Metamorphosis

Sunday Morning Sermon
July 16, 2017
Romans 12:1, 2
John McKeel

 This is the third and final part of a three part series on Romans 12:1, 2 entitled, “The Pilgrimage to Beauty.”

 

12 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

Don’t Let the World Squeeze You In!

Anyone who has walked through a casino in Vegas understands peer pressure. In a thousand subtle (and not so subtle) ways they are pressuring you to gamble.

The world around us, Paul says, is also trying to squeeze us – and our families – into its mold.

Living Inside Out

So how can we resist? By being transformed – changed from the inside out. The word Paul used to describe this process is the same one we use to describe the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly: metamorphosis. It’s not a matter of looking the part. It means staring with our hearts and being transformed from the inside out.

Paul reminded Titus, the Holy Spirit renews our minds (Titus 3:5) and he told the Corinthians our vision of God transforms us (2 Corinthians 3:18).

A New Mind

A renewed mind requires the special work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) and it requires a vision of God (2 Corinthians 3:18) to put things into perspective.

You see the problem is, sin – especially repetitious sin – corrupts our vision (Romans 1:18 – 32). Here is an important principle: you are no greater than the god you worship, because our vision of God gives us a perspective on life. For example, if you worship money, or “success,” or power, or beauty – all of these “little g gods” – you will be ultimately disappointed.

Think about it with me for a moment. Your so-called god makes great promises and will require certain sacrifices for their worship. For example, what sacrifices are you required to offer on the altar of beauty? And even if you make those sacrifices, in the end you will only be left with a beautiful corpse.

What we need is a new mind, a new way of thinking, a new vision of God.

The Goal of Transformation

When we can see the world through God’s eyes, we become “discerning” (dokimazo). That is, we learn to make judgements based on our understanding of God’s standards.

A transformed Christian will be able to make judgements about:

  • What is truly Good
  • That which is Pleasing to God
  • The Perfect, what meets the highest standard

Some Things to Think About

Knowledge

  1. What are some of the ways our culture tries to make us conform?
  2. How can we fight back?
  3. The Holy Spirit renews our mind (Titus 3:5), but we have a role to play too. How can we cultivate a new way of thinking?
  4. At the conclusion of Romans 12: 2, Paul says the result of renewing our mind is we will understand God’s will for us, then he describes God’s will for us with three attributes. What are they?

Attitude

  1. What are some ways you can tell that a person is a conformist?
  2. What are some ways you can tell that a person is living from the inside out (transformational living)?

Action

  • Here are some frightening statistics concerning our children:
    • The Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base reports that right around 30% if teens are offered drugs in middle school and high school.
    • According to the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 74.3% of high school students have tried alcohol.
    • 3.1 million teenagers smoke, according to the American Lung Association.
    • The Kaiser Foundation reports that about 50% of teenagers feel pressured with regard to sex in relationships.

What suggestions would you give to a teenager on how to resist peer pressure?

25 Ways to Resist Negative Peer Pressure

  1. Walk away.
  2. Ignore the person.
  3. Pretend that the person must be joking. (“What a riot! You are so funny.”)
  4. Say no-calmly but firmly.
  5. Say no and give a reason. (“No. Cigarette smoke makes me sick.”)
  6. Say no and state a value or belief that’s important to you. (“No. I’ve decided not to have sex until I get married.”)
  7. Say no and warn about the possible consequences. (“No way! We could all get expelled.”)
  8. Say no and change the subject. (“No, I’m not interested. Say, what did you think of that stunt Clarisse pulled in math class today?”)
  9. Say no and offer a positive alternative. (“No thanks, I’ll pass. I’m going for a bike ride. Want to come?”)
  10. Say no and ask a question. (“No! Why would I want to do that?”)
  11. Say no and use humor. (“Forget it. I’d rather go play on the freeway; it’s safer.”)
  12. Say no and apply some pressure of your own. (“No. Say, I always thought you were smarter than that.”)
  13. Share your feelings. (“I don’t like being around people who are drinking.”)
  14. Use your parents as an excuse. (“My dad would kill me if I ever did that.”)
  15. Stick up for yourself. (“I’m not going to do that. It wouldn’t be good for me.”)
  16. Confront the person. (“I can’t believe you’d ask me to do that. I thought you were my friend.”)
  17. Call another friend to help you.
  18. Always have an out — a Plan B. (“Sorry I can’t come to the party. I promised my sister I’d take her to a movie.”)
  19. (“Gotta run. I told my mom I’d clean out the garage.’)
  20. Hang out with people who don’t pressure you to do risky things.
  21. Ask a peer mediator to help.
  22. Tell an adult.
  23. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.
  24. Avoid the person from then on.

