December 27, 2009

Remember Who He Is - Dec 27, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


May the Holy Spirit be with us today, so that we hear with our ears, believe with our hearts, and have ever increasing confidence in Jesus, our great God and Savior. Amen.

Remember who you are. Did you parents ever tell you that? Mine did. I remember my Dad telling me that before I left the house with friends on a Friday night. Remember who you are. That was his way of saying, “Don’t do what you know is wrong, even if your friends are doing it. You’re a follower of Christ, act like it.”

Our Bible reading for today takes us back one more step. It says, Christian, don’t just remember who YOU are, remember who JESUS is.

Luke 2:21-40 (NIV)

21On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.
22When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), 24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “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.”
36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

First let’s talk a little about what Mary and Joseph were doing here at the Temple.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, they waited for eight days. On the eighth day the baby was named “Jesus” in connection with His circumcision. That was the custom of the Jews. You named the baby on the eighth day when you circumcised him (See also Luke 1:59 for the account of John the baptizer being named on his circumcision day).

After that, Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem. God’s worship law stated that a mother was ceremonially unclean for forty days after her son had been born. Only after that time could she go to the Temple and offer certain sacrifices of cleansing which would enable her to join in the Temple worship once more.

When Mary and Joseph had waited the allotted time, they traveled the five miles from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, to the Temple, for Mary’s cleansing.

They also went to present Jesus to the LORD. Ever since God had rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, He said that every firstborn in Israel was His. Both human and animal. The first born animals were sacrificed at the Temple, or sometimes they were purchased with a lamb. If you had a horse or something you wanted that was a first born, you could give a lamb in its place.

Human first-borns were never sacrificed, but had to be presented to the LORD at the Temple. They were thus dedicated to Him for the course of their lives.

As followers of Jehovah, Mary and Joseph wanted to do all that God’s worship law said to do concerning their newborn Child. So, off to the Temple they went.

Things had cooled down a little bit for Joseph and Mary in that month after Jesus’ birth. There were no more angels visiting Joseph in his dreams. No more angels appearing to Mary. No more armies of angels bringing in the local herdsmen to visit. There was rest for Mary and healing. And for Joseph, there was probably looking for work in the little town of Bethlehem. He had to feed his family after all, and they weren’t exactly independently wealthy.

So, things had slowed down a bit, and the miracles had stopped altogether. But that was about to change. Mary and Joseph were about to be reminded again who this Baby was.

We might think, They didn’t really need to be reminded who Jesus was. How could they forget? And for that matter, we don’t really need to be reminded who Jesus is. How could we forget?

Well, we do forget. We forget who Jesus is when we doubt something he’s said. If we look at one of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible and think, “Well that’s old fashioned, I don’t need to listen to that”. Then we’re forgetting that Jesus is the Son of God. He has perfect wisdom and unlimited resources to draw from.

We forget who Jesus is when we doubt His ability to make things turn out right. When we insisted that everything hangs on what we do or don’t do, and refuse to give our worries over to God in prayer. Then we are forgetting who Jesus is.

Most frightening of all, we forget who Jesus is when we doubt God’s forgiveness, as if something we have done could be too sinful for Christ’s sacrifice to cover.

Our sinfulness clouds our mind, and the Devil tempts us to forget who Jesus is. But God has given us the antidote to a failing memory. The Bible. When our faith is weak, we need to simply return HERE to see Jesus in action. To listen to His ideas expressed in His own words. To remember who He is.

When Mary and Joseph went to present Baby Jesus at the Temple, they were reminded who this Child is by a miracle. A man named Simeon approached them in the Temple. The Holy Spirit had told this man that he would not die before he saw the Savior with his own eyes. And on that day, that same Holy Spirit had moved Simeon to come to the Temple. When he saw Baby Jesus, the Spirit made it clear that this was the Child. This was the Messiah.

Simeon’s words of praise amazed Mary and Joseph. And then Anna approached also. This 84 year old woman praised God for their Child as well.

Does it sound strange that Mary and Joseph should be surprised by any of this after all they had experienced to this date? Don’t be surprised. We are just like them. We’re used to operating in the natural world. We do not understand or accept the supernatural easily. In fact, without the Holy Spirit, we can’t understand the supernatural at all.

Simeon understood that this Child was supernatural. That this Child was the Christ, because the Holy Spirit revealed that truth to him. And that wasn’t all that the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon.

Sometimes the people around Jesus seem really thick headed. The disciples seem to forget the miracles of Jesus almost immediately. They fear for their lives and wonder where their next meal is going to come from even after seeing Jesus walk on water, still the storm and feed the 5,000. They are terrified to see Jesus crucified even though He told them exactly how He was going to die on a number of occasions.

But Simeon and Anna don’t seem thick at all do they? Not only do they praise the Baby Jesus, they identify the right reason why He should be praised.

Verse 25 says that Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel”. He was waiting for the Savior from sin that God promised to send. The Christ. And when He finally sees and holds this child, he says,

“…My eyes have seen your salvation,” (Luke 2:30 NIV).

And when Anna goes to spread the word, the Bible says she told…

“…all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

Consolation. Salvation. Redemption. In other words: comfort, defense, buying sinners back.

This is what Simeon and Anna are excited about, this Baby is their Savior from sin. He is here to comfort everyone who sees the hopelessness of their own sinful condition. He is here to defend the followers of God from the Devil. He is here to buy back all who are in slavery to sin.

Jesus would do all these things on the Cross of Calvary when He suffered hell in our place. Simeon and Anna probably didn’t understand that much detail concerning His work of salvation, but they understood this was all about forgiveness. This was about being restored to God.

In fact, Simeon says that now he’s ready to die. Now that he’s seen the Savior just like God promised he would, now he’s good to go. But it sounds like even more than that, it sounds like he wants to die. He’s excited at the idea of leaving this world with the Christ Child’s face still fresh on his mind.

This is the state of mind we want to cultivate. Such a clear and simple trust in Christ that we can say, “I’m good to go, Lord. You just say the word. I’ll stay here as long as you’ve got work for me to do, but I’m ready to step out of here any time you want.”

That’s how Paul felt. Turn to Philippians 1, verse 21. There Paul says…

“21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 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. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.
27Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God” (Philippians 1:21-28)

Paul trusted that God would take care of His friends if he was gone. Paul believed that being with Jesus would be far better than any joy this side of heaven. And when Paul had Jesus so fresh in His mind, he was more than ready to leave this world – just like Simeon.

Their confidence, both Paul’s and Simeon’s, sprung from their remembering who Jesus is.

At the beginning of our mediation today, I mentioned my Dad telling me “remember who you are”. I said that was his way of saying, “You’re a follower of Christ, act like it.” Christians, the only way to remember who we are, is to remember who Jesus is.

He’s the sinless Son of God, who gave His life for us. His life isn’t merely a perfect pattern for us to imitate, His life is the perfect righteousness that swallows up our sin forever.

Remember who He is. Son of God. Savior. Then you’ll remember who you are. One of the people He saved.


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

December 25, 2009

A Christmas Homily - Dec 25, 2009

In the Name of Christ Jesus – Dear Fellow Redeemed:

The stubborn little Galilean donkey began to slowly tap his way up the long sloping trial that lead to a small cluster of white plaster houses on the narrow ridge above him.

On the grey limestone path below the animal, moved the soft shadow of a pregnant young woman --- her robes fluttering lightly in the cool Judean breeze.

At her side walked a dark eyed Jew with the rough, calloused hands of a carpenter. His steady stride had covered 75 miles in the last four days. Now finally he gazed upon the boxy white homes that were their final destination—Bethlehem.

It had been a long trip for Joseph’s young wife, Mary.

They had come down the high ridge that Nazareth straddled

…down through the fertile plain of Esdralon,
…past the leafless, wintering groves of Tamarisk and wild olive,
…through long dry pastures dotted with heaps of white-washed stones,

They followed the Roman road that lay like a long grey ribbon over the rocky hills of southern Galilee.

From Galilee the little donkey ambled his way down from the limestone highlands into the rich red valley of Jezreel.

…through tiny towns of sun baked bricks,
…through orchards and vineyards,
…through freshly cut and plowed fields that lay like vast quilt across northern Samaria.

They slept in rude road-side shelters that were little more than a circle of rocks and a lean-two covered in palm fronds.

They ate their simple meals from a single copper pot hung over a little fire of thorny kindling.

More than once, as they traveled, at the sound of drumming hooves Joseph had to urge the donkey to the side of the road,
Covering his face as Rome’s couriers came pounding by
--lifting up a cloud of dust and throwing stones.

