SPOILER ALERT!

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

SPOILER ALERT!

How many times have you had that happen? I did it recently on Facebook, after a pastor won the Voice competition. I posted congratulations right away, not thinking that some people hadn’t watched the television show live. SORRY!

I’ve had it happen to me with football games that I intend to watch later, and well-meaning people call me to congratulate my team on their win.

SPOILER ALERT!

You are about to receive the outline for Sunday’s sermon on John 3:31-36. I pray that it does not keep you from coming or watching. I pray the Holy Spirit uses it to challenge your thinking this week. Here are the verses we will cover.

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32  He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33  Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34  For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35  The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

The title of the sermon will be STAY ON TRACK! It will focus on John the Baptizer pointing everyone to Jesus. As he does that, he gives us several reasons that we should seek Jesus above all else.

  1. We seek Jesus because He is sovereign, so we can trust Him to be in control. (verse 31)
  2. We seek Jesus because He speaks eternal truth, so we can trust what He says. (verse 32-33)
  3. We seek Jesus because He supplies us with the Spirit without measure, so we can trust the fullness of God’s presence at all times. (verse 34)
  4. We seek Jesus because He supervises all things, so we can trust the outcomes to be good and glorious. (verse 35)
  5. We seek Jesus because He is the source of eternal life, so we can trust Him with everything in this life. (verse 36)

Spend some time each day for the rest of the week on one of these points, (two on Saturday)and see how the Holy Spirit transforms your heart so that you are constantly seeking Jesus.

Pastor John

Back on Track

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

When I was a young boy I loved playing with our model train set. We had a locomotive that actually blew smoke. My brothers and I would play for hours setting up the track and all the accessories, and then running the train as fast as we could without it derailing. As I recall, we had a lot of fun, so long as the train stayed on the tracks.

Consider that concept of staying on track in the context of world events right now. It may appear like a major derailment. Yet if we were to poll each other, we might discover that very few of us feel that we are a part of the train wreck. In fact, most of us believe that if our ideas were implemented the problems would be solved. We tend to believe that we have the answers, and everything would stay on track if people would just listen to us.

In our Scripture passage from the Gospel of John this week, there was an attempt made to get John the Baptist off track. A debate was started about who’s ideas about baptism were more important. John the Baptist was confronted with an idea that he should begin to boost his own following because people were starting to follow Jesus. He probably felt tempted to get off track. But rather than give in to the temptation to protect his own position or popularity, he surrendered his following to the only One worthy of being followed.

John 3:28-30  “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Read these words again – Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.

WOW! True joy comes from pointing people to Jesus, not from getting things done our way. We tend to believe that real joy is ours when people listen to us and follow us. We seek joy in self-affirmation by bringing other people into agreement with us. We think we will validate our value by building a following of our ideas. But John the Baptizer reveals to us that true joy is found only in fulfilling the purpose of Christ.

So many followers of Christ are off track today because we prioritize our political positions or agenda over the Gospel mission of redemption. The church of Jesus Christ is being derailed in the name of social conscience. We must get back on track and realize that only by pointing people to Jesus will any social reform take place. Anything less is nothing more than a band aid destined to fall off and reveal an ugly wound.

We, the followers of Jesus, must decrease in our need for personal recognition or validation, and we must point people to Jesus. He is the only source of healing for our land.

Pastor John

Get out of the Way

LIFELINK Devotional
Monday, June 8, 2020

Have you ever heard of competitive baptisms? It is quite possible that some of you have strong opinions about baptism, and take some level of pride in yours based on what church did it and what person baptized you. There was the potential for a three-way competition in this week’s Scripture passage in John 3:22-36. Let’s look at the first few verses.

John‬ ‭3:22-24 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).”
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After Jesus met with Nicodemus and explained the fundamentals of entrance into the Kingdom of God, He and the disciples took a road trip out to the Judean countryside. When they arrive at their destination, Jesus begins baptizing people. Meanwhile, in another location, John the Baptizer is also baptizing people. Some Jews, who also practiced baptism, got into a debate with followers of John the Baptist. They asked John to settle the debate. But rather than debate the fundamental theology of baptism, John simply declares that all of the attention of spiritual life needs to be on Jesus. Finding value in religious rituals no longer mattered. Taking pride in one’s particular theological perspective no longer mattered. Defending one’s denominational organization was a waste of energy and breath. All that matters is Jesus.

