The Resurrection

 

 

 

 The Guard at the Tomb

Matthew 27:62-66

62 The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. 63 They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ 64 So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” 65 Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” 66 So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.

The Resurrection

Matthew 28:1-15

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.  Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”

The Report of the Guard

11 As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. 12 A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. 13 They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ 14 If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” 15 So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.

INTRODUCTION

Today, we will pretend that it is Easter. Since I was unable to share this message then, we {Lord willing} will do it now. Actually, every day is a celebration of the Resurrection. I just want to make few brief points, some that I have not considered before and I am indebted to Dr. T.W. Hunt for his insights.

I. FIRST: JESUS IS THE ONLY PERSON IS HISTORY WHOSE GRAVE HAD TO BE GUARDED TO KEEP HIM INSIDE THE TOMB.

 I understand that Pilot acted weakly and sinned against his own conscience and the sound advice of his wife but he actually does a couple of things that are commendable. First, he refused to change the wording on the charge. He wrote on the placard…Jesus, King of the Jews. The elders ask him to change the wording but he refused saying, “What I have written, I have written.” I’m like, way to go Pilate! Then when they for guards to guard the tomb, I love what he says, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” You have to love the irony. It sound as if Pilate has doubts as to whether or not the tomb of Jesus can be guarded. He says, “Do the best you can,” as if to say, your best is not going to be good enough.

As far as we know, Jesus is the only person who died and was buried and then the tomb guarded to keep HIM from escaping. It is just one more unique fact about our unique Savior.

II. SECONDLY: JESUS WAS IN FULL CONTROL THROUGHOUT THIS ENTIRE ORDEAL: ARREST, TRIAL, FLOGGING, CRUCIFIXION AND RESURRECTION.

Dr. T.W. Hunt and Dr. Warren Wiersbe believe that Jesus of His own volitional will decided what moment He would give up His Spirit [die physically] and that He arose from the grave by His own divine will and power. There is scripture for this conviction in John 10:17-18… “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” Think about it folks, can you arrest God unless He allows it? Everything that happened was according to plan. The arrest, the conviction, the beating, the crucifixion and the resurrection was all a plan. At no point was Jesus out of control. By His own sovereign will, He chose to become weak and helpless for our sakes. He could have defended Himself and without His help they would never have gotten a conviction. They convicted Him on His own testimony because everyone else in the room were liars or false witnesses. Finally Jesus had to help them…“You have said it [I AM the Son of God]. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” This did it, Caiaphas ripped his clothes and threw his hands in the air, Did you hear Him, He has blasphemed, what more proof do we need.” Just as you cannot arrest God, flog God, crucify God [unless He allows it] you cannot keep HIM in a grave.

III. THIRDLY: THERE ARE GOOD REASONS WHY JESUS REMAINED ON THE CROSS UNTIL HIS MISSION WAS ACCOMPLISHED

Lets go back to Matthew 27:41-43…. The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. He saved others,” they scoffed, “but He can’t save himself! So He is the King of Israel, is He? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

Liars, liars….He could have come down but they would not have believed even if He came down. Which is the greater miracle? Getting of a cross when you are attacked by three spikes or coming out of a grave after being dead three days? Would you not agree that the RESSURECTION is the greatest miracle of them all. Jesus knew that He must stay on the cross to [1] make atonement for our sins [2] to go to the grave and come out victoriously. You can not experience a resurrection until you experience death. If Jesus hadn’t died, He would not have been placed in a grave and He would not have come forth from that grave.

Jesus knew exactly what He was doing: it was the Jewish religious leaders [everyone at the time] who were in the dark.

IV. THE ATTEMPT OF THE ELDERS [SANHEDRIN] TO FABRICATE THE STORY OF GRAVE ROBBERY IS LUDICROUS.

 Lets go back to Matthew 28:11… As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.

One question: if the guards are asleep, how can they know who took the body? The story fabricated by the high court is laughable, insane, absurd, ridiculous. How can an eye witness be taken seriously when they slept through the entire event.

