4 Sermons You Should Listen To

For the past ten years, I’ve been updating a podcast called “Feed My Sheep” with sermons preached at our church, sorted by date and book of the Bible.

There is no greater joy in ministry than studying and proclaiming the Word of God to the people of God for the glory of God. One of my life verses is Colossians 1:28–29:

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

It’s hard to believe, but our podcast site now contains more than 500 sermons, including series on Ecclesiastes, the Gospel of Mark, Gospel of John, 1 Corinthians, Titus, 1 John, and every week we are adding new content on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans. That’s a lot of material. But what if you wanted to catch just the “highlight” reel? Which sermons should you listen to first?

In our church’s membership class, we like to present discipleship as a four-phase gospel growth process: outreach, follow-up, growth, and training in ministry (see The Trellis & The Vine for more on this). For each of these four phases, we then refer prospective members to a few resources that could help them to identify where they are at in the process, and to facilitate further gospel growth.

With that in mind, here are four sermons from our podcast I think could help you on your spiritual journey…

For Outreach

Only Believe “(John 3:16) – A look at what is arguably the most important verse in the Bible. Answers the important question, “What must I do to be saved?” How you understand and respond to the gospel will determine where you spend eternity.

For Follow-Up

Spiritual Discipline: How to Improve Your Walk with God” – This was a Wednesday Night Bible Study I taught based on Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian LifeUse this link to access the whole audio series and handouts, or get a sample by listening to the episode below on prayer.

For Growth

Love: The Great Commandment” (1 John 4:19) – Our sermon series on 1 John dealt with the question, “How can I know for sure I’m saved?” This sermon summarizes the book and our aim in the Christian life.

For Training in Ministry

Rise Up, O Men of God” (Titus 1:5-9) – The first in a series I entitled, “Fit for Duty,” on the qualifications of an elder. These are characteristics every Christian should aspire to, as we accept the task of shepherding those under our care.

Question: Think of a sermon that had a direct impact on your life (whether at our church or some other church or radio ministry). What was it? How did it change you?

What Bible Verses Should I Memorize?

A friend asked me the other day what would be the first ten verses he should memorize. I cheated and gave him more than ten, but I think this is an important starter list.

1. Start with John 3:16. It is an oldie, but a goodie. It is one of the most beautiful and succinct summaries of the gospel found anywhere in Scripture.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

2. This may seem odd, but next I recommend learning 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 on Sexual Purity. I don’t know a single young man (or woman) who doesn’t struggle with lust and impurity, whether in body or mind. It would be wise to commit these verses to memory as soon as possible as we fight the good fight for a pure conscience.

1 Thessalonians 4:3–4 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.

3. John 14:6 on the Exclusivity of Christ. I can’t think of a more important verse to explain that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and what makes him different from every other religion and worldview. In a day of so-called “tolerance” and postmodern confusion, we desperately need to fix our eyes on Christ alone.

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.

4. Ephesians 4:29 on Speech. If we could learn to live out this one verse, it will radically change our homes and our churches.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

5. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 on the Authority of Scripture. The Bible alone is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Many people seek existential experiences and supernatural revelation, yet overlook the fact God has already spoken, and he has spoken clearly.

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.

6. The Romans Road. With the above verses under your belt, you are now ready to learn the Romans Road. I still remember memorizing this set of verses in junior high at my Christian school, and it changed my life to have a basic plan of salvation to meditate on and to share with others.

Romans 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:9–10 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

After mastering the above verses, I recommend buying John Barnett’s book Word-Filled Families. It has some great chapters on parenting with scripture, plus an entire Appendix dedicated to more than 100 “Verses Every Believer Should Know.”

Question: What verses would you add to a short list of essential verses to be memorized?

Ten Questions to Ask Your Spouse on a Date Night

One important sign of a healthy relationship is good communication. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each other.”

Salt not only adds flavor, but slows down the decaying process in food. What the Apostle Paul is saying is both our words and tone of voice should be pleasing to the ears and edifying to the soul. We should avoid harsh, critical, and dirty speech that tears others down and use our tongue instead to build up.

In the spirit of Donald Whitney’s excellent “Ten Questions” series of handouts, here is a list of ten questions I compiled to ask your spouse to promote good communication, such as on a date night…

1. What are a few of your favorite foods?
2. What are a few of your favorite hobbies?
3. What is one thing at home you wish you did better?
4. What is one thing at home you’d like me to do better?
5. Who is someone you deeply admire?
6. What is one of your favorite memories of our time together?
7. What is one thing I do that sometimes irritates you?
8. What character qualities do you most admire in me?
9. What is one lesson God has been teaching you?
10. Read 1 Corinthians 13. If I could better serve and show my love to you in one way, what would it be?

