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

Certainty in Uncertain Times – 2

Three Certainties

In these uncertain times, there are three certainties in the affairs of humanity: The need for repentance, the Lordship of Christ, and the hope that He gives.

1. The Need for Repentance 

Now You’ve Done It! Repent!

I expect that you have heard that before. Perhaps it was from a friend or a sibling when you were young and broke something while fooling around. Maybe it was when you let your attention wander and ended up in a fender-bender. Maybe it was something so serious that you regretted it for the rest of your life. “Look what you’ve done!”

I would also not be surprised to hear the response. Something like “It wasn’t my fault!” or “She made me do it!” or “If it hadn’t been for what ____ did, this never would have happened.”

But sometimes people accept their responsibility. “Look what I have done!” they say. “Now I’ve done it.” “Lord have mercy on me.” This is a repentant spirit and it leads back to the Lord and to His mercy. Repentance has two parts. It is sorrow that we have sinned and turning back in faith to the Lord’s mercy.

In His word, God tells us that all people are in constant need of repentance, because all people often trespass against His word and will. Repentance is “turning back” to Him, to receive His mercy and forgiveness. It is a blessed thing. Repentance is not just for Christians, for God is the Lord of all, and all people need His salvation.

Did you know that the trouble in this world is to lead the people of today to repentance? In 2 Chronicles, the Lord told Solomon that the new Temple he built was a place where people may return in repentance,  “If I … send pestilence on my people, and my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. My eyes will now be open and my ears attentive to prayer from this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:13–15, CSB)

This principle remains. Jesus tells us that when we look on natural calamity or tragedy, we aren’t to ask if “they” are to blame. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.”” (Luke 13:5, CSB) Our world has been wicked in its indifference to God’s word, its worship of “nature,” its murder of the unborn, its destruction of the family and so on. Rest assured this scourge of the Covid-19 is a call to repentance.

In Revelation 9 there is the prophecy that in the last days of this world terrible calamities will fall upon humanity, but there will be no repentance. What can we do to lead people to repentance? Speak of the hope that we have so that people will know that if we repent, we can return to the mercy of God.

By |2020-03-24T13:35:27-07:00March 24th, 2020|Good News|0 Comments

Reason for Hope (July 26, 2019)

Yes, There Is Reason to Hope

There Is an Oasis in the Desert of Life

but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15, CSB)

Why should we be full of hope?

Here are some answers I get:

  • I have a good job.
  • I have my health.
  • I’m young and have my whole life ahead of me.
  • The country is on the right track economically.
  • I have great family and good relationships.

But what if you don’t? What if you don’t have a good job, health, youth, or economic prospects? What if you are alone?

Any of these count as positive thinking, but all of the hopes listed here are bound to come to an end as we get older, the economy changes, we can’t do the work, or relationships inevitably end in death.

So then where is your hope?

Where is your hope when the brokenness of this world descend on us? Remember, God has already said that because of our sin, all these things will be taken away from us eventually. In Genesis 3, God tells Adam that labor, pain, alienation and death will curse this world because of sin.

But He also gave reason to hope. The fact is that He promised a salvation FROM this world and all the sorrow and trouble that is part of it. In fact, this sorrow and trouble is intended to drive us into the arms of our Savior.

We have hope because our Savior has taken sin and its curse upon himself, and so opened heaven for us—a new creation in which there will be no trouble, sorrow, toil, pain, or death.

Reflect upon this hope, and let it show, and then be ready to share this hope with others who ask. And don’t hesitate to use me to help. Is someone you know sick and in the hospital? Dealing with family problems? Facing loss? Tell them of your hope, and then offer to send you pastor around.

In this hopeless world, Christians and the Christian Church are the real oasis of hope.  — Pastor Bryant

By |2019-07-31T18:25:51-07:00July 31st, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Overhearing Jesus’ Prayer for You

Overhear Jesus Praying for You

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John 17:20–26 (CSB)

20 “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. 21 May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. 22 I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation. 25 Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. 26 I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.”

Dear fellow redeemed: As John relates the history, the climax of Jesus’ ministry, His service to mankind, was when he gave up His life on the cross, having atoned for the sins of the world. With his resurrection, He was shown forth as God the Son and our redeemer, and righteousness was declared for this world.

Jesus was our servant, living out our life of perfect righteousness, and dying our death to atone for our sins. But even though “Christ died for all,” there will always be those who are His and those who are not, those who are alive in faith and those who are not, those who believe in Him, and those who are not. Those who are His will be joined with Him in reaching out into the world, so that others will also come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, chosen and sent into this world to save us.

