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Behold the King: An Overview of Matthew – 12/3/23

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Behold the King: An Overview of Matthew – 12/3/23


Peter Hubbard


December 3, 2023


Matthew, Matthew 1-28


I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, but there have been a surprising amount of, you might say, unusual conversions to Christianity lately. Many examples I could give perhaps. Most shocking recently was the public confession of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ayaan was born in Somalia, lived in Saudi Arabia and then Ethiopia. She speaks six languages — English, Somali, Arabic, Swahili, Amharic and Dutch. As a teenager, she was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kenya. She was a devout Muslim. However, in 1992, she fled an arranged marriage, requested asylum in the Netherlands, went to university, became a member of the Dutch parliament and a fierce advocate for women’s rights in Muslim countries. After 9/11, she renounced Islam and wrote her international bestselling book, Infidel. She became an atheist, got married, moved to America, and taught in schools like Harvard and Stanford. And she was placed on a hit list by al Qaeda in 2010.

So, why would she begin calling herself a Christian last month? She gives two reasons. One is global; the other is personal. The global, she wrote in the British organization called “Unheard” a couple of weeks ago.

“Western civilization is under threat from three different but related forces: the resurgence of great-power authoritarianism and expansionism in the forms of the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin’s Russia [that’s the first]; the rise of global Islamism, which threatens to mobilize the vast population against the west; and the viral spread of woke ideology, which is eating into the moral fiber of the next generation.”

She continues,

“We endeavor to fend off these threats with modern secular tools: military, economic, diplomatic, and technological efforts to defeat, bribe, persuade, appeal or surveil. And yet, with every round of conflict, we find ourselves losing ground. But we can’t fight off these formidable forces unless we can answer the question: what is it that unites us? The response that ‘God is dead’ seems insufficient. So, too, does the attempt to find solace in the ‘rules-based liberal international order.’ The only credible answer, I believe, lies in our desire to uphold the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition. That legacy consists of an elaborate set of ideas and institutions designed to safeguard human life, freedom, and dignity — from the nation, state, to the rule of law, to the institutions of science, health, and learning. As Tom Holland has shown in his marvelous book, Dominion, all sorts of apparently secular freedoms — of the market, of conscience, of the press — find their roots in Christianity.”

So, Ayaan looks at Christianity as a world view, a way of perceiving and influencing the world, which obviously where she goes with that can either be a really healthy place or a really unbiblical place. But it raises the question, and she’s been asked, “Are you merely a cultural Christian?” And this is where she shares some of the personal. She speaks quite candidly of a crisis she experienced. She tried to self-medicate with alcohol. She met with a therapist. Nothing was helping. She realized she was, in her words, spiritually bankrupt in a place of darkness. Her atheism could not answer simple questions like “What is the meaning and the purpose of life?” And the God she grew up with, in her words, was a horror show. She began to learn of Jesus Christ. She said, “I no longer have this void.”.

“Of course,”

she writes,

“I still have a great deal to learn about Christianity. I discover a little more at church each Sunday. But I have recognised, in my own long journey through a wilderness of fear and self-doubt, that there is a better way to manage the challenges of existence than either Islam or unbelief had to offer.”

Now, Ayaan and is raising some interesting contrasts. She says in Islam, she found strong convictions and no freedom. In atheism, she found lots of freedom. She said it was quite fun for a while, but no strong convictions. Or at least what she’s saying is not that atheists don’t have convictions, but she’s saying there is nothing underneath to support those convictions. And in Christianity, she is finding strong convictions with real freedom.

She tells the story of Bertrand Russell in 1927, when he delivered his famous lecture entitled “Why I Am Not a Christian” in south London. The majority of Londoners, people in Britain, would have at that time defined themselves as Christians. And yet she is shocked that he was able to deliver a lecture like that, “Why I am not a Christian” (It became a book. I’ve quoted it from here before) without fearing for his life. Nobody killed him for saying he’s not a Christian anymore. But yet, she says, in her world, there would never be a Muslim anywhere who could deliver a lecture “Why I Am Not a Muslim” without fearing for his or her life. As a matter of fact, there’s a book entitled “Why I’m Not a Muslim,” written by an ex-Muslim, but it was published with a pseudonym for fear of his life.

