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The Zondervan 2012 Pastor's Annual
By T. T. Crabtree
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2011 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSuggested Preaching Program for January
* Sunday mornings
John's primary purpose as he wrote the fourth gospel was to select events, actions, and the words of Jesus that would be most convincing in helping people to come to believe that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 20:30–31). John was eager for people to experience abundant life through faith in Christ. "Finding the Abundant Life through Faith in Christ" is the theme for a series of messages based on passages from the gospel of John.
* Sunday evenings
These are times that test our souls, when the very foundations of society are being threatened and our faith in Christ is being attacked. The inspired messages in the book of Hebrews can strengthen us and communicate to us the spiritual insight that we need for confident and courageous Christian living in the present. The book of Hebrews contains a message concerning "the supremacy of Christ" that is needed if we are to face the present and the future with the confidence and courage that we need for victorious Christian living during these critical times.
* Wednesday evenings
The letter of James spoke to the problems that confronted the disciples of our Lord early in the first century of the Christian era. While circumstances may change, human needs do not change. Basically our problems today are the same as they were then. A series of expository messages based on the letter of James is suggested. The theme is "Personal Problems and the
Sunday Morning, January 1
Title: A Controlling Motive for the New Year
Text: "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But 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 20:30–31).
Scripture Reading: John 1:35–50
Hymns: "God, Our Father, We Adore Thee," Frazer
"He Leadeth Me," Gilmore
"I Will Sing the Wondrous Story," Rowley
Offertory Prayer: Holy Father, we come to you on this first Lord's Day of the new year thankful that we are inclined to worship you and to seek your will in all of our ways. We come praying for your help that we might give ourselves completely to you as we walk through this year. Today we bring tithes and offerings as symbols of our desire to commit ourselves to you. Bless both the gifts and the dedication of our hearts to your honor and glory and to the proclamation of the good news of your love both in this community and to the ends of the earth. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
The apostle John, writer of the fourth gospel, leaves his readers with no question concerning his motive for writing the gospel that bears his name. He sought to convince his readers that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. When a writer of Scripture specifically states his purpose, we must pay attention so that we can understand his primary and controlling objective.
John encouraged his readers to do something more than just give intellectual consent to the truth that Jesus Christ is uniquely the Son of God. He sought to persuade them to make Jesus Christ the Lord of their lives. John was vitally concerned that those who read his gospel come to experience life in its finest form and its richest quality.
Some say that the law of self-preservation is the first law of nature. John appeals to this motive in his presentation of the gospel. He affirms that God the Father is vitally interested in our eternal preservation (3:16). He affirms that Christ the Son came and gave his life that we might experience abundant life in the here and now (10:10). John desired that all people would come to experience abundant life through faith in Jesus Christ.
In John's statement of purpose, he affirms his use of the privilege of selectivity concerning the contents of his gospel. He did not tell the whole story that could have been told concerning the life, work, and teachings of the Lord. He omitted many things so that he might emphasize his controlling motive. He was eager to share the Good News so that people could come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. John, the beloved apostle, was an evangelist. As we face the new year, we should give serious consideration to letting John's controlling motive be the guiding principle for our lives as we walk through another year toward eternity.
John selected seven great signs, miracles, wonders, and illustrations under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to convince the minds and hearts of people that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God and worthy of all of the confidence they can place in him.
I. The turning of water into wine (John 2:1–11).
To understand the significance of this event, we need to get back into the historical situation. We find Christ, the Lord of life, attending a wedding in a simple home in Cana of Galilee.
A. Jesus prevented embarrassment to those who were not able to provide an abundance of wine for the crowd who came to the wedding.
B. Jesus made possible increased joy on a festive and social occasion.
C. Jesus demonstrated his unique power over nature.
D. Jesus illustrated his availability, his ability, and his desire to make the last of life better than the first.
Christ can make your life richer, fuller, and more joyful if you will trust him and obey him in love and gratitude.
