Encounters With Christ – Vision Correction Procedure

Grace For The Journey

Today ’s encounter is one of the most unusual encounters of our study.  It is unusual because of the person himself – Saul of Tarsus, faithful Jewish leader and persecutor of Christians – and it is unusual because the encounter does not take place during Jesus’ earthly reign, but rather at a time after His resurrection, when Jesus has already ascended back up into heaven.

I do not think it is an overstatement to say that the encounter we look at today is the most dramatic, and arguably most significant encounter with Christ yet.  It is often said that if a skeptic wished to be honest in his serious consideration of the historicity of the New Testament and the authenticity of the Christian faith, he would have to explain to historical facts: one, the resurrection of Christ; and two, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Apostle Paul.  Both events are difficult to dismiss out of hand if one takes seriously a study of the faith.

We jump right into the narrative, reading about this man named Saul, a guy who believed Christians were wrong and devoted his life to seeing that they were arrested and imprisoned.  If we had time we would go back and look at the end of chapter 7 and beginning of chapter 8 of the Book of Acts where the Christian Stephen is being stoned to death for his faith in Christ and we are told that Saul was standing there while that was taking place, “consenting to his death,” approving of what was taking place.  The story about Saul of Tarsus picks back up, then, in chapter 9 and verses 1-9, “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.  Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’  And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’  Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’  Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’  And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.  Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one.  But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”

Three days without sight.  Can you imagine?  Saul is on his way to Damascus, hoping to find Christians he can arrest.  He has warrants in his hand as he journeys along and suddenly he is blinded by a light from heaven and he falls to the ground in an encounter that leaves him three days without sight.  He is feeling his way around.  Others leading him.  We will read later that his sight is restored.  God does that.  God blinds him and God restores his sight.  I think that’s kind of funny because it is a metaphor for what was going on with Saul spiritually.  

Saul believed he could see – spiritually –

But he was really blind to the truth.  

So, God blinds him in order to help him see!

I give the title for this study, “Vision Correction Procedure,” because God conducts this operation, spiritual eye surgery, on Saul of Tarsus so that when the procedure is complete, the encounter is so radical and so powerful that Saul of Tarsus goes by a new name, the Apostle Paul.

We can learn some characteristics of the Christian faith from this study.  More pointedly, three essentials of genuine Christianity.  I want to share these with you as signposts along the path of our journey through this text.

Three Characteristics of True Christianity:

I. The Necessity of Conversion – Verses 1-9.

Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:3).  We cannot be saved from sin without the new birth.  God gives us new hearts and we believe by faith in Jesus Christ.  This is conversion, we were once headed in one direction, but we have changed course.  We are now following and living for Jesus Christ.  The Bible describes conversion as a new creation.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; all things have become new.”  This was true of the Apostle Paul.  He was on his way to Damascus, living a life in opposition to Christ, but God got hold of his heart and he was converted, turned around, saved, and he began living a new life in Christ.

One of the things I like about this passage is we see so clearly that it is God who takes the initiative in our conversion.  He makes the first move.  He seeks us before we seek Him.  Remember Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one comes to Me unless the Father draws him.” And that his happening here.  Paul is not interested in Jesus.  Jesus just knocks Paul down and speaks to him.  One of the things Jesus says in the passage, is where He says to Paul in verse 5, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  That phrase is also found later in Acts 22 and 26 where Paul tells this story of his conversion.

Using the phrase, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” is a way of describing how hard it is to resist something that is prodding you along.  A “goad” was like a sharp stick used, for example, by a sheep herder.  Sheep are not real focused animals.  For example, if water is this way the sheep may want to go the other way, or if safety is this way, and a cliff is this way, the sheep naturally go toward the cliff – the sheep herder would use the goad to steer them in the right direction.

This is what God does.  We are naturally going in the wrong direction and, in His love, He comes along and goads us in the right direction.  When we feel like God is “goading” us, prodding us, moving in our lives, we are wise to respond the correct way, not by resisting Him and kicking against Him, but by following Him.

Let me give you a couple truths about conversion before we move on to the next characteristic.  

1) Apart from Christ, we are spiritually blind.  

We cannot see the truth because we do not yet have the ability to see the truth.  We are dead in sin and therefore blind to spiritual things.  I raise this point as a matter of compassion; compassion for those who are spiritually blind.  A person can be spiritually blind to the truth without realizing it.  If you have ever been to a movie theater, you know what I’m talking about.  You sit inside that dark theater for a couple hours and, you see quite well.  You can see the person next to you, see your drink, and see the popcorn that has fallen onto your chest.  When the movie is over and you step outside and the bright light causes you to squint and it makes it difficult to see right away.  What happened was that you had gotten used to the darkness without even realizing it.  You were just used to sitting in the dark.  You could see, but all you could see was the stuff in the dark.  People can be in darkness and not realize it.  It is a matter of compassion.  We do not make fun of them or look down upon them as though they were dumb, or something.  We do as others did for Paul, take them by the hand, as it were, and lead them into the light.

2) Lost people are not always miserable.

We think sometimes that people who are not Christians are just so miserable and just so down and discouraged.  Many lost people are that way, but not all.  In fact, some are very happy in their lost condition and may even be very religious.  This was Saul of Tarsus.  Saul was very religious, as he says elsewhere, “a Pharisee of the Pharisees” (Philippians 3:5).  He was very religious and very dedicated to his religion.  He was walking a 150-mile journey to do what he believed was right.  He needed the truth, but he did not know it.  We must remember that not every lost person we will witness to this week is some foolish, non-religious person, or miserable person, but simply a person who needs to know Jesus.

I love the way Jesus introduces Himself to Saul of Tarsus.  He asks him in verse 4, “Saul, Saul, why are persecuting Me?”  And Saul responds, “Who are You, Lord?”  That is a great question and an important question.  This is the honest response every lost person will make as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts.  We do not have to know all there is to know about Jesus but we will have a desire to know Who He is, what He has done for us, and what we need to do to know Him better.

Jesus’ question is also a reminder that an attack on Christians is an attack on Jesus Himself.  He asks Saul, “Why are you persecuting Me?”  To attack Christians is to attack Jesus.  So united are Christians with Christ that to attack the one is to attack the other.  That is why Paul later uses this relationship of Christ to His church as an image for Christian marriage.  The Bible says Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”  The husband and wife are one.  If you mess with my wife, you are messing with me!  We are one.  I about a husband’s response to his wife’s threat to leave him, “If you do, I am going with you!”

This takes us to the next point.  The second characteristic of true Christianity is . . .

II. The Necessity of Community – Verses 10-19.

Through the Gospel, God unites people together as a community of faith, a community of believers, and a church family.  The pursue is that we may grow in in a healthier relationship with God and with one another.  Verse 10 says, “Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, ‘Ananias.” And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’”  That’s a great response, right?!   God calls your name, you say, “Here I am.  Use me.”   But do we mean it when we say it?   Ananias said it right away.  Let’s see if he means it.

Verses 11 through 14 say, “So the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.’  Then Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.’”  It is easy to understand Ananias’ dilemma here!  Ananias wants to do the Lord’s will, but he’s like, “Uh, God, are you sure about this?!  I do not know if You have thought this thing through.  I mean, I know You know everything, but, well, this Saul guy, he has been persecuting Christians.  He has authority here in Damascus to arrest people!”  By the way, how many of you think God was worried about the authority Saul had?!  You and I talk to God, we say: “Lord, I trust You.  I believe in You.  I want to live Your plan.”  Then God unfolds His will and we are like Ananias here trying to make sure God has all the information He needs.  Just do what God says!  He will always honor our doing the right thing.

Verses 15-17 state, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’  And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”  I just picture Ananias gingerly approaching Saul, probably still thinking, “I don’t know about this!”  He enters the house and tip-toes near him.   And then, the beauty of this picture, verse 17 says he lay his hands on him.   He touched him.  Then he said . . . What did he say?  “Brother Saul.”  That is beautiful.  Paul is now in the family of faith.  It is so amazing, the way God uses the Gospel, through the power of Christ, to bring people together.  We can get along because we are brothers and sisters united in Christ!

Verses 18 and 19 say, “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.  So when he had received food, he was strengthened.  Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.”  Saul can now see!  Something fell from his eyes like scales, maybe like a film had been over his eyes, but now he can see.  And then first thing he does is get baptized.  Throughout the Book of Acts we read that as soon as people receive Christ, they are baptized.  The first step of a new believer is baptism.  It is the first step of obedience.  Baptism, a word that means “to be immersed into water.”  It pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And baptism pictures what happened to the new believer.  We have died to the old person and the old way of life, and have been raised now to walk in a new way of life.  When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the first thing you should do is get baptized as a sign of identifying with Jesus and an obedient commitment to following Him forever.  And baptism happens in the context of the local church, in the community of faith, in the church.  That is why when a person is baptized here that person is a candidate for membership in this church. 

This part of the passage really stresses the need for community in the Christian life.  We are relational beings, and we need one another.  Saul needed Ananias.  And Ananias blessed Saul by being the one to be there with him, to lay hands on him, to touch him, to pray for him.  I cannot help but think that as Paul walks around in heaven today that Ananias is close by reminding everyone: “Hey, I had something to do with this guy being here!”

We often say that every Christian needs two groups – a big group to worship with, and a small group to study the Bible with.  Both are necessary.  We come together in big group to unite our hearts in worship and praise and to hear the Word of God together as the church.  But true community also means that we are in a small group, too.  The smaller group affords the opportunity to really get to know brothers and sisters and to share encouragement with one another, and struggles, and prayer requests, and praying for one another, asking Bible questions, getting answers, and growing in our faith.

Some of you are not yet in a small group Bible Study class and you need to be.  It is not just for your benefit, or what you can get out of it, but you need to be involved in a small group for the benefit of others, what you can contribute.  You have a personality, insights, and giftedness that others need.  You need to be in a small group where you can do that.  If you are not in a small group, get in one today.

The third characteristic of true Christianity is:

III. The Necessity of Confession – Verses 20-22.

Confessing our faith in Christ . . . Telling others about Jesus . . . Telling others that Jesus is Lord.  Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit so he is able now to say, “Jesus is Lord.” Paul later writes, in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”  So, Saul of Tarsus now has the Spirit of God within Him.  He is now a new creation.  He is now the Apostle Paul.  So now he can confess Jesus is Lord.  He can now say truthfully that Jesus Christ is the One True and Living Lord.   He would write later in Romans 10:10, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

If you are saved, something has happened in your heart that just naturally, then, comes out of your mouth!  What has happened on the inside is something you share on the outside.  

If you are “in Christ,” you then

Begin telling others “about Christ.”

Verse 20 says, “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.  When did Paul begin sharing Jesus with others?  Immediately.  

Verse 21 declares, “Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’”  Everybody knows he is different now.  Something has happened!  He is changed!  2 Corinthians 5:17 describes what happened, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  Old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Let me ask you these questions, “If you are a Christian, do people see a change in your life?”  “Do people notice you are different – different in a good way?”  “Do you have a joy in the Lord that others see?”  “Do you have a commitment to Christ and His church, a love for and dedication to Jesus Christ?”

Verse 22 states, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”  Paul is changed and he naturally now confesses Christ, tells others about Jesus.  That is what every believer does.

Every Christian confesses Christ.  It is just like ministry.  Every Christian is a minister. Not every Christian is a pastor, not every Christian will preach to a congregation, but every Christian is a minister and will confess Christ, speak of his or her faith in Christ as one of His witnesses.

We can do this today.  I find it really easy to talk about things that I like.  Things that give me joy.  If I go to a new restaurant and the food is so good, I’ll tell all kinds of people about it – even total strangers!  

That is all witnessing is.

That is all confessing

Christ really is.  

It is just telling others

About the One who has

Given you forgiveness,

Purpose, fulfillment, life,

Peace, joy, and the ability

To experience and enjoy life

As God intended. 

If you have that,

You just want to

Share it with others.  

Confessing Christ.

True Christians do that.

Tell someone today how you met Jesus.  Just tell them.  

  • Tell them how you encountered Christ.  
  • Tell them how He came to you and how you came to know Him.
  • Tell them the difference Jesus is making in your life.

You can do that today.  True Christians confess Christ as Lord.

Some of you have family members who are not walking with Christ.  Or a friend or co-worker.  Some of you may feel like, “I just do not ever see this person coming to know Jesus.”  Be encouraged: remember Saul of Tarsus.  Keep praying.  Keep sharing.  No one is ever too lost to be saved.

Remember that it was Stephen who, in a sense, prayed for Paul’s salvation.  As Stephen was being stoned to death, remember his prayer?  Remember what he said? It was much as Jesus had said on the cross. He said, “Father, do not charge them with this sin.”  And who was standing there when Stephen prayed that way to the Lord? None other than Saul of Tarsus.  Do not stop praying for lost loved ones.  Keep praying

Sometimes police districts will ask their officers to participate in a team-building exercise that is meant to build trust and camaraderie among the officers.  What they do is blind-fold each of the officers and then placed them at the entrance of this rope course, a kind of maze made out of ropes where you had to feel your way along in order to make it through the maze.  None of the officers can talk to one another!  They are blind-folded They cannot see anything.  They are them told expected to go through the course.  Some would reach out trying to find the way, some people walk past others or push through, and some just stop helplessly.  When one officer miraculously makes it to the end.  Is he congratulated and told to sit down?  No, since he has found the way, is to go back through the course and help all of his friends find their way.  That is his responsibility.  He is a leader who is leading others to make their way along the journey.

That training exercise illustrates the need for community among brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all making our way along the journey.  We do not do it alone.  We do not just push through people and pass over people.  Nor are we simply to sit still and let everything else go on around us.  Rather, we follow Christ – the way the truth and the life – and go to people and we help them find their way, lovingly taking them by the hand and making the journey together.  That is our responsibility as followers of Jesus.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Encounters With Christ – In Our Right Minds

Grace For The Journey

Nearly every time we study something in the Bible about demons, I am reminded of CS Lewis’ little book, The Screwtape Letters.  It really is one of the best books in imagining how Satan oversees the work of his demons who do his bidding.  Lewis just does a masterful job, I think, in describing how it all happens.  From the preface of that book comes this helpful little statement, a warning really, about how Christians should think – or not think – anytime our mind ponders the existence of demons. Lewis writes: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our [human] race can fall about the (demons).  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  [The demons] themselves are equally pleased by both errors . . .”

Certainly our Lord Jesus believed in the existence of demons and that really ought to settle it for us.  Jesus is our Lord and King.  We believe in Him and so what He believes, we believe.  And the Bible is straightforward in its accounting of Satan and the demonic world.  It stands to reason, then, that if there is a God – and there is – and this God is all-good – and He is – at the same time we live in a world in which there is evil – it just stands to reason that evil is real and the Bible tells us how Satan works his evil.

Now this is important to our study this morning.  It would be entirely unhelpful if we were to read this encounter as a people somehow removed from event.  It would be bad if we were to read of this demon-possessed man and say to ourselves, “Well, of course we are nothing like this man!  We are not running around as a man unclothed and living among the tombs, full of demons, and cutting ourselves.”  It is absolutely essential that we appreciate the depth and complexity of evil as we read of it in the Bible.  Evil is systemic.  Evil is part of the fabric comprising this fallen world system.  Evil is all around us and the work of demons is ongoing.  While no Christian can be under the absolute control of a demon – as though by possession – Christians can, however, yield control of their lives to demonic influence and so allow themselves temporarily to fall under the power of the evil one.

The Bible says in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  It also says in Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”  And Ephesians 6:10-12 says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

We may be tempted to read this encounter as people somewhat removed from the narrative, removed from the details and the events as though we were just standing on the outside looking in at something that seems so remotely fantastic, we must not separate ourselves from the very real possibility of falling under the influence of the enemy.

