Raising the Next Generation

Conversations With Jesus – Luke 6:40

Welcome to part 5 of Ken’s teaching series called Conversations. Today I am going to talk about The Greatest Teacher – Jesus’ conversation about raising the next generation. – Luke 6:40 (this is also my tribute to moms on Mother’s Day)

Let’s take a look at what Jesus is teaching his disciples in Luke 6. Beginning in verse 20, Luke records his equivalence of the sermon on the mount, with his version of the beatitudes (Luke 6:20-26).

And THEN Jesus spoke a parable to them in Luke 6:39-40, when he tells us that the blind cannot guide the blind. Why? Because they will both fall into the pit. You know what this tells me? Since I am all about discipleship, I think that it is accurate to say that we CANNOT lead someone in discipleship to a place that we have not yet gone. That’s not an excuse to never attempt to disciple someone but it IS a strong challenge to lead by example. As followers of Christ, we are called to lead people to greater depths of devotion to Jesus and to spend our lives in the pursuit of conforming to the image of Christ. We must be willing and committed to do whatever it takes to look more like Jesus. It doesn’t happen by accident but on purpose with determined intentionality.

OK, let me get to my intended verse because Luke 6:40 is the starting point for my message today… “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”

So, this message today is going to focus on what Jesus said about raising the next generation. In context, Jesus is talking about the rabbi-follower relationship, discipler-disciplee, mentor-mentee, but on this Mother’s Day, I think this verse can speak to us about what parents do for their children. If we don’t do anything else, our kids will generally turn out much like us. They follow our example, it’s NOT just what we SAY but what we DO.

I remember a commercial when I was a kid, a dad and his son were in the front yard washing the car. The little boy of 5 or 6 does exactly what the dad does… washing the fender, scrubbing the tires, wearing the baseball cap, all with the narrator repeating the phrase, “like father, like son.” Then they sit down at the base of a tree in the front yard and dad grabs a pack of cigarettes, and as the son reaches for the pack that daddy just laid down, the narrator asks the question, “Like father, like son?”

Our kids are watching us. Moms and dad not only have the awesome responsibility of raising the next generation of citizen in America, but they are raising the next generation of Christians in America. As we look around our country today, what sort of followers of Jesus are we producing? Are we making disciples or do we settle for making good little church attenders? Are the kids in the church today just learning moral lessons from the Bible or are they encountering and learning about the God of the Bible? Do they know the reason they were created and the responsibility they have for reaching those who are far from God and even those who have little or no access to the gospel?

Remember what I said a moment ago, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to take someone to a place we have not yet gone ourselves. We cannot pass on that which we don’t embrace. Our kids will never learn how to have a quiet time if they don’t see us having regular times for devotional reading and praying. They won’t learn how to share the gospel if we don’t share the gospel. They won’t learn how to disciple someone else if no one ever discipled them.

Maybe this sounds familiar… when asked in a social situation, “what do you do?” I’ve heard some moms say something like, “I’m just an at-home mom.” Well, let me remind you what mom’s do at home…

  • First, let’s give mom a creative title. Domestic engineer? Household CEO? Director of child development? And how about the activities an at-home mom does?
  • Teacher: Mothers teach children their first words, colors and shapes. They continue to enrich their learning by helping them with their homework and school projects.
  • Chef: The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes the role of a chef as one who develops recipes, plans menus, orders food inventory, and ensures sanitary kitchen conditions. That certainly sounds like a mom.
  • Event Planner: Even the busiest mom squeezes in time for fun. Whether it’s planning a themed birthday celebration, coordinating schedules with extended family for the holidays, or signing kids up for recreational activities, moms constantly have something to do and somewhere to be.
  • Housekeeper: Maintaining an orderly house can be quite the daunting task for a mother. There is no shortage of things to clean or organize, whether the children are toddlers or teenagers.
  • Accountant: In most households, moms perform many accounting functions such as creating and balancing a budget, paying bills and identifying cost-saving opportunities.
  • Chauffeur: Moms also serve as chauffeurs by providing hours of transportation for kids to and from doctor appointments, school, shopping, and play dates.
  • I read a statistic that if moms received an annual salary for all of their responsibilities, they would earn an estimated $78,000 a year.

But, let’s refocus on Christian moms and dads. Luke 6:40 reminds us that a pupil (or child), after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. How do we as parents invest in our kids for the kingdom’s sake. Aside from any teaching and training that will turn our kids into socially acceptable citizens and productive members of our community, let me suggest these 6 things to be a part of ANY parental curriculum. Here is my acrostic for the day. M.O.T.H.E.R.

Mission – Acts 1:8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Think about your goal as a Christian parent. It’s not about raising a socially acceptable and productive member of the community. Your goal is not for your kids to have a great education. It’s not to be a great athlete. It’s not to have them participate in wholesome dating. It’s not to have a great career. It’s not about getting them out of the house on their own, making lots of money.

The goal of Christian parenting is for your kids to embrace the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and live out the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). We teach our kids to love God with their whole being and to love others as themselves. The Great Commandment leads to the Great Commission and the fact that God uses ordinary people like US to spread the love of Jesus to those with little or no access to the gospel.

I love Acts 1:8 because we don’t do any of this alone, we have received the power of the Holy Spirit to be his witnesses. This verse reminds us that our mission field is in our own city, state, country, and the world. It’s not about one place over another but doing all four at the same time. Notice Jesus used the word, “both” in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. We tend to see the command as a buffet line… Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria, or the ends of the earth. Pick one.

