Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

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Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

John 16:5–15 (CSB)

But now I am going away to him who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

12 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

Dear fellow redeemed:  If you were in the hospital facing the certainty of your death, what kinds of plans would you be making for your activities in the coming months and years? Probably none. If anything, you would be expressing your funeral preferences and telling your family where to find the life insurance and the will.

So what’s with Jesus? He’s on his way to Gethsemane and Calvary and death, but He’s explaining part of His plan for changing the world. That is why this text is an AFTER-Easter text; it means something because Jesus has in fact risen from the dead. Much that Jesus said during His ministry only makes sense in view of the resurrection. What’s more, His teaching makes the connection between the glorious truth of the resurrection, and our daily lives as we live them.

In these words, He tells how he will remove the spiritual blindness from the world and create faith in Him as the risen Savior. He speaks these words of our text to His disciples even before His arrest, so that they will eventually understand that even now, …

JESUS BUILDS ON HIS RESURRECTION VICTORY

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word
  2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected
  3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

In writing on this text, Luther commented, “This is a good text, but it takes good students.”  This is one of the parts of Scripture that reminds us that God’s word is very deep.  It’s not unclear, but it requires that we be careful, and thorough, and willing to do our homework if we are to be benefited by this Word of God.

The first thing that Jesus is telling His Disciples is that His work of redemption is nearing completion, and that since He will soon have redeemed the world, the Holy Spirit will come to build on that, as part of the establishment of a REAL KINGDOM.

Just as the Romans capitalized upon so many battles won to build an empire, so the Holy Spirit capitalizes on the resurrection victory of Christ to build God’s kingdom on earth.

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word

Jesus says, But now I am going away to him who sent me.” In retrospect, we can see that He is referring to His ascension and exaltation.  No longer would Jesus be reduced to a humble earthly life; soon He would be ruling heaven and earth as the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

It would at first seem to be a tragedy, as He says, Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. As I have said many times, what the disciples saw with their human eyes was not the only thing happening.  They saw Jesus capture, arrest, death, and burial, but what was really happening was the redemption of the world and the destruction of death itself.

This is why I say that this text draws the connection between the Easter Victory and you and me today. By working faith in our hearts, the Holy Spirit shows us the victory over sin and death, so that we can truly share in the joy of the resurrection. And his coming ascension was so that instead of teaching those within earshot of His voice, He would teach in every time and every place through the Word of the Spirit, as He tells His disciples, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you.

2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected

It is highly unlikely that either you or I can really fathom the importance of those words. Jesus has redeemed the world, and He proceeds to rule it as the one who has taken possession of it.

Let’s make that more personal.  Jesus died for you.  When you were born, you didn’t know it, much less believe it.  But by His word and power He has directed the affairs of the world, he has directed Christian people, so that His saving word and sacrament would come to you, and work faith in your heart.

You and I aren’t Christians just because we were born to Christian parents.  We were born to Christian parents, so that we might be brought to faith as Christians.

We aren’t Christians because we happened to live in a predominately Christian country, God has raised up predominately Christian countries so that the inhabitants of the world might be brought to faith as Christians.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus puts it, When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

What do these three statements mean?

First:  He will convict the world about sin, because they do not believe in me.  In simple words, the Holy Spirit uses God’s law to touch the hearts of unbelievers with terror over their sins.  Without repentance and faith in the saving work of Christ, the world is lost and condemned, as Jesus said already: “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”” (John 8:24, CSB)

Second:  He will convict the world 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me. In simple words, this means that through His word, the Holy Spirit will strip away any righteousness by which mankind of itself hopes to gain God’s favor. Only the righteousness which Christ proclaims for us before God’s throne will avail.  That is the righteousness to which the Holy Spirit points in His Word, as He did through Peter “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36, CSB)

Third:  He will convict the world about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. In simple words, this means that as God has rendered judgment upon the Devil already, and certified it by the resurrection of Christ, so He has passed judgment upon all the world that is with the devil and at odds with Christ.  The Holy Spirit teaches us that there IS no question of the absolute judgment of God.  All who oppose God have already brought judgment upon themselves, and only God’s time of Grace has stayed His hand.

