Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Advent Devotional: 25 Reasons Jesus Came to Die

You can download the free pdf or buy a Kindle version for $.99 if that works better for you. I pray that these help point you and your family to Christ this holiday season!

PDF Version: 25 Reasons Jesus Came to Earth

Kindle Version: 25 Reasons Jesus Came to Earth

Jonathan Brooks is the pastor of Refuge Church in Raleigh NC

Monday, August 20, 2018

Christ Community Church Sermons

The past sermons from my former church, Christ Community Church, will now be available through this blog.

For over 10 years I had the privilege of preaching at Christ Community Church in Wilson NC. The first 5 of those years, it was an honor to preach alongside Justin Childers when he was our lead pastor. About a year ago, Christ Community Church made the difficult decision to begin the process of closing our church (you can read more about that here).  One of the questions many people have asked me since that time is, "What about the sermons? Are we still going to be able to go back and listen to them?"  I know there are many who go back to listen to Justin's sermons from his first 5 years with us.  And, others have mentioned that they are currently benefitting from listening to sermons while studying a book of the Bible I preached through in my time there.

So, having said all of that, the Christ Community website was shut down last week.  But, thanks to the generosity of WebBlocks, the church's web host, we have been able to move all of the sermons over to a subdomain of this blog:  This site will also be able to be accessed by clicking on the SERMON tab beneath the header of this page.

I pray, as I know Justin does, that the truth of God's Word would continue to impact the hearts of his people.  Justin and I are both in different churches now. Justin serves as lead pastor at Miller Heights Baptist Church in Belton TX and I'm serving as lead pastor at Refuge Church in Raleigh NC.  So, fair warning to our people, we may feel led to go through one of these books with you in the future.  Of course, we'll study all over again and let God work fresh on our hearts.  But, His truth is unchanged - so you may hear a very similar sermon in the future if you listen now!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

The Lamb of God

Leviticus is a bloody book.  There are laws for burnt offerings, laws for peace offering, laws for  sin offering, and laws for guilt offerings.  Each having various sections detailing how to handle the sacrifice if it's from the herd, or the flock, or at times even a turtledove or a pigeon.  As you read the first chapters of Leviticus it can be overwhelming at times.  You may begin to wonder how there would be any living animals left among God's people.  The Law demanded bloody sacrifice upon bloody sacrifice.  In fact, Leviticus 6:13 makes clear, "Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out."  Sacrificing animals and laying them on the altar would be a continual occurrence in the life of Israel.

This is what the Law demanded.  Day after day, animal upon animal sacrificed to atone for the sins of the people.  It was a never-ending stream of slaughtered sacrifices because of the frequent faithlessness of God's people.

Only within this context can the weight be felt of what John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus coming. "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)

Each phrase of that sentence thunders with meaning.

THE Lamb

Jesus is THE Lamb.  He's not a lamb or another lamb among the thousands that have been sacrificed.  He's THE Lamb.  There's something final in this arrival to which all other sacrifices have been pointing.

The Lamb of God

This lamb is from God himself. He will be the lamb that God lays upon the altar.  He will be the lamb slaughtered and sacrificed by God himself. God, having no sin of his own, is not offering this lamb for himself, but instead for someone else.

The Lamb of God who takes away the sin

This lamb will finish the job.  He is THE lamb from GOD and he will take away the sin.  There will be no sin left for which God's people must make a sacrifice.  There will be no sin left for which God's people must face the condemnation of God.  He will take it away finally and completely.

The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

This lamb isn't just for those who are of physical Israel.  This lamb will be for the sins of every tribe, tongue, and nation.  So, he is not just THE lamb for Israel, but the lamb for the sins of everyone who will turn to him in faith.

In other words, when John saw Jesus coming toward him, he proclaimed that the sacrificial bloodbath would be over with this lamb because his sacrifice is all that is needed for all eternity.

That's why Jesus cried out from the cross, "It is finished." He is THE Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and there will never need to be another.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Why the Reformation Still Matters: What do we say to a child grieving the loss of his atheistic father?

Heartsick Boy Asks If Atheist Dad Is In Heaven. Pope Francis Reveals The Answer With A Hug.

My heart breaks for this boy. The loss of a father at a young age, especially this young, is a tragedy no child should have to endure. The young boy in this story, Emanuele, recently lost his father and was part of a group that was invited to ask Pope Francis questions.  Emanuele was invited to the stage to whisper his question into the Pope's ear because he was too nervous and emotional to ask from the microphone.  On the stage with the Pope's arms tenderly wrapped around him he told the Pope that his father was an atheist and had recently died, but had ensured his children were all baptized.  He then asked the Pope, "Is my father in heaven?" Before I dive into expressing my concerns for how Pope Francis answered that question, I want to be clear that I applaud the tenderness, humility, and empathy that Pope Francis displayed.  The child needed a hug. He gave him one.

The question the young boy asked is a difficult one to answer with pastoral tenderness and truth. But, any answer worth giving must include both.  Pope Francis basically answered the boy by saying that his father's good works, demonstrated in having his children baptized, were evidence that God would accept him into heaven.  Pope Francis was clearly tender, but he either intentionally muddled the gospel or he applied the faulty Catholic understanding of it.  Ultimately, I think it was both.  Perhaps he was applying the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.  In that case, he was telling this young child (without really telling him) that the good works of his father will eventually help him escape purgatory and then, maybe, he will be in heaven - if enough people pray for his father and receive indulgences for his father and do whatever else the Catholic Church decides can shorten the timeline for the suffering of loved ones in purgatory.

