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Hope in the Face of Death (6)

November 12th, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: Hebrews 4:9-11

 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.(NIV)

 We stand here today because we know that For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God, this has a grand story behind it.

 Lewis Smedes describes this well when he writes:

 In all this, I have been trying to suggest that being ‘in Christ’ means being part of a program as broad as the universe and as deep as life. This new creation is not merely the renewal of individuals, though this must be given its due. . . .

 The design of Christ’s new creation is far too grand, too inclusive to be restricted to what happens in my soul. No nook or cranny of history is too small for its purpose, no cultural potential too large for its embrace.

 Being in Christ, we are part of a new movement by his grace, a movement rolling on toward the new heaven and new earth where all things are made right and where he is all in all. We are, of course, still vitally a part of history, the world, and its community.

 But it is just this world which is hastening toward and ‘groaning for,’ not its final annihilation but its final redemption. All that characterizes the old, the passé, the defeated, will be swept out; but what belongs to God will be renewed and reunited in Christ.

 There is a concept of Rest that runs through the Bible,

The Sabbath rest not only points back to the rest God himself took on the seventh day after he had completed his work of creation. It also points forward to the Sabbath rest at the consummation of human history.

 About this Sabbath rest, Hermann Friedrich Kohlbrűgge writes:

 Could God have rested if he had not done all these things with a view to Christ? Or did he not know that the devil would soon spoil all creation, including man? But as God created heaven and earth through Christ or in Christ, so he has created all things with a view to Christ.

 On the seventh day God was well pleased with his Son. He saw creation perfect through Christ; he saw it restored again through Christ; and he therefore declared it to be finished, and rested.

Karl Barth commented:

 There is no avoiding an eschatological explanation of this rest. God does not only look upon this present of His creation, nor does He only look back to that which He did in creating it. God knows its future.

 It is as Paul said: Ephesians 3:20-21

 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen

 

Message for the Day

Hope in the Face of Death (5)

November 11th, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: Colossians 3: 1-4

 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.(NIV)

What are these things above?

 Many years ago, just over 22, I had to return from the US for the funeral of my father. The service was delayed because of a funeral workers strike. I had the opportunity to visit the body of my father which had been emaciated by cancer. As I stood there I knew something: I will see him again.

 Where did this assurance come from?

Robin Parry:

God takes no delight in the death of anyone. God’s purpose, God wants, God’s heart is for the salvation of all, and it’s precisely for that purpose that he sends Christ to stand before God on behalf of all to die on behalf of all, and not simply to die but to be raised on behalf of all…

 What the Holy Spirit is doing is working in creation by uniting people to Christ through faith and baptism and joining our lives to Christ so that we can participate in the salvation that’s already achieved in Christ and in the Messiah.

 The only way to God is through Christ. The only way to salvation is through union with Christ by the Holy Spirit…

 In Romans 5 you have this wonderful text, “As in Adam all will die…” This is 1 Corinthians 15, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” But in Romans 5, Paul has a similar thing comparing Adam and Christ. He’s basically saying everything that goes wrong in Adam gets put right in Christ. “And where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.”

 There’s nothing that sin can do to deface God’s creation that grace in Christ cannot put right. There’s no depths that sin can go to or human depravity it can go to, but that the grace of God in Christ and the death and burial of Christ can’t go deeper. And there’s no sin that God can’t deal with in Christ. The end of the story is resurrection, it’s the empty tomb, it’s not Golgotha. You know, it’s the triumph of grace…

 God’s done this in Christ, he’s reconciled the world to himself and we’ve got a message now, we proclaim what God has done in Christ. There’s a call that people need to participate in that, to be reconciled.

 Not through doing something themselves, but through coming to throw themselves on the mercy of God, to trust him, to put their trust in the grace of God and through the Spirit be united to join their lives with Christ in faith and in baptism.

 Salvation never trivializes sin. In the cross, God saves us through the cross, and on the cross sin is not trivialized or passed over or ignored. We see the horror of sin for what it is, exposed — and that is our sins as well as Hitler’s.

 I sometimes wonder when people raise the Hitler thing, if Christians raise the Hitler thing I think, Do you think you deserve to be saved? Hitler doesn’t deserve to be saved, it would be wrong for him…but you’re okay, it’s all right if God saves you, that doesn’t require too much grace “because I wasn’t really that bad.” I think it betrays a failure to understand God’s grace, God’s love, but also the transforming power of Christ in the Spirit.

 I do think God loved Hitler because Hitler was a human being made in the image of God and terribly broken and warped and evil. But not so broken that he can’t be restored in Christ, not so evil that God can’t change him by the Holy Spirit. No sin is that deep or that big that it can’t be restored in Christ, and no person is that broken that they can’t be restored in Christ.

 The same grace of God that saved you and me is the same grace of God that can save someone like that and enable a reconciliation to take place.

 Hitler would have to experience remorse and regret and repentance and all of that, but I don’t see how it can be a Christian instinct that it would be somehow appropriate for God to save me but not Hitler.

 

Message for the Day

Hope in the Face of Death (4)

November 10th, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: John17:1-5

 1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

 “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.

 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.(NIV)

Let’s think about eternal life.

 Trevor Hart:

We tend to think that something eternal is something that goes on and on and on like a dreary lecture or sermon or something whereas actually the temporal aspect of it is difficult to picture, and we don’t really know what temporality or non-temporality will be like after the return of Christ.

 I think it’s more important to picture it as a quality of existence – that it is precisely life with a capital L, as John talks about – you know, life – and this life is in his son…

 But that already breaks in now. And the way in which it breaks in now is that we already have communion with the Father. And when people say, ‘I can’t really picture what the quality of eternal life is going to be like,’ I think I tend to want to say well no, of course in a sense you can’t picture what it’s like, but you’re not left wholly without some indication.

 And probably the most obvious indication is those moments of intimate communion with God that we have in prayer and in worship and so on because that is relationship with the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit. And that is going to characterize the whole of our experience, it seems to me, in eternity…

 We only have it partially, we only have it, on an occasional basis. We’re probably not conscious of it, most of us for much of the time. But we get glimpses of it, we can anticipate it, and we can enjoy it in part now already.

 MF: In the time we have left, what…if there’s one thing you would like for people to know about God, what would it be?

 TH:, I think it is that God made them to enjoy being in his presence – that that really was in his mind and his mind’s eye from the very first, however we imagine, the very first, that it shapes absolutely everything he does and who he is. And he has done all that is necessary for them to enjoy that.

 And that’s who he’s calling them to be. And he has not waited for them to decide that that’s a good idea, he’s already decided it’s a good idea and now offers it freely for them to lay hold of and make their own and enjoy in this life and then in the life to come too – God is the one who calls us to enjoy being his children in the Spirit.

 One man is a brave realist but a Christian has a living hope in the midst of our human ambiguities. We know we are alive in Christ and that nothing in creation can break that union.

 

Message for the Day