Put another way, the world will know what judgment took place on Calvary – there YOU, sinner, were judged and condemned in the person of Christ.  But that judgment will fall on the devil and all who do not believe in Christ.

So in these ways, the world’s unbelief, and false righteousness, and arrogant persistence in the ways of the prince of this world are condemned and corrected.  That is part of His plan to rescue you.

3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

Jesus promised His disciples that they would have access to absolute truth so that they could share this truth with the world. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.

It is that absolute truth that I have quoted so many times already this morning.  It is the absolute truth that you learn when you study and confess the doctrine of the church. It is the absolute truth that you share with others when you speak the fact that we are all condemned under sin but delivered by the sacrifice of Christ.  It is to impart this truth, and to prepare our children to speak it and defend it that we support Christian education, from Sunday school to Christian schools to colleges. It is because they teach this truth that we are so grateful for Christian moms. In this way they give not only physical life but spiritual life.

Because the Holy Spirit reveals the truth, you benefit personally from the saving work of Christ. You are made part of the kingdom of God on earth.  We are made part of God’s church, in which there is the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life.  What Christ has earned becomes yours, as He says,  15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

While the unbelief of the world damns and destroys, God’s gift of faith to you comforts you with the certainty of deliverance from all the woe of sin.

While the righteousness of the world cannot bring even social order, the righteousness of Christ has brought an end to condemnation for you.

While the world falls under the judgment of God, you stand in the victory of Christ, by faith in Him.

So then, may each of us rejoice in the victory of the resurrection, and cast off the unbelief, false righteousness, and doom of this world.  May we hunger and thirst for what the comforter brings – forgiveness, life, and salvation in word and sacrament.  And so may Christ’s church, Christ’s kingdom on earth and in heaven, be our safe refuge, and our passage into life.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-09T16:36:22-07:00May 9th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

You Have a Truly Good Shepherd

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Your Good Shepherd Nurtures You

John 10:11–16 (CSB)

11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired hand and doesn’t care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not from this sheep pen; I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, beloved of our Good Shepherd:  This third Sunday of Easter is traditionally Good Shepherd Sunday. The title “Misericordias Domini” means “The Goodness of the Lord,” and tells us something about our Good Shepherd.

The image of “shepherd” is of the defender of the sheep as wolves scatter and snatch them. The Shepherd stands between the wolves and the sheep. He gathers the sheep together again, and all at the risk of death.

But having died for His sheep, Jesus has rescued them!  How right we are to call Him our Good Shepherd! But there are other shepherds too, who are not Good Shepherds, and also there are wolves, who are forever the enemies of this Christ.  The important thing about the Good Shepherd is that at whatever cost …

YOUR GOOD SHEPHERD NURTURES YOU

  1. With His Words of Truth
  2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace
  1. With His Words of Truth

It’s hard to pick a word to say what our Good Shepherd does for us. He doesn’t abandon us to the wolf. He doesn’t let us scatter this way and that. He does care about us. He does gather us together in safety. He not only seeks us, but the many souls who are lost and wandering.

The wolf, that is to say, the Devil, uses events like these last few weeks to scatter people and separate them from our Good Shepherd. Others have been scattered through the various voices seeking our attention.

Now understand what “scattered” means, it means separated from the safety of the flock and of the Good Shepherd, easily separated and snatched. It means set up to be killed spiritually. You’ve probably seen it on TV, where the wolves or coyotes or hyenas or lions or whatever, cut an animal off from the heard, run it down and kill it. The same happens when people are separated from the word of Christ, which creates and nourishes our spiritual life.

For Christ’s words and no others really reveal a salvation that can bring comfort to the likes of you and me – to sinners.

As Peter preached in his second sermon in Acts, there is only one Savior:  “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12, CSB)

People are consumed by the dangers of this virus, who caused it, who can make us safe, and how we can avoid dying. It goes beyond mere prudence; it becomes an expectation of eternal life. Maybe I’m the one who has to tell you: most people my age won’t make it 20 years. In the last two years I have had plenty of funerals. There will be more, virus or no virus.

“Gather ‘round,” Jesus says, “and listen to me.” I have killed death. I have brought eternal life back to humanity. I have healed the wounds of alienation, resentment, blame, guilt, condemnation, and disapproval among people and with God.

This is the voice of the Good Shepherd. He knows us. He knows your troubles, sorrows, and grief. He knows your sins and shortcomings, your guilt, and your struggles with your weaknesses. He wipes your slate clean and fills it instead with His righteousness.

Against this are the wolves, who murder with their lies. Do you suppose Eve thought the devil was helpful? No doubt, for starters. How often do I have to  warn people that the unchristian teachers – Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Materialists, Humanists, etc. are not just people of another opinion, but wolves dressed like sheep.

The Mormons and Muslims deny the true Triune God. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, the materialists and humanists believe that matter and energy is all there is, and deny any true love, true good, or even the human soul.

If you believe them, then you cannot believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of the world, and are lost to Him.

But Christ nurtures and blesses you with His words of truth. Truly you are a sinner, no excuses, but truly are you forgiven for the sake of Christ, not with excuses but with Jesus’ true satisfaction of the righteousness of God.

But not only are there wolves, there are also hired hands, those who will not stand with Christ, but will compromise and make allowances, so that the faithful are without true shepherds. Many preach the doctrine of toleration and universalism, rather than the Christian gospel, even though they are found within the church. If you go to many such churches, you will never hear about hell. It will seem as though nobody is ever damned. They will bury the most blatant unbeliever “in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead.”  Any vague religiosity is considered to be the same as saving faith. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as atonement for our sins aren’t even proclaimed.

Sometimes these are called liberals or moderates or modernists – whatever is socially acceptable this season.

While such teachers may call themselves Christians, they are just as damned as the people they mislead. For they effectively deny Christ as the one and only Savior. Jesus warned against them when he also said,  ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, CSB)

Often while they may take the name “Christian” and “shepherd,” in fact, they hound people with the law, and so seek to make them good and either eligible for heaven or citizens of a brave new world.

And how prone we are to catch hold of this message!  For we easily think that if we can just “Be Good” and make others “be good’ that we and they can be sure of heaven. After all, we think, do “bad people” go to heaven?

Luther says, “They who are not good shepherds, however expect to make people good by hatefully scolding and driving them, whereas they are thereby only making matters worse.  For when we are exhorted to goodness we so quickly rebel, or despair of being the kind of person we should be.”

And the deceitfulness of this message is all the greater because it resembles the truth in so many ways.  There is no question that we MUST speak out on the moral issues of our day.

           2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace

But the Good Shepherd did not, does not, suppose that He can lead us poor sheep to save ourselves. The Good shepherd did the only thing that could save us. He laid down His life for the sheep. It is HE who has reconciled us to Himself.  He laid down His life in a perfect life on our behalf. He laid down His life to pay the price of our iniquities. 11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. He calls us to our salvation with His own voice.

And with this salvation comes true comfort, joy, and peace. With a good shepherd, sheep are safe, healthy, well-fed, well-watered, clean, and together. This is a metaphor. The comfort, joy, and peace we enjoy is not green grass and good water. It is to be healthy in our bodies, young and vigorous. It is to be loved, and to love. It is to see and hear the beautiful. It is to live without fear, without death, to be close to loved ones, and in harmony with them. It is to live without reproach from God or from anyone else, to be liked and appreciated even by the Holy God: That is to be at peace.

And it is to have a future.

One of our good Lutheran writers wrote recently about the horizon of hope[1]. If we were cursed with the religion of this world, we would be truly cursed, for I am past the horizon of being young or vigorous, or of being with my parents. For them any good must come soon or be lost forever.

But as children of the King of Kings, our horizon of hope is eternal. It is beyond old age, beyond death, beyond the grave, and it is for certain, for the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

And because He is risen, He says in all truth, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, CSB)

AMEN.

[1] https://wolfmueller.co/the-horizon-of-hope/

By |2020-04-26T09:56:15-07:00April 24th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Unbelief Succumbs to the Truth

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Unbelief Succumbs to the Truth

John 20:19–31 (CSB)

19 When it was evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20 Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
 
24 But Thomas (called “Twin”), one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.”
28 Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
 
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Dear fellow redeemed: I am focusing today on the portion of our Gospel lesson that includes the apostle Thomas. Matthew, Mark, and Luke report that He was an apostle and present at Christ’s ascension and awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Christians in India have a fairly rich folklore about his work as an apostle there, and faithful Indian Christians have for all these years called themselves the church “Mar Thoma,” The church of St. Thomas.

John is the only inspired source with information about Thomas, and he first gives us a hint of his personality in chapter eleven. Jesus had twice evaded stoning in Judea, and had left the region to avoid arrest; His time had not yet come. But now he announces that he will go back to Judea. Then after that, he said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.” “Rabbi,” the disciples told him, “just now the Jews tried to stone you, and you’re going there again?” (John 11:7–8, CSB) Jesus reiterated that it was his intent to go to Lazarus, in Bethany, just two miles from Jerusalem. To this, “Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.” (John 11:16, CSB) To me, that seems like a sarcastic remark.

Of course the words for which Thomas is most famous are found in our text, 25 So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas wasn’t the only one to forget Christ’s promise and disbelieve the witnesses. On Easter Sunday, Cleopas and one of the other disciples told Jesus on the way to Emmaus, “Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive.” (Luke 24:22–23, CSB) While they were telling the disciples all about it was when the whole group had the encounter with Jesus that Thomas missed out on. So, Thomas was not alone in his skepticism.

But he did persist for a week. It must have been a little lonely, clinging stubbornly to his insistence that he had to see physical proof, not testimony. But as a result, we get to see one of the great occasions where

UNBELIEF SUCCUMBS TO THE TRUTH

  1. Unbelief – Spiritual Death
  2. Faith – Spiritual Life
  1. Unbelief – Spiritual Death

The meaning of this text is clear. Thomas, barring physical evidence, would not accept the testimony of the other disciples, but when confronted by the Christ, even before he “put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side,” confessed, “My Lord and my God!”

Let’s apply this to our circumstances:

Unbelief is not just a different opinion, you know. That has always been part of Satan’s lies. “God said … but, you know, it’s just His opinion; go ahead and eat the fruit.” So many act today as though it is up to God to meet our personal standards of truth.

The materialists say that if God cannot show up as matter and/or energy, they will not believe.

The rationalists say that if God does not appeal to their finite reason, they will not believe.

The emotionalists say that if they cannot feel God move them, then they will not believe.

The narcissists say that if they cannot experience God, then they will not believe.

This is just a way of slicing and dicing unbelief, just different ways of looking at the fact that we are born spiritually dead. Now the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6–8, CSB)

Anybody who says that they will not believe in the risen Christ condemns herself / himself. Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. (John 3:18, CSB)

It starts with simple morality. By any standard, I am a sinner. Anybody must say the same. It is better to be disabused of any pretense at holiness now, before standing before the Righteous Judge who will take no self-justifying nonsense from anyone.

Our conscience holds us responsible to a universal standard of right and wrong. As fashionable as it is today to be downright perverse, such perversion cannot bear the weight of reality. Throughout history, societies that have abandoned the sanctity of life, of family, of marriage, of the promise given, of property, of the honor of God have been brought low.

We have no excuse if we do not face the problem of sin, and death, and an accounting for sin hereafter, which is written on our soul. And if we seek we will find, for God has so ordered the world: From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26–27, CSB)

To put this in current terms, do you think that anybody in our country – or practically the world – shut up with social media this Easter could not have heard of the resurrection of Christ – our Savior, had they the slightest curiosity?

              2. Faith – Spiritual Life

But if spiritual death is the default, how can we find life? How can the dead make themselves alive, or the mindset of the flesh change to that of the spirit? We have the promise, Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:10–11, CSB)

Put another way, how can we have the blessing that Jesus speaks of when He says, “Don’t be faithless, but believe.”
28 Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.””

We who have not seen, believe because of the life-giving power of God through His word. At the end of the Gospel lesson, John says, 31 But these [things, signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name. What he has written is that word of God called the gospel, the good news. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. (Romans 1:16–17, CSB)

To those who acknowledge their sin, despair of their own goodness, and desire a hope that is not found in the idols of this world, this comes as good news: Christ is your righteousness. He has reconciled you to God. He gives you forgiveness, life, and salvation. He who is risen promises you a true resurrection. Awaken, faith! For Christ the Lord is risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!  AMEN

By |2020-04-18T12:00:04-07:00April 17th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

We Confess: Christ Jesus Is Risen from the Dead

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We Confess: Christ Is Risen from the Dead

The Lord is Risen!

HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Our text for today is written in 1 Corinthians 15. It was written some 20 years or so after the resurrection, but in it Paul passes on a creed or confession of faith that was even earlier. The format is obviously not Paul’s way of writing, but rather a repetition of a form adopted by the very eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1–8 (CSB)

15 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.

Dear fellow redeemed: Very early after the resurrection, within just a few years and before the gospels were written down, there came into being this creed or declaration of faith. It is pure gospel. It is the good news of what God did to save you.

In these days of uncertainly as to what will come, it is the ultimate certainty of what has come to pass, according to the Scriptures. The gospel is not just a religious idea, you know, it is fact. Meaningful above all other knowledge, but a meaningful reality. Here is what happened, what was confessed by the eyewitnesses, what has been passed down to us, and the means by which God the Holy Spirit Himself works spiritual life and faith:

First, Christ died.  Not every death is news.  It makes the obituaries, it’s important to the family and friends, but it doesn’t make the front page.

Christ died, and it IS important.  He died for our sins; He died according to the Scriptures, in just the way the Old Testament Scriptures said He would.

He was lifted up, crucified, as David prophesied in Psalm 22.  It’s all there about the mocking, the nails in the hands and feet, the dehydration, the nakedness and the division of the closes.

Psalm 22:6–18 (CSB)
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by people.
Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord;
let him save him;
let the Lord rescue him,
since he takes pleasure in him.”
It was you who brought me out of the womb,
making me secure at my mother’s breast.
10 I was given over to you at birth;
you have been my God from my mother’s womb.
11 Don’t be far from me, because distress is near
and there’s no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong ones of Bashan encircle me.
13 They open their mouths against me—
lions, mauling and roaring.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.
>18 They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.

He died for our sins, as pictured by the Passover Lamb, and the scapegoat, and the lamb that replaced Isaac on the altar, and as explicitly described by Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:4–6 (CSB)
Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.
Next, Christ was buried.  The death of Jesus was affirmed by His final gasp, by John who gave sworn testimony, by the centurion who reported to Pilate, by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who wrapped him tightly in strips of cloth, by the women who saw Him buried, and by the Roman soldiers who sealed the tomb.  Oh, and let’s not forget, by the spear and by the blood and water.  The spear went up into His side, pierced his chest, and confirmed His death in blood and water.  Jesus died and was buried in the rich man’s tomb, all, again, according to the Scriptures:

Isaiah 53:8–9 (CSB)
He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered his fate?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
he was struck because of my people’s rebellion.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
but he was with a rich man at his death,
because he had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.
Next, He rose again the third day. –  And once again, yes, according to the Scriptures.  Jesus Himself had pointed to the sign by which the truth of His teaching would be known:  Matthew 12:40 (CSB) 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish, three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

He had been completely clear, as the angels reminded the first witnesses to the empty tomb,  Luke 24:7 (CSB) saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’”

The resurrection was sung about by David: Psalm 16:10 (CSB)
10 For you will not abandon me to Sheol;
you will not allow your faithful one to see decay.

