Tag: Holy Week

E njoyment to the Fullest

John 16:20-24 

Hours before worst moments of Jesus’ life, focused on joy and his part in making it happen for his followers. Almost certainly not where our heads would be at time like that! Too much living in the moment to look through something like the cross and see what lay beyond. Gives indication of area where too many people miss the mark – devote too much to pursuing happiness / pleasure; should be pursuing joy.

Surely God expects his people to live this life for all it’s worth. Compared to this life, next life has far greater worth for believer. But… people we encounter every day, maybe several times a day, question whether this life can offer enough good to justify living it. Some have no hope good in this life can ever outweigh the pain, when cannot cope any more they try to end it. Others simply trying to endure until it’s over. Many have no expectation of good now or later, try their hardest to make everyone else as miserable as they.

Not the kind of existence Lord Jesus intended for his followers. Jesus not in denial, knew not only what he would experience in next few days, he knew what followers would go through. Jesus also knew what his willing self-sacrifice would purchase for his followers after Sunday morning. Beginning with encounter on road to Emmaus Jesus helped those who love him begin on that path through sorrow to joy and eventually Enjoyment to the Fullest.

A. sorrow will be turned into joy  v.20

sorrow is real

sorrow part of human existence from first breath on – often babies first response to new environment after birth, and continues

sorrow often connected with loss, always comes with pain of some kind – disciples’ sorrow would nearly overwhelm, drive to despair

mockery, dismissiveness of world adds to sting of sorrow – now we sorrow not only for our own loss, for what they risk losing

sorrow is temporary

Jesus knew their sorrow would end – was in part based on lack of understanding, limited sight – they didn’t know what was next

only one kind of circumstance where joy will never be possible: those who have ended this life without being reconciled to God

sorrow establishes framework for joy

“The Day Boy and the Night Girl”, George MacDonald – Phosgen had no comprehension of darkness/night, Nycteris none of light/day – had never been part of their experience, frame of reference

certain things necessary to give understanding / appreciation even for God’s character – as we grasp depth of our sinfulness, we better grasp greatness of God’s mercy and grace

from depths of sorrow that we grasp need for joy, its value and significance – gives greater appreciation when joy is experienced

B. no longer remember the anguish for joy  v.21

joy also is real

Jesus didn’t talk about imaginary things – not only promised his followers good, he actually delivered – Bible makes clear they did indeed rejoice following his resurrection

joy is not “pie in the sky”, it is the expectation of actually possessing something truly good… that inheritance reserved for us

joy is greater

Jesus gives good example, typical mother does not look forward to distress of labor, she looks forward to joy of holding newborn

is rare mother who refuses to take her baby, who says “let me process what I just went through first” – joy of a new life far outweighs distress

and… not only joy of the moment, is anticipation of what future holds for that life, what they will share together

joy replaces sorrow

may not happen all at once, often is a process as joy builds and sorrow recedes – One who knows end from beginning knows all about what comes next, whether tomorrow or next year or next life

if not in this life, certainly in the next will be no further place for sorrow – other things far more glorious will fill all our thoughts

far different from experience in this life – sorrow follows after sorrow, brief or no breaks between, easy to wonder how can endure w/o God

C. no one will take your joy from you  v.22

joy like faith has an object

joy is in part the anticipation of possessing something good – if anticipate possessing what God gives, no one can take that away

for unbeliever, only joy they have or anticipate limited to this life – not true for Christ-follower, ultimately looks to next life

seeing Jesus meant joy was secure

Jesus’ early followers hopes dashed the day he died, profound sorrow took place of hope – little reason for them to think joy of any real kind even remotely possible

seeing Jesus assured them their belief he was one God sent was justified… and somehow Jesus would surely keep his promises

if Jesus could have victory over death as he said he would, then everything else he promised suddenly seems not just possible but certain

our joy also secure – has same object

if we like them hope in Christ, his promises are just as secure and certain to us – if we have faith in same Savior, same future awaits

Jesus in Garden prayer expresses same desires for his contemporaries as for all who would come after… including future with him

truth is, if Jesus really who he said he was, did what the Bible said he did, just being present with him is enough to give joy

D. you will receive that your joy may be full  v.24

joy now is connected with prayer

believe it or not, there is more – Father and Son are committed to giving good gifts… starting now, in this life, to add to our joy

abundant blessing has condition attached to it: not an automatically deposited benefit – we must actually ask for it to receive it

the way Jesus talks here, don’t get idea he will be stingy – God will answer our requests with abundance, sufficient to give real and lasting joy

sorrow will end but not joy

Jesus’ intention is that our cup of joy will be continually overflowing with no risk whatsoever of supply ever failing

sorrows have limited lifetime, joy will not – God keeps replenishing the supply so joy which we experience now carries over into next life

joy can be complete in this life and the next

far too much of the time, God’s people act like they are simply enduring whatever life throws at them in hopes they can somehow make it through, next life will be better

Jesus was talking about joy full to the brim and running over now, before heaven, and after we get there, too

Sorrow and despair entered the world pretty early on, within days of Creation. What was God’s first move after that? To promise that sorrow would be part of human existence. At same time, gave promise of hope – the Seed of the woman would defeat the serpent. Since first man and woman, God has been delivering message of HOPE to the Hopeless – Lord Jesus himself preparing a home for his brothers and sisters; by his death he has opened the door to enduring loving relationship with God and one another; because of his resurrection, our hope extends to a promised future; and because of his victory over sin and death we can have enjoyment to the fullest.

