Hebrews 12: 1 - 4
Here is what faith looks like. It endures, it perseveres. All faith, the faith of the people mentioned in chapter 11. Your faith has within itself an enduring hope. This is a part of God’s grace and provision to each of us. And what that’s there for in our lives, is to give us hope. No matter your circumstance this morning, in terms of how it relates to your faith, there is a persevering faith in life that is going on. It has a purposeful direction, to Jesus. So all of the suffering, all of the tribulation, all of the trials that you go through, all of the ridicule, whatever it might be in life, for your belief in Jesus Christ, are there by God’s design to strengthen your faith and bring you to its intended end. The intended end that the individuals mentioned in chapter 11 are going to have. Jesus is your king. He is your master. He is your ruler. He created you. He has summoned the church, us who believe in Jesus, to an enduring faith. Before we dip into the text, I want you to understand this, because a lot of people get this confused, over what is the perseverance of the saints and in particular, what is discipline (which we won’t get into until the Fall). Our faith, your faith personal, is not perfect. On your best day, doing the most spiritual thing, you are not perfect, you are tainted still by your sin. So even now, you sit back and you think am I experiencing some of these other things? I feel like I am alone, the people of the church don’t experience that. That’s not true, we all experiencing it. Over various things, that’s why he will say later, lay aside the weight and the sin that easily besets us. So we are all engaged in this upward, enduring, and faith arduous journey, so we wouldn’t look at each other in some judgemental way. Because everyone of our faith here, to one degree or another is weak. It is stumbled, it is sinned.
Now it is not that we want to subject ourselves and say this is “just who I am”, no we want to grow in our faith! Peter will talk about, no we want to grow in the strength and the power of his grace. We want to grow, we want our faith to become stronger for the battles we will engage in, as a result of our faith. But let’s not forget that! That our faith may become weak, and some of us may fall into sin, even a grievous sin, to be deep. But ultimately, this is what enduring faith is, we will continue to follow Jesus. Because Jesus is the one who brings us satisfaction in our souls. So he will bring us back up on the road along the way.
Hebrews 11, as we have looked at that, it lists all these people. Notice with me in verse 39 he says, and all of these. Its that whole group of people that have walked together, slowly, patiently, by design. As Pastor Alex and I talked about this series, they are worth noting. There was a bunch of rich truth there that the pastor writes, knowing his church, he was calling upon them, “Hey remember these people.” This is what their faith looked like. This morning we find ourselves here, that their stories were fitting into a bigger picture of God’s story, which was Christ. So now, we are going to look at this in two ways, we are going to look at being commended by faith (which they were) and then ultimately as we look in verse 40, the consummation of faith.
Holiday weekends are always enjoyable for all of us. This is of course as we mention, Memorial Day. There's Mother's Day celebrated, there's Father's Day, there's 4 July, of course Labor Day weekend. Many of you throughout the summer will go to very family reunions that some even this morning at mention to me about. Usually at all of those gatherings, you look forward to it. You look forward to it for a lot of reasons, to see family members and whatnot, and to enjoy a time spent together. It always seemed to me, at the family reunions I went to, that there was always a reflection that it wasn’t just completely perfect because someone was missing that couldn’t make it. Maybe you’ve experienced that as well at your family reunions. As I thought back to the family reunions of the McGuire family, and you know this my family is from the south, the best family reunion that I remember going to was early in our marriage at Kentucky Lake. It was by far, in my opinion, the best family reunion we ever did. It was on the 4th of July weekend and as I recall, as you know it can be sweltering and oppressively hot, it wasn’t terribly that was but it was very warm. It was on Kentucky Lake and many of you have been to Kentucky Lake, and if you haven’t been to Kentucky Lake it’s a great lake and it’s a great place to have a picnic. And as I recall, it was the most people ever at the McGuire family reunion. Valerie got to see all of my family, and for whatever reason on that particular day I remember how happy my dad was. We got to spend some time on the lake, we had these paddle boats and honestly it was the best McGuire family reunion ever.
What this this text is about, is a reunion. It’s a reunion that is yet to take place. But my friends, it is going to take place. The pastor writer here, is identifying that this reunion is a reunion of the family of God. They are the people of God because they have been identified by their faith in Jesus. I want us to look at this first of all that they are commended by their faith. Stay in chapter 11 and look back with me earlier in the chapter to verse 6. Friends, this is what pleases God. You want to please God in your life, this is beginning place. He was defining faith to them and then he gave them, as we looked at for however long we went through those, the people of faith. It is impossible on our part to please God apart from faith. Faith is the only way we gain access to God, and genuine faith seeks God. That is why you are here this morning, because you want to seek from and hear from the words of God and participate in the strengthening graces that build the Christian life of faith. The writer here says that that faith must be diligent and that that diligence is to pursue Jesus. So to please God you must demonstrate a faith in Jesus that has this enduring quality, that no matter your life circumstance you just keep pursuing after and looking for Christ. Its diligent, it pursues Jesus. It persists, no matter the difficulty. It may go weak, it may happen in life circumstances of difficulty, yet nonetheless it endures. Because it endures, this is how we know it’s real, it’s genuine. That person is a follower of Christ. They have faith in Jesus.
There is a lot that is talked about faith today. Most often, what you hear about faith in this day and age, you get on the TV right? It usually comes from athletes. That faith though, is really described as faith in faith. I believe I can do it and because I believe, it’s going to happen. They will use bible verses, yanked out of context, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me, to accomplish what they want. That is not the faith that the pastor writer is describing to us. He is describing to us a faith that pursues Jesus. That is why he is going to say, a few verses later that he is the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith, that is what he is going to say about it. This is what we know to be true because genuine faith centers on Jesus. It centers on the merits of Jesus. What I mean by merits, I am talking about Jesus’ works. I am talking about Jesus’ sinless life, I am talking about what we read from Matthew 27, him giving his life a sacrifice for sin. I am talking about Jesus resurrection. I am talking about Jesus’ ascension and now kingly, priestly reign that he refers to often in the book of Hebrews. Faith, dear church, centers on Jesus. That faith is a belief that Jesus is the fulfillment of what God has promised. When it’s genuine, it perseveres. When it’s genuine it endures. These saints that we have looked at together went through a great deal of difficulty, yet they held to the promises of God and they held to hope that they were anticipating.
They were filled with expectancy. They were waiting for the promise to come. Jesus, of course, was the promise of the Old Testament and we know the pastor writer is trying to point them to those things that they are trying to hold back to, Jesus has fulfilled. What was spoken of by Moses under the old covenant was promised Jesus, Jesus was the fulfillment of. Of course as we have watched and looked at and gleaned together, he has done so in an incredibly rich way. But notice this with me, the Old Testament saints did not see the promise (verse 39). Jesus hadn’t come. They waited so, with great anticipation. They did. Abel was waiting for it. He heard the gospel from his mom and dad and he was waiting. He demonstrated that faith, didn’t he, by bringing a blood sacrifice for sin in demonstration of the one who would come and would crush the head of the serpent. On and on this goes in chapter 11, where we have watched this together. Jesus is pictured as the better priest. Jesus is pictured, not only as the better priest, but as the better sacrifice. That Jesus himself is the better temple. This a singular sermon written with the symbols of the priesthood, the sacrifices and the temple to cause our imagination to run back to what was the greater reality of what is. That Christ is the one who fulfilled all of it. He fulfilled every last bit of it. He is trying to emphasize for them, please don’t miss the main point. The main point is Christ. Don’t get sidetracked with details. Jesus is the promised reality.
Now notice this with me, because you can kind of miss this (verse 40). He says this as we read this, for us and apart from us. The pastor writer here, again think about this, he is writing to this Hebrew church full of Christians and believers, they had received the promise. Jesus had come, Jesus had died, Jesus had resurrected, not long ago even. He was pointing to them that Jesus was the reality. They, along with those pictured in chapter 11 the Old Testament saints, would both be received together at Jesus’ return, then perfection would be obtained through resurrection. See there is an element to this faith that has not yet been completed in this sense. They were looking forward. They were looking forward with this persevering, and this enduring quality of faith. Abel was killed for his faith, his own blood brother. Enoch walked alone, and I believe that represents he probably lived a lot in isolation. There weren’t a lot of believers around. Then God just took him. He had some difficulty. Noah, think about the message Noah represented of promise. It’s going to rain. It’s going to do, what? It’s going to rain. it ‘s not just going to rain, it is going to rain so bad that it is going to flood the earth. It’s going to do what? Are you crazy, old man? And he preaches righteousness to them while this ark is being built. Imagine the difficulty and trial of this man’s life as he is ostracized in society for his faith. Think of Abraham. Abraham is called out of the Err of Chaldees. He leaves, saved out of idolatry, to go to a city that he has no idea where it is. My friends, that’s faith. That is faith in the promise of God. It continues doesn’t it? Sarah is told in her elder years, she is going to have a child. It causes her to laugh. Isaac comes along and he is not the promised Messiah. Jacob then comes along and he is not the promised Messiah. Yet within the context of his life, he proclaims through the inspiration, of course, that a scepter will rise as the king. Moses’ parents, they suffered, the felt the suffering of having to give away a child, trusting in the promise of God. Great separation and suffering because they trusted in the promise of God. Moses could have lived in the king’s palace all of his life, but he chose to suffer and identify with the people of God. And on it goes. Rahab is converted to the desired Messiah. Samson, think of Samson. Samson repented, having suffered over his own sin. This is a trial of enduring faith. He really, went through suffering for his sin, but in suffering for his sin he got right, which proved he had an enduring and persevering faith. David, Samuel, the prophets, all the great heroes, Abraham, Moses, and David. Listen to this, don’t miss this, what we find is in their story of how they are redeemed by their faith in the promise, there is a greater story that is being told. The greater story is Jesus.
To that we can make great application. Listen to this church. Do you desire enduring faith? Is there a motive at work within you, that you are going to stick to and follow after Christ, no matter what anybody else does? That’s the quality of genuine belief. Do you desire Jesus with a joy filled manner? Are you captivated? Even as Pastor Alex shared, the reading of what chapter 27 did to him. Are you captivated by what Christ has done for you? Are you shaping your life around that, so that when the difficulty of life or perhaps the persecution of faith comes, it preserves, it endures. Are you losing your story to the greater story? Or are you kind of just living life? That is what he is trying to define for them. Everyone of them endured the trial and difficulty of life. The perseverance that is needed over faith in Jesus. Verse 40 again. What is that? That is the consummation of faith. That is the gathering of believers. The Old Testament saints, they knew what was promised but they hadn’t yet received it. Jesus had come, the pastor writer is preaching that Jesus has fulfilled what is necessary under the old covenant. Both of course pointing to Jesus and they, this early church along with the Old Testament saints, along with you and I and everyone else that’s being saved across the globe, represent the one eternal family. God is going to hold a reunion for. Look at this. There is something better for us, that apart from us, see it was incomplete yet, the story of redemption is still unfolding. It has been secured, don’t get that wrong, it is completely secured. But the truth of the matter is, people are getting saved. They are getting saved all across the globe. I have a friend who just got back from 2 weeks in Africa and he is with 30 church planters. There are people getting saved over there like crazy. It’s awesome! The story has not been told yet. The consummation of faith, the perfection of faith is not yet here. God’s eternal family is still expanding. It’s still growing. The promise made to Abraham that in your seed all the nations of the earth will be bless, is still our reality. We are living it out.
Dear friends, one day this will be completed. It happens at the consummation of Jesus’ second coming. Flip back with me to chapter 9, verse 27. See he came the first time to be that sacrifice for sin, he will appear the second time in his second coming, not to deal with sin but he is coming to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. That is enduring faith, that has a hope in front of it, an expectancy, an anticipation that Jesus will return. That is running around in your inner man, because you know Christ. It is causing you and leading you along the way. This author, this finisher of our faith. Jesus will return. When he returns he will judge the living and the dead, and he will gather and save his people. His one eternal final family. You and I will be connected, yes, even back to Abel. It’s the consummation of faith.
Believers are redeemed in resurrection. Turn to 1 Corinthians 15. I am going to give you two passages which are the goal of our faith. Two strong motivations to live in pursuing Jesus, because this is our reality. Verse 51. Listen to me, all those people died in the Old Testament. They died, all those people in the early church, all those apostles, they are dead. Perhaps if Jesus doesn’t return, perhaps everyone in this room are going to die. But this is going to be your reality. Death is swallowed in victory! Oh death, where is your victory, oh death where is your sting. The sting of death is sin. Oh it is going to bring you some harm, but it is going to be short lived. The power of sin, is the law. The law brings us the reality that we are sinners. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Because this is true, because there is this hope, that is filled with Jesus, it brings us expectancy and anticipation. It’s a win-win. Now, he talks about resurrection here, right? All this is really a part of verses 39 and 40 of Hebrews 11. Turn to Revelation 21. I know this is how we start the year, but this is a great gospel end game. It is a great motivation to keep before you, so that you will abound in the work of the Lord. So you will see that your life is not about building just a great business, becoming an engineer, becoming this or that. Now those are good things, they are worthwhile. God gave us work. Your life should be built upon a faith in Jesus, that is pursuing Jesus. I am going to obtain a body of resurrection, because in Jesus I am going to live with him forever in that resurrected body. There will be no more death, there will be no more mourning, there will be no more crying, there will be no more pain. Because the former things, the things we understand about this life are going to be put behind. Gone. You see, now when I have a family reunion, mom and dad ain’t there. I’d be lying to you if I told you, seven years ago my dad about 5 ½ my mom. It’s almost weird at times. Val and I were driving home Friday night, and it kind of hit us that way. Because I didn’t live by them regularly. The reality that they are gone doesn’t always hit me. I didn’t see them in a day to day way. Our family reunions now, they are not perfect. That pastor writer is saying this, it’s not yet perfect, I’m bringing more in. When I bring more in, when that last one comes in, man it’s secure. Then we are all going to come to the reunion. Jesus is going to return. He is going to save his people.
Now, let’s be honest, at least I am going to be honest. I didn’t want to go to every McGuire reunion. I didn’t, that’s the truth. As a kid, man they had outhouses. Stuck all day at a park yesterday with porta-johns, made me think of my childhood. I couldn’t stand to go to Tennessee and my mom and dad would just, we would hit that thing in August. We would hit 75 and they would be excited to get there, and all I thought about was the Wampus cat that wasn’t real and the reality that I had to go back about 100 yards off the house to the outhouse. Are you kidding me? Do people live like this?
You know why faith endures? God gives it hope. It is a grace gift. Something is going on in your inner man, in your mind. There is hope, there is hope, there is hope, there is a greater day coming. It is with that grace gift that God gives us, I want you to know, that is what he wanting you to understand about this text. There is a hope, because that hope is real, because that hope is true, because that hope will be your reality, you want to live now, you know want to have a faith that perseveres. You want to pursue Jesus. You want to build it into your marriage, you want to build it into your marriage. You want to be gathered with the people of God, shoulder to shoulder, fulfilling out the great commission, because your life isn’t about this life. I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me, isn’t so I can make major league baseball. God wants you to understand this passage, to provide for you this beautiful picture and give you a powerful faith-filled endurance. You know what he is about to tell them? Run your race man. Run your race! The prize is not just rewards, the rewards are Jesus! It fills you to run this race with expectancy, with anticipation. Aren’t you glad that God provided hope as a part of faith? We need hope. There are so many people that we rub shoulders with that have no hope. Everything they tie to hope has to do with this life. Many of them that I meet up with that are lost, are too retirement, and often times I ask them, what’s after retirement? Your busy to retire, to do what? To die?
The Old Testament believer did not receive the promise. Jesus had not yet come, so that apart from us, the church’s completion, which is still being built, dear friends it is going to be secured, because when God saves that last person, Jesus is going to come. And all of the family of the people of God will be gathered. Not in a singular day of the marriage supper, no, in an eternal supper. Let me tell you something, I know a little something about supper, being raised in a Southern home. There ain’t nothing better than supper. Southern people know how to cook. You want to know what you are going to be eating, read Isaiah 25:6-8. Jesus himself is going to prepare it. Your family reunion is secured. It is going to take place, listen to this, I thought of that day when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it wasn’t that hot, the glory of that family reunion is going to be Christ himself. All of the redeemed together, not one missing. All will enjoy Christ forever. Hope realized. Dear friends, dear church, be true to Jesus.
The Problem with Christianity
Two weeks ago today I got some unexpected news. We were hanging out at Mike and Holly’s house for Mike’s 30th birthday party and I got a text from my college roommate, one of my best friends, Brady. The text simply said this, “I think my dad is dead. Please pray for my family.” It was only six months ago, in November, that Brady first told me that his dad wasn’t feeling well. And it was only in January that they had finally figured out that he had myeloma. Over the last four months his dad, Steve, had spent time in hospitals in Houston and Little Rock, and it seemed like he was getting better. The original plan, earlier that week, so almost 3 weeks ago now, was for Steve (Brady’s father) to spend 21 days in the hospital, receiving treatment and recovering, but he was doing so well by the end of that week that they sent him home. Well, two weeks ago, on that Sunday morning, he wasn’t feeling so well, so he didn’t go to church that Sunday morning. Brady’s mom went to church, and her name is Cindy. She came home and his dad, Steve, asked her if she’d make him a bowl of soup and maybe he would feel better. As she prepared his lunch, he went back to the bedroom to get his cell phone, probably to either call or text Brady, who lives in Texas. She is making his lunch. Cindy heard a crash; she ran back to the bedroom by the time she got back there, he was already gone. Steve was 58 years old.
Why do bad things like this happen? I mean it’s not like Steve was 101 years old. Sure, it’s sad when any one dies, even someone who’s lived 100 years, but when someone has lived 100 years it’s not unexpected. 58 is still pretty young. Steve’s mother is still alive, I was with her two weeks ago, she’s in her eighties. I watched her bury her son. How are we supposed to think about this evil that exists in the world? Some of you sitting in the room this morning have experienced the pain of burying a loved one. Someone of you have experienced that pain recently. But even if you haven’t, all of us have felt the ravaging effects of sin on God’s good world. Pastor Kevin mentioned moments ago that we are all coming to worship this morning with some kind of pain, some kind of family issue, some kind of hurt, some kind of brokenness. We all know the pain of living east of Eden. Some of you are dealing with chronic pain. Some of you are in the middle of painful relationship issues with a spouse or family members. Some of you are lonely. Why do these bad things happen to God’s people, and I guess more importantly how are we supposed to deal with them?
Theresa of Ávila was a 6th century Spanish Mystic and an old story is told of Theresa that one time she confronted God about her suffering. “Why am I suffering in this way?” God responded, “This is how I deal with my friends.” She responded, “Well in that case you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t have many.”
Christianity has always historically had this problem, at least philosophically. The world had always charged Christianity with the problem of evil. How do you people deal with evil? If God is sovereign, and God is good, why does evil exist in the world? And the world has looked at Christianity and said, “You don’t have a good answer.” Those who believe in reincarnation, they have an answer. They believe that every reincarnation is a chance for you to pay for the sins of your former lives. So when you deal with pain and loss in this life, it is because of all the wrongs that you committed in past lives. That’s encouraging Buddhism and Hinduism address the problem of evil by contending that the physical world doesn’t matter. The material body does not matter, only spiritual things matters. So if you are a Buddhist or a Hindu you will be “saved” when you can shed your body and you shed the world for good. But Christianity has never believed that. Christianity has always taught that God created a good world, and that he will recreate the eternal new earth. We as Christians, as we sang this morning, have always believed in the resurrection of the dead on the last day. When Jesus returns he will raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. If that’s true, then what do we do with the pain and loss that we experience right now in this life? The pain that my friend Brady is experiencing, the pain that you are experiencing this morning, whatever it is.
We have spent several weeks now walking through Hebrews 11 and what we have called biblical theology of faith, the story of faith from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit has conducted for us a symphony of the saints. Beginning with creation and moving through what many have called the old, old story to last week when we dwelt in Rahab’s tavern together, and we have been captivated by the score of redemptive history. Now we find ourselves in verses 32-38, that we just read a few moments ago, and this is what Al Mohler calls the crescendo of this great masterpiece. In verse 32 the author picks up a more rapid pace than we have been experiencing; And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. Basically saying we could talk forever about the faith that God’s people have displayed around the world.
I think Jerry Seinfeld would call this the “yada yada yada” portion of the sermon. To quote Johnny from Angels With Even Filthier Souls: “I could go on forever, baby.” All of the books in the entire world could not contain the stories of faith that fill history. The Internet couldn’t hold all of the stories of how God has caused his saints to persevere. “Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade. To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.”
We could talk endlessly about those who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. These judges, these prophets, these kings did unbelievable things by faith. David conquered kingdoms. Daniel stopped the mouth of lions. Elijah quenched the power of fire, and both he and Elisha brought children back from the dead. The Bible is seeping with stories of God’s people doing miraculous things by faith.
It is also noteworthy that the book of Hebrews doesn’t remember these men for their sin, but for their faith. Samson was sexually immoral and he broke his vow to YHWH, Jephthah made a foolish vow to God, and David was an adulterer and a murderer. The list goes on. We could spend all day reciting the sins of our fathers, but Scripture doesn’t do that here, does it? The Word of God commends these men and women for their faith. Church, I want you to be encouraged by the word of God this morning, if you’ve repented of your sin and you’re trusting in Christ, then your legacy is not your mistakes, your legacy is not your rebellion. God does not view you as condemned, but he views you as in Christ. When you believe the gospel by faith, that’s what you’re remembered for in the mind of God. You know, when I was at Steve’s funeral, there was not a single person who we reminiscing about those times when Steve had been a jerk to them, nobody was talking about any of his past sins. Indeed he was a sinner, like the rest of us. But I heard hundreds of people, 700 people, in no-wheresville AR made comment about Steve’s belief in the gospel, and how he lived that out every single day. That is good news church. We believe in the perseverance of the saints. We believe that those whom God chooses, he will keep. Be encouraged in that this morning, because as John MacArthur said, “If you could lose your salvation, you would lose your salvation.” Jesus won’t let go.