Because of this, eternity touches us. God is acting, not only to cause the son to shine, the crops to grow, the earth, moon, and stars to travel in their orbits. He is touching your heart and your mind and, most intimately, your very life and soul. In the great cosmic battle that embroils this universe each day, we who know Christ are all in this together.

Let me tell you what kind of company your keep, for we are all in this together, with each other, with the faithful all over the planet, with the faithful of the past and of the future, of heaven and of earth. We are joined with the host of heaven, clothed in white, the suffering and imprisoned faithful around the world, the aged and the baptized newborn, and you and me, all in this together.

And what we have here from Jesus on the eve of his self-sacrifice is an outpouring of His soul, …

WHAT JESUS REALLY, REALLY WANTS FOR US

  1. Children of the Apostles’ Word
  2. A Unity In Heart and Soul
  3. The Glory of God
  4. The Presence of God

Children of the Apostles’ Word

The first thing that strikes us is that Jesus has stepped out of that moment and transcends time. 20 “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word.” He says. That includes you, today. Today we pray to Jesus who was praying for us that night of His betrayal. And He prays for us still: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5, CSB)

As in a family tree, your faith, your spiritual life, is traceable back to these apostles and the word of God, the revelation of the Holy Spirit, that was given, and believed, and in turn passed down. And think about it; as He was facing His death, He was also anticipating the victory that would be won first in His resurrection and then in our hearts through the Gospel.

A Unity In Heart and Soul

And what does He pray for? First, for a unity among us that is beyond anything the world can create, a real soul-connection. He says, 21 May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, … 23 I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

I got a letter from the Bahai in Grants Pass last week. They confused us with the local ELCA church. The writer was just sure that, based on publicity from that church, we would love to participate in a sort of “unity day” with all the other religions in the area. Do they really think that true unity is taking part in a demonstration around the lie that all the false gods of this world are the same as the one and true Creator and Savior? Do they think that there can be any unity between those whose faith is in Christ, and those who deny that He is the only Savior?

Jesus is talking about the sort of unity that makes “soul mates” in the true sense of the term. As I tell young couples in the pre-marital instruction that I provide, “The closer you both are to Christ, the closer you are to each other.” So it is also in the church. The more that we are into this word and know Christ, not “know about” Christ, but know him as we know one another, then the closer we are to one another.

Because of this word, we have the same worldview as a teen-age shepherd from 1000 B.C. (David, who became king). At our heart, we have the same priorities as the people of Nyamira, in Kenya. We have the same hope as the house Christians of Red China. And today we are sharing the same experience of listening to Jesus pray for us. So the closer we are to the words of Christ, and the more we share the truth of that word, the closer we are to each other.

But Jesus takes it deeper, dear soul mates. As we heard a week or two ago, in the mystical union God dwells with us, spirit to spirit. The Father lives with us and in us, as do the Son and the Holy Spirit. Your body and your soul are the dwelling-place of God, so your body and soul are the temple of God, as Paul says, “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, CSB)

Why else is there this sense among us that we are family? How many times I have heard that in the last year! We are united more closely, in many cases, than we are with our own flesh and blood.

Sadly, this unity is disrupted when people become proud, or controlling, or domineering, or self-centered rather than Christ-centered. This unity is disrupted when people depart from the true word of Christ that reveals Him. Lord preserve us from anything like that!

The reason Jesus prays for this unity is so that  “that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”

When someone talks with a Christian and hears about the mercy of God, and with another Christian, and hears about forgiveness, and with yet another Christian and hears as sinner grateful for God’s mercy, this brings a torrent of the gospel into that person’s life.

If someone talks to a Christian or a CHINO “Christian in name only” and hears about social justice, and with another one and hears about God as “mother” or that Jesus is a mere man or that He made no sacrifice for sins, and then with a Christian who shares the gospel, you can see that such disunity keeps the world from knowing Jesus.

