Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering KeyOpenDoorChurch: Lesson 5 Brutal Love Series

Vested Matthew 6:19-24

vest·ed /ˈvestid/ adjective      secured in the possession of or assigned to a person

What would you like to secure for your children, your grandchildren or your spouse? What would you like to secure for your friends and family, your church or your city? How about your state or country for that matter?  What are you doing to make sure that those things that you want to leave to them are vested?  The truth of the matter is that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In other words, the intention to engage in good acts often fails. The old adage points to the principle that there is no merit in good intentions unless they are acted upon. Let’s be honest, when it comes to leaving an inheritance or legacy to those we love there is not enough planning or provision made. At the end of the day nobody gets anything when we pass except the bill for the funeral and what’s left of the mortgage on the house.  That’s right…here we go again with another brutal lesson on love. 

Don’t worry yourself too much about the material things you leave behind.  Statistics say that one in three Americans who get an inheritance blow it anyway.  Christ has made it clear for us as to what our focus should be.  We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  In the passage above Jesus is not telling us to make no plans or provisions for our future. He is simply stating the irony of how most people overlook eternal things for material things.  If our eyes are fixed only on what is here and now then how will we prepare for eternity?  This is the unhealthiest way one can live. When it comes to leaving a vested inheritance of any worth at all it must be spiritual to be lasting.  The greatest   fortune left behind will never secure a place in Heaven. And no amount of money will keep an unrepentant sinner from burning in Hell.  What are you storing up for yourself and for the ones you love?

 God Made Provisions for Us Romans 3:23-24, John 1:11-13

God foresaw mankind’s foolishness and sinfulness in not making spiritual provision for himself and his posterity.  Because He is a good father He made provision for us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ. God sent His Son to justify sinful man before God. Justification is laid out crystal clear in Romans 3:23-24. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

There are three main words that are key in these verses: freely, grace, and justified. Freely indicates that the gift was given without any cost to the receiver. The one who receives a free gift loses nothing. However, freely also indicates that it did cost the giver something. The giver of the free gift had to sacrifice something in order for the receiver to obtain the gift. The word grace means undeserved favor. When grace is extended, the one receiving grace has done nothing to earn that grace. Again, the receiver gains something and loses nothing. Then finally the word justified means made right or not guilty. A good example is when a judge declares an individual not guilty. At that moment, that individual is justified and no longer has any charges against them.  Practically in the life of a Christian, this is exactly what Jesus did for every one of us. Jesus gave Himself freely for our justification. It cost Him everything and cost us nothing.  We didn’t do anything to earn this gift. It was one hundred percent a gift of grace. God brutally loved His people too much to let them perish without hope. By Jesus’ blood on the cross, He paid our debt of sin against God, and vested that spiritual gift to anyone who would receive Him. John 1:12   God now declares the believer His child and not guilty. The blood of Jesus Christ freely and graciously justifies.

Our Inheritance Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter1:3-5, Ephesians 1:13-14

As a vested child of God we receive an unlimited inheritance.  Our citizenship is now in Heaven and we are an adopted child of God.  1 Peter 1:4 says that this inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. .

What we have in Christ is an enduring possession. As creatures of this world, it is hard for us to imagine colors of that never fade, excitement that never diminishes, or value that never depreciates; but our inheritance is not of this world. Its glorious intensity will never diminish. God says, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5).

Our inheritance in Christ is reserved. What we have in Christ is being “kept” in heaven for us. A crown of glory has your name on it. Although we enjoy many blessings as children of God here on earth, our true inheritance—our true home—is reserved for us in heaven. Like Abraham, we are “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). The Holy Spirit guarantees that we will receive eternal life in the world to come (2 Corinthians 1:22). In fact, “when you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13–14).

When we understand and value the inheritance that awaits us, we are better able to endure whatever comes our way in this life. We can give God praise even during trials because we have His guarantee that we will receive all He has promised: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Your Legacy Matthew 25:31-40, 2 Corinthians 4:18, 1 John 4:19

In light of all that is ours in Christ Jesus—this freely justified grace and this vested inheritance of brutal love paid in blood— what will you secure for your children, your grandchildren or your spouse? What will you secure for your friends and family, your church or your city and for even the least of these (Matthew 25:40)?  You can leave them the same glorious inheritance that God has given to you by giving them Jesus.  Tell them of Jesus and show them Jesus living through you.  This is why “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18). This is how we are called to love…because He first loved us so brutally well (1 John 4:19)!


   JesusResurrectionPastor Barry Bruce:                    The Gathering   Study 4 of 6 : Easter Sunday                                      

Let Go and Believe!  John 11:25-27, 39-40, 43-44                                       How many of you are ready to let go and let God do whatever He wants to do in your life on this Easter Sunday 2017?  No more fooling around!  No more excuses… no more “if”, “and” or “buts”.  Just let go of whatever you’re holding onto and really believe. 

I want to ask you this morning what Jesus asked Lazarus’ sister Martha after her brother was dead four days in his tomb.  In the eleventh chapter of John’s gospel Jesus proclaimed that He was “the resurrection and the life”. “The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die”, said Jesus… “Do you believe this?”, Jesus asked Martha. Martha said she believed but she really did not.  We discover this truth when Jesus asks to have the stone rolled away from the tomb. Martha was shocked that Jesus suggested such a thing, but Jesus counters her disbelief:  “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Apparently, Jesus doesn’t need Martha’s or our belief to reveal the glory of God.  Despite the disbelief Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead!

Six days before that Passover, where Jesus had His “Last Supper” with the disciples, He had dinner with the raised Lazarus and his sisters (John 12:1-2).  The next day Jesus was paraded as the “Blessed King of Israel”.  The crowd of “believers” put Him on a donkey, threw their garments on the ground and shouted “Hosanna” at the top of their lungs (John 12:12-13) Hosanna is often thought of as a declaration of praise, similar to hallelujah, but it is actually a plea for salvation. Literally, hosanna means “I beg you to save!” or “please deliver us!” These “believers” were so sure that Jesus was the chosen one of God (Messiah) that they begged Him to save them. They said they believed but they really did not.   We discover the truth one week later when all the disciples ran away from Jesus (Mark 14:50). and the same crowd of  people shouted “crucify him!” (John 19:14-15) Apparently, Jesus doesn’t need His disciples or anyone’s belief to accomplish His mission to “save”.  He brutally loved all of those unbelievers right up to the end and bled out on that cross to save them!  And we are among them too.  Do you believe?   

Unbelief on Easter Morning Matthew 28:1-10                                                                        The gospel accounts of that Resurrection Sunday are filled with disbelief.  The angels had to tell the two Mary’s (Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James.  Joanna: Luke 24:9 and Salome : Mark 16:1 were also with them.): “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said”.   John’s gospel reports that Mary Magdalene was sure that someone had stolen Jesus’ body until He himself greeted her (John 20:11-16). And when the women told the apostles that Jesus was raised they thought their words were nonsense (Luke 24:11). But Jesus was raised…JUST AS HE SAID!   

God True, Every Man a Liar Matthew 28:11-15, Romans 3:10-18                                            Jesus spoke the truth…He always speaks the truth but every man is a liar.

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not! Let God be true and every man a liar.  Romans 3:3-4a

The guards that fell like dead men when the angel rolled away the tomb stone later gained their composure took a bribe and lied about the resurrection they had witnessed.  Like all lies and disbelief they breed more lies and disbelief and ignorance prevails in the hearts of men. As the scriptures say “There is no one righteous, not even one—their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.”   Only Christ is truth (John 14:6).  So of course He was raised…JUST AS HE SAID!  Do you believe Him or do you believe man?

Falling Short Yet Getting Grace Romans 3:23, John 3:16-18                                             Jesus’ gentle rebuke to Martha’s disbelief regarding the resurrection of her brother    Lazarus becomes ours:  “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” But we all fall short of the glory of God because we have all sinned.  Our disbelief is sin itself. Not to believe in Him who God has sent to redeem us is the ultimate sin. John 3:18   But Jesus raised Lazarus despite Martha’s disbelief.  Jesus also raised from the dead Himself despite mankind’s disbelief.  He has demonstrated His grace to us so that we might believe in Him and have our sins forgiven.  So that we would come to faith, and in so doing “see the glory of God!”

The “Glory of God” Through Reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5:17-20                                  The “glory of God” that Jesus wants us to see is realized in being reconciled to God.  Like the story of the prodigal son come home  (Luke 15:11-32). When we are reconciled to God we are right in His sight.  We are heirs to all He owns.  We are children of His promise.  We are eternal sons and daughters of the creator of the universe. The old is gone, the new is here!  Jesus came to reconcile mankind to God.  He came to show us the way to God.  He came to tell us the truth about God.  He came to demonstrate the eternal life that is God.

Jesus is the reconciler.  He Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6  Jesus came to show us the way, the truth and the life so that we could believe and therefore see the glory of God.

Ambassadors of Christ Matthew 28:16-20                                                                      Amazing but true…even after the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus, touched Him and talked to Him—”some doubted”. And still He loved them and sent them out as         ambassadors with a promise to be with them always…to the very end of the age.  The love of Christ is brutal to be sure and so is His call to you on this Easter morning:  “Do you believe all of  this?”, then let go!  Let go of anything that keeps you from being reconciled to God.  Believe in Jesus and let Him make all things new.  Let go of  the weak branch your holding onto and fall into the open arms of God.  Let go of the lies, let go of the disbelief, let go of the sin and the shame and fall into His Brutal love and amazing grace!




  PalmSunday Pastor Barry Bruce: The Gathering          Study 3 of 6 : Palm Sunday

“Hindsight is 20/20”                                                                                                                        Have you ever made a decision that led you down a path of heartache and pain and then you say, “Hey, I should have known this all along.”  Welcome to the expression “hindsight is 20/20”.  Isn’t it amazing how clear your vision becomes after you have lived out the pain and suffering of your choices?  If we had 20/20 hindsight we would probably never had made half of the decisions that we did.

How about Jesus?  If he had known what a traitor Judas was would He had taken him as one of His trusted disciples?  Would he have washed his feet and sat down to eat the Passover meal with him?  Would He had allowed Peter, who denied Him three times, to be one of His closest friends?  Would He had gone to the garden to pray that night if He knew that His friends would all fall asleep there in His hour of need, or that He would be arrested there by  Roman guards and later crucified?  And what about that parade called Palm Sunday?  The day we celebrate today.  Would He have come into Jerusalem like He did, with all of the fanfare, if He knew that in one week’s time, in that same city, the same crowd would be shouting “crucify!”  The answer to these questions is a resounding “yes!”  Unlike us, Jesus did have 20/20 hindsight.  He knew every one of these things and yet He still chose to make the decisions that He made.  Decisions that cost Him dearly!  Decisions He made because of His “brutal love” for mankind.  In fact, “brutal love” was His mission.

The “Lamb of God” John 1:29-34, Luke 19:29-40                                                                     God had been silent in regards to providing a prophet for the Jewish people for 400 years (e.g.“silent years”: intertestmental period) until the angel Gabriel announced the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias (Luke 1:5-13).  When John grew into his prophetic ministry he announced that the kingdom of God was at hand and that people needed to repent and make themselves ready to meet the Lord. As John was baptizing people for repentance in the Jordan River Jesus approached him.  It was then that John made the proclamation that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.  

Jesus was indeed that sacrificial lamb on that first Palm Sunday.  The sporadic sort of parade to honor the proclaimed messiah king had actually been planned well in advance and carefully orchestrated long before Rome ever ruled the earth. Everything was planned beforehand by God.  The location, the mule, and even the exact day foretold over 500 years earlier  by God’s prophets. (The Time and place: Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy ‘sevens.’ Daniel 9:24-27, The vehicle: Zechariah’s prophecy of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9)   “Shut your disciples up” said the jealous Pharisees, but Jesus replied with a jest:  “I tell you,” He replied, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”(vs. 40)  After over 400 years of silence I should say so!

Weeping at a Parade  Luke 19:41-44, Daniel 9:24                                                                     The people had no idea of the plan that was unfolding before them that day but Jesus did.  That is why He wept! He wept because He could see (and prophesied) the future of the city and its people.  He knew the parade would end and in one week the same crowd would shout crucify.  He knew that as a result of their rejection of Him Rome would one day    destroy the holy city and take the Jews captive (In 70 A.D. Jesus’ prophecy came true to the letter).  He also knew that His mission would culminate in His own blood sacrifice on a cross.  As the prophet Daniel said, Jesus came to “finish transgression, put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, and to bring an everlasting righteousness.” Daniel 9:24  Jesus came to pay for our sin, to finish the debt of our transgression, to atone for our wickedness, and to make us righteous in God’s presence. Jesus came into Jerusalem that day to not only be our king (Lord) but our savior.

Inspected for Sacrifice  Exodus 12:1-14, 1 Peter 1:18-19                                                   When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem Passover lambs were arriving too.  The Jewish historian, Josephus recorded a census that stated that 256,500 lambs were slain for one Passover. Lambs selected for sacrifice were inspected by the priests to see that they met the Levitical requirements. Jesus “the Lamb of God” met those requirements too: •A lamb without blemish— required perfection   •A Male—a son  •No bones could be broken—Jesus bones were never broken   •Its blood poured out—a  symbol of Christ’s death

Passover was to remember the night when the angel of death passed over the homes of the Jews in Egypt who had followed these directions and put the blood of the lamb on their door posts. (Top, and sides as in the shape of a cross) Is Jesus blood on the door to your heart?  He is knocking at that door with every beat of your heart.  Will you open it? Revelation 3:20

The truth of Palm Sunday (The Triumphal Entry) is that Jesus came as mankind’s sacrifice for sin (Our Passover Lamb).  Without Him there is no forgiveness. (John 14:6) Is your faith and hope in Him?  Do you obey His truth?  Behold the lamb!

Brutal Love Romans 12:1-2                                                                                                             To be our Savior (Sacrifice) Jesus must also be our Lord (King).  He has demonstrated Brutal Love to us as the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin.  He has willingly become our Passover Lamb. In our thankfulness He calls us to become a sacrifice too. Not as a      sacrifice on the altar, as the Mosaic Law required the sacrifice of animals,  but as a living sacrifice. That is living out our lives in dedication and appreciation to Jesus.  This is the only reasonable act of our worship to Him for what He has done for us.

A Nail in His Hand  When we see ourselves as the nail in Christ’s hand we begin to see things clearly.  Our individual sins necessitated His sacrifice on our behalf. He willingly took our blows upon Himself to redeem us.  This is Brutal Love and He calls us to      the same.








FeetBRUTAL LOVE SERIES (Part 1of 6) Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church

 What’s Love Got To Do With It? 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 4:8-9, John 13:34-35

In 1967 the Beatles sang All You Need Is Love and added a hand holding anthem to the Hippie movement.  In 1984 Tina Turner slapped that hand with her #1 hit and screamed out What’s Love Got To Do With It?  Her Chorus said:

Oh what’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart
When a heart can be broken

 Quite a different tone from The Beatles earlier hit:

[Chorus:]                                                                                                                                               All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

Biblically speaking The Beatles were mostly correct.  “Love is all You Need” and therefore it has everything to do with life and living, but the brand of love is what makes it a second hand emotion that breaks hearts.  What is love?  There are a thousand bad examples and false definitions in this world, but there is only one that is true.  In a world of false definitions Jesus stands true and He calls us to follow. 

The Apostle Paul defines true love in 1 Corinthians 13.  If we put our name or any other name in place of the word “love” in that passage (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a) it just doesn’t work.  None of us measure up, but the name of Jesus substitutes that word perfectly.  Jesus is the author of true love, in fact the Apostle John said: Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8   Love is the very reason why “God sent His own son.”  1 John 4:9   Jesus came down to demonstrate real love to a loveless race, God’s love.  Jesus came to us to define love in “deed and truth” 1 John 3:18, and Jesus didn’t end His demonstration of love on the cross.  That demonstration is to continue into every     generation until He comes again, and that demonstration is meant to be lived out daily in His followers. Or did we all forget His command in John 13:34-35?

Love is a verb, so in this series I intend to illustrate the six actions that make the love of Christ so powerful, not forgetting that He calls His followers to these actions too.  No one should ever leave one of these messages saying “well, I’m only human.  God can’t expect for me to love like that”.  He commanded us to love just like that, and if we follow Him we will.  He puts His Spirit in us who follow and that will change the way we do everything.  John 14:26-27  So don’t make excuses and don’t be afraid to love!

 God Came Down John 1:1-5, 14

At the very beginning of Christ’s love there is humility.  The Apostle John tells us that He who made all things became flesh and came down to us.  Real humility is not just in the act of coming down to another person’s level. True humility is coming down to that level because you desire it no matter what the cost. Humility defined is a modest or low view of one’s own importance; however, God never had a low view of His own importance.  He knew exactly who He was and the mission He was undertaking when He came down to man.  That is even a greater humility. Knowing who you    are and choosing to make that of no consequence as you love another is God’s love in action.

God Washed Dirty Feet John 13:1-17

You would think that God just setting His feet on earth was a great humbling, but Jesus actually went lower.  He got on His knees and washed feet, even His betrayer’s feet.  He went even further.  He went to His death at their hands.  He went even further…He        descended into hell to take the keys of hell and death from the Devil (Revelation 1:18).  God’s love is brutal — humble to the extreme! 

To Hell?  To say that Jesus only went into the grave denies what took place from the time of Jesus’ death to His resurrection. It also denies Jesus words. Jesus declared that He would be in “the heart of the earth” for “three days and three nights”   (Matthew12:40). A grave is not “the heart of the earth.” Paul confirms that Jesus “descended into the lower parts of the earth” (Ephesians 4:9) and we know that Jesus’ body wasn’t even buried in the earth. His body was laid in an above-ground tomb (Matthew 27:57-60). Paul could not have been speaking of Jesus’ body. It was Jesus’ soul that went into “the lower parts of the earth” — to Hell. (Hebrew: “Sheol” Greek: hades, ig. the abode of the dead. . . for both the righteous and the unrighteous). Hell (once divided by a great gulf: Luke 16:22-26) was the place where all souls went at death to wait: the righteous for the redemption of Christ and the unrighteous for His eternal judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). The body went into the grave and the soul went to “hell”(the righteous to“Abraham’s Bosom”/ “paradise”).  After Jesus “ascended” and led the Old Testament saints to Heaven, the only abode of the dead that remains in the earth is the place of eternal torment—Hell. Since Christ has now come, anyone who dies in Him is immediately present with Him (2 Corinthians 5:8).

How Far Will We Go? Philippians 2:1-8, James 4:6b–10

The Apostle Paul presented the church with a challenge to be humble like Jesus, but     remember this challenge is a command of Christ to His followers (John 13:34-35) and not a suggestion.  In essence Paul says: “has Christ ever done anything for you?”  If your answer is yes then Paul says: “Make my joy complete” and show His love to others by being    humble.  If we are to obey the command of Christ to love then we must begin by being humble.  How far are you willing to go in demonstrating your appreciation for what Christ has done for you?  How far are you willing to go to obey His command to love others?  Is Jesus your Master?  Are you His servant?  Well, since Jesus said “no servant is greater than his master” then what should keep us from being humble towards others but the Devil himself?  No wonder the scriptures say Pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18). Let’s not make light of our arrogance and sin.   We cannot be saved without humbling ourselves before Jesus in repentance and we cannot love without humbling    ourselves before others.  Change that laughter into mourning and let’s humble ourselves!