Sunday, January 26, 2020

Acts 7 and Romans 9

Jesus started it. It was now time to redefine what it meant to be Abraham’s children. This was to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham that he would father a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3).

To his religious-ruler audience, being a child of father Abraham meant that a person had come from Abraham’s gene pool (John 8:31-47). In fact, Jesus agrees that this is a true statement in verse 37. This genetic connection is still true today as people identify themselves as Jewish or, for those outside of the Abrahamic gene pool, non-Jewish Gentiles.


In John 8 Jesus re-frames the world’s understanding of “Abraham’s children” from God’s perspective. Here, Jesus makes the distinction between Abraham’s descendants (literally: “seed”) and his ‘children’ (John 8:31-47). Abraham’s children are now including all who live by faith, believing in Jesus as God’s Son and obeying Him.


When Stephen gave his final sermon before the Sanhedrin he was speaking to a purely Jewish audience; genetic ancestors of their father Abraham. Stephen’s concluding statements led to his violent death at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders (Acts 7:51-60). These same leaders were the very Jews who had denied Jesus as God’s Son, actively worked in opposition to Him and, finally, killed Him.

Among the points of Stephen’s sermon was that God is not limited by time and space. So, He spoke to Abraham in Ur, Haran, Canaan and Egypt (Acts 7:1-8). Nor has God ever been limited to buildings ‘made with human hands’; a direct reference to the Temple (Acts 7:48-50). And the Law? Their disobedience to it was enough to blind them to “the Righteous One” (Acts 7:52-53) and to deny God’s appeal to the nations through Him in line with God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:17-18).


The Apostle Paul Writing Romans
Apostle Paul: The children of the promise are counted as the seed.

Stephen states that the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah was deliberate disregard for the Law to which they claimed allegiance (Acts 7:53). Years later, in Romans 9, Paul begins to build upon Jesus’ teaching in John 8. Taking it one step further, Paul makes a direct connection between the faith of the true ‘children’ of Abraham actually becoming his “seed” or genetic equivalents!

…those who are the children of the flesh,

these are not the children of God;

but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.

Romans 9:8 (NKJV)

What a powerful assertion that connects the promises of God to Abraham. These promises are still being realized every time someone turns to the Lord by faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, realizing the detailed nature of God’s plan over the generations is wonderfully illustrated in the first chapter of Ephesians according to The Message.

Father – Abraham’s Children


“…before Abraham was born, I AM!” (John 8:58, NIV)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

John 7:1-53; 8:12-59 (NIV)

At the burning bush, Moses asked God for His Name.  God said to Moses, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:13-15). For our God–who created time and matter from nothingness–there is no past and there is no future.  Our God is eternally present.  He is known as “I AM.”

The Pharisees thought that their salvation rested in being genetically related to the man, Abraham (John 8:31-47).  They were so focused upon their ancestry that they did not recognize the one who created their heritage and gave it meaning: Jesus Christ, I AM.   


John shows us that many different perceptions of Jesus’ identity were being debated in Jerusalem. In John 7 we see that Jesus’ own brothers did not believe He was who He said that He was. The crowds are all over the Messianic map, trying to discern between Jesus’ words the rumors about Him. The religious rulers were convinced that Jesus needed to be arrested and killed as a false Messiah. They even sent temple guards to arrest Jesus and bring Him before them. When the soldiers came back empty handed, however, their only explanation was ” “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46).


The distinction is subtle but the implications are profound. Embroiled in debate with the religious rulers of the day Jesus affirms that they are, indeed, descendants of Abraham. Literally, they are of Abraham’s ‘seed’ (John 8:33, 37). But, father Abraham’s ‘children’ were different. They would receive Jesus in faith as their forefather had done (John 8:39).


Abraham's Three Visitors
Abraham’s Three Visitors

In Genesis 18-19:1 we have the story of three visitors who come to Abraham’s tent. In this passage, one of the visitors is identified as “the Lord” with whom Abraham has an extended conversation first, about the child of promise and secondly, about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. At the conclusion of Genesis 18 the Lord leaves Abraham at the end of their conversation and by Genesis 19:1 the two other visitors are now revealed as angels who enter the city of Sodom to rescue Lot and his family and to destroy the city.