Jesus told the disciples, and tells us, that they WILL be his witnesses,” meaning if you carry the name of Jesus, you are his witness. We don’t go out and DO witnessing, but we ARE witnesses. If you’re a believer, you’re a witness and can tell others what Jesus has done for you. The only choice we have is between these two options… will we be a GOOD witness or a BAD witness?

As parents, our first priority is to instill in our children that we are on mission with God, no matter what our vocation, marital status, or personal hobbies or interests. Once we understand our mission, it leads us to the next part of raising the next generation…

Obedience – John 14:21He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.

We teach our kids about obeying us (as parents) and obeying teachers, and those in authority (like police) but we often find ourselves telling our kids that obedience to God is optional. Perhaps we justify it by thinking like this… the standard of Jesus is perfection, we can never be perfect, so why try? Or maybe we say, my salvation is not based on my performance (like my obedience) but on the work of Christ on the cross, so obedience must therefore be optional.

Read John 14:21 again… keeping his commandments is a sign of our love for God. If you love God, you WILL keep is commands. When we love God, we will be loved by the Father. Jesus said that if we keep his commands, HE will love us and he will disclose himself to us. If you don’t feel like Jesus is revealing himself to you, try obedience! When we obey his word, Jesus will disclose himself to us.

Walking through life in obedience is something that is caught more than it is taught. We have heard the phrase, “do as I say and not as I do” but our kids see how we are living. They know if we simply put on the mask of Christianity on Sundays or they see that we’re fully committed to Christ and his mission throughout the week.  

Teaching – Matthew 7:28-29 – When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

If parents don’t do anything else, teaching is the thing that they do the most. It seems that day after day, all we do is teach our kids about life, relationships, dating, work ethic, trade skills, vocational skills, study skills, sports skills, coaching, board games, fishing, household chores, homework, you name it. We teach all the time.

But how do we prepare our kids for life’s ultimate final exam? When you stop learning, you stop growing, and all living things grow. Parents must make it a priority to teach their children the WILL and WAYS of God. Nothing will draw a child closer to God than seeing mom and dad taking steps of faith, walking in obedience, especially when it is difficult or uncomfortable. Actions really do speak louder than words.

You’ve heard it said that we should never let a crisis go to waste. It is through the crises of life that we find the greatest teaching opportunities. Take advantage of difficult times to help your kids walk in faith and trust God. Lead by example. Set the pace for your family.

Humility – Mark 10:45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

The culture and the world will teach your children to look out for Number One. They justify this type of teaching to emphasize and develop a positive self-esteem in children. Now, if YOUR kids were anything like MY kids, I didn’t have to teach them how to be selfish, that seemed to come naturally. Kids think the world revolves around them. It’s part of the fall of mankind. We make ourselves to be most important and we desire to be the master of our own destiny, the center of the universe, and sit upon the throne of our own lives. But is that the example of Jesus?

Our Lord and Savior did not seek power, prestige, or position so he could manage or rule over others. Jesus taught that we are supposed to serve others rather than serve ourselves or have others serve us. This is the essence of humility.

We must teach our kids to look out for the interests of others more than themselves. Just how do kids learn this? By seeing the example of their parents. Again, set the pace for humility in your household. Give your life in service to others.

Evangelism – Mark 3:13-14And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach

Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before he called his 12 closest men to be his disciples. We often think of these guys as super-Christians and we can’t expect to live up to the standard they set, especially in the areas of ministry and mission. I love this Mark passage because of what Jesus called them to do.

We often focus on the last section, that he called them to send them out to preach, which is an important part of their mission, but notice the phrase just before that. He called them “to be with him” and THEN he sent them out to preach. This is the “with him” principle.

We need to walk through this life with Jesus, learn from him, and then pass on what we have learned to others, especially to our kids and those within our circle of influence. We learn from him, then we go out to make a difference in the world around us. Make a difference for the kingdom of God. All this leads up to our final point, which is…

Relationship – Luke 24:14-15And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.

Christianity is nothing if not about relationships. First there is our relationship with the Father through the Son. This relationship is all about salvation. Our next relationship is with other believers. This relationship is all about fellowship. Our third relationship is with a lost and dying world. This relationship is all about evangelism and mission, which we have previously covered today.

We can teach our kids to be successful in the world but unless they understand these key relationships in life, they are no different than your average lost person. Notice what is included in the Luke 24 passage…

In context, this story is part of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Look what takes place…

They were talking with each other about the things that had taken place. How often do you talk with your kids about spiritual matters? About how you came to faith in Christ? About how God has moved in your life this week? About how Jesus gave you opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life? About ministry opportunities or a mission experience? Faith is caught more than it is taught, and it is caught by talking about life together.

Along with talking about and discussing spiritual matters, Jesus approached them and began traveling with them. He took the initiative. The Christian life is not so much about the destination (heaven when we die) as it is about the journey and the path we walk. We go through life as a family, whether in our physical family of blood relatives or our family of faith (or what I like to call them, my forever family).

In Christianity, there are no “lone ranger” disciples. We are in this thing together. The body is made up of many parts and we all work together for the body to function properly. Christianity is about community, and at its core, this means relationships. We need to be connected with one another.

I think this has been the hardest part of this year of COVID. Our relationships have suffered. We have drifted apart. I feel many people have come to the conclusion that gathering together as the church or a small group or a Sunday school class was not really as important as we had made it out to be all these years.

“I have made it just fine without getting together.” I can have my “worship on demand,” any time I want; when it’s convenient for me. I don’t need for my class to get together; e-mail is just fine for me to keep up.

