Jesus Walks on Water: An Example of Religion or Faith?

BLCF: Jesus walks on the sea

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Jesus Walks on Water: An Example of Religion or Faith?’

© August 24, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared with BLCF on Sunday April 18, 2010

BLCF: Bulletin August 24, 2014

BLCF: Jesus'-hand

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading # 660 (The New Way of Life – Luke 6); Prayer

Opening Hymn #1: Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty; Choruses

Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Scripture Verses: Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:51-52 and John 6:20-21  

Let us pray…

This morning’s message is about the miracle of Jesus’ walking in the Sea of Galilee.

But first let us let us look what is the definition of a miracle, as described in the Bible? It’s very interesting that a common word used for miracle in the New Testament can also be translated “sign.” A miracle is a sign that God uses to point to Himself; the same way we follow signs to guide us along highways or city streets.

Most scholars agree that the Gospels record 37 supernatural miracles of Jesus or, 37 Devine interventions in nature.   There are 21 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in Matthew, 3 of which are unique to Matthew. There are 19 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in Mark, 2 of which are unique to Mark. There are 22 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in Luke, 7 of which are unique to Luke. And there are 8 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in John, 6 of which are unique to John.

We do not have time this morning to go through all 37 of these miracles, which are by definition supernatural events. And when we say supernatural, we are not talking about ghosts, zombies or things that go “bump in the night”, though the disciples did initially mistake the Lord treading across the sea for a ghost or apparition. A supernatural event can be described as something that is super or above and beyond nature or what is described as a natural event. Natural events follow the rules and laws of physics. The natural event can be predicted to follows these rules and laws. A supernatural event defies the rules because it was caused by the Lord, who is supernatural, as he is part of the Trinity of God. God created the universe and therefore is not bound by the rules of nature.

This morning we will focus on the miracle of Jesus walking on water, which occurred the day after Jesus had performed the miracle of the “Loaves and Fishes.”

BLCF: Jesus walking on water

Matthew 14:22-32 (ESV)

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Mathew’s account of events records three miracles; Jesus walking on the water; Peter’s walk on the water; the calming of the wind and waves. John’s account records a fourth miracle; and that the boat was instantly transported to their destination of Bethesda, some 3½ miles away. Only Luke’s Gospel does not give us an account any of these miracles. Perhaps he was asleep in the cabin, having served an earlier watch? But, upon what body of water did these events take place.

Sometimes referred to as a lake, the Sea of Galilee, lake described in this passage, from Britannica Online:

BLCF: sea_of_galilee_map

The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake in the north of Palestine. It is 13 miles (21 km) long and about 8 miles (14km) across at its widest point, with a maximum depth of 150 feet (46km). Lying 640 feet (195m) below sea level, it is surrounded by mountains 1,200-1,500 feet (365-460m) high, rising close to the shore except for short stretches on the south, southwest and northwest. The lake is fed from the north by the River Jordan and by numerous lesser streams, as well as by underwater springs, some of them hot, to which medicinal properties have been attributed. Emerging from the southern end of the lake, the Jordan carries the outflow to the Dead Sea.

The area was very prosperous in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Early on, under the Ptolemies, the fort of Philoteria was built on the site of ancient Beth Yerah and served as the capital of a district, developing into a large Jewish city in the Roman period. The shores of the Sea of Galilee were the scene of the early ministry of Jesus. From Nazareth he went to preach in the synagogues, some of them in cities close to the sea, such as Capernaum and Chorazin. It was from these shores that he called the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, and James and John “to become fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-21), and at the water’s edge that he fed the multitude with two loaves and five fishes (Matthew 14:19-20). Tradition places the site of this miracle at Heptapegon, where the early Church of the Loaves and Fishes was built. Both Jewish and Christian communities flourished along the shores of the lake during the whole of the Roman and Byzantine periods. Excavations made on many sites round the lake, such as Beth Yarah, Tiberias, Hammath, Heptapegon and Capernaum, have revealed much evidence of the splendor and prosperity of the region in all periods.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/224050/Sea-of-Galilee

Similar to Ontario’s Lake Nippising, near North Bay, the Sea of Galilee’s dimensions and orientation makes it a prime candidate to sudden unpredictable storms caused by the prevailing winds. Needless to say, I am sure that Jesus, having been blest with the Holy Spirit, and by virtue of being the Devine Alpha and Omega, (beginning and end), knew that the disciples would encounter a storm on their journey.

So why did He allow them to go in the boat without Him? And why did He wait so long before joining them?

Do not forget that Jesus wanted to go up the mountain to pray. As Christians, we need to take time to pray, to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, in order to clear our slate of thoughts, actions and feelings which distance us from God.

Jesus was a good teacher not only to the multitudes, but to the twelve who followed him. The journey from Heptapegon, also known as Tabgha, el-Oreme or ‘En Sheva to Bethesda was about seven miles distance and would have taken the disciples maximum of 3-4 hours under normal conditions. Because of extreme head winds and waves, the disciples’ boat had covered only half the distance in about 12 hours’ time or about 1/6 of the normal rate of travel.

There is no doubt that Jesus knew about the challenges his disciples were encountering, but he allowed them to go for some time before he set out to tread across the sea. Until Jesus arrived, the disciples had to work persistently and together to keep their boat on course, against the storm. The disciples would need the same persistence and cooperation, in the not too distant future, to share the Gospel to people who knew nothing of God, or worse, had drifted away from God in the pursuit of a religion devoid of the Holy Spirit.

Continuing with Mathew 14, verse 25:

25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Again there is the human tendency forget their faith, as initially none recognized Christ on the water, thinking instead they saw a spirit or ghost on the water. If Christ had told them he would join them, they had forgotten. If they expected Christ, they seemed not to understand that Jesus had the power to effortlessly cross a stormy sea which held the disciples’ vessel stationary.

