The Resurrection of Jesus - The Great Commission
October 4, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
Matthew 12:39-40 …there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The bodily resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ was the AMEN of His work of atonement. We are told in 1 Corinthians 15 that if there is no resurrection, there is no forgiveness of sin, no hope; our “faith” is vain and meaningless (vv.14,17-19). But Jesus did rise from the dead on the third day just like He said He would. Nobody expected to find an empty tomb, but God rolled away the stone over the grave of Jesus, not to let Him out, but to let the world know that He has risen. Because He has risen, our faith is a living faith in a Living Savior Who has forgiven us of all of our sin and is Himself our Living Hope!! But along with the resurrection of The Lord Jesus is the mandate given to all believers to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Who is to go into all the world and preach the gospel? Mark says that it is he who believes in the Person and work of Jesus Christ who shall be saved (Mark 16:16). Every follower of The Lord Jesus Christ is an ambassador of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A part of the armor of every born again follower of Jesus Christ is feet that are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15)! When Paul writes of the 5-fold ascension ministry gifts in Ephesians 4:11-12 of “apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”, it is “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. The purpose of ministry offices and callings is that the entire body of Christ would be equipped for the work of the ministry. Evangelism and sharing the gospel is the work of every single part of the body of Christ. In this day and age of high technology and mass evangelism crusades, the most effective means of reaching the lost with the gospel is via one on one encounters with people. Here is the gospel: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Jesus began His ministry with the words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Paul wrote in Romans 10:14,15: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Beloved, Jesus is risen and He is coming soon. May God open the door for you to share the gospel today. The harvest is ready!! Selah
September 27, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, who is rich in mercy, ... Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) I have heard it said that the definition of grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Mark 15 would certainly affirm that definition. The only way that fallen man can be saved is by the grace of God. Fallen men cannot save themselves. Therein lies the difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and every other religion or religious system. Every religion and religious system on earth bases salvation upon the works or religious ceremonies of man. I do not doubt that there is some kind of affirmation and perhaps even adoration of the Person of Jesus Christ, but at the end of the day, salvation according to religion or religious systems boils down to this: Christ died on the cross for our sins, but saving faith believes in Christ and my religious ceremony or my good works. Beloved, that is what the Galatians struggled with (Galatians 4:8-10). Christ plus anything nullifies grace, because grace is unconditional and free. Salvation is the free gift of God, period (Ephesians 2:8). Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus is The Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Hallelujah to The Lamb of God! The cry of Jesus from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), was a cry of victory, for those words mean “paid in full”. When Jesus cried, “It is finished”, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:37,38), signifying that the way to enter into the presence of God was now made available to whosoever believes in Him. Reader, are you trusting in a religious system or some religious ceremony or your good works to atone for your sin and save your soul from eternal damnation? Look up to the middle cross of Calvary. What do you see there? Who do you see there? What you see and Who you see is the Lord Jesus Christ, the grace of God Who came to save fallen man from the debt of our sin. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:22) Selah
The Lord Jesus, Our Master, Teacher
August 23, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
Jesus gave this two worded invitation to those who heard Him teach, “Follow Me.” (Matthew 4:19) Do not just be content hearing what I say; follow Me and do what you see me doing. We know that The Lord Jesus is the express image of The Father (Hebrews 1:3). He is The Eternal Word of God made flesh, Who dwelt amongst us (John 1:1,14). Thus, it would be proper to say that The Lord Jesus is not only the perfect theology of God on earth, but that The Lord Jesus is the Perfect Master and Teacher as well. Contrary to the popular “cross-less gospel” that is prevalent in today’s church, The Lord Jesus is not looking for fans; He is looking for followers. While the “Jesus Fan Club” may have multitudes, the followers of Jesus are few. We are living at a time when the heretical gospel of the healthy and wealthy is producing a number of coddled, comfortable, and covetous pseudo-saints. Did you know that there are two places in Scripture where The Lord Jesus is specifically