This morning, we continue our miracle series, by examining Jesus’ power over demons. But before we do that, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. A House Divided
The lesson for this this morning comes from Matthew 8. It occurs at a time in Jesus’ ministry when he has already done plenty of miracles and healed multitudes of people. Word about him is spreading and people are flocking to see him.
A common question among the people is, “How can Jesus do miracles?”
There was a variety of answers:
“Those ‘sick’ people weren’t really sick to begin with.”
“Maybe, there was some kind of medicine involved?”
“He just got lucky.”
Mark 3:22 “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He drives out demons by the ruler of demons.”
It’s similar to getting onto your spouse’s phone. Have you ever done that? When you are in control of the account, you can send text messages in your spouse’s name. “My husband is the greatest!” You can send out an email: “We should plan a surprise party for my spouse.” You can go onto Facebook and post a status update: “I have the best spouse ever! I am so lucky to have them as my spouse because they are the best ever.”
The contention is that Jesus can control demonic work because he’s working on the devil’s behalf.
He sold his soul to the devil.
Look at Jesus’ response:
“How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is finished.” (v.25-26)
The NFL Championships are today.
I wonder how many defense coordinators are coaching their players to wait for the ball to snap and then tackle their teammates next to them.
Or how many times the head coach will tell his running back to “knock over the Quarterback already.”
Or how many times Aaron Rodgers will decide to “throw the ball as hard as possible into the back of his center’s kneecaps.”
They probably won’t coach them that way.
Because a house divided against itself cannot stand.
And a football team divided against itself cannot stand.
And if the devil was driving out his demonic warriors?
His house wouldn’t stand.
This means that if Jesus is driving out demons and destroying their work, then…
TRUTH: Jesus and the Devil are NOT on the same side.
Because Jesus is good.
And the devil is not.
Good doesn’t work on behalf of evil.
Evil doesn’t work on behalf of good.
The two are dynamically opposed to one another.
Gives me pause.
Because we are on God’s side, right?
We are on the side of good, right?
Was everything you did this week on behalf of good?
That porn you’re looking at? Was that for good?
Those racist things you said? Was that for good?
That gossip you were sharing at church? Was that really for good?
Those complaints about that person across the aisle? Was that really for good?
If you’re on GOD’S side; you can’t do the DEVIL’S work.
Because if you do, then you’re working for the devil.
And if you’re working for the devil, then you’re working against Jesus’ kingdom.
And if you’re working against Jesus’ kingdom, then…
A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.
This is truth.
About your family.
About your friends.
About this church.
Understand - The devil wants nothing more than to destroy those things.
In fact, he’s all about destruction.
He loves destroying families.
Destroying souls forever in hell.
When you do evil, you work for him.
II. The Most Terrifying Thing
Jesus was definitely not working for the devil. There might not be a Bible story in which this is clearer than Matthew 8.
When Jesus arrived…in the region of the Gergesenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him there. They were very dangerous, so that nobody could pass that way. (v.28)
Possession is a simple word. If a dollar bill is in your possession, you own it and you control what it does. If you’re team is in possession of the football, they own it and controls what it does. If a remote control is in your possession, you own it and control what it does.
In demon possession, the demon is in control of the body and it controls what the body does.
If you are demon possessed, then…
You no longer have control of your body.
You no longer have control of your words.
You no longer have control of your life, because the devil and his demons are in control.
For these men, that’s exactly what happened! Demons took control.
And remember the goal of demons is destruction.
They destroyed their family life.
They destroyed their friendships.
They destroyed their lives.
In fact, Mark’s version of this account, adds that at least one of these men had caused so much trouble that local law enforcement had tried taking him outside the city and chaining him to a wall in an above ground tomb.
But… None could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones (Mark 5:4)
Sounds like a horror movie
When Jesus approaches….
It was just like a horror movie,
Not for Jesus.
The demons cried out “What do you want with us Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Mt. 8:29)
You are more powerful than us!
You are more miraculous than us.
Eventually, one day, we know that at “the time” you will seal us forever in the fires of hell.
We might bust out of these chains, but…
We’ll never bust out of your grip.
Demons are TERRIFIED of Jesus.
There are a lot of different phobias in the world.
Arachnophobiacs are afraid of spiders.
Agoraphobiacs are afraid of crowds.
Coulrophobiacs are afraid of clowns.
Mysophobiacsa are afraid of germs.
Phobophobiacs are afraid of being afraid.
What kind of fear do demons have?
They have Son-of-God-o-phobia.
Fear of God’s own Son.
And with good reason.
Because while demons are bent on destruction of God’s people,
Jesus is bent on the destruction of the destroyer.
Way back in the garden of Eden. That was God’s promise. He told Satan, who had just destroyed God’s work of a perfect world, that a day would come when one of Eve’s children would Crush his head.” (Gen. 3:15)
Jesus is on your SIDE.
The devil wants nothing more than your forever destruction in hell.
Jesus wants nothing more than your forever existence in heaven.
It’s why he came to earth.
It’s why he came to fight the devil.
It’s why he continues to fight for you against the devil.
(In fact, that’s what he’s doing with these very words in this very sermon at this very time.)
Jesus is fighting on your side.
III. The Confrontation
But can Jesus really defeat demons?
When Jesus approached the demon possessed men, he asked, “What is your name?” (Mark 5:9)
One of the men responded, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” (v.9)
A legion is a Roman concept. A Roman legion could be filled with a population of almost 500,000 soldiers.
Jesus wasn’t just dealing with one demon.
He wasn’t just dealing with two demons.
He was dealing with a legion of demons.
And it wasn’t just something the demon was saying…
In the field, next to this graveyard was a herd of pigs.
Eating some slop.
Sitting in the mud.
Being generally disgusting.
Jesus looked at the pigs.
He looked back at the demon-possessed men.
He looked past the demons and saw the two human souls trapped within.
And said, “Go!”
So the demons came out of the men and went into the pigs. Immediately the whole herd of pigs rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the water. (Mt. 8:30)
Now, when I first read this story, I thought, “That’s mean Jesus. What did the pigs do to you?”
First, Jesus is the ruler of all. He invented pigs. He gave the pigs life. He could that away as he pleased.
Second, think about what Jesus accomplished by allowing this. Granted, the demons just wanted to destroy something. But by allowing this, think of what Jesus accomplished.
Because at the exact instant, he told the legion of demons to leave the two men – an entire herd of pigs rushed into the river and drowned.
Do you get it?
This event was proof that the demon possession was no joke.
It was proof that demons were real.
Demons are absolutely REAL.
I think this is important to remember.
Because it’s common to talk about “demons.”
Could be “anxiety” that paralyzes our interactions with others.
Could be “guilt” that never seems to go away.
Could be “a temptation for addiction” that we just can’t seem to conquer.
We call it our “demons” but usually we mean “not demons.”
The reality is that when we call it “our demons” but we really mean “not demons,” - It’s usually “real demons.”
Demons are real.
They were real at Jesus’ time.
They are real today.
As real as demons are…
TRUTH: So is Jesus’ VICTORY.
Because the end result is that the two men who had been demon possessed were set free.
They were restored.
They had a Savior, Jesus.
That same Jesus went on to defeat the devil himself.
Even when the devil thought he won.
When he got the Pharisees to concoct a conspiracy…
When he got Judas to betray his teacher…
When he got a crowd to chant, “Crucify! Crucify!”…
When he got Pontius Pilate to be afraid, “Go ahead, just take him.”
When he caused those soldiers to nail Jesus hand and foot to the cross.
The devil probably thought he won.
Three days later.
His head was crushed.
Jesus defeated sin.
Jesus defeated guilt.
Jesus defeated death.
Jesus defeated the devil himself.
IV. What Now?
(1) Be Wary
The Bible tells us, “Your enemy the devil prowls around you like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour, resist him. Standing firm in the faith.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Because if you are on an African safari, you’d be wary of lions.
You’d put something on camouflage you.
You’d carry a weapon for protection.
You’d probably put some kind of anti-lion repellent deodorant on to repel it.
And if you saw a lion – you’d get out of there!
Do the same thing with the devil.
We identify the areas of temptation that we fall.
We avoid those places.
When temptation comes, we flee as if our lives depended on it. (Because spiritually speaking, we do.)
Friends, be wary of the devil.
Be wary of demons.
(2) Be Confident
Because it’s easy to feel dejected when facing temptation.
Because we’ve lost to the devil so many times.
We’ve fallen to BIG temptations.
We’ve fallen to LITTLE temptations.
We’ve fallen to the SAME temptations again and again.
What could possibly make us believe that this time will be different?
Jesus is on our side.
He wins the victory every time.
Be confident because of Jesus. Amen.
When I was in Seattle, WA, I had the goal to get to the top of the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mt. Rainier. I bought the right gear. I went into training. I learned from a woman who had been up Mount Everest three separate times.
