especially stuff related to the devil – it can get to you. It can scare you. It can cause nightmares. Some of you know this and it’s why you avoid it.
But I’m almost concerned for the people who think, “It’s no big deal. It doesn’t affect me.”
Watch out. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion…hidden, making you think it’s no big deal, waiting for the right moment to devour you.
Don’t let him have that opportunity. Don’t play with the Spiritual fire.
B. Call on Jesus
Because Jesus is powerful, and He has authority. His Word has authority.
I remember one time when I was an assistant pastor we were invited over by a fellow pastor to go to a house that the owners said was haunted. Honestly, the pastor seemed a bit spooked by the stories of what was going on there – weird changes in temperature, strange things in the mirror, and little kids who was insistent on seeing scary things.
We went together – a group of us – and…
We read God’s Word.
We implored the devil to leave.
And – I don’t know how much was going on – but I can at least say this: The devil had the lady spooked.
And God’s Word brought peace to the house.
God’s Word is powerful.
So, whatever your demons are – real, possession like demons – or (more likely) guilt, the temptation to lust, addiction, racism, you name it – run to Jesus’ powerful words.
Learn it speak it.
Jesus will drive your demons away.
Because Jesus is on our side and we know who wins.
Unlike the many who will watch the Super Bowl this Sunday and they will get nervous. They’ll get anxious. Maybe the game will get close and they will think, “I don’t know if we’re going to win.”
You know who wins.
It’s not the devil.
It’s not his legions of demons.
And Jesus gives you the victor over the opposition. Amen.
Disciple: The Call
Our new sermon series is all about the word “disciple.” The word is interesting. It’s simple meaning is “follower.” Look up in the dictionary and it refers to “one who adheres to the teachings of another.” So, it isn’t necessarily Christian, yet, it seems to be strictly associated with Jesus.
That’s probably because of the 12 disciples. Have you heard of them? The 12 disciples are a group of 12 men who followed Jesus during his three-year ministry. Remember their names? I do because of the well-known song:
Peter, Andrew, James, and John, fishermen of Capernaum,
Thomas, and St. Matthew too, Philip and Bartholomew,
James and Less and Jude the Brave,
Simon the Zealot and Judas the Knave,
Twelve Disciples here in all, following the Master’s call.
These 12 disciples made discipling famous.
But a disciple is more than just those 12.
A disciple is any follower of Jesus.
What’s it take to be Jesus’ disciple in 2018? That’s the goal of our sermon series. We will learn about being a disciple, as we look at how Jesus disciples his disciples. Before we begin, let’s say a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story
The first lesson that we’re going to learn about being a disciple comes from a time before the disciples were disciples. Because before they could follow, they needed Jesus to tell them to follow. They needed a calling. And one of the very first instances come from Mark 1.
Picture Mark 1 opening up with a beautiful morning sunrise sneaking over the horizon of the Galilean Sea. Standing on the beach is a guy named John. He’s holding a cup of his favorite He-Brew blend coffee close to his nose and breathes it in.
“Caffeine and fish guts! Beautiful isn’t it?”
John looks to see his friend Peter smirking in his direction as he holds a bundle of thickly roped nets in his arms. “You don’t mind if I borrow them this morning.”
“Go ahead. Just be sure to give us a few of your catch as payment.” John’s brother James comments as he throws an oar into their boat. “Dad’s expecting that we have all our nets out on the sea this morning.” Peter nodded, took a swig of the rum bottle setting at the edge of the dock and went off.
Meanwhile James makes his way around to his brother, “Did you hear about the commotion downtown yesterday?”
“It’s that Jesus guy again. Apparently, he was outside the Capernaum synagogue telling a bunch of Pharisees to Repent! I wish I could have been there. It would have been nice to knock those religious zealots off their high pulpits. Apparently, he told them all that they too were sinners and they too were in need of a Savior.”
John shook his head as he threw another pile of nets into the boat. “Repent, huh? That sounds a bit like John the Baptist. Only John was at least interesting. He was homeless. He lived in the desert. He ate poached crickets for breakfast. This Jesus guy? He’s just a commoner. He’s a carpenter. I just don’t think it’d be worth following him.”
“Well,” James continues, “He’s got loads of people following him already. In fact,” he leans in real close, “I think I know the difference. John the Baptist proclaimed sin and the need for a Savior. This Jesus? He proclaims sin…and that He is the Savior.”
John pauses. “That is interesting. Interesting and foolish. How can a carpenter save us from sin?”
