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Psalm 73: Re-Focus

“When we have nothing else in the world to cling to, then we cling to Jesus like nothing else in the world.”

Psalm 32: Repent

When we sin, our instinct is to cover it up. . . .but this just makes things worse. The better move is to uncover our sin before God so he can remove it – and actually cover us, for real, in the pure, perfect righteousness of Christ.

The Value of Consistency

The gospel eventually solves all of our problems. That’s why it is the backbone of a healthy spiritual diet. And, that’s why Paul was furious with the Galatians for trading in the gospel in exchange for something that amounted to spiritual junk food. . .

The Right Kind of Medicine

Wrap your arms around the cross of Jesus. Drink deeply of the medicine of his forgiving love. Cling tightly to his promises that he has done everything necessary for you to go to heaven. And don’t let anybody ever take this gospel away from you.

A Clean Diet

The pure gospel tastes good (because it lifts the pressure off your shoulders and gives you certainty of eternal life.) The pure gospel is good for you (because through it God connects you to him in bonds of faith that start now and last through all eternity.) And as such. . .the pure gospel is a spiritual food worth sharing.

Contextualization

The good news of the gospel is that because of Jesus, our sins are forgiven for free. . . and in fact no matter how hard we work our whole lives long, there is nothing we can do that makes us even one ounce “more saved” than we already are in Christ Jesus.

Influence

God influences the world through his people, and his activity makes our lives incredibly significant – even when the things he has tasked us with doing appear to be very ordinary.

Teamwork

No matter who you are, no matter who you are, no matter who you are! You have a TON to contribute to this church. Because you are a redeemed child of God with a unique combination of skills, interests, abilities, and personality that no one else in the whole world has. I can’t wait to see how God uses you as we work together to share Jesus with Atlanta.

Focus

Without Jesus, a church is just a gathering of people who like to hang out on Sundays. Maybe go out for brunch, take a selfie, and feel like you got your spiritual fix for the weekend. But with Jesus, a church is something completely different. It’s a group of starving people, rejoicing that they have found bread. It’s a group of terminally ill people, rejoicing that their disease has been cured. It’s a group of sinners, learning that they have been forgiven

Diversity

By the grace of God we look at the diversity within our community and we don’t see it as something we hate. . . we don’t see it as something we struggle with. . . rather, we see it as a tremendous blessing. Diversity among God’s people is a little taste of heaven.

Urgency

And looking down at all of that, Jesus looked at his disciples and said ‘You go save that world!’. And he looks at us, and your church here in the middle of Atlanta and he says, save them. Tell them that God’s love isn’t something that’s earned or bought, that God loves them, and gave his Son for them. Tell them that no matter who they are or what they’ve done, forgiveness and a place in heaven are waiting for them.

From Trouble to Triumph

In heaven, not only will you never face another problem which could make you shed tears again. . . .but you will be with a God who will hold you in his arms and wipe away all the hurt, tears, scars, and baggage of the past until they’re not even a distant memory.

From Fear to Confidence

When Jesus went to the cross on Good Friday, he saw how scared we were of death and said, like a loving big brother, “Don’t be scared – I’ll go first!” And now by his Easter resurrection Jesus powerfully encourages us. “See! I’m OK! There’s nothing to be scared of.” And sure enough, we’re no longer scared. In fact we can even be confident to face death someday . . . because we know that just like our big brother Jesus, we will rise again.

From Selfishness to Selfless Love

Even if Christians do all kinds of great outward things, without love they mean nothing. And yet the opposite is also true: even if Christians do what seem to be very small outward things, with love they mean everything.

From Doubt to Certainty

The entire message of the Bible, written a thousand different ways, is God saying to mankind “Peace be with you. I forgive you.”

Easter Victory

This is how much of a change Jesus brought about on Easter, and this is how dominant his victory was: He took death, which had been mankind’s greatest curse, and turned it into the beginning of mankind’s greatest blessing. He took death, which people have always been afraid of, and turned it into something that as Christians we can actually look forward to. Because he lives, we also will live. . .

The Final Days of Jesus: Good Friday

As Martin Luther once wrote, ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness; I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what was mine and given me what was yours. You became what you were not so that I might become what I was not.’ The cross is the place where God declared Jesus guilty. . . but it’s also the place where God declared you forever innocent.

The Final Days of Jesus: Maundy Thursday

There was no element of surprise here. Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to him. And yet when he had finished supper with his disciples, he went out and patiently waited for his enemies to come and find him. Why would Jesus do this? Because this had been his plan all along. . . .Jesus was on a mission to save the world and to do so he needed to be arrested and tried and killed.

