Today, as we continue our study into the life of Christ, we’ll look into the testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus that begins in John 1:19. In fact, it’s hard to read the question they ask him without having the CSI theme song, the Who classic from 1978, playing in my head. “Who are you?”
Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” (John 1:19)
What we have before us is the testimony of John the Baptist. And the word “testimony” (marturía) means “a witness, certification, record, that which someone witnesses or states concerning a person or thing.” It is a declaration by a witness who speaks with the authority of one who knows, like an expert witness. John is very familiar with this word and uses it over 75 times in his writings. But there is more.
Just think, John the Baptist is the first witness the Apostle John calls to testify of the Lordship of Christ. Later he writes:
This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (John 21:24-25)
But there is more.
Who Is This Guy?
John the Baptist was one remarkable individual. Consider the following:
- He was the subject of an Old Testament prophecy found in Isaiah 40.
- His birth was due to direct supernatural intervention (Luke 1:7,13).
- He was filled with the Holy Spirit before his birth (Luke 1:15). I can’t recall the Scriptures saying that of anyone else.
- He was a man “sent from God” (John 1:6). What an amazing epitaph for a life well-lived.
- He was sent to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matt. 3:3), and nothing else. In fact, when he got off point, it cost him his life.
- He was the last of the Old Testament prophets (Matt. 11:13), on the same par with Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah.
- Jesus said he was the greatest man who ever lived (Matt. 11:11), hands down, bar none.
So let’s take a look at it together, shall we?
As I have been sharing with you since late last year, the times we are facing as believers, and as a church and a nation, demand faith. But not faith as usual or faith that is comfortable. We need mature faith, secure faith, maybe even radical faith to believe what our Lord says about everything, and then act on that belief like we truly believe what we claim to believe.
In fact, one of the signs of maturity in our walk with Christ is our ability to drown out the voices of our culture, and even our own voice of fear, doubt, and insecurity, and live in the joy of sheer trust in His character, His Word, and His promises (and warnings). Our desire is to learn how to trust as a little child does his loving father, without question, and with great joy. And for logical, pragmatic, even somewhat cynical people, that leap in trust can be quite difficult.
“But where does faith come from?” many often ask. The disciples recognized their need for more genuine, mature, seasoned faith when it came to continually having to forgive someone who sinned against them over and over again with no true sign of repentance. When faced with that impossible task, they cried out to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5).
Our need for more faith is apparent. But where do we go to increase our faith?
Faith and the Word of God
In Romans 10, after speaking about Israel’s need to hear the gospel, Paul then makes this most revealing statement:
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17)
Or, to put it another way, “faith comes by hearing the word of God.” And it’s really just that simple. The object of what we are to hear to increase our faith is the Word of God.
If you have been in church for any amount of time, you know that on Easter you will hear a sermon about the resurrection, just like you will hear about the birth of Jesus during December. It’s just what we in the church do. It’s almost a sacred tradition.
This means that many of us have heard dozens of sermons about the empty tomb every late March or early April. And if we’re not careful, the wonder of the resurrection may get dull by rote habit or tradition. Remember, familiarity often breeds contempt.
But this Sunday, I want God’s Word to bring the sermon and not me. I want each of us to have our faith increased by hearing His Word, and not by hearing a pastor (like me) expound on His Word. In essence, let’s go directly to the source for the pure milk of His Word and not settle for the homogenized, skim stuff.
Therefore, I have taken the liberty of reading a combined account of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord taken from the four gospel accounts. In other words, what you will hear is everything Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote so we can get a perfect picture of everything that transpired with our Lord and His disciples from His death until His ascension. And to be quite honest, I have preached these passages for decades and yet found myself mesmerized as I marveled at the picture they present when combined and synthesized together.
What you will hear is pure Scripture (although I do make a comment or two. Sorry, can’t help it. It’s in my nature). And I will let you know the source from where I am reading before I read.
So join with me today as we let the Holy Spirit, using Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, present our Easter sermon for us. I will simply try to act as the host or facilitator, bring a few comments of clarification or questions, as we listen to this wondrous story.
The following is a study on the Resurrection of Christ as told from all four gospel accounts.
Note: There are no slides for this message.
One of the questions each of us will have to come to grips with as we see the time of our Lord’s return approaching is this: Do you believe what you say you believe? Or, more pointedly, how does your life reflect what you claim to believe? In other words, do we really believe everything the Scriptures say about God, this world, heaven and hell, our lives, the future, whatever? Or are we somehow hedging our bet in His Word to fit what we feel or think? Consider the following scriptures and ask yourself if you truly believe what they say.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Do you believe this statement to be true of you? If so, make it personal by putting your name in the place of “those”.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for (your name) who love Him.”
Let’s try one more. Do you believe this statement to be true?
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
If you believe God can do more than you can ask or think, then put your name in this verse. Make it first-person, personal.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that (I can) ask or think, according to the power that works in (me), to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
So why is this important? Because your relationship with God, your intimacy with the Father, will rise and fall on your belief in Him and in His character. Your beliefs always determine your actions. Always. In everything. For example, if you don’t believe God can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that (I can) ask or think,” then you will be overcome by your doubts and fears and feel like a helpless kitten abandoned in the dark. But if you believe God is who He says He is, then you will be invincible in faith before anything that comes your way.
Why? Because everything follows faith!
Everything Follows Faith
Search your soul and ask yourself the following questions:
Do you really believe what the Scriptures say about God, life, His church, and you?
Do you really think it’s possible to learn how to hear His voice speak to you in a way that is unmistakable?
Do you believe you will ever experience an outpouring of His Spirit like what is revealed in Scripture during your lifetime?
Or let’s hit a little closer to home.
Do you believe these statements are true?