Joseph didn’t need to be reminded that it was Caesar and Rome that ordered him to register his properties,
and inheritance
in hometown Bethlehem.

As commanded they had come…down the new Roman road, over the ancient and twisting hills toward Judea.

Further south, the sweeping country side of Samaria gave way to Judea’s narrow valleys and rough, rocky hills. Hard, wild-looking shepherds grazed their flocks on the steep slopes --- seemingly oblivious to the busy roads --- packed with pilgrims bound for the holy city—Jerusalem.

But Joseph and Mary were not bound for the city of David’s reign, but the city of his youth. Within sight of the gleaming spires of the Temple, they turned south toward Bethlehem.

They passed through the fields where Boaz once found Ruth gleaning, --- They climbed the terraced slopes leading to the gate of the City of David. --- They disappeared into her narrow, crowded streets.

+ + +

Later we follow --- up those terraced steps --- as the sun drops like a flaming ball beyond the horizon, reaching the city as darkness settles over the small Judean town.
Under the deep velvet sky, peppered with stars, we walk Bethlehem’s quiet cobblestone streets until at the outskirts we see a ray of lantern light coming from a crack in the hillside door.

It’s a cave --- made over into a stable, roomy stalls lining the limestone walls.

There is the musty odor of cut grass,
as well as the milky scent of cows and goats.
We hear the chuff-chuff of animals working their cud.

But from one stall comes the soft, steady sound of regular breathing. There the young mother Mary lies sleeping on a bed of golden straw,
blankets tucked about her quiet form,
her head resting on the rolled cloak of her husband, Joseph.

In the back of the stall is a wide shelf of piled limestone slabs, the topmost having been chiseled out to make a shallow trough for hay and barley oats.

But beside the pungent smell of many grasses, there comes from this manger the mingled odors of oil, and myrtle dust. For in this feed-box there sleeps a new-born child.

+ + +

But for Joseph, sleep was impossible.
He paced about the stable in a kind of march,
Regularly checking to see that mother and child were resting naturally and peacefully.

With excitement he remembered how quickly it all had happened.
With frustration he recalled how little he could do to help.
When Mary’s time had come it was too late to get a mid-wife.
Joseph could only warm a little water…and leave her to herself.

It was Mary that shook the new-born infant to start His breathing.
It was she who bathed and oiled and salted him—as the Jewish custom was. It was she who powdered the child with sweet smelling myrtle dust, and wrapped him snuggly in the long bands of linen swaddling.

And now, she slept…while Joseph kept his tireless watch, lest anything disturb her rest.

+ + +

That’s why he jumped so a the low rumble of voices and the shuffling of feet on the slope outside.

He opened the door…to find a group of dirty, bearded faces staring in at him.
They had the rough look of shepherds.

One of them breathed a greeting and asked to Joseph’s surprise:

“Has a child just been born here?”
“Yes”, said another, “Here in this stable?”

Joseph was perplexed, and not a little worried.
“Why do you ask, shepherd? How is it your business?”

“Don’t be afraid of us, sir” the hulking visitor replied,
“We are friends. We have heard wonderful things about a certain new-born infant.”

“Well…yes.” Joseph answered. “A child was born here tonight.”

“And has he been laid in a manger?”
Asked another of the men --- unable to conceal the excitement in his voice.

“Well, yes…” said Joseph, “But you see, there was no other place… so we had to-”

“Then God be praised!” the shepherds suddenly exclaimed
as though it was no disgrace to place a new-born in a feed box for cattle, but rather the most wonderful thing in the world.

“Listen,” said the shepherd nearest the door,
“we have seen the most unbelievable sight this evening and it concerns you and this child.”

“We were in the fields, minding our flocks.
The sky was dark, but for the stars
and the air was a little chilly.
It was like any other night this time of year.
Some of us were sleeping,
others were talking by the fire.”

“All of a sudden there was this bright light --- brighter than anything you can imagine. We were scared – I’ll tell you that – plenty scared.”

“But then we heard a voice – an angel.
“Don’t ask now we knew it was an angel. When you see one, you know.”

In the dim light the shepherds didn’t see Joseph nod in agreement.

“He told us not to be afraid, because he had good new for us…glad tidings.”

“I’ll never forget how he said it,

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
…lying in a manger”

“And then…”

“You’ll never believe this,” said another of the shepherds quickly, stepping forward from the shadows,

“I wouldn’t either, but I saw it with my own eyes…we saw it.”

They all nodded.

“It was as though the whole sky ripped open like the roof of a tent.” As far as we could see there was an army of angels, rank upon rank upon rank of them --- and every one of them was singing:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace,
good will toward men.”

Then the shepherds fell silent…as though somewhat startled by the sound of their own story. They were simple, rough-cut, country folk --- smelling of sheep and grass. Yet here they had been talking like poets and visionaries. They wondered if, on any other night, they would have believed their own story.

They were not surprised, for some reason when Joseph assured them that he believed every word of their incredible tale. He opened the door and took them down on tip-toe past the rows of stalls until they came and looked in where Mary lay on her bed of blankets and straw.

At the soft rustle of many feet the young mother stirred,
and on the makeshift limestone cradle,
the little infant’s eyes fluttered open.

The wide-eyed shepherds bowed their heads in worshipful silence.
In hushed tones, Joseph quickly recounted to his startled wife the incredible story of the shepherds.

She listened carefully and took it all in, weighing every word.
When he had finished, she looked up a the visitors from the nearby fields and said, “His name…is Jesus.”

+ + +

And then the shepherds returned ---they went back to their sheep.
Back to leading them, feeding them, finding them water.
Back to the daily tasks of their every-day lives. They returned --- and so must we.

Back to offices and homes, farms and fields, classes and studies…life goes on day by day.

But can we return as the shepherds did, glorifying and praising God? That depends upon what we are doing here this evening/morning, and what we see in that manger.

Is this all part of an annual ritual?

Do we stuff the Christ-child back into the manger year after year
so that we can imagine that we were there
and be strangely warmed by the tender scene?

Have we gathered again to recall, reread and retell a simple historical event 2000 years past?

I pray not. This day and what it means involves far more than memory and imagination.

Luther said, “We come to Christmas with open hearts. We listen not just to history, but to a gift.”

Now that we have opened the other gifts, gathered with family.
Now that we have sung the carols, and looked on the tree.
lets look at what we’ve received that is really worth rejoicing over.

There is only one such gift, one that we well ought to rejoice over every day of the year. The hymn writer well describes the tag on this greatest of gifts when he says:

Christ, from heaven to us descending.
And in love our race befriending,
In our need His help extending.
Saved us from the wily foe.

From the bondage that oppressed us,
From sin’s fetters that possessed us,
From the grief that sore distressed us,
We the captives, now are free.

Yes, like the shepherds, we can return to our daily lives rejoicing – in Him. For the Christ-child did not just come to Mary and Joseph
Or just to shepherds and wisemen
or even just to a sin-stricken world in general.
He came to us…to you and me.
And He continues to come to us in His Word
He rules in our hearts and lives.

God keeps his promises, and the words of the angel to the stunned shepherds ring out to us also from Christmas to Christmas.

“Fear not… for unto YOU is born… a Savior.”

Fear not sin or guilt.
Fear not pain or sorrow.
Fear neither death or life.

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, to men – good will.


December 20, 2009

The Alpha and Omega - Dec 20, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


Advent is a time of getting ready. Just get in your car on a Saturday during Advent and try to get to a shopping mall. You’ll find that lots of people are getting ready during this time of year.

But right now, you and I get to take a break from all those busy things. From all those preparations for events. All those gifts we’re searching for. Right now we get to turn our attention away from all the busyness. Here and now, we want to concentrate on getting our hearts ready, to worship Jesus on Christmas.

The Bible says that God wants His people to worship in spirit and in truth. So above all, we need to get ready for Christmas – on the inside.

To help us get in the right Advent mindset, here at Redemption we’ve been examining different names that the Bible uses to describe Jesus. There are a lot of names for Jesus used in the Bible, and each one tells us something about Him. Today, our name for Jesus comes from Revelation 22, verse 12-13. There Jesus calls Himself, “The Alpha and the Omega”.

“12“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:12-13 NIV).

The Alpha and the Omega are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. Jesus leaves no question as to what He means here by saying, I am the Alpha and the Omege, and then adding, I am the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. He bunches up these “bookend phrases” as if to say, I’m not a minor player in this human drama, I’m the background. I the beginning and the end.

