Carved in Stone, Part 3: Accept No Substitutes for God

God made human beings in his own image, and we’ve been trying to return the favor ever since. But to make God in our image is to diminish his nature. How so? To concretize the living God into an inanimate object is to render him lifeless. But God is self-existent, eternal, and supreme; he lives, loves, rescues, and speaks—something idols can never do. Any attempt to concretize God’s identity, then, yields a distorted conception of who he really is. In short, an idol is a lie about God. 

Hence the need for the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exodus 20:4). God wants his people to reverently accept who he has revealed himself to be. After all, if anyone has a right to define his own identity, it’s the creator of the universe. Moreover, Israel had been rescued from Egypt by the creator, Yahweh. To serve other gods, then, was not only disloyalty to God, it was to reverse the exodus and go back to bondage. 

It is important to remember that gods and goddesses in the ancient world could be carried, controlled, coddled, and manipulated. But the true and living God cannot and will not be controlled by his people. He is sovereign over them, and no earthly religious practice can alter that fact. As G. K. Chesterton rightly noted, “Idolatry is when you worship what you should use, and use what you should worship.” For Israel, then, worship of the one true and living God was never to be directed toward a material object that could be handled. The second commandment wasn’t a prohibition against all artwork per se (cf. Exodus 31:2-5), it was a prohibition against trying to represent God by anything found in his creation. 

It is also important to remember that Ezekiel 14:7 refers to “idols of the heart.” Moreover, Colossians 3:5 calls “greed” idolatry. So, the second commandment goes way beyond the issue of worshiping wood, stone, or metal statues. It encompasses putting anything ahead of God in terms of value or importance. As Tim Keller writes, “Idolatry is making a good thing an ultimate thing.” Therefore, we need to ask ourselves, “Where in my life have I made good things ultimate things (e.g., my children, my career, my possessions, my hobbies, my reputation, etc.)?” Even today, God’s people must accept no substitutes for God.

The good news is that God can save us from our own private idolatries. Rather than remaking God into our image, we can be remade into his image through faith in his Son Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus is “the image of the invisible God”; indeed, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15–20).

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Ambulating & Annunciating

Our little Bubby has been walking for well over a month now, and the words are starting to come, too—clearer and clearer each time. His first discernible word (beyond “Momma” and “Dadda”) was “hello” several weeks ago. It was adorable.

Yesterday he said, “Gampa” for the first time—not a bad attempt at “Grandpa.” Of course, I melted. The other day we thought we heard him try to say “fish.” Today he said it again, and the kids caught it on video. It sort of came out like, “shish.”

Thus it begins—a life of ambulating and annunciating. Walking and wording. Bring it on, SamJam. We’re eager to watch and listen.

Besides, Levi Timothy will need you to talk to him…and play with him! 

💙 😊 💙 😊 💙 😊 💙 😊 💙

Carved in Stone, Part 2: Worship God Alone (Exodus 20:3)

After God reminds his people that he graciously rescued them out of Egypt (Exodus 20:1-2), he begins the Ten Commandments in earnest: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The Hebrew literally says, “…no other gods before my face.” That is, “You shall have no other gods except me.” For the Israelites to worship any other god would be a form of covenant disloyalty. No other god saved them out of Egypt. No other god loved them and entered into a covenant with them. So, why would they worship any other deity?

Moreover, Yahweh is supreme: “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me” (Deuteronomy 32:39). Or again: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5). By his very nature, then, God deserves the exclusive devotion of his people. There was no need for the Israelites to be unkind to the worshippers of other nations, or the adherents of other religions, but there was every reason for them not to participate in their worship. That would be a form of spiritual unfaithfulness to the God who had saved them.

Unfortunately, Egypt was one of the most polytheistic countries in the ancient Near East, worshiping over 1,400 different gods and goddesses in their temples, shrines, and homes. Having lived and labored in Egypt for more than 400 years, the Israelites were influenced by their surrounding culture. They found it difficult to let go of the false gods they picked up along the way. God said to them, “Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me; they did not get rid of the vile images they had set their eyes on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:7-8). 