In one of the most profound statements ever made by any human being, John the Baptizer settles the argument over the purpose of baptism with one statement: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

No matter what the size of his following, or the personal acclaim he was receiving, or the influence he was having, John withdrew so that Jesus could be glorified.

Are you seeking to be noticed, or even honored, for your great theology or religious activity? Do you take pride in your participation in your church’s sacraments? Do you spiritually place yourself above others because of what you believe? Take note. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, let everything go and got out of the way so only Jesus could be seen. Please consider the consequences of not doing the same.

Pastor John

Light Conquers Darkness

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, June 5, 2020

Last weekend I went camping for the first time this summer. My whole family was there, along with ten other families from Calvary. During one of the campfire discussions, the conversation turned to sleep schedules. The debate between morning people and night owls was interesting. But the conversation shut down when the motives for each position were compared to spiritual life. It is a fact that we all have a preferred body clock. However, self-evaluation is healthy for us to determine if either position is motivated by a sinful desire to either appear more spiritual or to enjoy things that aren’t spiritual.

Here’s what Jesus said about that.

John 3:19-21  “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

The contrast between darkness and light has existed since time began. God’s very first creative words were, “Let there be light.”  In the heart and mind of God, darkness has always represented everything opposed to life. Light is the source of life. As it was before light came into existence, everything without light is void and without form.

It is apparent from the words of Jesus that darkness is appealing. Here’s why I think that’s true. Sin is appealing. Self-gratification is appealing. Yet the consequence of sin is guilt and shame. So how can we have our cake and eat it too? How can we enjoy what we believe gratifies us and not feel the shame that goes with it?

WE CAN’T! That’s the message of the Gospel. We can be delivered from the desires of the flesh so that there is no shame that comes from exposure of our sin. In Christ, the consequences of sin are gone, and the constant Light of the Holy Spirit shines in us to purify us from the desires to go back to sin. It is the Light that conquers the darkness.

Take a moment and read this passage from the Apostle Paul. Let it sink in. Let it encourage you with the power of the Light in you.

2 Corinthians 4:4-18  the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5  For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12  So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13  Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14  knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15  For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Pastor John

Guilty Until Declared Innocent

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 4, 2020

A fundamental principle of our judicial system is that people are presumed innocent until there is proof of guilt. Unfortunately, that principle of law is far too often overlooked. Law enforcement does it. Lawyers do it. Citizens do it. Almost everyone on Facebook or Twitter does it. We assign guilt before due process has had a chance to function as it should.

The legal principle of presumed innocence stands in stark contrast to the spiritual principle of proven guilt. Read what Jesus said in John 3:17-18.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

In a court of law, the accused is considered innocent until proof of guilt has been offered and the judge or jury declares the accused guilty. That is not the case for every human being in the context of their spiritual life. Every one of us stands condemned before God, declared guilty by the Righteous Judge based on the inherent nature of sin within us. But the same Judge who declares us guilty based on our indwelling sin will declare us not guilty based on our belief in Jesus Christ. Our sin nature was fully punished by God in Jesus Christ when He died on the cross, so that we who believe could be declared innocent.

In the court system, the accused begins as innocent and based on evidence is declared guilty. In the Spiritual world, the guilty prove their guilt by the evidence of their thoughts and actions, and yet can be declared innocent by confessing their guilt to the One who paid the penalty for their sin. Faith in Jesus Christ removes all condemnation.

What is it that condemns you? Thoughts of your past. Words of other people? Knowledge of the evil that resides in your heart and mind? All of this and more are proof of our common condemnation. Jesus did not come to condemn us. We are already condemned. Jesus came to save us, and he makes freedom possible through His death on the cross. Jesus was condemned for us, so that we might be forgiven and given eternal freedom.