called our example? In 1 Peter 2:21 He is referred to as an example of suffering. In John 13:15, which we will be looking at this morning, The Lord Jesus is referred to as an example of being a servant. Suffering? Servant? The practical example of The Lord Jesus Christ is offensive to today’s soft living, self-centered church. Beloved, there is not comfortable or convenient way to suffer or be a servant. It is no surprise when The Lord Jesus invited people to come unto Him that so few responded. Why? Because human nature, be it 2,000 years ago or today, is addicted to living for the inferior trinity of me, myself, and mine. The slightest message of discomfort in following Jesus or an appeal made to serve by putting others first causes many to flee for cover. We have One Master-Teacher and His Name is Jesus Christ. The pathway to happiness and purpose in life is not found is serving self, but by denying self, be it for the sake of suffering or serving Jesus for the glory of God. Selah
It is Finished….Follow Me
September 13, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
Isaiah 53:7,8 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. It is so easy to read the Bible and totally miss what The Lord is trying to teach us. I believe it is possible to know what we are reading and not experience firsthand the eternal and practical applications for our lives. As we continue to work our way through the steps of Jesus from Gethsemane to Calvary, we see as clear as day that everything that is happening, from the arrest in the Garden, to the betrayal by Judas, to the fleeing of the eleven and the thrice denial of Peter, is all to fulfill Scripture and accomplish atonement for the sin of the world. Nothing is happening by chance. Every detail is according to the will of God in order to fulfill His eternal purpose in Jesus Christ. Throughout this mock trial and brutal treatment of Jesus we see the worst of man, both friend and foe. In the midst of this scene playing out, it is easy to overlook the character of The Lord Christ on display as He is confronted by His enemies and remains silent. We can miss how He rebukes Peter for taking up the sword, only to heal the soldier’s ear, and by doing so, spare Peter from capital punishment by removing the evidence against Him. Can one even begin to grasp the look on both Jesus’ and Peter’s faces when Peter denied Him the third time? Without a doubt, this final episode of Jesus’ life reveals all that He endured in His drinking of the cup of our sin and God’s wrath. Human words are inadequate to describe what He felt as He became The Lamb of God. But there are lessons hidden in this account that are meant to challenge, comfort, and convict all believers of Jesus. Observe how Jesus deals with friend and foe and ask how that fits into His call to “Follow Me”. Remember, beloved, The One Who said “It is finished” (John 19:30) also said, “Follow Me” (Matthew 9:9). It is not either - or; it is both. Selah
August 30, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ...the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. As I was preparing this message about The Lord’s Supper this week, the words of Jesus, “…this do in remembrance of Me” kept going through my mind. I jotted down these thoughts. (You may want to compile your own “remember Me” list.) When your heart is overwhelmed with life, remember Me. When darkness and doubt surround you, remember Me. When the enemy comes in like a flood to destroy you, remember Me. When you are feeling weak and weary, remember Me. When you feel lost and needing direction, remember Me. When you feel lonely because everybody has abandoned you, remember Me. When your friends betray you and forsake you, remember Me. When your mother and father forsake you, remember Me. When you are being misunderstood and judged by others, remember Me. When you are tempted to feel arrogant and proud because of how My Father is using you, remember Me. When you are tempted to take credit for what My Spirit has done through you, remember Me. When you are feeling unworthy or incapable of serving Me, remember Me. When your body is racked with pain and you are doubting My love, remember Me. When you are feeling like all hope seems lost and that it is time to give up, remember Me. When fears are filling your heart and mind more than faith in the promises of God, remember Me. When the fires of temptation are flaring up within you, remember Me. When you are having a hard time forgiving others, remember Me. When serving Me becomes routine and mechanical, remember Me. When you find yourself driven by the pursuit of the pleasures of this fallen world, remember Me. When you doubt My forgiveness of you, remember Me. Whenever you think that your sins are forgiven because of something that you have done, remember Me. When you want to call fire down from heaven on someone because you simply do not like them, remember Me. When you doubt that there is an eternal hell, remember Me. When you doubt that there is a heaven, remember Me. When jealousy and envy are causing you to hate or despise others, remember Me. When the enemy tells you that your prayers are in vain, remember Me. When your circumstances are causing you to question My Father’s goodness, remember Me. When you take your next breath, remember Me. When you eat your next meal, remember Me. When you drink your next cup of water, remember Me. When you are about to say or do something that you know you will regret, remember Me.