So, what does Jesus teach about raising the next generation? Look over these 6 areas. Which one do you need to focus on first? What can you do this week that will help you get back on track? How will you pray differently this week?

When we realize that the life we have been given is not about US, then we find freedom. We are called to be a good steward of the life we have, as one who will give an account for what we have done with that which we have been entrusted.

On this Mother’s Day, let us all remember why we are on this planet. If you are a follower of Christ, your life is NOT about YOU, but it’s all about being an ambassador for Christ and being his witnesses locally, and even around the world. Let’s reflect on what God may be saying to us right now.

PRAY: Lord Jesus, we recognize that life is hard, and without question, it is distracting from what you have called us to do for the kingdom’s sake. Father, open our eyes to the opportunities all around us as we go through this life. May we see you at work and seek to join you in in your mission to reach through who are far from you. Help us to seek the one who is lost. Help us to raise the next generation to love you extravagantly. May we set the pace for our families and our community. May we run the race set before us and not grow weary. May we fight the good fight and finish well. Father, we know we fall short but plead your mercy and grace, to encourage us to stand strong in our calling to salvation and our calling to be your hands and feet in this world. May we be salt and light. In Jesus name. Amen.

Gear Up for the Game

[ The opening video illustration was purchased from BluefishTV ]

Gear Up for the Game

VBS is finally upon us! All the busyness, activity, setup and tear down… all for what? To provide children in our church and community 15 hours of concentrated emphasis on the Bible, which leads to new life in Jesus Christ. Many kids don’t have a church, and some that do, perhaps that church doesn’t emphasize personal faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to receive everlasting life.

Before I talk about everlasting life, let me first address THIS life.

We face so many pressures in life. Adults are juggling busy schedules, paying bills, making sure kids have what they need, and raising a family. Kids are facing pressure to perform their best in school and all their extracurricular activities. It all can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, God knows everything we face. His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3. He wants to bless us, not just in THIS life, but for all of eternity! Jesus came and paid the price for our sins so that we can know him and have eternal life. Once we know him, he has also given us his Word so that we can grow, train in our spiritual gifts, encourage one another, and share God’s gift of eternal life with others. With Jesus, we have everything we need to grow and to thrive. He is also inviting us to join him in his work. When we serve on God’s team, he uses us to make a huge difference in the lives of other people.

Today I want you to be aware of what is happening at Vacation Bible School this week. These kids are going to be taught these lessons by faithful teachers …

GOD’S PLAN FOR VBS

Jesus Cares About Me (Luke 15:1-7) Romans 5:8

The first Bible story is out of Luke 15, the story about the shepherd who left the 99 and went to search for the lost sheep. Jesus cares for us and demonstrated that love by dying on the cross to save us from our sin, and then searches for his lost sheep.

God knows everything about us, and he desires for us to live with him forever. Even though sin caused us to be separated from God, he gave his son, Jesus, so that we can experience his forgiveness and enjoy an abundant life. John 10:10.

Jesus Gives Me Hope (John 11:1-44) John 11:25

On day two, the kids are going to study from John 11, the story about the raising of Lazarus. His sisters had hope in the resurrection on the last day, but Jesus taught Mary and Martha that hope begins NOW, not later.

People are trying to find hope in many worldly things, like money, politics, relationships with people, but those sources of hope are always going to let us down. The only source of true help is Jesus. He is God, and he is perfectly faithful and trustworthy. Psalm 86:15.

Jesus Helps Me to Believe (John 20:19-31) John 20:29

On Wednesday, we are focusing on John 20, the story of doubting Thomas who would not believe that Jesus had raised from the dead until he saw and touched the Lord.

When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, he made forgiveness available to all people. Acts 2:21.

God wants us to give our lives to him and to experience eternal life. Ephesians 1:7.

When we come to Jesus, he is the one who gives us faith. Like in the story of Thomas, Jesus loves us and he meets us where we are, to help us believe. John 20:19-31; Mark 9:23–24.

Jesus Loves Me (John 13:1-35, 19:25-27, 20:1-10, 21:1-14) 1 John 3:1a

On Thursday, we are looking at John’s stories that help us see his relationship with Jesus… where he talked about “greater love has no one than this, that one would lay down his life for his friends,” where Jesus had John to care for his mother, John’s experience at the empty tomb, and seeing the resurrected Lord serving breakfast in Galilee.

Also, when we come to Jesus, it is only the BEGINNING of all that God has planned for us. He wants us to enjoy a daily relationship with him. Romans 8:38-39.

John was one of the Jesus’ closest friends on earth, and God used him to write down many things God wanted to reveal to us. This means that God wants us to enjoy the same relationship and fellowship that Jesus and John experienced together. John 13:23; 20:2.

Jesus Gives Me Joy (Acts 16:23-34) Psalm 95:1

Finally, we wrap up the week looking at the prison experience of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail.

We are going to learn that regardless of the circumstances that come in our lives we can have JOY in knowing that God is with us. He uses us to reach people with his love, and he has a lifetime and eternity of blessings prepared for us. Jeremiah 29:11.

God wants us to stay close to him so that we can bear fruit and be filled with his joy. John 15:5.

God created us to enjoy a relationship that last forever. Our lives are going to be meaningless and without true hope until we give our life to Jesus.

GOD’S PLAN FOR LIFE

I’m going to quickly share the gospel and invite you to give your life to him today. During VBS, kids and families will be introduced to what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Gospel” means good news. What is do good about it?