The tragedy of the story is that Jesus was nowhere to be found in the conversation.  It serves as a fresh reminder of the need for the truth of the gospel recovered in the Reformation.  It's a reminder that, in fact, the Reformation is not over.  It's a reminder that the debate of the Reformation isn't just about ivory tower theology, but about what we say to little children who ask questions about their deceased atheist father.  It doesn't get any more real and pastoral than that.

The Pope failed to love the boy well because he failed to point him to Jesus, his only hope in life and death.  He failed to make clear to the boy that it is only through faith in Christ that we can have any hope of eternity.  He failed the boy because Emanuele walked away with some kind of vague understanding that good works have something to do with whether he gets to be with God for all eternity or not.  That's a burden no human shoulders can bear.

With tenderness, Emanuele needed to be told that if his father trusted in Jesus, then there is no question that he is with God this very moment.  He needed to be told that he too needs to look to Christ alone for hope and comfort during these difficult days.  Those would have been difficult words to hear if he fully comprehended their weight.  But, I would rather his tiny shoulders bear the weight of that grief so that he could find the capable and able shoulders of Jesus, on which he could place that grief and all of his sins.  Instead, he walked away feeling a little bit better for the moment, but set up for a lifetime of bearing the weight of his sins on his own growing, but forever too weak, frail shoulders.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

25 Reasons Jesus Came to Earth: Daily Advent Devotion

You can download the free pdf or buy a Kindle version for $.99 if that works better for you. I pray that these help point you and your family to Christ this holiday season!

PDF Version: 25 Reasons Jesus Came to Earth

Kindle Version: 25 Reasons Jesus Came to Earth

Friday, October 06, 2017

When Kingdom Growth Doesn't Look Like Church Growth: Did Our Church Plant Fail?

Our 11 year old church plant is going through the difficult process of closing down, but our church plant has not failed.  That word is often used to describe a church plant that “doesn’t make it.”  The statistic normally goes something like this: a certain percentage of all church plants fail in the first 5 years or 10 years.  That’s the key word in those stats - fail.  And, I suppose, if someone is gathering the raw data on church plants, our church will be added to a list that “failed” within about 10 years.  But, our story is so much more than raw data; some simple binary glance at whether the church is still open or closed.

For God’s own good reasons, he chose to grow his kingdom through our church in ways that meant our church itself didn’t grow.  In the early days of our church, meeting in a school building with metal folding chairs, we had a number of families travelling from a neighboring city about 40 minutes to the south.  They faithfully joined our body for the first years, but sensed a longing for a church like ours in their own community.  

We rejoiced in that desire! As more families from Goldsboro began coming to us, it became clear that the right thing for us to do would be to plant a church in Goldsboro.  But, that would mean only about 4 years into our existence we would be sending out about a third of our current members and attenders.  Let’s be honest, it would also mean sending out a large portion of our budget.  But, we rejoiced at the opportunity and joyfully sent them out with a large lump sum of money to get them started.  By God’s grace, they have flourished and recently purchased a building; which, if you’ve ever been involved in a church plant would make you want to march around the building chanting - no more setup! We’re thankful for how God has continued to bless them and for the faithful gospel presence Crossway Church brought to Goldsboro. Kingdom Growth.

In addition to being able to start a church in Goldsboro, I last counted 6 men that we’ve been able to send out into various pastoral roles in other churches.  God would bring them and their families to us for a season and after a few years he chose to send them to other places where they could multiply his kingdom in other cities.  We also recently had a family move to the Philippines to be close to family where they are intentionally seeking to spread the gospel to their new community.  We had another faithful family move to California to work at a Christian Camp where they are striving to impact the lives of thousands of people that come through the camp every year.  Kingdom Growth.

And, of course, there’s the immeasurable impact that the faithful proclamation of the Word of God has had on the hearts of our people for the past 11 years.  We watched it sustain us through many personal trials, heartaches, and difficulties.  We’ve wept together and we’ve rejoiced together.  Kingdom Growth.

We witnessed children trusting in Christ and co-workers doing the same.  It’s a glorious celebration to watch a young man raised in a Jehovah’s Witness family be delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son.  He took a job in another city, but has remained faithful, by God’s grace, and pursued finding a faithful church. Kingdom Growth.

As we sent families out, God would bring others to us.  So, the story of our church has been never really to grow past 40-45 members and, sometimes, like now, a lot less. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippian church - and I wonder if it may not apply to our church.  “Even if am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise, you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:17-18).  

Christ Community Church, you have been poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of the faith of many - far beyond what you’ll ever see or know in this life.  But, the one thing I know without a doubt in my soul is that you have not failed.

So, when the statisticians gather their data, we’ll go in a column of church plants that “failed.”  But, I believe there will be a different column for you in God’s data - “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I’m thankful that I got to be your pastor.  And, I’m thankful I get to be your pastor for a few months longer until God makes clear his next place for me.  I don’t know where that will be right now, but I know my time with you has forever changed me because you pointed me to Christ as much as I strove to point you to Him.  I love you Christ Community Church.  Kingdom Growth.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

25 Reasons Jesus Came to Earth: Daily Advent Devotions

 25 Reasons Jesus Came to Earth: Daily Advent Devotionals

I've created a pdf of the Advent Devotionals I wrote last Christmas.  So, instead of updating the blog each day of Advent with the devotion for that day you can download the entire pdf at once.

If you want a version formatted for Kindle, that should be available tomorrow, it will cost $0.99 (That was the lowest they would allow).  I'll update this when it comes available.

UPDATE: Kindle version now available

25 Reasons Jesus  Came to Earth: Daily Advent Devotions PDF