I Am the Way

This is the end result of following a grace-filled religion – of following Jesus, the Way and the Truth and the Life. You don’t have to wonder if you did enough to make it to the Good Place. (As a matter of fact, you definitely didn’t!) But you have a Savior who did. He has gone there to prepare a place for you, and somebody soon he will come back to take you with him so you also may be where he is.

I Am the Good Shepherd

Normally when I preach on it, I talk about the sheep and I sing songs like “I am Jesus’s little lamb.” But this time as I was studying the text, I saw something that I hadn’t noticed before… in these eight verses, Jesus repeats himself three times. Three times Jesus says that the Good Shepherd “lays down his life”. Because he loves you… even though he knows you… to save you.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus brings you out of your grave, it will be to a world that is finally operating the way that it should be. No more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. Physical, spiritual, and eternal life all at the same time. . . this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

I Am the Light of the World

Living in a sin-darkened world is difficult and scary and dangerous. But what if somebody could give you a flashlight? What if somebody could take off your blindfold? What if somebody could light up your world so you can see what’s going on around you, and see where you’re going, and stop blindly crashing into people but rather see them as God sees them? That’s exactly what Jesus has done…

I Am the Bread of Life

You can lose your job. You can be mocked by your peers. You can have your heart broken in a relationship. You can be forsaken by your friends. You can lose everything in this life. You can physically starve to death. But if you’ve got the Bread of Life, it won’t matter. . . . Because spiritually, you have been filled with the righteousness of Christ. You have been given a status where God looks at you and says ‘This is my child.’ You have been brought to a place where 5 minutes after you die, you will be in heaven with your Savior, fulfilled and satisfied for all eternity.

A Glimpse of Glory

Heaven will never end. It just keeps going. And from that eternal perspective, all the sufferings and problems of this life are nothing in comparison with the glory God has prepared for us.

Love Your Enemies

This is how enemies become friends… This is how skeptics become believers… This is how God’s church grows… and this is how the group of people who will be in heaven one day keeps getting larger and larger: Because of radical, counter-cultural love, flowing from God in heaven, to Jesus on the cross, to you and me, and then to the rest of the world.

The Meaning of Miracles

Here’s the reality: even when you do all the good things that you’re supposed to do, even when you avoid all those bad things that everybody else seems to be doing, it doesn’t bring you up a level. Because there are no “levels.” We are all the same. All human beings are equally sinful. And yet all human beings are equally loved by God. So that means all human beings are equally candidates for grace. . . .

Bringing People On Board

If you think about it, God could have done it a different way. God could have told Isaiah, and Peter, and James, and John, and you, and me, to stay out of his way and not mess his ministry up. God could have told us “I don’t want my gospel message in your sinful mouths – I’m sending an angel to go do my outreach instead.” But God didn’t do that. Instead, when he purified us from sin and put faith in our hearts, he also put his Word on our lips so we could go and share it with other people.

Rejected in his Hometown

Jesus couldn’t speak the good news any more clearly. God had finally sent all of mankind what we had needed for thousands of years – a Savior from our sins! A ticket to eternal life in heaven! But most of the people in Nazareth didn’t even listen to the beautiful content of that message, because they were too distracted by the messenger…

1-on-1 vs. the Devil

Champion warfare was a common practice in the ancient world. The purpose, really, was to save lives. Instead of hundreds of thousands of soldiers shedding their blood all over the battlefield, you just had two soldiers face off, 1-on-1, each one risking their life to potentially save many others.
That’s what Jesus did when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness: he put his life on the line for all of us, and he came away victorious.

This is My Son

Your baptism is a direct connection with your Savior Jesus. The water went on him, and with it went every one of your sins to be punished and paid for on the cross. The water went on you, and with it came his perfect life – wrapped around you and covering you like a perfect garment.

A 12-Year Old at the Temple

This is the only story from Jesus’ childhood that was recorded in the Bible. And you can see why! Like the sun breaking through the clouds, Jesus’ true identity started shining through. Mary and Joseph remembered, “This is the promised Son of God, who has come to save the world from sin!” And then just like that the moment was over and Jesus obediently walked over to his parents and said “Let’s go home.”

A Toddler Worshiped by Kings

We live thousands of years later, halfway across the world, and speak an entirely different language than the culture in which Jesus was born. LIke the wise men, we’re all “unlikely believers…” But God reached out and found us, because he will go to crazy lengths to share the Savior with the entire world.

Who Is Jesus?

He’s God. He’s also a human being. And he’s both those things at the same time. God and the human race had been disconnected by sin, and the only way for them to be reconnected again was by a mediator with a foot in both camps…

The Greatest Mission in History

Tonight we are gathered because of an even more incredible moment… because of a mission far greater than even NASA sending a spaceship to the dark side of the moon. We are gathered here tonight to celebrate the mission of God sending his own Son down to our world.

