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Tag: sacrifice

The Substitute

Listen to this Sermon!Last week we began a new Easter sermon series entitled “No Pain – No Gain: Why Easter Matters”. And we started off illustrating the principle of no pain – no gain as we talked about how our muscles grow. We had Morgan up here straining his muscles as we talked about how it takes the pain of tearing the muscle fibers in our bodies order for our bodies to repair the damage and make the even muscles stronger than they were before.

In fact I was reading last week that when you are born, you already have all the muscles that you will ever have. The big bulging biceps you have now are a result of that little baby’s muscle being damaged and repaired, damaged and repaired, time and time again. Without the pain of damaging those muscles, you would have no gain in strength. You’d still be as weak as you were when you were a baby. No pain – no gain.

But our purpose wasn’t to talk about body-building. There is a spiritual truth that we wanted to discover. The gain that we are after is not muscles, but rather that inner satisfaction in life that seems so elusive for so many of us.

We talked about how Solomon tried to find satisfaction in all kinds of ways. He looked for satisfaction in wealth, power, hard work, women, pleasure – but it found it all to be meaningless. Nothing gave him true satisfaction.

And we discovered that the reason for this is that God has created each of us with a deep inner longing to be connected with our Creator. Every person on earth has this inner feeling that something is missing in their life. And all of us try to find that missing thing just like Solomon did. But, like the Rolling Stones lament, we can’t get no satisfaction. Because true satisfaction is only found when we are connected with our Creator – when we have a genuine relationship with Him. That’s when we find satisfaction.

Unfortunately, this one thing that is worth gaining is effectively keep from us by sin. We talked about how Adam & Eve – though they were once fully satisfied in their connection with each other and with God – they sinned. And the immediate consequences of their sin was separation. Separation from God and and from each other. Because that’s the nature of sin. It separates. It creates distance between. It severs our relationships.

And because all of us have sin in our life – we are all missing the one thing that we were created for – we’re missing that connection, that relationship, with our Creator. We’re missing the one thing that can bring us true satisfaction.

So what do we do? Is there any way to gain that connection, that relationship, that satisfaction that we so desperately long for? There is, and that’s what we’re going to look at today.

Table of contents for No Pain, No Gain

  1. Chasing Satisfaction
  2. The Substitute
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Serve Like Jesus

We talked last week about how Jesus ate meals with tax collectors and other disreputable sinners – the lowest of the low – because by simply eating with those people, He was letting them know that they were important to him. The fact of the matter is – God loves sinners. Which is good – because all of us are sinners. If you ate with anyone last week, you ate with a disreputable sinner. Even if you ate alone, you ate with a disreputable sinner.

But that’s ok – because God loves, forgives, and accepts sinners.

And we were talking about eating last week, because we’ve been going through the acronym BLESS. This acronym has been teaching us how we can use our blessings so that we can be a blessing to the people around us.

We started with the B – Begin with prayer. It’s a simple prayer: “Here I am. Send me. Allow me to use my blessings to meet someone else’s need today.”

Then the L stood for Listen. If we want to bless the people around us, we have to actually listen to them – learning what their needs truly are – and we need to listen to the Holy Spirit as He prompts and nudges on our divine appointments.

The E, of course stood for eat. Eating with people is a universal way of letting them know that they are important to us and that we want them to be a part of our lives. This is also a great opportunity for us to practice listening to them – getting to know them and discovering their needs.

And now today, we get to our first S. And this S might not be quite as enjoyable as the E, not as simple as the L, nor as easy as the B. However, this S together with the next S could very well be the most powerful tools we have in bringing people to receive the greatest blessing – that is, their own personal relationship with God.

The first S in our BLESS acronym stands for serve. Now this one out of all our five lessons seems to be the most logical. It just makes sense that if we want to be a blessing to the people in our community, then we ought to serve them.

Think about your own life – how many times have you been totally blessed because someone else served you in some way? Maybe your neighbor mowed your lawn or shoveled your side walk while He was out doing his own. Maybe someone brought a casserole over to your house when you had a family member in the hospital. Maybe your buddies came over to help you build your deck or move some furniture. Maybe someone offered to watch your kids while you and your spouse went on a date night.

When we have people serve us in some of these ways, we just think “Man, you guys are awesome! You are such a blessing to me!”

That’s one of the fantastic things about being part of the church – you have this whole group of people who are willing to step up and help out whenever someone has a need. I know that I’ve been blessed on my many occasions – and likely, so have you.

But what about the people aren’t part of the church – do we serve them too? What about the people that no one really likes? The difficult people? What about the grumpy complainers? What about the people who want nothing to do with the church – nothing to do with you? Do we still serve those people?

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God Is With Us (or What’s the Big Deal About Christmas?)

How many of you have heard at least 10 Christmas sermons during your lifetime?

I’m 33 years old – I grew up in the church – and I’m sure that I have averaged at least 3 Christmas related sermons every year. In fact, growing up we had the five advent Sundays so I’m sure I heard at least 5 Christmas sermons every year. But even at just three sermons per year – in my 33 years of life, I have heard just under 100 Christmas related sermons.

That seems a lot to me. Does the Christmas story really warrant that much sermon time? Do you ever get the feeling that Christmas is ‘over-celebrated’? What’s the big deal about Christmas anyway?

I’m not anti-Christmas, but why do we focus so much on Jesus birth? That’s just one aspect of his life. Why not his baptism? That was significant. Or the 40 days he spent fasting in the wilderness? There are no special days on the calendar that we celebrate that! The only thing that even comes close to Christmas is Easter – when we celebrate Jesus’ death & resurrection – and even that is celebrated way less than his birth.

Think about it. Even outside the church culture – think of retails stores. They spend 2 months selling Christmas – as soon as halloween is over, they start selling Christmas stuff. From November 1st through the bulk of December, the focus is Christmas. That’s 1/6 of the year. That’s a lot of Christmas!

Christmas music in another example. We have a whole genre of music dedicated to Jesus birth. We don’t have passover music – we don’t have Jesus’ baptism music, we don’t have Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness music – but we have album after album after album of music celebrating Jesus birth.

I look in my Bible and there are maybe 10 pages in my Bible about the birth of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark & and the Gospel of John don’t even include Jesus’ birth in their Gospels. There are two chapters in Matthew and two chapters in Luke – in my Bible about 10 pages of Christmas out of the 2300 pages of Scripture.

Yet at the same time, there are 65 pages of Job and his friends arguing about why God allowed all that bad stuff to happen to Job. If the Bible talks about Job about six time as much as it talks about Jesus birth, why do we take a whole month every year to preach about Jesus birth – and not job? We preach on Christmas (those ten pages) 2,3,4,5 times every December, but you’ll be lucky in five years just to get one sermon on Job.

So what makes Christmas such a big deal? What is so significant about the birth of Jesus Christ? What, in those ten pages, has had so much impact on life as we know it?

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The Fulfillment of Hope

In the month of December, we’ve been looking at the Bible as a History of Hope. Sometimes it difficult to put the whole Bible together – to see how one story connects with the others – to see how the old Testament fits with the new Testament. But over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been trying to do just that and what we’ve discovered is that the whole Bible is really the Christmas story. Everything in the old testament points us ahead to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and everything in the new testament is a result of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the central figure of world history. And it’s not just history – it’s HIS STORY – God’s Story.

And so today we’re going to continue looking at God’s story. Two weeks ago we started in the beginning – with God creating the heavens and the earth. And He made the perfect system for a perfect life. That was basically, as long as mankind looked to God as the source of everything they needed in life and as long as they looked to God as their ultimate authority, their relationships with each other and with God would be sweet and life would be awesome.

But of course, we know that Adam and Eve chose to reject God as their authority and as their source – and as a consequence, their relationship with God and with each other was broken. And although the consequences of their sin would effect mankind for the rest of history, God made a promise to Adam & Eve – that one day He would set things right again.

Well, then we fast-forwarded last week to Mount Sinai – where God made a covenant – or an agreement with the Israelites. And the basic gist of that agreement was that as long as the Israelites looked to God as the source of everything they needed in life and as long as they looked to God as their ultimate authority, their relationships with each other and with God would be sweet and life would be awesome. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

The problem with that agreement was, that because the Israelites were all born with a sinful nature that they inherited from Adam & Eve, (just like the rest of us) it would actually be impossible for the Israelites or anyone else to fully obey God. Man was just too sinful. That rebellious nature in us kept us as slaves to sin. We couldn’t obey God even if we wanted to.

But God knew about that and He offered us another bit of hope. He allowed the Israelites to bring a lamb and offer it as a sacrifice for their sins. In other words, instead of that person being put to death for their sin (as they deserved), a lamb would be put to death in their place. The lamb would take their punishment.

Of course, the blood of those lambs couldn’t take away their sin, but it gave the Israelites hope that one day, the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ – would die in their place and His blood would take their sins completely away.

So that’s where we left it last week. There’s more to this story, so let’s see what happened next.

Table of contents for A History of Hope

  1. The Beginning of Hope
  2. Old Testament Sacrifices – Symbols of Hope
  3. The Fulfillment of Hope
  4. A Future of Hope
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Old Testament Sacrifices – Symbols of Hope

Last week we started looking at the Christmas story. Mind you, we didn’t get very far. We started in Genesis chapter one and we made it all the way to Genesis chapter 3. There’s just 927 chapters to go before we get to the part about the baby in a manger. But that’s ok. You’ve probably heard that part of the Christmas story before anyway.

You see, most people are familiar with the shepherds and the wisemen and the angels – but they might not have heard the parts of the Christmas story that come before all that.

Because as we talked about last week, the whole Bible is the Christmas story. It begins with Adam and Eve and it goes right through to the end of time. All of history is the Christmas story.

And so we started in the Beginning – when God created the heavens and the earth. And He set up the perfect design for the perfect life. God set up three principles that would make life on earth awesome and amazing. And I told you that if you remembered nothing else from my sermon last Sunday, to remember those three principles. So here’s the pop quiz: Do you remember what those three principles are?

God is the source. God is the authority. Life is about relationships.

And with these three principles in place, life on earth would have continued to be awesome and amazing. Except for the fact, that one day Adam & Eve decided to reject God as their source and to reject God as their authority – and as a result, their relationship with God and with each other was broken.

And to this very day, we suffer the effects of those broken relationships. But the good news is – there is Hope. The entire Bible is a History of Hope. One day, God would undo the damage that was done in the garden of Eden and we would again experience life as God intended it.

And so today, we’re going to continue looking at God’s story, the Christmas story – to see how God continued to give mankind hope throughout the course of history.

Table of contents for A History of Hope

  1. The Beginning of Hope
  2. Old Testament Sacrifices – Symbols of Hope
  3. The Fulfillment of Hope
  4. A Future of Hope
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