David’s Messiah

2 Samuel 7:8-16

King David was a man who pursued God’s heart. God anointed him from being a shepherd to becoming the king of God’s people. David fought Goliath the giant and gained tremendous victory for God. He brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem and made it the spiritual capital of God’s people. As king, David gained victory over all the enemies around them.

David also showed his great humanity by a tremendous moral failure with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and then had him murdered. But he repented of his sins and asked the Lord to have mercy upon him. From this time forward, his house was filled with chaos. Yet David is still remembered as a wonderful, powerful king in the history of God’s people.

Today I want us to understand the connection between King David and God’s promise of a Messiah, a future King who would establish God’s Kingdom forever. That was Israel’s hope. The words of II Samuel 7 are the seedbed of the messianic expectation.

Hope is a precious commodity. Hal Lindsay once wrote, “Men can live forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but not one second without hope.” We need hope as we live our lives.

We use the word hope differently though. We might say I hope our favorite baseball team wins the game. Or I hope I catch fish when I go to the lake. We might say, I hope it stops raining, or I hope for good weather for my crops that are growing. I hope the price of corn goes up. I might look at my body and say, I hope I lose 20 lbs. I hope we have pie for dessert with supper or I hope the stock market goes up.

We may move from mundane hope to more profound things like, I hope North Korea denuclearizes, I hope the political leaders of the world find a way to make peace. I hope we can alleviate hunger. I hope we can break systemic poverty. The trouble is, when we use hope – either in the mundane or profound – we really have no direct control to our wishful thinking.

Biblical hope is different. It is based on the character, the historic faithfulness, and the promises of God Himself. Here is what Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3: “This I recall to mind. Therefore, I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindness has never run out. God’s mercy never fails. Great is God’s faithfulness.” The character of God, the promise of God, the historic faithfulness of God is the reason we, as God’s people, have hope.

Talking about hope with this backdrop, let’s dig out the precious nuggets of promise God made to King David and his people in II Samuel 7. The Messiah literally was the Anointed One, the Deliverer, the Ruler, the Son of God who would come into the world to rescue God’s people. The Savior.

First, God promised that David and God’s people, Israel, would be His people forever. They would belong to Him as His chosen people. It gave them their identity. Yahweh was their Father, and they were His people. They had security in the promise.

Second, God promised His power would give them victory over all their enemies. They would dominate, reign over all the other nations, and God would be a mighty warrior fighting on their behalf.

Third, God promises to usher in an age of peace, of shalom, rest from their enemies and beautiful harmony for God’s people.

Fourth, God promised to provide them a place for their own. They would receive a land where they would be planted and rooted to live their lives. This is why Israel to this day remembers God’s promise that the land of Israel will be theirs.

Fifth, God promised prosperity and great blessings would flow to them.

Sixth, the kingdom God promised will be forever. They’ll be living the high life. ♪Happy days are here again♬ This is the stuff dreams are made of!

Seventh, God’s promise was unconditional as a covenant. His power would fulfill the promise.

All of this was tied to the coming of the future Messiah. A king. After King David died, when a future king would be crowned on coronation day, the people would ask, Is this THE ONE? The Messiah?

Fast forward now to the person of Jesus. Jesus is the Word made flesh, the fulfillment and embodiment of God’s promise. When Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary in Luke chapter 1, he echoed many of the same themes from II Samuel 7. I will give your Son the throne of His father, David. He will reign over the house of Jacob, and this child’s kingdom will have no end. The Holy Spirit will impregnate you so that the child born to you will be Son of God. No word that God promises is impossible. Hear all those same promises resonating and being lifted up for the people again in the birth of the child born to Mary.

Mary’s faith response needs to be ours. God, let it happen to me just as You have promised. My response is a humility willing to serve in obedience and trust in the Lord.

When Jesus was born, it says in Luke chapter 2 that He was born of the house and lineage of David. It was Luke’s way of saying, The Messiah is here! The Messiah is here! God is establishing His kingdom!

Isn’t it interesting that, when Jesus was baptized and entered into public ministry, the first words recorded by Jesus are, “The kingdom of God is here.” Yet the people of Israel did not recognize Jesus as Messiah. He was a king who washed feet. He was one who hung out with sinners and people on the margins. He rejected their attempt to crown Him as an earthly king. He meekly surrendered to His enemies, and ultimately was nailed to a cross and died. The Messiah was not to enter into the promised power of God by dying on the cross, was He? Jesus simply didn’t fit the mold. He was a crucified Messiah. It was the ultimate oxymoron.

Jesus was a scandal, a stumbling block. He was totally impossible to comprehend because kings do not die in order to gain the reign over the people of God. Yet He was just the king we needed, not only for His time but for all time.

The cross was the cruelest form of execution during the Roman Empire. It was used primarily for the most dangerous of criminals and for slaves. Crucifixion was actually a deterrent. It was a form of torture and public humiliation. For the Jews, according to Deuteronomy 21, “Cursed is the one who hangs on the tree.”