I want to share four words from Mark 5:1-20 that describe this encounter.  These are easy words to remember . . . The first word is . . .

Isolation – Verses 1-5.

This man in the tombs is isolated and alienated from everyone.  He is an outcast in the most extreme sense.  It is a sad picture.

Verse 1 begins to tell us about it, “Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes.”  Jesus is traveling by boat with His disciples. They have just crossed over from the Western side to the Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.  They had just been through the storm.  Remember that?  Chapter 4 ends that way.  Jesus calmed the storm and the disciples are like, “Who is this guy?!”  And as soon as they get through the storm on the sea, there is another storm awaiting them on the shore.  It is a different kind of storm.  It is this demon-possessed man – a demoniac as he is often called.

Verse 2 says, “And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.”  It is at times like these I wonder whether the disciples may have second-guessed their decision to follow Jesus!  Did they ever wonder that?  They have just come through the storm and no sooner than they climb out of the boat this crazy man comes running toward them.  Mark describes him in verse 3 as a man, “Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains.”  He lived there among the tombs, not a nice and neatly manicured cemetery as in our day, but tombs hewn out of the rock, a grotesque area of stench and uncleanness.  And because he is dwelling among the tombs, he is isolated and alienated from everyone else.  The tombs are located in an area located on the outskirts of the city.  His condition was horrendous.  He had been bound, we are told, with chains.  Folks in the town had apparently tried to keep the man from hurting himself and others, but to no avail.  He would eventually break the chains.

Verses 4 and 5 state, “Because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.”  This is a sad picture, isn’t it?  This man is like an animal.  But we forget he was once a young mother’s child.  He was once a father’s little boy.  But the demons have gotten hold of him and he is reduced to a life of isolation insidious behavior.  The enemy, Satan, the evil one, will do everything he can to harm us.  Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that Satan has come to steal, kill, and destroy.  Satan would love to see this demoniac destroy himself.  This is why we read that he is “cutting himself with stones.”

Man is created in the image of God and Satan will do his level best to destroy the image of God in us.  Satan wants us to harm our bodies, obsess over our bodies, abuse our bodies, and destroy our bodies.  We may not harm our bodies by cutting, but we may destroy our bodies by drinking, by self-medicating, by overeating, or by defiling in any number of ways.

This man is isolated and alienated from God and others. And apart from Christ each of us is isolated and alienated from God and others. Isolation.  The next word is . . .

Confrontation Verses 6-14.

This demon-possessed man is confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He encounters Christ and talks to Christ in a conversation that is hard to follow – it is hard to know whether we are reading of the man and his actions or whether we are reading of the demons and their actions.  So closely tied together is evil with this man’s nature.

Verse 6 says, “When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.”  The man literally falls before Jesus.  He worship Him, and he falls before Him in an acknowledgment of the authority of Jesus. 

That is the greater point Mark

Is making here in his Gospel.

He has shown at the end of chapter 4 how Jesus is Lord over the storm and danger.  He will show here in the first part of chapter 5 how Jesus is Lord over Satan and demons.  And in the following passage Mark shows how Jesus is Lord over sickness and death.  The man falls before Jesus.  Verse 7 states, “And he cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I implore You by God that You do not torment me.’  For He said to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit!’”  That phrase, “For He said” is in the imperfect tense, which is translated, “He was saying,” that is, Jesus had said this more than once, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”

Verse 9 says, “Then He asked him, ‘What is your name?’  And he answered, saying, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’”  In Roman terms a “legion” was the largest force of the Roman army and, in Jesus’ day, comprised some 6,000 men.  Do you get the idea how much Satan is oppressing this poor soul?  Note how closely tied to the man’s nature is the presence of evil.  It is hard to tell exactly who is doing the talking in this encounter – is it the man or the demons within him?  Verse 9 for example, when Jesus asked the man, “What is your name?” the Bible says he answered, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”  “My” is singular pronoun; “we” is plural pronoun.  Verse 10 says, “Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.”  That is, the demons do not wish to be disembodied spirits.  They wish to inhabit the body of someone else if they cannot inhabit this man’s body.

Verses 11 and 12 say, “Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains.  So all the demons begged Him, saying, ‘Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.’”  If demons can’t have you, they’ll have the swine. Pigs are choice number two for demons. They’d really rather have humans, but they settle for swine.

Verse 13 states, “And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.”  Someone said this is the first “Bay of Pigs!”  But . . . It is a memorable picture, isn’t it?  Jesus’ authority is brought out at the beginning of verse 13, “And at once Jesus gave them permission.” Jesus gives permission.  The unclean spirits enter some 2,000 pigs and the herd then ran violently down the steep place into the sea and drowned.  I can imagine that were this to happen today, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) would have something to say about it what with the way our Western society humanizes nearly every animal.  We have become conditioned to feel sorry for these nasty swine.  You really have no argument if you had bacon or ham this morning with your eggs. As though pigs were more important than human souls!  But even if you are tempted to feel that Jesus has done wrongly here by killing these pig, it is helpful to remember that Jesus did not kill them – The demons killed them.  Remember that this is the objective of Satan and his demons – to steal, kill, and destroy.

Verse 14 says, “So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country.  And they went out to see what it was that had happened.”  That had to be quite a story to hear!  These folks whose job it was to feed the pigs saw all of this and ran to tell the people in the city.  The townsfolk hear about it and then they leave their jobs and their homes to come out to the tombs to see what happened.  And what did they see?  Verse 15 tells us, “Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.”  He was, “sitting and clothed and in his right mind.” This brings us to our third word . . .  It is a picture of . . .

Transformation – Verses 15-17.

This precious soul has been changed.  He is transformed.  He is in his right mind.  What a contrast!  To be saved is to be in our right minds.  We once were under the influence of Satan and not thinking correctly – and God gets hold of us through the Lord Jesus Christ and He changes us.  That is why Paul can write in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation.”

Verse 16 states, “And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine.”  Here are the eyewitnesses again, telling the townsfolk what they had seen; how this man had been delivered.  They also told the others “about the swine.”

And what was their response? Verse 17 tells us, “Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.”  Now years ago when I first read this passage I concluded that these folks did not care much for the economic impact the Lord’s actions had upon the swine industry (2,000 pigs had just died. That’s a lot of ham and bacon) – and that this was likely why they pled with Jesus to depart from their region.  I still think there is something to that.  They are like, “Please leave us, Jesus.  We have got to make a living here and you’re hurting the meat market.  We don’t need your kind around here.”

It is also true that this passage shows that all the wealth in the world is not worth the inestimable value of a single human soul, a person made in the image of God.  While the economic impact is likely a great concern for these folks, I really think there is more than that going on here in their pleading for Jesus to leave them.  I think it may have more to do with their inability to fully understand all that has just happened – and with the inability to comprehend comes an inability to be in control.

I think fear exists anytime we are in a situation where we feel we have no control.  If we are honest there is a fear in coming to Christ.  There is loss of control.  I am talking about really coming to Christ, coming to Him as Lord of our lives.

Remember . . .

We do not just add Jesus to our thinking

The way we add a side item to a combo meal.

Jesus has not come to just sort of “complement” our lives.

He is our life.  He is Lord when we bow

Before Him and yield control to Him.

That can be a frightening thing when one

Is unwilling to relinquish control.  

But that is what trust involves.

Living for Jesus is a trust issue.  You are literally yielding yourself, trusting yourself, to His Lordship.  At least that is what being a biblical Christian is all about.  I am not talking about those who say they are Christians, but are not.  I am talking about those who are genuinely saved, living under the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ.  I am talking about those who allow Jesus to have complete control over all decisions, following Him according to the Bible, His Word, living for Him, yielding to Him.  I think these townsfolk were frightened by Jesus.  They had not seen this kind of thing before.  When you encounter Christ for the first time, it may shake you up a bit.  He is, after all, God in the flesh.  There is a sense in which we ought to be shaken a bit.

But here is the beauty of our Lord!  Though He is God wrapped in human flesh, He loves us and makes a way for us to be saved and delivered from the powers of darkness.  He loves to bring about real transformation in our lives.  He wants us to be “in our right minds.”

We have studied 3 of these 4 words.  We have read about isolation, confrontation, and transformation.  As we come to the last few verses of chapter 5, we will see the final word . . .

Proclamation – Verses 18-20.

This newly transformed man, this formerly demon-possessed man, has a story to tell!  He has something to proclaim!  He is changed!  We read in verse 18, “And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him.”  He wants to go with Jesus!  A natural response to those who have been changed by the Gospel.  Verse 19 states, “However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’”   This man has a a truth to proclaim.  The people want Jesus to leave so He is leaving this man as a witness.  He can tell everyone what happened to him.

By the way, at its core . . .

This is what witnessing

Is all about, about telling others

“What great things the Lord has done for us,”


“How He has had compassion on us.”

That is at the very core of sharing the Gospel.

Verse 20 says, “And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis (the 10 cities) all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”  Imagine this fellow going through all these towns now, the town nearest the tombs first.  He is clothed and in his right mind. People are like, “Look, isn’t that the demoniac?!”  And he is like, “Not anymore. I once was lost but now am found, was bound but now I am free.”

With whom did you share your testimony last week?  Did you proclaim the truth of the Gospel and how God transformed you through a personal encounter with Christ?

By the way, note the word “Lord” in verse 19 where Jesus tells the man, “Go…tell the great things the Lord has done” and then verse 20, “He departed and … proclaimed … all that Jesus had done.”  See how those two words are used interchangeably – Lord and Jesus?  Jesus is Lord. Jesus shares the very nature of God Himself.

There you have it: Isolation, Confrontation, Transformation, and Proclamation.  Can you in any sense identify with the demoniac?  Can you see yourself in any way in him?  No, you may not be a guy running around the tombs demonized in a graveyard, but you may experience a different kind of alienation.  Your chains and shackles may take a different form.  Your separation and alienation may occur in an office with the door shut and the computer turned on.  And website after website glows in your face as you look at things you do not want to see – and yet you do want to see – the influence of Satan is strong.  It seems both to empower you and enslave you.  And with every moment spend there, the influence grows stronger.  Like the demoniac, you could once break free from the power, but its growing stronger.  The demon possessed man could once be shackled but, no one could shackle him anymore.  This was a gradual slide into evil.

And that is just how it works in your life and mine.  We allow Satan to get a foothold.  We open the door to evil just a little ways and Satan sticks his foot in the door and then, little-by-little, we allow him more and more room until he is finally welcome to come in and move freely about.  No one suddenly falls into alcoholism.  No one suddenly falls into drug addiction or suddenly falls into adultery.  He slides.  He cracks the door by flirtation.  By an inappropriate smile or glance or embrace.  One slip leads to another and, before we know it, our careers are over, our families shamed, and our influence lost.

It all starts by allowing just a little bit of uncleanness into our lives.  Imagine you decide to stop cleaning your kitchen.  You let the trash heap up.  You let the dishes stack up in the sink.  There is a spill on the floor.  You just leave it there.  There is a banana peel here, a half-eaten peach there.  You did not finish your Chick-Fil-A sandwich and you just leave it out on the counter.  You just decide to sort of leave everything where it is for a few days, maybe a few weeks.  You have created an environment that is not going to smell so good, right?  What is more, you are probably likely to have a bug problem of some kind, ants, flies, I don’t want to get too gross here, but probably a few roaches, too.

What happened?  By failing to keep the kitchen clean, you have created an environment in which these unclean things are quite at home.  By failing to keep the house regularly clean – a daily habit – you have got unclean things all over the place.

It is no different when you stop walking in spiritual purity and cleanliness.  Let a little sin into your life and before you know it, more sin is in your life.  A little habit grows into a bigger habit.  You have created an environment where these impurities are at home – these little demons of sexual lust, anger, love of money, bitterness, unforgiveness, and even debilitating fear.  Be wise and identify with this demoniac.  You may not be that different from him as you think.  And be encouraged that, just as he did, you too may experience transformation through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

The reason this man, and all men and women,

Can be healed is because – as we have noted

In previous encounters – Is because our precious Lord

Jesus exchanges places with us.  

He Himself becomes the outcast.

Jesus exchanges places with us and

Takes upon Himself all of our wrongs,

All of our sins.  He bears them.  And He gives to us

All that is His – righteousness, perfect goodness, perfect obedience –

All of this is credited to our account and we are seen by God

As if all of this is actually done by us. God sees us as though

We ourselves are righteous, perfectly good, perfectly obedient.

All of this because Jesus exchanges places with outcasts – outcasts like the demonized man – and outcasts like you and me.

If you are experiencing a special kind of isolation.  If you feel chained and in bondage to demons that trouble you – an addiction, an inwardly dark, a personal struggle, a battle of fear, an anxiety, or an impurity.  Look to Jesus who comes sailing over to you as when He crossed the Sea of Galilee to come to just one person.  Jesus will do that for you this morning. He gets off the boat and He is not disgusted by your sin and struggle. He does not condemn you in your chains of sin.  He simply says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Surrender to Him today.  Come to the One who will never cast you aside because He loves you and will forgive your sin.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Encounters With Christ – Seen by God

Grace For The Journey

Yesterday we looked at the sinful woman who found herself weeping at the feet of Jesus.  Today we are in John chapter 1, verses 43 through 51.

Favorite teachings or doctrines about God are kind of like favorite songs to me, or a favorite food or favorite movie – it is hard to narrow them down to just one.  If you ask which teaching about God is my favorite, it just sort of depends on what is going on in my life.  Sometimes it is God’s providence, or His power, or other times, it’s God’s providing salvation for us in Christ, or something else.

Today’s passage reminds me about

The joy and wonder of God’s presence.

The Christian can say, “God is with me always.”  There never really is a time when we are alone.  Some of our Lord’s final words to His disciples include the phrase, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God will never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

The Christian can say that God is always near.  He is as present to us as a shadow on a bright summer day.  You cannot escape His presence.  He is always there.  Even if you are not aware of His presence He is there.

In this passage, we see that truth as God reveals Himself through Christ to Nathanael.  I want to talk mostly about this encounter of Nathanael’s with Jesus.  Though Philip is mentioned first.  We will go through these verses and dig a little deeper – and then after we have gone through them together I want to leave you with some encouragement about the God who sees us.

Verses 43 and 44 state, “The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.”

The more immediate context here concerns our Lord’s calling the first disciples.  He says to John and Andrew, “Follow Me,” and they do. They ask, “Where are You staying?” And Jesus says, “Come and see.”  Then Andrews goes and finds his brother Peter and says, “Hey! We have found the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ.” And Andrew brought his brother Peter to Jesus.  That is pretty cool, isn’t it?  Family bringing family to Jesus.

Then we read that on the following day – verse 43 – Jesus found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”  I like the way this reads.  Jesus found Phillip – not Phillip found Jesus.  We never really find the Lord so much as we discover we have been found by the Lord.

Jesus will say later in chapter 6 and verse 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  It is a remarkable thing, the fact that we come to Christ only to discover that He has first come to us.

This truth is put in a wonderful old hymn text by my favorite writer Anonymous:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
No, I was found of thee.

He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”  Verse 45 says, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

You sense something of Philip’s excitement here.  We have found Him, Nathanael!  We have found the promised Messiah!  Of course, this means that faithful Jews like Philip were expecting the Messiah.  They were familiar with the Old Testament teachings about a promised coming Savior.