Watch Ye and Pray
September 6, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
Mark 14:38 Watch ye and pray... The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. Today our study brings us into that portion of The Lord Jesus life that I would call His holy of holies prayer unto His Father. Words are not capable of describing the depth of this time of prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Scripture tells us that Jesus was known to go there. As Son of Man, Jesus was a man of prayer. He was a man Who lived in communion with His Father. Although God Incarnate, this Word made flesh Who dwelt amongst us (John 1:14) is indeed the great mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16). Once again we find our precious Savior in this hour of prayer being our Master Teacher. Jesus prays with great agony, breaking blood vessels as He submits Himself into His Father’s hands with these words: “…nevertheless, not My will, but Thy will be done.” (Mark 14:36) In other words, if there is any other way to redeem lost, sinful man apart from Me dying on the cross, let that happen. But there is no other way for lost man to be saved and brought into a right relationship with God apart from faith in The Lord Jesus’s perfect sacrifice for sin. But lest we miss more of what The Lord is teaching us, we must also see that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. Like the disciples, we can make great claims of loyalty to Jesus yet fail miserably. We can be given the opportunity to spend time in prayer with Him, only to find ourselves sleeping. Thus Jesus said to His disciples these words that we must hear today: “Watch ye and pray... The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38) The word Gethsemane means “oil press” or “crushed”. At this crushing moment in Jesus’ life, He went to His Father in that hour of prayer and He fully submitted to His will. Beloved, life at times is pressing. We often times find ourselves crushed by betrayals and the ill will of others. It is in our Gethsemanes that we find sweet communion with The Father and the strength that we need to say, ‘not my will, but Thine be done.’ To watch and pray is a necessary lifestyle of communion with God, not a religious duty. Selah
Are You Wasting Your Life?
August 9, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
Mark 14:3,4 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? What we have before us in Mark 14 today is the lavish expression of love and devotion by Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, upon Jesus Christ. So important was this act of devotion that Jesus said that wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, this act of devotion is to be mentioned (v 9). Mary expressed the love that she had in her heart for Jesus by pouring out upon Him an expensive ointment that would have been the equivalent of a year’s wages. This ointment was also reserved by a woman for the time when she would meet her bridegroom. What a beautiful, unashamed expression of public devotion for Jesus! And yet Jesus’ disciples, influenced by Judas Iscariot, regarded her lavish act of devotion as a waste, saying that this amount of money could have been given to the poor. What is a waste? It is something that is a loss or a tragic misuse, be it of money, time, talents or, most importantly, the object of devotion. This story reveals to us an important point, namely, what the world considers to be a waste in contrast to what Christ considers to be a waste. To the world, spending and being spent for Jesus is a waste. To God, spending and being spent for anything or anyone apart from Jesus is a waste. To invest your life in anything other than service and devotion to Jesus Christ is a waste, regardless of one’s wealth or success in the eyes of man. The world system would call the person who is “sold out” for Jesus someone who is wasting his or her human potential. The prophet Haggai lamented because the people of God were spending all of their time, energy, and money building their own kingdom while the temple of God was being reduced to shambles. Why? Because the priorities and interests of the people of God were more set on self than on the things of God. Beloved, have we created a type of Christianity where sacrifice and full devotion to Jesus Christ and His kingdom has become an option (Romans 12:1,2)? Have we created a comfortable type of Christianity where being a disciple no longer means to bear a cross (Mark 8:34)? Or hazard our lives (Acts 15:26)? Or be addicted to serving (1 Corinthians 16:15)? Remember, beloved, that what we learn this morning from our sister Mary in her all-out expression of love for Jesus is that she was following the example of The One Who would give His all for us, that we might live our lives for Him and His glory (2 Corinthians 5:15). Are you wasting your life? Selah
The Regathering of Israel and the Second Coming of Christ
August 2, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
