Tag Archives: Resurrection

Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

Peninsula Community Church 

Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

April 8, 2018

Matthew 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This week I have been dealing with this question. After the resurrection what do we do? How do we deal with all that transpired? How do we get past the celebration of the event and move to an ongoing celebration of life? Last week, we celebrated the festivities of Easter, the clothes, and of course all of the food. Last week we had a great service. We focused on the power and the truth of the resurrected Lord. But here is a truth, we do not and we cannot continue to stand at the empty tomb and expect life to change. We must begin to live in the reality of the resurrected Lord. We must move beyond the tomb to live life to the fullest. While this is true, as I was preparing this message, I could not help but focus on the fact that while some worshipped Jesus others doubted. This occurred after His resurrection. It is that doubt that keeps many from moving forward to live a resurrected life.

Our tendency might be to judge or criticize those who doubted. This is so easy to do. In reality, doubt is often a result of difficult circumstances and problems. It is interesting that the word doubt means “to be hung in suspense.” It means that we are at a crossroad of decision making. Decision making can negatively impact us because the results of our decision are unknown or undecided. From a spiritual standpoint, doubt is a place where God seems to be distant or seems to be unaware of what we are going through. It is a place where have more unanswered prayers than ones that have been answered. It is my guess that we have all faced this kind of doubt. We have all encountered issues that seem to have no answers or at least any easy answers. We are faced with trusting God, and the promises of God, because we do not have solid answers and there is no hope found in the circumstances we face. 

For some of the disciples, as well as others, who followed Christ, the events of the last few days and weeks had left them in doubt and struggling with a crisis of faith. They were hung in suspense as to what had happened and what was going to happen. They were hung in the suspense of wanting to have the right answers. They wanted to believe but everything that had transpired for them was a bit more than they could handle. Some of those who doubted agreed with what Christ had done but they struggled with who He was. Others knew who He was, but they struggled with what He had done. Their vision of Christ did not match up to the reality of their heart or the teachings of Christ. What they knew and believed about Jesus had been shaken and now they were struggling to keep everything in perspective, even though He had risen from the dead. You see they were face to face with Jesus, and yet they still had doubts.

We too can face a crisis of faith when the trials we encounter cause us to struggle with prayers that go unanswered. We face the pressure of circumstances that seem to not change or in fact they get worse. This can cause us to be be shaken to the core of our faith. We can even begin to question the validity of our faith. We can begin to question whether or not we have been betrayed by God Himself. We can reason that we are doing our best but He is not doing His part. These unanswered questions nag at our hearts: Is God really who He says He is? Can God do what He says He can do? We have taught others that God is good, loving, and faithful and now we wonder if that is really true.

As we consider one’s crisis of faith, I believe there are some benefits to dealing with a crisis of faith. If we choose to follow God by faith and in obedience to His Word, our crisis of faith will lead us to a deeper understanding of God and who He is. Sometimes we need to choose to follow Him by faith, even when we do not have all the answers much less all of the questions. I love what we find in 1 Kings 18:21. Elijah made this challenging proclamation “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

The first benefit is that a crisis of faith forces us to take a hard look at what we believe. What a benefit that is. In our humanness, we can become comfortable with a belief system that may or may not be correct. For example, my faith in Christ has been tested many times. There have been times where I have needed a divine intervention from God but it did not seem to be happening. It seemed that He was delaying His answer and that He was not concerned. My faith crisis was in believing that God did not really care. I had the feeling that He had forgotten me? I began to question if I was good enough. When God did answer in His time, my view of God as the faithful One was strengthened, and thus what I believed about God was confirmed. 

Secondly, a crisis of faith leads to more authentic convictions. When we experience a crisis of faith the last thing we need to do to is deny it. Instead of denying the issue, lean into your crisis of faith and face your doubts. As a result, authenticity will be a characteristic of your life. Here is the deal, God knows your doubts already, so you might as well be honest with Him about them. Only when you face the truth about your doubts are you able to move forward toward a more authentic faith. If we allow fear to rule and we deny our doubts, our faith will not be as strong as it should be. God honors truthfulness and He already knows what we are thinking. 

Third, a crisis of faith invites you to a stronger and more deeply-rooted faith. By accepting that we are in a crisis of faith, we have the capacity to admit we need God. Can you imagine the children of Israel standing before the Red Sea? Behind them was an army rushing at full speed toward them. Ahead of them was a river that was impossible to cross with a million people or more. Their leader was an old man who has nothing but a stick in his hand. Do you think they had a crisis of faith? These and other stories have been recorded through Scripture to give us hope and help us to navigate life when doubt comes and we struggle with our own crisis of faith.

When the events we face cause us to believe we cannot go on serving God, what do we do? How do we keep the Easter story alive in our heart? I believe this passage gives us some answers. This may be a different look at this passage than we are use to, but here we go. First of all, we worship. Worship is a key component to living in the reality of the resurrected Christ and moving beyond our crisis of faith. The word worship is a great word. This word comes from the old English word “weorthscipe” which means to ascribe or give value to something or someone. As we give value to something or someone, we tend to worship or value that thing or person. When it comes to Christ, He is already worthy but we must value the gift He has given us. We must ascribe worth and value for who He is and what He is about. 

The second solution is to recognize that we have been called to a higher purpose. Notice that Jesus did not distinguish between the disciples who worshipped Him and the ones who doubted. He called them all with the same purpose and calling. No matter who you are as a believer, He is calling you to find a purpose. This gives us a reason to look beyond where we are and allows us to refocus on something greater than ourselves. Perhaps one reason we are facing a crisis of faith is that we have not determined our purpose in Christ’s Kingdom. 

What does He call us to do? Here Jesus issued this command. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Notice a couple of things here. First, we are to go. This speaks of action. We are to go people and not wait for them to come to us. To go means we have an outward focus on evangelism. He called them all to go into the world. Let me make a critical point here. We are all called to share Christ with those we encounter. By going our focus is shifted from our struggle with faith to seeing those who need of Jesus and those who need hope for a better day. 

 

The third way to counter our crisis in faith is to remember, He is with us all of the time. He never leaves us. He is, has been, and always will be with us. That brings us hope and inspiration to face a better day. It encourages us to move in obedience to touch those lives we encounter. 

So how are you today? Are you living with a crisis of faith? Are living with doubt? Maybe today God wants to show you are new purpose and a new reason to focus on Him. Maybe today, He wants you to worship Him regardless of where you are circumstantially. What about it? Are you ready to soar with faith?

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Resurrection is no Joke

Peninsula Community Church

The Resurrection is no Joke

April 1, 2018 

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

This morning we celebrate Easter which is Resurrection Sunday. It is interesting that this particular Easter falls on April 1 which is April Fool’s Day. The last time this occurred was in 1956. That was sixty-two years ago. Easter will not happen on April 1 again until 2029 and after that in 2040. Following that, we will not see Easter fall on April Fool’s Day again this century. The reason for this is that Easter is set as the first Sunday after the first full moon after Spring begins. That is why Easter is on a different Sunday each year.  

Historically, April Fool’s Day has been known as the day we play practical jokes on one another. There have been some interesting practical jokes through the years. One of the funniest for me was when the BBC ran a report that they had found trees responsible for growing spaghetti. In fact, they showed a photo of workers harvesting spaghetti from the trees in order to prove the news story. Following the report, they were immediately inundated with calls from people wanting to know where they could purchase the spaghetti trees and if they could buy them with penne or lasagna. Another interesting one to me was the April Fool’s Day that Burger King offered a left handed whopper for those who were southpaws. They advertised that all of the condiments had been turned 180 degrees to accommodate those who were left handed. 

While we might laugh at these stories, there were some in Jesus’ day, and today as well, who try to classify the story of Christ’s resurrection as a hoax, a joke, or a made up story. But as we will see today, the story of the resurrection is no joke. For a moment, let me review some of the excuses and the reasoning given against the resurrection, and then we will look at the truth of the resurrection, and how we benefit from the greatest miracle ever to occur. 

After the resurrection, some tried to say that Jesus had not actually died, He had just fallen asleep and had passed out due to the severity of His injuries. In their minds, He never rose, because He never actually died. Others suggest that His disciples had stolen the body of Christ and thus made up the story of the resurrection to hide the truth. Another theory proposed is that the disciples and His witnesses so loved Him and were so distraught they actually hallucinated His resurrection. Others suggest the disciples were so overwhelmed with sadness and regret, they only imagined that He had risen. Still others questioned the validity of the witnesses and what they actually saw. If the witnesses could be discredited, then the news of the resurrection could be discredited.

We hear a lot today about fake news but this is not a new idea. This goes back to Jesus’ time where false news stories were being filtered through the town to cover up the truth of the resurrection. The stories go on and on, but these stories beg the question that if these things were true, then why would the disciples put their lives on the line the way they did. To propagate such a lie cost them so much. The message of the resurrected Christ cost them their lives, their homes, and their future. So, why would anyone propagate such a story knowing that it would cost them everything. The reason of course is that this was not a lie, it was the truth and they continued with this message because it was a message of life and hope.

With that said, let me give you three reasons why the resurrection is no joke. First, of all our faith is based in the truth of the resurrection. Paul stated, But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. Paul tells us that if there was no resurrection then our preaching and our faith is all in vain and is useless.

Here is the fact, by faith and through the preaching of the word, we know life’s disappointments, injustices, and failures can be overcome, because He is alive. Remember the story. On Friday, there was a lack of hope. There was not too much to celebrate. Christ was dead and was now lying in a borrowed tomb. The disciples were filled with regret and fear. Their faith had been shaken. And now rather than being strong and passionate about Christ, they were hiding in the darkness of a closed room. 

But on the third day, He arose and immediately went to the disciples. Why? He wanted to strengthen their faith and refocus then on the mission He had called them to. They did not have to cower in fear, regret, or lost hope any more. They now could walk in faith that is empowered by the risen Lord. 

For us today, because He is alive, we are assured we can have a relationship with Him. You see you can not have a relationship with a dead man. He is alive and wants to come to us. He wants to move us from fear to hope, from regret to promise, and from lost mission and to new assignments. Everything Jesus taught and lived for depended upon his death and resurrection. All the promises and prophecies in the Bible depend on the resurrection. The whole history of God’s plan to restore his relationship with man and woman depends on the resurrection. It is not overstating the fact to say the resurrection of Jesus is the single most important event in the history of the world. Your life and mine depends on it. Thank God it is no joke.

Secondly, the resurrection is no joke because through the resurrection we have power to overcome the work of sin. Paul states, And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Jesus not only overcame death but He overcame the power of sin. Through the cross we have forgiveness of sin. That is an awesome proposition but we need more than forgiveness, we need deliverance. The resurrection not only reminds of this, but it also paves the way for us to conquer sin. The power of sin can be broken because of the resurrection. 

From the beginning of time the lie propagated by the enemy was that we would die. There is truth to that when we live without Christ. In Christ, however, we do not have to face death, at least like others might. Because of the resurrection, all of the trials and injustices of Good Friday were redeemed! All of  the things that bring us death were redeemed by when Christ rose from the dead. The greatest evil ever done by mankind, the created crucifying the creator, has been redeemed to be the greatest good the world will ever know, the resurrection. Jesus is alive and that makes all the difference in this world! No matter what you experience whether pain, sin, mistreatment, or whatever it might be can be redeemed and be made right. The resurrection is no joke.

Thirdly, the resurrection is no joke because it gives us hope for the future. We have eternal life with Christ. Paul stated Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. This life is not it. To believe that suggests that we are to be pitied. Paul is saying it is so sad to believe that there is nothing beyond our life here. So many believe we live and then we die, but we are promised life beyond our current existence. We have a life beyond this world. 

You see while the miracles of the gospels were powerful, they pale in comparison to what is to come to those who are believers in Christ. At times, we can look at this world today and see that there is not much to get excited about. Think about this. Every person who ever received a miracle from Jesus died as we all will some day. His greatest victory was not the miracles He performed, but His resurrection. Miracles are only temporary, but the resurrection gives permanent hope. He comes for us that we might have life beyond this life. 

Too many in the world today do not have hope. A part of the problem is that many tend to only see things through the lens of the present. Others have lost hope and do not trust Christ. But He can and should be trusted. He promised He would rise and He did just that. It is the resurrection that sets Christianity apart from the world’s religions. We serve and celebrate the risen Lord today because He is alive. This also means that when He makes other promises in His word that He will keep those promises.

