Second Reformed Church

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"The Word Became Flesh" Sermon: John 1:1-18

“The Word Became Flesh”
[John 1:1-18]
November 29, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Today is the first Sunday of Advent – the beginning of the Christmas season. If the Lord is willing, the six sermons I will preach during this season will be about the “songs of Christmas.” (Though that is not entirely true, since this first sermon isn’t taken from a song in the Scripture, but the other five sermons will look at songs that were sung.)

The Christmas season is especially a season of singing, as opposed to the season of “ordinary time,” for example. With the exception, perhaps, of the Easter season, the Christmas season stands as a season when we respond to what has occurred – and what happened because of what occurred – with singing.

We might say that our singing is an emotive expression of our belief. It is true theology as doxology. It is the Truth of God as praise to God. In our best hymns – and certainly in the Scripture – we are expressing the Truth of God with all that we are – our hearts and minds and souls and bodies – in singing.

Let’s pretend for a moment that this morning’s text is a song, and let us look at it as three verses and an interlude:

In the first “verse,” verses one through five, John tells us that the Word was in the beginning. Before time and space were created, the Word existed – this Person, the Word, existed. And as we might then expect, John tells us that the Word was with God. The Word existed in the same, non-material realm, as God, before space and time were created. And, John tells us, the Word created everything that is. The Word gave life to everything that is. And the Word is the light to humanity which the darkness cannot overcome.

John is using categories and language that the Greeks of his day would have loved. God exists and the Word exists. These Two (at least) exist before time and space, and the Word created, enlivened, and sustains everything that is.

Can you picture what it would be like to be outside of time and space, before anything that exists in the created world existed? Don’t worry if you can’t – I can’t – we are beings who have always lived within time and space. We can understand the concept that God and the Word lived outside and before time and space. But what does that look like? Our minds are not big enough to wrap around this.

Yet, if we can begin to approach this idea – that God and the Word lived outside of time and space before the Creation, wouldn’t it occur to us to see God and the Word as mighty? Would we not think, perhaps, that God and the Word ought to be worshiped for creating and giving and sustaining life? Doesn’t the very idea of God and the Word make us look at ourselves and begin to see how small we are, and make us want to be on the right side of God and the Word? Doesn’t this very idea made us stop in awe and wonder of God and the Word?

Besides being mighty and pre-existent of all of the Creation and the Giver of Life, what are God and the Word like? Are They all-good? Can we interact with Them, and if so, how? What do They want from us? With these types of questions looming before us, how trivial have we made life, centering it around a glowing box, watching people argue about “who my baby’s daddy?” or who might be responsible if we give our credit card to our boyfriend or girlfriend with no restrictions. I am becoming more and more concerned that most people can’t tell the difference between the significant and the insignificant – what is important and what is trivial.

In verses six through eight, we have an interlude where John introduces us to John the Baptist – a man who was sent by God to be a witness to the light – the light that shines from the Word. John the Baptist was sent as a herald – one to announce the light of the Word. John the Baptist was sent to make sure the people knew that there is a difference between the light and the darkness – there are things that come from the Word and there are things that come from some other place. John the Baptist functioned in the role of the prophet – a person who was called to announce news from God. And what news he had to announce!

In the second “verse,” verses nine through thirteen, John tells us that John the Baptist was given the call to announce that the Word was coming into the world. This One Who existed with God from before the beginning – before time and space and the created order – He was coming to the very earth that He created.

And it was revealed to John that Baptist what the result would be: the Word would come to the earth that He created, and they would not know Him. He would come among the very people that He called a people for Himself – that means that this Word must be the God of Abraham, Who called him out of the land of Ur to make him a people for God – He would come among the very people that He raised up through Abraham, but they wouldn’t recognize Him. How could they not recognize Him? If they were in a relationship with Him – if He was their God – how could they come face to face with the One they had been in fellowship with for hundreds and thousands of years and have no idea Who He was?

The only answer we can give is that they didn’t know Him. They were in a relationship with a creator of their own inventing, not the One Who had called them and sustained them from Ur to Canaan. If we close our eyes to what God has told us about Himself and the Word and what He expects of us, eventually, we will come up with someone quite different from the One Who is Real.

I have been taken aback at the number of times people have said to me in the past few months, “I know the Bible says that, but....” But? “I know you told me not to put the dog in the microwave, mommy, but she was cold.” “Oh well, kids will be kids.” “I know you told me not to key your car, but making scratches in the paint was fun, daddy.” “Oh well, kids will be kids.” “I know you told me what You are like and what You expect, God, but I decided I preferred to do this.” “Oh well, humans will be humans.” Really?

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” The Word is Merciful and Gracious. He came into His world to His people, and many of them did not recognize Him because, even though they called themselves believers in Him, they believed in someone or something else. But, the Word said that all who receive Him – anyone who will receive Him – any person – no matter if they are part of the chosen people or not – no matter what their background or history or family or sin – anyone – anyone – Who receives Him and recognizes Him as Who He is – the Word – all of these shall be His adopted children.

How amazing is this? The Word condescended to humanity in His Mercy and Grace and opened the Way to Him for every type of person that will ever be. There is no type of person that cannot be saved – reconciled – made right with the Word. When you or I first heard that Good News, it would seem right that we would ask, “How? What must I do? How many sacrifices? How many good works?”

But we are told, “No. No. No. Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” In other words, there is nothing that anyone can do or give to the Word to become a son or daughter of God. We cannot choose or will or make ourselves sons or daughters of God. God wills the person to become a child of God; it is wholly and completely God’s Choice and God’s Work.

That means that no one who is a child of God has the right or ability to be a snob about it. In fact, we ought to find ourselves grateful and utterly humbled that God chose to make us His children for whatever reason He has. There is no, “I’m better than you,” in the household of God. There is only, “Why me, Lord? Why did You choose me?” Because the crack using prostitute on the streets of Irvington may well be the one God has chosen to be His child, while God has left behind the honest businessman that we meet at the club. We don’t know. It’s God’s choice. But let us beware and not assume, because we will surely be surprised on that final day. But it is the Will of God.

The third “verse,” verses fourteen through eighteen: John tells us that the Word did not merely come into the world, but the Word became flesh. The One Who created the Creation became enfleshed and lived among His creatures. And those Who recognized Him not merely to be a human being but the Word Incarnate – the Word Made Flesh – those whom God had chosen to become children of God – those also saw something of the glory of the Word, Who is also the Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.

(It was part of John the Baptist’s proclamation that the Word Become Flesh was not merely a real human being, though He is, but He is also the One Who was before and greater than he.)

Then we are told Who the Word Incarnate is – having given the children of God grace upon grace. Because the Law was given through Moses – it is through the Law that we understand that we are all sinners – unable to make ourselves right with God – and that we are condemned by the same Law for our sin. But grace and truth came through Jesus Christ – the solution to our problem with God came through the Word Incarnate – in the Person of Jesus Christ – the Little Baby that we remember and look forward to celebrating at this time every year. Jesus Christ, the younger cousin of John the Baptist, Whom John understood existed before he did and was in fact His Creator, the Word – the One Who brings the Truth that the children of God are God’s by God’s Will, not ours – we can do nothing to make ourselves right with God.

Are you overwhelmed yet? So often on the TV we hear preachers say that Jesus loves us and came that we could be healthy, wealthy, and wise, if we would just reach out and believe and actualize our potential – blah, blah, blah. That is not the Gospel. That is not the Good News. The Good News is that although humanity blew it through sin – although we separated ourselves from God and put ourselves under the condemnation of the Law, the Word chose, for God’s Own Reasons, to Incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ to make all those who will believe right with God – and we know He did that through His Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension.

That’s what the prophets said would happen. That’s what John tells us happened. That’s what the whole Scripture tells us. All the same, without contradiction. This is the One Way to God. These first verses of John’s Gospel are some of the most profound and mind-boggling words. But we still have verse eighteen:

“No one has ever seen God;” – that’s because God is a Spirit – God does not have a physical body – He cannot be seen with human eyes. And we are told in numerous Scriptures that if we were to view to glory of God – since we are sinners – we would die.

“The only God,” – and let us not forget – there is Only One God. All other gods are false gods. Any who teach another god besides God – even if they use the word, “god” – are either misled or trying to mislead you. And we believe in One God – not three, as some have misunderstood – there is Only One God.

“The only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Now, we understand that God is the Father – John’s original audience would have understood that too. Who, then, is the Only God, who is at the Father’s side? The Word – the Son – the Word Who Became Flesh – Jesus Christ. Here we understand that there is One God, and God exists as the Father and the Son, and the Son is the Word Who became Flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ. So, Jesus Christ is the One God.

And since the Word became Flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ – since the Son remained Wholly God, even as He became a real human being, as well – humans could see God and know Him in the flesh. Jesus – among other things – made it possible for humans to see God and live – both in His time on earth – and eternally for all those who would believe in Him.

Can you imagine what is was like for Jesus and the apostles? “Hi, my name is Peter, and this is God in the Flesh, Jesus.” Can you imagine, after the Resurrection, the apostles and disciples coming to understand the fulness of why the Word became Flesh? Do you understand why the Word became Flesh?

That’s the whole point of the Christmas season. That’s why we celebrate the birth of This Baby. That’s why we give gifts.

After Jesus began His ministry, He came to John the Baptist to be baptized, and as He approached John the next day, John saw Him and said, “‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.” I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God’” (John 1:29b-34, ESV).

This is God the Son – the Word become Flesh. He is our Only Hope, our Salvation, the Only Way to become right with God. He is the Reason for the season of Christmas.

Consider these opening verses of the Gospel of John and be honest with yourself about whether you have seen His Light and become a child of God. If you have, your life ought to be joy-filled and different from the world, ought it not? If you have not believed, look at Him – look at the testimony that is borne about Him – see that grace and truth come through Jesus Christ – weight the evidence, and respond.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for coming to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ. We thank You that You have made some of us Your children by Yourself and for Your own reasons. Thank You for Your Grace – for Your Salvation – for making us to understand that You came to earth that first Christmas. May we sing Your praise and glory forevermore. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"We Always Thank God" Sermon: Colossians 1:3-14

“We Always Thank God”
[Colossians 1:3-14 ]
November 15, 2009

Paul opens his letter to the Christians at Colossae by telling them, “we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” Do you find that true of yourself? Do you find yourself always giving thanks to God for the people of this church? This morning as we celebrate Thanksgiving Sunday, I would like us to look at Paul’s thanks for the Colossians and have us find four reasons we ought to be giving thanks for each other in prayer and three things that we ought to be praying for each other.

Paul begins by telling the Colossian Christians that they always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for them because they have faith in Jesus Christ. Why would Paul do that? For two reasons – because faith in Jesus Christ comes from God and because we, like the angels, ought to rejoice in the salvation of a brother of a sister.

Paul tells us in that well-known passage, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV). Anyone who believes in Jesus – anyone who has faith in Jesus – was given that faith and belief by God. It was a gift of God, not something that they – or you or I – could come up with ourselves. So, we ought to give thanks for that gift of faith, not just for ourselves, but for all those who believe – even those in this church.

And Jesus reminds us, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7, ESV). We ought to rejoice and give thanks when a person comes to faith in Christ, and, therefore, we ought to rejoice and give thanks for a person who is a Christian.

That leads to the second reason Paul and his companions always give thanks to God for them: the Christians at Colossae had “love for all of the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” They loved their fellow Christians. Because a person was a Christian, they had love for them. Because we have the same One Savior and the same One Hope in Him for our salvation and our future, they loved them. And we ought to love one another in Christ and give thanks for each other in love as Christians.

Now, I understand that not everyone is the same. Some people “get along” with each other better than other people. Some people we really like, and some people we don’t particularly care for. That is ok. We don’t have to want to spend every hour of our lives with every single person in the Church – in fact, it would be impossible to do so. But we must all love each other – and as we saw last week, love involves action.

As we’ve seen when we have looked at the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, which is the broader idea, when we love our fellow Christians, we are to do everything within our power to make their lives better. That mean that we don’t sin against them. We don’t do things that will hinder them in doing God’s Will. It may mean, if it’s a person we don’t care for, that we stay out of their way.

There are pastors in Classis that I don’t particularly care for as people, and there are pastors in Classis that don’t particularly care for me, but we love each other in Christ – as fellow Christians, and we are civil towards each other and work for the good together, but we don’t go out of our way to be together otherwise. That’s ok. We don’t have to be best friends with every Christian. But we do have to love them and thank God for them. Each one is a person for whom Christ died. For that reason, we are obliged to love them and thank God for them. And for most people that will not be an issue.

Third, Paul and his companions always gave thanks to God for the Colossian Christians because they were bearing fruit. They were living out the Gospel. They were doing the good works that they were called to do in Christ Jesus. People knew that they were Christians and the things they did – the good they did – was done and done in a way that people knew they were Christians. They did good work – honest work – they were fair and didn’t cheat.

The Colossian Christians were known to have the fruit of the Spirit “... love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22b-23a, ESV). Their character was different from the people around them, which showed that they were Jesus’.

Do you work as for God and not merely for men? Do you do the best work you can possibly do and do it in a way that shows the character of Jesus in you? Do we show those we interact with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. And do we thank God when we see these things in our brothers and sisters? We should always be thankful to God when we see such fruit in our fellow Christians.

And fourth, Paul and his companions always gave thanks to God because the Colossians were growing. They were maturing. They were becoming more Christ-like. They were sinning less and living in the way that they had been called to live in Christ all the more. When we notice that someone has matured in the faith, we ought to always give thanks to God.

That is why they always gave thanks to God for them: because of their faith in Christ Jesus, because of their love for all Christians, because they were bearing fruit, and because they were growing. Can the same be said about you and me? I hope so. We ought to have faith in Jesus Christ (and so we are Christians). We ought to love our fellow Christians. We ought to be bearing fruit. And we ought to be growing. And we ought to be thanking God always as we see these things in others.

What, specifically, was Paul praying for these Christians, and what ought we to be praying for each other and all Christians?

First, Paul said that they pray for the Colossian Christians to be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

How do we know God’s Will? There are mountains of books on how to determine God’s Will – most of them bad – but we only need one book to determine God’s Will – the Bible. In Paul’s day, they had the scrolls being passed from church to church and copied down, but we now have easy access to everything God has said.

“But the Bible doesn’t tell me who to marry or what job I should pursue,” some will argue.

That’s true: there are lots of things the Bible doesn’t tell us – what shampoo to use, what car to buy, which church to attend, what color clothes look best on us – don’t misunderstand, God does know everything and all that He wants for us, but God has given us what is contained in His Word, with enough commands and principles that we should get along fine if we follow them in spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Where do we get spiritual wisdom and understanding of God’s Word? From God the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26, ESV).

But again, understand, the Holy Spirit will not bring to remembrance things that you have never heard or read. If you never read the Bible, you won’t have anything for the Holy Spirit to bring to your memory. Likewise, the Holy Spirit will not give you wisdom and understanding of God’s Word if you never read it. When we read the Bible, it sinks into our hearts and minds and the Holy Spirit will help us to understand to us remember it and to apply it with spiritual wisdom.

So, I would ask that you would pray for me – that I would keep reading the Bible – every day. And I would ask that you would pray that the Holy Spirit would help me to understand with spiritual wisdom so I can better serve as your pastor. I make a point of getting up, taking my medications, and then reading my Bible. Please pray that I would keep doing that. There are mornings that I am running late and think about putting it off, but I need to get up and read first, as my priority for my soul and for my service

And so do we all. Let us all pray for each other that we would keep in the Bible, reading every day, so we would better know our God and Savior and what He wants us to know and be and do.

Second, Paul tells them that they are praying that they would then “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

The Bible tells us everything we need to know for life and salvation, and as we read it, the Holy Spirit helps us to understand it and remember it and practically apply it, and this is Paul’s second prayer – for them and for us – that they and we actually live out what God has said in His Word. As we have seen – even last week – it is not enough to know what the Bible says. It’s not enough to know what God has said to do and be. We have to also live it out. We have to do and be what and who God has called us to be – through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit – and when we do that, we will bear fruit – people will be able to see that what we are doing is for God and according to His Will and Ways.

And again, I would ask you to pray for me – that I would conscientiously and systematically put into practice all those things I learn from the Scripture. I want to know God better, and I want to be more and more obedient, having greater joy, and, accordingly, become more holy – until that final day when I am fully changed into the Image of the Son – fully glorified with Him forever.

And we should pray that for each other. If we are truly Christians, we should want to live out everything we come to know about God and His Will for us. So, let us pray that we will learn more of Who God is and what He would have for us, and that through the grace and power that He gives us through the reading and preaching of His Word and through the sacraments, we all will be able to live fruitful and pleasing lives before God, increasing in the knowledge of Him.

And third, Paul tells the Colossian Christians that they were praying that they would be “strengthened according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father.”

Similarly, Paul wrote, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV).

God desires that we be filled with Him, strengthened by His Grace through the sacraments and the reading and preaching of His Word, that we might accomplish what He has planned for us. As Paul wrote, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).

With God, we can endure whatever happens and persevere until the end of this race called life. Through Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can do all that He puts before us, if we trust Him, if we follow Him. And as we rely on Him, we will find we are more patient – with each other – with all people, and we will be filled with the joy that cannot be comprehended by the non-Christian, and we will become a people of thanks, especially of the salvation that we have been given.

Would you pray for me, that I would be strengthened for the work God has given me in this place? That I would follow Him and receive grace from Him here and in other places that I go to worship? That I would become a more patient pastor – trusting all the more on God and His Will rather than merely what my eyes see? That I would be evermore filled with the joy of Christ and never come short of reasons to be thankful to God?

Let us pray these things for each other. We are a church, part of the Body of Christ – a Body that is designed to work together for the glory of our Triune God. Let us all submit ourselves to Him, relying on His strength that we might all endure in patience with joy and have reason after reason to give thanks to our God and Savior.

Do you find yourself always giving thanks to God for the people of this church? May it be so for every one of us, because every Christian in this sanctuary has been saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Every Christian in this sanctuary shows loves to their fellow Christians. Every Christian in this sanctuary is bearing fruit and growing.

But let us not be content: not one of us is perfect. We are still flawed, still sinners, still in need of growing up and mature in the faith. So, let us pray that we all would spend daily time in God’s Word to know Him and His Will, being guided by the Holy Spirit Who lives in us. Let us pray that we would each become doers of the Word and not just hearers – let us live out what we learn in the Scripture. And let us pray that we would each be strengthened through the means that God has given us that we might endure, and become patient, and be filled with joy and thanksgiving.

We above all people have a Reason to be thankful.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Savior, Jesus Christ the Son, and Holy Spirit, we come before the One God to lift up our voices in thanksgiving, because You have chosen to save us for Yourself by Yourself and for Your Own Reasons – may your receive all the glory. Help us to be thankful and prayerful according to the example of Paul and all of your Scripture, and may the Holy Spirit reminds us and instruct us in all these things that we would have Your Joy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

"Are You Giving God Your Leftovers?" Sermon: I John 3:16-18

“Are You Giving God Your Leftovers?”
[I John 3:16-18]
November 8, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Have you ever heard someone say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” “Nobody does anything without an ulterior motive.” “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” “Quid pro quo.” We are have become a society that expects that if you do something, you should get something, and, conversely, that if you don’t do something for me, I’m not going to do something for you. We do not look to do good for others, not expecting to get anything back from them, and we are shocked when and if someone does something for us when we have not done or promised anything to them.

So, it makes me wonder, “what motivates our giving?” Why do you and I give what we give, when we give it? Making the question about people – about relationships, we might ask, “how do you know someone loves you?”

John tells us, “By this we know love, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us.” John tells us what love is, and he tells us that we understand that Jesus loves us because He laid down His Life for us. He did something that showed us that He loves us. He did something radical – that people don’t just do for someone else.

It’s all the more amazing because we didn’t know we needed someone to lay their life down for us. In fact, we were spiritual dead, unknowing and unable to help ourselves at all: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even while we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV).

And it is even more amazing – not only did Jesus lay His Life down for us – we who were dead and unknowing of our need – we weren’t neutral – we hated God and anything to do with Him: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:1-11, ESV).

In other words, we were dead in our sin, enemies of God, and Jesus showed His Love to us by dying for our sin, raising us from the dead, giving us new life according to His keeping of God’s Law – and not only that, Jesus was not just a mere man. Jesus is fully a human being, but He is also the One Almighty God.

How unexpected is it then, that God would decide to love a people who were dead and hated Him and had nothing to offer Him, still He became a Man, lived, died, rose, and ascended, and promises us eternal life with Him? That’s love, John tells us.

I hope that still amazes you. Sometimes we sing – almost with a yawn in our mouths – “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound! That saved a wretch like me!” Do you believe it? Does it amaze you? If it doesn’t, you either have too high a view of yourself or too low a view of God. God is Holy, Holy, Holy – He cannot have any sin in His Presence. And we are sinners by nature – wretches – until He makes us His.

Think about how we were – what the Scripture tells us about ourselves compared to God. How far we were from what God requires How lost – hopelessly lost Do we begin to glimpse what kind of love that is – that Jesus laid down His Life for us?

Repeat after me: “I was a wretch. But Jesus laid down His Life for me.”

Again: “I was a wretch. But Jesus laid down His Life for me.”

Again: “I was a wretch. But Jesus laid down His Life for me.”

“So we ought to lay down our lives for each other.”

What?

What did you say? We know what love is because Jesus laid down His Life for us, so we ought to lay down our lives for each other.. What does that mean? In real life, most of us won’t ever have the need or opportunity, Lord willing, of physically dying for another person. So what does this really mean for us?

Well, John tells us: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother [or sister] in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” John says that we can practically lay down our lives for each other by providing for each other’s needs. And if we do have enough and we have the ability to help someone meet their needs and we do nothing – that is not love. It means we may not understand what love is.

James writes, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 215-16, ESV).

If we say we believe in Jesus, if we say we love Him, if we say we love our fellow Christians (in particular, here), and God has blessed us with more than we need – and God has blessed every single one of us with more than we need of something, then we ought to be willing to give whatever that is, even up to our very lives, to fill another’s need and to glorify God.

Meeting others’ needs is one way we show that we understand the love that Jesus has for us in laying down His Life. True love is more than words. True love brings about action. True love is love in deed. Love has a physical and/or material aspect to it.

As we bring this idea back to Jesus and the Church – remember we started by saying that we understand what love is because Jesus laid His Life down for us – Jesus – the Almighty God Incarnate, laid down His Life for a bunch of dead people that hated Him. Amazing!

How do we physically/materially show our love to Jesus? By loving others, and by giving of ourselves and our blessings to the Church (which is the means by which God chose to spread the Gospel to the whole world – as we are beginning to see in the book of Acts).

Right now, I would like us to consider how we show our love to Jesus – through the Church – with our money. And the obvious way we show our love to Jesus through the Church with our money is by giving money to the Church. Yet, we have often given for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way.

We are not to give to the Church in the same way that we pay any other bill. We ought not to look at our giving to the Church as paying what we owe for the week. For two reasons: first, none of us could ever give enough money to pay God back what we owe for this week – for forgiveness, for love, for life. And second, what we give to the Church is to be our gift, a token of our worship – not something we are compelled to do.

Do not misunderstand: God does require that we give to the Church. God said that our giving is to begin with ten percent of our gross income. That was the Law and that is what Jesus said as well. We are to begin by giving ten percent of our gross income to the Church. And then, as we are led by the Spirit, we are to give more. But it ought to be done cheerfully, willingly, joyfully, not like paying the phone bill or the utility bill.

We are not to give to the Church simply to pay “our share” of the expenses. While is it true that the Church has expenses and most of the money that is given to the Church is given to pay for those expenses, if you look at our church budget, you know you are not paying your share. Our budget is just under $100,000 a year. Our share would be at least $5,000 a year. We are not to give to the Church based on whether or not we liked the pastor’s sermon. I am called to speak the Word of God from this pulpit. If I am not doing that, the elders should correct me. If I am doing that, because we are still sinners, there are things I will say that you will like and things I will say that you will not like, and that is completely irrelevant to our giving. If it is the Word of God it is the Word of God. You are not paying for a show or an education.

We are not to merely give our leftovers to the Church. We have a tendency to give whatever we have left over each week to God. We give what we have in our pockets, or in our wallets, or, we look at our checkbook, and think about how much we can spare. But the biblical principle is that God gets the first cut off the top – that’s why I said a minimum of ten percent of our gross income. Most of us have taxes taken out before we receive our paycheck, or SSI, or pension, and so forth. But God will not take second place to the government. God demands ten percent – to begin with – of our entire income.

I was brought up to do that. Many people were not. And those who have not done it have a tendency to say that they can’t afford to give ten percent of their gross – and more. Some people give “x” number of dollars because that’s what their parents did, or that’s what they decided to do fifty years ago, and nothing will ever change that – except their income going down. Which means, either God is wrong, or we are.

Looking at it positively:

We are to give to the Church as part of our worship. When I ask that the ushers come forward that we might worship God with our tithes and our offerings, I am serious about what I am saying. Our giving is to be an act of worship. What we put in that plate should reflect what we believe about the worth of God – of Jesus Christ – and what He has done for us. We do not offer up our gifts to merit forgiveness, but to thank God for the forgiveness He merited for us. How much is Jesus worth?

We are to give to the Church as part of how we show our understanding of the value of Jesus’ Love. Just a few verses before this morning’s reading, John wrote, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I John 3:1a, ESV). John was amazed at the Love of God in Jesus Christ – are we? How much do we value His taking God’s Wrath, forgiving our sin, crediting us with His Righteousness.

We are to give to the Church to see Jesus honored and believed. We give to show each other and the world that we believe that Jesus and His Gospel – salvation in Him Alone – is true – that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One and Only Savior.

