Taking God at His Word

Taking God at His Word

John 4:43-54

Dr. Jim Denison

This week’s news reports that eyelash transplantation is the newest cosmetic surgery phenomenon. For $3,000 per eye, a surgeon will transplant hair from the back of your head to your eyelid. But there’s a down side: the hair grows just like the rest of your hair, so it must be trimmed and colored if it turns grey.

Did you hear about the man in Vienna who went through a nasty divorce, then cut off his ring finger, ring still attached, and gave it to his ex-wife? He says he doesn’t plan to get married again, anyway. That’s good news for the rest of his fingers, I suppose.

Cosmetic surgery and other technological innovations enable us to solve more problems than ever before. But the perennial issues of life are still perennial. We still cannot heal broken marriages and hearts and homes. We still cannot give life meaning and purpose, or end all wars, or raise the dead. For that we need the Great Physician to be our King. As we continue studying his miracles in John’s Gospel, answer this question: what miracle do you need today?

Remember what Jesus has done

Our story concerns a “certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum” (v. 46). This man was a most unlikely candidate for a miracle from a Jewish rabbi. He was not just a hated Gentile, but a court officer for King Herod. He was part of the very army oppressing and enslaving the Jewish people. If Hitler’s military chief of staff came to a Jewish rabbi for help during the Holocaust, we’d be no more surprised than John’s readers were shocked by this scene.

But this man knows what Jesus has done before, and has faith that he will do it again. They’re in Cana of Galilee, where Jesus has saved a peasant wedding. He has returned from Jerusalem, where he cleansed the temple, evangelized Nicodemus, was called divine by John the Baptist, and cared for a Samaritan woman. Perhaps he’ll do the same for this grieving father.

Do you need God to heal you or someone you love? To heal physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually? Are you wondering if he will? First, remember what Jesus has already done for you. Think about the ways he has already proven his love for you.

His Son left heaven’s glory to be born in a peasant’s feed trough, just for you. He endured crucifixion, a form of execution so horrific it is outlawed all over the world today, just for you. He has forgiven every failure you have ever confessed to him, and will continue to do so. He knows every sin you’ve ever committed, and what’s more, he sees every sin you will ever commit in the future. But he loves you anyway. He likes you. He finds joy in you even as you hear these words.

He told his prophet, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18). Think of all the ways he has already blessed you. Does your family love you? So many are trapped in loveless, abusive homes. Has he provided for your material needs through physical abilities and vocational opportunities? So many are trapped in endless poverty. Has he given you the privilege of life in America’s freedom? Who of us earned the right to be born in this country and not in Iraq or North Korea?

I know drug addicts who were miraculously healed of their habit, Satanists who were powerfully converted, prisoners who are now preachers.

I remember a couple brought to one of our worship services in Atlanta by friends. They were planning to file for divorce the next day. But in a Sunday school class that morning, God healed their marriage.

One of our church members here in Dallas came to our country as a Muslim missionary to America, and is now a Christian missionary to Muslims. When he came to Christ, his father back home issued a warrant for his arrest should he ever return. He recently went home anyway, and led his father to Christ.

Think about all the ways God has shown his miraculous power to you and those you know. Remember what he has done. Think back to times when he turned your water into his wine, when he met your needs and those of people you love. Remember what Jesus has done, and you’ll be encouraged to believe that he will do it again.

Bring him your pain

The official in our story is one of the finest examples of biblical faith in all God’s word. He teaches us much about the kind of trust which Jesus can honor with his miraculous power.

First, we trust Jesus personally. “This man” came himself (v. 47), not sending a servant in his place. The Roman teaches us to get on our own knees before Jesus. We must do the same today. Jesus waits to hear from us, not about us. Is he waiting on you today?

Second, we trust Jesus when it’s hard. The Roman official “went” to Jesus (v. 47), walking more than 20 miles and up more than a thousand feet of elevation to reach him. He left a suffering son at home to make the journey. He teaches us to bring Jesus our pain, however hard the journey may be, however difficult such faith is for us.