And we can be participants in the process of bringing others out of hopelessness and into saving relationship with Jesus:

2 Cor. 5:17-6:2 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

 

P romise of a Future

1 Corinthians 15:19-23 

 So we are here, Easter morning, Resurrection Day, all about life and hope and glorious future, right? Then why do 3 out of 4 points in outline start with death? Can’t we be done talking about death? dealing with death? Yes… but… not yet. And don’t forget this – resurrection is impossible if death does not come first. History and experience tell us it will – death is truly inescapable, unless of course are still alive when Jesus comes back. Second thing that is true, why majority of people have hard time with death… it is not the end… something comes after physical death. If only someone could have victory over death, might be some hope for future. God’s word tells about that, when that promise will become reality.

A. death is inescapable

result of the Fall/curse – “by man came death”

was by God’s direct and distinct action that man was first given life: Gen. 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

God warned them against disobedience, they sinned anyway, God kept his word – if knew no other way, have inspired record Gen. 5:5 “So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.”

applies to everyone – “as in Adam all die”

have strong indication death would not stop with Adam and Eve, and wasn’t only murder of Abel by his brother that explains

God in beginning made man in his own image, according to his likeness – Gen. 5:3 declares that Adam “begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth”

all Adam’s natural descendants share his likeness… under the curse, corrupted by sin, subject to death – what we all have to anticipate

choice is how to deal with it

so far in all of human existence, no one has figured out how to prevent it – have come up with numerous ways to try and cope

pretend it won’t happen to me; pretend it didn’t happen to them – pretense not good long-term solution for anything so serious

claim only temporary, come back as someone else; hope only temporary, cryo preserved; try to believe nothing more than this

B. death is not the end

separation of soul from body – Luke 23:46 

“Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.” – soul, an essential but immaterial thing that is indestructible except by God

pathologist: “Without life, facial expression or movement, robbed of our essential selves, our bodies can look very different.” Unnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd

if law of mass conservation is correct, matter cannot be created/destroyed only rearranged, then even matter that makes up bodies doesn’t cease to exist at death

is soul that provides life, essential self, and continues to exist and function after death – is what many people fear

Jesus had power apart from his body – John 2:19-21; 10:18

on two different occasions Jesus declared that he had power to raise himself from the dead… and at right time he would exercise that power

if Jesus’ claim turned out to be true, would be clear evidence that death does not have ultimate power – if so, a glimmer of hope

is the declaration of Scripture – 1 Cor. 15:4

Bible declares both that suffering / death / resurrection was necessary and would occur, goes on to plainly state it did happen

he died, was buried, rose again – same person in view throughout, and in Jesus’ case he rose again to further life and work

told Mary would ascend to the Father – would remain actively busy interceding for his people, ruling his kingdom until his return

and evidence many credible witnesses – 1 Cor 15:5-8 

seen by individuals, small groups, one group of over 500 – all could give witness that they had seen no ghost but real live person

Thomas, greatest skeptic of the bunch was convinced was really Jesus… alive… in the flesh, and risked his church membership to show his belief – worshiped Jesus, “My Lord and my God”

C. death’s victor gives life

death is inescapable but not unconquerable – “in Christ all shall be made alive”

shows that death can be conquered – not by fountain of youth, super healthy lifestyle, genetic engineering, but power of God

if the Man Christ Jesus who is our Mediator could rise from the dead, is hope for the rest of us – if he could be made alive, so can we

is God alone who raises the dead – Rom. 4:17

it is “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” – is creation power that is resurrection power

the only one who can restore life is the one who gave it in first place and by whose decree it was forfeited, God himself

made possible because of Christ’s victory 1 Cor. 15:45 

God doesn’t raise people from the dead just because he can – God doesn’t need to prove anything, but he does have a purpose

his purpose in raising men/women/boys/girls from dead also includes raising his son the Lord Jesus from dead – demonstrated he had broken power of sin and death, not for himself but for his people

D. promise becomes reality at the end

not instant gratification – “all shall be made alive… afterward… at His coming”

this promise of life, especially life that never ends one that we’d all like to start now – just skip the getting old part, all that goes with it

not how God has designed – won’t pass out that death benefit piecemeal to be experienced by few people at a time – must wait

shared experience – “we will all be changed”  1 Cor. 15:51 

God’s plan is that whether experience of this life ends with death or Second Coming, all his people will be transformed together

delay does not put outcome in doubt – Jesus’ resurrection enough of guarantee to make promise certain to us – results of “big reveal” glorious enough to be worth waiting for… with anticipation, desire

no more death hanging over our heads  1 Cor. 15:54; Rev. 21:4 

for threat and reality of death to be completely taken away, its cause must be cured also – if death is symptom of sin that caused it, all this must mean sin will be history too

is beauty of the Gospel: when, by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us, we receive forgiveness of sin and gift of eternal life, we are assured of a future promised and waiting for us

future when both body and soul has been fully redeemed / raised to eternal life will never be tainted by sin or its consequences

This glorious future not what awaits everyone. Paul, 1 Cor. 15:22 states two possible outcomes: “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive”.

in Adam – under sentence of death because of sin, required to pay penalty on own behalf; in Christ – freed from sentence of death because Christ paid penalty on your behalf. One or other is what every man/woman/boy/girl faces – the difference comes about through faith in Christ, believing he was who he said he was, he accomplished what he said he did, he is only one who can save from sin, he stands ready to receive all who come to him in faith trusting him to save them. 

