2021:Sundays of Easter

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Why Keep Commandments (1Jn5:3)

  • Introduction: Today is Mothers’ Day.  According to the Britannica on-line[1], a woman named Anna Jarvis honored her mother with a memorial service held on May 12th, 1907. This started a trend which swept throughout the country.  By 1914, President Wilson made it a national holiday.  Anna Jarvis must have had a good experience with her mother to the point of honoring her for her mother’s public service of organizing women’s groups which promoted friendship and health.  Not all of us have had good experiences with our mother.  However, whether good or bad experience with your mother, she is in the position the Lord placed her.  And because the Lord put her in the position of authority, that entitles her respect and honor.
    • The Apostle Paul quoted the 4th commandment - Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may turn out well for you, and that you may live long on the earth. (Eph 6:2-3 quoting Deu 5:16)
    • For many people, honoring their father or mother is not a problem.  They love their parents.  I didn’t always have a good relationship with my parents, but I am grateful my father is considering moving to southern Arizona.  I would love to have him back in my life, and not be separated by 3,000 miles of distance.  I have an excellent relationship with my wife Karla’s parents.  It is easy to honor parents we love and cherish.  In fact, it’s easy to honor and love anyone we prize in our life.  How easy is it to love, honor, and cherish our Lord?  This is the question we will contemplate from today’s message taken from our Epistle reading.
  • Let Us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, our word for consideration on today concerns showing love for You by keeping your commandments.  Lord, we fail at that request so often!  Please send Your Spirit to work in us true faith and love so that with all You have given us and with all we do, we somehow bring honor and glory to You.  We bring these petitions before You, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ and by the aid of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: Let me address all the ladies of the congregation for a moment. Don’t worry guys, I’ll get to you in a moment. 😊 Ladies, you are all mothers to someone – even if you are childless. The Apostle Paul at the end of his letter to the Romans goes through a list of people he wants to greet.  He was most likely writing this letter from Corinth which was a bit of a distance, but nonetheless close enough that he would have encountered other Christians at one time or another.  One of the people Paul mentioned in his greetings was a person named Rufus.  We think this is the same Rufus who was a son of Simon of Cyrene.  If you recall, Simon of Cyrene was the guy a Roman soldier forced to carry Jesus’ cross to Golgatha after Jesus stumbled with it.  We sometimes have a tendency when reading the bible to gloss over the names of people, but God made sure certain names appear in the bible for a reason.  That therefore makes those people important.  This is why some theologians think this Rufus of Rom 16:13 is the same Rufus who was son of Simon of Cyrene.  Anyway, Paul’s greeting went like this - 13 Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine[2].  “…His mother and mine.”  It depends how you want to punctuate that phrase, but the way I read that is the mother of Rufus was so accommodating to Paul in his ministry that Paul considered Rufus’ mom like a mom to Paul[3].  Women are not allowed by God to administer the sacraments, and we can get into that at another time.  But that doesn’t mean women cannot be part of the ministry.  We have an example here with the Apostle Paul receiving the care and nurturing of a woman to the point of being like another mother to him! Jesus also had many women who followed Him throughout His 3yr ministry.
    • Okay guys, time to tune in once again.  At the risk of suddenly sounding transgender and joining with the God-creation deniers who say there are more than just two sexes, even us guys are lumped in with mothers.  In previous sermons, you have heard it said that we are all adopted sons through Christ. We have sonship through our baptism given to us by Christ to cleanse us of our sins and keep us in the true faith. Ladies are suddenly adopted sons through baptism.  Well, Jesus asked in Mat ch#12, 48 But Jesus replied to the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” 49 And extending His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold: My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother.[4]” We know all of the disciples were male, so for them to be referred to by Jesus as “mother and brothers” means something more than just whether a person is male or female.  All who do the will of God the Father are mothers, brothers, and sisters.  In this context, we can have a Happy Mothers’ Day as both someone honoring our mother, wife, and any female for that matter on today, and also being honored as one who does the will of God the Father.
    • I have another New Testament example of males exhibiting the attributes of a mother.  This one is in the first of two letter the Apostle Paul wrote to a church in the ancient Grecian city of Thessalonica.  I believe Paul wrote his two letters to the Thessalonians in the early 50’s AD.   Listen as I read a portion of 1Th ch#2 -  For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is our witness— nor did we seek honor from people, either from you or from others, though we could have asserted our authority as apostles of Christ. But we proved to be gentle among you. As a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own childrenin the same way we had a fond affection for you and were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us[5].  The Apostle Paul must have visited Thessalonica prior to winter of 51/52 when this letter was written, because he is referring to a prior visit with them. He now is following up on that visit with this letter.  Paul was a man, but notice in this letter his reference to being gentle like a mother nursing a child.  Paul didn’t ever mince words.  Everything to Paul was black & white.  And yet, he was apparently not harsh with the baby Christians who had just come to faith in Thessalonica.  This is something us guys need to remember in our dealings with others.
  • Application: Martin Luther wrote the Large Catechism around 1527.  He wrote the Large Catechism first and then abbreviated that into the Small Catechism.  In his explanation of the 4th commandment from the Large Catechism, he wrote about love and honor to devote towards parents.  Quoting from the Tappert translation into English – To fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special distinction, above all estates that are beneath it, that He commands us not simply to love our parents but also to honor them.  With respect to brothers, sisters, and neighbors in general He commands nothing higher than that we love them.  Thus He distinguishes father and mother above all other persons on earth, and places them next to Himself.  For it is a much greater thing to honor than to love.  Honor includes not only love but also deference, humility, and modesty, directed (so to speak) toward a majesty hidden within them[6].  Martin Luther interpreted the 4th Commandment as given deference, humility, and modesty to mothers and fathers almost as if the majesty of God were in them. In fact, Luther made it clear, parents are in the position of authority over us as God’s representatives.  If we dishonor our mothers and fathers, we might just as well be dishonoring God.
    • What does the honoring of mothers look like, not just on Mothers’ Day, but every day?  Paul wrote about this in a broad sense to his son in the faith, Timothy - Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, and to the younger men as brothers, to the older women as mothers, and to the younger women as sisters, in all purity[7]. Can a mother ever be wrong?  Be careful before you answer! 😊 News flash: mothers are sinners just like you & me. When they are wrong, Paul is saying here, by inspiration from God, that we need to be gentle with our correction. And that gentleness applies not just to biological- or step-moms, but to all women older than you.  If there are no other women older than you, you’re not totally off the hook, because Paul makes it clear that younger women are to be treated like a sister.  This coaching by Paul is based in Pro 15:1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger[8].  That’s what honor and respect looks like.
    • When Jesus separated the sheep from the goats in Mat ch#25, He said – “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.[9]”  Jesus when through a short list of good deeds done for others by the sheep who were to inherit the kingdom prepared for them.  Compassion and respect shown in the form of good deeds done to the least of the human race, were done as if done to Jesus Himself.  It’s Mothers’ Day and so we focus on the females in our life, whether they be mothers or sisters.  God has made clear on how He wants His people to treat one another and not just females.  With what Jesus said in Mat ch#25, if we do good things and stay away from doing the bad, not only have we done good for the people in our life, we have also done those things to God.
  • Analysis: This is where we get to the text for today in 1Jn 5:03 - For it is the love of God, that we might keep His commandments. And the commandments do not weigh us down. 
    • We’ve just heard from the Lord’s word about doing good deeds for others.  We should honor mothers and fathers in our life.  We should show respect for one another.  But God doesn’t want us going through life thinking, “I guess I have to get a Mothers’ Day card, so I can show love.”  What does that sort of attitude say about commitment? Are we to conclude we should just check the boxes on the calendar for days Hallmark says we need to buy their cards and we call it done?  No; God wants us to honor and respect people out of genuine love and not out of obligation.  He’d like to see us have a heart that wants to please those around us to the extent it depends upon us.
      • For instance, is it a heavy obligation or burden to fix a favorite dish for someone?  Or, how about making those peanut butter cookies that have the chocolate kiss stuck in the center?  You would make them just because you know someone in your life would enjoy that, and not because you have an obligation.
      • Another example of pleasing someone not out of obligation is to just visit with them.  Does it weigh you down to visit with them?
    • The Apostle Peter reminded all of us in Christ we are a royal priesthood (1Pe 2:5,9).  We all by God’s grace are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people for God’s own possession.  However, do we always act like those choice people?  Listen to the Lord’s complaints about how He was treated in the past as I read sections of Mal 1:6-13 - “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord…to you, the priests who despise My name! But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ And when you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not evil? Or when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not evil? So offer it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you, or would he receive you kindly?” says the Lord … 11 …My name shall be great among the nations,” says the Lord... 12 “But you are profaning it by your saying, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ 13 You also say, ‘See, how tiresome it is!’ And you view it as trivial,” says the Lord…, “and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I accept it from your hand?” says the Lord[10].  The Lord was justifiably and royally ticked off with His people at the time of Malachi which was 400yrs before Christ was born.  No one seemed to be showing honor to Him.  They would toss something together as an offering on the appointed times of the year, much like the Hallmark greeting cards times of the year we have in 2021, and call it done.  There really was no regard for whether the offering of time, talent, or treasure was something which would be pleasing to the Lord.  Follow the commandments of the Lord?  Yeah, we can do that three times a year, and that’s it.  Otherwise, I’m busy with other things.  Don’t you think the Lord is hurt when we display an attitude like that?
    • If we can do good things for those we love, why would it be any different than doing things for the Lord out of love for Him?  Your mother probably did a lot in your life to get you off to a good start.  I know of parents paying for a child’s entire undergraduate tuition bill.  My own dad did that for me so I would get off to a good start in a career.  That was no small feat to accomplish, especially for me having gone to a private engineering college.  That education got me into a lot of places throughout my career.  It also provided lasting benefits, as I still use some of the skills I learned back in the 1980’s.
      • Jesus said, “15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.[11]”  He didn’t just say it once to His disciples on the night one of those same disciples handed Him over to the mob determined to kill Him.  A paragraph later in John ch#14, Jesus again makes clear on what pleases Him - 21 The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him.[12]”  People throughout the ages have wondered what will please God.  It’s pretty simple if you think about it: learn what He likes, and then go do it.  We learn about what He likes through His word.  The Ten Commandments are a good start.  But Jesus throughout His ministry provided refinement on what those Ten Commandments mean in a practical sense.  Coming to church each week and staying for bible class are good ways to get into God’s word and find out what pleases Him.  Daily devotions are also fruitful in learning God’s word and practical ways of keeping His word as our text for today indicated.
  • Conclusion: Let me repeat the text for today in 1Jn 5:03 - For it is the love of God, that we might keep His commandments. And the commandments do not weigh us down.  Parents and peers are God’s representatives.  We saw the connection in the passages I cited earlier and you can review on the back of your bulletin.
    • When we treat each other with honor and respect, we ultimately do it to the Lord.  It’s hard to imagine a 1st century slave somehow bringing honor to the Lord by being a good slave, but at least listen for a moment to what Paul wrote in Eph 6:5-9 - Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With goodwill render service, as to the Lord, and not to people, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive this back from the Lord, whether slave or free. And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him[13].
    •  The reason we are to keep the commandments is not out of obligation.  The Apostle John in our text stated it is our love shown to God when we keep His commandments.  God didn’t give the commandments to create heavy burdens on us. He did it to separate His people from the rest of the fallen, sinful world; i.e. separate the sheep from the goats. We are asked to act like the King’s kids.  How are the King’s kids supposed to act?  We find in His word how we love Him, and love one another.  And when we get the commandments integrated into all things we say and do, we remain in His love, just as Jesus kept His Father’s commandments and remained in His love.  Jesus faithfully kept the commandments of the Father even to death on a cross.  As we have observed throughout this Easter season, because of Jesus’ innocent suffering and death, and His subsequent resurrection from the dead, we too will rise from the dead to never die again. He will be our God and we will be His people eternally.  This is most certainly true!