Now, we talked about how Jesus is the Alpha previously. We studied John chapter 1, where we’re told that the Son of God was already in existence when the universe was created. John 1, verse 1.

“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3 NIV).

So, today we’re going to focus more and the second half of this name for Jesus. He is the Alpha, but also, the Omega.

Now, when we think of Jesus being, the Omega, or the End, It’s hard not to think of the Last Day. The Judgment Day when all people will stand before God to be judged. Jesus Himself associates Judgment with this name. He Himself says,

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12 NIV).

To some it might seem out of place to think about Judgment Day during Advent. Judgment Day, sin, separation, hell, those aren’t exactly Adventy themes are they? Those are things more fitting for Lent. Lent is the time for solemn contemplation of our sins. As we get ready to hear about How Jesus suffered on the rough wood of that Roman Cross. For our sins. That’s where thoughts of the judgment belong. That’s where self examination belongs, right?

Sure. But in the past, the church felt that some of these thoughts belonged in Advent too. Today our Advent services are more permeated with feelings of hope and peace and joy. Anticipation and expectation.

But in the past, Christians have considered Advent a time to focus on repentance and prayer. I time to look inside ourselves and see how much we’ve failed to live like God wants us to live. To identify what parts of our lives need to change. To see our sins.

In the past, Christians have viewed Advent as a kind of “mini-lent”. Look at the colors of our altar decorations (paraments). They’re purple. The same color as our Lent ones. And look at our Advent candles, they’re purple too.

And you know, the idea that Advent should be filled with self examination is a good one. Because we can’t celebrate Christmas in spirit and in truth without understanding how sinful we are, and how desperately we need that little Baby that was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

But self examination is a heavy thing. It takes time and energy and can weigh us down. Past Christians have felt this heaviness during Advent. In fact, that’s where this pink candle comes from.

You ever wonder why the third candle is pink? (In some churches the FOURTH Advent Candle is the pink one). It is the “joy” candle. And it meant, “we’re over the hump”. We’re almost to the end of this period of self examination. This period of seeing our sins and feeling the sorrow that comes with that. We’re almost to the part where we get to shout out with joy over the birth of the Savior who takes all our sins away!

Even if we don’t use Advent as a “mini-Lent” we can’t really escape seeing our sins and thinking of the day when God will judge all the people of the world. I mean, we’re getting ready to celebrate the first coming of the Son of God. How could we not think of the second coming that hasn’t happened yet?

When we compare these two events, we see obvious contrast. The second time Jesus comes to the earth will be enormously different than the first time.

The first time He came to earth, Jesus was born a weak little baby who had to be fed and changed and cared for like all human babies do. When Herod wanted to kill to kill the little Baby Christ, His parents had to flee to Egypt. But when Jesus returns, He won’t be doing anymore running. He’ll come with POWER. Psalm 2 describes this power. God the Father is talking to God the Son. He says…

“8 Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:8-12 NIV).

The first time the Son came to earth, He was almost hidden. He was a little human baby, born to no-name parents in a tiny Judean town. Sure, His birth was announced by angels, but their only audience was a small group of shepherds. Herdsmen, who most of the world considered low-class. But when Jesus returns, the Bible says He’s not going to be hidden. A loud trumpet will sound, and Jesus will appear in the sky with the angel armies of heaven at His side! (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

Revelation 1, verse 7 says…

“7 Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.
So shall it be! Amen” (Revelation 1:7 NIV).

The first time the Son of God came to earth, He came as a lowly infant that was easily ignored. Remember how there wasn’t room for His parents in the Inn? Nobody could make room in Bethlehem. There were too many other people and to many other things to take care of to scoot over for one young couple and their newborn Son. And this is the case with so many today. There’s just too much going on to make room for Jesus.

But when Jesus appears on the Last Day, He will not come in low humility. No one will be able to ignore Him this time. The Bible says that EVERY KNEE will bow to Jesus on that day, whether they love Him as their Savior, or not (Romans 14:11).

The first time Jesus appeared, He came to see what is was like to be human. To live with all the pressures and troubles of human existence, and to do it without sinning. He came be the GOOD SON of God that we never were. To live right. Righteously. And to die in our place, to give us His righteousness. When Jesus came the first time, He came to save sinners.

But when Jesus comes the second time, He won’t be coming to humbly offer sinners salvation. He’ll be coming with supreme authority to judge sinners. To hand out what is deserved to every human being who ever lived. Did you catch that totally frightening way Jesus put it in Revelation?

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12 NIV).

He comes to “reward” the righteous for their righteousness and to “reward” the wicked for their wickedness.

Do you see why it makes sense to think about the second coming of Christ as we prepare to celebrate his first coming? If our hearts are ready to worship the humble Christ Child in the manger, than we’re ready to meet the glorious Christ at the End.

Now, we need to spend a little more time on verse 12. Jesus says that when He returns He’ll reward each person ACCORDING TO WHAT HE HAS DONE. Some people get the wrong idea here. They think Jesus is saying that it’s all about what you DO and DON’T do. Like the number of kindnesses that we do in life will then be used as currency to buy us admission into heaven. It’s human instinct to think this way, but it’s completely wrong.

If heaven was gained by pilling up “kindnesses” than we wouldn’t need Jesus. That’s what’s happened in the Catholic Church. For a long time the Catholic Church has taught that sinners need to live a just life in order to earn salvation. In 2000, the Pope declared that because salvation is earned by doing good deeds, even non-Christians can earn heaven if they’re good people.

I’m not making this up. From the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

“Tempering a controversial Vatican declaration on salvation, Pope John Paul II said Wednesday that all who live a just life will be saved even if they do not believe in Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.
The pontiff, addressing 30,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, strongly reasserted the liberal interpretation of the Bible’s teaching on salvation that emerged form the Second Vatican Council” (St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 9, 2000).

The APOSTLE Paul says opposite in the Bible. Romans 3, verse 20…

“20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20 NIV).

Galatians 5, verse 4…

“4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4 NIV).

When Jesus says that He’s going to judge people on the basis of what they’ve done, He’s not saying that good deeds are like money with which you can BUY your way into heaven. Our words and actions are the outward evidence on an inward faith. They’re not like the currency in your wallet, they’re more like the driver’s license. They’re the thing that IDENTIFIES Christ’s followers.

Turn to Romans 4, verse 3. Here Paul explains how Jesus can look at Christians on Judgment Day and declare, “not guilty”.

“3What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5 NIV).

Through simple trust in Jesus, His righteousness is counted as ours. So the way to be ready to meet Jesus the Judge, is to know Jesus the Savior.

This Advent we want to totally chuck any trust in ourselves. Totally DESPAIR of being good enough for God, and simply trust the promise that Jesus makes to us…

“24“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He created all in the beginning and He’ll be there to judge all in the end. But in the middle, He came to save us.

May God strengthen our faith in that Baby Jesus this Advent, so we’ll truly be ready to meet the Man at the next Advent. Ready with a faith that rests in Him alone.

Let’s Pray…

Prayer: Jesus, open our eyes to see our sins. Give us the courage and honesty to see them without excuse or explanation. Put us on our knees before You in thankful worship now, so that when we bow before you then we will do so with tears of joy. As far as time is concerned, You are the Alpha and the Omega. As far as our salvation is concerned You are the Beginning and the End. All glory be to You.


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

December 16, 2009

The Desire of Nations - Dec 13, 2009

Grace and Advent peace be multiplied in the name of Jesus Christ, the Child of Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace, Amen.

Today the Holy Spirit directs our attention to the Word of God in the book of the Prophet Haggai, chapter 2, verses 6 through 9, as follows:

"For thus says the LORD of hosts: `Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 `and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the LORD of hosts. 8 `The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the LORD of hosts. 9 `The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts. `And in this place I will give peace,' says the LORD of hosts." This is the Word of God.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Name Which is Above Every Name, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Desire is a fickle thing. Different people find different things desirable. Some women are irresistibly attracted to chocolate. Some men have a burning desire for the latest electronic gadgets. Some desires change over time, become stronger or weaker. In addition, some desires vary according to geography – that is, certain items are considered desirable in some cultures, but are treated with indifference or even despised in others.