It’s interesting, that in verse 35 the text makes a sharp turn. After 34 verses of reciting some of the most epic biblical narratives ever recorded, the Holy Spirit begins to travel down a more unfamiliar road; the melody becomes a lot more difficult to hum along with. 35 Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. For all of the Bible’s blockbuster stories that end in victory, many of which we have recounted over our journey through Hebrews 11, there are just as many that end in tragedy. For all the marquee names that did miraculous things, for all the Noahs, and the Abrahams, for all of the Moses’, and the Davids, there are just as many, if not more, that you’ve never heard of.
This section is a little harsh, isn’t it? It’s kind of abrupt. There were many who were imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. That’s it. There is no “Job ending” to this pericope. It’s like if you were to go to the doctor because you weren’t feeling well and you were to receive a negative diagnosis, you have been diagnosed with X, Y, and Z. And it’s like you coming to church here at Christ Community Church and saying, “Hey can you guys pray for me, I just found out I have blah, blah, blah.” And it would be like someone in your class or block saying, “I’ve heard of that, my mom died from it.” Okay, thanks for the chipper news. You’re not supposed to tell me that your mom died from it, you’re supposed to tell me that your mom had it, she’s recovered, and now she is running the Boston marathon. That’s what I want to hear. I don’t want to hear, “I’ve heard of that. Yeah I know people who have died from that disease.” But that’s kind of what this feels like, isn’t it? That’s not the reality with which we live is it? There isn’t always a “job ending” is there? The point of this section of scripture, church, is that this is what faith looks like. Some times faith is the triumph of Abraham, Moses, and David, and other times it’s an anonymous saint who is persecuted or martyred for their faith. And both are faith.
The point here, the point we are going to see next week as we end Hebrews 11 and in the weeks to come as we move to chapter 12, is that none of these men and women, not Abel, not Enoch, not Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the Prophets, none of them, non of the men, non of these women, in triumph or tragedy, received what they were hoping in when they died. Verses 39-40 make that clear. In the best of times and in the worst of times, every one of these saints had in incomplete faith when they died. They had not yet seen the one in whom they were hoping. What was their hope? What were they waiting on? Verse 35 reminds us: that they might rise again to a better life. Church, we sang of their hope this morning. I believe in the resurrection when Jesus comes again. They were waiting for the resurrection, they were waiting for the better city, the unshakable kingdom. They were assured in this hope; they were convicted about this truth, even though they couldn’t see it. The good news for us this morning is that the treasure that they groped for in darkness has been given light. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1.5).
The hope of the OT has been realized in the gospel of Jesus. Jesus’ virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, resurrection, and ascension are the sun to which the OT shadow had been pointing. All of the stories, these epic stories, stories that span from Sunday school flannel boards to movies starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, stories that captivated even the unbelieving world, of theses stories, the stories of anonymous saints, the names of which you have never even heard, who were faithful to Jesus in their death. These stories were merely signposts pointing us to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is the founder and perfecter of the faith. This faith that we have been tracing all the way through Hebrews 11 is all about Jesus. He is the founder, he started it, he is the perfecter, he is the telos, he is the goalkeeper, he is the one who is going to finish it. Jesus is the true Israelite who had more faith than any of these men or women we read about. Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s faith – he is messiah that they had been waiting for. Jesus is the snake-crushing warrior king come to save his people.
So as Christians, when faced with the problem of evil, there is a sense in which, we must confess that we are not God. There is some math we just can’t do. We can’t fully understand God’s ways. And yet, while there can be some uncertainty in understanding God’s sovereignty and goodness in light of evil, even if that doesn’t fully make sense to you at different times of your life, we do know, based on Hebrews 11, how we can endure this pain, hurt, and loss; the answer, church, is by faith. Verse 38 says that the world was not worthy of these men and women, and that is the answer to the problem of evil. Listen to what N.T. Wright says about this passage of scripture: “the fact that they suffered such things, and that they demonstrated that the world wasn’t worthy of them, was a sign that both they believed God was making new world that would be better and that this belief was in facts true. They were out of tune with their times because they were living by faith in God’s future world, while society all around them was living as though the present world was all there was and all there would be. God was giving them strength to live like that, thus proving the truth of their claim. They were, in their own lives and suffering, pointers to the fact that the God who made the world was intending to remake it and that they were the advanced guard of that great moment.” How could these saints endure the pain, loss, persecution, and martyrdom that they did and still keep faith? How can you endure the pain, loss, persecution, tribulation, hurt, sin, rebellion, and still believe by faith? The answer, church, is that we believe a better world was coming. We believe that the seed of the woman crushed the head of the serpent when he walked out of that tomb. We believe that God is making all things new, starting with his church. God’s great story is filled with people who have experienced joy and sadness, gain and loss, but they all had faith that God would keep his promise, which he did in Jesus Christ. If that’s true of them, if that’s true of Abel all the way down through the Prophets, who greeted Jesus from afar, how much more true is it for us, Christ Community Church, the ones who dine at his table every week?
This is the gospel challenge for us in light of Hebrews 11:32-38, hear God’s Word this morning. Hear the voice of Jesus this morning through his word. Do you believe the gospel? Do you believe the gospel? Not in a trite way. Not in a “that’s my family’s religion” kind of way. Can you look down into the deepest darkest crevices of your sinful broken heart, and say “all I have is Christ. If I lose everything else, Jesus is enough for me.” Because if you can’t, then you are not believing the gospel. You might be believing some stuff about Jesus, but if you don’t believe Jesus is enough for everything, for eternity, then you are not believing the gospel. I want to invite you this morning to belief the stories, because they are true. Jesus is enough. Jesus was enough for all of these Saints. These saints that you‘ve never heard of, who were sawn in two. They could endure that because they were looking forward to Jesus. Do you believe the gospel? Do you live like the New Creation is coming? Not just because it makes for a catchy song, is your life structured around the fact that Jesus is going to physically, visibly return to raise the dead, judge the world, make all things new. Do you live like that is actually going to happen? Do you love your enemies? Do you forgive others when they wrong you? Do you seek forgiveness and restoration when you wrong others? Because these are all marks and signs of someone who believes the gospel. Here is one that challenges our rugged individualism: Christian, are you willing to be wronged? Man, we live in a time where everyone wants immediate justice when they’ve been wronged. Everyone sues everyone. When my waiter doesn't meet my standards, I need to see their manager. When someone makes me mad, I’m going to passive aggressively post something on Facebook. That will shows them. I need vindication. Are you willing to be wronged knowing that God is the final judge? Are you willing if it ever comes, to be tortured, refusing to accept release so that you may rise again to a better life? Are you willing to suffer mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, stoning, being sawn in two, killed with the sword, going about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, wandering about in deserts and mountains and dens and caves of the earth. Not don’t mishear this church, we aren’t asking for that, that is sick if you are asking for that. But the question we have to ask ourselves when we are confronted with the gospel this morning, if God-forbid, that madness ever breaks out here or anywhere else, because it does happen, there are Christians in parts of the world who do have to face this reality this morning, is Jesus enough for you if that happens. Are you willing to be wronged for the gospel of Jesus? Let me tell you this, if you can’t help but make a snarky comment on Facebook, when someone is rude, then you are not going to be willing to be sawn in two for the gospel of Jesus. Jesus was wronged for you. These Saints hadn’t seen Jesus yet, and they persevered by faith. Church, we commune with Jesus every week, church let us live like that’s true.
There’s an old story about a man who found an incredibly valuable treasure buried in a field. That man was wise. He was willing to sell everything that he had to buy the field and obtain that treasure. He was willing to lose everything, to acquire that one thing. That’s the faith that’s described in Hebrews 11. That’s our faith, church. We can willingly lose everything this world has to offer, even our own lives, because the treasure we’ve been given is far more valuable than anything this world has to offer. This world, this present, evil, anti-Christ system that has been in rebellion against God since the garden, is not worthy of the gospel treasure that you’ve been given in Jesus. And this is the good word to take with you this morning. That treasure, that gospel treasure, the person of Jesus, that is enough to sustain you. To sustain youthrough sickness, and pain, and even the premature death of your father. Let’s pray.
In Matthew’s genealogy, Chapter 1 of this book is the genealogy of Jesus there are five women that are mentioned. There some a couple things I think we would all want to note about those particular circumstances, because really nothing outside about them is really that special apart from the grace of God. Five women are mentioned. Now in near Eastern culture, it is not usual at all for a woman to be mentioned in the accounts and yet in the genealogy of Jesus, that will be with us forever, God intended and left for us five different women.
One of them is Tamar. If you're at all familiar with the book of Genesis, you read chapter 38, she's the first that is mentioned in the genealogy and Tamar was one that was basically abused sexually. The second one, which is the one that we're going to view this morning, is Rahab and in several of her accounts that are mentioned in the Bible from the Old Testament and the New Testament, she is called Rahab the prostitute or Rahab the harlot, depending on your translation. The third of women that are mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, is Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite woman and basically came down the Moabites came down through the lineage of Lot and she was converted. As we know in the book of Ruth, how wonderful story her story is as your story is, and all of it though fades into the bigger story which is the story of redemption and Jesus. The fourth of accounts that the Bible makes note of, that is gonna be in the eternal write forever with us, is Bathsheba. Of course we know that the account of Bathsheba is one of adultery. So you have Tamar who is abused sexually, Rahab the prostitute, Ruth who is a Moabite woman who is converted in the most difficult and desperate times, you have Bathsheba who is caught up in adultery with David and then the one for sure you knew is Mary. She was simply a young virgin girl, and we certainly know that God could have used any virgin in Israel, but he chose to take Mary who faithfully disregards her own life as she cries out to God her Savior. Savior, of course, is an inclusive term in the Bible of an acknowledgment of the end of your own sin and need of repentance. Nothing in particular about Mary's life, outside of that she was a young virgin girl. For each of them, in each of their storylines that are given in the Bible, what we find and what we will see in Rahab’s story this morning is God's grace is at work. As we get into the account we're gonna read, I think you want to get your mind into this storyline here.
As we begin, I want to say this to the moms and the grandmom's this morning: no matter what has happened in your past, however guilty you may feel about how you raised your children, in the past or even currently, Jesus can take and wash away anything you've experienced. I know this from being in the same church for over two decades that sometimes, and this has been seen in particular on Father's Day where dad's won't even come on Father's day because of the guilt associated in their own home. I want you to understand this: that the gospel doesn't work that way, the gospel brings a guilt from conviction but it doesn't lead us into despair. However you're sitting here and and if Satan's beating you up or even your being your own self up with with the condition of your own home, mom I want you to rejoice this morning that the gospel is always a new and fresh start. Rahab, you know, and the providence and the wisdom of God in the text this morning because she clearly pictures for us God's grace at work.
Not one of us here this morning, a mother, not a mother, or even a female, sits here not sullied by our own sin. Our own dark closets of our own minds are battling engagement in the warring with our desire, war with our own sense. Right now all of us have some things you just don't want anybody to know about and not that everything should be confessed to people, nothing wrong with that because the Bible says to confess your own fault, but you understand what I'm saying. None of us go to the family reunion, your mother's immediate family or extended family where there have been lives ripped apart by sin. I guess what we see as we dip again to this text this morning into the account Rahab, friends there's hope here. Here is just a great account, there is hope and the hope is always Jesus in the Gospel. It's always Jesus in the Gospel and what God is feeling as seen in Hebrews chapter 11, is how Rahab's story fits in as the other stories do that we've looked. That Pastor Alex and I have brought to you, but especially this morning for moms, I want you to understand we're gonna see, even though she has a checkered past, she's a part of Jesus's genealogy, God takes her by the working of his grace and he changes lives. Let's be honest that's why we're sitting here. If he didn't do that, you none of us could be here. So mom if if you're sitting there and you're condemning yourself and and you're doing this or that, please don't do that to yourself this morning. In a sense, in a real way, releasing yourself from the prison of your own sin to freedom that the gospel gives and that Jesus desires to give because no matter your checkered past or even perhaps some current of your own failing God wants you freed so that you can enjoy him. The tendencies for mothers, and we all know this the dynamic of motherhood, they care so much it’s perhaps to either beat themselves up or perhaps if you're condemning towards other moms, you should take caution. You should not dwell on the inadequacies that you have or judge the inadequacies of maybe others that are under, you need some freedom. You need to release being so stressed out about everything. That's what the gospel promises. I can't give that to you, Pastor Alex can't give that to you, nor the elder board. God wants you to experience that in a very real way. I hope you're able to do that as we look this morning. Because let's be honest in the day we live up against it is always been true for Christianity since the attack on the first very first home, there is no tougher job than being a mom. I'm not saying that with lip service. I know what my mom did in the home I grew up in and I know what my dear wife does in our own home and her rustling for the sake of righteousness, plus of the myriad of other things that she fits in. Here is what I want you to get as we dip into this, which was certainly true for Rahab is you don’t have to be perfect. For whatever reason that's been on my mind a little, but I hope you understand that. You don't have to be perfect. I'm thankful for all of our sake the Christ was perfect and that we sit here now and we enjoy the salvation and we're gonna enjoy throughout the afternoon, the whole theme of motherhood as hopefully I don't burn things on the grill, because that can happen. God often does the unexpected and chooses the unlikely. It’s again a picture of his grace and certainly true and Rahab and what is left for her as a mom. What a reward because the Bible is going to be with us in the new creation. It's eternal when you contemplate that it is just just a beautiful picture here. So let's go back to Joshua chapter 2 and let's begin to look at Rahab's salvation. Her faith, as we just read from the account this morning in Hebrews chapter 11, because what's true for her is this true for us and so we're gonna look at this account. Ten truths, ten specific things that I'm going to point out through this storyline that were true for Rahab that are true for us. Read Joshua 2:1 God here gives us the account and says that the two spies go and they come into the house of Rahab the prostitute. Now turn to James 2, stay back in Joshua because we're gonna spend all our time there but I wanted to see this. I think it's important and you know I think sometimes we miss this. James 2: 24 - 25 you see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. I'll explain that and in the same way Rahab the prostitute was not justified by her works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way. We know this to be the truth of Christianity and the gospel that we are justified (justified meaning made acceptable to God by our faith). She's in the account right in Hebrews chapter 11 and what James is arguing there is the idea of justification, indicates that her works were proof that she had believed. Don’t get confused, the Bible is not contradicting itself. It's explaining itself. But I thought that's necessary to explain, and some of you may be confused by that. But my point, actually, by looking at that text is that Rahab once again is called Rahab the harlot (perhaps in your translation the prostitute) and she's she's called this in Joshua 2:1, in James 2:25 and also in our text of Hebrews 11:31. Now there's two types of prostitutes in the Bible, the first one is is one of cultic worship there were prostitutes in certain cults that were utilized for the sake of worship. As bizarre as that may sound that was the case. But that's not the type of prostitute that Rahab was. Rahab was rather the second one that we're look at let's go back to the text in Joshua 2 and I'll point this out to you and you kinda get what is actually happening here as to how salvation comes to her. The Bible tells us there again in verse two and they went and they came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodging there she at her home would've been a picture like if you watch old western movies like a saloon. It was a place not quite like a sports bar today it would be like a place that's not just for prostitution only it was a place like where people convene where people came together. The spies went there because community was being done, information was being passed, and she had this in her home obviously an established business as a Gentile. The Bible just lets us know what's going on because sometimes this is how in the world Rahab find out about this. This is where community took place in her home so it wasn't as if everybody went there for the sake of prostitution there was discussion. People met, and I guess the clearest way I could try to give you a picture that it again would be at a saloon type setting. The two spies, the Bible tells us, went there and they lodged there. Now what we want to know particularly about her salvation was the first point, it's always the first point, that people need to understand, that Rahab understood that she was a sinner. The Bible is quick to remind us of this truth. In the three texts that I read you this morning, Rahab was a sinner as all men are sinners, all of humanity are we set here in the seat as converted sinners. But nonetheless sinners miss the mark, that's what Romans 3:23 is “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” the picture is the one the shooting of an arrow we miss the bull's-eye. We fall short of the glory of God. The glory of God is perfection. Rahab is a sinner and the Bible reminds us of that and it is good to remind ourselves of that. Kevin is a sinner. Secondly under this issue look at this look at verse nine and Joshua chapter 2 in her recognition of her sin and her understanding, she knows that she is under judgment. Joshua 2:9, the Bible says this before the man lay down, she came to them where she hid them on the roof and said to the man I know look at this this is very important to look at what what the words of her mouth and the activity of her life say “I know that the Lord has given you the land and that the fear of you has fallen upon us for all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you,” she knows that the terror of the Lord has fallen on her people. They are under judgment, now remember this is a war type setting. This is a war type setting but yet in her establishment, in her home, and all of the community is discussing what is taking place prior to the two men coming into her home. She knows and she goes to the two spies and explains to them, “I know we're under judgment, I'm under judgment all of humanity is under judgment they are lost and under God's wrath.” John 3:36 tells us that the wrath of God abides on those who are lost, basically those who are without Christ, you and I are no longer under that condemnation. Jesus has taken our condemnation. Jesus took our condemnation you see this in Romans 5:1 and you see this in Romans 8:1, “there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” yet at this point when you read this in Joshua 2, she knows that her people and that she is under the judgment of God. What's tied to the Gospel that sometimes we underestimate and we should never underestimate, because I believe it's a part of the turning of conversion that God uses: God is angry, friends, with sin. Psalms 5:5 tells us that God is angry with the wicked every day, and it's manifested in that currently they are already under the judgment of God awaiting to be judged in the last day. The word the wrath of God abides on the lost in John 3:36 in the Greek is a present tense active verb which means that God is holding them under judgment, until that judgement is turned when we place our faith in Christ because Christ bears our judgment on the cross. Thank God that he did so! But a part of the working of salvation is a recognition of, number one, that you are a sinner and that, secondly, is a part of being not okay with everyone being just a sinner. No we are headed to judgment and that was a factor that drew me to Jesus. I literally believed in my mind that whatever hell exactly is in it's in its fierce nature, I would dare say it's worse than what we could even imagine, I thought I was dying as a 12/13-year-old that night and going to hell, and I was alone. I knew I was under judgment, all Christians know that prior to Christ and without Christ we are under judgment. Thirdly though in this, look at verse 17 and 18 as we continue in looking at Rahab, the Bible tells us in verse 17 as the discussion unfolds with the spies, “the man said to her we will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours” they they make most back and forth you know that we'll look into in just a few moments and verse 18 says, “behold we come into the land you shall tie the scarlet cord in the window through it which you let us down and you shall gather your house and your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father's household.” And at this point what I want you to understand about this that pertains to the salvation that Jesus offers is that Rahab's given time to repent. See the judgment hasn't come yet and right now as you sit here God is giving you time to repent, because you’re alive. You're your breathing. Because once Jesus comes, it's done. Right? It's the one life opportunity. And so in knowing the message, of course we know that Rahab goes on and she repents and she is scapes the judgment of her sin and it's represented to us as what was described there you jump down to verse 21 and “she according to your words so be it, then she sent them away and departed and she tied the scarlet cord in the window representing her faith in the Lord God of Israel.” Now a lot of people try to do this scarlet chorus it's not significant. I think it is, first and foremost, it represents her faith and that Jesus’ blood that was shed at the cross was scarlet and crimson. She is demonstrating her faith in YHWH. She is trusting in and she knows that she's been given time to repent. Now the gospel is come to her in perfect clarity. It has enlightened her mind as it does everyone, because you must know the components of the Gospel in a head knowledge type way to be converted to Jesus. Nobody just getting saved by accident. You're not just believing some, there is specific knowledge that pertains to the gospel. She knows she's a sinner, she knows she's under judgment, she know she's been to been given time to repent and what signified to her is the gospel is come to her in those two spies and she believes. By faith she believes the message. Oh friends repent, escape the judgment. That's what she is doing. In the community of those people that come, here is where the Gospel in her own home in the saloon type atmosphere. It reminds me of Romans 2:3-5 where people repent, it is under the loving kindness of God that brings a person to repentance. I live that reality, you live that reality. That fierce judgment when I was trying to just take stay isolated away from people so they wouldn't know what was going on in my mind, God arrested me.He arrested me. He had lovingly and kindly dealt mercifully toward me with to Jesus. I feel no different than Rahab. So in this Rabah pleads for mercy. She is pleading for kindness. She is pleading for forgiveness. She is resting in a God that is longsuffering and kind. She is coming to Christ on his terms, not her own terms. She is recognizing some things here. Number four in this, look back in Joshua 2:9. The gospel came to us in human instrument. See in her home, the gospel had come to her in oral form. Someone had communicated to her prior to the spies. What they had communicated was the truth that pertain to God and his people. The gospel was declared we see this in Acts 4:12 where the gospel is declared and when the gospel is is being proclaimed. There's knowledge about God, there's knowledge about Jesus, there's knowledge about what we are, there's knowledge about sin, there's knowledge about judgment, there's knowledge about repentance, there's knowledge about believe, there's knowledge about salvation, there's knowledge about new creation. That's what had happened to her. God's people somewhere along the way were engaging. Listen that's how she received this. She was a Gentile, she never would have heard this any other way. Because that's the truth to salvation, you hear the word in oral form. I want you to think back to when you were converted to Christ, who brought the word of God to you the gospel to you in oral form? Again for me it was Betty Ruth. It was my entire family got use my entire family and others. Bible class teachers, I think back to Dale Johnson, Sue Weldon. These people brought me Jesus in the Gospel when I was lost. But it was my mom at my conversion because I tried to go to my dad, but he was in the shower and I thought I was dying before he got out. I seriously did. I couldn’t wait. I cried out to my mom, I need I need to be saved. She goes, “Kevin you're already saved” I said “no I’m not”. I heard the word in oral form then from her. Fresh, new. Why is it necessary to hear the word oral form? Because there is salvation and no other way. Because Jesus is the only way and we need to tell people about Jesus. Listen let me say this, Jesus needs to be the language of your lips. You need to learn to say Jesus name and not just have generic conversations about God. You need to learn to say Jesus name and let yourself be loved by Jesus in a fresh way, to where the purity and the warmth and the compassion of that will so saturate your mind you will want to say Jesus to other people. I had a dude I went out with a few weeks ago, not part of the congregation, just lost. One of the things he said, “Man, you're always talking about Jesus” man I was like “Thanks! That may not have done much for you, but you just did a lot for me.” Then in that moment I got to express to him how Jesus could save him, like he saved me and that he could have some peace and contentment. Listen to me, this establishment was right,even by normal society, it was a prostitution saloon. She was probably doing it out of desperation to survive. In a culture that was very difficult upon women. No excuse to this but she was a sinner. But don't self righteously sit back and judge others and think you can engage them. Do you understand there are people that are surrounding you that desperately need you? And they need you to give the gospel to them! The sweet tasting words of the Gospel that are found in no other name but Jesus.