Despite cultural pressures, God wants—and deserves—to have preeminence in his people’s lives. He finds it revolting to have competition from substitutes, whether from the things he created or the vain imaginations of human beings. Those things are not ultimate. So, the first commandment is not given because God is narcissistic but because he wants his people to live in sync with reality. Yahweh is supreme in the universe! Therefore, worshiping any other God besides him is not only disloyalty but a form of insanity.

The same is true today. God allows the existence of alternatives in our lives, but he wants us to choose the best. Nothing else should be king in our lives, whether our job, our peers, our desires, our denomination, our theology, or even our families. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). God’s people are to worship God alone. Who or what is first in your life?


Note: Many people—including believers—have trouble reciting all Ten Commandments in order. The beginning of this message provides a silly acronym to help us recall them.


Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Carved in Stone, Part 1: The God Who Rescues & Realigns (Exodus 20:1-2)

The Ten Commandments do not begin with God saying, “Thou shalt not…” but “I…brought you out.” The preamble of the Decalogue thus indicates that grace was demonstrated before obedience was demanded. Grammatically speaking, the ten great imperatives are preceded by one great indicative: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). The giving of the law at Sinai, then, was a climactic moment of divine grace in the history of the world.

Still, God wanted not only to rescue his people from their oppression under Pharaoh, he wanted to realign them to his ways after their captivity in a polytheistic land. Their theology needed to be overhauled. It’s one thing for God to get Israel out of Egypt; it’s another thing for God to get Egypt out of Israel. The Ten Commandments were God’s initial strategy for doing so. But law keeping was never a means of “getting saved,” even in the Old Testament. God did the saving himself by his own power and grace. Indeed, God rescues his people before he regulates them.

The New Testament letters follow a similar pattern. Paul typically starts out by saying, “Here’s what God has freely done for us in Christ; now, here’s what our salvation looks like when we live it out in our daily lives. So, God’s law never presents itself as a means of salvation but a mark of salvation. In Moses’s day, the obedience called for in the Decalogue represents the people’s grateful response of love and loyalty to God for the salvation they had freely received as a gift from him.

This message contains a helpful illustration of how believers can understand the complex relationship between the old and new covenants. The illustration underscores that customs may change, cultures may change, and even covenants may change, but the character of God never changes. He is who he is and always will be. In the end, Moses stood between God and the people as a flawed man—a prophet but not a Savior. Jesus, however, stands between God and the people as a flawless man—a prophet and a Savior. And that’s why lawbreakers today can be saved.

Sermon Resources:

Series: Carved in Stone: Some of God’s Ways for All of God’s People

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Boy, Oh Boy!

On Mother’s Day 2021, Sonya was opening her gifts from her children. At one point she held up a gray T-shirt and started to cry. I was sitting on the other side of the room and couldn’t see what it said. I thought to myself, “I’m sure it’s a very nice T-shirt, but we don’t usually cry over T-shirts now, do we? So, what’s up with that?

What’s up with that was the writing it featured on the front: “Best grandma ever.”

“Is this true?” she asked with a gasp. 

It was. And after she turned the shirt around to where I could see it, I started to cry, too. Micah and Bethany were expecting their first child. As readers of This New Life well know, Samuel James White was born on December 1, 2021. I’ve been utterly smitten ever since.

Bethany always felt kind of bad that her mom got the news a split second before I did, so on Christmas Day 2022, I opened a similar gift. This one had a little red Christmas stocking in it with a piece of paper inside. “What in the world is this?” I thought. I was mystified—until I saw that the little paper was actually the sonogram of child number two. 

I may have cried again once the news sank in, causing the others to wonder what was going on. It was my turn to be smug this time as Sonya was sitting across the room in confusion. Eventually everyone came to realize that Samuel was getting a sibling.

Last night was Micah’s birthday. We celebrated at Dogood’s Tavern here in Myerstown, and then we came back to our place to give him his gifts. To our surprise, he then gave us a gift. We had a hunch it might be some sort of gender reveal, much like they did for Samuel.

Sure enough, when we opened the box, a little white onesie greeted us with the joyful announcement:

Hello, my name is Levi Timothy.

Samuel has a brother, and that brother’s name will carry my own. Are you surprised that there may have been more tears? I’m still stunned. And I’m smitten with Levi already. This week he’s the size of a lemon.

We expect to meet Levi sometime around July 18, 2023. Until then, my prayer for him will be Luke 5:28: “And Levi got up, left everything, and followed [Jesus].” Come to think of it, that may be my lifelong prayer for him.

Until Levi makes an appearance, Samuel has the stage all to himself. So, here you go…

Tubby time.
Only three teeth so far, but they all need to be brushed.
The sock and the sonogram from Christmas Day. The onesie from the big reveal on Micah’s birthday.
Samuel is happy about the new one to love, too…
Spaghetti time. And time for another tubby time.
I wonder who’s having more fun?

Majestic God, Majestic People of God (Psalm 8:1-9)

In C. S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian, Lucy and Aslan engage in an illuminating conversation. (Lucy is one of the Pevensie children, and Aslan, the lion, is the Christ figure in Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.) Lucy hasn’t seen Aslan in quite a long time, and when she finally does, she says with surprise, “Aslan, you’re bigger.” The lion replies, “That is because you are older, little one.” Lucy asks, “Not because you are?” Aslan says, “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Believers around the world today would do well to keep growing spiritually, and in the process, find God bigger than they had ever dreamed. He still wants to do more through us than we ever could have imagined (Ephesians 3:20). For that to happen, the church of Jesus Christ must see God as completely majestic. We must also need to see ourselves as majestic, too—in him. No more of this self-condemnation, this negativity toward ourselves! No more excuses as to why we can’t be used mightily of God to do great things in our town in our time!

No, in Psalm 8, David invites believers, first, to marvel at the glory of God. Why? Because God’s name is majestic in all the earth (1, 9); he uses the weak things of this world to defeat his enemies (2); he has created this vast universe and everything in it (3); and he truly cares for the seemingly insignificant human beings he has made (4). Indeed, God is utterly majestic.

But David in Psalm 8 also invites believers to marvel at the glory of humanity, too. Why? Because God made human beings a little lower than himself (5a); he crowned human beings with glory and honor (5b); and he gave human beings authority over his creation (6-8). People are majestic, too! Created in God’s image, human beings have a lofty status in this universe.

John Piper has said, “You cannot worship and glorify the majesty of God while treating his supreme creation with contempt. You cannot starve the aged human and glorify the majesty of God. You cannot gas the Jewish human and glorify the majesty of God. You cannot lynch the black human and glorify the majesty of God. You cannot dismember the unborn human and glorify the majesty of God. You cannot treat the mixing of human races like a pestilence and glorify the majesty of God.” Amen. Human beings are majestic because they bear the image of the majestic God.

Yet, given the brokenness we find in this world—and in ourselves—there’s something about v. 5a that seems overstated (“You made humans a little lower God”), and something about v. 6b that seems incomplete (“You put everything under humanity’s feet”). That’s why the New Testament comes back to Psalm 8 a handful of times—all in the context of Jesus Christ and his mission restore the world and make all things new. So, in the entire sweep of redemptive history, Psalm 8 invites us also to marvel at the glory of Christ. 

Why? Because, in fulfilling (or “completing the vision of”) Psalm 8, Jesus has used the weak things of this world to defeat his enemies (Matthew 21:14-16); he has tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:6-9); he has conquered the death Adam unleashed by his sin (1 Corinthians 15:22-27a); and he has been made the head over all things for the church (Ephesians 1:22). Most surprisingly, he has crushed the head of the serpent, and he wants to do the same through us (Romans 16:20). In short, Psalm 8 is saying to believers today: Elevate your view of God, yourself, and your mission with Christ. May it ever be so in this New Year and beyond.

Sermon Resource:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

God Has Landed: Rejoice & Respond! (Matthew 2:1-11)

God has landed! Right in a manger. Right on top of cow spit and barnyard bacteria. Jesus came a long way to save us. Two thousand years ago, the eternal Son of God stepped across the stars of the universe to become a zygote in the womb of the Virgin Mary. And then he was born as one of us. “Manhood and deity in perfect harmony—the Man who is God,” wrote Graham Kendrick.

Christmas, then, is the ultimate display of meekness and majesty in one person. “Glory to God in the highest,” was the angelic response. They easily could have said, “Glory to God in lowest,” too. God is with us now in the person of Jesus Christ. On earth. Magi from the east were among the first to welcome him. Following the natal star, they set out on a journey to find the newborn king. 

It was more than curiosity that drew this caravan of dignitaries and polymaths to Jesus. It was God himself. They saw him at work in the sky—speaking their language—and they wanted to go meet with him. Indeed, this passage shows us that God speaks in a variety of ways because he has something important to say. Matthew 2:1-11 reminds us that God makes himself known to us:

  • generally through creation. (1-2)
  • specifically through revelation. (3-6)
  • graciously through intervention. (7-10)
  • supremely through incarnation. (11a)

Are we listening? The Magi were listening, and that’s why they traveled hundreds of miles across the desert to go see the Christ. They were men of wisdom and learning. They were into math, medicine, astronomy, and human nature. Some of them were superstitious. We get our word “magic” from their title. Call them “wizards” if you like. It was basically the cast of Harry Potter who came to see Jesus. Mark it well: Gentiles (non-Jews) were among the first to welcome and worship the Christ, indicating that God means for Jesus to be the Savior for the whole world!

If the Magi teach us anything, it’s that it’s never enough for us to just be amazed at the wonders of God; we have to set out on the journey and follow him. Our calling is not just to stand in awe of creation but to get to know the Creator. That’s why God’s revelation of himself in Christ demands a response of faith in Christ. He is worthy of our treasure and our trust. Indeed, he wants everyone to come and worship his Son. He wants you to worship his Son. Even if you’re a wizard.

This interactive Christmas Day devotional is followed by a reading of The Tale of Three Trees, a wonderful story for children of all ages.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

The Best Headline Ever (1 Timothy 1:15-17)

Headlines are notoriously difficult to write. Even news editors who’ve been in the business for decades can struggle with the task. When you write a headline, you have to summarize the story in a few words, and do so in a way that hooks people and makes them want to keep reading. You have to be clear, concise, and captivating. You have to be journalistically accurate and grammatically correct. You have to be somewhat clever without being overly cute or trite. Above all, you have to be careful that you never communicate an unintended meaning—an oversight that, in the end, can make you look silly as a writer.

After looking at a few bad (and humorous!) headlines, this Christmas Eve message looks at a headline God doesn’t want anybody in the world to miss: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). That’s the message of Christmas, and it’s front-page stuff. It’s a banner story. It’s the best headline ever. It’s clear, concise, and captivating. It’s theologically accurate and doctrinally correct. And it’s still as exciting and relevant as when it was first hot off the press. It certainly was for Paul, who gives us an abbreviated testimony here. He gives us the scoop on himself.

Paul used to be a terrorist. He was the Osama bin Laden of his day. But the headline of Christmas radically changed his life. He writes in sheer wonder at the grace of God that was lavished on him despite his past: “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). He’s saying, “Folks, I’m Exhibit A of the grace of God. I deserved judgment; but in Christ I received mercy. I deserved punishment; but in Christ I received pardon. I deserved condemnation; but in Christ I received salvation. Essentially, Paul is saying, “If Christ can save someone like me, then he can save anyone!”

That’s the best headline ever. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Christmas is for you, too—as long as you recognize you need a Savior. Indeed, Paul reminds us here that Jesus came to save us and show us that no one is beyond the grace of God. No wonder he ends his brief testimony with a doxology, a burst of praise: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17). Christmas made him thankful. 

How about you? Are you grateful for Christmas—the birth of the Savior? The old Christmas carol puts it so well: “Where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in.” So, do what Paul says here in this passage: “Believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). 

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Anticipation, Part 4: Trust & Obey (Matthew 1:18-25)

Luke tells the story of Christ’s birth largely from Mary’s perspective, while Matthew tells it largely from Joseph’s. No attempt is made to bring them into alignment in an artificial way. Instead, each provides historical facts from a different point of view. And yet, both accounts are needed to get a fuller depth and perspective on the whole story. What’s common to both accounts—among other things—is the virgin birth of Jesus. That’s the non-negotiable for each writer. As the Apostles’ Creed says:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.

It’s a reminder that God still does the supernatural. The surprise, however, is that he uses ordinary people to carry out his extraordinary plan. According to rabbinic tradition, Mary would have been about 14-16 years old at her engagement, and Joseph would have been about 18-20. They were two ordinary young people. Godly people, to be sure, but ordinary just the same, made of the same “stuff” as everybody else.

All through the Bible, we see God using the most unlikely people to do his best work. Sometimes we miss it because what God does through them is so extraordinary, we just assume he does it through extraordinary people: Moses parting the Red Sea with just a rod. David dropping Goliath with just a rock. Elijah calling down fire from heaven with just his voice. Next to these folks, we might feel like underachievers. And we might be tempted to say, “How could I ever be like any of any of those people? What’s the use? I’ll never amount to anything in the kingdom of God.” 

What we often miss is that it was God who did the extraordinary deeds, not his people. It was Godwho parted the Red Sea, not Moses. It was God who guided the trajectory of that sling stone, not David. It was God who sent the fire to Mount Carmel, not Elijah. Not only that, in between the mountaintop experiences of those people’s lives, we miss the struggles they had in the valley—the wavering, the uncertainty, the self-doubts, the frustrations, sometimes even the deep depressions and wrestlings they had with God when pushed to their limits. 

Mark it down: God can use ordinary people to carry out his plan. So, don’t ever look at your life and think, “I could never be used by God. I don’t have the gifts, or skills, or talents that others have.” Absolutely not. God is not attracted to your abilities, nor is he distracted by your inabilities. What’s important to him is your availability.

Joseph made himself available to God’s plan. He trusted God’s Word and obeyed God’s word, even when it was hard. In many ways, Joseph is the unsung hero of the Advent. What would have happened in history had he not obeyed the Word of the Lord? Would Christmas have happened at all? His life reminds us that God’s people prepare for Christ’s coming by trusting and obeying him. So, let us prepare well for the Lord’s return.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Anticipation, Part 3: Look & Listen (Matthew 11:2-19)

“If Jesus is who he says he is, then why is he not doing what I expected? If Jesus is who he says he is, then why do I still hurt so much?” These aren’t the questions of a skeptic; they’re essentially the questions of John the Baptist, who languished in prison after he was arrested by King Herod: “When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’” (Matthew 11:2-3).

Really, John? You announced the coming of Jesus with such passion, such confidence, such boldness. What happened? Expectations—that’s what happened. John’s were a bit off. He declared that Messiah’s ministry would be one of judgment, but all the reports he heard were about a ministry of mercy. But if Jesus really is the Messiah, where’s the fire and brimstone? Before he was locked up, John thundered, “His winnowing fork is in his hand….The ax is already at the root of the tree!” But the only ax to fall was the one that landed right on John. He’s in jail now getting ready for execution. How could he not wonder, “Is that what I get for serving Jesus? Did I miss something?”

Maybe you can relate. Has Jesus ever acted in a way that you didn’t expect? The healing you prayed for didn’t come through. The financial deliverance you needed didn’t turn out. The promotion you hoped for went to somebody else. The ministry you served in didn’t go as planned. The child you gave birth to is different from all the other children. Jesus didn’t do what you thought he would do, and that stings. John the Baptist knows how that feels. 

At some time or another, every thinking believer will wrestle with the problem of doubt. How can I be sure that Christianity is true? What if I’ve put all my hope in Christ, but I’m wrong? What if the resurrection never really happened? What if the critics are right and the Bible is not the Word of God? Questions like these can harass the heart of the sincerest believer. 

The good news is that God gives his people reassurance when they need it. “Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me’” (Matthew 11:4-6). In other words, the reasons for doubting Jesus are in the end unreasonable. Just look and listen. Your eyes and ears will verify in time that Jesus is who he says he is.

That said, Jesus then gives a remarkable public endorsement of John and his ministry. He stands with his people today, too, even when they’re confused by what he’s up to. That’s because Jesus let the ax fall on himself at the cross. His love for his people is truly “wonderful, deep, and strong.’

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Anticipation, Part 2: Confess & Repent (Matthew 3:1-12)

It’s often been said that to succeed in this world, we need to have the heart of a child and the skin of a rhinoceros. In other words, we need to be tough and tender at the same time—tough enough on the outside to take the hits of this life when they come, and tender enough on the inside to be kind and compassionate toward other people who are likewise taking hits. 

Unfortunately, in this broken world of ours, we sometimes get these two things backwards. We wind up developing the skin of a child and the heart of a rhinoceros. That is, we get touchy and sensitive on the outside, and we get jaded and cynical on the inside. But when our hearts grow cold, we block the work that God wants to do in our lives.

Jesus spoke on more than one occasion of a condition he called sclero cardia—“hardness of the heart”—a condition for which spiritual surgery is required. This passage is about that surgery. John the Baptist prepares the way for Messiah by getting people’s hearts ready to welcome and receive Jesus. His call is for believers to open their hearts, humble their hearts, and surrender their hearts to God. These heart movements involve the spiritual practices of confession and repentance, along with the humility that comes with public baptism.

While these disciplines can be challenging at times, they ultimately lead to liberation. Before we sin, Satan lies to us, trying to convince us that there will be no consequences if we give into the temptation. After we sin, Satan lies to us again, trying us to convince us that our sin is unforgiveable. The practice of confession and repentance enables us to neutralize his lies, for “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

In the end, God wants your heart to be like a hay-filled manger—soft and ready for Jesus. Otherwise, you will miss all that God wants to do in your life.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Anticipation, Part 1: Watch & Wait (Matthew 24:36-44)

The overarching theme of Advent is the coming of Jesus Christ, both in the manger of Bethlehem at his first coming, and in the clouds of glory at his second coming. That’s why the traditional lectionary readings of the season can feel joltingly at odds with our quaint Christmastime expectations. As one devotional writer puts it, “Rather than holly and candlelight, we read of end-times horrors. Instead of rejoicing angels, we begin with a prophet calling loudly for repentance. These passages shock us out of our cozy mindset to remind us that Jesus is the Mighty God.”

Indeed, the Savior whose birth we are preparing to celebrate is the very Son of Man who will one day return at the end of the age in power and great glory. In his famous Olivet Discourse, Jesus reminds his people he will come to earth again one day (Matthew 24:36-41). It will be a secret day—because only the Father knows when it will take place (v. 36). It will be a surprising day—because everything in life will be unfolding as it usually does (vv. 37-39). It will be a separating day—because some will be taken, and some will be left (vv. 40-41).

Jesus then instructs his followers on how to stay prepared for his return (Matthew 24:42-44). They are to be watchful—as a person deeply longing to reconnect with a loved one (v. 42). They are to be diligent—as homeowners working to protect what is most valuable to them (v. 43). They are to be ready—as a servant who would be unashamed by his master’s surprise return (v. 44). In short, God’s people don’t just wait for Christ’s return, they prepare for it. That’s because the child in the manger is actually the Mighty God whose kingdom will never end.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Who’s in Charge of the Church? (1 Corinthians 12:12-23)

The most prominent image for the church in the New Testament is “the Body of Christ.” There are about 15 references to it from Matthew to Revelation. The image implies that believers are to be, do, and say what Christ would be, do, and say if he were physically with us today. For three and a half decades, Jesus lived on this planet as the Son of God—deity in human flesh. In his earthly body, he went around preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, loving and serving those for whom he came. 

•  With his eyes he saw the physical and spiritual needs around him.

•  With his ears he heard the cries of the hurting and the oppressed.

•  With his heart he felt compassion toward those who needed the grace of God.

•  With his feet he went to their side to be with them.

•  With his hands he touched them, fed them, and healed them.

•  With his voice he spoke God’s word to them

In time he died on Calvary’s cross for the sins of the world. He was buried in an unused tomb, and on the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is now seated at the Father’s right hand. 

On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Christ—came back to earth indwell his people and constitute his church. So, while God came to the world in Jesus in a body 2,000 years ago, he now comes to the world in his new body, the church.

•  We are the eyes of Jesus on earth.

•  We are the ears of Jesus on earth.

•  We are the heart of Jesus on earth.

•  We are the feet of Jesus on earth.

•  We are the hands of Jesus on earth.

•  We are the voice of Jesus on earth.

Believers are the means through which Christ expresses himself and ministers to the world today. In short, the church of Christ is the body of Christ on earth. How in the world could we ever fulfill such a task? We start by staying connected to the head of the body—Jesus Christ himself, and finding our divinely appointed place in his body.

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