We are to give our first and our best to the Church because Jesus’ Love is worth more than everything else – together. We give our first and best to the Church because no matter what else happens, no matter what else is lost, no matter what else goes wrong, no matter how the stock market moves or how our friends and relatives use and abuse us for our money – or shower us with financial gifts, we want each other and the world to know that Jesus is first and best and His Love is worth more than anything and everything else all together. Think about it this way: if you had a basket filled with Jesus’ Love and all the rest of your stuff, and you had to give away one thing after another until you only had one thing left, what would you want? I hope the answer is Jesus’ Love. There is no other hope than what He has done for us in His Love.

And we give to the Church to show that we trust Jesus. We give to show each other and the world that we trust Jesus when He promises to provide for all of our needs. We don’t hoard away all of our blessings and neglect giving to the Church because of what might happen. But we manage our money with the wisdom God has given us, yet we also give God what He commands and more as we are led to do so, believing in His Promises, trusting that He will provide for us. Do you believe Him?

This week, my mother gave away two food items: out of thanks to one of my sister's doctors, my mother baked a big banana streusel cake – which is apparently incredible – and gave it to the doctor, who was very thankful and told my mother how good it was. My mother also told me that she had bought this “wheat berry salad” because it was supposed to be good for you, but she didn’t like it at all, and she wondered if I would like the leftovers.

Do you know love?

Or are you giving God your leftovers?

Let us pray:
We pray to You, O God Who loved us so much that You laid down Your Life for us, and we ask that You would help us to know through Your Act what love is. Let us show our love to our brothers and sisters in doing good for them, not expecting anything in return. And let us come to worship, ready to worship You by giving, obediently, and generously, to You out of the financial income You have given us. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Flea Market

The Flea Market is tomorrow, November 7th, from 10 AM to 2 PM (D.V.) -- please join us, take a look, shop, and support the ministry of Jesus Christ at Second Reformed Church -- thank you!

Monday, November 02, 2009

"Who Is Melchizedek?"

“Who is Melchizedek?”
Rev. Peter A. Butler, Jr.

One of the more curious characters we meet in the Scripture is one by the name of Melchizedek. We read this in Genesis:

“After [Abram’s] return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand ’ And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. And the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eschol, and Mamre take their share’” (Genesis 14:17-24, ESV).

At the very least, we can say this is a curious passage: Abram has come from defeating some of his enemies on the way to take the land of Canaan, according to God’s Will and Command, and after he has won the battle, he meets this Melchizedek in the King’s Valley. It is certainly a peaceful meeting – they have not come to war with each other. But who is Melchizedek?

We are told that he is the King of Salem. And, curiously, (since God did not allow any other king to also be priest), Melchizedek is said to be priest of God Most High – the same God that Abram worshiped (as we see in verse twenty-two). Melchizedek offered bread and wine to Abram. And Abram offered a tenth of everything he had to Melchizedek. And they parted.

We might consider this nothing more than a curious incident if the author of Hebrews did not tell us more about Melchizedek:

“We have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning home from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of the name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

“See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

“Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe from which no on ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

“This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is written of him, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’ This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (Hebrews 6:19-7:23, ESV).

What in the world is the author of Hebrews telling us?

At this point in the author of Hebrews’ letter, he is arguing that Jesus is a high priest, and a greater high priest that the priests of the Aaronic and Levitical orders – the two orders of priests we find in the Old Testament (save one).

The author of Hebrews argues that the priesthood of Melchizedek (a third order) is greater than that of Aaron and the Levi because the Levitical line came out of the descendants of Abraham, and Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, so, he representatively acted as the father of the Levitical priesthood and submitted himself to the greater priest, Melchizedek, by paying tithes to him, rather than vice-versa. In other words, since Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. And since Abraham was the father of the Levites (the Levites were “in” him), Melchizedek was greater than the Levites.

Now, the prophet said the Jesus is the one and only other member of the priesthood of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4). Therefore, if Melchizedek as priest is greater than Abraham and his descendants as priests, Jesus is also greater than Abraham and his descendants as priests.

But who is Melchizedek?

Figuring out who Melchizedek is reminds me of one of C. S. Lewis’ letters in which he addresses a child’s question of who Aslan is – unfortunately, I could not come across the exact quote, but he doesn’t tell the child. He asks the child to consider who Aslan the Lion might be – the Son of the Great Emperor Across the Sea, who broke the power of the White Witch by his death and resurrection – through the “deeper magic” – and came at the same time as Father Christmas.

Who might Melchizedek be?

According to the Scripture, He resembles the Son of God, He always existed and always will exist, He did not have father, mother, or descendants, He is the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace, He is the Highest and Perfect Priest, He received the offering of tithes, He offered up bread and wine, and the only other member of His Priesthood is Jesus, God Incarnate, the God-Man.

Who is Melchizedek?

There is an idea in theology called “theophany,” and in Christian theology, it specifically refers to a pre-Incarnate appearance of the Son of God. Jesus is the Incarnate appearance of the Son of God – God became man, Jesus of Nazareth. But, there are a few cases in the Scripture where there is a pre-Incarnate – visible – appearance of the Son of God.

Melchizedek was a pre-Incarnate appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity – the Son of God.

[This article is being published in Dnyndharama Issue #3, 2009 (Pune, India).]