Quit self righteously looking at them and what they wear what they look like. Come on! Engage them, love them because they're created in the image of God. By God's grace as he gives you an opportunity, please hand them Jesus. Number five to this she believe the word of God. She did she believe the word of God look at verse 11. That was the fear of the judgment right. She believed the word of God and so as the gospel came to her in oral form it brought to her inner man write her immaterial man of conviction her heart was melted in that regard. See there's a lot of people that get convicted. The world stands under the conviction of sin, it's just mired with guilt. They might want to use drugs to escape it, they might want to use any number of things to escape it. The only thing that brings freedom is Jesus. So the fear of the people of Jericho are there under it, but man Rahab guys about to get set loose. “I believe the word That is come to me and you are God is the God of the heavens above and the earth beneath. I know how he delivered his people from Pharaoh. I know that your people cross the Red Sea on dry land I believe that miracle though I wasn't there.” That's faith. It is a conviction that bears repentance, it is a conviction that bears faith, that reveals itself in humility. The Lord your God he is God in heaven, submission. He is God on the earth, acknowledgment. And then friends that's not any different than ours. Those are all the elements of true faith, acknowledgment, submission, humility, repentance, and faith. Yes that's what faith is she believe the word of God. Let’s turn to chapter 6. We will jump forward in this story and we'll look at number six. We show you what happens to you when you believe. You already know this, in your heart and it's one day going to be manifested in reality. And that's this number six, in these ten truths that pertain to the gospel is deliverance from judgment and all that’s said here and exhale, Thank God! I'm delivered from the judgment! I desire he's delivered me. Rahab and her father's household are spared from judgment. Look at 6:17. Hey friends, let me tell you this no one's escaping the judgment unless they believe the gospel is true. Then now you have people in your life that don't know Jesus. It's time for us to get busy. Look at verse 22. She believed the message of God and she was spared. Which means at the end of this day, I have been praying for,because I woke up three times last night, that you're gonna lay your head down knowing that if something tragically happens to you, you will be with Jesus. You have been delivered from judgment the only way you can be delivered in judgment is to believe the gospel. Believers are delivered because believers are justified by faith and therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God. Again as I mentioned earlier Romans 5:1 “there's no condemnation to those which are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 Jesus, Rahab, and the believers of Rahab’s gospel. As she went back to her home and told the gospel to her family. Who are the first people you tell? The first person I told when I got saved was my dad, when he got out shower. Then my brother when he came home, to the room we share. I shared with my family. That's what she did. She's running to her family. She had been delivered from judgment. Obviously in her deliverance she was spared. Number seven it was proved by her works that vindicated to her a genuine faith. This is what the Bible is referring to because in genuine faith, works are applied. Works are the action of love and the result of true faith. Listen to this, she hides the spies, she lets them down by a rope Joshua, and she ties a scarlet cord in the window and that example is given to her by the apostle James in the New Testament to where he says faith is evidenced and made alive by works. Without works faith is dead. It's a do nothing, save nothing, faith but the results of genuine belief is that one follows after YHWH, follows after Jesus. This is not only the case of Rahab, it is the case for we who are as God's people today. For you and I, Ephesians 2:8-10, were created as God’s masterpiece, of his grace for good works, her faith is proved by works. Of course one of those things, number eight, was that she sought to when others already read about Joshua 2:12 -13 where she makes her plea for her family and then of course again here in Joshua 6:23 so the young man who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers and all who belong to her and they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. We have had a plea and I believe that this plea was genuine. It's a genuine result of her faith because I really think this but when someone is really converted to Christ it isn't private religion. Why would I want my religion to be private and my dear wife and sons fall under judgment? No I love them and I want them converted to Christ. Just as you do for your home and it's not just for homes, it's for people outside of our homes. Because genuine faith results in people who will share the gospel in oral form. Rahab makes a plea. Listen to me think about the moment, she's desperate. Would you spare my dad? Would you spare my mom? Would you take with him my brothers and my sisters? I love them. Then of course the gospel oriented man will do it. Get this, this is a plea. Her heart is being revealed. She doesn't care who knows her heart is driven by a love for YHWH and then a love for people that's faith. That's faith, that's the gospel. When it’s believed, it seeks to win others. Number nine we go back to verse 25. This is true. Please this is an important point, man, it's often missed today. But Rahab the prostitute in verse 25 and her father’s household and all who belong to her and then Joshua saved their lives. She lived in Israel to this day. When salvation takes place, the people identify with the people of God. Rahab doesn't get saved and say this is private, I want to live on my own. I don't need those self-righteous people know this has always been consistent to real faith. People want to identify with the people of God's church. We meet to celebrate Christ and what he's done for us, as he did for Rahab. Rahab and her family identify with YHWH’s people.They believe God, they love God, and they love his people so it is true today of genuine faith. We want to identify with the people of God. We love the children of God. We love the people of God. 1 John 2:10-11, John 15, Jesus said it would be so in verses 12 - 17. Last one this is a good window go to go to Matthew 1. It’s not the end. This whole thing has not been consummated yet. Rahab's life ends up as she dwells with the people. It ends up in a wedding. And a wedding she gets to go to. Thank God for the wedding yesterday for Andrew and Chrissy and all the weddings that are gonna be taking and are taking place and for the children being born. I think these are reflections of the Gospel and a healthy church. Rahab gets converted and she goes to a wedding. Chapter 1:5 Salmon is identified here as her husband. What's interesting about this is his name Salmon means peace. The Bible doesn't say this but I still think it's pretty cool, it's obvious that she's married to him but there is Jewish legend that says Salmon was one of the two spies. The romantic in me loves that and if it isn't 100% factual, man will it preach. Salmon was known as a prince in the house of Judah. He married Rahab. Think about Rahab's life, a one time harlot just trying to survive. Sins forgiven and erased, marries Salmon, and even if he wasn't one of the spies he became and obviously was a leading man in Israel. Grace erased her former life.
Because of the wonder of technology my brother and sister, of whom I have one of each, got to enjoy each other this morning in light of mom, shooting text and then interacting with love for each other thankful they were spared. Find the joy of Christ and the Gospel for whatever failures you've experienced cast them at Jesus. He cares for you! Again, I love this story because everything changes for her, just like it changes for us in Christ. Because of God's grace she goes from prostitution shame to a wife and then into the genealogy of Jesus. Man, only Jesus does stuff like this. Their marriage becomes a picture of what you and I will participate in which is an eternal celebration, dear friends, the wedding feast is not just a momentary day, it's the eternal day. This morning, believers of the Gospel are those who understand they are sinners, they understand they are under judgment, understand because they're living they have been given time to repent and they hear the gospel in oral form. They believe the word of God. They rest, even as you and I do this morning, knowing they were delivered from judgment but the genuineness of their faith is proven through good works. The reality of that is we seek to win others with the gospel because we love them. They identify themselves with the people of God known as his church, that will be with him in eternity and that we're going to a wedding!
Exodus 14, Hebrews 11:29
In thinking and considering about this text this morning, I entitled the sermon “God Saves His People”. An account in the bible that I would say pretty much everyone in here is very familiar with, yet the truth is that title could be said every week, “God Saves His People”. Again in considering that, my parents were born and raised in the South and lived in the country and in thinking about this text, thinking about Hebrews 11, and in thinking about we would go down there and of course there were bean fields and there were cornfields and there would even be wheat fields. I remember seeing about the wheat fields, and if you haven’t personally seen this I’m sure you’ve seen it in some setting, a book or TV. The wind just blows across the wheat and it seems like the wind just saturates the entire field. I have physically stood and saw that. It reminded me of this text and fitting in to Hebrews 11 and the biblical mantra of the flowing wind across the field of wheat there, how the bible is, throughout the 66 books, moving through how God saves his people. God has done this and done so since the garden. He will do so to the end and the age to come. God will save his people. I find this truth to be so pure and so real that every person in here that belongs to Jesus should enjoy this life sustaining reality as it moves you through the very things that you go through in this life. That is this Jesus, my friends, will never let you go. He will never let you go and he will save you in the end. No matter the tribulation you are under, no matter the turmoil, no matter the life duress or difficulty, please know this (as God created his church to meet together to be edified to go into the world that they live in) and rest in this: God in the end will save you and he is going to save his people.
So we come this morning, as we have with pastor Alex as we’ve moved very quickly through Hebrews, it is an incredible book as it takes us, in Hebrews 11 alone, through the Old Testament and he is pointing, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to teach his people. In this account this morning, it is a very familiar story to us; Israel crossing the Red Sea as the Egyptian army pursues. As you and I now move through Exodus 14 and then we are going to wrap this up with one particular application. I know there are many that can be made, but we are going to make it up into one application that God has for his people. Know this as we move through this, I was you to rest in this and (yes I am saying this correctly) enjoy this. Always understand this in the sermons every week: God is saving his people.
You move through this account and it is just a fantastic account that’s given to us here, the Lord’s presence is evident. The circumstance that the setting gives us in Exodus 14 is that two million Jews or more are leaving Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Moses is leading them out as God had ordained. God had, through their slavery time there, made a people for himself. God now, at this moment in their history, had wanted a greater conformity to his ways and his will so he was calling them out, as we see here, to righteousness, to himself for a way of life. He was calling them out of Egypt where they were unable to worship as God ordained. You get to this and the bible is consistent to remind us this way that God’s people crossed on dry land in this miraculous moment. As we read earlier, God’s presence is with them. What we want to know about the Lord’s presence in this, is that the Lord is demonstrating his sovereignty and his power and his presence in those people’s lives and obviously that is true for us. His presence was with them and you find this in chapter 13. Here is how it took place. He was always with them. In the Lord’s presence, and we know he is calling them out of Egypt and they are being led out of Egypt in chapter 14, they are coming to the account of the Red Sea and the Lord is revealing a plan that he has for his people. His presence is with them and as his presence is with them, the Lord now is giving a plan and that plan has always been true for God’s people and that’s this: trust him. Trust in the Lord. God here is directing them, and as we see and know, his plan at first was not to safety. He designs a predicament for them, as we see. He sets a scenario for them that is impossible for them to obtain their salvation, yet he is going to provide it. Without the Lord’s intervention in this particular case, and certainly it’s true for us, the people are going to perish; they are going to die. That is spoken of, look at Exodus 13:20.
You can picture this, and I am going to try to help shape this. What you have here is kind of a geographical cul-de-sac. We lived in a cul-de-sac for 15 years, and you know you are hemmed in; there is only one way. In that one way out, here comes the Egyptian army. There is no place to go for Israel. They are very vulnerable in a military kind of way. They cannot defeat a well-equipped army. In this cul-de-sac, to kind of put your mind there, to the South is a massive Egyptian fortress of its kingdom, to the North is a barren desert, to the West is the deep Red Sea, and to the East here comes this Egyptian army. They are surrounded entirely. There is no place to go. This, of course, is part of the Lord’s plan.
Sometimes people express this into today’s kind of language. They think, “Well God doesn’t put too much on you that he knows you can’t handle.” And I want you to know, that is never true. God designs things for his people to reveal to them that they can’t handle it, that they desperately need him. That is actually God’s design. Those things are set for us, the trials that we go through, not that we might try to escape them, I’ll be honest with you that is what I often want to do, but rather that the trials would purify and strengthened their strength. That is what he is going to do for them, as he certainly does for each and every one of us that knows Jesus. It is the Lord’s plan that we trust him and trusting him means we rest in him. We rest in Christ, and we rest in the gospel. This is the picture that is for this people, now we know in Exodus 14 the Egyptian army is pursuing them. Look in verse 5. Pharaoh at this point has changed his heart and now he is going to set out to pursue the Israelites. The text tells us here that he takes 600 of his chosen chariots. Obviously there were men that were operating them. Those would be for us the first in, say the Navy Seals. The most trained of army. He is setting them out because his heart has been changed and he wants to pursue Israel and certainly take them captive and kill whatever he needs to. Added on to this elite chosen army, he also sends out all the rest of the Egyptian chariots, which obvious to us it a very formidable army. Now that army, if you can picture the 2 million Jews that are moving through with Moses, this formidable army is now visible to them in the distance. The can see the dust rising, from all the commotion being made as they are charging toward God’s people. If you can picture that and kind of think about that, it’s like the dust of that is rising to the sky as they are coming towards them. Undoubtedly for those people, the children of Israel, what’s attacking and causing their heart this sheer fright, is they know they are being fiercely pursued to be killed.
Look at verse 8. The Lord had hardened Pharaoh’s heart in this. His unbelief in YHWH and his defiance, his rejection has brought him a hardening. Let me say this to a hardness of heart, for any of us, that is the worst place in the world that any of us could be; in a hard heart place. As it is demonstrated in this individual, and there are hard hearts and rejection to the gospel all across the world, it creates a bitterness that leads to an anger that can produce murder. That was the Egyptian pursuit led by this evil Pharaoh. Now again we join in here in Exodus 14:10 and we see the very fright of God’s people. They are scared to death. They are fearing for their very life! “We are going to die!” That is what they are thinking. The people feared greatly. It literally means that their hearts are filled with fear. Now I don’t know if you have ever had that kind of experience where you thought you were going to die, and again I recollected one particular occasion that I can remember in my life where I thought I was going to die. The reason I thought I was going to die is because my mom’s reaction. I had done what I normally did on any other particular weekend day, spent the day on a Saturday playing filthy as can be. My mom always sent me to the basement because I couldn’t dirty up anything of the upstairs, rightfully so. I come in the back door and head to the basement. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. From having been outside all day, because we didn’t take Gatorades or Powerades or water bottles, we just stayed out there all day and you were parched and thirsty, but you just stayed out anyway. If you were at somebody’s backyard you just used somebody’s hose. But that was not the case on this particular occasion, and I am thirsty and I didn’t have any patience to wait, though my mom sent me to the basement. And I grab this big car jar that’s clear water right? I take that sucker with two hands and start guzzling it. It’s bleach. I didn’t know what bleach was at the time, I just thought, “Man this is water, this is awful!” But I got a couple big gulps in and so I holler out, “Mom what is this?” Well she comes running down the stairs and sees the jar and I am telling you, she turned white with fear. Now, I am scared. I don’t know what it means but she says, “Kevin you will kill yourself.” I am thinking, “I’m not trying to kill myself, I’m just thirsty!” So she runs into a panic for the next half hour I drank about 2 gallons of milk because she was trying to get me to call Earl. That was my closest bought with a super fear of death.
The people’s hearts were filled with fear. There is a panic that is on them. As a result of this, read verse 10. They knew then what was indicative of all sinful man. They cry out to the Lord and they blame the leader. Blame has always been a strong game of people. From the garden to people currently in rejection of the gospel, they will blame their condition whatever number of reasons. It is easy for us to blame. So in their panic or a predicament, in a lack of recognition of YHWH’s sovereignty in their life, they begin to whine. “Oh my goodness, we are going to die. Now Moses you’ve brought us out here and we are cooked!” This is when we get the central part that we read earlier of this particular account. Look again to verse 13. Think of the intensity of the moment, two million plus people are thinking they are going to die. A powerful army in pursuit drawing closer, and Moses responds to the people in verse 13 fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord. It’s God’s grace at work. He is about to intervene for his people and destroy the enemy. God has always worked (I say this and I would ask you to read every account) out the salvation of his people. The Egyptian army is about to be devastated here. Moses lets them know, “You will never see them again.” Why? Because the Lord will fight for you, just stand firm and be silent. This is true because you cannot add to the Lord’s salvation and if you could then things wouldn’t be grace.
Before we continue on in this, how the Lord protects his people here, I just want to offer a few things to you. Three moments that I have found to be incredibly enjoyable to share, things in my personal life that I would like to share with you and hopefully, as they are tied to Christ and the gospel and the bible, they can be encouraging to you. Three moments in my life, it is not just the dramatic nature when they happened but the result of it. The first one is obvious, when I got saved. The whole game changed in that late 12 early 13 year. Everything about my life and my inner man got turned upside down. It was when salvation broke through the pressure, the guilt, the shame, and everything was gone. I felt like I was flying when I got up in the morning. It was so real to me what had taken place. It was right there in the mid-twenties and the doctrines of grace came to me, as I was pouring myself into the bible and how God works and these types of things, they became this incredible rewarding experience. I saw things in a greater light, things I had never seen before became abundantly clear and obvious to me. The last one, I would say that has truly come to life over the past five years, is taking a very simple thing that all of us can do that is really helpful and soul satisfying. When I say soul I mean your inner man, and it will change how you interact at work and with family and others. I am not saying I am doing any of that perfectly, I am just saying that I am finding this. To be so powerfully impactful and rewarding in my life, it makes me feel weak and strong, if that makes any sense. That is, when you are moving through a text and asking yourself the who, what, when, where, why, and how, of understanding what a thing means in a text, then you take that to a greater light and you define how that applies to Jesus and the gospel because has all been accomplished and it all rests on Jesus. For me, even in explaining that to Valerie and my sons and those who are in close confidence with me here at the church and others outside of the church that God has given me relationship with, in terms of pouring out deep personal stuff I have to say this to you, it is has been revolutionary for me. I want to share that with you because you, like me it is no different for any one of us, are going to continue to go through trials, tribulation, turmoil, and difficulty. I know this is what Moses’ is saying, “Rest! His presence is with us. It is before us, behind us.”
Now Christianity is not a “do nothing” thing. The reality of God’s grace is that it invigorates us to do things. Moses is about to lift his hands and God is about to work on the Egyptian army and they pass on dry ground. So I wanted to share those things with you, and I hope in light of that, for whatever way God can use it, you would embrace that and especially see, I turned 57 a month ago, its just been unbelievable these past 5 years experiencing this. Let’s go back to the text.
We have already read the account in the middle of chapter 14 on. The Lord is going to protect them, we see that Israel is clearly hemmed in, Pharaoh’s military is in hot pursuit, the Lord is now going to protect his people, and he is going to bring judgment on the Egyptians. The first part of this protection is that the Lord commands Moses to move Israel to the Red Sea. Now think again about this scenario. They are filled with fright and they are probably wondering, “I can’t swim! What do you mean go towards the Red Sea?” Then you look at all of this, and we aren’t going to re-read it for times sake, but in verse 19 the Lord surrounds his people for protection. It is the Lord’s protection. He is protecting his people in the midst of this trial. Verse 20, this kept the Egyptian army from advancing on Israel. Here is what I want you to know, in terms of you not being able to handle it, no matter what it is, the difficulty that you are under, God is in the middle of it. That is the part that he wants us to understand and believe and trust in, when perhaps things are so overwhelmingly difficult that not only can’t you talk but you also don’t feel like you can breath. That is where God’s people are. He does, as God always does, he provides a miraculous escape, his salvation. The waters are divided, Israel passes on dry land, as the waters are lifted up into this wall and then what follows there, the Egyptians pursue and the Lord causes the chariots to clog. This prolific army in world history is stopped, halted. You have read about it, probably hundreds of times over. What takes place then is probably one of the greatest events that world identifies of the bible; the destruction of the Egyptian army and the deliverance of the Israelites. It really is a graphic scene of God’s miracle and working hand. It’s things you have read about, I have read about and talked about, and people who aren’t even Christians are familiar with. As a result of all of this, the Lord is praised in verse 30 and 31. The Egyptian army is dead, the water has collapsed as the Lord had said, God’s people are spared, and they rejoice in the fear of the Lord. That is, they are overwhelmed by his awesomeness and his power as it is displayed, and they fear the Lord and they believe in the Lord. What those two expressions are, is praise. They are like, “Wow! Our God!” That’s us, right? We are worshipping, “Our God!” In a moment here we will enjoy the table.
In most of this, there is probably not anything new you have learned this morning. What I want to do is make one application point to this that I think is central as parents, grandparents, in a faithful regard to being God’s people. Because God’s people were being called out of Egypt to live in righteousness as God has called you and I, his church, out of the world to live in righteousness. Which has been a most difficult thing that has plagued the church worldwide, especially been true of the church in America. This was a calling out of the world, just like they were. A people made for his righteousness, just like we are, where God will dwell with us. He does, right? In and through Jesus and his presiding even over this service and table and the power of his grace and his word. This picture of Israel as God’s people is a picture today of the church. It is only, before I get to this central application point, proving to us a greater reality of eternity. That is why I want you to take comfort in, but then I want that comforting truth to lead to something. So we will live faithfully to his righteousness! God is going to save us in the end. We will dwell in his righteousness and we will be his people as he intends. Knowing that should stir us to be the kind of people that God has wanted us to be.
