Ever since there began to be two groups preaching and baptizing, there were those who wanted to set up a competition between them. In John 3:22-36, John the Baptist put an immediate stop to the idea of competition between Jesus and himself. His response provides not only pastors but all Christians with an excellent motto for our lives. (Here is a link to the full sermon notes.)
In a nighttime conversation with a religious leader recorded in John 3:1-21, Jesus used an expression that has found its way into popular culture, being “born again.” Jesus emphasized not merely a new start but a total transformation performed by God. In other words, we all need something that only God can give. At the same time, Jesus predicted that he would be lifted up on the cross so that anyone who believed in him would have eternal life. Although we cannot bring about our own new birth, we must look to Christ in faith and live. (Here are Larry’s complete sermon notes.)
In John 2, Jesus began his public ministry with two incidents that started the countdown toward what he called “my hour.” Turning water into wine and driving out the marketers from the Temple courts seemed like two unrelated incidents. However, they both indicated that Jesus came to replace religious activities that could never take away sins. Also, these signs pointed forward to the way that he would take away sins: his death and resurrection. (Here are Larry’s complete sermon notes.)
Except for John the Baptist, everyone in John 1:35-51 began the day not believing in Jesus. By the end of two days, all were believing in Jesus, following him, and telling others about him. What had happened? They had all met Jesus, and most of them met him through a relative or friend. Although they didn’t know much about Jesus, they knew enough to tell others, “Come and see!” (Here are Larry’s complete sermon notes.)
Almost all humans recognize that there is a gap between what we should do and what we actually do. Also, we have invented many methods to try to deal with that gap. Unfortunately, we repeatedly discover that our methods don’t ultimately work. In John 1:19-34, John (the Baptist) called Jesus “the Lamb of God” and claimed that he is able to take away that gap in our lives. (Here are Larry’s complete sermon notes.)
The Gospel of John wastes no time in diving into the deep waters of truth. In John 1:1-18, the author presents Jesus as the divine Word who became a human, the Light that came into the darkness, and the One and Only who is himself God and with God the Father. Although these are elevated ideas, they provide us with simple answers to some of the biggest questions in life: From where did everything come? If there is a God, how can I know him? If there is darkness in the world and in me, how can I be in a right relationship with God? (Here are Larry’s complete sermon notes.)
One of the most difficult parables to interpret is in Luke 16:1-17, which relates the underhanded dealings of a dishonest manager who got fired from his job. Whom does the manager represent? In what ways might we be like the dishonest manager? Listen to Dr. Tim Sansbury as he takes us through this unusual parable, which ends up challenging us to stay true to the gospel message.
In Ruth 4, we come to the conclusion of the story of Ruth. However, the author has several surprises in store for us readers with not one, but three conclusions. These three conclusions satisfy the three problems presented in chapter one and three problems that we all face: distance from God, bitterness about life, and chaos in our lives. It turns out that the solution to all of these problems is a son who was born in Bethlehem.
At the beginning of Ruth 3, Naomi took matters into her own hands to secure a husband for Ruth. Her plan was risky, but it worked perfectly (until a complication arose). At the end of the chapter, Boaz determined to take matters into his own hands. Both of them had previously prayed for Ruth, and the time had come for them to act. Because he was a kinsman, he could act as a redeemer. His actions point toward God’s supreme act of kindness in providing a kinsman who could redeem us.
As we ended the first chapter of Ruth, there was a ray of hope for the two widows. Maybe they would not starve to death after all, since they arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. In Ruth 2, Ruth proposed to pick up leftover grain behind the harvesters and found her way into the field of a man named Boaz. The interaction between Ruth and Boaz on the day they met ended up providing bread for the widows for months to come. Also, they both exhibited a combination of characteristics that we find irresistible, because it reveals the longings of our hearts and points to the one who can satisfy those longings.