II. The healing of the nobleman's son (John 4:46–54).
A. In this miracle Jesus revealed his power over disease.
B. Jesus revealed his power over distance. The nobleman's son was twenty miles away from where he and Jesus were having their conversation. Jesus said to the man, "Go thy way; thy son liveth."
C. This sign revealed Jesus' compassionate concern for people with heavy hearts.
D. The nobleman and his household made a proper response to Jesus Christ. He believed along with the rest of the members of his household. The nobleman now had a new Master.
III. The healing of the lame man (John 5:1–6).
A. Jesus healed a man who was helpless, lonely, and poor.
B. The compassionate Savior genuinely cares for those who are helpless and worthless to others.
C. This miracle took place on the Sabbath. By acting on the Sabbath, Jesus showed that the work of God is continuous and that it must not be limited by custom or tradition.
D. Christ was also interested in the man's soul. He was not content merely to render a medical ministry to the man. Jesus sought him out and encouraged him to forsake the way of sin (5:6–14).
IV. The feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1–14).
A. The compassionate Christ was concerned and continues to be concerned with those who suffer from physical hunger.
B. With power Jesus was willing to meet the needs of those who suffered the pangs of hunger.
C. Christ demonstrated his capacity and desire to use small things in a most significant manner to bless a great multitude. He used this occasion of feeding people with bread to talk about the Bread of eternal life.
V. Walking on the sea (John 6:15–21).
A. The Creator Christ demonstrated his power over nature.
B. The Creator Christ illustrated his power over the causes of human fear. He said, "It is I; be not afraid" (v. 20).
C. By coming to his disciples during the storm, Christ revealed his availability to aid the helpless and fearful in times of distress.
1. He sees us today and knows about our fears and our insecurity.
2. He comes to us today walking across the sea of life to where we are.
3. He comes to help us in our times of need.
4. He saves us from the catastrophes we fear.
VI. The healing of the man born blind (John 9).
A. Christ is the source of light and illumination concerning the mysteries of time and eternity.
B. Christ is the source of real life because he is the Son of God. It is most interesting to note the progression in the man's understanding of Jesus. He knows Jesus simply as "a man" (v. 11), and then he speaks of him as "a prophet" (v. 17). He finally comes to believe in him as "the Son of God" (vv. 35–38).
VII. The raising of lazarus (John 11:1–54).
A. By this miracle we perceive the sincere sympathy of the Son of God for those who suffer grief and sorrow (vv. 17–35).
B. By this miracle Jesus revealed his lordship over life, death, and the grave (vv. 39–45).
John the apostle was fully convinced that Jesus Christ had the power to resurrect. He can bring life to your heart and soul. He has the power to resurrect your family and to give you a new life and a new future.
We are not on the way to death. Instead, through Christ, we are on the way to eternal life, abundant life. Christ makes possible for us the life that grows and reproduces itself. During this year we must serve as those who do believe and live so as to persuade others to believe that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God who should also be the Lord of their lives.
Sunday Evening, January 1
Title: Jesus: God's Last Word
Text: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son" (Heb. 1:1–2).
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 1:1–12
The Bible is God's Word. Millions have had their lives changed by its message. Many attempts have been made to destroy the Bible, but all have failed. In AD 303 Diocletian, emperor of the Roman Empire, set out to destroy all of the Bibles in the land together with the people who possessed them. He believed that Christians could not exist apart from the book they claimed as their rule of faith. Thousands of Christians were cruelly martyred in this bloody onslaught. Within a few years, Diocletian felt his drive had been so successful that he erected a column over a burned Bible and wrote on the column these words: extincto nomine Christianorum ("The name of Christian is extinguished"). Yet by AD 313, the new Roman emperor, Constantine, had declared himself a Christian and had adopted the symbol of the cross for the standards of his Roman army.
The Bible remains, not because of some magical power, but because of the risen Christ who stands behind it. He is the ultimate Word of God.
I. God's last word in communication (Heb. 1:1).
Ever since the garden of Eden, God has sought to communicate to people the message of life. The Bible is not only a record of God's communication, but is itself a part of God's communication. People can discover many things about the created universe, but only God can reveal to people the spiritual truths so necessary for life. In revealing himself to people, God had to take a barbaric, primitive people and lead them a step at a time, much like a father leads his child through the first faltering steps of walking. Sin had so blinded the minds of people that God could reveal only a small portion of truth at a time. God had to work slowly because people were slow to understand. The writer of Hebrews says it this way: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe" (1:1–2 NIV).
The Old Testament prophets were like people putting together a giant puzzle. Here and there God handed to them a piece of the picture. Each fragment was accurate but was only a part of the total picture.
The puzzle took final shape with the coming of Jesus Christ. Everything else remained in fragmentary form until Christ came to give unity to the picture and fullness to the prophecies. To look upon the Old Testament prophets is to look upon God's messengers, but to look upon Jesus is to look upon God in terms we can understand—God pictured in human terms. God began a communication to people thousands of years before he was to present his final communication—his last word—as Jesus Christ.
II. God's last word in salvation (Heb. 1:2–3).
Where salvation of the soul is concerned, Jesus Christ is God's last word. Prior to Jesus' coming, people experienced salvation through faith in God's promised Savior. Since Jesus' coming, people have experienced salvation through faith in the revealed Savior. Christ was truly God in the flesh! In "the radiance of God's glory" (v. 3 NIV), the word "radiance" depicts a beam of glorious light descending from the heavenly Father upon the earthly Christ in such a way that the same glory shines out from both. John also used the idea of light to speak of Christ: "The light shines in the darkness" (John 1:5 NIV).
Jesus Christ is divine, and for a brief moment during his earthly life, on the Mount of Transfiguration, the divine radiance shown through. The writer of Hebrews further describes Christ's divinity: "The Son is the ... exact representation of [God's] being" (1:3 NIV). This scriptural image denotes the imprint of a king's seal left when applied to warm wax. The image left on the wax is an exact reproduction of the royal seal. The writer of Hebrews is saying that Jesus Christ is the exact reproduction of God's essence—God's being.
Finally, Christ is pictured as being the Redeemer: "After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven" (Heb. 1:3 NIV). Christ personally effected the removal of our guilt. He provided cleansing for our sins. Here the idea of his high priesthood is introduced. People need no other high priest, for Christ has provided the cleansing for sins. No one else can remove the stain of guilt from the souls of people. Christ is God's last word on what people can do about sin. Simon Peter realized this truth as he answered Jesus' question as to whether the disciples would also leave him: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68 NIV).
III. God's last word in exaltation (Heb. 1:3).
When Jesus came in the flesh, the Jewish people were anticipating a conquering Messiah who would dispose of their Roman captors. Jesus tried to make clear to his disciples that his kingdom was not an earthly kingdom (John 18:36). Yet there would be a final triumph—a final exaltation—and again Jesus would be God's last word in it. The final exaltation will come when "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout" (1 Thess. 4:16).
The apostle Paul reminded the Philippians: "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9–11). Of course Christ was exalted following his resurrection when he "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven" (Heb. 1:3 NIV), but this final exaltation will not be fully manifested until his return.
The writer of Hebrews puts it like this: "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end" (Heb. 1:10–12 NIV).
Heaven and earth, as we know them, will grow old. Christ will roll them up as one rolls up an old garment and lays it aside to be worn no more. Heaven and earth, as we know them, will be exchanged for new heavens and a new earth (Rev. 21:1). Scientists have set forth what is called the "second law of thermodynamics," the belief that the universe is gradually losing heat and is thus slowly running down. The Bible says it more poetically by describing the universe as an old garment that gradually is becoming worn out. In the face of such prospects, God promises a final exaltation: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15).
The prophets were great men, but they were only spokesmen for God. The Bible speaks of angelic beings, but they are only messengers of God to do his bidding. Only Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Excerpted from The Zondervan 2012 Pastor's Annual by T. T. Crabtree Copyright © 2011 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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