I ask you now to turn to 2 Corinthians 6. I am going to wrap this up real quick. I want this point to be made out of this, and it is the only point I am going to make, as it pertains to this account we just read from. It is an area that has been sinned against too often by God’s Church, and even by pastor’s for a cheap buck, $50. That application, friends, though I want us to get the seriousness of it, I want this to strengthen us so that we feel empowered to live to his righteousness. It is a very practical point on marriage. Look at verse 14. Israel was unequally yoked under Egyptian bondage. What joining covenantal accord does Jesus have with Satan? That will make you shiver! What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, and this is the central text that is used for biblical separation. Now I don’t know your history, I am only going to share my history. Largely, what has been tied to biblical separation has been hair, pants, and alcohol. That has it’s own subject matter, but what I want you to understand biblically is that biblical separation is that a believer should never marry an unbeliever for no circumstance. The people of God should not only believe it, but the leadership of God and pastors should never do it. They are disobeying God himself who created the covenant of marriage. God forbids, and I want you to embrace this, God forbids for biblical separation, same sex marriage, polygamy marriage, or unequal marriage; meaning, an unbeliever with a believer. Here is where the flavor of churches I have been a part of have tried to misappropriate 2 Corinthians 6:14-16. They say an unequally yoked marriage is a white man marrying a black women or a white man a red woman or a yellow woman or a brown woman. You can carry that on. That’s what we have made this! It is an abuse of God’s word. The answer, of course, to that question can a white man or a black man marry a white woman, is yes! If they are believers, yes! Its believer with believer, that is the unequally yoked part. So what I want you to understand about this, what pleases God is that marriage is designed for a believer to another believer. That is what he created the greater picture for, and we have used that example in other ways. But we must embrace this! Christians need to marry other Christians. To raise gospel centered, Jesus loving homes. To impact as homes, the church. Inside of that, we are all to live in celebration of Jesus. Now, that’s been my mantra since I got here 22 years ago. I used to teach stuff like that on Wednesday night when it was just men. Knowing at the time, even then, only having one son that was one and Val was pregnant with Zach. That has been the consistent theme of our household, and I am only saying this as an example just to say things to you in a practical way. So the question you are probably asking yourself as a mom or a grandma if they choose to disobey what do I do? You hold to the mantra. Of course you are not going to hate your children, you shouldn’t hate your children, but you should hold to the mantra. Because God designed it! Because God called us out of this world to be a people designed for himself in righteousness. The story of God’s people crossing the Red Sea is not just a story. He wants his people to live in righteousness. What we want to do in this place is to promote Jesus and God-centered and gospel-centered homes so his name is magnified among us! This should be a faithful theme for all of us. Let me just say this, friends this starts with dad. He will be given the ultimate responsibility.
God rests in his people by faith. Stay with me on this! This isn’t to lead you to despair, because all of us are probably sitting here thinking of a number of ways that that is being violated in our family or extended family. Let me just offer this, I am in a war with my extended family right now, a spiritual war. It is not all rosey colored in the McGuire household. In my extended family there is a war going on for this. I tell you that to encourage you. It’s not like I’m sitting here, “Oh you should look like me.” No this is a war and we are in this together! We should be promoting the things that God promotes. We should be there for each other to encourage each other and to love on another, because we are all standing here as a working of God’s grace because we have sinned. The beautiful thing is this, no matter where your household is, we have to pick this back up because biblical separation is not the length of your hair, its not the fact that a woman has pants on, or the use of wine or beer, the biblical separation is the issue of marriage. That is God defined, not Kevin’s opinion. If we lose the words of God, we have lost is all! Lets hold a guard, lets be faithful and true, and then God give us the strength to get this muddle out and turned around, for right sake!
don’t walk like an egyptian: why you’re not who you think you are, and that’s a good thing
I moved to Louisville in August of 2006, as many of you know. Some, or most of you probably, will remember that the World Series that fall featured your Detroit Tigers against the St. Louis Cardinals. What I learned that fall was that the fine citizens of Louisville KY predominantly cheer for one of two baseball teams: the Cincinnati Reds, or the St. Louis Cardinals. So, there I was, at the time not the world’s biggest baseball fan, but my home team was in the fall classic, so I rep’ed the Tigers. I can’t speak for metro Louisville in general, but on the campus of Southern Seminary, I was a lone wolf; a speck of orange and blue in a sea of Cardinal Red. You probably remember that the Tigers lost that series, having only won the second game. I, of course, was appropriately ridiculed for identifying with the Detroit Tigers that fall. People love to identify with sports franchises. Do they not? Those fans (to use the “being” verb literally), you can replace the St. Louis Cardinals with any sports team at any level, are Cardinal fans. They identify as Cardinals fans, they see themselves existing being Cardinals fans. Even though I like baseball now more than I did then, at the time, if I was going to identify with a major league baseball franchise, it was going to be the Detroit Tigers.
Whether you identify with a sports team or not, most people try to find their identity in some kind of group, some kind of community. On April 12th of this year, the NYT published an article entitled, Why Americans Vote ‘Against Their Interests:’ Partisanship. The article talked about wealthy liberals who vote against tax cuts for the rich and working class conservatives who would vote for economic or healthcare related policies that don’t favor their income bracket. The NYT submitted partisanship as the answer. The wisdom of NYT said most people identify themselves either as Republicans or Democrats in America, and in our political climate that usually means all or nothing for people. If someone votes Republican, they will usually support all Republican politicians and policies without differentiation, and the same for Democrats. Usually. They would say if you are a Democrat, that means you believe “X, Y, & Z,” and the same is true for the Grand Old Party.
Regardless of your specific political affiliations or sports allegiances, one thing is true everyone who’s ever lived is tying their identity to something. Feminists tie their identity to sex; racists tie their identity to race, some place their identity in their education, their income bracket, their citizenship, their appearance, and the list goes on and on. The question for us, church, this morning is, with what, or maybe more appropriately, with whom, does Christianity call us to identify? As we move forward, now, in the eleventh chapter of Hebrew – in this biblical theology of faith – we stumbled last week across baby Moses, and we beheld the faith of his parents. This morning we’re going to see how the life and faith of Moses is a picture for us, and how it can help us run our race better. How did Moses address the universal human identity crisis by faith, and how can we do the same?
Identify with the King’s People
First of all, the Holy Spirit, in Hebrews 11, tells us that Moses identified with God’s people. Moses identified with God’s people. Look at verse 24. This verse is specifically making reference to Moses’ defense of the Hebrew slave and murder of the Egyptian taskmaster (Exod 2.11-22). Tom Schreiner notes, “Such an action, even if it was a mistake in some respects, wasn’t merely a temporary fit of temper. It signaled where Moses’ loyalties were, demonstrating that he had associated himself with the people of God rather than the Egyptians.” You know, sometimes we talk about Moses’ murder of the Egyptian in defense of the Hebrew slave almost like it was just a chaotic circumstance, like it just kind of happened and then Moses reacted and he just happened to run away. But I’m a Calvinist, so I don’t believe in coincidence. Moses was taking a stand. Moses was choosing to identify with God’s people, over against his adopted kin.
The author of this sermon even goes so far as to say that [Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. When Moses chose the hardship of Israel over the throne room of Egypt, he was identifying with Jesus himself. That is what the Holy Spirit says. Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt. Jesus himself who would chose the hardship of the cross over the throne room of Heaven. Moses was finding his identity in the promises of God, not in the comfort of his upbringing. You know, if I were Moses, I think I would have been able to convince myself to stay in Pharaoh’s house. I would say something like; “I believe that God has me here for such a time as this. He providentially had me adopted and I am going to do everything I can in the interworkings of the Egyptian legal system to make things better for the Jews. God made me Pharaoh’s grandson, so he must want me to stay here.” But that’s not what YHWH called Moses to do, is it? He called him to identify with God’s people. Moses’ identity was not found in being Pharaoh’s grandson, or in being one of Egypt’s most eligible bachelors; it was in being one of the elect children of YHWH.
A few moments ago we just sang that beautiful hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King. You may or may not know this but that song was written in the 1200’s by St. Francis. Francis was raised in wealth but gave it all up to preach the gospel and to feed the hungry. He literally abandoned his wealthy attire and founded the Franciscan order. Francis left a life of privilege to obey the call of God. Church, Moses did the same thing. He left a life of privilege to identify with God’s people. That’s why he defended his oppressed brother against the tyranny of the cruel Egyptians. That’s why he left his home. That’s why he returned to Egypt to lead God’s people out of slavery. Moses’ identity was not found in his family, it was not found in his education, or his wealth; his identity was found in God’s people.
This is what the book of Revelation is all about. The book of Revelation is not about future chaos, Henry Kissinger, or how your credit card chip is the number 666. The mark of the beast means to identify with Babylon, or in Moses’ case Egypt, over against the kingdom of Christ. Throughout history, God’s people have never taken the mark of the beast. That’s how we know they are God’s people. Moses did not take the mark of the beast, he identified with God’s kingdom. He thought that the reproach of Christ was better than the treasures of Egypt.
The beginning of this chapter told us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and that faith is the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11.1). As new covenant believers that means that we identify with God’s people – the church, even when the church appears to be weak. We don’t identify with any of the faux churches that the world has to offer, but, first and foremost, our identity is found in the kingdom of Christ. You are not first and foremost a millennial, a baby boomer, or a member of the greatest generation. Your identity is not cemented in your race, your education, you income level, or your sexual attraction. You are not first and foremost a Republican, Democrat, or even American. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, then your identity is in Christ. That is who you are, church!
By faith, you have been adopted into God’s family. You are a member of Jesus’ body. You are a stone in the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are a solider in the Lord’s army. You are a disciple of Jesus; you’re a Christian. You have died with Christ and resurrected with Christ when you were baptized. You are a new creation, behold the old has gone and the new has come. Hear the glory of the gospel this morning, church. When God looks down at you, he sees the righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ. By faith these things are true of you right now. You are the church.
Church, that means that we need to have a little smaller view of the world. If we are going to properly identify with God’s people. Because faith, first and foremost means that we identify with God’s people. We don’t always believe that. If that’s true, that means you have more in common with a Christian Syrian refugee than you do your unbelieving American next-door neighbor. You are more related to the Russian Christian who is legally banned from sharing the gospel, than you are to your unbelieving parent, sibling, or child. You are more connected with South American Christians living in huts on the Amazon River that have never ever heard of the Detroit Tigers, than you are with the unregenerate thousands who fill Comerica Park and sing the national anthem with you. Now that doesn’t mean that going to ball games and having small talk with your neighbor is wrong, on the contrary, these are good things, but we must not forget their place. The question we have to ask ourselves this morning, do we value the reproach of Christ more than the treasures of America? Like Moses did the treasures of Egypt. Would you rather be mistreated with the people of God than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin? Surely everything Moses enjoyed in his comfortable Egyptian life was not sin, just like going to a baseball game is not sin, but it sin if we love it more than Jesus.
It’s not wrong to identify with a certain political party, but if that means you have to train yourself to hate the unborn, or anyone else made in the image of God, then we’re doing it wrong. If you can go to a ball game and get all emotional singing the national anthem, and you remain here stoic during corporate worship, than you’re doing it wrong. Are you willing to be mistreated with the people of God, or do you love the pleasures of comfort?
This is the truth, guys, identifying with God’s people, means you will be mistreated. If you want to follow Jesus, then your understanding of sex and marriage is going to be hated by most Americans. “What do you mean marriage means only one man and one woman? What do you mean that any sex outside of the marriage of one man and one woman is sin?” Are you willing to stand with God’s people in that? “What do you mean that you give at least 10% of your gross income to the church? That’s crazy! Imagine how much more you could have or how much more you can invest? What do you mean you want to get married young? What do you mean that you want to have kids? What do you mean you want to have a lot of kids? What do you mean abortion is murder? What do you mean you go to church every Sunday?” They look at us like we are Looney Tunes. Identifying with God’s people will mean reproach. Moses had faith, so he knew that it was more valuable than all the treasures of Egypt. Do you believe that the reproach of Christ is more valuable than the American dream?
Rebel Against the King’s Enemy
Moses also knew that following king Jesus meant rebelling against king Pharaoh. Verse 27 says that Moses left Egypt because he was more afraid of the invisible king than he was the king of Egypt. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Moses was convicted of the invisible kind. Moses feared YHWH more than he feared Pharaoh. He falls in line with the history of God’s people who have rebelled against all that is anti-Christ. Rahab who rebelled against Jericho, the Apostle’s who looked the Jewish leadership in the eyes and said, “We cannot help but preach that which we have seen.” Martin Luther who defied the world-ruling Roman Catholic Church when he declared, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer who fought Hitler’s Germany, and gave his life in the process. Indeed, church, there are a great cloud of witnesses who have come before us in rebellion to the evil serpent king; many of them gave their blood as the seed of the church.
Hear this, this morning, brothers and sisters, faith means that we must rebel. We are rebels. Like Moses, we must rebel against our own comfort. Pharaoh was abusing God’s people and Moses spoke truth to power. Like Moses’ parents, we must rebel against a culture that says that children are an unfortunate side effect of sex, and they are the end of your happiness and freedom. We rebel against that evil and declare that children are a gift from God. Like Joseph, we must rebel against a culture that tells us that sex outside of marriage is liberating and bountiful, while sex inside of marriage is dull and rare. We rebel by running from sexual immorality and by loving our spouses like Christ loves the church. You know what Satan loves? He loves it when you badmouth your spouse to other people. Because there is nothing in all of creation that declares the gospel isn’t true, like two spouses not loving each other. Man, Satan really loves that. That helps his cause. He loves it when we ignore our children. He loves these things because they are anti-Christ. He loves it when a Christian man is addicted to pornography and it affects his relationship with his wife. Church, we need to fight back against this damning worldview. We need to rebel! Faith means that, like Moses, we must rebel against God’s enemy.
Dine at the King’s Table
Moses didn’t just identify with God’s people, and rebel against God’s enemy, but he also dined at God’s table. Verse 28 says, By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. Instituting and keeping the Passover was an act of faith on Moses’ part. YHWH had declared, as our brother Bobby read this morning, that he was going to reckon the payment of the firstborn that was due him. But those who would sacrifice the lamb and spread the blood over the doorposts, the angel of death would pass over them. Israel remembered this groundbreaking event in the history of God’s people every single year when they would celebrate the Passover feast. By participating in the event itself and then continuing in its annual feast, Moses declared that he was abandoning Pharaoh’s table and sitting at YHWH’s table.
The spring semester of my sophomore year of college I moved home for a semester and took some online classes. Bethany was a senior in high school and I wanted to spend that last semester here with her before we both moved down to Kentucky in preparation for getting married. Because I knew that I was moving back to Kentucky, I left my seminary-parking sticker on my car. You know you have to have your parking sticker or else you will get a ticket at school. So, one night I was driving home from Bethany’s parents house, they used to live at12/Hayes and I was driving to my parent’s house. They live at 13/Campbell. I made it to 13/Dequindre, and got pulled over for running a red light, which looked kind of orange to me. For the record, I think it was more orange than red. I got pulled over at 13/Dequindre by Warren PD and the officer comes up to my window and I’m, you know how you feel when that happens. The first thing he says to me, I swear, the first thing he says to me was, “Son, are you a Southern Baptist?” I was like, “Excuse me sire?” You know, that is not the question you normally get when you pulled over. So I say, “Well, I go to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville KY.” He said, “I saw your Southern Baptist parking sticker on your car. I’m Southern Baptist!” I was like, “Okay!” I am still reeling, like this is going on. He said, “Son I am going to let you off with a warning now because you are going to seminary and you are going to be a preacher, so don’t run red lights.” So he let me off! Glory, right? Under the protection of that parking sticker, the just wrath of the law passed over me. Because I had that sticker, that is what saved me, I was under that protection and I guess you could argue that I deserved it. Again, I feel like it was rather orange. But if you were to argue that I did than that sticker protected me as the law passed over me.
Church, when Moses by faith sacrificed that lamb for Israel and they spread the blood over the doorpost, the just wrath of God passed over them. That which they deserved, they were sinners like we are and God’s justice and wrath passed over them because they were covered and protected by the blood of the Lamb. Moses dined at that table every single year by faith, in rebellion to the serpent king. Identifying with God’s people. What Moses did not fully understand thought, was that the Passover was instituted because some 1,500 years later, in a small upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth would shed light on the true meaning of the Passover. The bread is his body. The wine is his blood. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. As Israel celebrated the Passover feast for centuries, it was all pointing them forward to Jesus who would die on their behalf. Church, when we identify with Jesus, when we have faith in Jesus, his blood covers our doorposts and God’s just deserving wrath passes over us.
This is why we celebrate the Eucharist every week. We dine at Jesus’ table to identify with his people, to rebel against his enemy. The Passover meal has been redefined by the gospel of Jesus. We were once enemies, but now we’re sons and daughters. We, church, have traded the table of this world for the table of the king. This is your family. This is your meal.
It’s easy for us to find our identity in sports, politics, education, family, but church, these things are eternal. Like Moses, we must identify with the king’s people, rebel against the king’s enemy, and dine at the king’s table. Faith means that your identity is found in the kingdom of Jesus. That is who you are. Before country, before blood, we are kingdom people. Like Moses, we declare unabashedly, we pledge allegiance to king Jesus. And that allegiance is stronger than a political party, its stronger than the United States of America, and its even stronger than the Detroit Tigers. Let’s pray.
Return with me to the book of Hebrews, where we are going to pick up in chapter 11, continuing our movement through the book of Hebrews together. I had pastor Alex read from the account that’s given in Exodus 1 and 2 because that provides us the setting of the singular verse we are going to look at this morning in Hebrews 11, look with me at verse 23.
We of course, as stated, are moving through chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews. Which is, as most of us know, the faith chapter, for us in particular, a biblical theology of faith. God revealing the accounts of the stories of said individuals of their enduring trust in the Lord, in YHWH, to the greater story, which was the sending of God’s own son, the promised Lord Jesus Christ to redeem both them and us. As we move through this, and in each account as we move through them, it’s pretty evident that there is one form of difficulty or another that is provided in their circumstance to which we then see their persevering faith in God. When you get to this particular verse it’s kind of easy, to miss the story of Moses’ parents as it’s found here in Hebrews 11. Yet I have found this, in studying it, it is an incredibly wonderful and encouraging story, their account, as it fits in of course to the rest of the gospel story. I find it to be strengthening and encouraging to us who desire to have gospel centered families and gospel-centered homes.
You may or may not know the names of Moses’ parents but they are Amram and Jochebed. Amram and Jochebed kind of sound like a bad monster movie. For those of you that grew up in this area, I know as a kid, every Saturday Godzilla would come on. That was, when I was a kid, one of the highlights of the week. I couldn’t wait for Saturday because on channel 50 Godzilla was going to come on and he was going to fight a particular monster. So I was a Godzilla fan. When you look at Amram and Jochebed, and you kind of say their names quick that is what it sounds like, a bad monster movie. But these are the parents of Moses. Amram his father, and Jochebed being his mother. However brief it is presented here in Hebrews 11, it is a very important moment in our history. I kind of need you to pull this together with me because we are going to look at three different passages. We are going to jump back to Exodus 2, we are going to look at Acts 7 in a few moments here, and then we will tie this in to Hebrews 11 to see how this account formulates.
Getting us to that point I want to share just a couple things about Amram and Jochebed by name, which are pretty significant. Amram name means an exulted people of abundance. His name means love and companionship, peace and harmony, and also his name means aggressive. So it means an exulted people of abundance, love and companionship, peace and harmony, and aggressive. Jochebed has a beautiful name as well, in terms of her meaning. The meaning of Jochebed means YHWH or the Lord is glory. And of course you and I understand that YHWH, the Lord, we come to know as the person of Jesus. When you put these two together, you of course, know the story of Moses, and as we are going to look at it, the picture is pretty clear. Theirs was, even in the center of tremendous difficulty and turmoil, a happy home. They had a faithful home. They had, if you want to call it, a gospel-centered home. They were living to the glory of YHWH. Just as you and I meet here weekly as the design of God, his church, we all have desires (there’s no doubt in my mind or else you wouldn’t be here) to live to the glory of Jesus, both personally and most assuredly as a home. I think what you find in Amram and Jochebed’s name is that their home was filled with love and peace and harmony. Compassion was exhibited. They were faithfully living out and following after YHWH. And inside of that home, understand this, they were parenting aggressively… strong, godly parents. Amram and Jochebed, they’re mentioned in Exodus chapter 6 verse 20, by name, as Moses’ parents. Exodus chapter 2, they were from the tribe of Levi. And what the Bible tells us there in Exodus chapter 6 is this household of Amram and Jochebed had Miriam, a prophetess, Moses, who becomes one of the greatest leaders in the history of Israel, and also Aaron, his brother, who becomes a high priest. Amram and Jochebed had a faith in the Promise. And God enters them into the picture. When you look back again to verse 23, it’s easy to almost miss this, it says, “By faith Moses, when he was born…” Well, when Moses was born, he was hidden for three months by his parents. It was the parents’ faith that had hidden Moses for three months for this reason because they saw that the child was beautiful and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Moses was born under a tremendous amount of distress on the people of Israel. They were under bondage. They were in slavery, of course, as Pastor Alex read from Exodus 1:15-22. You know this; you’re familiar with this, as you’re familiar with the story of Moses. It was a dark time in Israel’s history. They were under oppression by the Egyptians. And Pharaoh, the leader of the Egyptian nation, enslaved the Israelites. He was a ruthless individual. Some of you even groaned in the account that Pastor Alex read from. He was a gruesome individual. And he wanted to keep these people under control because he had them in bondage. They were their slaves. In doing so, he placed amount of great burdens on them. And he offers, as we note together, an edict found in Exodus 1:16, which Pharaoh began to fear the growth of the nation of Israel. Now, you can imagine being subject to slavery and such heavy lifting and the things of this nature (because undoubtedly they were used to build much of the pyramids and all of those things that were going on in the construction) much would cause the men of the nation to grow strongand mighty and powerful. And they not only were growing that way physically, but more importantly God was giving them homes and families. In a tremendous amount of difficulty and distress, they were having families. And they were trusting, even though they were in bondage and slavery, they were trusting in the Lord. And the Lord was making preparation to free them. Pharaoh, of course, was concerned that this group of people (the Jews and the nation of Israel) would surpass Egypt. And he was fearful of being overpowered by them, and so he orders the murder of males. And yet, as the text tells us, the midwives feared God and they did not obey Pharaoh and God made provision for them (Exodus 1:19-21). And the people had families. The number of the people of Israel were growing. It was said that when they left, the nation of Egypt had at least 2 million people. Egypt had had them in bondage. And it’s in that backdrop that we’re going to look at three different texts that tell us and give us the faith of Amram and Jockebed.