On the day of the climb, we hiked up to Camp Muir, a base camp about 10,000 feet up. From there, we slept in a tiny wooden cabin to acclimate to the altitude and rest up for the final ascent. We went to bed at 6pm and woke up around Midnight. (You have to leave early in order to cross the ice bridges before the daylight gets too hot, the bridge melts and you fall to your death.)
It was about eight hours up when a blizzard kicked in. The air was sparse. The wind was frigid. My fingers were frozen. And it was only getting nastier. Some of the other climb groups had already turned around and gone back.
About an hour from the top, the lead expeditions said:
“This is getting pretty bad. I haven’t seen it this bad before. What do you think? We could go to the top and see the marvelous views, but…
If we don’t turn around, we could get frostbite or die.
So we thought about it and said:
“I’m sure Google images probably has some might fine photos of the top. So...
Sometimes suffering isn’t worth it.
Today we are continuing our series called Dear Church. It’s a series based on letters from Jesus to seven different churches. The letter for today looks at a church that was dealing with suffering…even suffering because they were believers. Our goal today is to understand what kind of suffering believers have to deal with and whether it’s worth that suffering.
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, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The One who Knows Suffering
This letter starts in Revelation 2:8: “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty —yet you are rich!”
A few notes:
The letter is again written to the angel. We said that’s most likely referencing their pastoral leadership which, in turn, means it’s a letter written to the church in Smyrna.
Smyrna was an ancient Greek city at a central point on the Aegean coast. Because its positioning allowed for advantageous port conditions and an easily defendable city, Smyrna was full of people. In other words, it was a great place to start a church.
And someone had. We don’t know the exact apostle or disciple that founded it, which shows that the Gospel was spreading beyond the work rate of the apostles alone. This church was probably not started by one of the 12 apostles, yet Jesus considers it a church. Similarly, our church wasn’t started by one of the Apostles, yet Jesus would call it a real church.
Because the Holy Spirit was at work in the word.
Here in Raleigh.
So, both are churches.
Finally, the speaker is Jesus. This is his letter. And since this is a letter to a church that is suffering, he offers his credentials on the subject:
(1) Jesus Existed before SUFFERING
These are the words of him who is the First (v.8) Jesus existed eternally long before suffering ever existed. He created a world that was perfect, apart from suffering. Then, he watched as humans foolishly were led by the devil into suffering.
Don’t think that Jesus’ main goal is to end suffering?
To bring life back to the way that it once was?
It’d be like cleaning your living room, putting all the toys in their place and removing all the crumbs from the floor – making the place a gorgeous Better Homes and Gardens style living area.
Then, your kids happen.
And you’d like to see it back to the way it was when you were finished cleaning.
The same is true for God. He has on his heart a desire to bring things back to the way they were long before suffering happened.
And here’s the good news about that:
(2) Jesus will OUTLAST Suffering
These are the words of him who is the Last. (v.8) As in, he will last beyond all suffering.
He will outlast cancer.
He will outlast financial difficulties.
He will outlast persecutions.
He will outlast terrorism.
He will outlast racism.
He will outlast the little angry emojis that people put upon Christian content on Social Media.
He will outlast every form of suffering.
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t suffered.
(3) Jesus is FAMILIAR with suffering
These are the words of him who died. (v.8)
Do you know how Jesus died?
He was arrested by a mob.
He was beaten by that mob.
He was smacked and slapped till the early hours of the morning.
He was whipped thirty times with a 7 stranded leather whip that had metal shards on the end. (Also known as flogged)
He had a crown of thorns smashed down onto his head.
He was hit with a staff.
He was laid down upon two giant pieces of wood.
He had one nail driven through his right hand.
He had another nail driven through his left hand.
He had one more nail driven through his feet.
He hung on that cross as his lungs slowly collapsed.
He was abandoned by his friends.
He was betrayed by his disciples.
He was crucified by his people.
He had our sin and guilt and shame plaguing his soul.
He was familiar with suffering.
Suffering even to death!
Now – he lives.
He lives and walks among his churches.
(4) Jesus Knows YOUR suffering
Pause and reflect on that truth.
Because it’s easy to think:
No one knows my suffering.
No one understands.
No one gets this sadness I feel.
No one grasps the loneliness that I go through.
No one truly gets the depths of my depression.
Jesus is speaking to you. He says:
I know it feels like no one knows, but I know.
I know what it’s like to suffer.
I know that you are suffering.
I know what it is you’re suffering:
I know that you feel so poor because you are suffering.
In the midst of suffering…
You are rich.
(5) Jesus Gives Eternal RICHES to the Suffering
You are rich.
Rich in my love.
Rich in forgiveness.
Rich in the promise of eternal life.
You have a place in my family that all of the money in the world would be unable to buy.
You may be suffering, but you are not suffering from a lack of my promises.
II. Truths about Our Suffering
After giving his credentials as to why he is an expert in suffering, Jesus has a few things to say about the suffering that the people of Smyrna were going through. He says:
I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. (v.9)
Apparently there was a group that was slandering the church. It was a group that claimed to be Jewish but wasn’t. This isn’t genealogical. Jesus is referring to people who were did not have a faith that matched the Old Testament faith, but pretended they did.
Because the Old Testament Jewish faith was that God would send a Messiah to save us from our sins. Overtime some Jews abandoned that faith and replaced it as, “God doesn’t need to save us from our sins, because I am Jewish and do Jewish things.”
When Jesus showed up, a “phony” Jewish faith is exactly what the Pharisees had. Jesus was the Messiah. The real Jewish faith would have believed in him. Instead, the “phony” Jewish faith rejected Jesus as Messiah because “they were good enough Jewish people on their own.”
Now after Jesus, this group was persecuting the church in Smyrna and it was bad enough to be called “suffering”:
Maybe they were calling them names.
Maybe some of them worked on the local tax board and were taxing their church building heavily.
Maybe some of them paid of the Roman soldiers to throw church members in prison.
Regardless, the church was suffering. What did Jesus say about this suffering? A few things:
(1) Believers WILL Suffer for their Faith
Look at what Jesus says in Verse 10: Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. At first glance, this seems comforting. But if you are a Smyrnian, don’t you think they read this and responded by saying:
What? About to suffer? You mean this isn’t even done yet?
That’s the truth.
For the Smyrnian people.
And for us:
The truth is that believers in Jesus will suffer.
Some suffering will happen because we’re on a sinful world where sinful people hurt one another. (Gossip, racism, and unfaithfulness)
Some suffering will happen because we’re in an imperfect world. (Cancer, pollution, and natural disasters)
Some suffering will happen because we’re believers in Jesus. (Things like angry comments on your Christian blog, being excluded from parties because you’re “That lousy Christian,” being yelled at by your spouse because “I’m not into that Jesus junk.”)
Jesus said this:
Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me. (Luke 10:16)
Just like you might not like a football team and, as a result, you don’t like fans of a certain football team.
Or you don’t like a politician and, as a result, you don’t like followers of that politician.
It’s the same thing with Jesus:
If someone doesn’t like Jesus.
They don’t like his followers.
If sinners made Jesus suffer,
They will make his followers suffer too.
(2) The Real Villain is the DEVIL
Because if it was just a bunch of humans making us suffer, you might think:
I can take them, Jesus. I took a few defense classes once, so…I got this.
But these people aren’t the real ones behind it. Look at what Jesus says about who was really behind the Smyrnian suffering:
I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you. (v.10b)
Now it wasn’t as if the devil showed up with a red pitchfork in his hands and pointy ears like some kind of Halloween costume.
But he influenced.
He gave people ideas like:
You should tell that Jesus supporter that he’s an idiot.
You should tell that Roman guard that Christian is breaking law by praying in public.
You should break up with your wife because the amount of Bible talk she has is crazy.
The same is true today.
The real villain isn’t whoever is persecuting you.
It’s the devil himself.
(3) Suffering Lasts for AWHILE
Because look at what Jesus says next:
You will suffer persecution for ten days.” (v.10c)
That doesn’t sound awful.
It’s the reason I sign up for ten days at a fitness camp. I figure – that’s not too long. I can handle it.
Or maybe you sign up for a ten day visit to your in-laws. You figure – that’s just over a week. I got this.
10 days of persecution? That’s doable.
But here’s the thing about numbers in revelation. They are metaphoric:
The number 3 represents God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The number 4 represents humans. Humans were created in God’s image, but aren’t God.
The number 7 represents the church. It’s 3 plus 4, where God connects with humans.
The number 10? It represents completeness.
Meaning the church at Smyrna would suffer until the suffering was completed.
In other words, for a while.
And the reality is that Christians will suffer…until their suffering on earth is completed.
Suffering will be a part of your life when you’re 5.
When you’re a teenager.
When you’re middle aged.
When you’re a senior.
Even suffering for your faith…
…will be a part of your life for a while.