What is keeping you from faith in Christ? Is it fear of admitting your guilt? Your guilt was carried to the cross by Jesus. Is it fear of the penalties that will be imposed upon confession of your guilt? Jesus paid the total penalty for your guilt when He died for you. Maybe you are afraid that your sin is too great and you must make restitution before you are worthy to be forgiven. Jesus died as the worst sinner and paid for the worst sin, and God declared His satisfaction with His payment by raising Him from the dead.

You have nothing to fear. By faith alone you can be forgiven and accepted into the eternal family of God.  Today is the day you can go from guilty sinner to saved saint. Turn from your sin. Turn to Jesus. Believe He died for you, and be saved.

Pastor John

The Gospel

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

One of the most beloved and memorized verses in all the Bible is John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

This verse contains the heart of the Gospel: God’s love, man’s condition, and God’s grace.

Two days ago, I received one of the biggest blessings of my life. It happened during staff meeting as we were discussing the upcoming sermon topic for Sunday. My son, Calvary’s Associate Pastor, asked me if I had the notes from the sermon I preached many years ago on John 3:16. He said it had so impressed him that he would like to hear it again. On Monday night, he sent me this picture of a page in his Bible from November 1, 2009.

In case you can’t read it, here is the Gospel according to John 3:16.

“For God” – The Greatest Giver

“so loved” – The Greatest Motive

“the world” – The Greatest Need

“that He gave” – The Greatest Act

“His One and Only Son” – The Greatest Gift

“that whoever” – The Greatest Invitation

“believes” – The Greatest Decision

“in Him” – The Greatest Person

“shall not perish” – The Greatest Deliverance

“but” – The Greatest Difference

“have” – The Greatest Certainty

“eternal life” – The Greatest Possession

This is the Gospel. Do you believe?

Pastor John

I MUST

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

But I have too!”

How many times have we heard our children say that? They ask to do something, and when we say “No,” they do their best to convince us of the urgency of the situation. I’m sure as adults we still do the same thing. “I have to buy that car!” “I have to stay home from work!”  “I have to go golfing!” Okay, that one hits way to close to home. We seem to have a lot of “have to’s.”

God also expressed a “have to.” You can see it in John 3:14. I will highlight it for you.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…”

Jesus MUST be lifted up. But Why? There are two reasons:

  1. Our sin had one consequence and one cure. Death is sin’s consequence, and Christ’s death is the cure.
    1. Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
    2. Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
  2. God’s love had one expression – to suffer the consequence and become the cure.
    1. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus MUST be lifted up.

Our sin determines it.

God’s love demands it.

Pastor John

THE WORLD IS DYING

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, June 1, 2020

Have you ever been simultaneously scared and filled with hope? I remember it happening to me as a young boy. It happened in Sunday School class. The teacher was telling us the story of an invasion of poisonous snakes that was used by God to punish the Israelites for their rebellion against Him. Thousands and thousands of snakes. She even had a picture. I was so scared that I totally missed the opportunity to make a joke about how old she was to have taken the picture.

But my fear was confronted with faith when I saw, in the middle of the picture, Moses lifting up a pole with a brass snake on it, and people’s eyes turning to look at it. There were snakes all over the ground, and people were dying from their bites. Yet one look of faith at the brass snake on a pole, and the bite of the serpent was healed.

John 3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Our world is dying from the bite of the Serpent. Satan, the Garden Serpent, lures us with deception and brings us death. We are deceived into believing that there is life to be found in the pursuit of self-fulfillment, pleasure, power, and possessions. We build our personal value systems on principles rather than the Prince of Peace. The same Serpent that bit Adam and Eve with the fear that God could not fully satisfy their need for self-worth has bitten all of us, and we are all dying while we try to prove to ourselves that we can make ourselves better.

The story of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness shook me as a boy, but it taught me an incredible lesson. While the snake on the pole had no power to remove the effects of deadly venom, the God who commanded the people to look at the serpent does. The faith of people looking at the serpent on the pole healed their snakebite.