Moses would later discover that no one may look at God and live (see Exodus 33:18-33). So, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus Christ, Himself, was “the Lord” to whom Abraham was speaking for He alone would be the one to show us God’s face (John 1:18).


For Jesus, it is enough for Him to testify about Himself (John 8:12-15) and the testimony of His Father backs Him up (John 8: 16-30). But his final claim to have been before Abraham–because of His unique identity as I AM–was enough to cause them to pick up stones to kill Him (John 8:58-59).

True children of Abraham recognized Jesus as God’s Son, believed in Him and were obedient to His word. As our future studies about Abraham will show, this understanding was amplified by Paul and other New Testament writers for our benefit today.

I AM – Before Abraham Was


The Struggle Between Our Faith and Failures

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Genesis 11:10-25:11 (NIV)


The time between God’s promise to Abraham and its fulfillment spanned twenty five years!  During that time, Abraham made several wrong attempts to help God fulfill His promise.  There were times, also, when Abraham made decisions that revealed a lack of faith and trust in God. 


Abraham is a wonderful example of a man who lived by faith but continued to make mistakes in judgement.  The bottom line is that God continued to remain faithful to His promises to Abraham, even in the midst of Abraham’s bad decisions and faithless choices. 


As Abraham’s descendants today, God’s faithfulness in the face of our failures is still true.  For His promise to us is still, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).

Is this not what the apostle Paul is saying in Romans 8:31-39? Our failures do not deter God’s promises!

Abraham – Faith & Failure
Concluding Video From the Sermon

NOTHING Video | The Skit Guys


Sunday, January 5, 2019

Introduction – Genesis 11-25 (NLT)


For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Galatians 3:26-29 (NLT)


Genesis 1-11 documents mankind’s self-destructive nature when left to his own choices. From the events of the Garden of Eden when man chose to become his own God (Genesis 1-3) through the time of Noah (Genesis 4-6), the downward spiral was reset with the flood (Genesis 7-10). Tragically, man’s descent only repeated itself with man’s desire to be great in his own eyes with the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).


Just as God had created a universe from a time when matter was “formless and void” (Genesis 1:1-2) so God would choose to create a chosen people from an older couple who were unable to have children (Genesis 11:30). God’s promise to Abram would set a course for mankind, providing a way to rescue man from his own brokenness (Genesis 12:1-3). It all began with the faith of a man who heard the command to “Go;” so, he went (Genesis 12:4).


The apostle Paul was emphatic about the spiritual heritage of those who know Christ. The cross reaches back before the Law of Moses to the heart of a man who followed God’s lead without knowing the destination (Genesis 12:1). Paul assures us that Abraham is, indeed, the father of all who believe (Romans 4; Galatians 3).

Abraham – Introduction


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Luke 2:8-21 (WEB)


The little city of Bethlehem was a place of great significance in the Old Testament scriptures.  The prophet Samuel would anoint David as King of Israel in his own hometown of Bethlehem.  The prophet Micah would predict Bethlehem to be the birthplace of the one who was “from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Indeed, Bethlehem, the “House of Bread”, would become the birthplace of Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).


Between the two gospel accounts in Matthew 2 and Luke 2 the wise men knew the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, the religious rulers and lawyers in the temple knew he would come there and Herod knew. It was for this reason that Herod had killed all boys 2 years old and younger in Bethlehem. In John 7:42 we see that it was common knowledge among the people that the Messiah would come through Bethlehem.


Appearing to the poor shepherds, whose homes were the open fields, the announcement of the angels was made to the marginal people (Luke 2:8). Yet the announcement was quite spectacular. The angel announces to the shepherds that the baby. born in the manger in Bethlehem is 1) king David’s descendent, 2) the Savior of the world, 3) the Messiah King and 4) the Lord, God.


In the end the real challenge for the reader of Luke’s gospel is whether or not to believe. Perhaps one of the most telling indicators of whether or not we believe is whether or not we are broadcasting this grand hope to others.



Sunday, December 8, 2019

Luke 19:11-27

As we prepare to conclude our study of Luke 9-19 we are once again confronted with the issue of riches and wealth. Reflecting on the journey to Jerusalem we remember that there was a rich landowner who foolishly planned to build bigger barns without considering the One who determined whether or not he would live to enjoy it (Luke 12:13-21). Then there was the rich young ruler who could not part with his wealth to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-30). This parable says something to us about our wealth and its use from God’s perspective.


