Second Reformed Church

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Be Ready" Sermon: Matthew 24:37-44

“Be Ready”
[Matthew 24:37-44]
November 28, 2010 Second Reformed Church

Jesus has come. Jesus is here. Jesus is coming again.

During the season of Advent, which begins today, we will be looking at select Lectionary readings which look at the first and second Advent of our God and Savior, Jesus. (Remember, the Lectionary is a series of books that divides most of the Scripture into readings over a three year period.)

We begin the season looking at the Promise – the warning – of Jesus’ Second Coming, which He gave to His disciples. As we open this Scripture, let us remember what we saw some months ago in Peter’s letters, as he wrote, “...scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation. ... But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (II Peter 3:3b-4, 8-10, ESV).

Jesus promised that He will return and the disciples and the angels witness to that Promise. He will return when the time is fulfilled. And He will take us home to be with Him in the world without end.

Jesus and the disciples went up on the Mount of Olives, and they asked Him, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and the close of the age?” (Matthew 24:3b, ESV). Jesus had condemned the Pharisees and told of the overthrow of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, and the disciples wanted to know when this would happen – how much time did they have? When would Jesus’ Kingdom come in all its fullness?

We see part of Jesus’ answer in this morning’s Scripture: after Jesus explained to them that no one but the Father knows that actual date and time that Jesus will return, He told them that they must be ready for whenever He returns. And we – His latter disciples – also must be ready for whenever He returns.

Jesus told them that when He returns, it will be just like the days of Noah: people will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage – everything will look normal – good, even. And just as the lost were unaware of the flood until it swept them away – the lost will be unaware of Jesus’ returning until He sweeps them away.

Moses records: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:5-8, ESV).

Notice: in the days of Noah, everything seemed normal or good. They were not experiencing disaster and demons wreaking havoc. The authors of the Left Behind series are mistaken. The authors of the TV show Supernatural are mistaken. In the days of Noah, like the days of the return of Jesus, everything will seem normal and good. Though, in reality, we’re told, “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually.” Jesus will not return when it looks like “all hell is breaking loose”; Jesus will return when everything seems all right.

Then Jesus said that one will be taken and one left. Two men will be in the field, and one will be taken and one left. Two women will be working in the mill, and one will be taken and one left. What is Jesus talking about? There are several interpretations of this text, but not all of them make equal sense.

What Jesus was telling the disciples – and us – is two things:

First, our unions will not save us. Just because we are married to so-and-so or work with so-and-so will not save us. There is no salvation by association. We can’t say, “Oh, I go to Second Reformed Church, so Jesus has to receive me into the Kingdom.” No, when Jesus comes again, we must each answer for our own sins – or we must believe in Jesus Alone for our salvation – and then He will have paid our debt and credited us with His Righteousness.

Second, Jesus was warning the disciples – and us – that there may be times when we have to walk away from people. There may be times when there is nothing more that we can do. It may be that we have proclaimed the Gospel in every way and with all sincerity and accuracy, and some still don’t believe. And, in that moment, hard as it may be, we may have to leave them behind to the Wisdom and the Mercy of God, and go on to other work that God has for us.

Jesus continued by explaining that when He returns – it will be unexpected. Jesus will come when He is unexpected. Jesus will come at the very time when it doesn’t seem right that He would be coming – “Everything is fine – we don’t need to be saved.”

Jesus will be unexpected. Jesus uses the image of a thief who breaks in during the night – at an hour that he was not expected – for if the owner of the house knew that the thief was going to break in at such and such an hour, he would have been prepared for him. That makes sense, doesn’t it? If a thief is coming to rob your home and you know when the thief is coming, you would do something to stop or catch the thief, wouldn’t you? Jesus said He is coming like a thief, and He will be unexpected.

Paul wrote, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are children of light, children of day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing” (I Thessalonians 5:1-11, ESV).

Paul explains that Jesus will return like a thief in the night – unexpectedly. He will appear like a woman’s labor pains that cannot be escaped. But, Paul says that those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation are not in the dark – we are not drunk – we are not asleep. No, we belong to the day – we are awake, sober, and in the light. Jesus has saved us and given us a life of faith and hope and love, so that when He returns we will not be surprised, but safe. And since we have that assurance in Christ, we ought to encourage each other about Jesus’ Return.