  1. God Rules: The Bible tells us that God created everything, including you and me, and he is in charge of everything (Genesis 1:1, Revelation 4:11, Colossians 1:16-17)
  2. We Sinned: Since the time of Adam and Eve, everyone has chosen to disobey God (Romans 3:23). The Bible calls this sin. Because God is holy and cannot tolerate sin, we have a problem. Sin is that which separates up from God, no matter how hard we try to reach him. We deserve punishment and death (Romans 6:23).
  3. God Provided: To deal with our sin problem, God provided a way to forgive sin. Sin could not just be forgiven and swept under the rug, it has to be paid for. Jesus took the punishment that we deserve and could never pay on our own. Jesus saves us (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9).
  4. Jesus Gives: Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead. Since he gave up his life for us, we can be welcomed into God’s forever family. This is the best gift ever (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18).

What can I do now? Learn Your ABCs

  1. Admit to God that you are a sinner. Tell God you messed up and are sorry for doing your own thing. Repent, and turn away from your sin and turn to God. Stop doing bad things and start doing good things. Turn to Jesus, the only one who can save you.
  2. Believe that Jesus is God’s Son and receive his free gift of forgiveness from sin. Only Jesus can save us from our sin problem. Not even praying, going to church, or reading your Bible can save you. We trust in Jesus, his death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead to bring salvation.
  3. Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Tell God and then tell others what you believe about Jesus. When Jesus is your Savior, you are trusting in him only for your salvation. He is your Savior and he is your Lord, Boss, and Master. You follow him because of what we read in the Bible. We are born again into new life and will be with God forever (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

GOD’S GAME PLAN FOR YOU

  1. Noticed how many lives are Christian Life Begins with Faith (2 Peter 1:1–4)
    1. This faith is in a person (2 Peter 1:1–2) – our faith is never in a set of beliefs or doctrines, but in the person of Jesus Christ. Christianity is a personal religious system that means nothing if God is an impersonal force or if salvation is based on believing or reciting a set of propositional truths.
    2. This faith involves God’s power (2 Peter 1:3) – How do we get everything we need for life and godliness, it is by his divine power. And God does not want us to be ignorant of him, so our faith is strengthened through knowledge of God and recognizing his glory.
    3. This faith involves God’s promises (2 Peter 1:4) – This book is full of precious and very great promises given for a reason, so we will escape the corruption that is in this world, and become a part of the divine nature.
  2. Faith Results in Spiritual Growth (2 Peter 1:5–9)
    1. The Path of Diligence – Positive (2 Peter 1:5-8)
      1. We must not only believe, we must behave (2 Peter 1:5a)
      2. We must not only have integrity, we must be informed (2 Peter 1:5b)
      3. We must not only be taught, we must be temperate (2 Peter 1:6a)
      4. We must not only be in possession, we must be patient (2 Peter 1:6b)
      5. We must not only be good, we must be godly (2 Peter 1:6c)
      6. We must not only be holy, we must be helpful (2 Peter 1:7a)
      7. We must not only be liberal (in kindness), we must be lovable (2 Peter 1:7b)
    2. The Path of Delusion – Negative (2 Peter 1:9) – if you lack these qualities, you are blind and short-sighted…
      1. We can lose sight of our condition (2 Peter 1:9a) – that our eyes have been opened to the reality of Christ
      2. We can lose sight of our conversion (2 Peter 1:9b) – that we are cleansed from our sins, meaning, some people are not acting like they are God’s people.
  3. Spiritual Growth Brings Practical Results (2 Peter 1:10–11)
    1. Steadfastness (2 Peter 1:10a) – be all the MORE diligent
      1. His Calling (2 Peter 1:10b) – to what has he called you? Giftedness, Serving, calling to Membership? Calling to Ministry?
      2. His Choosing (2 Peter 1:10c) – To be picked to play on his team. What is your position? What are you good at? What bring you joy as you do his work? What types of things do you do where people tell you that you really ministered to them?
    2. Stability (2 Peter 1:10d) – You will never stumble.
    3. Salvation (2 Peter 1:11) – Entrance into the eternal kingdom of Jesus, will be fully supplied.

Don’t you want to meet Jesus fully prepared and matured, rather than limping along like you’re nursing an old sports injury? Don’t let the world and its distractions keep you from all that God has for you. He has promised everything from the very beginning.

  • Don’t just sit in the stadium – you are not a spectator. Church is not a spectator sport.
  • Don’t dress out and just sit on the sidelines – be ready to get in the only game that counts.

 

The Significance of a Life of Faith

The Significance of a Life of Faith
John 4:43-54

Video Clip Introduction – A Leap of Faith – Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail.
[ Here is the video clip and message ]

THAT is not necessarily faith. People use that phrase a lot, like, just take a leap of faith. We may even use the words, stepping out in faith, but more often than not, we can substitute the word HOPE or WISH, that something will happen.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether we are stepping out in faith or following some foolish impulse on our part.

First, I want to take a look at four things about true faith before we get into this passage:

Faith is COMMON – that means faith is universal. Everyone has faith. Atheists have faith, Buddhists have faith, Christians – everyone. You have never met anyone who was not a person of faith. However, what we have faith IN, well that’s the important difference.

Second, faith is CONVERSION. To have true faith in Jesus we have to switch our allegiances from old dependencies of this world and ourselves to Jesus. That is all about transformation. Those who have faith are transformed by the power of God. When you have faith, your Savior becomes Jesus rather than the false gods we embrace. Bud’s class on God’s at War is discussing all the false gods that we embrace and worship which prevents us from worshipping the true and living God.