O pening to a Relationship

Mark 15:37-38 

 Evidence all around, people from all walks of life / economic station / educational background struggle to make and maintain healthy relationships. Whether domestic violence at home, bullying at school, uncivil discourse in media and politics, that is even opportunity for term “hate speech” to come into use all tell us people not doing relationships well.

Recent estimates suggest that anywhere from 22% to 75% of American adults are persistently lonely. Caccioppo

Large numbers of people have few if any significant meaningful relationships with other people in their daily lives. And all this in world where “social media” is driving force, shaping how people interact, influencing business marketing models, even changing landscape of how many do church.

2016 stats – facebook: 1.5 billion daily active visitors; 166 – average # of friends; 28% – considered to be close friends; 40 minutes average use per day

Did you notice the disconnect? 3 out of 4 people in US use facebook daily, have an average of 40 close friends on facebook, yet as many as 3 out of 4 American adults are persistently lonely. As pervasive and invasive as social media has become, is not making people feel less lonely. Simply cannot be a problem that develops once people have to start adulting:

parents with children under 18, average time daily (2017, US BLS) — reading to and with: 3 minutes; activities related to education: 7 minutes; playing, not sports: 20 minutes; physical care: 30 minutes

Yet it makes no sense – know from experience “is not good for man to be alone”. Is not an accident we are like that, not result of natural selection / evolutionary processes. We are that way by design.

For creatures who were made in God’s image to be relational, what’s the story? We know answer, also know solution. Text helps to broaden perspective on that solution, encourages us to make sure we are part of solution and not part of the problem.

A. banished – Genesis 3:21-24 

relationships perfect… in the beginning

with one another, with surroundings/environment – was all good, no conflict, no barriers to access or communication

most important relationship of all… with God… all good – perfect fellowship, God would come and go as he pleased, unhindered communication in both directions

freedom was accompanied by desire – God desired to be with Adam and Eve, they wanted to be with God… welcomed him when he appeared

sin fractured all of them

Adam and Eve’s first action after sin was to put up barriers – made clothes, served as wall between them… no longer free access to one another

their desire for God’s presence changed to fear and shame – had barrier of clothes, added barrier of bushes and then blame when God showed up

never again during their lifetime would they enjoy same intimate fellowship with one another and with God as at the beginning

driven out of Eden

meant more than just plowing new piece of ground – included that for sure, garden outside never as easy to till, production never again up to previous performance

relationship between God and man redefined – this far more significant than new physical location, involved new terms / conditions

God’s immediate presence now forbidden, guarded by angel w/flaming sword – fellowship never again the same, neither would worship be as close and intimate, instead distant with God at least partly hidden

B. veiled – Leviticus 16:1-10 

God’s presence off-limits to all but high priest

clear instruction given to Moses defining space where God’s glory would appear, included massive tapestry that completely blocked view of innermost sanctuary… Holy of Holies

everyone with only one exception forbidden entrance on pain of death – sinful man carelessly going into God’s presence not to be allowed

even then only once a year

on one day only, Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, high priest could go behind the veil and approach the mercy seat… throne of God

strict conditions of “access”

permission granted and safety assured if and only if high priest followed all the rules – both preparing self… and bringing blood of sacrifice with him for himself and people he represented

…in both directions

not only that all but high priest forbidden access to God’s presence, God so restrained himself that he remained veiled, hidden from view

only on rare occasion would God’s glory break out, astonishing and overwhelming all present – dedication of tabernacle, Temple, transfiguration

rest of the time, people of God could only see dim presentation of God’s glory, speak at a distance through intermediary – Moses granted special privileges no one else enjoyed

C. opened – Mark 15:37-38 

at darkest moment, light streamed forth

at moment Lord Jesus died that Temple veil torn in two – light of God and his truth no longer fettered, burst forth to eventually fill world with glory of Gospel

“the God Who had been a mystery became a Revelation, shining out upon all human history; and it meant also that excluded men were admitted. What happened when the veil was rent? All the world was brought inside; and all souls were made priests” G Campbell Morgan

as said last night, this not something deserved… by sinful man – access to God’s presence natural privilege Son of God has, we can share in that access because of Jesus’ merit

rules completely changed once again

and so new ones for us: no longer a veil between us and God, no longer earthly mediator / intermediary translating between

Heb 9:23-26 “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another; He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

D. restored – read John 14:18-23 

relationship

we are not abandoned, homeless, without family or friend – Lord Jesus promised would not leave followers orphans to make own way

through what Jesus accomplished by his suffering and death, that relationship between man and God first broken in Garden being restored

fellowship

God intends his people to have real fellowship with him – Heb 10:19-22 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

home

have a home waiting for us that Jesus is preparing and have something precious even now: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (14:23)

Was Lord Jesus who opened up that barrier between us and God, making intimate relationship possible. Right relationship with God leads to other things too – restored relationships with others, ability to make new relationships and maintain them. An area of huge need in our world, our community. Addressing it starts with having Jesus as our Friend.

