Monthly Archives: April 2019

Mysterious Encounter!

Peninsula Community Church 

April 24, 2019 

Luke 24:13-21 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.

I love to watch movies. One of my favorite genres is the mystery/thriller genre. These movies weave a tale of adventure but there are always twists and turns throughout the movie. As these movies continue to draw on the emotions of the viewer, it is sometimes hard to understand how it will end. At other times it is hard to keep up with all of the plot changes. I am a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan. These movies leave you in suspense and wondering what the outcome will be. I remember the movie called “Signs.” Throughout the movie there was this mysterious something out there but before the movie is over we find that it is a creature from outer space. The twist is that we find that the aliens are allergic to water. It was quite a twist. 

If you were a follower of Jesus in His day I believe that you would have seen the times as being mysterious and that there many plot twists. The followers of Christ were in chaos. Just as they thought they had a handle on the ending of the story, it changed. Before, during, and after the cruxifixction and resurrection of Jesus there seemed to be times of great mystery and surprise for the disciples. The plot twists of the life of Jesus kept everyone in suspense and questioning what was next. But this was not a movie. It was real life. The sad part was that the disciples had already been given the outcome to the story and yet the disciples missed it. But, as always, this was an opportunity for God to teach us lessons that will impact us for an eternity. 

It is noteworthy that Jesus had several encounters with the disciples as well as many others around Jerusalem before His ascension to Heaven. Today, we will look at just one of these encounters. In the passage we find that two men headed to Emmaus, a town about seven miles outside of Jerusalem. We do not know for sure but it has been suggested that they were leaving town. They had their fill of the drama and the excitement that had occurred in the city of Jerusalem over the last several days. They were getting out of town. They were leaving. 

While our initial reaction to this is to judge them and criticize their response to the activities of the past week, we must be reminded that we have also experienced things in our life that have impacted us to the point where we have wanted to leave. We have wanted to skip town. We have wanted to hide our heads and hope that when we lifted them up that whatever the problem is, it would be gone. When we are confronted with things in our life that are beyond our control, we want to run. We want to get out of town. We want to quit our job. We want to get a divorce. We want change and we want it fast, because the burden of our heart is too hard to handle. 

Too often, when we cannot align our beliefs with what is actually happening, we want to run and hide. The reality that exists is that there are times where what we believe and the reality of our life do not match or align itself with what we know to be the truth. Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance. This is where our belief system is challenged. It is here that our faith is tested big time. This occurs when we believe that God will provide our every need, but we find that we are deep in financial debt. We believe that God is a healer and takes care of those who belong to Him, and yet we have been diagnosed with a life threatening disease. We believe that the relationship we are in will last forever. We hold to the promises we made with that person only to find that they did not hold up their part of the commitment. We believe that God will take care of us and then someone in our life is taken from us prematurely and we become angry with God. We do not understand why He would allow such a tragedy to happen, and happen to us no less. In times like this, our faith is tested. What we hold to as truth can be challenged. The result is that we begin to ask questions and sort through the results of life. 

I had a friend who was into the “name it and claim it” theology. His theological premise was that you could ask God for anything and God would have to listen to you, if you prayed the right prayer, at the right time, was righteousness enough, and had no sin. He had a very close friend who became very ill and eventually died. That event led him to a conflict in his belief structure and to a crisis of faith. He struggled to understand his friend’s death. He struggled to consolidate his beliefs with the facts. After sometime in prayer, he came to a powerful conclusion.

Robert Morris who is a pastor in Dallas Texas had his faith tested when his daughter was struggling with some major health issues. They were struggling with her illness and did not see an end in sight. Though the situation continued to get worse, He came to a powerful conclusion, the same conclusion my friend reached. Pastor Morris summarized his conclusion this way. “I believe God will, I believe God can, but even if He doesn’t I still believe God.” We pray with all of the faith we can muster. We trust God for healing and if He does not we will still trust Him. We will not give up hope and we will not lose our faith. Pastor Morris continued by saying that we should “pursue Him more than you pursue the healing and know that no matter what happens Christ will be magnified in your body whether by life or death.”

