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The Zondervan 2014 Pastor's Annual
By T. T. Crabtree
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2013 Zondervan
All rights reserved.
Suggested Preaching Program for January
* Sunday Mornings
The theme for the morning messages for January is "The Life and Works of the Lord Jesus." Use this series to introduce your people anew to the Person, the power, the purpose, and the presence of the Christ who lived, who died, and who victoriously rose from the dead.
* Sunday Evenings
The Sunday evening theme this month is "Great Texts from 1 John." With love and wisdom, the apostle of love dealt with the problems that plagued our Lord's followers during the first century of the Christian era. His message is relevant for our Lord's disciples in this century as well.
* Wednesday Evenings
"The Bible Speaks to Our Condition" is the theme for all of this year's Wednesday evening services. I suggest that the pastor lead his people in a daily devotional reading of one chapter each day. This theme grows out of the conviction that Bible study can be the listening side of the experience of prayer. It is more important that we hear what God has to say than it is that he hear what we have to say.
If this program is followed, every seventh chapter in sequence will serve as the scriptural basis for the time of prayer, meditation, spiritual renewal, and rededication on Wednesday evenings.
The theme passage for January is "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16–17).
Wednesday Evening, January 1
Title: The Bible Speaks to Our Condition
Scripture Reading: Matthew 2
The apostle Paul declared, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). If we are to grow as the children of God, it is essential that we read God's Word. God will speak to our condition if we will read his Word in a prayerful, responsive attitude.
Someone has said, "An apple a day will keep the doctor away, and a chapter a day will keep the devil away." This proverb is probably an oversimplification of both our health and spiritual needs. However, there is a fundamental truth in this proverb that commands serious thought.
A prayerful reading of God's Word enhances the listening side of the prayer experience, for God will speak through his Word to those who have an inclination to listen. A thoughtful, careful, prayerful reading of a chapter a day, each day through the new year, will bring untold blessings into the life of each reader.
Let us let God speak to us through Matthew 2.
I. Wise men sought the Savior (Matt. 2:1–10).
Magi from the East, students of the stars, came seeking the Savior. From whence did these wise men come? How far had they traveled? How much did they know about the Messiah's star? It is impossible for us to answer these and many other questions. The important thing is that they came seeking the Savior.
We use the highest wisdom that humans can exercise when we seek a deeper knowledge and a more intimate acquaintance with the Savior who came to die for our sins. He alone can deliver us from the tyranny of evil. He alone can lead us into abundant life. He alone can give us victory over death. He alone can lead us into the eternal home of God.
Let each of us seek him with the same diligence with which the wise men sought him.
II. The wise men worshiped the Savior (Matt. 2:11–12).
When the wise men found the Christ child, they fell on their knees before him in worship. They gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
A. Gold is an appropriate gift for a king. Jesus was born to be a king. He wants to rule not by force but through love. He reigns in the hearts of those who love him. We all need to crown him King of our hearts.
B. Frankincense is the gift for a priest. In temple worship at the time of sacrifices, the sweet perfume of frankincense was used. Jesus was to be our High Priest. It is he who has given us access into the very presence of the holy God.
C. Myrrh is a gift for one who is to die. It was used to embalm the bodies of the dead. Christ came into the world to die for our sins.
As the wise men gave of their best, we would be wise to give our very best for the service of Christ.
III. Piety does not guarantee immunity from trouble (Matt. 2:13–18).
Why the innocent suffer and the righteous experience trouble has always been a mystery. We will never have a satisfactory answer to this question as long as we walk the ways of humanity.
There is no question concerning the innocence and righteousness of Joseph and Mary. They were within the will of God. By virtue of their being in the will of God, they found themselves to be the objects of the hostility of an evil king who sought to bring about their destruction.
Much of the evil and suffering that the innocent and the righteous experience is due to no fault or sin on their part. The devil is responsible for much of our suffering. The wickedness and carelessness of others brings about suffering.
Should we find ourselves innocent victims of tragedy as did the parents of the children in Bethlehem, we must look to God for grace and strength to bear the agony of our misfortune.
Piety does not provide us with immunity from suffering. We must not permit ourselves to lose our faith in the goodness of God if tragedy should befall us or someone very dear to us.
IV. The purpose of our God (Matt. 2:19–23).
Behind everything that is recorded in Matthew 2, we need to see the plan and purpose of God. Repeatedly the inspired writer refers to the fulfillment of prophecy.
God had been at work through the centuries to accomplish his redemptive purpose. In the fullness of time, he sent forth his Son to be our Savior, Lord, Teacher, and Friend.
God continues to be at work in the various congregations around the world seeking to communicate the good news of his love for people, even while they are in the midst of sin and rebellion.
God is at work to accomplish his purpose in our homes. He wants to help us with the responsibilities involved in marriage and the raising of our families.