James shrugs. “I don’t know. But…there’s something about him…”
John returns to loading up the boat with buckets and nets. Only pausing to talk report to his dad about where they planned on fishing that morning and how much they expected to haul in. Just as they were about to push off…a commotion. Up the road, about 100 feet away, John could see a small group following a rather plain looking man. The man was teaching and talking as he went and the others were listening.
“Hey!” James whistles. “It’s that Jesus guy I was talking about.”
John leans closer, steadying the boat and straining to listen: “Repent! The Kingdom of heaven is near. Repent! For God’s kingdom is here. Repent to be saved from destruction. Repent and trust God’s Messiah – to be saved from sin.” (Mk 1.)
John watches as Jesus talks.
He certainly looks convincing.
He certainly seems to believe what he’s saying.
But…again…how could it be true?
How could some carpenter be a Savior from sin?
As John watches the group approach, the dynamic changes.
Jesus stops talking and turns towards the docks.
He turns towards some fishermen in the boats.
He turns…toward Peter.
“Come. Follow me.” (v.19)
John let out a quiet guffaw. He couldn’t be serious…Peter? He’s a bit gruff for spiritual work…He smelled of worm guts, four letter words and a bit of stale wine.
Peter wasn’t that foolish.
Peter didn’t like religious folk.
Peter would never follow a…
John’s thoughts were cut off. Because in less than an instant, Peter jumped over the boat and into the water. He waded as quickly as he could to the shore near Jesus. His brother Andrew followed – he docked the boat and approached on land – but he approached Jesus too.
They all shook hands.
And they followed Jesus.
They followed Jesus right over to the dock where John was.
And John’s thoughts started swirling. Me? He better not stop for me…Does he know who I am? I don’t have any religious credentials. I’m not a Pharisee; I’m a fisherman. And a sinner. I’ve got filthy language. I’ve been known to get drunk. And I’ve struggled with lusting after that servant girl on dock 9.
This Jesus is on a spiritual crusade.
This Jesus seems righteous.
This Jesus seems holy.
How could I ever fit in?
But…Jesus…as if reading his thoughts…smiled.
And stretched out his hand.
“Come. Follow me.”
John looked at Jesus.
He looked at James.
He looked at his net…and threw it to the ground.
He got out of the boat and followed Jesus.
He had a calling.
II. Notes on Jesus’ Calling
And there you have it. The very first calling of the very first disciples to follow Jesus. Peter, Andrew, James and John. But what I think interesting about this account is how there are quite a few things about Jesus’ calling of these disciples that are the same as when he calls you and me to be disciples.
No, we don’t all own boats.
And none of us smell like fish – at least I think.
But there are three important ways that our calling as disciple is the same.
1. The Call is Urgent
Note what it says that Jesus’ main message was very time sensitive. He said, “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (v.15)
Notice what he did not say – “The time is next week.”
Or, “The time is in a few years.”
Or even, “The time is after you have graduated college, found a wife, and started a career.”
Jesus’ call to the people was urgent.
The call of the disciple is urgent.
And Jesus’ call to you to be his disciple is urgent.
This is so interesting. Because 21st century humans are usually very urgent about things. We are always in a hurry – and this week with the snow – was tough for a lot of us – because we are always in a hurry.
We are in a hurry to get to work.
In a hurry to make money.
In a hurry to get the kids to karate.
In a hurry to make supper.
In a hurry to get the kids to bed so we can sit down and catch the latest episode of Fuller House on Netflix!
We are always in a hurry – except when it comes to Jesus.
I’ve been a pastor for 6 ½ years now, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone say:
“Sorry Pastor. No time to chat. We’ve got to hurry home and study the Bible.”
Or: “Pastor --- could you get that baptism scheduled soon! Let’s hurry it up.”
Or: “Pastor – can we start Bible basics at 6am tomorrow morning? I can’t wait to grow in faith.”
It just doesn’t happen.
Honestly, I don’t have the urgency I should when it comes to Jesus.
But we should.
Because Jesus is the only way to heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is near.
Meaning death is near.
Meaning our judgment from God is near.
Meaning our judgment from God that determines where we spend eternity is near.
I bet there are some people in Hawaii get this. Did you hear about it? There was an accidental nuclear warhead warning. For 7 minutes people thought that the island was about to explode, and their lives ended. They called loved ones. They hid where they could. They prayed prayers.
But it wasn’t real.
They didn’t die.
But eventually they will.
And you will.
This is urgent.
2. The Call is Hard
Jesus call was this: “Repent!” (v.15) Repent means to do a 180-degree turn.