These men had lost sight of the promise that Jesus would be with them. These men who were walking on the road had seen their faith tested big time. So, let me ask you where is your faith being tested? Is there something in your life that seems to be overwhelming you right now? Is it financial? Is it relational? Is it spiritual? Is it emotional or mental? I can tell you that no matter what it is, He is with you and that if we will pursue Him more than an answer to prayer, we will see the miraculous take place.

As these men are taking their journey, notice what Jesus does. He mysteriously shows up and visits with them. The amazing thing is that they do not even know that it was Him. As Jesus encounters them, we find that He asks them what they are talking about. They are astounded at the fact that He would not know what is going on in the city. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” They are in disbelief that He would not know what is going on. And yet, they are totally oblivious to who is standing in front of them. 

I am so glad when Jesus mysteriously shows up in every day life. Jesus met them where they were. He also meets us where we are. I love the sudden moments of the Scripture. Things are happening and we need an answer from God. In that moment, He shows up suddenly and mysteriously. We do not need to hide our hurts from Him. We do not need to ignore what we are feeling. We do not have to hide the fact that we are being tested and that our faith is weakened by the events or issues we are confronting. I love the fact that He shows up in the mundane and in the miraculous. He shows up when we least expect it to do what we can only imagine and more. 

They respond from the depths of their heart and in honesty. Listen to their own words. And they said to him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.

Do you hear their heart? We had hoped! We wanted Him to deliver Israel. We wanted Him to save us. But, He did not do what we thought He would do. In essence, they were feeling like He had let them down. They acknowledged that the women had reported the resurrection but it seems that they still did not believe it, or at least they could not understand it. It is amazing that even when we have evidence that God is working, we can miss it. Then Jesus begins to share the scripture and the prophecies regarding His life. 

As they enter the village of Emmaus, Jesus acts as if He is headed on down the road but they convince Him to stay. So He did. At the meal that night He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and shared it with them. In that moment, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. And then He vanished. He was gone. Their hearts burned within them. They had an encounter with Jesus that would change them forever. They knew something was different in this encounter. They were so caught up in their moment, their pain, and their sadness that they almost missed Him. He was right there and they did not recognize Him. He was with them and they missed it. Let me tell you He is with you today. Do not miss Him. Do not skirt through life without acknowledging the presence of God in you today. 

They felt their hearts burn in them. Jesus will encounter you throughout your life and your heart will testify to the fact that He is present. Do not miss those moments. It might be because someone is sharing the gospel. It might be that we have encountered a God moment. It could be just a moment when you are weak, despondent, and sad. In that moment there is a sense in your heart and you know He is there. You know that He is present. When that happens acknowledge it. Give Him praise for that experience. Recognize also that even when we do not feel Him He is there. He has never left you nor has He forsaken you. This reminds me of the following poem:

Footprints in the Sand Poem

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Power of Emptiness 

Peninsula Community Church 

April 21, 2019 

Matthew 28:1-8 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

When I was a child I loved when my mom would buy sugary cereals. I especially loved those cereals that would have a surprise in side. Perhaps I am showing my age, but we would often buy cereal not so much for the cereal itself but for the prize. I could not wait to get home to open the box so I could dig to the bottom of the box to find the prize. There were, however, occasions where after digging deep into the box, I would come up empty. Here I am a six or seven year old kid coming up empty from my search. I would be so disappointed and upset because of that. I had the anticipation of getting something but I came up empty.

A difficulty in this fast paced world we live is that too often we jump at the chance to fill ourselves with more without pausing to consider too deeply what more is. We busy our ourselves with activity and events. We fill ourselves with things, but we do not have time to give thanks for what we have already been given. We live in a world filled with empty calories, empty entertainment, empty hearts, empty seats at dinner time, and even empty worship.