Is there anyone or anything that everyone desires? The obvious answer would seem to be no. But our text for today says yes. Though many don’t know it, and though some would vehemently deny it, the truth remains: what our Savior Jesus Christ has is what everyone wants! Through the Old Testament prophet Haggai, the Lord issues a prediction that all nations will come to the promised Savior, to whom He refers with a very special name, “The Desire of Nations.” As part of our series, “The Name Which is Above Every Name,” we’ll take a closer look at that prophesy this morning. Our theme:

Three promises accompany His Advent:
I. “I will shake heaven and earth”
II. “I will fill this temple with glory”
III. “I will give peace”

It was the year 520 B.C., and the returning Jewish exiles had an attitude problem. They were discouraged. Though it’s hard to see why - everything had been going great for them. Cyrus, king of the Persians had released them from captivity and allowed them to return to their homeland. He and his successor, Darius, had encouraged them to rebuild their Temple, and had even given them money to do it with. But the work wasn’t progressing. In Ezra we read that, after the foundation was laid, “…many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes.” --Ezr 3:12. They remembered the glory of the previous temple, the Temple of Solomon, a building larger and far more grand than this second temple would ever be. And it made them discouraged. The work gradually tapered off in apathy and indifference. They could see nothing special in this more modest second temple.

Boy, were they wrong! God sent the prophet Haggai to shake them up and make them come to their senses. There was a truth here that they couldn’t see. God had great and glorious promises to fulfill in connection with this temple, and with the Savior who would one day walk there – THE DESIRE OF NATIONS.

The first promise connected with the Savior’s advent was this: “I will shake heaven and earth.” "For thus says the LORD of hosts: `Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 `and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations.”

Why does God say “once more”? Because He had shaken heaven and earth once before, hadn’t He? On Mount Sinai, at the occasion of the giving of His holy Law, Scripture says Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. -- (Exo 19:17-18 NKJ)

That was the giving of the first covenant, the covenant of the Law. But at the giving of the second covenant, the covenant of grace, God would once again shake all nations. The 500 year period between Haggai’s prophesy and the coming of the DESIRE OF NATIONS was filled with tumult and war. It culminated with the great Roman census, where the entire then-known world had to move, just to get a young man and his expectant bride from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the little town prophesied for the birth of the Messiah. All nations were shaken, and it was God’s doing.

Sometimes we need some shaking up in our lives, don’t we? Months and years pass, and nothing much seems to change. Here we are, we’re members of this little church on Waller Road, there’s nothing particularly imposing or impressive about this place (certainly not outwardly). Yes, our Lord has promised to return to His believers, with power and great glory, at His second Advent. But day follows day, and nothing’s happening. And you might start to think that nothing ever will happen. But don’t fall into that trap. That’s the attitude the unbelievers take, says the Apostle Peter: Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."--2Pe 3:3-4.

But the ultimate fulfillment of Haggai’s prophesy, of course, lies yet in the future. It may be a very little while, now, before God for the last time shakes the heavens and the earth. Peter continues, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (2Pe 3:10 NKJ). On that great Day of Judgment, the Bible says, Jesus truly will be the DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS. On that day every knee will finally bow. A few faithful believers will welcome Him as their one Desire whom they longed to meet all their lives. But the vast multitude will come to their senses too late. They will have one desire – to be saved by Jesus – but that desire will be beyond their reach. "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, `Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: (Mat 25:41 NKJ)

But there is another promise connected with the Savior’s advent in this prophesy of Haggai. God says: “I will fill this temple with glory! They shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the LORD of hosts. 8 `The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the LORD of hosts. 9 `The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts.

This promise of the Lord must have seemed fantastic to those old-timers in Jerusalem. How could anything exceed the glory of Solomon’s Temple? Consider just the gold: nearly everything in the first temple was made of gold or covered in gold. The Bible says that 100,000 talents of gold were used in the building of the temple (II Chron. 22:14). A talent was approximately 75 lbs. If you have a calculator, that’s over 3700 tons of pure gold. Gold stands at about $1100 an ounce right now, so that would be…well, my calculator doesn’t go that high. But that wasn’t where the glory of God’s house lay. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now. God doesn’t need gold. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof, says Scripture. `The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the LORD of hosts. And then He goes on to make that astonishing promise: `The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts.

What will be the great glory of this second temple? Why should the believers wake from their lethargy and take up their work with eagerness and excitement? Because this temple would see the glory of the Son of God Himself walking amongst its courts and columns. The prophet Malachi predicted the day when the DESIRE OF NATIONS would arrive there: the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. (Mal 3:1 NKJ) When was that prophesy fulfilled? Eight days after our Savior’s birth, when Joseph and Mary brought him into the Temple for the first time, the day on which aged Simeon said, "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel." (Luk 2:29-32 NKJ) You and I have seen His glory, too, haven’t we? It’s not a coincidence that those are the same words we sing after receiving in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. For what could be more glorious than receiving the true body and blood of our Savior as a pledge and seal of God’s forgiveness toward us in Christ?

The final promise connected with the Savior’s advent is the most poignant and comforting for us: “And in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of hosts. Why is Jesus THE DESIRE OF NATIONS? Because through Him God gives peace to the world. Not political peace- that’s a pipe dream, of course. Even our president admitted this week in Oslo that “…armed conflict will not be eradicated in our lifetimes.” That’s a safe bet, isn’t it? He might as well have said “in anyone’s lifetime.” For war will never cease while sinful human nature is what it is. Man is born to trouble, As the sparks fly upward. (Job 5:7 NKJ)

And yet we have this promise. The Lord says, I will give peace, and He connects it with the Church. It’s a promise we hear again and again in Scripture. Zechariah says of THE DESIRE OF NATIONS, He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be `from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. Zec 9:10. Isaiah predicted, His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6 NKJ). And at the birth of the Desire of Nations, the angels sang over Bethlehem, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE, goodwill toward men!”

That’s the reason we can truly call Jesus THE DESIRE OF NATIONS. Because what everyone, down in their deepest soul, wants and desires – that’s exactly what Jesus supplies. Not political peace – we’ll never have that. But the kind of peace that really counts to you on a personal level. Spiritual peace. You could call it “the peace of NEVERTHELESS.” For Scripture says that, despite the fact that you are a wretched sinner, NEVERTHELESS God loves you. Despite the fact that you have offended against God’s holy Law in countless ways, NEVERTHELESS, God has provided a Savior for you. Despite all your failings and shortcomings, and good intentions unfulfilled, NEVERTHELESS, Jesus shed his blood on the cross specifically so that you could live forever by His side in heaven! Be at peace! For today your Lord Jesus Himself says to you, "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. (Joh 14:27 NKJ).

It was Lebanese-born American philosopher Kahlil Gibran who said, "Desire is half of life; indifference is half of death." Through the prophet Haggai, God showed the returning exiles why they simply couldn't be indifferent to the holy work that lay before them. The Temple they were building, though less imposing outwardly than the Temple of Solomon, would in fact be far more glorious. For into that building, one day, would walk the Messiah, the Savior of the world, THE DESIRE OF NATIONS. Can you and I be indifferent about the holy work that lies before each of us Christians? Impossible. For we too worship THE DESIRE OF NATIONS. We too serve a Savior whose name is above every name, and at whose name every knee will one day bow, AMEN.

December 9, 2009

The Word - Dec 9, 2009

To LISTEN to Candle Light Service message click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


Grace and peace be yours, from God our Father, through our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Brittany Spears. Martin Luther. Stephen King. Barack Obama. Mother Teresa. Elvis Presley.

Don’t try to find a connection between those names, there isn’t one. They’re just names we know. What did you think of when you heard each of those names?

There are some names you’d never choose for a son or a daughter simply because you knew someone with that name that you didn’t like.

But there might be another name that is very special to you. Not because it’s a pretty sounding name, but because someone with that name was dear to you. Maybe they helped you through a hard time in your life.

A name is more than a label. A name carries with it a person’s history. What they’ve said and what they’ve done.

The Bible uses many different names to describe the Son of God. For the past couple Sunday’s we’ve been examining some of these names for Jesus through a sermon series called, “The Name Which is Above Every Name”.

Tonight we consider another name for Jesus, “The Word”.

You can turn to John 1, verse 1. The book of John was written by John the apostle. John worked as a fisherman along with his brother James. He was a follower of John the Baptizer until Jesus was pointed out to him. John was chosen to be one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, and he came to be a close friend of Jesus. So close in fact, that before Jesus died, He asked John to take care of His mother as if Mary was John’s own mother.

The following is how the Holy Spirit moved John to describe Jesus. John 1, verse 1…

“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:1-5 NIV).

The Greek that this part of the Bible was translated from has different ways of expressing action. If an verb is in the aorist tense, that action is expressed like a simple dot.

(Pastor holds up a sign with a dot on it)

“He MIXED the batter for the cake.”

The perfect tense, expresses action like an arrow pointing forward. This action was completed in the past, but has on-going results.

(Pastor holds up a sign with an arrow on it)

“He WON the Chicago marathon.”

He finished the race in the past, and the result is that he is the champion now.

The imperfect tense, expresses action like a line. This action is on-going in past time. Now, I know you didn’t come here tonight for a Greek lesson, so here’s the point. Look again at the first to verses of our reading from John one. Every time you see the word “WAS”, think of on-going action in past time. Each occurrence of “was” in these first two verses is in the imperfect tense.

“1In the beginning WAS the Word, and the Word WAS with God, and the Word WAS God. 2He WAS with God in the beginning” (John 1:1-2 NIV).

In other words, John is saying, When the beginning happened JESUS WAS ALREADY EXISTING. He was existing BESIDE GOD THE FATHER, and He was not a created thing, HE WAS IN SUBSTANCE – GOD.

Then John goes on to describe Jesus in two other ways. Verse three…

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3 NIV).

There’s nothing that exists that didn’t Jesus didn’t touch. Wow. That’s amazing. That puts Jesus on a different plane doesn’t it? He’s not a CREATED THING, He’s the channel through which the Father created EVERYTHING.

And this isn’t the only place that the Bible mentions this fact. In 1 Corinthians 8, verse 6 it says…

“6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV).

And in Hebrews 1, verse 1 it says…

“1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV).

John says one more thing about Jesus. Verse four.

“4In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4 NIV).

That’s poetic. But what in the world does it mean? In Jesus was existing “life” and “light”? If I were to say that about someone, “I met Rick the other day, and he is just full of life and light”. First you’d think I was a little odd. Maybe you’d think that I meant Rick was an upbeat and positive person. But John is saying more than that.

If you looked at the rest of John’s Gospel you’d see that he talks about “life” a lot. Eternal life. But he’s obviously not just talking about mere biological life. When he talks about LIFE he means a relationship with the Creator God.

We are all going to exist forever. But not all will LIVE forever. Only those who have a right relationship with God will truly LIVE forever.

In John 17, verse 1 Jesus prays…

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:1-3 NIV).

A relationship with God enables people to see things they never couldn’t see before. In this relationship God communicates through His Bible, explaining the world around us. How it works. Why it’s like it is. In this relationship, God teaches us about spiritual things. Things we couldn’t know or understand without His explaining. He even teaches us things about ourselves.

John calls Jesus life and light, because He creates this relationship between us and God.

And here is the reason why all this stuff about “the Word” matters to us. We can admire amazing things from a distance, but if they never actually impact our lives, they’re nothing more than trivia. But the Word which ahs always existed with God the Father, and through whom all things were made isn’t merely something to be observed from a distance.

Look ahead to John 1, verse 14…

“14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NKJV).

The Word became Human 2000 years ago, to change human life forever.

When sin separated mankind from God, God the Son came to separate us from sin. He did so by becoming human Himself. He placed Himself under His Father’s Law, and then kept that Law without sinning once. Then He offered His body and soul to be sacrificed in our place. He suffered and died, experiencing the punishment for our sins, in our place, in order to create a bridge between us to the Father. Jesus says,

“…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

When you think of the little Bethlehem baby, remember that His is the Eternal Word. Existing from eternity. In glory at the Father’s side. Through whom all things were made, but who stepped down to fix your life. To die in your place. To give you forgiveness and eternal life.

That’s who He is and what He does. The Word.


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

December 5, 2009

The LORD our Righteousness - Dec 6, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


May God’s love for you rest on your hearts. And may the undeserved mercy of Christ fill you with peace. Amen.

The reading for tonight’s message comes from Jeremiah chapter 23. The name for Jesus found there is “The LORD our Righteousness”. But before we read that part of the Bible, let’s take a moment to understand the time and place in which it was written.

It was a hard time to live as a prophet of Jehovah. The northern Kingdom of Israel had been destroyed over a hundred years previous. They had forsaken God and turned to worship idols. Though He appealed to them, they refused to return to Him. Eventually, the Assyrian Empire swept through the land like wolves, and Israel was gone.

Now, only the Kingdom of Judah remained. Set in the south, with Jerusalem as it’s crown. But Judah’s people were not faithful to Jehovah either. They worship in God’s Temple, but also at the high places dedicated to pagan gods.

The rulers of Judah were no better than its people. From time to time a godly king would ascend the throne. But out of the last 19 kings, only 8 had been faithful to God.

Jeremiah the prophet had lived during the reign of Judah’s last faithful king, Josiah. But from that time on, he had watched a parade of wicked kings take David’s throne. King Jehoahaz. King Jehoiakim. King Jehoiachin. All of these kings rejected the messages that God’s prophets brought to them. The Bible summarizes the reigns of these three kings with he same phrase,

“…and he did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father(s) had done” (2 Kings 23:32, 23:37, 24:9).

These kings did not simply speak out against God’s truth.

Uriah the prophet was hunted down and murdered in the name of king Jehoiakim. His assassins had to travel all the way to Egypt to find Uriah. They brought him back to king Jehoiakim, who had him killed with a sword in his own presence (Jeremiah 26:20-23).

Jehoiakim had no love for Jeremiah either. On one occasion, the king was brought a book containing Jeremiah’s words. Words that God had instructed Jeremiah to write down. The king tore the book up and burned it. Then he sent men to throw Jeremiah in prison (Jeremiah 36:21-26).

The problem with Israel had been that they had abandoned Jehovah God. And the problem with Judah was the same. Their wicked actions were merely symptoms of a godless heart.

Listen to Jeremiah 22, verse 6.

“6For this is what the LORD says about the palace of the king of Judah:
“Though you are like Gilead to me,
like the summit of Lebanon,
I will surely make you like a desert,
like towns not inhabited.
7 I will send destroyers against you,
each man with his weapons,
and they will cut up your fine cedar beams
and throw them into the fire.
8“People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the LORD done such a thing to this great city?’ 9And the answer will be: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God and have worshiped and served other gods’”” (Jeremiah 22:6-9 NIV).

And yet there were still some followers of Jehovah in the land of Judah. And life must have been just as hard for the people of God as it was for His prophets.

Day after day, they had to see their neighbors going off to worship at pagan altars. On some of these altars children were offered by fire to Baal or Molech.

Day after day, the faithful heard the true prophets of Jehovah proclaiming that Jerusalem would soon be destroyed.

Day after day, they saw the wickedness of their own kings displayed in policy and action.

It was a terrible time for God’s people to live in. But God had not forgotten His people. And He sent them a note of comfort and encouragement to remind them of His promises. That note of encouragement is our reading for tonight.

Listen to Jeremiah 23, verse 5-6.

“5"Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD,
"When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land. 
6"In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell securely;
And this is His name by which He will be called,
The LORD our righteousness'” (Jeremiah 23:5-6 NASB).

Long ago, God had promised king David that a special King would one day come from his family. This king would build the Temple of God and would reign over an eternal Kingdom (2 Samuel 7:11-16).

With this note from Jeremiah, God was saying to the faithful who were left in Judah, Remember the promise! These kings who sit on the throne now are relatives of David, but they are not the Branch of his family tree that I spoke of. That righteous Branch is yet to come!

And He WILL come. And when He does His reign will not be marred with murder and faithlessness. He will not hunt down the true prophets, He’ll call out the false ones and hold them accountable for their lies. He will serve the people with wisdom and justice.

In His days, the people of God will live securely. Knowing that they are safe under the wings of this Mighty King.

And then God gave them a name to hold onto. A name for this King:

“The LORD our righteousness.”

Talk about a name above every name. I think this is my new favorite name for Jesus. Let me explain it.

The first part is “The LORD”. This “LORD” doesn’t mean master. It’s in all capital letters to indicate that at this point in the Hebrew, the proper name for God is found. “Yahweh”, or “Jehovah”. Those are two different ways of pronouncing the Hebrew name. This isn’t like the word “god” either. It was ONLY used of the TRUE God, never of a false one. It was God’s proper name.

The second part of this name for Jesus is “our righteousness”. And this hints at the fact that this King isn’t going to be about maintaining civic order and peace in Palestine. There were other clues about this in earlier prophesies. The fact that His Kingdom would be an eternal Kingdom was one of them. Here’s another, His name is “the LORD our righteousness.”

He’s not going to be all about maintaining civic peace and extending the borders of geographical Judah. He’s going to be all about giving people peace with God.

