25th Mar 2012

In the beginning..

By Steve Bones


The title for today’s sermon from E100 is ‘In the beginning..’.  However, whilst it was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth, the ‘Christmas story’, it was not really the beginning.  As we read in John 1 (& Genesis 3), Jesus has always been here, it was just that he was not ‘in the flesh’ so we could not see him.  Indeed, Jesus’ birth was only the next step in God’s Master Plan!
Let us consider some of the people we read about this week:
People in God’s Master Plan
· Jesus (John 1:1) – had to be born as a man, only to be whipped (temple lambs) and die on a cross on Mount Moriah, Golgotha (Genesis 22:2 Abraham & Isaac) in the prime of his live, though no bones were broken (Exodus 12:46). The Passover lamb - Jesus, the Lamb of God, mentioned 31 times in NT
· John the Baptist (John 1:15) – he was called to live in the wilderness, to proclaim the coming of Jesus, and to baptise Jesus 
· Zechariah (Luke 1:5) – father of John the Baptist; had been praying for a son
· Elizabeth (Luke 1: 5) – mother of John the Baptist – had to name her son ‘John’
· Mary (Luke 1: 27) – mother of Jesus; had to risk her reputation
· Joseph (Luke 2:4) – ‘Father of Jesus’; had to marry a pregnant woman
· Shepherds (Luke 2:8) – Why told first? Shepherds of the lambs for the temple (one year old males – sheep or goats (Exodus 12: 5)).  
· Simeon (Luke 2: 25) – waited for God’s anointed to arrive, then prophesied concerning his future ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles’!
· Anna (Luke 2: 36) – never left the temple, but fasted and prayed day and night’  and also gave a word.
All had a part to play in God’s Master Plan, which was predicted in Genesis 3:15, at ‘The Beginning’! If they had chosen not to obey God’s call, they would not be in the Bible.  As it is, they are all Jesus’ disciples.
Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
Last week Andy spoke on the Prophets, in particular:
· ‘ the Parable of the Talents’ (Matthew 25:14-30)- 5, 2 and 1, and 
· ‘the Parable of the two sons’ (Matthew 21:28-31).  
At some stage he read out Matthew 28:
Matt 28:18-20  Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." 
Are we willing to be Jesus’ disciples?  What does this mean?
Consider Diabetes – when you ‘get it’, it is up to you how it impacts your life.  You have a choice:
· Carry on as before, no change, or very little, to your lifestyle, OR
· Change your lifestyle drastically – eat healthy, exercise, reduce drinking, watch your weight.
BUT IT HAS CONSEQUENCES!  My brother-in-law took the first option, and now he is dead at 53.  I took the latter, but sometimes......
Christian life
The same is true when we first give our lives to Jesus Christ and become a Christian:
· Can largely carry on as before, but now go to church on Sunday when convenient, or
· Change drastically and ‘follow the Lord’, which means as His disciples obeying all His commands!
But again there are consequences!
Carry on as before
What did Jesus say on the matter – a lot!
Matt 7:24-27 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." 
The storms will come in our lives, not if, but when!
I will not discuss the issue of whether you can lose your salvation or not, though this is a topic Christians have debated for centuries, and still there is not agreement. But what if you can?
Rev 3:14-17 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:  These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
If their name will never be blotted out, suggests here that on other occasions it could be?
Change drastically
Matt 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  [This appears in three of the four Gospels, only John omits it.]
What are Jesus’ commands?  What does it mean to ‘follow’ or ‘come after’ him’?
I would like to consider just one command which has been challenging me:
John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 17:20-21 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.
Rom 12:4-13 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
We see what is going on in the world today: wars, financial crisis; greed; lack of respect for authority, etc.  Revelation teaches us it will get worse before it gets better!
The church needs to support one another more and more, and the world needs to see such a church, being a different culture from the world.  Will help them decide who to follow – the world or Jesus Christ; the Kingdom of this world or the Kingdom of Heaven.
 John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Are we willing to be Jesus’ disciples, to ‘do the works he ordained in advance for us to do’?  
To do our part of God’s Master Plan, which is ongoing until Jesus’ return?
Are we willing to love one another as Christ wants us to?
Eph 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
JC Ryle wrote in the 1800s:
‘Is your relationship with Christ a polite interest or a healthy obsession?’