Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What If?

Photo credit: Jo Kautt
If 2014 was your last year to live, what would you do?
God’s Word says, “It is appointed unto men once to die; after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  If you knew 2014 was going to be chiseled on your head-stone, how would you want to live this year?
The fact is, you don’t have to be sick to die and neither do you have to be old!  Death has no friends and takes no holidays!
Two friends were talking.  One asked the other, “Would you like to know in what place you are going to die?”  The other responded, “I certainly would – then, I wouldn’t go near that place!”
For the child of God, death is ‘going home’.  God’s Word says, “For me to be absent from the body, is to present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).  For the unsaved person, however, death is the door to eternity in hell.  In hell, there are no atheists.  “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God our Father” (Philippians 2:10 – 11).
Elvis Presley once was asked, “Are you happy?  I mean, Elvis, you are rich – you have everything money can buy – and you are famous – but are you happy?”  Reportedly, Elvis’ response was, “I am as lonely as hell!”  Elvis, like many people living today, had everything to live for, but apparently did not have enough to live for!  Only Jesus Christ can fill the emptiness in people’s lives!  What about your life?
If you knew 2014 was going to be your last year to live, what would you do differently?
May I suggest four things to do differently with the possibility that 2014 could be your last year?
First, if 2014 were your last year upon earth, wouldn’t you be sure to forgive others so that you will be forgiven?  When Jesus gave us the beautiful ‘Lord’s Prayer’ in Matthew 6:9 – 13, He made ‘forgiving others their debts [i.e., sins against us] a requirement if we wanted to have our debts forgiven [by God]’.  When we refuse to forgive those who have wronged us, cancer-like effects begin to devastate our souls, our minds and even our bodies.  Forgive because Jesus forgives you (see Ephesians 4:32).
Number two, if 2014 were your last year upon earth, wouldn’t you be sure to make material possessions less important? Instead, make sure that God’s work is done in you, through you and with you.  Have you ever seen a funeral hearse pulling a U-haul trailer?  As the rich, but foolish farmer, found out too late, one’s soul can be required by God at any moment.  “Then whose will these [earthly possessions] thing be?” (see Luke 12:16 – 21).  God’s Word says that we all came into this world naked [owning absolutely nothing] and that we will leave it naked (see Job 1:21).
A preacher ate Sunday dinner in the home of a wealthy farmer.  The farmer was not a Christian.  After the meal, the farmer took the preacher to a hill, high atop his huge farm.  From that overlook, the farmer pointed in every direction and proudly exclaimed, “Preacher, it’s all mine!  As far as you can see, I own it all!”  Pausing for a moment, the Preacher pointed his finger toward heaven and asked, “Mister, what do you own up there?”  Is there a place prepared for you in heaven?  Is your name in the Book of Life?
If 2014 is to be your last, what is the most important thing for you to do before your life is over?
Number three, if 2014 were your last year upon earth, wouldn’t you be sure to “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33)?  One way to seek God’s kingdom is through consistent, active and cheerful church involvement.  Some people say, “I love Jesus; but the Church – well, I can do without it.”  Consider this:  “Jesus Christ loves the Church and gave Himself up for it” (Ephesians 5:25).  Doesn’t it make sense that the things that are important to this Jesus we claim to love ought to be important to us also?  According to God’s Word, all who are saved are added to Christ’s Church (see Acts 2:36 – 47).  In fact, the Church is made up of millions of ‘trophies of God’s grace’ (see Ephesians 2:8 – 10).
Last of all, if you knew that 2014 was going to be your last year, wouldn’t you want to make sure your life counted for Jesus Christ?  The apostle Paul urged the Corinthians like this:  “Be steadfast, immovable; [and] always abound in the work of the Lord, since you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (see 1 Corinthians 15:58).  Solomon put it like this:  “Here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear  God, and obey His Word, for this is entirety of man’s duty [before God]” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Here’s a motto for 2014:  ‘Only one life, [it] will soon be past!  Only what’s done for Christ will last’.
If 2014 was going to be your last year on earth, what is the most important thing for you to do before your life is over?  Answer:  “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12) or, as Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (see John 3:1 – 19).  As someone once quipped, “No man is ever really ready to live until he is ready to die!”
Because our lives are so fragile and so uncertain (see 1 Peter 1:23 – 25), I urge you to live every day and every year as if it were your last.  Someday, it will be!  Let’s stop living like we will never die, and start living today like we will stand before God in 2014!
Praying that 2014 is the best ever for you – as you live ‘Coram Deo’ (‘Before the Face of God’ – see Psalm 1:1 – 6; 121:1 – 8; 124:1 – 8) and in submission to His plan for your life (see Matthew 6:9 – 10; James 4:13 – 17).
(Excerpted from a 2014 New Year’s Letter from Cecil Todd of Revival Fires Ministry)