Even so, Jesus warns the disciples – and us – to be ready. We are to be on the alert. We ought to always be expecting Jesus’ return – looking for Him – waiting for Him – hoping to see Him. Because He is coming – at a time we will not expect.

Jesus has come. Jesus is here. Jesus is coming again

From this, let us understand three things about Jesus:

First, Jesus has graciously and patiently given humanity time to repent and believe.

Jesus told His disciples that He would be put to death and rise and ascend back to the Father and after that, He would return to inaugurate the fulness of His Kingdom. And the disciples initially thought that Jesus would return in their lifetime, but they came to understand that God’s timing is not our timing and Jesus would return when the time was right.

But consider: if Jesus had returned right away, thousands and millions of people would never have come to faith and believed savingly in Jesus – all those people who were born in the past two thousand years and confessed faith in Jesus would not now be assured of being received into His Kingdom. If Jesus was not so gracious and patient, you and I would not be assured of being received into His Kingdom.

Second, Jesus graciously warned His disciples – and us – to keep alert – to be ready – for His surprising timing.

The disciples asked Jesus when these things would happen – when He would return – when the Temple would be destroyed – when Israel would be torn apart – and Jesus told them that only the Father knows the day and the hour. And Jesus could have left His answer at that – He was under no obligation to tell them anything. But in His Grace, Jesus put them on the alert – He told them to be ready – always – because Jesus was going to return at the very time when no one would expect it.

We remain in that position of knowing that Jesus is returning, but not knowing when. Yet, we have the same warning to be alert and ready, for Jesus is returning at the very moment when we don’t think He will return.

There are plenty of skeptics in the world. There are plenty of people who will tell us we a re fools to believe that a Man Who lived two thousand years ago would be returning to earth for us. But that is the promise He made. If Christianity has any truth in it, He must return for us, just as He has promised.

We ought to live our lives with the fact of Jesus’ Return before us. Let us not be surprised but be ready for when the sky parts and Jesus descends on the clouds to bring His people home. Let us develope such a mind-set and such a life-style that whenever Jesus returns, we will be ready for Him.

And third, Jesus has graciously given this Message of Hope to all who believe in Him.

Jesus has revealed His Gospel to us – that God the Son came to earth in the form of the human, Jesus, lived, died, rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven and is seated on His Throne, until the day that He returns with the fulness of His Kingdom.

Does it ever seem incredible to you that God has entrusted you and me with that message and told us to take it to the world – to the whole Creation? If God were not Sovereign, He would be taking a great risk. But since He is Sovereign, everything must happen according to His Plan, and we are assured that Jesus is returning, just as He said.

Is that Promise – that Sure Hope – good news to you this morning? Are you encouraged to know that Jesus is coming back for you and everyone who believes in Him Alone for salvation? Does it fill you heart with joy to know that you will never be forsaken, but a home is waiting for you – with Jesus – in His Kingdom?

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You that You have not left us in the dark but have brought us into the Light of Your Son through salvation and given us assurance of Your Plan and His Return in Your Word. We thank You for warning us to be alert – to be ready – for the surprising timing of His Return, and we ask that You would help us to be ready at all times – whenever You are pleased to return. We thank You that You have given us time to repent and believe – time to spread the Gospel to the whole world – and for the Hope in the Message that You have given us. As we remember Your first coming two thousand years ago, may we be ready for Your soon Second Coming. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

More School

The pastor will be in school Monday through Wednesday of this coming week and will, thus, be unavailable.  If you are in need, please contact a member of the Consistory.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Remember:  turkeys are people, too.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Do Not Weary of Doing Good" Sermon: II Thessalonians 3:6-13

“Do Not Weary of Doing Good”
[II Thessalonians 3:6-13]
November 14, 2010 Second Reformed Church

One of the sins we can fall into as Christians, knowing that Jesus is coming back, is to think that we can disregard the Creation and use it and abuse it. Another sin we can fall into is to think that since Jesus is coming back, we don’t have to work, and we call on the Church and/or the State to provide for us.

A significant portion of the Christians in Thessalonica were committing the second sin – so many of them had quit their jobs, saying, “If Jesus is returning, why should we work?” – so Paul had to address the problem in his two letters to the church. They thought, “if Jesus is returning soon, why shouldn’t the Church just provide for us?”

On this Sunday, we consider ideas about stewardship, as well as thanksgiving. And in our text we find Paul addressing the question: Is it right for a person w Christians who refuse to work. Not that they were wrong about Jesus coming back soon – He is – but soon did not mean within their lifetimes. But that’s not even the point – their sin was two-fold – that they refused to work when they were able and that they assumed that the church should supply their needs.

So Paul tells the Thessalonian Christians that they are not to welcome or assist or eat with any Christian who is able and refuses to work. That is, with anyone who is “walking in idleness” and not with the tradition that they received from Paul.

What was the tradition they received from Paul?

Paul reminds them that Paul and his companions worked while they ministered among the Thessalonians. Paul made tents and sold them to pay for his needs. Paul and his companions ate with them, but they paid for their own food – they did not expect that the church would feed them for free. Instead, they preached the Gospel of Jesus and worked another job so they would not have to burden the Thessalonians by requiring pay from them. And, Paul reminds them, it is the right of the pastor to receive his livelihood from the Church. Paul could have required that they pay him and provide for his needs, but he did not ask for pay in order to show them humility and generosity and to encourage them to act in like manner – not because he wasn’t due that support.

Paul reminds them that while they were with them, he gave them the command: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” If that sounds cruel, consider, if someone in this church was able to work, but refused to work, and came to the Consistory and asked for money for food, how ought they to respond? Should they enable the person’s sin?

No. If these people are truly Christians, Paul says that we ought to command and encourage them – we ought to tell them what they are doing is not right – it is sin, and then we ought to encourage them to work – to work quietly – and to earn their own living – to stop living as though they are entitled to someone else providing for their needs.

Now, the Christians in Thessalonica tried to excuse their actions by saying that Jesus was coming back soon, so why not just live off of what the church had? Most people today who “abuse the system” or family or church don’t do so because they believe that Jesus is returning in days or months, they do so out of greed – out of believing that they are entitled or owed a living.

We cannot allow people to abuse family and church and “the system” in that way – especially in the church – because there are people who honestly need help – people who can’t work for one reason or another or who honestly can’t – at least for the time being – earn enough to pay for their needs.

So Paul tells the Thessalonians – and all of us – “do not grow weary in doing good.” Do not grow weary in doing those things which are good and right and God-glorifying. Do not grow weary in showing the Love of Christ by helping those who really need help – not those who are just unwilling to provide for themselves. Do not grow weary and fade into your lounge chair or your couch.

Why not?

First, we are to work and to do good because God works and does good. Humans were created in the Image of God, and part of what it means to be created in the Image of God is that we – like God – work. In Genesis one and two, Moses tells us that God created everything that is in six days and rested on the seventh. And then, Moses tells us in Exodus 20:8-11, that we – humans – are commanded to work six days and then rest on the seventh. God built into us that pattern of work and rest with which He created everything that is.

The Image of God in us has been marred by sin – it is not as easily seen as it once was or as it will be when we are received into glory. But as people look at us and see us work hard and work honestly – giving the best that we are able in the work that we are called to do – people see in us – though not perfectly – something of the Character – of the Nature – of God Himself.

Second, we are to work because God called work “good.” In the Creation, God called the work that He did “good.” And once He had created humans, God gave them the responsibility – the work – of tending and keeping the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). This was not a punishment – this was a gift from God to engage with God in the creative process – and so it is today.

Now, we know that things are different from the Garden. Today, everything has been infected by sin. So work is difficult, it is not necessarily enjoyable all the time – we have songs such as “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend.” But work was not created to be hard and discouraging, and it won’t be in the Kingdom. So, in working to the best that we are now, we witness to our hope and faith in the world to come when all work will be pleasant and joyful and God-glorifying.

Third, we are to work because God has given us work to do – especially we Christians. And to neglect the work that God has given us is sin. Paul explains, “For 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).

Paul explains that you and I were created by God – we are His creation – and all of us that He created in Christ Jesus – all of us whom He elected and called to faith in Jesus, as Christians – God created us in Christ Jesus for good works. God created us and made us Christians – and one of the reasons He did so was so we would do certain good works. And these works God prepared beforehand – before what? Before the Creation. So before anything existed, God chose you and me and all Christians to be created in Jesus – saved through Jesus – to do certain good works that God chose for us to do as Christians. And those are the works we ought to walk in.

I wonder if we ought not be amazed at that: the Almighty God chose to create the world, but before He did so, He decided to send His Son to redeem a people for Himself – Christians. And God created those Christians who would one day exist in Jesus – through His Work which merits salvation. And He prepared good works for each of us to do in obedience and thanksgiving for what He did through Jesus. God decided all that before He created anything. That’s really quite amazing, isn’t it?

Finally, we are to work because if we do the good works that “God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” we cannot help but be successful in what we set out to do. Why? Paul wrote, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to competition at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).

What did Paul mean? Paul was saying that our salvation is a good work that God began in us and brings to completion at the day of Christ Jesus when we are received into the Kingdom and glorified. That is specifically the good work Paul has in mind in this text, but it does not seem too much of a stretch to say that any good work that God begins in us will be brought to competition because it is God who gives us the work to accomplish and God who gives the ability to accomplish the work He has given us and God Who makes sure the work gets completed – because God is the One Who wants and plans that the work be done.

This is similar to what we saw when we looked at prayer: prayer is not our convincing God of something or giving Him some knowledge He didn’t have. Prayer is the process of becoming in line with the Mind of God so that when we pray for something, what we pray for is what God wants, so God says “yes” to our prayer. So, if we pray for what God wants, God will do it. That’s what it means to prayer “in Jesus’ Name.”

Similarly, if God wants us to do a good work out of obedience and thanksgiving to Him for what He has done for us, and we set out to do that good work, God will make sure that we accomplish that good work – for His Glory and our joy.

For example, God commands us to the work of being holy: “Be holy as I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). Therefore, since that work of becoming holy is something that God wants of us, it will happen – it cannot fail to happen – because God gives us the grace and the power to accomplish it.

Don’t misunderstand, we still have to work hard to accomplish what God has given us to do: becoming holy is not something we can accomplish in an afternoon. In fact, becoming holy is something that we won’t achieve until Jesus returns. Yet, ultimately, we don’t have to worry about failing, because if God is bringing to pass – in us and through us – what God wants us to do and become – it cannot fail to happen. It cannot fail to be. Because God cannot fail.

That’s why I can say to you with confidence that Second Reformed Church will stand and proclaim the Gospel for as long as God has work for us to do. So let us not weary of doing good. Let us seek God’s Will and do everything we understand that God is calling us to do. Let us work hard knowing that everything that God would have for us and have us do will come to pass as God works in and through us.

Let us pray:
Persevering God, we thank You that You will bring all that You have set for us to do to competition. We thank You especially that You will bring the fulness of our salvation to competition. We ask that You would strengthen us and give us Your Grace that we would not grow weary of doing good, but would be invigorated and livened by Your Word to follow after You in obedience and thanksgiving. Help us to know the difference between those who are in need and those who are sinning by not working. Help us to guide those who are not working to jobs that they might honor You in their work. And may Jesus receive all the glory. For it is in His Name we pray, Amen.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"The Lamb Will Be Their Shepherd" Sermon: Revelation 7:2-17

“The Lamb Will Be Their Shepherd”
[Revelation 7:2-17]
November 7, 2010 Second Reformed Church

Today is All Saints’ Sunday, and we have heard one of the Lectionary Scriptures for today from chapter seven of the book of Revelation. All Saints is a time to remember those who had died and been received into eternal life by their God. We have a time when we name family members and friends who have been received into their reward and also our animal companions.

Before we look at the actual text, we need to understand a few things about John’s book: Many people think that the book of Revelation is a fearsome book that we ought to avoid, but that is not the case: the book of Revelation is a book of hope. Its difficulty is that it is written in a first century Jewish code to keep Romans who might intercept the book from understanding the message of hope that John was sending to the Christians who were being severely persecuted by Emperor Nero of Rome.

John tells his readers that while he was exiled on the Island of Patmos, he was given a series of visions concerning the persecution of the Church and her victory in Christ.

In verses two and three, John tells us that John saw an angel come from the sun with the seal of the living God. The seal of the living God is God the Holy Spirit Who lives in everyone who believes in Jesus Alone for salvation. And this angel calls out to four other angels who have been given the power to harm the earth and the sea. Four, in Jewish numerology, is the whole Creation. We talk about the four corners of the earth, the four seasons, and so forth. And the first angel tells the other four angels not to harm the earth and the sea or the trees until we have sealed all the servants of God on their forehead.

So, if the Holy Spirit seals all those who are saved by faith alone through Jesus Alone, John is assuring his readers that God will not allow the end to come until every person who will ever believe – the elect – profess faith in Jesus. Jesus will not lose one that the Father has given Him. The end will not come until everyone that God intends to save is saved.

Then John tells his readers in verses four through eight that twelve thousand people will be saved in each of the twelve tribes of Israel – a total of 144,000. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Judah. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Reuben. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Gad. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Asher. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Naphtali. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Manasseh. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Simeon. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Levi. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Issachar. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Zebulun. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Joseph. Twelve thousand from the tribe of Benjamin.

So, let us understand here that God will save the full number of those He chose to save out of the nation of Israel – that is, biological Jews. But why 144,000? When we consider the number of people on earth – and the number of Jews that have come to professes faith in Jesus as the Messiah – the Savior – that number is way too small. We may know that the Jehovah’s Witnessers teach that the 144,000 are only those who believe in their religion – and they say the 144,00 is a real, literal number – which makes for problems for them, since far more than 144,000 have believed in their religion. But they have figured a way out – the 144,000 – they say – are the Jehovah’s Witnesses on the top floor of the House of God – those with penthouse suites.

But what did John intend for them to understand? How would a first century Jew have understood the number 144,000? Well, 144 is twelve squared. And twelve among other things, is three times four. Four, we have said, is the fullness of Creation. Three is perfect communion – or perfect community. 1,000 is ten to the third power, and, for the Jews, whenever something is raised to the third power, it is indicating an absolute. So, when the Scripture tells us that God is holy, holy, holy – we are being told that God is absolutely holy and there is none more holy than God. So, this is again a message of assurance, telling the biological Jews who have come to faith in Jesus that God will save the absolutely perfect communion of biological Jews from all over the world and out of every tribe – God will not miss anyone, and the tribe one comes from is of no advantage in salvation.

Then John sees something new in verses nine through twelve: “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” – the biological Jews that God will save are only one part of His people – His Kingdom – God will save people from every type of people – from every language and nation and heritage and upbringing and race – there will be representatives of every people in the Kingdom – and they – with the Jews who believe – will be a great multitude. So, don’t lose hope because you were not born a Jew – salivation is about Jesus – not biology.

And this great multitude is before the Lamb and the throne – and we understand that the Lamb is Jesus – “behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” – and they were all dressed in white robes holding palm branches, worshiping the Lamb, crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb ” And the angels and the elders and the four living creatures joined in falling on their faces and worshiping the Lamb saying, “Amen Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever Amen.” Because Jesus is not just the Lamb Who was slain, but He is the Almighty God Who rose from the dead. He is worthy of all praise forever and ever. And He will be worshiped by everyone – from every people – who believe in Him.

And then one of the elders turned to John and asked him a question: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” John asks that the elder tell him and the elder tells him “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” What is John being told? John is being told that although God will not allow the end to come before all of the elect are sealed with the Holy Spirit and although God will save everyone He intends to save, both from the biological Jews and everyone else, many, many Christians will die for the sake of Jesus; God does not promise that Christians will be spared suffering and death for the sake of Christ. In fact, many, many will be put to death for confessing Jesus before He returns.

That was the hard pill that the Christians were swallowing while John was on Patmos: Nero was turned Christians into living garden torches. He was feeding them to wild animals. And doing all sorts of depraved things to them for confessing Christ. And some were questioning where God was and whether they themselves had truly believed, but John tells them, “Yes, be assured of your salvation. God grants salvation to whomever He will and seals them with the Holy Spirit and then they are His forever and will be brought into His Kingdom. However, many will be brought into the Kingdom by a violent death for the sake of Jesus.

The author of Hebrews writes, “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in 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).

Jesus does not promise that Christians will have it easy in this life. In fact, He promises that Christians will be persecuted because Jesus was persecuted. Still, every one that Jesus has chosen from all the peoples of the earth – out of the biological Jews and all the rest of the peoples – every one will be sealed, filled with the Holy Spirit, and received into Paradise with Jesus – the Lamb Who was slain. He will lose none, and the end will not come before each one is sealed. And we know that He will lose none because He gave Himself up – the Lamb allowed Himself to be slaughtered for everyone who would believe – so that each one of us is covered with His Blood and washed clean, so that Father sees in us the Sacrifice of the Lamb – His Beloved Son – and loves us and adopts us as His children.

And then the elders tell John in the rest of this chapter – and John tells the Christians – many of whom will be called to give their lives for the sake Jesus and His Gospel – that the Lamb would be the Shepherd of all those who are sealed with God the Holy Spirit and with all those who die in the faith. That sounds backwards, doesn’t it? The Lamb will be their Shepherd? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that the Shepherd will shepherd the sheep?

Jesus is the Lamb of God Who was sacrificed for all those sheep He came to save. Jesus is the Shepherd Who lay down His Life for His sheep. Jesus, the Lamb of God, shepherds His sheep.

And here we have a picture of life in the Kingdom: the sheep are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in the temple; and He Who sits on the throne shelters the sheep with His Presence. The sheep give thanks to God and to the Lamb, serving Him, and He shelters and protects His sheep for all of eternity.

John is told that in the Kingdom, the sheep – the Christians – will never hunger or thirst any more, and they won’t suffer in the harsh realities of the weather; He will keep them safe from wind and sun. There will be no more lack or distress In fact, the Lamb, as the Shepherd of His sheep – will guide everyone who believes in Him to springs of living water.

We may remember that Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well, and He asked her for a drink. And she was shocked, because Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, was talking to a Samaritan – and not only that – a Samaritan woman. So, she asks Him why He is talking to her. And He tells her that she should ask Him for living water. And she tells Him that He doesn’t have a bucket. And Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13b-15, ESV). By the end of the conversation, she professes faith in Jesus and received the living water.

Likewise, David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters (Psalm 23:1-2, ESV). Part of what Jesus does for us – and all Christians – is give us living water, lead us beside still water, guide us to springs of living water. Jesus satisfies our ultimate need by giving up Himself for us.

And when He receives His sheep into the kingdom, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. The point of chapter seven is that Jesus ultimatly brings His people home. He tells them that they will suffer and many will die. There will be crying and hardship for any who confess faith in Jesus. And many will die before Jesus returns – some died from this congregation this year.

Yet, those who have died in the faith are in Paradise now. Jesus the Lamb is shepherding them now. They are at peace – filled with joy – longing for the fulfillment of the Kingdom and the bringing in of the 144,000 and the great multitude – and then the great restoration. That day is coming.

In the mean time, we look forward with hope and assurance that Jesus is returning. And as we receive the means of grace, such as the Lord’s Supper, which we will soon receive – Jesus communes with us spiritually – and with every believer throughout time and space. So, as we receive the bread and the cup, and each believer communes with Jesus, we, through Jesus, commune with every other believer throughout time and space, looking forward to the day when we all shall be before the Lamb and the throne.

The book of Revelation is meant to be a book of comfort for Christians who are suffering for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel. Be comforted and assured, then, that no matter what happens to us for Jesus’ Sake – He will lose none of us, and will bring us to Him. And be assured and comforted that all those who have died in the faith are now with Jesus – in His Presence, filled with joy, waiting for the rest of us.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Savior, Lamb Who was Slain, Great Shepherd of the Sheep, we thank You for the assurance that all those who have died before us in the faith are in glory with You. And because You are the Great God and Only Savior, each one of us whom You have chosen for Yourself will be received into Paradise and the Kingdom. Give us strength to stand for You in hope. Be with us now – even as we receive the bread and the cup – and may the communion of the saints be ever more real to us as our faith grows in You. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

November Sermons

D.V., in November, I plan to preach:

11/7/10 Communion/All Saints 
 Revelation 7:2-17  “The Lamb Will Be Their Shepherd”

11/14/10 Stewardship/Thanksgiving
 II Thessalonians 3:6-13  “Do Not Weary of Doing Good”

11/21/10 Christ the King
 Guest preacher: Rev. Dr. Solomon Tivade

11/28/10 Advent 1
 Matthew 24:37-44  “Be Ready”