V. ALMOST LAST BUT NOT LEAST: JESUS REVEALS HIMSELF WHEN HE CHOOSES AND TO WHOM HE CHOOSES.

He revealed Himself first to the women, then to Peter {Luke 24:34}, then to the Disciples on the road to Emmaus, then to the 10 [Thomas not present], a week later to the 11 then 500 or more. Jesus was not a ghost: he had a nail scarred body that ate and drank but He could also appear and disappear in a second and he could be present without you recognizing His presence. We all want manifestations and miracles but Jesus wants us to live by faith. He has given us His word and for now, that is sufficient. Jesus said to doubting Thomas“You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

VI. LAST OF ALL: IF THE RERESSURECTION WAS A FABRICATED HOAKS, WHY WERE THE DISCIPLES SO SLOW TO BELIEVE?

Think about it, if you are going to conjure up some fictitious tale would you make yourself look like and idiot? The disciples do not shine in the crucifixion and they do no better with the resurrection…they were retarded when it came to faith…they were slow to believe. Notice Matthew 28:16-17…Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Out of the 500 or so that witnessed the ascension and heard the great commission, some doubted. Would the disciples be struggling with doubt if this was a conspiracy? No, they would have guilt, but no doubt.

CONCLUSION

Jesus is, He always has been is and He always will be is…He His the GREAT I AM the God of Abraham. He is not only alive, He is the source of all life. The life you know have in your flesh and blood body is because of HIM and you will not have eternal life unless you repent of your sins and trust Him.

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THE CROSS [Part II]

Text: Matthew 27:45-54, NLT

45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” 47 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 48 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. 49 But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.” 50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, 52 and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. 53 They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. 54 The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” 55 And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

INTRODUCTION

As a general rule, I prefer to preach one or three point sermons. The one pointer’s are the most difficult to prepare. This week I have struggled with the above text. I could not reduce it to one point or three. So I am going to do something that I rarely do: an eight point sermon.

  1. THE MYSTERIOUS DARKNESS. Some believe the darkness was caused by a solar eclipse and others do not. Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is one those who does not believe it was eclipse. He believes it was a mysterious darkness sent by God the Father. Dr. Jack Taylor, one of my favorite puppeteers of yesteryear said it was the demons celebrating what they thought to be a victory. We know that it was not a victory for Satan but he does not have foreknowledge and at the moment, he may have thought he was the victor. Others believe, due to Jesus silence during the 3 hours, that it was the time that our sin was put upon our Savior. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21, For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. Another reference is I Peter 2:24, He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Another is Isaiah 53:11, And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah also said in reference to God the Father, When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, He will be satisfied. How could God be please with the cruel injustice that Jesus suffered? God was not pleased with the suffering, He was pleased with the obedience of His son and His willingness to die for our sins. For God so loved the world, He gave. We may not have all the answers for the darkness but we know that Jesus became sin for us. Hey, this is not just my lust or your greed, this is the guilt and shame of a pedophile or a pervert. Yes, my friend, He bore all our sins in His own body.
  2. JESUS DESPAIRING CRY…”My God [not Father], My God, why have You forsaken Me? Again, I believe as do many others but not all…that Jesus felt the forsakenness of a vile and filthy sinner like me. God is holy and thus Jesus suffered our hell on the cross by enduring three hours of separation from the Father [again, because of our sin]. We all know that a world where God does not exist or manifest His presence is hell. Separation from God is hell. Another thing to keep in mind is that Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 verbatim. Psalm 22 is the passion psalm: it describes the cross. Let’s just look at portions of Psalm 22…[1] My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for You?  [2] But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all! [3]Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, “Is this the one who relies on the LordThen let the Lord save him!
    If the Lord loves him so much, let the Lord rescue him. [4]Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me. [5] My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls; fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in! Like lions they open their jaws against me, roaring and tearing into their prey. [6] My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. [7] My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. [8]  They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. [9] They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing. Crucifixion did not exist in David’s time or Isaiah’s.
  3. THE IGNORANT BYSTANDERS. Jesus cried out in the Hebrew tongue, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani.” [L-e, L-e, lie-ma, sa-bach-thay-nee]. Who were these ignorant bystanders. Surely the Jewish religious leaders could understand Hebrew and would or should recognize that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22. Could it be possible that the Jewish bystanders were so blinded by hate that they totally missed Jesus quoting the Old Testament. I don’t think the Romans would think that Jesus was calling for Elijah: they did not know who Elijah was. The only conclusion I can reach is that the ignorant bystanders were Jews. Hate not only perverted their sight and insight- it also perverted they hearing.
  4. JESUS SHOUT OF VICTORY. John tells us that Jesus shouted, “It is finished.” This comes after three hours of silence. It was a shout of victory. Some have suggested that Jesus literally died of a broken heart others like Dr. Wiersbe believe the He by His power yielded His Spirit. Had I been there, it would have been a cry of victory to me. It meant the end of His suffering. I am not about to trivialized physical death, it is a big deal that creates lots of anxiety and grief but when you see a person suffer intensely like Jesus, physical death is a welcome friend.
  5. THE VEIL TORN FROM TOP TO BOTTOM. This curtain was 4 inches thick and 60 feet tall. It weighted tons. Jesus death ripped it from top to bottom opening the way to the Holy of Holies. No more separation. No barrier between God and man. The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 10…And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. The splitting of the veil is the only proof we need that God is through with Judaism.
  6. CATASTROPHIC EVENTS: ECLIPE, EARTHQUATE, TOMBS OPENED. Too much for a coincidence. The Roman soldiers were impressed. The Centurion in charge said, “Surely this is the Son of God.” They were terrified. In awe, a form of worship. The Greek word for terrified is phobia and it has three meanings: [1] to put to flight, to flee [2]to fear, be afraid [3] to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience. The ROBE is a novel by Lloyd Douglas inspired by a woman who asked him what happened to Jesus robe. In the novel, Marcellus Gallio was the Roman commander who got the robe and was later converted. This is fiction, we do not know that any of the Romans became believers but we do know that the gospel got to Rome before Peter or Paul.
  7. FAITHFUL WOMEN. They took care of Him is life and they stayed with Him in death. They were basically the last to leave. Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus in a garden just below the Golgotha. The women observed from a distance. I can tell you from experience, you do not want to pastor a church that has no men. I can also tell you that for every man that faithfully attends without his wife there are a half dozen women who come without their husbands. Both are important but we do tip our hats to the women of faith who serve Jesus without the support of their husbands.

