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How to Be Born From Above

Preaching Notes  September 30, 2012

John 3:1–18 (ESV)

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

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I.    From Problems to Solutions 

God’s Two Desires – Titus 2:14 – Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

God desires salvation and sanctification

Dealing with Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Even the saved keep sinning

Nicodemus and Jesus

An educated old-school enquirer reveals a lack of knowledge and faith

Jesus’ drives the conversation

Seeing and Entering the Kingdom of God

Requires rebirth

II.  What Does It Mean to be Born Anothen

Born again …

Born from above …

Not a new concept – see Ezekiel 36:25-28 and Jeremiah 31:28-31

The old way has not and will not work

Christian hell, fire, and damnation

The importance of worship

God does not want us to fail, thus He helps us to succeed

We have to accept the help

We accept God’s help, through faith, not through personal effort

// kids, I want to do it by myself

III.  How to Be Born from Above

The work of the Spirit – John 3:5-8

A God-initiated transformation of our lives

// to the work of the wind (another word for spirit)

Comes at its will, works at its will

Effects are felt and seen

Powerful effects in small ways

Spirit work predicated on work of Jesus

Jesus promises the Spirit to come after Him

The work of the Son – John 3:10-14

The work of Jesus

To die for the forgiveness of our sins

Nicodemus – knew about need for forgiveness, atonement

This may be part he genuinely did not get

Jesus work predicated on work of God

The work of God – John 3:16-18

The work of God was His love for the world

Generous, gracious, steadfast merciful love

Nicodemus knew – Hesed

These 1st three works built on each other

Revealed by God over time

The work of the Believer – John 3:15, 16, 18

Final work or action ==> salvation

Individual coming to faith in Jesus

Belief or faith – also the work of God

But is one which must be received

Irresistible Grace – core of reformed theology

Faith is a gift received through an open heart

Hard hearts are closed to God’s work

IV.  What about You?

DA Carson

God’s ultimate purpose is the salvation of those in the world who believe in him. Whoever believes in him experiences new birth, has eternal life, and is saved.  The alternative is to perish, to lose one’s life, and to be doomed to destruction. There is no third option

God has done His work, we need to receive it in faith, which is believe and trust

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Behold the Lamb of God – John 1:19-34

Preaching Notes – August 26, 2012

John 1:19-34

This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,  even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’  I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

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I.    A World of Questions and Seekers – John 1:19-22

A.  John the Baptist created a stir among the people

B.  Religious leaders needed to know: Who are you?

Messiah … Elijah … Prophet

C.  Who Are You

D.  The Search Continues

Your neighbors, friends, co-worker, strangers, and family

Despite fanfare all truth is relative” – people are seeking Truth

==>  Leaders asking John, “What do you say about yourself?”

II.   John’s Testimony – John 1:24-28

Note the remarkableness of John’s testimony about himself

A.  I am not

John the Baptist, chose not to be a Poser

B.  I am the voice

He downplays his calling and importance by quoting Isaiah

I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!”

At best, I am an announcer

C.  I am not The One

John could have said, “I have been chosen and called by God to ….

In today’s world his publicity director would have said so, but he stuck with his story

I am not The One

D.  I am not worthy

He went so far as to state with humility

I am not worthy to untie the strap on his sandal

Churches known for everything, but pointing people to Jesus

John the Baptist says later, John 3:30: He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease

III.  John’s 3 testimonies about Jesus  – John 1:29, 32-34

After taking the focus off himself John the Baptist, turns the focus to that which is important

The testimony is from God delivered through John (1:33)

A. John’s 1st testimony about Jesus – pointing to Jesus he says:

The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29)

Powerful descriptive language about Jesus

He covers all the critical mass information about Jesus in one sentence

We do not know if everyone fully understood, but he described Jesus in a sentence that when unpacked

=> telling us everything we need to know

When someone asks you, Who is Jesus? What do you say?

The Lamb of God

In Jewish world => many images

Lambs were offered as sacrifices for sins

Of 96 OT references to lambs, 85 are about lambs used is sacrifices

1.  The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12)

2. The Scapegoat  from The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16)

Upon him all the iniquities of the people.”

3.  The Sacrificial Lamb and Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:7, 10, and12)

A. W. Pink about the teaching of Scripture concerning “the lamb.”

Progressively in the Bible the Lamb is:

Typified, prophesied, slain,personified, identified, magnified, glorified

From another perspective notice the orderly development of for whom the lamb is sacrificed:

For the individual, for the whole household, for the entire nation, and finally for the world

Thus by calling Jesus, “The Lamb of God”

John the Baptist was making an empathic statement about Jesus

B.  John’s other two testimonies

In this passage John declares:

1. In verses 32 and 33 – The Spirit of God dwells on Jesus

2. In verse 34 – Jesus is the Son of God

IV.   Conclusion

In this passage we are taught two critical lessons:

1.  We are to bear witness, not to ourselves, but to Jesus

2.  The best witness begins with

The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world

This is what people need, desire, seek

Will you, show them the way

John Calvin wrote:

The principal office of Jesus is that He takes away the sins of the world by the sacrifice of his death, and reconciles men to God. There are other favors which Jesus bestows upon us, but this is the chief favor, and the rest depend on it.  In John 14:6 when John records Jesus saying,“I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”  John leads us back to Christ alone.  By calling Jesus,The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” John is teaching why there is no other way to God because Jesus alone takes away our sin and reconciles us to God.” 

Have you received Jesus as The Lamb of God who takes away YOUR sin?

If, not, you need to do so, today, right now.

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Bitterness has a tenacious way 

of taking root deep within the soul (1)

The root of a stalk of corn can grow up 6-7 feet deep if it finds a worm hole to run down deep into the earth.  This is one reason corn grows so fast and can withstand a mild drought.

If a root of bitterness finds a worm hole to run down deep into your heart, your whole life will become entangled in its disease.  

The root of bitterness yields a harvest of weeds and thistles.  

A lush lawn of green grass, watered and fed well, will crowd out weeds and prevent them from taking root.  Yet during droughts and extended heat waves, the green grass fades to brown.  As the grass fades, weeds begin to find their strength and will take firm root and repopulate.  

Days of comfort and prosperity tempt us to ignore seeds of bitterness which might take root in our lives.  We carelessly let anger and bitterness take root, rarely noticing their presence while we luxuriate in health and happiness when life is prosperous.  We grow confidant that these mustard seeds of bitterness are incapable of consuming our lives.

In every life, we have seasons of prosperity and difficulty.  When the season of difficulty comes we begin to see the effects of our lawn care during the season of prosperity.  If we had been careful not to let bitterness take root during spring, then we will not be afflicted with a harvest of weeds and thistles during summer’s heat.

When Jesus teaches us about forgiveness, he is relentless.

If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you. (2)

How many times do I need to forgive them?  Seventy-seven times! (3)

If you do not forgive others, your Father in heaven who has forgiven your debts, will cast you into jail until you pay your debt in full(4)

If your brother sins against you 7 times in a day and turns to you for forgiveness each time, you must forgive him all 7 times. (5)

Jesus taught us to forgive, not only for us to model the grace we received from God, but to protect us from sowing seeds of bitterness in our hearts.

The best way to prevent bitterness from taking root in your life, it to forgive freely, graciously, and generously.

+ + +

  1. Blackaby, Richard (2006-12-01). Experiencing God Day By Day (Kindle Locations 3348-3349). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 
  2. Matthew 6:15
  3. Matthew 18:21
  4. Matthew 18:35
  5. Luke 17:4

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Release of the Captives

July 8, 2012

Philemon

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.  Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.  I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.  I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it, to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.  At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

I.  WHEN WE ARE OFFENDED

Let’s start off with a bad memory today

Who has offended you recently => difficulty forgiving

Claims of inability to forgive

Declarations of unwillingness to forgive

When we have been hurt … we seek justice

The deeper the wound … the more difficult to forgive

If you have forgiveness issues, the book of Philemon is for you

Onesimus, a runaway slave is being sent back to Philemon by Paul

II.  LOOK AT GOD’S WORK RATHER THAN THE OFFENSE

God has changed Onesimus … he has confessed and repented

Three changes in Onesimus

He is a convert and a changed person

He desires to make restitution (repentance)

He was of value in service to Paul while in prison

Paul gives God the credit for conversion and repentance

Calvin:

To renew a soul of man and form it anew to the image of God—is not a human work, and it is of this spiritual regeneration that he now speaks

This is where forgiveness has it’s birth

When someone comes seeking forgiveness, they have been sent by God

To deny them forgiveness is to deny God what He desires

This is the theological root of Paul’s appeal

III.  PAUL’S APPEAL TO PHILEMON

Based upon their relationship as Christian brothers

They were co-workers in the Gospel

One of grace and charity

Invites him to forgive, rather than commands him

Luther:

Paul empties himself of his rights to compel Philemon also to waive his rights

Again

A man is more easily drawn than pushed, and compulsion brings with it a rebellious will

Genuine forgiveness flows from the heart, is not forced by command

John 3:16 … For God so loved the world

Romans 5:23 … While we were still sinner, Christ died for us

Love and grace are free acts

Corinthians 9:7 –

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Forgiveness can be neither demanded nor commanded

We teach the opposite with kids to siblings

IV.  DOES GOD HAVE A PLAN WHEN PEOPLE HURT US?

Joseph and his brothers … remember Joseph’s declarations

Genesis 45:5  

Now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Genesis 50:20

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Paul points to the work of God and God’s will

Philemon lost a slave

Paul gained a servant

Philemon gains a brother

Our obsessive focus on the offense blinds us to God’s redemptive mercy

Are we going to follow the work of the Holy Spirit or Satan?

