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* Sunday Mornings
The gospel is "Good News about God." This is the suggested theme for the morning messages in January. In a time when there is so much bad news, we ought to preach the "Good News about God."
* Sunday Evenings
As we face the new year, let us hear "The Ancient Prophet Speaks to the Present." These messages are based on texts from the prophecy of Isaiah.
* Wednesday Evenings
The theme for the Wednesday evening messages is "How Does a Sinful Man Find Acceptance with the Holy God?" This is the question answered by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Galatians. All of us need to rejoice in the peace that comes through justification by faith.
Wednesday Evening, January 2
Title: Christ the Great Liberator
Text: "Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Gal. 1:3–4).
Scripture Reading: Galatians 3:1–9; 5:1
Paul's epistle to the Galatians is a powerful polemic against the Judaizers who were trying to draw the churches of Galatia away from the evangelical gospel. These young churches were plagued with false teachers who were alleging that the death of Jesus Christ and his victorious resurrection from the dead were not an adequate basis on which to trust for a right standing before God. They were contending that faith in Christ must be supplemented by a keeping of the Mosaic law and the traditions of the Fathers.
The very existence of evangelical Christianity was at stake. If the position of these Judaizers were to be established, then Christianity would simply be a sect of Judaism rather than a revelation of the true purpose of God.
A study of the epistle to the Galatians reveals that these false teachers used three main arguments to promote their cause. First, they questioned Paul's apostleship and denied that he had the right to be an authoritative teacher. Second, they glorified various aspects of Judaism with particular emphasis on keeping the ceremonial law. Third, they implied that Christian liberty led to a life of lawlessness and license that was contrary to God's will.
The epistle can be outlined in view of these three erroneous teachings Chapters 1 and 2 are biographical in nature. The apostle Paul explains and defends his role as an apostle with full authority to preach and teach the gospel. Chapters 3 and 4 provide an explanation of Paul's basic doctrine of justification by faith. He affirms and illustrates from the Old Testament that people are given a right standing before God on the basis of their faith rather than by a keeping of the law. Chapters 5 and 6 declare that instead of trying to satisfy the claims of the law, the followers of Jesus Christ are to concentrate on living in a manner so as to meet the obligations of love. This is to be done in the power of the Holy Spirit who took up his residency in the heart of each believer in a conversion experience.
I. Paul, an apostle.
The apostle defends his apostleship on the grounds that he did not receive it as a gift from man but as an assignment from Jesus Christ and God the Father. He is bold to claim an equality with the apostles who had walked and talked with Jesus Christ.
II. Grace and peace.
These words are more than a salutation from the apostle to his children in the faith. They express the provisions of God for his children. God wants to deal with us on the basis of his grace rather than on the basis of law. He desires that we live in the harmony that produces inward peace and joy.
III. Christ gave himself for our sins.
Paul strongly proclaims that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was intended to deal with our sin problem. That is the heart of the glad tidings of God's love and of God's provision of salvation for people. Paul later declares in this epistle that people are given a right standing before God on the basis of their faith in the death of Jesus Christ for their sins and his victorious resurrection from the dead Our sins have been forgiven because Christ loved us enough to go to the cross on our behalf.
IV. Deliverance from this present evil world.
Christ Jesus died on the cross for more than the forgiveness of our sin. He died and rose again that he might deliver us from the power and practice of sin as well as from the penalty of sin—death. He came to do something more than deliver us from an eternity of exile from God. He came to bring the rule of heaven into our hearts in the present It is his plan that we live a life triumphant over evil in this present evil world (Titus 2:11–14).
V. The will of God our Father.
The apostle asserts that grace, peace, forgiveness, and deliverance from the power of evil are a part of the will of our heavenly Father for each of us. Truly ours is a wonderful Savior. Our God is a great and a good God We are indeed fortunate to know him who is the great Liberator from the penalty of sin in the past, from the power of sin in the present, and from the presence of sin in the future.
Our response should be to dedicate ourselves to our Lord and to the will of God so that we may bring glory to him both now and forever.