Today we will be remembering The Lord’s Supper. This memorial meal reminds us of the sacrifice that Jesus paid to redeem our souls from the debt and destruction of sin. It reminds us that by grace, through faith in Jesus, we have been delivered from the wrath to come. In our continuing study of Jesus’ Olivet discourse, we will see how God is going to gather once again the Jewish people from all over the world back to their ancient homeland. The restoration of the Jewish people back to their ancient homeland is nothing short of a miracle! The prophets of God said that He would do it (Ezekiel 11:17; Amos 9:14,15) and Jesus confirms it. The prophets also said that Jerusalem would be a burdensome stone to all nations (Zechariah 12:3), and that too has come to pass. God is a promise keeping God. Heaven and earth may pass away, but His word always comes to pass. Thus as we take communion together this morning, we too can be confident that whatever Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, both in this life and in eternity, shall come to pass. Reader, have you repented of your sin and trusted Jesus alone as Lord of your life and Savior from your sin debt? Selah
Great Tribulation, Israel, & the Second Coming
July 26, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
We are now in the section of Jesus’ Olivet discourse where He tells us about events during the great tribulation period that lead up to His Second Coming. Much can be, and has been, written about this unparalleled period of time, which Jesus said would be unlike any other period of time in all of human history (Mark 13:19). One key to end times prophecy is the establishment of the Jewish people in the nation of Israel. They had been scattered around the world for more than 1500 years, but continue to be gathered again back to their ancient homeland, where they will one day look up and recognize that Jesus Christ is their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10). So as we continue to work our way though this amazing end times prophecy, may The Spirit of God cause us to be more tuned in to what God said will come to pass – and live our lives accordingly – than what man’s flawed opinions have to say about any other issue or crisis. Let’s be looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Selah
The Rebuilt Temple
July 12, 2020
Mark 13:14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: One of the most fascinating aspects of the Bible is prophecy. Did you know that there are more prophecies that speak of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than His first coming? And yet, the subject of bible prophecy and the end times is often neglected in spite of Jesus’ command to “Watch!” (Mark 13:37) Unfortunately, there have been those who have predicted the day of the second coming of Jesus throughout the centuries, and of course, have been wrong. These false prophets have caused people to become skeptics or downright mockers of end times prophecies. Today we are going to look at one of the most amazing prophecies in all of Scripture, and that is the prophecy of the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:27) and spoken of by Jesus Christ in Mark 13:14. As the world is in a tailspin over COVID 19, the 2020 election in America, Black Lives Matter (and of course they do, as do all lives), and whether or not to wear a mask, there is a group of devout Orthodox Jews who are part of an organization known as the Temple Institute. They have been building temple furniture and preparing clothing and many other temple-related items to prepare for the coming of their Messiah. Little do they know that their Messiah is Jesus Christ and the temple that they are seeking to build is a key part of end times prophecy. Hallelujah!! May The Spirit of God stir our hearts to give us a fresh sense of excitement and urgency in serving The Lord Jesus that is at least as zealous as these unsaved, religious Jews are who are working diligently to prepare the way for Jesus to return. Selah
Opposition and Discipleship
July 5, 2020
Mark 13:9,12,13 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Satan has always been opposed to the plans and purposes of God. In the Garden, the opposition came in the form of the question, “Hath God said…?” (Genesis 3:1) He has questioned the word and purposes of God ever since. Persecution is one of the things that Jesus Christ said would happen to His disciples both in the days leading up to the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem in 70 AD and throughout the ages unto His Second Coming. In his first epistle, John tells us that this spirit of opposition is the spirit of antichrist (1 John 2:22). The prefix anti means a substitute for or replacement of. This fallen world system is antichrist. It is evident in the twisted world values, philosophies, pleasures, and educational and religious systems. In other words, the disciple of Jesus Christ in any generation is never going to be religiously or politically correct. Light and darkness have nothing is common. Truth and falsehood cannot cohabitate. When Jesus taught, multitudes followed Him until He drew the proverbial line in the sand of what it would cost them to follow Him. Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.” (John 15:18-21) The apostle John said, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” (1 John 3:13) The apostle Paul said, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) We are certainly living in trying times, beloved. Jesus has given His life for us, that we might live our lives for Him and His glory (2 Corinthians 5:15). May God grant to each of us the grace and power that we need to boldly stand for Jesus Christ and live in such a way that proves that we are truly contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints (Jude 1:3). Selah