Third, faith is CONTEMPLATIVE. This may seem to be a bit monk-ish, but here me out. Faith is a response to seeing and knowing Jesus. When we contemplate Christ, really dwell on him, mediate on him, we come to trust Him. Jesus said, “You may go, your son will live,” which is not what the man expected to hear. So, think about this for a moment. That which God speaks, happens. If you want greater faith, then contemplate Jesus.

Finally, faith is CONTINUAL. When we move out in faith, we find confirmation for our faith as we go through life. This is a continual and never-ending process of trusting Jesus, stepping out on the basis of that faith, finding confirmation, gaining more faith, and stepping out again. We begin to trust in the object of our faith, whom we know is totally trustworthy. This is the spiritual life and walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Faith is continual.

So, what is it about this story that involves faith?

Last week was all about the woman at the well, and the story ended with the Samaritan woman testifying that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and many believed in him. John adds a great statement, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42).

Now we come to this episode in the life of Jesus, healing the official’s son, which is the second major “sign” of seven miracles which John used to reinforce Jesus’ true identity, with the goal of producing belief or faith in his readers (John 4:54).

In this story, Jesus scolded the official’s unbelief in needing a miraculous sign to trust in Christ (John 4:48). While some believe that this story is the same as the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5–13; Luke 7:2–10), There are sufficient differences to determine that this story is different from the synoptic gospels’ account.

  1. There is no evidence that the official was a Gentile.
  2. It is the official’s son, not his servant, who was healed.
  3. Jesus was far more negative regarding the official’s faith (John 4:48 – Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe) than the centurion’s (Matthew 8:10 – Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel).

So, let’s walk through this story and discover some spiritual truth about the significance of a life of faith. This was the second miracle John records in his book, (there are seven signs in his gospel).

  1. The PLACES (John 4:43-46a) – Jesus considers several things here at the beginning of the passage: The text tells us that after two eventful days in Samaria (the women at the well and the teaching about evangelism to the disciples), Jesus continues toward Galilee. First came this seemingly odd statement…
    1. That a prophet has no honor in his own hometown – It seems odd that Jesus quotes this old proverb here (John 4:44, also in Matthew 13:57). The scolding appears to be directed toward Judea, which was also his own country. Here was the reason…
    2. That the people were NOT excited about HIM but rather for what he had done for them (John 4:45)
      1. His reception is contrasted (between Samaria and Judea); Jerusalem gave him no honor, and his messianic claim was unwelcome, so much so that he did not entrust himself to the Jews (John 2:24-25).
      2. Basically, many had believed in HIM, but he did not believe in THEM. He did not entrust himself to them. Believe / entrust are the same Greek word.
      3. While many people eventually followed, they loved the miracles rather than the Messiah. This sets up the rest of the story…
  2. The PREDICAMENT (John 4:46b) This father came to Cana concerned about his sick son in Capernaum.
    1. Positive side – the man knew that he needed Jesus.
    2. Negative side – the man put Jesus in a box, limiting how God will work in the lives of people.
  3. The PLEA (John 4:47) – he begs Jesus to heal his son (a CRISIS of faith). This is the plea of every parent for a child. We can identify with his desperation (my Stephen story as an example).
    1. But the description of the situation reveals the man’s limited faith. The text says that the man implored him to “come down” and heal his son. The man had a weak faith and believed that he needed the actual presence of Jesus for the healing to happen.
    2. Contrast this situation with that town in Samaria where they believed in Jesus because of his words (John 4:42), while here they “believe” based on his deeds/miracles. So, this helps us to understand the seemingly harsh response in John 4:48.
  4. The PROBLEM (John 4:48) – Jesus fires back, as if he laments the fact that people demand that he perform miracles before they will believe in him.
    1. Is this not the same today? Unless God opens the sky to reveal himself, I will never believe.
    2. Signs indicated that the miracles were intended to convey a larger spiritual truth. Wonders would just draw attention to the miracle itself. Authentic faith does not need to be bolstered by miracles, and the Samaritans believed without their faith being propped up by something miraculous.
    3. But Jesus knew this man’s love for his son, as well as his weak faith, and this man needed something to strengthen his faith. God finds us where we are and gently leads us toward maturity and strength.
  5. The PERSISTENCE (John 4:49) – out of desperation, the father continues to seek help from Jesus, using the words as before, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
    1. Literally, “before my little boy dies.” Desperation leads to persistence.
    2. How often are we much more deeply involved and committed to prayer when we are desperate? When we are desperate, we don’t care how this looks to other people, or how foolish we might look, we need God to intervene and answer, and the whole thing will fail unless God shows up.
    3. When was the last time that you poured out your heart to God, recognizing there was nowhere else to turn? Let’s not wait until we are desperate; let our prayer be a part of an everyday life of faith.
  6. The PROMISE (John 4:50) – Jesus says that “the boy will live” (a CONFIDENT faith). With the promise and assurance of Jesus, now the man has to make a choice; essentially, to choose his next steps carefully.
  7. The PATH (John 4:50) – Jesus says to “go your way,” meaning return to your home and to your people. Jesus is forcing this father to believe without a miraculous sign.
    1. Notice that the man said COME and Jesus said GO. We cannot tell Jesus how to do his work; is he in charge or not? The man had to lay aside his expectations and let Jesus handle the situation.
    2. This desperate father had to choose between DOUBTING the man whom he placed his trust and hope, or BELIEVE Jesus, what he said, and go back home.
    3. The man’s confidence was so secure that he did not hurry back home but took his time. The 22-mile journey from Cana to Capernaum could have been done in one day, but all was well, he had confidence that everything was okay, and traveled back the following day (John 4:52). So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
    4. When was the last time you had to make a tough decision? How do you know which path to choose? Maybe both choices are equally good and appropriate, but you still have to choose.
    5. I love Isaiah 30:20-21 – Although the Lord has given you bread of adversity and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. 21 Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
  8. The PAYOFF (John 4:51-54) the PROOF – I see two things happening here:
    1. The physical restoration of the heir (John 4:51-53a) (a CONFIRMED faith). When the father heard the report and saw his son totally healed, his weak faith had been confirmed. Sometimes just a small step of faith is all it takes for God to open our eyes and let us see the world from his perspective.
    2. The spiritual restoration of the household (John 4:53b-54) (a CONTAGIOUS faith).
      1. How often and how long have you prayed for a lost family member? Weeks? Months? Years? If you are a follower of Jesus, entrust the salvation of your family to him. You may see no way for that person’s heart to open up to the gospel of Christ; but aren’t you glad that their salvation does not depend upon you? God loves your friend or family member way more than you ever could. Trust, believe, have faith, and leave the results up to HIM.
      2. YOUR life of faith will speak loudly to those whom the gospel has yet to be revealed or embraced.
      3. Throughout the book of Acts, people come to faith, and then the entire household gets saved (Acts 11:14, 16:15, 31, 18:8). It may not be instantly, as in these stories, but pray that God will do wonders in your family through you. Live a gospel-empowered life in front of them every day. This is the significance of a life of faith.

The movement of this father’s faith…

  1. A man having faith in Jesus’ POWER.
  2. A man having faith in Jesus’ PROMISE.
  3. A man having faith in Jesus’ PERSON.

Faith is willful, dynamic, life-long, progressive, and at times not very easy. But following Jesus by faith is totally worth it.

Where are you today, in this story?

This story starts out with sickness, anxiety, desperation, and the shadow of death, but ends up with rejoicing, confidence, hope, and wholeness.

Maybe today is when you get on the right path, let Jesus into your life, follow him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Enter into the salvation of the Lord.

Or maybe you need to join this church, choose this path, after all, Jesus brought you here, and you have remained a part of this warm fellowship, but it is time to declare your commitment to Christ and this Church.

What are some elements of authentic faith?

2 Timothy 1:12 – For I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

  1. I KNOW = there is knowledge (head knowledge versus experiential knowledge) and there is assurance (one cannot be sold out to Jesus if you are not sure of several things, like, Jesus is the only way, that he can be trusted, that God’s Word is true and authoritative.
  2. WHOM = he did not believe in a set of principles or doctrines, but a person.
  3. I HAVE BELIEVED = there is confidence (perfect tense meaning action begun and completed in the past and the effects continue even now)
  4. I am CONVINCED = there is assent or approval (we can stake our whole life on the trustworthiness of Jesus and his word)
  5. I have COMMITTED or entrusted = there is volition (willfully putting my life into his care and protection). Paul was confident of God’s control and encouraged Timothy that while he was in prison, had lost everything, he had not lost his faith. Trust God when life is hard. Have unwavering confidence and boldness. Paul entrusted (put down a deposit) that God is able to keep us saved.

Hebrews. 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

How significant is faith? Without faith it is impossible to please God.

  1. We must BELIEVE.
    1. That he exists.
    2. That he is a rewarder.
  2. We must diligently SEEK him (see Jeremiah 29:13 – you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart).

So, faith is active, we exercise it, it is not something that we passively accept or simply believe.

It is willful, dynamic, life-long, progressive, and at times not very easy. But following Jesus by faith is totally worth it.

Where are you today, in this story?

This story starts out with sickness, anxiety, desperation, and the shadow of death, but ends up with rejoicing, confidence, hope, and wholeness.

Maybe today is when you get on the right path, let Jesus into your life, follow him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Enter into the salvation of the Lord.

Or maybe you need to join this church, choose this path, after all, Jesus brought you here, and you have remained a part of this warm fellowship, but it is time to declare your commitment to Christ and this Church.

Embrace the Master’s Plan

Jesus is the greatest example of leadership ever known. He had a plan to reach the world with his message of freedom and forgiveness, but left the whole thing into the hands of 12 ordinary men. How did he do it? What was his plan? What was his plan B? How does one take a grand idea, develop a plan, and implement such a bold proposal?

My primary verse for today is Luke 6:40.

1. Selection – his men were his method (Luke 6:13 – he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles). He was not concerned with programs to reach the multitudes but with men whom the multitudes would follow. Jesus gathered these men long before he developed any evangelistic campaign, or even preached a single sermon. People were the method our Lord chose to win the world to himself. Jesus literally staked his whole ministry on these twelve men.

Jesus chose men willing to learn – those chosen were not impressive. None held positions of authority or power, in society or in the synagogue. They were for the most part common, laboring men. They were unlearned and ignorant men (Acts 4:13) but they were teachable.

Jesus concentrated on a few – no one can transform the world, unless they are individuals who are transformed. Individuals cannot be transformed unless they are moldable in the hands of the Master. Jesus had many followers, but when the teaching got hard, many no longer followed him (John 6:66). But his closest disciples could not miss the purpose of Jesus, they stuck with him.

