Suggested Preaching Program for
• Sunday Mornings
“But Now Is Christ Risen from the Dead” (1 Cor. 15:20) is the theme for this month’s Sunday morning sermons. The second Sunday in the month is Easter Sunday, the day of all days, the festival of all festivals for the Christian. Easter Sunday comes just once a year, yet we celebrate the resurrection of Christ every seven days. We cannot overproclaim that Christ is alive. Is it possible that we have preached the cross more than we have the resurrection? A study of the preaching in the book of Acts will reveal that the resurrection was the climactic truth in the preaching of the apostles. We would be wise to follow their example.
• Sunday Evenings
“Encouragements to Evangelistic Efforts” is the theme for the Sunday evening messages.
• Wednesday Evenings
“Fountains of Living Water” that can quench the thirst of the soul can be found in the five psalms that are suggested as a basis for the Wednesday evening messages.
Wednesday Evening, April 1
Title: God’s Ideal Man
Scripture Reading: Psalm 1
Psalm 1 probably provided the scriptural basis for Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Both Psalm 1 and the Sermon on the Mount describe the attitude and actions of God’s ideal person. Both set forth the ideal person’s character, influence, conduct, and destiny.
The Sermon on the Mount closes with a description of the destiny of humans. Those who both hear and heed the Word of God, like the blessed man described in Psalm 1, are likened to a wise man who built his house on a rock foundation. His house was stable and secure in the time of testing. Those who hear but refuse to heed the Word of God, like the ungodly man described in Psalm 1:4 – 6, are likened to a foolish man who built his house on sand. In the time of testing, they will discover that they do not have that which gives them permanence and stability.
Psalm 1 presents the portraits of two men. The blessed man guards his direction, his leisure, and his company; and he loves and meditates on the Word of God day and night. The ungodly man is just the opposite. He walks in the counsel of the ungodly, stands in the way of sinners, and sits in the seat of the scornful. Instead of being secure, fruitful, and happy, he is blown about by the winds of life and is finally destroyed for the lack of a sure relationship with God.
In a few well-chosen words, the psalmist sketches two sharply contrasting pictures. The first picture is of a happy and successful man. The second picture is of a man whose life ends in dismal failure. Because all of us hunger for success and want to avoid failure, let us focus our attention on the first in order that we might avoid the destiny of the second.
I. The pathway to spiritual success.
The portrait of God’s ideal man describes him both negatively and positively.
A. There were at least three great refusals in his life.
1. He refused to walk in the counsel of the ungodly. In times of uncertainty, he did not seek the advice of the ungodly. Deliberately rejecting the ideas and philosophies of the ungodly, he refused to adopt the principles or to follow the practices of those who had eliminated God from their thinking.
2. He refused to stand in the way of sinners, seeking no intimacy with them as companions. He refused to associate with rebellious offenders against God. Evidently he was aware of the destructive effect of a continuing contact with evil.
3. He refused to sit in the seat of the scornful. He did not listen to those who were experts at sneering and scoffing at and joking about sacred things.
B. At least two prominent, positive qualities affected his life.
1. His greatest delight was in knowing and doing the will of God (Ps. 1:2). Evidently he rejoiced in the precious promises of God. He responded with gratitude to the purpose of God’s grace that was behind the law of God in the first place.
2. He meditated on the law of the Lord day and night. This means that he gave the truth of God his serious consideration. He mulled it over in his mind throughout the day in order that its meaning might saturate his whole being.
II. The pathway to spiritual failure.
While the psalmist does not describe specifically the pathway to spiritual failure, we are left to infer from the spirit of the psalm that the ungodly man was just the opposite of God’s ideal man.
A. He rejected the law of God as the guiding principle for his life.
B. He directed his life on the basis of the counsel of the ungodly.
C. He did not hesitate to tarry in the way of sinners.
D. It is possible that in addition to listening to the scorn of the scoffers that he likewise thought lightly and spoke flippantly of the things of God.
III. Contrasted destinies.
A. The godly man is pictured as an evergreen tree planted by the rivers of water. It is a picture of vitality, prosperity, fruitfulness, and permanency.
B. The ungodly man discovers that instead of standing secure like a tree planted by the rivers of water, he is blown about like the chaff when the storms of life sweep across the plains. He discovers that when the world caves in, instead of being alive, he is dead, dry, wind-driven, insecure, and helpless. He has no fruit or vitality or stability, and his life ends in failure.
Each of us would be wise to compare our choices with the choices of the men described in this psalm. We should earnestly seek to imitate the example of the blessed man in order that we might escape the destiny of the ungodly man.
Sunday Morning, April 5
Title: The Meaning of the Resurrection for Today
Text: “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
Scripture Reading: Luke 24:28 – 48
Hymns: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” Perronet
“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” Wesley
“He Lives,” Ackley
Offertory Prayer: Our heavenly Father, today we rejoice in your grace and thank you for the hope, comfort, and happiness the resurrection has brought to our hearts. We thank you for the assurance that through Christ we have victory over death and the grave. In gratitude and worship, and because of our desire that others come to know of his death and resurrection and his abiding presence, we bring these tithes and offerings for the work of your kingdom. In the name of the living Lord. Amen.
The resurrection of Christ from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is something far more than an isolated event of the ancient past that has no significance or meaning for today. Far from being a mere historical event removed from us by more than two thousand years, the resurrection of Christ is a present reality in the light of which we must live and act today.
Only as we see the significance of the resurrection of Christ for the past, the present, and the future can we truly understand and appreciate the message of Easter.
The resurrection of Christ is something other than a trick of supernatural magic performed by God to excite the emotions of his disciples and to amaze and antagonize his enemies. Christ’s resurrection speaks of something far more meaningful than “the promise of pie in the sky by and by,” as some have charged. The empty tomb of Christ contained a message that was vitally necessary for that age, for this age, and for every age until Christ comes back to receive his own.
I. The resurrection of Christ explained the meaning of his death on the cross.
As Jesus approached the end of his ministry, he began to prepare his disciples for his sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross. Such a concept was so foreign to the popular ideas concerning the Messiah that it was impossible for Jesus to convince them fully of the necessity of his death. They did everything they could to persuade him to stay away from Jerusalem and the possibility of coming into contact with those who wanted to kill him. In spite of their efforts, Jesus persisted in his plans to go to Jerusalem. This trip was to result in the false accusations and the unjust trials that were part of the process leading to his crucifixion.
A. For his disciples, Jesus’ death was a great personal sorrow. They had become deeply devoted to him during their days of association together. Their hearts were crushed with grief because of his death and their personal loss.
B. Jesus’ death was for his disciples a great personal disappointment. They were hoping to reestablish the kingdom of David and the sovereignty of the nation of Israel. As they saw Jesus feed the hungry, heal the sick, and raise the dead, they were convinced that there was no way by which he could be defeated if he would raise an army. They were normal human beings who hoped for a position of prominence once that political kingdom was established. His crucifixion obliterated these hopes and dreams.
C. Jesus’ death was for them a great public tragedy, for Jesus was a very popular leader. He had been publicly condemned as a criminal. The final and ultimate indignity to which he was subjected was death by crucifixion. We can easily understand why they fled in fear and despair.