H ome

John 14:2-6 

 Our community: one of fastest growing in state. Not only population, number of new construction starts also. Neighboring communities experiencing similar – single-family dwellings, multi-family units, many rented before completion. Might think homelessness be decreasing, evidence seems to say otherwise.

“two years ago [2017], more than 2,500 public school students in the state were reported as homeless or displaced. [30% increase over 2015] …Many of these youth are facing significant issues: domestic violence, substance abuse in the family, foster care, parents who’ve passed away and more.” “They are moving into shelters, couch surfing with other families and, in rare cases, camping or living in cars.” (https://www.mainepublic.org/programs/finding-way)

I challenge you to think beyond stereotypical homelessness box for few minutes. We call it homelessness, refer to home-owners and home-ownership, yet

“A house is not a home. It is but a pile of sticks. …Our hearts dwell in our homes… The difference is that we can inhabit a house or its cousins—apartment, trailer, hotel room—and not be remotely at home.” Gregory McNamee

Some things must be true about a house in order for it to be a home – way more than having people and stuff inside. According to McNamee, “Linguists have long remarked that the English idea of home has no true equivalents, even within cognate languages”. No other known word fully captures meaning and essence of “home” as we typically understand and use it.

Poet Robert Frost said this:

‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in. I should have called it Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’ The Death of the Hired Man

On night when Lord Jesus was betrayed, eating final Passover meal with disciples, gave us insight into some of what can make place a home.

gathered together with friends… and one enemy, in close intimate fellowship around most significant meal in Jewish culture

something families had done by God’s instruction for 1400 years – if numbers were small, families joined together to make up group

gave them powerful example of gracious hosting, serving others – did it on purpose: that they should do just as he had done

service to one another, sharing with one another, conversation around and across the table, most importantly love for one another

 (13:34) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

That “mandate”, where we get name for this day “Maundy Thursday”, immediately followed statement by Lord Jesus that was hard for disciples to grasp:

“Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.”

Seems like even though Jesus kept talking, Peter stopped listening. As soon as Jesus stopped for breath, Peter asked “Where are you going?” (John 13:36), Jesus responded with short answer, then fuller explanation by telling them he was going home, to make the place a home for them.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

A. plentiful – many mansions/rooms  v.2a

no shortage of rooms

picture Jesus and rest of NT gives: a huge home, beyond what we can really imagine, countless rooms for family, not guests

no one sleeping in halls or stairways, cardboard shelters – will be proper accommodations for every person Jesus brings to live there

intended from beginning for many people – stars of heaven, sand of seashore

description of people of God as least among nations only refers to beginnings – God’s intention that end result be family of immense number

will be place of beauty – compare w/Notre Dame

don’t know exactly how it is designed but do know this: will be more grand and glorious and beautiful than anything ever seen

no disfiguring of sin or the curse on anything there – will display glory and beauty that exceeds even original creation

B. prepared – I go to prepare a place  v.2b

making a house a home

notice imagery Jesus used for his disciples: “In My Father’s house are many rooms” – spoke as though house already in existence

Jesus’ task after resurrection to go to that house, finish whatever necessary to make it into a home – place we can be attached to, have total security, surrounded by what we love

getting ready for family – Rom. 8:29 

God’s eternal plan has family as integral part – “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Jesus not making place ready for servants, subjects, citizens – is preparing it for his family, brothers and sisters by adoption

C. promised – if I go… I will come again  v.3a

Jesus won’t leave his family to find their own way

didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding – leaving his followers did not equal abandoning them – again, idea of family, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

Jesus not scam artist – make promise, then disappear

happens far too often, take the money and run – Jesus’ guarantee he won’t do that… he will come back, and will take us there

Jesus our royal escort providing safe passage

more than wanting his followers to be in heaven, Jesus wants them to be with him… does all necessary to bring that about

D. purchased – I am the way  v.6

often focus on Jesus as “exclusive way”

not often popular message, but is necessary – Jesus the only one who can take someone safely into God’s very presence

mustn’t lose sight of destination – the Father…

this what makes it our real home: the Father present with the Son and the rest of the family – that enough to make any place a home!

and the place – has no mortgage

Jesus looking through his suffering and death and resurrection to what he would purchase by his life for his people

no remaining debt for family members to satisfy, no rental or lease agreements, no homeowner’s association fees

Is the Father’s home, the Son’s home, the true and final home of all God’s family… with all the comforts belonging to that kind of home. Is the home Lord Jesus gave his very life to purchase on our behalf, the one he is now working to fill with family members.

Robert Frost said home is “something you somehow haven’t to deserve”. This home that awaits us is one we cannot ever deserve. Only because the Father loved us and sent his Son who loved us and died for us and purchased that home for us can we enjoy it.