It’s like Simon Says. Ever played that? Simon says what you are to do and you do it. Simon says, “Raise your hand,” so you raise your hand. Simon says, “blink your eyes,” so you blink your eyes. Simon says, “Repent,” so you turn around.
Jesus says repent and you turn around.
Not physically, but spiritually.
You turn from sin to Savior.
And this isn’t as easy as Simon Says.
Think about what Jesus is calling you to turn from.
Turn from selfishness. Stop worrying about yourself, stop the innate desire to make you # 1.
Turn from toxic friendships – particularly ones that selfishly won’t want you to leave
Turn from overdrinking – so challenging there’s chemical dependence struggling against you.
And that’s not all to turn from.
Turn from heterosexual lust.
Turn from homosexual lust.
Turn from hatred.
Turn from racism.
Turn from four letter words.
Turn from gossip.
Turn from greed.
Turn from pride.
Jesus is calling you, “Turn from following your sinful desires and turn toward following me.”
But oh so blessed.
Because what does following any random sexual desire lead to? Brokenness in family, guilt in your heart, and the cycle of trying to fill your desire with the next desire.
And what does overdrinking lead to? A headache, bad decisions, hurt friendships – even alcoholism.
And what does pride lead to? Missing out on key help, losing friends, and a loneliness when no one wants to be around you.
Following sinful desires leads to nothing good.
But following Jesus?
That leads to complete forgiveness.
That leads to peace with God.
That leads to eternal life.
That leads to joy everlasting.
Because when you follow Jesus, you’ll see that he followed the desires of his heart.
And the desires of his heart – were you.
It led him to the cross.
It led him to suffer on that cross.
It led him to die on that cross.
It led him to emerge from the grave victoriously – to save you from sin.
This is the good news that comes with following Jesus.
He is your Savior.
3. The Call is for You
This is important. Because it’s easy to think – these 12 disciples must have had something special about them.
They must have been a higher level of qualified than I could ever be.
They must have been perfectly suited for being disciples.
But look at this. Did you see verse 20? When Jesus had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them…
Did you notice that? “Without delay?”
There wasn’t a test.
Not even a Facebook quiz.
Jesus just calls…
Because Jesus calls sinners.
Are you a sinner? Jesus is calling you.
“Come. Follow me.”
But I’m pretty guilty.
But I struggle with homosexuality.
But I keep lying.
But I got a DUI once.
But I said some horrible things just last week.
But I’ve been divorced…twice.
Jesus still calls.
He calls you without delay.
Come. Follow me.
III. What Now?
1. Follow the Call
You have one. Whether you’ve never followed Jesus before or you’ve followed him for a long time. Follow him!
Because some of you might be thinking, “I’ve been following Jesus for a long time. I’ve already answered the call. I’ve already been following Jesus. What could God possibly be calling me to do?”
Easy. He’s calling you to follow Him more closely.
In fact, I saw a bumper sticker the other day. It was in fine print and you had to drive really close to see what it said. It said, “Are you following Jesus as close as you are following this car?”
But think about it.
Are you following Jesus so closely that you know the fine print of his desires?
Can you see his Word in every situation?
Follow him more closely. Heed the call.
2. Make the Call your Priority
Because I always think it’s intriguing that there’s a net involved in that fishing scene. Because nets always catch things. That’s why fishermen used them. Nets caught fish.
But this net almost serves to catch John that day and prevent him from ever following Jesus.
Think about it. That net represented a lot.
The work he had to do.
The money he had to make.
The family he had to take care of.
The mouths he had to feed.
The father he had to please.
But John looks at that net – and threw it down.
Those can wait.
Jesus is the priority.
What are your nets? What are the things that prevent you from following Jesus?
They are different in all of our lives.
A net can be family.
A net can be work.
A net can be money.
Drop that net.
There’s nothing it offers you that can’t find ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.
Drop you net…and follow him.
Baptism Sunday: A Flood of Love
What’s on your NEED-TO-DO List?
A NEED-TO-DO list are things that you need to get done in 2018. Maybe it’s things you’ve always wanted to do; things that fit into your goals; things that the internet tells you that you need to do.
What are they?
Do you need to lose weight?
Do you need to join a gym?
Do you need to join a gym and use that gym?
Do you need to get a degree?
Make more money?
Find the right guy or gal?
Maybe your NEED-TO-DO List is kid focused.
Need to get them learning their ABCs.
Need to get them learning their 123s.
Need to get them memorizing the order of Vice Presidents of the U.S. – because, “How can they get a job if they don’t have that memorized?”
Need to get them in karate.
Need to get them in ballet.
Need to get them playing basketball, knitting and making sorbet.