Jesus did not neglect the masses – he preached to crowds, healed many, cast out demons, fed thousands, blessed their children, and ministered to their physical needs. Jesus loved them, wept over them, and finally died to save them. So, why not capitalize on the crowds rather than end up with a few ragged disciples to show for his effort? Because Jesus was not trying to impress the crowds, he was trying to usher in a mew kingdom. This means that he would need a few committed followers to lead the multitudes. How can he stir up the masses if he had no supervision and leadership in place? The point? Everything done with a few is for the salvation of the multitudes.

2. Association – he stayed with them (Matthew 28:20 – I am with you always, even to the end of the age).

Jesus made a practice of being with his disciples (Mark 3:14). This was the training program of Jesus. There was no college, seminary, online course, periodic membership class, or Sunday School. Amazingly, all Jesus did was to draw men to himself. HE was his own school and curriculum.

“To know” is “to be with” – knowledge was gained by association before long before it was understood by explanation. This makes sense when we remember the question from Thomas in John 14:5-6. He can we know the way? To which Jesus replies that the question has already been answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” just open your eyes to the spiritual and incarnation reality in front of them.

It takes time – this close and constant association meant that Jesus had virtually no time to call his own. Like little children under the feet of their father clamoring for attention, the disciples were always underfoot of the Master.

It is not easy – building men and women is not easy, it requires constant personal attention. Children are not raised by proxy, Jesus taught that discipleship can only be done by staying close to those we lead. We cannot relegate this ministry to some church program and expect it to be effective. It takes intentional mentorship, care, time, and attention. We never birth babies and leave them to themselves, so, every new convert needs a Christian friend to follow until such a time that he or she can lead another person in discipleship. It takes people, not programs.

3. Consecration – he required obedience (Matthew 11:29 – take my yoke upon you).

Jesus expected the men he was with to obey him. They were not required to be smart, knowledgeable, or talented, but they had to be loyal. This was their distinguishing mark, after all, disciple means “learner” or “pupil.” It was not until much later that they were called “Christians” (Acts 11:26).

The way of the cross – following Jesus seemed easy at first, but that was because they had not followed him very far. Being a follower was not about the joy of finding the Messiah, but it meant the surrender of one’s whole life to the Master and submitting to his authority. There would be no compromise, which was a very hard teaching, and not many were willing to pay the price (John 6:25-29).

Counting the cost – those who would not go all the way would fall by the wayside, and Jesus let them go. He did not have time, nor the desire to scatter himself on those who wanted to create their own terms of discipleship. People cannot come to God on their own terms.

Demonstrated by Jesus – absolute obedience to the will of God was the controlling factor in Jesus’ life, the passion week before the cross was no different. His human nature gave consent to the will of the Father, which made it possible for God to use his life fully according to its intended purpose. It is God’s will for us to accomplish his intended work for us (John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 15:10, 17:4).

The “parental” example – a father must teach his children to obey him if he expects his children to be like him. In the church, no one can be a leader until he or she has first learned to be a follower.

4. Impartation – he gave himself away (John 20:22 – he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit).

Jesus wanted his followers to obey him, but in recognizing this truth, his disciples would discover the deeper experience of the Holy Spirit. In receiving the Spirit they would know the love of God for a lost and dying world. They knew they were not just keeping the law, but were responding to the one who loved them, and was willing to die for them.

The compulsion of evangelism – that is why Jesus wasted no time to impress on his followers his own deep compulsion of the love of God for a lost world. Everything he did was motivated by this passion.

It is only the Holy Spirit who enables us to carry on the redemptive mission of evangelism – Jesus always worked in cooperation with the Spirit.

Evangelism is never a human undertaking, but a divine process from the beginning to the end. The Spirit is our comforter, paraclete, our advocate, he comes along side of us to minister through us.

Always remember that we cannot give something away that we do not first possess ourselves. When we have the Spirit of Christ, it is that Spirit that insists that Christ be made known.

5. Demonstration – he showed them how to live (John 13:15 – I have given you an example).

Jesus was determined that his followers would learn his way of living with God and others. He needed to get across to them the secrets of his spiritual influence… like…

His prayer life – they could see the strength that prayer gave to his life, they saw it and wanted it, too. It wasn’t a ritualistic practice but a way to communing with the Father. It was based on relationship rather than a wish list.

His use of Scripture – he often impressed on his followers the meaning of ancient texts and how it was relevant to everyday life.

His evangelism – he was concerned for the souls of people and took opportunities to talk with people about forgiveness and everlasting life.

His teaching – Jesus had many lessons for the disciples to learn, and class was always in session. His explanation of parables is a great example.

6. Delegation – he assigned them work (Matthew 4:19 – I will Make you fishers of men).

Jesus was always building toward the time when his disciples would take over the work and ministry in the world.

He would make them fishers of men – face it, no one likes to be told what to do, or be made to do anything.

His first invitation to the disciples (to follow him) said nothing about going out to evangelize the world, although that was Jesus’ plan from the beginning. His method was to get them into a vital experience with God, showing them how it worked, before telling them they had to do it.

Before letting them go out to minister, Jesus would give briefing instruction about their mission. He outlined what to expect, what to say, and what to do (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9).

They needed to expect hardship – and often warned them about how they would be treated, yet his encouragement was always, “fear not,” because God would never desert them.

On a practical level, we have the same commission to be all about the task of being his witness to the world.

7. Supervision – he checked on them (Mark 8:17 – Do you still not see or understand?).

Jesus met with them following their tours of service to hear their reports and to share what God did through them. He rotated between instruction and assignment.

There were questions, illustrations, and warnings to help them understand what they were experiencing. All these were designed to help them fulfill their work of building the kingdom in this world.

There was continuous review and application to bring out the significance of the events or teaching into their lives. This was on-the-job training at its best.

