Do You Know Jesus?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, April 6, 2017 @ 8:15 AM

On Palm Sunday the crowds welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, waving palm branches and laying their cloaks on the road ahead of him in a first century version of a red carpet welcome to the Holy City.  They shouted, "Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"  It was quite a demonstration.  However, most of the people who welcomed Jesus didn't know who he was.  They welcomed him as Messiah, but Jesus wasn't the Messiah, the political savior, they wanted him to be.  That's why by Friday the crowds were ready to turn against Jesus and shout, "Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!" in Pilate's court.

Today there are as many misconceptions about Jesus as there were in the first century.  Many people will focus in on a story about Jesus or a few of his teachings to proof text their perception of what they want him to be.  Some people see Jesus as a moral crusader who condemns the sins of the world.  Other think of Jesus as an advocate of social and economic justice.  Some feel that Jesus was a just good man, a teacher, a philosopher or a prophet.  I think of Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world. 

The point is, it's not up to us to decide who we want Jesus to be.  We have to accept Jesus on his terms.  That's why on this Sunday before Easter my sermon is based on Matthew 16:13-27, "Do You Know Jesus?"  Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do the people say that I am?"  The disciples report that people think he is John the Baptist raised from the dead, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  Those were all inadequate understandings of Jesus.  So Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say I am?"  Peter replied as spokesman, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  Peter got it right.  But as we see later in the story, Peter still didn't fully know or understand Jesus.

Knowing Jesus is essential if we want our faith to be strong and to be his witnesses and serve him.  This Sunday we'll get to know Jesus and seek to gain a greater understanding of what he came to earth to do.  By knowing Jesus better, we'll better understand our role as his followers.  Easter, the following week, makes a lot more sense if we know who Jesus is and what he came to do. 

I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday and get to know more about Jesus.  Our desire every week is to encounter the living Christ as we worship him.  We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m. so come at whatever time or for whatever worship style is appealing to you.

If It's All God's, What Am I Doing With It?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 @ 4:21 PM

A common mistake many of us make is that we compartmentalize God.  We put God in a box labelled "Sundays" because that's when we think about him.  Or we put God in a box labelled "Emergencies" because it only in cases of emergencies that we pray and seek God's help.  We have to realize God is bigger than any box we can put him in.  God encompasses the whole earth.  First the psalmist (Psalm 24:1) and then the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 10:26) remind us, "The  earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."

If the earth is the Lord's, I have to realize that I'm part of the earth.  What does it mean that I am the Lord's?  If I belong to him, how does that affect my life, the way I live, and the values I live by?  We tend to look at our lives selfishly, "It's my life and I'll do what I want!"  But if my life belongs to God as my creator, I can't be selfish.  My life is meant to be lived for him.  Each of us must decide what it means for us to live our lives for the Lord.

Not only is my life the Lord's, but everything I have is the Lord's.  That's a very different outlook than most people have.  We think of what he have on this earth as ours and we might generously give something to God.  But the earth is the Lord's and he generously gives us everything we have.  We are to manage it and use it for his sake.  Even when we teach stewardships ship and money management in the church, we usually think, "I'll give God the tithe, but the rest is mine."  We have to rethink our values.

In this Sunday's message we'll look at one of Jesus' last parables, "The Parable of the Talents" or the "Parable of the Bags of Gold" (Matthew 25:14-30).  I've titled the message, "If It's All God's, What Am I Doing With It?"  That's a good question!  If I believe that everything I have is God's, am I using it in a way that honors him?  Am I using what God has given me in a  way that accomplishes his purposes?

Some people think, "When the pastor talks about my money and the stuff I have, that's a good Sunday to stay away from church."  I want to encourage you to think otherwise.  Jesus says that we will be held accountable for how we use what he has given us.  We don't want to wait until we stand before the judgment seat of Christ to find out we did it wrong and mismanaged what he gave us.  This Sunday learn how you can enjoy life and the things God gives you and still manage it in ways that accomplish his purposes.  Join us for worship at Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.

A Take Charge Faith

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 2:46 PM








This Sunday we'll wrap up our study of "ACTS: The Church Alive!" with one of the most exciting stories in the Bible.  Paul is sent as a prisoner to Rome on board a ship.  Crossing the Adriatic Sea a terrible storm arose.  For fourteen days the ship was blown here and there by hurricane force winds and tossed to and fro by the waves.  The passengers were too sick to eat.  Finally  the ship ran aground off the coast of Malta and miraculously all of the crew and passengers made it safely ashore.