First, Jesus underlines how important it is that we use God’s financial blessings for the work of the kingdom.  Ten servants are given a coin each with the instruction to multiply it’s value.  We are told of three who were noteworthy in regard to their obedience and we assume the other seven recipients fell somewhere in between the extremes that the ruler discovered upon his return.


Second, Jesus refers to a king who goes away to be crowned king and then return to destroy those who refused to submit to his rule. Some have suggested that there had been a similar situation with Herod Archelaus that would be recalled in Judea’s recent history. From Christ’s perspective, however, what begins in Jerusalem with His suffering, death and resurrection will come to its climax when He returns.


Finally, there is the one servant who is afraid and who does nothing with the coin his master had given to him.  God’s wealth is not given to be unproductively hoarded and hidden out of fear for losing it.  In the parable he loses his mina to the one who was extraordinarily productive.


Kingdom people are risk takers whose investments range from those who make 1000% to 500% to others who will simply collect interest at the bank and profit at all points in between. The key is that the Gospel always bears fruit wherever it goes.

Every follower of Christ has a stake in growing the kingdom!

Invest! – Minas and the Gospel


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Luke 19:1-10 (NIV)

In Luke’s gospel there are many warnings about the spiritual danger of money, riches and wealth.* In three of those instances there were positive outcomes with the son who comes home after spending his wealth until it was gone (Luke 15:11-32), the tax collector who was justified before God as he acknowledged his brokenness and his need for God’s mercy (Luke 18:9-14) and in our present story about a little man who wanted to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10).


In each of these positive examples there is a common theme of repentance that is absent in the others. This is in contrast to, for example, the Pharisees who, Luke tells us, “who loved money” (Luke 16:14) and the rich young ruler who was saddened by Jesus’ instruction to sell everything he had to give to the poor. This would be necessary for him to be able to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-30).


In first century Judea tax collectors were among the lowest of the low in the Jewish social stratus, in spite of their wealth. This was because of the nature of their task to represent the Jew’s Roman oppressors and collect taxes while adding a little extra for themselves. In their neighbor’s eyes, this was the equivalent of robbery and a reminder that they lived under the thumb of a merciless, repressive, foreign, Gentile government.

Jewish hatred for their fellow citizens who served as tax collectors had dramatic implications for their place in society. Because of the nature of their income, for example, they were forbidden to give alms in the temple or to pay the temple tax (“Tax Collectors” in JewishEncyclopedia.com).


When we compare ourselves to the tax collector, however, there are ways in which we are not much different. Everyone wrestles with the blessings of God and how to use them. In the story of Zacchaeus, we find that even the lowest of the low in society have a place in the kingdom of God.

So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Revelation 3:19-20
Repent – The Common Thread of the Kingdom

*For Example, see Luke 1:52-53, 6:24-25, 8:14, 12:13-21, 14:12-14, 15:11-32, 16:1-15, 19-31, 18:18-25, 21:1-3.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Luke 18:9-43 (NCV)

Two people crying out to God for mercy: a tax collector and a blind man. These two stories form the bookends for five scenarios in Luke 18. Each of these scenes point to our need for a Savior.

TAX COLLECTORS (Luke 18:9-14)

Luke tells us that Jesus told this parable to those who were comfortable in their own righteousness before God and who looked down upon everyone else. The Pharisee serves as the foil for the star attraction: an humble tax collector, hated as a traitor by Jewish society, far away in the shadows of the temple, beating his breast with his head bowed, crying out to God: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus tells us that this man went home justified before God.

CHILDREN (Luke 18:15-17)

Total dependence upon God’s extension of mercy to broken and contrite people who readily admit that they cannot make it on their own. Kind-of like…a little child, looking up to his or her parent. That’s what it looks like!

No pretense. No resistance. Absent self-sufficiency. Transparent trust. What better example could there be of what God is looking for in us? “I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a child, or you will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).

THE RICH (Luke 18:18-30)

Just like the rich man who was wrapped up in his good fortune and anticipating a life of ease (Luke 12:13-21, NCV) so this young ruler was looking for one more religious practice to enhance his resume for eternal life. Jesus’ advice was simple: “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor….” He said, “Then come follow Me.” Saddened, the rich young ruler walks away as Jesus talks about camels going through eyes of needles. Letting go of our own sense of importance is so hard!