The Cross

Text: Matthew 27:32-44, NLT

32 Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. 33 And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 34 The soldiers gave Jesus wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it. 35 After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. 36 Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. 37 A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. 40 “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” 41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.

INTRODUCTION

Paul said in Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Being a child of God is so different from being of this world. We believers win by losing; giving may diminish our earthly assets but it increases our heavenly assets. We suffer humiliation so that we can someday be exalted. We live by dying, we grows by being diminished, and becomes full by being emptied. We grow spiritually when we suffer physically, we live by dying. We serve Christ although the world despises Him and those who serve Him. We strive to live sincerely but are accused of duplicity and hypocrisy. We are ignored on earth but well known in heaven.  We get beat down by the world, but God lifts us up. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor materially but rich spiritually. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. We are servants who some day will rule angels. A lot of things that seem to be bad work for our good. Keep this truth in mind as we talk about the CROSS today.

THE CROSS DOES THREE THINGS…

I. THE CROSS IS THE GREATEST EXPOSITION OF MAN’S DEPRAVITY

The only diamond on the black velvet of Golgotha hill was Jesus. He was the only light on in the dark sky. This was not man’s finest hour. Even the best of the lot failed. Some will disagree but I believe the most commendable group at the cross were the women who were not afraid to come near. Not only did they have the courage to be present and near their Savior, they were loyal to the end. They stayed to make sure the burial was done right. But even the women were weak, helpless and frail. They could do nothing to stop this gross injustice. They had the will but they lacked the power.

Then there are the disciples who stood at a distance for fear of being treated the same way. Yes they loved Jesus but not as much as they loved their own lives. They went into a self-protection mode. To put it bluntly, they were cowards. If they had made good on their promise, there would have been 15 Crosses instead of 3 but when the going got rough, they got going, they ran like scared jack rabbits.

Then there are the pagan Romans. They are overwhelmed with concern, not! They are cruel and cold. They gamble for Jesus clothing while He hangs above them in agony.

Then there were the religious Jews. Wow! What an upstanding group of men. There are priest in the crowd, the intercessors and leaders of worship; there are Seminary professors in the crowd, the teachers of the law and there are the elders, the ruling body, the Sanhedrin. Seventy one of Israel’s finest. They were totally corrupt and filled with hate and envy. Can you imagine the members of our supreme court [which is not really supreme or the cream of the crop] going to an execution and heckling the condemned man on his way to the chair of the gas chamber. Would that show any class? Could you ever look upon such men with dignity and respect who would do such a thing. The demons of hell could do no worse. The infidels say, “Religion is the cause of more pain and injustice than any other thing in this world.” And I say amen, it was Religion that killed Jesus. Understand, Jesus did not come to establish a religion, He came to bury them all religions. Christianity is of God, religions are of the devil. Christ death even put an end to Judaism. No more sacrifices needed. No priesthood. No separation between God and man. The cross is proof that some of the most vile and wicked people on earth where religious garb.