Question: How many of you have “get baptized” on your NEED-TO-DO List?
Or “get your kid baptized?”
Or, if you’ve been baptized, “reflect on your baptism daily?”
Today is a day all about Baptism. Our goal is to see that Baptism NEEDS to be a priority. We’re going to examine Scripture and see why it’s so important. Before we do so, let’s say a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Why is Baptism so Important?
There are a lot of places in the Bible that discuss the importance of Baptism. We are going to dig deeply into one section in 1 Peter 3. A bit of background: 1 Peter is the first letter written by (wait for it) Peter. Hence the name: 1st Peter. He writes the letter to Christians spread throughout the 1st century world and (since his words have been saved for us in 2018) he writes his letter to us.
In chapter 3 Peter directs Christians to do good even when suffering for it. Because (1) it’s better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (2) suffering for doing good will always bring good.
Example? Jesus. Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (v.18-19) He suffered. He suffered on the cross. He did that because he wanted to bring you to God. That’s exactly what Jesus is accomplished! He rose and brought you and I back to peace with God.
…Before Jesus came back to life and brought this good news to us, he made another stop:
It’s thousands of years before Jesus.
The earth is filled with violence. Hundreds of thousands (if not million) of people – all filled with violence.
They beat each other up for money. They attack one another for food. They pillage; they rape; and they want absolutely nothing to do with good and even less to do with God.
Noah isn’t violent.
Noah fears God.
Noah loves God.
Noah worships God.
Noah and his family of 8 make up the entire church at this time. They are the only God worshippers in whole world. Talk about a minority -- Their belief system encompasses less than .000001% of the world’s population.
But Noah isn’t alone.
Noah’s heart skips a beat. Have they come to kill him?
Noah cleans out his ears. “Who was that?” It sounds like it is coming from above.
Noah, this is God.
I have a task for you.
Build an ark – it’s like an ancient wooden ocean-liner in the shape of a rectangle.
Build the ark.
Built it by yourself.
Build it here in the desert.
In 40 years, I will send a flood that covers the whole earth and destroys this sinful, violent, godless generation.
Noah gets up from the ground.
Takes a deep breath.
And gets to work.
He chops trees.
He saws wood.
He hammers nails.
He and his family get to work on the construction of the ocean-liner like contraption in the middle of the desert.
But it isn’t without some suffering:
You idiot! What are you doing wasting your time on this project?
Hey weatherman, what’s the chance of rain today? Is there No-ah chance?
Hey Noah! When you’re done, come talk with me. I could use a 450 boat to cruise around the sand!
But Noah keeps working.
He works through the shoulder pains from hammering the nautical trusses.
He works through the pain in his thumb from the splinter he got putting the second-floor storage together.
He works through the tweaked back muscle from trying to pull the hippopotamus into the proper room.
Then, things change.
In fact, a group heads their way toward Noah for their daily routine of ridiculing that believing idiot:
“Hey Noah! You got a minute? I was about to cross the desert, but I figure I’d better be prepared in case it floods. You got time to start on an ark for me?”
And in the middle of the joke:
A drop of water.
“Wait? What was that on my face? Fred, is that you? Stop spitting when you laugh!?”
“What are you talking about? I wasn’t spitting. That didn’t come from me – in fact, I just felt it myself.”
“If you didn’t get me wet then…oh…no.”
And the rains came down.
And the rains turned into a torrential downpour.
And geysers from within the earth sprang up.
And the people start screaming.
And water starts to pile up.
And water begins to rush.
And some people are washed away.
And others tried to climb trees.
And some slip.
And finally, the last one outside looks up towards heaven. Curses God and God curses him.
Meanwhile, Noah stood near the 4th story window of his ark.
Drinking some coffee.
What’s interesting is that Peter references this account because these events are not the end of the story for those people. Because years later, After being made alive, Jesus went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. (v.19)
Do you see it?
These people aren’t drowning anymore.
Now they’re burning.
And Jesus says to them,
“You all were wrong.
You should have listened.
To my warnings.
To my warnings through Noah.
To 40 years of my warnings through that the gigantic wooden structure Noah built in the middle of the desert.
Do you see Noah here?
That’s because I saved him.
I saved him through water.”
In it, only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water. (v.20)
Saved from sin.
Saved from unbelief.
Saved from falling into the same traps that the other 99.9999% of the population was in.
And here’s where it gets good – and very relevant, this water (the water at the time of the ark) symbolizes baptism which now saves you. (v.21)
Do you see it?
Baptism is related to the flood in that it’s water.
But it’s related to the ark in that it saves.
It saves from sin.
It saves from death.
It saves from the same eternal destruction that the violent people from Noah’s time underwent and are undergoing.
Why get baptized? Same reason Noah built the ark, because in it, God saves.
And why baptize your kids? Same reason Noah told his kids about the ark, in it God saves.
II. How Does Baptism Save?
And maybe you’re thinking; Hold it! Pastor, aren’t we saved by Jesus? Isn’t it by faith on the cross? Isn’t it faith alone that saves?
Faith in Jesus saves.
Here’s why both of those are true. Look at verse 21 Baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let’s break it apart:
1. Not Some Outward Act
This truth might seem obvious. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. It isn’t like some poison rubbed on us and we need to wash it off quickly lest we have to call the poison control center. It isn’t like the chemistry classroom when you accidentally spill some chemicals on yourself and have use that special chem lab shower to wash it off immediately.
Baptism’s point isn’t just a physically cleaning. That’s what showers and baths are for. It’s not like we need to scrub behind our ears get all of the sin off. Nor is baptism just an outward act. It’s not just a nice ceremony where you approach the font, throw some water on a kid, and say a nice prayer for his life – never to return him to church again.
And it isn’t some magic holy water that’s so special it removes 40% more sin than regular forgiveness. That makes it worth about 210 lies, 170 lusts, and 17 brother pinches.
Baptism is not some outward act.
It’s not something we do to earn God’s love.
It’s a gift.
2. Pledge of a Good Conscience
How do we know that? Look at the next part of the verse. “Baptism saves…the pledge of a good conscience towards God.”
QUESTION: In Baptism, how does one get a good conscience?
Just really mean it when you get baptized?
Like…really, really mean it?
Does baptism get super charged the more perfect faith that you, sinful, imperfect, individual can muster?
Because if that’s how you view baptism, think about this:
What happens when you don’t feel that good about your faith anymore?
What happens when you start to doubt?
What happens when your friend tells you about his baptism and “Man, his sounded way better than mine.”
Does your baptism still count?
Did it ever count?
Do you need a do over?
The pledge of a good conscience towards God cannot come from ourselves.
The pledge of a good conscience towards God comes from God.
It comes from his promise of forgiveness.
It comes from his promise of sins washed away.
it comes from his promise that you are his child.
3. Powered by Jesus
This is important. Because God doesn’t need a Do Over. God always keeps his pledges. In fact, look at the last part. Baptism saves…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
While on earth, Jesus made a different kind of pledge. He swore to die and come back to life. He said,
“Go ahead. Kill me. Nail me to a cross. Leave me to die. Watch me breath my very last. Laugh all you want as you see me die.
…3 days later…
…I will return…
…I will live.”
If Jesus’ promise remained true past death, don’t you think his promise to you will remain true in this life?
If you’ve been baptized, he made a promise to you. You are his.
If you haven’t been baptized, he is waiting to make that promise to you.
One more thing about this passage. This is where it all gets connected. Jesus and faith and baptism.
1st - -Jesus saves.
2nd –Faith saves - - when that faith is in Jesus.
3rd – Baptism saves because it works faith in that Jesus.
It works faith because it is a pledge from God of his love.
It’s like holiday cards. Did you get any? Maybe you got a card from mom and dad, from your brother and your sister, from your coworker, from your good friends, from cousin Bob, and from your dental hygienist team.
But you didn’t send one to Aunt Sally. Because you weren’t sure Aunt Sally still liked you. She hasn’t sent one in years.
Then, you get one. And it’s pretty nice. And she signs it, “Love, Aunt Sally.” And that card gives you faith – she still cares about me.
Baptism is a pledge from God that he loves about you.
And it gives you faith that God loves you.
And it gives you faith that God will pledge to love you eternally.
This is why Jesus said this, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Because Baptism is an act of faith, but it also works faith.
Faith in Jesus saves.
III. What Now?
1. Be Baptized
I’m sorry if this is an obvious first WHAT NOW? Point but please. God is holding out his promises to you. He promises to connect you to Jesus. He promises to make you a part of his kingdom. He promises to wash you from sins and make you a part of his family.
What are you waiting for?
Your parents to get here?
Your friends to get on board?
To feel readier?
These things are nice, but they don’t increase God’s promise power.
They don’t supercharge baptism.
Baptism is powered by God’s promise.
Don’t put it off.
The only one who wants you to put it off, is the devil. Because he can increase doubt when God’s personal promise has not been given.
Don’t give him that foothold.
2. Baptize Your Kids
Because your kids tend to have your genetics. They have your eyes. They have your brown hair. They have your chin. They may even have your propensity for baldness.
Unfortunately, they also have you sin. John 3 says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh,” meaning, “Sinful humans give birth to sinful humans.”
Kids need the promise of Jesus in baptism, too.
And this isn’t like a ride at an amusement park. God doesn’t say, “You must be this old to ride this ride.” If you have ever heard of an “age of accountability,” that’s essentially a human practice. God’s rule isn’t: “Wait until you are 16 until you can get baptized,” No. God’s rule is: “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 28:19)
All nations? That includes kids.
Get them baptized.
3. Celebrate Your Baptism
Because each year we all celebrate our birthdays. Even if you don’t like to have a party – generally people celebrate with you. They give you high fives. They give you cake. They give you a present. They give you messages on your Facebook wall.
It’s nice to celebrate the year we were born into this life.
But what is that compared to the year we were born into eternal life?
Celebrate your baptism.
Because on that day, God called you child.
On that day, God called you forgiven.
On that day, God called you – His. Amen.
GIVE: To All People
We are finishing up our series called GIVE this week. Brief review. We started by GIVING THE MANGER ANOTHER LOOK because in the manger we see the GIFT of God in our Savior Jesus Christ who gives forgiveness, eternal life and everlasting peace. Then, last week Pastor Zeratsky reminded us that this message of Hope is the greatest gift that we can give. If you remember he challenged us to make that our New Year’s Resolution: to spend 2018 giving the message of hope to others.
That’s great…but…to whom?
Because sometimes you don’t know who to give a gift to. It’s like that period after Christmas when you survey the gifts that you have and there’s that one gift – that one gift that you just can’t wait to regift. Maybe it’s the Nose Flute or Bacon Flavored Candy Canes or scented candle number 17. You don’t want it, but you aren’t really sure who would want it…so you scour Facebook and look through your address book unto you find Crazy Uncle Lou and look – his birthday is coming up in March!
The message of Jesus is a gift that’s meant to be regifted.
Who are you going to REGIFT it to?
Today our goal is to do a few things (1) learn who to give the Gospel to and (2) get some tips for sharing it. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Who to Give the Gift To
The lesson comes from Isaiah 60. It says this, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” This is an imperative from God. It’s a command. Specifically, a command to the His people – us. “Arise! Shine!” Or the more modern version: “Get off the couch, stop watching Netflix and get back to sharing my message!!!” God is urgent. God implores us to be urgent. God implores us to do this now.
Why? “Darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples…” (v.2) This is not a literal darkness. Go ahead. Look outside. There isn’t a blackout now, nor was there a blackout in Israel at the time of this writing.
It’s a spiritual darkness. And it’s a BIG Program.
Did you see the weather charts this week? The charts were filled with a different shade of blue to reflect how cold it was throughout the country. In fact, the blue just seemed to cover the entire United States – especially a deep, dark blue up in in the Midwest.
If there was a weather chart showing where this spiritual darkness has covered people, it would look just like that weather map! Across the United States, into Canada, down to Mexico.
Anywhere there are people – there are people covered in spiritual darkness.
People who cannot see the Way to heaven.
People who don’t know who God is or where to find him.
People who have had their eyesight obscured and they cannot find forgiveness and peace.
People who need Jesus.
And that’s where you come in! Because “Darkness covers the earth, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” This is originally a reference to Israel. Jesus was born a Jew. The message about him started in Israel. It was first vocalized to a bunch of shepherds “out in some fields nearby Bethlehem.”
But the message has left Israel.
It has made its way across the ocean.
It’s in Raleigh.
Dear believer, it’s in you.
Think about it. You were in darkness, but now you have the Light.
And it’s awesome.
Maybe you remember what that’s like:
To catch the first glimpses of the way to heaven.
To find light in the midst of a very dark time.
To see your Savior revealed for the very first time.
To know the peace and forgiveness that you’ve always searched for.
You have the Light. It’s Jesus! Now God implores you – share that light because there are people everywhere who need that light! And God is very serious about bringing that light to all people.
Backtrack about 2000 some years ago. Jesus had just been born in Bethlehem. But we’re not in Bethlehem. We’re hundreds of miles to the east.
A couple of guys – probably older – are taking their nightly look up into the sky. They’re chatting about life. About their favorite sports teams. About whether or not they should order a pizza for later that night, when suddenly,
“Hey? Did you see that?”
“Something…up there. It’s different.”
“Over there? That’s just Orion’s belt.”
“No, no. Over there? It’s new. It’s bright.”
The man rushes over to the table and rolls out a chart. He looks up. He looks down. He looks up. He looks down. He looks up and squints, then looks down and using a compass. It continues until…
“Aha! Look. It’s different. Something. Different. A star. A new star. Some kind of NEW incredible celestial event!”
The others look down at the chart.
Then, up at the sky.
Then, at one another.
Until one of them thinks out loud – “You don’t suppose…”
Another rushes over to a large chest. He opens it up and rifles through the scrolls found within like a bunch of wrapping paper rolls after Christmas. Until final, he stops. He brings one over to the group. He unfurls it.
“A star will rise out of Judah, a scepter will rise from Israel.” Numbers 24:17
That star? It’s the star of the Messiah. If we follow its light, we will find THE Light.
And so they do. They pack up. They load the camels. They set off on a journey. They travel miles. They travel months. They travel years. All the while, the star thing? It keeps moving. It keeps guiding them. It keeps showing them with its LIGHT the way to THE Light.
Until eventually, it stops over Bethlehem. No longer a stable, but a house.
And… On coming to the house, they saw the child Jesus with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. (v.10)
God cared so much about getting the message of the Light to those wise men from way out east – not even Israelites-- to see the Light that He intervened in the natural order of things and created a miraculous, traversing, celestial sphere to unmistakably guide them to Jesus!
God still wants that message to get to people everywhere.
Only he doesn’t use a star anymore.
Now? God will be using – you.
II. Tips on Giving the Gift
That’s what “Arise and Shine” means. It means “Go and share the message of Jesus with the world.”
That might sound a bit intimidating. You might think, “how am I supposed to get the message of Jesus across the world to Timbuktu?” You don’t need to think so big. God doesn’t require any one of us to single handedly share the message of the Gospel with all people everywhere. Remember – He’s the One behind the message. He’s the One getting it to all corners of the earth through the many stars – aka believers – that he places throughout the world.
You don’t need to bring the message to everybody.
But… you do need to shine in the part of the sky God puts you.
Look at the rest of this section from Isaiah 60 – there are a few hints for how to go about “shining” and bringing the message of Jesus to others.
1. Look Up
Because it is so easy to think, “who do I possibly know to share Jesus with?” For some reason, we tend to get this picture of people in African tribes far away or Tibetan colonies with malnourished children as the only ones who need to hear the Gospel. (And to be fair they do). But you know people who lives much closer to you than that who need to hear the Gospel.
See what it says in verse 4, “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you…” Originally this is a reference to Israel. They are the one in whom Jesus first shows up and when he does – all eyes turn toward the city to learn about him!
But Jesus no longer lives in Jerusalem.
Now Jesus lives within you.
If Jesus is living in you, people will notice and come to you.
Look up. Pay attention. Don’t miss it.
That mommy playdate where your friend asks, “You really do seem to have it all together. Why is it?” Look up. Share Jesus.
That buddy who asks what you are doing this Sunday. Look up. Share Jesus.
That child who says they are sorry for doing that wrong thing. Look up. Share Jesus.
The teen who confesses that they hate themself and don’t think anyone could love them. Look up. Share Jesus.
That coworker with tear filled eyes who shares with you that her boyfriend broke up with her and its making her feel unloved. Look up. Share Jesus.
That brother who’s having a beer with you and laments that things aren’t so right in his life – what is he missing? Look up. Share Jesus.
That guy at the coffee shop who looks a bit cold and a bit rough and seems like he is in need of a friend. Don’t miss it. Look up. Share Jesus.
2. Think Multi-culturally
Because it is so easy for us to be under the impression that the only people we will be good at sharing the Gospel with are those people who look and act exactly like us. If that were the case, I’d be preaching to a group of middle aged white males who enjoy Doritos a bit more than they should.
But our commission from God is not just to teach the Gospel to those who look like us, but those who don’t look like us too. Verse six implies that very truth. Look at how multicultural it is: “Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come.” Those wise men weren’t from Israel. They are from the East. Arabia? India? China? Who knows? But they weren’t Israelites searching to hear the message from more Israelites. It’s a multicultural vision, stirred on by God’s Almighty hand, proving God’s desire to bring this message to many.
God’s point to you: Don’t just sit around waiting for people who look just like you to share the message of Jesus to. Share it with those who look different.
But Pastor. I really don’t know that many people who are different culture than me. I really don’t know that anybody else lives in our cul de sac of a different culture. We all have the same color houses as the H.O.A. told us and we all have the same color of brown in our skin.
If that’s the case, here’s a challenge for you – don’t just think multiculturally, but live multiculturally.
