Nehemiah 10

Vs. 29, “All these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the LORD our Lord.” The ending of our chapter yesterday gave us the context of our passage today. After great revival, the people of the Lord took their faith and lived it out by signing a new oath unto the Lord. Eighty-four people (priests, Levites, other leaders) along with Nehemiah put their seal on this new covenant (vs. 1-29) and all the others agreed to it. Question: What would cause this newfound devotion? The reading and teaching of God’s word! It was very important to understand they were a holy people set apart by God (vs. 30-31). It is awesome to see the response of their hearts by committing to support the temple and its ministry (vs. 32-39). “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill.

Regarding application…Committing to the Lord. It is one thing to have a special revival and respond with fervor, but what really stands out is they all did something about their faith. Another factor we must consider is that this was not done privately, but it was a public commitment. When we as believers make a stand for our faith today, we participate in baptism. Sometimes we throw around “personal relationship” with the Lord way too liberally. Walking with Lord should be in community with each other. We are all in the same boat together as believers! Stay connected to your local church and find ways to commit!

Mark 1

Vs. 1, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Mark wants us to make sure there is no mistake: Jesus is the Son of God!  The first section of the Gospel is spent on giving the audience the privileged insider information as to who Jesus really is (vs. 1-13).  John the Baptist prepared the way (vs. 2-8), God the Father affirmed His Son (vs. 9-11) and Jesus would overcome the temptation of Satan (vs. 12-13).  Because this is a Gentile audience, there is no need to go into long details proving the genealogy of Christ to the Jews.  We see the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s ministry and the dawning of Jesus’ ministry (vs. 14-15).  The latter half of our chapter, we see the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry as he “serves” others and calls his disciples to him (vs. 16-45).  It’s no coincidence that the main apostles were fisherman for they would be able to relate to Jesus’ mission (vs. 16-20).  Question: Why did Jesus command the evil Spirit to be quiet (vs. 25)?  The evil spirit was telling the truth about the identity of who Jesus was.  But, Jesus did not need the testimony of the enemy.  The time was not right to reveal who He was yet.  If too much information got out about who Jesus was, it would compromise the time He had to minister until the Cross.  Mark gives us a touching picture of the servant heart Jesus (vs. 41) had for all who were downtrodden.

Regarding application…Heart of Prayer.  Vs. 35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  I love it!  Jesus shows us through example one of the most important ingredients of our lives: prayer.  Yesterday, I preached a message about “Praying with God.”  God’s timing is impeccable as He now reminds us of the dependence and relationship we also have as sons and daughters to the Father in Heaven.  We were reminded of the empowerment Jesus had when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (vs. 10).  The Trinity was at work in God the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.  Jesus as the Son of God empowered by the Spirit of God was able to have the power to heal and love.  Prayer is like the fuel that enabled this power to move.  As Christians, we are encouraged to live our lives as servants like Jesus.  We are not going to get too far if we do not pray and devote our walk with the Lord.  Because of prayer, Jesus was able to serve others in healing.  Question: How can you be a servant today?

Matthew 3

Vs. 1, “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea.”  Over twenty-five years have passed and Matthew now takes us from Jesus’ early childhood to His adult ministry.  All four gospels feature John the Baptist.  Question: Who is John the Baptist?  He is the last and greatest prophet (Matthew 11:11).  John was a cousin of Jesus, for his mother was Elizabeth and his father Zechariah.  It was the angel Gabriel who announced John’s birth and his future ministry would have the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1).  John the Baptist was an important link from the Old Testament prophet to connecting Jesus in the New Testament.  His one very important message was for the people to repent (vs. 2) because Jesus was bringing the kingdom of heaven (kingdom of God) to them.  In essence, John’s role was getting the people ready to receive Jesus by offering baptism.  The baptism was different than others done at that time for it was a one-time baptism that called for a commitment to God as the future unfolded.  John’s ministry was so charismatic and powerful that it caught the attention of many the religious leaders (vs. 7-12).  John did not pull any punches when it came to calling out the responsibility of their life.  I’m impressed by John’s fortitude and wisdom to keep Jesus on the forefront of the ministry God called him to.  John is quite surprised to see Jesus the Messiah come to him out in the desert to be baptized in the Jordan.  Naturally, John wants to be baptized by Jesus.  Question: Why would Jesus want to baptized?  While there are differing speculations, ultimately this public baptism endorses Jesus as the true Messiah.  The baptism acknowledges John’s ministry and also signifies Jesus’ identity with His people by setting the example of submission to God.  And certainly, God was well pleased with His son (vs. 17).

