The Inside Job - Part 1

the inside job

1 Peter 1:1-25
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

"The Bible must be your chart, and you must exercise great watchfulness that your way may be according to its directions. You must take heed to your daily life, as well as study your Bible, and you must study your Bible that you may take heed to your daily life. With the greatest care a man will go astray if his map misleads him; but with the most accurate map he will still lose his road if he does not take heed to it. The narrow way was never hit upon by chance, neither did any heedless man ever lead a holy life. We can sin without thought, we have only to neglect the great salvation and ruin our souls; but to obey the Lord and walk uprightly will need all our heart and soul and mind. Let the careless remember this."
- C.H. Spurgeon, on Psalm 119:9

"I prayed for Faith, and thought that some day Faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But Faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, 'Now Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God'. I had closed my Bible, and prayed for Faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and Faith has been growing ever since. " - DL Moody

"You know more about your magazines and novels than what God has written; many of you will read a novel from the beginning to the end, and what have you got? A mouthful of foam when you are done. But you cannot read the Bible; that solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect; while anything that a man writes, a best seller of the day, is greedily devoured." - C.H. Spurgeon

Second City Church - The Inside Job - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Guest Speaker - Peter Ahlin

guets speaker charles kiefer

 
Keep Back Nothing 

Possessions 

Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 

One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 

Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore, they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 

(John 6:5-13) 

Prayers 

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. 

So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” 

(Matthew 26:36-46) 

Priorities 

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 

Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 

And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” 

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” 

(Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-27) 

Purpose 

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 

(Matthew 28:18-20) 

Second City Church: Guest Speaker - Peter Ahlin 2019

Explore God - Can I Know God Personally?

explore god chicago

Can I Know God Personally?

We all feel distant from God from time to time. And very often, we resort to religious deeds to try to get into God’s graces, to try to please him. How many of us have: 

• tried to do really good things to get right or even make up with God? 

• tried to stop doing some things in order to make God happy? 

We all have!  But let me ask this: Did it work? Did you feel closer to God by jumping through those hoops? 

Reverence for vs. Relatonship with Jesus

We have to be able to trust God

Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan 

The greatest African-American intellectual and abolitionist of the pre-Civil War period said this:

“I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land... I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of 'stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.' I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. . . . The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.” Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)

Yet when because he met the real Jesus, the God of the Bible, Douglass in the second installment of his autobiography was able to state this:

“I was, for weeks, a poor, broken-hearted mourner, traveling through the darkness and misery of doubts and fears. I finally found that change of heart which comes by “casting all one’s care” upon God, and by having faith in Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer, Friend, and Savior of those who diligently seek Him.”

Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)

Harriet Beecher Stowe, daughter of Lyman Beecher, one of the great abolitionist preachers of the Second Great Awakening, wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852.  Having experienced the grace of God, they too were compelled to aid in ending evils perpetuated by those who misrepresented Jesus.  


These and many other accounts give us a picture of the effects of the gospel coming alive in a man or woman’s heart, turning them to Christ and overflowing to impact a fallen world.  These things were not done to receive God’s favor, but as a result of his grace. 


The bad news is that none of these things helps us measure up to God’s standards.  But the good news is that God’s love is given to each of us freely. 

• Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” 

• John 1:12: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

John 6:35-40 
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

• James 4:8a: “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” 

Revelation 3:14-22 
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

John Newton and the history of Amazing Grace 

“The Gospel must not be assumed.  It’s to be articulated clearly and constantly...if not you get moralistic pragmatism.” - Matt Chandler

Here’s the truth about knowing God personally:

• God loved. God gave. We believe. We receive.

“The world’s full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.”  
From Movie The Green Book

• God loved us so much that he sent his son to save us; if we believe in him, we will spend eternity in deep, personal relationship with him.

If we all trusted that simple, profound truth, it would change everything. Our friendships, our marriages, our work relationships, our work ethic, our contentment, our finances—everything.

The entire reason Jesus came to earth was so that everyone who trusts in him can know God personally—the relationship we were born to enjoy.

How can we also respond to God’s grace?

  1. Turn in faith and repentance to Jesus Christ, receiving forgiveness of sins because of his sacrifice for you on the cross and resurrection from the dead providing eternal life for you.  

