December 9, 2012

Sermon, Second Sunday in Advent

Finding God in the Bible
Psalm 119:1-16, Romans 15:4-13, Luke 21:24-33
Second Sunday of Advent
December 9, 2012

Advent calls us to step away from frantic activities and commercialism, and to quietly reflect on the things of God. Things like, what does it mean that God came to earth in Bethlehem?  And, what does it mean that this same Jesus will come again?  Thus we are reminded of the two Advents of Christ: the first in humility as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world," the second as the Lion of Judah who will come again "to judge the quick and the dead."
Yet, there is another way in which Christ "comes" to us.  This is not a visible Advent or Return.  It is not heralded by angels or trumpets.  It is a spiritual advent as Christ's Spirit comes to those who love Him.  When a soul seeks Him in prayer, He comes.  When His Church worships Him, He comes.  When we kneel at the communion rail, He comes.  When we open the Bible, He comes.  He is here now.

People often tell me they don't feel God's presence with them.  They don't feel His presence in church or at prayer or in the every day things of life.  The Bible never tells us to "feel" His presence.  The Bible simply tells us He is with us, and leaves it to us to believe it in faith.   We know He is with us because He says He is, and we believe His word.
I believe we can be aware of living close to God, or of living apart from Him.  We become aware of this, not through a "feeling" inside of us, but through comparing our thoughts and actions to the clear teachings of Scripture.  We know we are close to God when we are living for Him in faith and obedience.  We know we are living apart from God when we neglect the things of God, either intentionally or unintentionally.  We know we are living apart from God when we neglect our God given duties to our family, community, or church.  We know we are living apart from God when we neglect the Church, the prayers, the sacraments, and the Bible.  Perhaps that is why, on this Second Sunday in Advent, when we begin again to reflect upon the doctrines of the Christian faith, we turn to the Holy Bible, and to Christ coming to His people in His Word.

When we talk about the Bible we generally talk about two things; its Divine origin, and its Divine subject.  To say the Bible has a Divine origin is to say the Bible comes from God.  This is what we mean when we call the Bible, "the word of God."  Somehow, God put His words into the minds of men, and enabled them to speak and/or write them exactly as God gave them.

The Old Testament is very clear about the Divine origin of the Bible.  God spoke to Adam and Eve.  God spoke to Noah.  God spoke to Abraham and Sarah.  God spoke to Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah, and Isaiah.  All of these people received revelation directly from God, which is recorded in the Bible.  The prophets always prefaced their messages with words like, "The word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah from the Lord."  They often spoke the word of God at great personal sacrifice.  Jeremiah is well known for enduring persecution.  Others suffered also, so many that, before our Lord prophesied judgement on Jerusalem in Matthew 24 and 25, He wept over the city, saying, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee" (Mt. 23:37).

The New Testament is also filled with references to its Divine authorship. The Gospels record the ministry and teachings of Christ, which He gave to the Apostles and commissioned them to, "teach all nations" (Mt. 28:19).  The Epistles teach the faith Christ committed to the Apostles.  "I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you," wrote Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23.  Peter said the Scriptures are the result of holy men speaking "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (1 Pet 2:21).  John said he wrote the Book of Revelation at the direct command of Christ (Rev.1:11).  Then there is that magnificent statement in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." I am sure you have heard many times that the original Greek says all scripture is, "God breathed," or, "breathed out of the mouth of God" as His word.

So the Bible has a Divine origin.  The Bible also has a Divine subject.  The Bible is about God.  In the Bible alone we find what God wants us to know about Him.  The Bible teaches us about the Trinity, the cross, and the resurrection.  The Bible teaches us of the Divine Wrath that hates our sins, and the Divine Love that gave Himself for our sins.
The Bible teaches us how to have peace with God.  The Bible puts forth the unique and surprising view that we can only have peace with God if God gives it to us out of His own free grace. The Bible teaches that we can't be good enough to save ourselves because we can't atone for our sins.  The Bible teaches that knowledge won't save us because knowledge can't create in us the ability or desire to do what we know.  We need a complete moral/spiritual transformation of the very core of our being, based on a complete and eternal atonement for sin, and that can only be done by God Himself.

The Bible teaches us how God wants us to live. We hear much talk today about finding your passion and following your dream, but the Bible talks about receiving a better passion and a better dream from God.  It tells us that our greatest passion can be to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.  It tells us to let other passions go and to embrace the passion of doing the will of God.  It talks about learning to love what God loves, and learning to desire what God wants to give.  It talks about loving truth, and righteousness, and holiness, and self-sacrifice.  It talks about learning that in our relationships with others, it is more blessed to give than to receive, and that, rather than living for the next trinket or amusement, real happiness is found in living for God.

"Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."

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