Without this King sinners can have NO peace with God because as Isaiah said in Isaiah 64, verse 6…

“6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and made us waste away because of our sins” (Isaiah 64:6-7 NIV).

But the King Jeremiah speaks of is “The LORD our righteousness”. How righteous is the True God? How sinless and perfect is He? One hundred percent! There is no darkness in Him at all. He is pure goodness and love and peace and justice.

And He took His flawless rightness and switched it with our un-rightness. He made that switch on the cross of Calvary. There Jesus ripped our sins out of our hands and put them on His own back. There Jesus spread out the righteousness of the eternal God over sinners like a warm, silken blanket.

That’s what’s so special about this name, “The LORD our Righteousness”. That name was the greatest note of comfort that the faithful followers of Jehovah could have received. Don’t worry, it said. The times are wicked. Our own hearts are evil. But the LORD is our righteousness.

And that same message lifts up our hearts tonight. Our times are wicked. Our own hearts evil. But the LORD is our righteousness.

When your conscience stings you because of your sin. Don’t deny it. Just speak this name, The LORD our righteousness. For this name summarizes the Gospel of forgiveness.

And when you want to share the peace that you have with a friend, don’t stress about it, just remember this name. For this name encapsulates the Good News we wish to share. The LORD our righteousness!

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for taking all our shame away. Thank you for sending Jesus to be our righteousness. Prepare each of our hearts to receive Jesus again this Christmas. And bring this name to mind in our dark and troubled days, like a banner held high before us. The LORD our righteousness.


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

November 30, 2009

The Star of Jacob - Nov 29, 2009

Grace and Advent peace be multiplied unto you in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Our brief text this evening is a prophesy from the Old Testament book of Numbers, chapter 24, verse 17, as follows:

"I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel" (Numbers 24:17 NKJV).

This is the Word of God.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Name which is above every Name, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Stars are interesting. None more so than the star that powers our solar system, the sun. Did you know that about half of Americans aren't aware that the sun is a star? Did you know that the temperature of the sun is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but that a lightning bolt is three times hotter than that? Did you know that the next nearest star to our sun, Proxima Centauri, is about 25 trillion miles away? To put it in perspective, if our sun were the size of the dot over the letter "i", then the closest star would be another, similarly-sized dot ten miles away!

Ever since God created them, people have looked up at the stars and been fascinated. And for good reason. Like so much of God's creation, the stars are beautiful. And their orderliness and predictability reinforce our faith that God truly is in control, not just of my life, but in control of the whole universe. God truly has a plan for the universe, and a plan for your life, as well. And from eternity, the biggest part of that plan was to provide you with a Savior from sin. Maybe that's the reason that the Bible, in the Book of Numbers, speaks of Jesus as a Star. This Advent, we're looking into some of the beautiful names that the ancient prophets used of the coming Savior. Our season theme is, "The Name Which is Above Every Name," and today we consider a very special name:

I. A Star to guide you.
II. A Star to govern you.
III. A Star to save you.

Some years ago we had a midweek Lenten series with the unusual theme, "Sermons Preached by Jesus' Enemies." It focused on texts where people who were enemies of Christ said things about Him that were profoundly true. Like the time that the High Priest Caiaphas said, It is expedient that one Man should die for the people." Or when Pilate's wife said, Have thou nothing to do with that just man." Well, today's text is similar. In it, one of the bitterest enemies of God's people - in fact a man who was hired to curse God's people - instead involuntarily pronounced a wonderful blessing upon them. He promised them a Savior!

The man's name was Balaam, the son of Beor. He was a Gentile seer, or prophet. It all happened when Israel had just about come to the end of their Forty Years' wandering in the wilderness. The events of our text take place shortly before the death of Moses and the crossing of the Jordan. Israel was encamped in the plains of Moab, east of the Jordan River. Israel had recently conquered two kings east of the Jordan: Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. King Balak of the Moabites was next in line, and he was understandably nervous. So he sent for Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam didn't want to do it, but King Balak insisted. A funny thing happened, though, when Balaam tried to curse Israel - out of his mouth came blessing instead. For of course, God was in control, as always. To the king’s horror, he heard Balaam prophesy victory for Israel and defeat for her enemies (including Moab). It was an important prophesy, and heralded Israel’s successful conquest of the promised land. But then, abruptly, in the middle of this short-term prophesy about Israel, God allowed Balaam to look out far into the future, to view the advent of the most important Person in the history of the world. Balaam said, "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel."

I see Him, but not now. Balaam uttered this prophesy around 1400 B.C. Can you imagine that? Fourteen hundred years before the star appeared over Bethlehem, this heathen prophet saw the Savior. But the vision was dim. I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. Much time would pass before the advent of the Star of Jacob. But already at this ancient date, in fact from the beginning of time, God had set the planets and stars in motion. Everything in the universe was ordered with but one object in mind: the coming of the promised Savior. Then, when everything was just right, when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. -- Gal 4:4-5.

A Star shall come out of Jacob. Why is the coming Christ called the "Star of Jacob"? Well, Jesus was a descended from Jacob, or Israel, of course. But why a star? Why did God use that specific term? Think for a moment about what stars do. One of the most important things they do is guide people. Since ancient times, mariners have navigated according to the stars, using the stars to guide them unerringly to distant destinations. The Star of Jacob is a Star to guide you.

You think astrology is big today? You should have seen the ancient near east! Many ancient cultures bowed down and worshiped the stars as idols, so much so that Isaiah mocks them in chapter 47 when he says, You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, And the monthly prognosticators Stand up and save you From what shall come upon you Israel was specifically forbidden to rely upon the stars to guide them. With this one exception - God promised, through Balaam, to send the Star of Jacob. This Star they were to pay attention to. They were watch carefully for the coming of this Star, for this Star would guide them.

And for centuries, wise men watched and waited for the advent of the Star. The Star that would guide them and save them. By the time 1400 years had passed, they were still waiting. Many false messiahs arose, the most famous of whom was Simon bar Kochba, which means "Son of the Star" These people all knew that ancient prophesy of Balaam - it was common knowledge. They were all looking for the Star. Do you remember what happened after the birth of Christ, when the three wise men showed up in Jerusalem? They said "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. -- Mt 2:2-3. The whole country was stirred up, and no wonder! Because they all knew Balaam's prophesy about the Star. And they knew it meant the coming of the Messiah. They departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. -- Mt 2:9-10.

What about you? Are you guided by the Star of Jacob? Does it make you rejoice with exceedingly great joy? Which seems more real to you, Jesus Christ or the stars you see when you look up into the night sky? In fact, they're both equally real. But even Christians often act as if that weren't true. A couple of weeks ago I heard a fellow named Aaron McDowell giving a presentation and he said something interesting. He said that a lot of people - even Christians - act as if religion was a different kind of truth than science. Like it belongs in a different category, the category of feelings and opinions. They say things like, "Oh, you have your religious beliefs and they're valid for you, but I have different beliefs and they're equally valid. Maybe we're both right!" Have you noticed that no one ever says that about physics or geometry or math? ("Oh you have your math, it's true for you, but my math is different!") The Bible says Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever! Jesus is our pole star.. He guides us; He's the criterion by which we judge everything else in our lives. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." It's time we Christians started being guided by the Star of Jacob. It's time we realized that the Word of our Savior is more profoundly true than the Law of gravity, or two plus two equals four. Speaking of the Bible Peter says, we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. -- 2 Pet 1:19. Heed the Star of Jacob! It is a Star to guide you.

Secondly, the Star of Jacob is a Star to govern you. The text says, A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel. The word "scepter" is interesting. It also means "staff" or "rod." You remember the 23rd Psalm? "Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me"? Same word. When it is used of a king, it means the mighty scepter that the king holds in his hand, and it's significant in two ways.

Of course, it's a symbol of authority. The possessor of the scepter has the right and authority to govern. And of no one was this more true than the coming Christ. In Genesis 49, the dying Jacob referred to the coming Christ as Shiloh, "the One who brings peace," when he prophesied: The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. -- Gen 49:10. When Jesus arrived that prophesy was fulfilled. Jesus said, All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. -- Mt 28:18.

But the scepter was also symbolic of something else - of the power to crush and defeat the enemies of the king. That's why the word scepter is related to the words "smite" and "smite." Psalm 2 says of the enemies of the Lord, You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." -- Psa 2:9 NIV. Do you think of your Lord Jesus this way? You should! For he is your King, and one duty of a king is to fight for his people and defeat the enemies of His people. All the difficulties you encounter in life, every hostile force that is arrayed against you, must contend not just with you, but with you and your King: the Star of Jacob, the Scepter of Israel! Think about that. That balances the fight out a little bit, doesn't it? In fact it makes you indestructible. If God be for us, Paul asks, who can be against us? The Star of Jacob is governing us!

Which brings us to the final point. The Star of Jacob is a Star to save you. I read an exciting story about a man who was hunting elk in a wilderness area and got lost. He was miles from anywhere. He had a compass, but it had been broken in a fall. He knew the rudiments of navigation, but the problem was that the weather was overcast, so he couldn't see the sun or the stars. After several days he was out of food and nearly at the point of exhaustion, when finally, one evening, the cloud cover lifted and there before him was the bright North Star. He knew immediately what it meant: he was saved. For to the north lay the road he needed to reach. This man was literally saved by a star.

In a very real sense, you've been saved by a star, too! By the Star of Jacob. That Star that was predicted untold centuries ago, that star that shone over the fields of Bethlehem, the Star of Jacob, has guided you too to the cradle of your Savior. You were baptized into His name. You heard His good news, the news that, though you are a sinner, yet through faith in Christ your sins are forgiven. You saw the promise of the Messiah fulfilled when Jesus suffered and died on the cross outside Jerusalem. By doing so He atoned once and for all for the sins of the whole world, as John reminds us in comforting terms, If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. - 1 Joh 2 :1-2.

Are there sins on your conscience? Misdeeds you've committed that return to trouble your mind and disturb your thoughts? Banish those thoughts! For you have a Savior. Let every twinkling star in the sky remind you that your Star of Jacob has come. He has come to save you. He has come with His atoning sacrifice to cover all your sins and to deliver you, holy and righteous, to the very gates of eternal paradise! Because of Christ, you too can confidently say with the Apostle Paul, The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom." -- 2 Tim 4:18.

Again this Christmas season we will see that old saying - a slogan we've heard so often that by now that it has become rather trite and cliché: Wise men still seek Him. But like a lot of clichés, it nevertheless conceals a profound truth. Jesus is the Star of Jacob. He is the Star that guides us, the Star that governs us, and the Star that saves us. And it's true: wise men still seek Him. May God grant to each of us the wisdom to seek him, to trust in Him, and to worship Him all our lives long.


November 25, 2009

Our Daily Bread - Nov 26, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


Happy Thanksgiving. May your hearts be truly thankful. Happy, content and fully conscious of the Great God who is the source of all good things. Amen.

Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Give us this day our daily bread”. Martin Luther explained this part of the Lord’s Prayer by saying,

“God gives daily bread without our asking, even to unbelievers, but we pray in this petition that He would teach us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving” (Sydow Catechism).

Of course, we understand that by saying “daily bread” we mean a lot more than just slices of Wonder Bread. By “daily bread” we mean everything that we need for health and life.

So, how in the world are we going to get out of here today? I mean, we’re here to thank God for all His blessings. But, we could be here for hours just NAMING the things included in our “daily bread”.

How about we just focus on ONE of God’s gifts this Thanksgiving Day. How about we consider our literal “daily bread”?

Suppose for a moment, that when we prayed for our daily bread we actually meant a SINGLE LOAF of real, wheat bread?

(Pastor places one loaf of Franz white bread onto the pulpit)

Now, this bread may seem to simple. Too meager a blessing to be the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving meditation. But if this bread could talk, what a story it would tell! What a succession of God’s wonders it would share!

So, let’s listen to the bread this morning. Let’s sit back and hear its life-story. Let’s see the gracious hand of God in the life of a single loaf of bread.

To begin this biography, we have to travel back in time. Out of the 21st century. Away from cell-phones and email accounts. On the winds of time we must float back long before America was settled. Long before Jesus was born, past the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Back past Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. Back beyond the great flood of Noah. Back, even past Adam and Eve into the void of eternity.

Whoa! You say, where are we going? I thought we where reading the biography of this loaf of bread, not the biography of God! But we all have ancestors. Every place a history. Every thing an origin. And here in the darkness of eternity lies the origin of this loaf of bread.

Just wait for a moment.

There! Did you see it? God just created the matter of the universe, and in it all the material needed for soil and substance, for water and wheat.

You didn’t see it? Well, that’s because He hasn’t made light yet. That should happen momentarily.

Yes, there now we can see everything clearly. Though it’s all quite a mess right now. As the Bible said, Now the earth is formless and empty (Genesis 1:2). Only chaos here. But soon, God will order this matter into a universe that we’ll recognize.

On the second day God will make the sky, separating the water below from the water above. And on the third day He will draw the water below away from the muck and mire of earth and create a separation between land and sea. And when that is finished, on that third day, with the soil all moist and tilled, God will PLANT for the first time.

Let’s listen to His voice. He says…

“…Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds…” (Genesis 1:11 NIV).

And it happened. Plants of all kind. Trees weighed down with delicious fruit. Peach trees. Pomegranates. Oranges. Pears. Over there, are rows of standing corn and…

…fields of grass?

Yes. Fields of grass. But not the kind that cattle graze on or that children play on. These fields are full of wheat grass. And here is where we find the great grandfather grain from which our loaf of bread has descended.

This loaf is from God, because He CREATED wheat! But it is also a gift from God because He GAVE WHEAT TO ADAM AND EVE as food. God said to them…

“…I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Genesis 1:29 NIV).

Lots of things have vitamins and minerals. Things like dirt and gravel. Rocks and mud. But these aren’t food. Wheat is food, because God gave it to mankind as food.

At some point today we’re going to want to go home and eat some of our own bread. So, we’ll have to skip over the generations of wheat that came between the first wheat and the wheat that made this loaf.

The wheat that produced this loaf of bread was grown in either Montana, North Dakota, or South Dakota. It is a variety called “Hard Red” wheat. It’s prized for it’s high protein content which enables the baker’s loaves to stand up tall instead of falling down.

Now, the hard red in this loaf might have been “spring wheat” which is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. But it might have been “winter wheat”. Winter wheat is planted in September or December. It sprouts up only to freeze solid. It spends the winter under a cover of snow. Then in the spring it sprouts up again, producing a crop that is ready for harvest by early July.

Either way, the farmer who planted it spent a lot of time in a tractor. First tilling, then planting. And then, he had to do the hardest part. He had to wait. Man may plant and water and watch. But God has to makes the growth. It’s like Jesus says,

“…A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” (Mark 4:26-27 NIV).

If it’s a slow year, a farmer might be tempted to tug on the crops in his field, but it wouldn’t actually do any good. God must bring the harvest and makes it abundant.

The grain harvested for this loaf of bread was harvested in a highly technological way. Wheat is no longer cut by blade and hand. Nor is it cut by horse-pulled machinery. Nowadays, great big machines called “combines” roar through the fields day and night. First they cut the stalks of wheat. Then they breaking up the heads of grain separating the useless chaff from the valuable wheat kernels. When this is done, the combine blows the chaff away and shoots the wheat kernels into a bin.

This brings in a lot of other lines of ancestry for this loaf of bread . We could look at the history of metal, for a combine isn’t made of wood. Or the history of rubber, for a combine won’t cross the field without tires or treads. We could look into the history of the combustion engine. A combine can burn up to $500 dollars of gas a day bringing in the harvest!

We could even study rocket science and the history of satellites! The combine that harvested the grain for this loaf was guided through the field by a global positioning system. This ensured maximum fuel efficiency and made sure none of the crop was left behind. To make sure that the grain wasn’t too wet for harvesting, the combine even had a sensor that monitored the moisture content as the grain was gathered.

Each one of these complex systems introduces another line of ancestry that leads to THIS loaf of bread.

And all of these innovations and inventions were possible because God made man different than the animals. From Genesis 1…

“26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth…” (Genesis 1:29 NIV).

And not only did God give mankind the capacity for wisdom, God also GIVES mankind knowledge and wisdom.

And from Daniel 2…

“…Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning” (Daniel 2:20-21).

From the combine the grain for this loaf of bread was loaded into semi trucks, hauled to huge grain elevators and finally loaded into train cars heading for Spokane, WA. That’s where the MILL for Franz bread is located.

After the huge milling machines pulverized the wheat, it became flour. Simple enough, right? Well, not for our loaf of bread. The flour in this bread is white flour. It’s made only from the inner core of the wheat kernel. So, fist the wheat was broken up, the outer layers of bran and germ removed, and then what was left was ground into white flour.

