September 4, 2011

Monday after the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 71, 1 Sam. 31, Lk. 21:20
Evening - Ps. 77, Nahum 1:3-8, 15, Rom. 8:18-27

Commentary
Romans 8:18-27

We have been reading about justification and sanctification. These have been the theme of Romans to this point. Justification is simply God's regarding us as righteous on the basis of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. It has been a major point of Romans to show that God does not regard us righteous on the basis of our attempts to live up to the moral/ethical standards of Biblical law. Our attempts to live up to these standards have been miserable failures. As we measure ourselves by the Biblical law we see that we have not earned God's favour by keeping His law; we have earned His displeasure by breaking His law. But God has taken all His displeasure at our sin upon Himself in Christ, and He counts us as righteous, as just, if we believe in Christ and trust His sacrificial death to make us right with God. That is justification by grace through faith, often called, simply, justification by faith. In less theological terms, Christ took our sins upon Himself and suffered for them on the cross. He offers forgiveness of sins to all who will receive it from Him as His gift to us. Thus, forgiveness is justification, and the act of receiving it from Christ is faith.

Justification is not the end of the Christian journey, it is the beginning. Having been justified, we enter into a life-long pattern of growing more Godly in our thoughts and actions. We begin a life style of growing in holiness. In Bible talk, we begin the process of sanctification. This is also accomplished by God for us. It is the result of His Word and Spirit working in us through the means of grace, restructuring our values, desires, ideas, and every other aspect of our being.

Now Romans turns to the end and result of justification and sanctification. We call this, "glorification." Glorification refers to the future blessing of all believers, when the trials of life are over and we find ourselves in that place of perfect bliss with God forever. One of the most wonderful things about Heaven is that our sanctification will be complete. We will be completely remade, so that all of our being lives for God, and can never be turned aside to sin again

This hope, according to verse 18, makes the battles and sorrows and persecutions of earth bearable. More than bearable, they become insignificant, when compared to the final happiness the Christian will know in Heaven. The two cannot even be compared. They are like apples and oranges, or life and death, or Heaven and earth.

Paul illustrates this with the present and future states of the physical universe. The "creature" in verses 19-22 refers to the entire physical creation (in the Greek New Testament, the same word is used throughout these verses, but it is translated as creature in verses 19, 20, and 21, and as creation inverse 22). He says the created order waits for the revelation of the sons of God (8:19) This means the entire created order looks forward, (to use a little personification) to the day when those who are justified and sanctified will be shown in their final state of glorification. Why? Because in that day, when all of the purpose and plan of God for His Church is completed, the whole created order will be delivered from the current condition of corruption (8:21).

We live in the hope and anticipation of that day. We are even seeing some of it already. We live in the beginning of the age of fulfillment in which the promises of the Old Testament are beginning to be fulfilled. We live in the age of Christ. We live in the era of His Church. Even within ourselves we see God at work bringing us toward this fulfillment. But we do not live in its complete fullness yet. It is a hope that is not fulfilled yet (8:24), but our justification and sanctification give us confidence that our God will bring it into full reality.

Sermon for Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

How God Shows Greatness
Luke 18:9-14
Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
September 4, 2011


"Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness"(Ps. 48:1). "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). These verses from the Psalms remind us again of the grandeur and wonder of God. He created all things, and they exist for His pleasure and His purpose. He is not simply "out there," He is actively involved in His creation, so much that it is correct to say He is everywhere in it. He permeates it. His power sustains it. His decrees order the movement of the galaxies and of atoms and sub-atomic particles. He knows the number of the hairs on your head, and the number of the days of your life. This does not mean He and the creation are one and the same. It is incorrect to say He exists in the creation. It is correct to say the creation exists in Him. He is in it, and He fills it, yet He is distinct from it, so that it is not Him and He is not it. He is far more vast and complex than it. He is eternal in His being, and He is infinite in His being. The creation is finite in both, and though the universe appears vast and unfathomable to us, to God it is as a smudge of dust on His finger.

I say all of this to remind us again of the Great Being we have gathered to worship this morning. I think we often think of God in terms that are too small, and that we forget about His infinite being and power, and that we forget that this One, Infinite Being who dwells in eternity, is also infinite in holiness, and justice, and wisdom, and power. And when we forget this, we have a tendency to treat Him casually. We have a tendency to think of Him as being like us, and as being more like our good buddy in the sky or the "man upstairs" than as the Great High God who holds our being in His hand, and is able to cast us into Hell, and who is as infinite in holiness and goodness as He is in His being. If we could but glimpse the train of His robe we would be filled with such awe we would immediately cease the casual silliness that passes for faith and worship today, and we would fall on our faces in reverence and fear.

And yet, we have seen much more of Him than the train of His robe. He, Himself came to us and showed Himself to us. He did not reveal Himself in all of His power and glory. We could not see that and live. He showed Himself by becoming one of us, and by living among us, and facing life and sorrow, and joy, and temptation, and death, just as we have to do, for He became a real man.

For what purpose did Jesus come to earth, and teach us about God, and die on the cross? It was not to crush us under His feet. It was not to tread us in the winepress of the fierceness of His wrath. He will come back in judgment one day, and that will be a fearful day but that is not why He was born in Bethlehem and walked that long road to Golgotha. He came not to take life, but to give life. "I am come that they [His people] might have life," He said in John 10:10. "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever believth in me shall never die," He said in John 11:25 and 26. In Matthew 20:28 He said He, the Son of Man, came to give His life as a ransom for many. You and I could quote many other verses on this theme, but we have mentioned enough to make the point I am trying to make this morning: Jesus Christ came to show mercy. Jesus Christ came to save.

Imagine the vastness of this universe, so vast that, to us, it seems almost infinite. Imagine the complexity of this universe, or even of one single living cell. And all of this is nothing compared to God. Yet, when He chose to come to earth and give the fullest revelation of Himself we can receive as mere human beings, and when He chose to reveal that most important attribute of Himself, as far as His relationship to us is concerned, He chose to reveal His mercy. How absolutely stunning. It is too much for words.

This does not mean He overlooks our sin, or that He is not offended and angered by our sin. It does not mean He will not punish sinners. It does mean He delights in showing mercy, and every sinner who truly repents and unfeignedly believes His holy Gospel, is welcomed into His presence with true joy and love, forever. From the woman taken in adultery, to the Pharisee Saul who persecuted the Church, to the publican praying in the Temple to every person hearing or reading this sermon, all who trust in Jesus Christ will find God to be full of mercy, the Father of all mercies, who declares His almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity.

"Almighty God, who declarest thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandment, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of they heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."