Yet the nugget of truth for us is that Jesus is just the King we needed, because He became sin for us. In the name of Jesus our King, we become the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ. That’s why, when you and I look at Jesus, we need to say, Jesus is my King. Jesus is my Messiah. Jesus is my Savior. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is my Lord. Jesus as King promised that all who believe in His name would have the authority and power to become the children of God. We belong to Jesus and an eternal kingdom.

Second, Jesus is just the King we need because He always used His power to serve His people, even sacrificially, in love. We have become the beneficiaries of Jesus as a servant King.

Third, Jesus is my King because He is the deliverer who took the punishment for my sins and my failures. Jesus lifted the burden of all my wrong and guilt and shame from my shoulders when His blood spilled out as the pure and holy Son of God. We now have the promise that all our sins are forgiven.

Fourth, Jesus is just the King we need because He makes peace between us and God. He reconciles us not only into an okay status with God, but also into a relationship of love with the One who created us.

Fifth, Jesus is just the King we need because He restores our soul. He heals all our brokenness and gives us a new beginning into a new future.

Sixth, Jesus is the One through whom every blessing in the heavenly places is granted to us in His name.

Seventh, Jesus has prepared a place for us in heaven, and He promises to come again and receive us to Himself, that where He is, we may be also (John 14:1-3). In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone . . . opens the door, I will come in . . .” Jesus not only provides us a place in His kingdom in glory and eternity, He also makes our hearts His place to dwell, His home.

Jesus is just the King I need because He gives eternal life forever to all who believe. This means not only a length of life that is forever, but also a quality of life that is perfect. We will experience no sorrow, no sickness, no pain, no more tears. When we breathe our last breath in this world and awaken to the other side, we will open our eyes to gaze upon the glory of the face of Jesus Christ.

So today I hope you’ll say it with me – Jesus, you are my Messiah. You are my crucified King. You are my risen Lord. I will trust in you. Amen.

Pastor Lee Laaveg

A Deeper Love

1 John 2:9-11; 16-18; 4:7-12

A while back I read a devotion that began like this:

Today I was arrested as I drove in city traffic. No, I wasn’t stopped by an officer, and I didn’t pay a fine, but I was arrested nevertheless. It was the evening rush hour. I was alone. I’d absentmindedly left the radio on, and I wasn’t really listening to it when the summons came: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

I had to answer even if there was nobody there. “Who me? What you mean by ‘evidence’?”

We have been studying John’s letter for the past few weeks, and it has answers to our question about evidence. This old pastor, John, who walked with Jesus, points us to three important pieces of evidence of the real Christian life. They are tests that mark a real Christian.

First, we have the doctrinal test – what we believe about Jesus Christ. It is crucial that we believe He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Then we have the ethical test – how we behave. The way in which we conduct ourselves is important. A real Christian walks the talk and exercises Kingdom-of-God values. We strive to have integrity and honesty, work with an attitude of service, and play for an audience of One, focusing on God.

Finally, we have the relational test – how we treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

In today’s passage, John is showing concern about relational problems in the congregation. The church to whom he is writing appears to be having some serious disputes resulting in bickering, fighting, division, and even hatred being expressed in word and action. We don’t know the details, but it appears to have begun as a dead doctrinal issue and, as so often happens, led to other things. It became a real church fight with power struggles and factionalism.

Unfortunately, we still find this happening in the church of Jesus Christ today. Members fighting over differences in politics and views on social issues, personal issues with one another, territorial power issues, and doctrinal issues as well. I’ve seen some power struggles where people refuse to talk to one another and leave the church angry and hurt. Sometimes the church even ends up splitting. It’s tragic because it destroys congregations and ruins their witness for Christ. It’s a terrible image for the church. We are called to shine as a light to the world and attract others to the Gospel. We are to be a living display of God’s original intention for humankind. Fighting amongst Christians deters others from listening seriously to the Gospel as they observe the way we relate to one another.

It not only hurts the church, but also hurts us. It hurts our souls and our brothers and sisters in the faith community. Our faith is damaged and stunted.

A few years ago John Ortberg described this issue. He said,

Bob is a leader in the Christian community. Everyone admires his impressive command of Scripture. He views himself as a defender of truth and regularly opposes those who disagree with his doctrinal positions. In truth, he doesn’t just oppose them, he delights in opposing them. He attacks them. He ridicules their positions and maligns their motives. When he listens to sermons, it’s not to encounter God but to point out flaws. Bob is regarded as a spiritual giant, but he doesn’t know how to love.

There’s Helen. She’s a veteran Christian, a founding member of her church and one of the most feared persons in it. People tiptoe around her, skillfully avoiding her critical words. These days she’s especially critical of the changes happening in their church with new people. She has no tolerance for those outside the church, people who don’t look, think, act, dress, or vote like she does. She’s seen as a mature believer, but she doesn’t know love.

It matters how we treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. This is John’s first point today.

As Pastor John says in his letter, real followers of Jesus Christ operate under the principle of love as they relate to one another. This is the main idea of today’s reading – Christians love one another. John did not concoct this in his own mind. It is something Jesus taught him.

