August 11, 2013

Sermon, Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Christians Receive
Psalm 124, 125, 1 Corinthians 15:1, Luke 18:9
Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
August 11, 2013

 Last Sunday I spoke to you about what Christians want.  Today I would like to speak about what Christians get.  The Title of the sermon is, Christians Receive.”  We are of course talking about what Christians receive from God as the gifts of His grace, and the very first thing we receive, which is the foundation upon which all else stands, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As Paul wrote in our first lesson for this morning, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved.” According to Paul it is the Gospel which causes us to stand before God.  Stand is used here as it might be used when we say, “stand fast.”  We can picture ourselves as part of a great army facing a powerful, advancing enemy along the line of battle. But we do not run.  We do not even tremble at the size and power of the enemy.  We stand fast.  When I thing of this metaphor in Scripture I often think back to the movie, “Three Hundred Spartans.”  The Spartans had gathered at a gap in the mountains called Thermopoly to try to stop the advance of the Persian army into Greece.  As the three hundred Spartans stood in the gap, they faced several thousand of the best soldiers in the Persian army.  I don’t know if this happened in real life, but in the movie, the leader of the Spartans drew a line in the sand with his sword and said, “Spartans, from this line, we do not retreat.”  They did not retreat.  They stood at the line of battle and fought to the last man.  When the Bible says we are enabled to “stand” it means we also are able to stand in the face of the enemy.  God has drawn a line in the sand, this line is the Gospel.  It is the Bible.  It is the faith once delivered to the saints.  We stand on the line.  From this line we do not retreat.

To stand is also the opposite of falling.  We read in history, and in the Bible itself, of people falling before an enemy.  We read of the fall of Rome, the fall of Jerusalem, and the fall of the great empires of the past.  The Bible even tells us that God raises up empires according to His own will and purpose, and casts them down according to that same will and purpose.  But to the Church He does not say we will fall before our foes.  To the Church He promises overwhelming victory, accomplished through His power and grace.  Thus, not only will we never retreat, we will also never fall. We will stand against all odds and all enemies.  We stand in the Gospel.

Paul said we are saved by the Gospel.  The world considers that an insult.  The world does not want God to save it, it wants to save itself.  And it only wants God on its terms.  The Gospel is a stumbling block to the world.  The preaching of the cross is offensive to its people.  But we must take God on His terms, not expect Him to accept us on ours.  And His terms are given in the Gospel, “by which ye are saved.”

Saved means to be forgiven of our sins and restored to fellowship with God.  It means to have our sins forgiven, and our status changed from criminals against God, to honoured guests in His House.  It also means to be delivered from the self-destructive life-style, habits, thoughts, and actions that kill the soul and destroy lives.

I heard Rush Limbaugh say something very profound last Friday.  I think it was the most profound thing he has ever said.  He was talking about the things people do to gain recognition from others, and he said, in essence, that such recognition will not make anyone happy.  In fact he said such people are looking for happiness in the wrong places.  The things they turn to not only are incapable of giving happiness, but are also absolutely destructive of happiness in every way.  I agree. The Bible agrees.  And the Gospel of Jesus Christ wants to rescue us from those destructive forces and deliver us into a new life, which can and does bring joy to the soul.  The Gospel saves us.

What is the Gospel that saves us?  It is the Gospel of Christ.  As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3 and 4,

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

God entered human history and human life and human death.  He experienced it all Himself, with no special treatment or exemptions.  He lived by faith.  He suffered. He died.  He went to the grave.  And He did it all for you.  He did it to save you.

This brings me back to the point of my sermon, “Christians Receive.” Christians receive all that Christ died to give us.  Our sins are forgiven, all of them forever.  No matter how bad you have been, or how good you think you are, those who believe in Christ are forgiven and our sins are removed as far away from us the east is from the west.  Paul persecuted Christians before he was converted.  Yet his sins, including the deaths of many Christians, were fully and completely forgiven.  That is the promise of God to all believers.  And that new way of life that I was talking about, the life lived in fellowship with God, restored to His ways and will, which is the only real life of happiness and joy, is ours also.  It is given to us as a free gift.  We have only a foretaste of it now, but we are only eating the appetizer.  Or, in more Biblical language, we might say we are enjoying the earnest, the down payment, of the joys and bliss and heavenly treasures we can only fully know in Heaven.  But we are enjoying what we have now.

And this leads me to the conclusion for today, Christians receive because God gives.  He gives freely and generously and at His own expense.  He gives that we may obtain what He promises, and that we may be made partakers of His heavenly treasure through Jesus Christ.  I think John 3:16 sys this very well.  “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
              
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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