Tag Archives: Jesus

Sentence Sermons

There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous. ~Blaise Pascal

A puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things. ~G. K. Chesterton

Faith refers to Christ. Holiness depends on faith. Heaven depends on holiness.  ~Alexander MacLaren

True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie. It is enough that God has said it.  ~A. W. Tozer

Faith must have adequate evidence, else it is mere superstition. ~A. A. Hodge

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. ~C. S. Lewis

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. ~Jim Elliot

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. ~Soren Kierkegaard

One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil … I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life. ~Moses

Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. ~Hebrews 11.1

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. ~Jesus of Nazareth


The Baptism of Jesus

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’… Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him” (Matthew 3.1, 13).

John the Baptist’s ministry created a sensation. He found himself at the center of a great spiritual revival. Large crowds converged on the lower reaches of the River Jordan, both to listen to his call to repentance and to be baptized.

John had already spoken of Jesus as one mightier than he, the thongs of whose sandals he was not worthy to undo. It is not surprising that when Jesus presented Himself to John for baptism, John demurred. It would seem more appropriate for Jesus to baptize John than for John to baptize Jesus. But Jesus insisted.

It also seems strange that Jesus asked for baptism. John’s was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus was without sin.  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3.15) and John consented.

As Jesus emerged from the waters of baptism “lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3.16-17).

Those words united two Old Testament scriptures. First, “this is My Son” echoes Psalm 2.7 where God declared the Davidic king to be His son. Second, “in whom I am well pleased” echoes Isaiah 42.1 where God declared His pleasure in His servant. Thus at His baptism, Jesus was declared both Son and Servant of God.

 – John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year


The Universal Appeal of Jesus

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we saw His star in the east, and are come to worship Him” (Matthew 2.1-2).

The Magi (“Wise-men”) seem to have been astrologer-priests from the ancient Persian Empire. Their visit to Jesus complements that of
the shepherds. The two groups could not have been more different. Racially, the shepherds were Jews, the Magi were Gentiles. Intellectually, the shepherds were simple, the Magi were scholars. Socially, the shepherds belonged to the world’s have-nots, the Magi, in light of the expensive gifts they brought, appear to have been wealthy.

Yet despite these barriers which normally separate people from one another, both the Magi and shepherds were united in their desire to worship the Christ Child.

As pluralism spreads, it becomes increasingly evident that other religions are ethnic, limited to a particular people and culture. Only Christianity is not. Nearly 80 percent of the people claiming to be Christians today are non-white and non-Western.

This is the universal appeal of Jesus, irrespective of ethnicity, nationality, or culture. It brought the shepherds from the fields and the Magi from the East. It still acts like a magnet, attracting people from all regions of the world. It is one of the most convincing evidences that Jesus of Nazareth is the Savior of the world.

 – John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year


Matthew’s Names for Jesus

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…

Matthew begins his gospel with three descriptive titles for Jesus of Nazareth. First, He is “Christ.” “Christos” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah,” the “LORD’s anointed one” who would be savior and redeemer bringing salvation to all mankind.

The earliest “messianic” prophecy occurs shortly after the fall with God addressing both Satan, the serpent, and Eve,

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3.15).

Second, the son of David connects Jesus with the prophecy Nathan gave king David that the messianic prophecy would be realized through the Davidic house,

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7.12).

Third, the genealogy traces Jesus’ lineage all the way back to Abraham to whom God promised,

“And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed… In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…” (Genesis 12.2-3; 22.18).

The purpose of Matthew’s gospel is to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of all Old Testament messianic prophecy; the opening statement of his gospel connects Jesus with that messianic expectation.

– Bill


The Cross and the Resurrection, Part 1

From Death to Life

“But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6.14).

Today there’s no terror associated with the cross. It’s merely a piece of jewelry worn about the neck on a gold chain. But twenty-one centuries ago, during the lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth and the Roman occupation of Palestine, it was the object of a shameful, terrifying, and agonizing death. How then, could Paul say he gloried in the cross?

As horrible as the reality of the cross was, there are statements in the New Testament that indicate the cross was more than a torturous obscene death.

  • It was a symbol of love! Could that be possible? God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3.16). Because His love for us was so great, He gave His Son to die, and to die on a cross.
  • It was a means of attraction. But how could that be possible? The thought of a naked bloodied man writhing in agony would repulse most people. Yet Jesus declared in John 12.32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
  • It was the strategy for victory. Jesus boldly claimed (John 10.17-18), “I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”

The Nature of Sin

To understand the need for the cross we must first understand the nature of sin. Sin is the complete antithesis of God and His will. “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (John 1.5). “Darkness” in that verse represents “sin.” Just as light and darkness cannot exist together, neither can sin and God – “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59.2).

So what are we to do? We’ve all sinned (Romans 3.23).

The Answer to Sin

Well, Paul answers that a couple of chapters later, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8). God did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves – He redeemed us, bought us back from the condemnation of sin through the sacrifice of His Son. And He chose to do that on a cross.

Events occur throughout the Scriptures that have a larger significance than the actual event itself may have indicated at the time. For example, the killing of the Passover lamb was merely the slaughter and preparation of an animal for a meal – it was done all the time. Now this particular meal was a little unusual in that certain prescribed details were to be specifically observed, but for all practical purposes, it was simply a meal. However, centuries later that “sacrifice” and “meal” were directly applied to Jesus of Nazareth and His purpose for coming to earth – “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1.29).

John Stott has observed,

“Perhaps the most striking of all is the fact that Jesus made deliberate provision for how He wished to be remembered. He instructed His disciples to take, break, and eat bread in memory of His body to be broken for them, and to take, pour out, and drink wine in memory of His blood to be shed for them. Death spoke from both elements. No symbolism could be more self-evident. How did He want to be remembered? Not for His example or His teaching, not for His words or works, not even for His living body or flowing blood, but for His body given and blood shed in death” (Through the Bible, Through the Year, 264).

– Bill

(To be continued)


“This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying,

“This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Luke’s own editorial comment, describing the context in which the three parables of chapter fifteen were told, is too often overlooked. The tax collectors were despised both because they collaborated with the hated Roman occupation (or, in Galilee, worked for Herod Antipas) and because they were usually guilty of extortion. Sinners, on the other hand, was a term of abuse that the Pharisees gave to common people ignorant of the law.

The Pharisees ostracized both groups. So when Jesus associated with them, they were outraged. “This man receives sinners,” they said in shocked horror. But Luke records this with his approval and even admiration. So should we.

In fact, sinners are the only people Jesus receives. If He didn’t, there would be no hope for us.

The Lost-and-Found Parables in Context

Jesus told His three lost-and-found parables in order to highlight the fundamental difference between Himself and the Pharisees. He welcomed sinners; they objected and rejected them. They had a false notion of holiness. They thought they would be contaminated by contact, so they kept their distance. Jesus, however, fraternized with them freely and was even called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11.19).

If Pharisees saw a prostitute approaching, they would gather their robes around them and shrink from her, but when a prostitute approached Jesus, He did not shrink from her but accepted her devotion.

So the question before us is whether we resemble Jesus or the Pharisees – whether we avoid contact with sinners or seek it.

We must not misunderstand this. The fact that Jesus received sinners does not mean that He condoned their sins. On the contrary, all three parables end on a note of repentance and celebration. Jesus rejected the opposite extremes of Pharisaism and compromise. There is joy in heaven, He said, over even one sinner who repents.

What About Us?

Because “this man receives sinners,” we must receive them too. Such is the nature of our calling and commission.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18.10-14).

Justification is a legal term, the opposite of condemnation. The Old Testament magistrates were instructed to justify the innocent and condemn the guilty. So we can imagine the indignation of the Pharisees when Jesus pronounced the sinful tax collector justified and the upright Pharisee condemned. Was Jesus daring to ascribe to God an action He had forbidden to human judges?

Differences Between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

The two actors in the parable both went up to the temple to pray. But there the similarities end and the dissimilarities begin.

First, they had an entirely different opinion of themselves. Five times the Pharisee used the personal pronoun “I.” But the tax collector used it only once and in the accusative, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” This is the language of true penitence.

Further, their different opinion of themselves was reflected in their posture. Both stood (in customary Jewish fashion). But the Pharisee stood erect, proud, and ostentatious, preoccupied with himself, whereas the tax collector stood “some distance away,” eyes downcast and beating his breast.

Next, they had a different object of confidence for acceptance with God. The Pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous, while the tax collector trusted in God’s mercy alone.

There is where we belong, alongside the tax collector, not weighing our merits but begging the pardon of our offences through Jesus Christ – trusting not in our own righteousness but in His manifold great mercy.

 – John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year





“Hear Him.”

“Hear Him,”

says the God who made the worlds, rules among the armies of heaven, hurled down angels to hell for disobedience, and whose voice shook the earth. The God who holds the destinies of all the nations in His hand, who “weighs the hills in a balance and handles the isles as a very little thing,” in connection with the revelation of His Son, with all the majesty of His authority, says,

“Hear Him.”

Give Him audience, regard Him, bow to Him, follow Him, be guided by Him, honor and obey Him forever.

“Hear Him.”

If a man receives the revelation God makes of His Son, or, rather, if he receives His Son from the revelation He has made of Him, and bows in submission to Him in accordance with the command to,

“Hear Him,”

Confesses with the mouth before men what he believes in his heart, that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” and submits to the divine test of loyalty, being buried with his Lord in baptism, gives the highest assurance in his power to give, that he is changed in heart. He shows that he loves God and will serve Him, and is bound by the strongest obligation that can ever bind a human being, to love and serve God.

The authority that requires this submission is the highest and most binding that can rest upon a human being; and, if it does not govern, control, and restrain the person, no authority can.

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; Hear Him.”
Matthew 17.5

Benjamin Franklin, Preacher of the Gospel
(February 1, 1812 – October 22, 1878)

Every Sunday Is Memorial Day


For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11.23-26).

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6.14).

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.

The Third Friend

A father called his son to him and told this story:

Once a man had three friends. The first one he loved very much, the second to a fair degree, but the third he often forgot and neglected. One day the king summoned the man to appear before him. He was alarmed at the unexpected call and looked about desperately for someone to accompany him.

He begged his best friend to come, but the man replied, “There is no way that I will go with you a single step.” He then pleaded with the second friend, who agreed to accompany him as far as the palace gate, but no further. Left with no alternative, he went to the third friend and made the same request. This friend, without hesitation, assured the man that he would go with him all the way and stand beside him before the king’s throne.

“Father, what has this story to do with me?” the son asked. The father replied, “It has everything to do with you, for the three friendships make up the framework of your life.

“The first friend is money, material wealth. He can be a good friend if he is treated wisely, but he has no loyalty and no morals. He will help you to do either good or evil. He will always be trying to gain control over you, and if he ever succeeds, he will make you his slave. He will leave you completely and finally at your deathbed.

“The second friend is a person who loves you. This is a much better friend to you than the first, but he, too, has limitations. This friend will go with you to the graveside but there he will leave you, as indeed he must, for you to continue your journey alone.

“The third friend is Jesus Christ, who will meet you at the grave, take your hand in His in the resurrection, and lead you into the palace of heaven if you will only let Him.

The Third Friend

“All these friends are important for they affect the quality of your life. But only the Third Friend has the power to affect your life forever.”

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15.1-5)

Our Loving God

Because we have a loving God who always keeps His promises, Christians are sustained by what Paul calls “a blessed hope” (Titus 2.13). How sad it is that some live out their lives “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2.13).

Because we love God who loves us even more, our hope for eternal life is steadfast and unfaltering. The good news – the resurrection of Christ – confirms that hope as the vindication of a love that found its supreme expression on the cross. Because the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us, we love Him in return, and that mutual love keeps our hope burning ever brighter until it is fulfilled in glory.

What the Resurrection Means for Us

To Paul, as indeed to all New Testament preachers, there was no message to preach unless the bodily resurrection of Jesus was an established fact – and this is equally true today. If we deny or discount the resurrection (through our words, our thoughts, or our actions), we are left only with a superior system of ethics. Though valuable, it is hardly worth dying for.

But Jesus’ resurrection has awesome implications for the one who accepts it. It means that Jesus of Nazareth was, in truth, the Son of God; that each of us will be raised from the dead; and that each of us will stand before a final judgment to be judged by the One who was first raised from the dead (Acts 17.31).

The resurrection is a fact. And it’s the whole basis for our continuing hope of heaven. It’s more than a hope that wishes; it’s a hope that trusts. Without it we have no hope whatsoever beyond this paltry earthly existence.

God’s love in raising Jesus from death so that we might be raised later to eternal life is overwhelming. It is by this gospel that we are saved (1 Corinthians 15.2).

When we realize that it is this simple good news of the resurrection that makes all the difference, all the noise and confusion of our daily lives and our “church work” seem so insignificant. When we put our emphasis on loving Christ and others, we respond to His phenomenal gift, and our “love always hopes.”

– Eldred Echols, The Most Excellent Way

Abundant Life

On the night Jesus was arrested, Mark records that “a certain young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him.” But the young man tore himself free of his assailants and leaving the linen sheet in their hands, ran off naked into the night (14.51-52).

That strange incident of long ago reminds me of the lives of all those who turn and run away from Jesus – they are naked and empty. Mylon Lefevre poetically captures the futility of life without Christ:

Without Him I would be nothing;
Without Him I’d surely fail.
Without Him I would be drifting,
Like a ship without a sail.

A life without Jesus as its model and guide is one that is empty and without meaning. How sad that so many people live apart from Him. Granted, such lives may be happy and worthwhile by human standards, but that soon ends. Then what?

Often, when a well known personality dies, the media extols and lauds their earthly achievements. The person may have been a great statesman, a compassionate physician, a gifted composer of songs or sonnets, famous and lamented for their accomplishments. Yet upon reading such eulogies another question always comes to my mind: “Were they Christians, born of water and spirit, redeemed from sin by the blood of Jesus? If they were not, regardless of all they accomplished and for all they are remembered, their life was tragic and meaningless.

Physical life on earth without spiritual life in Christ is absolutely empty, meaningless, and void of hope. Jesus fills us abundantly with cause and meaning and purpose for this life, with hope and confidence and assurance for the life to come.

Well did Joel prophesy of the abundant life in Christ when he wrote,

“And it will come about in that day that the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk, and the brooks of Judah will flow with water, and a spring will go out from the house of the LORD to water the valley of Acacias” (Joel 3.18).

God loves and cares and provides richly and abundantly for His people, both now and in eternity.

– Bill