Monday, November 29, 2010

Isaiah 2:1-5 "The Gospel According to Isaiah: I. God's Kingdom is Coming"

Audio of the Sermon

Isaiah 2:1-5 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. 5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (ESV)

Series: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ISAIAH
Theme: I. God’s Kingdom is Coming
- An exalted Kingdom
- A Kingdom for all people
- A Kingdom of peace

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
What do you know about the Old Testament prophets? Seems like there were a lot of them, doesn’t it. Some prophets are only spoken of once or twice in the Scriptures. Other prophets are very prominent in the Old Testament, like Isaiah, Elijah, and Jeremiah. All of them had a difficult calling. God called them to bring a message to His people and usually His people didn’t want to listen to what He had to say. In fact, when the LORD called Jeremiah to be His prophet He told Him at the beginning that no one was going to listen to him, yet the message needed to be spoken. Thus His prophets were not the most popular in the land. Times were so rough for Elijah that he seriously thought he was the last believer on the planet and now the King of Israel was out to kill him too.

Whoever the prophet of the LORD was, he was a prophet because he had a message from the LORD for His people. They were the preachers of the Old Testament. Most of them preached the Law and repentance to God’s people when they rebelled against Him. In the very first chapter of Isaiah, we find this prophet of the LORD bringing the Law hard and heavy to the people of Judah. They needed the Law because they were a wicked and rebellious people. They mixed their worship of the one true God, with the worship of the false gods of the world. Through Isaiah, the LORD told His people that He was sick of their sacrifices and offerings. The LORD went so far as to say that His soul hated their new moons and appointed feasts (1:14). And now because of their sin and unrepentance the LORD, through Isaiah, told Judah that He would not look on them to help them nor listen to their prayers. Imagine being the man that God chose to be the bearer of that message!

Yet, Isaiah did not only preach the Law. When he did preach Law, it was to call the people of God to repentance and faith in God for the forgiveness of sins. Isaiah was also a prophet of the Gospel. Isaiah told of the good news of forgiveness and the undeserved love of God in the coming Messiah. Though Isaiah lived nearly 700 years before Jesus was born, no other Old Testament prophet has so much to say about the person and work of Jesus than Isaiah. For this reason Isaiah is often referred to as the Fifth Evangelist - along with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. From the virgin birth to being wounded for our transgressions, the prophet Isaiah has a great deal to say about the redemptive work of our Savior Jesus.

This Sunday we are going to begin an eleven week series on the book of Isaiah entitled, “The Gospel According to Isaiah.” If the Lord so wills it, during these coming weeks we will look at the various Gospel promises found in the book of Isaiah. The Gospel promise we want to examine this morning is the promise that God’s Kingdom is coming. It is an exalted Kingdom, a Kingdom for all people, and a Kingdom of peace. As we begin this series we, we ask for God’s blessing. We pray that He would be with us and increase our faith in Jesus as our Savior from sin. “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.” Amen.

AN EXALTED KINGDOM
Our history books tell of many great kingdoms of the world. Less than 200 years after Isaiah served as a prophet, the kingdom of Babylon would rise to prominence as King Nebuchadnezzar and his army would defeat many nations, including Judah. After Babylon, the Persian Kingdom rose to power, then the Greek Kingdom, and then the mighty Roman Empire came into existence, ruling over much of Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa. In more modern history one of the great kingdoms of this world was the British Empire. So large was the British Empire that it was the case that the sun never set on the British Empire. Somewhere in the world, the sun was shining on a British Colony.

As great as all of these kingdoms were at one time, what do they all have in common? None of them are in existence today. Though Great Britain exists, there is little, if any, Empire lift. All of these once mighty kingdoms have crumbled. Yet towering over the wrecks of time is the kingdom of which Isaiah speaks of in our text. The Kingdom of God, or more specifically, the Kingdom of the Messiah. His is an exalted Kingdom.

Verse 2 of our text, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be establish as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills.” Isaiah speaks of something coming about in “the latter days.” What the LORD is showing Isaiah is the Kingdom that Christ would establish. The mountain and the hill Isaiah sees is the one on which the Temple of the LORD was built in Jerusalem - Mount Zion. While Mount Zion is not the highest mountain peak in Palestine, in the latter days Isaiah sees it lifted up higher than all other mountains of the world.

What Isaiah sees is the exalted Kingdom of God, the Church. In the Old Testament the LORD would meet with His people and they would worship Him at His Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The Temple was a picture of Christ. Christ comes to His people and sets up His throne in their hearts. The Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

This exalted mountain that Isaiah sees is the Church, it is Christ ruling in the hearts of His people. There is no kingdom higher than the Kingdom of God. No earthly kingdom and no spiritual kingdom is as high and lifted up as the Kingdom of God. None of the false religions of this world can atone for our sins. All those false religions can do is tell you how hard you must work to get yourself in heaven, but can never promise heaven. They cannot promise it because you cannot earn eternal life. If we are to be saved eternally, God must do it for us. For “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Cor 5:19). God was at work in Christ to forgive us all our sins and make our relationship right with Him. In Christ God does not count our sins against us. This makes the Kingdom of God the highest of all the mountains and lifts it up higher than all the hills.

