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Tag: Jesus

The Promise of Hope

How many people here are planning to have an Advent Calendar of some sort this Christmas? If you don’t know what an advent calendar is, basically, it’s a countdown for Christmas! Its kinda like a regular calendar except it usually only has 24 or 25 days on it and each day is printed on a little door that opens to reveal something on the other side.

Sometimes’s just a little picture or saying or maybe even a Bible verse behind each door. But most often there is a little gift inside. For example, growing up, we often had an advent calendar that had little chocolates behind each door. More recently, I know several people who have had lego advent calendars with little mini legos sets behind each door. But the idea is you start on December 1st, and then each day, you get to open the corresponding door and get the little prize inside! And of course, the biggest door with the biggest prize is always on the 25th – so it’s a great way to build anticipation for Christmas.

And as a church, we do a similar thing. Of course, we only meet together once a week, so we don’t have a daily countdown, but we do have a weekly countdown. We count down the four weeks before Christmas, which of course starts today.

But instead of an advent calendar, we have an Advent wreath – which has five candles – one for each week, plus one final candle for Christmas Day. Each Sunday of Advent we light a candle – not only to build anticipation for Christmas, but also to remind us of what Christmas is all about.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the shopping and the festivities and the family gatherings – and all those other good things that come with Christmas – but in all that activity – we often neglect to put much thought into what we’re actually celebrating.

Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ! That’s why His name is right in the title – Christmas – or “CHRIST”mas!

And so these Advent candles – each reminding us of a different aspect of the true meaning of Christmas – are a great way to help us remember that Jesus truly is the reason for the season.

That’s why, over these next five weeks, we’re going to pause our series going through the Book of Acts, and instead we’re just going to talk about the meaning behind each of these candles. What is Christmas really all about? And chances are, I’m not going to say anything that most of us haven’t already heard many times before! But if you’re like me, we could probably use the reminder! 

This morning we have already heard that this first candle is called the Prophet’s Candle or the Candle of Hope.  We also mentioned that over 1/4 of the Bible is prophetic in nature. And you might find that a little bit surprising. I mean, there is a lot of stuff in the Bible – history, letters, poetry, songs…. Does prophecy really make up more than 25% of entire the Bible?

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Peter & Cornelius – Two Lives Transformed

When we began our study of the book of Acts back in early summer, I mentioned to you that the title of this book may not be the most accurate. Of course, the author Luke didn’t name this book – it was written as a letter to a man named Theophilus. But today in most of our Bibles, this book is commonly referred to as ”The Acts of the Apostles”.

However, for the last several chapters that we’ve gone through, the story hasn’t revolved around the Apostles at all! We’ve seen God do some amazing things through the lives of guys like Stephan and Philip. These two were not apostles, but rather were administrators in the church – their job was to make sure all the widows and orphans and those in need were taken care of! But of course, that certainly didn’t discount them from sharing about Jesus wherever they went – and as we’ve seen – God used both of these guys to spread the Gospel far beyond the borders of Jerusalem!

And then last week, we were introduced to three new characters who all played a very significant role in the growth of the church! Most obviously, we saw the Holy Spirit totally transform Saul from being a murderous zealot trying to destroy the church into a passionate evangelist who would do more than most to build and strengthen the church! And in addition to Saul, we also met Barnabas & Ananias – again, not apostles, but just faithful men led by the Holy Spirit – and who played significant roles in the salvation and transformation of Saul.

So it really isn’t a book about the Acts of the Apostles – but rather it’s a book about the amazing Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles and the many other faithful men and women who yielded themselves to the Spirit’s leading.

Which leads us now into today’s passage. Today the focus shifts back once again to the apostle Peter. And while we are going to see the Holy Spirit do some amazing things through Peter, perhaps more significantly, we’re going to see the Holy Spirit do some amazing things in Peter!

Because just like how Saul needed to be transformed from the inside out – so did Peter! And so do you and I!

All of us need the Holy Spirit to radically transform us to become more and more like Christ! And certainly that process had already begun for Peter some time ago, but we’re going to see another significant step in his journey towards Christ-likeness today.

We finished off last week with Saul being sent to his home town of Tarsus. He’s going to hang out there for a while – growing in his understanding of the Gospel and in his relationship with Christ – until Barnabas goes to find him in Acts chapter 11. And at that point they’ll go on to minister in Antioch and help start the first church there!

But until then, the story shifts back to follow Peter for a while. And there are three incidents in the next couple of chapters that are recorded for us from the life and ministry of Peter at this time – two shorter ones first – and then a much longer and more detailed one. 

And it initially seems like the three are just a selection of snapshots – just some random examples of the ministry that God was doing through Peter at this time. But I think Luke is doing more than just that. He’s writing about these particular events in the life & ministry of Peter for a reason. I believe he wants us to see, not only how the Holy Spirit was working in the world, but also to see how God was working in Peter’s life – transforming Him into the likeness of Christ. So let’s take a look.