Emptiness is a reality that most of us will experience at some time. It may have been an empty cereal box, or it could be an empty gas tank, an empty wallet, or it could be an empty heart. Whether it is a broken heart, a broken dream, or something that has not gone right, we have all experienced let downs and emptiness. Many of us have found our hearts emptied of laughter and joy. In fact, we can begin to wonder if emptiness is all there is. 

Too often, the response we have to emptiness is to try and cover up our emptiness by looking for substitutes or distractions to fill the emptiness. I would suggest however that when you reach a place of emptiness, where the disappointments run deep, you are in the perfect position for a miracle. You are in just the right place for God to do something special in life. Why? It is because God can make His good come from bad situations (Romans 8:28). God has the unique ability to take our messes, disappointments, and mistakes and mold them into something useful and good. That is who He is and that is what He does. We see that in the life of Joesph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. We see it the life of Job who lost everything, but God restored what he lost and more. 

Returning to our story, can you imagine the disappointment the women who were headed to see Jesus experienced when they found an empty tomb? They had gone there to embalm and cover Jesus’ body with perfume and oil so they could preserve His body and keep it from smelling as it decayed. They were headed to the tomb with great expectation and excitement only to find the tomb was empty. He was not there! He was gone! 


A joyous moment has now turned to emptiness in their heart. What was once a sense of mission and purpose was quickly changed to confusion and emptiness! How many times have you moved toward something with great anticipation only to come up empty and your needs unmet? In that moment, we often feel confused and disoriented but, God is good at turning our messes and our emptiness into something more than we can every imagine.

Tony Evans tells the story of Charlie Goodyear who started the Goodyear tire company. While working in his lab, Mr. Goodyear inadvertently spilled some rubber into a fire. When the rubber hit the fire it made a big colossal mess, but he noticed that because of the fire it became incredibly strong and durable. This mistake was transformed into the Goodyear tire. When rubber combined with the heat it got messy, but it also produced a strong, tough product we now depend on to carry us around. We might be in a mess and the fire might be turned up but that heat and the mess of our life can be used to make us stronger and tougher. 

Listen to the last words of this passage. After going to the tomb and finding it empty they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Do you hear the conflict that arose in them? They were filled simultaneously with fear and with great joy. That is exactly what the power of emptiness can do to us. We want to be filled with joy but the emptiness of our heart causes us to fear. Our emptiness causes us confusion and pain.

With that in mind let me share a couple of things with you this morning about the emptiness at the end of Jesus’ life. There are two specific instances of emptiness that changed the world. First, we find that the cross is empty. It once held the body of Jesus suspended between two thieves and suspended between mankind and God, but now on Easter Sunday the cross is empty. His body is no longer there. But, in the emptiness of the cross comes powerful hope and joy. In the emptiness of the cross, we find forgiveness and wholeness. In the emptiness of the cross, we find greater fulfillment than at any other place in our life. 

We can look at the cross as being empty or we can see beyond the cross to the power of His death upon that cross. The empty cross becomes a source of His power to assist us in securing healing, forgiveness, and His righteousness. The empty cross made a way for every sin ever committed to be forgiven once and for all. What could only be done through the mediacy of a high priest is now accomplished through direct access to God, the Father. The empty cross might be empty, but the emptiness of the cross is filled with the power of God. 

Secondly, we have an empty tomb. The empty tomb is filled with hope, love, a promise given, and a promise fulfilled. The empty tomb confirms to us that there is hope beyond the messes of our life. The empty tomb tells us that the Savior lives. The empty tomb tells us that we are not abandoned and that we are not alone. The empty tomb may not hold the body of Christ but it holds such great promise for us. In the empty tomb, we have the promise of a future. We are promised a hope for tomorrow. The song “Because He Lives” says it best. “Because He lives we can face tomorrow.” Because He lives we can face the messes of our life. Because He lives, the emptiness of our hearts is filled with hope and promise. 

