Like Lazarus

LIKE LAZARUS

RESCUED IN TIME AND IN ETERNITY

John 11:1-57

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Hello viewers, this is Pastor Bryant from Our Savior Lutheran Church in Grants Pass, Oregon and Faith Lutheran Church in Medford. This is our Midweek Lenten Devotion.

You know, it’s interesting; even without much communication, still several people have remarked to me what a coincidence it is that the most severe week of this pandemic should come when the Christian church celebrates Holy Week. And in fact, there is an intersection between today’s reading and our situation here in the midst of this Pandemic.

For our midweek devotion today, I have chosen a fairly lengthy reading – Chapter 11 of the Gospel of John.

11 Now a man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent a message to him: “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was. 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?”
“Aren’t there twelve hours in a day?” Jesus answered. “If anyone walks during the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks during the night, he does stumble, because the light is not in him.”
11 He said this, and then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.”
12 Then the disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.”
13 Jesus, however, was speaking about his death, but they thought he was speaking about natural sleep. 14 So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. 15 I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.”
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem (less than two miles away). 19 Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, but Mary remained seated in the house.
21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.
24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.”
28 Having said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw that Mary got up quickly and went out. They followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to cry there.

32 As soon as Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked.
“Lord,” they told him, “come and see.”
35 Jesus wept.
36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Couldn’t he who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Remove the stone,” Jesus said.
Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42 I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.” 43 After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”
45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what he did believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and were saying, “What are we going to do since this man is doing many signs? 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God. 53 So from that day on they plotted to kill him. 54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and he stayed there with the disciples.
55 Now the Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56 They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will he?” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should report it so that they could arrest him. (John 11:1-57 CSB)

Let me remind you of the dynamics, of what was going on here. Many who had been following Jesus had left them because He didn’t say what they wanted to hear, nor be the earthly king they wanted Him to be. Others, especially those who had followed John the Baptist and his preaching of repentance and faith remained faithful. Also added were those who had come to repentance and faith and believed the signs of Jesus’ divinity.

At the same time the Jewish leaders’ determination to kill Jesus had hardened; and raising Lazarus from the dead was the last straw. People streamed out of Jerusalem to Bethany to see Jesus and to see Lazarus. The Jewish leaders were plotting to kill Lazarus too, in order to blunt the impact of what Jesus had done. On the first day of the next week, these people who had come out to see Jesus and Lazarus followed Jesus to Bethphage, where Jesus mounted the donkey. They were met by crowds out of Jerusalem who had anticipated His arrival.

Hosanna! Lord Save. Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Jesus entered Jerusalem as the heir of David, the One bearing treasures of the Lord in heaven, the one who brings the light of the gospel, and- undeniably in the face of Lazarus’ resurrection -the true Lord of life.

How He was to defeat death, atone for sin, and rescue the world was soon to be accomplished and revealed.

So, you see, in one way of looking at this, everything was crashing: Jesus had come to Jerusalem where His enemies had power. They were more than every determined to kill Him. Lazarus was in danger. His own disciple, Judas, was going to give away His secret location. He had been identified as the enemy of the whole nation by the High Priest himself. An arrest order had gone out to the general public. Jesus was doomed. Mary had even anointed Him for burial.

But through the eyes of faith and the light of Scripture, we see a different picture altogether. Lazarus’ death was the occasion to  reveal Christ as the Lord of life, the “Seventh Sign” of John’s argument for Jesus as the Divine Messiah. He was heralded as such by the whole nation on Palm Sunday, and on the day commemorating the spilling of the blood of the lambs so that the Lord would pass over Israel, the blood of the Lamb of God would shield humanity from the wrath of God.

Christ, the LORD, was in charge of it all. And because of that, I can assure you of an everlasting hope. “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, CSB) Forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours.

This is important for you every day of your life, of course, but it is especially important at this time in our lives. I don’t know your state of mind right now, upbeat or depressed, fearful or confident, frustrated or eager, in good health or feverish and ill. But whatever it is, consider Lazarus as the image of God’s watchful care for you. Look through the eyes of faith as God’s makes sense of this affliction and gives us the reason for hope.

Over all, the comfort of Psalm 23 applies. It applied in Lazarus’ life and it applies in ours: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

To begin with, we don’t deserve it. We deserve what is happening to this world. In Luke 13 Jesus tells me that when I look at such trouble in the world, I am to repent. You are too. “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” But God is gracious. He is gracious to all. “For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45, CSB)

But to those who believe in Him, He invites us to come to him in prayer, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14, CSB) And hasn’t he taught us to pray, in the face of problems like this pandemic, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”?

And hasn’t he delivered us in the past? Paul points to God’s past mercies as reason to hope for the future. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character [experience], and proven character [experience] produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5, CSB)

So, if you are afraid of getting ill, or getting worse, or having an economic calamity, or losing someone you love, (a half hour listening to the news will give you no end of calamity to worry about) then see how Jesus answers Martha’s prayer. He even went so far as to raise Lazarus from the dead to restore Him to Martha and Mary, to the glory of God. Surely, goodness and mercy followed Lazarus and his sisters.

But notice this also. Lazarus would eventually die again. So, as Christians we have every expectation of the Lord working His gracious will during this time, and He will most certainly hear our prayers. But beyond and behind all that is greater mercy. For while He will bestow goodness and mercy upon you all the days of your life, the pinnacle of salvation is that He has destroyed death, so that you will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

AMEN.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, our comfort in life and in death, strengthen our faith through your Holy Word, and especially as we see how you moved all things, even the machinations of your enemies, to accomplish our redemption. As you have lived a perfect life for us, and atoned for the sins of the world, so give us your righteousness, reconcile us perfectly to you, as indeed you have promised and fulfilled your promises.