He Will Bring Eternal Peace

If we are going to escape the lies and attacks and spiritual warfare of our greatest enemy the devil, then we need a messenger to bring us the good news of victory. To tell us, “Rejoice, we conquer!” And that’s just what God does for us today, through the words of his prophet Isaiah…

He Will Unite the Nations

Grace is the great equalizer. It applies to everybody in the world in the same beautiful, surprising, undeserved way. None of us deserves God’s grace at all. . . .but God gives it to us just the same.

He Will Raise the Dead

Physical life. Spiritual life. Eternal life. The way that it was always meant to be. . . that’s how your story actually will end. Because God sent you a hero at Christmas with the power to raise the dead.

He Will Slay the Serpent

The seeming peace and quiet of Christmas hid the arrival of a powerful warrior coming into enemy territory. The little manger hid something bigger than our whole world. It was our hero, the Son of God, who would win a mighty victory against all the forces of evil, crush the head of that ancient serpent, and bring all God’s children to eternal life.

God’s Treasures

By the grace of our generous God we too can develop a spirit of generosity, which says, ‘I don’t want to waste my money by spending it foolishly, or by saving it for no reason. I want to use my money to actually do things in this world, and thus be a great blessing to the people around me.’

God’s Talents

When Jesus redeemed you on the cross of Calvary, he also redeemed your talents. And being a redeemed child of God sets you free from proudly looking down on other people, or from feeling inadequate compared to other people. Being a redeemed child of God just makes you thankful for your Savior, and excited to use your talents to serve him.

God’s Time

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.” That’s where your story ends up because of Jesus. Actually it doesn’t end. It just keeps on going…

How to Use God’s Things

Here’s my perception: I own a lot of things. My time. My money. My body. My life. And I’m free to use those things however I want to.
However, here’s the reality: I don’t own anything. Every single thing in my life is temporary, on loan from God. . . .

The Righteousness of God

Do you realize that that’s what Jesus did for you in your baptism, too? He took all of your sin, all of your guilt, everything you have to be ashamed of, and he replaced it with his perfection…

Destiny

The best part about heaven is not the specific lodging arrangements. It’s the company! Because heaven is the place where you finally get to be with Jesus forever.

Morality

When human beings talk about morals, all we do is get bogged down by surface arguments about which actions are good and which actions are bad. But the Bible goes way deeper. It exposes the root problem of immorality in the sinful heart. And then it solves that problem by introducing us to our moral Savior, Jesus.

Meaning

Your whole life is infused with deep and powerful meaning, because you are a child of the King! You are on a rescue mission to bring good news to the lost! You are part of a story that lasts forever…

Origin

These are the implications of a Christian worldview: God sees everything about me. God knows everything about me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. . .

A Life Worth Living

“A Life Worth Living” September 23, 2018 Pastor Lucas Bitter Intown Lutheran Church (Atlanta, GA) Acts 16:16-34 16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed …

A City Worth Loving

What Jonah didn’t realize is that the promises of salvation are not limited to one nation, tribe, people, or language.  It’s not an exclusive club with membership limited to the “good people.”  God’s grace and forgiveness are intended for the whole world, and they always have been. In order to help Jonah “get this,” God used a very unique object lesson.

A God Worth Knowing

For the first time, Saul realized that God’s love is not conditional upon our obedience.  God’s love does not depend on whether or not we are good people, who live good lives.  In fact, it is precisely because we are NOT good people and we do NOT live good lives – it is precisely because we are sinful – that God sent Jesus in the first place.  To live a more perfect life than we could ever live.  To die on the cross and pay for every single one of our sins.  To rise from the grave and conquer death and open heaven to all who believe. 

Community

Christians are not fighting a battle against the people of our world – we’re actually fighting a battle for the people of our world!  We’re fighting to relate to them, to build trust with them, to build friendships with them, to show love to them, and ultimately to share with them that God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him doesn’t have to perish, but shall have eternal life.

Church

Our sinful minds do not operate on principles of forgiveness and love; they operate on the principle of revenge.   “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  It is because of our sin that the world is stuck in a cycle of revenge.  It is because of our sin that the world is full of hatred and suffering.

Family

God is not embarrassed to deal with us, just like he wasn’t embarrassed to deal with Adam and Eve.  God does not turn his face away from us in disgust.  Instead God loved us so much that he decided to restore our families by dismantling his own.

Things Fall Apart

Jesus “redeemed” us – that is, he bought us.  And we came at a tremendous cost.  Jesus gave up his blood, he gave up his life, and quite literally he gave up his soul.  Perhaps some of you remember that as Jesus was dying on the cross he shouted, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus was allowing himself to be disconnected from God and punished for all of our sins. . . . so that in turn we could be connected with God, and forgiven.