Do you remember the Upper Room talk Jesus gave to His disciples found in John’s Gospel? One of the things He really emphasized was this: “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you. By this all will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). Jesus said it twice as if to emphasize it.

He was talking about a deeper love than we might think. The word love is used rather loosely in our world today. We love baseball and apple pie, but that’s not what Jesus had in mind.

Perhaps you know the Greek language has three words for love in the Bible.
Eros is the word from which we get the word erotic. It’s a feeling we have.
Phileo is a friendship type of love.
Agape is a love which gives itself away for the good of others. This is the word Jesus and the apostle John are using.

First of all, agape love is an action. It’s not something you feel; it’s something you do. It’s not something you talk about; it’s a verb. It is meant to be active. John asks, How could we say we love if we see brothers having shortages of food and goods and not respond to them? In agape love, we look beyond ourselves and take action to help one another. It’s sacrificial. It is the picture of Jesus dying on the cross as He sacrificed His life for our sakes and paid for our sins.

Agape love is also an act of the will. It is intentional. John calls us to listen to this command and act upon it.

Agape love is unconditional. We love even those with whom we differ on all sorts of matters. Remember, “While we were still sinners Jesus gave His life for us” (Romans 5:8).

An example comes to mind. It is a love story from my own congregation. An elderly man became sick and was moved into a facility away from his wife, Jan. But because of her dementia, she could not care for herself. So a friend in her Bible study group, Nancy, took it upon herself to start caring for Jan. Even though she was not related to Jan in any way except as a sister in Christ, she took her to doctor appointments, took care of her finances, and even helped her to move. Then the group jumped in to help. Jan is not the easiest person to care for, but they are taking really good care of her, even though it’s not convenient. She lives quite a distance from the church, but they give her a ride to church every weekend.

This is what John had in mind when he said, “Love one another.”

Why love? John gives us our motivation – God is love. His very essence and nature is love. All His other attributes – wisdom, justice, mercy, and goodness – express love. By trusting in Jesus Christ, we are citizens of God’s kingdom. As His children, we strive to be like Him.

By the way, we actually have the ability to exercise this kind of Agape love through the Holy Spirit. Being born of God through Jesus Christ, He works in us and empowers us to love.

Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We will never love perfectly, for our old self continues to rear its ugly, egotistical head within us. However, we are given a Helper to live a life of loving others.

We love out of gratitude. John says, “We love because He first loved us.” Our desire is to live a life in response to His love that expresses our love for Christ and pleases Him. Therefore, we love because He first loved us.

We love because it is an act of faith and trust. As we love those around us in a sacrificial and unconditional manner, we obediently express our belief that Jesus taught us to love one another. We trust that He knows what makes life work, even when it seems demanding and doesn’t feel comfortable or convenient. We express our trust in Him by putting what He says to work.

Finally, we love because it bears fruit honoring Christ. John says His love is perfected or completed in us.

Leith Anderson, a wonderful pastor, preacher, and writer, says this: “One of the most profound mysteries of Christianity is the invisibility of God and how we can know He is real, even if we cannot see Him.” John explains, “No one has ever seen God, but if we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (I John 4:12). People cannot see God, but they can see the love of God in us when we behave just like God. It is not natural to love the unloveable, but we can supernaturally love them.

When we love the unlovable, it somehow completes the love of God in us. It shows us the God we could not otherwise see and proves His love in us is real. Loving others confirms our Christian faith in a tangible way. It bears fruit honoring Him as others see us loving one another.

Lucian, a Greek writer who lived in the early days of Christianity about 150 A.D., marveled at the church, even though he did not believe in Christ. He wrote these words: “It is incredible to see the fervor with which the people of the Christian religion help each other in their wants. They spare nothing. Their first legislator, Jesus, has put it into their heads that they are brethren.”

I found another statement in history as someone marveled while observing Christians in the church: “See how they love one another!” This is what Jesus wants people who are outside of the faith to see as they observe us following Him. This is incredible! See how they love one another!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as you listen today, we have a very important calling before us from Jesus Christ. The world around us is in need of His love. Christ is counting on us to be His hands and His feet, His voice and His body, His witness to these people so they might know Him and His love. He is counting on us, then, to love one another. How we treat each other in the church matters. Jesus tells us to love one another as He has loved us. “By this, all people will know you are my disciples.”

Make a commitment to actively and intentionally love your brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

A Deeper Hope for God’s Children

As we go through life, we typically pick up a few titles along the way. Some of my titles include reverend, pastor, dad, coach, bapa (now that I am a grandpa), and mister. Around my wife’s workplace, I am called Julie’s husband. I tried to add doctor to this list, but ran out of time and energy. I bet you have a few titles of your own.

Yet, all these titles, as nice as they are, pale in comparison to what John calls us in our passage for today. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Trusting in Jesus Christ, you and I are no longer children of wrath. We have become children of God, born again. God’s beloved ones through Jesus Christ.

John says, “If you know that he is righteous . . . “ The “he” John is talking about is Jesus.

As we know the Righteous One, we become children of God. We were unrighteous, in a broken relationship with God because of our sin, which made us children of wrath. But God in His love sent His Son Jesus. He is the Righteous One who came, the perfect life of righteousness, and He died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice so we might be righteous in God’s sight. A great transaction took place at the cross. Jesus took my filthy rags of sin upon Himself and paid for my sin. I received a clean robe to stand before God cleansed.

Stuart Briscoe writes in one of his books, “Years ago when I was a young banker, we used big leather ledgers where all accounts were entered by hand. I remember daydreaming about those ledgers and God’s ledgers in heaven. We are told those books will be opened. I imagine my name, David Stuart Briscoe, and God adding up the sum total of my indebtedness against Him. I could never cancel the overwhelming indebtedness. In my mind’s eye, I saw God take His pen and transfer the sum total of my indebtedness to the account of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the account of the Lord Jesus, He wrote, Transferred from the account of David Stuart Briscoe.

“I thought God was finished, but then I saw Him do something incredible. He added up the total righteousness of Christ and against it wrote these words, Transferred to the account of David Stuart Briscoe. That’s love.”

I am forgiven. I’m given a new status through what Christ did for me. I am a child of God, a child of God who is also heaven bound. I have an eternal inheritance awaiting me. I can look into the future with confidence because I belong to my Father through Christ Jesus.

I remember a lovely story I came across years ago about Dr. Billy Graham. In January of 2000, the leaders of Charlotte, North Carolina invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon. He initially hesitated to accept the invitation because he struggled with Parkinson’s disease, but the leaders told him, “We don’t expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you.” So he agreed and some wonderful things were said about him at this luncheon.

When he stepped to the podium and looked at the crowd he said, “I’m reminded today of Dr. Albert Einstein, the great physicist, who this month has been honored by Time magazine as man of the century. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle punching the ticket of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket, but couldn’t find his ticket. So he reached in his other pocket; it wasn’t there. So he looked in his briefcase; he couldn’t find it. He looked in the seat by him; he couldn’t find it. The conductor said, ‘Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I am sure you bought a ticket; don’t worry about it.’ Einstein nodded appreciatively.

The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back to Dr. Einstein. ‘Dr. Einstein, don’t worry; I know who you are. No problem! You don’t need a ticket; I’m sure you bought one.’

Einstein looked at him and said, ‘Young man, I, too, know who I am. What I don’t know is, where I’m going.’

Dr. Graham continued in his talk. “See the suit I’m wearing. It’s a brand-new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious, so I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. Do you know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear I am dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I’m going.”

All of this for the children of God. What sweet, sweet love the Father has given us, John says. It is a gift given through Jesus Christ

As a child of God, John goes on to say, I also have a promising future. I can live my life with a hope, a confidence of a glorious forever with Him. You see, all of history is headed somewhere, friends. History is not “some tale told by an idiot,” as Macbeth said. History has an end, and those of us who know Jesus know it will be a good ending. John tells us a day is coming when Christ will make His royal appearance. When Jesus appears, we will see Him as He is. We will see Him in His majesty, in His power, in His beauty. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord. The whole creation will be transformed including us. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and believers in Christ shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.

John does not mean we will be identical to Christ, omniscient or omnipresent as Jesus Christ is. But we will have resurrected, glorified bodies that never get sick or grow old or die. Morally speaking, we will be completely without any sin. Intellectually speaking, we will be without falsehoods or errors. Physically speaking, we will be without weaknesses, imperfections. We will be filled continually with His Holy Spirit, loving God and loving each other. This is the glorious hope awaiting us as we live as children of God with our heavenly Father.

In the meantime, we wait in a world that perhaps doesn’t appreciate us or Jesus. We face hardships, maybe even putdowns and persecutions as we follow Jesus. Yet we have a deep confidence, certainty, and hope because we know the end of the story, and it is mighty good!

As we serve Him in this world, witnessing, and loving others in His name, shining for Him, John presents us with a question: How will you face Him when that day comes – with confidence or with shame? It will depend on how you’ve prepared, how you have lived your life as a child of God.

I’m reminded of a parable Jesus told one time about a master who went away and left his servants in charge, and then he returned.

Children of God, we are called to some things. John tells us to abide in Jesus, remain with Him, stick with Him, keep your faith in Him, walk with Him, follow Him, trust in Him, listen to Him in His Word as you open Scripture. Then, obeying Him, do the right thing. All who have this hope in them will spend the rest of their days purifying themselves as Jesus is pure. We purify ourselves getting ready to see Him.

I liken this to something I came across in one of my studies for this passage. It says, If we have a hope like that ahead of us, we should make every effort in the present time to be pure in the same way as He is pure.

This is quite a challenge, but it makes all the sense in the world. If you are going to meet a very important colleague in another country, you might think it worthwhile to learn some of their language in advance. If you are going to meet your future employer, it would be wise to learn enough about the business in order to make a good impression. If you are going to meet Jesus Himself, it only makes sense to make yourself pure. But how?