Then Philip tells Nathanael who it is.  He says, “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael’s response is in the latter part of verse 46, “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’”  You can tell from the way that reads that Nathanael is not impressed!  He’s like, “Nazareth?!  That is a backward place, isn’t it?! Not even mentioned in the Old Testament. Only like 2,000 people. What good can come

I love Philip’s reply.  It is really very instructive.  How does Philip answer Nathanael’s scornful, skeptical question?  Does he argue with Nathanael?  His response is found at the end of verse 46, “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’  Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”

Sometimes the best answer to a questioning skeptic is simply, “Come and see.”  We are not always going to have all the answers when we invite someone to faith in Christ.  It is important to remember the statistic, “More than 80% of the unchurched said they would come to church if someone sincerely invited them.”  By the way, Nathanael did respond positively to Philip’s invitation.  He went with Philip.  Do not miss that.

Now what happens when Nathanael sees Jesus?  More to the point, what happens when Jesus sees Nathanael coming to Him?  Verse 47 tells us, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite in whom is no guile!’”  One of those Old English words means “no hypocrisy or no deviousness.”  It does not mean that Nathanael is sinless.  That is not it at all.  I think probably the best translation is something like, “Here’s an Israelite in whom is no phoniness, a real straight-shooter, a tell-it-like-it-is type of person.”

 Nathanael is struck by the fact that Jesus knows him.  Verse 48 says, “Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’”

That is just fantastic, isn’t it?!  Jesus says, “Nathanael, I saw you long before Philip went looking for you.  You were standing there under the fig tree.”  Verse 49 states, “Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’”  In other words, “Okay! I believe!” Then Jesus replies in verse 50, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”  It is almost like a gentle rebuke, isn’t it?  “Nathanael, you believe because I told you I saw you before Philip went to get you.  Tell you what, Nathanael, you follow Me and you are going to see a lot more than that!”  That is exciting!

And then Jesus sort of “tips His hand” in the last verse.  He gives an idea of at least one sense in which He means that there are “greater things” on the horizon.  Verse 51 declares, “And He said to him, ‘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.’”

That is an interesting statement, isn’t it?  The context is Genesis 28.  It is where we read about Jacob’s being in the wilderness and he went to sleep one evening, using a stone for a pillow.  He goes to sleep and he has this dream, this vision, of a staircase, a ladder, or like an escalator from earth reaching into heaven – and angels of God going up the ladder and coming down the ladder.  It is a powerful image of the very presence of God! 

And in the dream Jacob hears God say to him: “I am the Lord, and I am going to bless you with land and descendants as numerous as the dust particles of the earth!  I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.”  Jacob wakes up and he says, “Surely the Lord is in their place, and I did not know it!”  And he adds in verse 17, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”  The writer goes on to say that Jacob named the place “Bethel,” which means “house of God.”

More about that specific text in a moment.  Right now, let me share with you some encouragement.

Two main truths here that rise from this passage of Scripture.  Be encouraged. Remember this about our Lord Jesus . . .

1) He Sees Us.

The God who sees Nathanael under the fig tree is the God who sees you right now sitting where you are.  He knows you.  Remember Nathanael’s question to Jesus?  He is astonished and he asks Jesus in verse 48, “How do You know me?”  Jesus says, “I saw you.”  To the Lord, to see is to know.  Our Lord Jesus sees us and so He knows us. He knows all about us.  He knows us inside and out.  We may rightly say that Jesus knows at least three things about us . . . He . . .

Knows Who We Are.

Remember that Jesus is the incarnation of the eternal Son of God.  John reminds us of this truth in the opening of his Gospel, referring to Jesus as “the Word.” John writes in the opening verses of Chapter 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him . . . .”  The eternal Son of God is the One through whom all creation comes into existence.  He knows who we are because He is God, creator God, who has all power and all knowledge.  He sees us – He knows who we are.  He also . . .

Knows Where We Are.

Jesus not only knew who Nathanael was, but where Nathanael was.  He said, “I saw you,” specifically, “under the fig tree.”  Our Lord Jesus sees us right where we are, right now.  He sees us.  He always knows not just who we are, but where we are.

The Psalmist was overwhelmed by this truth in Psalm 139, when he declares, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.  You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. 

He knows who we are, where we are, and therefore . . .

He Knows How We Are.

That is, He knows how we are doing.  It is one thing to marvel at God’s omniscience, His all-knowing ways through Christ.  But it is another thing to think about God’s care for us.  I am blown away by the fact that our Lord knows everything, all the intricate details of every single thing in the universe.  How amazing it that?!

Jesus knows everything.  Marvel at that truth for a moment.  He knows everything . . . He knows every single fact of knowledge:

  • Every math equation perfectly;
  • The number of stars in the sky;
  • The problem in your automobile that no one can locate;
  • How many particles of dust are floating around in your room.

He knows all about you.

  • He knows your favorite coffee house.
  • He knows your favorite beverage.
  • He knows how you like your favorite beverage.
  • He knows how many of your favorite beverage you had this morning.
  • He knows the exact number of bugs you accidentally swallow in a lifetime.
  • He knows the precise number of all the documents on your computer.
  • He knows how many words there are in each document.
  • He knows how many keys you pressed when you typed each document.
  • He knows how many texts you send.
  • He knows how many times your heart beats in a given day.
  • How many times you breathed-in and exhaled in the last hour.
  • He knows your concerns and cares.
  • He knows what worries you.
  • He knows your greatest fears.

It is not just that He knows who you are and where you are, He knows how you are – how you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and how you’re hurting.  And because He is God, our Lord Jesus knows just what to do if we take our cares and our concerns to Him (1 Peter 5:7).  Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Some of you may be worried about some particular challenge or burden.  It is weighing on you.  You are reading this blog this morning hoping to be encouraged.  Be encouraged!  Our Lord sees you.  He knows you.  Remember His character:  He is always good and always does the right thing.  If you are worried about that loved one, that job, that financial situation, or that health scare, hear God’s Word in Philippians 4:6 -7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

He sees us.  The other side of the coin is . . .

2) We May See Him.

We may know Him.  We may know Him personally.

You Can Know God Personally through Christ

This is why God came to us in Christ.  He came that we may have a personal relationship with Him, may know Him personally.

The vision of Jacob’s to which Jesus alludes, is so significant.  Jacob falls asleep and has this vision that there is a ladder between heaven and earth.  There is this realm, you know, in which God resides.  It is a place of utter perfection and utter holiness. Then there is this realm here, this earthly realm, this world of sorrow and sin.  Jacob has this fantastic vision, this dream, where there is a sort of punching through the realms, this ladder that appears, God punches a hole in the sky and God’s presence is made known.  Angels are ascending and descending.  Jacob is just taken by it all and says, (Genesis 28:17).

God has come and in the person of Jesus Christ so that you can know Him personally. God has punched a hole through the sky and entered into our world.  He has come to us as the gate of heaven.  Jesus says later in this same Gospel in John 10:9, “I am the gate. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,” and later in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come unto the father except by Me.”

You can know God personally through Christ.  You must come to Him, believe in Him, believe He lived a perfect life for you and earned your righteousness by fulfilling all the laws you have broken, and dying a perfect death of substitution, taking the penalty of your sin upon Himself, dying for you, rising from the dead for you.  Believe Him, turn to Him, and be saved from your sin. You can know God personally through Christ.

And if you know God personally through Christ, remember this, always remember . . .

You Can Know God’s Presence through Christ.

This fact, to me, is one of the greatest and most glorious truths of the Christian experience!  The presence of God!!  Back in Genesis 28 Jacob had described that place in the wilderness as “Bethel,” which means, “House of God.”  But now, God has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ, the gate, the stairway, the door, and the way.  Jesus is now the place where people meet God and know God and discover the presence of God.  

That is why to the Christian, buildings or the geography of so-called “holy sites” is really not that big a deal.  To be with Christ is to be with God.  Jesus is the holy place, the house of God.  Jesus is the new   house of God, the place where God is present.

Does it thrill you to know that you can know God’s presence through Christ?  Do you experience regularly, daily, the delight of the presence of God through Christ?  I mean, God is here, but that does not mean you actually experience the joy and wonder of His presence.

Remember that Nathanael was not moved by the presence of the Lord until he was aware of the presence of the Lord.

A. W. Tozier, writing on the presence of God, says, “The presence and the manifestation of the presence are not the same.  There can be the one without the other.  God is here when we are wholly unaware of it.  He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His presence.  On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son.  If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.”

This week remember that God has punched a hole through the skies and placed Himself there in the ladder of Jesus Christ.  You can know God personally through Christ and you can experience the joy and wonder of His presence by basking in the presence of Jesus.  Take time each day to get away quietly and open your Bible and listen to God as you read.  He is with you as you read!  And bow your head frequently through the day and say, “God, thank you for being right here with me, as close as a shadow on a bright sunny day, never leaving me, never forsaking me, but being with me always.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Encounter With Christ – Forgiven Much, Loves Much

Grace For The Journey

One of the things we have noted during this series is how many times an encounter with Christ takes place over a meal.  There are so many that one could do a series entitled, “Dining with Jesus” or “Meals with Christ.”  That is the case this today.  We will be looking at a passage here in Luke 7:36-50 where Luke describes a dinner event.  Jesus dines with someone nobody expected.  An anonymous woman with a notorious reputation.

At a funeral several months ago I was approached after the graveyard service by one of the granddaughters of the family.  She said that she was offended by comments he had made during my funeral message.  Specifically, the woman was offended my remarks that, “all are sinners and we cannot save ourselves.”  This young woman was offended because she did not see herself as a sinner.  That is the second time that I have had someone respond that way after one of my sermons.  In today’s climate I am less surprised that someone would be offended that they themselves were included in a clear teaching of Scripture, such as Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

What a contrast to the woman in today’s study.  If there is one woman who readily acknowledges her sinfulness and unworthiness it is the unnamed woman in this story. There is no question but that she is a sinner.  She knows it to be true and everyone present at that dinner knew it to be true, as well.

Let’s go through this passage, verse-by-verse, and take a look at the three key persons in the text.  I have a simple descriptive outline to provide a sense of movement through the passage.  Then after we have studied the meaning of the passage, I will share a few points of application about which to think more deeply today and in the weeks ahead.

I. A Conspicuous Sinner – Verses 36-38.

Verse 36 says, “Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him.  And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat.”  I have noted before that dinner invitations in Bible times were an opportunity to really get to know someone.   It was not a rushed time, a hurried time, but rather an evening to share and listen and learn.

One of the Pharisees had invited Jesus to dinner.  Maybe he wanted to know more about Jesus or thought that by having Jesus over he might sort of “score some points” with this popular prophet.  Luke does not tell us the man’s motivation, so we do not really know.  In any case, something happened that is a bit of a surprise.

Someone joins them while they are dining.  And it is not just anyone.  Luke tells us in verse 37, “And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, joined them.”  On the one hand, it was not that unusual to have someone enter into the dining area.  In our day, it would be really strange because we eat in houses with doors shut and even locked. And nobody just walks into a modern 21st Century house uninvited and sits at the table, unless you want to get shot!  But in the ancient near eastern context, meals were shared in an open area of a home, open to the outside, where passersby could actually see who was eating and even kind of “hang out” near where the folks were eating, even listening to conversation.  It was a more communal experience even for uninvited guests.

And folks did not sit around a modern western table with chairs, but rather they reclined in something of a circle, leaning on one arm and eating with the other hand.  It was so different!  It is still that way today as many of you know who have traveled to Mediterranean areas.

So . . . There is this woman who walks in.  She is, verse 37 tells us, “a woman in the city who was a sinner.”  In other words, she had a reputation.  And it was not a good one. Everything about the context suggests that this woman was a prostitute – or at least had been a prostitute – until sometime recently.  Look at what happens as we continue in verses 37 and 38, “When she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.”

We will note in a moment that when the Pharisee sees this happening in his own home he is beside himself in shock.  He says, in verse 40, “If this man were a prophet he would know who this woman is, and what kind of woman this is, she is a sinner!”

This sinful woman has made her presence known.  She is conspicuous in every way. She stands behind Jesus.  She opens this alabaster flask of oil.  Probably a small flask worn around the neck.  It contained perfume.  It was costly perfume.  She would have used this perfume in her profession.  And she now opens the flask to anoint His feet, but while she is planning on doing this, she begins to sob – and the sense is not just a whimpering cry, but a deep, heartfelt sobbing.  This woman is just weeping and sobbing.  She likely wasn’t expecting to cry so much and, not having a towel, washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with the hair of her head.

To describe her as conspicuous is quite an understatement because her every action would have drawn further attention and glaring stares and shock to guests in the room, especially the Pharisee.  In the Talmud, which is a Jewish commentary, it is stated that for a woman to let down her hair in the presence of men was a major no-no.  In fact, if the woman were married, this action of letting down her hair was grounds for divorce.  It was a shameful action.

By the way, this incident is different from another story we read in the Gospels.  You may remember Mary who anointed Jesus for His burial.  That is a different situation that took place in Bethany by the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  This incident occurs in Galilee and the woman is not Mary, but this unnamed, but not unknown “lady of the evening,” a prostitute – a conspicuous, a very conspicuous sinner.

We look secondly at the Pharisee who had a . . .

II. A Critical Spirit – Verses 39-40.

Verse 39 says, “Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, ‘This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.’”

He is just shocked that this woman is even touching Jesus and that Jesus allows it!  We learn the Pharisee’s name in verse 40, “And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’”  Then Jesus proceeds to tell a parable that illustrates the depth of sin and the wideness in God’s mercy to forgive.  That is what Jesus does in the following verses.

Before we look at that parable, let you spirit sense and feel Simon the Pharisee’s critical spirit.  The Pharisees were a religious group of folks in Jesus’ day who were very powerful and very influential.  The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that there were as many as 6,000 of these Pharisees during the time of Jesus.  These Pharisees were not only powerful and influential, they had a tendency to be critical and judgmental.  And the reason for this tendency was because they had such a high estimation of themselves as the morally upright upper crust.  The very word “Pharisee” means, “separated one.” These folks separated themselves from the common folks and common ways and were therefore thought of as highly moral and superior in righteousness given their strict adherence to tradition and law.

There was a tendency on the part of the Pharisee to become judgmental, to look down one’s nose upon the sinful actions of

That bring us the final person . . .

III.  A Compassionate Savior – Verses 41-50.

Jesus tells this parable to illustrate His compassion for those who know the depth of their sin and their need for God’s forgiveness.  Jesus says in verse 41, “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.”  The amount of money this man charges these individuals is significant – One owes the equivalent of 2 years’ wages.  The other owes the equivalent of two months’ wages.  The problem is that neither one could pay down the debt, or pay off the debt.  If you did not pay off your debt in those days you could be thrown into debtor’s prison.  Both men are in the same boat.  Verses 42 and 43 declare, “And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both.  Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered and said, I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’”

The person who knows his debt to be so great and sees no way out of the situation is likely to be more grateful than the one who sees his debt as not as great as the other’s. Therefore, he may wrongly conclude that he is not in as great a need as the other. Consequently, when his debt is forgiven, he is not as likely to love in the same way the other loves.  

Jesus continues in verse 44, “Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?  I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.  Washing a visitor’s feet was a common near eastern practice.  If you wear open-toed sandals everywhere your feet will get dirty and dusty.  You washed the feet of your dinner guests before they reclined for meal.  Simon had not done so.  He treated Jesus just like some common person.  

Jesus continues in verses 45 and 46, “You gave Me no kiss but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.  You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.”  It seems that Simon reasoned the way many professing Christians reason: “Is not it enough that I invited you here?”  Is not it enough that Jesus is here in my house?  Isn’t it enough I have come to church today?

Jesus continues in verse 47, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.  But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”  Now the very last verse, verse 50, tells us that this woman had faith in Jesus and that it was on the basis of her faith in Christ that she is saved.  She had at some point already placed her faith in Christ.  She believed in Him, trusted in Him.  Verse 50 says, “Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’”

That is important to know because

Jesus is teaching that the one

Who is truly saved will have

A love that flows out of

Them in gratitude to God.