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Just Have Faith

Back in January, we began our current message series – following the life and ministry of Jesus from birth to resurrection – from Christmas to Easter. And since we are trying to condense all of this into a fairly short timeline – from Christmas to Easter – it’s been a challenge to decided exactly what parts of Jesus’ life and ministry to include in our study. A more in-depth look at the life of Christ could easily take several years worth of sermons to fully explore, but we’re trying to fit it all into a 4 month window. So what do we include and what to we leave out?

Well, so far, we’ve covered the early life of Jesus and the beginnings of his public ministry – and we’ll certainly give some significant attention to his final days as he journeys to the cross – but for this middle part, I’d like to just give us a sampling of what Jesus’ ministry typically looked like. 

Last week we touched on how crowds of people followed Jesus everywhere – and while Jesus often tried to get some time away by Himself to relax and reconnect with his Heavenly Father – none-the-less, He always seemed to have time to minister to people. He had incredible compassion for them and always provided for their needs! Sometimes in miraculous ways – such as feeding 5000 men and their families with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish! But of course, more importantly than meeting their physical needs, Jesus came to address their real spiritual needs. He hadn’t come just to feed them fish and bread – but he had come to feed them the Bread of Life! He had come to offer Himself as the sacrifice for their sin so that they could have eternal life through faith in Him.

Of course, at this point, the crowds of people didn’t understand that – all they knew is that Jesus had incredible compassion and love for them – and that He had met their physical needs in an amazing way!

And so today, I want to look at a similar but slightly different aspect of Christ’s compassion for people and how he met their needs. This time not by providing food for the hungry, but this time by providing healing for the sick and the suffering.

And I do confess that today’s story will be slightly out of order on our timeline – we’re actually jumping back in time just a little bit before the feeding of the 5,000 – and so I probably should have switched these two sermons around and done this one first – but hopefully, you can make that adjustment in your notes and we won’t be too confused.

Our passage begins in Mark chapter 5 – and we’ll begin reading at verse 21. 

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Jesus Feeds 5000

The Bible records that Jesus did nearly 40 different miracles during his time on earth – but of those 40 different miracles, (with the exception of his resurrection) there is only one miracle that is recorded in each of the four Gospels. 

Now I found that to be pretty surprising! Of all those miracles that Jesus did – only one was so important and so significant that each of the Gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – all decided that they need to include it in their Gospel.

And so, as we journey through the life and ministry of Jesus in our current message series, it seems only fitting to include this miracle as one of the milestones that we’ll stop and take a look at along the way.

Now before we get to today’s passage – I do want to point out roughly where we are on the timeline. Last week we saw that Jesus just starting out his public ministry – calling his disciples to follow him. Specifically we looked at how he called Peter and Levi, but by the time of today’s story, Jesus had called all 12 of his disciples and had commissioned them as his apostles. Over the next little while as they followed Jesus, Jesus began to teach them and to prepare them for ministry. This meant watching and listening to Jesus as he taught the crowds, cast out demons, and did miracles such as healing the sick and even raising the dead.  

Then after that initial period of learning from Jesus – Jesus sent them out on what we might consider a short-term mission trip. It seems that Jesus would agree with the old 4H moto – “Learn to do by doing!” And so the disciples were sent out two-by-by into the surrounding towns and villages to preach the Word of God – calling people to repent of their sins and turn to God. And as they preached, Jesus also gave them the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick as he had been doing.

And so, as we begin our passage today, we’re going to see that the disciples had just returned from their missionary tour and were ready to debrief with Jesus regarding everything they had just experienced.

Of course, while they had been gone, Jesus had continued his ministry of preaching and teaching, performing miracles and casting out demons – and so by now, Jesus could hardly go anywhere without huge crowds of people following him. And that’s about where our story today begins.

As I mentioned earlier, this story is recorded in all four Gospels, and I may jump back and forth a little bit to see some of the unique details in each Gospels, but I’ve chosen Mark’s Gospel as our main text today. So if you want to follow along, you can turn to Mark chapter 6 and we’re going to start at verse 30.

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Jesus Invites Sinners

As most of you know, for the past month or so, we have been creating a timeline of significant events in the life & ministry of Jesus. Now of course, we certainly won’t get a chance to touch on every event in Jesus’ life – as we intend to wrap this all up around Easter time – but we do want to point out some of the more significant milestones along the way.

And so last week we looked at two significant ‘firsts’ for Jesus. We met some of his first disciples (specifically Peter, Andrew, John, Philip, and Nathanael) and then we watched him perform his first miracle as he transformed ordinary water into wine for a wedding celebration.

And we noted that Jesus didn’t perform this miracle in a flashy, spectacular way as to announce his arrival to the public – but rather, this was a rather subtle miracle – where only a handful of people even knew what He had done. But for those people – specifically those first 5 disciples who where with him – this was their first glimpse of the glory of Jesus, and as a result, his disciples believed in Him.

Of course, this would not be the only time that Jesus would reveal his glory to his disciples in miraculous ways so that they would believe in Him. This would continue throughout Jesus’ ministry. In fact, at the end of John’s Gospel we read:

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:30-31

And that’s really the overarching purpose of Jesus’ many miracles – so that his disciples (and us) would believe that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him we would have life by the power of his name.