A KINGDOM FOR ALL PEOPLE
In the church basement we have a nice laminated map of the world. What will you find if you study that map? Besides the shape of land masses you will find boarders. Boarders which limit the size and scope of the various nations of the world. While on nation may invade another and try to expand its boarders, the kingdoms of this world will always be limited. Not so with the coming kingdom of God that Isaiah saw. The kingdom of the Christ will be for all people and all nations.

The end of verse 2 and beginning of verse 3, “All the nations shall flow to it, and many people shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’” The Kingdom of God is not just made up of descendants of Abraham, it is made up of all people of all the nations of the earth. There are Gentiles of German descent, Gentiles of British descent, Gentiles of Nigerian, Indian, and Chinese descent. Jews and Gentiles alike flow to the Kingdom of God.

Why do all nations flow to the Kingdom of God? They are drawn by the Word of God. They want God to teach them His ways and they want to walk in His ways. Is this not faith? Is this not what we desire? This is the Holy Christian Church that Isaiah sees. The Church which has a living and active faith created by the Holy Spirit. The members of the Kingdom of God are fed and nourished spiritually by the Word of God.

This is why Christ commissioned His disciples to go into all the World with His saving Gospel message. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He had died for the sins of the whole world - for every single man, woman, and child that had ever been born our ever would be born - and Jesus wanted all the world to know what He had done for them. “Make disciples of all the nations,” and,“Preach the Gospel to all creatures,” He told His disciples. There is forgiveness and salvation for all in Christ.

And on Pentecost the message went out. Remember how on Pentecost there were men from different corners of the world hearing in their own language “the wonderful works of God?” (Acts 2:11) This was the very thing that Isaiah saw some 700 years earlier when God revealed to Him, “For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” This happened literally after Pentecost when the Gospel went out from Jerusalem to all nations. But it continues to happen today when the spiritual Zion and Jerusalem, the Church, spreads the Kingdom of God as it spreads the Gospel. There are no boarders in the Kingdom of God. It is for all nations and all people.

A KINGDOM OF PEACE
In less than a month, we will rejoice to hear once again the message of the angels on the night of Jesus’ birth. We will hear those familiar words from the multitude of angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.” (Lk 2:14) Some have misunderstood the angels’ message to mean that Jesus came to bring peace on earth. If that were the case, isn’t it odd that Jesus Himself says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Mt 10:34) The Word of Jesus will cause divisions in homes between family members. No, as long as there is sinners on earth there will be no peace.

While Jesus did not come to bring peace on earth, He did come to bring peace. John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The peace Jesus gives is a peace that this world knows nothing about. It is the peace of sins forgiven. It is the peace of a conscience freed from guilt and shame. It is peace between God and man. All through Jesus. Through His death, which paid for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead, we have true, lasting, eternal peace. Another and possibly better translation of what the angels said on the night Jesus was born is this, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (ESV) Peace for the people of God.

This is precisely what Isaiah saw in the coming Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not involved in physical confrontations and warfare. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of peace where weapons of warfare - swords and spears - are beaten into agricultural tools - plowshares and pruning hooks. This is the peace that Jesus brings. The peace of sins forgiven and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.

When we talk with one another we hear each others words, we don’t see each others words. But when God talked with His prophets, like Isaiah, they saw His words. And what a sight these words of the LORD to Isaiah must have been! Isaiah saw a coming kingdom that was exalted above all others. He saw a kingdom which would be a blessing for all the people of the earth as God sent a Savior for all people. And he saw a kingdom of peace. May we ever continue to go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths! May Christ continue to rule us by His gracious good favor! Amen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Luke 12:15-31 "THE RICH FARMER'S FOUR BIG MISTAKES" THANKSGIVING DAY

Luke 12:15-21 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Theme: THE RICH FARMER’S FOUR BIG MISTAKES
I) In planning for himself, he forgot his neighbor
II) In reckoning his goods, he forgot the Giver
III) In providing for his body, he forgot his soul
IV) In counting on time, he forgot eternity

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
“Relax, eat, drink, be merry!” There in only a few words, the Rich Man in our parable has pretty much summarized this American holiday of Thanksgiving, hasn’t he? When we think of Thanksgiving these are memories that come to mind first, aren’t they? We certainly think of eating - the turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries and pies. Drinking is usually involved too - cider for the kids and some wine for the grown ups. Be merry - yes, there is usually much merriment as families gather together and enjoy each others company. And relaxing? What is Thanksgiving without that post turkey nap. About the only thing that the rich man didn’t mention in our parable is the football game!

Isn’t it interesting that when we think of Thanksgiving THESE are some of the first things that come to mind? “Relax, eat, drink, be merry?” Rather, why isn’t going to the LORD’s house the first thing we think about? Why isn’t praising God for the many undeserved blessings He has showered on us, the main association we have with Thanksgiving? Why are so many churches across our nation dark and empty on Thanksgiving Day?

In our text Jesus is not speaking against relaxing, eating, drinking, and being merry. In and of itself there is nothing wrong or sinful with that part of our Thanksgiving tradition. Nor is Jesus condemning riches and wealth, in and of itself. We know many of God’s people in the Bible were quite wealthy - Abraham, Job, and King Solomon, to name a few. What Jesus is addressing is the attitude of the heart about these things. The Rich Man in our parable thought his life consisted in the abundance of his possessions. He had fallen into the idolatry of covetousness - the sinful desire of “stuff.” Covetousness which, as it so often does, gives way to forgetfulness. Let us therefore on this Thanksgiving Day seek to learn from the four big mistakes of the rich farmer. May God help us to listen to His Word and apply it to our lives. Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it! Amen.

IN PLANNING FOR HIMSELF, HE FORGOT HIS NEIGHBOR
As Jesus wishes to teach us about how dangerous covetousness is, He gives us the lesson of the rich farmer. Jesus says that his land produced plentiful. It was a good year - no it was a great year for the rich farmer. It was such a good year that this rich man did not have enough space to store all of his crops. “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” he asked himself. What a blessed problem to have!

What a bountiful year! More than enough to continue his rich way of life and then some! What should he do? If he were to ask you what to do, what would you recommend? Well, here is the solution he came up with, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” This seems to make great business sense, doesn’t it? Tear down those store barns to make space for bigger ones.

Once his barns are torn and bigger ones built then he will have it made! “I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” Take it easy! You’ve earned it! You’ve worked hard now its time to enjoy the fruit of your labors!

So what is the mistake this rich farmer made? The heart of the rich farmer’s problem WAS his heart - the attitude of his heart about all that he had. We see the sinful attitude of his heart in the first person pronoun that is repeated again and again. Look at the number of times the rich farmer uses the word “I” in verses 17-19. I counted six times. “I...I...I...me...me...me...” This rich man thought his life was all about the abundance of his possessions. And now that he had an abundance of his possessions he thought he had the life.

The first big mistake this rich man made is that in planning for himself he forgot about his neighbor. He had all this wealth and the only thing he thought about was himself. This is a surefire symptom of covetousness. Never once did he think about sharing his bounty with those in need. Never once did he consider those whose barns were empty and whose cupboards were bare.

Paul writes to the Romans that the entire second table of the Law, that is the 4th through the 10th Commandment, are “all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13:9-10) The only love the rich man had was for himself - he forgot about his neighbor. He loved only himself and his possessions.

Imaging for a moment if this had been the thought process of the Son of God. “I am the Son of God. I have all power in heaven and on earth. I can make riches. And yet there are sinners condemned to hell for what they themselves did. What shall I do? I shall stay in heaven and let them reap the eternal reward for their disobedience. I’ll relax and be merry in heaven for eternity.” Thanks be to Jesus that this is NOT what He did. No, rather in love He gave all that up, became one of us, took on the form of a servant, and died the death of a criminal. All so that we could share in what He had from eternity - the joys of heaven as a gift of His grace. Thanks be to Jesus that He did not forget about us!

Hymn 430:6

IN RECKONING HIS GOODS, HE FORGOT THE GIVER
One of my top five favorite movies of all time is a Civil War era movie called “Shenandoah,” staring Jimmy Steward. In the movie, Jimmy Steward’s character, Charlie Anderson, is a proud, wealthy farmer that doesn’t want to get wrapped up in the Civil War - which is going on in the back yard of his Shenandoah, Virgina farm. Much less does Charlie Anderson want his 6 strong boys to get involved in the war. To understand the pride of this man, one need only listen to the table prayer he would say before every meal - “Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be eating it if we hadn't done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we're about to eat, Amen.”

Charlie Anderson had the same problem that the rich farmer in our text had, didn’t he? In reckoning or assessing his goods, he forgot the Giver. He forgot that without God giving the sunshine, the rain, the soil, and the seed - he would have nothing. No seed to sow and no harvest to reap. He forgot that God causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the just and on the unjust. This mistake is often made in times of prosperity. When things are difficult it causes us to get on our knees and turn to the LORD in prayer. However, when things are going well and our cupboards are full we tend to forget to give thanks to the Giver.

God knew this would be the case for so many. That is why He warned the Children of Israel not to forget Him when they entered the promised land. This is also why Agur wrote in Proverbs 30, “Give me neither poverty nor riches -- Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, "Who is the LORD?" Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.” (Prov 30:8-9)

So have we forgotten the Giver of every good and perfect gift? Of course not, we think. After all here we are - in church - on Thanksgiving to give thanks to God! But how many times have we sat down for a meal and behaved no different than a hog at the feed trough. After all the hog doesn’t thank God for the meal he is about to eat. How many times have we looked at our paycheck and reckoned it all for ourselves without giving a thought to giving back to the LORD who gave us the ability to work and a job to work at? How often do we forget the Giver with our offerings? How often do we only give God what is leftover after we have gotten everything we want? May God forgive us for our selfishness in reckoning for ourselves and forgetting the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

Hymn 430:7
IN PROVIDING FOR HIS BODY, HE FORGOT HIS SOUL
The third mistake this rich farmer made was that in providing for his body, he forgot his soul. This is a most costly mistake. He thought his life consisted in the abundance of his possessions. And now, having an abundance of possessions he thought he had the life. His neighbors probably thought he had the life too. “Look at those big barns and all that grain. That rich farmer has the life!” Externally, everything was looking up for this farmer. But internally, his soul was lifeless. Jesus was not ruling in his heart, but he was his own god and his possessions were his god.

Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk 8:36) What does it matter if my barns and bank account are full, but I have no faith in Jesus Christ? If I attain the American dream, but have no Savior - what does it matter in the end? Jesus emphasized this same point to Martha when she was mad that she was getting dinner ready while Mary was sitting at Jesus feet to hear His word. "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Lk 10:41-42) Martha was consumed with earthly matters, Mary was consumed with spiritual matters. Martha was attending to the needs of the body, Mary was attending to the needs of her soul. And which one is more important? The needs of the soul.

Jesus, His Word, and His Sacrament are that one thing that is needful - that good part that cannot be taken away from us. The one thing that cannot be stolen from us and that does not rust and decay. Only Jesus can remove sin from our hearts. Only Jesus can give us a right relationship with God. Only Jesus can give us the treasures of heaven. While we do need to provide for the needs of our body, we dare not forget the needs of our soul! May God help us to always to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness!

Hymn 430:8
IN COUNTING ON TIME, HE FORGOT ETERNITY
“Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry!” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” As the rich farmer surveyed his wealth he thought he had it made. He thought he could take an early retirement and not have to worry about working ever again. He thought he had the rest of his life planned out for him. What he forgot is that his time on this earth is not in his hands. And in this parable, God told him that very evening his life would come to an end. Then who would all those riches belong to? In counting on time, he forgot about eternity. Death came upon him as a thief in the night and all his possessions could do nothing to help him.

We easily fall into the same trap, don’t we. Especially when life is going good. We plan on working until we are in our 50's or 60's, retire, and live out our days on this earth until we are 80 or 90. We easily forget about eternity. If things in life are going well, we may even begin to think like this rich farmer and think THIS is heaven on earth. We go so far as to think that our time is in our hands, rather than our time of grace on this earth being in God’s hands. As James writes, Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15)

We did not chose when our lives would begin and we dare chose when our lives will end. We must leave these things in the wise hands and direction of our heavenly Father. What we dare not do is forget about eternity. Rather than forgetting let us heed the words of the Apostle Paul to the Colossians, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col 3:1-4) In our baptisms and by faith the Holy Spirit as united us with Christ. His righteousness becomes our own. His death becomes our death to sin. His life becomes our life. Therefore if we are united with Christ by faith, let us keep our hearts and minds focused on those things which are above.

May we all take this warning of Jesus to be on guard against covetousness, lest we make the mistakes of the rich farmer in thinking that our life consists in the abundance of our earthly possessions. Rather than seeking to store up treasures for ourselves, let us, by the work of the Holy Spirit, to be rich toward God. To seek first His kingdom in our lives. To set our minds on things above. To not forget our neighbor, not forget the Giver of every good and perfect gift, not forget about the needs of our souls, and not forget about eternity. On this Thanksgiving Day and always, may we bless the LORD in all that we say and do! In Jesus name, Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Colossians 1:13-20 "And Crown Him Lord of ALL!"

Audio of the Sermon

Colossians 1:13-20 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross. (ESV)

Theme: “CROWN HIM LORD OF ALL!”
- Because of who He is
- Because of what He has done

Dear fellow subjects of the King of kings, fellow redeemed by the blood of the King, grace and peace to you,
“Behold your King!” Those words of Pontius Pilate ring in our ears on Good Friday when we consider what the people were beholding in Jesus. Jesus told Pilate that He was a King, but never during His earthly life did He look like a king. His followers were a bunch of uneducated fishermen. He certainly had no palace to live in - He didn’t even have a place to lay His head at night. He had no piece of land on this earth to rule over. That is why Pontius Pilate was so surprised to hear Jesus say He was a king. Pilate’s soldiers robed Jesus in purple, placed a crown of thorns on His head, and mockingly began to salute Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” When Jesus was crucified the torment continued. Over His cross Pilate had placed a sign describing His sentence which read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

“Behold your King!” Does this sound like the description of a man that you would want to call your King? Someone who was bloodied and beaten, nailed to a cross and dying? That seems like a King who is on the losing end of things. Yet what did the thief on the cross say to this bloodied, beaten man, who was nailed to a cross? “Remember me when you come into Your kingdom!” The repentant thief was looking on Jesus with eyes of faith. He saw in Jesus his Savior and King. He looked for a spiritual kingdom over which Jesus would rule and longed to be a member of His Kingdom. And that day the thief entered the eternal kingdom of Jesus in paradise.

“Behold your King!” How well do you know your King Jesus? Our text for this morning magnificently presents for us the preeminence or superiority of King Jesus. One thing that sticks out in our text is the number of times the Apostle Paul uses the word “all.” “All creation,” “all things,” “all the fulness of God,” and “reconcile to himself all things.” So let us on this Christ the King Sunday, and always, “Crown Jesus Lord of ALL!” We crown Him Lord of all because of who He is and because of what He has done. May the Kingdom of God come unto us by the working of the Holy Spirit through His Word. Amen.

BECAUSE OF WHO HE IS
Why was it again, that Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was King? Because Jesus seemed nothing like any king Pilate had ever met of or read about. Jesus had no crown, no royal garments, no palace, no army, no loyal subjects fighting for Him, and above all else, He had no piece of real estate over which He ruled. But just because Jesus didn’t fit Pilate’s description of a king, doesn’t mean Jesus is not a King. He is a different kind of King. A King whose kingdom is not of this world. He is a King we crown Lord of all because of who He is.

First of all, King Jesus is true God. In verse 15 of our text we read that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. Unlike a painter or sculptor who can only recreate the external image of someone and not the true essence of the person, the writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus is the “express image of God.” (Heb 1:3) Paul emphasizes this truth again in verse 19 when he writes, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Everything that God is, Jesus is. God is almighty, Jesus is almighty. God is all-knowing, Jesus is all-knowing. We crown Him Lord of all because He is true God.

Paul also says that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. Paul here is not saying that the Son was the first to born to God the Father, like Mary brought forth her firstborn Son. Rather this use of the word “firstborn” describes His position in relation to all creation. It is typical in many families that the firstborn son is the son of privilege. In the Old Testament the eldest son would most often receive the birthright from his father. Paul explains the superiority of Jesus over all creation as the firstborn in verse 16 -“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.” Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He was actively involved in everything that was created. The Apostle John tells us that the Son is the Word by which all things came into being (Jn 1:3). All things, whether seen or unseen, whether man, animal, or angel - all were created by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus.

Paul continues to amaze us about our King in verse 17, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” As the Son of God, Jesus is eternal. Before time was, Jesus is. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. And Jesus holds all of creation together. This is a really neat word picture of how Jesus is the glue that keeps everything from falling apart. Like a little boy who picks up a handful of snow and compacts it into a snowball, so Jesus holds all of creation together.

Like a salesman on TV, Paul continues as if to say, “But, wait, there’s more!” Verse 18, “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Not only is Jesus eternal, Creator, and in control of Creation, Jesus is also the head of the church. That means He is over the body of believers. He is her Head, her leader, her life. When the head of the church died on the cross and laid in the tomb, it looked like the church might die with it. But Jesus is superior over death as well! On the third day He showed that He is preeminent or the greatest in everything when He rose to life again.

“In him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell.” Jesus is very God of very God. He is of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Jesus truly is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. Crown Him Lord of ALL because of who He is!

BECAUSE OF WHAT HE HAS DONE
Yet as Jesus stood before Pilate on Good Friday, He did not look like the fulness of God was pleased to dwell in Him. Rather Jesus looked God forsaken. He did not look like the image of the invisible God. Rather Jesus looked like a defeated and dying man. But this, dear brothers and sisters, is what makes King Jesus so amazing and so worthy of our praise. There standing before Pilate was the eternal Son of God. There robed in purple, crowned with thorns, bruised and bleeding was the very one by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created. While it looked like Jesus’ world was falling apart around Him, He is the one who was holding all of creation together.

Why would one who is so great, so powerful to be so humiliated? What Jesus was doing, He was doing for us. We needed to be rescued from the dominion of darkness. We all were enemies of God and members of the kingdom of Satan. We were all destined for hell and we had no one to blame but ourselves. But God was determined to rescue us. And so the Son of God became Man. The Word became flesh. The invisible God appeared in the person of Jesus to rescue us.

In order to rescue us He had to become one of us and take our place. Because we failed to obey the Commandments, Jesus had to keep them perfectly for us. He had to honor His father and mother, even though He was their Lord and God. He had to love His neighbor as Himself, even when His neighbor was spitting on Him and pounding nails into His hands and feet. And He had to love the LORD God will all of His heart, all of His soul, and all of His strength. Loving the LORD God meant obeying Him. Obeying His will even when Jesus knew it meant He would have to be whipped, slapped, mocked, crucified, and die.

Becoming one of us to take our place meant not only keeping the whole will and law of God in our place, Jesus also had to suffer for all of the wrongs which we had done. He had to endure the wrath of God over our disobedience and sin. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” (Is 53:5) This was the only way our sin could be forgiven and our guilt removed. Jesus had to remove it from us by taking it on Himself. He had to die as a consequence for our sin.

In verse 14 Paul writes, “In (Jesus) we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” That word “redemption” is an old word from the slave market. It was the ransom price to set a slave free. We are all slaves of the devil and slaves of sin. Sin is what we served day and night - and there was nothing we could do to free ourselves from this brutal slave owner. But Jesus ransomed us. With the purchase price of His own blood, He bought our freedom through the forgiveness of sins. In Jesus we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The King of kings did all of this because He loved us. He did it to make peace between us and God. The last verse of our text Paul tells us that we who were at odds with God because of our sin and rebellion against Him, God reconciled. He made peace with us through the blood of the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross removed that enmity and hostility which separated us from God. Our sins were put to death in His body. Now through Jesus we are at peace with God. He is our Father and we His children. Has there ever been a King who was willing to do this for his subjects, let alone his enemies? Indeed, crown Him Lord of all because of what He has done for us!

Thanks be to God, who has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. By calling us to faith in Jesus He has made us members of Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus has set up His throne in our hearts and rules us by His grace. What an amazing King we have! A King who rules over all creation! A King who rules over His Church. A King who loved us so much that He laid down His life to redeem us and deliver us from the dominion of darkness. Is there nothing our King cannot and will not do for us? Behold your King! Crown HIM Lord of ALL! Amen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Isaiah 65:17-25 "The LORD's Coming Attraction"

Audio of the Sermon

Isaiah 65:17-25 - "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying. 20 " No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; They shall not plant and another eat; For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, And their offspring with them. 24 " It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," Says the LORD.

Theme: The LORD's Coming Attraction
- Forgetting
- Rejoicing
- Living

Dear fellow redeemed in Jesus Christ,
COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU! Do you remember what the last movie you went to was? While the theater may have said the movie was scheduled to start at 7, we have come to realize that the actual feature doesn't start then. Because from 7 to 7:20 there are previews of movies that will be released in the future. With these previews you never get to see the whole movie. You don't get to see how the movie ends. In fact, there are some movies where the previews are better than the movie itself! But Hollywood’s purpose in all this is to give you a taste of coming attractions. They hope you'll get so excited about an upcoming movie that you'll want to come back and see it.

Throughout Scripture God gives His saints a preview of what is to come. Especially what is in store for us in heaven. Similar to a movie trailer, God does not tell us everything that is coming, but He tells us just enough. He gives us a preview of His coming attraction. In our text for this today we have a most blessed coming attraction to consider. The LORD God Himself tells us of what things are going to be like after Judgment Day. The LORD says this coming attraction will feature forgetting, rejoicing, and living.

Now, as we consider this coming attraction we may wonder - who is this for? Who is God talking to? Why is He going to do this? How can I be part of this? That is the absolute best part of this coming attraction! We know well that gospel filled passage of John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." God sent His Son into the world to save us. Jesus came to rescue us from the everlasting death in hell that we earned by our sins. He came to pay for our sins and cleanse us by His blood. He came to earn our righteousness. And God promises that whoever believes in Jesus will have everlasting life. Therefore in our text, the LORD is telling us what He will do for His people, His elect. The LORD is telling us what He will do for all believers in Christ. So as we go through and consider this blessed coming attraction, consider this, that it is the LORD who is directing all this and we who are starring in it. What the LORD is doing, He is doing for you through Jesus. Let us consider the LORD's coming attraction!

FORGETTING
It's called having a senior moment. As we grow older, our memories tend to fail us more and more. It can get very frustrating when you lose your train of thought or can't remember something simple. There are cherished memories we'd love to hold onto, such as births, weddings, and loved ones. On the other hand, throughout our lives there are things we would much rather never remember, such as pain, suffering, and sadness. As the LORD gives us a preview of this coming attraction, He says there will be forgetting, but in this case we'll be glad we forgot.

Our text begins with the LORD telling us of something that is going to take place in the future. He says, "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth." Behold, God says, look at what I am going to do. The Apostle Peter by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote that this new heavens and new earth will be created after the "day of the Lord." (3:10) This will happen after Jesus returns from heaven. After the dead will be raised and all will be judged. After those who rejected Jesus as their Savior have been sent to hell to suffer for eternity. Then Jesus will invite those who believed in Him as their Savior, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Mt 25:34) Come inherit the new heavens and the new earth!

Of this new creation the LORD says, “And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” This new creation will be so incredible that the LORD says the former, our sin-filled and sorrow-filled lives in this dying world, will not be remembered. The LORD says it won't even come to mind because what God is going to create will be so wonderful that we will forget about our lives in this old world. This is a preview of the LORD's coming attraction - in His new creation we will forget about the old.

REJOICING
While we enjoy many things in our lives here, there is a lot of sorrow that we experience. Sin scars every aspect of our lives. Sin brings the sorrow of death. But the LORD says we are going to forget about all that. In the LORD's coming attraction there will be no sorrow, only rejoicing. We will rejoice for what God has done FOR us and God Himself will rejoice OVER us.

As the LORD gives us a preview of what He is going to do, He wants us to ponder it and forever rejoice over it. "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create." We know the sorrow and disappointment we regularly feel in this life. But the LORD would instead have us consider what He is doing. This new heaven and new earth that the LORD will create will be like it was before the fall into sin - no sin, no death, no curse. In fact, the LORD says in His new creation, "The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying." This reminds us of what was revealed to John in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Rev. 21:4) This is God's new creation. It is one of rejoicing. As we rejoice in the great things God has in store for us!

But then the LORD says something truly amazing. He says He will rejoice over US! “For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people.” When the LORD speaks of Jerusalem here, we may think He is talking about Jerusalem the city over in Israel, some 7000 miles from here. But is there anything worth rejoicing over in that city? There seems to be nothing but war and strife in the current Jerusalem. Instead the LORD here speaks of a new Jerusalem, a place where God dwells with His people. This is the Holy Christian Church, all believers in Jesus Christ. Through His Holy Spirit God dwells in us now in time, and in this new creation God Himself will dwell with us. The LORD says He will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in His people. This is you! God will rejoice in you!

But what is there in us that the LORD would want to rejoice over? In and of ourselves there is nothing. On our own, God looks on us and says, “They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.” (Ps 14:3) But this is precisely the reason Jesus came. Jesus came so that the LORD would rejoice over us. He paid for our sins and through faith in Him His righteousness becomes our own. It is only in Jesus that the LORD rejoices over us. Now, in Christ, the Father looks on you, sees His Son, and can say of you, “This is My beloved child in whom I am well pleased!” Imagine that, the LORD rejoicing in us! Amazing! All this because of what Jesus, the Son of God, did for us! Let us rejoice in what the LORD has done for us, as the LORD rejoices in us through Jesus!

LIVING
It seems that death surrounds us. We see death in nature. We hear of it in the news. We receive word of loved ones who died. Young and old alike, death affects us all. This brings the greatest sorrow to our lives in this world. We know how even Jesus Himself wept at the death of His friend Lazarus. Cancer, heart problems, bad hips, diabetes, stubbed toes, and the list goes on and on of the effect sin has taken on this world. But the LORD says that His new heavens and new earth are going to be very different. At the LORD's coming attraction there will only be LIFE.

In verses 20 through 25 the LORD tries to help us understand the abundant life that will be ours in the new heavens and the new earth. Because this is prophetic language we do not take it literally, but more as God painting a picture for us to help us understand something that is far beyond our comprehension.

Listen to the abundant life that is to come: "No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed." NO MORE, says the LORD, NO MORE! No more will there be such a thing as an infant mortality rate. At one hundred years, someone will still be considered a child. In the new creation there will be abundant life - eternal life! The LORD emphasizes this further in verse 22, “For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” Like those mighty sequoias and redwood trees of California that can live for thousands of years, the LORD says that is what our lives are going to be like. Life, unlike anything we know and experience in this world, will be ours forever in God’s coming attraction.

But until that time, until the trumpet sounds, and we shall reign with Christ eternally, God has some promises He wants to strengthen us with. He promises that He will hear us and He will protect us. "It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," Says the LORD. As we run the race of our faith now in time and eagerly await the new heavens and new earth, the LORD says that He will hear our prayers. Through Jesus Christ, God hears our prayers and answers us as He knows best. He will hear us and protect us. Even the most ferocious of enemies shall not hurt nor destroy God's people, in all His holy mountain. This is what Jesus promised us when He said that the gates of hades cannot prevail against us and when He said that no one is able to snatch us from His hand.

The LORD wants us to know of what awaits all believers in Christ. He will create new heavens and a new earth. This creation will be so splendid that we will forget all the former things of this old world of sin and death. This creation will be so amazing that we will rejoice that God has done all this for us as a gift of His grace. And because of Jesus He will rejoice over us, His people. This new creation will be filled with abundant life and no sorrow or suffering. All this is your, freely, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus has earned it for you! Therefore let us rejoice even now because the LORD has said it and it shall be so! Coming soon for eternity for you! AMEN

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jeremiah 26:1-6 "Preparing for Judgment Day"

Jeremiah 26:1-6 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word. Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.’ And you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you, to heed the words of My servants the prophets whom I sent to you, both rising up early and sending them (but you have not heeded), then I will make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.”’”

Theme: PREPARING FOR JUDGMENT DAY
- Prepared by faithful preaching
- Prepared by listening
- Prepared by the grace of God

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
How many of you have been involved with planning a wedding? I imagine most of you over the age of 20 have in one way or another been involved. Maybe it was your wedding, maybe it was your child’s wedding, or maybe you were involved with the wedding of one of your friends. If you’ve ever been involved with planning a modern wedding, you know that it takes a great deal of preparation. The wedding dress, the bridesmaid dresses, the tuxes, the church, the preacher, the day, the time, the hymns, and of course, don’t forget the guest list. Weddings are an important day and a lot of preparing goes into that day - especially for the bride. This is a day she has been dreaming of her whole life and she wants to be ready for it.
Scripture sometimes refers to the Church as the bride and Jesus is her Bridegroom. Jesus has chosen the believers to be His lifelong companion. He loves her and cares for her. He died for His bride to save her and to cleanse her from all her sin. There is a Day that is coming when we will get to meet our Bridegroom face to face. Like the modern bride who wants to be ready for her groom on their wedding day, so too we want to prepared to meet our Savior Jesus on Judgment Day.
Could there be any more important day than this in our lives? The Day that our lives in this earth come to an end and eternity begins. On that Day Jesus will return surrounded by His holy angels to judge the living and the dead. The trumpet will sound, the dead will rise, Jesus will separate His believers from the unbelievers, and the believers will be taken to be with their Lord forever in heaven and the unbelievers will be banished from the presence of God forever to the eternal fires of hell. As important as that Day is, how much time do we spend preparing for it? Jesus exhorts us again and again in the Scriptures to be watchful and alert for that day, because it will come when we least expect it!
Today’s text from Jeremiah helps identify things that are very important in preparing for Judgment Day. We hear how faithful preaching of God’s Word is important to being prepared. We hear how actually listening to God’s Word is so very important. But above all else, the grace of God is paramount to being prepared for Judgment Day. May God help us to listen to His Word and so may He prepare us for the Last Day when the trumpet shall sound and we will be with the Lord forever!

PREPARED BY FAITHFUL PREACHING
The Old Testament scriptures are full of events that were a foreshadowing of things to come in the New Testament era. For instance all of the prescribed sacrifices in the Old Testament were a picture of the one great sacrifice Jesus would make on the cross for the sins of the world. The fact that King David was a shepherd king, was a picture of Jesus, the King of kings, who is our Good Shepherd. So too with the judgment prophesied of in our text. Here, God is threatening to destroy Judah, Jerusalem, and Solomon’s temple because of the evil which the people were doing. While they did come to the Temple to worship, their hearts were far from Him - they were also worshiping other false gods.
Much like the people of Samuel’s day thought of the Ark of the Covenant as a good luck charm, the people of Jeremiah’s day thought of the Temple as their ultimate defense. Certainly, they thought, God would not allow anything to harm His Temple. They were wrong. God is threatening to do to Jerusalem and the Temple what He allowed to happen to Shiloh, where the tabernacle had been in the days of Eli and his wicked sons, but by Jeremiah’s day was just a pile of rubble. This was the calamity that awaited the people of Judah because of the evil of their doings.
And yet, what do we find the merciful, gracious, and longsuffering God doing? While they may have deserved to be destroyed right then and there, we see that the LORD does not desire the death of the wicked, but that he should turn from his way and live! (Ez. 33:11) And because the LORD desires this He sends his servants the prophets. He says in verse 5 that they rose up early and were sent. This rising up early is something we do when we have something very important we want to accomplish on a given day. So too with the prophets of the LORD. They were sent with a great deal of urgency.
But if these servants of the LORD were to do any good they had to be faithful. The LORD said to Jeremiah, “Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word.” The LORD knew exactly what the people needed to hear. They needed a heavy dose of the Law. But in order for this message to get to the people, the LORD needed His servants the prophets to speak His word faithfully. Their audience could not afford for them to be politically correct and only tell them what they wanted to hear. For the sake of their audience they dare not diminish or hold back a single word from the LORD.
As the Apostle Paul was saying his tearful goodbyes to the elders from the church in Ephesus, he said, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26-27) Paul did not diminish a word of the Lord, but taught the Ephesians everything Christ had commanded him. This is the will of the LORD when it comes to the preaching of His Word. He requires that His Word be proclaimed faithfully. In Deuteronomy 12 the LORD says, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (Deut 12:32)
As we prepare for Judgment Day, we too need faithful preachers who will proclaim to us the entire counsel of God. We need faithful preachers who will not simply tell us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear. When we sin and begin to wander from God, we need faithful preachers who will not diminish a word but tell us exactly what God has to say about our lives and conduct. We need them to rise early and urgently, while it is still day, before the trumpet sounds and it is too late to repent. Only the Word of God, faithfully taught in its truth and purity, can begin to prepare us for the return of Jesus.

PREPARED BY LISTENING
Children, have your parents ever talked to you about the difference between hearing and listening? Husbands, how many times have you confessed to your wife that you heard what they said but you weren’t really listening to what they had to say? There is a big difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is something you can do passively. You can hear someone talking without paying attention to anything they have to say. Listening, though, is active. Listening involves paying attention to the words being spoken and taking them to heart.
When the LORD sent Jeremiah to the Temple with His message and told Him not to diminish a word, what was the LORD’s goal? What did the LORD hope to accomplish through Jeremiah? Verse 3, “Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.” Now, how many people do you suppose HEARD the message from the LORD that Jeremiah proclaimed and how many LISTENED? We know many HEARD Jeremiah, because after he spoke these words of Judgment in the Temple, the crowd seized him and wanted to kill him. But few, if any LISTENED. They did not listen to these words of warning from the LORD. The LORD was hoping they would listen and their lives would show that they listened as they turned from their evil way.
As we prepare for Judgment Day are we merely hearing or are we listening? Faithful preaching of God’s Word means little if there is no one to preach to or if, like Jeremiah, no one is listening to what God has to say. Listening means we are actively paying attention to God’s Word. When God confronts us about our sin in His Word, listening means repenting and turning from our evil way. This is God’s purpose when He brings us His Law. It is to lead us to repent of our sins and to believe on Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.
We begin to see, then, how faithful use of the Means of Grace is so important to preparing ourselves for Judgment Day. Right now, we are preparing for Judgment Day by listening to God’s Word and applying it to our lives. Our communicant members were preparing for Judgment Day by examining themselves before they come to the Lord’s Table later in the service. We prepare for Judgment Day by listening to God’s Word, repenting of our evil ways, and look to Jesus for forgiveness.

PREPARED BY THE GRACE OF GOD
Yet will any of this be able to truly prepare us to stand before the judgment seat of Christ on the Last Day? Do any of us really think that when Jesus appears we can tell Him that we deserve to go to heaven because we had a faithful preacher and we listened to His Word every Sunday? None of our works, no matter how great we may think it is, no matter how much praise we receive from men, are able to make us stand in the day of Judgment. Our sins are too great. Even if we had only stumbled in one point of the Law, we are guilty of all. (James 2:10)
There is only one thing that can truly prepare us for Judgment Day - the grace of God. The grace of God is His undeserved love toward us sinners. It was the grace of God that led the Son of God to become Man and be our Substitute under the Law. It was the grace of God that punished His innocent Son on the cross to free us from our guilt. It is the grace of God that forgives all our sins for Jesus’ sake. It is the grace of God that called us to faith in Jesus and adopted us as His children. By His grace we can stand before the judgment seat of Christ forgiven and cleansed. By His grace through faith in Christ we are declared righteous in God’s sight. And it is this undeserved love of God toward us sinners that truly prepares us for Judgment Day.

Until that Day comes, when we shall meet our Bridegroom Jesus, there is much preparation we must do. We need preachers who will not diminish the Word of God but prepare us to meet Jesus by preaching it faithfully. We need to make use of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament regularly. We need to listen to His Word and keep it by repenting of our sins and believing on Jesus for the forgiveness of sin. But above all else, we need the grace of God. It is Jesus in His undeserved love who gets His bride, the Church, ready for that Last, great Day. “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:25-27) Jesus is coming quickly, may God help each one of us to stay alert and watchful for that day! Amen.