It was trusted in by Job:  Job 19:25 (NKJV) 25    For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;

Next, good news, He showed Himself to the disciples, to those who would know who He is, whose lives were completely transformed, and who would die gruesome deaths themselves rather than deny it:  that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.

These are the certainties, observed by eyewitnesses.  They are important, formulated into declarations of faith.  They are important because over thousands of years they had been prophesied in Scripture.  They are important because this good news gives forgiveness and creates faith:  15 Now I declare to you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

These are certainties.

According to the Lord’s providence, this Easter is celebrated in an atmosphere of uncertainty and the fear of death. Whatever the numbers may actually say, people see death as near at hand, and can imagine themselves taking that last, labored breath.

But when our time comes, we will do so in the certainty of the hope given by the Christ who is our righteousness. He bore the punishment for your sins, into death, and destroyed death by His resurrection, the first to rise, as, yes, you too wil rise to immortality.

So I declare to you the gospel which I have received, which is your declaration of faith, and by which you are being saved:

THE LORD IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

By |2020-04-11T17:55:40-07:00April 11th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Wonder (confusion) changed to Wonder (Joy) – Easter Festival 2019

Wonder is Changed to Wonder at the Resurrection

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EXORDIUM

Sing, Ye who now on earth do dwell!
Worthy the Lamb for sinners slain!
From angels praise and thanks from men!
Worthy the Lam, enthroned to reign,
Glory and pow’r!  Amen.  Amen.

Dear seekers after Easter joy, dear world-weary and sin-burdened, dear anxious and apprehensive, dear grief-stricken and lonely – and all who have ever been this way, or in their humanity are liable to be…

Rejoice, Sing to the Lord a glorious song, for Christ is risen and lives.

Dear fellow redeemed, for that is what we all are, all human beings, with our sins taken to the grave by our substitute, full payment, ransom, atonement, redemption paid by Him!

It’s not like it has been a secret!

But as the greatest gift of God to humanity, it is just too big for us to easily wrap our heads around it. Besides that, that old liar, the devil, the fallen, hateful, rebellious creature, fights against the truth at every turn.

So humanity looks at the crucified Christ, the suffering Christ, in amazement. For it seems that death wins and Christ loses. It seemed on Good Friday as though hope itself had died.

That is the way it was with the women at Jesus’ tomb.  They were wondering, trying to imagine what had happened, when the angels appeared to them.  They appeared and said, “Remember.”  Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” They had been given the answer.  Somehow at the time it didn’t make sense.  What Jesus foretold was so unbelievable, and then when it happened – the fear, the violence, the blood, the death, the grief – it was hard to believe, much less connect it with the words of Jesus before.  “Remember,” the angel said.  8Then they remembered his words.

Then Wonder (trying to imagine what happened) change to Wonder (joy and amazement).  6He is not here; he has risen!

Alleluia, God be praised, Christ is Risen!  So let us rise and sing the festival hymn, “Alleluia, Christ is risen; his the scepter, His the throne!.”

Luke 24:1–12 (CSB)

RESURRECTION MORNING

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground.

“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered his words.

Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths., So he went away, amazed at what had happened.

So it is that

WONDER CHANGED TO WONDER

  1. Wonder and Uncertainty Becomes Wonder and Awe
  2. He Is Risen as He Said
  3. Therefore There Is Joy in His Promises

1.   Wonder and Uncertainty Becomes Wonder and Awe

There are many players whose lives crisscrossed that day.  Remember, the Jews counted the beginning of a day at dusk.  The great Passover Sabbath that had begun on Friday at dusk had ended at dusk on Saturday.  As was common the shops then would open up and so it was in the dark that the women probably went to buy the spices they had needed and other necessaries for washing the body of Jesus and preparing it for a dignified interment.  Perhaps they even considered taking his body back to Galilee for burial in the family plot.

They wouldn’t have known that the tomb was sealed and a watch stationed there because that all happened after they, in reverence for the Sabbath, returned home and remained at rest.

