This podcast is the message archives of the Lake Merced Church of Christ in San Francisco.
The Reality of Hell - Part 2
On Sunday, John Mulligan gave us Part 2 of his lesson on The Reality of Hell - Avoiding the Unthinkable. One reality that we need to know is that Hell was not meant for people; it’s meant for the Devil and his angels.
However, there are specific groups of people who will end up in that desperate situation. These are (1) those who reject God, (2) those who reject the Gospel, and (3) those who abandon their faith.
These situations tell us that no one will be in Hell by accident. People who reject God and the Gospel, or people who once DID accept God, but gave up their faith, will be the ones joining the Devil in Hell. Choices have consequences. Our choices, here on earth as we live out our lives, will determine if we find ourselves in Heaven or Hell.
Rest assured, though, that some groups will definitely NOT be there. Anyone who is unaccountable (children, for example) or anyone who is mentally incapable of understanding that their actions could have such dire consequences will not go to Hell.
For the rest of us, for those who trusted and obeyed Jesus, and those who remained faithful, we understand that Hell is completely avoidable. Our only source of salvation is Jesus. Believe in God’s fairness, His nature and His willingness to do what is right. Trust and obey - there is no other way!
A Little Night Lesson
Michael Rankins’ message this week was another example of Jesus as a teacher. This lesson, taken from John 3:1-15, was when Jesus was teaching the Pharisee Nicodemus. Now, Nicodemus was a believer; he believed that Jesus came from God. But the Pharisees’ beliefs were about literal, physical things. They spoke of what they saw, what they knew. This is why Nicodemus struggled so much with the concept of how a person could possibly be born again.
Jesus said in John 3:5-6, “...Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
He continued in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
This rebirth of the spirit is something that cannot be seen. Nicodemus had to learn to accept Jesus’ testimony about that.
Once we are born of water and the Spirit we can enter the kingdom of God, but know this: The kingdom is here, for this life now, AND for eternity. We are all heirs to Him who created the universe! The good news is that anyone can come to the Kingdom. Let’s share that wonderful news with someone this week.
The Reality of Hell: How to Understand the Unthinkable
Hell. Just saying the word is unpleasant. Some attempt to neutralize the idea through profanity. Others do it through avoidance. Still, the subject of Hell needs to be confronted. Jesus himself spoke about it more than anyone else in the Bible. What is this place called "Hell" and why does it exist? Most importantly, how do we stay out of it?
Breaking the Bread of Life
Michael Rankins gave us a lesson on “Breaking the Bread of Life.” Taken from John 6:25-71, this occurred after Jesus had fed the five thousand with a few barley loaves and two fish. The crowd wrote off that miracle and asked what sign Jesus would give them, citing the manna from heaven that their ancestors had received. That manna did feed them, but only temporarily and, ultimately, those ancestors died. Jesus said (v 33) “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world… (v35) whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Jesus was telling them to stop focusing on food for their bellies and take in the bread that would feed their spirits - the Word of God. When he told them that (v 54) “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”, many were confused, trying to understand the words literally, but the Bible uses many metaphors about God’s word as food. In Ezekiel 3:1-4, God tells Ezekiel to “eat this scroll”; he ate God’s word and “it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth”.
Michael listed some “food” from the book of John for us to take home and “chew on”:
1. Jesus is the Word of God (1.1)
2. That Word became flesh (1:14)
3. Jesus is the bread of life (6:35)
4. That bread came from heaven so that we might live forever (6:50-51)
5. If we consume the bread, it becomes part of us (6:56)
6. The Word contains Spirit and life (6:63)
7. The word of God and the bread of life are one and the same -- Jesus, the Christ!
Food sustains us for the day. Jesus, the bread of life, will carry us into eternal life. Let us eat eagerly and fill our hearts with the spirit of Jesus!
A Living Hope
John Mulligan’s message on Easter Sunday was “A Living Hope: Why the Resurrection of Jesus Really Matters”. One interesting note John shared is that the word Easter is only used once in the King James Version and actually referred to the Jewish Passover. So Easter, like Christmas, is deeply rooted in tradition, but not Scripture. Still, we can seize the moment.
The first point John made was that the resurrection is rooted in historical certainty. All accounts were written as first person, “I saw this”. There are too many concise accounts of what happened to be written off as a fanciful “story”. Historians have written countless books and peer-reviewed articles documenting the facts around the resurrection. It happened.
John’s second point is that the Resurrection of Jesus changes everything. As we read in Romans 8, Jesus is at the right hand of God, Jesus is interceding for us and nothing can separate us from Christ’s love. Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is because Jesus was resurrected that we can know these things with certainty:
Our life is not futile.
Our death is not final.
Our future is not fearful.
Our service is not forgotten.
Let us take hope from the words of “Because He Lives”:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
Rejoice, dear friends! He is risen!
Three Lessons for Peter
On Sunday, Michael Rankins’ told us about how Jesus (The Master Teacher) went one-on-one with Peter, a challenging disciple. (Spoiler alert - the challenging disciple is probably you, too.) The “Three Lessons For Peter” were about Focus, Forgiveness, and Love.
First, from Matthew 14:22-33, was when Jesus walked on water out to the boat, and then Peter himself also started to walk on the water. But “...when he saw the wind, he was afraid and… cried out, Lord save me!” Peter could only walk on the water when he was focused on Jesus. He started to sink when he lost his focus. As Michael said, how many times have we cried out to the Lord when we’re already sinking? If only we had kept our focus on Jesus before the crisis.
The next lesson was about forgiveness. From Matthew 18:21-35, Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone and Jesus’ answer was seventy-seven times seven. Jesus wasn’t giving a specific number. He was endlessly multiplying the concept of forgiveness. Peter hadn’t seen the mercy behind the forgiveness. As God has forgiven us our sins, so we, too, must give others the mercy of forgiveness -- as many times as it takes.
The final lesson was about love. Taken from John 21:15-24, we learn that God’s endless love for us is a gift that comes with responsibility - responsibility to do as Jesus tells us and NOT question whether others have earned His love.
As we go about our lives, let us try to:
Maintain our faith in Christ by keeping our focus on him,
Accept God’s forgiveness without limits and forgive others without limits, and
Show our love for the Lord by upholding our responsibility to Him, and showing love to others.