I Am the Life from God

John 14:6

Try wrapping your mind around this – are surrounded by a culture of death, yet when someone dies we have a celebration of life, not a funeral. Death is glamorized, many fascinated with zombies, several million worshipers of Santa Muerte (sacred death), lobbying for assisted suicide and euthanasia, abortions worldwide at more than 1 every second. True, there are many who labor diligently to save and nurture life. Yet much of what we see / hear on daily basis centers on death and dying. Many we encounter daily have completely upside down view of life and death.

Understandable for first followers of Lord Jesus in hours immediately following real Black Friday – blackest day they had ever known. One they were counting on to save them could not even save himself… instead succumbing to unspeakable agonies of crucifixion. No surprise if they were more preoccupied with death than life – after all, how attractive would life be if all your hopes had died?

There is shock… too much happening too quickly, all just so wrong. Mob violence, repeated injustices from those charged to uphold justice, and everything turning out exactly opposite of expectations. Then so little time for burial, no time for proper one. Gloomy days, sleepless nights, devoted followers now anxious for their own future. Certainly no mental or emotional resources to more than deal with present reality.

Easy for us, from this distance, to say gently “don’t you remember what he said?” But we know rest of the story and… we were not there in the moment, experiencing it first-hand. On first morning, women returned to garden sepulchre intending to do right what men had done hurriedly days earlier. Found that nothing was like they expected – tomb not sealed by massive stone, not guarded by contingent of Roman soldiers, body not there needing further care. Was an open tomb, overseen by angels, empty but for now superfluous and empty grave clothes.

Those angels asking questions that make little sense – Why do you look for the living among the dead? Well, he was dead the last we knew. He is not here! We know that, we see that, who took his body away? He is risen! Risen? What is that supposed to mean? Where did you put his body? Remember what he told you… Remember? All we remember is how this is all so wrong. He said what? …the third day rise again? What? This is too much, we need to process this.

Slowly, very slowly at first, over next hours reality of what happened, what Jesus had said begain to register. Jesus spoke often about significant upcoming events. Immediate followers heard, lacked places in framework for viewing life to hang pieces of information. Spoke on 3 separate occasions about his upcoming death and resurrection (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33) – hearers didn’t really begin to get it until after had taken place.

A. the source of life (John 1:4; 8:12)

life does not come from non-life

to believe, first, that anyone knows exact recipe for mass of highly condensed matter that exploded in Big Bang 13 billion years ago takes massive amount of faith

then to believe anyone can accurately describe what followed requires just as much faith, as does believing life spontaneously arose from soup of nonliving substances

far more believable that a living God created all things by his powerful word, out of nothing, in space of 6 days, all very good

is true for life in all forms

every last bit of tangible evidence clearly demonstrates requirement for living to produce more living things after their kind

the one at beginning, already present, in whom was life – the Word… who was with God, who was God, gave life to every living creature from single-celled organisms right up through most complex being

one who is source of life also the authority – John 10:18

one who has power to give life has not only power over own life, has authority over everything to which he gave life

no other being has power to take life away from source, yet he has necessary power to lay it down, to take it up again

need to think carefully and precisely – was not God who died on Calvary’s cross; was the God-Man who gave his human life and then raised himself: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

B. the first living sacrifice (John 6:51; 1 Cor. 5:7)

gave his life so he might give life

was the Lord Jesus – the true passover lamb that every other lamb dimly pictured – who was sacrificed for us

Jesus gave his life so he could give eternal life to all who trust in him – nothing less would satisfy holy and righteous God

that way from nearly the beginning – Adam and Eve forfeited life… not only for them, but for all their posterity

justice required a life in return for theirs, if not from them, then from a suitable substitute… who had no debt of his own to pay

could only give life from own treasury – had to take it back to give

Jesus laid down his life, gave up his human life by his own authority and power; would take it up again so could give it to others

way God designed it – had to be someone to do perfectly what first Adam failed to do, then he could be substitute for his people, grant them life he purchased on their behalf

C. his life the ground of our life (John 14:19b)

see John 5:21; 10:10, 17

was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth – to give life to his people: “even so the Son gives life to whom He will.”

unlike what some think… that Jesus leveled playing field to put us on par with Adam, Jesus gives life more abundant – life that can never be lost or taken away

both death and life absolutely necessary

Jesus – “because I live, you will live also” – could not skip they dying part first, otherwise is not a resurrection!

besides, since had forfeited life, someone had to recover it for those who needed it – had to be life for life, not works for life, money, bargaining

must be in that order

had to be real death followed by real resurrection – only way to satisfy God’s demands, only way to know they were satisfied

if Jesus could not overcome death, would mean he failed to pay penalty for sin – why Paul could declare confidently: if Jesus did not rise from dead, our situation is hopeless, we still in our sins

D. his resurrection guarantees ours (John 5:25-29)

if no resurrection – preaching futile, faith is empty

would make no sense to try and proclaim good news of salvation if Savior was accused truly: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”

hope promised in Gospel some for this life, mostly for next life – if Jesus still buried somewhere, his fate is our fate… hopeless and empty of any true value

