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White Christmas

December 10, 2017 | Matthew 2:1-12 | christmas

What is it about this song “White Christmas” that stirs us so? Isn’t it the desire to have the perfect Christmas? To experience the wonder and expectation that we once felt as a child? Don’t you desire to have the perfect Christmas? Don’t you feel the pressure to make it happen? To spend more money than you have in order to give your kids everything on their list? You decorate your house. You cook and clean. Because you want a “White,” a “Perfect,” Christmas. This longing for wonder and beauty, this longing for the eternal is in every human heart. It’s what moves us to dream of something perfect and lasting. It’s what moves us to worship.

In the book of Matthew the story of the birth of Jesus was told within the political backdrop of the times. Jesus was the one prophesied to be King, but He came in the most unexpected way. And from the beginning there was a battle between His Kingdom and the false king that usurped His Throne. The challenge for us is to remove our worship from the false king and to put our worship on the true King, Jesus Christ. After all, it’s His birthday we’re celebrating. Not ours.

Three Commitments to A Better Life

August 20, 2017 | Matthew 4:18-22 | three commitments

In the book of Matthew, Jesus challenged the disciples with a simple commitment: “Follow me.” Jesus called them to a relationship with Him. He called them to be Jesus-followers. Of course, this meant leaving everything else behind. It was such a simple commitment, yet it led to a radically better life. We can answer this same simple commitment to follow Jesus and experience the better life He promised.

Lose to Find

May 14, 2017 | Matthew 16:13-26 | identity

How do you answer the question, “Who am I?” For many of you, you’ve tied your identity to your name, “I’m John or I’m Susie.” Others might say, “I’m a father or mother, or I’m a husband or a wife, I’m a son or daughter, I’m a teacher, I’m a nurse, I’m a coach, I’m a dog-lover or cat-lover. How do you answer the question? In Tim Keller’s book, Making Sense of God, he describes two ways that people have found their identity. One, he calls the “traditional path,” where the individual finds identity from the community in which they are born and grow up. The second path, Keller calls the “modern” or “secular” approach. This is the new emphasis on looking “inward” to find the true self, where one’s desires and dreams are to dictate one’s identity.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus told His followers that they must lose their former sense of self in order to find their true identity in Christ. The only way that we can discover our true, God-given identity is by losing our former one and finding our true identity in Christ. How can we find our true identity in Christ? The text gives three steps to finding your true identity in Christ.

Be a Disciple Maker

February 12, 2017 | Matthew 28:18-20 | disciple making, discipleship

Disciple making begins with being a witness for Christ, sharing the gospel and inviting others to attend church with you. But why don’t more Christians witness? Recent statistics state that “86% of people who visit were invited by a friend or relative.” Yet, “only 2% of church people have invited an unchurched person to church with them.” What kind of a disciple are you? Do you want to be a disciple who makes disciples?

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus commissioned his disciples to be disciple-makers. We call this the Great Commission. Christ made being a disciple and making-disciples inseparable. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you will be a disciple-maker. In Christ’s Great Commission, he taught them how to make disciples. We can obey Christ’s call to be disciples who make disciples. 

[Note: Pastor Gary was visiting the Rocky Mount campus, Eastgate Community Church, this Sunday. This campus did not have the ability to record video of his message, so only audio is available for this sermon]

“Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:17 NKJV).

February 12, 2017

The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, had a custom of releasing a prisoner during the feast of Passover. He gave the unruly crowd a choice between Barabbas and Jesus, thinking they would choose Jesus and let him off the hook. But at the urging of the chief priests and elders, they chose Barabbas instead. Ironically, “Barabbas” is from the Aramaic, which means, “son of a father” (“bar” = “son of” + “abba” = “father”). So, the guilty “son of a father,” representing fallen humanity was released. And the innocent and holy, Son of the Father, was condemned in his place.

“Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56 NKJV).

February 10, 2017

Before we judge the disciples too harshly, we must answer the question, “When have you forsaken Christ?” For even those of us with the most sturdy faith have certainly faltered at times. Simon Peter, still stinging from Christ’s prediction that he would deny him three times at sunset, pulled out his sword and cut off an ear of the high priest’s servant who had laid hands on Jesus. What did Peter get from Jesus for this protective action? Praise? No. He received a rebuke. Jesus didn’t need Peter’s protection. He could’ve called more than 12 legions (72,000+) of angels to His side, but instead He went willingly and obediently to the cross. Peter dropped his sword and fled along with the other disciples. Peter must’ve been overwrought with fear and confusion. Jesus wouldn’t listen when he tried to talk him out of going to the cross, calling him “Satan” in rebuke. And now, Jesus wouldn’t let him protect him, rebuking him for using his sword. Peter was at the end of his own wisdom and strength. “What does Jesus want from me?” He must’ve wondered. So he “forsook” and “fled,” instead of forsaking himself and following. Jesus does not need our protection, he wants us to deny ourselves, take up our own cross, and follow him (Luke 9:23). Even the best of us have forsaken and fled at times, but Jesus prays for us as he did for Peter, that our faith should not fail; and that we return to him” (Luke 22:31).

‘Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples.’ (Matthew 26:35 NKJV).

February 9, 2017

We remember that Peter made this promise, but we forget that all the other disciples said the same, “I will not deny you.” Jesus had taught his disciples that the cost of discipleship involved denying oneself, taking up one’s own cross daily and following him (Luke 9:23). Yet, he predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. I think Peter meant it. And so did the other disciples. They all wanted to be able to deny themselves and follow Christ, even unto death. Their spirit was willing, but their flesh was weak (Mark 14:38). It wasn’t until after the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, that Peter was able to truly deny himself and follow Jesus even unto death. We must be filled with the Spirit and walk in the Spirit in order to deny ourselves and truly follow Jesus.

“After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them” (Matthew 25:19 NKJV).

February 7, 2017

Jesus gave his disciples this parable to illustrate the principle of stewardship in the kingdom of heaven. Several details of the parable offer instruction concerning stewardship, but the main point is that the Lord will return and ask his servants to give an account of how they have spent that which he entrusted to them.

So, regardless of the amount of talent we have be given, we must recognize …
1) God’s ownership. Everything we are and have comes from Him.
2) Our stewardship. We are managers of the Master’s stuff.
3) He gives differing amounts and expects appropriate return (i.e. “To whom much is given, much is required.” – Luke 12:48).
4) Everyone will one day give an account.
5) The Lord will reward or punish according to our faithfulness.

The greatest gift given is Christ Himself. What we do with Him and with His gospel are of utmost importance. One day, all will be asked, “What did you do with Jesus?”

Be a Disciple

February 5, 2017 | Matthew 16:24 | discipleship

Full Transcript Available

In the book of Matthew, Jesus described what it meant to answer the call to come after Him and be one of His disciples. We can answer the call to be a disciple of Jesus.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 NKJV).

February 4, 2017

Jesus grieved over Jerusalem and His people’s rejection of Him. How He wanted to “gather” them unto Himself to care for them as a “hen gathers her chicks.” But they were not “willing.” This is perhaps one of the clearest pictures of God’s heart of love and care revealed for humanity, and man’s unwillingness to respond to His call. Perhaps this verse was in Will Thompson’s mind when he penned the lyrics “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me… Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!” Are you willing to answer Christ’s tender call?