Dear Family & Friends,
I hope your first week of Summer was super. May you continue to be blessed, because you are a blessing to us. Here is this weeks, College/Away Lesson...the manuscripted version of this morning's message.
Life’s Ultimate Question --Mk. 8:27-38
What are your deepest hopes and hurts? Fondest dreams and desires? Frustrations and fears? Worries and anxieties? Will being here make any difference? Yes! The Living Christ is here! What do you really expect He can and will do for you? We have great needs, but we have a great Christ for our needs, vision, courage, strength, power to exceed your expectations? If you are able to answer His ultimate question. Christ first asked this question on the road to Caesarea Philippi. Few places were more important. Jesus, walking ahead of His disciples, was silhouetted against the city in all its’ Roman glory. Rising up was a temple of white marble built by Herod the Great in honor of the Caesars. Around it were magnificent villas and palaces added by Herod's son Philip, who had renamed the city to honor Caesar, and to impress his own name in history! The power of Rome was in the air, including the worship of the pagan god, Baal. Above it stands
Mount Hermon, that represented Israel's quest for God. Undoubtedly, the disciples remembered the times God had encountered great leaders of Israel on that mountain. On the slope of Hermon a cliff filled with ancient inscriptions and niches containing statues of pagan gods. It was tough believing in One God.
TEXT. This was not the question of an insecure leader worried where He stood in the public opinion polls. It was a probing question, a diagnostic test for his followers, did they know His true identity, mission and message.
The answers were complimentary. The disciples shared speculations they had heard. It was at this moment that Jesus pointed out life's ultimate question. Surrounded by mankind's longing for answers to the riddle of life, Jesus asked, "But who do you say that I am?” And Peter knew, this Nazarene with the dust of Palestine on His sandals and the salvation of the world in His heart, was the Son of God.
1) Today many are quick to answer: *What has a bushy tail? But who is this Jesus of Nazareth? A historical character, a great ethical leader, a powerful moral teacher and example, the head of one of the great faith’s of the world...the greatest human being who ever lived???
Today, we are so afraid of offending people of other religions, there is an equation that dominates much of our culture: inclusiveness. They say, there are many paths to God. And in our effort to be sure we are accepting and affirming of other religions, we make our faith vague.
In the midst of all the changing voices answering Christ's question, He comes to us and makes it personal, "But who do YOU, say that I am?"
Christ is not satisfied with how we may have answered years ago, but He is concerned about who He is to us this morning, right now. Be careful how you answer, it is tremendously important!
Our answer is depends on our convictions about the authenticity of the biblical account of the life, message, death, and resurrection of Christ. Do you believe that He is who He said He was? He claimed to be the Messiah, God in flesh, Immanuel, God’s Son, Savior and Lord.
2) The biblical Jesus is not the Jesus we have created of our own making-an easy-going, good natured Jesus who is on call when we want Him to help us deal with our own personal agendas. *Umbrella
A. All too often in our culture, He is a benevolent, but somewhat weak "errand-boy". It's a sniveling modern invention and not Scriptural. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn't be a great moral teacher. He'd either be a lunatic or a liar. You must make your choice. Either this man was/is the Son of God, or He was a madman or worse. Christianity, if false is of no importance but if it’s true, infinitely important, it can’t be is somewhat important.
B. The Jesus of the Bible is more than a comforter. He confronts us, and He won’t accept 2nd place in our lives. He calls us to the adventure of dynamic discipleship. Though He meets us as we are with incredible grace, He loves us too much to leave us as we've been.
C. The authentic Jesus cares for us when we hurt, but He tenaciously exposes anything that keeps us from being all He intends for us to be. His love and forgiveness are unqualified, but His demands are indisputable. He is THE Master who holds before us the mandate of the Kingdom of God and He calls us to commit all we have and are to Him.
D. This Jesus spoke what have been called, "hard sayings," hard not because they are difficult to understand, but that they are difficult to live. His ultimate question may be the hardest of all if we are honest!
3) How we answer determines what we will receive from Him.
A. First, our answer will determine how much we know and experience our Triune God, our source of supernatural power.
He was/is God, pre-existent part of the Trinity-Father, Son and HS. He came to reveal the Father and promised the outpouring of the HS. He announced, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Can you by-pass Jesus and still get to God?