II. THE CROSS IS THE GREATEST EXPRESSION OF GOD’S LOVE

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….Jesus became the willing sacrifice for the sins of a lowly and despicable humanity. Bildad, one of Job’s friends said, “In comparison to God, people are maggots: we mortals are mere worms.” Paul said in Romans 5, When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Dwight Moody was the Billy Graham of the late 1800’s. He’d been to England in the early days of his ministry and there he’d met a young English preacher named Henry Moorhouse. One day Moorhouse said to Moody, “I’m thinking of going to America.” “Well, if you should ever get to Chicago, come down tomy church and I will give you a chance to preach,” said Moody. Sometime later, after Moody had returned home, he received a telegram that said, “Have just arrived in New York. Will be in Chicago on Sunday. Moorhouse.” Moody was perplexed about what he should do. Frankly, he was just being polite when he invited Moorhouse to preach at his church. He’d never actually heard Henry Moorhouse speak and he, Moody, was just about to leave for a series of special meetings elsewhere. Finally, he said to the leaders of his church, “I think I should let him preach once. So let him preach once; then if the people enjoy him, put him on again.” Moody was gone for a week. When he got back, he said to his wife, “How did that young preacher do?” “Oh, he’s a better preacher than you are,” his wife said. “He’s telling sinners that God loves them.” “That isn’t right,” said Moody. “God doesn’t love sinners.”  “Well,” said Mrs. Moody, “you go and hear him.” “What?” said Moody, “Do you mean to tell me that he’s still preaching?” “Yes, he has been preaching all week, and he has only had one verse for a text. It’s John 3:16.” Moody hurried off to the meeting. Henry Moorhouse got up and began his message by saying, “I’ve been hunting for a text all week and I haven’t been able to find a better text than John 3:16. So I think we will just talk about it once more.” And so he did. Afterwards, Dwight Moody said it was on that night that he first clearly understood the good news of God’s great love in Jesus Christ. On the final night of Moorehouse preaching at the Moody church he said, “If I could borrow Jacob’s ladder and climb into heaven and ask Gabriel who stands in the presence of God, Gabriel, how much does God love sinners. He said, “I think Gabriel would say, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in HIM will not perish but have everlasting life.” Calvary is proof that God love sinners. Other than Jesus, everyone there was a sinner and guilty of the death of Christ.

 

III. THE CROSS IS THE GREATEST EXAMPLE OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY WORKING IN CONJUNCTION WITH MAN’S FREE WILL.

In the present, on the very day that Christ was crucified, not one believer in Christ saw anything good about the day. It was the most horrible day of their lives. They were more than devastated. They were in despair. They were a pitiful, frightened, hopeless group. I am sure they wondered, “How could God allow such a horrible thing to happen.” Three days later, they had that hopes renewed and little by little, ever so slowly, the truth of the Cross began to take root in their lives. What appeared to be our worse day in history turned out to be our greatest. Who other than God can make bad things work together for good. Who, other than God can transform sorrow into joy.

In my 45 years of preaching I have meet several atheist and most of them were hard and bitter. Some are quick witted and sharp with the tongue. Some have a demonic power that will chill your blood. My first church out of Seminary had a family that I became endeared to: I saw two of the sisters the other day. There were 4 girls and two boys. The oldest girl married an agnostic/atheist. He was full of it and he enjoyed confronting preachers. His brother is law ask me to talk to him which I did to no avail. All he wanted to do was argue and I felt like I was casting pearls before swine so I told him, “When you get serious I will talk to you but until then, we are not discussing spiritual matters.” The man was vile, vulgar and committed sins I did not know existed [I was 25 years old at the time]. The man was a hedonist which including the pleasure of pursuing other women other than his wife. He even brought one of his girlfriends to his home and basically asked his wife to serve them. His oldest daughter who was 14 at the time hated his guts. Somehow, his wife loved him and never filed for divorce although there were times of separation. Of course he was a big drinker and smoker and he developed a bad cough. He was worried but the cough got worse. The doctor treats him for a few weeks and he is worse. They admit him to the hospital and run all kinds of test. Late one evening, his brother-in-law calls and said, “Preacher, I want you to go with me to talk Ken, they think he has cancer.” I agree and we go but it is the same old, same old…he is cursing and raring like John Wayne who vowed to whip the damn stuff. He had this macho, I’m not afraid of cancer, it cannot kill me attitude. The little hospital in the local town transferred him to Birmingham. The Brother-in-law, a gifted soul winner, called again. I never understood why he called because he did not need me. He was the most gifted soul winner that I had seen in my life. We go to Birmingham and get there sometime after dark. They have already run the test and talked to Ken. They told him that he had from 3-6 months, maybe a year if he agreed to do radiation and chemo. He was visibly shaken. We went to his room and talked until almost mid-night. Then we went to the lobby and tried to rest in the waiting area. About 2-3 a.m. we get a call from his wife, he wanted us to come up to his room. When we walked out at midnight he was lost but when we returned he was saved. He had got down beside his bed and prayed the sinner’s prayer. He started telling everyone: doctor’s nurses, anyone he came into contact with.