  2. Serve God with his people to be salt and light in a fallen world Christ is looking to redeem.  

“The Place God call’s you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” - Frederick Buechner  

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Is the Bible Reliable?

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Is the Bible Reliable?

All of us have a perspective on the Bible. Some are very familiar with it. For others, it’s foreign or even frightening. If you’ve been reading the Bible for a long time, you can think back to those early days of trying to figure it out. And some of you are just now beginning. Wherever you are, this is a great message for you.

This is all important because Jesus had a very high view of the Scripture 

Genesis 3:1-5 
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Matthew 5:17-20 
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus said that your success in life and eternal destiny depend on your right interaction with his Word:

Matthew 7:24-29
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Matthew 24:34,35 
34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

The Bible, though hard to understand at times, is a beautiful collection of books that tells the same consistent story throughout. And it’s very, very reliable. Let’s examine why that is.

  • It’s a collection of 66 different books, written from 1500 BC to 100 AD, by 40 different authors, in 3
    different languages.

  • The first 39 books make up the Old Testament and include the Law of Moses, the history of the Jewish people, and the foretelling of the Messiah.

    • It comprises the sacred Scriptures of Jewish and Christian people.

  • The last 27 books make up the New Testament and were written by eyewitnesses of Jesus’s life, documenting his ministry and explaining God’s plan to bring about his kingdom. It also includes letters about how to live out the gospel.

  • How can we be confident it’s reliable?


The uniqueness of the Bible:

"Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in reference to the whole body.  And any part of the Bible can only be explained in reference to the whole Bible." - FF Bruce


"The Bible, at first sight, appears to be a collection of literature - mainly Jewish.  If we enquire into the circumstances under which the various Biblical documents were written, we find that they were written at intervals over a space of nearly 1400 years.  The writers wore in various lands, from Italy in the West to Mesopotamia and possibly Persia in the east.  The writers themselves were a heterogeneous number of people, not only separated from each other by hundreds of years and hundreds of miles, but belonging to the most diverse walks of life.  In their ranks we have kings, herdsmen, soldiers, legislators, fishermen, statesmen, courtiers, priests and prophets, a tent making Rabbi and a Gentile physician, not to speak of others of whom we know nothing apar from the writings they have left us.  The writings themselves belong to a great variety of literary types.  They include history, law (civil, criminal, ethical, ritual, sanitary), religious poetry, didactic treatises, lyric poetry, parable and allegory, biography, personal correspondence, personal memoirs and diaries, in addition to the distivntively Biblical types of prophecy and apocalyptic. 

For all that, the Bible is not simply an anthology; there is a unity which binds the whole together.  An anthology is compiled by an anthologist, but no anthologist compiled the Bible.  

-FF Bruce



Prophecy: Some 1,800 prophetic statements can be verified or refuted. None, to date, have ever been refuted.

Textual evidence: We have more high-quality copies of the text than any other historical document.

old testament compare

Self-declaration: The text itself claims authority. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Objections:

Written by man

“Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs, properly interpreted, will be shown to be wholly true in everything they affirm, whether this has to do with doctrine or morality or with social, physical, or life sciences. 

The bottom line is that the Bible has been breathed by God.  He used men to write out exactly what He wanted them to write.  He kept them free from error but at the same time used their unique personalities and styles to convey exactly what He wanted.  

Peter tells us that “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).  The idea conveyed is that just as the wind controls the sails of a boat, so also the breath of God controlled the writers of the Bible.  The end result was exactly what God intended.”

-Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict


Translated or transmitted inaccurately - Describe the Process of the Scribes 

Supposed Discrepancies/Contradictions in Scripture 

Summary of Principles for Understanding Apparent Discrepancies in the Bible (Taken from The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell)

  1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable. 

  2. Fallible interpretations do not mean fallible revelation.

  3. Understand the context of the passage. 

  4. Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones. 

  5. Don't base teaching on obscure passages. 

  6. The Bible is a human book with human characteristics. 

  7. Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it is false. 

  8. New Testament citations of the Old Testament need not always be exact. 

  9. The Bible does not necessarily approve of all it records.

  10. The Bible uses non-technical, everyday language. 

  11. The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers.  

  12. Note when the Bible uses different literary devices. 

  13. An error in a copy does not equate to an error in the original. 

  14. General statements don't necessarily mean universal promises. 

  15. Later revelation supersedes previous revelation.


2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.


