• Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, the world seems to be imploding before our very eyes. There is so much pressure on people to conform to the sinful ways of our society or be “canceled”.  You shed Your innocent blood in our place.  You died on the cross and received the punishment for sin we should have received.  For this we are eternally grateful.  Please send the Holy Spirit to have us grow in the true faith, so that despite the decay we see in ourselves and the world, we do not grow faint and lose out on the gift of eternal life that You worked with the Father and the Spirit to win for us. We pray this in your Name, Lord Jesus. Amen.
  • Introduction: What do Tom Brady (43), Phil Michelson (50), and Helio Castroneves (46) have in common?  Hint: In your bulletin, I included their ages in parentheses after their name.
    • All these men are supposed to be well past their prime in younger men’s sports, yet each has won a major event in their respective sport in 2021.  It seems to me to be forever ago that Tom Brady won Super Bowl LV.  He did this at 43 with the Buccaneers after being with the Patriots for 20yrs.  Phil Michelson became the oldest major championship winner in the history of golf, when he won the 2021 PGA Championship in South Carolina just 2wks ago[1].  And, just last weekend, Helio Castroneves became the 4th oldest Indy 500 winner after he was considered too old to win the race[2].
    • Apparently, they defy a portion of our text for today in 2Co 4:16 about “…[the] outer person is decaying…” And yet, these men stayed focused on the prize (1Co 9:24-25).  They focused on winning it all, well before they even set foot onto the field or track. They each have an approach to their sport which is very business-like.  Everything they do is geared toward that victory.  I don’t know if any of these men are believers in Christ, but they sure conduct themselves as if taking coaching from the Apostle Paul - 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. So they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable[3].
  • Analysis: What could us Christians learn from these very recent secular examples?  After all, Paul called it when he said these sports stars were all competing for a trophy that can be melted down and used for some other purpose.  Everything in this Age is coming to an end and will perish when Jesus returns for the second and final time in earth’s history.
    • As you know, I turned 60 last week.  I considered it an accomplishment, especially when I’ve heard of people younger than me already put into a grave.  Even so, maybe you can identify with the following evidence of decay.
      • I cannot run, lift, or throw as I used to.  It doesn’t help that I’m 30lbs heavier than I was when I ran track in high school. ☹  I don’t think if I slim down to Helio Castroneves’ weight of 146lbs, I will suddenly be a contender for the next Indy 500, even though he & I are the same height.
      • After working in the yard of my home, I still gain muscle. But, that muscle mass doesn’t stick around very long.  Atrophy set in rather quickly after I was down for the count over the 2mo’s it took for me to recover from Covid earlier this year.
    • In our text, the Apostle Paul used a Greek word, διαφθείρεται, which means in this context to change for the worse.  Since this verb is written in the passive voice, it means our bodies are being decayed as we live. The longer we live, the more decay we witness.  However, the decay of our bodies was not God’s original plan for us.
      • Decay and death is the curse we brought onto ourselves through our first parents (Gen 3:19).  To recall, our OT reading for today was taken from Gen ch#3.   We were reminded of the sin of rebellion our first parents, Adam & Eve, had committed.  They had perfect bodies at the time they decided to be like God, and do their own thing instead of following the simple command of do not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.  No, they were the smart ones in the Garden of Eden – until God came looking for them in the cool of the day, and they hid their perfect bodies from Him.  Later in Gen ch#3 were the consequences of that sin of rebellion as said by God in v19 - 19 By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.[4]”  The prognosis for all of us is a life of decay to the point when we return to the dust.
      • That one sin didn’t just get passed on to everyone who ever lived. All of creation suffers from decay (Rom 8:19-22).  Creation itself is subjected to futility.  Unlike our first parents who knowingly and willingly rebelled, creation was an unwilling participant.  Plants, animals, and even basic elements and molecules suffer because of sin.  This is why evolution is such a denial of reality. This Age as we experience it is coming to an end.  It is devolving, not evolving.  Heaven and earth *will* pass away, said our Lord (Mark 13:31).
    • The process of decay of heaven, earth, and humans will come to an end (Heb 13:14).  This is hinted at in Heb 13:14, when the writer to the Hebrews stated - 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come[5].  This was written in the context of Jesus sanctifying believers in Him through the shedding of His own blood – the sacrifice to end all of the OT commanded sacrifices. Because of what Jesus did, the writer was making the case that we look forward to the new Jerusalem, the city that is to come sometime in our eternal life.  This is why we sang the opening hymn, “Jerusalem, My Happy Home”, to get us thinking about what is to come in our eternal life.
      • Jesus Himself told of the world as we know it coming to an end in the Parable of the Weeds and Wheat (Mat 13:36-43).  [Quick note: I messed up on the back of your bulletin and wrote “Parable of the Sower”.]  Jesus was asked by His disciples what the parable meant when good seed was cast that was pure of any contaminants, but weeds began to pop up along with the wheat. Jesus was the person who cast good seed, but the devil scattered seeds of weeds which would interfere with God’s good plan.  There will be a harvest of everything at the end of this Age.  There will then be a separation of the wheat from the weeds. The wheat represented the righteous people who by faith trust in Jesus.  They will spend eternity at the end of the Age with Jesus.  However, the weeds are the people who denied Jesus at the end of their life and so were bound up together and cast into the furnace of hell, to live for eternity.  Implicit in this parable Jesus told is that there will be an end to this Age.
      • After the harvest of the earth, everything will be made anew (Rev 21:1). This is something explicitly said by Jesus to the Apostle John in Rev 21:1-2 - Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband[6].   Creation will no longer be groaning under the weight of sin and futility that resulted from sin.  Believers in Christ will no longer suffer the effects of decay when we enter into the New Jerusalem!
      • Some people dread getting older.  Not me!  I think that’s a reason why I considered it an accomplishment in making it to 60.  I am happy to announce my count-down to 60 ended successfully!  Each day you & I live is a day closer to perfection (Rom 13:11).  Each day is one day less we have to suffer the decay of this present Age.
  • Conclusion: I hope you haven’t tuned me out by this point in the message. Yes, you & I are decaying, but we are also growing faithfulness (1Pe 3:4).  Non-believers can get wiser as they get older, but especially believers achieve this.  The Apostle Peter wrote about proper conduct for husbands and wives in 1Pe ch#3.  He started the chapter by referencing how women should be more concerned about exerting “…pure and respectful behavior” (1Pe 3:02), than what they adorn their decaying bodies with gold jewelry and fancy clothes. Peter exhorted women to instead work on the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable qualities of a gentle and quiet spirit.  Us guys are not off the hook, because Peter later wrote about the qualities of meekness and humility.  God considers these qualities as precious in His sight.
    • Like the three sports stars I mentioned earlier who ignored setbacks and decay of their body and mind, they fixed their eyes on the prize (2Co 4:18).  Let me quote from a portion of our Epistle for today - 17 For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal[7].  The things we cannot see with our eyes are really the things we need to focus on in life. Hmm, that can be tough when we cannot physically see the New Jerusalem with our eyes.  We can’t see that trophy like the sports stars can see at the end of a competition.  There are many stars who have come & gone throughout the history of sports, and some were plenty nasty.  They didn’t exhibit the qualities the Apostle Peter wrote about by inspiration, either in fair competition on the field, or away from the field.  That’s what makes it tough to remain faithful to the Lord – the inability to clearly see the prize.  And, what we do see, is only there to distract us away from the prize.
      • Nonetheless, through our baptism ordained by God, we carry Jesus’ death in our body, so that His life is also revealed through us (2Co 4:10).  We can’t see a physical property of humility for example.  But, we can perceive when a person is humble, and when they aren’t.  We can see meekness in a father, when his little son of maybe 40lbs comes crashing into his 200lbs dad, sending that dad sprawling onto the floor.  The little squirt wouldn’t make a dent into his dad in a wrestling match, but the dad displayed meekness in not using his strength against his own flesh & blood to smack the kid back.  He instead played along with his son.
      • A baptized child of God is clothed in Christ (Gal 3:27) and has the Holy Spirit working in them to keep the focus on the hidden Christ and not on what is seen.  All we can see of a baptized child of God is their actions.
    • Don’t lose heart over all this talk about decay.  We need to remember something spoken from this pulpit during the Easter season: greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1Jn 4:4).  Jesus is in a baptized child of God by the work of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to remember who is in you, especially when things aren’t going so well in life.  There are forces of evil determined to trip up each and every child of God.  They want to choke off the wheat which Jesus spread throughout the world.  Even in our country, which pledges to be one nation, under God, there are strong forces working against anything God asked us to do. Again; don’t lose heart.  The harvest of the Age is coming!
      • Focus on the fact that our current troubles inside and outside our body are only in this Age (2Co 4:17).   The day is coming when none the crap of 2021 we experience will be anywhere near us.  Everything I have seen on the news recently all portends of tougher times ahead.  I’m sure you have as well.  Resolve right here & now that the things you & I see are not going to be the weeds of life that choke us off from getting that seat at the Lamb’s High Feast we’ve been referring to several times this spring.  Resolve that the next birthday card you receive is one less you will receive until you enter into New Jerusalem.  I get it, and I hope you get it, that we can talk about resolving ourselves to do good works in the sight of the Lord.  But without the Holy Spirit, we might as well spit into the wind.  The good news is you & I as baptized children of God *do* have the Holy Spirit, empowering us to lead a life of good works. We should be the happiest people anyone could run across.  We know how all of the junk of this Age turns out for those in Christ.  By faith, we can have confidence in Him, to bring us to New Jerusalem.  He already went on ahead of us to prepare that place for us.
      • One final reminder: we died with Christ when we were baptized.  Because He rose from the dead, He will make all in Him rise with Him.  When we finally breath our last in this Age, that death is what is referred to as the 1st death.  The 2nd death comes on Judgement Day, when a Jesus-denier is sentenced to eternal death in hell.  Not so for those in Christ!  Death has no power over those in Christ. 
        • We will commune in a minute or so, and receive Jesus real presence into us and we in Him.  We will have forgiveness of sins.  And with Jesus in us and we in Him, He who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us as well (2Co 4:14).  After that, there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, for the current Age will have passed away (Rev 21:4).  Amen!

[1] Facts presented per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Mickelson

[2] Facts presented per https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/breaking/ct-indianapolis-500-winner-20210530-tnzhzdgrfzdyzj5r6ss2vbfriu-story.html

[3] 1Co 9:24-25 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+co+9&version=NASB

[4] Gen 3:19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+3&version=NASB

[5] Heb 13:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+13&version=NASB

[6] Rev 21:1-2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+21&version=NASB

[7] 2Co 4:17-18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2co+4&version=NASB