Jesus declared that He would also be lifted up on a pole, and those who look to Him in faith will also be healed from the Serpent’s deadly venom of death. The crucifixion of Jesus conquers every sin by crushing the head of the serpent so it can bite no more. When we look to Jesus in faith, believing that He saves from every effect of sin, we are instantly healed from death and given new life that is eternal.

So whatever snakebite has you suffering in pain today, look to Jesus on the cross. He died to save you. He died so that you may have life. He has destroyed once and for all the power of the Serpent. By faith, He will be your Savior.

If you want to know more, please contact me. The world is dying. It’s time to live.

Pastor John

DON’T TRUST OPINIONS

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 28, 2020

We live in a world that is seemingly driven by opinions far more often than facts. Opinions are the product of several factors. One such filter is our past experiences, through which we see and hear facts and then interpret meaning and motive.  So that I don’t get overly philosophical today, I will let those of you who want to evaluate that concept do it on your own time.

When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he heard the teaching of Jesus through the filter of his personal experience.  When Jesus said to him, ”Unless you are born again you cannot see the Kingdom of God,” Nicodemus had an opinion of what Jesus meant. He interpreted what Jesus said in a purely physical sense. With all of his understanding of the Old Testament Scripture, Nicodemus had been conditioned by his religious experience to interpret things from an outside in perspective. What I mean is that to Nicodemus, and possibly you, spiritual life is earned by outward activity. His opinion was that any spiritual truth must have an external application before it has any internal value.

Jesus was about to turn everything upside down. When Nicodemus heard Jesus say “born again” he heard the physical act of birth. But Jesus actually said that he must be “born from above.” Jesus went on to say that unless a person is born with water and the Spirit they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That statement has caused much confusion for people, but if we see the whole context of what Jesus is teaching, it gets easier. Jesus helps Nicodemus understand what He means by referring to his knowledge of the Old Testament. So let’s look there in Ezekiel 36:25-27.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Here’s my point. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that there is nothing he can do to make himself clean enough for the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus was of the opinion that he had a moral obligation based on the law of God to physically participate in his own cleansing from sin, thereby establishing his own credentials for entrance into God’s Kingdom. Jesus flipped that opinion upside down with the truth that EVERY aspect of spiritual transformation is from above. The clean water is from God alone, not from a religious ritual like baptism.  Obedience to God’s law does not improve our standing with God, but when God puts the Holy Spirit in us through faith in Jesus Christ we become obedient children of the Father. EVERY credential for entrance into the Kingdom of God is granted by God through Jesus Christ, without any assistance from us.

You may have a differing opinion. Be careful not to trust your eternal destiny to opinion. Trust the absolute truth of what Jesus said. “Unless you are born from above you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” The only valid credential you carry into eternity is faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Pastor John

STARTING OVER

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 27. 2020

“If only I could go back and start over.”

We have all probably said that, or something similar, at some point in our life. It’s especially true after a series of failures. However, it’s not likely that you have ever wanted to go back and start over from birth. If given the choice, we might start at 2 or three, but not as an infant.

When Nicodemus comes to Jesus based on his religious credentials, Jesus informs Him of a traumatic truth.

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The term “born again” instantly causes Nicodemus great concern. He literally takes it literally. But Jesus is making a spiritual truth based on the physical impossibility. While it is impossible to go back into our mother’s womb and be born again, it is equally impossible to enter the Kingdom of God on the basis of human wisdom or religious credentials.

Here is the trauma of this truth. To be born again means to release everything we have ever known or experienced, and trust Jesus alone. That’s not appealing to any of us, and were it not for the grace of God to grant us faith to believe Jesus can do it, we would never participate with what Jesus wants to do. He wants to wipe away every misconception so you can be conceived into the family of God. He wants to eliminate any prideful credentials of our own making and supply us with new credentials based on His worth, not ours. Jesus wants us to be willing to give up any sense of personal value and be born again with His value.

Many of us still wish we could start over, but we place a limit on how far back we would go. Jesus said we must be willing to go all the way back to before we knew or experienced everything, and start completely new in Him. And when we agree, he gives us a life beyond our expectations or imaginations – a life that originates in the eternal glory of God.

Pastor John