God’s purpose and desire is the same for us as it was for those first disciples – it hasn’t changed over these last two thousand years – He still desires for us believe in His Son Jesus and have life through the power of His name!

And that’s exactly what we’re going to see this morning as we continue to look at the early days of Jesus’ public ministry. Today, we’re going to see how Jesus continues to gather his disciples – showing them his glory in miraculous ways – and then inviting them to come and join Him in his mission.

We saw last week that Peter was one of the first disciples of Jesus – and was introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew – although at that time, Peter was still going by his given name, “Simon”. 

Jesus would rename him “Peter” at that first meeting, but it seems’s he’s still going by Simon in today’s story. But AFTER today’s story we see Peter adopt his new name. And I think that makes sense.

If someone met me for the first time and declared, your name is David, but you shall be called “Henry” – I don’t know that I would immediately go around and start introducing myself as Henry just because this stranger told me so.

But after what happens in our story today today, it’s not surprising that Simon would suddenly give a whole lot more weight to words and instructions of Jesus. But you’ll see what I mean as we go through the story. 

If you want to follow along in your Bibles, we’ll be reading from Luke chapter 5 today – and we’ll be starting at verse 1.

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Meeting Jesus

For those who haven’t been with us for a while, we are currently working our way through the life and ministry of Jesus – creating a bit of a timeline to help us see how all of the stories and events of Jesus’ life all fit together.

And so far, we’re really just begun. We looked first at the one event recorded for us in the Bible of Jesus childhood – that is, the time when his family visited Jerusalem for the passover and Jesus got separated from his parents for three days. Eventually they found him in the temple – sitting with the religious teachers – listening to them and asking questions – growing in his understanding of God and already beginning to carry out His Father’s will.

Then we hit the fast forward button and jumped ahead in time to when Jesus was an adult and was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Although Jesus certainly didn’t need to confess or repent of any sin, his baptism marked the first step in his journey to the cross where He would take all of our sin upon Himself and take our punishment once for all.

And then right after His baptism, we saw that the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights. Of course, Jesus had complete victory over every temptation that Satan brought his way and he modelled for us how we too can have victory over the temptations that we face.

And that brings us now to the beginning stages of Jesus’ public ministry. Today we want to look at two “firsts” for Jesus. I had originally planned just to look at Jesus’ first miracle, but as I read through that, I realized we should probably back up and also look at Jesus’ first disciples as well – since they are a significant reason for why Jesus did this first miracle in the first place. So we’ll start with his first disciples in John chapter 1 and then we’ll move to chapter 2 to look at his first miracle. It is quite a lot of material to cover in one message so we are going to go through it all fairly quickly – but hopefully, we’ll be able to pick up on the major themes that run through these two passages and learn something important for our lives today.

Now as we mentioned back at Christmastime, the Gospel of John really doesn’t say much about Jesus’ birth or early life. Instead, John gives a brief summary of who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish, and right after that, jumps into the narrative of John the Baptist. So in John’s Gospel we don’t actually meet Jesus until after Jesus had already been baptized and presumably after he had returned from his 40 days in the wilderness.

And before we start, I should mention that we will be talking about two different John’s today. There is John the Baptist (whom we’ve talked about already) – and then there is the Apostle John who would eventually write the Gospel that we’re reading from. I’ll try my best to clarify which John I’m talking about as go through it. I did a word count when I was finished this message and apparently I’ll be saying the word “John” about 75 times! So hopefully we won’t get too confused.

And so as the Apostle John begins his story of Jesus, we see John the Baptist preaching and baptizing – explaining to the people that He Himself was not the Messiah – but He was only preparing the way for the Messiah. 

And it’s at this point that Jesus happens to be walking by and John spots him from a distance. This is where we first meet Jesus in John’s Gospel – this is in John chapter 1 verse 29…

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”

John 1:29-34

Even before Jesus performed any miracles or preached any sermons or taught any parables, John the baptist was boldly declaring that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There was no doubt in John’s mind that Jesus was the Chosen One of God – the Messiah that everyone had been waiting for. And so John was very enthusiastic and intentional about pointing people to Jesus.

And that’s actually one of the things that impresses me most about John the Baptist – he always pointed people to Jesus – both figuratively as he called the people to repent and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah – and now quite literally, as He points out Jesus in the crowd and declares that Jesus is the Chosen One of God. John’s focus is never on himself – he’s not trying to build up his own ministry or increase His own following – but He always very plainly points everyone to Jesus… 

Of course, at this time, John had huge crowds of people coming to see him and hear what he had to say. He himself had several disciples that were following him and learning from him. We even see many years later in the book of Acts that the believers in Ephesus were still preaching and practicing the baptism of John – and so John’s influence was quite far reaching!

But John was always very careful not to make it about himself – it was always about Jesus. In fact, John would later say in John 3:30…

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