Now Peter, not sure if it was Jesus said, reading Mathew 14, verse 28:  

28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

 

 BLCF: Jesus-walks-on-water

The disciples, who have already seen the power of Jesus, having witnessed several miracles, had not connected the dots to conclude that it was their master who approached their vessel.  As Christian believers, we too can suffer from an absence of faith in the face of adversity. If for a second we take our eyes away from the Saviour, just like Peter we can be distracted from faith, by dwelling on our circumstances, as Peter did, and in our fear and doubt, sink in the sea of our adversities.  In spite of the fleetingness of faith, Jesus still is there just waiting for us to call to Him to extend His hand and lift us from a sea of sadness and despair. He joins us and He calms the sea and accompanies us to our destination. Up to this point the disciples had showed a lot of religion and only a little faith. Their hearts had been hardened to the source of the miracles which they had witnessed up to this point, as was indicated in Mark 6:51:

1And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Jesus had allowed the twelve disciples to suffer life threatening peril of the storm at sea and they had not recognized the supernatural Christ, who had dominion over all of nature, walking towards them on a violent sea. Instead they saw a ghost. Peter allowed his vision to distract himself momentarily forgetting Jesus, whereupon the disciple promptly sank into the sea. It was not until Jesus had boarded the vessel, that the disciples finally understood just who had performed the miracle of the loaves; feeding the multitude; who had walked across and calmed the stormy sea; who had empowered Peter to walk the sea; and who Jesus really was Matthew 14:33:

33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I believe that this was the purpose of the exercise of the voyage to Bethany, the storm on the sea, and the subsequent miracles. The miracle was a sign to the disciples who their teacher was: the Son of God! For this miracle established in the disciples a belief without question that Jesus was the Son of God, and from this belief comes faith that as Son of God, Jesus performed miracles to fulfill the scriptures.  As we read in Hebrews 11:1 (ESV):

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Now Christ did one more miracle that was not only for the benefit of the 12 disciples, it was for everyone, man, woman, child, all generations for 20 centuries, up to and including today. He died on the cross for our sins, to remove the tempest of God’s judgment. Jesus did the ultimate miracle by rising from the dead. Not finished with His miracle, he ascended to heaven to be our advocate. Finally, he rewarded our faith by send us a comforter in the Holy Spirit, to join us on our travels through life; to assure us through the storms we may encounter; to calm the fears; to accompany us to our destinations and assist us in sharing the Gospel.

BLCF: jars of clay

Our bodies are like clay jars, fragile easily, shattered, but thanks to His miraculous power capable of being vessels of a treasure, the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 4:7:

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

BLCF: Jesus relationship not religion

Just as the disciples set out in a vessel that can be destroyed by the raging sea, our bodies are subject to destruction by the natural forces of misadventure, disease, and age. But by faith in Jesus, we can remove the threat of natural death and supernaturally share the miracle of eternal life. But to make our bodies a proper vessel for the Holy Spirit, we must cleanse ourselves of unrighteousness, by confessing our sins and accepting the miraculous gifts of sacrifice on our behalf, receiving justification in God’s eyes. Only then are our bodies sanctified to receive the Holy Spirit, as we read in 2 Timothy 2:20-21:

20Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honourable use, some for dishonourable. 21Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house ready for every good work.

It may appear, to some from outside this church, that Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is like a vessel set upon by a great destructive storm. We are a relatively small congregation with a large mission of sharing the Gospel of Christ. Still, God has rewarded our faith with what is necessary to achieve His purpose in our community: to feed and minister to a multitude of nearly 150 each and every Wednesday evening. God continues to provide the means, including the funds, volunteers, even the fridges and stoves, for workers in His house to do this good work.

Do we need a ghostly apparition in our midst to convince us from whom these miracles come from? Dare we take our eyes away from him to look at the storm around us, and in doing so, risk losing our precious faith to end up sinking into a sea of despair? Are we here to perform hollow religious worship or are we here to demonstrate our faith in our Savior, faith in the gift of Salvation, cleansing our bodies in faith, so that our vessels so that they may hold the Holy Spirit, in order to do the Lord’s work?

Let us conclude today’s message with the following about religion and faith:

Religion exists to control faith; faith exists to keep religion in check.                                   

Religion is man’s interpretation of God’s will, faith is its acceptance.

May our actions demonstrate our faith and trust in God, not a practice of religious ritual. Let us not question God’s will, but with the help of the Spirit, accept and implement it to His glory.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Colossians_2_6-7

Closing Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!

Benediction (Romans 15:5-6):

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

BLCF: exercise_faith_walk_with_Jesus

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The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor

 BLCF: Transfiguration-of-Jesus-

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor’

© August 17, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared with BLCF on Sunday January 27, 2010

BLCF Bulletin August 17, 2014

BLCF: the_transfiguration

 

Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer: Matthew 6:9-14

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.[a]

10 Your kingdom come,

your will be done,[b]                                                                                                                                                 

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]                                                                                                                                                                            

 12 and forgive us our debts,     

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,                                                                                                               

 but deliver us from evil.[d]

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow d. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

Opening Hymn #339: More About Jesus Would I Know

 Prayer and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests

Scripture Verses: Luke 9:27-36 and John 1:14 

Luke 9:27-36 (ESV)

27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

The Transfiguration

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,[a] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;[b] listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Footnotes: a. Luke 9:31 Greek exodus b. Luke 9:35 Some manuscripts my Beloved

BLCF: tajemnice_rozanca_transfiguration

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome, again, to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Sunday Praise and Worship service, in the heart of Toronto. An important part of a believer’s praise and worship is setting aside part of your day for prayer. In order to sense God’s presence, it is helpful to make that prayer time in the quiet of the day. Often that time is either early in the morning or late at night, when it is quiet and free from distractions.  At times of particular need or concern, for oneself or for others, is another good time to converse with the Lord through prayer. And of course, don’t forget to praise Him at times of victory and to thank Him for answered prayer.

For the Mickelson family, prayer time came at the end of the day, at the very least. Sophie and I started this tradition after we were married, and carried it on with our children. With the kids, the prayer would be a time to remember everyone in the family, and to remember those in the extended family, as well as prayer concerns for our friends. Often, prayer time included reading from the bible. I am happy to see that my eldest child, Athena, now married with two children of her own carries on the tradition of prayer with her two boys.

The Scriptures indicate that for Jesus, the preferred time for prayer was the evening, in a quiet place, such as a mountain top or in a garden. In this morning’s scripture, in Luke 9, we see that Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. Many scholars believe the mountain described in Luke 9 to be Mount Tabor.

