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The Two ‘Musts’ of Salvation

 
I believe that John 3 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible with regard to the salvation of the sinner. The chapter is built around two great ‘must’ statements—both of which are essential for salvation.
 
The chapter begins with a man who wanted to speak with Jesus privately, so he comes to Him by night—the man’s name was Nicodemus. This gentleman was a ruler in Israel, which meant that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council—it also tells us that he was a Pharisee.
 
The Pharisees were ultra-conservatives and lived by the strictest possible religious rules, and even though the term ‘Pharisee’ has become synonymous with hypocrisy—not all of the Pharisees were hypocrites.
 
Many Pharisees, like Nicodemus and Saul of Tarsus, were very sincere in their desire to obey God and live a life of separation from the pollution of the world—in fact the word ‘Pharisee’ means ‘to separate.’
 
John 3:2 (NKJV)
This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

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When Life Takes A Turn For The Worse

 
What do you do when you’re going along in life and things are going fine, you’re being blessed, your family is healthy and your company is prospering—when all of a sudden the bottom drops out?
 
(Your spouse tells you they want a divorce; or you find out one of your children is very sick; or maybe that your company is laying you off)
 
What do you do when the road you’re on suddenly takes an unexpected turn and you find yourself in a place you never thought you’d be in, facing a situation you’re not prepared to deal with?
 

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The C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S Story

 
As a pastor I’m always looking for new ways to communicate the timeless truths of Scripture in a way that will help God’s people remember them and apply them into their lives.
 
This morning I would like to attempt to do that very thing by using the word “Christmas” as an acrostic which I hope will help you to remember what the Christmas story is all about.
 
 
Of course, Christmas is about the birth of the Christ-child—something that has gotten lost in all the hype and commercialism that has come to characterize the Christmas season.
 
The birth of this special Child was foretold in numerous places in the O.T.—one of the prophecies that we’re most familiar with comes out of Isaiah 9:6—

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Saved, Sealed and Secure

 
In Ephesians Chapter 1 Paul is talking about how those of us who are Christians got saved. In verse 13 he gives a very simple 3 point outline—“You heard the word of truth (the gospel), you trusted in Christ, and you were sealed with the Holy Spirit.”
 
1. You heard the word of truth—v.13a
 
Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
 
1 Corinthians 1:21b (NKJV)
…it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
 
This is our part in God’s plan for saving the lost—to honor God with our lives and to share the gospel with our words.  We really have not been called to “win people to Christ” or to “save souls”—that’s the Holy Spirit’s ministry.
 
Our responsibility is to, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” as Jesus commanded us.
 

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Be Imitators of God

 
 
In Ephesians 5:1 Paul admonishes us to be “imitators of God as His dear children”.
 
When Paul said that we are to imitate God as “dear children” he is implying that it is the most natural thing in the world for children to imitate their parents—and because we are children of God let’s be imitators of our Heavenly Father.
 
“Okay”, you say, “but how do I do that, what does that look like?”
 
Well, one the greatest attributes of God is love—in fact the Bible doesn’t say that God has a lot of love—it says that God is love!
 
So, with that in mind, one of the greatest ways we can imitate our Heavenly Father to the people of this world is by demonstrating God’s love as His children.

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God Created You For A Purpose

Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
 
This verse clearly teaches that you are not an accident—God created you on purpose for a purpose.
 
a.    For we are His workmanship
 
The Greek word translated “workmanship” is poiema, from which we get our English word “poem.”  A poem is a literary work of art—and here Paul is using it to describe Christians, that each of us as Christians is a living work of art, a masterpiece in the making.
 
b.    Created in Christ Jesus
 
The only way we can begin becoming God’s masterpiece is through the new birth where we become a new creation in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
 

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Gaining A Godly Perspective

Several years ago, I heard the story of Larry Walters, a 33-year-old man who decided he wanted to see his neighborhood from a new perspective. So, he went down to the local army surplus store one morning and bought forty-five used weather balloons. That afternoon he strapped himself into a lawn chair, to which several of his friends tied the now helium-filled balloons. He took along a six-pack of beer, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a BB gun, figuring he could shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land.
 
Larry, who assumed the balloons would lift him about 100 feet in the air, was caught off guard when the chair soared more than 11,000 feet into the sky — smack into the middle of the air traffic pattern at Los Angeles International Airport. His lawn chair had shot up so quickly on take-off that Larry dropped his BB gun—leaving him to the mercy of helium and wind currents. He stayed airborne for several hours, forcing the airport to shut down its runways for much of the afternoon, causing long delays in flights from across the country. Soon after he was safely grounded and cited by the police, reporters asked him: “Larry why did you do it?” To which Larry replied simply, “Because sometimes you gotta do something—you can’t just sit there.”

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Marital Warfare

One of the things that has many of us pastors very concerned is how many Christian marriages are struggling and failing today.  I personally am seeing more Christians getting divorced today than I saw 36 years ago when I first got into ministry.
 
One Christian couple I know got married, two months later she was cheating on her husband and two months after that they filed for divorce. And while that may be an extreme example of the flimsy, shallow commitment that many are entering into marriage with—it is nonetheless becoming more and more the norm.
 

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In Everything Give Thanks

 
  • A young mother learns she has terminal cancer.
  • A bus taking a church group to a ski resort overturns, injuring many and leaving one young woman permanently paralyzed.
  • A child crossing the street is struck and killed by a drunk driver.
  • A Christian girl is abducted by two men, though she shares Jesus with them and pleads for mercy; she is brutally raped, tortured, and murdered.
  • A missionary is killed by the tribe he came to serve after only two weeks of ministry.
  • A young father working a second job as a convenience store clerk is killed by a teenager on drugs who holds up the store.

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We Have Come To Worship Him

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Well, here we are less than two weeks away from Christmas—so let’s spend a little time focusing on the real reason for the season!
 
Matthew 2:1-2 (NKJV)
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
 
I.   “Wise Men from the East”—v.1
 
The term “wise men” is the Greek word “magoi” from which we get the word “magi” which is just a transliteration of that Greek word. Few biblical stories are as well known, yet so clouded by myth and tradition, as that of the magi, or wise men, mentioned by Matthew.
 

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