Sunday Morning, January 6
Title: The God of Good News
Text: "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:14–15)
Scripture Reading: Luke 15:11–24
Hymns: "To God Be the Glory," Crosby "I Love to Tell the Story," Hankey "O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing," Wesley
Offertory Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the privilege of being alive in this new year. We thank you for your offering to us new opportunities, responsibilities, and joys as we face this new year. We come today with our tithes and the gifts of our love, offering ourselves to you afresh. Help us as we seek to give ourselves in ministries of mercy to others. Bless these gifts today to the advancement of your kingdom and to the accomplishment of your purpose in the hearts and lives of people. In Christ's name. Amen.
We live in a world where people are accustomed to hearing bad news. The front pages of our newspapers are filled with the accounts of tragedies that produce suffering for individuals, families, and whole nations. Much of the time allotted to newscasts on radio and television is utilized to communicate bad news. One would get the impression that bad news is more important than good news.
On this first Sunday of the new year, let us focus our minds and hearts on the good news about God. God is the God of good news. To hear the good news about God can cause us to have kind feelings toward him and can create a deeper faith in him as we face the uncertainties of the road ahead. Some people associate nothing but bad news with God because the devil has been misrepresenting the nature and character of God from the dawn of human history. Some listen only to the suggestions of Satan concerning the nature and purpose of God.
Some people associate God only with their guilty conscience. Their dirty, evil past causes them to fear God and to dread the possibility of a confrontation with him. Their pride prevents them from asking forgiveness for their sins. Their misunderstanding of his nature and character makes it difficult for them to believe that God has purposes of love and mercy toward them. Today we will look into the Bible to discover some good news about God so that our hearts may be encouraged and that some may find it possible to put faith and trust in him.
The wise men and the prophets of the Old Testament recognized and responded to the good news about God: "You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, 'Here is your God!'" (Isa 40:9 NIV) We hear Isaiah speaking in a similar tone of voice again and again. "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isa 52:7 NIV)
The greatest good news about God is revealed in the coming of the Christ. While Zechariah was in the temple, a divine visitor announced to him the mighty work of God that was to happen in the immediate future. "And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings" (Luke 1:19). On the night when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, an angel appeared to shepherds in a field and said, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:10). The Bible is a record of the activity of the God of good news.
The English word gospel means "the good message." It denotes the good tidings of the kingdom of God and of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus on the basis of his substitutionary death, his burial, his victorious resurrection, and his ascension back to the throne of the Father. All of these events and the interpretation of them are wrapped up in this word gospel, which is the gospel of God.
I. The good news about God was spoken in the garden of Eden following Adam and Eve's sin.
We read of how God said to the serpent, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen 3:15). Here we read of the divine decree to defeat and destroy the evil that had come into the world to rob Eden of its beauty and humankind of their privilege of fellowship with God. At the very dawn of human history, God was announcing that there was hope and that a plan had been designed for forgiveness, redemption, and deliverance. The God of good news had spoken.
II. The good news of God was announced to Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3).
Paul affirmed that the gospel was preached during the days of Abraham: "Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you'" (Gal 3:8 NIV). The God of good news was seeking to penetrate the minds and hearts of people during Abraham's day. From the beginning, God intended that his people be a missionary people. He desires that they be involved in communicating the good news of his love to those who are in spiritual darkness and despair.
III. God announced the good news to Moses.
A study of Exodus 3:6, 8, 10 indicates the redemptive program of the gracious God who was planning to deliver Israel from the tyranny and bondage of Egypt. This was wonderful news for people in slavery.
Moses, like many modern followers of Jesus Christ, offered a number of excuses as to why he should not be personally involved in communicating this good news about God to Israel.
A. Moses offered the excuse of a lack of personal fitness: "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?" (Ex 3:11).
B. Moses offered the excuse of inadequate knowledge of the nature and character of God (Ex 3:13).
C. Moses offered the excuse of a lack of authority (Ex 4:1).
D. Moses offered the excuse of a lack of speaking ability (Ex 4:10).
E. Finally, Moses demonstrated his lack of faith as being his real reason for offering excuses (Ex 4:13).
We read in the following verse that "the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses" because of Moses' unwillingness to be a part of the effort to communicate the good news of deliverance and the promise of peace and victory to God's people. We can be safe in assuming that our neglect to cooperate with God in communicating the good news concerning his plans for humankind is displeasing to him.
IV. Jesus began and closed his ministry by emphasizing the good news about God.
A. From the very beginning, Jesus concentrated on announcing the good news about God (Mark 1:14). Throughout his entire earthly ministry, he concentrated on communicating the good news of God's love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, purpose, and power.
B. Following Jesus' resurrection, he commanded his church to concern itself with the proclamation of the good news about God to all creatures and to take it to the ends of the earth (Mark 16:15).
V. The early church was excited over the good news from God (acts 8:4).
The gospel was not good advice. The gospel was good news from God and about God that concerned people. The gospel was the good news about what God was doing in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ for the benefit of the human race. The early disciples were tremendously excited over their new understanding of the love of God that was so great that it brought Jesus Christ to die a humiliating death on a cross for them.
The early disciples were thrilled beyond words over the fact that in Jesus' resurrection he had revealed that death was not the end and that the grave was not the goal of this life. Immortality ceased to be a dream or a hope. It became a reality that was very real and wonderful.
The greatest news and the latest news from God is that he loves us. He has a wonderful plan for our lives. He wants to forgive us our sins. He wants to deliver us from the power of sin. He wants to grant us the gift of wisdom for renewed living. He wants to provide us with divine energy that will enable us to do the work that he would have us to do in the world today.
What have you done with the good news about God? Are you willing to respond to the Good News? God loves you. Accept this great truth with your mind. Put the confidence of your heart in it, and move forward with a new optimism and with a new spirit of faith, hope, and love as we march into another year for the glory of God.
Sunday Evening, January 6
Title: Who Will Go?
Text: "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" (Isa. 6:8).
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 6:1–11.
The adventures of Robinson Crusoe have long captivated the hearts of readers. Perhaps it is because everyone has at one time or another dreamed of being stranded on some island paradise. Robinson Crusoe, a master of resourcefulness, set about to provide himself with food and shelter to sustain life. He trapped goats until he had his own herd. He built a lodging for warmth and protection Every day he explored the island for food. His activities were determined by the fact that he was alone on an island. Suddenly one day he discovered a footprint in the sand. He was not alone after all. Now his whole concept had to change His little island was not as solitary as he had assumed.
Isaiah 6 is the moving account of a statesman who, living in a secure circle of royalty, suddenly discovered the imprint of God's presence in his own life. In a moment, all was changed. His plans, his commitments, his whole future had to undergo drastic revisions.
Isaiah was made acutely aware of God—and of an embarrassing question:
"Who will go for us?" The Septuagint reads, "Who will go to this people?" One of the Jewish Targums translates, "Who will go teach?" Although this passage has been the basis of many missionary sermons, the immediate context reminds us that this is the call to witness right where we are. Isaiah was not even asked to move across the street. He would not even have to leave Jerusalem for a weekend. The call was to stand for God in the very same city where he had lived since birth.
For a number of reasons, God's question, "Who will go?" is an embarrassing question.
I. Because of past sin (Isa. 6:5).
You cannot see the holiness of God without also seeing your personal sinfulness. The person who claims a personal experience of faith but whose life continues in complacent self-righteous ness is deceived. Isaiah's first thought was of his own unworthiness: "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" (Isa 6:5).
Suddenly Isaiah saw that his private life had not been private at all. Rather, it had been going on in the very midst of God's throne room. The angelic beings announced what was to Isaiah a new concept: "The whole earth is full of his glory" (Isa 6:3).
Isaiah's lips had been given to secular and political causes but not to God's cause. Perhaps Isaiah was like some of our contemporary politicians who feel they must use enough vulgarity to appeal to the person in the street and enough Scripture to satisfy the people of God.
No doubt Isaiah had been involved with many people in whose eyes he had lost respect. Now he was asked to be a witness to them of God's righteousness. Perhaps he already was reminded of homes where he would not be welcome because of some business deal. Yet the excuse of being unfit was not acceptable, for God offered a way of cleansing. One of the angelic beings touched Isaiah's "unclean lips" with a live coal from the altar fire, signifying the cleansing power of God.
Excerpted from The Zondervan 2013 Pastor's Annual by T. T. Crabtree Copyright © 2012 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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