BLCF: Mount-Tabor-Galilee-Holy-Land-Map

Mount Tabour today

Mount Tabor today

Jesus brought along with him three disciples: Peter, James and John. It is said in verse 32 that the three became “heavy with sleep”. The scriptures do not say why they started to become drowsy. You might speculate that it was from the exertion of climbing the mount. A similar thing happened to those who joined Jesus when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, just before his crucifixion. I believe part of it may be the effect of being in God’s presence. Needless to say, the three awoke to see that Jesus’ appearance had changed: both his face and clothing were transfigured, as he seemed to be floating among the clouds. And Jesus was observed talking with Moses and Elijah.

Transfigured is an interesting word. It is the English translation from the Greek Scriptures of “metamorpho” meaning to transform, literally or figuratively, to metamorphose, or to change. It is a verb and therefore means to change into another form. Christ’s death and resurrection is often symbolized by the butterfly, which changes or metamorphosis’s in a chrysalis from a larva, then to a pupa, and then ending as a butterfly. These changes are similar to Christ began in human form before crucifixion, then as the Resurrected Christ and finally, as the Ascended Christ.

What a sight that must have been to behold! And then to actually hear the voice of God stating: “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”

It is interesting to note that God appears to make this statement as a response to Peter’s impulsive suggestion that the three disciples should build three tents in honour of Jesus, Moses and Elijah. If you go back to verse 27, you will see that perhaps God’s words were spoken, not as a reaction to the comment by the disciple about building temples. More likely, God spoke in agreement with the statement made by Jesus, as we see recorded in John 9:27: “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

This is not the first time that the disciples struggled to comprehend the meaning and significance of a miracle of Jesus that they had just witnessed. For what they had observed was a glimpse of the glory of Heaven that Jesus alluded to in Luke 9, verse 27.

BLCF: Jesus-walking-on-water

This miracle, like that where Jesus walked upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee, was another of the rare miracles in the Gospels, where Jesus was the object of the miracle.

Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration to be “the greatest miracle” in that it complemented the baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.

the_baptism_of_the_christ_21

Another instance in the Scriptures of God speaking occurred just after Jesus was baptized, where the Father spoke from Heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased.” For Jesus, this was his own personal Pentecost, where the power of the Holy Spirit came upon him.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is significant in that we have an account of the promise of Heaven and the Resurrected life. By contrast Christ’s baptism, the Holy Spirit is observed afterwards descending, “like a dove”, upon him. This passage of Scripture recorded in Matthew 3:16-17, we have a presentation of the trinity of God, God’s voice in Heaven, Jesus the son’s baptism, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. All three are distinct, and each being the presence of God.

BLCF: Sauls_conversion

There is a third account in the New Testament, where a voice speaks from Heaven, which occurs during the conversion of Paul, known formerly as Saul of Tarsus. That account is given in the Book of Acts, Chapter 9, verses 1-7, when Saul of Tarsus hears the Son of God ask “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Saul, whose job was to arrest the followers of Christ, asks who is speaking? To which Jesus replies “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” indicating that an offence against a believer of Christ is considered to be an offence against Christ. Jesus then instructs him to “rise and enter the city” and that he would be told what to do.

The significance of this passage is how God convicts non-believers of faith, and how even the most stubborn of non-believers can be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Paul, sometimes referred to as the thirteenth Apostle, had his conversion after Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is interesting that before his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was a member of the religious order which had Jesus put to death, and stoned Stephen, the first martyr of the followers of Christ.

Going back to Luke 9 and the Transfiguration, one may question why John, James and Peter, were privy to this Heavenly vision of seeing Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus regarding his impending departure in Jerusalem. By departure, we are talking about the crucifixion as the Chosen One.

Though Jesus died for our sins, to redeem believers, so that they may become righteous and be acceptable unto God. All of the disciples, save John, died violent deaths because of their beliefs and their sharing of the miracles that Jesus performed, the most important being his resurrection, his ascension and his gifting of the Holy Spirit. James was put to death by a sword, by order of King Herod. Peter, being a Roman citizen was not crucified; instead he was beheaded in Rome, at the order of Nero. John, the first of the twelve disciples to follow Jesus, and the last to die, did not die a violent death. The Apostle John did live long enough to see Jesus, as well as the eleven disciples, including his brother, James, die violently because of their beliefs.

The disciple’s individual faith may have waivered at one time or another,  each disciple, save for Judas Iscariot, was put to death in a violent manner, because of the conviction of the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is Christ’s Gospel.

Further support to the notion is found in Luke 9 verse 27, “some standing here will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God” referring to Peter, James and John, the three who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who later acknowledged having seen the Kingdom of Heaven.

For Peter, we read in 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV):

 16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

It seems quite clear that Peter refers to the Transfiguration on the mount as a view of the majesty of the arisen Christ and the voice of God in Heaven.

With John, we read another acknowledgement of glory in the Transfiguration:

John 1:14 (ESV)

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

BLCF: Carl_Bloch_The_Transfiguration_400

Most scholars of the Bible agree that in the vision of the Transfiguration of Jesus, that Moses represents the Laws or the Sacred Scriptures of God, as Moses had authored five of the book of the Old Testament, and he delivered God’s Ten Commandments to the Hebrew people. Elijah represents the Prophets of God. Jesus represents both the authority of God, and fulfillment of both the Word and the Prophets.

The account of Jesus’ baptism records the presence of the Trinity of God. The Trinity is observed again in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus, the son, was observed with Moses and Elijah. God’s presence is found when His words were heard. And the cloud that appears represents the presence of the Holy Spirit.

BLCF: Trinity_of_God

You may ask: Why were Peter, James and John were selected to witness Jesus’ Transfiguration?  Many scholars view that while Moses and Elijah represent God’s Faith in the Prophets and the Laws that preceded Jesus. The three disciples represent aspects of God’s Faith after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension: Peter represents the Faith of the Church, James represents Hope of love (i.e. loving one’s neighbor as oneself), and John represents the application of Charity in the good works of man. Together, we have a symbolic representation of the Trinity the faith in the Holy Spirit, the Hope through the Salvation of Christ, and the Charity of God our Father in heaven who provided a means that we might be sanctified in spite of our sinful nature.