That is what Jesus means when He says in verse 47 that, “she loved much.”  She has been forgiven of her sin and she, as a result, she loves much.

Jesus reassures the woman that her faith has saved her and her sins have been forgiven.  That is the point of verses 48 to 50, “Then He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’  49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’  Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’”  This woman is sobbing all over Jesus and Jesus is like, “It is true.  It is really true.  Your sins have been forgiven.  All of them.  You may go in peace.”

Here is what is so important for us to know and so important for us to consider today . . .

There is a difference between religious faith

And saving faith in Jesus Christ.

There is a difference between

Morality and the Gospel.  

There is a difference between

Those who say they are

Religious and morally upright

And those who genuinely

Know true salvation.

If you are truly saved. If you have had a real, saving encounter with Jesus Christ then you will identify more with the prostitute than the religious man.

If you have had a real, saving encounter with Christ, then you will have three things . . .

A Real, Saving Encounter With Christ Produces . . .

And I ask you to consider these three things with me this morning. number one:

1) Genuine Humility Before God.

And by humility before God, I have in mind namely that you will know the depth of your sin and will surrender to Christ alone.  Unlike the woman I mentioned in the introduction of our study – the one at the funeral who did not think she was a sinner – unlike her, you and I will know the depth of our sin.  We will identify with this so-called, “Sinful woman.” We are sinful, too.

Simon is detached, cold, and unaffected.  Simon wants Jesus there, but keeps Him at arm’s length.  He invited Jesus over for an academic experience, a sort of religious seminar.  The woman knows sin.  She gives up control.  She surrenders.  She knows she needs forgiveness. She cries over her sin.  Martin Luther calls her tears, “Heart water.”

It is a reasonable question to ask of ourselves this morning: “When was the last time you shed a tear for your sin?”  It is only when you and I know the depth of our own sin that we are in a position to appreciate the wideness and depth of God’s mercy.  John Owen said, “He that hath slight thoughts of sin, never had great thoughts of God.”  Geoff Thomas puts it another way, “If you figure that you are a ‘little sinner’ then all you need is a ‘little Savior.’  If you think you are a ‘moderate sinner’ then what you will need is a ‘moderate Savior.’  But if you are a ‘big sinner’ you will need a ‘big Savior.’ Those who have a little Savior will love him little, while those who have a big Savior will love him greatly.”  Most of the time, I feel more like the prostitute than the Pharisee.  I need a big Savior.  I need the Gospel.

The Gospel is not something you add to your life

The way you add an exercise routine

Or a diet plan or take vitamins.  

The Gospel is not true

Because it works;

It works because it is true.

The problem is never with the Gospel, the problem lies in our failure to really understand and appreciate the Gospel – because our failure to really understand and appreciate the Gospel is based upon a failure to really understand and appreciate the depth of sin and the wideness of God’s mercy.  This woman got it; the religious Pharisee did not.

2) A real, saving encounter with Christ produces . . .

Genuine Love And Gratitude To Christ.

This point is tied to the first point.  Genuine humility leads to genuine love and gratitude to Christ.  The Pharisee does not really see himself as much of a sinner, does he?  He is morally upright.  He keeps the law.  He certainly does not live like this prostitute!  He really does not regard himself as much of a sinner.  How then does he treat Christ as a result?  The Pharisee slighted Christ.  Treated Him as just some ordinary guest.  Just some common person.  Does not give Him a proper greeting, doesn’t wash His feet, just treats Him as an ordinary person.

The woman, however, she regards herself as a sinner.  She knows the depth of her sin. How does she treat Christ?  She loves Him.  She has endless love for Christ and endless gratitude to Christ.

If you know you have been forgiven much, you will love much.  If you know the depth of your sin, you will love Jesus greatly.  You will never get over the depths and wideness of God’s mercy in His forgiveness of you.

This is the whole point of Jesus’s parable.  Here is a lender who lends money to two people and then finds himself in a position where neither can repay so must absorb the debt himself.  The lender absorbs the debt.  Someone has to pay.  The debt is never truly cancelled, it is transferred to another.  The payment of the two debtors is absorbed, or paid for, by the money lender.

Jesus equates Himself with the lender.  The debt of the woman – and the debt of the Pharisee – is absorbed by or transferred over to Jesus; we may biblically say, imputed to Jesus.  He pays the debt.  The lender pays the debt of others.  It cost Him for these two folks to be forgiven.

They were both in debt and the point is that neither could repay.  If you are a little in debt and a lot in debt, but the consequences are the same then it really does not matter if you are a little in debt or a lot in debt; the same way we may think of two different people as dead.  One merely stopped breathing and the other was brutally murdered. Neither is more dead than the other.  They are both dead.  One just looks more presentable at death that is all.

That is what the self-righteous Pharisee failed to see – and that may well be what many of us fail to see.  

It really doesn’t matter whether you are

“A little sinner” or “a big time sinner.”

You are a sinner.  

You are separated from God.  

And just like two dead people,

No one more dead than the other.  

Both are in the same condition.

Imagine you are on an airplane that will explode in the air.  If the airplane is going to explode and disintegrate, it really does not matter whether you are seated in first class or in coach.

Self-righteousness, judgmentalism, a critical spirit, these things are gone when we realize that before God we are all sinners equally in need of a Savior.  You will not look down your nose at someone who is struggling this week when you remember that you are just as they – a sinner.  It does not matter whether that person is a prostitute, a drug addict, a criminal, or a so-called “Low life,” you are a sinner, too.

The Pharisee was worried about getting a seat in first class.  But he is in the same predicament as the sinful woman seated near the restroom in coach.

When you know the depth of your sin, you are more likely to love Christ and be every grateful to Him for His forgiveness.  When this woman breaks open her alabaster (fine-grained stone) flask (small container of perfume), she is saying in essence, “You are more important to me than all of this ointment. You are more important to me than all the reasons I used this before.”

You may not be a prostitute, but what is the flask you carry around your neck?  What is it you love more than Jesus?  What is it you wish to control, or what is it that you believe adds greater value to your life?  Doesn’t Jesus really own everything anyway?  You feel proud of your own stuff, you earned it.  But did you cause your birth?  Did you cause yourself to have certain talents or abilities?  

God comes to forgive a debt we owe Him.  What do you owe God?  What if God gave you a bill each month for everything you have – Every sin you committed?  Every failure?  What if God billed you for every sin?  That is the way religion works.  

People have the wrong view that they can

Pay down or pay off their own sin debt.

Giving money to poor people.  Donating to charity.  Being kind to others.  Some people believe this is the way to pay our sin debts.  It is just religion.

Think of it really: what if God billed you for every single sin?  In some sense, that is what the day of Judgment is like.  God says, “Okay, I’m calling your loan.  It is time to pay your debts.  You can pay in hell which is just since you owe me and cannot pay me.  I will send you to the debtor’s prison of hell.  Or, if you have had your debt paid for by my Son then you can enter into heaven.” Jesus paid it all.

There is one final thing here.  A real, saving encounter with Christ produces . . .

3) Genuine Love And Forgiveness For Others.

When you have experienced God’s forgiveness and the depth of His mercy, and you identify with the sinful woman, then you are in a better position to understand and forgive others when they hurt you – your co-worker, your wife, your husband, or your children.

Our ability to love people and to forgive people and to be gracious towards people and compassionate towards people – all of these and more – our ability to love others and to love life is really dependent upon a right understanding of the Gospel and an ability to understand the depth of our own sin and the forgiveness God has given us.

If you’re angry all the time, mad at the world, mad at others, never satisfied with who you are and where you are and what you are doing, it may well be because you really do not know the Gospel.  It may well be that you do not really know the depth of your sin and the wideness of God’s mercy to forgive you your sin.

John Newton, writer of “Amazing Grace,” was once a notorious sinner, a slave dealer, but he was gloriously converted and became a preacher.  He never got over the depth of his sin and the wideness of God’s mercy to forgive.  He lived to the age of 82.  Not too long before he died Newton made this statement: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner . . . and that Christ is a great Savior!”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Christmas: From Fear to Faith

Grace For The Journey

Today is Christmas Day . . . Merry Christmas! I want to pause with our study on “Encounters With Christ” in order at a passage about the birth of Jesus Christ.  Luke chapter two begins by telling us how God directed Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and, with stark simplicity Luke tells us that Mary brought forth her firstborn Son, wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, or a feed trough, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Verses 8-14 tell us happens next . . . “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”

One of the fantastic things about studying the Bible is that there is no end to the new and fresh insights that God grants us as we read His Word.   We can take any passage of Scripture and, no matter how familiar, God will often bless us with an application that we had not previously enjoyed.

In our passage today, I was struck by the first words from the mouth of the angel of the Lord to these shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night.  The very first thing this angel says is, “Fear not.”  It is the same phrase used by the angel of the Lord in chapter 1, back when the angel appeared to Zacharias in the temple, first thing out of the angel’s mouth, “Fear not” (1:13)  And then again, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, the first thing the angel said was, “Fear not.” (1:30).  Here we have it again in chapter 2, verse 10, “Fear not.”

The fact that Luke brings this out in his story suggests at least that the typical response to encountering something supernatural is to respond in fear.  And while we usually think of fear as a bad thing, there is a kind of fear that is very good.   In the Old Testament, for example, we read over 30 references to a healthy kind of fear, namely “the fear of God.”   But this kind of fear is best understood in terms of reverence, worship, love, and awe.   Solomon wrote, for example, in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” or in Proverbs 10:27, “The fear of the Lord adds length to life.”

But closely connected to this fear is another kind of fear, a fear usually associated with worry and anxiety over the future or a worry over a host of imagined possibilities, a kind of fear that often paralyzes us in its grip.

I love Christmas movies.  I love, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story.”  The latter is about a kid named Ralphie who wants an official Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.  Those of you who have seen this movie, do you remember the scene where a boy named Flick is pressured to stick his tongue to the cold flagpole in the school yard?  Another kid named Schwartz pressures Flick to do it.  Schwartz warns that if he does it his tongue will stick to the pole.  Flick says it won’t and the dare is on.  Poor Flick!  He just could not withstand the dares of Schwartz, the bratty little kid who went from “Double Dog Dare” to “Triple Dog Dare.”  When you watch that scene you can just feel for Flick.  When Schwartz “Triple Dog Dares” Flick into sticking his tongue to the flagpole, Flick’s mouth opens and his eyes get big and you can just tell his heart is beating faster.  His spine stiffens, he wipes his brow, he shakes his head.  He is full of fear!  And there are so many fears running through his mind . . . fear of not being able to get out of this, fear of losing friends, fear of saving face . . . and fear of his tongue sticking to that pole!  He finally does what his conscience warns him is wrong and he gets his wet tongue stuck to that dry, cold pole.

We can all relate to deep-seated, feelings of fear.  Fear takes on many forms and hits us in many ways.  Perhaps the greatest of our fears is simply the fear of the unknown.  We like security, predictability, safety, peace, and comfort.  We want to be reassured that these things will not be upset.

It is understandable, then, why the angel of the Lord goes on to say to the startled shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”  That is, “You need not be frightened by my appearance.  I have not appeared to paralyze you with worry and anxiety, quite the contrary I am bringing you some really Good News.  You will not understand it all at once, but in time, you will.  I am bringing you Good News in the form of a person.  I am bringing you the news about the Lord Jesus Christ, a Savior to all people.”  And so, these shepherds move from fear to faith.  And in their moving from fear to faith, we are encouraged to know that we too may not live paralyzed in anxiety and worry, but we too may move from fear to faith.

Let’s study these verses and then at the end of our study we will look at some practical applications that arise from this Christmas passage.   

I.  Christmas Is About Wonder – Verses 8-14.

We must never lose the wonder of Christmas!  We should read this passage with the greatest sanctified imagination possible.  This is a wonderful story.  It does not require all the special effects of a blockbuster film.  It is a powerful passage about a birth announcement.  Did you send out birth announcements when your baby was born?  Look at the birth announcement of Christ in verses 8-9, “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.”  Angels in the Bible are not like these precious little figurines we buy in card shops.  They are masculine in gender, they are usually huge in appearance, and when they appeared they usually scared the living daylights out of people!  You have this angel appearing and the brilliant white light of the glory of the Lord shining all over the place and so these tough old shepherds are shaking in their sandals. 

Verses 10-14 state, “Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”  In verse 14 we have the first Christmas carol ever sung.   We go from one angel in verse 9 to a whole multitude of the heavenly host in verse 13.   I do not know how many angels, but I suppose hundreds, if not thousands.   And they are all singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  Talk about a heavenly choir!

That last phrase does not refer to a political peace or the absence of war.  That is not the peace the angels are proclaiming. 

The angels are proclaiming a peace

With God among those who know Him.

This is a peace with God made possible

Through the work of this Savior who has come.

The angels are proclaiming a peace with God. 

And when you have peace with God,

You will know the peace of God.

Because of sin, we are separated from God.  We are at war with God.  We do not have peace with God (Ephesians 2:14-18).  We are alienated from God because our sin, our original sin with which we are born, and the sin we do willingly and consciously.  If we die in this state, we remain separated from God.  But if our sins have been forgiven through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are at peace with God.  This is precisely what the Apostle Paul has in mind when he refers to the doctrine of justification, the doctrine of being declared righteous by God through faith in Christ.  Paul writes in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This is the peace the angels proclaim in their wondrous announcement of the birth of Christ.

Here is the wonder of Christmas.  Christmas is about wonder.  Secondly:

II.  Christmas is about Witness – Verses 15-17.

The shepherds witness this supernatural nighttime celebration in the sky and then they go to witness the birthplace of this child.  They go to see the baby.

Verses 15-16 state, “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.  And they came with haste (the first “Christmas Rush” incidentally!) and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.”  When they see the child, they then witness to others what they had seen.  They share this good news about Jesus Christ.

Verse 17 says, “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” 

When we have encountered the Lord Jesus Christ,

We naturally want to tell others about Him.

They made “widely known the saying which was concerning this Child.”  What was “the saying” they made widely known?”  It was “the saying which was told them concerning this Child.”  What was that?   The answer is found in verses 10 and 11, “Fear not.”  

Why?  Because, “I bring you good tidings – or Good News – “of great joy which will be to all people.”  In what way is this Good News?  Verse 11, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Here is why this story is the greatest story ever told. 

It is the greatest story ever told because it is

The story of the greatest news ever heard

And what makes the news so great is that

It is news which repairs our broken condition. 

Or, we might say it is the Good News

Which answers the bad news.

The bad news is that we are at war with God, alienated from God because of our sin.  The bad news is that which makes the Good News good.  It is a matter of perspective.

Maybe you heard about the young man at Christmastime who was writing home to his parents.  It was his first semester away at college and he was writing to them just before the Christmas break, knowing he would be home for the break and, in anticipation of his soon being home with them, he wrote this letter:

“Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch with you, but a number of things have happened, and I wanted to let you know about them.  First, my apartment burned to the ground and in seeking to rescue a few things from it, I broke my leg and ended up in the hospital. 

While I was in the hospital, I met a wonderful girl.  She and I were married on Saturday afternoon.  My friends assure me that it shouldn’t be an inhibition in any way to the development of our relationship that she is 20 years older than I and does not speak the English language.

Everything you have just read is untrue so don’t worry.  However, what is true is that I have failed my exams badly.  And since I wanted you to be able to get this in some kind of perspective, I have written the letter as is.”

Perspective helps, doesn’t it?!  We can only appreciate the Good News of the season when we fully appreciate the bad news of our sin. 

We cannot fully appreciate

What it means to be forgiven

Until we know we stand

In need of forgiveness.

Christmas is about witness.  It is about our coming to terms with God, “making our peace with God,” if you will and then urging others to do the same.  Christmas is about telling others about Jesus. 

It is about wonder . . . It is about witness . . . Thirdly . . .

III.  Christmas is about Worship – Verses 18-20.

Verses 18 and 19 say, “And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

What a contrast there between those two verses!  “All those who heard it” – The good News about Christ – “marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”

To marvel is a good thing, but it does not mean anything more than that they marveled.   In other words, as the shepherds witnessed to others the Good News about Jesus, the Gospel, all those who heard it “marveled.”  In essence, they said, “Wow, isn’t that wonderful?!”  Well, . . . It is, wonderful.  But understand that when many people hear the Good News of the Gospel, they only marvel.  They come to a nice Christmas service at church and they marvel: “Wasn’t the music wonderful?  Wasn’t the sermon delivered well?  Weren’t the little children so cute?”

We can be moved,

But remain lost.

To be emotionally stirred only is not to be saved and forgiven of our sin.  Verse 19 says that Mary, however, “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  There is on the part of Mary, an internalizing of the Good News.  I do not mean to press this too much, but at the very least we see that Mary received subjectively what she had heard reported objectively.  She heard the News, the Gospel, and she received these truths into her heart.  This is true worship.  And it is evidenced also in the shepherds.  Verse 20 states, “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”

It is really quite remarkable! 

These shepherds go from fear

At the beginning of the passage,

To faith at the end of the passage. 

They move from fear to faith

And what makes all the difference

Is an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.

An encounter with Christ can move us from fear to faith.

As I thought about this passage and I thought about our fears, it seemed to me that all of our fears can essentially be overcome by three main actions.  Let me give these to you and I hope they help you.

How I Can Overcome My Fear:

  • Know God (knowing God’s forgiveness removes the fear of His being angry)
  • Trust God (trusting God means believing that He is guiding perfectly future events)
  • Worship God (rather than turning inward, I am turning upward, loving God)

When the shepherds encountered Jesus, they moved from fear to faith and so can we.  We preachers and teachers of the Bible often point out that the shepherds were among the lowest of persons on the social ladder. 

  • Their work rendered them ceremonially unclean for worship at the temple;
  • They were usually people who were not thought of too highly in society. 
  • Their testimony was not permitted in court;
  • They were sometimes considered shady characters. 

It is so like God to announce the birth of Christ to these shepherds!  God doesn’t communicate the Gospel today through angels, but He continues to rely on imperfect people, broken people, sometimes even shady people, shepherds like you and I.  We too must tell the story, the greatest story ever told.  We must witness to others the story of the Gospel.

Here is my Christmas challenge to you.  Tell this story this week.  It’s the greatest story every told.  Let me challenge you to read the story to your children and to your grandchildren.  Dads, lead your families.  Get out the Bible and open to Luke 2 and read.  Take about it sometime this week.  It will only take a few minutes and it will serve to re-focus your family and yourself on the spiritual priorities of Christmas.

 We’ve a story to tell to the nations,

 that the Lord who reigneth above

Hath sent us his Son to save us,

 and show us that God is love,

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

 and the dawning to noonday bright;

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,

 the kingdom of love and light.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Encounters With Christ – Power to Forgive Sins

Grace For The Journey

There are a couple of surprises in this particular encounter with Christ.  I did not really notice either of them the first couple readings of the passage.  But there are at least two things that surprise me in this passage and the first is . . .

1) In this particular encounter with Christ, the one who encounters Christ says nothing. There are no words recorded of anything he says.  It is just kind of unusual.

The other surprise is that this encounter – unlike any encounter so far it . . .

2) Contains a riddle.  And I like riddles.  I always have.  Her is one … see if you can figure it out, “Who can jump higher than a mountain?”  Do you know?  The answer is: Anyone; mountains ca not jump.  Like that?  I have one more.  See if you can figure out what this is: “When you have me you want to share me; When you share me I no longer exist. What am I?”  How about that one?  What is it?  The answer is: A secret. When you have a secret you want to share it; when you share it is no longer a secret.

Jesus tells a riddle in this passage.  Did you catch it?  He does.  The riddle Jesus asks in this encounter is, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’”  It is a riddle.  I wonder whether you’ve ever really thought about that. Which is easier for a person to say, to say to someone who is paralyzed, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk?”

Now, we are going to think about that as we study through this passage a little more carefully and try to put ourselves there and imagine what it was like on this particular day there in the city of Capernaum where this encounter took place inside of a crowded house that belonged, some say, to Peter.  We do not know for certain, but there was a group gathering together like some of us do for a Bible study or a prayer gathering, gathering inside of someone’s home and Jesus is there and this encounter takes place.

If you like to parallel the passage and study it that way, then you can read the parallel accounts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke.  Dome of you will have this if you have a study Bible with you.  But you can read this passage in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26. Each Gospel writer tells the events of Jesus but does so stressing certain things that God wishes to stress.

For example, in both Mark and Luke’s account of this passage, they provide added detail about how it is that this paralyzed man gets into a position to be healed by Jesus. In fact, if you just look at the passage again, you will note that passage we will be looking at today, Matthew 9:1-8, omits those details.  He just writes that somebody brought this guy to Jesus.  Verses 1-2 say, “So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city.  And His own city is Capernaum. He had gotten in a boat and left the region of Gadara because the people there told Him to leave.  They rejected Him outright and so He got into a boat, crossed over the Sea of Galilee and came to His own city Capernaum.  Then behold they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed.  When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’”

What Matthew omits are the details included by both Mark and Luke about Jesus’ being inside the house preaching the Word and there was a big crowd there and so there are these guys, and Mark tells us there were four of them, these four guys because they could not get their paralyzed friend to Jesus, they go up on top of the roof and they remove some of the tiling from the house – wonder what the owner thought of that! – and then these guys lowered their friend down to Jesus.

And Matthew omits those details because he wants to focus more upon the actual words of Jesus.  But the other Gospel accounts are fun to read alongside and helpful because they provide all the other shading to the picture we see.

Think about the extent to which this paralyzed man’s friends went to get their buddy to Jesus and it reminds us the lengths to which we should go to get people to Jesus. Willing to go get them and bring them to worship.  I do not know whether you saw that movie some years ago with Kevin Costner, “Field of Dreams.”  There was that classic line, “If we build it they will come.” But Christianity does not work that way.  It is not, “If we build it they will come.” It is, “If we bring them they will come.”

These guys bring their friend to Jesus. And Matthew records these words of Jesus. There at the end of verse 2, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’”  Now that statement raises a couple of questions . . .

1) It seems to suggest that, at least in this case, the paralytic may be paralyzed because of some personal sin in his life.  It may be that he was paralyzed as a consequence of some kind of sin and Jesus knows that and so he says, “Your sins are forgiven you.”

There are occasions where sickness is a direct consequence of sin.  An alcoholic, for example, will not be surprised if he has is found to have severe liver trouble.  Someone who abuses their body in other ways, maybe a chronic smoker for example, will not be surprised to learn he has lung cancer or emphysema.  Or the promiscuous lifestyle of a prostitute may lead to some kind of sexual disease.  I think most of us would acknowledge there are cases where there is a more obvious link between sinful behavior and the consequence of bodily harm, disease, or injury.

Not all bodily sickness is the result of direct sin.  You may remember the question the disciples asked of Jesus in John 9 where they assumed the man who was born blind was born that way because of sin, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” And Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:1-2).  So not all sickness is directly tied to some personal sin.

Sickness is, at the same time, the inevitable result of living in a fallen world that is fallen because of original sin, sin that has been in the world since Genesis 3.  This is why even when we are healed of sickness, what will happen later?  If I am healed from some kind of sickness, will I eventually get sick again?  Yes, I will.  Sickness is inevitable and God often uses sickness and other health challenges to accomplish His perfect will; things He does for His glory and for our good, or for a good that redounds to others through our illness, perhaps working through our illness to bring a family member or another person to faith.

But again, even if I am healed from some kind of sickness, I will eventually get sick again.  I will eventually get sick again and eventually I will die, and every so-called faith healer needs to remember that, too!  Even if we are healed from our sickness, we are going to get sick again and eventually die.  There’s your encouraging message this morning!  The pastor Terry said we are all going to get sick and die!  Well, it is true, right?  So . . . what is going on here?

One thing that is going on is that, when Jesus says to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you,” Jesus is teaching that . . .

While paralysis is a problem,

The man’s need for forgiveness

Is the greater, more

Fundamental problem.

And of the two problems –

Paralysis and unforgiveness –

Unforgiveness is the greater problem.

2) The other question raised here is admittedly not as obvious at first reading.  But if I were to tell the story this way, it might be more obvious: There is this paralyzed man and they brought him to Jesus and Jesus goes over to the guy and says to him, “Your sins are forgiven,” but there’s no word that the guy ever said anything first like, “I repent.”

Does that strike you?  I mean there is this principle that runs throughout the Scriptures that no one can be forgiven until he or she confesses and repents.  And there is no record of this guy saying anything like, “I confess I’m a sinner and I repent, I turn from my sins.”  So . . . What is the deal?  I think the key to this is what we discover as we continue reading.  A bit later we will see that Jesus knows what these scribes are saying within themselves.  He knows their thoughts.  You see that in verse 4, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts.”  It is a reminder to us that Jesus is omniscient and so He is all-knowing.  He even knows our thoughts.  Jesus knows the heart cry of this man.  

There are of course other details we do not know about this paralyzed man.  Maybe he was the one who insisted on his friends’ bringing him to Jesus.  Like he initiated it: “I don’t care if you have to tear the roof off!  Just get me to Jesus!”  Jesus knew the cry of his heart: “I believe. I trust you.”  The Bible says in Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him front the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  Jesus knows the cry of this paralyzed man’s heart.  He believed . . . He trusted . . . He turned to Christ.  Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven you.”

Verse 3 states, “And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This Man blasphemes!’”  And the other Gospel writers tell us why they said that, in case we needed help.  They add the words, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?!”  The scribes, the religious teachers, are like, “Jesus is dishonoring God by taking upon Himself the authority to forgive sins.  He ca no do that!  Only God can forgive sins!” That is the point, isn’t it?!  Jesus forgives sin because He is God.

The tension here, may not be as clear at first.  Let’s imagine two people, Jim and John. Jim hits John on the face and John says, “I forgive you.”  That is how it works, right?  But imagine this scenario.  Jim hits John on the face.  Bob walks up and he says to Jim, “Jim, I forgive you for what you just did to John.” Jim and John both would be like, “Who are you to forgive this sin?!”  So you see?  This act of Jesus is one of those places in the New Testament where it is really clear that Jesus is God in the flesh.  Who can forgive sins but God alone?  Some of you have been told that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God.  Well, read the Bible carefully and you will find quite the opposite is true!

Verse 4 says, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’”  Wow and here again is an illustration of the deity of Jesus Christ.  He even knows the thoughts of the scribes.  Jesus asks the religious teachers, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”  Now if I am one of the religious teachers, one of the scribes, I would be like, “Whoa!”  That would make a believer out of me! I’d be like, “How did He know what I was thinking?!”

Then Jesus poses the riddle, verse 5, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’”  Which do you think is easier to say?  It is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because there would be no way for anyone to see whether that had actually happened.  It is an inside job, right?  You could say it.  No one would know.  No one could verify whether a person’s sins had been forgiven.  But, on the other hand, if you are going to say, “Hey, paralyzed man: get up. Arise, take up your bed and go home,” If you’re going to say that, you’d better be sure you can deliver!

Jesus shows that He is able to do what

Is unseen by doing what is seen.

 He shows that He can change the inside

Of a person by changing the outside of a person.  

Christ proves that He has the power

To forgive sin by healing the man of his paralysis.

That is why He answers the riddle this way, in verses 6 and 7, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.  And he arose and departed to his house.”  Now everyone can see.  This Jesus is more than just a man.  He is God in the flesh.  That the paralyzed man got up – unparalyzed – is evidence, visible evidence of the authority of Jesus to forgive sin.  Power to forgive sins.

Even the self-designation of Jesus in verse 6, the way He refers to Himself as, “the Son of Man,” is a reference to deity.  It is Jesus’ favorite way of referring to Himself, the Son of Man.  The Gospels record Jesus’ referring to Himself as “Son of Man” over 80 times in the Gospels.  That title comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 7, especially verses 13 and 14.

Verse 8 declares, “Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”  It is like the crowd has now become paralyzed! Then the story ends.

What do we take home from this passage.  I think at least three main reminders . . .

I.    Our Greatest Need Is Spiritual, Not Physical – Salvation Of Our Soul, Not Bodily Sickness.

By saying to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven you,” Jesus illustrates that of the two needs this man has, one physical and one spiritual, that the greater of the two needs is spiritual.  Your greatest need is not your physical well-being; It is your spiritual well-being.  Remember, even if we are healed of sickness, what will eventually happen to us again at some point?  We will eventually get sick again.  Our greatest need is not physical, but spiritual.

That is true for everyone of us.  And it is equally true for all of our friends, our family, and the people with whom we work and hang out.

We may well be concerned for physical healing of our friends and neighbors.  We should be.  But their greatest need is not physical healing, but spiritual healing.  We must share with them the Gospel.  That is what they need most.  How many people will be in heaven because of you?  Because you knew that their greatest need was their spiritual need for Jesus?

II.   Jesus Alone Meets Our Greatest Need – Only He Can Provide Forgiveness; No Other Religion Offers This.

No other religion offers forgiveness as Christ offers forgiveness.  All the other major religions – whether Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, New Age teachings – all of them teach something like, “Look, here is what you need to do.  And if you will do these things, then maybe, just maybe, through this process, or reincarnation, it will all be okay for you in the end – maybe.”

Christianity is so not that!

Christianity is not our

Working our way up to God

And working through some

Process of trying to earn His favor.

Christianity is God’s coming down

To us to do for ourselves what we

Cannot do – live a perfect life

Fulfilling all the righteous demands

Of Scripture and then dying a death

That pays the penalty of punishment

We deserve for breaking all

Those righteous demands of God.

God does this for us in the Person of Christ.  He lives for us,  He dies for us,  and He rises from the dead for us, that we may be justified and declared righteous in His sight because of the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

In fact, I think it is interesting that the word used by Matthew here in his account, “arise” in this passage (verse 6), is the same word used by Matthew in the last chapter of his Gospel, chapter 28, where Matthew records the resurrection of Christ.  Same word. The angel says to the women at the tomb, “He is not here; for He is risen.”

The only way this man,

This paralyzed man,

Can “arise,”

The only reason

He can arise,

Is because Christ

Will “arise” for him.

The reason Jesus, the Son of Man, the very reason He can say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” and, “Arise,” is because He Himself will pay the penalty of this man’s sins on the cross.  Jesus will die, be buried, and on the third day – arise!

Jesus alone meets our greatest need—our need for forgiveness.  And there is a corollary to all of this, of course.  

If Jesus meets our greatest need

For forgiveness – our sins against Him –

Then we are in a position to forgive others,

To forgive them for their sins against us.

The Bible says in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”  You can forgive others because you have been forgiven. That is pure Bible forgiveness 101.

James Garfield was the 20th United States president.  He was elected president in 1880 and just 6 months into his presidency he was shot in the back with a revolver.  He never lost consciousness, but the doctors could not locate bullet.   They even recruited Alexander Graham Bell to use his metal detector.  As many as 12 different doctors searched for that bullet with their unsterilized fingers and equipment and Garfield died of infection to the wound.  Scholars today believe Garfield would have survived if they had just left him alone.

You think about that when it comes to forgiveness.  Have you ever heard the saying, “Bitterness is what happens when you drink poison hoping the other person dies?” Some of us have been hurt and we just keep probing the wound . . . The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

III.  Only Jesus Continues To Meet Our Greatest Need – We Must Stay In love With Jesus.

When Jesus healed this paralyzed man, Matthew tells us in verse 8 that the crowd there in the house “marveled and glorified God.”  That is the right response to an encounter with Jesus.  There is the joy and wonder of the working of God through Christ.  It is so important to remember that every day of our Christian lives.  We have to rekindle the fire of our love for Jesus each and every day.  Some of you would say, “I remember how great I felt when I got saved!  It was awesome!”  And it was.  You felt the love and forgiveness of God and your heart was full.  We must remember that the Jesus who met our spiritual need back then continues to meet our spiritual need right now – each and every day.  If we will do this, then we will stay in love with Jesus each and every day and we will stay away from the danger of sin and temptation.  Always remember that when we choose to sin we are substituting something for the delight of Christ.  Every sin is a substitute for the joy of Christ, a lack of delighting in Christ and His promises.

Someone summed it up like this: “You cannot change merely by changing your thinking, or through great acts of will, but rather by changing what you love most.  Change happens not only by giving your mind new truths – though it does involve that – but also by feeding the heart and mind new beauties so you love Jesus supremely.  We change when we change what we worship the most.”  How do we do that?  By seeing that Jesus’ own heart was crushed and broken as he died on the Cross for us (Psalm 22:14).  It is as we worship a crucified Savior that our hearts are transformed.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Encounters With Christ – From Prison to Paradise

Grace For The Journey

And the irony is that, in the midst of such darkness and despair occurs one of the most precious encounters with Christ in the entire New Testament. It is Luke’s recording of the thief on the cross.  In point of fact, there are two thieves, one on either side of Jesus as all three men hang there, condemned to die on crosses there at Calvary.  Our chief concern this morning lies primarily with the penitent thief, the repentant thief.  It is just five verses, verses 39-43, “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’  But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’  And Jesus said to him, “Verily, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’”

JC Ryle says these verses, “deserve to be printed in letters of gold.” He adds, “They have probably been the salvation of myriads of souls.  Multitudes will thank God for all eternity that the Bible contains this story of the penitent thief.”

Jewish thinking locates the entirety of a man’s intellect and will in the heart.  Solomon, for example, writes in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life,” or, “everything you do flows from the hear.”  And even today many of us think this way. I pray for my daughters, for example, that God would grant them “a heart of wisdom (cf Psalm 90:12).  Jesus taught that what comes out of a person’s mouth is an indication of what is inside a person’s heart (cf Matthew 15:16-20).

We can learn a great deal about the entirety of a person based upon that person’s heart, so will study this passage in terms of three men and three hearts.

There are three men dying here in this passage.  Three men mentioned in verses 39-43.  We will take them in the order they occur in the text.  Three men with three hearts.

1) The First Man Has A Stubborn Heart.

This is the thief or criminal hanging on the one side of Jesus. Verse 39 says, “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’”  This first thief has a heart that is hardened to the things of Christ. Even in death he “blasphemed Him,” which is to speak irreverently about God.  We might think a person at the brink of death would at least be open to spiritual things, but not this man.

If ever there were an illustration of how man, apart from the grace that awakens faith, remains spiritually dead in trespasses and sin, then this man’s stubborn heart illustrates just that.  Unless God imparts a grace that awakens and regenerates our cold, dark hearts, we remain steadfast in sin.

It’s what the hymn-writer talks about when he writes:

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

I do not know either, how the Spirit moves, but I know He does.  And . . .

“I know Whom I have believed
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

Here is a solemn reminder that if ever you sense the Spirit of God moving upon your hearts to convince you of sin, then do not harden your heart.  Do not allow your heart to remain stubborn and closed.  Allow it to soften and receive Jesus Christ as Lord of your life.

This first man’s heart was stubborn.  He blasphemed Christ.  He said to Jesus in verse 39, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”  He joined the blasphemy of the crowd and the rulers who sneered at Him and said, back up in verse 35, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”  “He saved others.”  They could not deny that He had saved others.  There were others who had been saved when encountering Christ.  They had heard, perhaps, about Zacchaeus and how his tax collecting business was changed entirely.  They had heard of others like Blind Bartimaeus, the healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, the healing of the Nobleman’s son, and the son of the Widow of Nain.  “He saved others.”  They couldn’t deny that He had saved others.

Is it not remarkable that, though they knew He had saved others that their hearts remained stubbornly shut?

A stubborn heart.  The second heart is the heart of a man who is heart is not closed, but open; not stubborn, but . . .

2) A Softened Heart.

This is the heart of the criminal on the other side of Jesus.  Verse 40 states, “But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’”  Interestingly, Matthew and Mark both report in their Gospels that this second criminal had also railed against Christ initially (Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32).  This second criminal had a stubborn heart, but in the span of some six hours of hanging on the cross, his heart was softened.

God can work a great deal in a man’s heart in six hours (or six minutes, or six seconds!).  This second criminal may have been reflecting on what he had overheard, hearing Jesus talk with Pilate about a kingdom not of this world.  Maybe the criminal had looked over at Jesus when he heard his prayer back in verse 34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” and maybe he gazed up there at that title that was hammered above Jesus’ head and read the words, “King of the Jews,” a little sign one preacher refers to as “The first Gospel tract.”

Something happened.  Something changed his mind.  One thing is clear: he has a new heart, a softened heart, a regenerated heart.  Jesus said to Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

This second criminal with the softened heart rebuked the first criminal with the stubborn heart.  He asks him in verse 40, “Don’t you not even fear God?!”  He adds, “You and I are under the same condemnation,” and – in verse 41, “And we indeed justly.”  That is, “We deserve what we’re getting, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

Here is a man who confesses his sin.   He knows he is guilty. He does not blame anyone else for his actions.  He says, “We deserve this, but this Man has done nothing wrong.”  See also Luke 23:4, Luke 23:15, and Luke 23:22.

From the lips of a condemned criminal comes a theological truth taught throughout the Scriptures . . .

The sinlessness of Christ.

He never sinned, not once.  This thief acknowledges as much with the words, “This Man has done nothing wrong.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “ For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  God made Christ who was sinless, who had done nothing wrong, to “be sin for us,” to take our sins upon Himself.  To die for our sins.  To bear the punishment we deserved for our sin.  Christ can be our substitute only if He is sinless.  And because He is sinless, He is perfect.  He has a righteousness that is impeccable, and we can receive that righteousness by believing in Him and receiving Him as Lord.

This is remarkable really.  At His crucifixion Jesus is stripped of His garment and He became naked so that we could be clothed in His righteousness.

One man died in sin.

One man died to sin.

And One Man died for sin.

The first criminal had seen Jesus’ cross

As a contradiction of His messiahship.  

This second criminal sees the cross

As a confirmation of His messiahship.

We have nothing to offer Him.  We are like condemned criminals.  Nothing in our hands we bring; simply to the cross we cling.

The second criminal knows this.  He makes no demands upon Christ. He simply says in verse 42, “Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’”

Here is both a cry

And a confession of faith.

He believes in Christ.  He calls out to Jesus; Jesus which means, “Savior.” He calls Him, “Lord.” He believes He is a King, an eternal King.  He pleads, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  He mentions no great work he had done for Christ.  He doe not say, “Lord, you know how good I have been. Lord, you know how kind I have been to the poor and downtrodden. Lord, you know how much I have given to charity.”  No.  He has nothing to commend himself to Jesus.  He simply asks for what He does not deserve: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

Think of this . . .

The first thief made a demand for what he believed he deserved.  

The second thief made a request for what he knew he did not deserve.

We are saved entirely by grace through faith in Christ alone.  We do nothing to commend ourselves to God.  We have nothing to offer Him, nothing that makes us more “Savable.”  If we are saved, it is because God approves of us in His Son.  We are accepted by God on the basis of Christ and His righteousness alone.  This is true not only at the beginning of salvation but all throughout our lives.  We are loved by God perfectly.  He will never love us any less when we do not do what is right – and – He will never love us anymore when we do what is right.  We never become any more “lovable” or “acceptable.”  We are saved entirely by grace through faith in Christ alone.

Let me share a quote from BB Warfield that drives this home explicitly . . . “There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God.  We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all.  This is not true of us only when we believe.  It is just as true after we have believed.  It will continue to be true as long as we live.  Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be.  It is always on His ‘blood and righteousness’ alone that we can rest.”

The first man has a stubborn heart.  The second man has a softened heart.  The third Man – who is more than a Man!  The third Man has . . .

A Saving Heart.

Verse 43 says, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Verily, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’”    Here are the words of our loving Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He says to the dying thief who asks to be remembered in heaven, “Verily, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  That is, “I am going there shortly. You will be there with Me. There, in Paradise.”  Salvation.  A saving heart.

Paradise is a synonym for heaven.  Heaven is called paradise in two other places in the New Testament: 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 2:7.  The word always conveys the meaning of heaven.

From these words of Jesus in verse 43, there are three things the Christian experiences at death . . .

There Is Personality Beyond Death

Jesus says to the believing criminal, “Today you will be with Me.”  Jesus’ words highlight the truth that there is a continuing, or continuity of a person beyond death.  These pronouns – you, Me – indicate that who a believer is in this life, carries over into the life beyond the grave.

There Is Personal Identity In Heaven.

Jesus says to the believing criminal, “Today, you will be with Me.” He says, “You,” which is to say “I know you.  I will recognize you. I receive you.  And you will recognize Me.”

There Is Identity And Recognition Of One Another In Heaven.

Christians will recognize one another in heaven.  We will see and know our loved ones who have died in the Lord.  We will be able to identify one another.

When asked whether we will know one another in heaven, one pastor back said, “We will not be any dumber up there than we are down here!”  And that is true.  And even more importantly, we have passages such as this one that indicate there is personality, identity, and recognition of one another beyond death.  And this is a reunion that occurs immediately at death.  As soon as the Christian takes his last breath on this earth, he takes his next breath in heaven.  It happens immediately.

The Bible does not teach some strange doctrine of “soul sleep.”  No, once the Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven.  As Jesus says, “Today you will be with Me.”

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

Jesus teaches that there is personality beyond death. But not only does Jesus teach that there is personality beyond death. Secondly, Jesus teaches:

There Is A Place Beyond Death

Jesus says, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  Isn’t that a great word to describe heaven?!  Whatever our notions of paradise here on earth – a tropical beach, snow-covered mountains, beautiful gardens – these earthly ideas all pale in comparison to the splendor of heavenly paradise.  It is a heavenly paradise reserved only for those who believe.  Paradise is only for Christians.  We must believe in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him alone to save us from the penalty of our sin in order to enter into this Paradise.  We have to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, believe in Him, receive Him as Savior in order to enter heaven.

You see, there is a place not mentioned by Jesus in this particular passage – but mentioned elsewhere by Him—a place where those who do not know Him go – another place, the place where the other criminal went, a place the Bible calls hell.  But we can avoid hell if we believe in Christ as Lord and Savior.  If we do, we have the assurance of entering into the Paradise of Heaven when we die. And Jesus is the only way there.  He said Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes unto the Father except by Me.”  He is the only way to enter heaven, the only way to have joyful everlasting life.

What is beyond death for the Christian?  There is personality beyond death.  There is a place beyond death. Finally, and most importantly . . .

There is a Person beyond Death

And by “Person” we mean the Person!  Jesus says, “You will be with ME.”  Beyond death, there is Jesus.  Jesus, whose name means “Savior.”  Jesus, who loves you, who loves you so much that He died for your sins.  Jesus, who wants you to be with Him in Paradise.

People like to imagine what heaven is like.  In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John does his best to describe it.  But what really makes heaven, heaven, is that it is the place where our Savior is.  It is where Jesus Christ is.

Pastor Jerry Vines illustrates this importance this way, “Let’s just suppose that you had been separated from a loved one for a long, long time.  You thought you would maybe never get to see them again.  Then there’s a discovery that they are found and you get a call from the White House, “We have located your loved one. We have arranged for you to have a reunion with them up here at the White House.”  So you go in there.  They usher you into one of those lovely rooms in the White House.  I can imagine standing there and you look at the carpet and say, “My, what gorgeous carpet.”  You look at the chandeliers and what lovely chandeliers.  You look around at the walls and what beautiful walls and the paintings on the walls.  Probably you would be pretty impressed if you had never been in the White House.  Then about that moment a door opens up and in walks your loved one that you hadn’t seen in a long, long time.  You know what? I have a feeling when you get a glimpse of that loved one, the carpets won’t have much meaning to you anymore.  The paintings on the wall, the chandeliers won’t have much meaning.  You will be caught up with the sight of your loved one.

And that is what makes heaven heaven.  It is not that the streets are pure gold, and the gates are solid pearl, nor all the rest.  It is that our loved one is there.  Jesus is there.  

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Encounters With Christ – Wilderness Survival

Grace For The Journey

Some human being who encounters Christ,

But about a supernatural being

Who encounters Christ – or maybe

Better, how Christ encounters him . . .

Christ’s encounter with the devil,

His encounter with Satan in the wilderness.

This account of Jesus in the wilderness teaches us a great deal about how we can survive times where we find ourselves in a wilderness of sorts, a difficult time of testing, a season of struggle, or a period of doubt and uncertainty.  As we think about this, it is important that we have a healthy theology, in this case, a healthy theology of suffering.  We need to understand that Christians are not exempt from suffering.  This world in which we live is fallen.  It is sin-cursed.  This is why we have deadly catastrophes, plagues, tornados . . . and cancer.  Our world has been devastated by sin, but . . .

Jesus shows us the way to trust in God

In the midst of a sin-wrecked world and

In circumstances that we have no control over

– When faced with shocking news or an

Unfortunate and unexpected turn of events.

This passage, which describes the temptation of Christ, is supremely practical in that it helps each and every Christian during times of trials, and suffering, times of difficulty, and darkness – especially darkness – especially those times when you feel like the devil himself has come into your world, climbed into your car, moved into your house, come alongside you as an uninvited guest to tempt you to turn away from the God you love and the Christ you serve.  Wilderness survival.

This passage offers reinforcement-reminders for when we battle the enemy, when we encounter the one who encountered Christ.  We will look at three things to remember when battling temptation and trials of any kind . . .

I. Remember The Nature Of The Son.

Remember who Christ is, that He is not merely some religious teacher, prophet, or Jewish rabbi.  He is those things, but He is more than those things.  In order to really appreciate what the Bible records about the temptation of Christ, it is important to recall what immediately precedes the teaching in the very passage before.  What we have as we look in Matthew’s Gospel is the passage on Christ’s baptism immediately before the accounting of Christ in the wilderness.  If you go look back into the end of chapter 3 you read about Christ’s baptism.  And especially in the last couple verses, verses 16 and 17, we read about how after Christ was baptized that there was the breaking open of the heavens, the sky splits and the Spirit of God descends like a dove upon Jesus, and then verse 17, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

And then look at the very next verse, verse 1 of chapter 4, “Then” … “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” It almost carries the sense of “Therefore.”  Then – immediately after this statement of God the Father, immediately after God parts the heavens and says, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” – then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

I stress this close connection between the last verse of chapter 3 and the first verse of chapter 4 because, what do you think Satan’s first words are to Jesus?  The Father has just said, “This is My beloved Son,” and the very first words out of the devil’s mouth are in verse 3 and what does Satan ask? “If You are the Son of God,”  If . . . Not since . . . not because . . . but if.  Satan wants to instill doubt in the mind of Jesus.  Satan wants Jesus to doubt the truth of God’s Word.  That is what the devil did all the way back in Genesis 3.  Remember how Satan tempted Eve?  By causing her to question God’s Word.  He challenged Eve, “Did God really say you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Did God really say that? Are you sure?”

Satan is relentless in his efforts to keep us from believing in God and trusting in Christ.  I really think one of the reasons some say they do not believe in a literal devil is because they have got the wrong idea of him, the wrong picture of the devil in their minds.  They picture him as the silly red mask that comes with the halloween costume. A silly kind of creature who does not really say much and just walks around sticking people with a plastic pitchfork.  The Bible describes Satan as a thief, a liar, a deceiver, a slanderer, the adversary, the one who goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  His ultimate aim is to instill doubt in our minds about the truth of God.  He tries his level best to get us to turn away from Christ, to doubt His goodness, to doubt His nature as the One True God who takes on flesh.  

“If You are the Son of God” . . . Jesus IS the Son of God.  It is so important that we get this truth, that we understand this truth.  

  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then we have nothing but a dead, cold religion.  
  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then it is entirely up to us to get in a position of favor with the One True God.  
  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then we will have to be sinless.
  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then we will have to keep all the commands of the Bible perfectly, consistently, and entirely.
  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then because we have failed at that we will have to atone for our sins, we will have to die for our sins, dying a kind of death that actually satisfies the wrath of our Creator, a kind of death that actually atones for all of our sin.

And we ca not do that because we are finite and God is infinite.  Because God is infinite our sins require an infinite payment, no amount of works on our part could ever satisfy His righteous demands.

If Christ is not

The Son of God,

We are in trouble.

But of course, Christ is the Son of God.  The nature of the Son is divine.  In Christ, deity takes on humanity.  God the Son is perfectly good, infinitely good, infinitely righteous, and infinitely holy.  He is perfect in all His ways.  He perfectly trusts God and trusts His Word.

Think about this for a moment.  The first temptation is a temptation to distrust the Father’s care.  Knowing Jesus is hungry after 40 days of fasting the tempter comes to Christ in verse 3 and says, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”  And Jesus replies in verse 4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,’” and that Scripture Jesus is quoting is from Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 3.  The context of Deuteronomy 8 is . . . God’s people in the wilderness.  And God says to His people wandering in the wilderness, “Trust Me. I will care for you.  I will provide for you.  I will give you what you need – food, water, shelter, clothing – I will give you whatever you need.  Trust Me.”

Christian, listen to me: whatever you are facing right now, whatever it is that Satan is trying to use against you, have the wisdom to see that Satan is trying to get you to doubt the Father’s care for you.  That is what Satan does.  He does his level best to get you to question God, to doubt God, to be angry at God.  Satan does not want you walking in faith and victory.  He wants you to wallow in defeat.

Trust God to know your every need

And to provide for you accordingly.

Trust God in your wilderness to

Know what He is doing in your life.

 He is at work.  He always does the right thing.  Live by that truth this week.

Remember the nature of the Son of God.  God the Son is stronger and mightier than the devil.  God the Son defeated the devil.  God the Son is victorious over the devil.

Secondly, when you find yourself in the wilderness of trial and temptation this week . . .

II. Remember the Nearness of the Spirit.

This passage begins with a statement that is easy to miss on the first reading. Verse 1 of Chapter 4, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  Mark’s Gospel is even more direct.  Mark 1:12 says, “The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”  Here is an important truth . . . God tempts no man. The Bible teaches that very clearly.  James 1:13, for example says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”  God does not tempt you to sin.  God does not do that.  

What God will do, from time to time,

Is to walk with you through

The wilderness of trial and temptation.

Satan does the tempting.  

Satan wants you to stumble,

God wants you to stand.

Satan will do his best to get you

To turn away from Christ,

While God will be there

To help you through

The trial and difficulty

So that your trust in God

Grows greater and so

You become stronger.

And God is right there with you the entire time.  The Spirit of God was right there with the Son of God during those 40 days in the wilderness.  The Spirit of God is always with you in your wilderness.  He is the God who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.  He has said, “I am with you always.”  Remember the closeness, the nearness of the Spirit.

This is so important because . . .

If we really believe that the Spirit

Is with us in times of trial and temptation,

Then we will be more likely to trust Him

During times of trial and temptation.

Satan wants you to question that God really cares or that He is really there for you. When you go through suffering, Satan wants you to think this way, “Well, God must be really angry at me.  God must not love me.  God does not care for me.  If there really were a God, He would not want me to suffer.”

You look at these three temptations of Satan here in the wilderness.  You will see that behind these temptations is Satan’s trying to keep Jesus from suffering, to question God’s allowing that suffering.  Satan is trying to get Jesus to take the easy route – To not  be hungry; to change the stones to bread.  In the second temptation Satan is trying to get Jesus save Himself from injury … to assume upon God in keeping Him from suffering injury.  The third temptation is like an act of desperation on Satan’s part.  Satan does not want Jesus to go to the cross and accomplish victory over everything so he is saying, “Just bow down to me . . . You need not suffer . . . Bow down to me and I will give you everything!”

Suffering is part of the Christian experience.  Job’s friends were wrong. They were saying, “Look Job, the problem is you’re not living right.  Don’t you know that God would not allow you to go through all this nonsense of sickness, catastrophe, and loss of family if it were not for something you were doing wrong?  God doesn’t want you to go through the wilderness of suffering, the wilderness of trial and temptation.”

Job’s friends were wrong. God often allows suffering when He knows it is for our good, for the good of our family, and for the good of His glory.  His own Son was perfectly obedient in all that He did, and yet God allowed Him to suffer.  God loved Him.  God allows people He loves – and often those who love Him most – to suffer.  Remember that when you are tempted to think that you only suffer because you are not living right. Jesus was living right and Jesus suffered.

God often bring us through the wilderness, refining us through difficulties and trials and temptations.  That is how we grow stronger in our faith and grow more deeply in our love for Him and our trust in Him.  That is how we endure greater times of suffering.  We remember the nearness of the Spirit, the same Spirit with our Lord in His wilderness is with us in ours.

Wilderness Survival. Survival Training 101.  Remember the nature of the Son, remember the nearness of the Spirit. Thirdly . . .

III. Remember the Need for the Scriptures.

This point is very obvious isn’t it?  Jesus is tempted three times by Satan and every single time Jesus responds to the temptation by quoting Scripture.  Three times without exception, verses 4, 7, and 10, Jesus says, “It is written.” 

How does Jesus get through the

Wilderness of trial and temptation?

By quoting the very Word of God Himself.  

The Bible is not just some book, not even

Just some great book, not even just

Some great book of literature.

The Bible is God’s Word, His very Word.

If you believe that, really believe that the Bible is God’s Word, then you will be hungry to hear from Him.  Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” 

How is reading the Bible like eating food?  I eat food when I am hungry.  I need to eat or I will starve.  Each of us has a deep-seeded hunger for spiritual things.  We are spiritually hungry.  And the only thing that will satisfy our spiritual hunger is the Word of God, the Bible.  You can try to satisfy your deeply emotional and spiritual hunger with other “foods,” – replacement foods, additives that lack nutrition or worse are bad for your spiritual health, junk foods like pornography, wasted hours watching television, surfing the internet, and taking in hours of food substitutes like Facebook or Instagram.

Real sustenance, real food, real nutrition comes from the Word of God.  Satan wants to keep you from it.  Satan tells you, “Look, what’s the big deal here?!  Just a little of this or a little of that, why there’s really nothing wrong with this or that.”  And if he can get us to stop reading our Bibles, stop attending worship, stop listening to Christian music, stop meditating upon Scripture, stop memorizing Scripture, he will be happy because . . .

He knows if he can keep

Us from the Word of the Lord,

He is more likely to keep

Us from the Lord of the Word.

Every single time Jesus was tempted He responded to the temptation with the Word. Jesus quoted the Word of God, the Bible, the Scripture.

We can learn from Him.  He is perfectly good, consistently good, and entirely good.  Yet, Jesus still needed the Scriptures.  If Jesus needed the Scriptures, how much more do we need the Scriptures?  In fact, it is especially during the dark days of depression and the thorny paths of the wilderness when we are most in need of the Word of God.

And if we live a life saturated with the Word,

Ten it just comes out to help us during those times.

This was the way of our Lord; something like 10% of all the words of Jesus in the New Testament are either direct quotations or allusions to the Old Testament Scripture. Jesus lived and breathed the Word. The psalmist said in Psalm 119:11, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”  The Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:16 wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” 

There was a sign up in a locker room  that said, “Trust your training.”  Every athlete knows the helpfulness of that statement … because whatever athletic event you are engaged in . . . an individual event or a team sport . . . towards the end it, your body feels like it is just going to stop.  And your mind tells you to stop.  And everything in you says to stop.  But that sign was a reminder to all athletes that all the weeks have gone into preparation and training will pay off in the end, they will have provided what you need to keep moving or keep playing.

The Bible refers to the Christian life as a race.  What wisdom God gave the New Testament writers to draw upon athletic event metaphors.  There are times when we go through immense difficulty, trials, temptations in the race of life.  There are times when it seems that Satan is laughing at us, and craftily whispering in our ears, “Stop.  Give it up.  You will never make it.  You are no good.”  It is especially at those times Christians are wise to “Trust their training,” and draw upon the reservoir of strength and stamina that comes from the storehouse of Scripture.  Read the Word of God and live the Word of God.

Jesus Christ passes the test and comes through the wilderness as the one and only Son of God.  Satan had said, “IF you are the Son of God,” and Jesus demonstrates that He IS the Son of God.

And because He has accomplished everything necessary for eternal life, if you are “in Him,” then you are covered by the righteousness of the Son of God.  You are accepted by God and approved by God not on the basis of your religious performance, but on the basis of Christ’s righteousness.  This is the knowledge that Satan wants to keep you from getting.  Satan wants you to think of Jesus as merely a good man, a nice man, a good teacher who teaches good things.

Satan doesn’t want you to have this kind of power – to live in this kind of victory – to know that because of your faith in Jesus Christ that, while you are weaker and more sinful than you ever before believed, through Christ you are more loved and accepted than you ever dared hope.  If you are “in Christ,” you are loved, approved, accepted, for eternity.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Encounters With Christ – You Must be Born Again

Grace For The Journey

I remember once overhearing a conversation between two or three ladies.  I think it was on one of the trains at some airport.  I do not remember exactly where.  I just remember at some point while they were talking about some other lady, that the one said, “Well, you know, she’s a ‘born-again Christian.’”  Right after she said that, everyone else was like, “Ugh!  A born- again Christian!”  I then remember another saying something like, “If you get it right the first time, you don’t have to do it again.”  It was clear that this term, “born again,” was thought of with contempt or scorn.

There is some confusion about this.  The Barna Research firm does not help us any when it classifies a segment of Christians as those who are “Born again.”  As though there were some distinction between one kind of Christian and another kind of Christian, or a special class or hierarchy among believers.

The Bible identifies all true Christians as those who have been “born again,” born from above, reborn in a spiritual sense.  And this term then, strictly speaking, is not a term invented by Baptists or Pentecostals or evangelicals at large, but this term, “born again,” is a term invented by Jesus Christ.  It is a Bible term.

In today’s we will study the main movements of this passage insofar as it describes the experience of “new birth.”  First, let’ . . .

I. Consider the Necessity of the New Birth.

Jesus says, “You must be born again.”  It is necessary. Here Nicodemus, a very religious person.  Verse 1 tells us he is “a ruler of the Jews” and that he came to Jesus by night.  That may be because he was seeking more information about Jesus but did not want others to know it and so he came secretly.  I wonder though whether Nicodemus may have come to Jesus at night more so as a representative of the Jewish ruling class. vHe does say in verse 2, “We know – Rabbi, we (Jewish leaders) – we know that You are at teacher come from God.”  Kind of the way a powerful political person may meet someone in the evening for dinner to see whether they can “win them over” to their side.  Wanting to see whether Jesus will be part of their group and under their control.  Whether Jesus was willing to “play ball” with them.

In any case, Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter by making this provocative statement in verse 3, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Verily, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.””  Here is the necessity of the new birth.  Unless one is born again, born from above, born a second time, he cannot – not he may not, nor even will not, but that he cannot – see the kingdom of God, the reign of God, both as a reign in which we live here as well as a literal reign in the future, including space, a heavenly reign.

Apart from the new birth, a person cannot see.  He or she is blind to spiritual truth. Every person without Christ, says the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2, is “dead in trespasses and sins.”  We need rebirth.  We need God to birth us so that we can see.

Most people are familiar with the words from John Newton’s hymn, “Amazing Grace,”
“How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”  New birth is necessary because without it, we remain in spiritual darkness and blindness and therefore outside of the realm and reign of God.

Verse 4 says, “Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’”  Nicodemus is confused. He is thinking of the new birth in terms of age or stages.  He thinks Jesus is talking about his physical birthday when Jesus is talking about the need for a spiritual birthday. How can a guy be born again when he is in his 40s?  Does he enter a second time in his mother’s womb?  What in the world are you talking about, Jesus?!

In verses 5-6 Jesus answered, “Verily, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  Now this is Jesus’ way of explaining that He is not talking about physical birth, but about spiritual birth.  Unless one is born of the water AND THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh (physical birth), and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (spiritual birth).

Jesus is likely drawing upon the imagery in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. Don’t In chapter 36 and verses 25-27 Ezekiel 36:25-27 is speaking on the matter of renewing His people, God says through the prophet, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes . . .”  The point is that Jesus is telling Nicodemus that if he hopes to see and enter in the Kingdom of God, including receiving the benefits of heaven, then he must be born again, born not just physically, but spiritually, too.  

That is what He says in verse 7, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”  Here in verse 7 Jesus uses the plural pronoun.  He says, “Do not marvel that I said to ‘you all,’ that ‘you all’ must be born again.”  Another possible indication that Nicodemus is speaking on behalf of the Jewish Sanhedrin.  Jesus is like, “Look, you all may be religious, and you all may have power, but you all need to be born again.” And what is true of the “you all” back then is true of the “us all” of today – the utter necessity of the new birth.  You must be born again.

Many people have the wrong idea about how to gain entrance into the kingdom of God.

  • Some are counting on their family’s being religious.
  • Some are counting on the money they give to charitable causes.
  • Some are counting on their acts of kindness, doing good to others and so forth.

But Jesus is talking here to a man who, being very religious, likely did all of those things as a faithful member of the Pharisees.  He practiced good deeds and did things for other people, yet he hears Jesus of Nazareth say to him, “You MUST be born again.”

The same is true today.  The necessity of the new birth.  But not only do we see the necessity of the new birth, secondly we see:

II. Consider the Mystery of the New Birth.

There is mystery here in the rebirthing of a person.  

The new birth is something God does.  

He brings it about.  

We do not make ourselves “born again.”  

God does it.

You see, strictly speaking, the term “born again” is best understood as God’s work of regeneration, a term that simply means God takes out that old heart of sin and stone, as Ezekiel called it, and replaces it with a heart of faith.  God takes this initiative by way of His Holy Spirit.  It is not something we do, though we do respond to the work.  It is first, however, a work of God.

It is very similar to physical birth.  No one caused his or her own physical birth. Somebody else made that happen.  Similarly, no one can cause the Holy Spirit to move upon himself and birth himself.  This is an initiative that God alone takes.  John makes this clear in his Gospel, especially in the opening chapter in chapter 1, verse 13 where he refers to children of God, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  Peter also stresses this regenerative work of God by His Spirit when he writes in 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again.”

God takes the initiative in causing this new birth.  In a way that is admittedly hard to put one’s finger on it, there is a point during this regenerative work of God that brings about a willing response on our part to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  But admittedly it is a mystery.  I believe that is what Jesus is addressing in verses 8 to 10, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.  Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’”  That must have humiliated Nicodemus!  Are you the teacher of Israel, Nicodemus, and you do not know this stuff you are supposed to teach others about?!  Nicodemus is very much “in the dark!”

