Sermons by “Rev. John R. Larson”

Prayer and Fasting

But our learning can’t be just from the negative. We can’t just look at someone who is making a mess of things and say, “I’m not going to be like that.” Learn from the positive. Follow the example of the best. Jesus is the one who gives this direction, “Follow me.” So, look at those disciplines – giving, praying and fasting – and follow the ways of Jesus. There was no showboating in the life of Jesus. He didn’t give to others, or pray, or fast, so that He would be praised or recognized. If you have studied the life of Jesus you have seen that “He went by Himself to pray”, or “He would go to lonely places to pray.” On Holy Thursday He prayed with great intensity, but privately, before He was handed over for crucifixion. His giving and His fasting also came from a humble heart.

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The God Who Makes The Two, One

It is when things happen personally that you are able to truly understand God’s great purpose in life. In Ephesians 3 words about the call of God to the forsaken Gentiles is given. When Paul considers that great truth he reflects on the truth that he was once called to the greatest position ever – to be a bearer of God’s redemption to all people. “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery.” (Ephesians 3:7-9a)

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The God Who Builds His Church

What I miss during these last 11 months is the community of church. Watching a sermon in your pajamas is not church. Church is community. It is being together, holding each other up. It is crying together, celebrating together. That church in Ephesus, as diverse as they were, as prone to having divisions that ran down to their bone, were unified by Christ and they could live in love to each other. In the very earliest days of Christianity I read that Christians starting calling themselves a “third race”, or a “new race”. They were no longer simply Jewish or Gentile, God had made them something unique in Jesus. Peter would say of this God who builds His church, “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:4-5)

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The God Whose Name is Grace

Did you deserve forgiveness? Did you deserve that God would give you peace? Did you deserve heaven instead of hell? No. You didn’t work for it. You haven’t earned it. It was just given to you. Just like me receiving the gift of someone else’s work and enjoying a time in the mountains, so we receive what we don’t deserve at someone else’s expense.

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The God Who Opens Hearts

“You have forsaken your first love.” Who was that? Did they become unloving in their marriages? Did they start out with such good and pure hearts and then become stagnant, unloving, unfaithful to their spouse? Or was the call for them to return to a living, vibrant faith in Jesus? Sometimes we are “on-fire” in the faith and then the faith gets doused. Had they become apathetic in trusting Him or following Him? Did they fall into the trap of a boring faith and a failing love?

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The God Who Planned All Things

Why are you saved from your sin and hell and the devil? Because of you? Because you have measured up and done what is right? No. You and I are saved only by God’s doing. We are saved by grace. We are saved because God, without our doing, chose us, elected us. He saved us in Jesus alone.

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What Defines You?

Baptism defines who you are. I’m His. I’m washed. I’m righteous. I’m saved. When you have that good discussion of what Baptism is, stand strong in every superlative about Baptism. You can speak that way because God speaks that way.

But not only does Baptism define who you are, Baptism defines how you are. When Jesus was baptized the word for “The heavens were torn open” when the Spirit came down as a dove, is actually quite a violent term. Baptism, God’s act of grace, is also God’s action of power. All of you who are baptized are called to be different than before you were baptized. God is the one who comes to disrupt, disturb and change life through Baptism.

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A New Year’s Prayer

Wisdom begins with humility. “I am only a child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” When Solomon knows that the task was too much for him he looked to God. He wanted a discerning heart, one that could choose between right and wrong, good and evil. He wanted God’s wisdom.

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Good Riddance

We are ready to start 2021. Is there anything you need to get rid of as we leave this year and enter a new one? Are you looking forward to leaving behind some sin or some bad way of living? Are you looking for something better or being someone better? Start this New Year with repentance, the guarantee of a new start, and the power of God’s promise and His Holy Spirit.

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We Have Seen His Glory

Today God invites us to truly see Jesus. John saw Him. He writes in our text, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John doesn’t say, “We glanced” or “We glimpsed.” John doesn’t stand in the back of the room or listen to someone else describe Jesus. No, John focuses and fixes his own eyes and John says that he got to see Jesus. He got to see the glory of Jesus.

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