As often occurs in the Gospel accounts, the apostles while witnessing a miracle of Jesus, lose track of its significance. You may recall in a previous message about the miracle where Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee, following the feeding of the multitude, also known as the “Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes”. The disciples had yet to conclude that this supernatural miracle not only proved that Jesus had the power of God, but that Christ was God.

Only after Jesus easily walked across a stormy sea, against which the disciples had struggled for hours, did he perform the miracle whereby Peter with Jesus treaded water, so long as he had his eyes fixed on Jesus. When Peter does take his gaze from Jesus, and looks upon the sea, he sinks. Jesus performs yet another miracle by raising Peter out of the water: “Oh ye of little faith!”

Eventually, Jesus boards the boat containing the disciples and calms the stormy weather, and transports the boat, according to John’s Gospel, instantaneously across the water. It takes a series of supernatural miracles before the twelve finally acknowledge that Jesus is truly the son of God.

Like the people of Israel who kept losing the faith, while being led from Pharaoh’s Egypt, through the desert, to the Promised Land, the disciples kept forgetting who they were following. Perhaps this was the real purpose of the excursion that Jesus made with Peter, John and James on Mount Tabor:  to remind the disciples that they were following the Son of God. In one account of the Transfiguration, Jesus instructed the three disciples not to tell anyone what they have seen until three days after His crucifixion.

BLCF: Transfiguration_Pic

As believers in the Gospel, what can you and I take home from the message of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor? There are four key lessons:

First, we have hope, through our faith, just as Jesus was transfigured into another form in Heaven,  we, too, will be resurrected to heave, by faith in the resurrected Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Second, just like the disciples, in spite of lapses in judgment and though we may continue to sin, if we continue to confess our sins, God will forgive our sins and by His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, God has a place for us in Heave. “Though we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sin.”

And third, in spite of our inequities, Christ does not give up on us. As many times as it takes, he will patiently take us to the holy places, to remind us that “He will never leave or forsake us!”

Finally, as was observed earlier in today’s message, as Christ was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, and then be reborn, in spirit and transfigured into a new, that on this earth, as believers we may be transfigured through faith in the Word and the promise of the salvation of the lamb, Jesus. We, too, may have the same vision that what we do on this world in the name of Jesus has the promise and power to transfigure us into a creature that is Holy and Sanctified. However, since Jesus has already died and arisen on the third day, there is no expectation of death’s darkness and silence, but an expectation that we may share the promise of having a new body, transfigured by faith in the fulfillment of Word, now made flesh in Jesus our Savior.

The Scriptures, through the disciples’ accounts of their observation of the   Transfiguration of Jesus, give believers a glimpse of the glorious afterlife we may expect to see when we are resurrected on the day Christ returns in his glory. This will be a day when we will sing, along with the angels of Heaven praises of hallelujah to the glory of the Lord.

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transfigured_by_the_cross

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BLCF: Jesus_Ascension

The Day that Jesus returns in all of his glory will be a day of judgment; a day of deliverance; a day of our transfiguration.

Until that glorious day that we, as resurrected, transfigured believers are united with the Lord, we ae commissioned by our faith to share the truth of the gospel of Jesus that he died to make us holy and believing the truth of his message will set others free.

Let me finish today’s message by reading from Transfigured by Jay C. Treat, as a prayer:

BLCF: Luke_9-35

(Dear God in Heaven)

We went up the mountain with Jesus,    

but quite unprepared for surprise.

We never expected to see him    

transform right in front of our eyes!

His face was as bright as the sunlight;    

his clothes were as bright as the skies.

He talked with Elijah and Moses,    

who stood right in front of our eyes.

We thought we could build them three temples:    

one shrine for the giver of laws,

and one for Elijah the prophet,    

and one for this master of ours.

A bright cloud then covered the mountain.    

A Voice echoed deep from within,

Said, “This is my son, my beloved one!    

He pleases me! Listen to him!”

We came down the mountain with Jesus,    

now ready for any surprise.

We’re ready to listen and follow    

and change right in front of his eyes                                                                                              

(In name of Jesus we pray – AMEN)

BLCF: transfigured-caterpillar-butterfly

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #522: Battle Hymn of The Republic

Benediction – (Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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BLCF: Psalm51

 

Standing on God’s Promises: The Rainbow Covenant

BLCF: Matthew 26_26-28

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Standing on God’s Promises: The Rainbow Covenant

© August 10, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared with BLCF on Sunday June 13, 2010 

BLCF: Bulletin August 10, 2014

BLCF: Double-rainbow

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading  #668 (The New Life – Colossians 3); Prayer

Opening Hymn #225: Standing On the Promises                                                                 

 Prayer and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests

Scripture Verses: Genesis 9:8-17, Matthew 26:26-28, John 11:25-26

 

Let us pray…

The story of Noah, God’s judgment, the ark full of animals, the great flood and the rainbow found in Book of Genesis is one of the best known to believers and non-believers, alike. The story has been retold in recent movies, where God’s truth is sometimes replaced by science or the imagination of Hollywood Screen Writers.

For this morning’s message at BLCF, we will focus our study on the “The Rainbow Covenant”. You may ask the question: “What is meant by the term covenant?” Webster’s Online gives us a couple of definitions which may help us understand. Webster’s definition is as follows:

Cov´e`nant   Pronunciation: k?v´?-n?nt noun

    (Theology) The promises of God as revealed in the Scriptures, conditioned on certain terms on the part of man, as obedience, repentance, faith, etc.I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.– Genenesis xvii. 7.
    A solemn compact between members of a church to maintain its faith, discipline, etc.
    (Law) An undertaking, on sufficient consideration, in writing and under seal, to do or to refrain from some act or thing; a contract; a stipulation; also, the document or writing containing the terms of agreement.

http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Covenant

\

The Biblical use of covenant describes an agreement between God and either an individual or people. Scholars generally agree that the Scriptures contain about ten covenants. These ten can be divided into one of two types: as either unilaterally coming from God or bilaterally between God and the individuals or people.