Jesus: Our Wonderful Counselor

Preached at Community Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, December 15, 2013

Isaiah 9:6-7, “For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

One of the most meaningful things to me about the Christmas season is the Christmas cards we always receive from various friends and loved ones, who write to express their tender greetings and to share their joy with us.  One of the things I consider most precious about all those beautiful, and often quite creative cards, is their focus on Jesus, and in particular, the NAMES of Jesus. 

Just off the top of your head, rehearse with me some of the names of Jesus we see mentioned in the accounts of Jesus’ birth found in Matthew and Luke and John.  In John chapter one, He is the Eternal Word – “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…”  (John 1:1)  Jesus is the Eternal Word and the Incarnate Word, the Word made flesh, who came to dwell among us (John 1:14), and whose glory people like the apostle John had the privilege to behold – “glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth…”  Yes, in John’s prologue, the first 18 verses of the first chapter of his gospel, the apostle John describes Jesus as the Eternal Word, the Incarnate Word, and also as the Light, the True Light of the World, who illuminates all who follow Him, so that they might no longer walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 1:4-9; 8:12).

Now, what about in Matthew?  Matthew chapter one and two is where we read that He was to be given the name ‘Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins (1:21).  It’s also where we come across that amazing name, rooted in the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 - the one where it says, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which means, “’God is with us.’”  (Matthew 1:22-23)

Then, there’s Luke’s record, Luke chapters one and two.  What are the awesome names given for the Baby to be born in Bethlehem?  Pick up the reading with me, if you would, in Luke chapter one, verse 30.

Luke 1:30-37, Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Jesus is the Son of the Most High.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus is the Holy One…  Then, in Luke chapter two, who can forget the joyous announcement of the angel of the Lord who spoke to the shepherds out in the fields, watching over their flocks at night?  Luke 2:10-11, “Fear not!  For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord…” 

Yes, I love the Christmas cards, and even more, I am overwhelmed by the powerful, the incredible names ascribed to this One we simply call Jesus, as His conception and birth are prophesied and announced in these three portions of Scripture. 

The name, and the names of Jesus.  What is in a name? 

Though we live in a day and time, in a place and culture where names may not always have that much significance; but from the point of view of Scripture and Biblical times and culture, names and their meanings are very significant. 

Isaiah 9:6-7, one of the most important prophecies in all the Old Testament, foretells the birth of a Child, and the gift of a Son – did you notice that interesting turn of phrase?  “For unto us a Child is born…”   Looking ahead to the birth of Jesus, what is the point, the emphasis, of that phrase, “Unto us a CHILD is born?”  I believe that one of the things God’s Spirit is communicating to us about the promised Messiah, Jesus, is that He would be FULLY human!  He would be a child, born.  Like us, He would be a child, born.  However, take a look at the next phrase.  What does Isaiah’s prophecy declare about Him?  The Messiah, the Promised One, Jesus, would be a Son given.  A Son given.  Anybody ever run across these words before:  “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son…”?  (John 3:16)  According to this amazing Old Testament prophecy found in Isaiah chapter 9, the promised Messiah, would be fully human – a child, born - and at the same time, fully God, fully divine: a Son given!  We could close our Books right there, couldn’t we, and go home, blown away by the magnitude of the mighty God/Man, Jesus Christ and the incomprehensible nature of His fully divine and fully human nature! 

But, don’t close your Bibles just yet…  Read on a little further with me, will you?  Isaiah 9:6 says, “For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace…”  What do you know about this One whom Isaiah’s prophecy describes as a “Wonderful Counselor”?

I met a young man yesterday about the age of my daughter Abby, he came to the Angel Tree party.  The young man’s name was Nashoba.  He told me he was going to school to prepare himself to be an adolescent counselor.  I asked him, “What would make you want to choose something as challenging and rewarding as counseling and mentoring young teenagers?”  As his 14-year-old nephew listened in, he said, “I almost died four years ago; crashed my motorcycle going 65 miles per hour.  I was flat on my back for four or five months with a lot of time to think about where I had been going with my life.  I decided I didn’t want young kids like my nephew to go down the paths I had been taking before my wreck…”  Sounds like Nashoba is well on his way to becoming the kind of counselor who’ll make a big difference in a lot of young teens’ lives, wouldn’t you say?

You know why I say that?  Because it sounds like Nashoba knows what it means to be a wayward, or, at least, a guide-hungry adolescent.  You know something?  Nashoba - just met him yesterday, don’t really known him intimately – but, if what I heard and observed is true and accurate, then I’d have to say that Nashoba is a little like Jesus.  He’s a little like Jesus.  What is it that makes JESUS, the Child born, the Son given – what is it that makes Him the Wonderful Counselor that He is?

Are you listening?  He knows you.  He knows you personally, intimately.  Some counselors sit across the desk from their clients, with their arms folded, nodding their heads like they are all there, that they are with you, and really understand, really know what you’re talking about and how you feel.  But, as soon as they open their mouths and start talking, you - the client – know that they haven’t heard a word you said!  They haven’t understood anything you said!

But not Jesus!  He is a Wonderful Counselor – why?  Because He knows, really knows, you – personally.  One day a fellow named Nathanael was standing under a fig tree.  And Jesus saw him standing there, just saw him standing there, didn’t ask him to fill out a 5 page client disclosure sheet first; didn’t run him though a 2 hour long personality inventory first, Jesus just SAW him there, under the fig tree, and Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor that He is - knew all there was to know about him!  How could that be?  Jesus was a walking, talking, living, breathing: Beth-el…  John 1:48-51.  Jesus was a walking Bethel.  Do you remember the ladder from heaven dream that Jacob had, recorded back in Genesis 28 (28:10-22)? 

Jesus knew what He knew about Nathanael, and He knows what He knows about you, because He is a walking, talking, living, breathing Bethel: house of God.  For Him, the door of heaven’s throne room was always open.  For Him, angels were always ascending and descending upon Him.  Jesus is a wonderful counselor, a living, breathing Bethel, in your life, who knows you better than you know yourself! 

I don’t know about you, but this thick-headed, short-sighted preacher-friend of yours NEEDS a Counselor like that!  Jesus (“The Lord Saves”), He is my/our Wonderful Counselor.  He is the One who knows us personally.

Secondly, thank God with me today, will you?  Jesus, the Great Physician, the Wonderful Counselor, He is not just in ‘counseling practice,’ and I’m His ‘test-case,’ I’m His ‘guinea-pig’ – trying to figure out what the deal is with me.  No!  Jesus is the one and only Wonderful Counselor because He is able to diagnose me properly!  Our Wonderful Counselor who knows you better than even Mom and Dad know you, He is able to do what no other counselor can ever really do:  He is able to diagnose you properly. 

A long time ago, my parents and my brother and sister and I lived next door to a young man who was mentally ill.  Donnie was his name.  From what I remember about Donnie, he was in his own little world.  And his parents, especially his mother, simply didn’t know what to do with him.  And, so they took him to the counselors and the psychiatrists.  I’m not sure that those folks knew exactly what to do with him either.  For they tried electric shock treatments, and any of a number of high-powered medications, varying from month-to-month, depending on what the counselors and advisers thought might be wrong with him.  Unfortunately, for Donnie, none of it worked.  No one ever got the diagnosis right. 

One day Jesus sat down beside a well in a Samaritan village called Sychar.  There, at that important place in the daily life of that village, Jesus met a woman, who, in her own way, was a little like Donnie.  She had been married 5 times, and had failed at marriage 5 times.  And, at the time she met Jesus, she had given up on marriage, and was simply “living with” yet another man.  You gotta wonder if all the counselors in the vicinity of that village had each given their ‘best shot’ at helping her learn to get along with each of the men in her life.  But, none of it worked.  No one could help her - no one - until the day the Wonderful Counselor sat down beside her at that well. 

This One, the living, breathing Beth-el, who walked into her village, and sat down beside the well she visited each day, He knew all there was to know about her, and in knowing her, even her current marital status, He knew what her problem was, and what she needed in the way of ‘soul-medicine’.  Do you remember how Jesus stated His diagnosis and prescription?  He said, “Whoever drinks of this well’s water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.  Instead, the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  (John 4:13-14)

This woman’s problem wasn’t the men in her life – it was herShe was the problem!  Her idea - that the water of that Samaritan well was all she needed to live - was wrong!  She needed the Wonderful Counselor’s proper diagnosis and prescription.  She needed to hear Him say, “You need Me.  You need what only I can give you!” 

Do any of you have a counselor like that?  A Wonderful Counselor who always gets the diagnosis right?  Jesus wants to be that Counselor for you! 

Isaiah 9:6-7 – The awesome names of Jesus.  The tiny Baby Mary laid in Bethlehem’s manger - the only begotten Son given by God the Father, He came to be our Wonderful Counselor - He came to be the One whose penetrating insight would startle Nathanael and whose laser-beam precise understanding of her past and her problems would prompt that unnamed Samaritan woman to make one simple, but life-changing request: “Sir, give me this water.  Give me this living water.” 

Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor who knows us - each one of us personally - and Who alone is able to diagnose us properly, you know what the best thing is about our Wonderful Counselor, Jesus?

The best thing about Him is that He is able to deliver us powerfully!  Our Wonderful Counselor is able to deliver us powerfully

1 Peter 2:24 – While you are looking up that verse, allow me to ask you one quick question: what is it, really, that all the Donnies, and Davids and Nathanaels and Divorcees need, more than anything else? 

1 Peter 2:24 – Take a look at that verse, and you’ll have your answer:  “Jesus Himself carried our sins” – our sins, that’s the root of every one of our problems, isn’t it?  But what does this verse say about Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor, that cannot be said about any other counselor?   “Jesus Himself carried our sins in His own body on the tree (on the cross).”  Why? 

Two reasons:  Number one - “So that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness.”  And then, the verse says, “By Jesus’ stripes we are healed…”

Why did Baby Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor, live and carry our sins in His own body on the cross?  Second reason - so that Donnies, and Divorcees, and yes, even Davids, might be healed!  Yes, healed!  Forgiven!  Cleansed of their deepest, darkest sickness: the sickness and awful effects of sin, guilt, shame, condemnation and eternal punishment!  By His stripes – by His stripes - our wounded, Wonderful Counselor becomes our glorious Healer!  Praise God!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Who is Jesus?

Preached at Community Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, November 17, 2013

Acts 2:29 – 41, ““Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Who do you believe Jesus is? Can you point to at least 2 or 3 passages of Scripture to support what you believe, to confirm who you believe Jesus is?

Recently, my wife asked that question and set forth that challenge to a friend of hers.   They were dialoging back and forth – by way of text message – about spiritual matters – about matters of eternal significance, when my wife got the idea to post the question – THE    question, I would say – and to set forth her Bible study challenge.

For some, a question such as the one Julia asked her friend – the question as to Jesus’ identity – for some folks that question is nothing more than a matter of idle curiosity,  kind of like knowing the name of the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback – Tony – Tony – oh, you know – Tony  - - - - Romo, that’s it!

For others, the identity of Jesus – and even the Bible search to answer THE question – is rather academic – kind of like learning, studying and maybe even memorizing the formula for figuring the area of a right triangle.  Don’t ask me what that one is, please!

For still others, a question like ‘who do you believe Jesus is?’ has no meaning whatsoever – because – well – as far as they are concerned, Jesus was a LOSER, a LIAR and maybe even a LUNATIC!

Who do you believe Jesus is?  And, can you point to at least 2 or 3 passages of Scripture to support – to confirm or defend what you believe about Jesus?

About now, you might be wondering – ‘What does this discussion – what do these questions have to do with our study of the book of Acts – our examination of this passage in Acts – and our investigation of things like the gospel, repentance, baptism and salvation?

I’m glad you asked – because, as a matter of fact – they have plenty to do with all of these – our study of the book of Acts – our examination of Acts 2 – and our investigation of such topics as the gospel, repentance, baptism and salvation.

Stay with me on this train of thought, will you, and make note of a couple of interesting phrases found in 2 different verses here in Acts 2.

The first phrase is found in Acts 2:21 – Acts 2:21 – the verse says, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”  Circle in your minds – and maybe even in your Bibles – the phrase, “Calls on the name of the LORD” and underline the words, “shall be saved.”

Now, go to Acts 2:38 – and take a look – Peter’s Holy Spirit-inspired answer to the desperate question of the Jews is what?  “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Once again, get out your ink pen, and circle the phrase – “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” – and underline the words – “For the remission of sins”.

Now, why am I having you do all of this?  Think about it with me, will you?  In both of those verses – there is a common element – what is it?  The name – identity – of a certain Individual  - and connected to that Name – that Person – is what?

A football jersey number?  Some hidden, Ph-D level formula?  The description – Loser, Liar and maybe even Lunatic?

Well – I suppose each of us has to judge and decide that on our own, don’t we?  But before anyone makes any decisions for or against, allow me to drop this one on you:  This Book says, “Let GOD be true, and every MAN a liar” (Romans 3:4) and this one, too – Titus 1:2 – “God CANNOT lie!”

Who is Jesus – who do you believe that Jesus is?  Can you support what you believe through the use of at least 2 or 3 passages of Scripture?  And, does it really even matter?

Just for fun, walk back down through the Acts 2 passage we read a moment ago.  This time let’s see what THIS text has to say about Jesus’ identity.  Who does Peter claim Jesus to be?  And, what difference does that make?

Verses 29 – 33 – Who is Jesus?  Who did Peter believe He is?

A dead patriarch?  The hero king of Israel’s glory years – a thousand years earlier?  No!  David, the patriarch, Israel’s hero king – he’s dead – and buried – even up to OUR day!

Nevertheless, that dead hero king & patriarch – David – was a prophet – he wrote Psalm 16 – the passage Peter quoted in Acts 2:25 – 28.  And what is the point of David’s psalm?

In so many words, Peter indicates that David wrote that Psalm – a thousand years BEFORE Jesus was born – to TELL us who Jesus is – the Christ – the Resurrected Christ or Messiah of Israel – and the King – exalted WAY above and beyond where David ever was exalted – to the right hand of God.

Do you see those ideas communicated through Peter’s interpretation of David’s words in Acts 2:29 – 33?  Who is Jesus – to Peter?  He is the Christ – the Messiah – the Anointed of God – sent to the nation of Israel – and now – following His resurrection and ascension – He is the Exalted King of Israel, seated at God’s right hand.

Who do YOU believe Jesus is?  If you don’t care, maybe you should get up and leave right now - On second thought, why don’t you stay, and let me show you what this Book says about His identity.

Acts 2:29 – 33  We’ve looked at that portion of our text.   Now, move to verses 34 and 35.  Who is Jesus?  Who did PETER believe He is?  Acts 2:34 – 35  Once again Peter quotes the words of David – written a thousand years before the time of Jesus – Psalm 110, verse one.  Who IS the Exalted-to-God’s-Right-hand-King?  Is it Israel’s hero, David?

No!  Take a look.  What does David say about Jesus?  “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’” 

Without getting too technical right here, I must point out something to you.  The text says, “The LORD…” notice ‘LORD’ is in all capital letters.  That is the translation of the Old Testament word Yahweh or Jehovah.  And then, notice the next phrase, Yahweh, Jehovah, said to my Lord, notice this time that ‘Lord’ is capitalize, yes, but only the ‘L’ is capitalized.  So, what does that mean?  It means that a different Old Testament word is being translated here, and the word this time is Adonai, meaning ‘Lord’ or ‘Master’.  So, what’s the point?  The point is that David declared in Psalm 110, and God’s Holy Spirit directed Peter to make the connection that Yahweh, Jehovah – capital L-O-R-D – the covenant God of Israel, the Great I Am of Moses’ burning bush encounter.  He says, Yahweh says to Adonai, but not just Adonai, but, David says, Yahweh says to MY Adonai, MY Master, sit at my right hand.  In other words, David, a thousand years before the time of Jesus declared the uniqueness of Jesus.  He is my Adonai, my Master, exalted to sit at Yahweh’s right hand. 

But, listen, even that doesn’t give the whole picture.  Hold your place there in Acts 2 and find with me Hebrews chapter one.  Again our question, whether it be trivial, academic or out-and-out BORING to you, is, nonetheless, a topic of an entire book of Scripture, the book of Hebrews. 

Who is Jesus?  What did the author of the book of Hebrews believe about Jesus’ identity?  Read just this first chapter with me, will you? 

Hebrews 1:1-4, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.   (See verses 5-14 as well)

Acts 2:29-33 – What is Peter’s answer to the question about this person, Jesus?  Taking his cues from Psalm 16, he declares, Jesus is the Christ, Israel’s Messiah.  Now, what about Acts 2:34-35?  What does Peter say here?  Again, picking up the words of David from a thousand years earlier, he says, “He is my Adonai, He is my Master, and He is seated at Yahweh’s right hand.  Now, one more, Hebrews chapter one, which also draws upon several Davidic psalms: who is Jesus?  What is His identity? 

Is He an angel, perhaps even the arch angel, Michael, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses unfortunately believe?  No!  Hebrews is clear, isn’t it?  He is God’s once-and-for-all, full, and final revelation of Himself.  Jesus is God the Son!

Now, stop right there and allow me to ask you to consider the question that flows forth from this look at the identity of Jesus.  That question is: so what?  What difference does it make? 

Well, allow me to start off with this what-if:  what if God IS true?  What if everyone else IS a liar?  And, what if this Book, ultimately, is God’s answer to the ‘Who is Jesus?’ question?  What then? 

I haven’t mentioned it so far this morning, but, according to this Book, to be saved, one must give his or her own answer to the, ‘who is Jesus?’ question.   And, in case you are wondering, answers like, ‘He’s the fellow with the blue number on his jersey,’ won’t cut it! 

Once again, hold your place in Acts two, and this time, go with me to the apostle John’s first letter, First John, as well call it.  Who do you believe Jesus is?  Does it make any difference to you?  Before you say, ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ allow me to present the apostle John’s answers.  Read them with me, will you?  Who is Jesus? 

1 John 2:22-23, Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

          1 John 3:2, “ And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus   Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

1 John 4:1-6, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.  You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

1 John 4:12-16, No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”

1 John 5:1-5, Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Who is Jesus?  Who do you believe He is?

Before you pass off this question as just more idle curiosity, before you relegate it to the realm of the Ph.D.’s, before you toss it aside as not worth your time, and yes, before you answer it and take up this name Jesus too hastily, in that baptismal pool, like meeting someone you like one night at Chili’s, and going to the J. P. to get married the next day.  Before you do any of that, read this with me:

1 John 5:8-13, 20-21, “And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.  If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.  21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Before one can talk about baptism, being immersed in water for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Bible says one must confess with his mouth that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus is his Adonai, his Master, his Lord, and believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.  Yes, before one can be immersed, forgiven, saved, He must know whose name he must call on for help.  Romo?  No way!  Jesus?  Jesus Christ?  Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God?  Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords?  Yes!  Yes!  Yes! 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Acts 2: The Day of Pentecost

Preached at Community Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, October 20, 2013

Acts 2:1 – 47, When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” 13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”  14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants

I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
21 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

+22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him:

‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;

Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.  34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

I know that was longer than normal passage of Scripture to read at the beginning of sermon.  But, because it’s what I call a ‘package deal’ – it’s important that we read it in its entirety and prepare to examine it rather thoroughly.

Before we begin our look at the details of this text, would you allow me to do at least two things.

First of all, you need to know some things about me as your preacher.  I believe God has given this Book to me to lead me – to guide me – yes, even to DRIVE me in the direction HE would have me go.  Though, I’m certainly not perfect in my response to God’s leadership of my life through this Book – through His Spirit teaching me this Book – all in all, that is the direction I want to go with my life.  His leadership – His DRIVING me by His Spirit – through this Book – that is what I need – what I long for and must have.

But, how does that connect with you?  I mean, what difference does it make to you that that is the choice I have made?  Something else you need to know about me is that – as you Preacher – as God teaches me His will through this Book – as His Spirit drives me through this Book, that is the direction I intend to lead this flock. .. That is how I will endeavor to guide you, as God’s Spirit works through this Book to guide me.

But here are my questions for you:  Is that the direction you are willing to go?  Are you ready to go with me?  And, will you commit to praying for me and my family – regularly – seeing that, as a shepherd and a teacher – I am doubly accountable to God for how I lead you?

Secondly, this long chapter – Acts chapter 2 – is perhaps one of the most important in this part of the New Testament.  And the reasons it is are these:

It describes for us how and why the Holy Spirit was sent to the apostles.  It details for us the nuts and bolts of the very first post-Calvary, post –Resurrection Day, post Ascension of Jesus – gospel sermon, including a grand and very powerful conclusion in verse 36.  Furthermore, it sets forth for us the essence of a proper response to the gospel – verses 37, 38 and following.  And, finally, it lays out for us in beautiful fashion – the account of the Birth – the Birth Day – and earliest days – of the New Testament church – verses 41 – 47.

So, with all of that said, let’s walk down through this chapter one step at a time – and look at it closely and carefully, shall we?

First of all, let’s begin with paragraph number one – verses one through four.

Have any of you been in a tornado before?  How about a dust storm or maybe just a blinding rain and wind storm that you thought might blow you off the road?

Wind is a powerful force in God’s created realm, isn’t it?  They say that a level 5 tornado or hurricane can have wind speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour.  And, we Oklahomans know about the devastation a wind storm can cause, don’t we?

How about this:  Have any of you ever been in a fire?  Ever had to dash out of a building – maybe even your own home – with just the clothes on your back – to get out alive?  Fire also can be super-powerful, can’t it?

You know something?  I think it is very interesting – almost frightening to see that wind – and fire – are two of the things God and God’s Word – associate with the work of God’s Holy Spirit.  Notice again with the text says:  (READ:  Acts 2:1 – 4).

50 days after Passover – 50 days after the beginning of the barley harvest – 50 days after Good Friday and 10 days after Jesus’ ascension – what day is it in the Jewish calendar?

Pentecost – the feast of harvest as it is in Exodus 23:16 – the second of the 3 annual festivals in which every Jewish male was commanded by Old Testament law – to appear before God at the temple in Jerusalem.

On that day, when each year the Israelites would off the first-fruits of the wheat harvest to God – in hopes – in expectation that God would prove faithful to cause the rest of the wheat to come to full maturity and be harvested – on this special day – what does God do?

Verse 2 – suddenly – yet at just the right time – when the day of Pentecost had fully come – and noisily – like the sound of a rushing, mighty wind – and then, visibly – verse 3 – like divided tongues as of fire – and, from heaven – God sends forth His Spirit – HIS Spirit – His Holy Spirit.

Why?  To be what?  Verse 4 – to fill the apostles – to empower the apostles, just like Jesus promised, to be His witnesses – and to enable those men – all of them, Galileans – to do what they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise – to speak in other languages – to address the crowds of people that had come to Jerusalem for Pentecost from places far and wide – God sent forth His Heavenly, Holy Spirit upon them – in to them – to enable to them to speak to these people – in their native dialects about Jesus, their Messiah.  Amazing, wouldn’t you say?

But, what does all of this mean?  What is God up to – here?

Ever been confused as to what is going on in a situation which broke out right before your eyes?  How about this?  Ever been amazed that something that you thought impossible was actually happening right there in front of you?  If so, then your feet would probably fit the sandals of those Jews who saw these things and heard these things – on that very memorable Day of Pentecost.  Read it again with me, will you? (READ:  Acts 2:5 – 13).

What IS God up to – here?

Anyone ever heard of the tower of Babel?  To refresh your memory, you can go back to Genesis chapter 11 – and read about how God came down and confused the languages – so as to hinder the men of that day in their attempts to worship themselves rather than Him.

And, speaking of the tower of Babel – and the origin of all the thousands of languages and dialects we now know – what does the Book of Revelation say about people groups – tribal and nation groups – and yes, language groups – each and every one of those many, many different groups?  Take a look with me, will you?  (READ:  Revelation 7:9 – 10).

What is God up to – on this very special Pentecost day?  Well, for one thing, He is starting the process – on this side of Calvary and Resurrection Day  - the process of overcoming that Tower of Babel, confusion of languages – hurdle – in order to FULFILL His promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and Genesis 22 – where He said to Abraham – “In you – and in your seed – Jesus Christ – all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

And – and – He is starting the process of bringing to pass what He foretells – through the apostle John – in Revelation 7 – about how there will be people from every tribe, tongue, language and people – gathered around God’s throne in heaven.

My friends, do you understand what that means – for you?  It means that a way has been opened up – God has made a way for you – to have a place around His heavenly throne!  It was passages like this one – in Acts 2 – that spurred men like John Wycliffe – to translate the Bible into OUR language – even at the cost of their lives.  Why?  Acts 2, verse 11 – so that WE might be able to hear – in our OUR language – the wonderful works of God!

How is it that WE hear – in our language?  God made a way!

What is God up to – on this very special Pentecost Day?  There are a lot of things going on here – a lot of ways in which God is at work – but so many of them have to do with the gift of His Holy Spirit.

Suddenly – yet at the precise moment, when the Day of Pentecost had fully come – and yes, noisily – like the sound of a rushing, mighty wind,  - yet also visibly – appearing to be like divided tongues, as of fire – resting on each of the apostles – God’s heavenly Gift – His Holy Spirit – and this unique ‘Sign Gift’ – the miraculous and yet, very Practical supernatural ability to speak languages that were previously unknown by these men – what is God up to – here?

He is up to some very powerful and important things – for sure – things like validating His apostles and their message – things like empowering these men with insight so as to be able to explain – from the Old Testament Scriptures – what really is going on then and there – things like granting Peter and the rest of the twelve the courage to stand up and speak, when some in the crowd were laughing and scoffing – and, yes, things like this:  things that relate to you and me and our families and this church – things like reminding us that the Church – the Church – is not yours or mine or ours – but God’s!  Things like showing us that – unless we are endued with power from on high – all OUR efforts – all OUR programs – all OUR attempts to build this congregation – will FAIL – unless – unless WE are led, guided and DRIVEN by this Book!

The Day of Pentecost – Acts chapter 2 – there’s a lot more in store for us here that, the Lord-willing – we will look into next time.

But, before we close, I must tell you one more thing about myself – as your preacher.

It’s a  solemn thing – a most sobering and serious thing – Here’s what it is:  I know – I know that every time I take this Book into my hands – every time I stand in this place to open it up with you – I know that the god of this age – the devil – is working his hardest – doing what he can to try to blind your eyes and put a veil over your minds – so that you won’t understand and so that you won’t believe and obey – what this Book says.  He doesn’t want you to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ – because the minute you see that light – the minute you turn to the Lord – God starts taking the veil away!  God starts to open your eyes.

Satan doesn’t want that – and is doing all he can to keep it from happening, because if he CAN keep you blinded and veiled – he can keep you on a path way to destruction .

But, listen – Here’s the good news:  Hear it, will you?

“The [mighty] God who commanded light – to shine out of darkness …”  He is greater!  He is the greatest!  And, He is ready, willing and able to shine in your heart to give you – yes, you – the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Yes, my friends – right here – right now – that battle is raging – perhaps even in your heart.  Turn to the Lord, will you?  For in Christ – and in Him alone – will that veil and that blindness – be taken away!  Let’s pray.  (PRAYER).