The emptiness you feel is not the end, it is only the beginning. In fact, it represents a new beginning for you. The emptiness of the cross and the tomb in fact gives us hope that we will be filled and restored. The scars you bear and the holes in your heart cannot to be compared to what Jesus went through, and yet we cannot minimize the pain you feel, the scars you bear, or your heart that has been torn in desperation and failure. Although we feel the pain of emptiness, these things did not kill you. If the God who created us has the power to resurrect the Savior, He also has the power to resurrect you. He has the ability to lift you higher than you ever imagined. 

We have a decision to make in regard to our wounds. You can choose to hide your wounds from the world. We can pretend the pain, the loss, or death never happened. You can choose to reopen the wounds with cheap relationships and bitterness by looking back at what could have been instead what is ahead of us into the future. You can also choose a different path. It is a path of hope and of promise. It is a promise of resurrection life. That which was dead is alive again.

We find that the Jesus of the cross and the tomb does not immediately head to Heaven but He visits with the disciples and those around the city of Jerusalem. The Jesus of the empty cross. The Jesus of the empty tomb returns to fill the disciples with hope and joy. He returns to Peter to give Him a message of love, and commission Him to be the leader of this disoriented and misdirected band of disciples. I love this encounter because it shows us that emptiness may come but that emptiness is followed by rejoicing. First comes absence, then comes glory. The Easter story begins with emptiness, but ends with rejoicing and promise. 

Imagine the emptiness of the disciples who had failed their master big time. Imagine the feeling of regret and shame and pain from the days before and during the crucifixion. The savior, however, had a different plan. He met them in their pain. He met them right where they were, so that He could bring them to a sense of being filled. In the end, we must pass through the empty cross and through the empty tomb to see the resurrected Lord high and lifted up. That is what we celebrate here today. We accept the cross and all that it has to offer. We accept the empty tomb with its power to overcome the power of sin and death itself. 

I love this passage in Romans 8:11 and I close with this, If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Did you get that? The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you as a believer in Christ. No matter who you are, He is able to give life to your emptiness. He is able to fill you up. If you are not a believer, He invites you accept His empty tomb and His empty cross by inviting Him into your heart. Your emptiness will be filled and He will give you a new life filled His promise and His hope. 

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Who is the Greatest?

Peninsula Community Church 

April 14, 2019 

Luke 22:24-27 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 

Our theme today is who is the greatest? That was the debate of the day for the disciples at the Last Supper and it is a debate that continues today for many. The reason debating and arguing over who is greatest is a problem is because most people who argue over this question are usually self-serving and we have seen what self-serving leaders have done to our nation and the society in which we live. They do what is best for themselves in the moment and not what is best for those they serve. They serve on a whim rather than the truth that sets us free. 

I love it when you get a couple of guys together. If they love sports it will not take them long before they are debating about their team or a particular member of a team. Many times a discussion will ensue on who they think is the greatest or the best. I thought of some amazing athletes and people who have been considered great. I thought of Johnny Unitas, Muhammad Ali, Jim Thorpe, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Mary Lou Retton, Dale Earnhardt, and many others who have been considered great in their field. I thought of Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, John Wesley, and other great men of God. I thought of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman, Doris Day and other giants in the movies. The fact is, we could spend the rest of the day just listing those considered to be great men and women. To note, greatness is not the issue as much it is the issue of arguing over one’s greatness. 

It probably does not surprise us that the disciples were arguing about who among them was the greatest. In this passage, we find a contrast between the disciples and Jesus’ response to this question. One group argued over greatness while the other demonstrated true servanthood. The text tells us that the disciples were having a discussion or as the Bible says a “dispute.” The word here for “dispute” means “contention” and comes from the root word that means “fond of strife.” This was nothing new for the disciples. They seemed to be bickering all of the time about something. They were fighting and arguing like little kids. 