Only for a while.
(4) The faithful will receive the CROWN of LIFE
Look at what Jesus says at the end of verse 10:
Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Back at this time, the victor’s crown was associated with the Olympics. It was made of olive branches and given to the winner.
To the winner of the 100-meter dash: Victor’s crown.
To the winner of the 1600-meter run: Victor’s crown.
To the winner of the pole vault: Victor’s crown
To the winner of the steeple chase (whatever a steeple chase is): Victor’s crown.
After all the training.
After all the sweating.
After all the suffering.
A victor’s crown.
Look at what Jesus promises to those who are victorious.
Who go through suffering in this life.
But hold on to Jesus:
A victor’s crown.
But not just any victor’s crown. This isn’t made from olive branches.
It’s made of life.
Do you get it?
If you hold to Jesus despite the suffering this life brings, you will have eternal life.
Death won’t win.
You will defeat it.
Just like Jesus defeated death, you will defeat death too.
You will live.
And about this life…
It won’t be one of suffering.
(5) The Faithful’s SUFFERING will END
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. (v.11)
That’s sounds awful.
First death is bad enough.
It’s nothing but suffering.
Nothing but awful.
Nothing but hell…
…because it is hell.
But dear believers, that’s not anything you have to be worried about. The faithful will not be hurt even in the slightest by hell.
Because in heaven? There is no hell.
In heaven? There is no death.
In heaven? There is NO suffering.
No suffering for faith.
No arguments with spouses.
No rebellious kids.
No ostracization from friends.
No suffering of any amount, variety or kind.
In heaven, SUFFERING is done.
Because you’re with the one that defeated suffering.
You’re with Jesus.
III. WHAT NOW?
Jesus’ words are simple: Be Faithful.
Because when being a believer gets hard, it’s tempting to not be faithful.
“I became a believer and I still get sick.
I still have work problems.
I still have financial difficulties.
Only now people ridicule me for my faith.”
It might seem easier to stop being faithful so that you won’t have this momentary suffering.
If you stay faithful, in the midst of the momentary suffering, you will have eternal blessings.
Because God is faithful.
That won’t change.
He sent his Son Jesus for you.
And through faith in him you will be removed from suffering…forever.
We are in the middle of our sermon series on Acts. In this series we have been to a lot of different places and learned a different lesson in each place. Today we’re getting a potpourri of lessons from one place and all on hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy comes from the Greek word “hypokrusis.” The word was used in Greek theater. It meant: “to play a part,” which, in Greek theater, often meant “wearing a mask.” It’s a part of theater still today – specifically known as the Marvel Big Screen.
Chris Evans dons a mask and becomes Captain America.
Chadwick Boseman dons a mask and becomes Black Panther.
Evangeline Lilly dons a mask and becomes The Wasp.
Hypocrisy, then, is when someone claims to be one thing, when they are not.
Before we begin our study of hypocrisy, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. One Kind of Hypocrisy
The lesson from Acts 19 is the first big stop on Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. (19:1a) Ephesus was the Capital of the Ancient province of Asia and a bustling commercial center. Paul had briefly been there at the end of the 2nd missionary journey. Before he left, he promised to return if God allowed. Paul’s appearance in chapter 19 is a fulfillment of that promise.
When Paul arrives, he finds some disciples. (v.1b) These men claimed to be followers of the Christ. Paul greets them pleasantly. (Maybe with some high fives, jokes about not having rocks thrown at him, and an invitation to go grab lunch at the local Smashburger).
As they are hanging out, Paul asks them some conversational questions:
What’s your favorite worship song?
What do you do to serve at the church?
Do you like your coffee dark or light roast?
Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? (v.2)
The Holy Spirit is absolutely in the heart of all believers. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says, “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” It’s simple. It’s clear. If you believe in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit, because you need the Holy Spirit in order to believe.
But what Paul is talking about here is something different. Early in the history of the Christian church, during key faith-filled events, the Holy Spirit would visibly manifest his presence within a group of believers. This would serve to prove the truthfulness of the Gospel through miraculous signs. It happened at Pentecost (Acts 2) when tongues of fire appeared on the Apostles’ heads as they spoke in languages that they had never learned. It happened again in the house of the Roman Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). In both instances, God was making it clear that this faith – and the message that this faith was placed in – was a very real and very divine message.
Paul’s question was about whether that had happened with them.
Did you get to speak in tongues?
Did fire appear on your heads?
Did you open your mouth and rainbows started shooting out?
The answer was a bit surprising:
“We hadn’t heard there was a Holy Spirit…” (v.3)
Paul responded, “Wait. What!?! You don’t know the Holy Spirit? He’s a key part of our teachings. He’s the one who brings us to faith. He’s the one who came down on Jesus like a dove. And Baptism! Haven’t you been baptized? Into whose name were you baptized? Because as far as I know…believers are baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the HOLY SPIRIT.”
The men responded, “We were baptized into John’s Baptism, into the name of the Christ who is going to come in the future.”
“OK… The Christ. Good. Did you know he has already come? Did you know he already did his Christ work? Did you know his name?”
And the men looked on at another, shrugged, and replied, “I don’t know…maybe…Bob?”
Divine forehead slap.
Here’s the truth: Sometimes hypocrisy comes from IGNORANCE.
It’s like the time I was at Buffalo Wild Wings and a lady near me was decked out in Tarheel gear as she watched them battle on the football field. A while later, the Tarheels had their quarterback sacked in the end zone. The woman stood up, clapped, and shouted, “Great job! Way to go.”
Until, her friends (also in Tarheel gear) motioned for her to sit down: “Stop cheering. That was a safety. That means its two points for the other team.”
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from IGNORANCE.
Yes, I’m a believer in Jesus…and I believe you can sleep with whomever you want. Does the Bible say differently?
Yes, my social profile says: “Christian”; I like all kinds of quotes from the Bible. Also quotes from the KKK. Is there something wrong?
Yes, I’m a Christian. I’ve been my whole life. But what do you mean when you are talking about salvation by grace? Never heard of it? I thought I’d get to heaven, simply because I was good enough….
Before you say, “But if someone doesn’t know, it’s no big deal.”
Remember that ignorant hypocrisy is still hypocrisy.
It’s still wrong.
If your son winds up and punches your little daughter in the face, you don’t say, “It’s ok. He didn’t know. Let him be.” No! You course correct immediately!
In the same way, it’s still wrong when we say we are followers of Jesus, but then do the opposite of followers of Jesus, even if we simply didn’t know followers of Jesus don’t do that.
There’s a simple cure for this kind of hypocrisy. It’s called knowledge. That’s what Paul gave these men. He said to them in verse 4, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
Jesus is the Christ.
He lived perfectly when you couldn’t.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of your sins. I saw it with my own eyes!
And the group believes.
They are baptized into Jesus’ name.
And that Holy Spirit that they didn’t know about? He makes himself visibly known. They began to speak in tongues, and they prophesied. (v.6) Visual proof of the invisible truth that their faith in Jesus wasn’t fake; it was real.
The same is true for you. Repent of your any hypocrisy of ignorance.
To do that, look at the truth.
The truth may be that what you’ve been doing is sin.
But the truth also is that you have a Savior.
And in Jesus, you are forgiven.
II. Another Kind of Hypocrisy
But not all hypocrisy is caused by ignorance.
Next Paul entered the synagogue, a place where they studied God’s Word.
He went and spoke boldly there for three months. (v.9a)
You would expect this to produce real believers.
These people wore religious jewelry.
They went to worship.
They knew lots of the Bible.
They knew all the words to all their favorite religious songs.
They knew prayers.
They knew religious logos.
They knew God’s Word.
And yet…when Paul was done speaking…
Some of them were obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. (v.9b)
And think about the hypocrisy of it all:
They studied God’s Word.
They knew God’s Word.
Then, they refused to believe God’s Word.
And even openly mocked God’s Word.
Only to sit around congratulating each other for following that Word that they were mocking.
It’s would be like sitting in the Fellowship Hall after worship and gossiping about another believer not being a very good believer and then congratulating yourselves on being such good believers even though you’re doing things that believers aren’t supposed to do.
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from ignorance; but sometimes hypocrisy comes from obstinance.
In fact, the Greek word there means “hardened.” Tough, rough, impenetrable.
Like a rock. There’s nothing getting through the exterior into the heart of the rock. Try it. You can punch the rock. You can hit the rock with a blow dart. You could try karate chopping the rock. Nothing. Even if you took a hammer to it - that rock isn’t splitting.
The same can happen with people’s hearts.
Even the hearts of long-time Christians.
I know racism is wrong. God is for all people. You should go tell it to those people over there. They’re the racist ones. In fact, that’s how all people like them are!
I know it says that sex outside of marriage is wrong. And I haven’t had it! Look at my purity ring! Now excuse me…the adult film. I uploaded on my iPhone is coming after it’s done buffering.