Hear our prayers this day for our loved ones and for your believers throughout the world. We acknowledge our sin before you and deserved your wrath in time and in eternity, but now, for your mercy’s sake hear our prayer for ourselves and our loved ones. Deliver us from all evil. But also turn the hearts of the unbelieving to You. To that end, help us to speak of our perfect hope as we have opportunity.

In the name of Jesus.  AMEN

Join us again on Good Friday for the Service of the Holy Cross.

By |2020-04-08T15:01:00-07:00April 8th, 2020|Good News, Sermons|0 Comments

Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

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Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

Matthew 21:1–9 (CSB)

21 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”
This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and its colt; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Dear fellow Redeemed: What’s important? What is important to you? What is important to you today as opposed to a month ago? A guy named Maslow conceived of the “hierarchy of needs,” which is a fancy way of saying that if you are starving, you won’t be much interested in what movie is opening next week or what celebrity was arrested recently.

Jesus was about 2000 years ahead of Maslow when he talked about the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life” that would crowd out God’s word, and so crowd out true and saving faith in the One who is our true hope and salvation.

But the fact is that whether in sorrow or joy, pleasure or pain, confidence or fear, the gospel message, the  essence of Gods relationship with you, remains of paramount importance.

So, whatever you are going through today, protective isolation, a day of many blessings – or even if you were sick and dying, this gospel is important:

JERUSALEM WELCOMED THE WORLD’S SAVIOR

  1. The Daughter Zion
  2. The Savior King
  3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures
  1. The Daughter Zion

Let me tell you why.

Jesus’ disciples went to Judea expected that He would be killed. They thought in terms of a victim of the Jews’ envy and hatred. They figured Jesus would be found out, thrown into prison and, perhaps like John the Baptist, kept until the crowds quieted down and then killed. But Jesus talked about it differently, “saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Luke 9:22, CSB)

They thought of Jesus as victim. Not so! Jesus was the one giving himself over to the cross. He was in charge. Jesus faced the of the Jews’ murderous intent having just raised the dead, after all. Now, in what world is King and Lord of Life unimportant?

Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. John tells us that crowds had gone to Bethany to see Lazarus, and they were now the ones who “followed after” Jesus into Jerusalem. Then there were those who “went ahead” of him, ”the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him. They kept shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” (John 12:12–13, CSB)

Jesus was no victim to be caught, imprisoned, and secretly executed. He is the One Zion looked for, so now … Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

“Zion” is a figure of speech, meaning the church, believers.[1] You are the daughter of Zion. You are one who lives in hope. Whether you enjoy all the delights of life, and know they are just a shadow of the true joys and delights of heaven and the resurrection, or you live in fear, and sorrow, and misery and look forward to the deliverance of the Lord, you are Zion, and your King is coming to you, and now has come, to save you.

We see both His divine and his human natures paired here. In his humanity, He walks down from Bethphage, across the Kidron valley and rides a donkey into the city. In His divine omniscience and omnipotence creates the circumstances to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah.

     2. The Savior King

This business of finding the donkey and the willing owner was “providential” as we say; it was part of the Lord’s management of life. Even as a true man, He is our king, and The Father … “He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,” (Ephesians 1:20–22, CSB) So now, instead of providing beasts of burden for His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, He, in His providence, provides for the church. So as you face the troubles of life, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, CSB)

He exercised His divinity in humility, and even now it is indirectly through His providence, His watchful care, and His loving power. Do not think, when you are safe and healthy, that it is just luck, or when you are sick, that it was bad luck, for even in our troubles our Lord works good.

He came into this world as he came into Jerusalem. He comes in humility and not in judgment. Many is the time that we have talked about this. For the Lord to appear unhidden, in divine power is to be the end of all things and the judgment of all souls. But this is put off for a while (How long? O Lord come quickly!) in favor of His coming in humility so that He may be our Savior.

As Lord of life, He came into this world that He may die and defeat death. He entered into Jerusalem to be captured by the Jews, turned over to the Romans, and crucified. Thereby on the tree of the cross he overcame the Devil who overcame our first parents by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

               3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures

Because it was the daughter of Zion, the church that greeted Him as the King coming to her. And because He was here showing Himself as the Savior King, many spoke the truth about Christ. Hosanna, they cried. “Lord Save Us.” Oh, that people in our age of the world would learn that word, “Hosanna.” It is a cry of repentance, a cry of needing help that only the Divine Savior King can give.

But in our day, there is precious little repentance, and precious little acknowledgment of the Lord. Still people worship their false gods. Government, for one. We hear “If we had just been in power!” What then, eternal health and prosperity? When has humanity ever succeeded in that? Or the god of the world itself, offended by our misdeeds, as one former world leader said (paraphrasing) “this is what comes of not recognizing our role in changing the world’s climate. Repent!” Not to the Living God, but to His creature.

Hosanna, indeed, as God’s subjects and as His creatures we should cry every day. Lord Save! For we have sinned!  Have mercy!

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the true Savior King who is the unique descendent of David, and who will ascend the throne of David in Heaven, Who will judge and save, give life and damnation, take to Himself and cast off forever.

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna in the Highest Heaven.” For we join with the angels of heaven and all the saints, those who have died in faith. We join in their eternal song now, and in the eternal joys of the resurrection hereafter.

