Notice the importance of the Scriptures for both public ministry – ‘reasoning with them from the Scriptures’ and private devotion – ‘examining the Scriptures every day’ (Acts 17:2, 11).
We need the Word of the Lord on the Lord’s Day. We need the Word of the Lord every day.
God is not the ‘unknown God’. He has made himself known to us.
For many, He seems to be the ‘unknown God’. We must seek to lead them beyond a vague awareness of ‘the God who made the world’ to a real knowledge of Jesus Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (Acts 17:24, 3).
When our faith is grounded in the Scriptures, we will not think of God as the ‘unknown God’ about whom we can know very little. We will make it our ambition ‘to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10).
‘Let us press on to know the Lord’(Hosea 6:3).
Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13
In 1979, I visited a church in the USA, where the members of the congregation greeted each other with these words: “God loves you, and I love you.” A year later, after my return to Scotland, I heard a song with the words: “God loves you, and I love you, and that’s the way it should be.” The love of God is not merely words which we speak. The love of God is to be seen in the lives which we lead.
“God loves you, and I love you.” “God loves you, and I love you, and that’s the way it should be.” these words have stuck with me over the course of the years. When I conduct a wedding, I read the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and 1 Corinthians 13:13. I give the couple a motto to carry with them into their married life: “God loves you, and I love you.” I emphasize that human love is founded on divine love. Our love for each other is based on God’s love for each of us. I stress to them that there are times, in every marriage, when you become painfully of your partner’s weaknesses, times when you are very disappointed in your partner. At such times, it is difficult to share your love with your partner. These are the times when we must remember the love of God. When you find it difficult to love your partner, remember God’s love for you. God sees your weaknesses as well as your strengths. He sees your bad points as well as your good points. He knows all about your faults and failings, yet He continues to love you. When you think of such love, you will find it so much easier to share your love with your partner. The words, “I love you”, will come to mean so much more when both husband and wife are seeking to build upon the love of God. This is the advice that I give to newly married couples; Build your human love on divine love. Build your love for each other on the love of God for both of you.
Our theme is not marriage. It is discipleship. In the Church, we are to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. In the world, we are to live as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we consider the life of discipleship, we must learn to think of it as a life of love. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Sharing our love within the context of marriage is, for some of us, a part of life. Sharing our love as disciples of Jesus – this is something we are all called to do. Living as disciples of Jesus means more than just saying the right words. It means living the right way. It means letting the love of Christ fill our lives. His love is to shape our attitudes. His love is to inspire our actions.
The importance of having love in all that we do is emphasized in a modern song, entitled, “Witness”: “I witnessed to a man today. I witnessed to his wife. I told them ’bout the way and I told them ’bout the life. I told them that they needed to surrender to the Lord. I told them ’bout the power of His double-edged sword. I witnessed to a drunkard outside a tenement. I told him he was shameful and he needed to repent. I witnessed to a blind men beggin’ money on the street. I put a tract into his cup and did not miss a beat. I passed out all the tracts with all the Scripture underlined. I handed one to each and every one that I could find. I’d shove one in their hands and I’d walk on to the next. I must have reached a hundred souls with my salvation text. I gave out little Bibles, with the Gospel of St. John, into a hundred hands before my Bibles were all gone. I told each one I met the words of John3 verse 16, and sandwiched in a little bit of Matthew in between. I finished out the day and yet I was not satisfied. And, on my way back home, it hit me, and I almost cried. I’d given them the message and I’d given them a little shove, but I’d missed the most important thing. I had not given love.” (from Chuck Girard’s album, “The Stand).
All that we do may sound very impressive, but, without love, it is nothing – nothing at all. Living as a disciple of Jesus does not mean being a “Bible-thumper.” It means loving Jesus and loving other with the love of Jesus. We are not called to hit people with a book. We are to love them with the love of Jesus. We are not to bombard them with words. We are to show them the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Words have their place, but we must practise what we preach. In our everyday life, we must live out the love of Christ. Love – this is what really makes the difference. Love – this is what really draws men and women to Jesus Christ.
A well-known atheist, Nietzsche, once said, “His disciples will have to look more saved if I am to believe in their Saviour.” This is very challenging. The only “Bible” many people ever read is the “Bible” of our lives. They never read the Bible we carry with us to Church, but they watch how we live our lives. They watch like a hawk, and they make up their minds about Christianity on the basis of what they see in Christians. A Marxist writer, Machovec, has pointed out that “critics practically never reproach Christians for being followers of Christ, but … for not being such” (A Marxist Looks At Jesus, cited in H. Kung, On Being a Christian, p. 558).
1 Corinthians 13 is the most well-known Bible passage on the theme of Christian love. When we read 1 Corinthians 13, it is most important that we understand that true Christian love is not something which comes naturally to us. true Christian love is nothing less than the love of God: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). True Christian love is not something which arises from deep within our own hearts. It is the love of God which has been poured into our hearts by God Himself. True Christian love grows in us as we allow our lives to be brought under the control of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:14, the Apostle Paul wrote, “The love of Christ controls us. The love of Christ constrains us.”
The life, filled with Christian love, is the life which is controlled by the love of Jesus Christ. The life which is controlled by the love of Christ will be a life of service, a life constrained by the love of Christ – constrained to reach out to others with His love.
When our lives are controlled by the love of Christ, there will be both love for God and love for our neighbour – not one without the other, but both together. We will offer praise and worship to God. We will give ourselves in the service of needy mean and women. Through our words and actions, we are to show the love of Christ. We cannot be content with words only, for words without actions are dead.
Let us live for Christ. Let us speak for Christ. Let us pray that the love of Christ will shine brightly in our lives, as a light which draws men and women to the Saviour.
Sermon on John 9:1-41
At the heart of the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel, there is a testimony. It is a very short testimony. It is contained in a single verse – John 9:25. “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” This is an extremely powerful testimony. These few words strike a chord in the heart of the believer. “I once was blind, but now I see.” This is the testimony of all those whose lives have been touched by the love of Christ. When our lives are touched by the loving hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts rise to Him in worship: “When I feel the touch of Your hand upon my life, it causes me to sing a song that I love You, Lord.” When the “amazing grace” of the Lord Jesus Christ takes hold of our lives, we begin a new life that is filled with love for Jesus.
When the man spoke these words – “I once was blind, but now I see”, this was not the end of the story for him. This was the beginning of his new life. The new life would grow and develop. When we give our testimony, it is not simply a description of the way in which we began the Christian life. It is a testimony concerning all that the Lord has done for us since that day when we trusted Christ as our Saviour. We have been saved by the grace of God. We are being kept by the power of God. When we give our testimony, we praise God for bringing us to faith in Jesus Christ, and we praise Him for keeping us in the faith of Jesus Christ.
What is the new life that the Lord Jesus Christ has given to us? – (i) It is a life of love; (ii) It is a life centred on Jesus: (iii) It is a life of wholeness; (iv) It is a life of mission.
(i) A life of love
There’s a Gospel song , which contains these fine words: “Love lifted me. When no-one but Christ could help, love lifted me.” This is the believer’s testimony – “Love lifted me.” What no-one else could do, Christ has done for us. He alone is able to lift us out of our sin, because He alone is our Saviour. Only Christ can give us new life, since He alone is the risen and living Lord.
Later on, in this Gospel song, we find the words: “Jesus completely saves. He will lift you by His love.” This is the believer’s message. When we have been lifted by the love of Christ, we have more than a personal testimony. We have a message to share with others. We give our testimony, “Love lifted me”, and we say to others, “He will lift you by His love.”
This is precisely what the healed man did . In John 9:25, he gave his personal testimony. In John 9:27, he invited his critics to follow Jesus – “Do you too want to become His disciples?” Here is a model for us to follow. We have become disciples. We must now seek to make disciples. In love, Christ has drawn us to Himself. In love, He uses us to reach out to others.
(ii) A life centred on Jesus
When the blind man was asked, “How were your eyes opened?” (John 9:10), he began his answer with the words, “The Man called Jesus” (John 9:11). Jesus was at the centre of the man’s life. The Christian life is a life of looking to Jesus, a life of seeing Jesus. When we say, “I once was blind, but now I see”, what we are really saying is this: “Now, I’m looking to Jesus. Now, my eyes are fixed on Him.” Once our eyes have been opened to see Jesus, we must keep on praying, “Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus.”
The more we see Jesus, the more He will rise in our estimation, the more He will be exalted in our eyes. We see this in the case of the healed man. In John 9:11, he speaks of “the Man called Jesus.” In John 9:17, he says, “He is a prophet.” In John 9:35-38, he confesses his faith in Jesus Christ as “the Son of God” (Authorized Version) or “the Son of man” (Revised Standard Version). The expression, “the Son of man”, should not be seen as a weakening of our faith in Christ as the Son of God. Notice what Jesus says, in other places, about “the Son of man”- “The Son of man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15); “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days, He will rise” (Mark 9:31); “They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
Is Jesus becoming more and more precious to you? Is He coming to mean more and more to you? True Christian growth is marked by a growing love for Jesus.
(iii) A Life of Wholeness
When the blind man received his sight, he received wholeness. Until that day, his life was incomplete. He could not see. When Jesus touches our lives, He makes us whole. Closely connected with the word, “wholeness”, is the word, “holiness.” There is no wholeness without holiness. Our lives are incomplete if we are not walking in the way of holiness. There’s a children’s chorus which says, “I’m walking on the King’s Highway.” What does this mean? – The King’s Highway is the Highway of holiness. In Isaiah 35:8, we read about the Highway of Holiness: “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way (Revised Standard Version) or the way of holiness (Authorized Version).” We are walking on the King’s Highway when we are walking on the Highway of Holiness.
Whenever we think of the love of Jesus, we must also think of His holiness. Jesus, our loving Saviour, is also Jesus, the holy Son of God. Jesus’ love is a holy love. It is not a gushy, sentimentalized thing. His love is holy. It is filled with moral strength, strength of character. If we are to show the love of Christ to the world, we must also show His holiness. living as men and women who are different, men and women who have been changed by the holy love of Christ.
(iv) A Life of Mission
You’ve heard the phrase, “on fire for the Lord.” There was a real difference between the healed man and his critics. He had just received his sight, and, with it, he received a mission. straightaway, he was seeking to win his critics for Christ: “Do you too want to become His disciples?” (John 9:27). the healed man was on fire for the Lord. His critics were also on fire, but they burned with a very different fire. They were burning with the desire to have Jesus killed. They did not know who Jesus was (John 9:29), because they did not want to know Him. they refused to recognize what the Lord had done for the blind man. In the face of such unbelief, we, who must continue to give our testimony: “He opened my eyes” (John 9:30). We must pray for our critics – “Open their eyes, Lord, and let them see Jesus.”
Sermon on 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and 9:16-27
Paul was no silent disciple, no half-hearted follower of Jesus. He was not ashamed of his Lord. He was glad to say, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Romans 1:16).
Why was Paul bold to say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14)? Why was Paul so emphatic in saying, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2)?
The answer is very simple and straightforward. He was a man who had been grasped by the power of the Gospel. Through the power of Christ, Paul was no longer his own. He belonged to Christ. This was why he was able to write to the Corinthian Christians, “You are not your own; you have been bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He was a man filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. This was why he was able to challenge the Corinthian Christians: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? … So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He was a man grasped by the power of the Gospel, a man filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. What kind of men and women are we? This is the challenge of Paul’s life for us.
Paul’s life was not easy. His life story was not always a glowing success story. He suffered persecution because of his faithfulness to Christ and the Gospel. He spent time in prison because he refused to compromise his commitment to Christ. How was he able to remain faithful to Christ in such difficult circumstances? The answer is quite simple: the Holy Spirit. How did the Holy Spirit work in Paul’s life? How does the Holy Spirit work in our lives? The Holy Spirit empowered Paul to be a disciple of Jesus. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be followers of the Lord.
The word, “disciple”, is very similar to the word, “discipline.” This is no accident. The life of discipleship is a life of discipline. This is the point which Jesus made, when He said, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
This is the lesson which Paul had learned when he said, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). The discipline of discipleship – this is the challenge which Paul’s life sets before us. Are you a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?
When Paul said, “Necessity is laid upon me”, he was not speaking of a shallow or superficial emotion. The Holy Spirit works within us so that we might learn the discipline of discipleship.
When your pathway is covered with snow, what do you do? Do you clear the path because you feel like doing this? Do you clear away the snow because it has to be done? Discipline – this is what we need if the pathway is to b kept clear.
When your living room is in a mess, do you take out the vacuum cleaner because you feel like doing this? The discipline of the ‘housewife’ has much to teach us if we are to learn the discipline of discipleship, which is called for by Paul’s words: “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit … So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The discipline of discipleship highlights for us the “I have to do this” dimension of the Christian life. Let me tell you a story about a woman in her sixties, a slim woman about five feet tall. One evening, she sat in her living room, waiting for her husband to return from his work in the fields. Suddenly, she noticed, at the window, the face of a burly stranger. She controlled herself, laid aside her needlework, crossed the room and pushed the piano against the door. When her husband returned, he called in a neighbour and, together, they pushed the piano back into its place. To this day, every once in a while, the man will look up from his newspaper and ask, “Who helped you move that piano?” The point is that she had to move the piano. He didn’t have to move it back.
When Paul spoke of the discipline of discipleship, he compared it to the discipline of the athlete: “Do you not know that, in a race, all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
For the athlete and the disciple, the prize is different. Both require the same commitment – £self-control in all things.” Paul committed himself to the discipline of discipleship – ” I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified (laid aside as of no further use)” (1 Corinthians 9:27). How much do you and I know about the discipline of discipleship?
If we are to be true disciples of Christ, it will only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit: “God did not give us the spirit of fear, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). When we are controlled by the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be both blessed by God and used by God.