What's interesting is that in all this chaos, there was a lack of leadership.  The ship's captain didn't know what to do, thinking all was lost.  The centurion in charge of a hundred Roman troops had to be told what to do so that he didn't lose control of the ship or his prisoners.  It was in the midst of this confusion Paul, a prisoner, became everyone's leader.  There are times when, because of our faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, we have to take charge in chaotic circumstances.  We'll see in Acts chapters 27 and 28, that's what Paul did.

The Scripture teaches us that the Holy Spirit gives some believers the spiritual gift of leadership (Romans 12:8).  The church needs these good and consistent leaders as we seek to serve God's here on earth.  But many Christians, who may not feel like they have the gift of leadership, in chaotic situations and emergencies, will be expected to take charge.  As believers we have spiritual resources, faith in God, and values that help us to stay calm and make good decisions when everyone around us isn't sure what to do.  From time to time we may need to take charge for our family, at work, in the church or in the community.  God will use our take-charge faith to bless others.

In this Sunday's sermon we'll learn about Paul's take-charge faith during his shipwreck and on the island of Malta.  We'll discover several principles of leadership we can all use in crisis situations to help others.  When a loved one dies, when people at your office receive a layoff notice, when a family member is sick, they need someone with a take-charge faith to step up and lead them.  I hope you'll join us as we wrap up our study of Acts and learn about "A Take Charge Faith." 

We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.  The First Baptist Church of Riverside is located at 5500 Alessandro Blvd. in Riverside, CA.

Almost Persuaded

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 @ 4:37 PM

When it comes to the Christian faith, “Almost Persuaded” are the two saddest words anyone could ever utter.  Almost persuaded to follow Jesus is not enough.  If we want our sins to be forgiven, to be saved and to have eternal life, we must believe in Jesus.  Being almost persuaded or "seeking" Jesus is not enough, we have to step across the line of faith!

In my sermon this Sunday (March 19) based on Acts 26, we find Paul telling King Agrippa about his faith in Christ.  Paul finishes his message by challenging King Agrippa to believe in Jesus.  Agrippa responds to Paul in verse 28, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"  Agrippa leaves the door open, but will not confess faith in Christ.  Paul replies in verse 29, "Short time or long - I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am..."

If you're reading this post and you've thought about believing in Jesus and becoming a Christian, but you haven't taken the final step of faith, what are you waiting for?  All the promises and blessings of being a follower of Jesus are waiting for you.  But almost persuaded is not enough.  You have to believe.  You have to choose Jesus.

Most of you reading this are already Christians.  You went from being almost persuaded to fully persuaded at some point in your life.  Now you have a job to do.  You are called by Jesus to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8), his ambassadors, as though God is making his appeal through you (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Be committed to reaching unbelieving people in your oikos (your circle of relationships: family, friends, neighbors, and people you know from work, school and in the community).  Pray for them, love them, bless them, tell them why your faith matters to you.  Don't give up until they are fully persuaded to follow Jesus, whether it takes a short time or a long time.  Never give up.  Don't be content that they're almost persuaded.

Whether you're almost persuaded to believe in Jesus or thinking about telling a friend about Jesus, come worship with us this Sunday and learn about what it means to make a commitment of our lives to Christ.  Our Traditional Worship is at 9:00 a.m. and our Contemporary Worship is at 10:45 a.m.  Hope to see you here!

Integrity on Display

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 @ 3:15 PM

Integrity is a rare and precious quality in the world today.  You don't have to look very far into politics and the business world to find leaders who lack basic integrity, who are even downright crooked.  Even among Christians there are people who bring shame to the cause of Christ because of their words and actions.  People are tempted to cheat and cut corners, they're rude or bigoted, because they think everybody is doing it, so it must be okay.

Coach Tony Dungy writes, "Integrity is what you do when no one is watching; its doing the right thing all the time, even when it may work to your disadvantage."  Those are very similar to the words of the wise man in Proverbs 11:3, "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity."  Eventually our deeds will find us out.  That means if we want to have a reputation for integrity, we've got to practice integrity all the time, in public and in private.

In worship this Sunday we will learn about the importance of integrity.  My sermon title is "Integrity on Display," based on Acts 24 where Paul is put on trial before Felix, the Roman governor of Palestine.  All the evidence points to Paul's integrity in his life and ministry, even though we won't find the word "integrity" mentioned anywhere in chapter 24.  Imagine the damage Paul would have done to the early church and to himself if he had ever acted without integrity.