We read that following his resurrection, “he opened their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45 NIV). From the law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms, it was revealed that Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross had been in the plan of God from the very beginning. His death was the supreme demonstration of the determination of God to redeem people from the tyranny and the waste of sin. The resurrection revealed the great price paid for our redemption.
1. Redemption by love (Rom. 5:8).
2. Redemption by substitution (1 Peter 3:18).
3. Redemption by suffering (1 Peter 2:23 – 24).
II. The resurrection of Christ was to the early disciples a dramatic demonstration of his deity.
It was this conviction that gave purpose to the church and glued the apostles together as a witnessing body to the great redemptive acts associated with the cross and the empty tomb. The disciples believed Jesus to be the unique Son of God. They had witnessed his marvelous miracles, the perfect purity of his life, and his compassionate concern for sinners. They were convinced that Jesus was no ordinary man. Nicodemus had declared Jesus to be a “teacher come from God” (John 3:2). Jesus had accepted this and other similar statements as the truth.
From a distance these disciples had witnessed the shameful treatment of the Christ by sinful humans. Their hearts were broken by his agonizing death on the cross. They were bewildered and depressed, fearful and fainting. They fled into hiding for fear of losing their lives as well. It was the resurrection that changed this situation.
In Paul’s epistle to the Romans he reveals that it was the resurrection that authenticated as divine truth all that Jesus had claimed and promised. He says that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).
A. The resurrection declared Jesus of Nazareth to be the Son of God. His divinity was no longer a matter of faith alone to these disciples. They now knew it to be a fact. Jesus appeared among the disciples when Thomas was present, and Thomas was bold to say, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
B. The resurrection declared Christ to be a sinless Savior. Because Jesus had died a substitutionary death for our sin instead of some personal sin, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, declares that it was not possible for death to hold him (Acts 2:24).
C. The resurrection assured the apostles that Christ was a divine Savior who had died for their sins and arose that they might have life (1 Cor. 15:3 – 4).
III. The resurrection of Christ gave the disciples a companion for the road of life.
Jesus did not arise from the dead merely to give us a new doctrine, although believing in his resurrection is at the very heart of our faith. He arose from the dead to assure his disciples that he had not forsaken them and that he would continue to be with them in a very real and wonderful sense through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:18).
A. At the very center of the disciples’ faith was the conviction of the abiding presence of the living Lord who had defeated sin, death, the grave, and all the powers of evil. This living Lord was invested with all heavenly power and authority. The effects of this conviction explain the continuation of Christianity as a living faith today.
B. Christ’s living presence controlled the disciples in moments of moral weakness.
C. Christ’s living presence challenged the disciples in the hour when tremendous effort and courage were needed.
D. Christ’s living presence comforted the disciples in their times of trial and trouble. They demonstrated that Christianity is something far more than a man doing the best that he can. Christianity is the vital contact and fellowship of men and women with the living Christ.
A trainer of seeing-eye dogs told his blind companion as they walked across the street with her new guide dog, “Walk closer to him. He cannot guide you if you hold him at arm’s length.” The same is true for Christians. We must consistently and deliberately stay close to the living Christ if we want to enjoy the companionship and the infallible leadership of him who never leads us wrong.
IV. The resurrection disclosed to the disciples and to us the power that is available to us as we seek to lift the loads of life.
Paul prayed for the Ephesians that they might know “his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 1:19 – 20 NIV).
We are in need of something more than intellectual, political, or financial power if we are to do God’s work effectively in this world today. We must have access to and utilize spiritual power that Jesus declared would be available through faith in him and cooperation with the Holy Spirit. We can praise God for the availability of this divine energy for those who are obedient.
V. The resurrection of Christ is a wonderful disclosure of the gift of immortality.
Jesus had spoken to his disciples concerning the reality of eternal life, which he was able to bestow on those who trusted him. It is very unlikely that they understood what he meant by these words until after he had conquered death and the grave. He said to them:
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. . . .
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:24 – 29 NIV).
When Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd, he said that he would give his life for his sheep, and he also declared, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). Only after the resurrection could the disciples possibly understand or fully believe that Jesus had this power.
In writing to Timothy, Paul interpreted the resurrection in terms of its being a demonstration of the life and immortality that Jesus gives to those who believe the gospel (2 Tim. 1:9 – 10).
When the transfigured and glorified Christ appeared to John on the Isle of Patmos, he claimed to have sovereignty over death because of his resurrection and exaltation by God (Rev. 1:18).
On the basis of both the promises and the performance of Jesus, his friends can face death with the confidence that death shall have no final victory. In anticipation of his victory over death, Jesus had said, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” This truth has cheered the hearts of martyrs as they faced execution by their persecutors.
Christ Jesus is risen from the dead. He is present here today. He is able to save you from sin’s penalty, which is death. He is able to save you from sin’s power and give you victory. He is able to bring the spirit of God’s holiness and happiness into your heart and life. Today you would be wise to respond to him in faith and let him become your Savior. Decide now to sit at his feet continually and let him be your Teacher. He is the Leader who will never lead you wrong. He, and he alone, can give you victory over death and the grave and the privilege of fellowship with a loving God for eternity.
Sunday Evening, April 5
Title: The Methods of the Witnessing Church
Text: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).
People are on a perpetual quest for an easier way to get the job done. In nearly every area of human interest and activity, great attention is given to methods, techniques, and procedures. The church must continually reexamine and reevaluate and improve its methods and techniques of communicating the gospel to our generation.
The book of Acts presents a thrilling success story of the early church as it communicated the saving truths of the gospel to its generation. We read of great advances in Jerusalem, in Judea, and in Samaria. These early witnesses advanced into Asia Minor and crossed over into Europe; and in the lifetime of the apostles, they bore a winning witness to the then-known world.
We live in a “how-to-do-it” age. Someone has said, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” Today let us examine the methods used by the early church as it sought to witness to the people of the first century of the Christian era. A study of the book of Acts will reveal that they used simple rather than complex methods. Their techniques were solid rather than superficial. They were constructive and complementary instead of being competitive with each other. And they used at least seven different methods for witnessing.
I. Talking (lalein).
The Greek word means “to tell, to speak, to carry on a Christian conversation” (Acts 5:20, 40; 11:20). If we are to communicate the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to our generation, we cannot depend on the pulpit or the Sunday school classroom to get the job done. But think of what would happen if each disciple of our Lord were to develop the art and the inclination to carry on a Christian conversation concerning spiritual things with those about him. It should be as normal for us to talk about our Savior as it is for us to talk about our doctor or our dentist or our insurance man or our banker or our family members. If all followers of our Lord were to do this simultaneously, we could evangelize the whole world in less than one decade.
II. Witnessing (marturein).
The word means “to bear witness, make a solemn declaration, give evidence, bear testimony” (Acts 1:8; 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32).
The witnessing that the early followers did was that of a testator rather than a spectator. It could be claimed that the disciples were eyewitnesses to the redemptive acts of Jesus, but his commandment for them to witness refers to a verbal testimony. They were to communicate to others what they had seen and heard.
By its very nature, witnessing is always personal. We cannot bear witness to that which we have not seen or heard or experienced ourselves. Some will be shocked to know that it is our own personal experience with Jesus Christ that he would have us to share with others. It is our personal witness that the Holy Spirit can take and bless and use to bring conviction and conversion to the hearts of unbelievers.
III. Preaching (kerussein).
The Greek word means “to preach, to proclaim, to publish, to herald with authority” (Acts 3:20; 8:4 – 5).
In the days before newspapers and television, a king would have his proclamation read throughout the kingdom. The representatives of the king would enter a city, and one of the soldiers would sound a trumpet. After the people assembled, the proclamation would be read. The man who read the proclamation was called a kerux, or herald. He was the one who proclaimed the message of the king with authority.
As the early disciples of our Lord were scattered, they went forth announcing what God had done and what he offered to those who would repent and believe. As his official spokespersons, they were announcing the terms by which people could be saved.
Many times this preaching was done by one individual to another, and it was not simply pious platitudes or moral instructions. It was the announcement of what God had done and of what he would do if people would repent in faith.
IV. Evangelizing (euangelizesthai).
The Greek word means “to evangelize, to address with good tidings” (see Acts 5:42; 8:4, 25, 35, 40). In each of the verses listed above, the word that is translated “preach” is actually the word “euangelizesthai,” and it means to announce the good tidings of God’s love and mercy and grace as revealed in and through Jesus Christ for sinners. Dr. C. E. Autrey has translated this word “gossiping the gospel.” The early disciples were everywhere talking continuously about the wonderful things that God had done.
Each member of the modern-day church needs to rediscover the meaning of the gospel and do the work of an evangelist. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news; everyone likes to communicate good news; and this is our task.
V. Prophesying (propheteuein).
The Greek word means “to speak for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:17 – 18; 4:8, 31; 13:1). Primarily the prophets were spokesmen for God rather than predictors of the future. They were men of God speaking the truth of God to the hearts of men and women. It is possible for all of us, according to Acts 2:17 – 19, to be spokespersons for God. God meant for us to follow in the tradition of the prophets and to be spokespersons to our generation.
VI. Teaching (didaskein).
The Greek word means “to teach, to disciple” (Acts 2:42; 5:21, 25). This word is used thirty times by Luke, fifteen times concerning the work of Jesus and fifteen times concerning the work of the apostles. The prominence of this method in both the life of the Savior and in the work of the apostles should cause every pastor to realize that he must major on teaching in his ministry. Preaching that does not contain a strong element of teaching is poor preaching. Good teaching is also good preaching.
These truths should challenge each believer seriously to consider opportunities for teaching both in the church classroom and on a person-to-person basis as we have opportunity.
VII. Pleading (parakalein).
The Greek word means “to beseech, to entreat, to exhort” (Acts 2:40; 20:18 – 21; 26:3). The early church bore a winning witness because the concern and compassion of the Savior for the lost world filled their hearts. Both in public and in private, in a face-to-face and heart-to-heart relationship, they pleaded with their families and friends to respond to Jesus Christ as Lord.
The early church had no beautiful sanctuaries, expensive educational facilities, mighty organs, or trained choirs. They had no buildings or budgets, and yet they changed the course of history using the seven methods that are available to each of us today.
Have you ever wished that you could preach like a skilled evangelist or sing like a gospel recording artist? We all wish there were more people with these talents, but our Lord may not want us to be either. He does, however, want each of us to use the methods that are available to us. These he will bless, and these he will use to bring salvation to the hearts of those about us. May God help us as individuals and help our church to use these seven simple but satisfactory methods that the Holy Spirit has blessed through the ages, and may God bless you as you use these methods.
Wednesday Evening, April 8
Title: The Faith That Conquers Fear
Text: Psalm 27:1 – 2
One of the great problems of every person is that of fear. Fear can be defined with a long list of synonyms, such as alarm, care, despondency, dismay, dread, fright, gloom, horror, panic, or terror. As children many of us were awakened from sleep by the terror of a nightmare. And there are adults today who look upon life as a continuous nightmare because fear has captured their souls.
A study of the Bible will reveal that fear has been a companion of man from the beginning of time. There are seventeen different nouns and thirteen different verbs for the idea of “fear” in the original language in which the Bible is written.
The heavenly Father wants to deliver his children from fear. Nearly a hundred passages in the Bible exhort us to “fear not.”
The book of Psalms especially encourages us to put our faith in God that we might overcome our fears. We find, for example, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (23:4) and “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (118:6). The words of our text, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (27:1), provide us with an explanation of the conquering faith of David. The entire psalm is a hymn of praise to the goodness and greatness of God. It contains a revelation of God that each of us needs greatly for the living of these days.
I. Fear is a current problem for many of us.
A. We fear disappointment by others.
B. We fear failure because of suspected inadequacies of a personal nature.
C. We fear the possibility of being eliminated by the giant system of life that treats people as numbers rather than persons.
D. We fear the possibility of a dreaded disease or an untimely accidental death.
E. We fear the possibility of an international catastrophe.
F. We fear financial insecurity.
G. Some of us fear the approach of death and the prospect of meeting our Creator.
II. Our God wants to deliver us from the bondage and agony of fear.
“God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).
A. Fear is a thief of happiness. No one can enjoy the happiness that God wants him to have if he feels the agony of fear at the same time.
B. Fear robs us of the possibility of worthy achievements in life. Fear of failure causes us to hesitate to set achievement goals that are within the reach of our abilities.
C. Fear produces failure. He who takes counsel of his fears will always stagger back from that which appears to be impossible or difficult. He who never attempts that which is exceedingly difficult is defeated by lack of faith.
III. The faith that throws off fear.
A. The faith that throws off fear is the faith that trusts God in the here and now (Ps. 27:1). Many of us have thought of God as being on the scene in the ancient past. Others think of him as appearing on the scene at some time in the future. Those who experience victory are those who trust him as being present in the present. He is the God of today as well as the God of yesterday and the God of tomorrow. He is more concerned about our today than he is about our yesterday. He is more concerned about our today than he is about our tomorrow, because our tomorrow is largely wrapped up in the decisions of today.
B. The faith that throws off fear is the faith that trusts God because of yesterday (Ps. 27:2). Because God had been so very faithful in the past, the psalmist was encouraged to believe that God would continue to be gracious. He was able to trust God in the present because of his personal experience with God in the past.
It would be good for us to open our eyes and see the activity of God on our behalf in the past. This activity is recorded in the Bible and on the pages of Christian history. It can be discovered on the pages of our own personal experience if we have eyes to see.
C. The faith that throws off fear is the faith that trusts God for tomorrow (Ps. 27:3). The psalmist faced the uncertain future with a calm confidence in the abiding presence of the good God who had blessed him from childhood to full maturity in times of great danger and difficulty.
The psalmist had a faith that conquered fear because of at least two things. First, he responded to God’s movements toward him. As he became aware of God’s will, he sought to do God’s will. Second, he deliberately sought the presence and the guidance of God throughout all the days of his life. He wrote, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Ps. 27:4).
You and I can have the faith that conquers fear if we will respond to God’s movements toward us and if we will deliberately seek his guidance for our lives.
Sunday Morning, April 12
Title: The Risen Christ and Mary Magdalene
Text: “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils” (Mark 16:9).
Scripture Reading: John 20:1 – 18
Hymns: “Hallelujah! Christ Is Risen,” Wordsworth
“Low in the Grave He Lay,” Lowry
“Crown Him with Many Crowns,” Bridges
Offertory Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we come bringing tithes and offerings, we offer to you the thoughts of our minds, the love of our hearts, and the strength of our hands. We offer you the praise of our lips and the testimony of lives that have been uplifted by the living presence of your Son, Jesus Christ. We thank you for every good and perfect gift that comes to us in life. As we offer our gifts to you, we thank you in anticipation of your continued mercies through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Scriptures testify that forty days transpired between the resurrection of the living Christ and his ascension back to the heavenly Father. Luke, the beloved physician, who made a detailed search concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, records that Jesus “shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
The New Testament records at least ten different postresurrection appearances of our Lord to his disciples. On the first Easter Sunday, the risen Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene and to the other women. He walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus with two disciples. Also on that first Easter Sunday, he appeared to Simon (Luke 24:34). He appeared in the Upper Room to ten of the apostles as two believers from Emmaus described their fellowship with him.
There is nothing that the modern church or the individual Christian needs more than a fresh and vivid awareness that our Savior and Lord conquered death and the grave. There are at least three things that this awareness could and would do for us.
First, we need to discover that Christianity is a vital relationship with the living Lord. Great men come and go on the stage of history. They make an impact for a day. They achieve eminence, and the world acclaims them. Biographers seek to interpret their thoughts and actions. The great ones die, and monuments are erected to their memory. Jesus of Nazareth also marched into the central place on the stage of human activities. He also died, but he did not disappear, for he arose and reappeared. He remains on the stage eternally the same.
People’s beliefs about Christ and their understanding of him may change from age to age, yet they do not change Jesus Christ. He is God’s final and sure word to humankind. He is God’s grace for our saving. He is God’s mercy for our healing. He is God’s truth for our leading. He is forever alive and available.
Second, we need to understand that worship is an experience with the living Lord. Worship is something more than just going to church and hearing the singing of the choir and the sermon of the preacher. Real worship is an experience with the one who has promised always to be present “where two or three are gathered together in my name” (Matt. 18:20). To rediscover the living presence of Christ would both strengthen our faith and deepen our devotion.
Third, to experience Christ’s living presence would cause us to rediscover our mission to the world. Christ did not come into the world merely to give us a ticket to heaven and deliverance from hell. He came to redeem our lives from the power of evil and to utilize our lives in Service to others. For most, this ministry to others is the opportunity and responsibility to be a personal witness — that is, a communicator of what God has done in the past and what he can do in the present and future for those who will trust him.
How can we rediscover the presence of the living Lord who arose triumphant over death and the grave? There is no simple answer to this question. We can learn something as we study the record of how Jesus appeared to his disciples.
I. The risen Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene.
It is significant that Jesus appeared first of all to a woman. The Scriptures say, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils” (Mark 16:9). We can assume that because Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene that he also wants to make himself real to us. Mary Magdalene was no great person of prominence. She had no material wealth or academic credentials. She had no political power. She was a sinner saved by grace like the rest of us. By appearing to her first, perhaps the Savior was demonstrating his availability to all who have hungry hearts and are willing to believe and trust.
II. The risen Christ comes to us in times of our deepest need.
Mary Magdalene and the other women came to the sepulcher at dawn on the first day of the week following the entombment of the Christ that they might complete their loving Service of anointing and embalming his body (Luke 24:1).
At first they were shocked and horrified to see the stone rolled away and the body of their Lord missing. No doubt a thousand questions tormented their minds in a moment as they considered the possibility that indignity had been added to the insult of crucifixion. They were astonished beyond words when they were informed by angelic beings that he was risen, and they rushed to inform the apostles. It was some time during the early morning that the Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, while she was desolate, heartbroken, and overwhelmed with the thought that “they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him” (John 20:13).
Christ, the living Lord, took the initiative in making himself real to his disciples. And he will walk into our thoughts as we study the Scriptures. If we will study them regularly and reverently, he will reveal his presence. In the great hymns he will speak to our hearts if we listen for the message from God. He will come to strengthen us in the times of our weakness and to guide us in the time of uncertainty if, by faith, we trust and obey him.
III. The risen Christ is often unrecognized.
“And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus” (John 20:14).
A. At first Mary Magdalene did not recognize the risen Christ. She was so consumed with her grief that her eyes were closed as far as recognizing him. This has been the case with many of us. He comes to us today as he came to Mary Magdalene.
B. The two disciples from Emmaus did not recognize Jesus at first. Luke’s gospel says that the power to recognize him was withheld until after he had communicated a message that they needed (Luke 24:16 – 31).
C. The seven apostles, who were fishing in the sea of Tiberius, did not recognize Jesus at first. Perhaps it was the distance, but most likely they were unable to see him because of an undue concern for their own personal problems.
IV. The risen Christ calls his own by name.
“Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master” (John 20:16). When Jesus had described himself as a good shepherd, he said, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14). The good shepherd was able to call his sheep by name.
The God who numbers the hairs on our heads very definitely knows our names. He even knows our middle names and our nicknames. This thought should encourage our faith and cause us to love our Lord more because of his individual and personal concern for each of us.
V. The risen Christ conveys a message to be delivered: “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my father, and your father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).
To have an experience with the living Christ is to make a discovery that must be shared. We are not to boast of our faith, but neither are we to conceal it. We are to witness to others of what the living Lord means to us so that we may be the means whereby they might have faith and so that our own faith might be strengthened.
Paul based his faith in Christ on the solid foundation of the testimony of others and on his own personal experience with the living Christ. He declares that Jesus was seen by Cephas and then by the Twelve. On one occasion he was seen by over five hundred brethren at once. He also was seen by James and by all of the apostles assembled together (1 Cor. 15:3 – 8).
This living Christ has walked down through the corridors of time to this hour and to this Service. He stands at the heart door of each of us. Some of us need to let him in as Savior and Redeemer that we might have forgiveness of sin and the gift of new life.
Most of us have already welcomed Christ, but we need to let him occupy completely. Let us give him first place in every area of our lives. Let us do it right now.
Sunday Evening, April 12
Title: Matthew the Publican Becomes Matthew the Apostle
Text: “As Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him” (Matt. 9:9).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:9 – 15
There is a great difference between Matthew the publican and Matthew the apostle. He is a demonstration to us of the difference Christ can make if a person hears and responds to Christ’s invitation of discipleship.
Matthew was a tax collector for the Roman government. The Romans placed a tax on all property, real and personal. Usually high Roman officials were given the responsibility of collecting this burdensome tax from the suppressed people, but in most cases they in turn would hire others to do it. Occasionally they would auction off to the highest bidder various cities or areas of the country for a set sum of money with the understanding that the purchaser would have the right to collect the taxes. His profit would be the amount that he was able to collect in excess of what he had paid.
In many instances those who purchased the right to collect these taxes were citizens of the country in which the taxes were to be collected. This was true in Israel, and Matthew was among this despised group.