One of those promises is that if we turn our hearts and lives to Him, He will accept us and receive us. He will move us from hopelessness, regrets, frustration, to having a life filled with hope and peace. That is His mission and that is the work He accomplishes in each of us. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Glory of Knowing God

Peninsula Community Church 

The Glory of Knowing God

August 27, 2017

Philippians 3:8-11 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Last week we closed the message with the concept that the best way to overcome the influence of the thief’s schemes is for us to know God. Today, I would like to go back to that thought. In so doing, we will review the words of Paul in Philippians 3:8-11. Paul reminds us that his greatest aspiration in life was to know God.

Can you imagine the Apostle Paul asking for such a request? Here is a man by all accounts that was a master servant (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1). The one thing we know about Paul is that he was deliberate about serving Christ’s purposes. He had dedicated his life to the service of Christ. From several perspectives, Paul was the last person anyone would think might have such aspirations. After all, Paul is the one who had been to the third heaven (2  Corinthians 12:2-4). Paul had been taught by some of the finest scholars of his day (Acts 22:3). His heritage was indisputable and his pedigree was nothing to scoff at. It was this same Paul who had a personal encounter with Christ that radically changed his life (Acts 9:9). And yet, Paul wanted to know Him more.

As we review this passage, we find there are three key things expressed. First, Paul begins by stating that he counted everything as loss when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. Paul is expressing that all of the earthly praiseworthy accolades cannot compare to a personal knowledge of Christ. He is saying that if the accolades and pedigree he possessed were to be put on one scale and his desire to know Christ were put on the other, his desire to know Christ would always outweigh whatever accolades and successes he might have had. Paul is saying here that his resume and his pedigree do not define him.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. God uses our education, our connections, and family to accomplish the work of the kingdom but those things must never cast a shadow over knowing Christ personally. You see God always looks at the heart of man. Remember David? He was anointed king by Samuel. David’s father was looking to his sons who had the credentials, the size, and the looks, but they were not qualified in the eyes of God. What God was looking for is someone who had a relationship with Him. You see David knew God! He had learned to trust God in all of his ways. In the end, David was chosen for his heart and not his outward resume.

With that said, Paul identifies two ways in which he wanted to know Christ. First, Paul wanted to know Jesus through His resurrection. What an awesome view of life. When we view life through the resurrection power of Christ, we determine there is nothing beyond His ability to accomplish. When we know Him in His resurrection power, we know His power and we know His ability. Think about it. Jesus was dead. He was not half dead or three quarters dead like in the movie Princess Bride. He was dead. As one who interacts with EMS personnel, the most challenging task today is to revive someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest. In the EMS world, you have about 4-6 minutes to provide medical care before the person begins to lose brain function. After 8 minutes death is most likely. Jesus was dead for three days. From Friday night to Sunday Morning he lay in a grave. He took no breath for three days, but on the third day He rose.

Paul wanted to know this resurrection power of Christ. For Paul and for us the resurrection power of Christ reminds us that there is nothing impossible with God. If a dead Savior can be risen in victory, whatever we face can be turned around for His glory. The enemy thought he had Christ. He thought he had won, but can you imagine the sounds coming from the little hill side in Jerusalem when the stone was rolled away. Jesus rose to give us power over sin and death. That is how Paul wanted to know Christ. Paul wanted to know His power.

Listen to the words of Paul in Romans 8:9-11 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Paul wanted to know the resurrection power because he recognized that power brings life. So, do you know His resurrection power?

Secondly, Paul stated that he wanted to know Christ in His suffering. To be honest, this is where one I struggle. I don’t want to know Him through His suffering. I have enough of my own and that is too painful. The problem is that much of our theology today would avoid such a discussion. To listen to much of the theology being espoused today you might think we were to never have a bad day. We are never to have any problems and if we do, it is because somehow we are a failure and sinful. Contrary to this, nothing could be further from the truth. So what was Paul saying. Through suffering Jesus demonstrated humility, extended love, gave grace, and spoke with words of wisdom. That is the kind of man Paul wanted to be. He wanted to model for the world an attitude of Jesus.

Paul also knew another perspective of knowing Jesus’ suffering. Paul knew that in our difficult times we grow more and we experience the faith of God more than at other times in our life. It is in times of struggle that we get to know Him and His saving grace. It is in times of struggle that we either turn to Christ or we push Him away. If we are honest, it is in our struggles that we find the grace of God. It is in our struggles that we find faith in God. It is in our struggles that we find a future in God. By knowing Christ in both His resurrection and suffering we come to know the totality of who He is and who He is begins to define who we are.

So on a practical level, how do we come to know Christ? First and foremost we get to know Christ by knowing the Word. After all the Word is an active living force according to Hebrews 4:12-13. To know the Word is to know Jesus because the Word and Jesus are one. Through Jesus the Word became flesh (John 1:1,14). So to know Jesus we must get the Word of God in us. We read, meditate, and apply the Word to our hearts so that it begins to form and shape who we will be and how we will act. The purpose of the Word was and is to bring instruction, direction, warning, and hope according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It is the Word that speaks to us in amazing ways. The Word brings death to sin and life to hearts. Additionally, if you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, you find that Jesus was a mirror of the Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father (John 5:19, 6:38, 8:28, 10:30). What He did was a reflection of the Father’s will. What He said was a reflection of the Father’s heart. Know the Word and you will know Jesus.

Secondly, we pray. Why is prayer important? Prayer is important because it aligns our will with God’s will. In prayer we surrender ourselves, our will, and our ways to God. In prayer, we hear the voice of God as He speaks to our hearts. Greg Laurie stated “Prayer is our connection to heaven and heaven’s connection to us. That is why you should always keep the lines open.” If we take the model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, we find is a testimony of who the Father is. Through this prayer we find that He is to be hallowed, reverenced, and honored. We also find that Jesus invites us to invite the kingdom of God in our current situation.

Thirdly, we worship God. Too many times we confuse worship as an activity relegated to a one hour time slot on Sunday, but the reality is worship should be a way of life. In worship, as we begin to proclaim the greatness of God, we experience something in our hearts. As we confess to God change happens. The very definition of worship is to ascribe worth to something. What we worship we give value. When we ascribe worth to God, we are drawn into a deeper relationship because we will value that relationship and we will value that person.

Finally, we come to know God by joining our hearts and minds together. That is why the word tells us not to forsake the coming together (Hebrews 10:25). That is why bible studies, Sunday school, and book clubs are so important. In these events we come together and we hear what God is doing. We watch each other grow. We navigate the difficulties of life together. It is not by chance that the Book of Acts reminds new believers to continue to gather together (Acts 2:42). It is in fellowship that we grow but the reality is we grow more than relationally, we grow in our knowledge of God because we understand God more when are in communion with one another.

So the question for us today is, do you what to know Christ more? You can! Read the Word, worship him, pray, and join together and your understanding of God will increase.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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He Rose – Conquering Unforgiving and Doubtful Hearts

Peninsula Community Church 

He Rose – Conquering Unforgiving and Doubtful Hearts

April 16, 2017

Luke 24:36-43 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you! “But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat? “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Today is the day we celebrate the risen Lord who died for our sins but rose again so we could experience the fullness of all that God has given us. Too often, the problem for us is that life gets in the way of what Jesus has done. Our busyness, our fears, and our sin all seem to keep us from being the kind of person we ought to be. But we can realize that Christ’s gift to us covers a multitude of sin and wrong.

If you know the story, Jesus hung on the cross and he died there without much support from those who had promised to be with Him. They ran. They hid. After His death, they began to feel the realization of what they had done. They were filled with regret. Their hearts ached. They could not wrap their minds around the events that led to this moment in time. After His resurrection, it was in this environment that Jesus entered their pain and their emotional turmoil. It was here that Jesus showed up.

In our passage today we find that Christ provided a practical illustration of forgiveness by going to those who failed to stand with Him when it counted. During His ministry, He had preached the power of reconciliation and He had ministered the power of redemption and forgiveness. Now when the disciples where at their lowest point, He showed up. Jesus chose to go to the very ones who had denied and forsaken Him. I read a statement this week that said the cross reveals sin at its worse and the love of Jesus at its best. That was true then and it is just as true today.

In our study, we will look at three of the disciples who were a part of Jesus’ life. These three walked with Jesus, heard his teachings, saw the miracles, and witnessed His heart up close. Even with this history and experience with Jesus; Judas, Thomas, and Peter all failed in big ways. It is interesting that they were all called by Christ, they heard the same message, witnessed the same miracles, and yet they responded in different ways for different reasons.

The first of these men was Judas who was deceived. In this story, we find that Judas is a sad commentary of one who is misguided and deceived by the power money. It appeared that he loved money more than he loved people. He manifested a greedy heart and it was his greedy heart that eventually destroyed him. From reading the Biblical account you might remember that Judas was the treasurer for Jesus’ ministry. He handled the money and he often had a lot to say about the finances of the ministry. He was also very critical of how others handled their finances especially when he thought they were wasting their money according to his standards. He was critical even when they were providing a gift or an offering to honor Jesus.

It is noteworthy that Jesus knew his heart and He trusted Judas to handle the finances of his ministry. This was the same Judas who heard the teachings of Jesus on the rich man and how hard it was to get into heaven when one tries to serve two masters. Jesus had warned His disciples that they will serve one but not both because it is impossible to serve both God and money. Even though he heard this and other teachings, he lost focus and was deceived by the power of greed and money.

In the end, we find that Judas made an agreement with the religious leaders to give up Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver. We might think this was a great price but thirty pieces of silver was not much money in his day. In fact, thirty pieces of silver was the price of a common slave. Judas accepted the deal and put the plan in motion. Judas led the religious leaders to the Garden of Gethsemane where he betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Immediately, he realized what he had done. He tried to go to the leaders to undo what he had done but they would know hear it. The deal was done and the price had been paid. It is amazing how often we realize the depth of our sin after we have committed sin. The depth of that sin haunted him until he found himself on a hillside where he threw himself into the cavern below and took his life. It is noteworthy that he died in the very field that had been bought with the thirty pieces of silver he returned. The leaders could not use the money as it was blood money so they bought a field for those who were destitute and poor to be buried in. It was here that the consequences of sin came full circle. It was here that Judas died alone, rejected, and tormented by his guilt.

The greatest issue here is that if Judas had waited, Jesus would have come to forgive and set him free. That is what Jesus does for us. The unforgivable sin is to not receiving the forgiveness of Jesus. Judas missed that because of the heaviness of his guilt. From a personal standpoint, Judas is not much different than we are. We sell Jesus out for much less than thirty pieces of silver. Let me ask you! What would you sell Jesus out for? Would it be for pleasure? Would it be for financial gain? Would it be for popularity? Would it be for some success? Would it be to cover up who you really are? But if we turn to Christ no matter how desperate or how much we have veered away from Him, He will receive us, forgive us, and restore us. Don’t wait to do that. Like Judas we might find that it is too late.

We now turn our attention to Thomas. He was known as the doubter. He doubted Jesus. He doubted his faith. He doubted the promises of Jesus. He lacked faith and therefore he missed much of what Jesus had done and He was doing in the moment. He struggled with his faith and often doubted his acceptance by Jesus.

For us personally, we can doubt. Many struggle to receive Christ and they struggle to receive His grace as a result of their doubt. The truth about doubt is that it is often based in fear. We doubt what we fear and we doubt what we don’t understand. The problem is that if we are not careful we can reject Christ because of our doubt. In contrast, our doubt can lead us to explore truth and in exploring truth we actually find Christ. Thomas doubted but his doubt led him to explore the truth. He wanted to touch and feel Jesus’ wounds. He was looking for the truth and he found it as he looked for the truth in Jesus’ wounds. Because he could touch the wounds of Jesus he trusted and believed that Christ was indeed the risen Lord.

For some, this may seem like an act of unbelief but in reality what Thomas was asking for is that Jesus would remove his doubt. By touching Jesus’ scars, he was assured that Jesus was real. Many today want to know that Jesus is real. In their doubt they are seeking truth. If that is you then I would suggest that you ask Christ to reveal Himself to you. If we ask, He will answer. He will show His grace and His power. So ask and you will receive. Touch His hands and His feet. Reach for grace and see that it is real and dynamic.

Now we turn our attention to Peter, the denier. Peter was one of those kind of people you would love to hate. He was tempestuous. He was arrogant. He was quick on the draw. He was quick to respond but was also quick to fall short. Whether it was walking on water, drawing his sword to cut off the soldier’s ear, or promising an undying commitment to Jesus, he made promises he could not keep. He had great intentions but his intentions fell short almost every time.

It is amazing to me that Jesus sought out Peter, yes Peter the one who denied Him. Jesus confronted Peter with the question, “Do you love me?” It is interesting that in the Greek language there are two words that are used for love. Two of those words are used here. The first word is “Agape” love which is the highest form of love possible. The second word for love is “Phileo” love which is friendship love. When Jesus asked Peter if he had the highest form of love possible for Jesus, Peter responded that I love you with a friendship love. I love you as a friend.

We might be quick to judge Peter for this but I wonder if Peter had learned his lesson about making statements and promises that he could not keep. Rather than responding in arrogance, he was now responding in humility. Notice that Jesus asked this same question three times, one for each denial Peter made. Jesus also on each occasion called Peter to feed His sheep. Jesus had forgiven Peter and was now calling him to a new ministry. It is noteworthy, as well, that Jesus not only called him to feed the lambs but also to strengthen his fellow brethren. Here the one who had denied Jesus three times was now being called to a greater ministry.

So instead of rejecting Peter, he was received by Jesus who gave him forgiveness and a new calling. How powerful is that? Rather than turning Peter away, he received him which healed Peter’s sense of betrayal and rejection. After the resurrection, we find that Peter became the new leader for this new fledging church. Peter the one who failed big time was now the leader of a new movement called Christianity.

So which of these characters best describe you. Are you a Judas who is selling Jesus for a few dollars or pleasures that will fade away and in the end be destroyed? Let me let you in on a secret, you may feel like a Judas this morning and you feel there is no hope but because you are here and the fact that you are alive this morning says that there is still hope. He is here now and is willing to forgive you of every sin and every wrong you have committed.

Are you a Thomas who is filled with great doubt and concern about what is truth? Instead of rejecting Jesus, use your doubt as a means to seek for Jesus this morning. Ask Jesus to come and prove Himself. If we ask He will come, He will prove Himself as the real Son of God.

Are you a Peter who has made promises that you have not been able to keep? You may feel that you have denied Him and that there is no hope for change. Because of your failure and broken promises you may feel that Jesus will not accept you, but I can assure you that Jesus is asking you the question of whether you love Him. He has a mission for you and He desires to give you a new calling and restore your destiny.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – But God

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – “But God”

September 21, 2014

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them

As we begin this study this morning, I am faced once again with an awesome problem. There is so much contained in this portion of Scripture that it not possible in one single message to relate to all that it has to offer us as believers. This one passage is filled with such great hope and promise.

Last week, we saw that Paul painted a dismal picture for the one who was without Christ. They were dead in their sin and their were in bondage to cultural demands and lusts that controlled the outcomes of their lives. As John Stott; pastor, teacher, and theologian has said; “Paul plumbs the depth of pessimism associated with man’s sin but then he arises to the heights of optimism about God.” As I read this passage, I can’t help but believe that God could have put a period at the end of verse three and then closed the book on mankind. In fact, God could have chosen to close the book after Adam, the representative of all mankind, fell in the Garden of Eden. He could have washed his hands of man but he did not close the books. He did not give up on man. How do we know this? We know this because the very next phrase is “But God.”

But God… This is perhaps the greatest single phrase in all of Scripture. Contained in this two word phrase is a new identity for man. Contained in this little phrase is the most powerful change that could ever come. What a turning point. We were objects of wrath but God out of love showed us mercy. We were dead but God made us alive. We were slaves, in a position of dishonor and powerlessness but God raised us up and set us at His own right hand, a place of honor and of authority. We were desperate and lost on the road toward destruction but God took aggressive action to reverse the condition and the conditioning of sin in our lives.

In verse 1-3, the sinner could only anticipate the wrath of God but God showed mercy and everything changed. Paul immediately turns to describing God’s motivation for the work He does in us. He begins by reminding us that the work of God is resourced through the endless riches in Christ. One of His greatest assets is His mercy, and mercy is defined as the act of not receiving what we deserve. This is a poignant point, especially, since the preceding verses detail the demise and the faulty condition of mankind.

We have talked about this word mercy before. It is a common word in Paul’s writings. Paul uses it often because Paul understood the level of mercy that had been given to him, personally. Think about it for a moment. Do you remember the story of Paul before his conversion experience? Paul was not only a nonbeliever but he sought to destroy those who professed Christ. Remember the story of Stephen? Paul stood at his side while he was being stoned and worse yet, Paul was not a passive player in this event. In fact, it was Paul who ordered that he be stoned. He rejected God and he rejected the people of God. In some people’s mind, this would be the worse kind of sinner. But God met Paul and changed his life, changed his focus, his destiny, and his purpose (Acts 8:1).

You see God could have given him a death sentence which he deserved but because of His mercy, God did not give him what he deserved. Neither does he give those who come to Christ what they deserve. We deserved the wrath of God, but God gave us mercy. We deserved death, but God does not measure out His gifts by what one deserves but what He desires to give. And it is amazing that God is rich in mercy. His bank account of mercy never runs dry. This word mercy is an interesting word. In most cases, mercy means to show concern or compassion toward those who have suffered some undeserved calamity. But here in this passage, Paul lets us know how much greater God’s mercy is for us. While mercy most often points to some undeserved calamity, in this case, mankind deserved the calamity they were in. Even though they deserved it, God showed them mercy. Why, does He do this? It is because He is compelled by love.

The love described here is the kind of love that seeks the highest good for the one being loved. Once again, notice that the measure and depth of the love being given is not based on the one being loved but on the one giving the love. Notice how this is evidenced, God extended His love and mercy to us while we were dead in our trespasses and sin. He did not wait for us to be alive and then love us. His love is unconditional and far reaching. The intensity of God’s love is defined by the adjective “great.” He is rich in mercy but He is great in love.

Paul then defines how God’s mercy and love have been showed to us. He uses three verbs to do so. Paul says that we have been made alive, we have been raised, and we have been seated. The first of these three verbs points to the fact that we have been made alive. This provides a stark contrast between those individuals discussed in verse 1-3 and those in verse 4-10. In verses 1-3 they are categorized as being dead while we now see those who are in Christ as being alive. You were dead. This is true. But now you are alive.

But how are we alive. The Bible tells us that we are all appointed to die. This body, this flesh will die but our spirit will live on. That part of us that has been touched by the power of God will live forever. You see, Christ died physically so we could be made alive spiritually. While the resurrection of our bodies is yet to come, we are made alive in our spirit now. God has once again breathed His breath into. We are alive.

The second thing that God does is that He raises us up. Not only are we alive, but we are living through the power that God has bestowed upon us. Christ rose and ascended to heaven in order to conquer death and the grave. He ascended to show His power over every force, authority, or power ever raised up against God or man. You see our position in Christ has changed. We are no longer enemies of God (Romans 5:1-11). We are no longer powerless against the claims of sin but we can now resist the temptation that is at our door (James 4:7). We can take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Why? We are alive and we have been raised with Christ.

And then finally, we are seated together with Christ. Now once again that is not a physical positioning but a spiritual one. In the spirit we are seated with Christ and in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 says that From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Notice that in essence that all that God did for Christ, He did for us as well. He raised Christ. He raised us. He made us alive together by grace and he seated us with Christ. We are in Christ.

The essence of these three actions on the part of God relate to the fact that we have a new identity spiritually. Notice in the first three verses of Ephesians 2. Unbelievers are identified as being dead, controlled by forces more powerful than they, and they are guilty of sin and should receive the penalty of God’s wrath. But God changed that by sending His Son to die for all mankind. And if they would confess their sin and surrender their life to Christ, they would have a new identity, in Christ. They would no longer be dead but alive. They would not just be an empty shell but would have a purpose and a reason for living. And lastly, they would spiritually be seated next to the Son where they would be given honor and power to overcome every force that would come against them.

How is all of this accomplished? It is by grace, a gift we did not deserve. You did not deserve the gift of God because you were dead in your sins and not capable of making a decision for life, but God came and gave Himself so you could have life. Though undeserved and unmerited, God extended His mercy and His love to mankind. It was by grace we are saved and not by works. This means that we do nothing to achieve our own salvation.

If these things are true, and they are. Then we are called as believers to exhibit these things in our lives. How do we live this out. John Piper made the following observation concerning mercy and how we ought to live. So we say, “Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore, I do this and not that. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I speak this way and not that way. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I cultivate this kind of emotion and put that kind to death. Because I exist to glorify the mercy of God in Christ, I live this way and not that way.” Christian living is built on something! It is built on the mercy and grace of God!

Copyright © Robert W. Odom All rights Reserved

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