That raises questions. Why do Christians have such strong convictions? They can be really ornery, right? They want to evangelize you. They are stubbornly sticking to certain convictions, believe Jesus is the way, and yet there is a freedom of conscience, allowing other people to believe what they believe. And wherever Christianity goes in its genuine forms, it results in more freedom. That captivated her. That truth, combined with love, is extremely unusual.

And there’s no way we’re going to even understand, if we try to get back to the source of that, without going to the ultimate source, Jesus Christ. He is unlike any other religious or political leader. He is clearly the most influential person in history. He brings together things that normally are not seen together.

And today we begin a journey through the very first gospel that describes the life, purpose, ultimately death, resurrection of Jesus Christ — the Gospel of Matthew. This is the last gospel we as a church have not yet studied. And so, beginning today, we intend to change that, Lord willing.

According to D. Edmond Hiebert, Matthew was the most widely-read gospel in the early church. The church fathers quoted from it more than from any others. So, I want us today to do two things — to look at the structure of Matthew — what shape does it take? How does it flow? And then secondly, a summary of Matthew — what is it all about?

And if you’re visiting, I want to warn you. It’s going to be a little different than what we normally do. Normally we grab a passage of scripture and sit under that particular passage. Today we’re looking at twenty-eight chapters. So, I am a little bit fearful that I am going to overwhelm you for a couple of reasons. One is I tend to do that anyway. But number two is I had a mandated prayer retreat this week. I was sick as a dog. My wife was going through chemo. I had to stay away from her because she could not catch anything. Her immune system gets annihilated. And so, I was up in my little study upstairs with a mattress on the floor for days on end with the book of Matthew ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day. So, brace yourself. I didn’t have my ADD meds. I have cut and cut, but I want to warn you, don’t try to get all this. The goal today is that we might see Jesus and hear Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, to try to get our arms around this book before we launch into it next week, but to try to get our arms around the book as a whole. And so, let’s ask for help.

Father, we pray that we would see Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, we would hear him speak to us by your Spirit. Help us not to feel overwhelmed and shut down, but to receive what you have for us. We pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

What is the structure of Matthew? It’s not obvious, although Matthew clearly writes with great intentionality. You’ll see all sorts of triads, chiasms. The author is writing with great intentionality, but understanding the overall sections of Matthew is not super clear. The first one is obvious, the prologue. We could call it the advent of the King in 1-2. This is where we begin, Lord willing, next week with the genealogy and the birth, Emmanuel, God with us, wise men, Egypt. I think we’re going to be struck by a couple of things. First of all, the majesty of this King — all sorts of angels, dreams, stunningly supernatural fulfillments, virgin birth, wise men. There’s a majesty about this King, but also a humility — a very average couple, experiencing a bit of a scandal, ordinary, baby, places like Bethlehem, Nazareth, no palace. So, you see both the majesty and the humility.

After the prologue, the major sections begin. The clue I think we need to be looking out for to see the major sections is a little phrase that keeps appearing, something like “when Jesus finished these sayings.” And there are at least five major discourses in Matthew, more than any other gospel, that end each of the major sections. So, let’s look at the first one.

Number 2, the gospel of the kingdom. So, this is the first major section, second section in Matthew — the good news of the kingdom, chapters 3-7. Here we learn about John the Baptist. Jesus is baptized, the temptation, the calling of the disciples, all sorts of interesting story narrative. And within the narrative there are small teachings, but it’s basically history. It’s the action. But then each of these major sections, again, ends with a teaching, or we’ll call them discourses. Discourse number 1 is the most famous sermon ever preached. What is it called? Sermon on the Mount. It describes the life in the kingdom as like no other. And notice how it ends — 7:28,

“And when Jesus finished these sayings.”