 


[1] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mothers-Day

[2] Rom 16:13 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+16&version=NASB

[3] Middendorf, Michael P., Concordia Commentary on Romans 9-16, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, p.1565 agrees with this contention

[4] Mat 12:48-50 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+12&version=NASB

[5] 1Th 2:5-8 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1th+2&version=NASB

[6] Tappert, Theodore G., The Book of Concord, Large Catechism, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1959, p.379

[7] 1Ti 5:1-2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1ti+5&version=NASB

[8] Pro 15:1 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs%2015&version=NASB

[9] Mat 25:40b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+25&version=NASB

[10] Mal 1:6-13 – from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mal+1&version=NASB

[11] John 14:15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+14&version=NASB

[12] John 14:21 - IBID

[13] Eph 6:5-9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+6&version=NASB

React to the Resurrection (Act1:14)

  • Introduction: Today is the last Sunday of the Easter season.  Next week, we will celebrate the festival of Pentecost. Some have referred to Pentecost as the birthday of the Christian Church on earth.  It is through the church where we receive the gifts from God for the people of God.    Only in the church do we receive the sacraments of Baptism and Communion.  Through these, we receive the forgiveness of sins and faith.  These gifts do not make any sense to us unless the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and sinfulness, and then gives us faith to take hold of the gift of forgiveness of those sins and sinfulness.  We’ll talk more about Pentecost on next week, but for now, Pentecost is the event when the gift of promised the Holy Spirit was given.  (Act 1:4-8)
    • Today though, we want to look at the reaction of Jesus’ (half) brothers in our text which serves as the basis for the message of today found in Act 1:14 - 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers[1].
    • I want to spend some time on who many theologians think the phrase, “…and His brothers”  refers to, and then look into what can we learn from the reaction of these “brothers”.
  • Let Us Pray:  Lord God, heavenly Father, we stand in awe thinking about those who were with Your one and only Son, the Lord Jesus, on the day He came back into Your heavenly home. We long for the day when we may join Him and You to spend eternity there.  We pray that You send your Spirit to be present as we ponder the reaction of Your Son’s half-brothers after He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  Help us to understand Your Word and how to apply it in our daily life.  We bring these petitions before You, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ and by the aid of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: You are probably wondering why I have used the term “half-brothers” to refer to the male siblings of our Lord Jesus.  The Bible has the names of Jesus’ male siblings in Mat 13:55. They are James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.  These names were given in the context of the people of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, questioning how Jesus was able to teach in the synagogue with such wisdom and perform mighty works.  After all, they saw Jesus grow up in the house of Joseph and saw the family grow with four additional boys and at least two girls.  They were offended that Jesus would be speaking in the synagogue as he was. 
    • What they didn’t realize through the lens of faith is Jesus had a different Father than these four boys and their sisters.   The Gospel of John is clear regarding the heritage of Jesus.  Let me quote to you some familiar passages.  In John ch#1, we read - 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth[2].  Also, from John ch#3 you will probably recognize - 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.  18 The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God[3].  Jesus has a different Father than the siblings He had through His mother, Mary.  The siblings all had Joseph as their father and Mary as their mother.  This is why I like to be deliberate in referring to Jesus’s human brothers as His biological half-brothers.
    • The ascension of our Lord Jesus occurred 40 days after He rose from the dead that first Easter morning.  Recall from our Easter message, there were at least four women plus the Roman cohort guarding the tomb who saw first-hand Jesus exiting the tomb on His own power.  During those 40 days after Easter, Jesus appeared to about 500 other people. The Apostle Paul early in 1Co ch#15 mentioned Jesus’ appearances to the Apostle Peter and the “12” in addition to these 500, and then pointed out specifically in verses 7&8 - then [Jesus] appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.[4]”  Some of these people who saw Jesus on Easter morning also saw Him ascend into heaven – with some notable additions – Jesus’ half-brothers. (Act 1:14)
      • These are the same brothers who at one time did not believe in their big brother as the Messiah who would come.  John ch#7 starts out with the Feast of Booths coming up.  That was a feast in the Jewish calendar which the Lord said His people needed to celebrate as a lasting reminder of the Israelites living in tents or booths after being released from the slavery of Egypt. Jesus’ half-brothers were goading Him into showing Himself to the world.  That’s when John in his Gospel account made the observation - For not even His brothers believed in Him[5].  
      • These are the same brothers who stood outside with their mother and sisters planning to do an intervention with Jesus (Mat 12:46-50), because they probably thought He was crazy for going on tour throughout Judea and Galilee preaching a ministry of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
        • Jesus’ reaction at that time of this attempted intervention was to clarify who were His true mother, brothers, and sisters. (Mat 12:49-50)  We briefly touched on this in last week’s message on Mothers’ Day.  Jesus responded by extending His hands toward His disciples and said, “49bBehold: My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother.[6]
    • I’m an only child so it’s a bit harder for me to identify with having siblings.  I didn’t have to live with a truly perfect sibling – not just one who claimed they were perfect.  I can imagine by the time the siblings were in their teens, they would have hated their perfect big brother, and probably picked on Him for being so perfect.  It’s in our nature to dislike people who are successful, and there is reason to believe Jesus endured persecution for His perfection even when growing up.  Even so, we see in today’s first reading, Jesus’ half-brothers became “full” brothers through faith.  They had seen their big Brother sometime after the resurrection, and came to faith despite probably hating Him when they were growing up.
      • I should note: not all theologians agree with this interpretation about who was indicated by the word “brothers” in Act 1:14.  However, the deliberate separation by Luke of the reference to brothers, *after* listing Mary the mother of Jesus, to me is an indication the brothers listed after Mary are a different group of brothers than the brother disciples and apostles.  Additionally, consider these facts about two of the four half-brothers:
        • James became the leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem. This is certainly confirmed by Luke in Act 15:13 with the reference to James, who spoke to the ecumenical council assembled to address an issue of whether the Gentiles who were coming to the faith in Jesus Christ had to be circumcised.  This is not the same James, brother of John, because James, son of Zebedee, was the first of the Apostles to be killed.  His death preceded the James mentioned in Act ch#15.  This same James of Acts ch#15, half-brother of Jesus, wrote the NT book by his name.
        • Another writer of NT book, Jude, was Judas, brother of James and half-brother of Jesus.   We know this from v1 of Jude where he identified himself - Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James[7].  If Jude was a brother of James who in turn was half-brother of Jesus, logic dictates Jude was also a half-brother to Jesus.
  • Application: I hope you are convinced that Jesus’ half-brothers became part of the 120 believers who were around at, or not long after, Jesus’ ascension back into heaven.  They saw their big Brother after He had died on a cross.  BTW, no one *ever* survived execution on a cross, Roman style.  However, even if they had not been a part of the early church, the fact is, had Jesus not risen, we are still in our sins.  We would have no hope of one day being out of the evil we live within right now. 
    • We have the memorial for Lynette Johnson this afternoon.  By all accounts, she loved the Lord and was grateful to serve Him.  We can attend the memorial this afternoon with joy in the sense that we in Christ will see her again someday.  When she met up with Jesus after breathing her last breath, He made sure she was escorted into heaven.  Her soul is there this very instant.   The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians wrote - 16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished[8].  However, that is not the end of the story, because Jesus did rise from the dead, something we celebrated on April 4th this year.  Paul responded to his own gloom & doom  a few verses later with this - 20 But the fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man death came, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead[9]
    • Not only do we have forgiveness of sins through Christ, which made Lynette sinless and we in Christ sinless, we also receive the gift of faith granted through the Holy Spirit.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians - 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the boundless greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might…[10]  The “enlightenment” Paul prayed on behalf of the souls at Ephesus only comes through the Holy Spirit.  Otherwise, we are not able to believe such a beautiful story that after a life of 70 or 80yrs of struggle through this life, there really is life after the first death.  That life after the 1st and only death is so great, there is nothing we experienced in this life which can compare to what God has in store for us when we get to heaven.  That new, eternal life will start with sitting down at the Lamb’s High Feast, were we already have our meal ticket waiting for us at the will-call gate, compliments of our Lord Jesus.  Since He rose from the dead, we too will rise from the dead!
    • All this came about through Christ who had to die, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven.  God the Father rose His Son from the dead, and gave Him all authority in heaven and on earth.  This authority is far above all authority, or rule, or dominion.  This is true not just already in this Age, but certainly in the next Age – which is eternal.  The Father put everything under the feet of Jesus and made Jesus head over everything. (Eph 1:20-23)  We may see lots of threats as our beloved country dissolves before our very eyes, but remember, Jesus has all authority, including the authority over sin, death, and the devil.
  • Conclusion: What then should our reaction be to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension back to His home?  Our text for today gives a clue.
    • We should continually devote to prayer (Act 1:14), and put Jesus’ word into action (Deu 11:18-25) by taking it to heart and keeping it in our soul. Prayer isn’t just a laundry list of “I wants…”.  Prayer is rejoicing (1Th 5:16-18).  Prayer is thanksgiving.  Prayer is giving glory to God for all He has done for us.  And yes, we pour out our soul in grief, in desire and want, all before the Lord.  There should be a formal setting aside of time each day to speak with the King.  If you’re not already doing this, start with reserving just five minutes of the day to speak with Him.  However, you can also speak with Him throughout the day as well. This is something I do, because whatever it is I’m doing at the moment is something fresh in my mind that I can bring before the Father in Jesus’ name right then & there.
    • Another reaction to Jesus’s resurrection is something I repeat from last week: whoever does the will of God the Father is Jesus’ mother and siblings (Mat 12:50).  How do we know the will of the Father?  Check out His word!  We do that on Sundays, but even if your pastor is long-winded and speaks for a half hour from the pulpit, that amount of time is only 0.3% of the entire week! If you stay for bible class, that amount of additional time in the word gets you to maybe 1% of the entire week. How can you know what pleases the Lord by doing what He likes, if you’re only in His word at best 1% of the time?
    • The fact that Jesus rose from the dead with several witnesses is reason alone to believe God and His word.  How many people do you know of who rose from the dead?  We have 21st century medical science which has brought heart attack and stroke victims back from certain death.  In 30AD, there wasn’t a fraction of the medical care for Jesus’ half-brothers to consider it even plausible to come back from the dead. They became believers that their big Brother was indeed the Messiah who was to come.
      • But to truly believe, is to put faith into action.  We do that through trusting in Jesus to have our back so to speak, especially when it comes to death.  Because He rose, so shall we.  And if He is powerful enough to overcome death, imagine what He is doing for you and for me even this very moment!  The Lord kicked out of the land of Canaan the despicable people who polluted the land with their evil.  He gave His people the Israelites the power to conquer enemies much more powerful than they were (Deu 11:22).  He still does that to this day.  But, He only gave that power to those who put Him first and followed His word.
      • Jesus was once asked, “What are we to do, so that we may accomplish the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.[11]”  Jesus is the one whom the Father sent.  40 For this is the will of [the] Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and [Jesus Himself] will raise him up on the last day.[12]”  None of this grand promise would be possible if Jesus had not first died the innocent death He died, rose from that horrible death, and then ascended back from where He came.  Because He accomplished all of this, it is guaranteed that all who are in Christ will also rise one day and take our seat at the Lamb’s High Feast!