But perhaps, for us, the sweetest phrase for us to sing is this: “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” By “blessed” is meant that He is the one blessed (chosen, anointed) by God, not just to receive, but blessed to be the One coming to this world to pour out the treasures of heaven: Mercy, forgiveness, grace, life, salvation, the resurrection unto eternal life.

The greatest treasure, the Son of the Father, was given as a blessing to this world to redeem us from our sins. He lived the life that won God’s own approval, “In Him I am well pleased.” And having lived the righteousness that He gives to us by faith, He poured out His life and blood to atone for our sins, so that you are given the innocence of Christ Himself.

And the treasures continue to pour out through Him today. Light to see and know the truth. Grace, the unmerited love of God. Forgiveness, so that we are reconciled to God. Life, life like the Risen One himself, body and soul.

In His providence, through this pandemic God has put the world on notice of our mortality. As fragile as is our prosperity, our health, even our life, our Savior King is shown to be our hope in life and in death. I assure you, He hears our prayers with mercy.

It is my prayer that you are warm, safe, comfortable, healthy, and prosperous. I pray that you will remain so, despite the storm of fear that surrounds us. But whatever your situation I can point you to our true Hope, our Savior king. He has come in the name of the Lord, Yahweh, Creator and Preserver of all. He has poured out heaven’s treasures to you – forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Be at peace, in Him is the Hope of the world.

AMEN. This is most certainly true.

[1] Jesus fulfilled the prophet’s words so conspicuously that all physically present on that occasion and all of us present in spirit now might recognize and acknowledge him as the kind of Messiah or Christ he wants to be for all men, one who matches Zechariah’s prophetic picture. “Say to the daughter of Zion.” If we go back to Zechariah 9:9, we find a double summons there: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!” One term explains the other. Zion is the same as Jerusalem. Originally, Zion was the name of the site on which Jerusalem was built. Then it was narrowed down to designate the highest point of the city. The reader should note, however, that this was not where the temple was built. It was erected on a lower hill, called Mount Moriah, which we recognize as the eminence on which Abraham had been fully prepared to sacrifice Isaac. (Genesis 22:2) Finally, Zion or Mount Zion came to be used for the whole city of Jerusalem.

In New Testament times the name Zion, or Mount Zion, was employed for the new people of God or the new Israel, in other words, the Christian church. (See Hebrews 12:22, 23; 1 Peter 2:6.) In Revelation 14:1 Mount Zion is the place where the Lamb (Christ) is surrounded by all the saints in glory.

Franzmann, W. H. (1998). Bible history commentary: New Testament (electronic ed., pp. 601–603). Milwaukee, WI: WELS Board for Parish Education.

By |2020-04-04T17:41:25-07:00April 3rd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Midweek Update 4/2/20

Midweek Update 3/2/20

Here is your (probably regular) midweek update.

Let me point out that in these uncertain times we find our refuge, not in up-beat emojis, not in positive thoughts, not in wishful thinking, and not even in the expert information from the CDC. They may all be useful in some way, but true certainty comes from God’s word. Good theology, that is, a good understanding of God’s clear word and promises is of utmost importance because it is rooted in the absolute truth of the word of God.

Whatever happens in terms of health or the economy, forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
We may not be able to get together to hear the word and receive the sacrament, but our assurance lies not in our devotion, but in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

To stand firm in God’s word and promises, cultivate a good devotional life. Here are some suggestions. Don’t let the devil accuse you for not doing everything here, rather find what works for you to receive God’s comfort regularly.

  • Read from the Bible. Start with the Gospels and read a chapter or more at a time. I find it very helpful to read a whole book at a sitting. They aren’t really that long, and it gives me a good perspective.
  • Read your Meditations that we hand out at church.
  • Read Good News for You, a devotion book from the ELS in .pdf format.
  • Subscribe to an email or video devotion here. It will be sent to you daily.: ELS Devotions Sign-up
  • Keep up on the devotions and sermons I put out for you. Because there are so many good devotions available, I am not trying to get a devotion out every day, but I plan to have a Wednesday evening devotion and a Sunday morning service and sermon. The devotion and sermon will apply more to us than the more general devotions can.

PRAY!
We all know that we face the troubles of this life because we are sinners, and that we will one day leave this veil of tears for eternal life and the resurrection, but Jesus Himself teaches us to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” And Paul reminds us that even when we are suffering tribulation His mercies in the past give us hope for deliverance from our present troubles. In your prayers…
– Acknowledge your sins and unworthiness
– Praise God for His mercy
– Because He is merciful, boldly ask Him…
– Ask that our nation be led to repentance.
– Ask that the dire predictions of death and morbidity will not come to pass.
– Ask that you will be given life, health, and strength, and be spared severe illness.
– Ask that your loved ones and fellow church members will be spares.
– Ask that your pastor will be given the right words to comfort people.
Here is the closing part of the prayer that I happen to use, “Lord, help me to see Your Fatherly hand, even in my troubles, so that I may bear my cross in cheerful submission to your holy will, sins You alone know best.”