God is at work in individual hearts, seeking to deliver from the tyranny of evil and lead into a life of devoted service.
Have you been listening? Did you let God speak to your heart through the verses of Matthew 2? He wants to speak with you. He will speak to your condition if you will listen.
Sunday Morning, January 5
Title: Jesus Grew
Text: "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52).
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:40–52
Hymns: "Higher Ground," Oatman "I Am Thine, O Lord," Crosby "I Am Resolved," Hartsough
Offertory Prayer: Our Father, this is the first Sunday of the new year. We stand on the threshold of new opportunities, but we also feel the responsibility of new obligations. You have led us in the past, and we face the future with full assurance of your guidance in the days ahead. We thank you for open doors, and we pray for faith to enter them in your strength. Today we bring fresh resolve concerning the stewardship of our lives. Help us to recognize that a part of that stewardship is the bringing of our tithes and offerings. We ask your blessings on each gift, each giver, and each cause that we support through our giving. Accept our gifts and use them to spread the gospel of your grace. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
There is very little material in the New Testament concerning Jesus from the time of his birth until the beginning of his ministry. A few scattered passages tell of the days immediately following his birth. Matthew records Jesus' parents' flight with Jesus into Egypt and their return. Luke tells of Jesus' presentation in the temple and of the response of Simeon and Anna.
Two silent periods confront us concerning Jesus' life. The first is from the time his parents "came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth" (Matt. 2:23) after they returned from Egypt until the time Jesus visited the temple at the age of twelve. The other silent period is from his return to Nazareth, where Luke says, "He went down with [his parents] ... and was subject unto them" (Luke 2:51) until he presented himself to John for baptism at the age of thirty.
What kind of life did Jesus live during these days? Many apocryphal stories and fantastic legends have come down to us concerning these periods, especially when he was between the ages of twelve and thirty. Most of them have been rejected as untrustworthy. The truth is that we just do not know. Reliable records are not available. Two statements of Luke give us the best clue. Immediately after Luke records the return of Jesus from Jerusalem following his presentation in the temple, he says, "The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40). Luke then tells of the visit of Jesus and his parents to Jerusalem and concludes this account by saying, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (v. 52).
In speaking of the growth of Jesus, we are not implying either imperfection or immaturity. We are speaking only of the finiteness of his human nature. He was divine, to be sure, but he was also human and experienced normal human growth. The inexperience of childhood progressed in a normal way to wider knowledge and clearer self-consciousness. As Jesus' capacity increased, his ability to grow and comprehend increased. There were no pauses nor sinful elements mingled in his growth. His powers were neither deformed nor unduly developed. His growth means merely that he had no failings in his childhood but was taught by life as well as by Scripture and communion with the Father. The silence of Scripture is as eloquent as if it were vocal with reference to Jesus' early years. Jesus' innocence grew into holiness and did so naturally without attracting attention to itself. The world did not hate him as a child, for he did not yet, except perhaps by his unconscious example, testify against it concerning its evil deeds. On this first Lord's Day of the new year, we consider Jesus' growth as an example for growth in every area of our lives.
I. Jesus grew physically.
Strong bodies are useful for giving our best in God's service. Of course, we have seen outstanding examples of people with disabilities who have concentrated on their work and had amazing success in spite of limited physical abilities. These, however, are glorious exceptions to the rule. Our bodies are the temple, or the dwelling place, of God's Spirit; therefore we need to be as health conscious as we possibly can. The New Testament gives every indication that Jesus had a vigorous physical constitution. His work schedule was remarkably full. He naturally became tired, but there is no indication that he had limited physical capacities. On the contrary, he often performed tasks that showed he was a man of great physical strength. The early years of our lives set the pattern for physical strength or the lack of it in the mature years. Boys and girls who are called on to work hard in the growing years of life may grumble at the time, but later they realize what a privilege they enjoyed. Jesus worked in the carpenter shop. He took care of his body, and in the years to come, he was able to use it in his work to God's glory.
II. Jesus grew mentally.
God warns us many times about the folly of trusting human wisdom, but this does not mean that he is opposed to our intellectual growth. Nowhere does the Bible place a premium on ignorance. God gave us a mind, and he expects us to develop it through study. All other things being equal, the best-trained Christians will be the most effective ones. The boy Jesus must have spent many hours reading the Old Testament scrolls and the writings of the learned men. It is not possible for us to know when he first gained what scholars call his "messianic consciousness," but we are sure that early in his life his human nature found perfect fellowship with his divine nature and he understood his true mission. During the early days, his consciousness of divine sonship was real but as yet undeveloped. He was not merely a "childlike" God in whom growth was impossible. He was truly human in mind and lived under all the limitations common to humans in the mental realm. He therefore had to study in order to grow. He is our example for intellectual achievement. If the Son of God grew mentally, those of us who seek to follow in his steps should take seriously academic development and utilize it to the glory of God.
III. Jesus grew socially.
There is, of course, a danger in striving for popularity. We must not become a "chameleon" and adjust to whatever moral color prevails with the crowd. Christians must always stand for their convictions and be firm in their decisions for right conduct. On the other hand, however, we must hold our standards with a sweet spirit. This means we must learn to get along with people. Christians should not make others feel miserable in their presence. They should make others feel relaxed and happy. If we will cultivate the art of making people enjoy our company, we can grow in the "graces" of social life and, at the same time, lead people to respect our Christian principles. People enjoyed having Jesus in their midst. He was invited to their social gatherings. He was "at home" among them without compromising his convictions concerning God and his redemptive purposes.
IV. Jesus grew spiritually.
It was Jesus' personal fellowship with the Father that enabled him to face life victoriously. Our relationship with God is established through the new birth. Our fellowship comes through growth in things of the spirit. The public life of Jesus had its roots in his private and personal walk with the Father. His bright faith, optimistic outlook, and confidence in God's power to transform others came because he maintained spiritual growth through personal communion in prayer, Scripture study, and constant striving to know God's will and do it. We can be born physically only once, but we can grow physically. We can be born spiritually only once (John 3:16), but we can grow day by day in things of the Spirit as we feed on God's Word and seek to follow his purpose for our lives.
Jesus' growth and our growth may be different in some ways, but in many ways it is exactly the same. Jesus possessed two complete natures—the divine and the human. His two natures did not mingle into one with the divine predominating; they remained separate. His human nature could therefore grow. Born-again Christians also have two natures. The old nature is still with us, but the new nature imparted in the conversion experience is also a reality. Our whole being must grow if our lives are to be happy and victorious. If we do not press ahead, we fall back. We are not divided into separate compartments but are one personality. As we grow in each area, life will become meaningful to self, helpful to others, and pleasing to God.
Sunday Evening, January 5
Title: Life in Him
Text: "For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (1 John 1:2).
Scripture Reading: 1 John 1:1–10
John was an old man when he wrote 1 John and likely outlived the other apostles. These are the words of an inspired writer who was the most intimate companion of our Lord in the days of his earthly ministry.
First John is a book for Christians in general, and "Life in Him" is the theme of the book. Eternal life is not only endless existence; it is the life of God revealed in Jesus Christ and shared by all who put their trust in him. Believers possess a new life, and the source of that life is God, accessed by faith and grounded in goodness and love.
I. The relationship to that life (1 John 1:1–4).
A. Life in Jesus is through the Word. In John 1:1 Jesus is called the Word. He is the living Word who possesses this life in eternal fellowship with God. The phrase "from the beginning" in 1:1 shows the infinity of Jesus and goes back behind the incarnation to the eternal purpose of God.
Three of the human senses are used, and their tenses show the reality of Christ's humanity and the qualifications of John to write. "We have heard" and "we have seen" portray continuous action. "We have touched" portrays repetition. John made contact with Jesus time and again.
B. Life is properly manifested. John said he had experienced life in Christ and now testified of it to his readers. His testimony is valid because of his experience (1:2). John goes further and says that "you" (meaning all) can have eternal life too. This divine life is fellowship with other believers and with God. The basic idea of fellowship is to have things in common, so the specific idea in this passage is sharing life in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
C. There is real joy in this fellowship and in proclaiming it. True joy comes from fellowship with God, and the joy is overflowing when it is shared with others.
II. This life is manifested in our conduct (1 John 1:5–10).
Believers do three things:
A. We proclaim the message (1 John 1:5). The word "declare" in the King James Version means to give a report. Believers tell what Christ has done for them and can do for others.
B. We walk in the light (1 John 1:6–7).
C. We tell the truth about sin.
III. A fuller discussion of these thoughts is seen in an emphasis on the negative and positive.
A. There is the allegation that one has fellowship with God while walking in darkness (1:6). The idea of walking refers to conduct or character. God is light. Light is a symbol of splendor and purity. It is that which illuminates our lives. Since God is light, it is not possible to have fellowship with him while walking in darkness.
1. Walking in darkness means to pursue daily tasks without reference to the will of God. It means living according to worldly standards and seeking selfish goals. It means excluding the light that is God.
2. Walking in the light is living a righteous life. Righteousness is doing the will of God. This can be done only when we are in fellowship with God and one another.
B. There is the claim that one has no sin, and John opposes this (1:8). The words "no sin" are in reference to no guilt or no principle of sin.
1. A person is shown that all are guilty of sin and responsible for it. One is not to deny it or seek to explain it away.
2. The sinner is shown what to do with sin: confess it. To confess means to agree with God. The sinner says to God, "I agree with you; I am a sinner."
Excerpted from The Zondervan 2014 Pastor's Annual by T. T. Crabtree. Copyright © 2013 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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