 


[1] Act 1:14 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=act+1&version=ESV

[2] John 1:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+1&version=NASB

[3] John 3:16, 18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%203&version=NASB

[4] 1Co 15:7-8 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2015&version=NASB

[5] John 7:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+7&version=NASB

[6] Mat 12:49b-50 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+12&version=NASB

[7] Jude 1:1 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jude+1&version=NASB

[8] 1Co 15:16-18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+15&version=NASB

[9] 1Co 15:20-21 from NASB20, IBID

[10] Eph 1:18-19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+1&version=NASB

[11] John 6:28b-29 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NASB

[12] John 6:40 adapted from the NASB20, IBID

Conquerors Through Christ (1Jn 4:4

  • Let Us Pray:  Lord Jesus, when the Apostle John used the word “conquered” in our text, he referred to You who conquered sin, death, and the devil. No matter what evil we face in our life, we have conquered it through the victory You won for us on that first Easter Day.  Because of this and by Your grace, let not evil overcome us, but conquer evil with good! We bring these petitions before You, Lord Jesus, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Background: We haven’t had a sermon for a while which featured a word in the Greek, so it’s time to look into some Greek from our text for today. 😊  If you pull out your bulletin, on the back cover is the Greek word νενικήκατε (nǝ-nĭ-kā’-kă-tǝ).  This verb means, to subdue (literally or figuratively): to conquer, overcome, prevail, get the victory.  This is the Greek word in my translation of 1Jn 4:4 - Children, you are from out of God. And, you conquered them, because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (CSRV)
    • What caught my eye when preparing the message for today is this verb is in the perfect form. We just learned some Greek vocabulary but now let’s recall our English grammar.
      • A verb in the perfect tense focuses “…on a current condition, the present result of a past action.[1]”  The past action is something that was completed in the past, hence the label, perfect, because all of the action was completed.  For example, we filed our 2021 taxes on April 11th.  That was an action done completely in the past. There is nothing more to be done. The present result is I met the deadline of May 17th, and I don’t have to worry about anything regarding filing of taxes.
      • In the context of our message for today, the Apostle John wrote by inspiration that we have already conquered “them”.  Who is the “them”? The “them” is the false prophets who are of the spirit of the antichrist.  John used a broad definition of “antichrist” in his writings, which we need to take note. So many people are looking for an antichrist to emerge right at the end of the Age.  In 1Jn 2:18, John did refer to an antichrist who is coming, but in his other three usages of this word, the antichrist is someone who is a denier of Jesus.  No other writer in the bible has written the word “antichrist”.  John’s definition of his usage of this word is found in the previous verse from our text -  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now it is already in the world[2].  This definition is very consistent with what Jesus said in Luke 11:23 - 23 The one who is not with Me is against Me; and the one who does not gather with Me scatters[3].  The way I see what Jesus said is everyone is either pro-Christ or anti-Christ.  With that definition, we can probably think of a few people who are anti-Christ, can’t we?  Hopefully, none of our actions should be interpreted by others as being anti-Christ.
    • Getting back to the Greek verb νικάω, which appears as a perfect verb in our text as νενικήκατε, Apostle John uses this verb 24 of the 28 times the word appears throughout the entire NT!  He apparently really liked this verb and so I want to spend time going through the usage of the various tenses of νικάω, to make the point that Jesus has indeed conquered sin, death, and the devil.  Along with conquering all of these, Jesus has conquered all of those who follow the devil.
      • There are demons and human followers of Satan on the loose even as we sit here in church this morning.  There are anti-Christs actively working against the Kingdom of God.  That is what John is referring to with regard to antichrists in v3.  That can be scary realization that evil is on the loose, not just working against Jesus, but also working against those who follow Jesus.  In his first Epistle from which we have drawn our text for today, John drove home the point that yes, there are anti-Christs out there, but he equally gives the comforting reassurance that we have conquered these anti-Christs.  Yes, little ole you and I have conquered these anti-Christs.
        • Listen to these other usages in this same Epistle.  From 1Jn 2:13-14 we read – 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome (conquered) the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God remains in you, and you have overcome (conquered) the evil one[4].  The NASB20 renders this exact same Greek verb, νενικήκατε, as “overcome”, but to overcome really isn’t the level of strength or intensity that the word “conquer” has.  This is why I have been using the verb conquer.  Jesus conquered, with His strength, His enemies who are our enemies. We therefore have no reason to fear them.
    • I quoted a moment ago from Luke Ch#11 where Jesus basically said you are either for Him or against Him.  It’s one of the two.  He said this after someone had accused Jesus of driving out demons by Beelzelbul, the ruler of demons (Luke 11:14).  Jesus responded to such a preposterous contention by saying, …“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. 18 And if Satan also has been divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you claim that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul.[5]”  Jesus then told a mini-parable about a strong man with many weapons has his possessions secured.  However, when someone stronger comes along and conquers the strong man, the attacker will take away the weapons and then the possessions.  Jesus was getting a lot of mileage out of the accusation He was using Satan to drive out Satan.  In this mini-parable, Jesus used the word conquer to point out that someone came along much stronger than Satan.  Jesus disarmed Satan and has taken away his possessions.
    • Besides John and Luke, the only other NT writer to use the verb νικάω was the Apostle Paul.  He kind of cheated though, because in Rom 3:4, Paul quoted from the Greek version of the OT a verse King David wrote in Ps 51:4b.  Whether you read from the NASB or the ESV, they pretty much have it wrong from what actually appeared in Ps 51:4b.  The incorrectly quoted of Ps 51:4b is - “So that You are justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.[6]” (emphasis mine)
      • Why is this wrong?  Let me ask you; who has ever been in a position to judge God? With what criteria would they judge the Almighty, Sovereign Lord?  The translators of the NASB20 would have been better off had they just copied Ps 51:4b from their own English version of the OT which goes like this - So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge[7]. (emphasis mine) It makes more sense that God would be doing the judging of King David after his little murder scheme to kill off the husband whose wife he got pregnant.  In Ps 51, David was confessing this sin with Bathsheba, and making it clear he understood God was justified in His words.
      • However, the best translation of Ps 51:4b goes like this – in order that You (God) might be righteous in your words and You will conquer when You judge[8].  In other words, Paul was quoting David as saying God is righteous in His judgement over sin.  God gave us His word so that we would be a royal priesthood of people living and doing His word throughout His creation.  When we break God’s word, God is righteous and convicts us of our sin. David wrote - 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit[9];
        But then, God also conquered that sin when He judged.  To this conquering over sin, David wrote - A broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise[10]. For those who look to God for justification of sins, Jesus conquered those sins from the cross.  We, being judged by God, are then found *not* guilty.  For those attempting to justify their own sins before God the Great Judge, there is no conquering of sin.  Self-justification of one’s own sins never works.  The guilt always remains.  So a person trying to justify themselves has to keep lying and lying to themselves, and others, about their sins.  It snowballs and there just continues to be sin after sin being piled up.  What good does that ever do?
  • Analysis: The opening hymn we sang on today is our confession as redeemed children of God – The strife of this Age is over!
    • That must make everything is fine then, right?  Actually it does, but while we are still in this sin-corrupted world, we have to deal with our own sin and the evil around us.  Remember, John wrote about anti-Christs; people and fallen angels who deny the one true Christ and His Word.  Recall something I said about the Apostle John in last week’s message.  John wrote the Gospel by his name, the three letters initially to churches in and around Ephasus, and also Revelation, the last book of the Bible.  It’s not strange then to see John use this same verb νικάω in his other inspired writings.
      • John gives us the bad news in Revelation that these anti-Christs are waging war against the saints who love Jesus and who have the mark of Baptism on their foreheads.  This evil propagated against the saints is and will be a temporary conquering over the saints.  For instance, in Rev 6:2 John saw a rider on a white horse who went out “…conquering and to conquer.[11]”  One usually thinks of a rider on a white horse being one of the good guys, but this rider is one of the four horsemen of the Apocolypse, masquerading as good[12].  This is in contrast to Rev 19:11, where John describes a rider on a white horse as being “…called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.[13]
      • The entire Book of Revelation is John writing about three different visions of the same events, and so it can be confusing to a reader if they think everything John wrote about happened one after the other.  No; John wrote about a vision he was given, and then comes back to that same vision and writes from a different viewpoint.  For instance, Rev 11:7 says - When [the two witnesses] have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome (conquer) them and kill them[14]. These two witnesses also appear in Zechariah. The Lutheran position is these two witnesses are the Law and Gospel doctrines of the Christian church.  The church will suffer so long as we live in this sinful, corrupted Age.   Later, in Rev 13:7, John wrote - It was also given to [the beast] to make war with the saints and to overcome (conquer) them, and authority was given to him over every tribe, people, language, and nation[15].  John is saying here that not only the Law & Gospel, which is the Word of God, will be attacked and conquered, the people of God will also be attacked and conquered.  It is a capital offense in North Korea to have the word of God in your possession.  We shouldn’t be surprised when we hear about governmental authorities wanting to take God’s word out the classrooms across our country.  We shouldn’t be surprised when politicians, teachers, coaches, et al. come under attack by the woke mob for praying, speaking, and believing in Jesus’ Name. John saw this happening and wrote about it at the end of the 1st century.  It’s been happening ever since.  It is believed the Apostle John is the only one out the twelve apostles to have died of natural causes.  All the rest died a violent death at the hands of evil.  The beast conquered them – temporarily.
      • That’s the bad news.  The good news is what Jesus said to those who have ears to hear.  John wrote down what Jesus instructed him to preach to the churches of Asia Minor, starting with Ephesus.  Jesus noted the good that each church had done or was doing on behalf of Him. There were calls to repentance that Jesus would speak to each of the seven churches.  And then He would say at the beginning of each blessing - The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who [conquers], fill in the blank.  (Rev 2:7, 2:11, 2,17, 2:26, 3:5, 3:12, 3:21)  For Jesus to say that to each of the churches implies that we who are of Him and He in us *will* conquer.  Yes, we have the bad news that there will be persecution against God’s church and its people.  However, there will also be victories over evil and evildoers.
    • These victories will occur because Jesus has conquered evil.  This May 13th is the celebration of the ascension of our Lord Jesus back into heaven from where He came.  Acts Ch#1 is the earth-bound view of Jesus’ ascension, but Rev Ch#5 is the heaven-bound view of the same event.  Souls in heaven were waiting for the scrolls that detailed the events of the end of the world. The problem is no one was worthy to open the scrolls.  That is, until Jesus came back into heaven as we pick up this vision John saw from Rev 5:5 - And one of the elders *said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome (conquered) so as to be able to open the scroll and its seven seals.[16]”  Jesus is the same person John described as the Lamb several chapters later in Revelation - 14 [The beasts] will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.[17]
      • It is scary to go up against the evil beasts of this Age and their followers.  However, because Jesus has conquered them, we the saints ultimately conquer.  I’m running short on time so I don’t want to read both Rev 12:11, 15:2, but you have the references on the back of your bulletin so you can read them at a later date. I encourage you to do so, because there is nothing but sweet Gospel when Jesus tells us through a vision given to John that - “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for Satan has been kicked out of heaven, never to return. 11 And the saints conquered Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.[18]
  • Conclusion: The Apostle Paul is the only other NT writer besides Luke and John to use the word νικάω.  I mentioned earlier Paul quoted King David from Ps 51, so it was kind of cheating. But Paul also wrote much later in the Book of Romans – Do not be overcome (conquered) by evil, but overcome (conquer) evil with good[19]  Paul had given this counsel after reminding the saints that God said vengeance is His. We should not repay evil with evil. If our enemies are hungry, feed them; thirsty, give them a drink.  We conquer over evil by demonstrating the love of God.  We should therefore, so far as it depends upon us, to be at peace with everyone.
    • Jesus knew a thing or two about enduring through attacks made by evil throughout His 30-some years living as God in Man.  Just before He would endure the painful, humiliating walk to the cross, Jesus said - 33 These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome (conquered) the world.[20]
    • John had one more place in his inspired writing where he used the Greek verb νικάω.  We’ve covered just about all of them, but he saved the best for last.  It was something Jesus said to John in Rev 21:7 which I will paraphrase here - The one who conquers will inherit eternal life in heaven; Jesus will be our God and we His people.  We always try to quantify or measure things.  We want to think about whether we are doing enough in our life for the kingdom of our Lord.  As we mature in our walk with Jesus, the sins of omission are more plentiful than the sins we commit. Jesus did the work of salvation, so don’t sweat whether you did enough to get into heaven.  Through Christ, you already have your meal ticket to sit down at the Lamb’s high feast. You will ultimately know you conquered sin, death, and the devil when you sit down at that feast.  And Jesus will be positively delighted to seat you at that feast.  He literally went through hell, so you could put your fanny down into one of the chairs at His table.  When you do, you will have conquered sin, death, and the devil, because He conquered sin, death, and the devil for you and all believers in Him.  Amen!

[1] Voelz, James W, Fundamental Greek Grammar, 3rd Edition, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, 2007, p.151

[2] 1Jn 4:3 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John%204&version=NASB

[3] Luke 11:23 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2011&version=NASB

[4] 1Jn 2:13-14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1jn+2&version=NASB

[5] Luke 11:17-18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2011&version=NASB

[6] Rom 3:4b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+3&version=NASB

[7] Ps 51:4b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+51&version=NASB

[8] Adaptation of translation of Rom 3:4b made by Middendorf, Michael P, Concordia Commentary on Roman 1-8, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, 2013, p.232

[9] Ps 51:17a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+51&version=NASB

[10] Ps 51:17b, IBID

[11] Latter portion of Rev 6:2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+6&version=NASB

[12] Line of thought from Brighton, Louis A, Concordia Popular Commentary on Revelation, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, 2009, p.115

[13] Latter portion of Rev 19:11 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+19&version=NASB

[14] Rev 11:7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+11&version=NASB

[15] Rev 13:7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+13&version=NASB

[16] Rev 5:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+5&version=NASB

[17] Rev 17:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+17&version=NASB

[18] Rev 12:10-11 paraphrased from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+12&version=NASB

[19] Rom 12:21 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+12&version=NASB

[20] John 16:33 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+16&version=NASB

Quid Pro Quo or Grace? (1 John 3:22)

  • Introduction: I recently had a conversation with someone about prayer.  They had read a devotional about prayer and asked how they get the faith to pray confidently.  Thankfully, when any of us thinks we don’t have sufficient faith, we can pray to the Lord seeking a greater measure of faith. We can also trust Him to hear and answer our prayer.  And, He will bless with a greater measure of His Spirit to go along with the answer to the prayer – in the fullness of His time.
    • I confessed to this person I couldn’t think of a prayer that the Lord has not answered. There are some prayers I have prayed since my teen years.  There were prayers about getting a new job.  As a kid, I prayed my severely overweight maternal grandfather would lose weight.  My grandfather eventually lost something like 80 lbs!  In even those situations where I did not get what I originally sought, I later discovered how much of a disaster it would have been had I gotten exactly what I asked for, and when I wanted it.  To me, that is still a prayer answered.
      • How about your prayer life?  Are you even praying consistently to test the Lord on all of His promises regarding prayer: that He will hear your prayers and grant them to His glory?  Do you call upon Him consistently even maybe persistently, as Jesus coached us to do at the beginning of Luke Ch#18?
    • In our text for today, we can ask of the Lord for things consistent with keeping the Two Great Commandments (Mat 22:37-39), and He will bless with whatever you ask. Yes – whatever you ask of Him! The first of the Two Greats was something Jesus said in response to someone who wanted to trip Him up in an answer which was against scripture - 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.[1]
      • After saying that, Jesus confirmed these Two Great Commandments are a summary of the whole Law and the Prophets (v40 paraphrased).  Let us take a moment to come before our Lord in prayer concerning the message for today.
  • Let Us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, we can have confidence to come to You with prayer through Your Son, Jesus.  Our sins have been cleansed from us.  In eternal appreciation for sins forgiven, You ask us to put You first in our life, and to love one another.  We pray You send Your Spirit to empower us and motivate us to keep the Two Great Commandments.  According to our text for today we can confidently ask of You what we need to keep both commands, and You will bless according to Your divine providence and mercy.  We bring these petitions before You through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore. Amen.
  • Background: John wrote the Gospel attributed to his name, the book of Revelation, and the three Epistles all in the 90’s AD. It isn’t clear whether some of the material was written before his exile to an island called Patmos or the exile period of his life started the writing spree.
    • We do know he spent some time in Ephesus which is now western Turkey.  It is believed he wrote the three Epistles to congregations in ancient Ephesus to encourage them in the faith.
    • His writings were constantly addressing a false teaching called Gnosticism. There are several bad aspects of Gnosticism, but two come to mind in view of our text for today:
      • All flesh is bad, but the spirit is good.  They have their reasons for believing this including applying some scriptures out of context.  But, let me quickly shoot down this concept about flesh being bad, by referring back to Gen Ch#1.  Recall something God said at the end of each day of creation?  After each of the first five days of creation, Moses wrote, “God saw that it was good.”  However, after the sixth day of creation, that was the day man was created, Moses wrote, 31And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good[2].  How could flesh be bad if God said it was good?  We screwed up the good God made by corrupting it with sin, but that corruption doesn’t make the flesh bad.  Otherwise, Jesus’ own flesh would have been bad.  We know that couldn’t be right, because Jesus was perfect as both man and God.
      • A second aspect of Gnosticism was a person must have a secret knowledge in order to be saved. I ask you, what is so secretive about the Gospel in a Nutshell - 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life[3].
  • Analysis: With these two wrong-headed philosophies in mind, John did not write 1Jn 3:22 so we could indulge the flesh. He didn’t write about praying for whatever your heart desires, so you can sit around and do nothing while the Lord fetches you your next beer or glass of wine.
    • James, half-brother of Jesus, wrote - You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures[4].
      • Our prayers become detestable to God when we look at praying to Him as our lucky charm. The cute story about finding a genie in a lamp who, upon being liberated from the bottle, grants three wishes is *not* how prayer works with the Lord.  When you pray, you are speaking to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He deserves greater respect than listening to laundry list of “I wants” that have no value to Him and His kingdom or those around us.  There’s nothing wrong with brining before Him a list of “I wants”, but the purpose of the “I wants” is the issue.  People who conduct prayer only about themselves for selfish motivations are like those who King Solomon wrote about in Pro 28:9 - If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination[5].  The Merriam-Webster on-line defines “abomination” as something regarded with disgust or hatred[6]  Let’s stay away from doing anything the Lord would regard with disgust or hatred.
    • We can be confident in speaking before our Lord in prayer.  From our text on today we read - 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God[7]”.  What did the Apostle John mean “…if our heart does not condemn us…”?  John answered that question actually two chapters ago in his Epistle in the last half of verse seven – 7b …and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin[8].  God will have no sin near Him.  It is written He will say on the Last Day, “Depart from Me, you accursed[9]…!”  However, because we are cleansed by Jesus, there is nothing which should be in our heart to condemn us.  At the start of the service on today, we took the opportunity to stand before our Lord and confess we are a sinner.  With that, we confessed we cannot do anything to free ourselves from sin.  When it was said by Jesus’ called representative, “I forgive you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, that was the end of any sin which would linger in your heart.  Your heart has no reason to condemn you of any sins that Jesus took away from you.  As the writer to the Hebrews noted - 16 Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need[10].
      • God considers us to be sinless, because through our Baptism, Jesus provided the forgiveness of sins.  We were born anew at our baptism.  What confession of sins does at the start of each church service here at Christus Rex is cause us to remember we are a sinner, but then also remind us of God’s mercy to forgive us of our sins and sinfulness.  Jesus saved us, not because of anything good that we did, such that we owe Him a favor.  No, He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit we received through baptism (Titus 3:4-7).  I’ve said it several times now in previous messages, but it’s worth repeating again and again, that when you were baptized, you became one of God’s adopted sons.  Remember, a son was the person who would inherit an estate, so that’s why the NT writers used the word “son”.  Whether you are male or female, for the purposes of adoption by God, and to use a modern term, we all “identify” as sons.  You may use the personal pronouns of he, him, his.  😊 (So much for last week’s sermon!)  You have probably heard the term, “born again Christian”, and through baptism we are born again from above, from God, as John wrote earlier in our chapter -  No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God[11].
      • We know Jesus was sinless, because He kept all Ten Commandments 100% of the time.  To be sinless is to have kept those Ten Commandments summarized into the Two Great Commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; love your neighbor as yourself. Because Jesus was perfect, we became part of His perfection at our baptism.  We therefore are sinless in God’s sight because of the work Jesus performed on our behalf.  This is what John meant in v23 of our text - 23 This is [God’s] commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us[12].   Through Christ, we have always kept the Two Great Commandments!
      • The only sin not pardoned from the cross was the sin against the Holy Spirit Jesus mentioned in Mat 12:31-32 - 31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come[13].  The Holy Spirit speaks continuously about Jesus being our Lord and Savior.  People who want to go their own way, even people who want to hang on to certain sins and only give some over to Christ, are the people who deny the Holy Spirit.  If we didn’t have the Holy Spirit speaking about Jesus in us, we wouldn’t be able to believe, so it’s a good thing He persists with us throughout our entire life in this Age to keep us on track.
    • With our sins being cleansed from us, Jesus on Judgement Day will only remember our good works which were done to His glory.   He said as much in Mat 25:34 - 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world[14]. Jesus will then go through a list of all the good things you did, and only the good things, because your sins won’t exist for Him to call you to account.  Not so for those who denied Jesus and His saving work throughout their whole life. Those people sinned against the Holy Spirit.
      • All those good things Jesus will remember about you are what He told you to do through His word.  We do the work of the Lord by first hearing His word, then putting it into practice.  Listing to His word and then doing what it says places you on a solid foundation, so that when various troubles come up against you, you will be able to withstand everything Satan, the world, and even your own corrupted self dishes out (Mat 7:24-27). Jesus’ word accomplishes great things while we live in this sinful Age, as well as when we come to Judgement Day.
    • I just want to touch on that secret knowledge bit of Gnosticism again.  There is no secret knowledge which gets you into heaven. We are part of God and God is part of us.  John made that clear in our text at v24 - 24 The one who keeps His commandments remains in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He remains in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us[15].  There is nothing secret in life when the Holy Spirit is whispering into our soul the answers about life.
      • He empowers us to believe and trust in God above all things. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit reveals the Word and its meaning.  He teaches us all things and reminds us of all He said to us through the Word (John 14:26).  Nothing is concealed from us, because God has 100% integrity.  To use a modern phrase, “The Holy Spirit is a straight shooter!”
  • Conclusion: When we pray, we need to always be mindful of the Two Greatest Commandments.  Everything needs to somehow be in context of loving the Lord God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
    • If you take this approach to prayer, the petitions you pray will be consistent with God’s will.  At that point, what is God to say to you in response to such prayers, when you are praying His will in Jesus’ name?  The Apostle John wrote later in his first Epistle - 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask *anything* according to His will, He hears us[16].  I read that to mean God will never say to us, “talk to the hand”, if we stick to focusing our prayers on the petitions that fit into either of the Two Great Commandments.
    • And, if you think you need to get into a bargaining session with God when you pray, I can tell you right now, you are going down the wrong path.
      • We have nothing to offer the Lord, because everything (including us) are already His.  He made this clear to the Israelites who were at the base of Mt Sinai waiting to meet with the Lord - Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine[17]
      • It is downright satanic to believe that the earth and all that is in it is anything but the Lord’s creation and possession.  The reason I say it is satanic is because Satan himself tried to tempt Jesus with these words - Again, the devil *took [Jesus] along to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.[18]” Satan doesn’t own anything in the first place, muchless offer the kingdoms of the world to anyone – especially Jesus.  I’m surprised we didn’t read in the Gospel how Jesus roared with laughter at Satan for making such a ridiculously empty “offer”.
    • Follow the Lord and He will provide as you have asked! He made some pretty open-ended promises to us as recorded by the Apostle John in the Gospel - 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it[19].  Also - 23 And on that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you[20].  Unlike Satan, Jesus can deliver on these promises.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus by God the Father.  If Jesus made a promise, He will keep it.  Try prayer out for yourself in this manner and see whether He keeps His promises in accordance with His will.


 


[1] Mat 22:37-39 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+22&version=NASB

[2] Gen 1:31a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+1&version=NASB

[3] John 3:16 form NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+3&version=NASB

[4] Jam 4:03 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james+4&version=NASB

[5] Pro 28:9 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=pro+28&version=ESV

[6] First definition of Abomination from Merriam-Webster at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abomination

[7] 1Jn 3:21 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+john+3&version=NASB

[8] 1Jn 1:7b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John%201&version=NASB

[9] Mat 25:41a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+25&version=NASB

[10] Heb 4:16 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+4&version=NASB

[11] 1Jn 3:9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+jn+3&version=NASB

[12] 1Jn 3:23, IBID

[13] Mat 12:31-32 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+12&version=NASB

[14] Mat 25:34 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+25&version=NASB

[15] 1Jn 3:24 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1jn+3&version=NASB

[16] 1Jn 5:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1jn+5&version=NASB (emphasis mine)

[17] Ex 19:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+19&version=NASB

[18] Mat 4:8-9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+4&version=NASB

[19] John 14:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+14&version=NASB

[20] John 16:23 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2016&version=NASB

We Will Shine (1 John 3:2)

  • Let Us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, we are concerned it is not yet revealed what we will be as Your children.  This is especially true given the temporal triumph we perceive evil having right now.  We pray as the Psalmist wrote - Please bring to an end the evil of sinners, but make straight the members of the righteous. 10 [Our] righteous shield is with [You], [You] Who saves the straight in heart. Comfort us and strengthen us as we await the coming of Your Son to bring an end to this generation.  We bring these petitions before You through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Present: You may have heard of the federal legislation which passed the US House of Representatives called the Equality Act (HR 5 – 117th Congress).  By its title, one would think this is strictly about equality, but the title is somewhat deceiving.
    • The Equality Act amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity[1] to the list of protected classes of people who cannot be discriminated against.  For review: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that protects employees against discrimination based on certain specified characteristics: race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. Under Title VII, an employer may not discriminate with regard to any term, condition, or privilege of employment[2].  The Supreme Court in a decision handed down recently had already broadened the definition of “sex” in the 1964 Act to include sexual orientation, but the Equality Act intends to make that a written part of federal law.  Christians are fair-minded people who realize *all* fall short of the glory of the Lord because of our sin, so what’s the problem here? Listen to just two direct quotes from the legislation now before the US Senate:
      • “(with respect to gender identity) an individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual's gender identity.[3]
      • “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”.
        • What this second quote means is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 *cannot* be used as a defense for churches such as ours which strive to adhere to the word of the Lord in what we believe, teach, and confess. Without the defense of the 1993 law, it is easy to imagine the belief in, and speaking of, God’s word regarding deviant sexual behavior will become “hate speech”.  The Equity Act is written in such a way as to deny people of faith, such as us, the ability to put our beliefs into words and action.
    • What does this mean for a child of God?  It can mean a lot of things, but today we want to look at this example of federal legislation in light of our Epistle reading for today.  I reread from 1Jn 3:02 - Beloved, now we are children of God, and it was not yet revealed what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him even as He is[4]. (CSRV)
  • Analysis: The Apostle John has referred to believers in Christ as children of God.  Being a child of God is a concept dating back to the early days of the Old Testament, but especially in light of who the prophet Daniel described God as the “Ancient of Days” in Dan 7:9.  We all would look like little children in the presence of someone who could be described as the “Ancient of Days”! 😊
    • We’ve discussed this a few times, and it is worth repeating how it is we become children of God.  It is through Baptism in which people become children of God.  The Apostle Paul in Gal 3:26-27 - 26 For you are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ[5].  When we were baptized, our sins were washed away through the water and the word. With sins forgiven, we became adopted sons of God.  Paul doubled-down in Gal 4:6-7 on this doctrine of baptism which made us children of God - Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God[6].  People don’t become an heir unless there is some sort of bloodline relationship.  We obtained that bloodline relationship through Jesus’ innocent suffering and death on a cross.  It was His blood which cleansed us of all sins.  We received that cleansing through baptism.
    • We can picture in our mind being an adopted child of God, because, like at the time of Paul in the 1st century, we have a process of legal adoption in 2021.  However, it is not clear what the appearance of and adopted son looks like.
      • For instance, does that mean we will physically look like the Father’s Son, Jesus?   Here’s a description from the Apostle John of that same “Ancient of Days” Daniel saw close to 700yrs earlier - 14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze when it has been heated to a glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength[7].  The Ancient of Days was none other than Jesus, God the Father’s one and only Son. You can read on your own the incredible similarity of Daniel’s description of Jesus with John’s. However, this description is not what we will look like physically once we are purified through our exit from this sinful Age to live in heaven.
      • I want to digress for a moment and turn our attention to John ch#11 where we read of Jesus’ raising a man to life who had been dead for 4dys[8].  The man’s name was Lazarus, and he had two sisters who were part of the ministry tour Jesus conducted throughout Galilee and Judea.  As you can imagine, when you are traveling with a group of people for a period of time, warm friendships are formed.  Friendship bonds of love develop.  The brother of these two sisters, Mary and Martha, had died.  Jesus was nowhere in sight at the time of death.  That disturbed the sisters, because they rightfully believed that, had Jesus been there, Jesus may have healed Lazarus instead of Lazarus winding up dead.  They saw the healing miracles Jesus performed throughout His ministry. Jesus purposely waited 4dys before showing up.  In ancient times, it was a phenomenon that a person would get so sick they appeared to be dead, only to revive to some degree within 3dys.  However, this sort of revival was not seen with a person dead for 4dys.  When you think of Jesus and all of His glory, you probably imagine Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords having an appearance like the description of the Ancient of Days I read to you a moment ago.  And yet, Jesus’ true glory was revealed in the raising of Lazarus from the dead!  He didn’t become gleamingly brilliant white like He did the night of His Transfiguration.
      • This example which the Apostle John wrote about regarding Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead provided an example of the true glory of our Lord Jesus displayed in His power over death.  Glory was shown in the compassion Jesus showed for the people who loved Lazarus.  Here was Almighty God being so moved by the tears of those who suffered with the consequences of sin, that He too teared up.  His glory of love is what we will fully be when He appears on that final day.
    • The last half of our verse for today is - We know that when [Jesus] appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him even as He is.  Suffice it to say, we will not look like Jesus, the Ancient of Days, but we will look like He who is holy and righteous.  We will look that way because we are cleansed by Him.  He shares our humanity, as well as sharing oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  This is how He can be a mediator between God and man.
      • There is no sin in Jesus.  There never was.  He led a perfect life, something only God could do while living in this sinful corrupt Age.  People who deny this and other aspects about Jesus are living in a lie.  None of us can go an hour without sinning.  The Apostle Paul wrote - 22 Claiming to be wise, [these deniers] became fools, 23 and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures[9].  We will look like the incorruptible God who is holy and righteous, because that’s who He is.  We won’t die some day and come back reincarnated as a bird, or grow another pair of legs and feet as some of the deniers may think.
      • Jesus is an exact image of the Father (Heb 1:3), and not some dreamed up divine nature like gold, silver, or stone in an image formed by a craftsman (Act 17:29).  Jesus is holy as His Father is holy.  And we are made holy by the Holy Spirit living in us since our baptism.
      • When Jesus is revealed on the Last Day, we will be revealed with Him in glory (Col 3:4).  We will no longer have these corrupted bodies which break down after repeated use. What we experience now is *not* what God intended when collectively the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit said at our creation - 26 Then God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness…[10] We are experiencing the consequences of the sin of rebellion from God that is in all of us. Rebellion against God is in our nature, even though we have been cleansed of our sins.  That desire to rebel will go away when Jesus reveals Himself and we will be like Him. (Thank God!)
  • Doctrine: Martin Luther wrote a catechism for families to use to learn about the Six Chief parts of Christian doctrine.  The primary way of teaching was to present questions about various aspects of Christian doctrine, and then provide the answers from the scriptures to those questions. One of the Six Chief parts is the Apostle’s Creed.  It is a Creed which has been around since the end of the 1st century.  It was originally learned by adults who were going to be baptized.  They would recite the Apostle’s Creed as an expression of the faith into which they were being baptized.  There are three Articles to the Apostle’s Creed, each Article addressing a specific member of the Trinity.  The First Article of the Creed addresses the work of God the Father.  In this section about the Apostles Creed, Luther asked the question, “Do we still have the image of God?[11]”  This is a good question since after Adam & Eve pulled their stunt of rebellion in the Garden of Eden, we lost the purity in our soul that existed when God created us.  Some religions took the words of God making us in His own image to mean that we all look exactly like Jesus.  That is way too narrow an interpretation of Gen 1:26, because the image God had in mind was the righteousness and perfection that God Himself displays.  If we went with what some religions interpreted about the image of God as being the appearance of God, we would all be transformed into looking like the Ancient of Days!  Does that make any sense?  No; what we will “look” like are the attributes of Jesus such as:
    • Living by faith in Him and not by what we see going on in the world. (2Co 5:7)  For example, with one political party holding a majority in the national legislature and the presidency, it is likely the Equality Act will become law.  What will become of God’s people who will continue to believe, teach, and confess God’s word, particularly regarding sexual deviancy?  I’m sorry, but it is nothing less than sexually deviant as a male for instance to merely state they feel like a female and are therefore entitled by federal law to use the ladies’ room.  Those of the Christian faith know this is wrong, because God made male and female. A person is only one of those two options.  It doesn’t matter how they feel.  Biology set up by God’s divine providence made a person one or the other sex.  If this comes into law, we will have to walk by faith and not what we see even more than we do now.  Women in particular will be targets of these sexual deviants who violate innocent woman with their evil designs.  The Christians of the 1st century had to live by faith, so why not we as well?
    • Another attribute of Jesus we will look like when He comes at the end of this Age is having perfect love for one another.  The Apostle John quoted Jesus as saying during the Last Supper – 34 I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.[12]”  Other people looking on at Christians practicing their faith will see the love that Christians devote to one another.  That will certainly be the way things happen once we are all in heaven, but I wonder if we could do that even here & now?  Jesus went further to define the degree to which we in Christ should love one another - 12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends[13]. Can you imagine looking like Jesus who had that much love for His peeps that He would suggest laying down one’s life for another?  He also practiced what He spoke.
  • Conclusion: Many of the evil developments which have occurred just in a year’s time have really compelled me to plead with Jesus to come, and come soon!  I look forward to the day of Jesus return.  Jesus warned us there will be tribulation. Ever since His ascension into heaven to sit down at the right hand of the Father, there have been 2000yrs worth of tribulation. The day is coming, whether people think so or not, when Jesus will be returning in the clouds with great power and glory. (Mark 13:24-27)  I think everyone will get to see Jesus as He is.  He will look like the Ancient of Days, just in case you’re wondering.
    • Jesus warned His disciples about the tribulation and out of the twelve, only one died of natural causes.  Do not lose heart when threats such as the Equality Act come about.  Do not buy into the lies of Satan and his followers that Jesus is not in charge.  Jesus is, and Satan cannot lie his way out of what’s in store for him throughout eternity.  Satan and his followers know the day is soon when their roaming freely and inflicting evil on God’s creation will end.
      • Until then, threats and tribulations will continue until the end of the Age.  The gospel may get hindered, but it will not be eliminated until everyone has heard. Those who are already blinded to God’s word will not see the light which the gospel brings to souls (2Co 4:1-6).
        • The Psalmist wrote - 15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears are toward their cry for help. 16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to eliminate the memory of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears and rescues them from all their troubles[14]. This is as true today as it was when this Psalm was written by inspiration some 3000yrs ago.
      • More & more minds will be closed to God’s truth.  We already see this now with the increase of evil in our culture.  But, those in Christ will have minds opened to understand the scriptures – and trust in them (Luke 24:45).  Only God can open a mind to the scriptures, and it is only a hardened sinner who can close their mind to the word of the Lord.  It will *not* be God’s fault on Judgement Day when people come before Him and try to lie or manipulate their way out of hell.  God is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He already provided the free pass to attend the Lamb’s High Feast.  However, there will be millions of people who choose not to attend.
    • Until the end, whether that is by death or Jesus returning in the clouds, live a glad life in His word.
      • Turn from evil and do good.  Seek peace and pursue it (Ps 34:14).  The writer to the Hebrews wrote - 24 and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds[15]…  As mentioned a few moments ago, Christians showing love to one another is a good way to look like Jesus even before He returns to this Age for a second and final time.
      • Put on a new self, which in the image of God was originally created in righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24).  Let the old Adam in you be drown daily when you wake and remind yourself you are a child of God.  You are a child of God regardless of what is happening in Washington DC, Phoenix, or Rio Rico.  No legislation can take that adoption through Christ away from you.  Only you can exclude yourself from Christ’s love.
    • And lastly, as we wait for Jesus’ triumphant return, let us shine like a star in a crooked and perverse generation.  We need to get things done without complaining or arguing, so that we are proven to be children of God.  By listening to the Word of God and putting that Word into practice, your speech and actions will make you to be a light shining into the darkness of this generation (Phil 2:14-16a).  This is all coming to an end, so be ready to stand up and cheer when you see Jesus returning in the clouds.  That will be a sure sign our salvation is near!  Amen.


 


[1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/5/text

[2] https://www.justia.com/employment/employment-discrimination/title-vii/#:~:text=Title%20VII%20of%20the%20Civil%20Rights%20Act%20of,to%20any%20term%2C%20condition%2C%20or%20privilege%20of%20employment.

[3] https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/5/text#H19B897234F694379BB40399FDDEEEE8F

[4] An original translation into English from the mGNT found at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1jo/3/1/t_conc_1162002

[5] Gal 3:26-27 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gal+3&version=NASB

[6] Gal 4:6-7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians%204&version=NASB

[7] Rev 1:14-16 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+1&version=NASB

[8] Source material for the recollection of the raising of Lazarus from the dead found in John 11:1-44

[9] Rom 1:22-23 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+1&version=NASB

[10] Gen 1:26a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+1&version=NASB

[11] Luther, Martin, Small Catechism, Question #124 as translated into English by Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, 2017 p.140

[12] John 13:34-35 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+13&version=NASB

[13] John 15:12-13 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2015&version=NASB

[14] Ps 34:15-17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+34&version=NASB

[15] Heb 10:24 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+10&version=NASB

Joy Fulfilled (1 John 1:4)

  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we are grateful for sending Your faithful Son, Jesus to redeem us from our sins. Those sins would have left us forever broken off from fellowship with You Son and You.  Send Your Spirit to work faith in our heart, so that we firmly believe there are no impediments to having fellowship with You because of the work of redemption.  We bring these petitions before You through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Background: I’d like to spend a moment on background of this first Epistle of John.
    • The Apostle John was brother of James.  Each were one of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Jesus at one time referred to them as the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17) apparently for their bull in the china shop mentality.  However, they were sons of a fisherman named Zebedee. Additionally, we can deduce from the Gospels their mother’s name was Salome.   We read from Mat 20:20 - 20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him[1].  Later at Jesus’ crucifixion, Matthew uses this same term to identify one of the women at the cross - 55 And many women were there watching from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while caring for Him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee[2].
    • In the message given last week, a woman named Salome was mentioned as one of those at the cross in Mark 15:40 and at the tomb on that first Easter in Mark 16:1.  Salome is probably sister of Mary, Mother of Jesus, because of the way the “mother of the sons of Zebedee” is mentioned 2x in Matthew and similarly in John 19:25 - 25 Now beside the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene[3]. It does not seem strange to me that the Apostle John would not mention his aunt nor his mother by name, given that he referred to himself in the Gospel of John as “…the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  John attempted in his writings to keep the focus on Jesus and certainly not on himself.  These facts point to the Apostle John and Jesus being cousins with each other.
    • John wrote this first of three epistles (along with the others) probably in the 90’s AD.  They were probably intended for the churches around Ephesus, but the content has application to this day.  He was in Ephesus and the general area after returning from banishment to the island of Patmos around 95AD[4].
  • Exegesis: That’s a quick summary of the background on this first letter from John the Apostle, so now let’s review the verse for our consideration from 1John 1:4: And these we write to you, so that our joy is fulfilled. (CSRV)  What “things” were John referring to?
    • The Apostle John was with Jesus as one of Jesus’ disciples.  He was a disciple throughout the 3yr ministry Jesus performed.  Over the course of those 3yrs, John and the other disciples would have heard Jesus preach things such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke).  John would have seen miracles performed by Jesus, including the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John Ch#11).  Jesus would have touched His disciples at times throughout His ministry; probably to encourage with a pat on the back, and other fellowship reasons.  Jesus certainly touched all of the disciples when He washed their feet on the night Jesus was delivered into the hands of the mob; the night Judas betrayed Him.  John reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper.
      • I bring up these examples, because we have at least three of the five senses mentioned in the first three verses of 1st John Ch#1 – 1What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also…[5]  What John is indicating here in these three verses is John was a first-hand witness to all that Jesus did in His ministry.  There was no mistaking what John heard (vv1,3a), saw (vv1-3a), and touched (v1), because he was there!  He didn’t experience Jesus through someone else.
    • John established first-hand witness credibility in confessing the works of Jesus so that he could then state in the last half of verse 3 - so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ[6].  Remember I said a moment ago John wrote this letter to the churches around Ephesus about 95AD.  John was about that age when he wrote this, so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t getting around as well as when he was a disciple walking through Galilee and Judea 60yrs prior.
    • Because of this, I don’t believe John was writing about fellowship with him and those around him specifically, so much as he wrote about the fellowship amongst members of the Holy Christian Church.  There is a lot to unpack with regard to what fellowship within the church means.  Suffice it to say, John is referring to “…one holy Christian and apostolic Church…” that we confess to believing in when we recite the Nicene Creed as we will do after this message.  That is an important concept to understand, because the scriptures refer to the Holy Christian Church as the Lord Jesus’ Bride.  Jesus’ relationship with the church is one of love as the Apostle Paul wrote in Eph 5:25-27 - 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  The ultimate presentation of the church as a Bride to Jesus the Bridegroom is in Rev 19:7, where the Apostle John, in another of his writings, made clear this relationship of fellowship between Jesus and the church - Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has prepared herself.[7]” Two verses later in that same chapter is where John wrote about being invited to the Lamb’s High Feast, which is why we sang a few stanzas from that hymn just prior to this message.  The fellowship we have with one another is a fellowship that binds us together as the Bride of our Lord Jesus.
    • Additionally, fellowship with Jesus is fellowship with God the Father.  In the Gospel of John Ch#17, the Apostle goes into detail on how the Father and Jesus are one.
  • Analysis: I’ll cover more about that in a moment, because I want to spend a moment on what fellowship with Christ and His bride look like in a practical sense.
    • Back to our text in verse 6, if we claim we have fellowship with Christ yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not work truth.  That then begs the question, what does it mean to “walk in darkness”?   In the next chapter of John’s first Epistle, he defines walking in darkness – The one who says that he is in the Light and yet hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now.  11 But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes[8].
      • There are lots of creative ways for us as sinners to show hatred toward one another. We see this especially as our culture is disintegrating before our very eyes.  If someone says or does something we don’t like, we “cancel” them.  We carry the “cancelation” out with a vengeance. Do not ever let that person say or do anything again we don’t like.  Or, we isolate ourselves in safe spaces from things we don’t want to hear or see or touch. We can sit here in the comfort of this church right now and probably accuse the churches’ enemies of committing cancelations of people.  But we do this as well.  This church has in its history people who have either canceled someone or they canceled this church for non-scriptural reasons.  That’s walking in darkness, because instead of focusing on the fellowship with one another as Jesus Bride, we focus on ourselves.
    • In contrast from verse 7, if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, the Father’s Son, cleanses us from all sin. I believe John in verse 7 of our text is referring back to something Jesus said during His ministry which John recorded in the Gospel he wrote by inspiration - 35 So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; also, the one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going[9].
      • I have good night vision, but there are times when I must have a light.  Take my garage for instance.  I replaced the original light fixture in there, because at most I could get the lighting power of maybe 150 watts from two bulbs.  That isn’t enough light when I’m out there searching for something.  However, Jesus in His statement about walking in the light probably had deeper meaning. I would suggest those people in the fellowship of the Holy Christian Church, are people walking in the light of Christ.  And, people walking in the light of Christ can see the path leading from this Age into the next.  They see the path to that wedding supper where only those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb are invited.  The Word of the Lord is a lamp unto our feet and a light for our path. (Ps 119:105)
    • At the beginning of this church service on today, we confessed our sins before God at this altar.  The Liturgist invited us to confess our sins by saying, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  That exhortation to deal with our sin, by first confessing it, is right out of our text for today. (vv8,10)  We lie to ourselves if we think the commandments are for someone else, because we are such good people in keeping them.  Let me be clear: neither you nor I keep God’s word.  For example, we all have thoughts of hatred for others.  John wrote in the third chapter of our text - 15 Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.[10]  You shall not murder is the 5th Commandment.  We break this commandment when we hate someone in our heart.
    • But, if we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and righteous; He will forgive and cleanse. (v9)  It isn’t our act of seeking forgiveness that brings forgiveness.  We are assured of Jesus’ forgiveness when we hear the words of forgiveness said by His called servant.  That servant was called by Jesus to bring forgiveness to souls troubled with the burden of sin.
  • Application: Having addressed what fellowship looks like in a practical sense, we should look into how this fellowship comes to us.
    • Fellowship with Christ comes through Him.  It isn’t something we chose to do, because like our first parents, Adam and Eve who chose to rebel against God’s simple command to not eat of one tree - out of all of trees available in paradise.  Remember how Adam and Eve hid from God after they ate the forbidden fruit?  We too choose to hide away from God.  We run away from God’s commands as well, unless we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to seek the Lord and do His will.  Christ came to us when we were baptized, and the Holy Spirit was left in us as a deposit and guarantee of the promise of eternal life with Christ.
      • The fellowship between Jesus and His church actually started with the relationship between Jesus and the Father.  This was clear in Jesus’ pastoral prayer.  We have a portion of it recorded by John for the time John was able to stay away after eating the Passover meal. Jesus prayed - 20 “I am not asking on behalf of these alone, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me[11].  The Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit were in fellowship with one another from eternity and will be throughout eternity.  If you have seen one member of the Trinity, you have seen all.  That is how tight the fellowship of the Trinity is.
      • Because of sin, our relationship with the Father was broken when Adam and Eve pulled their stunt of rebellion in paradise some 7200yrs ago.  However, Jesus’ Father became our Father after Jesus rose from the dead - 17 Jesus said to [Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb on that first Easter], “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’[12]”  That is what fellowship with the Father and Jesus looks like!
      • Jesus’ victory from the cross over sin, death, and the devil reconciled us with the Father. A broken relationship meant there would never be any fellowship.  That break in the relationship was never going to be fixed by anything you or I would do.  We had the baggage of sin to carry through life that would forever hold us back from repairing the relationship.  We receive the gifts and benefits of a reconciled relationship with the Father through the Holy Christian Church.  Jesus said in prayer to the Father - 22 The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and You loved them, just as You loved Me[13].  Again, that is what fellowship looks like.
  • Conclusion: With all this which the Apostle John wrote in our text, what do we get out of this fellowship with God?
    • If we will ever get any joy out of life in this Age (and certainly the next), joy is fulfilled with sins forgiven.  There is no burden of guilt you should bear for anything sinful and evil you have done. A person truly sorry for the evil they have committed in the presence of the Lord can be assured those and all other sins are forgiven.
      • Apart from the forgiveness of sins through Christ, the burden of sin is heavy.  One of the seven penitential Psalms written by King David is Ps 38.  David wrote in verse 4 - For my guilty deeds have gone over my head;
        Like a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.  Unforgiven sins weigh a person down to the point where they may not even be able to carry on with life.  We see that a lot now in the news about Covid isolation contributing to more & more people committing suicide.  They cannot cope with the loneliness and the burdens of their soul.  They see no hope in their life.  David  again talks about the consequences of his sins in verse 18 - 18 For I admit my guilt; I am full of anxiety because of my sin[14].  The main reason sins lingers long after the evil act was committed is because it cannot be erased from memory.  Our own flesh will continue to condemn us even when God has pronounced forgiveness.
      • Confession of sin is an admission you are wrong.  We have confession at the start of each service because it is important to humble ourselves before our God and admit we have not kept His word.  It’s tough for any of us to admit we are wrong to those around us.  It is especially tough to admit to Almighty God we continued to ignore His word.  However, once sins are confessed, and trust in Christ those sins are cleansed, the burden and anxiety of sins are gone!
    • A person whose sins are confessed and forgiven is a person who is free from burdens and guilt those sins bring.  Those people are the ones in fellowship with our Lord Jesus who redeemed them.  We receive in the Holy Christian Church the forgiveness of sins and faith to believe our sins are forgiven.  In this church we have fellowship with one another, and because we are sin-free, we have fellowship with Jesus who redeemed us. Jesus’ Father is our Father, and that fellowship stays that way through the continuous work of the Holy Spirit. That my brothers and sisters in Christ is a fellowship which will *not* be broken!  And, the absence of the burdens of sin leave nothing left in one’s soul except joy.  Amen!


 


[1] Mat 20:20 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+20&version=NASB

[2] Mat 27:55-56 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+27&version=NASB

[3] John 19:25 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john19&version=NASB

[4] Jeske, Mark A, People’s Bible Commentary: General Epistles, Revised Edition, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, 2005 P.201

[5] 1John 1:1-3a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+john+1&version=NASB

[6] IBID, 1John 1:3b

[7] Rev 19:7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+19&version=NASB

[8] 1John 2:9,11 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+john+2&version=NASB

[9] John 12:35 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+12&version=NASB

[10] 1John 3:15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John%203&version=NASB

[11] John 17:20-21 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+17&version=NASB

[12] John 20:17 from NASB at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+20&version=NASB

[13] John 17:22-23 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2017&version=NASB

[14] Ps 38:4,18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+38&version=NASB

Do Not Wonder (Mark 16:6)