Second, the coming of the kingdom, 8-10. Here the kingdom breaks into our broken lives. Matthew tells nine stories of Jesus healing, freeing, calming, but he does it with three sets of three, with callings sprinkled between the three sets of three. Look at it if you would. Look first at three miracles — leper, paralytic, fever, and then the cost of following. Then three miracles — calming the storm, deliver from demons, paralytic, and then the call of Matthew. And then three miracles — girl raised, blind men healed, mute delivered, and then laborers are few; pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers. So, even the structure of Matthew communicates the kingdom is coming. Will you enter in? Come, follow, join in. This is not a spectator sport.

And then Jesus sends out his disciples at the beginning of chapter 10, and we get our second major discourse, the Sermon on the Mission, the Mission/Opposition or Persecution. Jesus is equipping his disciples to be rejected. This is shocking. This King has come, but many, if not most, will not welcome this kingdom. And he ends the same way —

“when Jesus had finished instructing.”

Four is the resistance to the kingdom. And this section opens with John the Baptist in prison, raising questions. “This is not what we were waiting for.” And Jesus is revealing his kingdom to unlikely people and says very clearly, “There’s no middle ground. Whoever is not with me is against me.”

And then we get discourse number 3, the Sermon in Parables. These are known as the kingdom parables — massive reversal in expectations in these parables. People are astonished. They take offense. And notice how he ends —

“and when Jesus had finished these parables.”

Number 5, the expectations of the kingdom, chapters 14-18. In this section, we see why Jesus and the religious leaders are at odds. A little takeaway here: any time you’re debating rituals like handwashing with someone who can walk on the water, you might be missing the point. And this comes out very strongly in this section. Jesus is doing stunning things, and they’re debating little rituals and blind to what is before them. Jesus feeds 5000 in a Jewish area. Then he feeds 4000 in a Gentile area, demonstrating the scope of his ministry. The high point in chapter 16, Peter confesses,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

But even when Peter made that great confession, which came from above, he still did not understand really who Jesus is and what he’s doing because as Jesus explained the cross, Peter pushed back. He had much to learn.

And we get discourse number 4, the Sermon on Relationships. I love chapter 18! In Christ’s kingdom, humility replaces arrogance, forgiveness displaces revenge, and look how it ends — “now, when Jesus had finished these sayings.”

Number 6, the conflict of the kingdom, chapters 19-25. Jesus still has large crowds following him, but he and his disciples, as they head to Jerusalem, he’s emphasizing once again his death and crucifixion, resurrection. He cleanses the temple, and he tells parables to the chief priests and the elders about sons and tenants, and the conflict begins to climax.

Let me give you two examples — Matthew 21:31,

“Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”

Now, can you imagine anything more offensive to the religious leaders of that day? That’s like looking at a Ruth’s Chris chef and saying, “Waffle House steaks are way better than yours.” Deeply offensive! Matthew 21:43, “Therefore I tell you …” (Waffle House does have steaks, by the way). Matthew 21:43,

“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.”

Jesus issues seven woes to the religious leaders.

And then you get discourse number 5, the Sermon on the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives looks down upon Jerusalem, chapters 24-25, also known as the Olivet Discourse, full of fascinating history and prophecy. And it ends

“when Jesus had finished all these sayings.”

The climax of the kingdom, number 7 — here the pace picks up. Religious leaders plot to kill Jesus, he’s anointed for his burial, eats Passover, initiates the Lord’s Supper, is betrayed, tried, crucified. But Matthew’s story does not end with this King in a tomb. He rises from the dead, unlike any other king in history. He is King of kings, Lord of lords. And then he commissions his disciples in Galilee.

And you get this final … Technically, it’s not a discourse, but I like to think of it as discourse number 6, the Great Commission. This discourse doesn’t end with “when Jesus finished these sayings.” Matthew might be implying, “Hey, this sermon is yours to preach throughout the nations. Go, make disciples of all nations.” So, that is the structure of the Gospel of Matthew. Memorized all that? Okay.

Now let’s see if we can summarize four big themes. These are certainly not all the themes. We’re going to limit it to four and use the acrostic KING, which is the theme of Matthew — KING. First is King and kingdom. Matthew is all about Jesus and his kingdom. From 1:1, where he is described as Son of David, who is king, to the very end of Matthew, where Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus is presented as the Messianic King promised throughout the Old Testament. The word “Christ,” Greek “Christos,” appears seventeen times, the Messiah, the Anointed One. The word “kingdom” appears fifty-six times, communicating sovereignty and royal power more than any other gospel. The term “kingdom of heaven” appears thirty-two times and nowhere else.

But if you’re imagining a political monarch who will immediately establish an earthly rule with sword and spear, you will be misguided. He compared the inauguration of his kingdom to planting a seed, Matthew 13:31,

“… the tree so that the birds of the air come and make nests in his branches.”

So, this kingdom goes down in order to go up, is small in order to grow. It’s like finding a treasure. Jesus said in Matthew 13:44,

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that has and buys that field.”

In other words, this kingdom is worth more than everything else. For this King is not just a monarch. He is also the suffering servant. He is lion, and he is lamb. Matthew 17:22,

“As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.’ And they were greatly distressed.”

So, like today, no different than many said, “this is not the kind of king we imagined,” the King and his kingdom.

Second, Inside-outside. Inside-outside. Who gets in this kingdom? And who is out? What are the borders? What’s the immigration refugee policy in this kingdom? Jesus made clear his kingdom is not like any other kingdom from the very beginning. It’s not your birth. It’s not what country you live in. It’s not your ethnicity. As a matter of fact, he said in Matthew 4:17,

“From that time, Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is that hand.’”

Imagine that on an application of naturalization form. If you want to become a citizen in this kingdom, you need to repent before you can become a citizen.

Matthew illustrates this with his own story. Matthew was Jewish by birth, Roman by business. He was caught between two kingdoms. Matthew 9:9,

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he arose and followed him.”

With all the money Matthew was making, he said, “This kingdom is worth more than all of this!”

“And as Jesus reclined table in the house, behold many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

So, to enter this kingdom, we must be like a person who’s sick and realizes I need help from a doctor or like a sinner who realizes I need a savior. The members, citizens of this kingdom, are people who know they don’t deserve to be there, and yet they’re welcomed in. Jesus promised entrance into his kingdom to those who viewed themselves as spiritually bankrupt. He said in his most famous sermon,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Now, this was so confusing to the disciples because even though they would hear Jesus talk about this, this upside-down kingdom didn’t make any sense. They would ask questions like Matthew 18:1,

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’”

We’re still trying to figure how do we climb this ladder?

“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn [that’s another word for repent] and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

So, we turn. We turn from status, wanting to be well thought of, wanting to impress, wanting to please. We’re coming with open, empty hands, with humility.

Now, many today try to pit kingdom language against gospel/salvation language as if you’re talking about two different kinds of Christianity, and this is foolish. For example, Jesus was talking to a rich man.

“And he said to his disciples [19:23], ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’”

So, he uses those essentially synonymously, interchangeably.

“When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’”

And Jesus didn’t say, “Hey, we’re not talking about getting saved. We’re talking about entering the kingdom.” No, he said,

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.’”

Even rich people from Greenville, South Carolina, can come into this kingdom. The gospel is the way we enter the kingdom. The church is the embassy of the kingdom in this present world, as DeYoung and Gilbert described,

“So the kingdom of God … is God’s redemptive reign, in the person of his Son, Jesus Messiah, which has broken into the present evil age and is now visible in the church.”

That’s inside-outside.

Third, New and old. New and old. No other gospel links together the new and the old like Matthew does. There is that tight connection with the Old Testament. As we’ll see next week, Matthew starts with a what? A genealogy. Seems like an odd way to begin a book. What is he doing? Linking with the past. He repeatedly uses language like “it is written, it was spoken” to connect to prophecies in the past, fulfillment in the present.

Let me show you a couple of examples — his birth was written, his birthplace, his trip to Egypt, Herod’s massacre, his life in Nazareth. I could keep going all the way through the book … specific fulfillments. And there also seems to be some vivid exodus typology in Matthew through Jesus’s infancy, water, wilderness, lawgiving, transfiguration, and an alert reader is going to think, “Whoa! This is like a new Moses!” A greater-than-Moses is Jesus! Jesus emphasized, Matthew 5:17,

“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 [to fill them up].”

So, Matthew is Jewish. But he’s also newish. Six times in Jesus’s sermon,

“you have heard, but I say to you.”

He warned us not to put new wine in old wine skins. He predicted the temple would be destroyed, the priesthood would end, Jerusalem would be decimated.

Think about who Jesus elevated. This was totally new in the Jewish world. A Canaanite woman he elevated, a Roman centurion. Look what he says about a Roman centurion. Remember, the Romans were the occupiers, the evil people you hate. And Jesus says of him,

“Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west [like places like South Carolina] and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into outer darkness.”

That would not have been a popular sermon. New-old.

And then finally, the “G” of KING, Gathering and going. From the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, he is announcing the arrival of a kingdom, which is a whole new world order. Yet, from the beginning of his ministry, he is calling ordinary people to simply follow him. The name for that is discipleship.

“Discipleship is the process wherein people are miraculously brought into Christ’s kingdom through repentance and faith, transformed together in the presence of the King, and sent out to live and give the good news of the kingdom to the world.”

I put that on a slide. Actually, Susan put it on a slide so that we could soak on that for a second because this, Lord willing, is what we will be doing for the next year or two or three as we journey our way through the Gospel of Matthew.

Let me repeat that again. “Discipleship is the process wherein people are miraculously brought into Christ’s kingdom through repentance and faith, transformed together in the presence of the King, and sent out to live and give the good news of the kingdom to the world.” That’s the purpose. And you’ll see the movement there is similar to our church purpose —

“We gather to believe God’s Word, connect with his family, and then scatter to share his story.”

It’s that same centripetal, which is a drawing-in force, and then centrifugal, which is a sending out. And each week that rhythm of us gathering in, sitting under his Word, and then in smaller groups throughout the week applying and living that out, and then going out into our neighborhoods, our communities, and around the world as this centripetal-centrifugal force of this kingdom is lived out in this current evil age.

And you can feel this centripetal force as Jesus gathers people to him. He says things like Matthew 11:28,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

So, we come with all our sin and all our sorrow, and he welcomes us, and he begins transforming us.

You can see in the Sermon on the Mount, anyone who thinks that Jesus simply lowers the bar and is good with anything hasn’t read this gospel. Think of the subjects Jesus taught on in the Sermon on the Mount — anger, lust, marriage, speech, relationships, fasting, money, anxiety, etc. Jesus makes clear — “when you come to me, I want you to come just as you are, but you will be transformed in my presence.”

He teaches us the difference between the commandments of men and the Word of God. We learn to care for the imprisoned, the hungry, the needy, the least of these. Our disordered loves are reordered. Matthew 10:37,

“Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loved son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

That’s just mind spinning. He says, “Come.” He transforms our loves so that we can truly love God and then love neighbor in life-giving ways.

Discipleship is never solitary, rarely one-on-one, intensely personal, always communal. Jesus calls this “the church,” the embassy of the kingdom in a foreign land. He said in Matthew 16:18,

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Jesus must build his church because his church would not come together apart from him. We’re too different! As Chester and Timmis describe,

“But it is in such a community that disciples are made. To be a community of light from which the light of Christ will emanate, we need to be intentional in our relationships — to love the unlovely, forgive the unforgivable, embrace the repulsive, include the awkward, accept the weird. [He’s talking about our church here] It is in contexts such as these that sinners are transformed into disciples who obey everything King Jesus has commanded.”

So, that’s a big difference between a club and a church. We become a community of light from which the light of Christ will emanate, centripetal to centrifugal. We are called in to be sent out as salt and light, as sheep among wolves, speaking in the light what we have heard in the shadows.

And this all climaxes … Actually, the whole book climaxes in the final words in Matthew 28. Jesus has died, risen from the dead, has shattered all the expectations of his disciples in order to reform them. But then he gathers them once again on another mountain. In Matthew 28:16,

“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.”

So, let that soak in, because some of you are here saying, “I want to worship him, but I don’t know.” You’re in good company. They saw him. They worshiped him. Some doubted.

“Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”

Pause for a second. Main verb — make disciples, going, baptizing, teaching. The only way we can go is because he reigns. All authority has been given in heaven and earth. We go because he reigns. What do we do when we go, whether we’re going across town or going across an ocean? We are baptizing, making disciples of all nations,

“baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I’ve commanded you.”

Remember he gave five major discourses in this book alone.

“And behold, I am with you always.”

He ends exactly where he began. Began Emmanuel, God with us. He ends Emmanuel, I am with you always to the end of the age.

This is what it’s like to follow King Jesus, to live in his kingdom. Next week, we start the journey. Let’s pray. Oh, wait. Sorry. Forgot. I want to end where we began with another surprising conversion. Do you want to hear one more? Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your necks there. So many, many, many I could tell!

The second one is Sarah Irving-Stonebraker. She is an historian, was an atheist. She wrote this recently.

“I had everything I had always wanted; the last thing I needed was a crutch.”

She viewed Christianity or religion as a crutch.

“At twenty-seven, I had fulfilled my childhood dream of earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge University as well as a fellowship at Oxford University. I had published an award-winning first book. I was having a great time with my friends at Oxford. Life was great. But here’s the strange thing: no matter how much I achieved, it was never enough. Every hurdle of achievement just revealed the next rung of the ladder to be climbed.”

She began exploring Christianity, surprised by its moral foundations, and the meaning and purpose she found there she found nowhere else the more Then she started attending church, reading the Gospels.

“The more I learned about God’s love for us in Jesus, the more I found myself overwhelmed. I realized that God had always known me, always loved me, and that he wanted me to stop running after everything else in life except him. I had lived a life rejecting God, arrogantly ridiculing and poking fun at the very idea of God. And yet, God showed me grace. But he gave me this grace at the horrific cost of taking the punishment that my sin deserved onto himself, in Jesus. While there was so much more to this story, I decided that the Bible’s explanations of who God is, who we are, and what life is about were true. I wanted to follow the God who made me, loves me, and died for me. So one night I knelt in my closet in my apartment. In prayer. I admitted I’d lived a life of turning away from God, and I asked Jesus to be my Savior. This was not because God would enable me to avoid suffering or disappointment or so I could achieve all my dreams, but rather because God himself is life. And life with him is life with abundance: ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’”

She described some intense trials she and her husband experienced, but she kept running to the provision of God.

“Jesus’ words gave me a hope that I never had as an atheist. In the dark moments, before I knew God, all I had was despair. But now that I was a Christian, I knew the God who loved me. I knew that my suffering was not ultimate, because at the end of time God will remake the heavens and the earth. Jesus himself ‘will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ … Even in the midst of suffering, Jesus is the source of abundant and eternal life.”

Amen. Let’s pray.

Father, thank you for this time to rejoice in the way you are still drawing people to yourself. You’re saving people here. You’re saving people on the other side of the world. We ask today, we asked earlier, that we would see your Son, hear his voice more clearly. We want to thank you for speaking to us, revealing your Son to us. We pray that we could use this time now together as a church family to give thanks in his name. Amen.