Jesus’ resurrection to better life

true, Jesus walked and talked here on earth for nearly 6 weeks after resurrection – for last 1900+ years, been experiencing all joys of heaven at Father’s right hand

Heb. 6:19-20This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Heb. 12:2 “…Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

same true for us – John 11:25-26

Jesus is both resurrection and life to those who live and believe in him – may experience physical death, at same time possessing life

Jesus himself promised resurrection of those who are his will be to “resurrection of life”; those who die in their sins will hear Father’s summons to “resurrection of condemnation”

E. a singular package (John 17:2-3)

“The distinctive gift of the Gospel is the gift of life. ‘I am the Life,’ says Christ. And the apostle’s confession is in harmony with his Master’s claim–‘For me to live is Christ.’ Salvation is nothing else than the restoration, preservation, and exaltation of life.” Archibald Alexander

salvation not ticket to good life

can all probably come up with description of “the good life” – easy, enjoyable, no drama, everything you need close at hand

keep dreaming! that is only place where that kind of life exists around here… and is nothing at all like what God has in mind

not even ticket to heaven

God loves you, has wonderful plan for your life, even better in heaven… not that either; Jesus didn’t die and rise again to save people from hell – would only be treating symptoms

he gave his life and rose third day to save us from our sins – not getting old, not our neighbor, not even cancer is greatest problem… is our sin that stands between us and God, between us and life

salvation as offered in Gospel is only way to life, the real thing

Bible describes those yet unconverted as dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) – unresponsive to spiritual things, not fully alive

different situation for those whom God has changed: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5)

requires belief in some basic things: Rom. 10:9-13

if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

Listen to words of Jesus –

John 3:36“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

1 John 5:10He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.”

There is human existence beyond death – not reincarnation, not something we pick off buffet after arriving. Destiny is obvious from choices made before death, character of life now. Make sure you have reason to be confident in a good future found in eternal life through our savior Jesus Christ.

I Am the Truth of God

John 14:6

In just a few hours from when Jesus spoke these words to disciples, would be engaged in dialog with someone from significantly different worldview. We know him as Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of province of Judea. In fascinating dialog between Pilate and Jesus,

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Gospel writer does not indicate Pilate’s facial expression, tone of voice – was he sarcastic… or seeking? Pilate by no means first to ask question. One that has been debated for centuries, number of different answers given. Defies logic but many today don’t seem to care whether question has answer, even less what answer might signify.

Subject of “what is truth” puts us into realm of philosophy. Before your eyes glaze over, keep listening… won’t be that complicated! Greek philosopher Aristotle, lived between Malachi and Matthew, gave an answer… later called “correspondence theory of truth”. Here’s what he said: “to say that that which is is and that which is not is not, is true”. In other words, “truth agrees with reality”. As you might expect, not everyone agrees with Aristotle. As time passes, fewer and fewer agree that Aristotle was right.

Some make truth in any form relative – “that may be true for you but it isn’t true for me”. Your truth and my truth can both be valid even if they contradict one another. Some make it pragmatic – “if that’s what works for you, great; it doesn’t work for me”. The convinced skeptic refuses to accept that truth can even be known since no one has fully accurate and unbiased knowledge of reality. Vast majority of world citizens vigorously deny that any worldview has corner on truth, possesses absolute truth – truth that is always true in all places, times, circumstances and applies to all people.

Before we even get to definition of truth, try to figure out which might be right, need to know if truth even exists. If it does exist, can we discover it and know it? If we can know it, what good is it… what will truth do for us? And how do we go about finding it?

Does God have anything to say about truth, if so, what?

A. truth exists (John 1:14; 17:17b)

do not need NT in order to know this: God himself abounds in truth` Ex. 34:6; repeated Ps. 86:15

He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. …And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth

not simply that God is truthful, recognizes and appreciates the truth – is abundantly filled with truth – permeates who he is, what he does and says

God’s word, like his character, is truth in its entirety Ps 119.160

“The entirety of your word is truth” – no part of God’s word lacking in truth, no part of his word communicates untruth… means truth and not-truth can be distinguished

also in keeping with his character, God’s truth is always true, universally – not every true statement is universally true, time/date e.g. not true at given moment in all the world

not only an idea or principle, has substance: Ps. 91:4

His truth shall be your shield and buckler” – has power to be our protection, our defense against all that would cause harm

shop saying – “mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it don’t matter”; God’s truth not simply state of mind – are statements, concepts, propositions that correspond to reality from God’s point of view and have ability to do something

Jesus embodied truth and reiterated that God’s word is truth and has ability to make one holy

final prayer before arrest that Father would make his people holy, make them pure by his truth… found in God’s word

if you have been follower of Jesus any time at all, know the reality of that prayer – was hearing God’s truth warned of sinfulness, brought message of hope, informs what displeases God, strengthens to resist sin

B. truth is essential (John 4:23-24)

for Lord to be near, must call on him in truth Ps. 145:18

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.” – cannot call on him any way we please, expect God to answer

” the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” Heb 11:6 must be confident of certain truth to receive response

to please God, must walk in truth… his truth Ps. 86:11

Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth;” – don’t get to make up own truth about God, what is acceptable