Amram and Jochebed believed the Lord. They trusted in God’s promise. They believed, which is really the theme of all of chapter 11, they believe and they obey. Their belief is demonstrated by their obedience. These parents had followed YHWH, and it was a winsome kind of home. There was love, and there was peace, and there was harmony, and it was being lived out to the glory of YHWH. These things were shared. You get to chapter two then, and amidst this difficult, stressful time comes the birth of Moses. Now, again, I wanted you to stay with me, and I want you to follow this. This is kind of easy to miss if you do this in a casual reading. But this will bless you. And God left it there in time and space as the story of redemption unfolds.
So, we’re going to turn to Exodus chapter 2, and we’re going to go the three spots all at the same time. Then, we’re going to go to Acts chapter 7, and you’re going to hold your spot here in Hebrew chapter 11. So, go ahead and do that. I want to get everybody turned over there and get settled in so you can follow this with me. And I trust this morning it will encourage you certainly, as it did me. Exodus chapter 2, the book of Acts chapter 7, and of course you know that’s where Stephen is preaching through the Old Testament, a biblical theology of the Old Testament, and then Hebrews chapter 11.
There is something stated within each of these texts that are consistent. One particular thing. It’s a curious thing; you will see this as we read it. You’ll notice this with me that in this set of circumstances Moses had an unusual birth and those things that happen that surround his birth and his early infancy. Read Exodus 2:2. Now turn with me to Acts 7, I’m going to read a bigger section here that isn’t too long, look at verses 17-22 because it’s here that Stephen as he is preaching, who obviously ends up stoned and martyred, as he is trying to point to the people the promise of Jesus that is found in the Old Testament. He enters into this in verse 17.
So here in verse 20 of Acts 7, the Bible tells us that Moses was beautiful in God’s sight. Now once again turn to chapter 11 of Hebrews and we will pull all this together. Exodus 2:2, “a fine child”, Acts 7:20, “beautiful in God’s sight” and Hebrews 11:23, “the child was beautiful.” What is the significance of that?
If God says something once it’s important and he means it, but its stated in three different accounts and three different time frames. In one respect, don’t all parents think their kids are beautiful? I think back to when our first, Drew, was born and the excitement we had in waiting for him, and yes I did help deliver all three of my boys. But I have to be honest with you, I never necessarily thought any of them were beautiful. I kind of thought they came out the same way, dark headed and red. But as it were, they were beautiful to us. Because the truth is, parents think their kids are beautiful. So in one regard, Moses was a good-looking infant. But this translation an appearance can also mean favor. When it is translated that way beautiful in God’s sight in Acts 7:20, it would have to be that the child had God’s favor on him. That’s more the significance, though he may have been a pretty little boy. The significance of what’s going to take place, that God was pouring his favor into Moses who would be the deliverer of God’s people.
Let me say this, here is one of the reasons why I believe that, God is not interested in your looks. You don’t get saved because you are good looking. You don’t get saved because of your intellect. You don’t get saved because of your wealth. You don’t get saved because of the particular family you come from. That is clear on a lot of fronts, in particular John 1:12-13. There is nothing in and of our lives, which is even true of Moses, that God is going to be overly impressed with. But God does pour out his favor. You are the recipient of his favor, as I am, that have been converted to Jesus Christ. So it was going to be for Moses, and in particular was already the said faith of his parents Amram and Jochebed. Go back again to verse Acts 7:17. As Moses was being born and the edict had come forward from Pharaoh, Amram and Jochebed had an understanding of this and were trusting in YHWH for his protection. There was a greater purpose to this than just some random plan to put him in a basket and to set him into the water, even though that was a part of their narrative. Moses, to Amram and Jochebed, was going to have a unique destiny beyond just his own parent’s thinking but they knew it was going to come from the Lord himself. That Moses was going to have a play in God’s promise of redemption. He would be the delivered of God’s people and one who would make a covenant with the nation, a covenant made under Moses. Now go back to Hebrews 11, having taken those things into account, and that’s a part of this story that is given to us, however brief it is, of Moses’ parents Amram and Jochebed in verse 23.
They were trusting in YHWH though the lived in a time of great duress, slavery. God had provided for Amram and Jochebed protection. They were trusting in YHWH and their faith appears to us as reckless and very brave. They conceal Moses for as long as they can, for three months. Can you imagine trying to keep from birth to three months a baby from crying? It’s difficult and it’s impossible. But they were trusting in the Lord and they did not fear Pharaoh. Their lives were committed to the ways of YHWH over against the difficult environment that they lived in. That is truth to live on. They trusted in YHWH and it resulted in them obeying him. They were believers in God’s promise, they conceal Moses’ presence and their doing so, under the fear of death for Moses, perhaps even Mariam and Aaron, and as well to themselves. Their faith certainly is brave; it’s reckless. Amram and Jochebed come up with this creative plan. Here is what I want you to know about this, it is important and indicative to all who believe in Jesus Christ, our faith is a reasonable faith, it makes sense. It isn’t just some random blind thing. That is, when you really believe and have been converted to Christ, God calls upon us to think. We have think through things and we have to give ourselves to a faith that is active, condition upon the things that are going on in our home and the things that are going on in our church. Faith is not blind in the sense that I believe and that’s it. Real faith is moved to action, I think you see that to be true of the people in Hebrews 11.
We know it to be true for those people in Amram and Jochebed’s home. They come up with a plan. Jochebed makes a basket, a papyrus basket, it’s coated with pitch. They sent beautiful Moses into this basket. Now just think about that for a moment, that’s terrifying. Are you kidding me? That’s terrifying. We can almost read through that as if it’s not that big of a deal. They were trusting in YHWH, they were believing in the promise, but they were setting this thing forth. Now before we continue on, I want you to turn to Proverbs 21. Because I think in all of our lives, in all of our family’s lives we are called upon by God to trust him and obey him no matter the set of circumstances. Here is what works with trusting the Lord, trusting in Christ, and giving yourself to his ways, when sometimes you don’t have the answers. Any number of things could have happened to Moses, but they were trusting in YHWH.
Look at Proverbs 21: 1. You and I, as followers of Christ are in the hand of the Lord and our circumstances, sometimes that we don’t necessarily have the answer to, need to continue to trust in Christ, to obey the things of Christ when maybe we see things being altered. Because the King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord and he turns it however he wills. See your life is not being lived in some random fashion, we aren’t some people who are Johnny-come-lately. God is at work in the lives of those who believe. Here again, beautiful little Moses is placed into the basket and then placed into the water where Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing and big sister Mariam is set there to watch, “You watch there Mariam.” Baby Moses is found, he melts the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter, Mariam pops up and offers a great suggestion as the account is given to us, “shall I go and find a Hebrew woman to nurse the child?” And the result is this, Jochebed raises Moses, probably for most people believe, up to age 4 and she gets paid. You know why? Because following YHWH, following the Lord, following Jesus is always win-win. We win now, no matter the circumstances, no matter what life brings us, and we win in the end. You will never be able to out-give God.
Jochebed gets paid for nursing her baby Moses and she raises him in his early years, and again many think that was probably until age 4. She, along with Amram, continues to live out to the glory of YHWH and it is a home filled with compassion and love and peace and harmony, and they are following after the Lord, it’s a faithful home. Man, this is a haven! Moses, at this point, is spared at 3 months through his parent’s heroic faith. Amram and Jochebed raise Moses for four years, he is nurtured and powerfully given the things that pertain to the Lord. He becomes aware of his origin, he is taught to fear YHWH, and he learns of the things of YHWH and God reveals other things to him as his life unfolds. To make note of that, to know that is true and I am not just making it up, look at Acts 7:25. This is when Moses behaves wrongly and kills an Egyptian. Moses begins to reveal him and he always cultured in this empire of Egyptian, he begins to understand who he is, and he acts in this part in the flesh. His first forty years are spent in Egypt and then he goes into the desert, and on and on and on it goes. His life is being formulated by God. Moses is going to become the deliverer.
Just to pause for a moment, for us, Christianity always endures difficulty. No matter it is. Jesus told us, in this life you will always have trouble. God doesn’t bring trouble because you can handle it, cause you are tough or you know how to get the answers, God brings trouble into our lives to nurture, develop, and strengthen our faith, and to develop us into running to Jesus, because otherwise we will act too independent of him. What an encouragement! This Godly home, this Godly family, with nurturing parents. Faith in YHWH, they bathed Moses’ life in prayer as the turned him over. Their faith possessed a bravery to it. It was almost reckless! They were nurturing in their own home. I want you to get this, just as a side application, nothing replaces the home. Not the church, the school that you send your kids to, nothing replaces the home. The responsibility, as my children were raised here, was never on their particular Sunday school teachers. The burden of the account of the day has always been placed on me, first and foremost as head of the household. It is my responsibility as that, to create an atmosphere like Amram had; Godly, peaceful, harmony, loving, compassionate, and being very aggressive. In this day and age, past some of those things, because I have found this to be true and I don’t know the circumstance of all the families in our church, but from time to time in our church we have had people in our church choose various forms of education for their children. Sometimes Christian school, sometimes homeschool, and sometimes public schools. As it were, people would approach me about my opinion on it, time to time they would. Which I have always replied, “You know what is best for your child and what you want them to do and what you want them to become and I would never try to replace those things.” For a moment in our lives, sometimes our kids went to a Christian school, even sometimes, I just want to be honest with you, I was approached by a family who had two toddlers that said, “I can’t believe you’ll throw kids to the wolves by sending them to public school.” I looked her like, “Woah, ain’t you sassy.” They are no longer here, and I didn’t rebuke her. But I am serious when I say this, as a pastor I will support you as a family. We are in this thing together! We are all trying to raise Godly homes, and not just Godly homes that make it to church once in a while, we are talking about homes filled with love and compassion and gospel conversation and peaceful and harmony that stems from a right relationship with the spouse that provides security for the children that observe it. Not just child-centered parenting. I want to reissue this to you, nothing replaces the home in terms of responsibility. Now I am thankful, with all my heart, for all the people who have had influence into my life, my wife’s life, and my children’s lives in the church. Obviously church you know as I am saying this, obviously it’s not that it’s not important, I’m just submitting this to you, that coming here and trying look right doesn’t mean anything if at your house, hell is going on.
It stems first and foremost, Amram and Jochebed had a right relationship with each other. Amram, there is no doubt in my mind, lead the charge in that. He wanted a right relationship with Jochebed, and they together wanted to live to the glory of YHWH. Man, do I want to look like those two people! Because, guess what, we are all living in a difficult environment. In an environment that hates the things of God. We are not going to shrink back from that! We are going to have our homes to be havens. We trust to be gospel-centered, we support ministry that will love and support that, and we are going to engage the world we live in, for the glory of Jesus. We want to make his name famous.
Parents, if you are sending your children to a Christian school, or you are homeschooling them, or sending them to public school for their education, there is no doubt in my mind, if you are following after Christ, that you are trying to do the best you can for your kids. Guess what? We are going to love you and support you in it. To the degree that God has us involved in their lives, we are going to support that, we are going to encourage that. Amram and Jochebed were raising their home to the glory of YHWH. Of course, as this is, we know that their story as it unfolds in Hebrews 11 fits into the great story who is the greatest hero of this, Jesus. Jesus is the hero to their story, as he is to our story. Moses’s parents, as read here, had this creative plan and they turn Moses over, as all of us parents have to do. We are raising our children for a new nest. As this unusual plan unfolds for Moses, they turned him over so Moses could live and wouldn’t be murdered. In doing so, they trusted in YHWH to protect him. Our heavenly Father has an eternal plan. His plan is a foolproof plan to bring salvation to you. The Father turned to his son Jesus and said go. He didn’t protect him to live, he asked him to die. So that you and I could enjoy the life that he gives. Why would we not want to have homes that aggressively follow after YHWH? Jesus dies so many could live, and those who are living are you and I church. Moses’ parents had a son, in this case Moses, and Moses would become a deliverer as he is known in the history of Israel. Moses is a deliverer of a nation. The Father has a son, his name is Jesus and Jesus is a deliverer. Jesus did not only deliver a nation, he has blessed the nations. He is the sole deliverer of all nations; he is the only way someone can know the Father. Matthew 28:18&19, you know this passage. Jesus delivered you from your sin, for eternity. Trust and obey Jesus, as that song goes. Trust and obey for there is no other way. You want to be happy in Jesus, then you want to trust and obey.
Parents, let me ask you this as we sum this up as we prepare to take the holy family meal together, is your home a happy home? I am talking about, not being a happy home centered upon things materials you have obtained, materialistic things or sport related or because they’re smart. Is your home a gospel-centered home? Centered upon the only one who can bring happiness in this life. I am asking you dad’s is your home centered upon Jesus? Are you having gospel conversations with one another, with your spouse in a loving way? Are having gospel conversations with your children that are filled with love, even if they stumble and sin, just like you do? Is your home filled with companionship? Is peace and harmony to be said in your household? I guess what I am asking is, do you have a happy faithful family? Well the one of the ways God uses that, I believe this with all my heart, is that you must parent aggressively. If you don’t want to parent aggressively for the glory of Jesus, your household is getting run over. Now just stating that, and just me even saying those words, trust me there is burden and guilt that comes to my mind. For all of us to one degree or the other, there’s been some failing in this. But Jesus succeeded. In saying that, the gospel message and gospel centered living centers on, “Lord I’ve messed up and I want to make it right with you, I want to make it right with my spouse.” Even if need be, your sons and daughters need to hear the words, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” Aggressive parenting for the sake of Jesus, because life is difficult. Listen to me, it was meant to be. It was meant to be, for us as Christians so that we would possess the type of faith that this list gives us: atrusting in Jesus faith and an enduring hope in the gospel message itself, and sometimes not having the answers. We’re going to the Lord, we are going to obey the Lord. We know even some in this chapter, many died. Trust Jesus, trust the gospel, be filled with love, be filled with graciousness, deal with life with one another in a gospel centered, grace filled way. Then we can look like Amram and Jochebed. They are not a monster movie, they are a beautiful couple that God used in this story of redemption.
1 Corinthians 15.1-11
My family, as most of you know, my mom and dad and all of their heritage is in the South. We vacationed every year, the last two weeks in August in my youthful years. We would go down South for vacation. To be honest with you, a portion of those last two weeks were enjoyable but then you had to go back to school time, so toward the end of it, it was sad. Being a city kid, I was born in Detroit and raised in Hazel Park, I was not “country” what so ever.
I will never forget this, for those of you who were raised in the South this is probably familiar, both my grandparents had swings on their front porch. The swing in the evening, in the cool of the day, was a big deal. It was where everybody got together and swung. By about after 3 days, I was just fit to be tied out of boredom, and of course all of the family would convene at the end of the day. They were on the swing, and it was still hot. You are talking mid to late August in Tennessee, its always nearly 100 degrees. So on one said day with relatives, and the prompting of my brother whom I worshipped, they told me that if I run seven times around grandma’s house a Wampus cat would appear. It was one thing for my relatives to say it, it was another thing that my brother was saying it because I believed every word he said. When he said it, I was all in. I was in because Keith told me, and then I was in because I had never seen a Wampus cat. So, in high humidity there I went, seven times around grandma’s house. This was about age 10. Second time around the house, she lived in what you would call a log house, it was a wood house, and I’m drenched head to toe. They’re hollering around, and I would just follow that swing, “don’t look! Don’t look behind you.” It’s killing me to not look early, and as I got around on the seventh time, I started where the swing was on the front porch, I looked over my shoulder and there was no Wampus cat. “Keep running! Keep running! You’ve got to keep going.” So I kept running, and I’m sprinting as hard as I can and I was just completely thoroughly, as if I just went swimming, drenched head to toe. Eighth time around, ninth time around, and they are hollering at me to keep coming. Tenth time around, now everybody is roaring on the front porch. I looked over and never saw the Wampus cat, because the Wampus cat does not exist. Since then, the joke is this city kid.
Well friends, Jesus is not the Wampus cat. However people view Jesus, all of us sit here this morning, with a certain acknowledgement of who Jesus is. I wrote down some of these and I would really say all of this would fit, and all of humanity would fit in one of these five categories. There are those who view Jesus with a callous heart with just a blatant disregard, completely cold, completely indifferent. They just don’t think two wits about Jesus because by in large they don’t think he ever existed. There would be a second category, which I think really in my lifetime we have veered back to, that’s one of being a skeptic. Having a skeptical point of view. The skeptic doubts seriously, the veracity of Jesus, but from time to time consideration of him will come into their minds but in the end they doubt it and just cast it off and place it aside. Another category of people I would qualify, they are the curious. This could be any one of you that are here today, along with the other two. There is somewhat of an attraction to Jesus, somewhat of a curiosity. Perhaps it is because of a dear friend or family member’s love and affection for Christ. It has provoked in you a certain type of curiosity about who is Jesus, but it really is just left there. You’re curious but it falls short of faith. There is a fourth category of people, and I would submit to you they are kind of what we began to look at last Palm Sunday, the fickle crowd. The crowd that was celebrating Jesus as he was coming into Jerusalem became the same crowd that is crying out for him to be crucified. The fickle crowd changes their mind frequently; they go back and forth. They are the person today that was raised in Christianity by their parents and they have some regard because they have a certain set of head knowledge of who Jesus is. But really, its fickle, there is no real faith, and when they leave their parent’s household, they don’t regard Jesus and they go their own way. He may pop back into their mind when they are considering a life mate, he may pop back into their mind when they are having children, because the children need to know about Jesus. It is the fickle crowd that goes back and forth. They’ll kind of promote and be with Jesus because it helps some of their family members. I want you to understand something; the fickle crowd is those who have spurious faith, it is not genuine and its not real. Then of course, according to this account and other varied accounts as we begin to kind of explore this in a panoramic view of the New Testament, there are those who are believers, the church of Jesus Christ. Those individuals are ones who have trusted in Jesus Christ to the saving of their souls. They have heard the gospel, the things we have sung about, the things pastor Alex explained about, every focus of this particular service and every service we have here at Christ Community Church. On the churches part, Jesus Christ is received as Lord and Savior. This is truly a belief that saves. They are, as believers, disciples who then love and follow Jesus. We don’t do it perfectly, but by God’s grace we do it. We persevere through the difficulties and the trials of life.
I would say to you, everyone of us here that are sitting here, for that matter, everyone that is walking on this globe falls into one of those five categories: the callus, the skeptic, the curious, the fickle, and the believer. In stepping back, I want to first of all acknowledge what we know. For whatever reason, you may be sitting here in one of those categories, we want to walk through, in a kind of apologetic way, a summation of truths that are true to life, give you the information tied to other portions of scriptures, and then of course each of us will bear a responsibility with that information. Turn to the gospel of John 1. We want to begin with what we know, what was said, and certainly faith believes with this.
1. Jesus is God. Here is what I would want you to know about that, in the early days of Jesus’ life throughout his ministry and in the early days of the church, that was always accepted but now it is doubted. The reason why it was accepted in the early days was because Jesus was doing so many miraculous things that some stood back and said, “He can’t be a man, he’s a god.” His deeds were so miraculous. That isn’t the day we live in now, but it was then. You will see this literally discussed by the apostle John in his epistles. He will discuss the fact that Jesus was more than man, he was God. But Jesus certainly is God. The proof of his Lordship is even found in your own life, even if you are not a believer. Jesus is Lord! Here is how you know this is true. You are built to worship. It is in your very DNA. The proof of that is that you are worshipping something. Some worship food, some worship sex, some worship sports, some worship power, some worship money, some worship their bodies, but all of us that are sitting here and the world at large are all worshipping something. So on and on it goes in terms of what we worship, but we all are worshipping something. This is proven because that’s how God designed it to be.
Look at John 1:1. That is all very familiar terminology from the book of Genesis, right? Notice this with me in verse 3, speaking Jesus who we humbly acknowledge as God. Jesus is presented here clearly as the creator, defined from the very beginning in Genesis 1. We know from the book of Genesis that all of us, when we were born, were created in the image of God. As part of what that language means to be created in the image of God, if you were to look at Revelation 4:11, the bible is clear to tell us that we were created for and do exist to worship God, and only because of the fall, we will still worship, but we don’t worship God. We worship things that pertain to our own sin. You were created, and I was created, to worship. Literally your soul is a vacuum to worship. John Calvin wrote these words, “Our hearts are a factory of idols.” I have my own that I battle against, even being a new creation. You have your own idols that you battle against. But it is Jesus that has filled my heart; it is Jesus alone that has brought me this very difficult to describe satisfaction and joy. It’s overwhelming! Jesus is what you long for. Whatever it is that you are worshipping, you know that ultimately the very thing you enjoy then begin to fade because you can’t take too much of even a good thing, but that is not so with Jesus. When Jesus fills the vacuum of your soul, you desire more. You desire more.