So commit your future to Him and trust that by His mercy “goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

HERE ARE THE LATEST PLANS:

  1. We will not have services at church until further notice.
  2. We will not offer individual communion during Holy Week as we had hoped.
  3. Some of you have called me for counsel.  Keep it up. I am happy to meet with you by phone for counsel, comfort, confession & absolution, etc.
  4. If you want to meet with me in person, call me and I will set it up.
  5. I am generally reserving my in-person contact for those in the hospital, who are very sick or dying, or who are otherwise in distress, but if you are in that situation I assure you I will be there.
  6. Here is how I will keep in touch:
  • Midweek update (like this one) –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page, –Printed and mailed out with the Sunday sermon in time for Saturday.
  • Midweek Devotion midweek (usually Wednesdays) Recorded on YouTube. Links will be distributed in these ways: –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page.
  • Sunday Sermon Recorded on YouTube Saturday Night. Links will be distributed in these ways: –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page. I will also print it out and mail it out in time to arrive by Saturday.

Cordial Regards, in Christ

Pastor Bryant

By |2020-04-02T12:07:51-07:00April 2nd, 2020|Good News|0 Comments

Christ the Lord and Hope of the Ages

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Christ – The Hope of the Ages

John 8:46–59 (CSB)
46 Who among you can convict me of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 The one who is from God listens to God’s words. This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God.”
48 The Jews responded to him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you’re a Samaritan and have a demon?”
49 “I do not have a demon,” Jesus answered. “On the contrary, I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and judges. 51 Truly I tell you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
52 Then the Jews said, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?”
54 “If I glorify myself,” Jesus answered, “my glory is nothing. My Father—about whom you say, ‘He is our God’—he is the one who glorifies me. 55 You do not know him, but I know him. If I were to say I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”
59 So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden, and went out of the temple.,

Dear fellow redeemed: Who are we dealing with here? That is really the question -and answer- that is before us in this picture of Jesus before the Pharisees. The time is “not yet,” that is to say it is not yet Passover time, not yet the time of His passion. The Jews were trying to kill Him alright, but at this time he prevented it,  59 So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden, and went out of the temple.,

As Jesus clarifies who He is, we see things settle out. There were those who saw the light and those who continued in darkness. There were those who listened to God’s word, and those who rejected it in favor of their own intellect. There were those who those who honored the Father and therefore the Son, and those who dishonored them. There were those who acted in faith and those who acted in unbelief.

That tells us about those around Jesus.

But we also see that it becomes clearer and clearer Who Jesus is. He speaks God’s words. He is the glory of the Father. He is the source of life. He is the source of light and truth. He is eternal. He is the object of Abraham’s faith. He is I AM.

This is the objective, eternal, and everlasting truth: God has walked among us to be our Savior.

JESUS IS THE LORD OF THE AGES

  1. Lord of a Rebellious Humanity
  2. The Hope of the Ages
  1. Lord of a Rebellious Humanity

One thing that has become clear over these last few weeks of the Clovid-19 epidemic is that not everything is about “me.” We witness something that we self-reliant Americans so easily forget, that there are great tides in the affairs of humanity that sweep away everything, and we cannot stop them. I think one example of this was the well circulated comment, from a college student on spring break, “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not gonna let it stop me from partying.” (https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2020/03/23/ohio-spring-break-partier-apologizes-coronavirus-comments/2901591001/, accessed March 26, 2020.) It’s as though he had his truth and the rest of the world had some other truth.

As it turned out, he expressed regret because he came to see that there was an objective reality, a real and deadly affliction spreading across the world and it didn’t stop to ask his permission. It didn’t change to suit him or conform to “his truth.”

The words of the Pharisees in our text, while on a different subject, reveal the same kind of arrogance. In truth, a great and wonderful thing had happened; God had come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. “He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:10–11, CSB) They rejected Him.

We see the Lordship of Christ in His feeding the 5000, in His calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee, in His casting out demons, in His healing the sick, and in His raising the dead. But while the winds and the waves obey Him, His own rebel against Him – His brothers and sisters, His fellow human beings, among whom He came as Savior.

It wasn’t that the Pharisees then (or people now, for that matter) just didn’t understand. Jesus is Lord of life and the destroyer of death.  He said so clearly, 51 Truly I tell you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” They understood that well enough, but they didn’t believe it. 52 Then the Jews said, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?”

They understood; but they ridiculed it. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”

Here in His state of humiliation, they could rebel against Him. They could ridicule Him, . Eventually they would kill him.

Nothing has changed since the fall. Humanity rebels against our true Lord. We see it in society-wide movements that teach that there is only this material world, or that deny the sanctity of the family, or that make humanity the measure of all things. We see it in our own rebellious hearts, in our love of self, our disregard for God’s word, and our doubt of His promises.

So, what of it? Do you think you will every have to give an account? You boys and girls, do you think that you will really ever get in trouble for disobeying your mom and dad, I mean to the point that you really wish you had never done the wrong? Many people who cheat and lie and do shameful things online, or who just live irresponsibly, think that it’s worth the risk, and eventually, if they get away with it, the whole idea of punishment for our rebellion fades away.

But then comes the reminder that we can’t put off the reckoning forever. As we say, we become conscious of our own mortality. And then comes hopelessness and fear. When your mom and dad won’t take your disobedience any more, when your lies catch up with you, you are caught in your shame, or when you are dying. “For we know the one who has said, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30–31, CSB)

  1. The Hope of the Ages

There must be punishment for sin. And sometimes people wonder when there will be judgment. If Jesus is Lord, why did He put up with this rebellion and humiliation? If Jesus is Lord, why didn’t He come in power and might? If Jesus is Lord, why did He use His power to preserve himself from this murder by stoning just so He could die on a cross. If this is the way He comes into this world, why did Jesus say, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

It is true that Jesus is Lord of a rebellious humanity, but He is a Lord who loves, and who in mercy offered Himself to be punished for the sins of the world. It is as the hymn says, “The master pays the debt His servants owe Him, Who would not know Him.” (ELH 292 v. 4)

Now there will still be consequences/ punishment/ an accounting for our sins. Mom or Dad might make you really sorry, our shame might be revealed, self-centeredness turn to rejection, losing those we love. And for all of us, we will die. The troubles of this life, whether directly connected to the wrongs we do or the good we fail to do are a reminder of that full and complete satisfaction for sins required of all of us.