While this all makes sense, perhaps the most astounding thing about this prayer is the unimaginable blessing that He gives us in order that we may be one. 22 I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one

The Glory of God

You and I actually share in the glory of God. If God dwells with us, and we with him, then we share in what He gives and in Who He is. In at least half a dozen places Scripture teaches this surprising, incomprehensible truth. Peter, for example, writes, “By [His own glory and goodness] he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.” (2 Peter 1:4, CSB)

Immortality, eternity, righteousness, divine wisdom, fellowship with God – – – these are all part of the divine glory, God’s glory, in which we share. Already it has started. Jesus said, I have given them the glory you have given me. The divine nature communicated to Jesus’ human nature,  is what He gives to us also. Already you have spiritual life and fellowship with God that will never end – immortality. Already you possess the righteousness of God.

When I really grapple with what it means to be one with God, I think my head will explode. Think of what Paul says about sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and in His resurrection, and in His death, and in His resurrection: “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11, CSB) Or take Peter, “Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13, CSB)

The Presence of God

Jesus ultimately prays for you because He wants you to know Him as He knows you, and to truly grasp, truly “get” the love that He has for you, and are immersed in it, and in the glory of God. He says, 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation.

Let me put it this way: As we live now, we are separated from Christ because of our sinful natures. But where there is love, there is desire for union, to become true soulmates. We experience this even in our lives, wanting our loved ones near, sharing their joys and dreams and triumphs. Loving you, this is what Jesus wants for you, and what He wants to share with you.

We face troubles in this world, don’t we? Tired. Hurt. Sick. Injured. Disappointed. Fearful. Frustrated. Depressed. Anxious. Rejected. Guilty. Embarrassed.

But we have also tasted Joy. Love. Hope. Satisfaction. Beauty. Companionship. Happiness.

The first of these are of this broken world. The rest of these are part of God’s nature, and they, dear ones, are yours, because Jesus said a prayer for you, and went forth and won them all for you.

AMEN.

By |2019-06-04T18:30:16-07:00June 4th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

It Is Finished: Your Salvation (Good Friday 2019)

Christ Has Finished Your Salvation

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Christ  Finished Your Salvation

John 19:30

17 Carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called Place of the Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him and two others with him, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate also had a sign made and put on the cross. It said: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’ ”

22 Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see who gets it.” This happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing., This is what the soldiers did.

25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

28 After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now finished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, he said, “I’m thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it up to his mouth.

30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then bowing his head, he gave up his spirit. (John 19:17–30 (CSB))

Dear fellow redeemed: “It is finished.” That’s English. Jesus spoke in Aramaic. John wrote in Greek, “τετέλεσται,” “It has been completed.” Interestingly enough, that is what a merchant of Jesus’ day would write at the bottom of a bill you paid, “tetelestai,” Paid in Full.

It is finished. Do you realize how your understanding of the phrase differs from the world around us? We understand that IT, the redemption of the world, is finished. Jesus has drunk the cup given him to the very dregs and made satisfaction for the sins of men.

But the world reads it differently. The world thinks HE is finished. You’ve seen the Hollywood and Broadway spectacles that end with the crucifixion, and others that only hint at a resurrection. And it is safe to say that the disciples also looked at the death of Christ as the end of their hopes.

But John writes with dramatic irony, and we read it the same way – knowing what those in the middle of things couldn’t know. To those who lived through it, the situation must have been mystifying: How could someone who saved others not save Himself? How could one who brought Lazarus to life succumb to death?

To unbelievers today there is an even greater challenge – how to account for Jesus’ power and relevance today. If Jesus was finished on the cross, then why make a big deal about Him? Lots of people were crucified, including people who rebelled against Rome. There are numerous law-givers with compelling messages, arguably more popular than Jesus at the time. If he were to give the sermon on the mount at a major school today, His affirmation of traditional marriage alone would bring out the cry-bullies to stop Him.

If Jesus was finished on the cross, then it makes no sense to honor him or follow him. Paul pointed this out in 1 Corinthians 15:17–19 (ESV) 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But to John the crucifixion is the climax of Christ’s mission. Jesus set the tone with His words in John 3:14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,” (John 3:14, CSB)

. He was lifted up, after all, on the cross. Ironically, “lifted up” could mean “exalted.” His crucifixion was the crucial moment when the greatest sacrifice was given. Matthew recorded Jesus’ perspective, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11, CSB)

Our salvation hinges on this moment. The death of death, the conquest of Satan, and undoing the devil’s work all rest upon this moment, as Jesus Himself said, though such a “victory” as death by crucifixion made no sense to the crowds, “Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate what kind of death he was about to die. Then the crowd replied to him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” (John 12:31–34, CSB)