Sunday, November 01, 2009

"Washed in the Blood of the Lamb" Sermon: Revelation 7:1-17

“Washed in the Blood of the Lamb”
[Revelation 7:1-17]
November 1, 2009 Second Reformed Church

Today is All Saints’ Day. And some may wonder why a Protestant church like ours would recognize the day – some of my colleagues gently tease me about it. All Saints’ Day or Hallowmas or All-Hallows (last night was All Hallows Eve, or Halloween) was instituted by Pope Boniface IV in 609 A.D. as a mass to be held every May 13th to “commemorate all those martyrs, known and unknown, who enjoy the beatific vision of God” (J. C. J. Metford, The Christian Year, 115).

For reasons that have been lost to history, Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1st in 789 A.D. And in the Saram Missal, it was explained that on this day we give thanks to God for the merits of the saints which are applied to us and for multiplying our intercessors before God (116).

Now, we don’t believe that: Jesus Christ is the Only Intercessor between humans and God, and only Jesus’ Merits are applied to us, not the saints. We don’t worship the saints. We don’t worship the deceased. We don’t believe that any of the deceased can contribute to our salvation. Salvation is of Jesus and Jesus Alone.

So, why bother with All Saints’ Day? We do have a time to remember those who have died during the past year, but we do so not merely to remember them or thinking that in some way they can do anything for us. No, we remember those who have died because their deaths remind us that we, too, will die, and there is a life after this life – and only two places a person will spend it. For those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation – we will spend eternity in the Presence of our God and Savior. Those who do not believe in Him will spend eternity in Hell receiving His Wrath.

This morning we turn to the seventh chapter of the book of Revelation to consider what we are told about the life after this life for all those saints who do believe in Jesus Alone for salvation. We are going to consider what this chapter tells us about the glimpse we are given of what you and I and all those who believe in Jesus Alone for Salvation will experience in the Kingdom.

Now, we are looking at the book of Revelation, and we need to keep a few things in mind as we do so:

First, the book of Revelation is written in symbolic language – it is written in a code – it is not meant to be taken word-for-word literally. For example, in verse nine, Jesus is called the Lamb. Jesus has not turned into a four-legged farm animal with curly fur. It is an image – a symbol – that has to be interpreted.

Second, whereas we struggle with interpreting some parts of this book, the original audience of this book would have understood it. John wrote the book of Revelation in this style to keep non-Christians from understanding, but the Christians of his day were suppose to understand it, and they would have. Our problem is that we do not live in the same context they did, so it takes more work for us to understand what John is saying.

Third, besides the difficulty of understanding what John means, many Christians stay away from the book of Revelation because they believe is it a terrifying work – like a Stephen King novel. But that was not John’s intent – as one reads over the whole book, it becomes obvious that John’s intent is to comfort the Church – to show them that the Promise of God is that even though things will get bad – there will be persecution – Jesus has already won. Jesus is already victorious. Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords from before time and forever and ever. So, John wants Christians to take comfort and not to be terrorized. Jesus is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church, because we belong to Jesus.

And fourthly, in the time that we have left to look at this chapter, I am not going to try to decode it all – much less the entire book of Revelation. Let us look to this chapter to learn a few doctrines – teachings – that we find in the light of All Saints’ Day.

Chapter seven has John seeing four angels at the four corners of the earth holding back the wind, so the wind would not blow on the earth – they are disrupting the patterns of nature – ready to harm the earth and the sea – to punish the creation to punish humanity. And God sends another angel who calls out in a loud voice, holding the Seal of the Living God – so they know he is a legitimate representative coming to them with instructions from God – saying, “Don’t harm the creation until all of the servants of God have been sealed on their foreheads.”

Now, if you’re like me, you’re picturing movies like “The Omen” where the little kid has a birthmark of “666" under his hairline or behind his ear – which is not on the forehead, brothers and sisters!

Symbols, brothers and sisters! I have never seen a Christian with a “bought by God” symbol of any kind on his or her forehead. Don’t be confused by Hollywood and fanciful teachers. Symbols!

What is John telling his readers? God will not allow any of the elect to be lost. Every single person that God has chosen for salvation will be saved. Neither human, nor demon can keep God from receiving every one He has chosen for Himself into the Kingdom. Remember Jesus’ prayer: “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know the truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:612, ESV).

John is telling the first century Christians that though the Romans slaughter them – which is what was happening – though the world and the demons come against them – God will not allow any of His elect to be lost. Everyone whom God intends to save and bring into His Kingdom will be saved and brought into the Kingdom. No matter what happens today or tomorrow or in the days to come, everyone that the Almighty, All-Knowing God intends to come to faith in Jesus Alone will be saved. Take comfort – none will be lost You will not be lost if you believe in Jesus Alone.

John goes on to describe 144,000 being sealed – saved. The Jehovah’s Witnesses take this absolutely literally and say, “Well, yes, there will only be 144,000 people in the Kingdom.” Without going into a lesson in numerology – the numbers three, four, twelve, and ten – which are found in 144,000 are symbolic and, together, the 144,000 means that the complete, full, perfect number will be sealed – not one will be lost – all of those intended will be sealed and saved.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses explain that they are the 144,000 who will be sealed and saved. But verses five through eight say that the 144,000 are 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel – John is talking about the Jews that will come to faith in Jesus Alone. (Perhaps we might ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses we know if they were born Jews...)