Jesus provides, in the hearts of his church, an insatiable appetite for him. So we worship him and we love him because that is what we were created to do. We were created to worship and love, and the truth is we are all doing that now. We just trust that you are doing that in Christ. Prior to Christ, dead idols fill our hearts. When Jesus is received by faith, we fulfill what we were created for. Creation, we are his creation, worships our creator the Lord Jesus and the Triune Godhead. Jesus fills the very longing of our hearts. Jesus is the reward in new creation. Though we are here being created in the image of God, because we fell in our own sin, we need a new creation. Paul will go on to describe this, for the church becomes a new creation in Christ Jesus. God has made me new in Jesus. He has given me new desires. He has given me new wants, though I still have to battle some of those wills and intents, Christ overwhelms and he is my Savior and my Lord.
What the Spirit does to us, as new creation, is he nurtures in the hearts of his people a desire for more. As you sit here this morning, as a believer, there is a desire, there is a yearning, and there is a longing to have him more and to want him more. Jesus is not an addendum to life; Jesus is the very essence of life. Jesus is the essence of my life in relationship to this place, in this church. Jesus is essence of my life and my relationship to Valerie. Jesus is the essence of my life in relationship to my three sons. Jesus is the essence of my life in relationship to the baseball parents I’m involved with. Jesus is the essence of my life because he has made me a new creation.
Jesus is God, it’s revealed to us by his power. Jesus proved his power over nature; he caused the sea and the winds to cease. Didn’t he? He did when he spoke to them. The bible tells us in the book of Job YHWH gave the boundaries of the ocean, the scream to us the knowledge that Jesus is God. Jesus placed the coin in the fish’s mouth, and on and on and on these things go. Jesus displayed a power over nature to where the early people said, “He is definitely a god, is he a man?” Jesus displayed his deity by his power over humanity. He caused those who were deaf to hear. He caused people who were lame from birth to grow limbs, to leap and stand and walk. Then he revealed to us his deity, that Jesus is God, by causing the blind to see, even to a greater degree the dead to be raised. Jesus proved he was God because he raised Lazarus from the dead. You may be sitting here in unbelief, in large part because you refuse the miracles. That is what you struggle with. You can’t see the accounts and your unbelief has blinded your mind toward the miracles of Jesus that took place.
Here is what I want to do; I just want to provide you with some information. We will call this extra-biblical information, meaning it is proof that Jesus is God outside of the very text that we really only need. Just for your own information because sometimes this stuff is passed over and not even discussed. There was a Greek historian names Celsus who was also a philosopher, in his writings recorded that this Jesus of Nazareth preforms miraculous deeds. Suetonius, who was a Roman official and historian, wrote this, “The Jews were expulsed from Rome over the controversy that ensued within jewery over Christ.” That Christ existed and some obviously in that controversy was Jesus rose from the dead. He is alive! Which we read in 1 Corinthians 15, those were all Jews giving an account that Jesus is alive. It created a stir in Rome that caused the expulsion of the Jews from Rome. That is a Roman historian.
Trajan who was emperor and killed many Christians, received this from Pliny the younger, who was known as the imperial governor of what is know as Turkey today. Listen to these words that this historian wrote from Rome, “Christians gather together on Sunday, they prayed to Jesus as God, they hear the letters by appointed officers, and then they read the scriptures and expound on them. They receive a meal Christ presides over.” One of the things I love about that is that is exactly what we do. We believe all of that, and Pliny the imperial governor was reporting that to the emperor Trajan. Celsus, Suetonius, and Pliny, all unbelievers. There is a Jewish history account from Josephus, and Josephus is also an unbeliever and he records in his writings that the disciples have announced they meet with Jesus and they have met with Jesus after the resurrection. They are recording him as alive.
Listen to me for just a minute. Say you don’t want to believe the biblical account, you believe in Abe Lincoln right? You never saw Abe Lincoln, but history records with the closest people connected to Jesus by Romans, Greeks, and Jews there is historical record that Jesus existed and it is even written about that Jesus is God. His deity is proven to us in his miracles, we believe the account of the scriptures. His power over death, Lazarus my friends was raised from the dead. That is literally why they are worshipping him when he goes into Palm Sunday. It is spread everywhere that Lazarus has died and that Jesus has resurrected him from the dead. In that unbelieving heart, instead of giving credence to the testimony to the Pharisees and the Romans, they plotted to kill him because that is what a hardened unbelieving heart does.
Lazarus had died, Jesus had raised him from the dead, it heightened Jesus’ movements in Jerusalem. Of course we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus was seen alive. There are close to 15 accounts in the gospel itself of varied individuals, the largest of which he appeared to 500 brethren at one time, those who professed Jesus is God. Secular history though, for your own sake, it records the witness and no witness would deny seeing Jesus, even if it meant martyrdom. It did cost many of these guys their very lives. These eyewitness accounts of seeing Jesus alive became the proclaimers of Christ. They would do it with their own families, and they do it with their own friends. Paul himself, being converted as Jesus appeared to him, would then go to the synagogues where he had relationship. The church exploded, by these people sharing the good news, “Hey man, Jesus is alive! I saw him!” They begin to share the gospel. That is the essence or the apex of the gospel, Christ’s resurrection. The world was changed, as it was known. Clearly friends, history records that Jesus is God.
Secondly, along with this, Jesus is man. Jesus was a man. He came into the world as a man. Here is what I want you to understand about that. Jesus wasn’t 50% God and 50% man. Jesus was 100% God and was 100% man, even now as he sits as a king and reigns. That might not make much sense to you, how could he be 100% God and 100% man? Jesus laid aside in coming into the world, Immanuel God with us, he laid aside the prerogatives of deity to fulfill the mission that his Father sent him on. Which was to seek and to save that which was lost and to give his life for ransom for many. Jesus is a man. Today that is accepted, to some degree even by unbelievers, but back then it was doubted. The apostles were consistent in their writings to appeal to Jesus’ humanity. Listen to some of them, “Jesus was born of a woman, the virgin Mary” “He was subject to growth” (Luke 2:12) “He grew in stature, and knowledge.” Jesus was a baby, an infant, and then he grew up like a normal human being because it proved he was a man. Jesus was seen; Jesus was touched, hugged, kissed, and embraced. John puts it this way in 1 John 1, “Handled,” that means they embraced him. There are accounts in the gospels where Jesus got hungry and he ate. There are accounts in the gospels where Jesus got thirsty and he drank. There are accounts in the gospels where Jesus grew tired and retired away to be away from those, so that he might rest, and even sleep. Jesus slept. These are proofs of Jesus’ humanity. But my friends, it doesn’t just stop there. He was not a robot. Listen to this, Jesus had emotion, He had emotion and he felt. Jesus had compassion upon Mary and Martha when Lazarus died. The Bible tells us, he wept. He wept because he loved Lazarus. He wept because he loved Mary. He wept because he loved Martha. They were in sorrow. Jesus had compassion. Jesus had emotion. The bible tells us that Jesus had emotion and he lived in distress. His soul was distressed in the garden of Gethsemane when all of the disciples slept. Jesus possessed and had and maintained joy with his disciples. The Bible tells us that Jesus even marveled as a human through the unbelief of humanity. He had emotion.
All of these things for us prove that Jesus was a man. But I want you to understand this, Jesus was a man and it’s proven in that he died. Jesus died. Because in this account that’s given about Lazarus as the deniers come that even viewed Lazarus raise from the dead, they give the account to the Pharisees what is then ensued is a death plot, “We’ve got to kill him. He is messing our system up! He is overturning the apple cart and the cash machine.” People hated him. Hating him, they knew he was a man and they wanted him dead. The Pharisees put together a group of people and this plot to kill Jesus, and they couldn’t kill him fast enough. In a very cold, in a very calculated way, they put together a Kangaroo court and they convicted an innocent man. Orchestrated by wicked men this maniacal evil plot was to kill Jesus. Listen, all of the secular historians record this, that Jesus was a wise and good man who did miraculous deeds, yet they wanted Jesus dead.
Turn quickly to Acts 2, in all of the events that were taking place around the death of Jesus, yes the Romans had their hand in it, yes the Jewish nation had a hand in it, but most assuredly, Jesus’ death was necessary because of our own sin. Jesus had to die. It wasn’t enough that Jesus would cut his arm and bleed; Jesus had to die. Jesus couldn’t just go into a coma; he had to die as a sacrifice for sin. The Romans wanted him dead, Israel wanted him dead, and certainly our sin put him on the cross. But understand this friends, Jesus gave his life. Acts 2:22-23. This was the Trinity’s plan that the son would go, the Father’s plan in essence. The Father sent the Son, and the Son lived in full submission of the Father in eternity past and he came to the earth out of love for his Father to win a people back. You have crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men, God raised him up loosing the pains of death because it was not possible for him to be held by it because, my friends, Jesus is God. Look quickly, Galatians 1:1 the bible tells us that the Father raised Jesus from the dead, John 10 tells us that Jesus raised himself from the dead and the Holy Spirit in Romans 8 raised Jesus from the dead, and all will have a hand when the dead are raised to life in the final resurrection. Here’s what happens, we don’t talk about a resurrection enough. In American Christianity what we focus on is the intermediate state, which the bible says little about other than, I believe, to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord. The early church fathers wrote more about the resurrection than anything. They wrote more about the resurrection of Jesus and they wrote more about the church’s resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, you and I will be raised from the dead also to a new creation, when he saves those, according to Hebrews, at his appearing in a final judgment day. Jesus’ death, from Acts 2, was not an accident! Jesus was born to die. He gave his life a ransom for many. He came to seek and to save that which is lost. If you do not have Jesus in genuine belief, you need to be ransomed, my friend, you are lost. Jesus ransoms, Jesus saves. How did he do that? By a sinless life, by his cruel death, and by his victory over death, because Jesus rose again! All of these are proof of Jesus’ humanity. Jesus died, and he lived in a body. On the cross, Jesus’ body in his back through the whippings that he received, his back from the top of his neck to his upper thighs where like hamburger, raw hamburgers. Doctors have even studied it. You could reach your hands into his back and grab his major organs. His brow was beaten and crushed with thorns. His feet and hands were nailed and hung. The picture that you see of Jesus on a cross is not accurate. He was unrecognizable. His death is incomprehensible. In further proof of Roman history, the Romans were excellent at execution and their main execution was crucifixion. For over 500 years, they executed people by crucifixion. Please listen to this, there were zero survivors, not one record in history that one person survived the cross. History records that, that Jesus was murdered on the cross, he died, and they recognize his death.
My dear friends, Jesus is God and Jesus is man, and Jesus is gone. Turn to Matthew 28. Everything I have shared with you thus far obviously has some biblical record to it, which is the most important and assured thing that has been convicting tool of the gospel, which has saved our souls. Nonetheless, the record is not left alone! This record is even historical proof, for the Greeks, for the Romans, for the Jews. Jesus is gone. The tomb is empty! There is no body here. Jesus is gone. This, my friends, is historical evidence. There was a Roman guard, Roman guards, that were set to watch the tomb. Look at me in Matthew 28:11-15. One of the accounts of the empty tomb is that Jesus’ body was stolen. The gospel leaves the record here that his body was in fact missing. Here is what we want to know, for a Roman soldier to lose a body in a tomb meant execution, they would die. They would be sent back to Rome and probably crucified, if not speared with a sword. Yet in all of this, what astounds me as I read this, instead of wanting to accept the account unbelief is so callous, so hardened it remains unaffected to just keep worshipping what they want to worship. In this case that was money and power.
Here is what we know; here is what is recorded as history. There are seven things I want to give you, quickly. Jesus was a real person. Jesus was condemned to die by the Romans. Jesus was executed by crucifixion. Jesus was buried in a tomb after his death. The tomb is empty. His followers claim to see Jesus alive, so they spread to the family, friends, synagogues and the world that was known. Their followers are recorded in secular history as claiming to see Jesus alive. Number 7, tied to this Matthew 28 account, his enemies never presented a body. All of this, even if you are sitting here callous to who Jesus is, it’s true in history. It is true!
Where does that leave us? Where do we stand with this? Where we stand with this is the question of the sermon, which is “Who is Jesus?” Who is he? You have three options. Jesus is a liar, Jesus is a lunatic, or Jesus is Lord. Most attribute this to C.S Lewis, what do you believe? But really this concept of him being a liar, a lunatic, or a Lord is really recorded in John 7. That becomes the very discussion of, “Man, who is Jesus? He’s a blasphemer. He’s a devil. He’s a lunatic. He’s concocted this.” We won’t go there now, but all of us sit here in one of these three positions. The question is, what do you believe? Is Jesus evil? Is he a liar? Is just a con man that was brilliant in his mind that he memorized the Old Testament and he concocted in a fraudulent way, even his death? You believe that? Is Jesus evil? Is Jesus mad? Is he simply just a lunatic that is delusion and is the member and the head of a cult? Or is Jesus Lord, just as he is described in the scriptures, Savior, Creator, Master, Ruler, or King? My friends this conversation has gone on since the day of Jesus, with Jesus standing before him. So I ask you, who is Jesus to you? Is he bad? Is he mad? Or is he God? And it falls into one of those three categories, just like we all fall into one of those five categories of how we view Jesus.
What will you do with Jesus? Jesus is God, Jesus is man, and Jesus is gone! He rose. He is not in that tomb! So what will you do with all this information? Because every person in history is going to give an account in the day of reckoning. To you, is Jesus just a lair? Is Jesus a lunatic? Or is he Lord? Dear friend, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Believe that Jesus died for your sin! Believe that you deserve God’s wrath because of your sin! Believe that Jesus rose from the dead to grant and give you life! Believe the witness of the gospel of these faithful men, because that is what the New Testament is. It’s just a record account of what they saw. Believe the churches message, ever since Jesus left into heaven. Jesus will come again; believe it, to save his believers. If you believe this, what I just stated to you, you will not perish! Believe this and you will live. Jesus, right now, will save you, as he saved me at 23312 Cayuga, in my own bed with nobody else around. Church, Christ has won us a great victory! Jesus is the resurrection and life!
A Palm Sunday Reflection
It was too perfect. It was going to be a parenting win. It was one of those things, one of those times, once of those occasions, where you just know that you’re hitting a parental home run. Now, Jack had been very specific that he wanted action figures from the movie Big Hero 6. He had been saying it for weeks. When we made our Christmas lists together, Jack was adamant that the Big Hero 6 action figures be placed near the top of his list. And here I am now, in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, staring at the exact toys that he wants for Christmas. I mean I’m like Indiana Jones at the beginning of Raiders. I’m like, “This is it! This is what he wants!” Not only was it a win because I found the actual toys that he wanted, but it was even better because I can tell him that I found them at the most magical place on earth! Now when he opened and played with the toys, he could enjoy the action figures, and once I tell him we got them on vacation, every time he played with the toys he could remember the fun times that we had as a family. I’m telling you, the plan was foolproof.
Well, Bethany and I have started this tradition with our kids of celebrating Advent every year as a family. We do so as a church, as you know. So after church, every week of Advent, what we do is we go home, we light a candle, we read Scripture, and we teach our kids to anticipate the coming of Christmas over those four weeks. As part of our family Advent tradition we also give the kids one particular present every single week to build the joy and anticipation of the joy of the coming of the greatest the world has ever know, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So here we are in this week of Advent, and the Big Hero 6 action figures are on deck. He is going to get these toys on this day of Advent. I am excited, as his father, to watch him open the toys. As he tore the wrapping paper of the present, his face lit up and I took great pride in telling him where we got the toys, how I had covertly kept it from him for weeks, and now he gets to enjoy them, what he wanted for Christmas. I’m not kidding when I tell you guys this; within 90 seconds they were broken. They were broken!
They had made it all the way from Orlando, FL., and they couldn’t last 2 minutes in the hand of my child. These heroes are not very “super” if you ask me. In spite of the toy’s deformity, my boys still like to play with the Big Hero 6 action figures, and it’s not just kids that like superheroes. People love superheroes, don’t they? Batman and marvel movies abound, don’t they? I think people love superheroes; I think they are drawn to stories of superheroes, because these superheroes that we watch and read about, they’re almost like divine men. Aren’t they? Consider the legacy of Superman for a moment: the hero (superman) has been a cultural phenomenon since he was 1st unveiled in 1933. Superman, in the story, is the son of a “god” who comes to earth – looking just like everyone else – and saves humanity through his supernatural power. Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, these guys are basically divine men. Aren’t they? They look like us, yet they have the power of a god.
I think that we’re drawn to superheroes because there’s a part of us that wants to be God. This has been true for all of human history - For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. History of humanity is filled with rulers, leaders, kings who made claims of divinity: Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, and Caesar Augustus, just to name a few.
The apostle Paul writes this letter to the Philippian church in a Roman culture that deified its rulers. As Paul writes the epistle to the Philippians, Caesar Augustus –the adopted son of Julius Caesar – is ruling the Roman world and claiming god-hood for himself. He said that he was a god and that his father Julius Caesar was a god. But the apostle Paul is writing to this little church condemning that idolatry. Christians cannot look to political rulers to bring joy and unity to the church. We will never have a savior on Capitol Hill. If we can’t count on human rulers to bring joy and unity to the church, where does it come from? The answer is not in a man who claims to be god, but in the man who was God, is God. The only truly divine man. In this confused Roman culture, St. Paul uses this early Christological hymn to encourage gospel-centered joy and unity in the church. In fact, that is what he says in Philippians 2, in the first four verses. The imperative that follows the first four verses is where we started: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. We can only have gospel-centered joy and unity in the church if we acknowledge that if Jesus is Lord, and if Jesus is Lord then Caesar is not. When the church sees and loves the real Jesus, they will adopt the mind of Christ themselves. That indeed is the imperative in verse 5: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Paul calls the church to thoughtfully dwell on the person of Christ, and then to thoughtfully plan to follow the example of Christ.
As we look at this pericope together this morning, I want to challenge us as a church to take on the mind of Christ together. We are, in some ways, hitting a reset button of sorts together as have changed our name, and it is imperative during this season of the life of our church that we are unified. This season in the life of our church is an opportunity to reflect on the gospel together and to realign ourselves with its joy-giving, unity-producing power. Here is what this means: the mind of Christ means that we humbly (1) serve others, and (2) obey God.
Humbly Serving Others
Paul tells us, in this text, of the humble service of Jesus, who was in the form of God. Jesus was in the form of God. The apostle’s declaration of divinity is in concert with the entire message of the NT and the witness of the history of the church. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1.15), in the beginning, he was with God and he was God (John 1.1-3), Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God (Heb 1.3). The witness of church history is that Jesus is Homoousios with the Father. He is of the same substance as the Father. Even though all that is true, the Holy Spirit tells us that Jesus did not take advantage of his heavenly rights, but he emptied himself and took on the form of a servant. In fact, Jesus emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant. This is the fulfillment of the garden promise – Jesus, the eternal Word of God, became flesh and dwelt among us. Now in church history some people have read this passage and they’ve misread this passage and they have confused St. Paul’s words. Jesus did not empty himself of being God during the incarnation. That would be to misread Philippians 2. Jesus always has been and always will be God. Jesus did not cease to be divine while he was a man. Christian orthodoxy has always taught the hypostatic union of the two natures of Jesus Christ, man and God. He is both divine and human. He is both creator and creature. He is both YHWH and Israel. He is both the Son of God and the son of man. The incarnation is the glorious doctrine that the infinite God humbled himself and became a finite creature in his own creation. In the incarnation, Homer joined the Odyssey, Shakespeare graced Hamlet’s court, CS Lewis entered the wardrobe, and Tolkien wandered the Shire. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1.14).
But Jesus didn’t just dwell among his people, he also served them. Jesus emptied himself by serving others. This indeed is the meaning of κενόω. That is what the kenosis refers to. Jesus did not empty himself of being divine, but Jesus emptied himself by serving his creatures. Jesus Christ emptied himself of his heavenly prerogatives and privileges by taking on the form of a servant. The creator served the creatures. The King of kings, worthy of all honor, glory, and praise, came to wash feet, heal the sick, and feed the hungry. He was the great physician who has come to nurse the wounded, the great shepherd who came to tend the lost sheep. Jesus had every prerogative to be served, but he served his Father and he served his people out of love.
I was talking about Jack a little earlier and his toys. On the way to church this morning, we got them all buckled up and I’m buckling Haddon in. Jack and Alex are already buckled, and Jack starts passing out Spiderman stickers. I’m like, “Wait, where are you getting Spiderman stickers from?” He had multiple, and he is handing them out. And I’m like, “what are you doing?” And apparently this past week Jack had gone to the doctor, and the doctor had offered Jack a sticker. As parents you know, glory to God, if there is a sticker or a sucker to save the wailing and gnashing of teeth that happens after the shots. So Jack got a Spiderman sticker and Jack was adamant that he needed to get a sticker for Alex too, and a sticker for Haddon as well. He has a tender heart, which is how he is made up. He loves to serve his brothers and sisters. I’ll tell you when I was a kid, I wasn’t concerned with getting Andrew a sticker. That is not, in my sin, I’m not given to that tenderness. I want a sticker, but he is on his own. But not Jack, every time not matter what we are doing or where we are going, he wants to serve his brothers and sister. When Sophia is upset he wants to go fetch toys. And that’s just Jack, he is a Sour Patch. You know that commercial? Where they are super sweet and super sour. Man, that is Jack. He lives on the edges of that spectrum. But he doesn’t do it for our approval, I don’t think he can put it together yet that if “I get this for Alex, mom and dad will think that I’m being a good brother.” He just wants to do it; he just wants to serve them because he loves them. He is just a tenderhearted 4-year-old kid. If that’s true for his little tender heart, brothers and sisters, how much more true is it for Jesus Christ? Jesus served God and others out of love. That is what the bible tells us, John 13:1 tells us that He loved his own to the end. John also tells us – in quite possibly the most famous Scripture passage of all time – that the motivation for the Christ event was God’s love (John 3.16).