from What Teens Need to Succeed by Peter Benson

A Living Sacrifice

Sunday Morning Sermon
July 9, 2017
Romans 12:1, 2
John McKeel

 This is the second of a three part series on Romans 12:1, 2 entitled, “The Pilgrimage to Beauty.”

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (ESV)

Old and New

The rule of the Old Testament was law. It was about keeping commandments – “Thou shalt not …” – and we all know the New Testament is about salvation by grace, but there are many other differences as well. The Old had a system of priests and temples and sacrifices. The New changes that. Now we are all priests and Jesus was the one perfect sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world.

However, in our text this morning, Paul urges us “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Let’s think about that for a moment together.

The Right Sacrifice

In this verse, Paul uses the language of the temple: “present … sacrifice … worship.” That sacrifice is our bodies as a whole and it is to have three attributes:

  1. Living – Are you fully alive?
  2. Holy – I like Young’s translation: “sanctified.”
  3. Pleasing to God, See Hebrews 13:15, 16. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

“Present Your Bodies”

In the western world, under the influence of Greek civilization, we tend to think about our souls apart from our bodies. That’s why the Athenians laughed at Paul in Acts 17 when he preached a bodily resurrection.

Yes, Jesus talked about ““heart, soul, mind and strength” in Mark 12:28-34, and Paul asked God to bless the Thessalonians completely: soul and body, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, but they were referring to different facets of our humanity and not different parts.

How many people are tormented by body image issues? In a world without God, perfection is a cruel standard, but God is alive and He makes us perfect!

Consider the case of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 4:1 – 10). The Old Testament called for perfection and he was not allowed to go into the Temple.

By the power of Jesus, Peter and John healed him and by the power of Jesus, we need to put to death these ridiculous standards of “beauty” too. Praise God for gray hair because it isn’t gray – it’s silver! Praise God for those stretch marks because they represent new life. It’s time to see the inner beauty that God sees!

1 Peter 3:3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

 

If you have any questions about today’s lesson, or if you would just like to talk, please contact John McKeel, John@GrotonChurch.org.

Some Things to Think About

Which First Lady would you rather invite to dinner? Eleanor Roosevelt or Melania Trump? Why?

Knowledge

  1. Can you separate your soul from your body and still be human?
  2. Why did the Greeks on Mars Hill find Paul’s message so funny? (Acts 17:16 ff.)
  3. We are to offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice.” What is the difference between a living sacrifice and a dead sacrifice? Does it seem like most Christians are living or dead?

Attitude

  1. Why do people spend so much money and time on cosmetics, exercise, fashion and plastic surgery?
  2. Should Christians be concerned about these things? 1 Peter 3:3, 4; 1 Timothy 2:9.
  3. How can Christians become a living sacrifice? The ancient preacher, John Chrysostom, said:

“How can the body become a sacrifice? Let the eye look on no evil, and it is a sacrifice. Let the tongue utter nothing base, and it is an offering. Let the hand work no sin, and it is a holocaust. * But more, this suffices not, but besides we must actively exert ourselves for good; the hand giving alms, the mouth blessing them that curse us, the ear ever at leisure for listening to God”

*Holocaust here means “a sacrifice wholly consumed by fire.”

Action

  • Is Paul asking us to give something up, or to live our lives differently, if we are to be “a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God?”

 

The Mercies of God

Sunday Morning Sermon
July 2, 2017
Romans 12:1, 2
John McKeel

 This is the first of a three part series on Romans 12:1, 2 entitled, “The Pilgrimage to Beauty.”

New Birth/New Beginning

What do princesses kissing frogs and ugly ducklings have in common? Yes, they are fairy tales, but they both describe the “Pilgrimage to Beauty.”

In the New Testament, Paul describes a pilgrimage to beauty as we are transformed into the image of Jesus in Romans 12:1, 2. This is the first of a three-part series.

The Basis of Paul’s Encouragement

The pilgrimage to beauty is only possible because through the “mercies of God.”

  1. Mercy: This word is rare outside of the Bible. We might see other’s pain, but most of us have learned to ignore it. “Mercy” means “sympathy that is ready to help.” (See Luke 6:27-36.)
  2. The story of Jesus and Blind Bartimaeus illustrates mercy. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite might have had compassion, but they didn’t have mercy. Let’s study the story: Mark 10:46 – 52

How do we learn to be merciful?

  1. As the Children of God, we need to learn how to be merciful too.
  2. Paul gave very clear instructions to the Colossians:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Note Our Standing with God:
  1. Elect – chosen
  2. Holy
  3. Beloved
Now Follow the Five Steps:
  1. First, we need to soften our hearts.
  2. Kindness
  3. Humility
  4. Meekness
  5. Patience

Some Things to Think About

Knowledge
  1. Define each of the following words:
    1. Pity
    2. Compassion
    3. Sympathy
    4. Mercy
  2. Mercy in the Bible is defined as “sympathy that is ready to help.” How is mercy like sympathy and how is it different?
  3. What does “God is merciful” mean?
  4. In Romans 12:1, Paul is encouraging the Romans on the basis of God’s mercy. Can you explain?
  5. What would God be like if He wasn’t merciful?
Attitude
  1. Can you help someone who doesn’t want your help?
  2. Why should we be merciful?
  3. Give an example of mercy in action.
Action
  • Read Colossians 3:12, 13 and outline a plan for becoming merciful.

Be a Blessing

Little girl on roller skates

Sunday Morning Sermon
June 25, 2017
John McKeel

My grandmother once told me: “Everyone makes you happy…. Some people make you happy when you see them coming and some people make you happy when you see them going, but everyone makes you happy.”

God calls us to be blessed and to be a blessing to others.

God promised to bless Abraham “so that you will be a blessing,” (Genesis 12:2). We don’t use the word “bless” very often in daily discourse – unless someone sneezes! What does “bless” mean? Fortunate. Happy. Originally it was reserved for the gods. “It denotes the transcendent happiness of a life beyond care, labor and death,” (TDNT). In other words, they don’t worry.

“Without time, there can be no worry.” Therefore, we need to strive to live in the now.

God Blesses Us

How does God bless us? We don’t need to worry because:

  1. God is in control.
  2. Everything belongs to God. We are just trustees.
  3. We know how the story ends.
  4. Death has lost its power.
  5. We are never alone.

The Blessing is Counter-Intuitive (Christianity is Revolutionary)

We count someone blessed who is rich, fortunate, etc. but Christianity turns the world upside down. Matthew 5:1-10.

5  Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:

3     “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4     Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5     Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6     Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7     Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

8     Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9     Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

10    Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Poor – We say the rich are blessed. They don’t have to worry, but the truth is the poor must trust in God. We grow in the hard times!

  • Mourn – We say the happy are blessed because they are content, but those who mourn are blessed because God dries their tears.
  • Meek – We tell our children to “Be proud,” but “pride goes before the fall.” Strength under control is a blessing!
  • Hunger – Hunger is a desire. The blessing comes to those who desire righteousness!
  • Merciful – We praise justice, but pray for mercy.
  • Pure in Heart – Are chumps. They are easy prey for the shrewd, but the Christian values purity because of its power: the power of a single, unified, balanced, whole life.
  • Peacemakers – are stuck in the middle, but their self-sacrifice blesses the world.

The Blessing Requires Faith

There are two requirements of faith:

  1. Faith requires trust
  2. Faith requires growth. Monkey-bar faith v. sailing over the horizon. Monkey-bar faith is like the playground. We swing from one bar to the next. It might be hard but we can always see the next step, but when you sail over the horizon, you lose sight of land. That kind of radical faith takes us out of our comfort zone!

This Week: Be a blessing!

If you have any questions about this week’s lesson, or you’d just like to talk, please call John (619-313-7997) or drop him an email:

John@GrotonChurch.org

Authentic

Sailboat Mast

Sunday Morning Sermon
June 11, 2017
John McKeel

A World Full of Fakes

It seems artificial everything fills our modern world. There are faux furs, artificial meats, and surrogates without number. That may be true all around us, but it should never be true in church. When I mention “hypocrite,” the first synonym to come to mind shouldn’t be “Christian”!

What About Me?

I am sure that every true child of God will sometimes wonder, if he or she isn’t really a hypocrite, so this morning we’re going to look at the marks of hypocrisy, take a moment to count the cost of hypocrisy and then we’ll close with a biblical cure for hypocrisy.

The Marks of Hypocrisy

No one talks more about hypocrisy than Jesus. He devoted a major part of the Sermon on the Mount to warnings about hypocrisy (Matthew 6) and the most caustic chapter in the gospels contains the Lord’s condemnation of hypocrites (Mathew 23).

The first mark of hypocrisy is the contrast between a hypocrite’s words and his deeds.

Matthew 23:1 – 3

Seven Kinds of a Pharisee:

  1. Wait-a-little Pharisee
  2. Humped Back Pharisee
  3. Shoulders Pharisee
  4. Ever-reckoning Pharisee
  5. Bruised and Bleeding Pharisee
  6. God-fearing Pharisee
  7. Son of Abraham

The second concerns his motivations for goodness: whenever he does right, it is done to be seen by others.

  1. Matthew 6:1-4
  2. A corollary to this concern is the hypocrites’ religion depends on time and place.

Finally, hypocrites “major in minors.”

  1. Strain out a gnat, Matthew 23:24
  2. They are generally more severe with others than they are with themselves.

The Costs of Hypocrisy

Have you ever considered the advantages of being a hypocrite? They generally have honor and respect – all the advantages of being a good Christian man or woman – until the truth comes out (and it will).

  1. Fear of being found out.
  2. The “Disquietude of Conscience.”
  3. The Anger of God

“Mr. Hypocrite, I see an item here which you usually forget, it is this—that despite of your profession God abhors you, and if there is one man more than another who stinks in the nostrils of Jehovah, it is such as thou art—thou miserable pretender. There shall be a special place reserved for thee amongst the damned.” — Charles Spurgeon (1859)

The Cure for Hypocrisy

The sad thing about hypocrisy is that it is the last sin we suspect ourselves of, and yet it is one of the easiest to fall into.

Note: it is not our task to look around and spot the hypocrites! That is God’s business.

The only way you can play the hypocrite is by forgetting this one fact: God is watching.

  1. Is God watching to catch us in the act?
  2. Or is God watching to praise us?

Be authentic!

  1. Humility
  2. Obedience
  3. Transparency

 

Simple

John & Jan McKeel

John McKeel
Sunday Morning Sermon
June 4, 2017

When did the world become so complex?

“God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising,” (Ecclesiastes 7:39, JB).

  • Duplicity: Our lives are made complex by trying to hold on to two competing values.
    1. Like Lot’s wife, we can’t decide where we want to be or what we want.
    2. James coined the term dipsuche to describe that pitiful state (James 1:2-8).
  • The results of duplicity are:
    1. Worry
    2. Confusion
    3. Helplessness

The Virtue of Simplicity

  • Don’t reduce simplicity to a set of outward actions, James 4:8.
  • We find the virtue of simplicity by becoming single-minded.
  1. Single-minded devotion to Christ, Matthew 6:25-33.
  2. Single-minded conviction based on God’s Word, John 9:25.
  3. Single-minded ministry, Philippians 3:13.
  • People who are committed to the simple life will…
  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
  2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction.
  3. Develop the habit of giving things away.
  4. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  5. Develop a deeper appreciation of the creation.
  6. Beware of “buy now, pay later” slavery to credit.
  7. Cultivate simplicity of dress and speech and life.

Simple Church

The church is not immune from complexity. There are over 9,000 denominations in the world today and I find that terribly disturbing!

So how can we simplify things? Perhaps we need to discover the cause of our divisions.

  • Our traditions divide us.
  • Our written creeds divide us.
  • Our un-written creeds divide us.
  • So-called “new revelations” divide us.
  • What we need to do is go back to the source!
    1. In 2005, Israeli scientists announced to the world, a Judean Date Palm – a tree long thought extinct – had just germinated.
    2. The Apostle Peter reminds us, 1 Peter 1:23 – 25,

You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable,
through the living and abiding word of God; for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Some Things to Think About

  1. What keeps us from living our dreams?
  2. When does something go from being an entertainment to becoming a distraction?
  3. Why makes life so complicated anyway?
  4. Why is it so hard to say “No”?

John@GrotonChurch.org

 

 

David & Goliath

A Family Lesson

John McKeel
Sunday Morning Sermon
April 30, 2017

An Amazing Story of a Life Built Around Bold Faith

“Easily the most beloved story in 1, 2 Samuel—indeed, in all the Former Prophets—is the account of David killing Goliath. … But the biblical narrative is not primarily a story about human courage and effort; instead, it is about the awesome power of a life built around bold faith in the Lord.”[1]

1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 17

1. Israel’s ancient enemies, the Philistines, have encroached on the land of Israel. Two armies, the Israelites and the Philistines, are separated by a dry creek bed and by the Israelites’ fear.

2. David was too young to be part of the Army (Numbers 1:3), but his three older brothers are there. David’s father, Jesse, sends him to take provisions to them.

3. The Philistines have a hero – a single soldier. They want to avoid needless slaughter and instead they are suggesting the battle can be settled by one-on-one combat.

♦ Goliath is 9’9” tall (“six cubits” – a cubit = 18”, “and a span” – ½ cubit).
♦ While most Philistine wore a feathered hat, he wore a helmet.
♦ He wore a chainmail coat that weighed 126 pounds and bronze leggings!
♦ The word “javelin” probably describes a scimitar (Hebrew kîdôn) on his back.
♦ And he carried a spear as big as “a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron.”
♦ On top of all that, he had an attendant that carried a full-body shield!

GOLIATH WAS ALSO A SPEECH-MAKER:

♦ He questioned their resolve.
♦ He explained representative combat (But see 18:30).
♦ He heaped shame on them.

NOW WE ARE INTRODUCED TO DAVID.

First, he tried to encourage others.

Perhaps for the first time in his life he heard the Lord being ridiculed.

David was an idealist.

But he was also practical.

He chose the weapons God provided: a stick and five stones.

Goliath was guilty of blasphemy and the penalty was stoning (Leviticus 24:16).

The fight was over quickly. Goliath “walked” but David “ran.”

Modern Goliaths

Are there any “Goliaths” threatening your life? Bold faith with the weapons God provides can still conquer giants!

John@GrotonChurch.org

Some Things to Think About

  • David knew God would protect him against Goliath because God had already protected him: ““The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine,” (17:37).
  • Fill-in the blank: “The Lord who delivered David from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from _________________________________ .”

[1] Bergen, R. D. (1996). 1, 2 Samuel (Vol. 7, pp. 186–187). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Welcome to the Family

Sisters

John McKeel
Sunday Morning Sermon
April 23, 2017
Mark 3:20, 21; 31-35

Jesus had a family

The family of Jesus loved him very much. The Bible tells us he had four brothers and some sisters (Matthew 13:55). At first, they followed their older brother (John 2:1, 12), but something drove them apart. If it was hard for the people of Nazareth to accept Jesus as the Christ, think how much harder it must have been for his family to believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah! Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, his family knew Jesus wasn’t a charlatan, but according to Mark 3:21 they said, “He is out of his mind” and they came to take him home.

There are only three opinions you can have about the claims of Jesus. Either he was who he said he was, in which case Jesus is the Son of God, or he knew what he claimed was false, in which case Jesus was a liar, or Jesus believed his claim, but he was deluded in which case he was insane. Bernard Ramm put it this way: Jesus is either Lord, liar or lunatic.

In this passage, Jesus again teaches us how to deal with rejection (he never stopped loving his family), but more importantly, Jesus taught that his disciples would be a spiritual family.

ADOPTION

“The new model of family is not biological kinship but adoption. Sometimes our biological kinfolk desert and betray us. Sometimes our own life journeys take us far from kinfolk, or death separates us…. The church must follow Christ by ensuring that no one in the family of faith is familyless – that everyone is adopted into family…. The adoptive family has become the ideal, the model, the witness that there are no limits to God’s ability to create goodness, not even the limits of biology.”[1]

1 Timothy 5:1-2
Titus 2:4-7

What do you expect from a family?

♦ Protection
♦ Acceptance
♦ Love
♦ Tradition
♦ Discipline

What should the family expect from you?

♦ Participation
♦ Support
♦ Protect the family name

The Rest of the Story

After the resurrection, the family of Christ became disciples (Acts 1:14). Why? Paul tells us Jesus appeared to his younger brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7)! Wouldn’t you like to know more about that appearance? From that point on the family of Christ were unshakable followers of Jesus. James and Jude penned letters that are a part of our New Testament and James became an outspoken leader among the Jewish Christians (Acts 12:17; 15:13 ff.; 21:18 ff.).

Welcome to the Family!

Some Things to Think About

KNOWLEDGE

♦ Why would it be so hard for Jesus’ family to believe he was the Son of God?
♦ What evidence do you think convinced his brothers that he really was the promised Messiah?

ATTITUDE

♦ What should we expect from our families?
♦ What should our families expect from us?
♦ How does that help you understand being a part of the family of God?

ACTION
  • John quoted Diana Garland in the lesson this morning: “No one in the family of faith is familyless,” but some people still feel like outsiders. Think of something you can do this week to change that.

If you have any questions about this week’s lesson, or you’d just like to talk, please call John (xxx-xxx-xxxx) or drop him an email:

John@GrotonChurch.org

[1] Diana Garland, Family Ministry, quoted in The Strategically Small Church, p. 130.

Lazarus

Sunrise

John 11:1 – 44

John McKeel
Sunday Morning Sermon
April 30, 2017

A Taboo Topic

Death has replaced sex as the forbidden topic of polite conversation. People don’t want to think about death much less talk about it. In the 4th century, John Chrysostom said, in talking about this morning’s passage:

“Every man is afraid of the death of the flesh; few, of the death of the soul … Man, destined to die, labors to avert his dying; and yet man, destined to live forever, labors not to cease from sinning.”

Death is inescapable. We will all die and unless we give some thought to the subject, when death knocks at our door, we will be caught unprepared. The ancient sailors marked the end of their maps with the phrase “beyond this point there be dragons.” Perhaps death is a fearful dragon because it truly is the last frontier, but what if we saw death as a doorway and not an inky void?

Crossing the Jordan

  • Because of persecution, Jesus has been forced to flee across the Jordan River to the country of Perea (modern Jordan).
  • While he is there, two sisters from Bethany, a town on the outskirts of Jerusalem, beg him to save the life of their brother and Jesus’ friend, Lazarus.
  • Notice they do not command Jesus. They don’t tell him what to do.
  • Jesus knows it is too late. Lazarus had died while the messengers were on their way.

ASIDE: We often call Thomas “Doubting,” but that’s wrong. Thomas was an amazing realist (John 11:16).

Events in Bethany

  • Martha and Mary greet Jesus in exactly the same way, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died,” (11:21, 32).
  • Verse 25 is our key:

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Notice: Jesus does not say, “I promise” or “I bring” but “I AM.”

 

  • Now pay attention to Martha’s response. She doesn’t just repeat, “I believe.” Rather, she says (in a literal translation), “I have believed – I have made this belief my own.” (See the NASB: ““Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God”)
  • I find verse 33 particularly revealing. Notice Jesus’s response to death. The Holman translation captures his emotion: “He was angry in his spirit and deeply moved.” Peterson’s translation says, “a deep anger welled up within him.” (same verb in v. 38)

The Miracle

The miracle itself is told simply: “Lazarus, come forth!”

Application

Frankly, this story is frightening. Did you notice what Jesus told the apostles? “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe,” v. 14.

This story shows us how much value the Lord places on our faith. He will not screen us from the trials which strengthen our faith! (James 1:2)

  • It strengthened the faith of the apostles.

“Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith.” Charles Spurgeon.

  • It strengthened the faith of Mary and Martha.

At the worst, Christ can still work. Here we see divine sympathy most clearly.

  • It even strengthened the faith of those who witnessed it.

Afflictions often lead to faith because they cause us to stop and think.

Some Things to Think About

  • Maybe there is nothing beyond the grave. If that’s the case, the Apostle Paul observed, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (1 Corinthians 15:32)
  • But consider this, there were two empty tombs that spring: the tomb of Lazarus and the tomb of Jesus.
  • Just as Jesus called Lazarus, he is waiting to call your name. Will you be listening?

John@GrotonChurch.org