They sent him back to North Alabama where he got his treatment in the Quad Cities area and he lived for longer than they projected but he never had any allusions, he knew he was dying. He witnessed, he testified right up until the day he departed this world. Two weeks before he died, he came to our church and gave his testimony. He was very pale and extremely week; about 5 minutes was as long as he could stand and speak and this is what he said. When they told me I had cancer, I thought this is the worse day of my life. Then he said, But it was the cancer that brought me to Jesus and coming to know Him was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

The only one who can turn cancer into a victory is God. He has that ability to make bad things work for good. Calvary is all the proof we need.

Turning Trials Into Triumphs

 

 

 

TEXT: James 1:2-4

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. [NLT]

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. [NASB]

INTRODUCTION

Erma Bombeck who faced adversity throughout her brief 69 years on this earth had a principle that she lived by, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonaid.” Erma was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (an incurable, untreatable genetic disease) when she was 20 years old. She survived breast cancer and mastectomy, and kept secret the fact that she had kidney disease, enduring daily dialysis. She went public with her condition in 1993. On a waiting list for transplant for years, one kidney had to be removed, and the remaining one ceased to function. On April 3, 1996, she received a kidney transplant. Erma Bombeck died on April 22, 1996, aged 69, from complications of the operation. Erma Bombeck made people laugh, very few people knew about her physical problems or the pain she endured to do a days work.

Chuck Swindoll says, “Sometimes life throws you a hard curve on the inside of the plate, chopping you down at the knees.” Note in text for tonight, James did not say, “If you encounter various trials,” he said “when you encounter various trials.”

Christians are not immune to suffering. We must experience trials for many reasons. Some trials come due to the fact that we live in a broken and sin cursed world, some come due to sickness, some come from bad decisions, some come from our relationships. We are all going to face trials of various kinds. I used the NASB because the word various is omitted in the NLT. It means multi-colored or all sorts of trails. I was talking to a man yesterday about adult children and the heart ache that they can bring when they made bad decisions. He began to tell me that his children had never caused him one bit of grief. He raised the right was the impression I got. As I drove away I thought to myself, none of his children attend church. None of them love Jesus. Listen folks, we all have problems but they come in different varieties.

There are three keys in these three verses that will enable us to triumph over our trails.

I. The first key is to CONSIDER

The AV translates this word ‘count’ and Dr. Wiersbe says that it is an accounting word. Literally, it is used of evaluating a situation as a leader. It means to study the situation and evaluate what to do. Our values determine our evaluations. If I value material things more than spiritual things, I am not likely to consider going through a trial as being an opportunity to rejoice if I value the material above the spiritual. If I think like Esau, which is for the moment rather than the future, it will be difficult for me to rejoice in difficult times but if I think like Job, “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold,” then I can consider my trial as a time to rejoice.

II. The Second Key is To KNOW or To Understand

If we are saved and we read the word of God, we know that FAITH is always tested. When think about faith being tested we think of men like Noah, Job and Abraham. God does not tempt us to do evil but He does test us and the purpose of the test is to bring out the best in us. The devil tempted to bring out the worse. The test is never for God’s benefit, He already knows the answer: the test is for our benefit.

Peter said, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

Once we know that God uses the trials to make us better, that it is a process whereby He is conforming us to the image of Christ, we can celebrate what He is doing. Trails work for our benefit.

Trials help us to mature. There are some things that God wants to see in our lives one on of those things is endurance. The Greek word is hypomonē. It is a compound word, hupo means under and mone means to remain. So the word means to remain under. It is the picture of a man with a burden on his shoulders but he has the strength, the endurance to remain under the burden. An irresponsible person would cast the burden to the ground but a mature Christians has the ability to stay where God has placed them and under the burden. You may be in an uncomfortable position but if God has put your there stay strong.

The AV translated this word patience but we are talking about something more than patience, we are talking about courageous perseverance in the face of extreme difficulty. God does not want us to quit in the heat of the battle. The word tested in verse 3 is word used for sterling coinage. For money to be genuine and unalloyed, it had to endure intense heat. God uses suffering and troubles to refine us, to burn out the dross [impure motives] and to make us the real deal.

There is no substitute for the understanding mind. If you are aware of what God is doing and you know that the end result is for your good and God’s glory, you can endure most anything.