There is an aspect of the new birth that is mysterious. Jesus says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  As the wind blows, you really cannot determine the wind’s precise origin or its ultimate destination.  You can, however, see the effects of the wind.  You hear it.  You may see the way things are affected by it – leaves and dust are blown around.  Jesus says that this is all a bit like the mysterious nature of the new birth.  The Holy Spirit does the work.  Much of His work is mysterious to us, but one can see the visible effects of His work.

The hymn-writer alludes to this mysterious work in the classic hymn, “I know Whom I Have Believed.” He writes:

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

“But I know whom I have believed!” – that much I do know.  That much you can know.

The necessity of the new birth, and the mystery of the new birth.  Now we move on to . . .

III. Consider the Simplicity of the New Births.

There is one sense in which becoming

A Christian is a relatively simple thing.  

We have said that we do not enter the kingdom of God

By being “religious,” by being a good person, by doing

A bunch of good deeds or giving our money to good causes.  

The way we enter the kingdom is through

Simple faith and trust, a look to Christ.

Jesus explains in verse 13, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”  Jesus refers to Himself here, the incarnation.  He is the One who has come down from heaven.  Now watch this analogy that illustrates the crucifixion beginning in verses 14 and 15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus refers to the sin of Israel recorded in Numbers chapter 21.  God’s people had complained and spoken against God so He judged them by sending serpents to them. Many were bitten by them and died.  Moses prayed for them and God told Moses to remedy the situation by making a bronze serpent and holding it up on a staff.  All the people who looked upon the bronze serpent were healed from the judgment and lived.  Jesus says just as Moses lifted up the serpent that others would look upon it and live, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that whoever looks upon Him will live.  The Son of Man is lifted up on the cross.  

The Son of Man is the One who takes

The judgment of sin upon Himself

That the judged may go free.  

We look upon Jesus.  

We look upon Him by believing.

This is the context of a favorite Bible verse, verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  We must look upon Jesus.  We must believe in Him, believing what the Bible teaches about Him, believing that He took our judgment for sin.  If we believe then we have eternal life.  That is the simplicity of the new birth experience: belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. This belief includes, however, a turning away from our sin.  The context makes this clear as we read in verse 17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

The reason God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world is because verse 18 tells us the world is condemned already, verse 18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  Remember that we are born into this world with the problem is sin.  We inherited the problem from our first parents, Adam and Eve.  Because of sin, man is under condemnation.  Man is under the judgment of God.  He is condemned already.

A few years ago, I saw a bumper sticker on a car.  Instead of the words “born again,” it read: “Born against.”  I assume the owner of the bumper sticker meant this phrase “born against” as a humorous parody of the phrase “born again.”  But the sticker illustrated more truth than the driver himself may have realized.  

We are all “born against,”

Born into this world naturally

Against the things of God.

We have a sin nature and

We are under God’s judgment.

Mankind is under the judgment of God.  He is condemned already.  

Jesus Christ came into the world

To take care of our sin problem.  

He did not come to condemn us.  

He did not come to add

To our condemnation, but

To fix our condemnation.  

He came to fix our sin problem.

If we fail to turn to Christ, we remain under condemnation, a state Jesus explains further in verses 19 through 21, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ includes a turning away from evil deeds, turning away from sin.  This is repentance – leaving the darkness and stepping into the light.  This is the only way we may be saved. We must leave the darkness and step into the light by looking upon the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must turn away from sin and turn to the Savior. There is no other way to enter into the kingdom of God.

I preached another graveside service.  Funerals present an opportunity, of course, to talk to the living about dying.  I often say that when we die our soul lives on in one of two locations.  If we die without Christ we remain separated from God because of sin. We remain in condemnation.  We spend eternity, therefore, in hell as just condemnation for our sins and rebellion.  If, however, we have “looked to Christ,” looked to the One who is “lifted up,” if we have looked upon Him, then we have entered into the kingdom of God and our soul lives on forever in heaven.

Yes, there is a lot of mystery in the new birth, but it really comes down to this . . .

Look to Christ


Be saved.

The Bible says in Hebrews 3:15, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”  Do not harden your heart, simply trust Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Encounters With Christ – What It Means To Be A Prson Who Understands The Gospel

Grace For The Journey

This woman from Syria Phoenicia teaches us three main things.  I will take them one at a time and then I will talk about some practical reminders that are important to take home today.  Let’s consider . . .

I.  Her Problem.

She has a problem, and the problem is that her daughter has a demon, or as Mark puts it in verse 25, her daughter has an unclean spirit.  And this woman hears that Jesus is in town and so she goes to Him so that He might fix her problem and heal her daughter of demon possession.

Verse 24 says, “From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon . . .”  Mark identifies this woman later as a Syro-Phoenician, which means she is from Phoenicia, a place that included Tyre and Sidon.  If you look this up on a map, you will see that Tyre and Sidon is Northeast of Galilee in Gentile territory.  This is far away from Jerusalem and Galilee.  And what’s happening here in the greater context is that . . .

Our Lord is teaching that while God

Has chosen the Jews as those who

Have initial access to the Gospel,

The Gospel is for all people,

All nations, all ethnicities.

Israel was never meant to

Be the end of salvation,

But the means by which

Salvation came to others.

And Israel largely failed to understand this stewardship of faith, that they were entrusted with the responsibility of sharing about the One True God of the Bible with all peoples.

The Jews had largely regarded those of other races as unclean and unfit for worship of the One True God.  In fact, in the more immediate context here in chapter 7, Jesus had just been teaching in Galilee about clean and unclean foods.  Then He moves from Galilee, having just taught that all foods are clean, to demonstrate that all peoples are clean through the power of the Gospel.  Paul will go on to stress the importance of sharing the Good News with all peoples.  Many of us know Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (or the Gentile).”

Israel was never meant to

The end of the Gospel,

But the means for others

To hear and receive the Gospel.

Jesus went first to the Jews, but the new believing Jewish Christians were then entrusted to take the Gospel to all peoples of all nations (Acts 1:8).  And that stewardship continues today through all believers.  We all are to fulfill our Lord’s Great Commission to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth – from our community to the continents.

Verse 24 states, “From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.”  Given the continuing pursuit by the scribes and Pharisees, it is almost as if Jesus is trying to retreat for awhile.  He goes north to get away from these religious legalists.

But Jesus’ showing up in town with the 12 is not something that stays a secret for very long.  Mark says, “He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.”  Matthew Henry says, “He could not be hidden because, though candle may be put under a bushel, the sun cannot.”

Verse 25 says, “For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet.”  Here we see the woman and her problem.  She has a young daughter with an unclean spirit.  She comes to Jesus and falls at His feet, bringing her problem to the Lord.  She asks Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter.  In fact, verse 26 says, “She kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.”

We have considered he problem . . . We now consider . . .

II. Her Persistence.

She kept asking Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. She is persistent in prayer.  I have got to share with you this quote from JC Ryle.  It is kind of long, but it’s good.  He writes this about the persistence of this woman for her daughter and how this illustrates the burden many parents have for the spiritual well-being of their children. Hear this and be encouraged. He writes: “Fathers and mothers are especially bound to remember the case of this woman. They cannot give their children new hearts. They can give them Christian education, and show them the way of life; but they cannot give them a will to choose Christ’s service, and a heart to love God.  Yet there is one thing they can always do – they can pray for them.  They can pray for the conversion of profligate sons, who will have their own way, and run greedily into sin.  They can pray for the conversion of worldly daughters, who set their affections on things below, and love pleasure more than God.  Such prayers are heard on high.  Such prayers will often bring down blessings.  Never, never let us forget that the children for whom many prayers have been offered, seldom finally perish.  Let us pray more for our sons and daughters.  Even when they will not let us speak to them about Christian faith, they cannot prevent us speaking for them to God.”

This woman is persistent in taking her problem to the Lord.  You may want to read the parallel account of this encounter as reported by Matthew in his Gospel in chapter 15 verses 21-28.  Matthew provides added detail to the encounter that is interesting.  Matthew tells us, for example, that the woman cries out to Jesus and says, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” and that Jesus does not answer.  Matthew puts it like this in verse 23, “But He answers her not a word.”  And Matthew adds the detail that, “His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”  So, Jesus is just silent.  Now silence is not the same thing as ignoring.  The Bible paraphrase, The Message, says, “Jesus ignored her.” I disagree. That is why paraphrases are helpful to us to some extent, but we must take care not to preach from them.

Silence is not necessarily ignoring.

Silence allows a conversation to deepen.

Silence draws out information that

Otherwise may remain hidden.

Silence allows for reflection.

Otherwise, conversation may be only on the surface, superficial conversation, not necessarily bad, but just never getting down to deeper things – like when two people meet each other for the first time on an airplane, sitting next to each other, chatting energetically and rapidly about work, family, favorite sports teams, but largely a superficial conversation.

Contrast that conversation with two people meeting elsewhere where they can sit across from one another and see each other, face to face, where body language can be observed, able to look across the table at one another, reading each other’s facial expressions, listening thoughtfully.  And often it is helpful to allow periods of silence in the conversation.  I think sometimes we rush to fill the silence when it may have been helpful to allow silence in order to take the conversation to a deeper level.

You ask someone a probing question like, “What do you believe about spiritual things?” Resist the temptation to fill the silence by suggesting answers.  Silence allows time to reflect.  Matthew tells us that Jesus is silent.  And I think it is helpful to us to think of the so-called times of God’s silence as opportunities for us to go deeper in our understanding of the Lord and to grow in Christian maturity.

Joel Beeke has helped us appreciate silence by thinking about the importance of both printed text and white space in a book.  For example, think of the Bible you hold in your hands – whether a paper Bible or an electronic Bible; the Bible is not solely words, black letters all jammed up against one another.  There is space around the printed Word of God. You have the text there, verses, words, God’s very words – and then you have space, white space, silence, silent space at the top, at the bottom, in the margins, spaces of silence between the words allowing you to pause, to breathe, to reflect.  Live life like you thoughtfully read the Bible, allowing God to work through periods of silence, allowing Him to use the silence to mature and deepen your understanding of His word.

After some time, Jesus speaks to the woman and He says something we never could have imagined!  Verse 27 states, “But Jesus said to her, ‘Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’”  And the first time we read that we may be like, “Wait – What?!  Did Jesus just refer to this woman as a dog?!”  And in some sense, He does.  I mean, we have got to allow for tensions in the biblical texts.  We have got to allow them to breathe and stand on their own. 

Yes, Jesus says, “It’s not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”  And He says that in response to the woman’s asking Him for help.  He says, “Let the children be filled first,” which means “let the Jews receive bread first.  They are My children. They get first place at the table.”  The Bible says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (or the Gentile).”  So when Jesus speaks of children here He is speaking about the Jews.  In God’s economy of the Gospel, they get first place at the table. 

You have got to love the woman’s witty reply in verse 28, “And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”  She is saying, “Yes, I know I have no place at the table.  Just give me some table scraps, scraps that the little dogs might get under the table.”  Remember that in the ancient near east that dogs weren’t the cute, furry, little pets that we think of in the western hemisphere.

I read a statistic last week that said Christians are giving close to 90% of mission’s dollars to go to people groups who already have access to the gospel while only 1% of total mission dollars goes to the unreached peoples of the world.  To drive the point home, the statistic said that Americans spend the same amount of money each year on halloween costumes . . . for their pets.  But dogs in the ancient near east are like dogs in many parts of the undeveloped world today.  They were mangy and ugly – and calling someone a dog was an insult.  Greeks, Gentiles, non-Jews, were often called dogs as a term of contempt.

It helps to understand the proverbial nature of Jesus’ statement and the way He spoke. Without a doubt his tone of voice made all the difference.  The same word can be a deadly insult and an affectionate address, according to the tone of voice.  We can call a man “an old rascal” in a voice of contempt or a voice of affection.  Jesus’ tone took all the poison out of the word.

This woman understood what Jesus was saying and the way He was saying it.  She recognizes that Jesus is not making a racial statement but a theological statement.  In those days people did not have either knives or forks or table-napkins. They ate with their hands; they wiped the hands on chunks of bread and then tossed the bread away and the house-dogs ate it.  The woman responded to what Jesus said, “I know the children are fed first, but can’t I even get the scraps the children throw away?” And Jesus loved it. Here was a solid faith that would not take no for an answer, here was a woman with the tragedy of an ill daughter at home, and there was still light enough in her heart to reply with faith and understanding.  Her faith was tested and her faith was real, and her prayer was answered.  Symbolically she stands for the Gentile world which so eagerly seized on the bread of heaven which the Jews rejected and threw away. 

Verse 28 says, “And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”  She is persistent!  She is like a New Testament Jacob who wrestled with God and said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

This leads to her consider . . .

III. Her Provision.

Verses 29-30 declare, “Then He said to her, ‘For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.  And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.”  She would settle for the children’s crumbs under the table, but in healing her daughter, Jesus has given her a whole loaf.

Let me leave conclude with . . . Three Thoughts To Apply To Your Heart . . .

1) Learn Your Place.

Like the Syro-Phoenican woman . . .

Humble yourself before the Lord.

She knew her place before Christ, nothing to offer Him but her pleas.  That is it.  No boastings, no rights to claim, no merit to bring, just her humble cries.

Modern readers are offended by Jesus’ reply to the woman, but she is not!  Why do you think that is?  Why do you suppose this woman is not offended by what Jesus said?  It is because she knows her place before the Lord. She knows she has no rights to claim.

I mentioned Thomas Cranmer earlier.  Another great name in the Protestant Reformation, if not the most popular is Martin Luther.  He was also stirred by this passage and saw the gospel in it.  Luther writes, “Very well, she says, if I am a dog, I ask no more than a dog’s rights.  I am not a child nor am I of Abraham’s seed, but you are a rich Lord and set a lavish table.  Give your children the bread and a place at the table; I do not wish that.  Let me, merely like a dog, pick up the crumbs under the table, allowing me that which the children don’t need or even miss, the crumbs, and I will be content therewith.”  Isn’t that great?!

The gospel is here in

This woman’s actions.

We have to understand that we have NO RIGHT to sit at the table.  Only then can we sit at the table.  We do not deserve a place at the table.  We are under the table.  We have to say with this woman, “Yes, Lord.”  We too must learn our place. This action is tied closely to the second action . . .

2) Live by Grace.

The Syro-Phoenician woman comes to Christ

Not on the basis of her goodness

But on the basis of His goodness.

Remember that Jesus became the outcast for us so that we who are dogs could receive the bread of life.  He became a dog so we could become a son or a daughter.  This is grace. This is God’s giving us what we don’t deserve – God’s giving of His unlimited, unmerited favor when all we deserve is His wrath.

We are not only saved by grace, we are to live by faith.  How do we do that?  The same way we are saved.  To live by grace is to live solely by the merit of Jesus Christ.  To live by grace is to base my entire relationship with God, including my acceptance and standing with Him, on my relationship with Christ . . . that is Transforming Grace

And . . .

3) Love Each Race.

God’s love for the Syro-Phoenican woman reminds us that God loves all people and He is building a kingdom of every nation, tribe, people, and tongue.  Derek Thomas provides us with a thoughtful reflection here. He writes, “This passage” . . . “Is a rebuke to those of us who are Christians.  It’s a rebuke for what is often our prejudice about people who are not like us, and not of us” . . . “From a different race, who smell, whose clothes are funny, who speak with a funny accent and we dismiss them.  And tell me if this is not so: tell me that we don’t say with the disciples from time to time, ‘Lord, send them away. Send them away, because they’re just a nuisance.’”

May we never look at others this way.  As we look at other people – no matter their race, no matter their ethnicity – may we see God’s love for them, His love for all people. We are just as they.  None of us deserves a place at the table.  We are all under that table.

And it is Jesus who exchanges places with us.  He becomes the outcast; He becomes the dog so that we can become a son or a daughter.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”