Regarding application…Judgment is Near.  Vs. 10, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  Recently, I went to see the movie “Lincoln.”  As we sat down to watch the previews, my wife and I were astonished at all the post-apocalyptic type of movies that show the world is ending.  Yet, ever since John’s preaching and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have been awaiting a time of judgment for nearly 2000 years.  There are many today that find no need to repent and believe they are already saved.  John’s rebuke was towards Pharisees and Sadducees who believed they were in the right.  Likewise, there are so-called Christians and other faiths out there who find no need to delve further into a real saving faith of the Bible.  Yet, this idea of bearing fruit is a constant theme throughout the Scriptures.  Question: What kind of fruit are you bearing?

John the Baptist

Acts 1

Vs. 4, “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”  After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty more days with His disciples instructing them (vs. 2).  He was reminding them that the thirds person of the Trinity will be coming.  The Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit for many Christians is the most difficult to understand.  While there are differences in understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit (vs. 5), we as Christians have the confidence that we have the Holy Spirit in us.  The Holy Spirit helps us to be holy and sanctified for God.  The Holy Spirit guides us and helps us to do the will of the Father in Christ Jesus.  In this chapter, we see the disciples obey Jesus and wait for the coming of the Spirit (vs. 9-26).  I love how we see the dependence shown in fervent prayer (vs. 14).  We also see the adding of Matthias as Judas Iscariots replacement among the twelve (vs. 20-26)

Regarding application…You are Witnesses. Vs. 8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  How can I not highlight this verse for our application today?  This was Jesus’ last command before He ascended to Heaven.  This fulfills the importance of what we call the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20).  Though we have not physically seen Jesus, we still have the important job of witnessing because we have experienced Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  Brothers & sisters in Christ…This is our purpose.  So often we ask ourselves, “What is God’s will for me?”  We are to be witnesses of Christ in all that we do.  A witness in a trial bears testimony for what they saw and believe.  We do the same thing.  That is why we devote time to reading the Bible, because the more we know, the more effective our witness becomes!

Luke 3

Vs. 2,during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.”  Time has gone by quickly and now we are introduced to the ministry of John the Baptist.  It’s interesting to examine John’s ministry because not only did he have authority and power behind his message, he preached a message of repentance.  Question: What is repentance?  A simple answer is the turning away from sin.  This type of message is not very popular in today’s crowds.  John was calling them out for who they were: they were sinners.  It’s awesome to see how Luke gave us insight to realize that John was the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah.  And then we end the chapter with Jesus being obedient to baptism and the genealogy of Jesus revealing God’s sovereign ways.  Luke gives us a brief glimpse of Jesus’ baptism, but it really was a very poignant moment for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and God’s approval of His son.

Regarding application…A Right Response.  Vs. 8, Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”  Question: What should you do?  How should you respond?  This is exactly the questions that those who came out to hear John’s message in the desert.  It was dark times for God’s people, they were waiting for the Messiah to come.  Ironically, we are in a similar situation, for we are waiting for Jesus to come back too.  Only this would be the second time.  Though we live in dark times, times that are similar to the days of Noah (Luke 17:26)…we have an opportunity to respond the right way.  Serving in ministry has many joys, yet it saddens me deeply to see many respond with hardened hearts.  There is veil of lies that have encircled so many hearts.  Look within your heart and see if there is anything that you can bring and repent for the Lord.