But there is hope. Jesus came in humility so that He could save. He will come in glory and then He will judge. Abraham was glad, there in heaven, to see God the Son enter into this world in humility to redeem the world. His hope, in life and in death, is in Christ. He is the hope of the ages. Our hope, in life and in death is in Christ. He is the hope of the ages.

He allows this world to stand and to go through tribulations and suffering; he delays His return as Peter says, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, CSB)

He is the hope of the ages because, as He said, If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death. The Pharisees thought those were foolish words, but they didn’t know Who they were dealing with. They were dealing with the Lord of Life. The One who was present at creation, who preserve faithful Noah and His family, who intervened to save Isaac, who Passed Over the blood-painted homes of the believers in Egypt, who tore down Jericho, preserved Elijah’s life, raised Lazarus, and paid the sin-price by dying.

The wrong we have done and our failure to do good is inexcusable. But He offered no excuses, He offered His blood and life so that there may be forgiveness. He is the hope of the ages.

The trouble that is in the world today, whether it is from fearmongering or real sickness, from inconvenience or mortal illness, whether from the present emergency or from all the other things that go wrong in this mortal life- the trouble that is in the world today will pass.

By and large, your prayers in Christ’s name will be answered, as David said, “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” He will deliver you from trouble. In the words of today’s favorite psalm (91) “no plague will come near your dwelling.” This is because He is merciful. Christ is your hope.

But this is still a broken world, so one day death will come (or Christ will return first). But our hope is yet the greater for again, in David’s words, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  For Christ is the hop of ALL the ages.

AMEN

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forevermore. AMEN.

By |2020-03-28T18:18:44-07:00March 27th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

The Faith-Challenge of “OK”

“OK” Is a Challenge to Faith

How is it with you?

Sick?
Lonely?
Frustrated?
Anxious?
Uncertain?
Afraid?
Running out of work – and funds?
Retirement Income in jeopardy?

Or maybe just slightly inconvenienced by an apocalypse that hasn’t hit you yet – and may never hit you?

Most of the time people are at least OK. So why are pastors talking to everyone as though they are suffering terribly? Are pastors adding to the angst people are feeling?

My answer is to point out two lies of the devil. The first is that things are OK with us, so we don’t need a Savior. The second is that things are so terrible with us that there is no Savior. The first is indifference and the second is despair. The first lie is to keep us away from savoring the grace and mercy of God when we are being blessed, and the second is to deny the grace and mercy of God when we are afflicted.

I have been a pastor to three generations of some families, and in each generation I have seen mainly good times. In each generation I have also seen heartache, crisis, sin, tragedy, alienation, and death. During the good times some were faithful hearers of God’s word; they sat through sermons dealing with troubles that had never touched them. But then came the troubles, and their faith held firm in our Savior. Others were not faithful hearers, and they blew off all appeals to abide in God’s word. They were OK, after all. But then came the troubles and their faith was swept away.

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24–27, CSB)

I have no idea how things will turn out for any of us in this health (or is it economic?) “emergency.” But you need to know how the mercy of God holds true through it all, by clinging to the words of your Savior.

Pastor Bryant

By |2020-03-25T12:36:40-07:00March 25th, 2020|Good News|0 Comments

Our Savior in Today’s Peril and in Eternity

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Christ Is Savior in Time and in Eternity

John 6:1–15 (CSB)

6 After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). A huge crowd was following him because they saw the signs that he was performing by healing the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat down there with his disciples.
Now the Passover, a Jewish festival, was near. So when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward him, he asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread so that these people can eat?” He asked this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii, worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish—but what are they for so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”
There was plenty of grass in that place; so they sat down. The men numbered about five thousand. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks he distributed them to those who were seated—so also with the fish, as much as they wanted.
12 When they were full, he told his disciples, “Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they collected them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten.
14 When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This truly is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore, when Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Dear fellow redeemed: Of the many signs and miracles that Jesus performed during His ministry, this is the fourth one that John pulls out and points to for its special sign-ificance (see what I did there?). With this sign we see Jesus as the greater-than-Moses. Where Moses called upon God in their need, Jesus Himself, as the Lord God, fed the Children of Israel with manna. Now He blessed the five rolls and the two fish and distributed them to the thousands seated on the grassy hill. We see Him as the Creator, Who created seed-time and harvest to feed His creatures. But John show Him as Savior from more than an empty tummy. He is our Lord and Helper IN this world, and our Savior FROM this world. Jesus is…

SAVIOR IN TIME AND IN ETERNITY

  1. In Time – From the Perils to the Body
  2. In Eternity – From the Perils to the Soul
  1. In Time – From the Perils to the Body

John also highlights the situation in which the people found themselves so far from any village and without food.

, “Where will we buy bread so that these people can eat?” He asked this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii, worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little.”

Helping them was beyond any one person’s means. It would take about 8 months pay to give everyone just a bite.

But “The Christ, the Son of the Living God,” as this shows Him to be, provided for them in abundance. 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”

There was plenty of grass in that place; so they sat down. The men numbered about five thousand. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks he distributed them to those who were seated—so also with the fish, as much as they wanted.

The application for us today is very obvious. We are In trouble in our world. We can rest assured that our Savior has the power and compassion to hold us up through this affliction.

Our Lord is our Creator and Preserver. Even after the fall into sin, God continues to provide for us, body and soul. (We call it “God’s providence.”) “In past generations he allowed all the nations to go their own way, although he did not leave himself without a witness, since he did what is good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”” (Acts 14:16–17, CSB) Good things happen to bad, sinful, people.

So, if there is any good thing in your life, it is a gift from Him, and a foretaste of things to come in heaven. If there is any beauty here, it is a hint of heaven’s beauty; if there is any joy, it is a hint of heaven’s joy; if there is any gladness, it is a hint of our eternal gladness in the resurrection, and so on.

But the skeptics, the atheists, the materialists and sinners (unbelievers) in general reply, “But it must just be coincidence, just an accident, because bad things happen to good people.” That’s the devil’s lie. Actually, the amazing thing is that God is so merciful that good things happen to bad people. None of us deserve His goodness.

Jesus dealt with this very succinctly in Luke 13. “At that time, some people came and reported to him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And he responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.” (Luke 13:1–3, CSB) The calamities in this world are because of sin. Death is because of sin. Humanity is to blame for the troubles in this life, including the coronavirus, so as much as we want to blame somebody else, you and I need to repent.

These calamities happen to people who are sinful and under the curse of God for it, as are we all. This is why trouble and death are in the world, “And he said to the man, You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”” (Genesis 3:17–19, CSB)

And yet, even in this, God is doing us good. He teaches us, “As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19, CSB)

So if you haven’t gotten the message by now, the real problem in this world is that mankind’s sin, humanity’s sin, OUR sin, has alienated us from God, made Him angry with us, and prompted His judgment.

But there is hope, both in time and in eternity.

There is every reason for us to pray that this trouble would not come near us here in our earthly life. First, because He is good to His faithful believers, as the recently-much-quoted Psalm 91 says, “He will cover you with his feathers; you will take refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. You will not fear the terror of the night, the arrow that flies by day, the plague that stalks in darkness, or the pestilence that ravages at noon.” (Psalm 91:4–6, CSB)

This doesn’t mean there isn’t trouble in the world, or in your life, because that is the curse of sin. What it means is what I said before, God is merciful. The wonder is really that He is so good to people who are so bad. “For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45, CSB)

And Paul points out that we have often been delivered. “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:” (Romans 5:3–4, KJV 1900) You have had troubles – tribulations – and you have experienced the Lord’s deliverance many times.

As Jesus fed the multitudes, so He is our Savior in the here and now, from the perils of our bodies, and so we have hope. And …

     2. In Eternity – From the Perils to the Soul

This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5, CSB) The fact is that the blessings we receive in this life are not the main thing that we hope for. Though we all experience good things in life, the reality of death and sorrow remains, for sin is in the world and the world is broken as a result. Therefore, understand this, Jesus did not come to save us finally IN this world, but FROM this world.

This is why the hope of the people that He would be their king and physical provider fell far short of Who He actually is, and the salvation He brings. He put it this way: “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31–34, CSB)

Whatever happens of sorrow or pain is insignificant compared to the salvation that He brings. When we close our eyes that one last time, we open them the next instant in paradise. In the resurrection we will be given life that has no end, and joy that will not fade.

This is not conjecture or wishful thinking. It is a sure and certain hope, a true looking-forward-to what is assured. I cannot promise you that you won’t get sick from some wretched virus, because there is still sin in this world, But I can promise you life everlasting because there is a perfect righteousness for you from our Savior’s perfect life; and it is yours by faith. There is perfect redemption from all your sins by His perfect death. And your resurrection is guaranteed by His own.

As He said to His disciples in anticipation of his death and resurrection, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too.” (John 14:19, CSB)

It is good for this world to question our mortality. The false gods of government and wealth have failed us. The idols of reason and materialism (the belief that there is only the material world) have been found useless. The heroes of popular culture, the celebrities, sports icons, and fashion setters are shown to be irrelevant.

What’s left of value is love and faith and hope. Serving God by serving our neighbor, and doing it truly out of love for Him, and all the while proclaiming the hope of rescue FROM this broken world, the sure and certain hope that is only in the Risen Christ.

AMEN. This is most certainly true.

 

377 – Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me

    1. Why should cross and trial grieve me?

Christ is near
With His cheer;
Never will He leave me.
Who can rob me of the heaven
That God’s Son
For my own
To my faith hath given?

      1. Though a heavy cross I’m bearing

And my heart
Feels the smart,
Shall I be despairing?
God, my Helper, who doth send it,
Well doth know
All my woe
And how best to end it.

      1. God oft gives me days of gladness;

Shall I grieve
If He give
Seasons, too, of sadness?
God is good and tempers ever
All my ill,
And He will
Wholly leave me never.

      1. Hopeful, cheerful, and undaunted

Ev’rywhere
They appear
Who in Christ are planted.
Death itself cannot appal them,
They rejoice
When the voice
Of their Lord doth call them.

      1. Death cannot destroy forever;

From our fears,
Cares, and tears
It will us deliver.
It will close life’s mournful story,
Make a way
That we may
Enter heav’nly glory.

      1. What is all this life possesses?

But a hand
Full of sand
That the heart distresses.
Noble gifts that pall me never
Christ, our Lord,
Will accord
To His saints forever.