John tells us a little bit later, “Those who abide in him do not continue in sin.” We now spend our lives as new people, new creations in Christ. While we still have the old nature at work in us and we fail, in this new life we are sensitive to sin. When sin is happening, we confess it and strive to not do it anymore. We live in a repentant lifestyle. We build Christlike character. We want to be more and more like Jesus. For instance, we
• Set aside profanity and obscene talk. Instead use words that build up.
• Replace lies and half-truths with truth. We are known for our integrity.
• Treat our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit.
• Are careful about what we put into our minds. We put away pornography and other things on the screen that play with our minds. Instead, we focus on those things which Paul says are noble and true and beautiful.
• Put away covetousness – the need to have more and more, which becomes idolatry.
• Watch our lips. Slander, malice, wrath, anger are put away and replaced by love, compassion, and kindness.

How can all this happen? First of all, it is important to remember, we cannot do it on our own power. As children of God, we have the Holy Spirit to help us. We also have a church community to hold us accountable. Within this community we have the opportunity to confess our sins and receive cleansing and forgiveness.

Craig Barnes, a wonderful pastor, wrote this: When I was a child, my minister father brought home a twelve-year-old boy named Roger whose parents had died of a drug overdose. Roger had no one to care for him, so my folks decided they would raise him as if he were one of their own sons.

At first it was difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home, an environment free of heroin-addicted adults. Every day, several times a day I heard my parents saying to Roger, “No, no. That’s not how we behave in his family.” “No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get you what you want.” “No, Roger. We expect you to show respect in this family.” In time, Roger began to change.

Now, did Roger have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family? No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of my father. Did he have to do some work because he was in the family? You bet he did! It was tough for him to change, and he had to work at, it but he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love he had received.

Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the Spirit has adopted you into God’s family? Certainly you do, but not in order to become a son or daughter to the Father. No. You make these changes because you are a son or a daughter, and every time you start to revert back to the old addictions to sin, the Holy Spirit says to you, No, no, no. That’s not how we act in this family.

Dear friends, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, I encourage you to remember who and whose you are. You are a child of God – precious in His sight with a glorious future and a date to meet Him face to face. May you spend the rest of your days confident with a deep hope, the rest of your days getting ready to see Him, making Him proud. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

The Deepest Truth of All

I John 2:22; 4:1-3; 4:9-10

“STEVEN EARL KRAMER!”

My mom used these words when she wanted my absolute attention and obedience. They were always said with a certain tone and intensity, so I knew when she spoke them it was serious. I’d better listen up and watch myself because I might be headed toward trouble.

In our passage for today, Pastor John, the apostle, is using some strong, intense language. They have some emotion, some intensity behind them. Why the ire and alarm? Because his flock was in danger. Don’t mess with the pastor’s flock. Someone was feeding them spiritual poison, and as a result some very important basics of the Christian faith were being questioned.

In John’s mind, some situations require the use of intense language in order to make a point, such as calling those who were giving these crazy teachings liars and antichrists. A battle is going on for the soul. The problem? The identity of Jesus has been called into question. The truth about Jesus is up for grabs, and whenever that happens in the church, people get confused and are knocked off track. False teachers making false claims. Leaders of movements claim they are the Messiah.

By the way, Jesus had told His disciples this would happen when. So John wasn’t so much surprised as just irate as a protective pastor. These so-called religious experts were teaching some awful untruths. These preachers, these teachers with a certain charisma and charm, were causing problems in the church, and John, of course, was upset about it.

I love the way Eugene Peterson captures this in his paraphrase of the New Testament book we call The Message. “My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. A lot of lying preachers are loose in this world.” This is true, even today. People at that time were denying Jesus is the Christ. People today still deny He was the Messiah whom God had promised His people, the One to whom the Old Testament points.

Other preachers were denying the divinity of Jesus. He’s just a man, they said. He’s a good teacher but He went a little crazy at the end. He was delusional. Others were denying the humanity of Jesus. They reasoned in their own minds that God sees the material world as something evil and unclean in the flesh. Therefore, God would never come in the flesh as the Gospel says. They concocted a belief that this was an illusion of some sort.

What is at stake is the Christian teaching on the incarnation of Jesus Christ. His identity. The incarnation is an all-important doctrine of the Christian faith. We celebrate it at Christmas, which is more than a birthday or holiday. It is a lifesaving truth for the world about the Son of God coming into our world to rescue and save us. That is the reason we sing the words “. . . Hail the incarnate Deity” in the familiar Christian Christmas Carol Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. Christmas, you see, is not about sentiment, but salvation. It is a lifesaving truth.

It is interesting to note that the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke have a lot to say about angels, shepherds, and all the rest. However, in John’s Gospel, we find no baby in a manger, no angels, no shepherds, no talk about a virgin birth. Perhaps John felt this was all too distracting to the main truth. He begins his Christmas gospel this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth.” John wanted to make sure his readers didn’t miss the truth about who Jesus is.

