In With the New, Out With the Old.
The Children of Israel at the Jordan River
by Pastor Jurgen Rausch
Josh 3:1-5, 14-17
1" Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the levitical Priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. …..5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
14 "So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground".
20 Years Ago This Year!
The year was 1994. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of the church that I pastored, at a time when the church had turned a corner and was beginning to see some new momentum. I preached a sermon that I have only preached there and nowhere else until I came across it in preparation for this year-end service.
Here are some of the exact words from that sermon:
The good news is that we are definitely going to cross the Jordan River; the bad news is that we are not quite sure where. For those who have no idea what I am talking about, let me explain: Our church is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this November – it was in Nov. of ’54 when the church began, now has been in existence for 40 years.
Some have likened these 40 years to '40 years spend in the wilderness'. Although you don’t want to take the analogy too far, because after all, Israel was in the dessert for 40 years because of disobedience, which is certainly not the case here; and with Israel, that entire first generation had to die off which again is not the case with us (if anything, some of our strongest advocates for faith, and moving forward with God, have come from that first generation).
So, not taking the comparison too far, nevertheless, there is some merit in the comparison because our 40 years have not been easy years.
The church has always been rather small and obscure, we’ve had our struggles over the years over language, culture; over ideas and personalities. One pastor had a nervous breakdown, another pastor passed away with cancer – it’s been tough.
God’s been with us and we’ve remained faithful, but it’s been tough and slow going, no doubt about that.
But in the last couple of years things have started to come together for us. More and more people are being touched by the ministries of this church, attendance is on the rise, we’re seeing new people come, younger people come with lots of children, we’re sensing an increased presence of the Holy Spirit, the worship is more dynamic and we’re seeing God blessing both new and old ministries.
Through all of this has come a sense of momentum and a sense of being on the verge of something extraordinary. 40 years of wilderness seem to be behind us and what lies ahead is the 'Promised Land'.
A large and spacious land, which is ours for the taking!
“I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.” Josh 1:3-4
And then I said this:
'May I be so bold as to suggest, that God wants to increase our borders?
The only reason why we need to increase our borders is because it’s getting a little tight for everyone as it is right now, not to mention trying to add those whom the Lord will add to this church.
We need to lay hold of the land with its increased borders. As Israel needed to lay hold of its promised land so we need to lay hold of our 'promised land.'
Those words were spoken 20 years ago! At that time we were on the verge of the 'Promised Land'. We didn’t cross into it that year, but waited at the Jordan River until we were large enough and ready enough to cross.
Did we cross over? Not sure about that but we certainly were on the verge of it.
Now looking back, God did indeed bring us to the verge of it, but I don’t think we ever crossed over. Today that church remains pretty much where it was when I got there.
Today, It’s Us at the 'Promised Land'.
This morning as we sit on the precipice of a new year and as I think about this idea of 'in with the new and out with the old', I wonder what that means for us, at Scott St., at the eclipse of 2013?
The idea of 'in with the new and out with the old' came to me months ago, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to talk about the 'Promised Land', or' the Tender Shoot of Jesse'.
I love the image of the tender shoot of Jesse taken from Isaiah 11:
(“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit”).
This idea of Jesus’ birth, in the bareness of a cold winter night, being the first fruits of spiritual life, that would usher in a mighty harvest of spiritual abundance one day. I love the idea of what that could mean for us, as we consider the beginning of new growth and life in the middle of our winter.
That certainly is a great way to commemorate this idea of “in with the new and out with the old.”
But honestly, I couldn’t get over the 'Promised Land'. This idea, that we too, have come through 40 years of wilderness, that after having gloriously come out of Egypt, at the Red Sea, we have ended up with 40 years of wandering through the dessert.
And finally, now this faint hope – almost like the fragile shoot from Jesse’s stump – a faint whisper that maybe the corner has been turned and that at long last, we can leave this wretched wilderness behind.
You almost dare not hope, lest you spook it away, but there is this faint feeling of our days of dessert-like existence, finally coming to an end.
May I humbly suggest that we may indeed be nearing the edge of the Jordan River – that great barrier, that great divide – and that beyond, on the other side lies the 'Promised Land'. A land – a reality that is ours for the taking, and our inheritance.
Look up from where you are now. Turnaround, from seeing only the dessert behind you, of what we call 2013 and the years before. Look up, to see what stretches ahead as far as the eye can see, in what we call 2014 and the years beyond! And hear the Word of the Lord:
“I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.” Josh 1:3-4
Your territory will be the north- end of St Catharines with borders that will extend from the north- end shoreline of Lake Ontario to the southern borders near the QEW, from the eastern edges of this city near Read Rd. all the way over to Ontario St. and beyond that.
A land teeming with tens of thousands of people in desperate need of a spiritual life, a welcoming community and a message of hope & forgiveness.
This is our territory, these are our people and this is our mission!
Our Promised Land, is us being a strong, compelling beacon of light in the north- end of this city.
It doesn’t matter where you come from, to be here this morning. Doesn’t matter if you drive in from Vineland, NOTL, the west- or south end.
All of us are here to be a lighthouse in this much wider community. Ours is to be a lighthouse. Ours is to be The Lighthouse Church.
What that will look like, remains to be seen at this point. Some of us have glimpsed the possibilities. Those who have glimpsed the land with eyes of faith, have said:
“We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” Nu. 13:27
Here is the land. See the potential. Imagine what can be done here. The hundreds, possibly thousands, who can come to faith in Christ. This land flows with milk and honey, folks!
This is the 'Tender Shoot of Jesse’s stump'. This is the glimpse into the 'Promised Land'. What all that looks like, I don’t know. Where we will cross and how we will enter the land, is yet unclear.
But on the edge of 2014 look up and see what lies ahead! Consider the lessons learned by those that crossed into their Promised Land a long time ago, namely, the children of Israel.
Lesson 1- The Right Time
There is a definite time to go, but also a time to wait. Timing is critical when it comes to moving into the Promised Land.
Israel did not blindly run into the river the moment they arrived at its shore. They arrived, they assembled, they prepared, they waited for everything to fall into place and then they crossed the river.
I am sure there were those who were very impatient and who thought that river should have been crossed long ago.
In fact, there was a time, some took matters into their own hands and it ended in disaster.
“We will go up to the place the Lord promised” Nu 14:39, to which Moses replied “This will not succeed” vs. 41
The reason why it would not succeed, is because the divine timetable had just shifted and by going now, they would move ahead of God’s timing, which always ends badly:
“Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.” Nu. 14:44,45
Wow, what an incredibly important lesson to learn! Timing has to be righ!
Lesson 2- The right people.
Wait for those who are still arriving or haven’t arrived yet.
You can imagine a mega group this size, travelling in a herd, means that those who are at the front of the pack, will arrive long before those at the rear, show up.
It’s real easy for those at the front of the pack to get impatient, with those still arriving, or who haven’t even arrived yet. Those at the front are ready to cross long before everyone at the rear are still at a distance and had not even arrived.
This is a caravan. This will take time. Not everyone moves at the same pace. It takes some longer to get there, where others are already parked.
So, on the one hand, there needs to be patience and a willingness to bear with those who have not quite arrived yet. Let them get there, catch their breath and consider the promises stretched out before them, before taking the plunge.
When a People move into their Promised Land, as many as possible must come along.
There’s always going to be those who will not make the move, no matter what; there’s always going to be some 'naysayers' and no matter what you say or do, it’s going to be 'No'. I am not suggesting that you wait for them, because then you will wait until the cows come home!
But surely, most will need to cross the Jordan with you, otherwise it will never work! Moving ahead with only half the tribe will not succeed.
In fact, let me tell you that at least 80% need to cross the Jordan so as to succeed in the struggles and battles to come.
God made it clear that all were to go:
“Now then, you and all the people, get ready to cross the Jordan River” (Josh 1:2)
which is precisely what happened:
“All Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground” (Josh 3:17).
At least 80%, if not even more!
There was a time when it appeared that there were less than 80% ready to make the move and it seemed as though it wasn’t possible to do this.
In the days when they were first talking about crossing the Jordan, the tribes of the Reubinites, Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh did not want to cross over.
“Do not make us cross the Jordan” (Nu. 32:5)
While 2.5 tribes out of 12 does not seem like a lot, it amounted to 18% of the population. 108,000 people out of a total population of 603,000 were not going to make the crossing.
Moses was so concerned, that in his mind, it might scuttle the entire undertaking. To him, it reminded him of the spies who came back, with a negative report causing such unbelief; resulting 40 more years of the dessert.
Notice what he said:
6 Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, “Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them? This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to look over the land.
14 “And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the Lord even more angry with Israel. If you turn away from following him, he will again leave all this people in the wilderness, and you will be the cause of their destruction.”Nu. 32:6-8, 14-15
It wasn’t until they promised that they would not only, not stand in the way, but they would lend them their resources to help subdue the land, that the tide in Moses' mind shifted.
And this with 20% of the population. Have you heard of the 80/20 principle? It’s actually known as the Pareto Principle.
The Pareto principle is seen in economics where 80% of the wealth is held by 20% of the people. In business it has various applications:
Actually, in group settings there is a 20, 20, 60 principle at work, where the 20% at either end can move the other 60%. 20% at the top can move the remaining 60% toward the top, as can the 20% at the bottom move that same 60% toward the bottom.
With most group issues, 20% will see it long before anyone else sees it, while 20% will never see it. The point is that either 20% can influence the rest to move in either one direction.
It’s almost like the herd of people arriving at the Jordan. The first 20% to arrive will long have seen the possibility of what lies ahead even as the bulk are only slowly arriving at that same conclusion.
The point is that you cannot cross into the Promised Land with less than 80% of the people moving with you.
So, the right time, the right people and third, the right place.
Lesson 3- The right place
You don’t cross a river like the Jordan just anywhere unless of course you have a boat. For them, to get to the Promised Land, they had to cross that river, which was impossible from a human perspective.
You do not just walk across the Jordan at that time of the year; you don’t wade into its waters since the currents will sweep you away and its depth will drown you.
This just happened to be when the waters were the highest:
“The Jordan is at flood stage all during the harvest” (Josh 3:15)
So what do you do? You either get into a boat, or try to do it yourself, or you don’t move until God stops the water.
A lot of people including some churches simply do it themselves; they get themselves a boat and off they go. Who needs God to stop the mighty waters when you can build a boat?
There are those who expand their boundaries and cross their Jordan’s because they have the means to do so. They are big enough, talented enough or rich enough that they can cross it, with or without God.
But that is not who we are! The only way for this church to cross its Jordan and reach its Promised Land is by God drying up the river so that we can cross it.
God will have to make a way for us, to cross that river during flood stage. Just as he did for the Israelites!
“The water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away….while the water flowing down to the Sea of Arabah was completely cut off” . Josh 3:16
The interesting thing is that this happened at a specific place:
“and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan” Josh 3:1
That would be the exact location where the river would dry up; not a mile up river, nor a mile down river, but only there! Very specific!
I suppose you could argue, the river would dry up wherever they set foot, and it just happened to be a Shittim; but I like to think it was the other way around. It would be at Shittim where God would make the miracle and they better be at that spot, if they wanted to cross.
Somehow, that sounds closer to God’s truth, then us presuming that rivers dry up wherever we set foot.
It had to be the right people, had to be the right place and had to be the right time.
So find that place where the river dries up. Find that place where God wants us to cross over. Be there at the right time with the right people and lastly, make sure it’s in the right order.
Lesson 4 The Right Order
'Right Order' means the right people in the right order.
Who were the right people again? Not their parents except for two old warriors from that previous generation named Caleb and Joshua.
So it was those who were there that day. Therefore, the right people and in the right order.
What is the right order? Leaders first! Leaders, needed to lead.
There was a strong emphasis on the priests being the first to lead and the people to follow.
“So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them.” Josh 3:14
Leaders need to lead! Again and again in the Scriptures we find leaders who were called upon to lead a people, be it the Old Testament priests, prophets and kings; or later the New Testament apostles, pastors and elders.
Leaders were to set the trend and lead the people. Visionaries who would see the potential. Men and women of great courage who would take a leap.
Lead, they did, starting with Joshua at the helm, not Moses, who died along with that previous generation! Joshua along with Caleb and the priests, who led the people through the waters of the Jordan, into the 'Promised Land'.
“The priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them.”
People, let the leaders lead! Don’t rebel, don’t grumble, don’t complain! Leader, you need to lead! You need to be strong and courageous. You need to be the first ones in the water. You need to make the first move.
So Consecrate Yourself!
But not before one final act that each one had to do:
“Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” (3:5)
To consecrate means to prepare, to separate, to devote and to dedicate.
It means saying "Yes" to God, without knowing where God will lead. I don’t know what the Promised Land looks like but I know, that we cannot go back to where we have come from!
Your territory will be the north end of St Catharines with borders that will extend from the north- end shoreline of Lake Ontario to the southern borders near the QEW, from the eastern edges of this city near Read Rd., all the way over to Ontario St and beyond that.
I see its boundaries, but we are small, weak and many of us are old. How is this possible?
“Consecrate yourself for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you. “
Preparing yourself to receive from Him, where we invite Him to do great and mighty things among us and through us.
It’s standing before God and saying: “Here am I, please use me!"
Seeds of Peace
By Pastor Jurgen Rausch
December 22, 2013
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-13
Little Peace Today!
“On earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”
It is almost an embarrassment to talk about peace this morning even though ‘tis the season for peace', even though we've lit 'the candle of peace' and have received the peace message, namely, “on earth peace to man”.
Yet, despite all that, peace remains such a rare commodity. For all this talk of peace and all the efforts of so-called peace envoys, peace is most noticeable for its absence.
No matter where you look in this world, tensions continue; war, strife, bloodshed continue; terrorism, conflict and rage are a continued reality.
Take a look at the map of the world that shows were conflicts currently rage (http://www.warsintheworld.com/?page=static1329446051) and it doesn’t take long before we realize that this world has anything but peace. Be it Syria, Afghanistan, Iran or many of the countries in Africa the absence of peace is striking!
Peace is a missing commodity in modern times just like it was the days before Christ’s birth. What a sad commentary!
Then, as now, there was a lot of talk about peace. The psalmist wrote about it, the prophets prophesied about it; and going way back to the days even before the Law of Moses, there were references to peace.
By the time the Old Testament was drawing to a close there were over 200 references to peace.
What all that gave people, was not only a good understanding of what peace looks like but also the realization that peace in their time as in our time was absent. It simply wasn’t there.
With the absence of peace the longing for it would only become stronger!
The Old Testament did a fine job of outlining what peace in their day as well as our day would look like and stirring up an appetite for it.
Even with the absence of peace, by the time the Old Testament drew to a close, people had a pretty good sense of what they were missing.
The Patriarchs on “Peace & the Absence of Strife”
At its root, everyone understood that peace simply meant the absence of strife.
The Patriarchs understood that peace meant the absence of strife. In the days of Isaac, they knew that when it said that the Philistines “left him in peace” – left him alone; didn't strive with him.
I Kings 4:24 mentions “peace on all sides”, which in the next verse is defined as “lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree”
Therefore, not only the absence of strife, but also the added peace resulting in safety, prosperity and a quality of life that comes from the absence of strife.
We have certainly found that to be so, living in Canada. In the absence of war, bloodshed and strife we have realized a kind of prosperity we never could in lands where there is no security!
At its most basic, peace means the absence of strife.
The Psalmists on “Peace in the Heart”
By the time we come to the Psalms we notice that peace is not only the 'absence of strife' but that 'peace comes to people' when they experience the presence of God.
In Ps. 29:11 it says that God will bring peace to people:
“ The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.”
In Psalm 4 it becomes obvious that God doesn’t give a generic, universal and global peace but a personal, individualistic peace that is not determined by the circumstances of life.
In the midst of his distress at a time when David faced immense pressure as a result of his son’s uprising, he was still able to say:
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8).
He fixed his thoughts on God and was able to find sweet peace!
Thus, wars could rage, trouble could brew, storms could blow and yet an inner peace in the midst of all that could still be realized.
What emerges from the Psalms is, that peace goes so much further than the absence of external strife and the resulting quality of life; namely, peace is personal and can be experienced even in adverse circumstances by calling on the name of the Lord.
Which is why it says in Ps. 119:165
“Great peace have they that love your law”.
Loving his law means being in relationship with God and thus peace comes to me because I am in a right relationship with God; because I love his law instead of certain circumstances of life. The stars don’t have to be lined up to have peace.
People that are stirred up, or are like churned up oceans, are so because their lives tend to be out of harmony with God.
“The wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace’, says my God, ‘for the wicked’” Is. 57:20,21
What emerges from the Psalms is the possibility of personal peace despite circumstances resulting from harmony with God.
The Prophets on “Peace Among Nations”
Then came the prophets who added yet another dimension to the shape of peace. God not only brings an inner harmony and peace to those who live right with God, but he also longs to bring peace among the nations as a result of God’s presence in this world.
Thus the prophets announce the arrival of “the Prince of Peace” and looked ahead to the day when
“of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7);
thus clearly establishing the link between the increase of his government and the increase of peace.
Thus with the coming of his Kingdom, will come peace among nations and tribes:
“The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:16-18
How we long for the day when there will be peace among nations, peace in the heart of man and the absence of strife all around us!
Yet, having made all this clear, in 200 plus references, it did not bring them any closer to peace than before all this was understood.
Despite all its prominence, it was noticeable the most for its absence. There was precious little peace in the days of the Old Testament.
The Prince of Peace and “Peace with God.”
It took hundreds of years, well long after both major and minor prophets had left the stage that something in the cosmos shifted. In fact, the prophets pointed to a future Prince of Peace who would usher in peace.
Isaiah teased them when he wrote:
“the people walking in darkness have a seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” Isaiah 9:2
That great light was none other than the arrival of the Prince of Peace (Friedensfürst) himself:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
That’s why the angels declared:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to man on whom his favor rests” Luke 2:14
With his birth begins a brand new chapter with this idea of peace, which is why you find another 90 plus references about ' peace' in the New Testament.
Again and again we hear the refrain of phrases such as :
“Peace from God, our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7).
In fact, many of the books of the New Testament begin with a greeting similar to this one.
“Peace from God, our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ”
Indeed Jesus brings to us what we need most – the kind of peace that we need most – namely, the peace of God.
That's why Jesus promised:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:27.
In fact, Jesus said in John 16:36 “In me you may have peace”. In the New Testament peace has actually come!
That's what he has come to do. He has come to establish peace in our hearts; and there is nothing more glorious than to have our lives be in harmony with God; to be at peace with God.
Peace with God will settle all conflicts near and far! Do you realize, that the wars in our world are because of the wars within; and that the real battles do not rage on battlefields out there, but rage within our hearts and minds?
Remember in the midst of the storm on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus said: “Peace be still”? He wasn't speaking to the tossing seas of his days as much as to the tossing seas in our hearts.
It truly is like a churned up, angry sea out there with people battered, bruised and tossed about in an angry, frothing ocean.
Just like with the angry Sea of Galilee; only with Jesus in your boat, will the waves and howling winds inside your heart subside.
Just as he did for his disciples then, he still does for those who become his followers today:
“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still' then the wind died down and it was completely calm”. Mark 4:39
The winds die down and it becomes completely calm! That's the kind of peace I am talking about.
When the Prince of Peace steps into the little boat of your heart and comes into your life, he brings to you the peace of God in the midst of the gales.
Not that the storms of life necessarily subside but that in the midst of the storms he gives you his peace.
Peace to You!
The greatest gift you can ever receive is the gift of peace. Once at peace with God, most other storms will eventually settle down.
No guarantee that all storms will settle down – as David could easily attest to during the times of upheaval with his son.
Some storms are not our own making and beyond our control. There we can have peace in the midst of the tossing sea.
As David said:
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
from which we get the childhood prayer: 'Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep'.
But then there are the storms of our own making which will be stilled. With Jesus giving us his peace many of those storms will settle down.
“On earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”.
The greatest gift of all! Peace on earth, among men and women, on whom his favor rests. His favor rests on those who have made their peace with God through Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Prince of Peace.
For The Love of God
by Pastor Jurgen Rausch
Dec. 15, 2013
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jn. 3:16-17
On this third Sunday of Advent we consider the love of God. I love the theme of advent. Love the idea of hope (Christ in us, the hope of glory) inspiring us to lean into our future. Love the idea of good news of great joy that makes us be evangelists to the world.
An Expression of Love
But most of all, I love this morning’s theme of love. It captures best the essence of his coming. The birth of Jesus is foremost an incredible expression of love, the likes of which this world has ever seen.
In the words of the song writer Dottie Rambo:
“He left the splendor of Heaven, Knowing His destiny, Was the lonely hill of Golgotha, There to lay down His life for me. And if that isn't love then the ocean is dry, there's no stars in the sky and the little sparrows can't fly. If that isn't love, then Heaven's a myth; there's no feeling like this, If that isn't love”
Everything about his birth spells the love of God! Why would the Father send his Son into the world knowing precisely what would happen to him except that he so loved us? Why would the Son of God agree to come knowing his final destiny was the lowly hill of Golgotha, except that he loved us so much?
You need to realize that he didn’t come because that is what he does. He doesn’t go visiting planets in the universe. He didn’t come because he loves the planet (he does love the planet but not enough to die for the natural world) nor did he come to give us an example of selflessness and show us a pattern whereby we can live our lives by. All noble things, but none are the reason why he came!
Instead he came to earth because of his great love for humanity:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (Jn 3:16)
The word “world” here means not the planet or the natural environment but instead in the words of Marvin Vincent, the word “world’ means “the sum-total of humanity in the world”.
In other words, God so loved the sum total of humanity in this world that he gave his one and only son!
It had to have been his love that motivated him especially as we consider the cost of his coming. What else would possibly have motivated him?
Coming to the Lowly Stables.
Think of the worst place on earth you could go to, the worst slum on the planet, the most desolate place in the world and imagine a life there. Now multiply that a million times and maybe you come close to what it took for Jesus to come here.
Paul tries to capture it; he really does, in his immortal words of Phil 2:
“Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil 2:5-6)
Coming to this planet was bad enough. When all you have ever known is heaven, coming here, even at its finest moments, would be awful.
Even the most prestigious places on the planet would have been horrible alternatives to the splendors of heaven but consider what he came to, namely the lowly stables of Bethlehem!
From the splendors of heaven to the lowly stables of Bethlehem – could it have been more extreme than this?
God came to Bethlehem
Lest you think that this is drastic, it goes even further. It wasn’t just anyone in heaven. It wasn’t as though Jesus was one of God’s angels or a creation of heaven. It wasn’t as though the Father had many sons and Jesus was one of them.
You need to realize that when Scripture calls him “the son of God” or “the one and only son” that it does not refer to a created being as though a child is somehow born and thus another created being. He is not one of heaven’s created beings.
The expression “son of God” refers not to creation order as though he is created but to roles played out and responsibilities assigned.
His role in this salvation story is to be the son; which takes nothing away from the fact that he is not only part of the triune God but that he is God himself. He is as much God as the Father is the God and as the Spirit is God. The three in one, the mystery of who God is!
Jesus is not only the Son of God; he is God! Referring to Jesus as the Word, John says:
“At the beginning was the Word, and he Word was with God, and the Word was God….through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Jn 1
Paul also clearly captured the sense that Jesus was God. Writing about him in Col 1, he said:
“For by him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth He is before all things and in him all things hold together….” Col. 1:16
What I am trying to say is, that the one who left the splendors of heaven for the lowly stables of Bethlehem was none other than God himself.
That’s how far this went!
Born as a Human
Yet unbelievably, it went even further!
The stables at Bethlehem were bad enough. The fact that it was God himself who came was sufficiently unbelievable.
But then when he came, he laid aside the garment of deity and was born, as any human baby would, of his mother Mary the way all children are born!
He was not a little God-baby, shining, radiating as only God can and thus unbelievable different from all the other babies. He was an ordinary human child who acted just like any other baby. Needed his mother, was vulnerable, was hungry & thirsty and filled his diaper.
He was not born a tiny Superhero but as ordinary a baby as any baby was.
“He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant; being made in in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself….” Phil 2:7-8
This is known as the Kenosis of God. “Kenosis” which is Greek means “self emptying”. God the son laid aside the garments of Deity, left the splendors of heaven and was born in a borrowed crib in the lowly stables of Bethlehem.
Can the contrast be any more extreme? If you think that the answer has to be no, then you’ve got another thing coming.
A Servant of Man
You might think if he became man then at least he must have been the prince of man!
And once again he takes our breath away by coming not as prince but as servant.
This is unbelievable but he actually lowered himself below the status of man. He who should have been the prince of man, becomes the servant of man and as such becomes the sacrificial lamb for our sins, taking on our refuse.
“He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” Phil 2:8
He came to die on a cross. Death by cross was the most distained, most despicable death of all. It was the death of a thief and criminal. His crime? Your sins and my sins upon his back.
That’s how far this went. Unbelievable, isn’t it? Makes you want to sit in stunned silence as we ponder this.
What would possess God to leave the splendors of heaven, strip off his deity, be born as an ordinary baby in the lowly stables of Bethlehem, destined to be the servant of man and dying the most despicable of deaths, as a criminal?
That’s the big question. Isn’t it? Why?
If That Wasn’t Love
Brings me right back to what I said earlier, namely, at its core it’s not about joy, nor hope, nor even peace. At its core it’s all about the love of God!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” John 3:16a
God so loved “the sum-total of humanity in the world” that he gave himself for us.
This love of God is incredible. It is not only far-reaching, limitless and inexhaustible but God’s love is fierce, strong and delivers. It is known as the agape love of God!
“The word translated ‘love’ is the noblest and strongest in Greek. It connotes an act of the will rather than the emotion, whim or infatuation and its measure is defined in terms of the results” Charles Tinney
God shows his love in an act of the will, rather than feeling and it is measured by its tangible accomplishments. I don’t know what feelings, if any, that he had. I do know that he was relentless, determined and his mind made up. That is the kind of fierce, unwavering love I am talking about.
How did God show his love toward us? He rescued us from our greatest need, delivered us from our greatest struggle and freed us from the strongest chains!
“Whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” Jn 3:16
God so loved the sum-total of humanity in this world that he stepped into the time continuum and came into this world to take the penalty of our sins upon him, so that we could be given the chance to be born again, start all over again and push the reset button!
Pushing the Reset Button
Just like Nicodemus, who was the one that triggered this conversation in Jn 3, was given the chance to push the reset button.
Don’t you love the idea of setting the reset button in your life? Starting all over again with a clean slate? In the spiritual sense you have that opportunity.
Contrary to what most would have assumed, He didn’t come into this world to condemn the world, or to finish it off, but to save the world.
“For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him” Jn 3:17
How great, how measureless his love is!
“This is how we know what love is Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” I Jn 3:16
In the next chapter he says:
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” I Jn 4:10
To atone for our sins: That is his offer! It is extended to all the sum-total of all humanity. None is excluded. Not the vilest offender. Not the sweetest of prince; and certainly not you!
The love of God, this strong, tangible and result-oriented, deliverable love is inclusive, far reaching and embraces all!
I love the inclusion of the “whosoever”. Who is included in “whosoever”? The real question is who is not included? Whosoever is whosoever J. All are welcome.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Jn 3:18
God condemns no one. People condemn themselves by their own unbelief and unwillingness to accept the love of God.
Who would be crazy enough not to accept the love of God? Why would anybody not want to push the reset button?
This then, is what I would suggest, as the message of the season: God came into this world because he so loved us and saw our struggle with sin. He came with the offer to take our sins away and invites us to push the reset button!
A BUNDLE OF JOY
By Pastor Jurgen Rausch
Dec. 8, 2013
"8) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9) An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10) But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12) This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”…. 16) So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17) When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18) and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them". Luke 2:8-12, 16-18.
Introduction: A Bundle of Joy
'A bundle of joy' – ever heard that expression? We use it in conjunction with a baby’s birth. As we 'coo' and 'ah' over a pretty baby in the crib, we call it 'a bundle of joy'!
In fact, our family will be getting its first ever 'next generation bundle of joy' in just a couple of months and we will undoubtedly 'coo' and 'ah' along with the best of them!
Christmas is all about a baby’s birth and the second candle of advent commemorates the 'theme of Joy', witnessed at Jesus’ birth. I am sure that he too was a bundle of joy to his mom and many others who gazed upon the baby.
However, I want to tell you, that this is not what Luke had in mind when he quoted the angels as calling his birth “good news of great joy”.
These angels were not 'cooing and ah-ing' over the baby in the crib, nor were they saying: “Now isn’t that the prettiest little thing you have ever laid your eyes on?”
Somehow I doubt that they were expressing how enamored they were at the cuteness of this baby. So, allow me to suggest to you, that they had something entirely different in mind.
Great News Given
It had to do with what the birth of this baby meant – that this would be "good news that would bring great joy to all mankind".
No doubt it was this “good news of great joy” that they were so jazzed about; and yet, just like with anything in life, only those most in need of it, would see it most clearly as such.
Just like gifts are best, when given to those who desperately need them the most, and just like food is given best to those who desperately need it the most, so also the news of His birth would be received the best, by those most desperate for it.
You give a simple, nutritious meal to a starving child somewhere; and I will guarantee you that they will receive it completely differently than a child here in the west. You clothe a child that’s naked and they will be deeply grateful for what we would call a 'cast off'.
Similarly, news becomes 'good news of great joy' only by those most desperate for it. And who more desperate then those, who have never received good news of any kind?
It is only those who are most desperate for good news, for who this good news would result in great joy; just like the poor kids in India will flip out with joy over receiving a simple little Operation Christmas Child gift box.
The point being, that the feeling of joy associated with news, is only among those who are most desperate for it.
If you are desperate, if you are hungry, if you are poor and without, you will simply not be able to contain yourself, but receive good news in an exuberant, over the top sort of way. The more desperate the more joyful; and in a moment we’ll look at how desperate they actually were.
But first, let’s consider the content of this 'news gift'. What was this good news delivered at the hands of angels?
Well, if vs. 10 describes the announcement of "good news of great joy" then vs. 11 describes what it was, namely that:
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Three things worth noting: A savior born, an Anointed One, the Lord Himself.
a. A Savior Born!
A Savior born! Lest that fool you into shrugging it off as 'just another savior', the angels made it very clear that this was not just another run-of-the-mill savior.
Saviors could be dismissed fairly easily in those days. Theirs was an era of hyper religious fanaticism with numerous false messiah sightings. Similar to UFO or Elvis sightings in our days; so it could be very conceivable that such announcements were somewhat common.
So how would this be different? For one thing, this savior would actually be the Savior – that is, he would save and free people from their chains. Not from the chains and oppression of Rome or some other tyrant, but from the chains of their sins, which were by far the more powerful chains then any chains Rome could ever produce.
Matthew tells us:
“he will save his people from their sins” (Matt.1:25).
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Sure enough, upon his death and resurrection he delivers the goods. He offers forgiveness of sins to whosoever. Thus this Savior is different in that he actually saved people!
b. The Anointed One
He is the Anointed One. He was meant to be the Savior. Just like you and I are meant to be something unique that no one else can , so He was meant to be the Savior. That’s what makes Him different!
A Savior, not coming from Rome or Egypt, not even from Nazareth or Bethlehem. Even though he was born in Bethlehem, he didn’t come from there.
So the mystery deepens. How can he come from Bethlehem and yet not be from there? After all I was born in Jugenheim, Germany, thus I came from there.
While you and I may be from the places where we were born, this one was not. Not only was he not conceived or born in the conventional sense of a definite beginning somewhere, he actually hails from heaven. His so-called “birth” was not his beginning. He existed before Mary ever did and his claims of existence go back to infinity (you will recall his famous saying: “Before Abraham was, I am”).
So he is unique. Very unique. You can see that,- in that the angels called Him not only Savior,- but also Christ:
“A Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.”
He is Christ –“Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Messiah”, which in English literally means, “the Anointed One”.
Another one of those words that has fallen out of vogue in our time. When was the last time you heard the word “anointed”? Not a common word and it’s our loss.
What does “the anointed one” mean? Anointed means set apart, specifically chosen, singled out by God. He had been singled out to be the Savior and as such carries God’s divine zeal of endorsement!
How could he possibly fail with such an endorsement?
No one was ever anointed or chosen by God for this task except of him:
“There is no other name under heaven given to men by whom we must be saved” Acts 4:12.
Other saviors may be self appointed or man appointed, but only Jesus was divinely appointed to be the Savior.
c. The Lord Himself!
Not only was he Christ, he was also Lord:
“a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord.”
Jesus is Savior. Jesus is Christ. And Jesus is Lord.
This is different from the earthly title “Lord” such as the Lord Mayor of London or Niagara on the Lake. 'Lord' is a title used only for God in the Jewish Scriptures and so to call him Lord is to call him God.
Not only commissioned by God, but God in the flesh. What a Savior he would be! How could God fail? He would save his people from their sins, no doubt about that!
That was the good news announced: A Messiah born, an Anointed One, the Lord Himself.
… Given to Lowly Shepherds
In the hearts of those, not familiar with good news of any kind, this would explode as unexpectedly glorious joy! "good news of great joy" among those, not used to good news of any sort.
Which brings me back to whom this news was first given to. It was given to those who never receive good news, who are never the first in line and who are always last to hear; it was given to the lowly shepherds of Bethlehem:
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:8-9
Not only were they lowly Shepherds, but look at where they were living, out in the fields! No place to call their own, nomads & wanderers; despised and distained by most, overworked and poorly paid. Not very romantic, is it? Not very idyllic!
Such were the Shepherds of Bethlehem. To those shepherds the angels came. Not to kings, priests or royalty, not to the rich and famous, but to lowly Shepherds.
It makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?
Was it so that once in their lifetime the tables would be turned? Maybe.
Was it so because Jesus was a common man’s Savior? Perhaps.
Was it because Jesus himself would be homeless, born in someone else’s manger and laid to rest in someone else’s tomb? Could be.
OR is it that those who know they have nothing, know they are nothing and know that they are at the end of the receiving line, are most receptive and appreciative for any gifts given?
Again, back to the idea of the starving children who will devour even a simple meal, while those who are full won’t even touch it; or the poor orphan who goes bonkers over an Operation Christmas Child gift box, while most in the west wouldn’t event look at it.
I would suggest to you, that the reason why the shepherds were singled out, was not so that the tables could be turned, or that a common man’s savior could be announced; nor even because he would himself be homeless during his ministry.
While these are all great reasons, I would suggest to you that these shepherds were spiritually like the hungry kids you see on TV.
Not only were they spiritually poor, but they recognized their spiritual poverty in such a way that they would be profoundly receptive to what was offered that day.
To them, and to all those like them, it is indeed "good news of great joy"!
It is the hungry and the thirsty – "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" – who would long for a slice of the bread of life and a sip of the living water; who would cherish it, consume it and share it with others.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” Matt. 5:3-6
Yup, that would be the shepherds!. Who Share It With the World!
Sure enough, these shepherds were overjoyed, dropping everything and ran toward the place where the child would be.
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger”. Luke 2:16
Would the rich and famous have done the same? Not sure; maybe, maybe not; but the shepherds were hungry enough that they would run to the place where the 'bread of life' would be found.
Not only did they find Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger, but look at what else they did:
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17)
Thus they become the Gospels’ first evangelists!
After all, didn’t the angels make it crystal clear that this was to be for all:
“good news that will cause great joy for all the people”
Good news is meant to be shared, folks. Plain and simple. Not be horded. Not to be kept tucked away. Good news is meant to be shared.
One starving beggar, telling another starving beggar, where there is bread.
None to be excluded; neither peasant nor pauper, neither royalty nor priest. Good news of sins forgiven, debts cancelled and the promise of a clean slate was to be for all.
Thus “they spread the word” and we must as well!
Conclusion: So, Come On! Ring Those Bells!
This is really important. As we close, you need to hear this: They spread the word! They went wherever they could, intentionally sought out people who would want to hear and told them the message of the angels:
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
We must do the same! We are not silent witnesses. We are not monuments. We are not passive in sharing the good news. We do not wait until they come to us but instead we intentionally find ways to share this with friends and strangers.
We do as the shepherds did: beggars, telling other beggars, where to find bread!
A Glimmer of Hope
By Pastor Jurgen Rausch
“25) I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26) the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27) To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28) He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”
Introduction : A People of Hope.
All over the world people are gathering in places of worship this morning to commemorate the first Sunday of Advent. They do so by lighting the first of the advent candles. That first candle that we lid this morning has traditionally been known as the Candle of Hope. Once again, we are reminded of hope!
In those days, the hope and anticipation of the birth of the Messiah. In our days, the hope of his return, the hope of a better world to come; the hope that resides within us. Resides within us quite literally! We are a people of hope! When all is hopeless around us; when all seems gloom and doom we remain the most hopeful people on earth.
1.The 'Christ in You' of Hope.
Who better to express that, then the Apostle Paul, when he coined the famous phrase: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” – if anything describes us, it is that!
“God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles
the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:26-27
So what does that mean? Let’s unwrap this a little. What does 'Christ in you' mean? 'Christ in you' means Christ in you!
This is to be understood literally. The invisible risen Christ lives in you by his Spirit. Some have suggested that this should mean Christ among you as though he hovers near-by; and while it's true that He is among us it doesn’t go far enough.
The intend behind this phrase is that he actually dwells within us!
“The context requires that we understand the phrase as referring to an inner subjective experience. The mystery, therefore, long hidden but now revealed is not the diffusion of the gospel among the Gentiles but the indwelling of Christ in his people”. Curtis Vaughan, in Expository Bible Commentary.
This is fantastic! Absolutely mindboggling!
Who else would dwell in the hearts of people as Jesus does? Mohamed doesn’t dwell in the hearts of Muslims anymore than Buddha dwells in the hearts of Buddhists or Jehovah in the hearts of Jews.
WE are the only ones who have our living, breathing AND well-meaning Savior dwell in our hearts. There may be claims of other deities indwelling human beings. We certainly know that from the occult, but always with evil and destructive intend. The only one who claims to live inside the hearts of his followers and mean them only good and salvation, is Jesus Christ!
God lives within us in the person of Jesus; just as he dwelt within the womb of Mary for nine months so also spiritually, mystically he dwells in our hearts! Not just for nine months or nine years but for all the years of time!
That’s what Paul called:“Christ in you, the hope of glory”!
2. The Mystery of Hope.
And he was amazed at this as anyone. He simply could not get over the fact that, which was hidden through the ages, that which no one would fathom in their wildest dreams, that which was a mystery and was withheld from them has now become a reality! He calls it a mystery; one that has now been solved: “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery”
The wording is such that this, which was an ongoing mystery or hidden away, was suddenly made a reality; catching all by surprise and taking their breath away. So new was this, so radical and such a surprise that people, like Paul, were left grasping for words, as the whole world rejoiced!
My friend, Jesus is in you; this is the hope of glory; this is the reason we remain the most hopeful people in the world! Christ literally dwells in us by His Spirit; His fullness resides within us! His presence is readily available to all who seek him and it’s a lifelong reality that will never slip away.
May we never get used to “Christ in Us” or look upon it as an entitlement or see it as a common, ordinary occurrence! May we never lose the wonder of this amazing gift: “the glorious riches of this mystery”!
3. The Riches of Hope
This marvelous mystery of 'Christ in Us' brings with it untold riches!
“The glorious riches of this mystery” what kind of riches?
“Paul’s frequent use of “riches” suggest that Christ had opened the door for him to an inexhaustible treasure of goodness, glory, wisdom and grace; and every time he explores it, he finds something new to take his breath away” Curtis Vaughan in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.
When he comes, he brings glory. When he comes, he brings goodness. When he comes, he brings wisdom. When he comes, he brings grace.
Inexhaustible treasures of goodness, wisdom and grace! These can be tapped into, unwrapped, lived out and enjoyed. "Christ in us" is not a dormant thing but dynamic, living and ever breathing!
This makes the Christian life dynamic and makes me be alive, teaching me new things, showing me new riches and helping me live a vibrant Christian life.
That is the nature of “Christ in me, the hope of glory”
“In the Bible, hope is never a static or passive thing. It is dynamic, active, directive and life sustaining. This is everywhere obvious as we read the Word. Look up the word “hope” and you will find reference after reference pointing out the active results of hope in the lives of those who truly have a biblical hope and live accordingly.” J. Hampton Keathley. In other words, a biblical hope is not an escape from reality or from problems. It doesn’t leave us idle, drifting or just rocking on the front porch. If our hope is biblical and based on God's promises, it will put us in gear.
4. The Future of Hope.
And most of all, 'Christ in us' is the basis for the “hope of glory”!
The idea of “glory” has definitely a future tense and reference; it leans into tomorrow; it describes the glory yet to come.
While there is God’s glory displayed all around us in the here and now, ultimately glory refers to the life that is to come:
Ps. 73:24 “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.”
Years ago we used to say “received unto glory” when someone passed away, which comes from this Psalm. When a believer dies, she will be taken into God’s presence, and in His presence she will naturally be surrounded by God’s glory.
'Christ in us' provides us with this happy confidence, this hope of glory yet to come!
As good as 'Christ in us' now is, and as much as we enjoy the benefits of his presence in the here and now, 'Christ in us' is primarily meant to help us lean into the future glory yet to come!
The 'Christ in us' uses his Spirit almost like a deposit of eternal things to come:
“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” Eph 1:13-14.
As great as His presence in us is in the here and now, it foreshadows an ever greater and richer presence!
“Already the light has shone. Yet this is but the dawn of the new day which will reach its zenith at the second coming” Herbert Carson.
The amazing presence of Jesus in us is but the beginning of a sunrise whose zenith will happen in eternity. Break out the shades, I say!
“The fact that here and now you have His life within you, affords a firm hope that you will share in that fullness of glory that is yet to be displayed” F.F. Bruce.
Christ in us is the hope of glory, folks! The reality of Jesus in me points me in the direction of an even greater reality.
Fellowship with him that is now spiritual, mystical, invisible and by faith, will be transformed into face-to-face habitation with him in Glory.“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see him face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” I Cor. 13
5. The Permanence of Hope.
This gift of Christ in us will never be taken away from us – as Paul wrote:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Ro. 8:35)
You can find a Christ-follower in a long-term care facility struggling with losing their faculty or sliding into confusion; or in hospitals struggling to recover from sickness, but Christ is still within that individual even if all else is gone! How absolutely amazing!
Ø Your believing grandmother in her demented state is still very much a carrier of Jesus!
Ø Your believing father, frail, shriveled up and a mere shell of what he once was is still a carrier of Jesus.
Ø Jesus in all his fullness dwells in that cancer riddled believer!
You can go bankrupt, you can lose your partner, you can be poor and destitute but Jesus will be your constant companion in life! They can take more and more things from you and leave you with less and less until all you have of your own is a picture on a wall and a chair in the corner but they will never take Jesus away from you!
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ro. 8:37-39.
So no matter where you go and what happens to you, 'Christ inYou' will be our lifelong reality!
Conclusion: Living 'The Life of Hope'.
As a hope filled people who lean into the future, how is our life different from those who don’t share this hope?
Biblical hope is not an escape from reality nor does it leave us idle or drifting. Instead, it’s active, dynamic, propelling us toward the future.
“The Christian life is a magnificent obsession with an eternal hope, a hope that does not lead to an escapist attitude, but to the pursuit of life on a whole new dimension. It makes you bullish on the potentials of this life as stewards of God. It gives us power to live courageously, to be all God has called us to be in Christ.” J. Hampton Keathley.
So let’s be the people of hope in this world; a people who live as pilgrims in this world yearning for a better world with a value system that affects what we do with our talent, time and treasure!
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.