There was a question in the first century about whether God had abandoned the biological Jews – and the resounding answer across the New Testament – what John is saying here is, “No God has not abandoned the Jews. The full, complete number of Jews that God always intended to come to faith in Jesus will come to faith in Him Alone and be sealed and received into the Kingdom.”

John tells his original audience, and us, there are elect from all of the tribes of Israel. God is not done with the biological Jews. All that God intended will come to faith in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and Him Alone – the Only Savior.

But just as there was controversy about whether God had abandoned the biological Jews, there was a question concerning whether Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, was also for the Gentiles – the non-Jews. Did Jesus come just for the Jews? And, again, John says, “No!” Verse nine: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and the Lamb.”

Jesus is the One and Only Savior of the Jews and the non-Jews, every nation, every people, every tribe, every language. As Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16, ESV). It doesn’t matter who you are or what your heritage is or what you have done or how you were brought up – everyone who believes in Jesus Alone for salvation is sealed and saved and brought into the Kingdom of God – surely and eternally – without any chance of being lost.

Be comforted! If you believe in Jesus Alone – that He has paid the debt for your sins and credited you with His Holy Life – you are His forever and ever and no human or demon can ever change that – not even you. If you truly believe, it is because God planned from all of eternity to save you and make you His own. Be assured!

And then what?

John saw a great multitude dressed in white robes worshiping before the throne and the Lamb – Jesus – with palm branches in their hands, crying out, “‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’”

That is the picture we see of life in the Kingdom – worship. The primary thing that those who have died in Christ are engaged in and the primary thing that everyone of us who dies in Christ until He returns will be doing in the Kingdom is worshiping Him. The life after this life, for believers, is a life of eternal worship of our God and Savior.

Don’t worry – there won’t be any boring preachers, sinful preachers, who make mistakes in their preaching. There won’t be any bad hymns or bad music. You and I and all those who believe will be before the Face of God, in eternal worship, before the One Who is Utter Truth, Complete Beauty, Perfect Wisdom, Perfect Harmony. It will be a far more glorious worship that we can every imagine or experience here on earth.

But one of the elders turned to John and asked him if he knew who the group was that was wearing the white robes, and John admitted that he did not know and asked the elder to tell him. These, the elder explained, are the ones who came out of the great tribulation. What kind of things did they experience? This and more, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might again rise to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even in chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in the skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35b-38, ESV).

Some people who follow Jesus – some people who believe in Him Alone for salvation – will suffer horribly – even be put to death. Are you willing to be one of them? We would all like to die a quick and painless death – or even to be alive when Jesus returns and be taken straight into the Kingdom. But are you willing, for the Sake of Jesus, to suffer and die horribly? It’s something to consider. In America – for now – it is unlikely that we will suffer like that. We may some day. Christians around the world suffer horribly and are put to death for their faith in the most inhuman ways today.

Here is what one of them wrote – who suffered horribly in his life – and eventually was put to death by being decapitated: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18, ESV). I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us! As horrible as things might get on this earth – if we keep our eyes on Jesus – if we look at this life through His Promises and what we know will come – whatever we suffer for Him – is not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us!

“Well, you don’t know how much I have suffered,” you may say. And you’re right. None of us know how much any other person has really suffered. But take this word from Paul as a promise – the worst that you ever suffer for Jesus is not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us That is how great life in the Kingdom is. That is what those who have died in the faith are already beginning to experience.

Why? John tells us, because they have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Again, that does not mean that these people were literally washed in lamb’s blood – or in the physical blood of Jesus. What it tells us is that in dying – in shedding His Blood – as the Final and Eternal Sacrifice – Jesus has merited salvation for everyone who will believe in Him. Jesus has done all the work.

In his first letter, John wrote, “If we walk in the light, as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7, ESV).

“Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither shall they thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

On that final day, when Jesus returns, all the world – those who have believed and those who have not – will see the promises of Jesus come to pass. For those who have believed – for those who have gone before us and for we who have yet to die in the flesh, listen to these words of John, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4, ESV).

On this All Saints’ Day, let us be comforted and assured, remembering those who have died in Christ and considering for ourselves our future in Christ, believing what He has told us: all those God has purposed to save will be saved. God is still saving some from the biological Jews – through Jesus Alone. And He is also saving some from every type of person that ever was – through Jesus Alone.

And on that final day, because Jesus came to earth to live, suffer, die, rise, and ascend, all who believe in Him Alone are forgiven for their sins, credited with His Righteousness – destined to spend eternity in His Kingdom, in Glory – worshiping forever and ever – safe, secure, guided, at peace, without pain or sorrow.

For those of us who yet live, let us look forward to that day of being united with all of the saints in the Kingdom, and let us not forget that Jesus is with us right now, as He promised: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b, ESV). And He meets us spiritually, unites us with Him, strengthens us and empowers us by His Grace to do His Will, through the reading and preaching of His Word, and also through the sacraments. As we soon receive the bread and the cup, Jesus, Himself, the Very One Who has saved everyone who will believe, will meet with you and minister to you, for His Sake and to His Glory. Hallelujah!

Let us pray:
Savior God, it is almost too much to believe that You would choose to save a people for Yourself, but that is Your Promise, and You cannot lie. So we rejoice that those who have died in the faith are with You right now, and the day will come when we will join them and You in joy and worship. Be with us now. Minister Your Grace to us through the bread and the cup. And lead us on in assurance and hope. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.