“Among the major religions of the world . . . only three religions claim to have a supernatural foundation to be found in a sacred scripture that purports to be a divine revelation. The three religions distinguished by this claim are Judaism, Christianity, and the religion of Islam. Among the other religions, only some claim to have logical and factual truth, but the truth they claim to have is of human, not divine, origin.” —Mortimer Adler


Corroboration: You don’t hear people say they regret following the words of Scripture. 

You don’t hear: “Ten years ago I decided to read and follow Scripture, build my business, nurture my marriage, raise my kids, handle my money, and take care of my body according to the wisdom of Scripture—and I completely regret it.” 

Psalm 19:7-14
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Universality and Invitation: No other sacred scriptures invite all people of all time. 

In Genesis 12:3, God tells one man, “I will bless you and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:1-3
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

When you’re wondering about the reliability of the Bible, consider these facts. But more than that, remember that the Bible is God’s love letter to you. Open it, read it, and consider how God wants you to live out his kingdom calling.

Psalm 138:1-2
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

John 14:25-26
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 17:6-21 
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

If every one of us left here confident in the Bible’s reliability and excited to live out its ways, imagine what our church would look like! Imagine your business, your family, your relationships.

Luke 24:44-49 
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The Bible is more than a book: it is God’s love letter to humanity. We have more reason to trust its claims than those of any other book in history. We can trust the Bible because of prophecy, history, integrity, and what it’s done in people.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Is Jesus Really God?

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Is Jesus Really God?

For all of us, there was a time when we didn’t fully understand who Jesus was.  And yet, billions of people over the course of the past two thousand years have reached the conclusion that there is something special about Jesus. That he was no ordinary man. How did they come to that conclusion?  Well, let’s take a look.


Jesus is God in the flesh, who came to restore our relationship with him. How do we know that?


The Trinity is a recurring theme throughout Judeo-Christian Scripture:


Genesis 1:26-27 
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.


John 1:1-5,14-18 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side,  he has made him known.


• Prophecy

   • Psalm 2:1–8 (written at least one thousand years before Jesus lived): predicts Jesus’s life and reign


Psalm 2:1-8 
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.


Matthew 22:41-46 
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


• Isaiah 53:5–6 (written hundreds of years before Christ): predicts his suffering and the reconciliation it enabled 


Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


Isaiah 53:5-6
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.


In the midst of a fiercely monothestic Jewish culture, in the Babylonian Exile the stateman and prophet Daniel foresaw the following:


Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV)
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

• Teaching • Matthew 26:64–65: Jesus accepts the messianic title, Son of Man, claiming equality with God 

Matthew 26:63-65
But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.

John 6:44-46
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Jesus has a fantastic sense of self-awareness

John 8:56-59 
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

John 10:27-39
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

John 14:9 
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Mark 2:7–11: Jesus claims godly power

Mark 2:5-12 
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

• Resurrection

John 2:19: Jesus metaphorically predicts his death and resurrection

John 2:19
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Matthew 28:16-20 
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Acts 10:25-26 
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”

• History

• Regarding the truth of Jesus’s death, resurrection, and divinity, Peter Kreeft muses: “Why did thousands suffer torture and death for this lie if they knew it was a lie?” “What force sent Christians to the lions’ den with hymns on their lips? What lie ever transformed the world like that?”

 • Aquinas argues, “If the Incarnation did not really happen, then an even more unbelievable miracle happened: the conversion of the world by the biggest lie in history and the moral transformation of lives into unselfishness, detachment from worldly pleasures and radically new heights of holiness by a mere myth.”

External early testimony to Jesus’ divinity by Roman non-sympathizers:

“Nero fastened the guilt ... on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of ... Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome....”

-Tacitus A.D. 62


“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald ... cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy."

-Babylonian Talmud A.D. 70-200


“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food – but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”

-Pliny the Younger in A.D. 112


What do you say about Jesus? Is he merely a good teacher, a prophet, or a wise man? Is he more than that?


“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” —C. S. Lewis


If everyone of us—me included—decided to set our life’s compass to Jesus’s bearing, I believe we’d impact the entire world.  Will you join me?