III. The Third Key is a SURRENDERED WILL

God by His sovereign choice will not build character in you against your will. If you have no desire to become a mature Christian, you will not become a mature Christian. God’s goal is for us to mature and come to the likeness of Christ. He wants us to be complete and lacking nothing. It would be a tragedy if our children never matured. What happens to children when their parents are over protective? They fail to mature. He takes some bumps and bruises to grow up and people who live sheltered lives cannot mature; they will never be complete.

Paul give us a good outline for this completeness that God has in mind in Ephesians 2:8-10.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. First there is the work God does FOR US which is save us from hell and to heaven. We call this regeneration but sometimes we refer to it as Salvation.  Then there is the work God does IN US, for we are His workmanship. We generally call this Sanctification which is the process of becoming like Christ and then there is the work He does THROUGH US and we can call this Service or ministry. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works.

God builds character before He calls us to service. He must work in us before He can properly work through us. Abraham waited 25 years to get a son. Joseph was in the refiners fine for 13 years before he was exalted to Prime Minister of Egypt. God spent 80 years getting Moses ready. God used these men in phenomenal ways. It is mind boggling to think about what was accomplished in their lives but nothing was done against their will. Abraham, Joseph and Moses were willing: they had surrendered their will to God.

Make no mistake about it, God can use whom He wants when He wants. He used Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Balaam and Jonah. Jonah preached the greatest revival in history with a bad attitude. God can use a man with a bad attitude but Jonah was not blessed. It was good for Nineveh but Jonah missed a blessing because he had a bad attitude. I’m not saying that God cannot use you unless you are surrendered but He works more efficiently through the committed.

CONCLUSION

Do you want to be able to rejoice in difficult time? To do so you must value spiritual things above the material. You must read and study the word of God and know what God is doing. In conclusion, you must lose your will in His and surrender to whatever He says or wherever He leads. You do these three things and you will have joy in the midst of sorrow. It may not come immediately, but it will come. My first response is not joy but once I’ve had time to digest what is going on and put in into perspective, I know that God is making all things work together for good and in that I can rejoice.

What Should I do With Jesus?

Scripture: Matthew 27:11-26

Jesus’ Trial before Pilate

11 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.” 12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. 15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. 16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” 20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” 24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!” 26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

Introduction

Recently a newsletter from one of America’s most prestigious universities has revived the accusation. Here’s what the “anonymous” author, reportedly a Jewish convert to Christianity, wrote in Ichthus the Harvard Christian undergraduate newsletter: “We, the Jews, collectively rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we deserved the punishments that were heaped on our heads over the last 2000 years.” This young man’s confession created an uproar. Personally, I see nothing wrong with what he said. It is a well documented fact that the Sanhedrin, the supreme ruling body of Judaism orchestrated the crucifixion of Jesus. This does not mean that the Jews alone are responsible for the death of Jesus but they were the impetus that lead to His crucifixion. It is also true that the Jews manipulated Pilate into carrying out the execution. He was pressured by the Jews but he did not have to yield to this pressure.

The question of the ages was presented by a pagan Roman governor, “What should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” This is the most pertinent, the most important question that you must answer. In Matthew 27 we have several characters and groups and they all respond to Jesus in different ways but there is only one acceptable way to respond to Jesus Christ and that is to ask Him for forgiveness, confess Him as Lord and invite Him to become the center of your life.

Today, lets look at the characters in Matthew 27 and see how they respond to the question: What should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

PONTIUS PILATE

[1] PILATE’S HISTORY: Pilate is the Roman Governor of Judea who was never popular with the Jews. The Romans believed in Pax Ramana which is means Roman peace. They believed with the proper organization, authority and administration, they could rule and society including the Jews. Pilate was not sent to Judea to incite a revolution but he came very close to doing just that: [1] He marched his troops from Caesarea to Jerusalem bearing the Roman eagle and the image of Tiberius on their banners. This infuriated the Jews who staged a massive demonstration. When Pilate threatened to execute the entire lot; they assured him they were ready to die for their cause. Pilate gave in. Pilate’s second offense was to take money from the Temple Treasury for a water works project. This did not end well either. Third, Pilate had special shields made with the Roman Emperor engraved on the front. The Jews protested to Tiberius and Emperor forced Pilate to change the shields. The Jews were hard to govern. The Jewish powers {High Priest and Sanhedrin} had gone over his head repeatedly and Pilate did not think he could afford another riot which Jews excel. They wrote the book on inciting riots.

[2] PILOT’S DILEMMA: Pilate has enough experience as a judge to know that Jesus is innocent and that the Jews are motivated by envy and hate. Pilate said repeatedly, “I find no fault in this man.” {Luke 23:13} “I have examined Him throughly on this point in your presence and I find Him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion.”

[3] PILOT’S WEAKNESS: Pilot’s gut feeling as a judge was that Jesus was innocent and there was no evidence to prove otherwise. In his conscience, Pilate believed Jesus to be innocent. Pilate’s wife believes that Jesus is innocent and begs her husband not to have any part in His death. So Pilate ignored all the warnings: his experience, his conscience and his wife’s advice.

Thus Pilate is representative of those who prefer to stay neutral. If Pilate could have had his wish, it would have been to evade the entire situation. Pilot asked the right question but he stands for the millions who refuse to do anything with Jesus. Pilate is symbolic of the indifferent. I’m not for Jesus and I’m not opposed to Jesus: I am neutral.

PILATE’S WIFE

Pilate’s wife represents the superstitious. These are folks who weight heavy into dreams and visions. They are very religious but not committed to Christ. They to recognize right from wrong and they want nothing to do with the guilt associated with the execution of Jesus. They know that it happened but they have distanced themselves from it and have convinced themselves that they share no guilt in His torture and death.

THE CROWD

The Sanhedrin illegally rendered a guilty verdict during the darkness of the night but to make everything appear legal, they reconvened at daylight, probably about 5:00 am in the morning. On an ordinary day, the streets are not crowded and Pilate is not holding court at 5:00 am. My theory is that they awoke Pilate and that they gathered the rabble, the street people, the beggars, pick pockets and those who had not yet gone to bed. The people making up the mob were the aristocrats and the rabble, the two extremes of Jewish society. The Jewish religious leaders prompted the rabble to call for the death of Jesus. These ignorant people had no idea what was going on. They represent the dupes in society. Those who do not think for themselves. Those who vote the way some lying politician or political party tell them. Ignorance is no excuse and since you are sitting under the sound of the gospel, you cannot claim ignorance.

THE JEWISH RELIGIOUS LEADERS

I have intentionally saved the Jewish Religious leaders last because they represent those who are antichrist. These are people who hate Jesus and they hate anyone who follows Him. These are they who are driven by envy, greed, jealously and hate. You will note that they were garbed in religious garments: many were priest and all professing believers in YHWH. Oh my dear people, religion is not the answer, it is a major part of the problem.

I am thankful that we have some exceptions: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus did not take part in this diabolical deed of darkness.

CONCLUSION

I don’t know if you see yourself in any of these four groups: Pilate and the indifferent, Pilate wife and the superstitious, the fickle crowd lacking character and morality or the evil hate filled Jewish leaders but make no mistake you and I were there.

Note what Peter said at Pentecost“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know but God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.

Let me tell you what is wrong with that statement and why: we are all guilty of the death of Jesus. Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, all the disciples abandon Him, the Jews accused Him and the Romans crucified Him. Jesus said in Matthew 20:28, The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus was born to die and He died for all because all have sinned. Had it not been for your sin and my sin, Jesus would not have had to suffer the most agonizing death in history. Peter was there: his sin, just like my sin crucified Jesus. No one is innocent of the blood of Christ. NO ONE!

James The Just

 

SCRIPTURE: James 1:1

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!

INTRODUCTION

Tonight we launch a new study in the book of James. The Epistle of James is what we call a general letter because it is not addressed to a particular person or congregation. It is the first of seven such letters: James, I and II Peter, I, II, III John and Jude. When our church fathers were debating the canon and its order: the book of James was debated extensively. Martin Luther referred to James as the Epistle of Straw. I’m not certain he wanted it in the bible but I know he did not want it to be the first of the 7 general letters. Luther had two major problems with James:

1. James sounds like a Church of Christ; like he is refuting Paul’s doctrine of grace. Paul taught justification by faith and faith alone and Luther was a staunch believer in Justification by faith.

2. The Epistle has very little, almost no gospel. Jesus name is used only three times. I don’t think James was trying to be politically correct but he uses the words LORD and God a lot but seldom refers to Jesus. There is no mention in James of the virgin birth, sinless life, atoning death [crucifixion], resurrection or ascension in Jesus.

I cannot refute Luther’s second point but there is a way to interpret James without it being a doctrine of works. Spurious faith is no good, only a faith that works is a viable faith. I teach that we are saved by a working faith. If your faith is real, it will produce evidence of being alive and productive. A dead, passive faith is not one that I would want to trust,

It is probably true that James was trying to appease his Jewish audience and there is no doubt that James struggled with letting go of Judaism. Judaism is our history but it is not our future. It is the root of the tree but it is not the fruit. Judaism is the shadow but Christianity is the substance. All the apostles struggled with letting go of Judaism. Paul got arrested because he went into the temple to fulfill a vow that relates to the old covenant. He had no business going back to a Jewish ritual for purification when he knew that the LORD Jesus was the last sacrifice he would ever need, but to my shock, he did it.