I know it! Pride is wrong. Preach it pastor! Especially at that guy over there. But don’t you preach it at humble me. There’s nobody humbler than I am.
And God’s Word connects with the heart.
And the heart hardens.
And hypocrisy ensues.
If you are a long-time church goer, take extra warning!
Don’t harden your heart to God’s Word.
And then sit around congratulating yourself for following God’s Word.
Instead of hardening your heart, look at God’s heart.
Because God’s heart was not hard.
His heart was filled with compassion.
His heart was filled with love for you…even when you repeatedly hardened your heart against him.
His heart was not hardened like a rock.
When he hung on that cross…
The soldiers reached up with a spear.
They plunged it into his him.
But softened with love for you.
Even now. Even if you’ve hardened your heart before, listen to his heart for you.
Repent of your hypocrisy.
And do it quickly.
III. All Kinds of Hypocrisy
As Paul continued his ministry, God continued to bless Paul. In fact, look at the amazing things that God did through Paul: Even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched Paul were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured, and the evil spirits left them. (v.12)
That’s amazing! Paul’s handkerchiefs cured from the flu and his aprons drove out evil spirits. But look at what happened, “Seven sons of Sceva (Which…Listen to the name. It sounds shady. Almost like an evil muppet or something) they went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (v.12-13)
To be fair, this doesn’t look hypocritical.
It looks like they are trying to help.
They aren’t ignorant of Jesus’ name. They use it.
They aren’t obstinately opposed to Jesus. God is against demons, too.
Yet, look at what happened.
One day an evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (v.15)
Do you see the problem?
But God could.
Maybe they weren’t doing this out of love for Jesus.
But out of love for power.
Maybe they weren’t doing this out of love for others.
But out of love for themselves.
They were hypocrites.
Good ones too! It was hard to tell that they were doing anything wrong.
But here’s the truth:
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from ignorance.
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from obstinance.
But hypocrisy is always exposed.
A family member finds out.
A pastor discovers the truth.
Your spouse learns about what you were trying to hide.
Always hypocrisy is exposed.
Even if you successfully hide it from all other human beings, God knows.
God knows and he will expose it.
At the end of time, you won’t be able to hide it.
And he won’t be able to hide his displeasure.
He’ll simply say:
Jesus, I know…
And Paul I know…
Who are you?
IV. What Now?
Therefore, God calls us to repent.
To turn from hypocrisy.
To turn to our Savior.
And the way to do that is to:
(1). Switch Your Mask
We said that hypocrisy is putting on a mask. Covering up our sins with a nice looking, “Christian” façade.
Make me think of Halloween. That’s a time for masks. There’s a wide variety of them at Precious Lambs. I remember there was one kid who made his own mask. It was made of string and paper. The paper covered up…one of his eyebrows. He said: “You don’t know who I am.” And I said: “Uh-huh.”
Hypocrisy? That’s like hiding behind the paper eyebrow mask.
We think it hides our sinfulness from God.
Instead, check out Galatians 3:27
All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Just like a full-fledged mask, it fully and completely covers up all your sins.
Jesus covers up your obstinance.
Jesus covers up your ignorance.
Jesus covers up your sin so much so that when God looks at you, He only sees – His child.
So much so that God calls us to our second WHAT NOW:
(2). Go Public
Look at the reaction of the people to what had occurred. Many who believed came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. (v.18)
Think about that: Believers gathered in the middle of the city with their arms filled of books that they had been storing in their homes. Books that weren’t about the Bible. Books that were about Satan, witchcraft, and sexual immorality.
It’d be like someone coming to the front of church and making a pile of a raunchy racist DVDs, two illegal drug baggies, and an iPhone loaded with pornographic content.
That’s take courage to do in front of everyone, right?
But they had the courage.
Because they were covered in Christ’s righteousness.
Because they knew they were God’s children.
Because they knew God’s children were serious about getting rid of sin.
Because they knew God’s other children wouldn’t ridicule them, but support them.
They went public with it.
Do the same.
Examine your heart.
Find your hypocrisy
And Go public with it.
Go public with a friend, a pastor, or a family member!
And if someone trusts you enough to publicly confess a secret sin to you, don’t say:
“Just a second while I share what you did on social media.”
Share the Gospel.
Remind them of Christ’s mask.
Help them incinerate whatever it is they are struggling with!
Because in that, God’s Word is spread.
In fact, look at the last verse:
In this way, the word of the Lord spread widely. (v.20)
Because when God’s Word gets us to stop being hypocrites and start being real, then God’s Word really spreads.
If we’re real -- real with God and real with each other -- then the community will notice.
Today we are looking at the final sermon in our EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS sermon series. It is based on the final time Jesus appeared to his group of disciples.
Have you counted up the appearances so far?
How many are there?
The other women.
The Emmaus Disciples.
The group of disciples on Easter.
The group of disciples - plus Thomas – one week later.
The group of disciples on the fishing trip.
That’s six accounts so far.
But that’s not all of them.
There’s another time that Jesus saw Peter – one-on-one. (1 Cor. 15:5)
There’s a time that Jesus appeared to a guy called James – either the disciple or Jesus’ half-brother. (1 Cor. 15:7)
There’s a time where Jesus gives his disciples the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-21)
There’s a time that Jesus appeared to more than 500 disciples all at one time (1 Cor. 15:6)
There’s even a time when Jesus appears to a guy named Saul who was hell-bent on destroying Christianity, but Jesus’ appearance transforms his heart into a guy named Paul who goes on 4 missionary journeys, starts 20 churches, and writes 13 books of the Bible (Acts 9).
If you were counting – that’s 11 different appearances to over 500 different people.
The resurrection is not made up.
It is REAL.
But if so…maybe you still struggle with this.
Because would it be so much easier if you could SEE Jesus?
If you could take a trip to the Holy Land and get a selfie with him?
If you could check out his Twitter handle for his perspective on any cultural situation?
If you could text him every time you had a question on a Bible passage…
Why did Jesus leave?
Why did he disappear?
Today’s EYEWITNESS account is the 12th recorded account in Scripture. It is the last one that occurs before he physically disappears. Today we want to learn (1) where Jesus went (2) why he disappeared (3) and what he wants us to do in the meantime. 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; 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 “Disappearance”
The lesson we are looking at to begin with comes from Luke 24:50-51: When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Timeline wise this is the 40th day after Easter. We find that out from Acts 1 – which is an expanded version of this same exact account.
Note that this final appearance starts with Jesus leading his disciples. That’s appropriate. He had led his disciples for 3 years. He had led him the last 40 days. He would lead them up until his last day on earth. In fact, that’s literally what disciple means: “follower.”
And he led them to Bethany. Bethany is a small town just to the east of Jerusalem. The city is the place where Jesus commandeered the donkey for his entrance into Jerusalem. In this instance, they are just outside of Bethany where a few hills are located.
And as they get to the top of the hill…
He disciples his disciples just like he had done so many times before.
Unlike so many times before…
His feet go up.
They lift off the ground.
And his body begins floating.
And he goes up.
And up. Until…
A cloud hid him from their sight.
Do any of you know who Criss Angel is? He’s like a tattooed, goth version of David Copperfield. He is famous for street magic.
One of the tricks that he did was he began to levitate in the air. Mind you – this is on the sidewalk, in the street, apart from a magician’s stage.
I thought that was amazing.
There’s a YouTube video of him explaining the trick. Essentially, he is wearing a special pair of pants that (1) break away in the front (2) have a mannequin’s foot attached to the back of it. This enables him to plant his real foot on the ground, balance, and go into a squat that makes it look like he is beginning to float parallel to the ground. The rest is misdirection and camera positioning.
And voila! Magic.
Jesus’ ascension is not a magic trick.
He isn’t floating on a false leg.
There isn’t camera misdirection.
He doesn’t hitch a ride on a hot air balloon, a jet pack or even a drone.
He goes all the way up to the sky
Without any strings attached.
Until he is hidden by a cloud.
This is a miracle!
This is Jesus’ ascension.
Jesus didn’t disappear; he ASCENDED into heaven.
This is a really important distinction.
Because if Jesus disappeared – we’re left confused and frightened.
But Jesus didn’t just disappear.
He ascended to heaven.
That word is really important. If any of you watched Game of Thrones – and I haven’t – but I think I can reveal this without giving a spoiler. I heard that at the end someone conquers all of the other people and ascended to the throne. He wins the Game of Thrones. He ascended to his position of power.
He did it because the struggle was over!
Jesus ascended because He conquered sin.
Jesus ascended because He conquered guilt.
Jesus ascended because He conquered shame.
Jesus ascended because He conquered death.
Jesus ascended because the work of salvation was completed.
That’s so important to remember!
Because Jesus’ whole purpose on earth was to defeat all of our spiritual enemies.
