“Father of a New Spiritual Race”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

4TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, FATHER’S DAY

JUNE 17, 2018.

 

Title: “The Father of a New Spiritual Race.”

Text: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:3

Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:1-8.

 

Jim Henry told a story a pastor friend of his told him some years back. He said that a young lady came for counseling and sat down across from the pastor. She was thirty years old, single and has tears in her eyes. As she talked to him and shared her heart, it was evident that she saw that marriage had to be the key to her happiness. Without marriage, all she could see was a protracted loneliness. So, as he listened to her, the pastor asked, ”What kind of man are you looking for?” He said for the next thirty minutes, she told him what kind of man she was looking for. He said that after hearing her ideal man, He concluded that that kind of man never existed. He said to her, ”Could you just bring it down to one phrase?” And she said, ”Yes, I am looking for the ‘total man, the perfect man.”

One may wonder about the total man. Is there a total man, a perfect man? I think all of us look for the ‘total man,’ the perfect person. And certainly, all of us look up to and hope that our fathers would be the perfect man.  Sadly, there is no perfect father, except one, and it is God. However, the Bible provide many examples of great men of God, who were not perfect fathers, but have served as good, spiritual fathers.

One example of such man of God was Abraham.  Abraham has been referred to as the “father of faith.”  A brief study of this great man of God will show him as an illustration of the personal character of Israel’s religion, a good father of many nations.  It will show him as a spiritual kind of father. But even more so, it will show him as a father of a new spiritual race. This will help us to glean from his life, some helpful things about fatherhood on this Father’s day.  Let us learned together on the theme: Abraham: Father of a new spiritual race.

To begin with, let us consider the interrogative, what is a father? To some, he is a economic necessity?  To some, a father is someone who is simply the responsible party. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a father as “one who originates or institutes.  No wonder you hear a person say, “He has been like a father to me.” The root meaning of the word father is “the source or prototype.” The father is “that one from whom I get my strength.”  So a father is one whom we are privilege of gleaning strength to mold our lives. A father is the one under whom we mature because he personifies integrity and goodness and all those graces of character that God wants to see nourished and flourishing. Genesis 5:21 points out, “When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah.”  

But a father is not a perfect person.  He is someone who is mortal and is prone to making mistakes.  Genesis 12:11-13 tells us that Abraham, “the Father of Faith” made mistakes.  He lied about Sarah being his wife to aid the Almighty with a personal plan.

In Genesis 16:3 he had inappropriate sexual relations with Hagar in an effort to help God fulfill His promise of an heir.  Indeed fathers aren’t perfect people, but folks who can help lead us in becoming a new spiritual race of people in this dark age.  Fathers are folks who have been called by God to lead people to spiritual truths.

You see church, the noun form for father is fatherhood.  Fatherhood is a kinship relationship between the offspring (child) and the father.  It is family relationship. It is kinship. It is a connectedness by blood, marriage, or adoption.  And so, fatherhood is a calling wherein God calls us in our relationship with him to lead others to become spiritual people into spiritual truth.  From the passage under consideration, we will see that Abraham was called by God to be a father. Abraham was called to not only to be a father, but a father to many people.  It is important to point out that that call by God to Abraham was the beginning of Abraham’s usefulness. When we become fathers through the acquisition of a child through our relationship with a child by bring forth or adoption, we are call to usefulness.

For Abraham, It was a straightforward call.  Genesis 12:1-4 tells us about the call on Abraham’s life.  It does not tell us how the call came about. One can assume that it was an inner compulsion.  Genesis 11:31 tells us about Abraham leaving Ur and going to Haran. But the promises of God would never be realized had Abraham not gone to Canaan.  A call can be a decisive event in a person’s life. When we become fathers by giving birth to a child or children or being a father to someone through adoption or 

marriage, it is a decisive event in our life.  Abraham call was not an audible voice or a vision.  It was the sensation of a certain touch or taste of Abraham.  It was a decisive event in Abraham life to go out from where he was.  This open up the road for God to use Abraham to be a father of many nations.  What we must remember this morning is each of us have a call from God as fathers that we should not doubt.  This call is a compassion from which we cannot escape. Abraham’s call was to leave home and kindred and go to an unknown land.  It was a call to act in faith. Abraham’s obedience to the call made him a great intercessor for others (Hebrew 11:8-10).

Like Abraham, we have been call into fatherhood to lead a new spiritual race in this darkened world.  Some important things we can learned from Abraham so that we become good fathers are the outstanding characteristics that made him great.

Abraham was obedient.  First Samuel 15:22 says, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”  Abraham’s obedience was the beginning of his usefulness.

Abraham was unselfish.  For one to be useful and be able to lead others as fathers, one has to unselfish.  As a father, you are potentially a child’s finest teacher about God. Genesis 13:9 gives the spiritual account of this characteristic in Abraham’s life.  It is also found in other men of the Bible, such as Joseph, Moses, Jonathan, Daniel, and Paul.

Abraham was courageous.  It is difficult to picture Abraham as a man of war.  But in Genesis 14:14, we learned about a story where, “When Abraham heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.”  As fathers we are called to protect our own.

Abraham was benevolent.  Great and successful men of this modern generation, as well as men of history, have this characteristic.  Genesis 14:20 tells of Abraham giving his tithes. Tithe is a badge of love and loyalty. As fathers, we are called to be generous to our children in the good gifts God has blessed us with.  Our Lord used the earthly relationship between a father and his children to describe the relationship between God and His children. He speaks of the fact that an earthly father seeks to give only good gifts to his children.  God will not deliberately give that which is harmful and destructive.

We must give to our children good name (Proverbs 22:1).  One of the finest gift we can bestow upon a child is a character as an example and a heritage of which he or she can be proud.  In order for us to be fathers to make this generation a spiritual race of people, it is important to give to our children a humble faith.  This can only happen when we teach our children that God is real. This is a genuine faith, when our children sincerely believe that God is real and that He is a rewarder of all those who diligently believed in Him (Hebrew 11:6).  

It is important also to give to our children love.  Be available. Make time for your children. Let us express appreciation for our children.  Bestow on them praise. It is good to help our children to accept and appreciate themselves.  Let us lighten up our children’s life by giving them positive, optimistic perspective toward life and toward people.  When a child live with love, that child learns to appreciate. No one help a child to be spiritual in knowing and loving God, if that person does not know love and know God.  

Abraham was not a perfect father.  He had sin in his life. He made mistakes.  But God uses sinful people in His work of creating a spiritual race of people.  It is important to know that no perfect people are available. God wants all His children to strive for perfection (Matthew 5:48).  The word for perfect in Matthew is better rendered in modern terminology as mature. Mature people can fall and get up again and be useful.  Like Abraham, God can used us to be mature fathers. With God’s help, we can win our children to Jesus and teach them so that someday they can be worthy fathers to their children.  But this can happen through the collective help of everyone. A wife can help her husband be a good father by the sympathetic support she gave him. Let wives put their faith in God and seek to help their husbands be the best man he can be.  The church can and must help fathers to become better fathers by providing opportunities for enriching family relationships and improving the quality of home life.

To become a father in making this generation a spiritual race of people, one must first take the responsibility for being the kind of father you ought to be to your children.  Let Christ come first into your heart to help you. Let the Bible assist you in becoming a good father and make much of your prayer life. Let the church have a vital place in your life that you might be a better father.   

   

         

 

 

 

Understanding Sanctification

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS GEORGE MCCARTHY

3RD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

JUNE 10, 2018

 

Title: “Understanding Sanctification”

 

Text: Romans 15:14:

I myself am convinced my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.  Yet, I have written you quite boldly on some point to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Somewhere in the History of Texas, one would learned about the conversion of Sam Houston. The Texas hero was called “The Old Drunk,” because of his stunt at one time with alcohol.  His alcoholism cost him his marriage and affected his political career. His wife left him while he was governor of Tennessee. In despair he resigned as governor and tried to escape his problems by going to live among Cherokee Indians. He stayed drunk much of the time. It is said that the Indians, as they walked through the forest, would have to move him out of the path where he lay in a stupor.

Later, he went to Texas, where he became the great hero of the Texas revolution when he routed General Santa Ana’s Mexican army. Houston’s battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!” helped win independence for Texas. He married the daughter of a Baptist preacher and later trusted Christ, but he still had some of his old tendencies. One day as he rode along a trail, his horse stumbled. Houston spontaneously cursed, reverting to his old habit. Immediately he was convicted of his sin. He got off his horse, knelt down on the trail, and cried out to God for forgiveness. Houston did this each time he sinned, until he reached a point where it became difficult to do the things he did. Houston had already received Christ, but God was teaching him to live in fellowship with Him moment by moment. And as soon as the Holy Spirit made Sam Houston aware of his sin, he confessed it and strive to live more for God. Houston strive to live a sanctified and spirit filled life. What is a sanctified life? What is sanctification?