Third, we trust Jesus in humility. The official “begged him to come and heal his son” (v. 47). He did not order Jesus to do so, though his rank and office would have afforded him such authority. If a high-ranking Army officer stationed in Baghdad were to walk 20 miles to seek help from an Iraqi peasant, we’d be no less astonished. He teaches us to bring Jesus our need, in honest humility, admitting that we cannot solve this problem and asking him to do this in his will and way.

Fourth, we trust Jesus with our best faith. The official did not know Jesus’ divine power as we do. He wanted Jesus to “come” to heal his son, as a physician would. He had no idea that our omnipotent Lord could heal across time and distance, with just a word. But Jesus accepted such faith as he had, and honored it with his omnipotence.

You may think your faith too small to receive a miracle from God, but if it is the best you have, it is all he requires. One of my favorite prayers in the Bible is the request of the father whose son was possessed by a demon. Jesus said to him, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23), and he replied, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v. 24). And Jesus did. He receives such faith as we have, by grace.

Take him at his word

Here’s the key to the story for us: “The man took Jesus at his word and departed” (v. 50). He did not beg further, or try to change Jesus’ mind. He simply trusted that what Jesus said, he would do. And it was so–his son was healed at that very hour. As a result, he and his entire household believed in Jesus–not just as a doctor, but as their King and God.

Today you and I are called to do the same, to take Jesus at his word. He is not just a Great Physician–he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Imagine that I were to call our family doctor, begging him to come to our house and heal our son. He replies, “Your son is well.” I don’t give him Craig’s symptoms, nor does he ask. He doesn’t see him; in fact, he’s miles from me. But his word heals my son. I would know that something divine had happened. This is Jesus’ omnipotence today. This is the word we are called to trust right now.

Where do you need Jesus’ power for your problems this morning? Let’s consider some familiar promises, passages we should all know.

Do you wonder if he cares about you? Remember John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We all know this verse. Do you believe that it applies to you today? Will you take him at his word?

Are you struggling with temptation, wondering if you will ever conquer this “besetting” sin in your life? Claim 1 Corinthians 10:13: God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Are you wondering if the Lord is present in your life and pain? Claim Romans 8:35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Does it seem that God is deaf to your prayer, that he is ignoring your cry? Claim John 15:7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” He is giving you what you ask or something even better. You may not know or see it now, but it’s true.

Do you need his guidance for a decision? Claim Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

For every problem in life there is a promise from God. Have you found yours?

In weeks to come we’ll learn what happens when we take God at his word, and we’ll examine reasons we don’t. Then we’ll discuss the hard question: why doesn’t God always heal and help as we want and need him to? But the first step to experiencing the truth of God’s word is wanting to. The first step is taking him at his word today. This is his invitation to us this morning.


When was the last time God’s word changed your life? When last did you seek a promise or principle in Scripture before you made a decision, then acted in accordance with the truth you found? When last did you take God at his word? That’s the last time you put yourself in position to experience the omnipotence and purpose of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Will you make this kind of commitment a lifestyle?

Let’s close with an example of our text in life today. Jim Cymbala is the renowned pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, one of the most respected leaders in the American church today. Some years ago he told the story of his daughter’s healing in answer to prayer:

“Up until age 16, my oldest daughter was a model child. But then she got away from the Lord and involved with a godless young man. She eventually moved out of our house and later became pregnant.

“We went through a dark tunnel for two and a half years…in February, we were in our Tuesday night prayer meeting (the choir and the church leadership now knew about Chrissy, but we didn’t spread the news any further in the church). I had not talked to my daughter since November.

“An usher passed a note to me from a young woman in the church whom I felt was a spiritual person. ‘Pastor Cymbala, I feel deeply impressed that we are to stop the meeting and pray for your daughter.’ Lord, is this really you? I prayed within myself. I don’t want to make myself the focus. At that moment Chrissy was at a friend’s home somewhere in Brooklyn with her baby.