If he ascended to heaven? That’s because his work is done.
Remember that – it’s really easy to think:
I’ve got more to do.
I’ve got to become the perfect mom.
Jesus weakened sin, guilt and shame – but I have to finish them.
There’s even churches out there that preach – you’ve got more to do!
You’ve gotta get to perfection.
You’ve gotta improve.
You’ve gotta do some things to complete Jesus’ work for him.
Jesus doesn’t leave tasks unfinished.
Jesus always completes.
And Jesus completed completely conquering your sin.
If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have left!
Jesus ascended where he rules over all.
Ephesians says this: “He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (1:20-21)
Did you hear that?
The one who loves you more than you could ever dream is in control of all things.
He’s ruler over cities, counties, and states.
He’s ruler over kings, despots, and presidents.
He’s ruler over wind, waves, and the hot temperature outside right now!
He’s is ruler over all things!
Nothing’s more powerful.
Nothing can defeat him.
There’s one more place that he would love to rule:
I went to McDonald's the other day with a coupon for a free meal that someone had given me. After I ordered Value Meal number seven, I handed them the card and the person said: “Just a second. I can’t authorize this.”
She called over her coworker who looked at the card and said: “We need a manager to authorize this.”
She called over a shift manager who looked at the card and said: “I’m sorry. I can’t authorize this.”
She called over her manager who looked at the card, entered the code and authorized it.
It’s the same thing with life.
We want peace.
We want joy.
We want courage.
And we try to find it from all the things that don’t have the authority to give it:
Things like lust.
Things like greed.
Things like money, fame, career…a desire to be perfect!
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15)
Because Christ is God.
Christ is the one true ruler.
Christ offers true peace.
And Christ also offers us direction.
II. Our Mission
Because if the boss leaves and you don’t know what to do, it can be stressful:
Should we finish the reports?
Should we work on new clients?
Should we try to recover old ones?
UGH! Maybe we should just drink all of the coffee.
Christ didn’t leave us unclear with what to do. Look at what he told his disciples before his ascension:
Jesus told his disciples, “This is what is written (that’s a reference to Old Testament prophecy.) The Messiah will suffer (Jesus suffered) and rise from the dead on the third day (Jesus did), and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”(That hadn’t happened yet…)
But then look at what Jesus says next:
“You are witnesses of these things.” (Lk. 24:46-48)
Do you get it?
The final part of God’s plan is bringing the message of forgiveness to everyone.
And while all the other parts happened through Jesus…
This is the part that happens through you:
Before being UPLIFTED, Jesus commanded us to UPLIFT.
You don’t need to be confused about your task on this earth.
You see a coworker who is down? Approach them, listen to them, and share the message of Jesus.
Tucking your kids in for the night? Tuck them in, kiss their forehead, and share the message of Jesus.
Have a spouse who doesn’t believe? Go home, give them a hug, and share the message of Jesus.
Serve in ministry here at school? Do the lesson plans, cut out the art project, and share the message of Jesus.
Serve in leadership here at church? Think about funding, consider maintenance, but don’t forget our goal is to SHARE THE MESSAGE OF JESUS!
But don’t think you have to do it alone.
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” More specifically in Acts: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you….” (1:8)
Ten days later.
The disciples are in Jerusalem just like Jesus told them to be.
There’s the sound of a hurricane like wind without the wind coming from within the room they are staying.
They look around and they see tongues of fire appear on the top of each other’s heads.
They are able to speak fluently in languages that they have never even studied.
The Holy Spirit was with them.
And they immediately find courage. Because they go out that day and do some sidewalk preaching – in the middle of downtown Jerusalem – with the end result that over 3,000 people are baptized and believe.
The Holy Spirit was with them.
And the Holy Spirit is with you.
Jesus left you with the promise of the HOLY SPIRIT.
By faith, the Holy Spirit is with you and he does the impossible.
He made fire appear on the heads of disciples.
He made them speak in language they never learned.
He made the sound of a hurricane occur without any hurricane winds.
He does the incredible!
The seemingly impossible.
Working through you.
To bring others to faith!
But that’s not all.
Look at verses 49-50 of Luke 24:
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, Jesus lifted up his hands and blessed them.
Throughout Scripture, whenever Jesus’ hands are involved, there are some amazing blessings:
In Luke 13 he lays his hands on a woman who had never been able to straighten her back…and instantly she did.
In Mark 7, he lays his hands on a man who is deaf and mute and…instantly he hears and speaks.
In Mark 8, he lays his hands on a blind man’s eyes and…instantly he sees.
In Mark 6, it simply says, “He laid his hands on…sick people and healed them.” (v.5)
Talk about blessings.
And then, there’s the final blessing that pours from his hands.
He heads to a cross.
They take his hands and nails them.
And then blood flows forth.
But not just blood.
Jesus left, but left us with BLESSINGS pouring from his HANDS.
Even though you can’t see his hands.
Even though you can’t touch them.
The truth is no less true.
The blessings are no less real.
It’s one of the reasons that pastors for centuries have continued this tradition. Using the words of Scripture – God’s Word – they lift up their hands. They communicate God’s blessings on the congregation. They say: “The Lord bless you and keep you.”
This is more than just wishful thinking.
This is God’s real blessing given to you.
III. What Now?
I think that if you were a passerby and saw the aftermath of the Ascension, you might have laughed.
Because there were 20 some dudes.
Eyes lifted upwards.
Staring into the cloud.
Gazing into the sky.
Mouths dropped wide open.
And this continued…
A tap on the shoulder:
“The angel said, ‘Why do you stand there staring up into the sky? This same Jesus who left you…will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:10)
In other words:
You have a job to do.
Stop looking into heaven.
And start looking around.
Don’t you see…?
There are souls who need this message.
Souls in your office.
Souls at the garage.
Souls in your neighborhood.
Souls in your kid’s room.
Souls in your kitchen.
Souls in the easy chair across from you while watching Netflix tonight.
Everywhere you look there is work that needs to be done!
What a privilege God wants to work through YOU!
Keep your eyes on the task that Jesus has given you
Be a WITNESS of the EYEWITNESS truth of your Risen Savior. Amen.
This is a great question. There are a ton of resources for studying God’s Word. However, I think that might be the biggest problem. If there was only book to read, I think we would be in pretty good shape. Get book-read book. However, there are literally hundreds of Bible translations, not to mention the thousands of devotional books.
Where to start? I see four possible ideas:
There probably aren’t many scarier sentences in the English language. Although: It’s fatal. You’re dying. Or you only have a few months left, may come in as close runner ups.
Maybe you’ve heard words like that.
Maybe you’ve haven’t.
But you’ve probably thought of death.
Today we’re taking a look at Psalm 16. It’s a Psalm for the Dying. It is a Psalm for those with terminal diagnoses and it is a Psalm for those of us in the latter years of our lives, but it is also a Psalm for all of us – because all of us are humans – and all of us are dying. That’s why we need to hear a psalm like this. A Psalm filled with hope. 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; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Comfortlessness of “not gods”
Psalm 16 is written by King David. King David was someone that was constantly confronted with death. Whether at the hands of a lion, a bear, a 7 ½ foot warrior, the King of Israel and all of his angry men, or the Philistines, a neighboring country who place King David on their Most Wanted list – David knew what it was like to face death.
He knew where to put his hope and he knew where not to put his hope. Look at what he wrote:
1 Keep me safe, my God,
For in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
Apart from you I have no good thing.”
4 Those who run after other gods
Will suffer more and more.
Pay close attention to verse 2. Notice it sounds very similar, I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord.” But that’s where the English translation is missing something very important. The first LORD there (it should be in all capital letters in whatever Bible you are using) is the Hebrew word YAHWEH. It means simply, “I am.” It’s the name that God identifies himself as. “I am.”
The second “Lord,” is not in all capital letters. That’s because this Lord simply means “master.” A hint of C.E.O. with a large portion of leader. It’s a name synonymous with God.
Listen to verse 2 again then, “I said to I AM,” specifically, “the God revealed to Old Testament Jews, worshipped by the Old Testament Jews and written about in the Old Testament,” I said to that LORD, “you are my Lord… my God. My Master. My Leader. And apart from you, I have no good thing.”
Because what happens if your comfort is not in the Great I Am?
The Great I AM is not the only “god” mentioned in the Old Testament. Other nations worshipped other gods. There was a god named Baal. He was a statue made of bronze that looked like a half man/half cow. There was a god named Dagon. He was a statue that looked like a fish man that the Philistines worshipped. There was a god named Ashtoreth. People made poles and had sex in front of them in order to worship them.
How do these gods hold up in the comfort department?
“I just got diagnosed with cancer. But…I baked some bread and placed it in front of my Baal statue so…it’s still there, but. I’m sure Ball will help.”