Loaves, Fish, and Jesus’ Free Gift

Of all the miracles Jesus performed, my personal favorite is the feeding of the five thousand. Do you remember that story? After a long day of teaching in Galilee, Jesus noticed the people were getting hungry. Rather than send them into a seaside village to scrounge for food, he accepted a little boy’s sack lunch of five barley loaves and two small fish. He thanked God for the food, then began to break the bread and the fish, handing it out to the disciples, who distributed it among the crowd.

People were invited to eat “as much as they wanted” (John 6:11), and when it was all over, there was more food than when Jesus began. It was the first meal in history where the leftovers amounted to more than the original meal itself! “So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten” (John 6:13).

The response was electric. “When the people saw this miracle and tasted the food, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (John 6:14). Some even tried to forcibly make him king right there. Jesus had no choice but to withdraw from the mob. His time had not yet come to publicly announce his kingship.

I’m not sure why this miracle is my favorite. Maybe it’s because it is the largest scale miracle recorded in the Gospels. More eye witnesses saw this event than probably any other in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Maybe it’s because I like to eat, and I think it’s cool that Jesus cared about the hunger of his listeners. Maybe it’s because of the underlying spiritual lesson that Jesus is the Bread of Life, and if you want to have your spiritual hunger satisfied, you must trust in him alone.

There’s one more reason I like this miracle so much, and it goes back to a childhood memory. When I was in second grade, the teacher at my little Christian school conducted an experiment to show us how big the number 5,000 is. She sent home a letter instructing us to collect as many aluminum soda can tabs as possible (“pop” can tabs for all of us in Michigan). By next Monday, kids were already pulling Ziploc-bags out of their backbacks that contained soda can tabs. We huddled close, counted them up, then listened to them clink into an empty metal desk at the front of the room. Week by week, the desk began to fill more and more, until it reached the brim, and the desk lid would barely close. Still more tabs were brought and placed on top of the desk, until finally, we reached our goal of 5,000 soda tabs. The class went wild. We had done it! And that staggering number of aluminum can tabs represented the same number of people Jesus fed with a little basket of five loaves and two fish.

The feeding of the five thousand is just one of the many amazing miracles or “signs” Jesus performed, proving he is the Son of God. These were not cheap magic tricks or legendary fables. They were real-life events that defied the laws of nature and became indisputable proofs that Jesus was sent from God. The people who ate that meal were right to acknowledge, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” What about you? What will you do with Jesus? Are you willing to check out his claims for yourself — or maybe even accept his free gift of eternal life?

(This article first appeared in the Minister’s Message of our local newspaper, The Hi Desert Star)

A Glimpse at the Wrath of God

I wince every time I see images of Hurricane Irma barreling toward the Florida mainland. All of this while the Pacific Northwest fights massive forest fires, Mexico reels from an 8.2 earthquake, and Texas cleans up unprecedented flood damage. As I watch these disasters unfold and pray for my friends who are affected, I cannot help but think Romans 1:18-19, which our church studied just a couple weeks ago.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

When I read these verses and preached on this passage on August 27, I commented how natural disasters are a preview of the wrath of God that point us to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s a transcript of my words Sunday morning two weeks ago. Little did I know just how dramatic God would put his wrath on display in the days ahead…

“Do you understand that when you see human suffering — when you see viruses, and influenza; when you see bacteria; when you see wars and natural disasters — you are seeing in a sense the wrath of God revealed against ungodliness and unrighteousness?

Those things didn’t exist in the pre-fall era. When God looked at his creation after six days, he said, “It is very good” (Genesis 1:31). There was no suffering. There were not wars, there was no sin, there were no diseases. Everything was perfect. But God gave a curse upon this world, and now we all groan under the weight of God’s punishment against sin.

The worst is yet to come for unbelievers. But all of these forms of suffering, and trials, and disasters, are but a foretaste of a future and eternal suffering that awaits the wicked. Oh yes, God’s wrath is already manifested and revealed from against ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

But ultimately, the greatest demonstration we have seen thus far of the wrath of God took place at Golgotha 2,000 years ago. When God sent his one and only son into this world, and Jesus hung upon that cross, and the sky went pitch black, and God crushed his son and wounded him so we could be forgiven of our sins. People saw the wrath of God being poured out. Even the Roman centurion – a pagan up to that point – said ‘Truly, this was the Son of God.’ …

The wrath of God has been revealed many times throughout history. Why? Because there’s so much ungodliness and unrighteousness. And perhaps the greatest demonstration of that unrighteousness is the willful and deliberate suppression of the truth.”

Our world is hurting. The suffering is overwhelming. My question is this: What is it going to take for God to get our attention?

Oh that God would use these disasters to shake us out of our spiritual stupor, and bring us to repentance, before an infinitely greater wrath arrives.

The blog of Stephen Jones