First of all, Jesus is the Son of God. He is divine; God revealing Himself to us in the flesh. In Jesus, we get a picture of God and what God is like. One time in the Upper Room before Jesus was to go to the cross, Philip, one of His disciples, said, “Show us the Father . . .”

Jesus replied, “Philip all this time I have been with you and you still don’t get it? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father!” (John 14:8-9).

So Jesus shows us what God is like.
• In Jesus we see God is compassionate toward the hurting, the hungry, and the lowly.
• In Jesus we learn God knows us and values us. We are of more value than many sparrows.
• In Jesus we find God hates sin and death. Jesus wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. He forgives the sinner and does not write us off as lost causes. His criticism of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy shows us that God values serving, justice, and kindness. He is love. He’s the most loving Father imaginable.
• In Jesus we see God is big. He is in charge of the world. He has power and authority over everything: life and death and storms – you name it. He is true God in the flesh.

John also points out that Jesus is true Man. He was 100% human being as well as 100% divine. He came in the flesh; God in the flesh. He wasn’t just a spiritual apparition or an illusion of some sort as the false teachers were claiming.

Jesus, the physical creation, has been actually reaffirmed. God actually loves the creation He made. He loves us so much, He entered into it by becoming one of us, which has implications. What a tremendous compliment to human beings that God became one of us and went to such drastic measures! He entered our world and became one of us experiencing all we experience. He knows how I feel. He is the great High Priest who sympathizes with me because He understands what it means to hurt. He understands what it means to be disappointed. He understands what it means to be hungry or thirsty or to have your heart broken.

Jesus is also the prototype. He is what God intended for humanity to be in the first place – perfectly loving God and perfectly loving your neighbor. John tells us, In Jesus, we not only have true God and true man, He is also the perfect, sinless sacrifice for humanity’s sin. He is the perfect man who lived the perfect life making Him the perfect payment for human sin as God invites us to a restored relationship with Him through His Son.

The last part of our text tells us God in His love gave us His gift, Jesus. He is God’s love gift to us that we might live through Him and have life instead of death. This became possible for each one of us through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for our sins at the cross and the resurrection that affirmed it.

So we have three basics of the Christian faith before us in today’s passage. It still stands. It hasn’t changed.
• Jesus Christ is true God.
• He is true man.
• He is God’s perfect sacrificial gift of love to rescue us from sin and death.

Any preaching, any teaching, or talk about Jesus stating less than this is not the truth, so don’t buy it! They are lies that can be toxic to your spiritual health. Jesus is so much more than what some may say about Him. Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. He is your Savior and my Savior. He stands alone above all others.

I love this statement by John Stott: “To relegate Christianity to one chapter in a book of the world’s religions is to Christian people intolerable. Jesus Christ to us is not one of many spiritual leaders in the history of the world. He is not one of Hinduism’s 330 million gods. He is not only one of the forty prophets recognized in the Qur’an. He is not even so quote Carnegie Simpson, ‘Jesus the Great’, as you might say or Napoleon the Holy or Alexander the Great. To us, he is the Only, simply Jesus. Nothing could be added to that. He is unique.”

So, if you are a Christian and someone says to you, Jesus was simply a great moral teacher, don’t you buy it.
If someone says, It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you are sincere about it, don’t you buy it.
If someone says, All roads lead to the same place, don’t you buy it.
If someone says, Jesus is nice. He’s a way to God, don’t you buy it. He is THE way.
It’s up to you, someone might say, to live a good life, and God will welcome you in. That’s all that matters. Don’t you buy it.
Someone might say Jesus AND your good works get you in heaven, but don’t you buy it. Jesus + Nothing = Salvation.

Instead, hang onto Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Way of salvation. Trust in Him alone for eternal life and the promise of heaven. Give Him absolute authority over you for the rest of your days. Entrust yourself to His care and serve Him. Commit yourself to studying under Him in the Gospels and in the letters after the Gospels. Add in some solid theological books such as Basic Christianity by John Stott or some of the writings on Jesus by N. T. Wright. Take an Alpha course in your church on the basics of the faith in order to keep your God-thinking sharp and strong so you don’t get led away from the truth, the life-giving truth of Jesus.

And not only that, stand up for Him. Stand up for Jesus by sharing Him with others who don’t know Him yet. Don’t be silent when someone contends no single religion can know the fullness of truth. You see, your silence is affirmation. And don’t be surprised, as you speak up for Him, when you are called narrowminded or unenlightened, or if you are treated with some condescension. Jesus said we would. However, He also said that as we stand up for Him, He will stand with us. Always.

Stick by Him. Let people know He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Moms and dads – teach it to your kids. It is your responsibility. Disciple them as to who Jesus really is. Share Him boldly without apology with your friends. Give them this truth.

I am a fan of Christian writer, Tim Keller. In an essay in the book, A Place For Truth, Tim claims that he often hears people say, “I don’t know which religion is true” or “No one can know the truth.” According to Keller, this often leads to a conversation that goes something like this:

I’m talking to someone who does not believe in Christianity or Christ. At some point he or she responds to me suddenly, ‘Wait a minute! What are you trying to do to me?’