“My wife found out that she has six weeks to live. It’s ok though. I was praying in the Dagon sanctuary all night long. I think it worked too. I think I saw him wink at me!" (That or I’m really, really tired)
“Hey buddy…I heard you’re nervous about what might happen to you when you die. Put your faith in my Asherah pole. It cut it to regulation length and sanded it so that it’s smooth to the touch. If anything can grant you eternal life, it’s this 8-foot piece of dead tree.”
How do these gods hold up in the comfort department? They don’t. And neither do the ‘not-gods’ of today.
There is no comfort in Buddha, that, “you may be going through excruciating pain, but it will be worth it when you come back as a butterfly! Or…maybe a slug.”
There is no comfort in Allah, that, “you go ahead and explode in a fiery way and if Allah is pleased with the fireworks show then, you’ll be eating grapes forever.”
There is no comfort in the Jewish religion version of the Old Testament God that “if you do Jewish things, you’ll get to heaven. But if you accidentally mixed up your milk cooking pot with your meat cooking pot that one time --- you’re eternally cooked.”
There is no comfort in science that “I’ll go into the ground and bugs will eat my body, but hey…at least I did some good…sometimes…when I remember.”
There is no comfort in the most popular “not God” of modern America.
There is no comfort in you.
Have you ever noticed that most funerals people like to mention all the good things that people did, but never mentioned the bad things? They mention the charities, the kindnesses, and the goodness. But have you ever noticed that no one ever mentions the bad things?
The real things?
· “He was a good husband…except for the times when he yelled at me and I feared for my bodily welfare.”
· “She was a great wife. Except for the times when she called me every swear word that she could think of.”
· “He was a great coworker – when he wasn’t drunk.”
· “She was a great neighbor -- too much so. She did sleep with about every guy on the block.”
You know why we don’t mention those things? Because they aren’t comforting. Because those are bad things. Because those bad things deserve death.
Romans 1:32 says, “People know God’s righteous decree that those who do wrong things deserve death.” That’s justice. True Justice. If we are turning to ourselves and our own deeds and our own accomplishments to comfort us in death -- you won’t find comfort. It’s like trying to take a nap on a bed of nails! It’s not comforting at all!
Because when you look at your own accomplishments and your own life for comfort in death, you’re actually looking at the very thing that causes your death in the first place.
II. The Comfort of the One God
There is no comfort apart from the true God.
That’s what the town of Nain was discovering. A beloved widow – the kind who knew everyone’s name – the kind who baked muffins for your birthday – the kind who always gave you a hug – had just lost her son.
Her only son.
The entire town was out for the funeral procession. There weren’t any rousing speeches. There weren’t any words of comfort. There weren’t any songs of joy.
It was a sad affair. Cries mixed with wailing mixed with murmurs of curses at God.
He was the affair from afar.
He told his disciples to wait.
He walked through the crowd;
He passed right by the widow.
He smiled, reached up and touched the young man’s hand.
“Young man – live.”
Suddenly, Jesus brought a comfort that no one could bring that widow.
Jesus literally brought her son back to life.
This is why David tells us to find comfort in the One True God:
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
My body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me o the realm of the dead,
Nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
Pay very close attention to the phrase in verse 10. You will not let your Holy One see decay. In a certain sense, David was talking about himself. He knew that he would not die. He knew that he would have eternal life because God had made him righteous by faith. For years, I’m sure that was the understanding of that passage.
But…fast forward a couple 800 some years.
Paul, a Christian teacher, is teaching about Jesus. He says, “Do ya’ll remember that passage from Psalm 16:10? Remember how confident David was that his body would not decay? Do you also remember that David’s body decayed? Literally – let’s go find his grave. Let’s dig it up. We won’t find anything but soil and worms.”
Because David wasn’t talking about himself. David was talking about Jesus.
Jesus who died on a cross.
Jesus who was buried.
Jesus who came back to life.
His body didn’t even decay! Two of his disciples prepared him for burial, wrapped him up and placed him in a tomb and before his body did not begin to rot before the white blood cells were detoxing his body yet again. His lungs didn’t begin to lose their shape, before they filled with air once more. His flesh did not begin to smell, before he was outdoors smelling the rose yet again!
Look at David’s confidence in this same Jesus: 11 You make known to me the path of life! You went through death. You came out alive. And you’ll lead me to do the same.
I remember once time in college I was short on cash and found an ad on the campus bulletin board for help needed raking leaves. $15 per bag! I was excited. So, my friend and I typed the address into MapQuest (this was before Smartphones – am I dating myself?) and started driving. We got into the countryside and farmland of small town MN, when the directions got very interesting.
Take HWY 17. Ok. Done.
Turn right onto County Road 18. Got it.
Turn left onto Unnamed Road.
God’s not like that. He doesn’t have some really difficult to follow directions. He won life for us and he made it so easy to attain. John 3:16 says simply this, “God so loved the world that he gave his One and Only Son, that’s Jesus, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.”
You know this is true because Jesus is the Great I AM.
Jesus is the God that David was talking about in Psalm 16.
Jesus is the author of Life.
Jesus is your life.
Jesus will not abandon you to the grave.
He won’t let you die in some hospital all alone.
He won’t shut you up in some Assisted Living Home and forget all about you.
He won’t put you on Hospice care and let others deal with you.
He will not abandon you on this side of the grave
Nor the other side.
III. What Now?
David said that’s what he was not going to do anymore: “I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods.”
Because back then one way you’d worship those “not gods” is by making a sacrifice, collecting the blood and pouring it out on the altar of a false god. That showed your allegiance to the false god. That showed trust in that false god. That showed you were a follower of that false god.
But if you trust in the true God, why do you need the false gods?
Now there aren’t any false gods that require blood sacrifices in 21st century America. But think about your actions – stop pouring out libations to them.
Do you give financial gifts to an organization that’s helps share the teaching of a false god? Stop it.
Do the Facebook posts you share support false teachings – which is a false view of God? Delete them.
Does your politically correct office talk give the impression that “It’s no big deal. God can be whoever you want him to be. If you want that coffee pot to be your god man, he’ll be your god. Cool. I’m sure you’re saved.” Stop talking in such a way.
Stop pouring out libations to “not gods.”
(2) Take Refuge in God
That’s what David started out with. In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge.
It’s like when a hurricane is coming. You want to find refuge in a good shelter. It’s not a great idea to go set up a tent and go camping. For a powerful hurricane, the more fortified the building the better. You want to be safe from rain, from wind and flying debris.
Finding refuge in ‘not gods’ is like preparing for a hurricane by covering up with a few newspapers.
Finding refuge in the God, Jesus Christ means that you will not die, but live.
And you’ll find hope as you face death. Hopes that lasts forever.
(3) Measure out Your Boundary Line
Of course, death can still be intimidating. Death can still be scary. If the doctor has had bad reports for you, then it can certainly leave you scared.
That’s when you need to measure out your boundary line.
I think that’s an interesting phrase in verse 6. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. You might think – that’s easy for David to say. He was King of Israel. He had a gorgeous palace. God expanded his empire while he was king.
Me? I’ve got a 1100 square foot ranch house. Plus, my neighbor and I have been arguing about whether or not that dogwood tree is mine or his for the past 3 years!
But this Psalm isn’t about David’s earthly inheritance.
This Psalm is about David’s eternal inheritance.
His eternal inheritance is the same is yours.
Do what David suggest. Take a moment – today, tomorrow – anytime you’re feeling intimidated by death – and gaze at your inheritance.
It’s a nice little bungalow.
There’s no sin there.
The flowers bloom eternally – they never die.
No need for an AC or a furnace because the weather is always perfect.
The area is pretty neat – there are eternal pleasures on every street corner.
Your next-door neighbor? He’s pretty cool.
It’s God himself.
One day – you will live by him. Amen.
Timaeus’ son never amounted to much.
To be fair it wasn’t his fault. He’d been blind for years. Without his sight, he couldn’t do much.
He couldn’t catch fish.
He couldn’t count money.
He couldn’t read Scriptures or make chairs.
He could only beg. For years, he had been setting up shop on the side of the road. He’d lean against a tree trunk. He’d lift his eyes up towards the road. He’d listen. And when he heard people coming, he’d shout:
Help! Help me! Some money. Some food. Some anything. Help me.
He was helpless.
As a lifelong blind beggar, Bartimaeus grew more hopeful when he heard certain voices approaching. The short, abrupt voices weren’t very kind. He barely received anything other than “get-a-job” pleasantries from them. But other voices, kinder voices, jovial voices would find some way to help him—a coin, a sandwich, a few pieces of beef jerky. In fact, that was so common that when he heard a voice like this he would sit up a bit taller, hold his hand out a bit longer, and wait a bit happier.
But on this particular day, as he sat in the glistening sun – his muscles growing tired from holding his palm out – he heard a voice that was different. A voice that was kind. A voice that was powerful. A voice that was divine.
Could this be Jesus? He had heard of him. His words. His thoughts. His miracles.
As the hubbub of the teacher’s group grew closer, the man pulled himself up with a tree branch and shouted out as loudly as he could:
Jesus! Have mercy on me. Jesus have mercy on me!
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!
Finally, his shouts quiet the crowd around him. After a few moments of silence, so quiet that he could feel the stares of everyone around looking at him, he heard that divine voice speak:
What would you like me to do for you?
As much money as he could muster.
Maybe Jesus could hook him up with a job.
I’d like to see.
The request shocked the crowd.
The request shocked the man.
How could he ask that? How could Jesus do that? How could he expect that?
But the silence was interrupted by footsteps.
Jesus walked over.
He put his hands on his eyes.
And…Bartimaeus saw something that he had never seen before.
Jesus had done it again. Jesus had helped the helpless.
That’s what Jesus does. And today we’re going to be reminded of that in a wonderful Psalm that’s tailor made for you when you’re feeling helpless. Our goal is to see just why God is the perfect one to turn to when you need help. As always before we delve in, let’s say a prayer and ask God to bless us: 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; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Lift Up Your Eyes
Psalm 121 is all about a guy who needs help. He’s, in fact, helpless. We don’t know the situation that he’s in. Is he months behind on the mortgage? Did he have a knock down drag out fight with his wife? Did he just find out that he has leukemia? Is he in danger of losing his job at work? We’re not told. Perhaps that’s for the best – it makes it very easy to insert whatever helpless feeling situation that you find yourself in.
Look at verse 1. He says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?” In that verse you get a semblance of how he’s feeling. He’s lifting up his eyes – the impression is that he’s in a very lowly place or at least feels very lowly. He’s sullen. He’s down in the dumps. He’s feeling very much like he’s fallen and he can’t get up.
This all leads up to a very important question that he ponders deep within his soul: Where does my help come from?
Before we any farther – to help us apply this to ourselves – we’ve got to ask ourselves the same thing. (And so) I’m going to ask you to the same thing:
Where does your help come from?
Of course, we’re in church. You might have a hunch that the right answer is God. You might have looked ahead in the Psalm and seen that the Psalmist’s answer is God. So, you might want to knock that softball Sunday School question out of the park and answer, “GOD! My help comes from God. Now, where’s my gold star?”
But just because you know that you should go to someone for help, doesn’t mean that you actually go to someone for help.
Who do you go to for help? Think about it.
• When you find out your behind at rent, do you pray to God for help OR do you start by making a list of all the ways that you can solve this on your own?
• When you get in a fight with your spouse, do you open up a Bible for guidance or do you try to fix it on your own?
• When you find out that there’s a problem at work, do you send your boss an email, “I’ll get to work on it right now, but praying for God’s blessings on this project.” ?
• When you have a health scare, do you look for the best doctor who uses the best medicine and works at the best facility but forget all about looking at THE best Doctor, who uses THE best medicine and works at THE best facility?
It’s sad, huh? We know where our help should come from. But that doesn’t mean that’s where we actually go to for help.
But that’s so foolish! Because when you’re on the ground, as low as you can go, and you only look down – you won’t find any help! The worm can’t lift you up. The piece of grass won’t offer words of comfort. The snail doesn’t have a helping hand to extend – he doesn’t even have hands.
If you’re feeling lowly and you keep your eyes on an earthly level, you won’t find the help you need.
Which will cause you to feel like no one can help you.
Which will leave you feeling helpless.
Which means our feelings of helplessness are because of a lack of help, but a lack of looking in the right place.
It’s a lack of looking up!
II. The Help Up There
Because look at the help that’s there when you look up. Verses 2-8 say it so beautifully. Listen to the description of your Helper in its entirety.
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you--
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
(1) A Universe Maker
Check out what verse 2 says:
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip--
Notice it doesn’t say that my help comes from my dog. It doesn’t say my help comes from a three-year-old kid. It doesn’t even say my help comes from Steve Urkel. Our help comes from the LORD! He’s no weakling. He’s not unable to help. He’s the Maker of heaven and earth.
We’ve got to take a break from our evolution, there is no god, the world evolved over billions of years society to properly understand just how powerful the maker of Heaven and earth is. Because our science books have such a grip on us that we forget that whole evolution thing is nothing more than a THEORY. Not a fact. Not a video recorded truth. A Theory.
And as a result, Christians have just melded God into that theory…as if God caused a big bang and then it took billions of years for him to accomplish the world that we have today. That’s cool—kinda—but it means that the power isn’t that incredible or instantaneous. That’s like someone solving a Sudoku after working on it for a year and a half. I guess that’s impressive?
But this billion-year evolution is not what the Bible says.
It’s not what God says.
It’s not what Jesus, the guy who died and came back to life – the guy that we trust with our salvation – says:
The Bible describes God creating the world in six, 24 hour days. That’s amazing. Stop and think of the logistics. It means that God spoke and mountains surged forth from the ground. God spoke again and waterfalls rushed into an incredible ocean. God spoke again and fully grown, seed bearing trees formed from Asheville to the Outer Banks. God spoke one more time and whales, elephants, lions, tigers and bears did whatever he wanted them to do!
That’s your God. Almighty. Powerful. That’s the one who is your help! The maker of heaven and earth!
Do you think helping you out of debt is really that hard?
Do you think healing a disease is all that difficult?
Do you think you think repairing a relationship is beyond him?
Do you really think the one holding up the stars and moon and Jupiter and those new planets just discovered outside our galaxy is able to let you slip?
(2) An Eternal No-Dozer
Because what good would this divine Creator be to you if he was asleep? That’s like a kid wanting some help with his homework but finding dad asleep on the couch. Not that sleep is bad; it’s just that sleep isn’t very helpful.
And everyone sleeps. Your doctor. Your dentist. Your car mechanic. They all sleep. All of our helpers sleep.
3 --- he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
He will never be too tired to help you out.
He will never be so groggy that he doesn’t notice you’re in need.
He will never be so far passed out that he doesn’t answer your prayers.
God doesn’t slumber.
God doesn’t sleep.
God doesn’t stop being ready to help you.
(3) Your Sunscreen
Ok. It doesn’t exactly say sunscreen and I don’t mean to imply that God can be found in a bottle at the local store. But look at what Verses 5-6 describe:
5 The Lord watches over you--
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
Because what does shade do? It keeps you out of the hot sun. When it’s 110 degrees and you’re hot and you’re sweaty and you’re tired and your skin is starting to ache as you slowly turn into a lobster, the shade of a tree is one of the best things you can find! It’s cool. It’s relaxing. It keeps you protecting from the danger of the sun.
He protects from the harmful burns of the devil.
He comforts us with His promises of protection.
He stops the harsh rays of guilt from destroying our souls.
He cools us down from the stress of life as he says, “Peace. I’ve got this. You’ll be ok. I love you.”
(4) A Keeper from All Harm
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Which is a wonderful thought. But as you’re seeing this, maybe you’re thinking, “That’s not entirely true. If there was no harm, then I wouldn’t be feeling helpless. If he was watching over all the time – then what about last Thursday at 5:15pm when that awful thing happened?! Does he really keep from all harm?”
That’s a matter of perspective, isn’t it?
It’s like one of those pictures that seems like one thing until you turn it 90 degrees and then it looks like something different. There’s one famous picture of a duck until you turn it to its side and it looks like a rabbit. Different perspectives = different thoughts = same picture.
It’s the same thing with God. You and I look at it and we might think: This is no good. This is awful. This is harm!
But God looks at it and says:
This will cause you to look up for help.
This will cause you to rely on me like never before.
This will cause you to remain in faith until I bring you home to heaven.
That’s not harm.
That’s why we look up.
Because up is where the mountains are.
Because up is where our help is.
Because up is where our help is on a mountain.
It was dark.
It was sad.
It was bloody.
There hung Jesus. Losing blood. Running out of breath. Slowly dying. Looking like he needed help!
But he didn’t.
In fact, he wasn’t in need of help, he was up there because you were in need of help.
You were completely covered in sin.
You were deserving of eternal death.
You were without a way of helping yourself.
But on that cross Your Help reached out.
On that cross, the Maker of Heaven and Earth– created something new – a way for you to get to eternal life.
On that cross, the one who never slumbers or sleeps – remained awake until every last sin of yours was paid for.
On that cross, your shade in the day and in the night – was also your shade from sin, death, and hell.
On that cross, the one who protects you from all harm -- protected you from harm.
And he will do that. Always.
Just keep looking up. Your Help comes from the Lord.
The beginning of a new school year isn't a very peaceful time.
For kids, it means new teachers. New friends. A new class schedule. New classes. New people who like them. New people who don't like them.
They think, “Will I know everything I need to know? Will I remember everything I need to remember? If I don't will the kids make fun of me? Will they refuse to be my friend? Will the teachers like me? Will I like my teachers?”