The skeptical crowd made no sense of it. The unbelievers of today cannot explain how by crucifixion a man could rise to the heights of power, greatness and victory. Those with hearts oppressed by guilt and loneliness, by fear of death and lamentations of life may wonder how hope can be found here. But you know, and if you do not, let me tell you (or let John tell you). “He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.(1 John 2:2, CSB)

While sin earns death, righteousness gives life. Christ atoned for the sins of the world and no longer bore the sins of the world: It was finished. The crucifixion is the climax of Christ’s mission. Once death had been defeated, death could no longer hold Him. “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) In fact, Jesus Himself made clear that, having paid the price of our sin, and in all righteousness Himself, death was His choice, not the devil’s or death’s. He laid down his life in obedience to the Father to atone for the sins of the world: “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”” (John 10:17–18, CSB)

Nor can it hold you when you by faith bear the righteousness of Christ.

Repent and believe the gospel.

Turn to Christ for He pours His righteousness out upon you. In your guilt, in your fear, each day in in the hour of death, turn to Christ for your salvation is complete, is finished. Your debt is paid in full.

Our hope therefore depends not on what we must do, but upon what was done. Our life comes not from that which is to come, but from what was done.

Christ, our Passover lamb has been slain for us, and we are free.

AMEN.

By |2019-04-17T16:12:08-07:00April 17th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Merciful for the Sake of Mercy

As Objects of God’s Mercy, We Are Merciful

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Luke 6:27–38 (CSB)

27 “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. 31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Dear fellow redeemed: What is it like to be a follower of Christ in this world, a hearer and doer of His word? First, such a person “repents and believes the gospel of Christ.” That is, she or he knows that we have been born into sin and death, and now have our hope in Christ. Because Christ has paid the penalty of your sin, God holds nothing against you. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1, CSB). So that is who we are. We live, rejoicing in the mercy of God.

Now, what is it like for a person like this to live in this world; what do we do? As Jesus Himself has taught us in this Gospel of Luke, we can expect rejection and persecution. In fact, in this evil world if we are spoken well of it is a really bad sign; it’s the sort of thing this world reserves for their favorite false prophets.

So how are you to treat them? How do we treat those who persecute the followers of Christ and speak well of those who proclaim spiritual poison? We see the way they treated Christ; we know how people of this world hate the light and they  … hate you, … exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22, CSB) How are we to treat them?

AS OBJECTS OF GOD’S MERCY, WE ARE MERCIFUL

AS OBJECTS OF GODS GRACE, WE ARE GRACIOUS

  1. Christian Love
  2. Christian Generosity
  3. Christian Mercy
  1. Christian Love

In order to make sense of this, we must understand that each of us holds many offices or stations in life, and what God’s word says to one, it may not say to the other. These words are directed to you in your station as a believer in this world dealing with the enemies of the faith. You are to defeat them, but just as you were born hostile to God, inclined toward sin and disobedience, and you were defeated by God’s mercy, not by His judgment, so are we to live in this world.

Remember we are to catch human beings, but by “capturing alive,” not by destroying. The most important thing you can do toward those who hate you for your faith is to love them. 27 “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also.

Now, if you are defending your family from a criminal attack, that is a different role in life, but here Jesus is talking about those who hate us for our faith, and there our message in return is mercy.

To put this in real terms, think of February 15, The anniversary of the death of the Twenty-One Martyrs of Libya.

“On February 15, 2015, ISIS proudly proclaimed that it had beheaded twenty-one “People of the Cross.” These men, mostly construction workers from Egypt, were kidnapped by Muslim terrorists from Sirte, Libya; and when they would not renounce Christ, their captors tortured them, finally martyring them upon the beach and throwing their bodies into the sea. They died, not in terror, but with the name of their Lord upon their lips: Ya Rabbi Yasou!—“Oh my Lord Jesus!”

“The twenty-first martyr, Matthew Ayariga, was not a Copt like the other twenty, but a Ghanan. Though not originally a Christian, he witnessed the immense faith of the others before him, and when the terrorists asked him whether he would reject Jesus, he responded, ‘Their God is my God.’[i]

That man’s witness lives to this day.

This brings us to the “turn the other cheek” imperative of Jesus. It’s a problem for a lot of people, and I had a lot of people ask me about it as a defensive firearms instructor. Even as one acting in defense of your family, you suffer indignity before you resort to force, but Jesus is talking about those who curse and mistreat you because of Christ.