Bottom Line:

Because of His own testimony about Himself, Jesus is either God or a fraud. There is no logical middle ground. Jesus demonstrated His deity through prophecy, teaching, and the resurrection.

Reflected by writers of the New Testament:

Titus 2:11-14 
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Is Christianity Too Narrow?

explore god chicago

Is Christianity Too Narrow?

• To nonreligious people, religion almost always includes some odd—and even narrow-minded things—such as:

   • Legalism

   • Judgment

   • Hypocrisy (in its worst incarnations)

• But when people attempt to bridge the gap between God and us, the seen and unseen, the temporal and eternal, by definition, it’s bound to include some unusual things.

• The problem is when these things are human additions rather than genuine attempts at

connecting with God.

   • Religion is humanity’s attempt to reach God.

   • Christianity is God’s attempt to reach humanity.

This is not new. In fact, the Bible speaks to the narrowness of religion and how to maintain faith in a culture of unfaith.

Acts 17:16-31 
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

   • Paul demonstrates how to maintain faith in Jesus among a people who are not comfortable with exclusive claims about God.

   • Paul asked the Athenians questions, complimented their search, and then, when asked, proclaimed the truth with gentleness and respect.

• When Paul preached about Jesus and the resurrection (v. 18), he began to contrast Christianity with other religions. Most religions can be described as humanity’s attempt to reach God. But Christianity is God’s attempt to reach humanity. Through the person of Jesus, God extends grace to everyone. His gift is broad, available to anyone who will receive it.

“All claims are exclusive.  The Gospel is an exclusive truth but it’s the most inclusive exclusive truth in the world.” - Timothy Keller

How do we know this?

God’s exclusive claim

John 14:6 
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

*The cross and its necessity

Someone has to pay the price for our sin and rebellion against a holy God.  Either we’re going to pay it ourselves, or Jesus, the sinless, blameless Lamb of God, already did for us. 

Galatians 2:20-21 
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Hebrews 9:22
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

God’s inclusive heart

Ezekiel 33:11 
Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

1 Timothy 2:1-6 
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

The emotional response to faith

People don’t care, ignore the issue, neglect it or cast it off as long as possible to live how they want to.

"I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political." --Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means (London: Chatto & Windus, 1946), pp. 270, 273

John 3:16-21
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Does your lifestyle prompt others to ask why you live the way you do?  If not, what needs to change?

• Are you satisfied with practicing religion and striving to reach God?  Or will you accept God’s free gift and reconciliation through Jesus Christ?

I pray that our church can be a community of people who are so winsome that the world cannot ignore it. I pray that we’ll be bombarded with questions about why we do the things we do (or don’t do), go the places we go, and hang out with the people we do. And then I hope we have the faith, the courage, the gentleness, and the respect to share our faith boldly and humbly.

• Imagine if we all were able to do that this week. Would the world accuse us of being narrow- minded?  I hope not. I hope people will say that we’re the most welcoming, loving, and inclusive people they know.

Bottom Line:

God provided a way for everyone to have peace, forgiveness and eternal life. This is profoundly inclusive—not exclusive. Following Jesus is different from every other faith on earth in that He sacrificed to get to us, rather than us sacrificing to get to Him. Most religions boil down to humanity trying to reach God, but Christianity is God reaching humanity.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering

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Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering are the product of a fallen world separated from God. 

We long for Eden, what people view as a utopic existence and society.  God longs to bring people back here, in the paradise of God.

This topic is important to all of us. We are all touched by pain and suffering in such realms as our:

  • Jobs, relationships, finances, family, school, unforeseen deaths, violations, systemic societal injustices, sexism, agism, health issues, crime, poverty, bigotiries...

  • Here’s what we’re not going to do: 

    •  We’re not going to solve the issue of pain and suffering. 

    • We’re not going to minimize pain and suffering and provide simple platitudes like, “All you need to do is pray.” 

  • Though we might not be able to figure it out enough to make perfect sense of it, we can be confident that God has a reason. 