I respond, “I’m trying to evangelize you.”

“You mean you’re trying to convert me?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re trying to get me to adopt your view of spiritual reality and convert me?”

“Yeah”

“How narrow! How awful! Nobody should say that their view of spirituality is better than anybody else’s and try to convert them to it. No! No! No! Everybody should just leave everybody else alone.”

“Wait a minute . . .” I say. “You want me to adopt your take on spiritual reality; you want me to adopt your view of all the various religions. What are you doing to me? What you’re saying is, you have a take on spiritual reality, and you think I would be better off and the world would be better off if we adopted yours. I have my take on spiritual reality and I think mine is better than yours, and I’m trying to convert you to mine . . . If you say ‘Don’t evangelize anybody,’ that is to evangelize me into your Western, white, individualistic, privatized understanding of religion.”

Keller concludes,

“Who’s more narrow? It’s not narrow to make an exclusive truth claim because everybody – every religion – makes an exclusive truth claim . . . Everybody has a take on reality. Everybody thinks the world would be better if those people over there adopted mine. Everybody! Narrowness is not the content of a truth claim. Narrowness is our attitude toward the people who don’t happen to share our point of view.”

Truth is truth!

Finally, if you’re someone who’s unfamiliar with what I’ve been talking about today and you have questions, I encourage you to act on this truth today. Place your faith in Jesus Christ, and what He’s done for you. Ask Him to come into your life and take over, for He holds the key to life. He is the way to God, the truth that saves, and the life with God that lasts forever. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

A Deeper Desire

I John 2:12-17

What is your greatest desire in life? Someone might say it is recognition, to be admired. Someone else might say possessions, or success. A parent might say it is to be a good parent. Someone might respond it is to have a satisfying career using their gifts and to have financial security as well. Others are looking for meaningful relationships. The apostle John tackles this topic in our passage for today.

Remember John’s concerns for this congregation he is writing to. He wants them to have a deeper walk of faith, a solid theological foundation, and to walk in the light of obedience. In today’s text he talks about the desires of life.

John begins this section of Scripture by reminding them of what they already possess as followers of Jesus Christ. He thinks of the various age groups in the congregation – little children, elders, young people – and reminds them as Christ followers of what they already have in Jesus Christ. It’s almost like a little singsong text.

  • Little children, I write to you because your sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ.
  • Fathers (that’s the elderly), I write to you because you know Him who is from the beginning. (That is, they have a personal relationship with God.)
  • Young people, I write to you because you have conquered the evil one! (These people have not only said yes to Jesus, but they also share in Christ’s victory.)

John seems to enjoy it so much that he does a repeat. Let’s do it again!

  • Little children, I write you because you know the Father as children of God.
  • Fathers (elders), because you know Him who is from the beginning.
  • Young people because you are strong in the Word of God. Jesus abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. You share in the victory.

John is basically saying to them, You are rich in Christ. You hit the jackpot when you became connected with Jesus Christ. In this new life, you have forgiveness for your sins, a relationship with God, and victory over the evil one. You have the Word of God at work in your life.

But then the tone changes as bit as John moves into another section. It a word of caution with a command.

“Do not love the world or the things of the world.”

Don’t trade down, John seems to be saying. You are rich in Christ. Don’t trade down.

When we read the phrase, “Do not love the world” in this text, it seems puzzling to us. In John 3:16 he says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In Genesis we read, “God saw all He had made – the world – and it was good.” We love to sing the old hymn, “This is my Father’s World.” Let me explain this puzzle.

John’s use of the phrase “the world” in this letter basically refers to all that stands against God and God’s ways. John is referring to the world as it is in rebellion against God. A world hostile or indifferent to God. Don’t love that kind of world, he says. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world. This reminds me of when Jesus said to the disciples, “You cannot serve God and mammon,” which means God and wealth.

When John says “the love of the Father is not in those who love the world,” we need to dissect the word “love” a little bit as well. When Jesus said love in this context, He is using it to mean laying down one’s life. It means giving yourself up for something or someone. Jesus is asking, Are you going to live your life for the Father or for the world? For what are you willing to lay your life down? The world is a dangerous place because of its expelling power. The love of the things of the world drive the love of the Father from the human heart.

John points to three worldly desires that can really mess us up if we love them enough to lay down our lives for them or if we pursue them with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.

The first desire John points to is the desire of the flesh. John is talking about satisfying one’s appetite for the pleasures of the world.

Then he moves to the desire of the eyes, meaning material objects. It is a desire for more possessions in your life.

Then there’s pride in life. It is the pursuit of success, achievement, recognition, and all the status symbols that come with it.

These things I’ve just listed – pleasure, possessions, success – are not necessarily bad, but they can be dangerous. Satan used them when he tried to tempt Jesus into bowing down and worshiping him in the wilderness. He promised Jesus all the nations of the world would belong to Him, His hunger would be satisfied by turning stones into bread, and His reputation and success would be enhanced by jumping from a high tower. Satan knew these desires have power to become idols in a person’s life. The world perverts these desires, corrupts them, and exaggerates their importance. They become little gods that we worship as they demand more and more of us and hold us captive.