The Olivet Discourse
June 28, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
Matthew 24:3a And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? Over the years, it has never ceased to amaze me how God has “coincidentally” timed our studies in Scripture. Such is true of our study this morning. We are in Mark 13, and it begins this way: “And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.” What a shocker those words of Jesus must have been for the disciples. But after He tells them about the destruction of the temple, Matthew adds this question: “And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3b) So Jesus is going to prophesy in this chapter the destruction of the temple and, secondly, the signs of His coming and the end of the age. Within 40 years, the prophecy of Jesus Christ regarding the destruction of the temple was fulfilled just the way He said it would happen. Likewise, the signs of His coming and the end of the age will take place just as Jesus said they would. Did you know that there are more prophecies of the second coming of Jesus Christ and the last days than prophecies regarding His first coming? In other words, the eternal plans and purposes of God are going to happen and nothing is going to stop them. No evil scheme of the devil or conspiracy of man is going to stop the coming of The Lord. No pestilence or natural disasters are going to stop the coming of The Lord. It is sad when the lives of the people of God are more preoccupied with and wrapped up in the current crisis and pandemics and conspiracy theories than with God’s Word. A word that Jesus repeats in His end of the world discourse is “watch” (Mark 13:33,35,37). It is in the present imperative tense. This means that our lives are to be shaped by the constant anticipation of Jesus. The only appropriate response to darkness is to preach the gospel, not draw more attention to the darkness. In Revelation 22:7 Jesus said, “Behold I come quickly.” Jesus is coming soon. Those were His last words in Scripture. His final words before His ascension were to go into the entire world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15,19). Beware of living your life in constant reaction to the evil deeds of darkness. Like the wise virgins, be filled with The Spirit (Matthew 25:1-13) and be about your Father’s business of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ’s soon return. “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Revelation 22:12) Selah
An Example of True Devotion and Giving
May 31, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
1 Samuel 16:7b ...for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. We are presented with a study of contrasts in Mark 12:35-44. Jesus’ question about His identity stands in contrast with the “loop hole” questions that He was asked by the religious frauds of the day. In verse 35, Jesus asks the question, “How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David?” Warren Wiersbe writes: This is a far more important question than the ones His enemies had asked Him, for if we are wrong about Jesus Christ, we are wrong about salvation. So many people get all tangled up with questions about the bible that have no real bearing on his or her eternal destiny. When you read the claims of Jesus in Scripture, C.S. Lewis said that you would have to conclude that He was either a liar, a lunatic, or LORD. The real question, dear reader, is this: who is Jesus Christ according to you? What effect does Jesus Christ have in your day-to-day living? The other contrast we see is this poor widow and the religious hucksters who ripped off widows. Mark writes: “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” What a stinging rebuke! How true that God does not see people the way that man sees people (1 Samuel 16:7b). Religious people have the capacity to talk and even act “holy”. This poor widow has been placed in the Scripture as an example of what true devotion and giving is all about. This woman’s example of dedication and sacrificial giving stands in stark contrast to the “what’s-in-it-for-me” attitude that is so prevalent in today’s contemporary church. The depth of this poor widow’s love and devotion was rich in the eyes of God. Her sacrificial giving and living were an overflow of a heart that loved God and was truly devoted to Him and His kingdom. Amen. Selah
All You Need Is Love!
May 24, 2020
Mark 12:30,31 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. For all young people my age, the words of my title were the words of a number 1 song by the Beatles. The love that Paul McCartney and John Lennon were talking about was not the love that Jesus is talking about in our study today. According to Jesus Christ (thus the true interpretation of Scripture), loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves sums up the practical expression of a true saving faith in God. Love for God and love for others is what faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ will produce in our lives. When we know and believe and receive the saving love of God by grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, we are given a new heart – a heart that will begin to experience a change of appetites and attitudes that are driven by the love of God. This love, though imperfect and in constant need of attention, is demonstrated by acts of love towards all people, saved and unsaved, friend and foe. As we work our way through our study, think of the love of God in Christ as He died on the cross for your sin. Think of His command to love one another as He loved you. A love for Him stems from His love for us (1 John 4:19). John writes God is love (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16b). Thus, if a person is looking for real love, he or she can only find this love in God, not in the fleshly, sensual way that is as popular today and it was when I was a young man. My prayer is that you encounter the saving love of God in Christ today, and may the love of Christ for you be shed abroad from your heart towards others today for the glory of God. Selah.
Taxes, Hypocrisy, and Living for God
March 15, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
It’s the final week of Jesus’ earthly life, and the inevitable conflict with the religious hierarchy of His day is going to come to a head. We see in our study that Jesus is being confronted by the strange alliance of the Pharisees and the Herodians. That would be like Adolph Hitler and the President of Israel going out to dinner together. What brought these two rival groups together was their mutual hatred for Jesus Christ. The trap they sought to catch Jesus in was whether or not it was right to pay taxes to Ceasar. If Jesus said yes, the Jews would believe that He was siding with the enemy of Israel. If He said no, He would be arrested as an insurrectionist. How would Jesus reply? “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marveled at Him.” (Mark 12:17) Jesus saw right through the religious hypocrisy and flattery of the Pharisees. He knew that they couldn’t care less about whether or not they should pay taxes; they just wanted Him out of the picture, and this matter of paying taxes would put the proverbial nail in His coffin. Jesus’ answer about the image on the coin leveled both of these opposing parties. Yes, God teaches us that human government is ordained by Him and is to be submitted to, with the only exception being when the government commands us to disobey God. But for the religious hypocrites, Jesus said that being made in the image of God means that we owe everything to God. Until a person is born again, Jesus Christ will be a threat to their self-rule. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is this: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) Whose image do you live for, Ceasar’s or Christ’s? Selah
The Authority of Jesus Christ
February 16, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
It has been aptly said that light rejected becomes lightning. This saying is confirmed in today’s study. What confronts us today is the question of Jesus’ authority. The inevitable conflict between Jesus and the religious hierarchy has reached its peak. Jesus exposed their religious charade by cleansing the temple, for they had turned the sacred place of God into a big business of financial profit at the expense of God’s people. Jesus exposed them for what they really were - false shepherds - and this caused their blood to boil over with envy and hatred. Because Jesus did not attend their rabbinical schools (what we would call seminaries), they questioned His authority to do what He did, seeking to undermine Him before the people. At this point Jesus drops the hammer by asking them where they believed John the Baptizer got his authority. He sprung their trap! The very question that they thought would trap Jesus trapped them. Jesus’ answer reveals that His own authority came from the same source as John’s. The leaders’ conclusion about John would reveal their conclusion about Him. The leaders rejected John’s authority, who pointed to Jesus as The Lamb of God. Thus, they rejected Jesus as Messiah. That answer of authority causes Jesus to teach the parable of the vineyard owner and the vineyard. (See Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 80:8-16.) Throughout their history most leaders of Israel repeatedly rejected God’s messengers, a point Jesus made in the parable. The Bible knowledge commentary says: Jesus sharpened the application of the parable to Himself as the Son and extended its teaching by quoting verbatim Psalm 118:22,23. They rejected Jesus Christ and His authority, and in doing so, sealed their destiny. Beloved, who is the final authority in your life? You or Jesus Christ? “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:44)
Fear or Faith
April 18, 2021 • Pastor Ben Hiwale
We all face trials, storms, and difficult circumstances going through life. What trial or storm would you admit was your most difficult one? How many times - if you were to be honest - would you say that you felt God was asleep in your trials? How would you react to the suggestion that God actually leads you into some of the storms in your life? In your opinion, do you think that we should fear Jesus? Have you ever wondered if the stories about Jesus in the gospels are illustrations and not actual events? The questions above and others that you may have been pondering need to be put on the table and given an honest evaluation. These feelings, emotions, and questions usually lead us to convictions about our faith and affect our current and future relationship with God and the body of Christ. The account of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee is a very familiar passage and well preached, but I believe God has a timely Word for us during these current, uncertain times. This Word will lead us to ask the right question for today. May we all be encouraged and convicted as we study this passage.