One last thing before we get into verse 1: James is a rich book that contains some great principles that we do not find else where in the bible. His teachings on trials, temptations, tongues and patience are very good. So let get started in the book of James.

1. Frist, let’s look at the author–James.

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!

James was a popular name. It is the Greek word for the O.T. name Jacob….means supplanter. There were two men names James is Jesus twelve disciples. You can find a list of Jesus disciples in Matthew 10, Mark 3 and Luke 6. There were two Simons [Simon Peter and Simon the zealot], there were two Judas and there were two James’. The James who wrote this epistle was not one of the twelve. There are two other men by the name of James, one is James the Less [Mark 15:40 and the other was James father of Judas the disciple.

There is one other James…Matthew 13:54-57… He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

The James who wrote this epistle was Jesus brother. Jesus had four brothers…James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. None of these were His disciples and none of them were supportive.

  1. James was not believers until after the resurrection. I Corinthians 15:7 says that Jesus appeared to James after the resurrection.
  2. James became the Leader of the Jerusalem Church
  3. He was called James the Just.
  4. He spent a lot of time at the Temple. Nick named the Man with Camel knees. Callous knees from praying.
  5. He was an orthodox Jew who remained and orthodox Jew. He acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah but continued to practice the Laws of Moses.
  6. He eventually offended the Jews and the pushed him off of the pinnacle of the temple.
  7. The fall did not kill him but the Jews finished him off with stones and a club. He prayed as he died, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”

2. The second thing I want you to notice tonight is Jesus description of himself…A Slave [Doulos]

This letter is from James, a slave [Doulos] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!

Slave or doulos is used 130 times in the N.T. and five times in the greeting of a letter. Paul used it in writing to the Romans, Philippians and to Titus. James and Jude are the only others that used this word in the greeting. It is broadly interpreted: it can mean slave, bond slave, servant or attendant. It comes from the word to tie or bind. It speaks of one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men. It also means devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. William says that being a doulos means three things:

  1. Absolute Obedience– A slave knows no law other than his master’s command.
  2. Absolute Humility– A slave has duties but no rights. A slave has no self life, he is devoted to the happiness of another.
  3. Absolute Loyalty–A slave belongs to his master and his duty is to serve his master. He is not free to serve whom he chooses.

You are in good company when you consider yourself a ‘doulos’ of Christ. Moses, Daniel, Joshua, Caleb, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jeremiah and Zechariah were all said to be slaves to the LORD. We are to be so in love with, so devoted to Christ that we disregard of our own interests. Wow!

3. Third: Lets think about the Diaspora to whom James was writing.

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings! I have given this a lot of thought lately, that is the dispersion of the Jews. I am not an expert in prophecy nor am I the son of an expert but I think it is absolutely fascinating to think about what God may be doing and what He has already done.

Lets do a brief history. Israelites are descendants of Jacob and his twelve son. Abraham had 8 sons but only one was the heir to the promise. Isaac had two but only one was heir to the promise and that was Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons and 11 of the twelve were as sorry as dog squat but all became heirs to the promise by grace. They become know at the Hebrews in Egypt but later the Israelites since that came from Jacob who’s name was changed to Israel. These 12 tribes actually become 13 but Levites did not get an inheritance so it was back to 12 tribes. After Solomon, there was a civil war and they split; The ten northern tribes were retained the name of Israelites and the two Southern, Judah and Benjamin became known as Judeans and later that was shortened to Jews.

The Northern Tribes were taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 720 BC and then Judah was captured and deported by the Babylonians is 605, and again in 580 BC. Pompey the Roman carried thousand back to Rome in 63 B.C. So even before Christ, the Israelites had been scattered all over the known world including the Islands in the Mediteranian Sea. They were in North Africa, Asia and Europe and across the Middle East. The Romans discovered that the Jews made horrible slaves so eventually, they released most of them but they stayed in and around Rome. There was a colony of 8,000 according to Roman historians. There were one million Jews living in Alexandria at the time of Christ. At one time there were more than 10,000 in Damascus. Strabo, the Greek geographer wrote: “It is hard to fin a spot in the whole world which is not occupied by Jews.

[this sermon is incomplete but I had to post it so I could work on it at other locations]