 

BLCF: God's Three Bi-lateral Covenants

 

Looking at the chart inside the bulletin, near the bottom left, you can get a brief overview with respect to the covenants found in the Holy Scriptures. Six of the Unilateral Covenants are concerned with obedience, sin, the Flood, the descendants of Abraham, the Ten Commandments. The three Bilateral Covenants are referred to as Blood Covenants, involving the patriarchs, Israel and all believers’ salvation. The final covenant is unilateral, which we refer to as the New Covenant between God and believers in the Gospel of Christ.

Let us continue with the story of Noah and God’s Rainbow Covenant, which begins at Genesis 6:1, ending at Genesis 9:17.

Noah’s Ark and the Flood – Story Summary (from about.com):

God saw how great wickedness had become and decided to wipe mankind from the face of the earth. However, one righteous man among all the people of that time, Noah, found favor in God’s eyes. With very specific instructions, God told Noah to build an ark for him and his family in preparation for a catastrophic flood that would destroy every living thing on earth.

God also instructed Noah to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, along with every kind of food to be stored as food for the animals and his family while on the ark. Noah obeyed everything God commanded him to do.

After they entered the ark, rain fell on the earth for a period of forty days and nights. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days, and every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out. As the waters receded, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Noah and his family continued to wait for almost eight more months while the surface of the earth dried out.

Finally after an entire year, God invited Noah to come out of the ark. Immediately, he built an altar and worshiped the Lord with burnt offerings from some of the clean animals. God was pleased with the offerings and promised never again to destroy all the living creatures as he had just done. Later God established a covenant with Noah: “Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” As a sign of this everlasting covenant God set a rainbow in the clouds.

Points of Interest from the Story:

  • God’s purpose in the flood was not to destroy people, but to destroy wickedness and sin. • With more detail, God instructed Noah to take seven of every kind of clean animal, and two of every kind of unclean animal. Bible scholars have calculated that approximately 45,000 animals might have fit on the ark. • Genesis 7:16 interestingly points out that God shut them in the ark, or “closed the door,” so to speak.
  • The ark was exactly six times longer than it was wide. According to the Life Application Bible study notes, this is the same ratio used by modern ship builders. • In modern times researchers continue to look for evidence of Noah’s Ark.
  • Noah was righteous and blameless, but he was not sinless (see Genesis 9:20). Noah pleased God and found favor because he loved and obeyed God with his whole heart. As a result, Noah’s life was an example to his entire generation. Although everyone around him followed the evil in their hearts, Noah followed God.

 http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/p/noahsarkflood.htm

BLCF" Noah's Ark

 

Noah’s Ark was huge! Genesis 6:15 in the Bible tells us the Ark’s dimensions were at least 135 meters long (300 cubits), 22.5 meters wide (50 cubits), and 13.5 meters high (30 cubits). That’s 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high! It could have been larger, because several larger-sized cubits were used. But the 45-centimeter (18-inch) cubit is long enough to show the enormous size of the Ark. A cubit was the length of a man’s arm from fingertips to elbow.

Noah’s Ark was three stories high (Genesis 6:16). Its total deck area was equivalent to the area of about 20 standard college basketball courts or 36 lawn tennis courts. The world had to wait until AD 1884 before the Ark’s size was exceeded, when the Italian liner Eturia was built.

The rectangular dimensions of the Ark show an advanced design in ship-building. Its length of six times its width and 10 times its height would have made it amazingly stable on the ocean. Remember it was made more for floating than sailing, because it wasn’t headed anywhere. The Ark was made to withstand a turbulent ocean voyage, not to be at a certain place at a certain time.

Recent thought on the Ark’s design is that it could have had a slightly tapered top at the front and back, instead of being squared off. But the famous rock formation near Mount Ararat with pointed ends, which some think is Noah’s Ark, is definitely not!

Interestingly, British civil and mechanical engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel built a steamship (the Great Britain) in 1843 that had almost the same proportions as the Ark, although it was smaller. This was regarded as a remarkable feat of Victorian and maritime engineering. The Great Britain was the first large vessel to be propelled by a screw propeller.

In summary, Noah’s Ark was taller than a 3-story building and had a deck area the size of 36 lawn tennis courts. Its length was 300 cubits (450 feet, or 135 meters); its width was 50 cubits (75 feet, or 22.5 meters); it had three stories and its height was 30 cubits (45 feet, or 13.5 meters).

http://www.creationtips.com/arksize.html

 

BLCF: noah's-ark

 

Questions and Answers, from: biblia.com

Question: “How long did it take Noah to build the ark? How long was Noah on the ark?”

Answer:  The Bible does not specifically say how long it took Noah to build the ark. When Noah is first mentioned in Genesis 5:32, he was 500 years old. When Noah entered the ark, he was 600 years old. The time it took to build the ark would depend on how much time had passed between Genesis 5:32 and the time that God commanded Noah to build the ark (Genesis 6:14-21). At the absolute most, it took 100 years.

Question: How long was Noah on the ark?

Answer:  Noah entered the ark in the 600th year of his life, on the 17th day of the 2nd month (Genesis 7:11-13). Noah left the ark on the 27th day of the 2nd month of the following year (Genesis 8:14-15). Therefore, assuming a lunar calendar of 360 days, Noah was on the ark for approximately 370 days, the flood lasting for 150 days. Genesis 7:11-13 (ESV):

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark…

Genesis 8:14-15 (ESV):

14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15 Then God said to Noah…

Question: How many of each type of animal did Noah take on the ark? Seven pairs of each kind of clean animal and two pairs of each kind of other animals were taken on the ark (Genesis 6:19-20; 7:2-3). By “clean” the Bible means animals that were “acceptable for sacrifice.” That is why seven pairs of the clean animals were taken – so some of them could be sacrificed after the Flood was over without endangering the species. Genesis 6:19-20 (ESV):

19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive.

Genesis 7:2-3 (ESV):

Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals,[a] the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs[b] of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 7:2 Or seven of each kind of clean animal b. Genesis 7:3 Or seven of each kind

Question: How many people were on Noah’s ark? 

Answer: According to Genesis 7:13, Noah, his wife, Noah’s three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), and their wives were on the ark. Therefore, there were eight people on the ark.

13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark,

Question: Who was Noah’s wife?

Answer: The Bible nowhere specifically gives us the name or identity of Noah’s wife. There is a tradition that she was Naamah (Genesis 4:22). While possible, this is not explicitly taught in the Bible, Genesis 4:11 (ESV):

22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

http://biblia.com

BLCF: HIS Covenant

 

It must have been quite a curiosity to others seeing Noah, spending decades building the ark. The dedication of Noah to the task is undeniable. Others continued to offend God and ultimately their fate was sealed by the waters of the Great Flood.

Now let me make a few observations about both God’s judgment and His covenant. Actually, there are two covenants from God; the first was the judgment by God, the penalty of death. We observe that God decides to do a reset and bring the earth back to Day two of creation as told in Genesis 1:6-8, where there are only the waters, with no land. Land came on the third day of creation.

While the judgment may seem harsh, God did not destroy all life by the flood, but He had in the ark, a means to preserve animal life and the human race, both precious to Him. The waters cleansed the world of the evil.

It is interesting that Noah sent a dove to determine whether the world was safe in Genesis 8:6-12 (ESV) we read:

6At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove and she did not return to him anymore.

 

BLCF: dove_wordle

 

The dove is an interesting choice. Though it is mentioned over fifty times the scriptures, we that the dove is significant in appearance and what it represents in two passages:

Immediately after Jesus was baptized in water by John, we read the Holy Spirit  descended upon Christ: Mark’s Gospel 1:10 (ESV): 10And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

So as Jesus was baptized and reborn with the spirit, the earth is cleansed by water and a dove descends with an olive leaf. I would like to point out that the olive branch has been used as a universal symbol of peace and reconciliation. The city states of ancient Greece sought to end wars between its states, replacing competition and conflict with the Olympic Games. Wars and battles were suspended for the duration of the competition. The winner a specific event was rewarded not with the medallions of the modern Olympics, but instead a garland of olive branches woven into a crown, the Olympian being crowned as a king of that event. That crown of olive branches brings to mind the crown of thorns Christ wore, as he suffered and died to atone for our sins. In the times of Christ, the oil from olives was used to fuel the lamps of the empire. And the dove carrying the olive leaf to Noah after the flood could be viewed to symbolize the Spirit bringing life, hope and light to the world.

God made a promise never to destroy human or animal life again.

Genesis 9:8-17 (ESV)

8Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”   

 

BLCF: about_rainbows

                  

The rainbow is significant in several ways. Like a prism, water mist can diffract or break a beam of light into a spectrum or rainbow of component colours. But you need the presence of water vapour and sunlight, under the right conditions, invisible light becomes visible as a rainbow of colours. Not only does the rainbow symbolize God’s covenant not to kill man or beast by flood, the rainbow is an example of the world of the invisible becoming visible. For many people God does not exist, he is invisible. Through faith, as with Noah’s obedience by building the ark and gathering the animals and his family, he was rewarded by being saved from the flood and given the rainbow as a symbol never to bring this judgment upon the people or beasts again.

BLCF: Horseshoe Falls Niagra

 

Several months ago, Sophie and I took a trip to Niagara Falls. Every time we go to the falls, I am always humbled by the beauty and splendor of God’s natural creation. Looking at the millions of liters of water cascading over the waterfall creating the sound of thunder and clouds of mist, you cannot but marvel at the site. I remember  as I was walking ahead towards the more spectacular Horseshoe Falls, I saw many in the crowd turning their backs on this natural wonder, looking across to the relatively less spectacular American Faalls. Some were taking pictures. As I approached these people, I looked in the same direction and saw nothing. I could not figure out why they were taking pictures of the ordinary downstream gorge, when the full power and beauty of the falls were just behind them?

 

BLCF: American Falls Niagra

 

It wasn’t until I continued 20 or 30 meters upstream, along the walkway, towards the falls did I have a glimpse of object of the crowd’s attention. For as I walked towards the falls, did the mist of the falls mingle with the sunlight to reveal a beautiful rainbow. A few meters down, away from the falls, the rainbow disappeared from view.

 

BLCF: American Falls Niagra Rainbow 1

 

It was then that I reflected that this rainbow is truly like God’s presence. For those who believe, who pray, and honour Him, we are rewarded by the rainbow of His presence. But for those unfortunate who reject Him and do not accept Him, there is no rainbow. And like those who cannot see the rainbow, because they lack faith or refuse to accept His gift of love and salvation, the unbelievers believe God does not exist. While they may look at the light, they do not see the hidden beauty of the rainbow that signifies God’s presence. Belief in God is like seeing the beauty hidden within. Faith is rewarded through confessing our sins, reading the scriptures, praying to God, and practicing brotherly love to our neighbors, as well as helping the least of our brothers. Only then are the conditions correct to see God’s rainbow of faith.

 

BLCF: American Falls Niagra Rainbow 2

 

As followers of Christ, we are admonished to use our intelligence and integrity of faith to meet the challenges and persecution that we face in our Christian walk.

Matthew 10:16 (ESV) tells us that persecution will come:

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

 

BLCF: Matthew_10-16

 

The Holy Spirit helps us to preserve what is Godly in ourselves. We must maintain the innocence of the dove and bring the good news to others as the dove had to Noah, in spite of being persecuted for our faith.

My brother-in-law, Chuck is an avid flier, having obtained his pilot’s license before his license for a car. He spent several years building his open cockpit airplane. My sister Penny, told me of the occasion on one of their trips, they passed through a deck of clouds, only to witness what is called a flier’s or pilot’s rainbow, which tradition has it to indicate good fortune, as they are leaving turbulent weather. The pilot’s rainbow is distinctive in that instead of being an arch of colour, the rainbow is a perfect circle surrounding the entire aircraft. I like to think that this might be the heavenly view of the rainbow. The rainbow God sees is a perfect circle, like a wedding band, the circle is continuous, unending, and just like God’s love for us is perfect and without end.

 

BLCF: Flier's_rainbow

 

God made another covenant; this one is bilateral, but just as perfect, as beautiful, and as unending as the rainbow. Instead of the rainbow, God gave us Jesus Christ, to fulfill His promise, which states that we shall not perish or be destroyed. As Noah had shown by building the ark, filling it with the animals, and his family, we are expected to confess our sins and follow His directions by accepting that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, this sacrifice is God’s gift to us. If we accept the gift of Christ, the lamb, we are saved and we are given the Holy Spirit as a comforter, plus the promise that as Christ overcame death and was resurrected, we too have the promise of overcoming death and eternal life. Jesus Christ is both our ark and rainbow. He provides for us the only way to forgiveness and the promise of life eternal.

 

BLCF: Jesus-Christ-Cross-Rainbow

 

In conclusion, anytime you want to witness to others who have yet to accept the sacrifice of Christ, or at times when you find that your own faith falters, remember the Rainbow, it is always there waiting to be revealed to us, when we provide the right conditions by our reading the scriptures, praying for others and ourselves, by showing the love of Christ in all that we think, all that we say, all that we do to all whom we encounter. And remember, it took Noah nearly a century of practicing faith before he saw the fulfillment of God’s promises. But Noah’s legacy was not only a covenant to Noah and his descendants and to us as well. The rainbow is a reminder to Noah, to us, and to God, that our God is just and faithful, and that our faith will be rewarded so long as we allow him to pilot us through life’s troubled waters.

Let us pray…

 

BLCF: covenant-of-grace

 

 

Closing Hymn #446: Jesus Saviour Pilot Me

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

 

BLCF: dove_ark_hope_olive_branch

Sanctified by His Word and Prayer

BLCF: Jesus_Resurrected

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Sanctified by His Word and Prayer

© August 3, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared with BLCF on Sunday, January 2, 2011

BLCF: Bulletin August 3,, 2014

BCF: justified_sanctified 

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #634 (Chrr of Prayeristian Unity – John 10 & 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4); Prayer

Opening Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See; Choruses

Scripture Verses: Matthew 6:9-13 and John 17:1-26

 

BLCF: prayer_with_Jesusl

 

Let us pray…

Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.[a]

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,[b]     

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]

12 and forgive us our debts,    

 as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,     

but deliver us from evil.[d]                                                                                                                        

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow d. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

 

BLCF: Lords_prayer

 

The Scriptures in today’s BLCF Bulletin, begin with Matthew 6:9–13, (described also in Luke 11:2–4), gives Christ gives his answer to the Disciples’ request as to how they should pray. The next Scripture passage, the subject of today’s message is taken from John 17, contains the prayer Jesus gave to God at the conclusion of his earthly ministry, just before his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven.

To understand the significance of the Prayer to the Gospel of Jesus, we must briefly look at how John’s Gospel differs from the writings of the other disciples. John’s writings happen to be a subject of study for several months at our Wednesday’s Morning Bible Study at BLCF. John’s Gospel is particularly interesting, as it differs from what is commonly referred to as the Synoptic Gospels in several distinct ways.

First, we must note that the John’s Scriptures were authored some 30 years after the Day of Pentecost, where the Synoptic Gospels, (Matthew, Mark and Luke), were authored primarily before the Holy Spirit was given to the Disciples in the Upper Room on the evening of Christ’s Resurrection. To better understand the differences, let us look at the following from biblia.com:

Each Gospel account has its own theme, and each account was written to a specific group as noted below: 

 

  • Matthew was written to the Jews, and it shows Jesus’ Messianic work as a king over His everlasting spiritual kingdom, which is His church.
  • Mark was written to the Romans, and it shows that Jesus is the one with power and strength through His miraculous works.
  • Luke was written mainly to the Greeks, and it shows the human side of Jesus and portrays Him as being a perfect man.
  • John was written to all Christians, and its primary focus is Jesus being Deity, and that He is the Son of God. (John 20:30-31) Consider the following chart: 

 

The Gospels Matthew Mark Luke John
Unique 42%

7%

59% 92%
In common 58% 93% 41% 8%

 

http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Jn20.30-31

We see a contrast between the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6 and the personal prayer Jesus gave at the conclusion of his earthly ministry.

Though it is true that other passages of scripture record how Jesus taught believers how to pray, it is interesting that John 17 is that is the only passage in the gospels where we are privy to Jesus’ feelings with respect to His glorification by His sacrifice; the fate of His disciples after His ascension and for the unity of all believers.

BLCF: John17

 

The Prayer in John 17 can be broken into three distinct concerns voiced by our Lord:

The first concern is found in verses 1-6 of John 17, Jesus acknowledges his relationship with God, the Father, as well as the unity that we know as the Holy Trinity, which includes God – the Father, Jesus – the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each is part of the Trinity, being distinct from the other, though each is an expression of the same God, a subject that we studied in another sermon at BLCF.

BLCF: Jesus_Prays

 

John 17:1-6 (ESV) The High Priestly Prayer 

Jesus Prays for Himself

17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

The second concern is found in verses 6-19, where Jesus prays to God for his Disciples, whom he acknowledges will no longer have his earthly guardianship; also asking for His sanctification, His joy, His protection from Satan, (except Judas Iscariot, described as the son of destruction), and praying for unity among the Disciples not unlike the found between Jesus and God,  while Christ was in the world.

 

BLCF: praying-at-gethsemane

John 17:6-19 (ESV) The High Priestly Prayer 

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth.

Footnotes:  a, John 17:15 Or from evil b. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God) c. John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God) e.John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God)

And the third concern in his prayer, Jesus prays for all other believers, asking for the same unity with God and the Son, as the Lord asked for his disciples and for His Love, as well.

BLCF: JOHN_17

John 17:1-6 (ESV) The High Priestly Prayer

Jesus Prays For All Believers

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

And how wonderful must the love and unity with God must be, that on the eve of his death, that he gives a prayer for his disciples and the other believers, which includes you and me!

In this prayer, Jesus asks the Father for sanctification, which comes from the Word of God, which is the truth from God, John 17:17.

Sanctified by the Word of God

17 Sanctify them[a] in the truth; your word is truth.

Footnotes:a. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God

BLCF: Gods_Word

And what precisely is the definition of sanctification?

Merriam-Webster further defines this process of sanctification as:

sanc·ti·fi·ca·tion  noun \ˌsaŋ(k)-tə-fə-ˈkā-shən\

1 :  an act of sanctifying

2 a :  the state of being sanctified

    b :  the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sanctification

 

BLCF: His_truth

 

Sanctification is growing in grace after being baptised by the Spirit, following a Christian’s conversion. It is important to note that this sanctification or growth in grace, requires commitment on the part of the believer.

Kate Plourde writing in the BLOG “Maranatha! The Lord is Coming!” has the following take on sanctification:

I am totally convinced that the born again Christian who keeps claiming “grace” for his continued sin struggles with this verse. How can one who continues to act like the world say he is sanctified?  Is that Christian cleansed from corruption?  Is he purified from his sins?  Is he making himself holy by detaching himself from?  I’m not talking about Christ’s blood covering our sins and salvation.  I am talking about the on-going process of our spiritual walk after salvation.  God is the Potter, we are the clay.  He molds us into Christ’s image through sanctification – through our continued growing process as we read His Word.

Sanctification is a process. When we read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit wants to prick our hearts with conviction. When we respond to that conviction, we begin the process of sanctification.

It is no wonder that today’s “church” is struggling! They are no longer in the act of making their lives holy.  Instead, they are busy with distractions and not digging into God’s Word.  This produces a church that does not separate themselves from the world – they act like the world – they talk like the world – they dress like the world!  All because they look at God’s grace as though He looks the other way when they act like the unsaved!  Christ took His salvation to the people, yes.  He ate with them, He told them truth and He led them to truth.  He always had a purpose and that was to lead them to truth.  He didn’t compromise that truth by “acting” like them.  The world sees Christians like this and they do not desire what they have for there is no difference between the two in their eyes. The Christian’s salt has lost its flavor!

Sanctifying ourselves means that we must daily strive towards being more Christ like. Would Christ use the Lord’s name in vain? Would Christ have a cursing mouth? Would Christ gossip? Would Christ get drunk? Would Christ have a temper tantrum?  Would Christ steal?  Our lives as Christians should be an on-going process of spiritual growth.  Granted, we’re not going to be sinless – but we should sin less!!  The more we hang out with the world and act like them, our standards will lower.  How can one grow unless one sets himself apart from sin? How can one grow if one doesn’t make himself holy?  Just because we are saved does not grant us the privilege of sinning!  If this is what you are thinking, then something is not right with your spiritual walk.

Some Churches today are big on God’s “grace” but they miss out on the other half of it. These Christians want His understanding and forgiveness but they do not want to purify themselves and alienate themselves from sin and the world. Sin brings pleasure and they are not so willing to part with it.  This is the basis of our struggling church today. Man’s heart is desperately wicked and deceitful as we see in Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV):

The heart is deceitful above all things,    

 and desperately sick;     

who can understand it?

Why would we trust our own heart to make decisions when we are not sanctifying ourselves?

BLCF: God_wants_a_change_of_heart

 

Wil Pounds, writing in Message Page makes the following comments on the importance of sanctification to Christians, as vessels of God’s Holy Spirit: 

How do you possess your vessel? Do you protect yourself from the temptations of this world? What are your weak areas? Do you have a pet weakness? Honor God with your actions. Honor God with your mouth. Honor God by sanctifying your life – set it apart from what the world does. Grace has nothing to do with us continuing to sin and act like the world. Grace has everything to do with salvation! Once we have received salvation, we must train ourselves to turn to God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to convict us and sanctify us! Wake up Church!

True daily sanctification in this life comes through the ministry of the Word of God. Jesus told His disciples, “Now are you clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). God set us apart to Himself when He saved us. As we grow in Christ we experience more and more sanctification. We are progressively set apart to God as we grow in our faith, and love for God more than the desire of the world. This being set apart daily comes as the Holy Spirit applies God’s word to our everyday experiences. The Holy Spirit enables us to obey God’s Word. He is the author of the Word and He uses it to enlighten our minds, enable our will and encourage our hearts.

We were made clean through the Word at the new birth. As we obey the Word of God daily the defilement is washed out of our lives. When we sin we do not need to be saved all over again. We will never be regenerated a second or third time. After you bathe, you do not need to bathe again when you get your hands dirty. You wash them off and you are clean once more. God has given us a bar of soap. It is found in 1 John 1:9. Use it daily. Read 1 John 1:9 (ESV):

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It is our responsibility to apply the word of God daily in the power of the Holy Spirit. It does not come automatically.  

http://www.abideinchrist.com/selah/feb3.html

 

BLCF: Ephesians-5-26-27-that-he-might-sanctify-her-cleansing-her-by-the-washing-of-the-water-in-the-word

 

Jesus Prayer in John 17 follows the example that Christ gave to his disciples. The prayer begins by Jesus acknowledging the sanctity and authority of the Heavenly Father on earth and heaven. Jesus prays that both his disciples and all believers continually (daily) receive Devine truth or bread and for the Father’s deliverance and guidance from evil and temptation.

It is interesting to note, that though Jesus was facing his own crucifixion and death on the cross  for our sins, his prayer focuses upon the spiritual welfare of both his disciple and all believers, which is you and me. Jesus prayed for us. We should remember that all of the disciples, except John would suffer horrific deaths for their faith. John was exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he authored his Scriptures.

In conclusion, as believers at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, we are sanctified by our faith in the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on our behalf. And as we have read in His prayer in John 17, that it is the desire of our Savior that we continue to maintain our walk as believers, Sanctified by God word and through the Holy Spirit which convicts us of the truth found in that word. We are expected to grow in the truth or understanding of the Word and be sanctified.  This is how we may best glorify our Lord for His gift by demonstrating a unity of purpose, a unity of faith, sanctified as a single body of believers in the precepts taught us by Jesus in His prayer in John 17.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Bible_truth

 

Communion Observance:  Responsive Reading #663  (1 Corinthians 11) \

Closing Hymn #581: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit  

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

BLCF; altar-to-alter

   “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. “    – Acts 20:32