Luther:

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to lead to confession of sin. On the other hand, it is the work of the devil to make the sin worse.

When we withhold forgiveness or fix conditions to earn forgiveness, we play into Satan’s hand

V.  PAUL ASKS PHILEMON TO WELCOME HIM BACK

Paul could have kept Onesimus => thwarting the work of God

Philemon had the right to punish and demand justice

Paul did not deny this or argue against civil law

Paul even offers to cover Onesimus’ debt to Philemon

Paul is willing to make the sacrifice … he becomes the Christ

When we freely and graciously forgive other … we become Christ

Practical theology from the Lord’s Prayer

Forgive us our debts as we forgive others

Paul invites Philemon to live out his faith

VI.  WHEN OTHERS TURN TO US 

When we side with others justifying NO forgiveness …

Often done is sympathy and empathy

Often done as a stand against sin

We are actually standing against God and His grace

Paul teaches how we ought to take care for and restore those who sin

Luther:

The kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of mercy and grace, while the kingdom of Satan is a kingdom of murder, error, darkness, and lies.

Forgiveness is providing sinners and sinned against a new start.

I started by asking you to remember pain

Now I ask you to remember grace => taught you about forgiveness

Art Ross’ grace to me and my high school buddies

The Pope forgiving the man who attacked him

When someone honors your confession and repentance with grace

=> is always a great day for you

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it


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The greatest measuring rod of love 

in the life of a Christian is forgiveness. (1)

 

My counseling load has been on the upswing lately.  

My Christian brothers and sisters are experiencing amnesia.  They can pray “Forgive us our debts …” but cannot find it in their hearts to forgive.  

It makes counseling a futile exercise.  

I have considered posting this positive reminder on my office door:

Counseling works for those willing to forgive!

My counseling load continues to pile up with little or no progress. Everyone wants to be forgiven, but few are willing to forgive.

Jesus spoke about this frequently, but few people listen.  

Jesus also practiced what he preached:

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (2)

I have had people say to me, “I’d rather die than forgive them!”

This explains why the world is filled with so many angry people.

It won’t kill you to forgive someone, but nursing a grudge will.

Forgiveness heals.  Anger kills.

My counseling load is killing me.

+++

  1. John MacArthur, Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God’s Grace (Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2001), 191.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 5:8.

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Life is full of sore testings of our willingness 

to follow the Good Shepherd. (1)  

The greatest of these testings is forgiveness.

We have a limited understanding of forgiveness.  We believe it is grace to be offered only after confession and regret have been spoken.  We believe forgiveness is necessary and possible after only after someone has apologized for hurting us.

This is not God’s way.  

Scripture reminds us that God chose us, loved us, and forgave us while we were still yet sinners. Paul reaffirms God’s love for us and His way of forgiveness in Romans 5:8:

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (2)

This is where God’s way tests us.  

We believe that forgiveness is an earned grace.  

Instead, God’s forgiveness is an unearned grace.

Even if we understand the meaning of this truth in our heads, our hearts find it to be alien material.  This is why we have a hard time forgiving others, extending to them the unearned grace of forgiveness.

We cannot offer forgiveness as unearned grace by our own strength.

If we are to be obedient to God’s way and offer others forgiveness as unearned grace, we need God’s help, His strength.  We need Him working within us.

My Jesus is dwelling in me; and now I have only to let Him work there to will and to do of His good pleasure, in order to experience all the glorious fullness of His mighty salvation! (3)

Let Christ Jesus reign within you.  Only then will He be able to rule all the motions of your heart.  Only then will extending forgiveness as unearned grace be possible.

+ + +

  1. Quote of J. R. Miller found in Samuel G. Hardman and Dwight Lyman Moody, Thoughts for the Quiet Hour (Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998).
  2. he Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 5:8.
  3. Hannah Whitall Smith and Melvin Easterday Dieter, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life : The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

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Everyday Realities

Acquaintance

Acceptance

Trust

Friendship

Joy

Sin

Hurt

Anger

Pain

Lead to Everyday Choices

Forgiveness

Blame

Confession

Rejection

Repentance

Revenge

Forgiveness

Enmity

Grace

Hatred

Restoration

Loss

Healing

Death

A New Beginning

The Dead End

Acceptance

Trust

Friendship 

Joy 

Sin

Hurt

Anger

Pain

Time to choose, again

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