The point however is that in this case they are arguing over who is the greatest. This was happening while Christ is bringing His last days into focus. He was wanting them know what was to come. He was initiating an illustrative process that would keep the vision and heart of Christ alive through the Lord’s Table and communion. Instead of celebrating and acknowledging this, the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest. The testosterone was flowing in the room. Jesus is at the end of His life and they are arguing over greatness. Because they were arguing they were missing one of the greatest moments in history.

You would think, of all the people in the world, the disciples would have gotten it. You would think they would have understood His mission and His purpose. They should have gotten it, but they missed it. He was sharing His heart and yet they missed it. They were focused on the wrong thing. They were self-seeking and self-motivated rather than being servants who would listen to God’s heart. 

You see greatness in itself is not a bad thing. We are to excel in everything we do. We are not to settle for mediocrity. I love the commercial for AT&T that is out now. One of their commercials shows a wife who asks the nurse if Dr. Francis is a good doctor. The nurse replies, “He is okey.” Just as the nurse gives her response the doctor comes in and proclaims “guess who just got reinstated, well not officially.” The tag line is “just okey is not okey.”

The fact is we need to do our best to glorify and honor God, but we do not need to self-promote ourselves. I love the Scripture’s response to this idea. Listen to a couple of passages. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips (Proverbs 27:2). The problem of self-promotion is that we often exaggerate who we are to make ourselves look better. Here is another passage that drives this home. Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Did you catch that? Rather than boast in ourselves and what we can accomplish through our wisdom, our might, or our riches, let us boast in the fact that we know God and He knows us. Let us boast that we know the living God who is greater than anything we can do. We are to boast in the fact that it is the Lord that practices steadfast love. Let us boast that He is just, and righteousness in the earth. We are not to boast in ourselves but in God. 

As we return to our story, we find that Jesus makes some powerful statements. The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 

Jesus is saying if you want to be the greatest, if you want to be a leader, then you must serve. He is saying that the model of the worldview around them is to exercise lordship and rulership which in essence is control. They lord over others and think they deserve something from those they rule. But I love this statement from Jesus. He says, “But not so with you.” It might be that way with them, but it is not so with you. They do that, but not you. You have a different mind set. You have a different worldview. You have a different mentality and outlook on life. You look at people not as your servants and what you can get from them, but rather how you can give and serve them. You see true leadership is a process of influence and less about forced authority. We are all influencers and our best influence in serving others to guide them to truth and reality. 

Jesus then explains the course of action that is to be taken. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. In other words, do not argue about your position or authority, but rather become like the youngest among you. He who is a leader let him serve. In other words do not sit around and talk about it, just do it. That is the model of Jesus. He came not to condemn but to choose all mankind in salvation. Does God punish sin? Absolutely, but God’s ultimate desire and design for mankind is that they would come to a saving knowledge of Christ, the greatest servant of all times. 

It is then that Jesus does something pretty amazing. We do not find it this passage. We have to turn to John 13:3-20 to see what Jesus does. He does not just talk it, He illustrates the concept of humility and surrender. Jesus does not just make some off-the-wall statement, but He demonstrates that attitude and mindset in a very real and practical way. 

What does Jesus do? He washes their feet; their dirty, filthy feet. John says that Jesus took off His outer garment, took a towel, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples feet. Do you see it? Jesus the King of Kings, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Savior of the world,, literally the greatest of all men, bows low and takes a towel. He does the most humiliating thing that could be done in that culture. He washed the disciples feet. Why did He do it? He did it to illustrate an incredible lesson about greatness. To be the greatest you become the servant. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 13:16-17. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus is saying you are not like the others because to wash someone’s feet is beneath the prideful and arrogance of the Gentile leaders and leaders within the Jewish world. Washing someone’s feet is a humbling act. We are servants first and foremost. In serving He exalts us. Jesus made this statement in this regard The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:11-12). We are exalted best when we bow low and serve others. 