Quotes related to pain and suffering: 

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” —C. S. Lewis


“The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” —Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


“In order to have great happiness you have to have great pain and unhappiness— otherwise how would you know when you’re happy?” —Leslie Caron

“Our heavenly Father understands our disappointment, suffering, pain, fear, and doubt. He is always there to encourage our hearts and help us understand that He’s sufficient for all of our needs. When I accepted this as an absolute truth in my life, I found that my worrying stopped.” —Charles Stanley


“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” —Helen Keller

God:

God’s not uninterested in your circumstances. Like any good father, he desires good things for his children. Believe it or not, there’s an entire book of the Bible that addresses issues like these.

  • Background to the book of Job:

    •  Style: prose and poetry

    • Purpose: history and prophecy

    • Date: It might be the oldest book in the Bible. Either way, it’s a few thousand years old. 

    • Author: We know this person believed in God, but not much more info is given.


Job 1:1-22
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord  gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.


Job 2:1-13 
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord . And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”  In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.


Job never asks, “Why me?” Instead we can almost hear him asking, “What now?” 


Other passages to consider: 


God’s Judgements 

Isaiah 26:9-10 
My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the Lord.

Psalm 119:67 
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.

God’s Mercy

Romans 8:18-25 
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.


God is preparing you for another world full of redemption, life, redemption and healing.  This fallen world is not all that there is. 


“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”  
- Martin Luther King, Jr.


Revelation 21:1-4 
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

God’s Discipline 

Hebrews 12:9-11 
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God’s Glory

John 9:1-7
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

God’s Suffering

Christ on the cross displayed our God entering into our suffering to inevitably set us free from it by his substitutionary work.  


God’s Love

At the end of the day, we trust in his goodness and his divine plan.  

Romans 8:28-39
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 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.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.


Romans 8:18
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.


1 Peter 5:9-10
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Romans 5:3–5
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

When things go bad for you, how will you respond?

   • Will you lament or will you look forward?

   • Will you ask, “Why me?” or “What now?”

   • Will you remain bitter or seek to be better?  Can you imagine if our entire community decided never to play the victim? 

Can you imagine if our entire community decided, like Job, to ask not “Why me?” but “What now?” no matter our circumstances?

Because God is greater than we are, we cannot fully understand or explain all of the problems we encounter. However, we can be certain of God’s perfect power, his perfect timing, his perfect purpose, and his perfect love.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Is There a God?

explore god chicago

Is There a God?

We all think about God from time to time, even if we conclude we do not believe. It’s nearly impossible not to consider it occasionally. 

Here are some letters that children have written to God:

Dear God, I read the Bible. What does “begat” mean? Nobody will tell me. Love, Alison 

God, I bet it’s very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it. —Frank 

Dear God, Are you really invisible, or is that just a trick? —Lucy 

Dear God, I wish there was no such thing as sin. I wish there was no such thing as war. —Tim 

Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. —Larry 


The problem for some of us is, if God doesn’t write back, eventually we wonder if he even exists. Have you been there before? Are you there now?

God:

The good news is that God is not intimidated by our questions—and neither is Second City Church. If you have questions about God, you’re welcome here, because all of us have questions. We’ve all written letters to God. Even if it wasn’t a literal letter, we’ve all tossed up prayers in the midst of struggles. And God welcomes those questions. Though he might not write his name in the sky or respond to your letter with a handwritten note, he’s given us lots of indications of his presence.

• Natural indicators such as creation and beauty.

Psalm 19:1-4 
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. 


Romans 1:19-23 
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

All of these things point to what theologians call God’s general revelation.

There are principles that point to God’s “fine-tuned universe.”  Examples include:

  • Earth’s distance from the sun

  • Gravitational Force

  • The combination and concentration of atmospheric gases

  • The charge of subatomic particles that make up our molecular structure 

  • The human genome and the intelligence necessary for its orderly composition 


The Anthropic Principle 

An Explore God resource article spoke of a discussion noted pastor Timothy Keller conducted with a brilliant young scientist struggling with belief in God.  These were their conclusions:

  1. The existence of something rather than nothing—that is, our very existence—is more likely if a creator exists than if one does not.

  2. The universe is orderly to a remarkable degree, and in more than one way. (Natural laws are both simple and uniform, the capacity for reproduction is pervasive, and great complexity is produced using only a very small number of elementary particles interacting according to a small number of laws). Any one of these features suggests that it is more likely that the universe is the product of design than that it is the product of random forces impelling purposeless particles that resulted in accidental stability. Taken together, these two statements are even more formidable as an argument for a designer.

  3. Value—both moral and aesthetic—appears to be an objective feature of the world (and not merely imposed by human preferences), a fact much more likely to be the case if a creator exists than if the universe is a grand accident.

  4. Human consciousness and intelligence are more likely the products of a conscious and intelligent creator than of a physical universe devoid of either.

  5. Humans have numerous features that are more easily explained by theism than by metaphysical naturalism, if only because metaphysical naturalism currently explains all human capacities in strict terms of their ability to enhance survival. Among such features are the possession of reliable faculties aimed at truth, the appreciation of beauty, and a sense of humor. Metaphysical naturalism also does not explain why humans possess (or at least convincingly appear to possess) free will.

• Ethical indicators such as conscience and a sense of right and wrong.

Romans 2:14-16 
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

“If God does not exist, everything is permitted”
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky 


In other words, the fact that we all have an innate sense of right and wrong is an indicator of a God who instilled morality in us.

Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness [if there were no God]? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live. . . . A [purely naturalistic] way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort . . . and thus no way to say there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness ( . . . and not just an illusion of some sort), then you have a powerful . . . argument [for the existence of God]. -

Alvin Plantinga


Yet there’s more. 


The Scriptures, prophecy, etc.

The health code contained in the Law of God

In over a 1000 year period, men from various socio-economic backgrounds, professions and periods of both geopolitical turmoil and peace wrote over 300 prophecies concerning the coming of a Jewish Messiah who would be the Savior of the world.  All of these were fulfilled in the life, miracles, death burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. 


Special Revelation in the person of Jesus Christ

Hebrews 1:1-4 
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.


“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” —C.S. Lewis

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” -C. S. Lewis


Is the evidence convincing? Statistics show that 80–85 percent of people believe in God (even among those who do not consider themselves religious). Are you among them? Even more, are you living as if God exists?

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
- A. W. Tozer


If each person here were truly to live not only as if God exists, but like he cares for us and has a plan for us, what would change in our lives? In our families? In our schools and workplaces? In our neighborhoods? In our city? Imagine if we lived as if God were with us always. It would be enough to change the world.

Bottom Line:

Evidence of God comes from creation, morality, intelligence, and love. Once we establish that there must be a God, we are ready to discover who God really is.


How should I respond?

John 1:1-5,9-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people  did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Does Life Have a Purpose?

explore god chicago

Does Life Have a Purpose?

Most of us do not spend a lot of time thinking about our purpose, at least on a cosmic scale. But the times we do can be pretty troubling, especially if we suspect that there is no purpose. On the other hand, even for those who believe that our lives are heading somewhere—who believe there is an ultimate meaning—finding answers to life’s simple, everyday questions can be difficult.

Who should I spend time with? Where should I work? How should I spend my money?


“Then what is life for? To die? To kill myself at once? No, I am afraid. To wait for death till it comes? I fear that even more. Then I must live. But what for? In order to die?”

- Leo Tolstoy 

Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Life is just a dirty trick, a short journey from nothingness to nothingness.”

“They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” - Samuel Beckett

Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”

The first person to write, in detail, about this search for meaning was king over the ancient nation of Israel. King Solomon was more rich, powerful, and wise than any living person. He had it all, tried it all, and discovered some profound things as a result.

Ecclesiastes 1:2 
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 1:16-18 
I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-6 
I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees.

Ecclesiastes 2:8-11 
I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 3:10-14 
I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 12:1,7,13,14
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Conclusion: Life is meaningless without God. But God gives everything meaning.

One of the fastest growing religions in America is “practical atheism,” which is populated by those who claim to believe in God but live as if he doesn’t exist.

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.”

- Brennan Manning

When you are taking your last breaths, will you be longing to have earned more money, achieved more status, or networked with the right people?

Matthew 6:25-34 
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

You are invited to embrace Jesus’s challenge to seek God’s kingdom and discover your purpose in light of God’s plan.

Bottom Line:
Every person on Earth was created to know and love God personally. Life is meaningless without God, but God gives everything meaning.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019