God’s truth applied to thoughts, words, actions vitally necessary for us to live acceptably before God, to be able to depend on him as our help and guide

to worship God, must do so in spirit and truth

has never been acceptable to worship true God according to own invention – made obvious by Adam & Eve’s oldest son

Jesus made sure we know rules haven’t changed: God seeking true worshipers who will worship Father in spirit and truth – with a true understanding of Jesus as our access to the Father, the fulfillment of OT shadows

C. truth is knowable (John 8:32a)

God desires us to possess truth – Ps. 51:6

You desire truth in the inward parts”: not just know it, recognize it, even appreciate it – but… possess it… in our inward parts – iow, saturated to the core w/truth

for God to desire that we possess truth that way, we must be able to know it and work to absorb it and retain it

God expects parents to communicate his truth to children – Isa. 38:19

The father shall make known Your truth to the children.” – carries on theme from Deut. 6:6-9 “these words [God’s truth] which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children…”

God’s truth not hidden, no secret decoder ring necessary to read and comprehend his truth from his word – Holy Spirit’s ministry sufficient to lead us into truth

Jesus said we can know the truth

“you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” – truth as embodied in Christ and declared in Gospel sets free from bondage to sin and Satan

God’s truth can only do that if it is knowable and absolute – applicable to all people in all places at all times

God our Savior desires all men to know the truth – 1 Tim. 2:3-4

“God our Savior …desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” – and God gets his way… never frustrated in his desires

D. truth sets people free (John 8:32b)

sin enslaves through deception

sin promises what it cannot deliver, promises to bring pleasure / satisfaction… when comes up empty, says try again… harder, it’ll work for sure this time

cannot know every form of deception well enough to recognize

Satan a master of cloaking his agenda and sin in different ways to keep sinner guessing and permanently trapped in sin

many deceptions are close enough to truth that must have knowledge of truth coupled with Holy Spirit’s help to discern

can know truth, recognize what is not-truth

it is truth that unmasks deception, shows sin for what it is; we can know truth, God expects us to use knowledge of truth to discern not-truth

truth leads to true solution for our need

Satan tries to convince we have no need or we only need what he promises – leads in opposite direction away from truth

God’s truth not only exposes our true need of Savior, same truth leads to true solution for our need… Lord Jesus

E. truth makes people holy (John 17:17a)

to see things as they are makes people holy

far more than just negative – yes, need to know our sinful condition; also need to know reality about God

truth enables us to see God as “infinitely lovely and pure; his commands to be reasonable and just;

equips us to believe heaven to be holy and desirable; Christ’s service to be easy, and religion pleasant, and sin odious

enables to see that life is short, death is near; pride, pomp, pleasures, wealth, and honors of this world are of little value

and that it is of infinite importance to be prepared to enter on the eternal state of being.” Barnes

is God’s truth that convinces us of importance of our immortal soul – need to make sure is in good health according to God’s standard… and keep it that way

that kind of truth can be found in fullness in God’s word the Bible

Bible is only source of truth that is fully reliable in its entirety; are other helpful assistants – teachers of past and present

God’s word is fully sufficient as it is reliable – don’t need to go looking for God’s truth elsewhere to know what to believe and how to behave pleasing to God

F. we have a guide into the truth (John 16:13)

not expected to stumble around in dark

Holy Spirit, poured out in abundance on first Pentecost after Ascension is absolutely reliable guide to God’s truth and word

significant ongoing work of Holy Spirit – illuminating God’s truth, our areas of need

has brilliant and focused beam he turns on particular places in God’s word, leading us from truth to truth, helping us grow

turns that same beam on places in our lives that need to be changed by God’s word, God’s truth – guides both understanding and application of truth

Truth is this: Eph. 2:1-4, 11-12 and it required this: Eph. 2:13-19

I Am the Way to God

John 14:6

GPS a wonderful invention. When equipped with accurate maps can take lot of guesswork out of travel. Usually a reliable guide that can be trusted in unfamiliar places. Can be a fun exercise – use GPS in area where you are familiar, then take shortcuts and back roads you know about. “In 300 feet turn left.” No, it’s the next left. “Recalculating… turn around as soon as possible.” And so it goes, not taking turn suggested, taking turns not suggested. Even if you do become disoriented, just follow directions given and will most likely arrive at destination.

Lots of folks treat eternal destination in similar way. Believe they have some sort of internal GPS makes it possible for them to take any road, make any turns they choose, still arrive at good destination at end of life. God may be at end of road, could be heaven or nirvana or nothing at all. Whichever it happens to be, are confident can live life how they choose and still arrive where they intend.

Many of same folks at least profess to live by principle that truth is relative. What is true for you does not need to be true for them and vice versa. What is true in one situation not necessarily true in other places or at other times. According to them, definitely is not any body of truth that applies to all people in all places in all time. One absolute truth exists… that there is no absolute truth.

Would also be of opinion that mankind has prerogative to decide when human life begins, when it should end. If they believe certain procedures are not unjust taking of life, then abortion is ok. If they believe a particular life is not worth sustaining, well then, end it by assisted suicide or euthanasia. Anyone who dares to challenge those views is obviously wrong, should not have a voice in the discussion. Is especially true when challenger has temerity to say their way is the only way of rightly responding to all these issues.