Brothers and sisters, listen to the words of the Holy Spirit this morning, this is our gospel-centered motivation to lovingly serve each other. Jesus lovingly served God and neighbor. Go and do like-wise. Joy and unity will flood our church only when we take on the mind of Christ by humbly serving other people. Only when we count others more significant than ourselves. Only when we look to the interest of others the interest of our own. Oh how unified we will be, when we place people in this body before ourselves. Isn’t that true in your home? I know it’s true in ours. When I’m being selfish, when it’s all about me, when I am counting myself more significant than others, my interest more significant than others, then serving Bethany or the children is an annoyance. I am more prone to being aggravated towards them when I’m focused on serving myself, isn’t that true? You know why? Because are just getting in the way of serving me, of my self-centered telos. But if my focus is on serving them, then I’m usually happier and so are they. Funny how that works! Joy and unity have room to flourish when we’re all focused on everyone else.
That’s true for the family of God as well. If our primary concern is that others are served before ourselves, then we’re usually willing to put up with a lot more than if we want our way before others. Sure, it’s easy to slip in to a bible class right on time. It is a lot easier to do that than it is do the work of committing to teaching a kid’s class, to study for the lesson, to show up on time, and to serve the children of Christ Community Church. It’s way easier to show up and passively listen to a bible class, but the gospel tells us that the hard thing is the more rewarding thing. If we believe that the gospel is true, then it will benefit your soul, and this body more if you sacrifice your time and energy to the eternal benefit of these children.
It’s definitely easier to always be the guest and never the host at a flock small group. It’s not that hard to show up twice a month and bring a dish. It’s a lot harder to have to have your house clean before, and to clean up afterward. It’s a lot harder to have to be hospitable from the moment the first guest shows up until the moment that the last guest leaves. Nobody ever said that Christian hospitality was easy, but if the gospel is true then that means that that sacrifice is worth it. It means that overturning the idols of laziness and privacy will make you more into the image of Christ, because Jesus put others before himself.
It’s easy to tell someone that you’ll be praying for them. It’s harder to actually intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters. It’s easy to enjoy a church meal. It’s harder to stay after and clean up. It’s easy to say that a church should have an active student ministry. It’s harder to give of time and money to serve students to allow them to go on mission trips or other things. It’s easy to say, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.” It’s harder to faithfully give to your local church every week from your gross income. Brothers, and sisters, the gospel is calling us together to take on the mind of Christ here at Christ Community Church. Jesus humbly served other people, and if we want a joy-filled, unified church, then there is no other alternative.
Humbly Obeying God
Not only do we take on the mind of Christ by humbly serving others, but we also take on the mind of Christ by humbly obeying God. Paul says Jesus that humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. In our Western culture, the cross has become a beloved religious symbol – and rightfully so. It’s most pronounced during, as Pastor Kevin announced at the beginning of the service, holy week, this week. Bookstores are featuring religious books, there are TV specials and movies coming out about the life of Christ, and you can see the cross everywhere as a symbol of Christianity. This wouldn’t have been the sentiment of the cross when Paul 1st penned this epistle. The cross was the most gruesome instrument of death in the Roman Empire. Origen said good citizens don’t even speak of crucifixion in polite company. Jesus obeyed his Father by going to the cross. Jesus humbly obeyed God when it was hard, when it cost him everything – not my will, but yours be done.
If our study of Hebrews 11 so far has taught us anything, it’s that faith produces humble obedience. Noah believed that God’s judgment was coming; he had faith in that so he built the ark. Abraham believed that YHWH could raise Isaac from the dead if he had to in order to keep his promise, so he led him up the mountain. Joseph believed that God would be faithful to raise him up in the last day, so he had his bones brought back to Canaan. All these saints humbly obeyed God at times when it was hard and when it would cost them everything. These men were all types pointing us to the one, true, faithful servant Jesus Christ who would humble himself and obey God to the point of death, even death on a cross.
You see, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday all those years ago, the people in the crowd spoke far better than they knew. They shouted, “Hosanna,” which means “save us.” They proclaimed, “Blessed is the coming of God’s kingdom, peace in heaven, and glory to God.” This morning in our bible class with our students, we were talking about Palm Sunday, what it means and why we celebrate it, and why we think about it. We talked about how the Jews that were living under Roman oppression, when they saw Jesus do all these miraculous things, they thought that the Messiah had come, from the line of David, the son of David. Blessed is the son of David! And he was going to be the king, Jesus was going to lead the insurrection charge against the Roman Empire and that Israel was going to be politically free again. Brett made a great point to me, in light of this text this morning, that they shouted “Hosanna”, the shouted “save us”, they shouted “glory to the king” and they thought that meant overthrowing the government, but really Jesus’s insurrection, Jesus’ kingdom was one where he emptied himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. All of those things did come with Jesus, but what they didn’t know is that they could only come through his death on the cross. Jesus saves his people through his substitutionary death – he died in our place. The kingdom of God comes not by Jesus overthrowing the Roman government, but by Jesus disarming Satan at Calvary. There is peace between Heaven and earth because the creator himself died to redeem the cosmos. Jesus’ humble obedience to God, church, that is the gospel that saves us.
And now this is our gospel motivation for humbly obeying God in our church. We must take on the mind of Christ, who humbly obeyed God even when it was hard and even when it cost him everything. Church, holding to a gospel-centered understanding of marriage, in our culture, will be considered “hate speech.” You’re going to be told that you’re “on the wrong side of history.” But we’ve got to love the Bible even when it’s hard, when the culture, and when even some in this room, don’t like what is says. We’ve got to obey God even when it costs us. Whether it’s our reputation, relationships, or even our rights as citizens. Are will willing to obey God when it’s unpopular or difficult? It’s hard to go to a brother or sister and have a conversation when there’s a disagreement. It’s easier to run and hide, but that’s not biblical. We are commanded not let the sun set on our anger. We are called to be unified. Sometimes obedience is hard. Scripture commands us to only have sex with the person to whom we’re married. Scripture commands us to cheerfully give. We’re called to love the brothers, and to bring the gospel to our own communities. No body said it would be easy. We have bought into the lie. We have bought into the lie that everyone agrees with it, that this how life should be, and that this is good and easy, and that Jesus wants you to have your best life now. Jesus humbly obeyed God to the point of death, even death on the cross. Nobody said it would be easy. Following Christ has never been easy. Jesus is not tame, but he’s good. Brothers and sisters, Jesus humbly obeyed God when it was hard and it cost him, and we must do the same if we want joy and unity in this people.
Every superhero has a weakness. If you like superhero stories you know that. Superman’s is Kryptonite. Superman may be virtually indestructible – the Man of Steel, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive – but if you get your hands on some Kryptonite, he is like an action figure in Jack’s hands - he’s done. I’m fairly certain that 2,000 years ago on this coming Saturday – the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday – Satan probably thought that he had found Jesus’ kryptonite – the death on the cross. But Paul tells us in verse 11, “therefore” (διὸ), for this reason, because Jesus died on the cross, God the Father exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The result of Jesus’ humble service and obedience was his exultation.
Church: this is our gospel motivation. On this Palm Sunday, as we begin holy week: if we want joy and unity at Christ Community Church, we must adopt the mind of Christ.
The mind of Christ means we humbly (1) serve others, and (2) that we humbly obey God.
Let’s do that church. Let’s join the orchestra of the great cloud of witnesses that have come before us singing this hymn of glory to Jesus in our church. Let’s consider others before ourselves. Let’s obey God even when it’s hard and it costs us. If we do so, if we do that church then our body, our lives, our homes, this community, will sing that song together in the glory of Christ. We will – to quote Andrew Peterson – we will “sing out with joy for the brave little boy who was God, but he made himself nothing. He gave up his pride and he came here to die like a man.”
Today much is being said about core values. You see it in many organizational structures. From large iconic companies to small businesses, professional sports teams to college teams, and even high school teams. My son, his cousin Michael, Marcy’s son, and the Owen’s son are all on the same high school baseball team. They even have, even at the beginning of try-outs are given a set, a sheet, of core values of becoming a part of Stevenson High School baseball.
So, what do core values mean? Well in simplicity its fundamental beliefs, it’s then taken in whatever organizational structure that is, and repeated and woven into everything within the organization. So people are mindful to consider the core values. It creates, for people in a business, the ability to reach the goal of the intended business, whatever that might be. Core values then become this kind of unwavering march together as a group. It is for them, an unchanging guide.
Now we just read of the Apostle’s Creed, the Church, the historic, has had core values based on unwavering and unchanging eternal truths. For an outline the name Christ Community Church, is a great reminder for us of those great historical truths. And it is an instant gospel conversation piece for each and every one of us.
Now, having said that, this morning we are going to look at our name “Christ Community Church” inverted. We are going to look at the Church for the first point. Community and what that would mean for us, second. Then you have to save the best for last, Christ.
In beginning to look at this, what is the meaning of the word Church? In the New Testament ________, simply means assembly, congregation, and gathering. It is a group together with like-mindedness. Members of the church are followers, Christ followers. This is important to understand, it is the same kind of word used in the Old Testament Hebrew, speaking of the assembly of God’s people in the nation of Israel.
Here is what you want to understand about this, church is not where you go, the church is who we are. That may sound simplistic, but we really need to get a hold of that. People have a tendency to compartmentalize their lives, with “I’m going to church as if something special will happen when I’m in here, but outside of it there won’t.” And there is something special to the meeting and gathering of God’s people but that is really a whacked out view. We have compartmentalized our life. The church is who we are. This gathering of the followers of Jesus, which is Jesus’ command in the New Testament, simply means for us that we obey Jesus because we belong to him and we enjoy the sacraments, we always have a good fellowship meal together in a week-to-week way. We always enjoy people becoming a part of God’s family in the waters of Baptism. We enjoy those things; we enjoy them collectively as the church. We enjoy God’s means of grace, which is built in our lives in the sacraments, in the Word as we are doing now, and in several different venues. Here we are meeting collectively through prayer and giving.
Ultimately you see this word given throughout the New Testament, the Greek word Koinonia is used. The word, in the English, has to do with fellowship, but we don’t ever want to misrepresent that, because it has to do with a deep intimate fellowship. A connection that we have with one another that centers upon Christ. It centers upon our relationship with Christ and how that is developed with each other. So the salvation of the church centers upon Jesus. Jesus is the centerpiece, the head of the church, of the gospel.
Jesus is the gospel. He is the gospel. The church, we his people, we are not perfect but we have been made perfect by the work of Christ. He has made us perfect, by and through his substitutional atonement, and then his resurrection into life proving he is God. You and I, from the text Alex read from in Ephesians 2, have been saved by grace; Christ alone has saved us. God’s grace working through faith, we trust and believe the gospel. Because prior to this we were hopelessly lost, we were dead to God; we were like an aborted fetus. When you hear these words that are in this text, you can think of your own life and how you came to Christ, and I just want you to listen to this. I think it’s just most appropriate. I am going to read Ezekiel 16: 4 – 14.
(See, you and I are a catch to God. You can get saved, and be saved for so long you almost get to the point where you feel like you deserve it. My friend, that’s you, that’s me. Then God said “live.”)
My friends, if that is not a perfect metaphor for our salvation, there isn’t anything that is. It is good to sense that! It is good to have those moments that reflect back, on what God has saved us from. Because the bottom line is, God takes us and we are His workmanship. It literally means we are His masterpiece. God, through the working of His grace, takes us, who are really a horrible people earning no merit or favor of our own, and makes us His beautiful masterpiece. Now, you are probably thinking, “Man, I don’t feel that way about myself.” And the truth is, in the life of any church, church gets messy doesn’t it? It does. Every church does. We have disagreement with each other; we don’t always share the same views and opinions. Sometimes we even fight foolishly. You ever hear of Corinth or Laodicea? Laodicea literally means, “the people decide.” No wonder Jesus was outside the church there. The truth is, in every church that happens, and it is true of ours. But we don’t want to remain; we don’t want to be known as Corinth. Do we?
I will never forget when I was beginning to understand the Bible a little bit. I was a Christian at 12/13 years old, and I was going to a Tigers game. You guys remember the old Tigers stadium? Where the buses would be, they would let the church buses park there, and one of them said, “Corinth the Denomination Church.” I’m thinking, why would you name yourself Corinth? They don’t have a good history do they? But the truth is, church gets messy. I don’t know this, neither do I necessarily want to know, some of you may be at odds with each other right now. I certainly hope you would want to get that right before you went to the table. But the truth is church gets messy because we are fallen. It gets messy in the McGuire household. Sometimes Valerie and I spat; I can say that here because she isn’t here. And I am always right. Sometimes the boys have disagreements, and sometimes the boys look at me like, “What in the world is the matter with him?” It gets messy! But there is still the root and the base of Christ and his love.
But we don’t want to remain there as a messy group, do we? That shouldn’t be our goal; we want to grow in Christ because we have born again. God has literally, through his words in the New Testament, made us new. We are created, Romans 8, in the image of Christ as new creation. As we are contemplating our name in Church, and we want to get built up in this thing together, we need to have some expectation for our own selves. We don’t want the bar to be low! We want the bar to be high.
As new creation, we want the fruit of the Spirit to be cultivated in our church, in the relationships. We want our conversation to be gospel driven and affected in everything that we do in life. Listen to this not programs, not technology, and not even our own foolish portions of tradition that we worship. The last words of a dying church are, “We have never done it this way before.” Now let me say something as we transition to community: programs make the church restless. It puts burden on people. Now there are certain things and certain structural things that we will do, but in the restlessness of it people become combative with one another because people put expectations on each other. The fruit of the Spirit makes you restful. It gives you peace, calm, comfort, tranquility, and rest. Jesus is the one who is giving you that. That is the kind of church that we want to be. So whatever programs and whatever types of things that we do or have done, ultimately we should be rested in the fruit of the Spirit, in order that we can have an appropriate relationship with one another.
I don’t care how old you are, you should want to grow! I want you to want more for yourself, more for Christ Community Church. Not in an unhealthy way to cast burden upon you, but we are a part of the greatest mission in the history of the world, Christ’s church. I think we ought to want more. That means that we want to rest in the things that are restful, we want the fruits of the spirit to permeate our interaction with one another. As we move along in this, the Church is obviously eternal. It is going to be with us throughout all eternity. You read the end of the story and it will tell you so.
Our second point is Community. What is that? What exactly does that mean? Turn to Matthew 28. You are going to feel “coached” up on this; I am not going to deny that I am probably going to do that. I want you to feel “coached” up. I want you to feel encouraged by the end of this. But I kind of have a Philippians Paul reaching thing running around in my head. We want to do that collectively, but we all want to be doing this. What is community? For those who are in the church, all people are created in God’s image, every person born. Here is what that means for us, every person has eternal value, but because of his or her sin they are in need, like us, of new creation. Picture this, all people are created in God’s image, the church is re-created in Christ’s image (Romans 8), but because of their sin they don’t see that yet. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan has blinded the eyes, of those who don’t believe, to the gospel. They don’t find their needs yet; they don’t have the full understanding of what sin is. What you want to know about the idea of community is that the church has community but you also have community. Every people, every nation, every race, that’s our target as a church. Every people, every people, every race. There is going to be some things in this text, in two words, that we are going to look at that might change some of your thought process about Matthew 28.
You want this to begin with, where is your community? When I say community, I am talking about people who are outside of Christ. To whom do you have relationship with, that doesn’t know Jesus? And part past just an individual, what group of people? Now mine is different than Alex’s. Within this room, some of your connections with people may not be as great as others. That’s okay! But what you want to begin thinking about now, is to whom? I want you to see faces in your mind. This is where the head of the church goes way past me or Alex, who are the typical messengers in this pulpit, to reach into your soul. What individual are you seeing that is outside the body of Christ? What group of people? Let me tell you something, we all have them. Every one of us, and they represent people of every nation and every race. What is your connection to that group? That is one of the things that you want to identify with this community. Let me say this: don’t overthink it. Think about the track of your life, where you go to work, who you hang out with, some of your relationships, who is your community? Follow along in Matthew 28:18. (He is already resurrected, in his glorified body)
We all know this process! Faith passed down and handed on. I want o give you two words here that are sometimes misinterpreted, the word “go” and the word “nations”. Let me explain because I think it will help you to understand, “Wow God’s given me a community.” There is not doubt in my mind that God has already opened up in your mind some of those within your community that don’t know Jesus. We want God to help us understand where our community is, not just continue to go through life. This will be different for different people, and that is okay. God wants each of us to have our own Christian life, and our own Christian experience. He doesn’t want you to live through the lens of somebody else. Jesus is our example! Paul says that he leaves himself as an example. There is nothing wrong with having example, but don’t live your life through them. God has given you a Christian life, he has tied you to something larger than you have ever expected, the church, and he has given you a community. That community is why you are still here on the earth.
It comes up in home through parental relationships, but then extends past your own living quarters. The word “go” that is used in verse 19, typically when people hear this word, is though to refer to foreign missions. And this is good. There is nothing wrong that you think that, foreign missions, but the word “go” there actually means: as you go and in your going. Wherever your feet are taking you, in a day-to-day way, wherever your traffic and track of life is you are going and in that going you have a community of people that are a part of your life. So God says, as you are living your life and you are doing life, I am creating and giving you a community for you to make disciples out of. Now, it’s just become a gospel driven witness.
Let me explain a little bit about that. It starts first and foremost by making a relationship. It starts by seeking to be an honest and genuine friend because ours is a world of people in need, and they desperately need Jesus just like I do. When we begin to understand our own predicament, that mirrors Ezekiel 16, and then we can see that face of the individuals differently. Our approach in their life can become different to first and foremost think, how can I make right relationship with them so that God can bring the gospel to them?
The next word “nations” it comes from the Greek word ethnos, which really has to do with ethnicity. Listen to this, when you hear nations, you think, “Okay, there’s boundaries. There is the continental United States. It goes from one border to the next.” There are boundaries to nations, but that is not exactly what the word means, it has to do with people not boundaries. The people there that Jesus is talking to, and that’s literally what they do. They go out two by two and they go out in varied ways by movement of the Holy Spirit, but they are going to people groups all across the globe. They are doing life; they are taking the life of the gospel to them. Ethnos is people; it’s ethnicity, which has no boundaries. I want to make this personal, and I trust the Holy Spirit will make it a fact for you, Christians have largely become marginalized because we have chosen to isolate ourselves from community. We want gospel community, we want comfort and peace, but we almost have this Eeyore/Winnie the Pooh mentality of Christian mentality. We are afraid of everybody in the World, when Jesus left us in the world and we have taken “don’t be OF the world” to mean, “we don’t even want to live in the world, I hate the world.” I hate my job and I hate my life, etc. We have subjected ourselves apart, and we haven’t accurately embraced the gospel.
In part, we have marginalized ourselves because we simply won’t create relationships with people who are lost. Beyond the who and the whom that are in your community, we all need to have a desire to expand that group of people. We marginalize and isolate ourselves for various reasons. Because we are afraid of black people, we are afraid of yellow people, we are afraid of red people, because young people kind of despise the elderly, and the elderly hold the young people in contempt. By our own fears, more and more we isolate ourselves from the very life that God intended to give us. We are so worried about being right, we are so worried about expressing doctrine, which that’s not wrong but until they know you love them, you aren’t going to have a fruitful ground for the gospel.
I’m not going to tell you exactly how to do that, I’m trying to figure out how God wants me to make in-roads in my community, but I want you to think about your life differently than you have. Just like the church is eternal, community is eternal because those are souls, those are people. White, black, yellow, red, brown, orange, you just name it! It doesn’t matter. If they are walking and breathing and living as a human being, here is what Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all ethnicity (people).” Now that is not some cheap thing that we are going to go try to create people of color, I hope God just brings anybody. I don’t care who it is. If we have been saved by God’s grace there should be within your heart, a love for ALL people, it doesn’t matter who they are. For the elderly, for the young, and it their skin color doesn’t matter. Think about the craziness of just a sheer 18th inch of a skin, there are people who suffer and won’t even talk to one another. It’s bizarre! Especially us, who are God’s people. We should know the instruction because we know that all people are created in God’s image. They have infinite value! We don’t give them the value; God did by giving them life.
Our church has a community the church is us. You need to find who it is, you need think of them, pray for them, and love them. You need to love them as a faithful friend, because we have the faithful friend, Jesus! My elder brother won’t let me go when I mess up. He pulls me into himself, that big strong arm of his. I want some more brothers and sisters! I trust and pray you do, and I believe you do. But let me tell you something, you better get uncomfortable with yourself if that is going to take place. You better risk yourself, as those disciples would they risked their lives. You may risk the loss of relationship. You may risk being ridiculed when trying to create some relationship. At a surface level on Facebook, I’ve already had a few tell me they are going to cut me off. That’s okay. You can’t take things personally. Who are you risking your life for? Are you that person crowded up in a corner reading Tim Lehay books, saying, “Oh Lord, get me out of here!” You have a community, you need to become a faithful friend and shower these people with the wonder of Jesus. Because our community is in need!
We like to do program things and I don’t like to poo-poo that, there are certain things that are good as a group, but that is not enough! Do you think they had Awana? Do you think they had praise teams? No! He wanted them to invest themselves into lives. Guess what they did, they went into homes. Who is the last person that you opened up your home to that was lost? If that hurts, it should. I don’t mean to hurt you, I mean to wake you up. God help us that we would all give them Jesus!