As I said earlier, pleasure, possessions, and success in themselves aren’t bad – and we celebrate the good things of God’s creation – but WE MUST NOT WORSHIP THEM! This is what John is telling us.

So how do you know if you’ve made pleasure, possessions or success an idol in your life? Simply ask yourself,
• Have I become preoccupied with these things?
• Have they become the center of my universe, my life. Do they get all my attention?
• Am I willing to do anything to attain them and hold onto them – even give away things that are important to me in order to keep my hand on them?
• What am I willing to give up to have them?
• Am I willing to sacrifice time with my family, my obedience to God, my integrity for them?
• Is God waiting on the sidelines of life as an afterthought? If He is, perhaps you have an idol in your life.

John explains why he is cautioning us on this. The bottom line is, the world and its desires are passing away. Worldly desires are temporal. They don’t last! Pleasure is fleeting. Possessions lose value. Earthly accomplishments are soon forgotten or surpassed.

It is interesting to hear some people talk about going back to their old workplace after they have retired and learning it has moved on without them. Their success has been put in the past.

Maybe John had in mind the parable Jesus told about the rich fool who had great crops and built all these barns. He thought to himself, Boy, now I’ve got it made! I should eat, drink, and be merry. I have life by the tail. But then along came God at the end of this story who said, “You fool. Tonight your life is demanded of you. Now who gets all these things?”

Or perhaps John had in mind another statement Jesus made: “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul? His very life existence” (Mark 8:36).

Jesus once said, “Do not store up riches here where they can be destroyed. . . . Store up treasure in heaven” (Matt. 6:19). Not only are worldly desires temporal (not lasting), but they are also shallow. The truth is, these things are merely rumblings of a deeper desire – a desire for something so much better by far – like joy and contentment, significance, relationship. They can only be found in a relationship with God, who has given us His Son, Jesus Christ to open the door to us. As St. Augustine said in the early days of the Church, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

We were created for more than pleasure, possessions, and success. We were actually created to have a relationship with God, the One who made us to live with Him and to live for Him. Jesus stepped into this world and died on a cross to pay for your sins and mine. He rose from the dead so we can have the one relationship that matters above all others, a relationship that satisfies the deepest desires and longings of human beings.

John is telling us there is a better way. Keep the big picture in mind. The one who does the will of God lives forever. He is talking about eternity. Jesus talked of using your life to store treasure in heaven. What is His will, His deepest desire? Jesus tells us it is loving God with your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and trusting in His Son Jesus Christ. Nothing in your life matters more than what you do with God and His Son Jesus Christ, and what you do for God. Make loving God, playing for an audience of One, your deepest, your greatest desire – more than anything else this world has to offer.

Don’t give into cheap, temporary trade-offs. It is a temptation too many fall prey to. The real life God wants you have is found in walking with Him, living for His glory and His honor, serving Him. Pleasing Him is to be your number one desire. Play for an audience of One the rest of your days. This is the reason Jesus came for us, so we might have this kind of relationship.

A writer who I enjoy reading, Lee Strobel, had a born-again experience in his middle years. He writes in one of his books, “What’s really important in life probably will get sorted out during our last moments on earth. My guess is many will look back and ask, Did I accumulate a lot of stuff that I can’t take with me or did I lay up treasures in heaven? Did I take time to develop a relationship with God that will last forever? Did I leave a mark on people that is going to fade, or did I leave an eternal mark on them?

It’s a good question to be asking, isn’t it. Looking back, how do you want to be able to answer? How did you live your life?

I came across a good analogy as a closer for this message today. It goes like this:

Let’s say you spend a week at Motel 6. How likely would it be for you to take all your money and spend it decorating your motel room? How probable is it that you would clean out your bank account to purchase a Van Gogh, paintings of Elvis on velvet, or whatever it is that your taste runs to. Not very. You wouldn’t even be tempted because the motel room is not home. You are only going to be there a little while. It would be foolish to waste the treasure of your one and only life on a temporary residence. You see, smart players are clear on what lasts and what doesn’t. Jesus says it’s wise to store up treasure in what’s eternal.

Well, your life is Motel 6. Your room, your home, furniture, clothes, and possessions will last the equivalent of a few seconds compared to the eternity that will be occupied by your soul. It’s not bad to stay in a place and enjoy it while you’re there, but don’t store up treasure in Motel 6. It’s not home. You’re only going to be here a little while. If you’re going to stay up nights dreaming, dream about something better than how to upgrade your motel room.

I’m sure God’s people will all say amen to that.

Smart players are clear on what lasts and what doesn’t. Are you smart? Jesus says it is wise to store up treasure in what is eternal. This is John’s concern for us today as it was many years ago for the first congregation who received this letter.

What is your deepest desire? May it be pursuing the One who loves you more than you even love yourself, the Savior Jesus Christ and His heavenly Father. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer