This morning we begin a new sermon series in the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is considered the heart of the Old Testament and is frequently on the lips of Jesus in the New Testament. Far from being irrelevant for the modern church, Deuteronomy reveals the foundation of the relationship between God and his people and calls believers today to walk in faithfulness and obedience to the Lord.
This Sunday is purposely chosen to issue a call for justice for the unborn, for those oppressed and for those denied civil rights. The church's goal in fighting for justice is to glorify God, bring joy to the hurting and point everyone to the glorious Kingdom that is to come. As Christ’s body, our mouths and our hands are meant to tell of and point to a God who is perfectly just and who is ushering in a Kingdom of righteousness and justice.
We start every year with the reminder to put Christ first, to commune with Christ and love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This morning we are going to turn to Proverbs 3 to find instruction on how to trust in the Lord and make him the center of our lives.
God willing we have a full year ahead of us; a year of opportunities, new endeavors, responsibility, work etc. Through it all my prayer is that we would make Christ the center of our lives, the primary priority of our lives, the focus of our heart’s affection and the captivating thought that consumes our mind because Jesus is good and He alone is what satisfies. There is nothing better than Jesus.
In these verses we see the new Christian community in Jerusalem struggling with the Gentiles new-found reconciliation to God apart from adhering to Jewish ritual purity laws. Peter recounts how he came to a fuller understanding of the new means by which a sinful people are now able to stand in God's presence - by grace, through faith. As we head into a new year, may our time reflecting on this truth encourage us to cultivate a daily closeness to God that accurately reflects the extraordinary reality of our relationship with Him through Christ Jesus.
As Christmas draws near, many of us desire to be with the ones we love. As we mature, it is not the gifts that we look forward to most but the opportunity to be with loved ones. And so we make plans, book tickets, pay outrages prices, we navigate insane traffic and travel great distances to be with the ones we love. Christmas is about God coming near to us. He leaves his heavenly abode and draws near to his loved ones, his beloved. At Christmas, God, who loves us, came to us.
This morning, we finish the Gospel According to John. Without a doubt the resurrection of Jesus is the climax of the gospel. But John keeps writing and tells us about Jesus’ interactions with the disciples after his resurrection. And so in a way, the Gospel of John can feel anti-climatic. But John ends with something very meaningful. He ends with Peter’s redemption. Indeed, these finals verses are very beautiful and precious to those who love Jesus but are oh so painfully aware of our shortcomings and many failures. The gospel of John ends with hope for every single imperfect disciple of Jesus.
John provides us with a succinct yet powerful purpose statement for his gospel as he continued to urge his readers to believe in Jesus. Jesus continued to graciously reveal himself to his disciples and welcome them into fellowship.
Some of the strongest evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the transformation in the disciples themselves. As John records, not all the disciples believed Jesus had resurrected even after they saw and heard the tomb was empty. But this doubt was crucified when Jesus unexpectedly joined them as they fearfully huddled locked in a room. Jesus showed the disciples his hands and side and they believed. Then Jesus commissioned them and sent them to declare the reality and truth of his resurrection, making disciples in His Name and He equipped them to do this by giving them the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament plays a vital role in our understanding of the crucifixion of Jesus, the Lamb of God. John uses the OT as a interpretative tool, a lens through which to understand what is taking place at Calvary. John demonstrates Jesus is our Passover Lamb. There is no other way to be reconciled to God except through the death of Jesus Christ as our substitute. Only by Christ bearing the penalty of sin in the place of believing sinners, is there any hope for any of us. Jesus has satisfied the demands of justice in our place.