This week we continue our Red Letters sermon series from Matthew 5-7. This is Jesus’ longest recorded sermon in the New Testament. We encourage you to read Matthew 5-7 through at least once each week during our series. Ask God to show you ways you can reflect His heart for the world during this new season. In your time with the Lord and with your Growth Group, ask and answer these questions to help guide you in responding to Jesus’ message from Matthew 5-7.
Do you ever wonder what happens to a person when they die? In the early church in Corinth, some teachers suggested that death was a good thing. They taught that the immaterial world (spiritual) is better than the material world (physical). As the church looked for answers, Paul reminded them that the material world was created by God and therefore is not inherently evil. Sin entered the world through Adam, bringing with it death. Death is a result of sin, but the resurrection of Jesus overwhelmed the grave. We know that Jesus
is victorious over sin and death. We see in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 that walking by faith invites us to trust God for the resurrection which is to come. Having experienced the grace of God which invigorates and gives life, we long to please Him. Knowing that one day all will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, we have hope. The life we live by faith is a walk of trust and obedience in light of all that God has done.
Psalm 84 is a companion psalm to 42 and 43 that we heard about last week. In all three psalms we see a yearning to be in the formal place of worship to God. As a pilgrim psalm, 84 would have been sung by the Korahites as they led worship. The psalmist longs to be in the presence of the Lord, to enter into the place where God dwells. His yearning for God is to dwell with Him, to be near Him. The nesting birds in the temple serve as a beautiful illustration of those who have privileged proximity to God in 84:1-4. God is the protector of the faithful. He is their sun and shield. For those who follow Him, their life will be marked with blessedness. This Psalm makes clear that faith begins with trusting in the Lord (84:11).
Psalm 8 is a beautiful presentation of the majesty of God and the dignity of humanity in His creation. David marvels at the beauty, splendor, and majesty of God’s creation including humanity. The echo of Genesis 1:26-28 in Psalm 8:6-8 remind us that the purpose of humanity is to image God throughout all creation. David addresses God as Yahweh, the covenant keeping God of Israel and Adonai, the sovereign over all of creation. He wraps the Psalm with a voice of praise to the God who is. God’s glory and splendor is beyond all that He has created. Through His divine fingers He created all that we see. His creation leads us to worship Him as altogether different than us and greater than us! David’s economy of words mingle awe, praise, marvel, and joy at who God is, what He has done and our response to Him. And so, as we read Psalm 8, we marvel at God and all that He has done!
In 1 John 5:13-21, we see the concluding thoughts and purpose statement for why John wrote his thoughts to the young church under attack. Enemies of the Gospel were promoting living any way you want without consequence. People were denying the deity of Jesus. Idolatry was all around them. Some within the church were led astray by false teachers. John wrote this letter that the believer in Jesus would have assurance of their salvation and confidence in prayer. For the one in Christ, perfect love has driven out fear. You and I are no longer bound by the power of sin but set free by our Heavenly Father’s love. We don’t have to fear an eternity apart from God. We receive his love by grace, through faith and are thus empowered to love others. The letter leaves us with a challenge to pray from a position of confidence in God.
The resurrection of Jesus is the hinge upon which all of our faith swings. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, our faith is in vain. This Easter we celebrate that Jesus is not dead, He is alive! Too often we have become comfortable with the Easter story in such a way that we miss an opportunity to embrace the life giving person of Jesus. He is not some dead historical figure. He is the living Son of God. Just as He said would happen, Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.
Jesus warned His disciples that many would come in opposition to His message. As the church in Ephesus grew, some members of the church began to oppose the original message that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sent to save those who will believe by grace through faith. These men and women who denied the Father and the Son worked to convince others of their errors. Pastor John emphatically writes that those who have left the flock of God are simply evidence of Jesus’ teaching. The opposition represents the reality of Satan and those who remain in Christ have confidence in the message of Jesus because they are the children of God.
John places a high priority on the quality of Christian community by teaching that our fellowship and joy is rooted in what we believe about Jesus. For those that have experienced Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can no longer live in darkness as slaves to sin. We are invited to bring our brokenness into the light where we can be cleansed from all unrighteousness. The basis of our salvation and our sanctification is the person of Jesus. He is the Christ. He is the Son of God. He has come in the flesh. Jesus’ incarnation is the central doctrine of Christian faith. We gather with other believers on the basis of this truth. John’s challenge to us is to discern truth and error as we seek to obey Jesus’ commands and live His values.
There are times in our lives when we feel that God gives us an impossible task of caring for others when everything in us simply wants to take care of ourselves. That’s how the disciples must have felt when the crowds gathered wanting from them what they didn’t have. Jesus forced the issue by assigning the twelve to feed the thousands. Wanting rest, wanting relief, wanting to celebrate all the good they had done, Jesus wanted them to realize their ultimate need to trust Him. The impossibility of the assignment to feed the thousands set up the crowd and the disciples to see how their ultimate satisfaction must be found in Him, rather than simply in the physical provisions he gives.
The apostle Paul sent this last letter to Timothy to encourage him to remain faithful. Persecution from those outside the church was increasing. Imposters in the church were creating problems for the young pastor. Paul reminds Timothy that the first and greatest commandment to love God with all that he is will be the only love that satisfies. This love for God will prove itself fruitful in time. For those who love themselves, love their money, and love pleasure more than God, this too will also be proved in time. Like the sorcerers who opposed Moses, those who stand against God in this age will be proved false. To stand against the revealed truth of God is to stand in a long line of those destined for destruction. But, love for God will be proved as we seek to rescue those ensnared by the devil and avoiding those imposters who claim Jesus but live in opposition to His love.
As ministry partners for a number of years, Paul knows his friend Timothy very well. In his last letter to Timothy, Paul reminds him to not become ashamed of the gospel or of Paul’s imprisonment. Nowhere in the text does it suggest that Timothy is embarrassed, yet Paul knows his friend well and doesn’t want him to succumb to the pressure from those who believe Jesus is simply a dead Jewish rabbi with nothing to offer. Paul and Timothy have given their lives to spreading the good news that Jesus has come to save the lost. Now in prison, Paul’s chains may give occasion for some to doubt or fear. Paul and Timothy signed up for this mission and want it to be clear to all that Paul is not simply a prisoner of Rome. He is a missionary who chose to go to Rome in chains that some might believe in the good news about Jesus. Paul reminds Timothy of their commitment to Christ, to one another, and to their ministry. In the same way, you and I can remain committed to Christ, to one another and to the ministry He has given us despite the suffering we may experience.