Supervision helped the disciples continue toward the goal he had set for them. He did not expect more from his disciples that they could do, but he did expect them to do their best. Supervision is longer than expected; but we need to develop maturity to the point that one day we will be able to carry on alone, and lead others to come with us.

8. Reproduction – he expected them to reproduce (John 15:16 – I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last).

Reproduction is God’s way for the church to duplicate itself. Through them and others like us, the plan would continue to expand God’s kingdom by reaching the multitudes, one by one.

Victory through witnessing – many of his followers would suffer persecution and martyrdom, but with the end in mind, ultimate victory was certain.

The Great Commission – this is given to disciples of Jesus, not an organization called “the church.” We are to make disciples, and we should strive to embrace the Master’s plan to get it done.

Pray for workers to go into the harvest – this phrase is almost stated in desperation, but in context, it really is a desperate situation to reach people with the gospel. Today, we make the same plea knowing how much needs to get done and how few will step up to do it.

How will people be won to Christ? Through prayer, and gathering fellow laborers. The gospel is the hope of the world, so will we remove every barrier? Repent of every excuse or from our apathy?

Ken has been teaching about vision over the past several weeks, but vision is not just in theory. We need to embrace the vision to help build the kingdom of God here in our community.

Community. Faith. Love. People always take priority over programs or preferences.

  • We must mend and restore relationships: relationships with God and with others, resulting in COMMUNITY (member)
  • We must establish and lay a foundation toward spiritual maturity and effective ministry (FAITH is what guides us toward the ministry he has for us). (minister)
  • We must embrace the task of being sent out with a lifestyle of being on mission. It is the LOVE of Christ that compels us to live this out every day. (mission)

Methods vary but our mission always remains the same – it has been said, “marry the mission, but date the methods.” Are we willing to do WHATEVER it takes to reach people we are currently not reaching? It could be that we need to “do things no one is doing” in order to reach people no one is reaching. It sounds scary. It sounds like change.

Will we embrace the Master’s plan and be the church that he has called us to be?

[ Outline from Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism ]

The Love and Wrath of God

I read an interesting article today, specifically saying that the substitutionary death of Christ is not a doctrine which is true to God’s character. If we embrace a substitutionary view of the cross, that teaching portrays God as a blood-thirsty, vengeful being satisfying his need for wrath and punishment of sin.

But we know that God is a loving Father, like we read in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus tenderly cares for his sheep as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14). And we all know that “God is love” mainly because First John references this fact a few times.

  • 1 John 4:7 – Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.
  • 1 John 4:8 – But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
  • 1 John 4:10 – This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

I have come to believe that any doctrine taken to its ultimate extreme will eventually lead to heresy. For example, the love of God taken to its ultimate conclusion leads to universalism, that all people will be saved in the end because the love of God would never punish anyone, and certainly a loving God would never send anyone to hell.

Yet there must be a balance between the love of God and the holiness of God, because sin cannot be in God’s presence. So, how will sinful human beings come to the Father, unless the Father provides a solution to our sin problem? Some say we should just act more like Jesus, following his example (1 Peter 2:21), conforming to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). But if we fully embrace this teaching to its ultimate conclusion, it leads to a works righteousness. We can even leave the cross out of the picture and therefore the blood he shed is made irrelevant.

While we know that God is love, the New Testament also supports the concept of God as a God of wrath who judges sin. The story of the rich man and Lazarus speaks of the judgment of God and serious consequences for the unrepentant sinner (Luke 16:19–31).

John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Theologians (who have studied the Bible much deeper than your average Christian) have taught for generations that the one who believes in the Son will not suffer God’s wrath for his sin, because the Son took God’s wrath upon Himself when He died in our place on the cross (Romans 5:6–11). Those who do not believe in the Son, who do not repent and follow Jesus, will be judged on the day of wrath (Romans 2:5–6). Paul seems pretty clear.

Let’s get back to First John, where the apostle teaches point blank that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins…

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

The word “advocate” is “Paracletos,” one called alongside to help; or intercessor, and “propitiation” is the word “hilasmos,” meaning satisfaction, or the means of appeasing.

While I do not claim to be a Greek scholar, it seems to me that the cross of Jesus, the blood that was shed, somehow appeased or satisfied God’s wrath. Jesus took on the sins of the world but they must respond to his sacrificial death by means of faith in order for the sacrifice to be effectual in the believer’s life. Basically, Jesus died for the whole world, but forgiveness comes only to those who respond to God’s grace with faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Just as the incarnation teaches that Jesus was 100% God and 100% human (not half God and half man), the New Testament can also teach that God is both 100% love and 100% holy. After all, once we have God all figured out, he will cease to be God at all.

I suppose I will end with a quote from Peter…

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:17-19)

I still believe that we had a debt that we could not pay, and Jesus paid the debt he did not owe. The wrath of God is a fearsome and terrifying thing. Only those who have been covered by the blood of Christ, shed for us on the cross, can be assured that God’s wrath will never fall on them. “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!” (Romans 5:9).

We cannot begin to understand God’s justice or wrath unless we first understand sin. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4) and iniquity (Daniel 9:4-5; Micah 2:1; James 3:6). It embodies everything contrary to God’s holy nature and is offensive to him. So, sin is a crime against God and justice demands a penalty of death and separation from him for it (Romans 1:18-32; 2:5; 3:23). But God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to pay that penalty for us (Romans 5:8-11; 6:23) and made salvation available to all who believe in his name (John 1:12; 3:15-17; 20:31).

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