      1. Lord, my Shepherd, take me to Thee.

Thou art mine;
I was Thine,
Even e’er I knew Thee.
I am Thine, for Thou hast bought me;
Lost I stood,
But Thy blood
Free salvation brought me.

      1. Thou art mine; I love and own Thee.

Light of Joy,
Ne’er shall I
From my heart dethrone Thee.
Savior, let me soon behold Thee
Face to face;
May Thy grace
Evermore enfold me!

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By |2020-03-21T21:56:45-07:00March 21st, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Our Christian Calling in Frightening Times

Certainty in Uncertain Times

This is the first in a series addressing the perplexities and fears of this moment with the hope that we have in Christ – the sure and certain hope that there is joy in our future. I don’t know how many installments there will be. Looking ahead, there is more to say than you would want to read in once sitting, so I am breaking it down in to reasonable chunks for your encouragement. I have unapologetically appropriated the series title used by Pastor Sparley, because it fits the circumstances so well. However, don’t expect that I will cover the same topics as he did.

OUR CALLING IN FRIGHTENING TIMES

Dear fellow Christians: Once again the world is overcome with uncertainty. Once again, the world needs the hope that you have. We have all listened to the voices of unbelief these last few days, from those whose hope is in government (just not that party!), from those who party incessantly on spring break because in true postmodern fashion, “their truth” doesn’t include their mortality, from those who have “done the math” and see mass graves in the future, and from those who seek mainly to blame and to punish. But from whatever angle, unbelief sees only a dark, empty void. To them there is no horizon, no certain dawning of a joyful new day. For the unbeliever there is just death and the end of all things.

Every Christian has come from this hopelessness, even if as an infant, as Paul wrote, “At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12, CSB)

Therefore, as Christians, our calling at this moment is to speak of our hope to the hopeless. Jesus calls us to this especially in Luke 21 when he speaks of the afflictions that He will visit on the earth in the last days, “There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, [my emphasis] and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:11, CSB) We are supposed to be ready for this opportunity! He tells us, “This will give you an opportunity to bear witness. … I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” (Luke 21:13–15, CSB)

Notice, these are the words of wisdom that He gives us. I’m sure that “Keep your distance,” “Wash your hands,” and “Don’t touch your face,” are wise in their own way, but the words of Christ are a greater wisdom, a more universal wisdom and a wisdom that give us CERTAINTY IN UNCERTAIN TIMES.

Next time: THREE CERTAINTIES of which we may be sure, and by which we may provide hope to our world.

By |2020-03-20T16:16:51-07:00March 20th, 2020|Good News|0 Comments

Faith Listens to the Prophet (12/15/2019 – Advent 3)

Faith Listens to the Prophet

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Matthew 11:2–10 (CSB)

Now when John heard in prison what the Christ was doing, he sent a message through his disciples and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news, and blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me.”
As these men were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? See, those who wear soft clothes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.,

Dear friends in Christ Jesus, awaiting the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:  Do you know what a reality check is?  It’s one of those times when we set aside our self-deceptions and our wrong-headed emotional view of things and get in touch with things as they are.

I remember one young lady who thought she was really in love with a fellow.  He asked her to marry him, and for the first time, instead of thinking what a great time she had with him on a date, she though of actually spending her life with him.  She said “No.”  Reality Check

Coaches will put aspiring but unexceptional athletes up against the best.  They make the choice to do something else rather than having to be cut – Reality Check

Sometimes our friends do us a service when they break it to us that we have an annoying habit or bad breath or some other issue. Reality Check.

Advent, is a penitential season.  It’s a reality check.  If Christ came for you today, if life were over for you today, would you be ready?  I mean, are you certain that you would be in heaven?  Have you taken a real look at who you are, and what your relationship is to the Creator of all things?

How shall we conduct such a reality check?  How can we TRULY know God?  How can we TRULY know the reality of our wrongdoing?  How can we really know God’s feelings toward us?  In our text for today we see where Jesus points us, and a group of blundering disciples to a reality check on our faith …

Prepare Your heart by Faith, for Only Faith Sees…

FAITH LISTENS TO THE PROPHET

  1. His Words About Our Plight
  2. His Words About Our Deliverance
  1. His Words About Our Plight

Are you familiar with the story of John the Baptist?  His birth was spoken of by Malachi the prophet 400 years before,  “See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies.” (Malachi 3:1, CSB)

John was the messenger, and Jesus came right after him.  They were relatives, remember, and John was born six months before Jesus, and at the usual age of 30, started his ministry.  Jesus began His ministry 6 months later, then.

The purpose of John’s coming was to so convict the people of sin that they would despair of the righteousness of the law, and see how absolute was their need for a savior.  He would then point out the Savior, Jesus, as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

God blessed John’s ministry by moving the hearts of people to believe him, and to leave Him for Jesus.  John himself applauded this saying of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, CSB)

John, remember, had been imprisoned for condemning Herod’s public adultery. From prison He asks Jesus if He is the Messiah. That seems odd, because John had pointed to Him as the Messiah. Was John losing faith? It could be that he was beaten down in depression, but more likely that this was a reality check for his own followers. Were they listening to Him?

Faith grabs hold of spiritual realities through the words of the prophets.  John’s words pointed to Jesus as our Savior and our Life, So John when sent them out to Jesus it served as a reality check. — Now when John heard in prison what the Christ was doing, he sent a message through his disciples and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” That is an interesting question.  If in fact Jesus IS the one who was to come, then why aren’t they following Him?