We are Christ's witnesses and ambassadors in the world.  Everything we say or do impacts our message.  If we live with integrity, seeking to honor God and following his directions for our lives, our message is enhanced and has power.  If we lack integrity our witness is destroyed and the cause of Christ suffers.  It is essential that we, as followers of Christ, live with integrity.

I want to invite you to come worship with us at First Baptist Riverside this Sunday where we'll learn about how to live a life with "Integrity on Display."  Our traditional worship service is at 9:00 a.m. and our contemporary worship service is at 10:45 a.m. 

People of the Resurrection Hope

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 @ 3:55 PM

Do you have hope?

This Sunday we'll continue our study of "ACTS: The Church Alive" in Acts 23.  The Apostle Paul stands trial before the Sanhedrin and throws the proceedings into turmoil when he says, "I stand on trail because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead." (Acts 23:6b)  Like Paul we are "People of the Resurrection Hope."  As Christians, we believe that when our time on this earth is done Jesus will raise us to eternal life with God in heaven.  What a wonderful hope that is!

This Sunday my sermon will be about the resurrection hope that we anticipate.  In America today there are many ideas about the afterlife.  Some people don't believe in eternal life.  They believe human beings exist as a result of thousands of random evolutionary changes, there is no God and there is no afterlife.  Other people are very concerned about eternal life and how to receive it.  They think they'll go to heaven if they live a good life.  They think their loved ones are looking down on them from heaven.  How does the Christian's resurrection hope differ from these ideas?

Many people are fearful that at the end of life they'll be judged by God.  They're aware of their sins and fear God will be angry with them.  They don't understand the concept of forgiveness and the all-sufficient grace of Jesus Christ.  I'll talk about what we can do to stand before the judgment seat of God with a good conscience.  We want to be confident that when we meet Jesus (God) at the end of life that we will hear him says those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!  Come and share your master's happiness." (Matthew 25:23)

If you want to know how you can be among the "People of the Resurrection Hope," come and worship with us this Sunday.  On our website you'll find information about our church and directions to our campus.  We have traditional worship at 9:00 a.m. and contemporary worship at 10:45 a.m.  We would love to share with you the confidence we have in the resurrection and eternal life.

What Do You Have to Say?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 3:05 PM

One of the lessons we've learned from our study of "ACTS: The Church Alive!" is that we are Jesus' witnesses to the people we know and love right here where we live.  The theme verse for the Book of Acts is Acts 1:8, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  We are Jesus' witnesses here in our Jerusalem.

The good news is that we all have something important to say about what we've learned about Jesus and our own personal experience with him.  People you know want to know if your relationship with Jesus is real and what your faith has done for you.  If your faith story is told with enthusiasm and conviction, they may be willing to give Jesus a chance in their lives.

Our Scripture text for this Sunday's message is Acts 21:37-22:16.  Paul was arrested in the temple after being attacked by the crowd.  He asks the commander's permission to speak to the people and receives permission.  Paul tells them about how he encountered Christ and how Jesus called him into a life of faith and service.  This was Paul's story and he was glad to tell it to anyone who would listen.

Paul told his story to a crowd that wanted to kill him.  We have to good fortune to be able to tell our story to people who know us and love us.  We tell it to folks who know how we live, who are familiar with our values and know that our faith is important to us.  It's not scary for us to tell our story of faith if we've prepared to tell it and can do so authenticity and transparency.  This Sunday in worship, we'll use Paul's story as a model for telling our story.  To tell our story is something that we need to be ready to do to fulfill our calling as Jesus' witnesses.

We all have a story that's worth telling.  We have something meaningful to say to people we love about how they can enter into a relationship with Jesus.  So join us for worship this Sunday: Traditional Worship is at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship is at 10:45 a.m.

How to Give and Receive Advice?

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, February 16, 2017 @ 2:37 PM

Many people are happy to give us advice , but they may not always give us the best advice.  Their advice may be based on what they want us to do rather than what's best for us.  That's the situation we find in Acts 21.  Paul was on his way to Jerusalem.  It's clear to everyone that it will be a dangerous trip, Paul might be arrested or even killed.  So Paul's friends give him advice: don't go to Jerusalem.  The problem is, Paul knows that it's God's will that he go to Jerusalem and that there he will have to suffer for the gospel.