As I share this I can hear the arguments already. This all sounds good but I do not want to become someone’s door mat. Listen that was never God’s intent. We are not to be someone’s door mat, but we are to humble ourselves and be servants to all men. I challenge you to become a secret servant of God. Make it a habit to serve God by serving others, and when possible, do it in a way that does not draw attention to yourself. Wash someone’s feet. It might be leaving that last parking space to another driver you know is right behind you. It could be learning a new person’s name and making them feel valued. It might be treating someone better than they deserve, instead of repaying rudeness with rudeness. As you serve others without drawing attention to yourself, you serve God. And believe me, God takes note!

In a world where people feel used and manipulated, a servant Christian is often an anomaly. Look at Jesus’ day. The Pharisees put so many laws on the people it caused more bondage than freedom. People want to know we care and in caring we have a door opened to share the gospel. People need servants who will be willing to care for them and offer them a better way. People need servants who will sacrifice and go out of their way to share Christ. We share Christ by presenting the truth and not arguing from a place of superiority and pride. In the end, it is all about the heart. Do we have a heart to serve or is our heart hardened by a desire to be the greatest? 

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The Antidote to Fear – Perfect Love

Peninsula Community Church 

April 7, 2019 

1 John 4:15-18 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Last week we looked at trust being an antidote for fear and this week we will look at the power of love to cast out all fear. One of the great authors of the New Testament is John. He had an understanding of love that surpassed most of the other disciples of his day. Perhaps that is why He was known as the beloved disciple. As you read his words, you see that he comprehended the meaning and power of love. Not a romantic love but a love that is stronger than romance. This was the love of a Father who would send His only son to take on mankind’s sin. John knew God’s love and he had a grasp of what that meant for him and for us.

As you read through Scripture we find that it was John that penned some of the most quotable and well known verses in the Bible. Listen to a couple of these passages. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35). See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11). We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). This is just a splattering of the Scriptures that relate to God’s love but it gives us a sense of John’s heart and the power of God’s love that has been freely given to us. 

We also have the passage before us today. In this passage there are a couple of truths to consider. First of all, just as John knew God’s love we also get to know and believe in His love. Listen to these words. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. Did you get that? We have come to know and to believe. While knowing God requires an intellectual understanding of His love it is so much more than that. We do not just know about God, we experience God! How is this possible? It is possible because He gave Himself for us. It is possible because He has forgiven us our sin. It is possible because He not only forgives us, but He also takes the power of sin away. It is possible because His love extends beyond time into all of eternity. This is possible because He came to live in us. We can know and believe His love because it is a gift freely given. 

In this passage John makes an astounding proclamation. He states that God is love. You see, God does not just love, He is love. He is the embodiment of love and in Him is the power of love. Because of this statement we have come to understand that to define love we look to God. In 1 John 4:8-10 we find that anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. How is His love manifested through us? The amazing thing about love is that it was expressed long before we knew we needed it. He became the propitiation for our sins because of His love. He covers our sin but He does not just cover our sin, He hides them. In essence, our past sin disappears. His love is manifested in that He loved us before the foundation of the world. He loved us before we knew Him. He loved us before we loved Him. His love is worked out in us through Him who is love.

That leads us to a second point. We find there is a direct correlation between abiding in Christ and loving well. His love is best experienced as we abide in Him. This idea of abiding is another theme that runs through John’s writings. In verse 12-13 John states No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. In verse 16 John reaffirms this declaration. He states So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 

Our ability to understand His love is directly connected to our abiding in Him and vice versa. We must abide in Him. We must get to know Him. We must study His word. We must pray. We must engage with others who have a passion for God. Together, we learn the love of God. As we abide in Him His love becomes more real and more powerful than you would ever think. Our sustenance, our hope, and our passion is driven by a deepened relationship with Him. In this abiding, we learn to trust and His love is perfected in us.

It is in this regard that we are reminded of John’s words in John 15:1-10 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 

Do you get that? There is a direct correlation between abiding in Christ and understanding His love. We abide in Him and His love is revealed in us and through us. Without abiding in Him, we lose focus and we begin to trust in those things that fail us. One of those issues is fear. Fear is a fruitless emotion as it relates to our growth in Christ. 

The third lesson here is that perfect love casts out fear. The word used here means to jettison. Remember in the old westerns when there was almost always a saloon scene and someone being thrown out of the salon. They would be thrown through the swinging doors or they would crash through the window. They were thrown out or in this case they were cast out of the saloon. God’s perfect love does just that, it jettisons fear. God’s love and fear do not go together. 

The word perfect means to bring into completeness or wholeness. This means that God’s love is perfect and does not need anything added to it. As noted God is love. His love is not contingent upon any outside source to satisfy the quality or power of His love. The love here is Agape love which is dependent on the benefactor. You see Agape love is conditioned on the one giving the love and not the one receiving love. His love has been and always is a free gift. 

Finally, the purpose of all of this is that perfect love counters our fear of judgment. We all deal with questions that cause fear in our heart. I am sure that you know what I mean. We deal with the question “Am I good enough?” “Do I have what it takes?” “Will God forgive me?” “Will I escape the final judgement?” “Have I been forgiven?” Paul in Romans 8:15 wrote For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Paul also reminds Timothy that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7).

If there is a correlation between God’s perfect love and fear, when fear arises we can turn to Romans 8:31-39 where we have an incredible promise of hope. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If perfect love casts out all fear and there is nothing that can take God’s love away from us, we do not have to walk in fear. If there is nothing that can separate us from His love, what is it that we have to fear? We are more than conquerors in Christ. We can deal with our fear and it is God’s perfect love that drives that fear away. Cast it off, reject it, jettison it and never return to that fear again. 

Let us pray!

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom


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The Antidote for Fear – Trust

Peninsula Community Church 

March 31, 2019 

Philippians 4:4-6 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I wanted to take some time this morning to look at the power of fear. I am sure that we have all experienced overwhelming fear and anxiety at some point in our life. We may have experienced it for different reasons and in different ways, but we have all experienced it at some point. As a child I walked in fear because my step father would come home in a drunken stupor. He was angry at the world and he tended to take that anger out on myself and my mother. I remember that so many times I would cower in my room hoping that he would just leave me alone. Because of my situation at home, I would make up stories about my home life at school and walked in fear that someone would find out the truth. So as a child, I had fear at home and I had a fear that I would be found out and proven not to be the person I said I was. 

In my adult years, there are still times where I am driven by fear and anxiety. Paying bills, medical reports, issues that arise in my daily life, and looking into the future can drive me to fear rather than faith. In fact, as I have grown in the Lord most often my fear is a direct result of not trusting God and of not fully understanding His love for me. Conversely, my fear is diminished when I see God for who He is and I trust Him without wavering. 

In Scripture one of the most popular phrases and word choices is the phrase “Do not fear.” It does not appear 365 times as some have suggested, but it is a critically important phrase that needs our attention. The reasoning this is critical is that Jesus knew that when we walk in fear, we allow circumstances, events, and/or thoughts to control us. That was never the plan of God. He wanted to help us overcome fear and live a fearless life in Him. Jesus did not want us to be controlled or manipulated by fear, because He recognized that fear holds us back. It will get the best of us. Fear paralyzes us. Fear feeds our doubt. Fear kills the plans of God within us. You see what we fear will control us. It will bind us and it will cause us to do things that we never intended to do. To be honest, sometimes these fears are very real and based in the problems around us. Sometimes our fears are perceived and not based in reality. We are overcome with fear without any reason or basis for that fear.

Now while fear is a powerful force to be reckoned with, we need to consider the antidote to fear. As a noun an antidote is something that counteracts or neutralizes an unpleasant feeling or situation.  As a verb an antidote means to counteract or cancel. I propose that there are two antidotes to fear. The first is to trust God. When we trust God fear is counteracted and fear is cancelled. The second antidote is we must walk in His love. We do not deserve His love nor do we work for it. It is a precious gift given to us to cancel and counteract the fear that is in us. For today we will focus primarily on trust.

I love the stories of the disciples in the New Testament. Their stories show us their failures and shortcomings. They also show us how Christ accepted the disciples and loved them in spite of what they had done. When it comes to fear, we have one of those stories in Matthew 8:23-27 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Notice something in this story. Jesus was with them and yet they still faced anxiety and fear. They were with Jesus. He was in the boat with them. He was right there, and yet they succumbed to the fear of the storm. The problem was that they were more focused on the storm than they were on Jesus. They allowed the storm to control their emotions rather than the One who was in their presence.

Here is the reality for us. When we focus on the storm and the issues in our life more than we do Jesus, we will succumb to fear and anxiety. Notice Jesus’ response when they woke Him up. “Why are you afraid?” In other words, do you not trust me? Do you not know that we are headed to the other side and we will make it. When Jesus is with us and we succumb to fear most often we have failed to trust God to work everything out for His will and purpose in our life. A lack of trust brings fear and anxiety to the forefront of our life. Being in His presence was not enough, they had to acknowledge that Jesus was their protector. They had to trust Him. 

I love the words of Jeremiah 17:5-9. Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

How powerful is that? Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength. I would suggest that when we put more faith in anything rather than God fear and anxiety is created. I would also suggest that whatever we fear, we give power to it to control us and manipulate us. Jeremiah goes on to tell us that the man who trusts the Lord will be like a tree planted by the water. Notice the wording here, the one who trusts in the Lord is not immune from problems, but when the heat comes and there is a drought, they will not fear. 

In other words, when one trusts God, they do not have to fear when problems come. God will make a way. He will protect and guard them. Notice too that the one who trusts in the Lord will not be anxious in the year of drought. When we feel we lack the daily things we need: money, health, less conflict, less car problems, and so on, we do not have to be anxious. God has it and God is in control. 

Now back to our story. Jesus was right there with them and yet they were filled with fear and anxiety. They trusted the storm more than they trusted Jesus. They allowed the storm to dictate how they would respond to the problem. Now before we judge too harshly, we tend to do the same thing. When problems come and trials hit us we tend to allow those things to control us. The question for us is do we trust Jesus with everything in our life or do we get anxious when the storms blow in? Do we allow the storms to overtake us to the point that we miss Jesus, when He is right there with us all along? The disciples were right there with Jesus and yet they missed Him. They should have trusted Him, but instead they became fearful. 

But how do we overcome fear? How do we break the power of fear and take the antidote of trust? How do we learn to trust Him more? To overcome fear we must trust His character. We must trust His control. We must trust His care for us. We must realize that God does not fail us. Yes, we will encounter difficulty, but we must remember that God has our best interest in mind. Trusting God is simply believing that He loves you and knowing He is good, He has the power to help you, and He wants to help you.

One way to build trust is to look back to see where God has helped us before. By being reminded of past victories, we are more apt to remember that God is in control and that He is guiding our paths. I love the times in the Old testament where the children of Israel rehearsed and gave testimony to the things that God had done for them. They were reminded of His grace and His mercy. Remembering what He had done increased their faith and encouraged them to continue moving forward. 

To overcome fear we must not trust ourselves. To trust ourselves is a dangerous move because as we found in Jeremiah we will not withstand the drought that will come into our life. In Proverbs 3:5-6 we are reminded what this trust means. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

To overcome fear we must be students of God’s Word. As we read God’s word we are encouraged to trust God. Allow His word to penetrate your heart. Memorize His word so that when you feel fear you can counter that fear through the power of His word. 

To overcome fear we must be people of prayer. As we pray, trust is built as we give God our problems each and every day. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7). Prayer brings us to that place of humility and allows us to cast all of our anxiety. As a camel rolls the burdens off of his back so we too should roll the burdens we have onto Jesus, because He cares for us. 

So we can trust God and that trust will alleviate most of the fear we experience. It does not make it easy but it makes it possible. 

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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