B. Second, how we answer determines our ability to live the abundant life He promised. "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly"(Jn 10:10). He sustains us in loneliness and gives us strength in our weaknesses. He gives us guidance in indecision and wisdom in confusion. He raises us up to walk on stormy seas.True Christianity is not only life as Christ lived it, but life as He lives it in us. Consider how Jesus responded to Peter answer…blessed!
C. Third, how we answer determines our ability to receive and give forgiveness. As tools for living the abundant life, Christ offers us the keys of the kingdom: "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mt. 16:19). We can free people with forgiveness or bind them with a refusal to forgive. What a demanding challenge! We can hold people at the arms length of judgment or set them free with forgiveness. We are given grace and mercy to freely share with others. *Scapegoat(Azazel: entire removal?
D. Fourth, How we answer determines our experience of the death and resurrection cycle we are called to share with Christ.
That day at Caesarea Philippi, after Peter's confession, Christ's declaration of how He would build His church on those who receive the gift of faith, and the awesome entrusting of the power of absolution, He immediately pressed on to tell His disciples that He must go on to Jerusalem where He would suffer and be killed, but on the third day would rise from the dead. This shocked Peter, who rebuked Jesus?
E. Finally, how we answer determines our courage to face death and where we will spend eternity. Christ promised: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (Jn 11: 25-26). Christ followed this liberating promise with another piercing question, "Do you believe this?" Well, do you? Do I? If He truly is Christ to us, death has lost its sting. All because we are sure where we will spend eternity. But are you completely confident of where? A person may go to heaven without health, riches, honor, learning, or friends, but he can never go there without Christ.
Paul explained this assurance(Rom6:8-11)"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once and for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
At the point of my physical death, it should be said, "Grief for me would surely be wrong, I am living life, firm and strong, death came as no surprise; I will have simply gone to meet Christ, my Friend.
And we will know Him because of the profound friendship we have shared with Him all through this initial phase of eternity. He will have been with us through all the trials of life, turning our struggles into stepping stones. And then at the point of physical death, He will embrace us and walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death and into heaven. Christ whispers in our souls ear, " Who do you say that I am?" Everything, now and for eternity, depends on your answer.
And Peter said, "How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too."
— Acts 5:9 nlt
There is no conspiracy theory in the story of Ananias and Sapphira. This IS conspiracy. However, Peter puts their sin of conspiracy into the context of testing the Holy Spirit. They apparently presumed that the Holy Spirit was either not at work in the apostles' ministry or that the Holy Spirit would be unaware of their lie. This story is a powerful and shocking reminder of just how seriously God takes this kind of sin. We are called to be holy, genuine, honest, and forthright. I don't know about you, but the Spirit is knocking on the door of my heart about living with greater transparency and authenticity before my church leaders and also God. There are no private thoughts, secret sins, or well planned deceptions! The Holy Spirit knows the deepest thoughts of hearts and minds, so let's intentionally invite the Spirit in to purify and transform every part of our inner being -- our heart, soul, and mind!
O God my Father, the God of peace, please sanctify me through and through. May my whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of my Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen. (Adapted from 1 Thessalonians 5:23.)
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Peter said, "Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field?"
— Acts 5:3 msg
This verse comes from the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). They had taken proceeds from the sale of their land and gave it to the apostles. They apparently conspired to make it seem that they gave the whole amount, but kept back part for themselves -- a premeditated lie to make themselves look good. The fact that they did this without recognizing the Holy Spirit's work in the apostles' ministry is what makes the sin so heinous -- they weren't just lying to human beings (the apostles and the church), but they were also lying to the Holy Spirit that gave authority to the apostles and empowered the church! Over this year, we will see several different kinds of sins against the Holy Spirit -- blasphemy, resisting, lying, testing, quenching, and grieving. This one, however, is a powerful reminder of the authority of the apostles and should call us to deeper respect of God's leaders in general (see Heb. 13:7, 17).
Father, forgive me of any pretension or hypocrisy. I ask that the Holy Spirit convict and help me see any future temptation toward these sins. I ask for help in being a truthful and supportive follower of your leaders and I ask that the Holy Spirit be at work in their decisions. O Father, I want to have a genuine and generous heart and a supportive and serving lifestyle. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.