We may be humiliated, but we are called not to destroy them, but to show mercy. We may be killed, but we show mercy. As Americans, we may cheer at the death of Isis fighters or the death of Osama Bin Laden, but as Christians we recognize that these are souls who suffer the torment of the damned forever. If our warriors are called to visit death upon the enemies of our nation, they do right. If you have done that yourself, you have done your duty before God.

But now that is not our calling, and if someone belittles us because of our faith – or even seeks our death – our victory in Christ is not in taking vengeance on him or her, but in the way that Christ treated us, proclaiming His mercy and forgiveness.

In the “principle of reversal” we realize that this is our victory, even if it is our death, just as Christ was victorious in death. So John teaches us, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of him. This is how we know that we love God’s children: when we love God and obey his commands [=believes His word]. For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.” (1 John 5:1–4, CSB)

2. Christian Generosity

That is not the way of the world, but that’s the point, as we see in Jesus comments on being generous. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. 31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.

Some of you are going to ask me if we are to therefore indulge every panhandler in Medford. That might not do them so much good, as we all have seen, but if the circumstances involve the oppression of the faith, then we act in grace, mercy, and generosity. So if the champions of death picketing the Crisis Pregnancy Center need your coat give it to them.

Even the unbelieving world understands the golden rule: “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.” But the mercy of God is greater than that, and they can learn that from us.

It is not about doing for people what they deserve but what is gracious – mercy that is neither earned or deserved.

 Christian Mercy

Such mercy also shows in our daily lives. Have you ever been around someone who seemed to ooze disapproval? Being around them, you know you just don’t measure up. As a pastor I see them just waiting until “gotcha!” They catch me in a mistake.

You may be that person. You look around at this disreputable group and see our sin. It may be our sins of the past, the consequences of which live on in our lives. It may be that we don’t read the Bible as much as you do, or do as much work in the church, or we may have the wrong politics (in your estimation).

This is not to tolerate what is wrong. You have heard us confess our sins as you have yours. We have received the same absolution as you have, and by grace possess the same righteousness – a free gift of Christ that we have neither earned nor deserved.

This is what Jesus is talking about when He says, 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

The Holy Spirit applied it through Paul when he wrote “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:32, CSB)

This doesn’t mean parents don’t discipline their children, judges don’t enforce the law, false teachers aren’t pointed out, or public immorality admonished, but those are for those who are in the station of parent, judge, or citizen. As Christian to Christian we deal as one forgiven sinner with another, for this expresses our joy and our hope.

There is no such joy or hope in this world without Christ. Each age seeks to destroy those that it blames for the troubles and sorrows in the world, only to create a new age with new troubles and new sorrows. For man is not God after all, and cannot make heaven where there is no righteousness.

Yes, as counterintuitive as it is, we take the truth from Jesus: 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Even then our hope is not in our loving, but in His mercy: Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

AMEN

[i] The Feast of the Twenty-One Martyrs of Libya, February 15

On February 15, 2015, ISIS proudly proclaimed that it had beheaded twenty-one “People of the Cross.” These men, mostly construction workers from Egypt, were kidnapped by Muslim terrorists from Sirte, Libya; and when they would not renounce Christ, their captors tortured them, finally martyring them upon the beach and throwing their bodies into the sea. They died, not in terror, but with the name of their Lord upon their lips: Ya Rabbi Yasou!—“Oh my Lord Jesus!”
The twenty-first martyr, Matthew Ayariga, was not a Copt like the other twenty, but a Ghanan. Though not originally a Christian, he witnessed the immense faith of the others before him, and when the terrorists asked him whether he would reject Jesus, he responded, “Their God is my God.”
See Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison address this faithful witness upon its one-year anniversary in 2016: https://youtu.be/HkhsneGX52I.

Bishoy Adel Khalaf
Melad Mackeen Zaki
Yousef Shokry Younan
Somali Stéphanos Kamel
Mena Fayez Aziz
Essam Badr Samir
Malak Faraj Abram
Samuel Alhoam Wilson
Abanoub Ayad Attia
Kirillos Shukry Fawzy
Malak Ibrahim Siniot
Girgis Melad Sniout
Luke Ngati
Sameh Salah Farouk
Hany Abdel-Masih Salib
Ezzat Bushra Nassif
Majed Suleiman Shehata
Bishoy Stéphanos Kamel
Tawadros Youssef Tawadros
Jaber Mounir Adly
Matthew Ayariga


By |2019-02-21T17:00:51-07:00February 21st, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments