Sermon Options: January 20, 2019

December 15th, 2018

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

ISAIAH 62:1-5

Prospective parents spend countless hours every year trying to decide on just the right name for an expected child. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" doesn't ring true. We want just the right moniker for our progeny. Why? What's so important about a name anyway?

The creation account in Genesis 2 has Adam naming all the animals. This is indicative of both his dominion over and kinship to the created order. God's progressive revelation of himself is beautifully pictured in the various names that disclose his divine character, power, and purpose. In the Scriptures a person's name is seen as indicative of their character. Jacob was a manipulator who became Israel, or blessed of the Lord. Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi, whose name means "pleasantness," became known as Mara or "bitterness" because of the death of her husband and sons. Jesus even did a wordplay on Peter's name when he referred to his confession as the rock upon which the Church is built. Isaiah pictures a day when God will give a new name to his people.

I. A New Name Represents Character Revealed (v. 2)
"The nations will see your righteousness" (v. 2a NIV). God's will had always been the holiness of his people. The Church stands under the same mandate to "be holy in all you do" (1 Pet. 1:15 b NIV). Israel never fully grasped the moral purposes of God. Instead, she fell into a pattern of legalism that thwarted true holiness and hindered her witness to the grace and glory of God.

The prophet is confident, however, that God's ultimate purpose will be realized and that the righteousness of Israel will ultimately be manifest. Corresponding to this fundamental change in her character, Israel will be given a new name. This new name is indicative of her new identity. The New Testament tells us that we will be given a new name, also.

II. A New Name Represents Position Revived (v. 3)
"You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand" (v. 3a NIV). The golden days of Israel's history were during the reign of David and Solomon. But the seeds to her demise were also sown during that time. Not all of her position, wealth, and strength came as a result of the Lord's blessing. She entered into many compromising alliances that would ultimately be her undoing. The prophet sees a day when Israel is restored as a "crown of splendor" and a "royal diadem"—both symbols of royalty and the right to rule.

Likewise, the Church has been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.

III. A New Name Represents Relationship Restored (v. 5)
"As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you" (v. 5b NIV). The image of adultery is frequently used in the Old Testament to picture the unfaithfulness of Israel to God. Yet the prophet saw Israel restored as a "bride." This is a beautiful image indeed of the clean slate and new beginning that comes as a result of God's grace. The Church is aptly called the "bride of Christ." This is a poignant reminder of our intimate relationship with God through Christ.

As we anticipate the new year that stretches out before us, we are reminded again that it takes more than the changing of the calendar to make a new start. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" ( 2 Cor. 5:17 NIV). (L. Joseph Rosas, III)

GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT

1 CORINTHIANS 12:1-11

A gift is an act of the will. The Father has appropriated spiritual gifts by his free will to all his children. If Christians really want to be used by Jesus, it will pay big dividends to search out their unique gifts and begin to make use of them. An examination of the gifts helps one determine how they may be used in the church.

I. The Spirit Says, "Jesus Is Lord"
The Spirit of God comes to dwell with people who extend an invitation for him to enter their lives. The early Gentile Christians developed out of raw paganism, where fanaticism ran rampant. They were swayed by anything. Paul wanted to produce rock-solid Christians who were not influenced by any strange doctrine. He guarded his flock against emotional excesses, hysterical behavior, self-delusion, and mistaken theology. It only happened when they understood that Jesus was Lord.

The basis of legitimate spiritual behavior is ushered in by God's Spirit in today's church. Sanctioned spiritual life comes through individual belief that Jesus is Lord.

II. The Spirit Gives Usable Spiritual Gifts to Individuals Who Believe That Jesus Is Lord
God's giver of gifts is the Spirit. He lends gifts for either short or long terms—sometimes for a lifetime. The specific purpose of such gift giving is to glorify God. Paul lists some of the gifts in the text, including:

WISDOM. Aristotle described this word as striving after the ends by using the best methods. The ultimate goal of wisdom is striving to know God intimately.

KNOWLEDGE. This gift is the "nuts and bolts" of wisdom. It is the method for using the wisdom for God's glory.

FAITH. This gift moves beyond the saving faith to the realm of "moving mountain" faith. William Barclay reminds Christians it is passionate belief that makes them spend all their energy on the action of belief. "It is faith which turns the vision into deed."

HEALING. This gift is the ability to treat people in a holistic fashion. God has endowed some to speak the word of faith for the physical healing of others. But be careful: This gift can be perverted easily if eyes are taken away from Jesus.

MIRACULOUS POWER. Missionaries speak of the spiritual darkness and oppression brought on by demonic powers in their service areas. The function of the church is to minister to the minds and lives diseased and disturbed by Satan. Exorcism still plays a part in our world through the power of the Spirit.

PROPHECY. This gift can be translated as preaching. It is not necessarily the ability of foretelling, but "forthtelling." The preacher who lives close enough to interpret the heartbeat of God has this gift. It is to be used by the person who rebukes, warns, guides, and advises believers.

DISCERNMENT. The ability to distinguish real from false characterizes this gift. The church needs people who can distinguish between what God wants and what the devil deploys as real. This gift steers the church away from overindulgence, hysteria, and fanaticism.

LANGUAGES AND INTERPRETATION. On Pentecost the band of 120 Christians spoke in languages to evangelize as they interpreted Peter's message to a diverse crowd. But as time passed this gift became unintelligible sounds in no language. Sadly this gift was robbed of its purpose and worth. The legitimate gifts are still needed and given. People had been empowered by God's Spirit to speak to crowds in their language, but the language was unknown to the messenger. The purpose was evangelism! Let the church use this gift to grow the universal body of believers, not to divide the church.

The snapshot of the early church pictured an alive, vital group of believers with excitement, spirituality, and gifts from God. Today's church needs a reprint of that picture. (Derl G. Keefer)

DON'T MISS THE SIGNS

JOHN 2:1-11

Ignore the road signs when you travel and you'll have a miserable trip. A physician trains to recognize the signs of illness. Sign language enables persons with impaired hearing to communicate. Signs are important. The Gospel of John records seven significant signs from the life of Christ. Jesus chose a wedding for the first of these miraculous signs, which revealed his glory and brought forth faith from his disciples.

I. God Signs His Glory in the Ordinary
Where do you expect to encounter the glory of God? At a wedding? Not if you're the parents! My wife and I nearly divorced before our daughter's wedding concluded. What rating does a wedding have on the stress chart? Imagine how the family at Cana felt when the wine ran out.

At a wedding Jesus revealed his glory. God hasn't left himself without witness anywhere Rom. 1:19-20) and he frequently signs his glory in the ordinary events of life. His signature is on the mountain landscape and the rolling sea. He manifests himself in a grandchild's smile and a grandfather's prayer.

II. God Signs His Glory in the Extraordinary
The water did turn to wine. It was "the first of his miraculous signs" (v. 11), but certainly not the last. A gospel song declares, "I believe in miracles, because I believe in God." He continues to reveal his glory in the extraordinary.

You hear the reports: He healed me from cancer. God took away the addiction; I've been free from this crippling desire for fifteen years. Jesus enabled my wife to forgive me and preserved our marriage. They said I wouldn't live another year—that was ten years ago! God had other plans. God sometimes signs his glory in an extraordinary display of power.

III. Do You Believe the Signs?
When Jesus revealed his glory at the wedding "his disciples put their faith in him." Faith-encouraging signs are all around us but we often are not looking for them. We want something spectacular when God has chosen the ordinary. Jesus asked, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Will he find us living by faith and responding to God's glory whether we see it on ordinary days or in an extraordinary way?

Jesus himself is the ultimate sign of God's glory. Are you missing him while looking for a substitute sign? Remember what he said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

The African impala can jump to a height of over ten feet and cover a distance greater than thirty feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a three-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. Faith trusts what we cannot see.

Faith trusts Christ. Mary told the servants what is also required of us, "Do whatever he tells you" (v. 5). Jesus tells us to believe. Do you? "Follow me," he invites. Do you? Anything less than obedience is not faith, even when you recognize the signs of his glory. (Bill D. Whittaker)

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