  • Introduction: This is a grand and glorious day of the year!  Although we are reading from the Gospel of Mark on today, all four Gospels have a unique account of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  They provide different perspectives, all inspired by the Holy Spirit, on the same event much like if there were four witnesses to a car collision.  Each of the four would report facts and details that were important to them. However, a collection of all the facts and details when merged together would tell a complete story about the collision.
    • Let’s spend the next few moments going through facts and details each of the Gospel writers provided about the day Jesus was raised from the dead. We will then see what take-aways come from this greatest story ever told.  Hopefully, after this review of the Gospels, you with have your faith renewed, and not wonder about whether if this is true about Jesus.  May the Holy Spirit guide us to believe and understand everything else Jesus said and did is also true.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we give thanks to You for raising Your Son Jesus from the dead.  Eternal death has been swallowed up in victory!  We now can defiantly say by your Spirit, Where O death is your victory?  Where O death is your sting?  Father, send Your Spirit to us as we contemplate the evidence before us about the raising of Jesus from the dead, and what that means for us as Your children. We bring these petitions before You through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Background: Wasn’t it just last Friday Jesus was hung on a cross?  Did He really die, if already on the third day after His death, we are celebrating His resurrection from the dead?
    • Jesus foretold of His horrific death on a cross Roman-style three times throughout the Gospel of Mark.
      • For instance, in Mark 8:31, just after Jesus asked the disciples, “who do people say that I am?”, Peter responded, “You are the Christ.”.  Jesus then … began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise from the dead[1].
      • Not long after Jesus was transfigured on most likely Mt Hermon with Peter, James, and John looking on, 31 [Jesus] was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.[2]” Despite the disciples being with Jesus for over 2yrs at that point, they did not understand what Jesus meant by this statement.  They were also afraid to ask Him about it.
      • And finally, as Jesus and the disciples were going up the road to Jerusalem, Jesus told them as recorded in Mark Ch#10 - 33  “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him; and three days later He will rise from the dead.[3]
    • With what Jesus foretold at three different times, should there have been any wonder about what happened on Good Friday and why?  I’ve pointed out three places in just the Gospel of Mark, examples you can see on the back of your bulletin, where Jesus clearly spoke of what was to happen when they all got into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover along with other pilgriming Jews.
    • And yet, the disciples and those following Jesus were very mournful after Jesus said, “it is finished”, and breathed His last at around 3PM that day.  Followers of Jesus asked to get His body and provide for a proper burial before sundown when the Sabbath would begin.  It just seemed so senseless to everyone!  Jesus was a great man; a great teacher.  Why murder Him at the demands of a mob?
  • Analysis: Fast forward to the first day of the new week.  A few women go to the tomb.  It’s empty! What happened?  I will spend the next few minutes reviewing portions from all four Gospels to piece together what happened.
    • We find Mary the Magdalene is mentioned in all of the Gospel accounts. However, additional women are mentioned in some of the Gospels (Luke 24:10)
      • For instance, Mary, the mother of James is mentioned in three of the four. (Mat 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10)  The English translation of Mark 16:1 refers to Mary, mother of James.  Just one verse prior, Mark 15:47 refers to Mary, mother of Joses.  So, if this is the same Mary, how is it she is the mother of each of these people? It is accepted this Mary of Mark 16:1 is the same Mary who was mentioned in Mark 15:40 as “…Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses…[4]”.    Put those facts together with recalling the names of Jesus’ step-brothers from Mat 13:55: James; Joseph; Simon; Judas.
        • I believe the Gospel writer, Mark, by mentioning Mary as the mother of Joses and James in consecutive sentences, was telling us this Mary is the mother of Jesus.  The reason I believe this is I think a mother probably would know better than anyone else whether her son died.  We know she was there at the cross on Good Friday. (John 19:25)  It is reasonable to think she would have been at the tomb to give proper respect in burial of her first-born son.
      • Other women at the tomb with these two Mary’s were Salome (Greek: Σαλώμη) mentioned in Mark 16:1, and Joanna mentioned in Luke 24:10.  There could have still been more women than these four, but we can confirm from the four Gospels at least three additional women were witnesses along with Mary Magdelene.
    • On the way to the tomb, these women were wondering about how they would roll the stone away from the mouth of the tomb. How else would they be able to access Jesus’ body to finish the burial preparation?  (Mark 16:3) When they arrived, they found the stone at the entrance to the tomb already rolled away. (Mark 16:4)
      • Additionally, they discover a young man was sitting in the tomb (Mark 16:5)
        • Is this in conflict with the other Gospels?
          • Initially it seemed only one angel appeared as part of a great earthquake that rolled the stone away from the tomb.  This angel then sat on the stone.  (Mat 28:2) We learn from the Matthew text, this event scared the soldiers on guard almost to the point of death. (Mat 28:3)
          • After discovering the stone was rolled away from the opening of the tomb, two angels appear before the women.  (Mat 28: 5-7; Luke 24:4-7) We can get into this another time on the significance of two witnesses, and how these number of witnesses appear in the OT and elsewhere in the NT.  But what Mary Magdalene reported to the disciples was what the one on the right had said. (Mark 16:6-7)
            • This is not strange if you think about it.  If two are speaking, even if the same thing, our minds are such that we will focus on one of the two speakers, even though we will hear both.
    • Two groups of people ran into town to tell people what they witnessed.
      • Mary Magdalene and the others ran to town to tell the disciples the Lord was taken. (John 20:2)  However, before she and the others with her got very far into the trip back, Jesus appeared to the women at the tomb. (Mat 28:9-10)  Mary is recorded as saying something specifically about what Jesus said to her, but this does not preclude other things having been said. (John 20:14-17)
      • Members of the guard (Greek: κουστωδίας) Pilate authorized (Mat 27:65) left the tomb about the same time as the women. (Mat 28:11)  However, they were going to see those who hired them.  Regardless of the motivation for their leaving the tomb, they nonetheless were also witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection.  They were there to witness the same things the women saw and heard.  We know this, because they reported as written in the Greek, “… all that came to pass.” (Mat 28:11 ending - ἅπαντα τὰ γενόμενα)
    • Mary and the others arrive back in town to tell the disciples about what they experienced. (Luke 24:9-10, 22-23) Additionally, the Gospel writers mentioned specific things Mary recalled of their experience at the tomb. (John 20:13-18)
      • The disciples were probably overwhelmed with the things the women were telling them. Everyone had their impression of the situation, but all were in agreement of their testimony that they saw the Lord Jesus!  (Mat 28:9-10) Upon hearing this testimony, two of the disciples, Peter and John, went to the tomb.  They saw only an empty tomb (Luke 24:12,24; John 20:3-9)
      • Soldiers (Greek: στρατιώταις) of the guard were paid a sufficient amount of silver to become false witnesses.  They were paid to tell people, “His disciples came at night and stole Him while we were asleep.” (Mat 28:13)
        • Let’s analyze this for a moment: Roman soldiers would have been threatened with death if they did not stay awake during their watch, regardless of the time of day they were on watch duty.  Dereliction of duty like that could get an entire cohort of soldiers killed in an ambush. It must have taken a lot of money to change their story from what they originally witnessed.  Their false story also apparently didn’t hold up, because we would still be hearing about it to this day, wouldn’t we?  Fact checkers of what politicians and government officials say are always ready and waiting to seize upon something false – especially if it doesn’t go with their narrative.  Additionally, Pilate, Caesar Tiberius, everyone in the Roman government, were not interested in who Jesus was and what He had done for them.  The Roman government eventually made it a crime to be a Christian.  Don’t you think the false witness of the soldiers of the guard at Jesus tomb would have been a lie repeated and repeated until people believed it to be true?
  • Application: Hopefully, you are convinced on the evidence presented before you there were several credible witnesses present at the tomb of Jesus that first Easter morning.  Jesus was indeed raised from the dead!  However, is that where the story ends?
    • The reality is at the end of the chapter of our Epistle reading for today, the Apostle Paul wrote - 50 Now I say this, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ[5].
      • There is no way us sinful beings have any place in heaven – apart from us somehow being cleansed of our sins.  We were conceived in sin that we inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve.  And we have done a fine job of continuing in their tradition of rebellion against God.  If God had not done something to save us from our own rebellion, we would have no hope in life.  We would be born, live a tough life, and die.  The sins we committed throughout our life would determine just how bad the torture of hell would be for us.  Particularly evil people will get a much harsher sentence of eternal death.
        • However, no one in hell is going to be enjoying it.  The despair of regret for not turning from one’s sinful ways will be on the minds of everyone in hell.  It’ll be like an intense worry you probably had once in your life, when every waking moment was spent thinking about some threat or problem or regret you just could not shake.  That’s what people in hell experience eternally in hell; it never goes away.
        • With this in mind, you can see why some people, those who do not have the Lord in their heart, mind, and soul, try to get whatever they can get out of this life. They don’t realize how that logic screws up their eternal life after life in this Age ends.  The Apostle Paul wrote -  If the dead are not raised, let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die[6].  That’s the logic of people who have no hope.
      • That isn’t what God wanted for His people.  The Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit knew even before creating the world that God’s most precious of all creation, mankind – you and me – would someday rebel and turn away from the one person who loved them the most.  Some people ask why would God go ahead and create people knowing they would rebel?  God is a God of love.  In fact, He so loved the world, God the Father sent His one and only Son, so that those who believe in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  And keep in mind, God did not send His Son to condemn the world.  God sent His only Son so that believers in Him would be saved from that eternal torment of hell I just mentioned.  Believers in Christ are not judged.  It is only the non-believers, especially those who rejected God’s most precious gift of His own Son, who are already judged.
    • Those who heard the word of the Lord and the promise of eternal salvation, but rejected what they heard, have sinned against the Holy Spirit.  It is the sins against the Holy Spirit which *weren’t* nailed to the cross on that first Good Friday.  100% percent of all other types of sins were indeed nailed to the cross, because Jesus took upon Himself those sins.  Those sins nailed to the cross include anything you and I have done which broke one of the Ten Commandments and otherwise rebelled against God and His word.
      • However, the real victory was not accomplished until Jesus rose from the dead that first Easter morning.  The Apostle Paul put it this way a little further down the page from our Epistle reading for today - 16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ only in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied[7].
      • I ask you, when was the last time you as a Christian were pitied for believing in Jesus? If people know you are a practicing Christian, either through your words or actions, they are more likely to hate you, because they hate the one who lives in your heart and soul and mind. If you think of it, a Jesus-hater is probably just as much a witness of the resurrection of our Lord as any of the four or more women we discovered were there at the empty tomb on the third day after Jesus died on the cross.  The soldiers of the guard at the tomb were witnesses as well. Jesus-haters and soldiers bearing false witness about what Jesus accomplished for all of us by rising from the dead are those kinds of people who sin against the Holy Spirit.
  • Conclusion: We are not to be pitied as Jesus-lovers.  Jesus did rise from the dead and as we have noted, there were several witnesses.  What Jesus accomplished for believers in Him will ultimately be seen when we sit down at the Lamb’s High Feast[8], a feast God will prepare for all those who come into heaven.
    • The Apostle John spoke of a wedding supper of the Lamb in Rev Ch#19.  Some of the details of that supper were written about in our OT lesson for today.  Indulge me a moment as I reread that - Now the Lord of armies will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. And on this mountain He will destroy the covering which is over all peoples, The veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken. And it will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let’s rejoice and be glad in His salvation.[9]
    • The admission ticket to that “lavish banquet” is Jesus.  Jesus worked the work of salvation by cleansing us of our sins.  We get a free pass into heaven because of His innocent suffering and death on the cross, *AND* His rising from the dead to show He has the power over death and its causes.  The ladies at Jesus temporary tomb wondered what all was happening.  But after Jesus ascended into heaven, and then the Holy Spirit came into the souls of believers since Pentecost, a believer’s wonderment is displaced with faith provided by the Holy Spirit to believe that Jesus is Lord and has done all He said He would do.
    • I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could say or sing enough Alleluias today, nor the rest of my life, to thank the Lord sufficiently for that admission ticket to the “lavish banquet”.  I guess we will settle for what we can do in leading a thankful life, doing all to the glory of our Lord, and keeping in mind that every day is a day closer to the time when we get to sit down at the Lamb’s High Feast. Amen!

 


 


[1] Mark 8:31 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+8&version=NASB

[2] Mark 9:31 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%209&version=NASB

[3] Mark 10:33-34 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2010&version=NASB

[4] Mark 15:40 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mar/15/1/t_conc_972040

[5] 1Co 15:50-56 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+15&version=NASB

[6] 1Co 15:32b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2015&version=NASB

[7] 1Co 15:16-19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+15&version=NASB

[8] A reference to Lutheran Service Book Hymn 633, “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing”, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, MO 2006

[9] Isa 25:6-9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isa+25&version=NASB

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