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Pastor Denny Wayman: ‘You Know ...’

[Noozhawk’s note: The following are the Easter Sunday sermon notes of Pastor Denny Wayman, lead pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive in Santa Barbara. Click here for an audio version of the complete sermon.]

Rev. Denny Wayman
Rev. Denny Wayman

Text: Acts 10:34-43

PURPOSE: Explore the message of Easter as both knowledge that we already know — as well as a truth that we can’t possibly fully know. Explore what God wants us to KNOW — not so much as a historical moment or a theoretical possibility but as a living reality within our own lives: WE KNOW OUR REDEEMER LIVES! This subjective, personal, existential knowledge is far greater than the gnosis of this world. Encourage the hearers to open themselves to a living relationship with God in which we know Him and He knows us.

BEFORE READING THE TEXT:

I love asking newly engaged couples in our premarital counseling sessions: “How do you KNOW that this other person LOVES you?” Of course, the answers they give vary greatly, not only because we are all very unique people, but also because of the question itself.

How do you KNOW they LOVE you? Love itself is indescribable. It cannot be proven by scientific method. No experiment will ever define it. No court of law can prove it — especially not beyond a reasonable doubt. Love is of a whole different nature than what we deal with most of the time in our lives.

But when we add the question: “How do you KNOW ...?” — that’s a problem all of its own. How do we KNOW what we know? And even the question, what does “knowing something” mean? Is it something that happens in your brain, in your gut, in your soul? And why do some people easily KNOW they are loved, while others are plagued with doubt even when their beloved looks them in their eyes and tells them, “I love you”?

And what is it about Jesus that makes it not easy for some people to KNOW that He LOVES them, and that they are invited to KNOW the Power of the Resurrection in their lives?

In the world today, one out of every three people say that they believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and identify themselves as being a Christian, a beloved child of God. Now that is an interesting fact, since on the first Easter long ago, even the Disciples had trouble believing in the Resurrection or identifying themselves as being with Jesus. Most of them fled when he was arrested and Peter, who did not flee, still ended up denying KNOWING Him. And when the women returned from the tomb, saying they had seen the Risen Lord — the Disciples did not believe them. Peter and John ran to see the empty tomb for themselves.

But now, 2,000 years later, one out of every three human beings believe and know that Jesus lives, and because He lives, we know we can live, too.

THAT message was what this same Peter proclaimed soon after the Resurrection as he gave his eyewitness account to everyone who would listen. One of those first persons was Cornelius, a centurion from the Italian Regiment. Think about that. Cornelius is a Roman, and not just a Roman, he is a centurion in the occupying force that has conquered Israel, and not only of the occupying force but of an elite fighting force known as the Italian Regiment. And so Peter, who was afraid of a servant girl, is now speaking to a centurion of the Italian Regiment — because of what he came to KNOW about Jesus.

So let’s listen to the testimony of Peter to Cornelius.

Luke the Physician and now historian records these words:

Acts 10:34-43 — Then Peter began to speak: “I

now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached — how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him. “We are witnesses of everything He did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed Him by hanging Him on a cross, but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen — by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him

receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

LET US PRAY:

We have all kinds of words to describe a person who can’t feel the love of others. But all of them describe something that is broken and needs to be healed. An attachment disorder, for example, needs to be healed so a person can attach themselves and have a relationship — a friendship, a spouse, a family.

But it is interesting when we come to Jesus and a person has difficulty KNOWING that Jesus LOVES them, we often see it not as something broken that needs healing but as just another way of being a human. They live without God’s love because they don’t believe in Him — nor do they need Him. In fact, I have been told regularly, I was told it again just last week, when a Christian parent was describing their beloved child, they said that their child BELIEVES people who love Jesus simply need Him as a crutch because Christians can’t live life without some assistance. And this young person wants to live on their own two feet. If that same child says “... people who love can’t live without that crutch and I want to live alone with no one loving me or me loving anyone ...” then we see clearly that something is broken. We know that we are social creatures, created for love — and if a person isn’t experiencing love then we want to help them find healing and relationship.

That is why Peter is telling Cornelius all about Jesus. He knows that Cornelius is searching for the Love of God. And yet the gods of the Roman pantheon are anything but loving. And so Cornelius hears about a God who loves so much that He was willing to take all the pain of the world on Himself and overcome that pain Himself and heal the brokenness of everyone Himself. And Cornelius wants to KNOW this God.

So Peter gives him the ways that we KNOW the LOVE of the life-giving, resurrecting God. As we saw as we read Peter’s testimony, there are several ways WE KNOW JESUS.

First, God accepts everyone, from every nation, the one who, and the Greek word we translate Fears God is Phobeo — which in this context does mean fear as in a phobia — but it is not a phobia of God. Rather it means “amazed to the point of Awe and Reverence” — “to Worship and Venerate.” And, of course, every person of every nation who is in awe of God and who does what is Right is fully human.

So that’s the first thing we KNOW about Jesus: He accepts everyone from every nation who KNOWS Him well enough to be amazed at who He really is — His love and purity and righteous — this knowledge gives them a sense of Awe and Reverence of Him.

I had someone say recently that they have a family member who was lamenting how critical they are of everyone and he said, “I could even find something wrong with Jesus Christ.” I found that hopeful, because he knew that something is wrong with him if he even finds something wrong with Jesus. For those of us who KNOW Him — we experience His acceptance and love – Knowing He loves us.

Next Peter says you KNOW the Message God sent —- the Good News about Jesus. Even if there is something broken in us so that we cannot accept God’s acceptance and cannot return God’s love, we can know the GOOD NEWS OF PEACE made possible THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.

I’m always amazed when people describe a war as a war between Christians and someone else. Nowhere has Jesus Christ told us to kill our enemies. Nowhere. People may claim to be a Christian and say something like “I am a Christian and my faith tells me to hate you” or “kill you.” But

nowhere

has JESUS ever told anyone to hate anyone or kill anyone. Read the Gospels — the GOOD NEWS OF PEACE found in the New Testament. There is no such thing as a Christian War. Jesus goes so far as to say that we are to LOVE our ENEMIES, which is the only way peace is possible.

So often we do not KNOW the MESSAGE GOD SENT or why the Angels proclaimed “PEACE ON EARTH and GOODWILL TOWARD ALL” as the Prince of Peace was born. So often we do NOT KNOW the true Gospels — the Good News — because we have not read for ourselves the Message, nor met the Messenger.

And that leads us to the third way of KNOWING that God loves us: Not only can we experience His acceptance and read his Gospels — but we can also study this history of an actual event that happened almost 2,000 years ago in the Province of Judea and began in Galilee when John the baptizer preached. How Jesus of Nazareth went around doing good and healing the sick and defeating all evil.

This is another way of knowing. We not only experience His acceptance and Love personally. We not only read His message in the New Testament Gospels. But we also study the events of history. We KNOW what happened throughout the province of Judea. We see how history has changed dramatically because of a carpenter’s Son from Nazareth. We see the church that grew from His teachings. We experience the community that is still doing good in His name because God is with us.

And that of course leads us to the final truth that is central to this Easter celebration. We KNOW Jesus conquered death because PETER and other witnesses saw him. They were there and they describe what they saw. And it is consistent with what we experience this Easter and every Easter and every morning as death’s darkness gives way to Resurrection’s light.

It is true that not everyone saw Him. That is the problem with a physical resurrection and a physical Savior. He could only be in one place at one time, and so by definition, only those in those places at those times could see Him.

And perhaps even more to the point, to have the eyes to see Jesus —

then and now

— requires that we accept what we see and believe what we hear and trust what we read and experience what we feel such that we KNOW the Resurrected One. If we are not open to KNOWING Him, then no matter how much He loves us, or how many clues He gives us, or how close He comes to us, or how many witnesses and testimonies of Him we hear, we will never know the One Who came to give us life beyond life.

This Easter, we join Peter in preaching the good news and testifying what we’ve experienced of the ONE whom GOD sent so that we might KNOW HIM and BELIEVE IN HIM and receive new life as we experience His forgiveness.

I don’t know what you know or do not know. But you do. You KNOW if you are now experiencing the acceptance and love of this One who came to KNOW you! You KNOW if you are receiving the truth of the Message of the Good News of PEACE found in the Gospel. You KNOW if you have studied the history of what happened to Judea and to all the world as His-Story has been told throughout the history of the world. And you KNOW if you’ve seen the Resurrected One in His strength and power and forgiveness in your life.

If you have, then you are undoubtedly in AWE this Easter Sunday.

If you have not, then Jesus is here to reveal Himself to you as the Resurrected One. He is here if you want to know Him. Ask Him to give you the eyes to see, the ears to hear, the head to know and the heart to know and experience Him and His life-changing resurrection power in your own life.

In this moment, spend time with the Resurrected One!

— The Rev. Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive in Santa Barbara. Click here for more information on Free Methodist Church, or call 805.965.1338 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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