After this white flour was enriched with a dose of vitamins and minerals, it was loaded into semis and shipped to the Franz bakery in Seattle. That bakery is about 20 miles south of our church, just past the exit to the I-90 bridge.

Finally, the flour was mixed with water and yeast. It was allowed to rise for four hours. Then it was mixed with everything else needed to make this loaf. Sugar. Salt. Mold inhibitors.

We don’t have time to talk in detail about where all these things came from, but. But for your information, the yeast came all the way from Canada. The water from the Cascades. The natural gas to heat the ovens came from thousands of miles away. From reserves in the Rocky Mountains and from Alberta and British Columbia.

After this loaf of bread was baked, still other wonders touch it before it reaches the shelves. It was cooled on huge factory lines, cut into convenient slices and bagged. These actions sound simple, but this bread was packaged in a bakery that can produces over a thousand loaves in a single hour. I assure you, it is anything but simple. Slicing machines, conveyors and baggers introduce yet another line of ancestry leading to this loaf of bread.

When all the packaging was finished, a simple bread truck delivered this loaf to Fred Meyer, where my wife plucked it off the shelf and brought it home.

It seems kinda simple just sitting there, doesn’t it? Not exactly the greatest thing since sliced bread… well I guess it IS sliced bread. And it really is quite remarkable. So many different people, machines and technologies went into putting this loaf here. But only ONE GOD stands behind them as their creator and provider.

Today, bread will sit on nearly every Thanksgiving table among many other edible blessings from God. And as we gather around ours, we’ll bow our heads in thankful prayer. How could we not? For God has exerted so much loving care and astonishing power to set these gifts on our tables.

As it says in the book of James,

“17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:17-18 NIV).

God gives us what we need for our body and physical life. But He also give more. He give us His own Son. Jesus calls Himself the “Bread of Life” that gives eternal life to all who trust in Him. In John 6, verse 35 it says,

“…Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

And in verse 40…

"40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:35, 40).

Without Jesus, we’d always be hungry for righteousness, but never satisfied. For no matter what we do, our sins just get heavier and heavier, and our good works are never good enough. But through His Cross, Jesus takes all our sins away and fills us up with His righteousness. He is the “Bread of Life”.

Giving thanks for this ONE LOAF took more than a couple minutes. It’s a good think that Jesus give us eternal life along with the forgiveness of sins. Eternity MIGHT just be enough time to thank God for all His goodness.


November 22, 2009

Jesus is Our King - Nov 22, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


God loves you. May your hearts believe it. And may the full forgiveness of sins which comes from Christ, fill you with peace. Amen.

You’ve probably seen this bumper sticker before.

(Pastor holds up a “HE'S NOT MY PRESIDENT” bumper sticker.)

I think these came out when George W. Bush was first elected president. It was a way some people expressed their doubts about the election process. It was also a way of saying, “Don’t associate me with him. I didn’t vote for him and I don’t believe in his agenda.” For some it even meant, “I don’t accept his authority as president.”

My first reaction to these bumper stickers was, “Well, you may not like him, but in reality, he is the president of the United States.” We all have to obey the powers that be, or face the consequences of our choice not to.

You see, there are two kinds of leaders. Those you listen to because you have to, and those you listen to because you want to.

As the Creator of all things Jesus has authority over all people. But that doesn’t mean all people are part of His Kingdom.

Today is “Christ the King” Sunday. The last Sunday in the traditional church year. Today we’re going to examine what it means to call Jesus OUR King.

Turn to John 18, verse 33.

“33Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
34Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”
35Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”
36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
37Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”
Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:33-37 NKJV).

You might have noticed that there are a lot of authority figures in this little text. There are at least five authority figures mentioned or alluded to here. There’s PONTIUS PILATE, the governor of Palestine. There’s the ROMAN EMPIRE that made Pilate the governor there. There’s the CHIEF PRIESTS that handed Jesus over. There’s the NATION OF ISRAEL, part of which was gathering just outside as this conversation was taking place between Pilate and Jesus.

And then there’s Jesus. He says, “I am a king”. And yet he makes it clear that His authority is different than the authority of these others. He is not an earthly king.

If you look at Jesus’ life this fact is obvious. It’s clear that Jesus never wanted a physical kingdom. Once, the crowds that tried to make Him their king, but Jesus refused.

Turn to John 6, verse 14. This is just after Jesus had fed more than 5,000 people using only five loaves of bread and two fish. It was a miracle.

“14After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (John 6:14-15 NIV).

Jesus wanted no part in an earthly kingdom.

This is relevant today. Because Jesus is not an earthly king, His kingdom has not faded to nothing like the kingdoms of men do.

Think again of those other authorities in our text. The chief priests no longer exist. Pilate is dead. The Roman Empire long gone. But the Kingdom of Christ prevails even today because it is NOT an earthly kingdom. Jesus rules today in the hearts of all who trust in Him.

A great military general was once asked if he would trade places with someone else if he could. If he could, would he trade the fame and glory of being a general for some other job. He said yes, that if he could, he would rather be an author whose book had been read by millions, than be a general whose strategy had conquered millions. This general said that a book can move hearts and minds, military strategy can only move bodies.

This is what makes Jesus’ kingdom so powerful. It’s not about conquering peoples and lands. It all about sharing a message of truth. Jesus told Pilate,

“…For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth…” (John 18:37).

Jesus spoke this message of truth to the high-born and to the lowest classes of the common people. He preached to the rich and to the poor, to the Jews and to non-Jews. His message was for all people because it was about sin and salvation.

The core of Jesus’ message was this: We are all sinners. Our sin separates us from God, and unless our sin is removed, upon our death we will be separated from God forever.

But God loves sinners and has provided a way for their sin to be removed. The eternal Son of God was born into the human race so that He could suffer for all our sins on the cross of Calvary. And through faith in this truth, the forgiveness of sins is received and we are restored to God’s side.

Many leaders use their authority to serve themselves. But Jesus served the people. By His perfect life and innocent death He earned salvation for sinners. And through His message He gives salvation to all who believe.

In Mark 10, verse 45, Jesus said it like this:

“the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV).

Jesus offered this truth to Pilate. Jesus told him,

“…Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice…” (John 18:37 NIV).

All of Pilate’s questions were designed to see if Jesus was a threat to Roman authority or not. When they were through, Pilate was sure that Jesus was not.

But what Pilate didn’t realize was that Jesus was marching forward in conquest even as the spoke. He was on the way to the cross at that very moment. On the way to suffer to the sins of the world.

And along the way , Jesus was reaching out to Pontius, the man. Inviting him to know the truth of God’s salvation.

“…Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice…” (John 18:37 NIV).

This was an invitation! But Pilate wasn’t interested. We all know Pilate’s response. He said, “What is truth?” and went back to talk to the mob outside.

But many others have heard Jesus’ invitation and have come to know and believe the truth He offers. That God loves us. That He forgives us through Jesus. Through faith in this truth, we have become subjects in the Kingdom of Truth.

Turn to Luke 17, verse 20. Jesus was asked when the kingdom of God would arrive. He said…

“…The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21 NIV).

Jesus’ Kingdom is a Kingdom of Faith.

Now this is a lofty idea. Some would mock this idea altogether. What good is a “Kingdom of Faith”? What good is faith at all?

Faith by itself has no value. Faith is simply trust, and trust is only as good as the thing that is trusted.

And THAT is why faith in JESUS is so valuable. After Jesus was done talking with Pilate, He was beaten, scourged and crucified. Then He died and was laid in a tomb. But that wasn’t the end. Death was the end for every other ruler who had ever walked the face of the earth, but NOT for Jesus.

On Easter Morning He rose from the dead. He appeared to hundreds of people during the next 40 days to prove it. To show that He had conquered sin and death and the Devil.

Our FAITH is in a King who was born two thousand years ago, but who still lives on today.

Our FAITH is in a King who is actively working in our lives right now, and whose reign will not remain invisible and inside forever.

Our FAITH is in a King who promises His subjects an eternal, joyful existence lived with God in Heaven.

This is the truth we have come to know and believe. Christ is OUR King.

So let’s not live like we’re ordinary citizens of a temporary nation. We are the redeemed children of God. Let’s not live like our King is far away, when He is only a prayer away and in reality He never leaves us.

Let’s live the life He marked out for us. A life of repentance and freedom from sin. A life of being ambassadors for the King, pointing out the way of salvation as we walk that way ourselves. Let’s display this message to the world.

(Pastor Holds up another bumper sticker. This one says, “HE IS MY KING”)


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