Christian should not be satisfied with these answers to questions foundational to all of life. We must ask “has God said something about these topics? If so, what did he say?” He said: “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Same truth expressed elsewhere in God’s word the Bible – cannot blame exclusive nature of Jesus’ statement on bad translation.

Much of what you will hear now through Sunday… have heard before. Is good to review, be reminded of truth, have it reinforced in thinking so are better equipped to declare truth to others. Is helpful to begin at beginning – think about what Jesus said… unnecessary unless Jesus speaking to genuine area of need.

— if Jesus is the way, must be that we need a way, know where to find it, how to access it

— if Jesus is the truth, not simply a truth but the truth… must be that it exists, we need to know it and it can be known

— if Jesus is the life, then apart from Jesus mankind is cut off from life, the kind found only in Jesus

A. we need a way (Gen. 3:21-24)

perfect fellowship broken / ended by sin

God said “let there be… and there was, God saw, God rested – all creation very good in God’s estimation… satisfied with what came into being in response to command

God said all this… but not this; serpent said, woman saw, no longer good – all that was very good now scarred and cracked and darkened… distorted and defaced from original condition

true of every human relationship – now contorted by sin, deception, accusation, frustration and opposition

original way guarded / off-limits

way to fellowship with God now blocked; where only truth existed, now falsehood and twisting of truth; those once alive now beginning to die, the inevitable outcome of sin

way to perfect eternal fellowship with God guarded by flaming sword, off-limits to man and woman fallen and corrupted by sin

impossible to make own way – Job 9:33

God showed great mercy guarding his presence from sinners – holiness and purity would have destroyed them, tree of life would have condemned to hopeless future

God made original way to his presence, only God can make another way – beyond ability of mankind to restore what was lost

are estranged from God, from our side with irreconcilable differences

fallen sinners have no desire for any contact with God – first parents with pretty small collection of sin hid from God’s presence, resisted his efforts at reconciliation

B. there is a way (Isaiah 35:4-10)

a highway and a road

many places nearby, some we have checked out over past summers – nature trails – some well-made, clearly marked, others not so much… hard to find trail markers, impassible certain times of year

way God makes is clearly defined – is highway for safe travel, well defined and marked, constantly accessible and in good repair

limited access

only certain types permitted to use this highway, has only one way of access; provided with effective guard rails keeping travelers in right way, safe from harm

no unclean on it, reserved for redeemed, ransomed of the Lord; whoever uses it never get lost; unerring leads to final destination

way of holiness, gladness, joy

way that leads in holiness to perfect holiness – purity in all things and suitable for God’s presence; not burdensome, pleasant surroundings that supply joy and gladness… disperse sorrow and sighing

C. we know the way (John 14:4)

…but not everyone does John 8:14

Jesus spoke plainly to Pharisees: “I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.”

also spoke plainly to his intimate followers: “You know the way where I am going” – both destination and route to get there

had to help the Eleven adjust focus from immediate to eternal – not going to “Father’s house” in Jerusalem but real one

his followers must make other followers

is task Lord Jesus has left his followers – go make more… show and tell, at every opportunity, help others find only way that leads to eternal life

need not be overwhelmed by task – not our job to reach all the lost (all several billion) with the Gospel – one at a time… pray, meet people, tell them about Jesus

D. he is not a new way (John 1:51) (Rom. 4:5, 9)

Gen. 3:15 – promised

important note: Adam and Eve sinned, under God’s condemnation; before righteous Judge issued sentence, declared message of hope for fallen sinners

God would supply someone who would overcome evil Serpent had brought into the world, in process would deal with Serpent

Gen. 28:10-17 – confirmed

way to tree of life perhaps only dim memory passed down through generations; not hard to believe mankind wondering if anything would ever change, if God’s presence to be forever off-limits

Jacob leaving town and murderous brother, stops for night, has dream: “a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; … the LORD stood above it”, renewed covenant, now with Jacob

Jacob’s response: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” – God confirmed he would make way

Lord Jesus added more detail – told Nathanael “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)

John 19:30 – completed

that new and living way into house of God completed when He cried “It is finished”, then on third day rose from the dead

E. he is the only way (John 14:6b; Acts 4:12)

no access to God apart from Jesus

Lord Jesus is Jacob’s Ladder that stretches from Father in heaven to touch earth – God himself the only one without exception who can establish ladder, a way that reaches from fallen sinful mankind to his presence

Jesus told Eleven “I am the way... No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – unpopular maybe, but consider this:

he did not keep this essential truth hidden from mankind – declared it openly, wrote it down, preserved so all may know

no salvation in any other

another exclusive statement, and so incredibly helpful: don’t waste your life trying other ways, there is no other way to acquire salvation – “there is salvation in no one else”

no other name

no other person, being, method, plan that can provide salvation acceptable to God; and… no other means ever devised by God himself for the salvation of a lost world

God’s entire plan of salvation wrapped up in Jesus – every ritual sanctioned by God in OT worship looked forward to him, in NT looks backward to Calvary and forward to his return

Heb. 10:19-22Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”