Fig Leaves, Faith, and Forgiveness
February 9, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
As The Lord Jesus is coming to an end of His earthly life, the fig tree that He had cursed the day before is withered up from the roots, which gives rise to Him teaching the disciples about the importance of having faith towards God and forgiveness towards one another. We know that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). God gave to Israel “the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of Whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, Who is over all, God blessed forever.” (Romans 9:4-5). But in spite of all of these privileges and the many miracles that Jesus did to show that He was the Messiah (John 21:25), the religious leaders rejected Jesus. This led Jesus to cleanse the temple and rebuke the religious leaders for their exploiting the people of God with the fig leaves of spiritual hypocrisy in The Name of God! This led Jesus to talk to His disciples about a faith in God that moves mountains. His twofold exhortation was simple and to the point. If you are going to follow Me as Lord, you will need to have faith in God and walk in forgiveness of others. What might be the mountain that is in your life today? Is your faith in God? Know that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)! Jesus also talked about the importance of forgiving others. Is there someone that you are holding a grudge against? Bitterness? Unforgiveness? This is not only hurting you, but most importantly grieving The Lord. Genuine faith in God and forgiving others are two of the “roots” of a healthy, growing walk with Jesus and one another. Beware of the fig leaves of unbelief and unforgiveness. Selah
Of First Importance
March 28, 2021 • Pastor Ben Hiwale
The origins of the Church begin at the Cross and the empty tomb. No wonder Resurrection has been under relentless attack, because if you can create reasonable doubts about the Resurrection, the whole idea of Christianity falls apart. It is significant because the origins of the Gospel message hinge on this particular event. As Christians, we ought to know the biblical evidence of Christ’s Resurrection so we can refute any attacks, and we must understand the first importance of the Gospel so we can lead those who are attacking and truly seeking answers to the saving knowledge of their Savior.
Blessed is He Who Comes
January 26, 2020 • Pastor Ray Viola
Jesus is on the last leg of His earthly life and ministry. The end is near. He knows that He is about to be offered up as The Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). That is what He repeatedly told the twelve as they began their journey from the quiet of Galilee to the chaos and crowds of a typical Passover festival time. By this point in time, the Jews were looking for a Messiah who would be more like a military general to overthrow the mighty Roman Empire’s grip upon the nation. Thus, having either seen or heard about the many miracles that Jesus did - most recently, Lazarus being raised from the dead - when Jesus entered the city proper on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9, the crowd began to cry out the long-anticipated Messianic phrase from Psalm 118, verses 25 and 26: “Hosanna!... Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” Everything that they saw and said was right on! However, Jesus was not coming as an Army General to deliver the Jews from Roman tyranny, but as The Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. He came to provide the final sacrifice for sin by which fallen man can be restored to fellowship with God. But because of a misunderstood interpretation of Scripture that gave rise to an unfulfilled expectation, this same crowd would soon cry out to crucify Him. Following this dramatic entrance scene, we hear Jesus curse a barren fig tree, and see Him do a little temple “house cleaning” - both with prophetic significance. This scene demands attention from us this morning because we find religious leaders financially exploiting the people of God, and alleged religious people being rebuked by Jesus because of their fruitless lives even though they were going through the motions of observing a religious holiday. Sound familiar? Jesus did not come to be added as a religious supplement to your life, but as Savior and Lord.