Do you believe what God’s Word proclaims is true as reality, and not necessarily what we see, feel, or hear?
How are you going to begin to change your life to live in His Kingdom and not in the world that is fallen and passing away?
And are you ready to begin today?
If you answer yes to the last question, you are just beginning the great adventure. So hang on, it’s going to be quite a ride!
The following is a study on Faith and Actions and focuses on Numbers 9 and 2 Kings 8.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
One of the vital truths regarding our desire to follow Christ is to fully understand our union with Him. After all, we are invited to become one with Him and are described in Scripture as being “in Christ.” In Romans 8 we are called “children of God” that are “adopted” into His family and are now “joint heirs with Christ.” Romans 6 tells us our old man has died and Christ now lives in us in the Presence of the Holy Spirit. But do we really understand the implication of what this means?
Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, states “Union with Christ is a phrase that summarizes several different relationships between believers and Christ, through which Christians receive every benefit
of salvation. These relationships include the fact that (1) we are in Christ, (2) Christ is in us, (3) we are like Christ, and (4) we are with Christ.” Ok, I’ve got that. But is there more to this union with Christ than dry theology? Can I really experience union with Him? And, if so, how is that done? What do I have to do to experience the fullness of my union, my relationship, with Christ?
Great questions. And the simple answer is, “Yes, you can know the wonder of our union with Him.” And the wonder of it comes with the invitation of Christ to be joined with Him.
Consider the following invitation found in Matthew 11:28. It is a familiar passage:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Now, let’s see what it means by defining a few terms.
“Come to Me, all you who labor (to be worn out, fatigued, faint, weary) and are heavy laden (to overload, heavily burdened, like with the freight of a ship), and I will give you rest (to cease from labor, to refresh, relax, loosen, to be at peace or rest).”
Do you see the trust relationship implied in this invitation? Do you see Christ’s invitation to let Him carry your troubles and you rest in Him? To be united in Him?
Many of us struggle with this and ask how is that accomplished? How can I truly experience rest in Him? Is it just a mental thing? Or is it some sort of resolution I make and then fail at when things get uncertain or tough? Is it a mantra I go over and over again in my mind, like “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”? Or is it something else?
Oh, it is definitely something else. Let’s look at the second invitation.
To Abide in Him
The second invitation reveals to us the “how” of our union and complete trust in Him. This invitation is found in John 15:4, and elsewhere in that chapter.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
Note the two-fold relationship. One, I abide in Christ. And two, He abides in me. This is vital. And “abide” means, “to remain, dwell, live, to make one’s home, to be united with one heart, mind, and will.” So I “remain” and “make my home” in Christ, “to be united with one heart, mind, and will” with Him. And He will “remain” and “make His home” in me, “to be united with one heart, mind, and will” with Me. This is what it means to abide.
As you listen to this podcast in order to understand more of this marvelous relationship we have with the Lord, remember the following:
The branch (you and I) does not produce the fruit. That comes from the Vine (Christ).
The branch does not secure the nutrients necessary to produce the fruit. That again comes from the Vine (Christ).
The branch does not position the buds to get the most sunlight. The Vinedresser (Father) does that.
The branch does not prune dead wood. Again, that is the Father’s job.
The branch does not provide water nor sunlight.
The branch does not participate in harvesting.
The branch (you and I) only bears the work of the Vine (Jesus) for the glory of the Vinedresser (the Father).
The key to all Christ has provided for us is found in a dependent, branch to vine, relationship with Him. He would not require from us what He has not equipped us to give. This kind of life is possible and provided for you and is the default position as a believer in Christ. But to experience the fullness of this relationship, we must surrender our petty desires to Him.
So, once again, the choice is ours. We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised. Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him. It’s not complicated. It’s just hard. What do you want to do? The ball is in your court.
The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from John 15.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
How does one receive the Holy Spirit? Simple. As Peter said in Acts 2:38-39, you “repent” and “believe.” Which just happens to be the same requirements for salvation. After all, the guarantee of our inheritance in Him is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). This is a truth most Christians know and understand. No Holy Spirit, no salvation. It’s as simple as that.
But how does one experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit? How do we find our joy in Him? Or, how do we experience the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8) as a daily, living reality? How is that possible?
Consider the following:
Every believer has received the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is only received by repentance and faith in Jesus at salvation.
There is a fullness of the Holy Spirit that is usually greater than what is experienced at conversion. Your own experience confirms this truth.
As there are certain conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit, there are also certain conditions for experiencing the fullness of the Spirit.
They are primarily found in Romans 6 and 12.
Let’s dig a bit deeper, shall we?
Two Words: Deny and Surrender
The fullness of the Holy Spirit is found in the same way, and under the same conditions, as following Jesus. Do you remember the requirements Jesus placed on those who desired to follow Him? They are self-denial and surrender and are found in Matthew 16:24-25, among other places.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
Denial and surrender. Or, by letting the Lord be Lord over our lives. The same principle is required to experience the fullness of the Spirit. To experience the fullness of the Spirit requires the absolute, unqualified surrender of your life to God, to do His will and not your own. But this shouldn’t surprise you. You had to do this to receive salvation by declaring someone other than yourself as Lord.
Remember, when we surrender our sins and believe, we receive the Holy Spirit with salvation. And when we surrender our lives and believe, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the receiving of the Spirit is God’s answer to repentance and faith and the guarantee of our salvation. And, in a like manner, experiencing the fullness of the Spirit is God’s answer to a life surrendered to Him. When we are saved the Spirit enters into our life. But at surrender, the Spirit takes full possession of our lives and brings us the blessings that come from a life that is fully surrendered to God.
So the choice is ours. We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised. Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him. It’s not complicated. It’s just hard. What do you want to do? The ball is in your court.
The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from Romans 6.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
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