“I interrupted the meeting and had everyone stand. ‘My daughter thinks up is down, white is black, and black is white,’ I said. ‘Someone has sent me a note saying she feels impressed that we are to pray for her, and I take this as being from the Lord.’ Then some of the leaders of the church joined me, and the church began to pray. The room soon felt like the labor room in a hospital. The people called out to God with incredible intensity.

“When I got home later that night, I said to my wife (who wasn’t at the prayer meeting), ‘It’s over.’ ‘What’s over?’ Carol asked. ‘It’s over with Chrissy,’ I replied. ‘You had to be there tonight. I just know that when we went to the throne of grace, something happened in the heavenly places.

“Thirty-six hours later, I was standing in the bathroom shaving. My wife burst into the room. ‘Chrissy’s here,’ she said. ‘You better go downstairs.’…I wiped off the shaving cream. I went to the kitchen, and there was my daughter, 19 years old, on her knees weeping. She grabbed my leg and said, ‘Daddy, I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against you. I’ve sinned against myself. Daddy, who was praying on Tuesday night?’

“‘What do you mean? What happened?’ I said. ‘I was sleeping,’ she said. ‘God woke me up in the middle of the night, and he showed me I was heading toward this pit, this chasm, and Daddy, I got so afraid. I saw myself for what I am. But then God showed me he hadn’t given up on me.’

“I looked at my daughter and saw the face of the daughter we raised. Not the hardened face of the last few years. So Chrissy and our granddaughter moved back into our home. That was three years ago. Today she’s directing the music program at a Bible school and was married this past year to a man from our church (Leadership, Fall 1993).”

God always keeps his word. Not always in our timing or according to our wishes. But when we live by his promises and truth, he is faithful. Where do you need to take him at his word today?

The Peril of Lukewarm Christianity

The Peril of Lukewarm Christianity

Revelation 3:14-22

Dr. Jim Denison

Jim Cymbala is pastor of the world-famous Brooklyn Tabernacle Church. But 30 years ago, it wasn’t that way at all: a handful of people at the weekday prayer meeting, and not many more at Sunday worship. Their building was falling apart, their future with it. In desperation, he and the church began calling on God, seeking the fullness of his Spirit and power and joy. And God has done a miraculous work with them. I have been part of their Tuesday night prayer service, attended by more than 2,000. God is very, very real in their lives and worship.

I was pastor of Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta when I met Jim the first time in his study. Second-Ponce is one of the wealthiest churches in the South. By contrast, I found myself on a campus with security cameras everywhere and two full-time bodyguards. I was taken aback by the poverty and difficulty faced by most of the church’s members. I asked Jim how they were able to do church in such a difficult place.

He smiled and replied, “I don’t see how you are able to do church in such a difficult place. Here, we know we need God. How many of your members can say the same?”

If this were all there is–if your faith story were to conclude today–would you be pleased with what you have experienced of God?

Have you discovered his joy and peace? Have you been used by his Spirit to save souls and change lives? Has your life become all your Father dreamed it would be?

Or, has it been a while since you even thought about such questions? Or since you wished for more in your experience with God than you have? Or since you wanted to be more effective and significant in his Kingdom than you are? Or since God was real for you?

Let’s see if we’re living in Laodicea today, by asking three questions of our souls.

Living in Laodicea

First, is your faith routine?. “I know your deeds,” Jesus says, “that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” (v. 15). Laodicea was founded in the mid-third century B.C. by Antiochus II, who named the city after his wife. Its location, 43 miles southeast of Philadelphia, had every natural resource at its disposal except water. Water had to be transported through stone pipes which were three feet in diameter. This aqueduct system was an engineering marvel, but the water it supplied was adequate at best.

Pipes were laid to two sources, each six miles from Laodicea. One was located at Denizli, to the south. This water was fed by snows from the mountains, and started the journey to Laodicea at near freezing temperature. But by the time it had traveled six miles through sun-warmed stone pipes it became lukewarm.

The other source was the hot springs at Hierapolis to the north. These are still stunningly beautiful and a major tourist attraction. The springs rise from within the city, flow across a wide plateau, and spill over a broad cliff 300 feet high and a mile wide. At its source, this spring is at near boiling temperature, with steam rising from its surface. It felt like a sauna to my touch. But by the time it traveled through six miles of pipes it, too, had become lukewarm.

And so Laodicea knew all about lukewarm water. Unfortunately, lukewarm described not only the city’s water but her Christians as well. Their faith had become routine, comfortable, and boring. The new had worn off their Christianity in the forty years since their church had been founded, and their relationship with Jesus had become a religion about him. They came to worship, listened and gave and sang, but faith was just a part of their lives. They had lost their joy, zeal, and passion. Their hearts were as lukewarm as the water they drank.

The Laodicean Christians remind me of the boy who said to his sister in church, “This is boring!” She elbowed him in the ribs and said, “Shut up. It’s supposed to be boring!” If you wander away from the source of your faith, your faith will become as lukewarm, boring, and routine as Laodicea.

How long has it been since you were excited about coming to church to worship Jesus Christ? When was the last time you were overjoyed to read God’s word, or thrilled to be with him in prayer? Do you share your faith with zeal? Do you give your money to God gratefully? Or is your faith boring and routine?

Second, are you self-sufficient?. Laodicea was one of the wealthiest cities on her continent. She sat astride the intersection of the two great trade routes of the day, one traveling north to south and the other running from west to east. She was also the site of large manufacturing and banking operations, and was especially known for her woolen carpets and clothing.

And so Jesus quotes this church: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing'” (v. 17a). They thought their future secure, their resources sufficient for any crisis. But self-reliant people are always wrong. We all need the protection and power only Jesus can give.

Today beautiful Laodicea lies in ruins, mostly unexcavated. Where this proud city once ruled its valley, it now lies buried beneath a dirt mound. These Christians and their city were self-sufficient, until they were gone.

It’s possible to live in a spiritual Laodicea and not even realize it. To become self-reliant, trusting in our own ideas and abilities. To make decisions, build careers and achieve success, all with little dependence on Jesus’ leadership and help. All the while assuming that our hard work must be pleasing to him.

We so easily make Jesus part of life instead of Lord. Prayer becomes an activity rather than a relationship, the Bible a book rather than a guide, church a building rather than a family, our faith in Jesus an occasional resource rather than a constant commitment. We become human doings rather than human beings.

Are you living in Laodicea today? When you can go through a day without praying dependently, without thinking of Jesus or your need of him, making decisions without his leadership and working without his help, you’re living in spiritual self-sufficiency. If Jesus were to remove his Holy Spirit from your life or church and most of your activities would be unaffected, you’re in Laodicea.

Third, are you satisfied spiritually?. These believers are satisfied with their material wealth and self-sufficient lifestyles. Their religion was enough for them, but not for Jesus. He must shout to them from behind their locked hearts: “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (v. 17b). They are satisfied with so much less than they could have.

Their spiritual condition is truly ironic. The Laodiceans possessed the greatest bank in their region, yet they are actually “poor,” a word which indicates someone as destitute as a beggar. They were famous for an eye salve known as “kollura” which they exported in tablet form to the world, yet they are “blind.” They were known for the wool they manufactured, yet their souls are “naked.” They were satisfied with their spiritual lives and didn’t even realize how “wretched” and “pitiful” they were.

Are you happy with the state of your soul today?

A few years ago Oak Ridge, Tennessee experienced a period of explosive growth. A new nuclear power plant was being built in their area, and people moved in from everywhere. Many were living in trailer homes and some even in tents. The members of a local church were afraid so many of these newcomers would join their church that they would take it over. So the church members passed a resolution declaring that no one could belong to their church unless they owned property in the county.

Their strategy worked. Over time the church got smaller and smaller, until finally it died. A businessman bought the property and converted it into a barbecue restaurant called the Parson’s Table. Now when you go in, no one asks if you own property in the county. They only did that when it was a church.

When Jesus is alive and well in our spirit, he creates in us a hunger for God. We have a deep yearning to know him better, to be more like him, to serve him more effectively. Jesus defeats spiritual routine, and self-sufficiency, and satisfaction. But only he can.

Leaving Laodicea

How do we get out of Laodicea? Here’s the roadmap: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent” (v. 19). Laodicea is the only church which receives not a single word of commendation from Jesus. But it is also the only church to whom he says, “I love you.” How are we to respond to his love?

First, seek God with passion. . “Be earnest”–the Greek means, “be zealous, excited, passionate.” This is a command, not an option. And it is in the present tense, so that it should be translated, “Be continually passionate.” Passion is the cure for a lukewarm spirit. Drive, energy, and devotion should characterize our quest to know God.

But passion is a decision before it is an emotion. The feeling follows the action. We must choose to seek God with zeal, excluding all else. When we make it our life’s purpose to know God, we will.

To leave Laodicea, we must first choose to make knowing Jesus our passion. Change is inevitable–growth is an option. We can choose to seek God earnestly, to read Scripture avidly, to pray without ceasing, to worship God with heart, soul, mind and strength. We can choose to replace our staid religion with a living relationship. And we will open the door to the very One we seek.

Second, pay the price of spiritual joy. Jesus calls through the door to Laodicea: “Be earnest, and repent” (v. 19). Admit your sins and failures, and reject them. Turn from them, once and for all. The more your passion for me grows, the more your hatred for sin will grow as well. The light I bring into your darkened room will expose sin wherever it hides. Refuse it and repent.

A spiritual inventory is never more essential than in Laodicea. This is time alone with God, asking the Spirit to lead us as we write on paper every sin he calls to mind. Then we consciously and specifically reject and refuse each failure we see, and tear the paper up. We are forgiven, and set free. The living Christ is now welcome in our hearts. Our lukewarm spirits begin to boil with a new passion and joy. Life gains the significance only Jesus can give.

When we seek God with passionate, yielded, repentant hearts, we experience the reality of his presence, peace and joy: “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (v. 20). This is a great and gracious promise.

And this dinner will last forever: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (v. 21). We will share in the feast of the Messiah for all eternity, as we rule with him.


Oswald Chambers, one of the greatest devotional writers of all time, once observed, “The surest sign that God has done a work of grace in my heart is that I love Jesus Christ best; not weakly and faintly, not intellectually, but passionately, personally and devotedly, overwhelming every other love of my life.” Is this where you are? Is this where you would choose to go, today?

A classic Christian painting is Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World. It pictures a thorn- crowned Christ who stands knocking on a closed door overgrown with vines. The end of the harvest approaches and fruit lies unclaimed on the ground beneath the trees. The hinges on the door are rusty with disuse. The lantern which Jesus holds in his left hand glows and gives off a warmth the viewer can almost feel.

Standing before this touching scene, we wonder why Jesus does not open the door and go inside. Then we realize the artist has left one thing out of his painting: the handle on the outside of the door. There is no knob on Jesus’ side. Those inside the house must open their door to him. So with the human heart.

One day a small girl stood before this painting, her hand in her father’s. Finally she turned to him and asked, “Daddy, did He ever get in?”

Turning Wine into Water

Turning Wine into Water

John 2:1-11

Dr. Jim Denison

Recent polls reveal a nation filled with worried people. As the mid-term elections draw near, we are worried about war and terrorism, then about economic issues, taxes and the cost of living, and the moral decline of the nation. Apparently, there is much to worry about.

One in four women and one in six men suffer from clinical depression. Suicide rates have increased substantially in recent years, especially among teenagers. Greatly exacerbating the problem, alcoholism continues to be a tragic problem in this country. For instance, nearly 30 percent of high school seniors have engaged in “binge” drinking in the last two weeks.

There are 4.2 billion pornographic websites on the Internet today. A third of young women in this country become pregnant before reaching the age of 20. Four million teenagers contract a sexually transmitted disease each year.

The story inside the church is not much better than in the larger culture. According to recent reports, only half of all believers say they have experienced a genuine connection with God in the last year. The typical churchgoer will never lead someone to Christ in his or her lifetime. Christians spend less time reading the Bible than talking about personal hobbies and interests. Fewer than one in ten Christian families pray together outside of church.

We’ll learn today the difference between our water and God’s wine. You can have one or the other, but not both. When we’re finished with our study of God’s word, I hope you’ll choose wisely, for the sake of your church and your soul.

Have you invited Jesus to your wedding?

Our story unfolds on a Wednesday afternoon at a wedding. On the previous Sabbath, Jesus called James and John to be his first followers (John 1:39). Andrew and Simon joined him the following day (John 1:40-42). On Monday he called Philip and Nathaniel to discipleship, and “decided to leave for Galilee” (John 1:43). His fledgling group traveled on Tuesday, arriving late that evening or Wednesday morning.

Jesus’ group has come to a wedding, one of the greatest occasions of common life in ancient Palestine. The marriage ceremony was celebrated late Wednesday evening after an all-day feast. Then the couple was led to their new home under the light of flaming torches, with a canopy held over their heads. For a week they wore crowns, dressed in bridal robes, and were treated and even addressed as a king and queen. In lives filled with poverty and hard work, this was a joyous celebration for the entire village.

So to this village, Jesus came. Cana was so insignificant that its location has not been determined with absolute certainty. Most archaeologists identify it as Kefr Kenna, 3.5 miles from Nazareth, though other locations are also possible. It is mentioned twice in John’s gospel, and nowhere else in God’s word.

Jesus could have begun his public ministry in any way he chose. If you possessed his miraculous, divine powers, how would you first tell the world? Would you raise a Lazarus from his grave? Would you feed a multitude of 5,000 with a small boy’s lunch? Would you walk on the sea? Would you open blind eyes? Would you reveal your powers to Herod in Caesarea or Caesar in Rome? Jesus began in an obscure, rural village, by blessing a peasant wedding.

If he would come to their village, he’ll come to yours. Have you invited him?

Who have you put in charge of your life?

Now comes the crisis. Hospitality in the Middle and Far East was and is a sacred duty. When serving as a missionary in East Malaysia I was often privileged to be welcomed into the simplest of village huts. The mother would always set food before me. It might be goat’s milk or bean curd, but it was her best and I was obligated to eat it. (Fish eyes were the greatest test of faith I encountered.) No one in the Palestine of Jesus’ day would think of inviting a guest to their home without providing them a meal. And if the wine or food ran out, such would be a social catastrophe.

Nowhere was such hospitality more mandatory than at one’s wedding. The entire village was there. Families saved for years to provide for the occasion. To run out of wine would be a nightmare beyond contemplation. It simply wasn’t done. Such a failure could not be tolerated. If you invited friends and family to Christmas dinner but ran out of food to feed them, you would be embarrassed. If you were a bride or groom in Jesus’ day and ran out of wine, you would be humiliated for the rest of your life.

So Mary comes to Jesus with this crisis: “They have no more wine” (v. 3). Why him? Because they have nowhere else to turn, and she knows it.

His response seems very strange to our ears: “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come” (v. 4). This was a Jewish idiom which is better translated, “Dear lady, why do you ask me to solve the problem in this way? The time for my public miracles has not yet come.”

She knew that he would meet the need in his own way, so Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” She gives him the problem, then trusts him with the answer.

Jesus then used the human to accomplish the divine: “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons” (v. 6).

“Ceremonial washing” was vitally important to the Jews of Jesus’ day (see 2 Kings 3:11; Mark 7:3; John 13:4-10; John 3:25). It was the physical means by which they ensured that they were spiritually clean while living in this fallen world.

Each water pot contained about 20 gallons. By transforming this much water, Jesus created 2,000 four-ounce glasses of wine. Using the customary dilution of two parts wine with three parts water, Jesus provided enough wine to last the entire wedding week.

But only because Jesus’ mother and her servants did as he asked. They made him the master of this banquet, the King of this kingdom. Then he used them to do what they could, while he did what they could not. And the result was a miracle which blessed an entire village and caused his disciples to “put their faith in him” (v. 11).


Max Ehrmann wrote “Desiderata” in 1927. Over the years his poem has been made into plaques and posters, a Grammy-award winning song, and the mantra for a generation. Here’s how it ends:

You are a child of the universe,no less than the trees and the stars;you have a right to be here.And whether or not it is clear to you,no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,whatever you conceive Him to be,and whatever your labors and aspirations,in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,it is still a beautiful world.Be cheerful.Strive to be happy.

“Desiderata” is the theme song for a movement which has been going on for nearly 200 years in this culture. A spiritual movement has been afoot in America since the early 19th century. It is a movement which has come to affect every living American and every attender of Park Cities Baptist Church. It affects me every day of my life, and you as well.

At the dawn of the 19th century, the world was becoming a smaller place. Americans began to interact with world religions; many were drawn to mysticism of Eastern faiths and a desire to combine religions into a unified search for truth and happiness.

An outcry began for racial reconciliation, the abolition of slavery, the rights of women and workers. The organized churches of the day seemed insensitive to these issues, if not the enemy of such progress.

Meditation techniques practiced in solitude became popular. Thoreau’s Walden became sacred for many, teaching us that we can find God on our own terms.

Darwin’s evolutionary theories caused many to see the Bible as myth rather than truth. It became popular to view Christianity as personal spirituality rather than objective, authoritative truth.

These various movements have coalesced in our lifetime.

We now live in a culture which is convinced that spirituality is subjective and personal, that truth is individual and practical. There are many roads up the same mountain, for God has many names. We can be “spiritual” without being religious.

The objective authority of God’s word has been replaced by the subjective authority of our own desires and plans. We can abuse alcohol, view pornography, or engage in sexual activity as much as we want, so long as we don’t hurt anyone else.

We go to church for what we can get out of it. We choose a church or even a religion as consumers choose a shopping mall or a civic club. We have turned the wine of divine revelation into the water of personal opinion. And the well is running dry.

What are we to do?

Make God your King again. Hear Jesus’ first sermon: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Pray with all your heart, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Abdicate the throne of your heart and put him on it.

Make him your King, then resolve to extend his Kingdom. Give him your problems, your future, your church. And do whatever he says. Know that it’s not about you. Worship is not for us but for him. How we worship is not nearly as important as Who we worship. Decide that you want to extend his Kingdom in Dallas and around the world, that you want to be part of a church which will do whatever it takes to help Dallas know Jesus as Lord.

And know that he makes the best wine. He can do so much more with us than we can do with ourselves. We worship a God who would bless a peasant wedding, who would meet a personal need with his divine best. He loves us, and likes us, and wants to give our lives his purpose and joy. He is waiting to turn our water into his wine. But he can bless only the wedding where he is welcome and he is King.


Where have you run out of wine today? What is the great challenge of your heart and soul today? Put Jesus on that throne. Make him its King. Seek his word and will on that very issue, then ask his Spirit to give you the strength to do what God says.

Make him the King of your church. Ask him to turn our water into his wine, to use our worship and ministries to extend his Kingdom in Dallas and around the world.

In coming weeks, as we walk through more miracles of Jesus in the Gospel of John, we’ll find practical ways to make God our King. Today you have come to the coronation service. Today is the day to crown him your King.

When I visit England I always make time for the Tower of London and its display of the Crown Jewels. Valued at around $30 million today, they are worn only when a new sovereign assumes the throne or other significant affairs of state commence. The rest of the time they are on display for tourists like me.

The crown of the Kingdom of God is not a museum showpiece. It is being worn today, right now. You are wearing it, or you have given it to Jesus. You will drink today your water or his wine.

Choose wisely.