These tax collectors, or publicans, were universally feared and hated throughout the empire. In no place were they hated more than in the land of Palestine. They were classified with sinners and harlots in the minds of the people. This explains part of the dismay and surprise of the Pharisees when they saw Jesus attending a banquet in the house of Matthew following his conversion.
I. The character of Matthew before his call.
A. He was engaged in what was considered by all a disreputable business.
B. Evidently he did not care too much about his reputation, for to be a publican was to be the object of criticism in the community.
C. He evidently was afflicted with an insatiable desire for money. However, it could be that he was a very practical man who logically arrived at the conclusion that he could make more money as a tax collector than he could in any other manner. If this were the case, then we may see some striking resemblances between ourselves at times and this man.
D. He was not considered a true patriot of his country. By being a tax collector, Matthew identified himself with the Roman army of occupation. By the very nature of the case, it would have been necessary for him to have sought to maintain the favor of his superiors rather than looking out for the best interests of his fellow citizens.
E. By every accepted standard, he was considered an irreligious man.
II. The call to a higher life (Matt. 9:9).
A. Matthew provides us with a dramatic demonstration of the truth that Jesus did not come to save just the innocent or the pure and refined. Over and over again, Jesus declared that he had come into the world to save sinners: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick . . . for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matt. 9:12 – 13).
B. Without doubt, Matthew had heard much about Jesus before they met that day in the place where toll was collected. It is quite possible that Matthew had heard both the preaching and the teaching of Jesus and that he had seen the results of Jesus’ miraculous power to heal. Perhaps he recognized the unique character of Jesus to the extent that he wanted to respond to the divine claims upon his life.
C. Matthew’s wealth had not satisfied the hunger of his soul. No amount of wealth can satisfy the deepest hunger of the heart.
D. Jesus the Savior could see in Matthew the publican great possibilities for good. As the naturalist can see the oak in an acorn, so could Jesus see the apostle in Matthew.
E. The choice of Matthew, a man hated and despised by his contemporaries, illustrates the power of the living Christ to transform and to elevate to higher possibilities the life of an individual who will respond to him.
III. The cost to Matthew of following Jesus.
A. Luke’s gospel records that Matthew “left all, rose up, and followed him” (Luke 5:28).
1. He forsook his business.
2. He forsook his hopes of wealth.
3. He forsook his companions, such as they were.
4. He forsook his luxuries.
B. He forsook a life of disloyalty to his country, turning away from great temptations to dishonesty and bad companionship.
A sincere Christian was earnestly seeking to persuade a friend to become a follower of Jesus Christ. When the inquirer was confronted with the question, “What will it cost me to become a Christian? What will I have to give up in order to become a follower of Jesus Christ?” the Christian replied by saying, “To become a Christian the only things you must give up are those things that are going to ruin you if you don’t.”
IV. The compensation of following Jesus.
A. Matthew forsook the assurance of worldly success, but in doing so he gained both inward satisfaction in this life and eternal success as a worker in God’s kingdom.
B. From every standpoint Matthew became a better man and was no doubt surprised to discover later on that he was to be the author of the first gospel. When he left the toll gate, he brought with him his pen. Instead of using this pen to write names and figures in a tax book, under God’s guidance he wrote a gospel.
C. By deciding to follow Jesus, Matthew discovered a fuller and richer life as well as a glorious companionship with the Christ.
D. Matthew discovered a better work than he had ever dreamed of before. Being a follower of Jesus Christ was not to be compared with his previous position as a tax collector.
In compassion the living Christ confronts you as he did Matthew. He challenges you to forsake the lower and to choose the higher way of life. He wants to utilize your talents for a nobler Service than what you have planned. With your life he can also write a message of love and mercy and helpfulness on the lives of others. May you have eyes to see Jesus as he passes by, and may you have ears to hear him when he invites you to follow.
Wednesday Evening, April 15
Title: The Happy Duty of Daily Praise
Text: “Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever” (Ps. 145:2).
Scripture Reading: Psalm 107
The psalmist calls upon us to be faithful in offering praise to God for all of his many blessings to us. In Psalm 107 we notice the recurring refrain: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Ps. 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Most of us are guilty of neglecting this area of Christian Service — the expression of gratitude and praise.
The world needs to see a demonstration of a religion that produces joy. We will never truly rejoice in the Lord if we neglect to think of God’s many blessings and to praise him for his goodness. The world goes on in spiritual darkness because we have neglected to praise our God for his goodness and for his wonderful works.
I. The daily praise of God is a natural act for a true child of God.
A. One does not have to be a professional Christian worker to sing the praises of our great and wonderful God.
B. We praise our mothers for we are grateful.
C. We praise our doctors because of their ability to meet our needs in the time of illness.
D. We praise our friends.
E. Why not praise our Savior? By our silence we leave the impression that Christianity is not truly worthwhile and that Christ does not really make a difference.
II. The daily praise of God will prove to be very beneficial to each individual.
A. It will help us to have joy in our hearts even when the world situation is distressing.
B. It will help us to overcome the competitive and materialistic spirit of our age.
C. It will remind us of the faithfulness and goodness of God.
D. It will create within us an attitude of gratitude.
E. It will contribute to a spirit of optimism regarding the future.
III. The daily praise of God will bring blessings to others.
A. It will encourage unbelievers to have faith in Christ.
1. Give the testimony of your heart concerning what Christ means to you as you have opportunity.
2. Give the testimony of your heart concerning what the church means to you and your family as you have opportunity.
B. Your praise will encourage believers to have a greater faith.
David firmly resolved to praise God with all of his heart. “I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever” (Ps. 145:1 – 2). David’s resolution to praise God was very personal, but at the same time it was public, for there was no way he could praise God and be secretive about it. He praised God for the blessings of the past. He praised God for blessings in the present. He praised God in anticipation of blessings that were to come in the future.
For the good that it can bring into your own life and for the good that it can bring into the lives of others, let us give voice to the gratitude of our hearts in joyful praise.
Sunday Morning, April 19
Title: “It Is the Lord”
Text: “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord” (John 21:7).
Scripture Reading: John 21:1 – 14
Hymns: “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun,” Watts
“Wherever He Leads I’ll Go,” McKinney
“O for a Closer Walk,” Cowper
Offertory Prayer: Holy Father, we bring to you a portion of that which you have given to us, for you are the giver of every good and perfect gift. We bring these gifts, not because you are in need, but because deep in our hearts we need to give both to you and to those about us. Help us to give joyfully even as you have given your rich gifts to us joyfully. You have bestowed your gifts upon us in a generous, lavish manner. Help us in turn to be cheerful givers of our best in every relationship of life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In every age the scientific minds of humans have searched for logical explanations for the mysteries of life. This was true two thousand years ago when Christ our Lord conquered death and the tomb. Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, reveals that the Lord responded to the desire of his disciples for proof. “To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
Today we can be grateful that Jesus Christ completely convinced his disciples of his victory over death and the grave. We can be assured that it took absolute concrete evidence to convince them that Christ was risen, for he was confined to the tomb by at least five different powers. The cold hand of death gripped him firmly. Linen grave clothes were wound tightly about his body. There was a great stone rolled before the entrance to the tomb to prevent entrance or exit, and the official seal of the Roman government had been affixed to the tomb. Roman guards were posted near the tomb to make certain that no one came to retrieve Christ’s body.
The first piece of evidence that was presented as proof that Christ had conquered death and the grave was the empty tomb. Many testified that the tomb was empty. The women found it empty. The disciples found it empty. The angel declared that it was empty. The Jewish Sanhedrin admitted that it was empty.
The evidence of the empty tomb is not all that proves Christ had conquered death and the grave. The New Testament mentions at least ten different appearances of our Lord to his disciples. In these appearances he gave to them absolute assurance of his living presence. He gave them an apprehension of the purpose for his death on the cross, and he gave them a divine authority to go to the ends of the earth proclaiming the significance of his death and resurrection.
Today we examine one of the appearances of the risen Savior to see what it has to say to our lives.
I. The risen Lord manifested himself deliberately (John 21:1).
A. Jesus showed himself “again.” This was not his first appearance, and neither was it to be the last. He deliberately chose this occasion to convey a message to his followers.
B. “On this wise showed he himself.” John, the writer of this gospel, was impressed by the special manner in which Jesus showed himself. He receives the impression that something is to be remembered from the manner in which the Christ revealed himself.
II. The risen Christ came to the disciples on the level of their experience. This is very significant, and we should take note of it.
A. There was nothing unique or significant about the place where Jesus appeared. There were thousands of places similar to this. It was not necessary for the disciples to travel to some shrine or some historical place to have an audience with the Christ.
B. Christ appeared while the disciples were doing what they had previously done to earn a living. Are we to assume from this that the risen Christ may approach us while we are busy with the common tasks of life? Does this mean that Jesus might visit your home or place of business? I believe it does.
C. The risen Christ does reveal himself at unique times and places. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). We can expect the Lord to be present in the classroom. We can expect the living Lord to be present in the place of prayer and worship when God’s people come together to praise him, adore him, and worship him. As we become more experienced and mature in the Christian life, there are certain places where we have had experience with God. To return to one of these places is to encourage the faith and response that makes it possible to have a fresh experience with the living Christ.
D. Christ comes to all of us on the level of our own experience. It would be discouraging to think that the risen Christ could come to us only on the level of the highest possible spiritual experience. The truth is that it is his coming to us on the common road of life that lifts us to these high experiences of spiritual awareness.
III. The risen Christ was concerned about the disciples’ well-being.
From this we can assume that he continues to be interested in the welfare of his disciples.
A. Have you caught any fish? Jesus stood on the shore at a distance from where the disciples were casting their nets after a night of futile effort. They were exhausted and depressed because they had caught nothing. Through the fog they observed someone standing on the shore who shouted, “Have you caught any fish?” Their negative reply probably expressed the weariness of their bodies.
B. Jesus prepared a hot breakfast for his disciples. “As soon as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread” (John 21:9). While they were dragging in the fish they had caught as a result of following Jesus’ suggestion, he rekindled the fire and began to prepare breakfast with some of the fish that had been caught previously and were in the process of being cured for sale. He also suggested that they bring some of the fish they had caught (John 21:10).
C. From the thoughtfulness of the risen Savior, we can assume that he comes to us with purposes of love. He is always concerned about that which is best for us. Life would be much more beautiful and satisfying if we would recognize and respond graciously to his every suggestion instead of foolishly resenting his presence on the basis of a false assumption that he is an intruder.
IV. The risen Christ made a suggestion to his disciples.
A. They had labored through the night and were weary and exhausted. In spite of their efforts, their nets were still empty.
Life can be an empty net. Have you failed to achieve your potential? Have you neglected or refused to do God’s will?
B. A command was given. “Cast the net on the right side of the ship and ye shall find” (John 21:6). On a previous occasion Jesus had advised his disciples to “launch out into the deep, and let down your nets” (Luke 5:4).
C. Have you been casting your net on the wrong side of the ship of life? Is it possible that this explains why you have an empty net?
1. Do you need to cast your net on the other side of the ship of life as far as your home is concerned?
2. Do you need to cast your net on the other side of the ship as far as your business is concerned?
3. Do you need to cast your net on the other side as far as your church is concerned?
V. Obedience to the risen Christ transformed failure into success.
A. There is no substitute for obedience, whether that obedience be to God or to the laws of the state. Obedience needs to be taught and learned in the home.
B. Obedience to the living Lord produces harmony in life. To be disobedient is to create tensions that can know no peace.
C. Obedience to the living Lord brings fruitfulness and good success. The disciples discovered that their net was full when they responded immediately to the command of the Savior.
The living Lord appeared to these disciples and met their immediate need both for fish and their need of food for their stomachs. He had a hot breakfast waiting for them when they arrived on the shore. The richest gift that he gave to them was his own companionship and the continued commission to communicate the gospel of God’s love for a lost world.
What is your need? Is it salvation from the penalty of sin or salvation from the power of sin? Do you need guidance and wisdom or self-confidence? The risen Christ comes to you repeatedly on the level of your own experience. May God grant to you the eyes to see him and the faith to respond to his gracious invitation and loving commandments.
Sunday Evening, April 19
Title: Barnabas: The Good Man
Text: “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24 NIV).
Scripture Reading: Acts 11:19 – 26
Our text is a short biography of a man named Barnabas. The word “good” is used sparingly in the Bible. It is a term that we have cheapened. It was not used carelessly by Luke. He says nothing about Barnabas being crafty, level, smooth, smart, wise, witty, aggressive, influential, powerful, or successful. To say that a man is good is to say something more than that he is righteous or just.
I. Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit.
A. He was God-conscious.
B. He did not ignore the work of God’s Spirit.
C. He was under the direct control of God’s Holy Spirit. People can be God-possessed today.
II. Barnabas was full of faith.
A. Jesus was real to him. To Barnabas, Jesus was not an empty abstraction or a far-off visionary theory.
B. He looked to Christ for salvation.
C. He looked to Christ for leadership.
D. People of heroic faith move the world (Phil. 4:13). Abraham was a man of such faith. Paul had a great faith.
III. Evidences, proofs, and fruit indicate that Barnabas was a good man.
A. Barnabas was a man of the noblest generosity (Acts 4:36 – 37).
1. The bondage of money is the most selfish bondage that ever grips a human soul.
2. There are dangers involved in becoming prosperous. Dr. George W. Truett said, “A man wrong on the question of his money is likely to be seriously wrong on every other question in religion.”
B. Barnabas was a missionary to the core. He became vitally interested in the Gentiles (Acts 11:20).
C. Barnabas always saw the best in others.
1. Saul (Acts 9:27 – 28).
2. John Mark (Acts 15:36 – 39).
D. Barnabas was free from the mean spirit of jealousy or envy (Acts 11:25 – 26). It is remarkable what can be achieved if our primary concern is not who is going to get the credit for it.
To be good is of primary importance for each of us as witnesses of the kingdom of God. We cannot all be clever, smart, intellectual, or famous, but with God’s help each of us can be good, kind, gracious, and helpful. By faith, faithfulness, and cooperation with the Holy Spirit, we can become good men and women.
Wednesday Evening, April 22
Title: What Kind of Revival Do We Need?
Text: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Ps. 85:6).
Revival is an Old Testament word. Revival and evangelism are two different things. Revival, rededication, renewal, or repentance, or a combination of these, must take place before the church can bear an effective witness that will cause great hosts of people to seek Jesus Christ as Savior.
Revival is a work of the Spirit of God among God’s own people whereby they get right with God and with each other. We are in need of something more than a revival of church attendance or tithing.
I. We need a revival that will cause us to recognize the abiding presence of God.
A. God is our Creator. He is sovereign, holy, and just. He will one day be our Judge.
B. God is gracious toward us. He demonstrates his love through forgiveness, patience, and helpfulness.
II. We need a revival that will cause us to rediscover the lordship of Christ.
A. Jesus Christ is Lord because of who he is.
B. Jesus Christ is Lord because of what he has done.
C. Jesus Christ is Lord because of what he can do (Phil. 4:13).
Christ the Lord has been endowed with the right to command. He has the right to issue orders to each of us. We should remember that he is the Lord of love who demonstrated his compassion for us by dying in our place on the cross.
III. We need a revival that will cause us to rediscover the blessing and power of prayer.
A. Jesus our Savior found prayer both necessary and profitable.
B. Prayer had a vital place in the life of the early church (Acts 6:4). Prayer has been described as the mightiest force in the world. When we come to God in prayer, we not only come into connection with the power behind the universe, but we make it possible for God to release his power in and through us.
IV. We need a revival to revitalize our faith so as to reshape our lives.
A. Real faith is something much more than a mental assent to the existence of God (James 2:19).
B. A genuine faith will always express itself in faithfulness. Someone has said, “The faith that falters before the finish had a flaw from the beginning.”
V. We need a revival to renew our devotion to our Lord so as to cause us to redefine the goals of our lives.
Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
A. Jesus would have us to serve him because of love rather than because of fear.
B. We need to recognize our debt of gratitude to our Lord for all that he has done for us. We enjoy the gift of everlasting life because Jesus was willing to die on the cross for us.
C. Because Jesus died for us we should live for him. Our goals in life should be defined in terms of obedience to the one who loved us so lavishly.
VI. We need a revival that will recover a lost passion and restore a sense of loving loyalty to the church.
A. Jesus Christ came into this world to seek and to save the lost. He gave himself to this task to the extent that he died on the cross to achieve it. We need to let his concern for the lost become our concern for the lost.
B. As individual members of the church, we need to recognize the importance of our being loyal and faithful in rendering the ministry that the Holy Spirit would lead us to give.
With your heart and faith, join with the psalmist in praying, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Ps. 85:6). God will rejoice to give us these blessings. Others will experience great joy as we experience this kind of a spiritual revival.
Sunday Morning, April 26
Title: The Risen Christ and Doubting Thomas
Text: “Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:27 – 28).
Scripture Reading: John 20:24 – 31
Hymns: “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” Pounds
“One Day,” Chapman
“Glorious Is Thy Name,” McKinney
Offertory Prayer: Holy Father, we come together in the name of the living Lord, who died for our sins on the cross. We rejoice in him who conquered death and the grave and who revealed by his resurrection the reality of life immortal. Today we not only bow in worship before him, but we bring to him our gifts to express our affection and to indicate our desire to assist in a ministry of proclaiming the good news of the Easter faith to the ends of the earth. Accept these tithes and offerings and bless their use in helping a lost world to come to know Jesus Christ as the Lord of love and the Giver of all life. Amen.
The apostle John is known as the apostle of love, but he is also known as John the evangelist. He revealed his evangelistic purpose for writing the gospel that bears his name in the words, “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). The last example that John used to accomplish his purpose of convincing people that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God, was the account of the appearance of the risen Lord to the disciples a week following the resurrection (John 20:26 – 29).
For some reason, Thomas had been absent on the first Easter Sunday evening when Jesus first appeared to the apostles as a group. While it is impossible to know for sure why he was absent, we probably would not be far from the truth if we assume that he was absent because he had fallen into a state of spiritual despondency. Such an attitude of despondency can be easily understood if we will attempt to grasp the depth of the disappointment into which the death of Christ had plunged all of his disciples. His death was for them a humiliating public disgrace, for he had died as a condemned criminal in the cruelest manner that could be inflicted upon a breaker of the law. His death plunged their political hopes into complete eclipse, for they had dreamed of glory with him in a restored kingdom of Israel.
If we would properly understand and benefit from Thomas’s experience with the living Lord, it would be good for us to recall his devotion and at the same time his frustration as he contemplated Jesus’ departure from Galilee for Jerusalem. Jesus had said that he would be betrayed and crucified. Thomas knew that this was a real possibility. When Jesus had declared his intention to return to Bethany, the disciples sought to dissuade him from his plans (John 11:8). When Thomas discovered that Jesus was determined to go, he said to his fellow disciples, “Let us go also, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Because of Thomas’s devotion and his disappointment, we can easily understand why he could have fallen into deep despair and thereby missed the first appearance of our Savior. Before we scorn Thomas for his doubts, let us compare our love with the love that Thomas showed when he followed Christ from Galilee to Judea convinced that he might die for his Lord.
I. The appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples and to Thomas (John 20:26 – 27).
Because of the testimony of glad hearts, Thomas was present a week following the first Easter Sunday evening when Christ appeared in the Upper Room.
A. Thomas experienced the unchanging love of his Master.
1. Jesus expressed gentle and patient concern for one individual’s faith (John 20:27). We can be assured that each of us is precious in his sight.
2. Jesus never rejects sincere inquiry. The living Lord’s love met Thomas’s doubts, and he used every possible way to dispel them.
B. Thomas became aware of the penetrating knowledge of his living Lord. The risen Christ was aware of Thomas’s demand. “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). In order that Thomas might be absolutely certain of Christ’s victory over death and the grave, the Lord said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).
1. We can be grateful that Thomas demanded a personal certification or validation to dispel his doubts.
2. Thomas wanted unimpeachable evidence that Christ had really conquered death and the grave. Those who believe in the scientific method can be grateful that at least one of the apostles was determined to be absolutely certain that Christ had really conquered death and the grave.
C. Thomas was given a sympathetic and complete confirmation for his faith.
1. Not one single demand was unmet.
2. Each specification was met with tenderness and understanding by the triumphant Savior.
II. The recognition and response of Thomas to the risen Christ.
“My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). For Thomas the resurrection meant that his Lord, the Son of God, had come back to life. This experience was a life-transforming encounter with the living Christ.
A. Previously Peter had received a remarkable revelation and had given voice to a great confession of faith in response to the question of Jesus, “But whom say ye that I am?” and Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15 – 16).
B. Thomas responded to this revelation of the risen Christ with a great confession of his lordship and his divinity: “My Lord and my God” (John 20:18).
1. In confessing Christ’s lordship, Thomas was recognizing his authority to command and to expect obedience.
2. The continued existence of the church in the world for over nineteen centuries after Christ’s death and resurrection is proof that the living Lord has walked down through the corridors of time.
3. The miracle of salvation in people’s lives through trusting in the living Lord should encourage us to believe that he can perform miracles in our lives if we trust him.
The joy in the hearts of believers and the deep hunger in the hearts of those who have not yet believed is an indication that the living Christ has come into our midst this morning. He has come to bless the redeemed and to give faith to those who are willing to trust him. With Thomas, make him your Lord and your God today.
Sunday Evening, April 26
Title: The Wisdom of Andrew
Text: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30).
Scripture Reading: John 1:35 – 42
Do you ever study the New Testament with a desire to find someone in whose path you would like to follow? We should seek to follow Jesus in all areas of our lives. We can also be inspired by following the example of some of his noblest servants. Andrew, one of his early disciples, is a case in point.
Consider Andrew. He must have been a happy individual. He had an experience with Jesus Christ that he was eager to share with others. Each biographical reference to Andrew in the New Testament pictures him as bringing someone to Jesus Christ. He is worthy of our admiration, and we would do well to follow his example. He made the best possible investment of his energies and opportunities, and he lived to see some of the fruit of his efforts.
Andrew is famous primarily because of his habit of bringing others to Christ. This would qualify him to be listed among the wise if we use the measuring stick of the book of Proverbs: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”
I. Andrew was wise — he brought himself to Christ.
A. Andrew heard the preaching of John the Baptist (John 1:35). John came preaching a message of repentance, urging people to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah. Andrew believed the preaching of John and became identified as one of John’s disciples.
B. Andrew believed the preaching of John concerning Jesus (John 1:36).
C. Andrew responded to the ministry and message of Jesus Christ at the very beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry (John 1:37 – 40). As a result of the day that was spent in conversation with him who John had described as the Lamb of God, Andrew became convinced that he was indeed the promised Messiah, and with his mind and with his heart he received him as such.
1. Through Christ he found a new life.
2. Through Christ he found a new joy.
3. Through Christ he found a new power.
4. Through Christ he found a new purpose for living.
The wisest thing that any person can do is welcome and receive Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord. May God help you to make this decision if you have not already done so.
II. Andrew was wise — he brought his brother to Jesus.
“He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41 – 42).
A. Andrew had made a discovery in Jesus that he felt compelled to share. This was a natural thing for him to do. All Christians should be eager to share the joy they have experienced through faith in Christ.
B. Andrew first sought his brother. This is a pattern that modern-day believers should follow. We should share our faith in God with those who are nearest and dearest. In some instances this would be a relative, but in other instances it would be those with whom we labor or those with whom we enjoy leisure.
C. There was no cause for embarrassment in Andrew’s life that would lead his brother to disbelieve his testimony.
1. Is there something in your life that would cause your companions to respond with disbelief if you were to tell them that you are a Christian?
2. Does your child see evidences of the work of God operating in your life?
3. Does your life authenticate and verify the testimony that your lips could bear concerning your discovery of Jesus as the Messiah?
The modern church will never reach the world for Christ by conducting worship Services on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings. Individual believers must, like Andrew, share their discovery with others.
III. Andrew was wise — he found a boy and brought him to Jesus (John 6:5 – 12).
It was Andrew who knew about the boy who had brought a lunch of five barley loaves and two fish. It was Andrew who raised the question concerning the insignificance of such a lunch as they faced the hungry multitude of five thousand men plus women and children.
Have you ever gone to the trouble of taking a boy to the lake to fish or to the field to hunt or to the gymnasium to play ball in order that you eventually might lead him to know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior?
A. Every boy is important.
1. A boy is important to his home.
2. A boy is important to his school.
3. A boy is important to his community.
On April 21, 1866, a Sunday school teacher named Edward Kimball passed and repassed a shoe store in Chicago. Finally, he mustered up enough courage to go inside and speak to a young clerk and ask, “Dwight, don’t you think it is about time you gave your heart to the Lord?” This led to the conversion of the young man who was to become the famous evangelist Dwight L. Moody.
B. To bring a boy to Christ is to accomplish more than we realize.
1. This means that he can become a Christian citizen.
2. This means that some woman will have a Christian husband.
3. This means that some family can have the blessing of a Christian father and home.
IV. Andrew was wise — he brought strangers to Jesus (John 12:20 – 22).
When the Greeks came to see Jesus, they came to Philip, and Philip shared this information with Andrew. It was Andrew who then took the initiative in leading these Gentiles to Jesus Christ. We must not limit our witness to those with whom we are closely associated. The Holy Spirit of God will lead total strangers with hungry hearts to us if we are sensitive and responsive both to his leadership and to the heart needs of those with whom we come into casual contact day after day.
Have you brought yourself to Jesus Christ? If not, then be wise like Andrew and bring yourself to him in faith and commitment.
Do you have a dear one or a near one whom you should bring to Jesus? Do you have a relative, a close friend, or a business associate whom you should bring to Jesus? If so, then dedicate yourself now to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and determine to put forth an effort to be like Andrew and bring that person to Jesus.
Do you know a boy or girl whom you could or should bring to Jesus? May God make you wise to see your opportunities, and may he give you ears to hear his Spirit and the often unrecognized inquiries of those who are still seeking him.
Wednesday Evening, April 29
Title: An Appropriate Question
Text: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” (Ps. 116:12).
Psalm 116 is the beautiful testimony of a grateful heart. It is the testimony of a good steward. This psalm contains the testimony of every sincere believer who lives long enough to experience the rich blessings of God’s grace.
After drawing up a list of the many reasons why his heart was filled with love for God, the psalmist asked a question that you and I should ask ourselves: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”
This question was a personal question. For us it should be a present question. It is a proper question for each of us. For some of us it is a pressing question, for we do not have as much time in which to demonstrate our love for the Lord as we might think.
I. We can give to our Lord the faith he deserves.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). For us either to neglect or to refuse to trust the promises of God is both to insult our God and to deprive ourselves of the blessings of God and of the activity of God in our own lives. If we would praise him and demonstrate our love for him, we must trust him implicitly as did Abraham who was known as the father of the faithful (Rom. 4:20).
II. We can give to our Lord the love he deserves.
The first and greatest commandment requires that we love God supremely and without reservation (Matt. 22:37). If we were to enumerate the many ways in which God has demonstrated his love for us as the psalmist did, we would find him to be altogether lovely. We would find it impossible not to ask the question contained in our text. Because God is so lovable, we should find it easy to love him with all of our hearts.
III. We can give to our Lord the obedience that is essential.
Jesus said to his disciples and to us, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The heavenly Father much prefers that love be the motive behind our Service rather than fear. The Lord would have us to labor in his vineyard because of love rather than out of fear of the consequences of disobedience.
There is no substitute for obedience. World evangelism both in the home community and to the furthest point on the globe waits upon the obedience of those who consider themselves to be disciples.
IV. We can give our Lord a dedicated body (Rom. 12:1).
The body of the believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The body is the tool that the inner man is to use in doing the work of God. Paul encourages the believers in Rome to dedicate their physical bodies as an act of worship, as a gift on the altar in Service of Jesus Christ. When he wrote to the Corinthians, he declared that the spirit as well as the body belonged to God and that each believer should magnify and glorify God and make God known in and through his body.
Faithfully, joyfully, and unreservedly we should give ourselves both in praising our God and in seeking to persuade others to trust him and love him. As we do so, we bring the greatest possible glory to God and render the greatest possible Service to our fellow humans.