As you and I perform a reality check, we too need to listen to the words of the prophets – including Jesus.  If we do, these words will make clear our REAL plight.

Jesus, for example, says, ““If you love me, you will keep my commands.” (John 14:15, CSB) Do you?  Here’s a reality check; do you love your Savior absolutely?

How about His command, “Search the Scriptures?”  How about His command, “[Do not neglect] to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” How about his command, And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. (Ephesians 4:32–5:2, CSB)

This is altogether too convicting, isn’t it?  It’s scary, too.  A reality check tells us that we are in trouble.  It’s like the pilot who calculates that he has 1.2 hours of fuel in the tank and he is over the ocean 2.3 hours from land..  He isn’t going to make it back.  He should have turned around more than an hour before.  That’s reality.

That’s the true picture, from the words of the prophets, the ones who speak the words of God, the words about our plight, as sinful mortals.

2. His Words About Our Deliverance

John sent his disciples for a reality check, and Jesus gave it to them.  Putting his answer in the familiar words of Isaiah, Jesus told them what they were really looking at.

Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news, and blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me.”

Here are words of deliverance from Christ himself, connected to the words of the prophets that these disciples professed to believe.  Isaiah had said, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. (Isaiah 35:5, CSB)  in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those sitting in darkness from the prison house. (Isaiah 42:7, CSB) The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; (Isaiah 61:1, CSB)

Why words of good news, healing, and liberty?  Because they proclaim Jesus as the ONE LONG EXPECTED.  Just as real as our sin, our plight in the face of death, is the reality of our salvation in Jesus Christ.  It’s the real thing.

Can you sense Jesus’ exasperation in His words? As these men were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? See, those who wear soft clothes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way before you.,

Do you think the words of God are just a curious opinion?  Just an emotional crutch?  Just for other people?  Are you a Christian because it’s nice to be one or because it is REAL and TRUE?  And because we really will die, each of us, and we need to get real about it, and confess our sins to the Redeemer who has taken them all upon Himself and saved us?

As we come to the festivals of the Nativity and of Easter and of the others, take a reality check.  You and I are such sinners that we need God in the manger to live our righteousness.  GOD on the cross to redeem us from all our sins.  GOD stepping out of the tomb as victor over our own death.

By his own work, you have forgiveness of all your sins.  Including the sin of not taking His word seriously. And your sins of anger and grudge-bearing, and of lust and greed, and coveting what isn’t yours – things and other people too.

Advent is a good reality check.  Get in touch with reality through the true and everlasting word of God, given through the prophets and apostles.  Forget the messenger, forget the circumstances, and check in with the message of our desperate plight, and our perfect forgiveness.

Then truly from the depths of our hearts we can earnestly pray: Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

AMEN.

By |2019-12-14T12:41:55-07:00December 14th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Worldview Contrasts

Worldview Contrasts #1

Scripture often points to a distinction between those who live in faith in Him, and those who do not. John often used the term “world” to identify everything in the world that is hostile to Christ and the gospel. For example, he urges us,  “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15, CSB)

That is a pretty sharp contrast—like night and day. That is another picture Jesus uses: “Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12, CSB)

Again, that is a stark contrast between Christians and those who do not follow Christ.

What is the difference. Are Christians innately better or more deserving? No. The difference is faith, spiritual life in Christ. With faith and the guidance of Scripture we have a different worldview than the world.

Over the next few weeks we will contrast the Christian Worldview with some of the most common false worldviews. We won’t get into the realm of political or social opinion, but will deal with more basic truths.

To begin with …

Christians view the world through the lens of the Holy Scriptures, which are inspired, true and without error, so we understand that we are God’s creatures, originally created in perfection, but now born imperfect morally, spiritually, and physically. We are beings both physical and spiritual in nature. Every one of us is accountable to our Creator for all our thoughts words and actions. We recognize that God has influenced history, including the natural history of the world, both directly through direct divine acts and through providence.

The world, by contrast, looks at the world based on physical senses plus human speculation. While our senses provide empirical information about our world, they are limited. We cannot perceive directly in others such things as pain, or love, or beauty or truth. With our sensed we cannot perceive spiritual realities such as sin, grace, the soul, or the presence of God, Who is Spirit, nor can we perceive the past or the future directly.

This void is filled by the speculation and imagination of sinful human beings, so they cannot know for sure “who we are, where we come from, or where we are going.

By |2020-04-02T11:46:23-07:00August 30th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

What Is Your WorldView?

What Is Your Worldview?

A “worldview” is a body of concepts that describe and interpret the world in which we live. Our worldview may be true or false depending on whether we view and understand the world as it truly is. Do we believe, for example, that human life has value? If so, that will affect the way we look at others. Do we believe that the world was created? If so, we will respect the Creator; if not, we will view life as only a complex assemblage of matter.

Our worldview determines what is important in life. Is getting and having possessions the most important thing? If so, then we will neglect other “less important” things.

We are affected by the prevailing worldview of our culture, and therefore Christians have been “counter-cultural” when the prevailing worldview has been pagan or materialistic or humanistic, as the predominate culture is in our country today.

The Christian worldview hinges on four key realities: -Humanity was created by God in a state of perfection. –We have fallen from that condition. –We have been redeemed by God. –With or without this redemption, all must give an account to God at the end of life.

These realities are not shared by our culture, so they do not live as though they are true. We do live this way. We must!

By |2019-08-30T18:11:33-07:00August 30th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments