Text: 1 Peter 1:18-19

Short Background: there was economic inflation and a financial crisis during the writing of this epistle due to Emperor Nero’s blasphemous persecution. This context explains why Peter compared the payment of salvation from gold and silver with the blood shed by Christ. Indeed, gold and silver have limited and volatile value, while Christ’s gracious act was infinite and eternal.


Buying something with a credit card. Needs payment. Or else you will end up having a bad credit score, broke, too much debt, or, worst case, be in jail (in some countries). What do we do now? It’s either we pay for it. Or someone else’s pay for us. If someone is paying for it, do we deserve it?

Biblical survey: Throughout time, humanity has been offending and building a lot of bad credit scores with God. Yet, despite the stubbornness of men, God still pays for their debt/ credit. However, it just keeps on repeating. (Illustration: 5-6 loan interest; you try to pay more so you can ask for more credit). But it does not help you get off from your status. Likewise, we would ask God for forgiveness, but then we do it again or maybe something worse. (Indulgences, “Lord, here’s my tithe or donation,” then you plan to do something wrong in the near future.

Main Idea:

1. But the Bad news is our debts to God cannot be paid by mere good works or replenishing our spiritual credit scores. No! The payment is death (Romans 6:23). No one can pay for their own, the interest is too high, and none can pay for themselves.

2. God’s solution: but praise God! There’s Good news. He saw the shortcomings of the people. They cannot do it independently (Roms 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”). They need God’s self-giving love (Eph 2:8-9). It is not by works but only through God’s gift of payment.

What is the payment? If it requires death? Then death should also be the payment. 1 John 2:1-2 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The Christmas story is about a beloved payment, that is, Christ (John 3:16-17). God in heaven was thinking about paying all our debts once and for all by sending His Son, Jesus Christ (perfect, holy, pure, and eternal). That is the meaning of Christmas. God gave His Son. That’s why we cannot outgive God.

3. More Good News: we become co-heirs or co-sharers of God’s riches once we become part of his family. Romans 8: 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in his sufferings so that we may also share in his glory.”

How do we access these riches? Through prayers, obedience, and reading His Word. Understanding the eternal riches of God gives us more joy in living in this world.


Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
December 25, 2022




Text: Matthew 19:16-28


One of the books that impacted my life is The Pilgrim’s Progress. It narrates the journey of a person named Christian, who was lost, hopeless, and miserable. However, throughout his Tomb Raider action-like challenges, he reached the end of his path. But the final challenge seems impossible to accomplish. Yet, he jumped and tried to achieve it. He died. Surprisingly, he reached the Gate and received the prize. How? The final challenge requires dying to self and depending on the Person who created all things. Indeed, a great book that was written during his imprisonment in London.

Biblical survey: [1] Lost Coin, [2] Lost Sheep, and [3] the (Lost) Prodigal Son.

Main Idea:

There’s another story in the Bible that seeks the befitting path of salvation. However, unlike the stories shared a while ago, this ended as a tragic one. Read Matthew 19:16-28.

Christ requires Perfect Obedience not because we can achieve it but to show how inadequate we are in trying to do it by ourselves. Only Christ is perfect.

Sometimes even how hard we try to obey God, it is still inadequate. Like Job 23:11, “My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside.” Other times, we are proud that we have been faithful to the path of Christianity and claim that we have obeyed everything. Like the rich man, in Matthew 19:20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Surrender: The Pineapple Story (Illustration)

The befitting path is the gospel way. Christ became like us, suffered and died on the cross, and resurrected and overcame death for us to be part of his family. He knew what was going to happen to him. He foretells his path toward sacrifice and atonement. And yet, he wants us to see this as his Promise. The promise of renewal, entrance to the kingdom of God, and receiving eternal life.


Takeaway? A part of the Christmas story.

May we find our way toward Christ. Just like the wise men (Magis) who followed the path of the Star. 1) sough Jesus, (2) offered full surrender, and (3) obeyed God rather than the ways of man. We may also do likewise.

God seriously finds us and puts us on the befitting path, the rightful one for us to find him finally. “We were once lost, but now we are found.” – John Newton.

Christ chose this path for us.


Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
December 18, 2022




Text: 1 John 5:11-13; Romans 6:22-23


Think about a gift. When we hear Christmas, we think about gifts. In the Philippines, when the month of September comes, we start singing Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas songs. Likewise, here in the US, we buy discounted items for gifts from Thanksgiving sales, Black Fridays, and Cyber Monday discounts. Well… who does not want gifts? I am not fond of receiving gifts. It makes me feel shy. Maybe it’s just my coping mechanism, or not used to receiving gifts when I was a child.

Most of us have godparents, ninong and ninang. I have too. But the problem is that 100% of them are pastors. So, do the math. I haven’t received any from them but prayers. And I am thankful for their prayers. That’s the greatest form of gift, I guess? So, I tend to go with my siblings every Christmas day because they have rich executive-level godparents.

Personal Story: I am easy to be pleased with. Just give me a coffee, and you’ll surely see me smile. However, there was this one memorable moment; it was when Ivy gifted me Honey Citron teas. I asked her why, then she said that she observed that every time we go out for a date, I order Citron teas. And I somehow have a unique smile every time I drink it. Of course, I was so kilig (butterflies in the stomach). Such a beautiful gift. I know you also have that kind of experience, like a gift of marriage, children, jobs, etc.

But in the Bible, the first “Exchanging of Gifts” happened. Throughout the Bible, there are stories that present exchanging gifts as a covenantal act. However, unlike us today, they did not feel bad about what they received since they could not out-give the Giver; until Christ happened.

Main Idea: Christ as the Greatest Gift of All (John 3:16)

Text: 1 John 5, 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

Romans 6, 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Given – in the passages that we just explored, we saw that there is a Giver, and a gift has been given. The Giver is God, and the gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus. Have you ever received a gift that has another gift with it? Like, someone gave you a wallet, and inside the wallet, it has cash or a gift card. Wow, that’s certainly joyous. Likewise, the gift is Christ, and in Christ, there is another gift, the gift of eternal life. That, indeed, is a beautiful gift.

Received – If there’s a gift, then what do we do with it? Reject, ignore, or receive it? Of course, all we need is to receive it. In our passages, it has a conditional clause of “whoever has” or “who believes”-this is the same with John 3:16’s “whosoever believes.” Only those who have received the gift have the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. What did it feel like when you first received your gift? You were happy? Excited?
Yes, we were excited about how we would use it, play it, or enjoy it. Then what happened after several years? We lost the excitement of enjoying the gift. It has become a decoration now. It is like that sometimes. We have gifts that have been received, opened, and (now) kept somewhere. Look at your basement, perhaps your storage? There are gifts in there that you never used anymore. (same with faith)

Valued – We have forgotten about it because we have forgotten its value. Gifts received—like the one we have received in Christ—are to be valued; it has an eternal value. How can you share if you have forgotten how to enjoy the gift? What we share is experience. Christian experience. Illustration: Mystery Box (Anime). Patrizia said, “Pastor, it is about the experience, not just the surprise inside. But the feeling and the process of being excited and surprised.” Here, I remember Leonard Sweet’s book about the Gospel according to Starbucks. Their coffee is mid—nothing special. What they sell is experience. Likewise, in our Christian faith. Our gift in Christ is having this relationship with him, an experiential gift.

Value this beautiful provision of Christ to us. The gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life. Find joy in it. Yet, those who do not value such a Christian experience also fail to share it with others. How can you share something that you do not have?

Shared – The most cheerful Christians are those who share the gift of Christ. The ones who do not are like going to Starbucks and ordering a decaf coffee. Funny because Greg Laurie says, “the problem today is that we have too many ‘decaf disciples,’ too many ‘uncarbonated Christians.’” “What’s the point? All the fun is gone! Why don’t you just hold an empty cup and pretend to drink?” These Christians are spiritual hoarders. “Sometimes, as Christians, we can be the same way—hoarding all that God has given to us and not sharing it with others. But you are Blessed to be a blessing.”

Let us not be like that. Do not be a decaf disciple nor a spiritual hoarder of God’s beautiful provision. This Christmas season, the best gift we can share is Jesus. By doing so, the church that had received the beautiful provision—who is Jesus—becomes the beautiful provision to the world.


The receiver of the gift (church) becomes beautiful because of the beautiful provision (Jesus). Dustin Benge says, “The church is beautiful because the lens through which Christ regards her is his cross—the focal point of blood, righteousness, forgiveness, union, justification, regeneration, and grace. His cross makes her beautiful.”

Prayer: ‘Lord, remove the excuse that binds my will from obedience to You. I am afraid, and I am nervous—what if they won’t listen? What if they mock me? What if they reject me? Give me all that I need to avoid the sin of not sharing the only thing that can save—Your gospel. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.” – Greg Laurie


Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
December 11, 2022




Text: 2 Timothy 3:10-12

Theme introduction:

46% of the UK say that they are Christian. “The proportion of people who said they were Christian was 46.2%, down from 59.3% in the last census in 2011. In contrast, the number who said they had no religion increased to 37.2% of the population, up from a quarter.” (OFS UK) “Over a third in the US, indicated that they have ‘no religion’ also known as being in the ‘unchurched’ religious category.” PEW Research 2018. “18% of baby boomers, 25% of Generation X, 29% of millennials, and 34% of Generation Z” are unchurched or unaffiliated (Lifeway 2022).

Reasons why they do not want to be part of any church? Irrelevant or not an important centerpiece in life; did not have any transformational experience; to avoid being persecuted or labeled.

In this thought of experiencing persecution and trials, we will emphasize today’s sermon. Before that, I have here a simple activity called: Three Lies and a Truth.

You’ll hear people saying, “you can overcome trials by yourself and God does not give us trials that we cannot surpass.” It sounds good, but it is not biblical. Look at Job; look at Paul in Romans 7. There are trials that you cannot surpass. And God gives you those trials so you can fully depend on Him, not on your own self. Read our passage: 2 Timothy 3:12. Explain verses 10-11.

Sermon Introduction:

Kintsugi – Makoto Fujimura said that in Christ’s weeping in John 11:35, he shares his children’s entire pain and persecution. Praise God for that because we have a God who assures us that he is with us when we are persecuted.

John 20:27, Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Main Idea:

Why do we experience these things? Read John 15:18-21. Expressions of today’s persecution: discrimination, oppression, Subtle Persecutions nowadays: cancel culture, censorship. A proper theology of suffering begins with God. By persecuting the church, the devil deceives himself into thinking he can stop her mission in the world. – Dustin Benge

Why do we experience such persecution and suffering?

  • Corporate Sin – God affirms corporate confession of sin as a model for the Jews in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” God spoke these words to Solomon in the context of the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. God was not setting a liturgical format; rather, He was emphasizing the principle of mercy over a community who lives in humility before Him.
    • Jonah 3:5-9
  • Shares Christ’s Suffering – Philippians 1:29-30, For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have; 1 Peter 4:12-13.
  • Draws near to God – throughout church history, we learn that persecution is a catalyst for church growth and increase instead of destruction.
    Where is the gospel in here?

    • Covenant of Redemption (Isaiah 49)
    • Philippians 2:5-11
    • John 3:16-17
    • Explain the covenantal agreement; someone needs to atone for the wrongdoing and bridging the contract covenant, Rom 6:23, death is the payment.
  • Eternal Reward – Rejoicing
    • 2 Corinthians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; Matthew 5:10-11
    • Paul, despite persecution, was rejoicing. Peter and Silas were singing in their imprisonment.
    • One of the oldest Baptist churches in America (1665), First Baptist Church of Boston’s history traces back to a tragic event of Obadiah Holmes’ punitive whipping in 1651.
      Obadiah Holmes stood his ground defending the truth of the believer’s baptism. As a consequence, he was imprisoned and had received thirty lashes with a three-corded whip. He chose to be whipped even though given an offer to be bailed by his friends. // With gracious endurance, he said that he had “such a spiritual manifestation of God’s presence” that it was as if he had been whipped “with roses.” // Moreover, it is said that through this event, Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard University, rejected infant baptism in 1654.


II Corinthians 12:9, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”


Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
December 4, 2022




Text: Hebrews 2:9-18

The Christ of Christmas Sermon Devotional (Full Manuscript)




Without Christ, Christmas is just another secular holiday. The world seems to see Christmas solely for gift-giving, shared fellowship, family bonding, and romantic holidates. It is true that even Spurgeon encouraged Christians to celebrate more than celebrate less. However, every time we take out Christ in Christmas, it diminishes the real purpose of the day.

Suffering: Despite this presence of suffering, God calls us to trust in Him, be faithful just as how Job was, and continue to walk wisely and righteously. God promises that He will be with His people, never leave them, and help them by the Spirit’s comfort and protection. By God’s grace in Christ, we long for the eschatological coming of the kingdom of God where pain and suffering are no longer existing.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation: The vast meaning of the term “forgive” is rich. It pertains to covering up, to pardon, to be merciful, to send away or take away, and more. This forgiveness does not only secure redemption but also transforms the heart of a person to pursue godliness. The author proposes that this divine forgiveness is not limited to vertical reconciliation: God and humanity, but also horizontally: believers and community.

Assurance: God has been in the business of assuring His elect. Still, in the Old Testament God’s promises, encountering His people, and showing signs and wonders was His way to assure His covenantal relationship with Israel. It is understood both in the OT and the NT as God’s gift. A reflection of His grace to demonstrate the certainty of one’s faith. It is best understood as God’s act of letting His children be confident, have peace of mind, and rest in Christ by the Spirit.


At the end of the day, the real reason for Christmas is Christ—the Second Person of the Trinity—preexistent, eternal, and Lord, willingly chose to become fully human, in order to save humanity from the wretchedness of their sin. That is why we celebrate Christmas; it brings us, Hope. Once again, Christmas is a story of second chances, anyone can be whole again. Anyone has the opportunity to be redeemed from their sin. Christmas is an act of grace.

The Christ of Christmas is not just the Savior of the Ancient past, but still the Redeemer and Lord of this present generation. Hope is a person, indeed.


Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
December 26, 2021

This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.



Text: Colossians 1:15-17

The Preexistence of Jesus Christ (Full Sermon Manuscript)



The keyword here is “prototokos” which literally translates as “born before”. Not because he is a created being; it clearly states that he was not created, but prototokos points to the thought that Jesus is eternal. He preexisted even before the creation of the world and will always be before the beginning of this universe. Gerard Friedrich says that prototokos does not mean to give birth as firstborn but as a literal chief or head. The very superior person above all things.

A primary point for today is that The Preexistence of Jesus Christ—or His eternality—is foundational to His Divinity. That our understanding of who Jesus is as God is important to how we have understood His preexistence.


Paul wrote this apologetic letter to the church at Colossae to clarify the doctrines about Christ. This church in Colossae was planted by one of Paul’s students or disciples. But why? What is happening here, remember that the place of the church is no longer in Jerusalem or Near-East, but already surrounded by Greco-Roman cities; Colossae was greatly influenced by Greek philosophy and mythology. To give some examples, they were familiar that Zeus is the One that rules over all gods and goddesses. Also, the Diaspora Jewish Philosopher named Philo—to whom we got the term Philosophy meaning lover of wisdom—was also prominent as a teacher in the said place.

Thus, Paul was telling the church that Jesus Christ is superior to the man-made god named Zeus and the teachings about Jesus Christ should not be mixed up with Philo’s compromised philosophies.

  • “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26).
  • Genesis 16 – Hagar meeting the Lord
  • Genesis 18:1-33 – One day, Abraham had some visitors: two angels and God Himself. He invited them to come to his home, and he and Sarah entertained them. Many commentators believe this could also be a Christophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.
  • Genesis 32:22-30 – Jacob wrestled with what appeared to be a man, but was actually God (vv. 28-30).
  • Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
  • John 1:1. The word “was” in the phrase, “In the beginning was the Word,” is the Greek hen, the imperfect tense that stresses continual existence in past time. The phrase could thus be translated, “In the beginning the Word was continually existing.”
  • John 12:41, “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (cf. Isaiah 6:10).

Main Idea:

First, it displays the fullness of Christ’s divinity; meaning that Jesus is God. In Colossians 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” In Hebrews 1:1-3, it states as well that Jesus is the exact imprint, the very representation of God. Meaning, if we want to know God, there is no other way for us to truly know Him apart from Christ. To know Jesus Christ is to know God the Creator.

Second, it denotes the authority of Christ. Jesus being preexistent and being the firstborn signifies his power to rule over all things. Christ here is the firstborn of all creation. He has the authority; even in Hebrews 1:3, he sits at the right hand of God which also pertains to authority as being the right hand. This power includes being in control of what is happening in the universe. The One who sustains the world.

Lastly, the third point, the preexistence of Christ proclaims His preeminence and Lordship. Christ’s kingship as the One who fulfilled the covenantal promise with David amplifies that truly Jesus is Lord.


Learning from these three things about Christ’s preexistence, first, His Divinity; second, His authority; third, His Lordship or preeminence. Christmas is worth celebrating because first, Jesus is God. It is worth celebrating, second, because Jesus rules. Finally, Christmas is worth celebrating because Jesus is Lord.

As said, is Jesus truly number one in our lives? Let us reflect. If Jesus is truly number one in your life, do you:

  • Seek God in the first moments of the day. (Personal and Family Worship)
  • Seek God on the first day of the week. (Sunday Services)
  • Seek God in the first tenth of our income. (Finances and Giving)


Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
December 12, 2021

This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.



Text: Luke 1:26-38

The Significance of the Virgin Birth (Full Sermon Manuscript)


  • I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of
    the virgin Mary. (The Apostles’ Creed)
  • In His incarnation as Jesus Christ, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin
    Mary. (Baptist Faith and Message 2000)


The problem of exalting Mary than of God’s work, the Immaculate Conception. The thought that Mary was born without sin, which makes her a sinless human being. If that is the case, Jesus is not the only One who was sinless.

Another challenge happened in the late 19th century and early 20th century, describing the evolution/ secularism/ science (liberals). That it is incomprehensible for someone to be born without physical intercourse—rejecting the virgin birth.

Our goal today is to restore and be reminded of the significance of the wonderful story of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Main Idea:

The transforming story of the virgin birth actually starts way behind the New Testament. It started from a prophecy stated by the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin (young woman) will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Christ was born out of a virgin and made entire Israel and even the whole world victorious against the real enemies, evil, sin, and fleshly desires. Yet, remember that the prophecy was about a virgin birth however, in Isaiah 7, the birth of the maiden here that Isaiah prophesied was not an actual virgin birth. Read Isaiah 8:1-4.

So, Isaiah prophesied that Judah will be saved, sustained, and preserved because of the child “Immanuel” but named “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz”. And yes, God was faithful to His word that all these things were fulfilled.

What makes the story of the nativity, the birth of Christ soooooo wonderful is because it goes beyond the expected fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. The actual Virgin Birth happened at the birth of Christ. Isaiah 7 alludes to the Greater fulfillment of the prophecy which is Jesus’ birth. That makes the Christmas story not just amazing, but powerful, captivating, and worth celebrating.


Implication no. 1, Truly Man. “Forasmuch as he is no half-savior, but redeemer both of body and soul.” – Thomas Monck. Indeed, Christ can only be the worthy sacrificial lamb if He can represent humanity. But he cannot if He is not man. Therefore, the birth of Christ through Mary was a reminder that He is Truly Man.

Implication no. 2, Truly God. Likewise, the mystery of conception that Jesus cannot at the same way represent God if He is not God. Therefore, Jesus was conceived by the Spirit of God—the Holy Spirit—who is the Third Person of the Godhead. This reality shows that Jesus is God


A final point here. This may not be an implication but let us dwell on this promise. In verse 37 of Luke 1, “For no word from God will ever fail.” The book of Isaiah was written in 800 BC, while the gospel of Luke was in the range of 80-90 AD. The ultimate fulfillment of the promise of the prophecy took place after 800 years.

What can we learn from this? Somehow, for Christians, we thought God does not work because we do not feel Him, we do not encounter him. Yet the verse reminds us that God’s Word will never fail. As humans, we fail, but God’s Word lasts forever. Trust God’s Word. Read it.

Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”


Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
December 5, 2021

This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.