I left Jesus for the last point; I thought it appropriate to do that. Jesus is preeminent to us as a church. If Jesus isn’t everything, then Jesus is nothing; Jesus is preeminent to the church. The world doesn’t understand it but Jesus is preeminent in the world and community. Because history is His story as it continues to unfold. Dear friends, Jesus is preeminent in everything, and if the church isn’t about Jesus let’s burn the building down. There are a of places you begin with, for times sake we won’t but let me share some things with your about my Lord.
John 1: He is the creator. Jesus is the creator of every atom in the universe. Jesus brought in the physical creation that we know. Jesus, when came into the earth, brought in new creation and one day will consummate all this as creator when he makes the new heaven and the new earth. Jesus is creator.
Colossians 1: Jesus is an icon. He is an icon. He presented there by Paul as the exact imprint of God the father. That means when Jesus walked the earth, he was the embodiment of the Father. Now don’t confuse that, we are Trinitarian as the church has been historic. But Jesus was the physical representation of God the Father to the earth; he only ever completely obeyed the will of God. Proving his deity. Hence the word “Immanuel”, meaning God with us. God brought the manifestation of his deity through the physical birth of the virgin Mary of Jesus, his own son to the earth. He dwelled here! Jesus is an icon.
Hebrews 1: Jesus is supreme. His supremacy is filled through that epistle. It is over all creation, it superior to every great man in history. Why? Because Jesus, in Hebrews 1, is appointed the heir of everything. In Revelation 1, he is the King. I learned that as a teenager, it’s easy to remember. You want to learn some stuff about Jesus? John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, Revelation 1. In Revelation 1 Jesus is presented as the King who rules over all. Jesus is the king to a kingdom and Jesus’ kingdom will come in, ultimately by force. When he appears he will save those who are being redeemed and he will judge those who are against him. Why? Because he is the King! He is the King!
Jesus has no peer! There is not peer to Jesus. Throughout all of history, when Jesus preaches, he proves that all religion is vain apart from him. There is no other gospel but Jesus! Only through Jesus are the dead raised, the last miracle he does on the earth was that he raised Lazarus from the dead. More importantly for you and I, Jesus raised your dead heart. Now we are sitting here today, alive to God. Rejoicing and wanting to make Jesus’ name famous! Wanting to extol and worship and adore the one who deserves to be adored, and to do it passionately, because Jesus is real. Jesus is completely sufficient and satisfying for everything in your life, to every detail. Any sermon apart from Christ is powerless to save. It doesn’t mean anything! It is just a bunch of hot air. That for us makes Jesus altogether beautiful and lovely. Who is Jesus you ask? Man the superlatives are endless. He is talked about in the Old Testament as the Lily in the valley, the Rose of Sherin, the healing balm in Gilead. Jesus as the creation was the star breather. His majesty was glorious and he is going to return in splendor.
I can’t put the appropriate words, but we know our Lord is uncontainable; he is indescribable. For whatever superlatives we give him, it is beyond our imagination how great the glory is going to be when he comes. If you will fix into that, you will look at the church differently and you are going to look at the community differently. Most assuredly, Jesus is going to become sweeter to you. Jesus is called the beginning and the end. We are about to embark upon that in Hebrews 12. Jesus is the very goal of history, and your story, my story, the historic church’s story, and stories of redemption that are being made this morning, they are all wrapped into the grand story; Christ. All of that, as I close, and all his names that are given throughout the bible, I like to say the name Jesus. It is so personal! More than just giving him a title, Jesus seems warm. I feel his compassion. I sense his strength. When I say Jesus, it garners up love to me. I feel his tenderness. He gives me comfort. He gives me joy. He gives me peace. Whatever kind of chaos is going on in my life or in my mind, when I have a communication and Jesus’ name is used for me, it’s something so close. It’s personal and it’s real. I’m afraid we don’t always think of his name in that regard because we have made the cross too small. It’s too small. We want to enlarge the gospel! We want to contemplate from time to time in a necessary and fruitful way, our own sin. Not to lead us to despair, but I like that, that will preach, that’s 3 G’s right there, guilt, grace and gratitude. You can bet that is coming up again. Is Jesus beautiful to you? I’m serious. Is he beautiful to you? You can get out of the box you are living in. You can get out of the fear you are living in. Is Jesus beautiful enough to you, where you will risk yourself? I believe that is what the disciples did they abandoned everything. If Jesus isn’t everything to you, then he is nothing to you. Our prayer this morning is by God’s grace, that Jesus himself will make us genuinely extol him.
The Believing Mummy
Bethany looked over at me and she said, “I wish we had something like this in American culture.” Our kids were watching a show on Disney Jr., I think on Disney Jr., its a new show called Elena of Avalor, maybe you parents with younger kids are familiar with Elena of Avalor. It’s the very first Latino Disney princess now. So they are excited. Disney is pushing that one hard. Our kids are watching it and this particular episode is about the Mexican Holiday, Dia de los Muertos. Besides my Spanish days at Lamphere High School, Spanish 1 – 3, and my visits to the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT, I really did not know anything about Dia de los Muertos. So, I did some research. Turns out, every year in Mexico, family and friends gather to pray for and remember loved ones who have passed away. It is a national, where they gather annually to remember, to mourn, and to celebrate, along with pray for their dead together. Now, we might question, as good reformed Protestants, the benefits of praying for the dead, but there does seem to be some benefit to a national holiday where we remember those who have gone before us. Now sure we all remember our loved ones on the anniversary of their death or on certain holidays where we miss them, but here in the USA we do not have a national holiday where we all mourn and remember together. We mourn and remember together, all of those who have passed. Not just those who passed away on September 11th, that’s appropriate. But we don’t have a day that’s given to all of our death, to all who have gone before us. And I’m betting that we never will.
Because Americans hate to think about death, don’t we? We do everything we can to avoid thinking about our impending fate. Out of sight, out of mind. We would much rather bury our heads in the sand than think about those whom we’ve buried. Or the fact that we ourselves will one day be buried. A prime example of this is the commercialization of cemeteries. You may or may not know this, but in days past cemeteries used to share real estate with churches. In fact, you can even go down South now in certain rural areas and see churches that share the same plot of land as a cemetery. Now we think that’s weird, its eerie, its gross, and we want nothing to do with that. But there was a theological reason why churches and cemeteries used to share real estate. The reason is because Orthodox, confessional Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead on the last day. We believe that when Christ returns, he is going to raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. That’s why we want to be physically buried, and we used to want to be buried with each other. We believe that the church is the true family of God. We sojourn through this life together, so we want to be buried together. Because, or at least we used to, want to be resurrected together! The church in days past would used to anticipate the New Creation that was coming. They didn’t just believe that when they died their soul was going to Heaven and that they were getting a mansion in glory and that was the end of the story. They firmly believed and were committed to the truth, the doctrinal truth, the historic, Orthodox Christian truth, that Jesus Christ is going to physically return to the planet earth. And he is going to resurrect everyone who has ever lived, and he is going to recreate the earth and we are going to live forever on the earth; the new earth with Jesus at his Second Advent. The church was resolved that, after they had been resurrected and after they had seen Jesus as he is, the very next people that wanted to see was their church family resurrected to new life. We don’t think that way anymore though. We want the dead out of sight and out of mind. We hate funerals; we want memorial services that “celebrate” the life lived, because we hate thinking about death.
Isn’t it strange that the Holy Spirit, here in Hebrew’s chapter 11, when writing about the faith of Joseph, speaks specifically about his death? Indeed, the Holy Spirit is using the bones of Joseph to encourage your faith this morning. In this biblical theology of faith, as we move forward in the story of redemption, Joseph falls in line after his father Jacob. We looked at Jacob last week with Abraham and Isaac. And there are so many things that the author of this epistle could have used, could have said about the life of Joseph to demonstrate the faith of Joseph. The Holy Spirit could’ve noted that by faith, Joseph had a dream, he had a dream that his parents and his brothers would bow down to him. And Joseph believed that dream, in spite of his family, even when it made his family angry with him. Joseph had faith in the word of God even when it was unpopular among his family. The text could have said that about Joseph, but it doesn’t, does it?
The Bible could’ve reminded us that it was by faith that Joseph, though he was beaten by his brothers and sold into slavery, did not give up hope. He still followed YHWH even as an Egyptian slave. His own family hated him so much that they beat him and sold him into foreign slavery. Even in the midst of that pain, Joseph had faith in YHWH, but Hebrews 11 doesn’t say anything about that. Does it? The text could’ve said that by faith, Joseph ran when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife. She was laying in the bed inviting him to join her. No one else was home. He could have committed adultery, but he didn’t because he believed that marriage was a picture of the gospel, and that God was faithful, so he must be faithful as well. But Hebrews doesn’t say anything about that, does it? It doesn’t say a word about Joseph’s purity. It certainly wouldn’t be wrong, if the bible had noted that Joseph by faith suffered for 13 years in prison. The baker had forgotten about him, but YHWH had not forgotten about him. And so God raised Joseph in the ranks of the prison, so that he was 2nd in command. Joseph had faith through years of personal darkness – wrongful imprisonment. But the book of Hebrews doesn’t say anything about that.
The Spirit could have mentioned that it was by faith Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream when the baker finally did remember him. Joseph didn’t take the glory for himself, but he gave all the glory back to YHWH. Hebrews 11 doesn’t mention a word about Joseph’s gift of interpretation. It was also by faith that Joseph preserved food for the coming famine. You remember, for 7 years he stored up food, so that he could provide for the nation during the 7 years of desolation. He believed God’s word, through Pharaoh’s dream, which led to the salvation of the known world and the preservation of the gospel, but the text doesn’t make a peep about his administrative skills. It was certainly by faith that Joseph was escalated to the right hand of Pharaoh to rule in Egypt as second as command (second in command, excuse me). But there’s nothing about that in Hebrews chapter 11, is there?
We certainly wouldn’t have been surprised if this pericope had argued that by faith Joseph forgave his brother of their sins. And by faith he brought his father Israel to the land of Egypt, so that Israel would not die during the famine, thus protecting the primeval promise of Genesis 3:15. That wouldn’t have been surprising. Would it? In fact, that’s the kind of narrative that we’d expect. Isn’t it? I dare say that if any one of us were commissioned to write a biblical theology of faith, we would have said any – if not all – of those things about the faith of Joseph. But that’s not what the Holy Spirit says, is it?
No. In Hebrews 11:22, the Holy Spirit says, by faith Joseph, when he completed his life, remembered the Exodus of the sons of Israel, and commanded them concerning his bones. Out of the entire Joseph saga – 13 chapters of the book of Genesis, that’s more chapters than Adam gets, that’s more chapters than Noah gets, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Out of that entire life lived by faith – and the Holy Spirit says of Joseph that by faith he commanded the Jews to return his bones to Canaan. Hebrews 11 doesn’t commend Joseph’s sexual purity, it does not commend his hard work, it does not commend his forgiveness, but it commends his funeral arrangements. The Holy Spirit doesn’t seem as concerned with the journey of Joseph’s life, as he does with the journey of his funeral procession. What’s interesting about Joseph’s command that we read in Genesis 50 and then reread in Hebrews 11 – the command to take his bones back to Canaan – is that Joseph’s life, and Joseph’s command, and Josephs faith here, is a picture of what faith looks like when life is going really well. When Joseph gave these orders, in Genesis 50, he was second in command of the nation of Egypt. He was the right hand man to the king of the most powerful nation that the world had ever seen to that point in history. His authority would have made VP Pence look insignificant. He had legitimate power, but the Spirit tells us that while Joseph may be decked out in the royal purple Egyptian garb, he was thinking about his bones. And that, brothers and sisters, is what faith looks like.
Last week we talked about faith in the storm, we talked about what faith looks like even when it feels like the promises are not true. But faith is believing the gospel even when it hurts, and that was a good word for all of us, but faith is also believing the promises when life seems to be going really well. Last week we talked about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and how they had faith even in difficulty. That’s a good word. But sometimes the even harder message to hear is how to have faith, during the calm, when life is going well. Faith is assurance and conviction that God rewards those who seek him, and that this will not be completed until the 2nd advent of Jesus Christ. The danger for Joseph was that he would be satisfied in Egypt. But he wasn’t and he knew that God had something better for him. Joseph wasn’t looking for his “best life now,” Joseph was looking for a better country.
Let me ask you this morning, let’s be honest with each other church: are you in a really comfortable spot? Are your finances exactly where you want them? Do you have that nest egg that you’ve planned and saved for? Is your 401k, or your IRA right where it needs to be? Is your career on the best track? Do you have the exact amount of kids that you deem proper? Do you have the car that you want, and the house of your dreams? These things are not wrong in and of themselves, but we must ask ourselves, from time to time, are we too comfortable in Egypt? Does Babylon feel like home? Are we more comfortable living the American dream than we are living in the Kingdom of Christ? Let me ask you this morning, if someone were to ask you what do you need to be happy? What is the ultimate? What are the things, what is the status, what is the financial security, what is the family like, what do you need to be genuinely happy? Could you answer that question with all of the stuff that you currently have? If someone asked you what your perfect life included, would you respond: graduate from college, get a good job, buy my starter house, have 2 kids, get a new car every 2 or 3 years, buy my dream house, retire early & move to Florida? Would that fit your answer? Would your answer even include Jesus at all? Could you describe happiness without including the name Jesus of Nazareth? Are we too comfortable in Egypt?
Joseph’s faith was bigger than the comfort and success that he had in Egypt. And that’s why he made his children swear to him that they would take his bones and bury them in Canaan. And the interesting thing is that the Bible goes out of the way to guarantee to us that the promise to Joseph was kept by the sons of Israel. You see 400 years after Joseph died; a man named Moses led the sons of Israel out of slavery of Egypt in the Exodus. In the chaos of running around to get everything they needed, can you picture this in your mind? Okay, you’ve been a slave all your life, freedom has finally come, and now you are running to gather everything that you need to bring. Because let’s face it, Pharaoh has changed his mind 9 times before. I’m not betting he is sticking to his word this time, right? So you are running, you are scrambling, you are getting your kids, you are getting your clothes, you’re getting your money, and you are getting your stuff. Everything you need to move your life to the Promised Land and in the midst of that Chaos there is an Egyptian army breathing down their neck. Moses makes it a point to tell us that they went and they gathered up Joseph’s pile of bones. Listen to Exodus 13: 18 & 19:
18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. (Listen to how absurd this is) 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” (Exod 13:18-19)
They were on the run from the Egyptian army, and Moses is like, “Hold up guys, I got to go get the Mummy.” He swore to them, to Joseph, 400 years earlier. I think I would have been like, “You know what? No one is going to remember, right? Joseph’s already dead.” There are sometimes when you are in a hurry and you just have to leave stuff, I probably would have done that, if it were me. It’s a little more important than these dry bones. But they didn’t did they? They carried these dry bones; they made sure to bring the decaying bones of Joseph with them as they sojourned to the Promised Land. This wasn’t a four-hour car drive, guys they were wandering out there for 40 years, with this dead guy. They brought him all the way to the Promised Land and as Joshua led the conquest into Canaan, the Holy Spirit tells us this in the book of Joshua:
32 As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.
Joseph’s post-mortem journey from the palace of Egypt to a cave in Canaan was complete. The Holy Spirit makes sure that you know in the book of Joshua that those bones got there, safe and sound. Why? Why does the Scripture make such a big deal about the transfer of some dead guy’s bones? Why in the world did Joseph make that request? Why did Moses make sure to bring the bones with him at the Exodus? And why in the world did Joshua, after Moses had died, keep the bones to bury them in Canaan? Of all of the great acts of faith that Joseph performed through his epic life, why does the author of the Hebrews simply state that Joseph wanted to be buried in Canaan?
The answer, church, is that this is what faith looks like. Faith is the assurance and conviction that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Faith is convicted and assured that God is there and that he keeps his promises. Joseph believed that God had promised Abraham a land. He believed that God’s promise was worth more than the greatest tomb that Egypt had to offer. Joseph also believed in the resurrection of the dead, and that’s why he wanted to be with his fathers in the land of Canaan. Hebrews 11 told us, just a few verses ago, that Abraham believes that if God needed to, he could raise Isaac from the dead. You don’t think he taught that to Isaac? You don’t think Isaac taught that to Jacob? You don’t think Jacob taught that to Joseph? The father’s of the faith believed in the resurrection of the dead in the last day. And Joseph wanted to wake up and after he saw Jesus, he wanted to see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, right there with him. It was worth so much, that truth was worth so much to them, that they risked carrying those dead bones for 40 years in the wilderness. They brought them to war in the conquest of Canaan. Joseph believed that God’s promises and his future were worth more than the success and the security that he experienced in the far country. He believed in a better country. He believed in an unshakeable kingdom, and he believed in a serpent-crushing son of Eve. Joseph’s funeral arrangements preached the gospel.
It’s interesting, I don’t know if you noticed when Pastor Kevin read from Genesis 50, I mean he read the last verses of the book, and you read in Genesis 50 at the end, it’s amazing how it just kind of, how it ends in such an anticlimactic way, doesn’t it? The very last verse of the book of Genesis, “So Joseph died being 110 years old. They embalmed him and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.” Well talk about an anticlimax. What a contrast from how the book of Genesis opens. How does the book of Genesis open? In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Boom! How does it end? Joseph died and he was buried. What? What an anticlimax? Or so it seems, doesn’t it? You know there’s another book of the bible that was written to mirror the book of Genesis. The gospel of John opens up and it says, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” Just like the book of Genesis, the gospel of John opens up with a declaration of the creator. Except this time he is not merely YHWH in an abstract sense, but he is the personal God, Lord, Christ, Jesus. But unlike the book of Genesis, which ends with Joseph lying in a tomb, the book of John ends with an empty tomb. You see, when the time was right, there was another son of Abraham and he too would die just like Joseph. But unlike Joseph, this son of Abraham did not have a cave in which he could be buried, he had to borrow one from a ruler named Joseph. This son of Abraham is the serpent-crushing son of Eve that Joseph had been waiting for, and his name is Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the fulfillment of the faith of Joseph. The assurance and the conviction that Joseph had reached its climax in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. The hope of resurrection that Joseph had has already been experienced by Jesus. On Easter Sunday over 2,000 years ago, Christ Jesus rose from the dead, in accordance with the Scriptures. Jesus is the first born of the new creation. He has blazed the trail through the valley of the shadow of death, and the word tells us, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will raise Joseph from the dead, and he will raise you and I from the dead too.
The gospel according to Joseph forces us to contemplate our own lives this morning in light of the gospel. Are we comfortably avoiding death? Are we so satisfied with the “little Egypts” that we’ve built. Do we long for the New Jerusalem? Church, your home is not this parody that the world has to offer, but your home is the heavenly city, the better country, the New Creation. Let us this morning, allow the rhythms of grace that Jesus has left us – the water, the bread, the wine, the word – let these rhythms of grace foster longing in our hearts for Jesus and his kingdom.
You know, I don’t think that we’ll ever see an American version of the holiday dia de los Muertos. Because people they just aren’t fond of remembering the dead. They are not fond of contemplating their own mortality either. Yet, while Americans may never have a day of remembrance for the dead, I know why those Latino cultures do that, I know why they celebrate Dia de los muertos in Mexico. Because Dia de los Meurtos is a shadow of something that we practice every week in the holy nation – and I’m not talking about America, I’m talking about the church. It’s a shadow of something that we’ve done for 2 millennia. For Church, every Sunday we gather at the Lord’s Table, we remember a death. We remember the death of the true and better Joseph, whose bones aren’t laying in a cave in Palestine, but have been resurrected, and are now ruling at the right hand of God the Father. We have communion with him as we take Holy Communion. We give thanks to him as we come to the Eucharist. He gives us grace through the sacrament. Church, this morning, don’t run from Jesus’ death, remember it. For through it, you too will live, by faith.
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Well, if all goes according to plan, sometime within the next year I should be graduating with my Doctorate in preaching. This December would be the earliest possibility, next May would be the latest, if all goes according to plan. That’s a big “if” isn’t it? I can remember, not that long ago, say, my sophomore year of...Read More
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Here’s what happened; Wednesday I go to church, right? Just a normal day preparing for Wednesday evening. And the wind is going crazy as you guys know, and I got there and told Patty Gralka I’m surprised that we still have power; that's good; we’ll just have to keep in mind if the power goes out we’re going to have to...Read More
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By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
I was in 5th grade the first time that I ever heard...
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Kingdom Rain: Noah's Ark, the New England Patriots, and the Gospel of Jesus
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
For the last 3 weeks, everyone I know has been congratulating me personally about the Super Bowl. Many of you here in this room greeted me with a, “Congrats!” the first time we reconvened after...Read More
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The Gospel According to Enoch • Pastor Alex Loginow
By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found because God had taken him. Now before he was taken, he was commended as having pleased God. Without faith, it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who seek him.
What happened to Jimmy Hoffa? That is the question, isn’t it? The disappearance of the Teamsters president in 1975 remains an unanswered question. This mystery lives in Detroit folklore, for Hoffa was...Read More
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Jesus, the New and Better Abel • Pastor Kevin McGuire
Today, we are looking at a singular verse - Hebrews 11:4. This chapter [Hebrews 11], if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know to be about faith. Having introduced faith last week as the pastor-writer did when we looked at the first three verses, now we’re going to see it - found in the lives of individuals given throughout all of the...
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What Faith Looks Like from Hebrews 11 • Pastor Kevin McGuire
Faith in Hebrews is always closely linked to hope. Faith looks at God, and trusts Him for everything. Hope, then, looks to the future, and trusts God for it.
When we walk through the individuals of Hebrews chapter 11, we will see the perseverance of their faith. We will see the faith that they displayed and then the circumstance - the life circumstance, the historical circumstance - that God put them in.
About 30 years ago...Read More