Did you know Raleigh is diverse? According to the last U.S. Census, Raleigh was only 55% Caucasian – and that’s all different types of Caucasians – with a plethora of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans and others. Another interesting stat – only 41% of people in Raleigh grew up in NC! 13% are from outside the United States.
You don’t have to take my statistical word for it. Drive up and down Falls of Neuse. Keep your eyes open. There are people of all different cultures and backgrounds all around. Look at the food. By my house there’s a Vietnamese Noodle shop that opened up near the Japanese Sushi place next to the Puerto Rican Latin Quarters across from the Italian and Mexican restaurants. And I’ll never forget the time I was canvassing through the apartment complex over on Sandy Forks and in the same day I had the opportunity to speak with a refugee from Iran, greet a family from Iraq, converse with two sisters from Nigeria, make jokes with a man from Mexico, learn about a Japanese grandfather and have tea with a group of about 12 from Tibet.
Raleigh is global. There are people of all cultures who need to hear the message of Jesus. But how can you bring it to them if you don’t go near them.
So, here’s the challenge. This week – Live Multiculturally. That is look for opportunities to converse with someone who looks a bit different from you. Maybe they’re at Food Lion – maybe they are at Walmart. It doesn’t matter. Say a prayer – have confidence in God’s blessings and make conversation.
Or maybe you know someone like that who lives on your block. Pack up some Christmas cookies and go next door to greet them and wish them a good 2018.
Or maybe you know someone like that at work – ask them to grab lunch with you and YOU pick up the tab.
Live Multiculturally. Think multiculturally so that you can shine multiculturally.
3. Share What Enlightens You
And what will I share Pastor? Simple. Share what enlightens you. That was the call to arms from Isaiah. The people are in darkness, But the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. You know Jesus is the Savior. You know about his forgiveness. You know about the peace that his grace has given you with God.
It’s not that hard. Let me ask you – What’s that on the wall? (A cross). Who was on it? (Jesus.) What happened to him? (He died) Why? (To take away my sins.) And what happened three days later on Easter? (he came back to life.) And what does he promise will happen to all who believe in him? (They will live with him in Heaven!)
Your kids know the answer.
You know the answer. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Speak the truths that God has spoken to you!
And don’t be afraid.
Don’t’ be nervous about messing up.
Don’t be nervous about what you’ll say. Remember the promise: “The LORD rises upon you.” Because God literally has risen upon you. His message hit your ears, the Holy Spirit worked on your heart and he is with you wherever you go.
And he will be with you when you share the message of Jesus.
4. Have Fun!
Because it really is a blast to watch God transform people’s lives through the message of salvation in Jesus. In fact, that’s exactly what Isaiah describes: Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy (v.5)
It’s kind of like what happens when you show someone your favorite movie. (Have you ever done that?) Usually you set the scene. You get some popcorn, you turn down the lights. You give them a comfy pillow. Then, you sit down to watch – but you aren’t watching them. You turn your head towards them and you watch to see if they laugh at all of the jokes that you laugh at. (This happens to my wife and I all of the time. I had to keep rewinding and showing Julianna scenes a 2nd or 3rd time because obviously you missed it – that was hilarious!)
We love to share movies with people because it gives us joy to see them joyful!
How much more with the message of Jesus! I’ll tell you it is one of the coolest things in the world to watch someone “get it”, to watch them “see”, to watch them step out of darkness into God’s Wonderful light.
Case and point – Roberta. Roberta was at Brighton Gardens Retirement Home. She wasn’t one of the residents there…she was a worker. In fact, she wasn’t even supposed to be listening – she was supposed to be working. To be honest, she didn’t get to hear all of the little service that I do there on Mondays. I didn’t look at her more than once – as a passing acknowledgement…
…but something afterwards was up. She came to talk with me. She looked distraught. She told me about how her 1st husband and she got divorced. She told me about how he had hurt her. She told me about her second husband and how he had just left her, and she suspected infidelity. She told me about how hard it was to raise a son by herself. She told me about how she felt depressed and unloved and alone.
And I got nervous as I listened.
And I got frightened.
And I remembered: “Arise. Shine.”
Roberta, there is one man who loves you.
There is one man who will never leave you.
One man who – when we left him – went to a cross and died --- giving up his life for you.
Because of him.
You aren’t alone.
You aren’t unloved.
You are forgiven.
And I smiled.
What a privilege!
Brothers and sisters – Arise; shine; for your light has come and thick darkness is covering the peoples.
Arise; shine; share the message of Jesus -- #GatherToTheGarden. Amen.