Sanctification is one word that is not used very often by Christians.  We hear sermons most of the time but sanctification is not usually mentioned.  The truth is sanctification is has become an irrelevant word, but it is not an irrelevant reality.  Sanctification is like a hundred medical terms.  Nobody but doctors use them, but our life depends on the reality they stand for.  The word sanctification comes from two Latin words: Sanctus which means Holy and fiarce which means make.  So to sanctify means to make Holy. But, of course the word holy has lose its relevance today. Today, you will hear people say “holy cow” and “holy buckets.  One of the highest and most valuable words in the Bible is being ruined.” In order to live a deeper Christian life and become more closer to God, a person would have to understand what it means to live a Holy life.  A person would have to understand sanctification.

Reading the end part of Romans 15:15 Paul says, “Grace has been given to me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” From this part of the Scripture, we see that Paul in the mission field laboring for God.  His missionary labor is sanctification. Paul is aiming not only at converting people to Christ, but to help make them holy people.  In order to do so, Paul first connects obedience and sanctification. Paul points out obedience to Christ as the a step towards sanctification.  In Romans 6:17 Paul says, “Thanks be to God that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” Being obedient to Christ is to confess our sins to Christ.  After we have confessed and have been made whole, the Holy Spirit helps us to live how God wants us to live. This is where sanctification comes in. Here, we are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. We live for Christ rejecting sin. Sin keeps us in a cage.  When we find God again, we began to set ourselves apart for what God has called us to.

John McNeill, the Scottish preacher liked to tell the story about an eagle that had been captured when it was quite young. The farmer who snared the bird put a restraint on it so it couldn’t fly, and then he turned it loose to roam in the barnyard. It wasn’t long till the eagle began to act like the chickens, scratching and pecking at the ground. This bird that once soared high in the heavens seemed satisfied to live the barnyard life of the lowly hen. One day the farmer was visited by a shepherd who came down from the mountains where the eagles lived. Seeing the eagle, the shepherd said to the farmer, “What a shame to keep that bird hobbled here in your barnyard! Why don’t you let it go?” The farmer agreed, so they cut off the restraint. But the eagle continued to wander around, scratching and pecking as before. The shepherd picked it up and set it on a high stone wall. For the first time in months, the eagle saw the grand expanse of blue sky and the glowing sun. Then it spread its wings and with a leap soared off into a tremendous spiral flight, up and up and up. At last it was acting like an eagle again.

Like the farmer traps the eagle, Satan traps us in sin.  When sin weighs us down, we find it difficult to get out.  We find it difficult to get out of a sin to live for God and to live the full life for which God calls us.  When we find God and the Holy Spirit guides us, we find ourselves. We are capable of doing what God wants us to be.  But one important thing is to rely on God’s Spirit to reject sin.

Joseph is one excellent example of the process of sanctification.  Joseph was treated very unfairly when his very brothers sold him into slavery.  Joseph ends up in prison by no fault of his own. His character as a person of God was revealed when he refused to blame God and turn bitter while languishing in his cell for all those years.  As the story is told, Joseph was given the charge over Potiphar’s house. Potiphar trusted Joseph enough to leave him in charge of his entire household (Genesis 39:5). God made this entire universe including life and trusted humankind with it.  Like Satan came to tempt man, Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, but he refused.  He rejected sin. He left his cloak with the woman and kept his character.

You see church, when fighting temptations to sin against God, the Christian can choose to do one of two things; fight or flee.  We can resist temptation through prayers or we can take a flight. In James 4:7, the Bible tells us that when we are tempted to sin, we must resist the devil and he will flee from us.  Paul puts it in another way: We must flee from wickedness. This means that we must not only resist but we must run (1 Cor. 6:18)

One can imagine how hard it was for Joseph to resist this urge, day after day.  This temptation must have gone on for many days. Let us remember that Potiphar’s wife had to be one of the most beautiful women of Egypt. In such times the work of the Holy Spirit is indispensable.  It is able to convict us of things that we know are clearly wrong. It is clear that Joseph did not want violate God’s law. Joseph said, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God” (Genesis 39:9)?  Joseph thought about God when temptation came his way. He set himself apart for the work of God. You see, Joseph’s refusal to sin and his fleeing temptation is the perfect model of holiness and how one can avoid sin.  This is sanctification. It is the same way the Holy Spirit works in us today in sanctifying us. The Holy Spirit tells us when something is wrong. He guides us if we are willing to flee or run from such wrongful situation.  It is my prayers that God will help us grow day by day and we will be “sanctified by the Spirit.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“God the Holy Spirit: His Power in our Lives”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

TRINITY SUNDAY, MAY 27, 2018

Title: “God the Holy Spirit: It’s Power in our Lives”

Text: So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: 13 for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. 15 For ye received not the Spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: 17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.

The Gospel Herald reported how Dr. James M. Gray in a service one evening expounded Romans 12:1. He talked about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us and the power the Spirit gives us to live good lives and do wonders.  Leaning over the pulpit, he said, “Have you noticed that this verse does not tell us to whom we should give our bodies? It is not the Lord Jesus who asks it. He has His own body. It is not the Father who asks for it. He remains upon His throne. Another has come to earth without a body. God could have made a body for Him as He did for Jesus, but He did not do so. God gives you the privilege and the indescribable honor of presenting your bodies to the Holy Spirit, to be His dwelling-place on earth. If you have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb, then yours is a holy body, washed whiter than snow, and will be accepted by the Spirit when you give it.

From this simple exposition of Romans 12:1, one would see that Dr. Gray is pointing out that it is a privilege given to us by God to receive the the Holy Spirit.  It is a privilege to let the Holy Spirit enter our bodies so as to allow us to tap into the great power source the Spirit brings to us. When Jesus Christ walked this earth, He told His disciples that He would send the Spirit to help provide guidance, teachings, and power to help with the mission work of spreading the gospel.  He would provide counseling for believers to lead a life of spiritual maturity (Acts 1:4-5; 1:8). This was even foretold long before Christ walked the earth (Joel 2:28-32). It happen ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven. One Hundred and twenty of the disciples were gathered in one house (Acts 2:1). Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came in the forms of a audible, visual sound, like a sound of a rushing wind (Acts 2:4-11).  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in divers tongues. They received power. What did the disciples do to prepare to received the power of the Holy Spirit? What power does the Holy Spirit brings?

Last week Sunday was Pentecost Sunday.  We talked about the “The Essence of the Holy Spirit” or the nature of the Holy Spirit. We learned that the Holy Spirit is a divine Person.  The Holy Spirit is eternal and demonstrated that the Spirit possesses Godly attributes (The Spirit is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent.  Today, I want us to talk about the Power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Charles Spurgeon talking of the Holy Spirit made the following assertion, “If we do not have the Spirit of God, it were better to shut the churches, to nail up the doors, to put a black cross on them and say, “God, have mercy on us.” If your ministers have not the Spirit of God, you had better not preach and you people had better stay at home.

I think I speak not too strongly when I say that a church in the land without the Spirit of God is rather a curse than a blessing. If you have not the Spirit of God, Christian worker, remember that you stand in somebody else’s way; you are as a tree bearing no fruit standing where a fruitful tree might grow.”

Dwight L. Moody affirmed that when the Spirit came to Moses, the plagues came upon Egypt, and he had power to destroy men’s lives; when the Spirit came upon Elijah, fire came down from Heaven; when the Spirit came upon Joshua, he moved around the city of Jericho, and the whole city fell into his hands. But when the Spirit came upon the Son of Man, He gave His life, He healed the broken-hearted.” When the Spirit comes into the believer, He makes Christ dearer, Heaven nearer and the Word of God clearer (Judg. 6. 34; Luke 4. 1, 18; John 16. 13-15).  

From these great men of god and Scriptures, it is a known fact that the Holy Spirit is vital to our success in this Christian journey.   The power of the Holy Spirit builds into the temple of the Lord. Through the holy Spirit, we become a dwelling place of God (Ephesians 2:22).  Paul sought at all times to encourage believers to recognize that God is not a vague Spirit that dwells in the distance somewhere. Instead, in the Spirit, God has come to dwell in us, to live in us.  This is why we demonstrated that the Spirit is eternal and exhibits divine attributes. First Corinthians 3:16; 6:19 reminds us that the Lord promised that the Holy Spirit will come and live in us forever.  It is not necessary for us to pray for the Holy Spirit to come to us. He has already arrived when we become a believer. We need to recognize and respond to His presence. While John was on the island of Patmos, He pictured God coming to dwell with His people in his description of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:3).  In the Holy Spirit, God has already come to dwell in the heart of each believer and collectively in the church. We should be excited and encouraged.

Ephesians 3:16 reminds us that the Holy Spirit is eager to strengthen each of us in our inner person: “That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man.”  The holy Spirit strengthens our body and our mind. The most supreme importance is the strengthening of our inner person if we are to live a victorious Christian life. Without strength from the Lord through the Holy Spirit, there is no way we can overcome Satan’s strategy (Ephesians 6:10).  God gave us a task to accomplish that which will be impossible to accomplished using human resources alone. This is why God promised the Holy Spirit to enabled us to accomplish the task (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit came to give us power as a source of strength, wisdom, guidance, and the help we need .  We must recognize Him and respond to him with faith.

Talking about the power of the Holy Spirit, Flavel asserts: “As the blood of Christ is the fountain of all merit, so the Holy Spirit is the fountain of all spiritual life; and until He quickens us, imparts the principle of divine life to our souls, we can put forth no vital act of faith to lay hold upon Jesus Christ.”

It is very true.  The Holy Spirit is the fountain of all spiritual life.  In order to be Spirit filled, we must spend time in prayers.  In Acts 2:12-14, the Scripture tells us that the disciples were assembled together and they prayed together while they waited on the Comforter to come.  Paul emphasizes that the power of the Holy Spirit is to aid us in our spiritual life, in our prayer life. Paul says in Ephesians 2:18: “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  It is the Holy Spirit who invites us into the throne room of God our Father. In their spiritual journey, some folks look at prayer as a duty to be performed or a habit to be broken. I submit here this morning that we would be closer to the truth if we saw our prayer efforts as but a response to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to come to the heavenly Father.  

The Holy Spirit should always be a guide as we pray (Romans 8:26-27).  Church, the Holy Spirit helps us with our inadequacies. The Holy Spirit stands in the gap or intercedes for us according to the will of God.  This should greatly encourage us not only to practice the habit of prayer but also to be bold in our prayer life. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to aid us in our prayer life.  John Hall puts it this way: Culture is good; genius is brilliant; civilization is a blessing; education is a great privilege; but we may be educated villains. The thing that we need most of all is the precious gift of the Holy Spirit.”

This is true because the power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God.  If we will be successful as believers, we must have the power of God in us.  The Spirit, the third person of the trinity, has appeared throughout Scriptures as a Being through and by whom great works of power are made manifest.  The power of the Holy Spirit was first seen in the act of creation, for it was by His power the world came into being (Genesis 1:1,2; Job 26:11).  The Holy Spirit also empowered men in the Old Testament to bring about God’s will: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Samuel 16:13).  Although the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell God’s people in the Old Testament, the Spirit worked through them and gave them power to achieve things they would not have been able to accomplish on their own.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1, led by the Spirit (Luke 4:14), and empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles (Matthew 12:28)  After Jesus had ascended to heaven, the Spirit equipped the apostles to perform miracles, too (2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 2:43). The power of the Holy Spirit was manifest among all the believers of the early church through the dispensation of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, teaching, wisdom and more.

All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately and permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11).  The Holy Spirit still works in and through believers to accomplish God’s will. His power leads us, convicts us, teaches us, and equips us to do His work and spread the gospel.  The Holy spirit indwelling is an amazing gift we should not take for granted! God bless you.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Essence of the Holy Spirit”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

PENTECOST SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2018

Title: “The Essence of the Holy Spirit”

Text: Isaiah 61:1-2

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our Lord; To comfort all who mourn.

 

In this age of scientific development and technological advancement, there is a new development called Hyper Sonic Sound (HSS). The inventor, Elwood “Woody” Norris, has engineered sound waves to travel like a laser beam for about 150 yards. This allows sounds to be heard by a person in a particular place but not by those immediately around them. You could be listening to music or specific instructions while those standing next to you would be left in total silence. If you move out of the tightly formed path of these unique sound waves you too will be unaware of any noise.

God’s communication with us is very similar to these sound waves. We must be in the right place to hear the Holy Spirit, and when we’re there the message is clear. If we move away from the pathway of His voice we become unaware of the fact that He is communicating with us and we consequently miss the message.  Charles Spurgeon speaking on the Holy Spirit noted that “without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing.  We are like ships without winds and branches without sap, and like coals without fire, we are useless.”

The Scriptures tell us that God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  The sentence ‘God is a Spirit’ means God is not tangible and visible and physical. God is not limited. We worship God with our spirit.  When we worship God with our Spirit, this worship is shown in our actions. With these in mind, we may be wondering who the Holy Spirit is?  What is the nature of the Holy Spirit? What is the essence of the Holy Spirit?

In our passage, the prophet Isaiah was speaking prophetically when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” Isaiah was speaking of Jesus.  In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus Christ reading in the synagogue service confirmed that it was Him Isaiah spoke about. He spoke that in Him that Scripture was fulfilled.  There are many places in Scriptures where the Holy Spirit is spoken of. In Ezekiel 37:14 it says, “I will put my Spirit within you, and you will come to life…”  In Haggai 2:5, God is promising the children of Israel: “As for the promise which I made to you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear;”  From these Scriptures we see that the Holy Spirit is not a mere person but a divine Person.  In most instances when the Holy Spirit is spoken of, it is in association with God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son.  Paul makes that clearly known in First Corinthians 13:14; “May the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  All these Scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit is a divine Person, and works in association and relationship with God and Jesus Christ. If this is true, then the Holy Spirit has divine attributes: He is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.

The anonymous writer of Hebrews says, “How much more, then, will the blood of Jesus Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleansed our consciences from acts that leads to death, so that, we may serve the living God.”  The Scriptures reference Jesus as the Alpha and Omega meaning Jesus has no beginning nor ending. The Holy Spirit too has no origin and no ending.

The Spirit is also omnipresent and Omniscient.  The Psalmist tells us that the Spirit of God is everywhere.  Psalms 139:7-8 puts it this way, Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into the heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there. The Holy Spirit Spirit is present everywhere.The Holy speaks to us and provides guidance and knowledge to help us lead a good life. We must listen for the Holy Spirit.

The story is told of how people store food before refrigerators were made. Before refrigerators, people used ice-houses to preserve their food. Icehouses had thick walls, no windows and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the icehouses and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer.

One man lost a valuable watch while working in an icehouse. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the icehouse during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch.

Amazed, the men asked him how he found it.‘I closed the door,’ the boy replied, ‘lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.’”  God speaks through His Spirit to us. Often, we do not hear God speak to us through the Holy Spirit because we do not listen well enough. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, and of counseling and might.  Isaiah speaking of Jesus Christ as a descendant of Jesse informs us that the Holy Spirit will rest on Christ: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, and the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” Isaiah 11:2.  In John 16:12 Jesus Christ says, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father shall send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said.” It is important for us to know that the Holy Spirit knows the deep things of God. No one knows the thoughts that are within a person except the person himself.  Likewise, it is only the Holy Spirit that knows the the deep things of God.

It is also worthy to note that the Holy Spirit is all powerful.  The Holy Spirit has power to do all things. This nature of the Holy Spirit was shown to Mary when Jesus Christ birth was foretold.  The angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus Christ will come through her in a mysterious birth. The power of God was to overshadow and she would gave birth to a child to be called the Holy One.  The angel further informed Mary that there was nothing impossible for God. The work of the Holy Spirit in the birthing of Jesus in the womb of Mary is a mark of the omnipotence of the Spirit of God. The power of the Holy Spirit is meant to do God’s work.  The Holy Spirit work to accomplish the work of God on earth and in humankind.

The operation of the Holy Spirit in key areas of God’s activity in the universe and the history of humankind is apparent.  For example, the Holy Spirit is involved in the work of creation. The Bible in Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of the Lord moved upon the face of the waters.” This eloquent introduction in Scriptures of the the divine personality of the Holy Spirit is so amazing. Here, the power of the Holy Spirit brings creation out of chaos.  This indeed describes the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. Our life without God is chaos. The Holy Spirit wants to create in us the personality of Jesus. The Spirit wants to breathe into the formlessness and void of our life the life of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is involved in that creation process. It is part of His divine nature.

In creation, the Spirit brooded over the material creation of the earth and brought everything into being.  In similar manner, the Spirit is at work in the spiritual recreation of our inner life. In Ephesians 36:26-27, the Scripture says, I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you.  I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”  Though we don’t see the Spirit, the Spirit is always trying to birth us into the kingdom of God. It is clear that Jesus after the resurrection spoke peace to His disciples.  He then breathe on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” God breathe into the lifeless form of man during creation. Likewise, Christ spoke to his disciples and breathe life into them which is eternal.  All we have to do is accept the Spirit of the Lord so that we can live a good life. We don’t see the Spirit but we feel the spirit. It lives in us.

The story is told about a little boy who was flying a kite. It was a windy day, and the kite kept going higher and higher. Finally it got so high that it was out of sight. A man passed by and saw the little boy holding onto the string. The man could not see the kite, and he asked the boy, “How do you even know you have a kite up there?” The boy replied, “Because I can feel it.”  Although we cannot see the Holy Spirit, we should be able to sense His work in our lives changing us into the image of Christ.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is active in the giving of Scriptures and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  The Bible says, “All scriptures is God-breathe.” The King James verse says, “All scripture is inspired.” The right or correct translation of the Greek word is, “All scripture is expired.” This means breathe out.  All scripture is the product of the breath of God. The function of the Holy Spirit is to breathe the presence of God into human life. It is important for us to read the word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us.  It is my prayers that we will all learn about the nature of the Holy Spirit and ask God to keep the Spirit working in our lives. AMEN!

 

 

 

 

 

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

6TH SUNDAY IN EASTER, ASCENSION SUNDAY

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MAY 13, 2018

Title: The Beauty of Motherhood.”

Text: Proverbs 31:28-29

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and praised her saying: 29 Many daughters have done worthily, But thou excellest them all.”

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 31: 26-31.

 

The story is told of a mother who gave her life for her son.  When the California gold fever broke out, a man went there leaving his wife in New England with his boy.  As soon as he got on and was successful, he was to send for them. It was not long time before he succeeded, and at last he got money to send for them.  The wife’s heart leaped for joy. She took her boy to New York, got on a Pacific steamer, and sailed away to San Francisco.

They had not been long at sea before the cry of “fire! Fire!” ranged through the ship, and rapidly it gained on them.  There was a powder magazine on board, and the captain knew the moment the fire reached the powder, every man, woman, and child will perish.

They got out the life-boats, but they were too small! In a minute they were overcrowded.  The last one was just pulling away, when the mother pleaded with them to take she and her boy. 

“No,” they said, “we have got as many as we can hold.”  She entreated them so earnestly, that at last they said they would take one more.  I know anyone would think she leaped into the boat to leave her son to die. No, this loving mother saized her boy and gave him one last hug, kissed him and drop him into the boat.  “My boy,” she said, “if you live to see your father, tell him that I died in your place.”

This is a faint picture of how Jesus Christ lay down His life for us.  He died that we might live. This is what this mother did for her child.  What would we say of that young man if he ever speaks evil of his mother! She went down into the watery grave to save her son.  There are countless stories of how mothers have made sacrifices for their children. This is why God says in Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on her son?”  Here God is weaving Himself in the hearts of mothers. This is the beauty of motherhood, when God presents His love for us in the parallel of a mother’s love.

The one who wrote this wonderful book full of so much wisdoms brings this tremendous book to a close with a fabulous description of a great woman who is also a good wife and mother.  It is believed that these words must have come from the mother of a king as she gave him guidelines concerning his future wife (Proverbs 31:1).

In this text, one would see that a wife of noble character, a wife of gentle noble birth, a wife of impeccable character is declared to be worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) and is worthy of the praises of both her children and husband.  On this mother’s Day, it would be easy for us to be sentimental as we think of our mothers, but it would be more profitable for us to make a contribution toward helping mothers to see the beauty of motherhood in the eyes of Scriptures.

I would make no distinction between a wife and a mother.  A wife is a mother. I would also submit to all of us this morning that it is a great feat to be granted the opportunity of giving birth.  It is also a great feat if one has not given birth, but contributes the life of a child, be it in his or her upbringing or a simple word of encouragement.  A great feat would also be when a mother becomes a good mother, providing her children with guidance and encouragement and leading them toward maturity and independence in this dark world..  But the greatest feat is when we understand God’s handiwork in the fashioning of a mother’s heart; in how God weaves or knits himself into who mothers are by showing us His mothering nature. I want you to walk with me this morning as we learn together the beauty of motherhood by understanding how God brings forth the treasure of motherhood.

In our text, it tells us that “her children rise up and call her blessed.”  This brings up the fact that mothers are great people. In Proverbs 31:11, mothers are described as trustworthy.  In this text, we are made to understand that mothers are blessed with a character wherein they can be depended upon.Mothers are reliable and responsible.  Mothers are blessed because of the fact that fathers and children can put their confidence in them and their children know them to be dependable.

Proverbs 31:12 continues with the description that mothers are folks who are benevolent.  Mothers are blessed because they demonstrate the word love by their act of giving and helping their children, husband, and the community at large.  Proverb 31:31 lifts the beauty of motherhood by calling mothers industrious. In the pre-Christian and in this age and time, mothers are not completely confined to the household (verse 16, 18, 24), but those whose work continue from sunrise to sunset (verse 27).

Mothers are compassionate people. They are move with pity by the circumstance of their children, husbands, and the community and act towards it by words and deeds.  The beauty of motherhood is that God has blessed them in making constructive use of their tongues. Mothers are cheerleaders who encourage their children as they face the pressure of growing toward maturity in a difficult and dangerous world.  

One other beauty of motherhood is the blessing of having a good self image(Proverbs 31:23).  No wonder, the great Abe Lincoln said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”     

Having looked at all the beautiful things of motherhood, let us for a moment look at how God in Scriptures knits Himself or weave Himself into explaining the beauty of motherhood. In God’s love for us, He shows His mothering nature by saying, “…How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her children together under her wings.”  From this Scripture, God shows us the beauty of motherhood by uplifting motherhood as a protective shell. God references Himself as a protective mother. He pours His compassion into a mother’s heart. God loves us so much that one of His greatest deeds was to have compassion upon the wickedness of men by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. In motherhood, the same love is depicted.  In motherhood, the love and compassion that transcend our understanding is amazing. On this mother’s day, should we not show the same love and compassion for our mothers? Should we not be thoughtful to our mothers? Should we not be considerate of her person? Should we not be someone that our mothers would be proud of? Should we not be grateful to our mothers and show appreciation for the many things she does to make our lives purposeful?

The story is told of a young man who had an interest in a young woman. He had been paying attention to a young lady, who was very worldly. He had been brought up under Christian influences, his mother being an earnest Christian woman. It is said that one Sunday evening he had called upon the young lady in whom he was interested. Though it was Sunday evening, the girl’s mother proposed that they play cards. The young lady’s mother urged him to join in the game, but he refused. The young man said, “When I was invited to play cards on a Sunday evening, the thought came to me, ‘What if I should and my mother should hear of it. It would break her heart.’”

How many a man is kept back from doing things he would otherwise do by the thought of how it would grieve his mother if she should hear of it. But there is One who is more keenly sensitive than the purest mother, who is grieved at the slightest departure from the path of right as no mother even is grieved, that One is the Holy Spirit. He goes with us wherever we go. He sees all that we do. He hears all that we say. Yes, He sees the most secret fancy of the heart, and if there is an act or word or thought that has a taint of impurity or selfishness or sin, He is deeply grieved. To me this is one of the mightiest incentives to a careful walk.

Oftentimes when some evil thought is suggested to us by the enemy, the thought that should come to our mind is, “I cannot entertain that thought for a moment. If I do, the Holy Spirit, who sees it, will be deeply grieved, and I cannot bear to grieve this ever-present, faithful Friend.”  We honor our mothers when we remembered their kind words to us and act on it to be better folks.

Jesus Christ said seven words before he died.  The third of those words were to his mother and His brother.  Jesus told told His mother to continue to uphold the beauty of motherhood.  One of the beauty of motherhood is that mothers aren’t perfect people, but committed people.  In the Scriptures, Jesus mother and his brothers had gone to look for Him while He was teaching, doing God’s business.  When He was interrupted and told His mother and brothers were looking for Him, He asked, “Who is my mother and brothers?”  He pointed out that those who do God’s will are His mothers and brothers. His mother was not perfect, but she submitted to the will of God.  She heeded God’s call carry the baby Jesus. A decision that brought redicule to her in Jewish culture, but exaltation in the name of God. Let us know this morning that motherhood is a gift from God.  It is a beautiful gift to be a mother or to touch the lives of children. God demonstrates that beauty by weaving Himself into the heart of motherhood. In Zephaniah 3:17 His word says, “He will exult over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love.  He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” This “Quiet love” is a moment that shows a child and mother together in closeness. It is a moment when a child draws strength from the proximity of his mother. Indeed God knows how to usher us into the wellspring of motherhood.

 

 

 

 

 

https://firstchurchnewton.org/sermons/1596/

“The Reality of the Devil”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

6TH SUNDAY IN EASTER, MAY 6, 2018

 

Title: “The Reality of the Devil”

Text: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

Scripture: Ephesians 6: 10-18

The story is told about two friends who love boxing.  One of the friends was the renowned American writer, Wilson Mizner. The other friend was boxer “Mysterious” Billy Smith.  They both visited a San Francisco entertainment center where Mizner started a fight with some Longshoremen. At the end, only one longshoremen was left standing.  Although Mizner rained punches at him, he stayed obstinately upright. When Smith noticed what was happening, “Leave him alone Wilson,” he shouted. “You knocked him out five minutes ago.”  On closer investigation, it turned out that a punch from Smith had indeed knocked the Longshoreman out cold, but had also wedged him vertically between two pieces of furniture.

This is an accurate picture of Satan, an already-defeated enemy of Christians.  Satan has been defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but he still stands trying to take anyone who gives him the chance.

The idea of Satan has virtually disappeared from the beliefs of many people.  Our world of rationalism has dismissed the idea of a devil. Perhaps the reason for the denial of the devil comes from humanistic concepts of Satan.  He has been pictured wearing a red suit, carrying a pitchfork, and having horns and a forked tail.

One would wonder where this idea originates?  In my studies of Scriptures, no one can find this description of Satan in the Bible.  This weird description of the devil comes mainly from medieval theology , the writing of John Milton, and the imaginative artists of the Middle Ages.

If we doubt the reality of the devil, I submit to you this morning that the devil is real.  He actually exists. To believe the devil is real, one needs to be conscious of the immense power of evil and wickedness in the world today.  There are very wicked crimes committed in the world today that can be attributed neither to man nor to God. We all know that the first report of Satan activities came from a garden.  Since the initial spotting of the devil in the garden of Eden, you can trace his murderous footsteps through the pages of history.

What concerns me this morning is knowing who he really is to be able to resist him in every term, so as to prepare us in our spiritual journey with God.  To understand Satan, we must know him for what he really is. We can know the nature and work of Satan by a close study of the Bible, for Scripture gives valuable insights into who the devil really is.  Walk with me as we learn together this morning, “The Reality of the Devil.”

The first thing we must understand is that Satan is not just a thing that someone believes to be real but only exists in their imagination.  Wherever the Bible presents Satan, it seems that he has personality traits.

In reading two biblical account of Satan’s presence, we can see his personal qualities. In the Bible book of Genesis, when Satan came to Eve, he talked with her.  Then when Satan encountered Jesus in the wilderness, he talked and reasoned with the Master. From these two accounts we can deduce that Satan has intellect and will.  So, we can conclude that Satan has personal qualities.

Another thing we can see from Scripture about Satan is that he has names.  There are many passages in the Bible that that show that a person’s character is reflected in his or her name. The Bible uses many names for the leader of evil: devil, Satan, Beelzebub, evil one, serpent, dragon, murderer, father of lies, angel of light, and many others.  Let us notice what kind of person Satan is by looking at two of his names. First, the name Satan means adversary or opposer. Wherever you find Satan you will see one in opposition to God. Second, the name devil means slanderer or false accuser. The devil seeks to slander the good name and character of God.  There are many names ascribed to the devil. Studying these names will help us to understand or yield an adequate description of the kind of being he is.

The second thing I want to lift up for our understanding is that Satan has a purpose.We will also be able to know the purpose of Satan by looking at the names the Bible calls the devil.  Knowing the devil’s purpose helps us prepare ourselves to do spiritual warfare against him. Wherever you encounter the devil in Scripture, he is seeking to hinder the work of God.

Satan is always trying to prevent repentance.  He tries to keep people from opening their lives to Jesus Christ.  Paul said, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan uses various steps to hinder belief or trust in Christ.

Satan works to hinder spiritual growth and commitment to Christ.  After one becomes a Christian, Satan is not finished. This is how the struggle is: There is a constant battle of the flesh and the Spirit. Satan seeks to prevent people from obeying God’s will.  Satan even tempted Jesus with three attractive proposal. In the early church, Satan was active and often cause disturbances. On one occasion Paul said, “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again: but Satan hindered us” (1 Thess. 2:18)

To accomplish his purposes, Satan uses crafty procedures.  What we should realize is that he has the power.

Paul warned the Christians against the wiles of the devil.  In our text, Paul urges Christians to put on the armor of God to be able to stand up against all the craftiness of the devil.  Satan always uses distortion. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:11, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”  The word devices here could be a high level of reasoning. Satan first gets people thinking in a distorted or doubting manner. In the case of Eve’s encounter with Satan, she thought that she would become like God by following the suggestion of Satan.  There would not have been any other plausible proposal that Satan could present to the Messiah then the three. Satan trick is to distort the truth. He owes nothing in this world, but he told Jesus he would give him the whole world.

Satan always comes disguised to detract a person from obeying God’s will.  The Scripture tells us, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away in his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14).  Though Satan is not mentioned in this verse, his procedure can be seen. He seeks to get mankind away from God with the destructive elements of this world.  We need to be aware of Satan’s cunning devices to draw us away from fellowship with God. He has the power to do such things. Paul compares him to a roaring lion.

A casual observation of life around you will convince you of Satan’s power.  He is called “the prince of this world.” We need to understand the biblical facts about Satan’s power.

Jesus Christ defeated Satan on the cross of Calvary.  Paul said, And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15).  John described the procedure that persecuted Christians used to defeat Satan. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11).  Satan has only a limited season. Between Jesus’ resurrection and the Lord’s final return, Satan has the time and the power.

In all the wickedness he continues to perpetrate, he has a designated day of doom.  God has marked a day on the calendar when the complete overthrow of Satan will be manifested.  When the Lord comes for the final consummation of history, Satan’s doom will be pronounced.

There are many fictional movies that have been produced.  There movies starred actors like Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, or Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In many of these movies, the excitement always keeps us on edge. We are concerned most with the time during the viewing of these movies, “what would happen to the good characters?”  “Is Chuck Norris going to survived, we often wondered.” But we all know what will happen in the final scene. The good actors always survived. When we think about what will happen to the bad characters or criminals, we know what their end will be.

Christians know how the world will end.  In this world, the bad guy Satan is going to lose. We can read the last chapter, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:10)

Satan is real.  He opposes God. He is the accuser of the brethrens.  We need to get on the more enjoyable side of life, the Lord’s way.

 

 

“The Necessity for Rest”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

5TH SUNDAY IN EASTER

APRIL 29, 2018

 

Title: “The Necessity for Privacy”

Text: “And he said to them. ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile’” Mark 6:31

Scripture Reading Psalm 46:8-11.

The story is told of how one man challenge another man to a wood chopping contest.  The man who challenged his friend worked very hard, stopping only on occasions. The other man took many breaks and had a good lunch. When the day came to an end, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other man had chopped more wood.  “I don’t get it,” he said. Every time I checked, you were taking rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did. “But you didn’t noticed,” said the winning woodsman, “that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.” It is easy for one to think that by being busy a lot is being accomplished. It is good to take a break occasionally to reflect and evaluate our progress.

It is easy for a person to conclude that the Bible is all about work.  It speaks against sloth and idleness (Proverbs 6:6-11), but speaks positively about work and labor (Ephesians 4:28)  On the contrary, our text today talks about rest. Jesus is telling His disciples to come with Him to a lonely place to ‘rest awhile.’  This signifies the importance of rest. In fact, the Old Testament is filled with illustrations of God’s instruction to the nation of Israel about rest, solitude, or privacy.  God Himself rested after He labored for six days creating the universe and humankind. The Scripture tells us that God rested on the seventh day (Sabbath) and blessed it (Genesis 2:1-2).  Verse three of Genesis 2 clearly points out that the Sabbath was meant for rest. God instructed the children of Israel to observed the Sabbath as a weekly observance for rest (Deuteronomy 5: 12-15).  It is obvious that God approved rest on a regular basis. 

Resting was not only for the Sabbath.  God gave the children of Israel many other days to rest.  In the Book of the Law (Leviticus), God gave Israel many Jewish holidays. According to the website ccel.org, God gave Israel approximately 70 days during the year as a time to rest. A few of these are the The Feast of Unleavened Bread with 2 days of rest (Lev. 23:5-8; the Feast of Harvest with 1 day of rest (Lev. 23:1); The Feast of the trumpet (1st day of the seventh month) with 1 day of rest (Lev. 23-25); The Feast of Atonement (10th Day of the 7th month) with 1 day of rest (Lev. 23:26-32).  There are other days of rest illustrated in the twenty third chapter of Leviticus that God set aside as times of rest for the children of Israel.  While these days of rest are ascribed to the children of Israel as a period of rest, God meant for us to take lesson from it because the Old Testament was given for us to learn from it.  This morning, let us learn together on “The Necessity of Rest, Solitude, Privacy.”

Jesus’ words as read in the text above describes Jesus’ actions and activity.  Whenever Jesus spoke, He spoke words that were followed by actions. Jesus said in John 9:4, “We must work the works of Him who sent us while it is day.”  Here Jesus underscores the value of work. Yet, in our text He also said, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” Jesus Christ was a person who worked to meet the many needs of humankind, but He recognised how limited our human body is and the need for constant relaxation.  It is important for each of us to find a place of solitude for the purpose of rest and relaxation to determine our priorities and to communicate with God. In “The Daily Study Bible Series,” William Barclay calls it “the Rhythm of the Christian Life. According to Barclay, the Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon. It is an ongoing process of ushering oneself into the presence of God away from the presence of humankind and vice versa.  In order for a person to work effectively, the person needs adequate rest. Likewise, to have a good rest we must work till we get tired. However, Barclay reminds us that to live the Christian life, one must find time with God.  The problem with our lives is that we make no time to listen to God. We also do not give any opportunity for God to speak with us, because we do not know how to sit still and to listen. Psalms 46: 10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” We give no time to God in waiting on Him to feed us through His Holy Spirit.  How can we face the harsh realities of this life, when we do not contact God who can take our burdens? How do we do God’s work when we do not contact God who gives us the strength? We seek fellowship with God through rest to enable us to prepare to serve humankind more fully.

Our text explains that Jesus and he disciples had done so much work.  Jesus desired rest for Him and His disciples. But there was great need among the people.  So the rest Jesus wanted for he and his disciples could not be granted them. Any ordinary person would have resented this kind of intrusion. Jesus’ privacy was invaded.  But Jesus Christ was full of compassion for the people. In our Christian walk, we sometimes feel tired, stressed out, but we are tempted to keep going because of the need for our church. Let us in the wisdom of God seek rest. In it all, let us get the necessary rest to set our priorities.

There many instances in which Jesus Christ took time off to be by himself.  He went into solitude to set His priorities. In Mark 1:12, the Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ was propelled by the Holy Spirit to a place in the desert.  Jesus Christ was led under a sense of divine constraint or force into a lonely place, into the desert, into a place all by Himself. It was a time when Jesus was under divine influence to go to a place that he might make some decisions.  Perhaps it was the making of a decision about accomplishing His redemptive mission. This was a critical period in the life of Jesus. Jesus had come to earth on a mission. The mission was to be His death on Calvary, so that the world would have eternal life.  This mission was a blow to the plan of Satan. It would be a defeat to Satan. At this crucial moment, Jesus needed to be by Himself.

It was a crucial moment for Jesus because His disciples also misunderstood His redemptive plan. Verse 46 of chapter 6, and the parallel passages of Matthew 14:22-32 and John 6:15-21 give us the impression that the crowd that had eaten the miraculous loaves were being led by Jesus’ apostles in an effort to make Jesus king.  In this scenario, Jesus compelled His disciples to get in the boat. He then went up the hill to pray. It is evident that our Lord Jesus was disappointed that even His most intimate followers still did not come to a full understanding of the nature of His kingdom. Jesus Christ needed divine reinforcement for this time of discouragement.  The one way He knew how to do it was to seek a private or quiet place to meet with His Father. The is a necessity of privacy in our Christian life.

In our Christian walk, there are times when the world around us keeps us so busy.  There are times when the chaos surrounding us can be a total distraction. There is a time when we face oppositions.  But I submit to you this morning that even in military warfare, a successful general knows when not to fight, as well as when and how to fight a battle.  In any opposition or any struggle, there comes a time when retreat is in reality a good option. When life becomes difficult and perplexing, we need to search for a private place, so that we might make sure that our thoughts and values are in balance.  The Scriptures tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  When we allowed ourselves time for privacy, to think our problems over, to think our joys over, carefully submitting our request to God through prayers, God will guide us. In verse 7, Paul says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Let us not look upon ourselves as machines of perpetual motion.  Let us recognize that the Sabbath was made for man. People need to be workers, but they must also rest if they are going to be effective workers.  This was true for our Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples, and it is just as true for us today. Perhaps it is true more for those of us who have full time jobs, families, community, and other obligations.  We need a time to rest for communion with our God.

When we look back at Mark 1 verse 35, the record tells us that it was very early in the morning, in the darkest period of the morning, Jesus Christ rose and went to a place all by Himself and He began praying.  It was a solitary place. It was a place of privacy. Jesus need a solitary place. It might not be a possibility for us to find the time in the busy situations of our lives to talk with or listen for God’s direction.  It might not be possible to find the time in the bustling life of this world. And there are times, we may not even find a private place in the great outdoors like Jesus, for communion with God. The fact here is that we all have the same need for God.  But like Jesus, even in the midst of a crowd, we must come away to a lonely place, or we must draw aside to listen to what our Lord would say to us (Isaiah 26:3).

The questions for us this morning; Are you in a rush all the times, coming and going, doing and being?  Do you feel at times that you are at the end of your rope and that there is a possibility you are going to have some kind of emotional breakdown?  Perhaps you need a regular does of solitude or rest. Please try to find a time during the day when you can turn off the world and get alone with God.  Find a quiet place in your home or yard where you can be alone with God. There you can meditate on His Word, evaluate your circumstances, and rededicate your life to Him.  Jesus Christ did, you and I must!!!! Amen.

 

“We Are More Than Conquerors”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, APRIL 22, 2018

 

Title: “We are more than Conquerors!”

 

Text: “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speakest.  What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?  In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

 

Scripture Reading: Job 2:9-10

 

Our reactions when disappointments come crashing into our lives are important.  Job’s experience tells us how to react in such a time. Unlike Job, many would expect to receive good things all the time and not bad things.  We would expect to receive good things in life, and not calamity. One of the most profound statements in all the Bible was made by job when he ask, “Shall we accept good from God , and not trouble?” Job 2:10.

If Job is right, then it is not fair to take the good of life for granted and then complain about the bad.  This statement is Job’s reply to his wife’s suggestion about how he should respond in trouble times. Job was a good man and did not deserve what was happening to Him.  If anyone knew that, it was his wife. This was more than she could take. In her disappointments, she suggested that that Job “curse God and die” (2:9)

Job knew that all sunshine and no rain makes a desert and that we cannot have mountaintops without valleys.  Job had accepted the good in life with a grateful spirit. Now he would try to endure the bad in life with a gracious spirit.  He would take his loses with quietness and courage. He would not grow bitter. In his response, Job teaches us that we can conquer disappointment. In all of life’s situations, we are more than conquerors.  This morning we would learn together on the topic: “We are more than Conquerors.”

We can choose to be like clay and respond to the heat of life by letting it harden us and make us bitter, or we can choose to be like wax by letting the heat of life melt us and shape us into new patterns.  What are our options?    

 

Job found himself in this very difficult situation.  He did nothing wrong, but found himself being attacked from all walks of life.  In life, we will go through tough times and difficult situations. In these difficult situations, we often turned to bitterness.  I have seen first hand how the clay response can corrode the spirit of an individual and turned him into a very bitter person.

As a pastor, you always build good relationships with your parishioners.  In fact that is what a very good pastor will does. When you have good relationships with your congregation, it troubles you when a person get diagnosed with an illness.  It is more troubling when a person lose all hope of being cure of an illness. You prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and one day a parishioner tells you, “you can pray, but it won’t do any good.”  It is not that the person does not have faith, but a circumstances of life can destroyed a person’s faith. During these critical stages of our Christian walk, we can choose the clay response. This is when we wind up as a bitter and harden person.  In our text, Job’s wife choose the clay response.

There are people who will choose the wax response.  Like Job who had a heroic spirit, they will simply refuse to be overcome by the circumstances of life, or the harsh realities of life.  In Job situation, Job said, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).  In today’s idiomatic expression one would say, “When life hands them a lemon, they make lemonade.” The Bible is filled with examples of such positive responses to negative experiences. What examples do we find in Scriptures that challenges us?   

David was one of those who would make a lemonade if life handed him a lemon.  David wrote, “I will bless the Lord at all times” (Psalms 34:1) David had every reason to complain and become a bitter person.  King Saul purposed in his heart to kill David. His son Ammon committed adultery with his sister. David’s son Absalom betrayed him.  And his son Adonijah tried to grab the throne just before David died. David lifted up his heads at all times and praised God. He said, “His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1).  David made it a fact of life that he once was a young man, but even as an old man, he had never seen the righteous forsaken. Those who followed God are never forsaken.

Jesus Christ was another lemonade maker.  He was no stranger to hardship and disappointment.  Again and again, what Jesus worked so hard for was being destroyed by Satan.  But Jesus never allowed the Devil to take a foothold in his ministry. Jesus never allowed His life experience to drive Him to despair.  When Jesus hung on Calvary, He died never with a whimper on His lips, but with a victorious shout.

One other experience of a lemonade maker challenges us.  Paul letters to the churches at Philippi, Ephesus, Galatia, and Colossae challenge us.  These prisons epistles clearly show that Paul must have been frustrated from his frequent imprisonments.  How easy it would have been for Paul to become bitter and hardened. But never once did he mention the poor food, the deplorable living conditions, or the inhumane treatment of the guards.  Rather, Paul talked about how God was using his experiences to inspire others and advanced the gospel.

Church many Christians have learned not to be sorrowful about their troubles.  Rather, they have come to learned how to turn every stumbling block into a stepping stone.  THEY ARE ALL CONQUEROR!!! We can do the same thing if we choose to. What is the secret that frees us?

One important question that we must all ask this morning, “How were all these people able to respond so creatively to hardships and disappointments?  What is the secret of this resilience that enables some people to pick up the pieces and start anew, rather than going to pieces under the impact of some tragedy?”

The secret lies in how we visualize God’s relation to our lives.  Job’s wife had a faulty view of God. She had a distorted view of God.  I really can’t explain why she said what she said to Job, but I know she was going through difficult times dealing with her husband illness.  We all go through times like that, when we deal with the illness of a child, a wife, a relative, or a close friend. Probably Job’s wife must have been spoiled by the good life and had come to feel that God owed her a troubled-free existence.  When all the good life ended for her, she blamed God. She felt that God was acting unjustly. But Job, this great lemonade maker had a different view of God. Listen as he speaks, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eyes seeth thee” (Job 42:5).

The truth of the matter here is Job saw God as God is.  He saw God as immutable (the same yesterday, today, and forever).  He saw God as the same God who blessed him with children, cattles, and all kinds of material wealth.  He saw God as an existential God and not a situational God. Job did not see God as how he Job wanted God to be.  Church, God does not owe us anything. He does not promise us a life of ease. God is not the one to be blame for all the trials that comes our way.  The Scriptures teach us that because of God’s presence, whatever happens to us will not be too much for us. During the Genesis of my ministry at Newton First, Eastside, and Walton UMC’s, I admired the courage of one of my parishioners who was involved in an accident.  After prayers, I would call him to check with him. All he would say is I thanked God because it would have been worse. Today, God has restored him to health.

Some point out that the essence of despair is bringing God down to the past.  It important for Christians to believe that God is still at work in the world and in our lives today.  One attribute of God is that He is immutable. The anonymous writer of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  God never changes. His sovereign purpose will ultimately be fulfilled.

Not everything that happens to us originates solely with God.  Some things that happen to us come straight from God. There are others that come from Satan or as a result of our own wrong decisions and only permitted by God.  Some things come from our disobedience to God. God saves us through our difficulties.

One important fact we ought to learn today from Scriptures is because of God’s omnipresence with us, whatever happens to us will not be too much for us.  The good will of God will be present in these troubles. God can be counted on for this. It is obvious that this is how we overcome problems rather than being overcome by our problems.  

In the most difficult of circumstances, when you feel abandoned by God, you need to remember that the feeling and the fact are not the same thing.  I submit to you that in difficult times, when you feel yours prayers are not getting above the ceiling, please do not worry. God can come down below the ceiling.  Church, God is not deaf. God has not abandoned us. God is not limited. He is like a puppet master quietly controlling the events of our lives. He is working silently and redemptively no matter what.  So, when life comes crashing in, don’t give up in despair, don’t become angry at God, don’t feel sorry for yourself, don’t complicate your heartaches, don’t let bitterness consume you. Fights these attitudes and temptations with all your heart.  When disappointments seem to engulf you, say with Job, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worm destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-16).

 

“The Great Commission”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

3RD SUNDAY IN EASTER, APRIL 15, 2018

 

Title: “The Great Commission

Text: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19 RSV)

Scripture Reading: (Matthew 28:16-20 NIV).

  1. Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.  18. Then Jesus came to them and said, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20. And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the the age.”

 

On the resurrection morning, Jesus Christ gave the women at the tomb the command to go and tell the good news that He had resurrected.  This is a charge we have to keep. As the hymn writer puts it, “A charge to keep I have; a God to glorify, a never dying soul to save and fit it for the sky,” we all have a command to go our and win souls for Christ.  Our text today brings to the fold Jesus’ command to his disciples and to His church to make disciples of all people of all nations. It includes both Jews and Gentiles, and people to the outermost parts of the world. I submit to you this morning that the emphasis is not on the going ; the emphasis is on making disciples.  The only imperative in these words is “ make disciples. The word translated “go” is actually a participle with the force of an imperative. It means that in our going about from place to place, we are to concern ourselves with making disciples. So, what is discipleship? What is it to make disciples?

To fully understand Jesus command, we must understand who a disciple is. Elementary Greek tells us that the Greek word translated “make disciples” is matheteuo.  This word comes from the root mathetes.  It means a learner or pupil. In Jesus days, the disciples were learner or students who learned from Jesus. So for us Christians, disciples communicate the same idea. The disciple is a believer who is learning to obediently follow and serve Jesus as his master.  Discipleship is more than accepting Jesus; it is going and working hard; making a long term commitment to discovering what it means to be devoted to Jesus. This can be accomplished through regular exposure to Scriptures, commitment to the communities of faith, and the direct involvement of mature believers in our lives.  This is how Jesus say who a disciple is: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciple, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” John 8:31-32. Being a disciple of Jesus is a continue spiritual process. I will submit to you here this morning that one salient element of discipleship is reproduction. A disciple is in the business of creating new disciples.  Discipleship includes the work of sharing the gospel and baptising those who respond in faith. We then help the new disciple to become better student of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. It then become a life-long process of committing ourselves to Jesus. As a young disciple in the late 1980’s, I was involved in hospital and prison ministration of the word of God. One day while ministering to a man at the John F. Kennedy Medical Centre,Monrovia, Liberia, the man told me that it was the happiest day in His life.  He had heard about Jesus, but accepting Jesus brought a whole new joy to him. But I could not follow up on him because of the lack of resources. I told him about Jesus. He accepted but I could not nurture him. I committed him to Christ to lead him on. Christians should be empowered to make disciples. We get that power from God.

In verse 18 of Matthew 28, Jesus came to them and informed them that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The word translated authority means “the power to command, the power to issue orders or requisitions, the authority to take charge.”  Jesus Christ was a unique person. His death was sacrificial. After death, He had a victorious resurrection. He did not only resurrect, He ascended on high and seated at the right hand of God.  Because of all of these events, Jesus Christ proved that He has authority.  So on the resurrection morning, He used that authority to command the women at the tomb: “Go, and Tell.”  

It was a command to go and tell the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It was a command to go and make disciples. In a world where there is a declined in church related activities, we need Jesus to help us. Today’s disciples need to recognize and respond to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not only our Savior, He owns us.  He has the right to lay claim to all that we have. Jesus should be the figure of authority in our lives. In this age and time, we cannot be successful in making disciples unless we emphasize Christ’s authority. We need to emphasize His love and devotion. The love and devotion of Christ was demonstrated when He died on the cross for us sinners.  It bears a powerful message. It this through it Jesus reveals His continuing redemptive plan.

In our text today, God has shown that He has been a missionary God from time immemorial.  When Abraham was well past his age, He called Abraham to go out on a missionary trip. He called the people of Israel out of Egypt that they might be the instrument for His redemptive purpose.

Studying the Psalms and the books of the prophets, we will see indications of how God work continuously to communicate His love for them.  God communicated with boldness, the depth, and the range of His love for not only the children of Israel, but for all people. God commanded that everyone should “go and make disciples of all nations.

The book of Jonah is a missionary book.  In that book, God seeks to tell the prophet Jonah and people, how concern He was about the sin of the world.  The book of Jonah was a rebuke to the people who claim to love the country they dwell in. It was a rebuke to those who separated themselves from God spiritually. So God sent Jonah to make disciples of the people.

God revealed Himself those those who were outside the nation of Israel. Jesus for an example give the Water of Life to the despised Samaritan woman. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus did not stop short in lifting the good works of the Samaritan who ministered to the man left for dead by robbers in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus Christ also heard the prayer of the Phoenician woman as she prayed for deliverance for her daughter. Jesus Christ also sent the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as a preparation for the disciples for a ministry to the entire world.

The call by Jesus Christ to His disciples to go out to make disciples is the Great Commission.  Many people have made this call a professional endeavor. They want to place this call only on the clergy.  This is a complete disservice to the follower of Christ. This Great Commission to out and make disciples is a heritage for all Christians.  It is an opportunity of service for all. Some people have made it only applicable to foreign missions. This is not the case. A closer examination of the text is indicative of the fact that each Christian is charged with the responsibility to evangelize, where ever we find ourselves.  God set forth this redemptive plan as a means for us to go out, without fear and favor, and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. In commanding His disciples, Jesus Christ promised His personal protection to all who undertake this cause.

In verse 20 of our passage, Jesus told His disciples, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  We see here that Jesus Christ promised His personal protection. No one who endeavor to preach the gospel, obeying this Great Commission would ever be alone.  We will enjoy the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to bless with His presence, those who give themselves to the task of witnessing. In this age and time, it is a fearful thing to do.  For some, it is an embarrassing thing to do. I submit to you that the abiding presence of Jesus will bring you great joy and comfort in fearful times. The abiding presence of Jesus can motivate us to do our best.  The abiding presence of Christ can give us boldness. Jesus Christ is with us always as we serve Him and minister to others. All we need to do is have complete confidence in Jesus.

In the 1970’s the San Diego Chargers had a quarterback named Fouts.  In one particular game, both Fouts and the Chargers were having a real bad day.  With two minutes remaining in the game, the chargers were down 14-0. Everyone on the team was frustrated.  So the coach pulled out Fouts and put in the backup quarterback, Bobby Douglas. Douglas grabbed his helmet.  He strapped on his helmet in great anticipation and headed for the huddle. Midway through, he stopped in his track, turned to the coach and yelled, “Coach, do you want me to win the game or just tie it?” What a statement?  With all the odds against this team, it was a great statement by a quarterback. Do we have that kind of confidence in Jesus Christ? Do we have the confidence to carry out the Great Commission? Do we have the confidence to recognize  and respond to the lordship of Jesus as we carry out the Great Commision? Do we have the confidence to carry out the Great Commission to people of all races and creed? Do we have the confidence to carry out the Great Commission knowing that Jesus Christ promised us His personal presence and protection? May the Spirit of God guide us as we make disciples for our church.  AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Witnessing the Resurrection”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

EASTER SUNDAY, APRIL 1, 2018

 

Title: “Witnessing the Resurrection”

Text: John 20: 11-18

  1. Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying.  As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14. At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  15. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, i you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16. Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”) 17. Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18. Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he said these things to her.

 

Understanding the circumstances leading the resurrection of Jesus can be explained by the events during the holy week.  The events of the holy week is symbolic of how Jesus works in our life, preparing us to be witnesses to His truth. The holy week began with the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with crowds cheering and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest Heavens!” Others questioned who he was. It was a short-lived joy, for Jesus would be arrested on Holy Thursday, and brutally killed on Good Friday.

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus Christ carried out some acts that are worthy of remembrance.  On Holy Monday, Jesus entered the temple and chased the folks who were trading in the temple.  Jesus enters the very temple precinct itself and stirred up the place.  Jesus comes into our life stirring up our temple or body, removing prejudice, old hurts, and anything that blocks His relationship with us.  After cleaning the temple, Jesus began to teach the Word of God. After He had removed the clutters of our lives, he filled us up with the word.  On the third day of the holy week, Jesus began to performed miracles of healing the blind and crippled. Jesus Christ brings us in contact with the supernatural.  He brings us to the very throne room of God, but yet the road ahead seems so gloomy. On the fifth day of the events leading to the resurrection, Jesus Christ had some intimate time with His disciples.  Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples. At this high holy meal, Jesus accentuated His love for His disciples and washed their feet. Jesus assured them of His love, but also reminded them that one of them would betrayed Him.  Before daybreak Jesus had been denied and betrayed. Good Friday is the darkest day. On this day, we remembered the events of the rigged trial, the bloodthirsty mob howling for Jesus’ blood because He failed to meet their patriotic expectations.  We remembered the brutal beating and the savagery of the soldiers. Jesus is on the cross with nails pounded in His flesh. His death meant the death of the faith of His followers, the end of the hope they had in Him. This evil day, this black Friday is filled with cruelty unimaginable.  Holy Saturday came and there was silence everywhere among the faithful believers. It is like that tunnel where we find ourselves when the lights of our faith has gone out. It is like the point in our lives when we go to church, but we no longer believe. It is a time when we say prayers we do not mean. It is a time when there is instability in our Christian faith. But it is a time when something deep down in us brings hope.  It is that time when we revive our hope by witnessing the resurrection. It is this winessing of the resurrection that affirms the reality that Jesus rose from the dead.

The Resurrection is the secret of Christian stability. Actually, the symbol of Christianity is more an empty tomb than a cross.  The empty tomb gives meaning to the cross. Were it not for the empty tomb, the cross would have been a tragedy.

It makes a lot of sense to see that the witnesses of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ were also the witnesses of His resurrection.  According to our text, Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb early during the Resurrection morning and met an empty tomb. She and the other Mary were the first to received the news of the risen Lord and the first to encountered Him.  They had been at the cross; they had been there when He was laid in the tomb; and now they were recipients of the rewards of love. They were the first to know the joy of the resurrection.

The events of the holy week have been focused on the cross. Some of those in the crowd at the cross were also at the empty tomb.  They were the witnesses of the resurrection. And so we do witness the resurrection, the return to life of Jesus Christ, and the defeat of death.

Let us know first and foremost that witnessing the Resurrection affirms the reality of the resurrection.  Our Christian faith is built on the reality of the resurrection. It does not, alone, prove the deity of Christ, but it is consistent with it.  Because Jesus is Lord, we can believe that he is the resurrected Lord.

Was the resurrection authentic? Josh McDowell, the well-known Christian apologist studied the authenticity of the Resurrection for more than 700 hours.  His conclusion is that the resurrection is “the most remarkable fact of history.” In his book, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” McDowell explains that the empty tomb is the most notable of evidences that show Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples did not go elsewhere to preach.  They preached right there in Jerusalem, where the evidence of the empty tomb could not be denied. Both Jewish and Roman sources and tradition bear witness to the empty tomb.  The breaking of the Roman Seal is also evidence of Christ’s Resurrection. The breaking of the Roman Seal was death for anyone. Christ disciples all show cowardice and could not do it.  The Romans soldiers knew the penalty was immediately execution. It could be only the angels of God or the power of God. The Roman soldiers went AWOL. How could they abdicate their responsibilities of protecting the tomb, when discipline among Roman soldiers were exceptional? One way a soldier was put to death for leaving his duty was to take his clothes of and burning him. If one soldier or all of them had emptied the tomb, they would all be killed.  According to McDowell, Dr. George Curie, a student in Roman military discipline explained that because Roman soldiers feared punishment, “they produced flawless attention to duty especially during night watches.” There was no way the soldiers could have done it. Many scholars say that it is the best-attested fact in history. But those who do not believe in the resurrection try to explain away the Resurrection by saying that the women went to the wrong tomb; or that Jesus fainted and later revived; or that thieves stole His body, the disciples removed His body, or the Romans or Jewish authorities took His body into their own custody.  But the tomb is empty! Jesus was resurrected and set loose those in the world.

In the amazing drama of the Trial of Jesus written by John Masefield, there is a passage in which Longinus, the Roman centurion in command of the soldiers at the cross, comes back to Pilate to hand in his report on the day’s work.  The report is given. Then Procula, the wife of Pilate, backons to the centurion and begs him to tell her how the prisoner died. When the story has been told, she suddenly ask, “Do you think he is dead?” “No, lady, Longinus answers, “I don’t. “Then where is he?” she asked.  The centurion answers, “Let loose in the world, lady, where neither Romans nor Jews can stop His truth.” When we have gotten all the facts of the resurrection, what do we do? We tell others about the resurrection.

In our passage, Jesus called the name of Mary.  Mary recognized Jesus. She shouted in Aramaic, “Rabboni,” meaning Teacher.  In verse 17, Jesus immediately told her to go and tell the good news of the resurrection.  The first declaration of the Resurrection was a call to action. Even in the Matthew account in chapter 28:7, the angels said to the women to “go, quickly, tell.”  Church, this is the kind of news you do not keep to yourself. If you were in the hospital room of a very ill relative, the physicians came in and told everyone the crisis is over and the relative will live.  You do not just quietly sit there.  You run down the hall to find the wife, husband, son or daughter.  You run to Mojo’s coffee shop to find the uncle and aunties. You run to the telephone to tell the grandparents.  There are some news you just don’t keep to yourself. The resurrection is that kind of news. It is news that give hope, inspiration, courage: “fear not”; news that give assurance: “He is not here”: news that give joy: “with great joy.”  This is the news that give life. It is telling this news that give witness to the Resurrection!

As we read Matthew and John gospels, we will know that during this difficult period of the lives of the disciples, the appearance of Jesus gave them hope.  During this most difficult period, their young Jewish Rabbi had been murdered. Their only hope, the hope upon which their faith depended, was dead. For a moment, their dreams and aspirations of receiving eternal life were shattered.

If we carefully follow the gospel account, we will notice a change in the disciples who followed Jesus.  If we follow this account to the opening of the book of Acts, we will observed that the lives of the disciples were changed greatly, when they received the news and witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.  

Peter had denied the Lord three times.  He had cursed and sworn as though he had never known the restraining influence of Jesus.  Peter had gone out and wept bitterly. Peter joined the other disciples behind closed doors when Jesus died.  Two pages after this account in the Bible, the same very Peter is standing outside the very upper room of the Last Supper preaching Christ boldly.  After Peter witnessed the resurrection, he defied the same Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus to death. And he slept in his jail cell the night before he was executed.  What changed Peter? It was his witness to the power of the resurrected Christ.

James later assumed a position of leadership in the Jerusalem church.  But in Jesus’ life time, he did not believe in Him. After the Resurrection this earthly brother of the Lord was transformed from a doubter into a believer just as Simon Peter was turned from fear to courage.  Lives are changed by the resurrected Lord.

This is the greatest assurance of the Resurrection in our lives.  We have met the resurrected Christ, and he has changed us. Then he charges us.  He gives us a job to do and the power to do it.