So, the disciples are mystified! If a Law-abiding rich man, obviously blessed by God, cannot be saved, then how can any of us possibly hope to obtain eternal life? Jesus affirms that it is impossible without God’s intervention.


Jesus describes the upcoming events that are looming on the horizon as He anticipates His arrival in Jerusalem, including His own death and resurrection. The starkly explicit details cause the disciples to totally miss the point of the Suffering Servant.

A BLIND MAN (Luke 18:35-42)

Wondering about all of the commotion, a blind man asks what is going on. Told, simply, that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, the blind man connects the dots and realizes that “Jesus, the Son of David” is here! Taking a common name and realizing that Jesus’ true identity is the anticipated Messiah, he cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me.”

Jesus asks the blind man what he wishes for Jesus to do for him. Of all of things for which he could have asked, he, instead, reaches for the stars and asks to be able to see. As He is healing the blind man Jesus declares that he has been saved by his faith.


The Pharisees, the rich young ruler and the disciples cannot yet comprehend the cosmic nature of Jesus’ mission and purpose. Yet, just ask a child or a blind man and they know what it means to trust in God alone.

Mercy – Jesus, Have Mercy Upon Me!


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

In the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Jesus is targeting a specific audience of those “…who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else…” (Luke 18:9). In our struggle to obey Jesus, it is important to keep our acts of righteousness in perspective lest we wind up in the Pharisee’s camp.


“Hungering and thirsting for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) is something Jesus challenges each of us to do in order to be blessed by following Him. However, this may mean different things to each of us depending upon several circumstances. For example, the new Christian will need to discontinue ungodly practices in order to conform to the image of Christ. Alternatively, to the seasoned Christian this may mean a deeper walk with the Lord in spiritual disciplines practiced over time.

The common danger for all is elevating the changes we make in the name of Christ to a means for measuring our personal righteousness. This is especially dangerous when we begin comparing our personal levels of maturity to those around us.


In his prayer, the Pharisee thanks God for blessing him with his own moral behaviors and over-the-top religious and ceremonial practices. This is a good thing; right? Jesus is clear. If this man believed that these admirable qualities justified him before God, he was dead wrong (Luke 18:14). As Jesus had said to the Pharisees earlier, “What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15, NIV).


The justified tax collector had a much different perspective. Recognizing his poverty of spirit and mourning over his sin (see Matthew 5:3-4, NIV), he realized–and Jesus affirmed–that his only hope for justification would be found in God’s mercy (Luke 18:13-14, NIV).

As the apostle Paul would write in Romans 5:9 (NIV): “…we have now been justified by his [Christ’s] blood.” Not, “Christ’s blood AND doing the right things correctly” but “by Christ’s blood”…alone!


What we do is the fruit of what Christ has done for us. It is not about doing the right things in the right way in order to be justified. It is because we trust in Christ, Who did the right things in the right way that we are justified. Understanding these distinctions has incredible ramifications for how we live every day and how we perceive those around us.


Perhaps Luke was concerned about Theophilus and his fellow believers (see Luke 1:1-4) as they mature in their Christian faith. Becoming confident in their walk with the Lord, perhaps they, too, ran the risk of emphasizing the wrong things in the shadow of the cross.

Certainly, we all would do well to heed Jesus’ warning about putting so much emphasis upon doing the right things in the right way that they, themselves begin to overshadow the cross. As the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians (who struggled mightily with this understanding), “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2, NIV).

Note: The following sermon is preceded by reflections upon the Lord’s Supper and by a reading of Luke 18:9-14.

Justified: By Christ Alone!

A video introduced today’s lesson, entitled: “Resume Vs. Referral“.

It’s All About Jesus!

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 by Dean Wolf

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Christians have differing opinions about many things. But, to be called ‘Christian’ means that a single conviction is common to all: Jesus is Lord! For this to be true, however, means that we do more than pay lip service to this truth; but, that we allow Him to change us day-by-day to be more like Him in every aspect of our lives. This is the truth by which we live. This is the message that we share with the world: Jesus is Lord!

It’s All About Jesus – Dean Wolf

Jesus is Our Shoreline