After the first day, they come home, slouch in an easy chair and sigh, “I wish it was still summer vacation.”
But it's not so easy for parents either. “Do I have all the school supplies I need? Do I have enough money for all the school supplies I need? Will I like my child's teacher? Will kids be nice to my child? Will he do well in school? Will I need to help him with homework? Will I remember everything I need to know for my homework? UGH!” With a sigh, the parent slouches into the easy chair next to her child, “I wish it was still summer vacation.”
Whether you are embarking on a new school year or you are in the midst of one, school can be hectic! How will you combat this? How will you defeat the 'busy'-ness of your day to day schedule? How will you find peace amidst the fears that school brings?
Today Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”
Why We Need Peace.
I bet it was supposed to be a pretty peaceful night.
The Passover meal was a time for celebration. A time to eat good food. A time to reflect on God’s love. A time to share with family and friends.
The disciples were prepared for just that. The food was ready. All their friends were their. Their Lord, Jesus Christ was there.
The night was supposed to be peaceful!
But then, Jesus spoke.
He accused Judas of a plot to betray him, causing their friend to leave in a huff. (Jn. 13:26-28) He predicted they would all abandon him. (Mk. 14:27) He told Peter that he would deny even knowing him. (Jn. 13:38) He said that he himself would leave them in only a little while. (Jn. 13::33) He would be killed by their enemies!
Talk about a change in the atmosphere of the night. The tension was palpable. I imagine hearts were beating fast. Sweat was forming on lips. Insides were clenching.
This night wasn’t remotely peaceful!
That’s when Jesus spoke again.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (Jn. 14:27)
How is your peace level? Do you ever feel just like those disciples? You want peace. You yearn for peace, but in today’s world, it just seems hard to find.
It’s easy to see why.
When I was growing up I was frightened of the monster under my bed. In my imagination, he had three bigs eyes, two horns, and extra sharp teeth. It’s why I couldn’t go under my bed. My mom figured it was because I didn’t want to clean under it.
Made up imaginary monsters are the least of our children’s worries! Our world is filled with terrors! People shoot one another. People bomb one another. People poison one another. People hate one another. And…it’s real In the airport, you need to have your shoes checked just in case someone is trying to explode the plane with your shoes. You must pass through the metal detector at school. You better be paying attention to your surroundings…whether you are at the mall, a movie theater, or a marathon!
Not to mention how scary our own personal lives can be! The fear of losing a job. The fear of losing a loved one. The fear of a relationship falling to pieces. The fear of no one loving you!
I haven’t even begun to mention the host of scary things that we never even think of! Like the Black Widow under your pillow. Or the copper head out on the playground. Or the devil. That no good rotten scoundrel whose only desire is to muck up your life with sin. Make things a mess. And, in his own disgusting, devious mind, treat you to an eternal life with him in the bowels of hell.
To be frank, this world is not a peaceful place!
Where then, do you turn to find peace?
To be fair there are alot of different places to turn for peace. God has given us a host of blessings. Friends. Chocolate cake. A good book. Peaceful gardens.
But how long does this kind of peace really last?
Consider our options.
First, we might turn to what I’ll call “abstractions.” That is things that aren’t so much real, but possibilities. Phrases like “I’ll be alright.” “It’s for the best” or “I’ll work it out.” These are nothing more than empty platitudes. Is cancer really going to be alright? Try telling that to the person who has gone through 3 years of chemotherapy? Are the angry words of hatred that your boss screamed at you really for the best? Will the terrorist battles really work themselves out?
The truth is: You don’t know that any of these things will happen. You don’t know that life will get better. It may not! If these words are all you have, they are empty!
That kind of peace isn’t real peace at all. It’s as phony as the monster under my bed!
Next, we may turn to neutral distractions. Things that keep us busy so that we don’t dwell on the scary things of this world. Being endlessly busy at work. Picking up a new hobby of wood working. Watching marathons of Iron Chef on the food channel.
But do these things solve the problem? Not at all. Because when work is done. When you’re tired of fishing. When you’ve reached the latest episode of Iron Chef, the scary things in life are still there.
So we turn to even more powerful distractions. Ones that literally alter the chemicals in our brains. The highs produced by drugs. The mind numbing ability of drunkenness. The thrill of “no strings attached” sex. The escape of internet pornography, internet gambling, and internet romances.
These things don’t make life more peaceful either. When the drug wears off. When your immoral partner leaves. When the internet connection goes out, your problems are still there!
Brothers and sisters, we’ve got it all wrong. The world is what is causing our fears in the first place! Why then would we turn to the world to heal our fears!?!
That's like trying to heal a snake bite by injecting a syringe full of venom!
Doesn't make much sense does it? Why turn to what has left us without peace to get peace?
Because the world cannot give us real peace. Not lasting peace. Whether it's sinful or not, it will not give us the peace of a purpose in life, sins forgiven, and the devil defeated!
We need to turn outside of this world.
III. The Right Place to Turn.
It was a dark night. A group of shepherd sat on a hill. Looking up at the stars, perhaps they were filled with wonder. Where is God? Who is God? What does he wants with me? Does he know all the wrong I have done? Does he care about how awful this world is getting? Does he want us to sit around in fear?
Who would’ve known that God would answer any of those questions that night!
From heavens, a supernatural being. An angel glowing with joy. “Do not be afraid. For I bring you good new of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord!”
Then, this majestic being was joined by a host of other beings. A divine chorus rang out: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth PEACE to men on whom his favor rests.”
Did you hear that? Peace. Peace came to the world that night.
And peace didn’t come in theform of a victorious warrior. He wasn't a witty physician. He wasn't even an exotic dietician.
Peace was a baby.
This is Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace himself. He alone brings peace to a terror filled world. A world where nothing makes sense. Where terror fills of waking moment. He comes. He whispers. “I love you. I am there for you. I went to the cross for you and will never leave you.”
Certainly, he accomplishes this. For he was the one who brought us peace with the Almighty God of holiness. The Lord who hates our sin. Jesus appease him. He died on the cross and appeased God’s holy wrath. Literally, because Jesus died you have peace with God! He solved your problem of sin.
And talk about peace? This means we have peace in knowing that the devil cannot harm us. We have peace in knowing that Jesus is more powerful. We have peace in knowing that our sins will not be counted against us. We have peace in knowing that we will not enter the eternal fires of hell that we deserve, but into the peace filled courts of the prince of peace himself!
Brothers and sisters, think about that peace! There is no terrorist. No bad guy. No monster under the bed. No amount of awful thing on earth that can change this truth: Jesus loves you! He died for you! You are his! He will bring you home to heaven!
Think again about what Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you ; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”
Because Jesus’ peace lasts forever. It does not end at the commercial break. It doesn’t wear off when the substance fades. It is always true.
What Jesus did for you cannot change!
And it deals with things that worldly peace cannot. He gives peace to the guilty conscience by actually, physically, erally suffering and dying on the cross as payment for our sins! He doesn’t just distract us or numb us. He literally takes care of the problem.
And he really, completely defeats that devil! He is of no threat to us now! Turn to him and shout your peace of mind! “I am saved through faith in Jesus!”
Where to Find Peace.
Brothers and sisters, crave this peace for yourselves. Give it to your children.
But where will I find him?
In the verse right before this, Jeuss explains where His peace comes from. He says, “When the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everyting I have said to you.”
In other words. He’ll remind you of the peace you have in me.
He reminded the disciples. The disciples wrote it down. Now through the disciples’ words, the Holy Spirit reminds us. He gives us peace as we learn God’s Word!
So give that gift to your children!
It’s a new school year. There are big changes for them. New teachers. New classes. New classmates. When you combine it with all the other troubles of this world, it can be a scary place.
Give them the gift of peace. Teach them about Jesus. Tell them a Bible story. Read them a devotion.
Need help? Bring your kid to Sunday School. We are starting Sunday School for PreK-Kindergarten, 1st-4th, and 5th-8th grade on September 8th at 9:30am. Don't miss it!
Then, come to Adult Sunday School. We're studying the same lessons so that you will be ready to answer questions your kids might have. We'll also learn practical suggestions for teaching them the lesson and incorporating it into your daily routine for the week.
And...you'll get some peace for yourself!
Sometimes, therapists will talk about your happy place. When the world gets scary, they say find a happy place. You might think about sitting on a beach, sipping a margarita and listening to the Beach Boys. Or maybe you'd think of sitting by your garden in a hammock while reading the latest Debbie MacComber book.
Would you ever consider your happy place to be a dark hill with a blood encrusted wooden cross upon it?
Brothers and sisters, this is our happy place! It is the place where Jesus died. It is the place where our sin was defeated. It was the place where we were guaranteed peace in this life and the next!
Peace not of this world. Otherworldly peace.
Prince of peace --- peace.