The point is, the best advice for our lives is advice that conforms to God's will.  So the question becomes, "Who do we go to for advice that would most likely be God's will for our lives?"  "When we receive advice, how do we discern if that advice is in fact God's will?"  "How do we know what the best advice is?"

There will also be times when people will come to us for advice.  How do we give advice that is the best advice is for the person we're talking with?  Do we know if we're suggesting something that is God's will for their life?"  As a pastor, people come to me all the time asking me advice about spiritual matters, marriage and family concerns, financial issues along with many other concerns.  How can I steer them in the right direction?

These are all issues we'll be wrestling with this Sunday in worship as we learn about "How to Give and Receive Advice?"  We'd love to have you join us for worship.  Traditional Worship is at 9;00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship is at 10:45 a.m.


"Valentine's Day for the Church"

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Wednesday, February 8, 2017 @ 4:43 PM

I remember back in elementary school when everyone in the class would give and receive valentines. It was an expression of the love of friendship. Valentine’s Day should remind us that we have something very special in church. As Christian we are brothers and sisters in Christ and have spiritual and familial bonds of love with one another. Let’s be sure to express the love we have in the family of God at First Baptist Riverside. 

There are many people who are starving for the love of friendship.  Studies show that 10% of Americans say they don't have a single close friend - that's 32 million people who are lacking a close personal friend. Many others wish they had more friends they could count on.  One of the reasons we invite people to our church is for them to meet Jesus, the best friend they'll ever know.  Proverbs 18:24 says, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."  In the church we will find friends with integrity and commitment who will be closer than a brother.

This Sunday the sermon from Acts 20 is called “Valentine’s Day for the Church.” In Acts 20 we see the outpouring of love the people in the church had for the Apostle Paul. From this passage we'll learn how to make new and lasting friendships and how to be a good friend to others.

On February 12th or some other day in February, tell the people in your life that you love them. Tell you family that you love them.  Tell your friends you love them.  Tell your neighbors you love them.  If you're in a church family, let the people you see know that you’re glad they’re part of your church family and God’s family.  I think this would be a Valentine’s Day tradition that would surely honor God.

The Big Game Strategy

Posted by Joseph Lutz on Thursday, February 2, 2017 @ 6:27 PM

This Sunday many of us will watch the Super Bowl.  I've been a football fan for over 50 years.  I can remember watching Super Bowl 2 when the Green Bay Packers beat the Oakland Raiders.  Watching the Super Bowl has been a tradition for me ever since.  The thing that I've noticed over the years is that the team with the best game plan usually wins.  If the defense is prepared and ready for the plays the opposing team runs and the offense catches them off guard, they're going to win the game.  One of the reasons the Patriots are favored this year is because Bill Belichick has a reputation for designing an outstanding game plan against an opponent.

The Bible tells us God's game plan for winning in life.  It's a simple but effective game plan.  Believe in Jesus who died for your sins and rose again and he'll forgive your sins and give you eternal life (Acts 2:38-39).  Winning also means living a life of moral and ethical integrity - God says, "Be holy as I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16)  We are to make disciples, be Jesus' witnesses to the people we know, and be Christ's ambassadors to the world (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21).  We are to be a blessing to others (James 2:14-19) and serve the Lord in the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).  And we're to tithe (Malachi 3:6-12, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15).  If we follow God's game plan, we'll win at life and earn the commendation of our Savior, "Well done, good and faithful servant..." (Matthew 25:21).

Equally important, the church needs to follow God's game plan if it's going to win.  It's said that 90% of churches in America are plateaued or declining.  I would suggest that many, if not most, of those churches are not following the coach's (God's) game plan.  They just keep running the same plays they've run for years, and they don't work anymore.  What is the game plan for the church?  We need to know who the owner is - the church is the body of Christ - he owns it (1 Corinthians 12).  It's not our church - it's his church.  The coach is the Holy Spirit, he guides, directs and empowers the church (Acts 1:4-8).  The goal of the church is to be Jesus witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8), every person we reach for Christ is a touchdown.  We also adhere to the Biblical principle of "justice" as we help the poor, sick, and grieving and resist the evil we see in the world.

I don't want to just do enough to sneak into heaven.  I want to win as a Christian and I want to be part of a winning team: the church.  I want to go into heaven ready to meet my Savior because I've given my life to serve him.  I want to say like Paul, who looked back on his life and said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."  (2 Timothy 4:6-8)  Don't just play the game - win!

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