They didn’t travel all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem with the things they needed to prepare the body of the dead, for they were coming as joyful pilgrims to Jerusalem for the Passover. So who knows how long it took to get everything together?  It was still dark when they left for the tomb, and probably dawn by the time they got there.  Some or all of them had made the trip before when Jesus body was laid in the tomb.  Surely in their mind’s eye was the image of the stone rolled against the opening of the tomb.

But now it was all different. they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Now they began to wonder, trying to imagine what had happened.  What would you have thought?  What theories would fit the data?  In John we read that Mary Magdalene concluded that “they,” whoever that was, had taken away his body.  The disciples hadn’t done it; they were frightened and in hiding.  The Jews or Romans hadn’t done it – they had sealed the tomb.  Anyway, they would have produced the body to contradict any claims of a resurrection.

All they could do was wonder.

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground.   As sinful human beings in the presence of holiness, they were truly frightened.  I can only imagine the effect, following the life-and-death fears of the last couple of days, the confusion, the uncertainty, and the anxiety – the fear!

2.  He Is Risen as He Said

But fear and uncertainty vanish in the face of God’s word, and that is what these angels brought, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen!Really, this was the only solution that fit all the data, but so far beyond all human experience that nothing less than the certification of God’s own word would suffice.

In fact, they had been told this before.  Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered his words. 

The problem is not one of memory, but of faith.  Do you remember Jesus’ words to you, “I will never leave you or forsake you?”  Do you remember Jesus’ promise, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world”?  Do you remember Jesus assurance, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” (John 14:27, CSB) If so, then why have you sometimes lonely or upset?  Do you feel abandoned at times?

Our spiritual problem is not a memory problem, but a matter of faith, of spiritual life.  In fact, there are many who remember much that is in the Bible, but have lost their faith.  For faith shows in life – it cannot help but do so.

And how does it show?  It shows in an acknowledgement of God’s place in our lives and in a repentant spirit.  It shows in confidence and trust in God’s promises. It shows in a living confession of our faith, as it did with the women: Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest.

We are not gathered on this day just to remember the teaching that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  We come to worship the risen Christ, and to hear this gospel, this good news yet again, so that His powerful word would strengthen our faith.

The good news, God’s own good news, is proclaimed here by the angels of God, but has been brought in all its power by His people in every age.  First now with these women, and then by the disciples.

By Peter in the first sermon of the New Testament church on Pentecost:  “God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death.” (Acts 2:24, CSB)

And in a later sermon:  “God raised up this man on the third day and caused him to be seen, not by all the people, but by us whom God appointed as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (Acts 10:40–41, CSB) .

And it is by this word of God, I can declare to you that Christ … “was appointed to be the powerful Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead.” (Romans 1:4, CSB)

This is such good news because “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, CSB)

3.  Therefore There Is Joy in His Promises

Since Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, as had been foretold in the Holy Scriptures, and according to His own promises, then let us live in the joy of his promises, because we live in faith.

Remember and believe as Paul reminds us “You are not your own, for you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, CSB)

This is something that we sing about, together with the angels in heaven, and all believers who have gone before us: “And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slaughtered, and you purchased people for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9, CSB)

That is redemption.  He has bought you back from sin, death, and hell to be His own as were Adam and Eve in paradise.  Because he is risen and has redeemed you unto Himself I can promise you…

  • The perfect and complete forgiveness of sins.
  • Life, even though you die
  • Eternal fellowship with God, where all the things that you have come to know as good are present in endless abundance.
  • Hope for the future, that you do not go alone through this world or from this world into eternity.
  • Meaning in life, for the things you do out of love for your savior are not transitory, but appreciated by him forever,

Because Christ is risen, we live in faith, that is we live as though all of His promises are as good as fulfilled! And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.(2 Corinthians 5:15, CSB) Because of this, and His forgiving love there heaven is open to you:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.(1 Peter 1:3–4, CSB)

So let us live and rejoice in His promises, confirmed unto us by His resurrection from the dead, and so let us sing with the angels and with all the believers in heaven and on earth, the song composed in heaven itself and written by the hand of the Apostle, John,

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.  Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.  AMEN.

By |2019-06-04T11:19:42-07:00April 17th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments