February 27, 2008

The Word of Concern - Feb 27, 2008

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

One of the themes in the book of James is that faith produces action. Other books of the Bible stress that good deeds are no replacement for faith, but James stresses that where faith in Jesus IS present, good actions WILL follow. In chapter two, James writes,

15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-17 NIV).

If our concern for others never leads to action, we might ask ourselves, “Am I really all that concerned?” Since God has placed the mountain moving tool of prayer into our hands, there is always something we can do. May the Holy Spirit remind us that the gift prayer is meant to be used. May the Holy Spirit also lead our concern for others to be true, and to always be followed by action.

In our reading for today we hear about what Jesus DID when He saw His mother Mary standing at the foot of His cross. His concern for her led Him to speak what tonight we call, “The Word of Concern”.

John 19:26-27 (NASB)

26When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”

27Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.”

These are the words of God.

Throughout Jesus’ earthly life His primary concern was to do what His Heavenly Father wanted. Jesus once said,

…I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”(John 6:38 NIV).

The Father wanted Jesus to place Himself under the commandments, keep those commandments perfectly and give up His life to save sinners from eternal death.

We see Jesus’ concern for keeping the Father’s commandments in tonight’s reading. By providing someone to care for His mother, Jesus was keeping the fourth commandment. He was honoring His mother.

Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Jesus honoring His parents. The Bible tells us that Jesus was obedient to Mary and Joseph even in his youth (Luke 2:51). Though He was the very Son of God, Jesus recognized that His heavenly Father had given Him into the care of these two human beings, and therefore they deserved His respect and obedience.

The fact that Jesus always honored His parents was revealed at His baptism when God the Father spoke from heaven saying,

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:11 NIV).

No matter what the circumstances, Jesus’ concern for His Heavenly Father always led Him to do what was right. Even the excruciating pain of crucifixion was no excuse to Jesus for failing to do what was right. As blood and sweat trickled down His grimacing face, Jesus lived the Father’s Word –with His every word.

Here we see a great contrast between Jesus and ourselves. We often see our pain and frustration as an excuse for sinful behavior. Somehow a bad day makes it okay for us to snap at each other. Somehow a headache excuses us from politeness. Our mental and physical anguish draws our thoughts inward and centers our concern on ourselves.

But this was not the case with Jesus. Even from the cage of pain that was His cross, He still obeyed the Father’s commands.

Perhaps this was because Jesus understood that God designed every commandment to benefit both the person who kept it, and the persons it effected.

This dual blessing is easily seen in connection with the fourth commandment. When children honor their parents and treat them with respectful obedience, parents can raise their children up in the Lord, enjoying every moment. But when children dishonor their parents by their disobedience, the unpleasant but necessary act of discipline disrupts the joy of raising children.

As Jesus sought to keep the Father’s will, so did His earthly parents. Indeed, Mary and Joseph were sinful, but they were also believers. They trusted the God the Bible and kept God’s law as well as sinful humans can.

In Luke 2 we are told that they took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised on the eighth day after His birth. They did this because God had commanded the Jews that this should be done in the Old Testament.

Upon seeing and holding Jesus in his arms, an old priest by the name of Simeon told Mary,

This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35 NIV).

At the foot of Jesus’ cross Simeon’s prophesy found its greatest fulfillment. Mary could only look on as her eldest Son suffered. Johan Gerhard described her anguish well when he wrote:

“She sees Him suspended, but can not touch Him; sees Him nailed, and may not loose Him; she sees Him dripping with blood, but can not bind up His wounds; she hears His pliant: ‘I thirst,’ and may not give Him to drink. As many torments in the body of Christ, so many wounds in the mother’s heart…” (“The Gospels”, Ylvisaker 743 )

When Jesus looked out on the taunting crowd below Him, He saw sinners who desperately needed the forgiveness that He was earning them. And when His eyes fixed on His mother Mary, He saw also a sinner who needed His word of grace right now. And so, even as Jesus was providing for Mary’s greatest spiritual need, He also provided for her physical needs.

There standing beside Mary, was John. John, the Spirit inspired writer of the Gospel of John. John, the writer who avoids mentioning his own name in his Gospel, choosing instead to draw all attention to Jesus by calling himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. To this disciple and dear friend, Jesus entrusted the care of His own mother.

Jesus would rise from the dead in three days, but his relationship with His mother would never be quite the same. She would always retain the honor of being Jesus’ mother, but in the kingdom of God she would stand on the same level as all other Christians.

The apostle Paul wrote about the kingdom of God, saying:

28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV).

In a way, Jesus illustrated this fact by giving Mary to John and John to Mary. Mary’s privilege of being Jesus’ mother was great. John’s privilege of being Jesus’ close friend was great. But their shared privilege of being saved by His blood was greater.

From this point on the Bible tells us nothing else about Mary’s life except that she was one of those who continued in prayer and Christian fellowship at Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (Acts 1:14).

With His “Word of Concern”, Jesus expressed both His desire to keep the Father’s commandments and His love for His mother Mary. We should mark this well and always remember it. For there is a diamond of truth that sparkles in this act of Jesus: The greatest way in which we can love each other, is by diligently seeking to do the Father’s will as it is expressed in the Bible.

With His “Word of Concern” Jesus left His followers a great example. This is always the case with Jesus. He does not only direct us to His Father’s commands, He also leaves us His example to follow.

Of course, as we hold up Jesus’ perfect honoring of His parents with our sloppy record of disrespect and disobedience, we are reminded of our many sins. We have not honored our parents perfectly. And since it is God who places these people over us, our every sin against them has also been a sin against our Heavenly Father.

Thank God that we see more than a good example when we see Jesus! On the cross we also see our Savior, who never sinned against the fourth commandment, and who pastes His perfect keeping of that commandment over our failure to do so. In the same way, all our failures to honor our Heavenly Father have been pasted over with Christ’s perfect righteousness. In this way, each loving act that Jesus did out of concern for others, was also done out of concern for us and our salvation.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Concern leads to action. When we see Jesus’ concern for keeping the Father’s commands, we say, “Me too. I also want to honor God with my life.” When we see Jesus’ loving concern for His mother, we say, “Me too. I want to honor God’s representatives with my actions.” And when we see Jesus’ concern for us expressed in His patient suffering and death in our place, we say, “Thank You Jesus. As Mary continued in prayer and Christian fellowship with Your redeemed children, me too.”


The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

-Pastor Caleb Schaller

February 24, 2008

Jesus Dominates the Devil - Feb 24, 2008

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

When I was a teenager my summers were filled with baseball. I played on a team in the local Babe Ruth league.

Once the season started we pretty much played every week, and once in a while we’d get to travel to another town to play in a tournament. The teams we played were made up of kids that were our age. So, the playing field was pretty level. But once in a while we’d face a team that had a big kid.

I remember playing against one team that had a very mature catcher, to say the least. We didn’t ask to see his birth certificate, but my bet is that he could have bought his team a round of drinks after the game if he had wanted to.

We had absolutely no chance of stealing second base on this catcher. As long as his laser throw didn’t put a hole in the second baseman, we were toast. His ability was far beyond ours. He as out of our league. In a word, he dominated us.

When sinful people stand toe to toe with temptation, the Devil dominates them. His power is far beyond theirs. He is out of their league. In a word, the Devil dominates sinful men and women.

But when the Son of God came down from heaven, the Devil met his match. Actually, the Devil met his defeat. For while sinners are no match for the powers of the Devil, the Devil is no match for Jesus.

Today in our sermon meditation we’ll see a few ways in which Jesus Dominates the Devil.

We pray: Holy Spirit, You recorded these things for our learning. Strengthen our faith and educate our minds by Your Holy Word. Amen.

Matthew 12:22-29 (NASB)

22Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. 23All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?"

24But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons."

25And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

29“Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”

These are the words of God.

In John 8:44 we are told that the Devil is the father of lies. And since he was the one who tempted Adam and Eve to sin in the first place, we also might call the Devil the father of all sin and suffering. Every pain you’ve ever felt has come to you because of the sin that Satan brought into this world by tempting our first parents.

When we see the world in this light, we begin to understand that every healing Jesus did was a demonstration of His power over the Devil. Each time Jesus healed a sick person, opened the eyes of the blind, or made a paralyzed person walk, He was taking back what the Devil had stolen.

Some of the people Jesus healed were medically sick. Others had been taken over by evil spirits. And some, like the man in our reading were afflicted in both ways.

This man was possessed by a demon who had taken away his ability to see and his ability to speak. We aren’t told who, but someone brought this poor demon-possessed man to Jesus. And there the forces of good and evil collided.

But our text doesn’t describe much of a fight, does it? When Jesus saw the man’s terrible condition, He quickly tore the demon out of the man, and gave him back what the demon had taken – his sight and speech.

The Bible tells us,

“…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8 NIV).

By healing the sick and casting out demons Jesus was fixing what the devil had broken. And by healing these effects of sin, Jesus was destroying the Devil’s work.

But healing sicknesses and casting out demons was only part of Jesus’ work. And not the most important part by far. Jesus demonstrated His dominance over the Devil by casting one demon from this one man. Jesus further demonstrated His dominance by restoring health to many sick people. But Jesus would completely humiliate the Devil by taking away the Devil’s favorite weapon: our sin.

If the movie writers of Hollywood had written the story of salvation they probably would given Jesus a big machine gun and a never ending clip of ammunition – just like Rambo. But Jesus’ battle to set sinners free from the power of the Devil is a spiritual battle. It isn’t a battle won with brute force and armor piercing rounds. Jesus had to be wise. He had to shrewdly secure the sinner’s release. And he did so in a way that we never would have guessed.

Jesus displayed some of His shrewdness when He struck down the arguments of the Pharisees in our text. After Jesus had miraculously cast the demon out of this man, restoring both his sight and his speech, the Pharisees who hated Jesus tried to spin the events to make Jesus look bad. They claimed,

…This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of demons.” (Matthew 12:24 NASB).

Beelzebul is simply another name for Satan. They were actually accusing Jesus of being demon possessed!

Patient and powerful Jesus didn’t unleash His fury on the Pharisees. He hadn’t yet come to judge the world. That would come later. This time He had come to save the world. So, for the benefit of all who heard, Jesus unleashed His wisdom and cut down the devious lies and argument of the Pharisees.

First, Jesus pointed out how stupid it would be for Satan to turn against his own demons. No country engaged in a civil war can stand against a united country. No city whose citizens are warring against each other can last for long. No family that seeks to hurt its own can remain a family. Satan is evil, but he isn’t stupid. He knows better than to fight his own when they can join together and fight against the human race.

Secondly, Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Their own people were going out to cast demons. Surely they approved when their own did this, but when Jesus began casting out demons, then it was somehow proof that He was in league with the Devil! Instead of proving that Jesus was evil, their foolish statements just showed that they hated Him without cause.

For the faithless, what God’s servants do is never right. When John the Baptizer came teaching in the wilderness, the Pharisees said, “This guy doesn’t drink wine, dresses funny, and lives out in the wilderness – he’s obviously got a demon!” But when Jesus came teaching in the cities, the Pharisees said, “This guy goes to feasts and drinks wine, what a glutton, what a drunkard!” (see Matthew 11:18-19).

Jesus endured the hateful words of the Pharisees and all the Devil’s temptations and evil plots because He was on a mission to save sinners.

I’m sure we’ve all see a movie in which the hero allows himself to be taken captive as part of the plan to beat the bad guys. The hero might have to put up with a beating, or at least the gloating of his enemies for a time, but just at the crucial moment the hero breaks free and wins the day.

Jesus did this in a very real sense. As the sinless Son of God, He was above sin. But He allowed the sins of the world to be placed on His shoulders and on His spiritual record. He endured the pains and suffering of life because of our sins. On the cross He endured the wrath of God because of the world’s sins. Because Jesus had no sin of His own, death had no power over Him. But on the cross, Jesus even placed Himself under death, in full obedience to the Father.

In Philippians we read:

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death—

even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).

By healing the sick and casting out demons Jesus showed that He had power over sin and the Devil. By suffering the punishment for our sins and dying on the cross, Jesus showed His complete and utter dominance over Satan by taking away our sin and punishment.

Through Jesus we now stand spotless in the sight of God. More than that, because of Jesus God the Father is delighted when He looks down on you and I.

To the unbelieving Pharisees Jesus said,

…if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28 NASB).

As long as the Pharisees refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the Savior sent from God, they would remain blind to the kingdom of God. Their hearts would not be ruled by God, but by Satan. Their sinful desires would continue to push them around. And death would one day separate them from God forever.

But some saw Jesus’ miracles as evidence of the truth of His message. Those people were seeing the kingdom of God appearing right among them. Those people were beginning to experience the rule of God in their hearts. The gracious rule of God comes by faith in Christ, and brings peace, security and strength.

Jesus completes His dominance over the Devil by sharing His dominance with His family. Those who know Christ by faith are given power over Satan and all the forces of evil.

In the last words of our text Jesus said,

Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Matthew 12:29 NASB).

Through the cross, Jesus has tied up the Devil, sin and death for us. Now we rule over them.

In the book of Romans it says,

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33 NIV).

In Hebrew, the name “Satan” means accuser. But Satan cannot accuse us before the throne of God when we stand beside God’s Son through faith. As the reformation hymn says,

“This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him” (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, TLH 262).

That little word is Jesus.

In our lives, sin cannot push us around any longer. The Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, giving us the power to say no to sin and to live holy lives in service to God. The Bible says,

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14 NIV).

Jesus also shares His dominance over death with us. For those who do not trust in God, death is very frightening. For death comes to take them away from God forever. But for the Christian, the roaring lion of death has become a little kitten beside the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. With Jesus at our side, we need not fear the separation of soul from body. When death comes to the Christian, the Christian goes to be with God!

To the Christians of Philippi, Paul wrote,

23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Philippians 4:11-12 NIV).

Paul looks on death with no fear. To him death is but a cab driver who arrives just when God tells him to in order to drive God’s servants home.

One of our earlier Scripture readings said that those who receive the grace of God will “reign in life” through Jesus Christ. When I look around this room I don’t see crowns of gold. I don’t see powerful politicians and warlords. But looks are deceiving, my brothers and sisters in Christ, for you are not just trade workers, and nurses. You are not just administrators and house wives. You are not just children and store clerks. You are the rulers of this world. You rule here and now, in Christ.

Does that sound funny to say that your are rulers of this world? What else would you call people who cannot be accused by Satan, cannot be dominated by sin, cannot be harmed by death and will live in glory forever at the side of God?

The kingdom of God has come upon you, through Christ Jesus. Live as His royal family, in holiness, with happiness, in peace and with power. And always remember that Jesus dominated sin, death and the Devil, and because of Him, now so do you.


-Pastor Caleb Schaller

February 20, 2008

The Word of Desolation - Feb 20, 2008

- The Seven Words From the Cross -


Matthew 27:45-46

Grace and Lenten peace be multiplied unto you in the knowledge of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for this first of our midweek Lenten meditations comes from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 27, verses 45 and 46, as follows:

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" So far our text.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Who Himself was forsaken, that we need never be, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Have you ever been troubled with a recurrent nightmare? It's frightening, isn't it? When I was a little boy, I had the same dream over and over again: I dreamt that the police would come to our house and arrest me by mistake, thinking I was some notorious criminal. Then I'd be in a courtroom, trying to explain that I didn't do anything, and that they had the wrong person. But no one would listen, and the judge would solemnly tell me that I had to go to jail.

I guess I must have dreamt that because, as a little boy, any kind of punishment frightened me, and going to jail was the worst kind of punishment I could imagine. I know now, of course, that there are much worse things that can happen to people. The sobering scene that confronts us tonight is nightmarish beyond even our power of imagination. A drama of death is being played out at Calvary. Though it's the middle of the afternoon, an eerie, otherworldly darkness has descended upon this skull-shaped hill. Above us, a Man is suffering a painful and drawn-out death, despite the fact that He is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. -Only this is no dream. It's really happening. Let's visit, once again, that hill of Calvary, and listen to another of our Savior's Words from the Cross- this one the heartrending

Word of Desolation:


By the time Jesus speaks this word from the cross, He is entering the final stage of His suffering. This statement is directed upward, to His heavenly Father. It is the lonely cry of a Man who is in the last extremity of physical and spiritual agony.

Our text tells us that a deep darkness covered the land from the sixth hour to the ninth hour; that is, from noon till about three p.m. Since the Passover was always held at the full moon, we know this couldn't have been a natural eclipse of the sun. No, it was an eerie darkness, a very unnatural darkness, and why not? -Everything else about that scene was unnatural! A Man declared completely innocent - not once, but several times - even by the corrupt Roman governor, is nevertheless condemned to die! Instead of curses, He utters a prayer for His enemies. He refuses the offer of a pain-killing sedative, vinegar mixed with gall. And then, for three hours, this weird darkness descends. All very unnatural!

We have no word from Jesus during those three dark hours. He suffers in agonizing solitude, fulfilling the Old Testament prophesy of Isaiah, "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me." -- Isa 63:3. Perhaps it's a mercy that His tortured face is hidden from our eyes in the gloom, because if we could look at that face, we might find ourselves staring into the gaping jaws of hell itself!

In His agony, Jesus is compelled to cry out. A loud cry is wrenched from His tortured body, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" It is, indeed, a voice from hell, because that's what Jesus is suffering at this point: the full punishment of hell for the sins of the world.

I want you to note that point carefully! I'm not exaggerating, and I'm not using poetic license when I say that Jesus suffered hell for our sins. For centuries, the false teachers of the Roman Catholic Church have stated that it is "intolerable wickedness" to say that the Son of God could have been subjected the torments of hell. But we do state exactly that. In fact, this is the very heart of the true Christian faith, and anyone who denies it is, in effect, locking himself out of heaven!

Because what is our hope of salvation? - We talked about this last week: our hope of salvation lies in the vicarious atonement of Christ - in the fact that the innocent Jesus substituted Himself for us guilty sinners, and bore the full punishment for our sins on the cross. Paul says that God "...made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." -- 2 Cor 5:21. And what is the punishment for sin? Jesus suffered intense physical pain, but the punishment for sin is worse than that. Many people suffer intense pain. Jesus suffered physical death, but the punishment for sin is even worse than that. All people eventually experience physical death. No, the wages of sin is spiritual death, to be completely forsaken by God, to be banished from His presence in the torments of Hell. -That's what Jesus had to suffer in order to redeem us: the total God-forsakenness of hell - the hell we earned for ourselves by our sin!

In one of our most familiar Lenten hymns we sing:

"Ye who think of sin but lightly

Nor suppose the evil great

Here may view its nature rightly,

Here its guilt may estimate.

How true those words are! We so often underestimate our sins, we speak so easily of "free forgiveness," that we forget that, for Jesus, that forgiveness wasn't free at all. He had to pay a staggering cost to earn that forgiveness for us. Every sin you commit - each unkind word, each lustful thought, even the slightest misdeed! - inflicted an eternity's-worth of hellish torment on the soul of our Savior. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" If Jesus hadn't said those words for us, we'd have been condemned to repeat them ourselves, forever, in eternal hellfire!

But He did say them. He did say them! And praise God that He did!

People say that "lightning never strikes twice in the same place." Folklore has it that, if you're caught outside in an electrical storm, the safest place you can be is right underneath the charred and smoking stump of a tree that's already been struck. I don't know if that's true or not. But I do know that the safest place for a guilty sinner to be is at the foot of Jesus' cross! Peter says, "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." -- 1 Pet 3:18. The terrible lightning of God's wrath over sin has already struck there at that cross. It struck once, with horrific force, and was completely expended on the body and soul of our Savior. It cannot strike again. It cannot strike us!

It was the darkest hour in the history of mankind, but what a bright future it opens for us! For the cross means nothing less than this: we cannot be punished for our sins! If you're like me, you may be plagued by periods of doubt and uneasiness because of your sins. Maybe you have a "skeleton in your closet" - a troubling sin in your background that no one knows about but you. Perhaps there's a particular sin that keeps coming back again and again, and makes you wonder, sometimes, whether you're really saved or not. If so, then stand beneath the cross with me tonight and ask yourself this: "Are my sins so great or so many that the blood of God's Son can't cover them? Is there any sin I've committed that Jesus did NOT pay for?" As we view the depth of His suffering tonight, we know that the answer is a resounding "NO!" In what is perhaps the most joyous and comforting passages in all of Scripture, the Apostle Paul says, "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." -- Rom 8:33-34. Who can condemn you? No one! All your sins have been paid for, and the righteousness of Christ Himself is yours. Jesus has already prepared a place in heaven with your name on it. Now those are the facts. I suppose if you want to be miserable, you can pretend it's not so, but I really don't see the point. Do you?

I began this evening by talking about dreams. Maybe you never had the kind of recurrent nightmares that I had, but there's one experience I'm sure you have had. That's waking up from a nightmare and suddenly realizing with boundless relief -- that it was all just a dream. You know what I'm talking about - one moment you're gripped by terror. The next moment, your eyes are open, the morning sun is streaming through the window, and you're so happy and relieved you can't help but smile. Well, Jesus went through a real-life nightmare. Our nightmare - because it was our sins He was paying for. But now the nightmare is over, for Him and for us. The terror of sin, death and hell have vanished. The cheerful light of salvation is already shining in our hearts, and any moment now the full day of eternity will dawn! AMEN.

-Pastor Paul Naumann

February 17, 2008

See the Cross of Christ and Rejoice - Feb 17, 2008

The purpose of Jesus’ birth, life and death is summed up in the words of 1 John 3:8: “…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8 NIV)

In our sermon meditation for today, we consider the words of:

Romans 5:1-11 (NKJV)

1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

6For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The cross is probably the most common and most recognizable of all Christian symbols. It is visible in churches, on greeting cards, in artwork, and jewelry. The cross has become so common and so popular that one has to wonder whether all those who see it, wear it, draw it, or use it really know and appreciate what it means, or if it has just become part of fashion.

The form of a cross has no special power to defend against danger or perform miracles. To believe that it does is superstition and no different than trusting in a rabbit's foot. Nor should the cross itself ever become an object of worship. Any such worship would be idolatry.

The cross is a symbol. It has no value or significance of itself. The value and significance come from what took place on a cross, outside of Jerusalem, nearly 2,000 years ago. When the symbol brings to minds and hearts all the things that Jesus accomplished by dying on a cross, it is then that the cross becomes the most beautiful thing in the world. SEE THE CROSS OF CHRIST AND REJOICE! We are I. Reconciled by it. We will consider our II. Response to it, and we are III. Confident in it.


Two words, justification and reconciliation, are both used by Paul to describe what Jesus did for us on the cross. Justification is a courtroom term and means “to be declared righteous.”

God is the judge of all. The guideline for His judgment is His Law. The judging is really quite simple. If God’s Law is kept perfectly, the judge declares the person innocent. If the Law has been broken in any way, the judge declares him guilty. God’s verdict on us is Guilty! We are justified—declared free from guilt—because of what Christ did in His life and what He completed on the cross.

The second word, reconciliation, is a personal term. A broken friendship is restored when the friends are reconciled and brought back together. The reconciliation removes whatever had divided them and they are once again friends.

God takes no pleasure in sin. He hates it and demands punishment for it. Those who are sinning take no pleasure in God and hate Him. A little later in Romans, Paul writes, “The carnal (natural / fleshly) mind is enmity (hatred) against God” (Romans 8:7). Sin separates man from God. It drives them apart. Where sin exists there is no reconciliation. When the sin is removed, sinners are no longer God’s enemies but are reconciled with Him and restored as God’s own children.

Our justification and reconciliation depend on the removal of sin’s guilt. Sin and its condemnation is the problem which once solved will solve everything else. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom also we have access into this grace in which we stand…” [v.1-2]. We are justified by faith...through Jesus Christ.

There can be no justification or reconciliation by ourselves or through ourselves. We are justified and reconciled—the action is done to us. The only way to be declared righteous is to have righteousness and “all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). In order for us to be reconciled with God, His Law had to be kept and our sin against it had to be punished. Jesus did both. He led a perfect life in our place and on the cross died for the sins of all the world. Through Jesus’ life and death there is forgiveness, justification, reconciliation for every sinner. “[God] has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is , that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing (charging) their trespasses to them…” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Jesus accomplished everything and finished it all on the cross. There is nothing left for us to do, which is good, because there is nothing we can do for our salvation. “…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ…for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

God tells us that the work has all been done by Christ. It was accomplished on the cross. There is forgiveness and reconciliation for you through Jesus and what He has done. Believe it!

Two beautiful results of being justified and reconciled with God is that we “have peace with God” and we “have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Having been justified through Jesus Christ we are in harmony and at peace with God. His righteous anger toward our sin was put upon Christ on the cross. Now, God looks on us with pleasure because we have Christ’s holiness. There is peace for our conscience because we know that Jesus was punished for us. No longer do we have to fear God. He is our loving Father and we have free and complete access to Him just as children have to their loving earthly fathers. We enjoy all of these blessings because of God's grace—His undeserved love. We have been brought into that grace and continue on living in it because of Jesus and the work He accomplished on the cross.

See the cross of Christ and rejoice because what He did on the cross was for you. He died for your forgiveness and through Him you are reconciled to God and have the blessings of God’s children.


The natural response to good news is happiness and excitement about whatever that news may be. Paul says, “through whom (Jesus)…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” [v.2] The work of Jesus on the cross and our reconciliation means that we have something wonderful to which we can look forward. It is natural to rejoice in the coming glory of God which we will experience for all of eternity.

Paul goes on with something that, at first, seems to be an unnatural response. “…through whom we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations.” [v.2-3] Having been justified through Christ, we can rejoice and glory even in troubles and not only when tribulations come but because they come. This contradicts every bit of human reason and worldly wisdom. Having no problems sounds so good and so easy that it seems foolish to speak about rejoicing in troubles.

God does tremendous things for us. We know that He is the one who gives us every blessing, takes care of us, answers our prayers, that He is the one on whom we can truly rely and trust that He will always help us. We know all of this and yet how often don’t we forget? Are you more likely to remember God when the things are going well or when you have some trouble? God allows troubles to come to help you and to strengthen your faith, therefore you can rejoice even in tribulations. Paul describes a chain of events. “Tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character hope.” [v.3-4]

Tribulations remind sinners that they are weak and helpless. We have need for daily support and blessings from God just to survive. We should be more afraid of good days and prosperity than of the troubles because the good things in this life are going to tempt us into forgetting the One who gives us everything. The ease of this life may tempt us into forgetting our heavenly goal. Proverbs explains the dangers, “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” (Proverbs 30:8-9).

In trouble, we are reminded to look to the One who helps us. When you are in trouble of any kind, look to the Lord and ask Him for the help you need. Are you sick? Remember from where healing comes and ask the Lord for that healing. Emotional strain or difficulties, an empty checkbook, disagreements with friends, the world caving in, troubles and sorrows on every side—all of these find remedy with the God who loves you, who has redeemed you, who controls all things, and who gives you everything you have.

When troubles arise, and you cast your cares on God perseverance will be the result. A patient endurance will build up when you know that God is going to see you through difficulties and that He will solve every problem according to His wisdom. Each tribulation when it is face together with your Lord, will be overcome and will find a good ending. The patient endurance and blessed end of that trouble will give further endurance to patiently trust the Lord in the next time of need. James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).

What is described as “character,” is literally, “the proof of standing the test.” With each tribulation that is overcome by perseverance in the Lord there comes the proof that the trouble was survived and endured. Having seen how the Lord has brought us through a certain trouble, our confidence is increased and this leaves its mark on us. The more and more we see of what God has done, can do, and does, the greater confidence and trust we will have. That trust and confidence will show itself in us. We will be more patient, more ready to look to the Lord, and less eager to find help in ourselves. That character will build and be more and more focused on Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

The final step in the chain is that character produces hope. As our patience and trust build and as we grow stronger and more confident in our Lord, we will hold on all the more dearly to the hope that we have in God. God uses tribulations to produce perseverance and character so that our faith will withstand the temptations of this life. Then we will one day see in person the glory of God which is now our hope.

All of the trouble in this world is a lasting result and effect of sin. God allows certain troubles to come to us in order to strengthen our faith and trust in Him. It is like an athlete who lifts weights to build strength. When more weight is added it is hard to lift the bar, but in the end that is what increases his strength. Each difficulty that we experience may seem heavy and hard to bear but we can rejoice and glory in it because we know that God is using that to strengthen us.

We need continual strengthening from God so that we are able to withstand the attacks of the Devil and reach our goal. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall life by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:36-38).“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Our tribulations give us no comfort in themselves. It is the hope of the glory of God through Christ that comforts us in troubled times. We are able to respond to the cross of Christ with rejoicing even in tribulations because of the chain of events which Paul describes. We know that the God who sent His Son to justify us is also using the troubles of this life for our greater good.


Sometimes hope ends in disappointment—something didn’t work out right and everything we expected failed. The hope we have as a result of Christ’s death on the cross does not fail nor disappoint. It does not leave us empty-handed as if we were tricked into putting our trust in something uncertain. Our hope is sure. “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” [v.5]

The hope we have comes to us from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost testifies to us through the Word of God and convinces us that God loves us and that His love is our possession. The knowledge of that love is the reason for our joy, confidence, and hope. Hope that is built on God and created by God cannot end in failure. Our hope is built on the reality of God’s love for us. What is that love? How deep does it go? How far does it spread? Paul gives us the answer. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [v.6-8].

Imagine that a man was proven guilty of horrible crimes, was sentenced to his just reward, and was to be executed...but you could be executed in his place. It would be hard to see any good reason to sacrifice your life for someone who deserved to die. You might jump into a lake to save someone who was drowning, but to die in place of someone who deserved to be executed would be another matter entirely. You are the person on death row. Your crimes against God deserve execution, eternally.

God demonstrates the quality and quantity of His love for you in that Christ did offer Himself in your place. We can see and appreciate love among ourselves, but that is nothing compared to the love of God toward us. When we love someone else it is a result of their love for us or is at least prompted by something in them. There is absolutely nothing in us to prompt God to love us.

By ourselves we are as Paul describes us, “without strength, ungodly, and sinners.” Weak, helpless, condemned sinners and under God’s wrath is what we are without Christ. What Christ did on the cross He did for us as enemies of God. His sacrifice displays true love and is the love we see in the cross and the love on which we build our confidence.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” [v.9-11]

Sinful mankind was at war with God yet He loved such sinners with so great a love that Jesus died to reconcile them and make them God’s children. Now, through Christ, we are God’s beloved children. If God did all of these things when we were His enemies, can you imagine what He will do now that we are His children? We have no need to fear anything in this life, and more importantly no need to fear God’s anger in eternal judgment.

Love is shown by deeds and deeds establish confidence. The indescribable love of God is shown in what He did. That gives complete confidence for the present and for the future that lies ahead. The certain hope that comes from this confidence will not leave us ashamed or disappointed. We have life in Jesus’ life. He promised, “Because I live you shall live also” (John 14:19).

Everything that we have in Christ and everything to which we confidently look forward, makes it possible to rejoice and boast in the things which God has done. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight says the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

The cross of Christ is cause for rejoicing because of all that it has brought to us. Keep the cross fixed before your eyes and in your heart and you will always see it and rejoice.

Hold Thou thy cross before my closing eyes,
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies,
heaven’s morning breaks and earth's vain shadows flee.
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me. (TLH 552:8)


The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt

February 15, 2008

The Surpassing Greatness of Knowing Christ Jesus - Feb 15, 2008

Funeral Sermon for Arthur Walter Mantei

May the undeserved love which God has for you be known to your hearts today, through His Word.

For the past two and half years I have had the privilege of serving Art Mantei Sr. as his pastor. I have been blessed with the opportunity to meditate on God’s Word together with Art and Chick here in this house of worship, and also at their home.

The thing that brought me and Art together into a relationship was our shared belief that a man named Jesus is the Son of God. We both believe that Jesus is the reason that our sins have been erased in the sight of God the Father.

In Art’s biography, we have briefly considered some of the events of Art’s life. But to truly honor this man whom we were privileged to know and love, we must consider that which he considered to be his highest privilege – the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.

To help us do this, we read from the Word of God from which Art’s faith sprung. Our selection for meditation comes from the third chapter of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians of Philippi.

8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9 NIV).

These is the word of God.

To truly understand what the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus means, we must first understand how hopeless a person is apart from Christ.

The Bible says that the world was once perfect. At that time Adam and Eve lived in a close relationship with their Creator, and knew neither sin, nor death. But faced with temptation, they sinned against God, separating their souls from Him and bringing death into the world. Since that time all children have been born sinful, destined to die and doomed to one day be separated from God forever.

Both the apostle Paul and Art Mantei were born into this world in this same hopeless condition. Thankfully, God is full of love and compassion, and provided a way for them and all people to be brought back into a perfect relationship with Him. God sent His Son Jesus to suffer the punishment that our sins have earned. Trusting that Jesus truly did this, is what it means to know Jesus. The greatness of knowing Christ Jesus means freedom from sin, freedom from fear of punishment, and freedom to live life under God’s gracious smile.

Art first felt the smile of God on the day he was baptized into Christ. Galatians 3:27 says,

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27 NKJV).

When Art was baptized, the sinless life of God’s own Son was wrapped around his little soul, covering all his failings and sins completely.

The apostle Paul, however, was not as privileged as Art. For Paul lived many years before being introduced to Jesus.

The apostle Paul grew up studying the Old Testament of the Bible, but missed its point. Paul falsely believed that he could make up for his own sins by creating a righteous life of his own.

As a man, the apostle Paul was considered highly knowledgeable in religion matters. When his fellowmen looked at Paul they saw a man who kept all the laws that God had written down in the Old Testament. And more than that, Paul also worked hard to keep all the extra rules and regulations that the religious teachers of his day had set up beside God’s Word.

Paul was not just a talker, he was a doer. He took his religion seriously. When people called “Christians” started teaching that a man named Jesus was the Savior predicted in the Bible, Paul didn’t believe it. So, Paul tried his best to destroy this group of people.

This all changed when Jesus Himself appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul came to believe that the Christians were right, Jesus was the promised Savior from sin.

After coming to trust in Jesus, Paul considered all his former greatness to be nothing at all. Rubbish. Something to be tossed away and forgotten. Paul felt this way because he had come to see that all his great learning and his brilliant reputation before men didn’t get him anything before God. As good as Paul looked to others, before God he was still a sinner.

But connected to Christ by trust in Christ, Paul had something worth holding on to. Through his faith in Christ he had been given a perfect righteousness in God’s eyes. All his former sins were swept under the rug of Christ’s sinless life and innocent death. When God looked down on sinful Paul, He now saw only the righteousness of Jesus.

Paul summed all this up by saying,

“…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” (Philippians 3:8 NIV).

Paul’s life was dramatically changed through this new relationship with God’s Son. The once hateful persecutor of Christians became a man who was willing to take a beating in order to introduce others to their Savior. In short, Paul’s life was now molded and defined by Jesus’ love for all people.

Art Mantei also knew the freedom and power of knowing Christ. As we read through his biography the outward manifestations of his inward faith were obvious. Art didn’t travel abroad preaching the Good News of forgiveness like Paul did. Instead Art served in the often overlooked and underappreciated job of Sunday School teacher.

The resources that he had, Art used in serving his Savior. With his mind and with his hands he helped build churches so that Christians might gather together in Jesus’ name. With his example he showed his family and friends his priorities.

Don’t get me wrong, Art wasn’t perfect in his walk with Jesus. And that’s why he faithfully returned to confess his sins to God in prayer. That’s why he continually returned to sit with his fellow Christians and hear the Good News that his sins were forgiven through Christ.

In the book of Hebrews it says,

23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25 NKJV).

The apostle Paul endured hatred and ridicule to encourage his fellow Christians to hold to the hope of forgiveness and eternal life that was theirs in Jesus.

Art endured the pain and weakness of an aging body to encourage his fellow Christians. He may not have brought a sermon to share with us on Sunday, but his quiet and slow steps to his pew lent an encouragement all their own. With no words at all he said, “I consider the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, worth the trip.”

Art will no longer join us for worship on Sunday. But through the righteousness that Jesus gives, we will one day join Art for worship in God’s own presence in Heaven.

Until that day, I pray that you may enjoy the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as your Savior. And I pray that as we mourn Art’s death, we may be led by the Holy Spirit to rejoice in the fact that Art no longer enjoys the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus by faith. Now he enjoys the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus by sight.


May the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

-Pastor Caleb Schaller

February 13, 2008

The Word of Assurance - Feb 13, 2008

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father,
and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tonight we again visit our Savior as He hangs on the cross. We remember all that He has endured up to this point. Betrayed to His enemies by one of His own. Condemned by His own countrymen. Declared innocent by the ruler of the land, but sentenced to death by crucifixion anyway. Scourged to the point that He was unable to finish carrying His own cross to the hill of execution. Ridiculed by His enemies who followed His every step. Mocked even by the condemned criminals who suffered beside Him.

But as Isaiah predicted, our Savior went to His end quietly. Like a sheep led to the shearer, He was silent (Isaiah 53).

But not completely silent. Like a mother in labor pains, Jesus was focused on the task at hand, having little time for idle talk. Yet, from the dark ocean of His suffering, Jesus surfaced seven times to speak from the cross. And each time He opened His mouth it was for an important purpose.

We approach Christ’s words tonight with these things in mind. These are no idle words. These words were spoken by our Savior out of the depths of human suffering, for our great learning and comfort.

Just before the words of our text were spoken, the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus had joined the crowd below in mocking Him. But as their suffering dragged along, one of these criminals came to regret his words.

It became clear to him that this Jesus was no lawbreaker. Those on the side crosses deserved this terrible death, but the man in the middle was innocent.

Perhaps the thief on Jesus’ side remembered the silent way that Jesus had endured the path to the cross. When the weight of the cross forced His exhausted body to the ground, Jesus had uttered no curse upon the soldiers.

When the nails slid through the tender flesh at His hands still no words of hatred came from His lips. Only when Jesus was lifted up onto the cross did He use His voice. And then He had uttered a prayer for those who crucified Him.

By His preaching Jesus had brought many to trust in Him, and now in His relative silence, He had brought one more fallen sinner into the Kingdom of God. For there at His side, one thief had come to believe that the sign above Jesus was more than a joke. He really was the King of the Jews, and much, much more. He was the Savior foretold, and the King of all.

And so we read the words of Jesus, spoken to this newly born believer. We call this word from the cross, the word of assurance.

Luke 23:39-43 (NIV)

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

These are the words of God.

I remember my college English professor stressing the point that a good author does not waste words. A good author crafts his words in a way that every single one serves a purpose. Every single word colors some part of the message he writes.

Each of the words that Jesus spoke to the believing thief were just as carefully selected.

In the Greek, the first word Jesus spoke was, “amen.” Our translation conveys this word into English with the words, “I tell you the truth”. That’s what “amen” means. This is certain. This is true.

By leading His statement with this word, Jesus assured the dying man at his side that these were not empty words. This was no lie spoken to a dying man merely to ease his final pain.

In the movies, lies are often spoken to a dying person to ease their pain. The soldier who lies barely conscious and bleeding to death is reassured that they’re gonna make it, there’s nothing to worry about.

But Jesus would not comfort this dying man with lies, but only with certain truth. And this is why Jesus directed His word of assurance to the one man only. For the criminal on His other side Jesus had no comfort to offer. That criminal’s hurtful words showed no faith. Instead His ridicule only showed foolish unbelief. Jesus does not comfort the sinner who feels no sorrow over his sin.

But to the repentant thief, Jesus gave the word of assurance. He said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In telling the man, “Today”, Jesus gave a gentle and comforting prophesy that is often overlooked. The Jews considered sundown the beginning of a new day. And truly, before the sun would set on that Good Friday, both Jesus and the thief would be dead. The death of the repentant thief would be painful, but it would not stretch out over days as death by crucifixion could. His suffering would end today.

But Jesus’ words said so much more than, “Death will soon end your suffering.” Jesus assured the man that just as he was with Jesus in suffering, he would soon be with Jesus in glory.

With Jesus. For those who have come to love Jesus as their great God and Savior, there is no greater place to be. And what was true for the repentant thief on the cross, has been true for Christians throughout the ages. No matter what suffering comes to the child of God, Jesus is there with him. And when Christians are ushered out of this world through the shadowy valley of death, Christ remains there with them. And when Jesus is done leading the way through that valley, He is still there with them in the brilliant glory of the Father’s throne room.

But, Jesus didn’t use the image of a throne room to describe heaven to the repentant thief. He used the word, “paradise”.

The word “paradise” comes from an old Persian word for a special enclosed garden. A place that is protected by a wall, and filled with life. We might picture a garden park filled with lush leafy plants. Soft paths. Bright flowers. Dazzling water fountains. Long swaths of plush thick grass on which a person might take a nap in the afternoon sun. Paradise invokes images of a place of relaxation. A place of peace. A place where troubles and worries and pains are checked at the door.

In the killing place called Golgotha, these pleasant things were not present. At the foot of the crosses there was little more than dirt and rocks. Maybe some stunted scrub grass and a few weeds. But there in the words of Jesus the repentant thief could see a vision of things to come. Truly. Today. With Jesus. In paradise.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus describes paradise by saying that the tree of life is there (Revelation 2:7). In chapter twenty two John received a vision to help him imagine the glory of heaven. I’d like to read that vision for us tonight.

1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

6The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

7“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”” (Revelation 22:1-7 NIV).

For the penitent thief, it was “Today”. For us it may be today, or tomorrow, or next week or decades from now. But Jesus is coming soon, that we might be with Him in paradise.

May Jesus’ word of assurance strengthen you through any suffering that you might face. Let the forgiveness and salvation He secured for you be your life and your hope’s foundation, through whatever cross you bear in His Name.


The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

-Pastor Caleb Schaller