Friday, April 2, 2010

When God Damns

PSALM 22:1

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

In the name of Christ:

Today words don’t mean what they used to mean. We have either redefined words or have grown cold and callous to their meaning. Damnation is one such word. In our society, damnation has lost its meaning and power. For some, damnation is a pipe dream, a fairy tale, something that will never happen. For these people, they have redefined sin and right and wrong. What used to be called a common truth is now a falsehood or called into question. Sin, therefore, no longer is viewed as sin, but as a choice. Take, for example, homosexuality. The Bible defines it as sin, and yet our culture has redefined it as a lifestyle choice. What used to be wrong is now viewed as right.
It happens in subtle ways as well. God states in His Word that we should not harbor anger or resentment against someone else. However, in these days, people willing hold grudges and makes excuses as to why they should continue to hold a grudge. Anger becomes justified, and the words and actions which proceed are excused, because we must understand how angry a person can get.
Words mean things. In anger, today people curse in the name and under the guise of freedom of speech. Our culture has thrown away words which mean nothing to the people who use them. Damnation is one such word. I don’t say damnation or damn to get a charge out of you or to shock you. Damnation is very real. This Holy Week and the events which took place on Good Friday is all about damnation. God’s damnation is real and justified.
God is justified in threatening damnation. The Holy God created all and it was declared good. Mankind, though, has sinned and spoiled the relationship that was given by God. Sin has entered the world through the disobedience of one man, Adam, and sin and death has spread to everyone. God threatens to punish all who transgress His Holy Word and Will. The soul that sins will most certainly die. The wages of sin is death. Death affects everyone. But death is not damnation.
God would have been justified to damn Adam and Eve, but He didn’t. He banished them from the Garden of Eden, and punished them and their offspring with death. But God did not damn them. God did not damn Adam and Eve’s son Cain, the one who killed his brother Abel. God spared Cain, was merciful to him. Oh, God was would certainly be justified in damning Cain, but God did not. Instead, God placed a mark on Cain so that Cain’s life would be spared. Cain still died because of his sinfulness, but God did not damn Cain.
This can be said of every human being. God is justified in damning His creatures who have sinned, and seeing that all have sinned, God would be justified in damning us! But God did not and does not. At least, not now, for God is patient and wills that all come to know of His love in Christ. God is love and loves all. That is why He gave His one and only Son, Jesus to be the Savior from God’s damnation. At the right time in human history God sent His Son Jesus, to be born of the Virgin Mary, to live and keep God’s Law for each and every sinner, and then, as a result of Christ’s perfect life, God chose to punish His Son instead of punishing His creation.
This is what God did to His Son Jesus, on the cross. This is why Jesus cried out those words from the cross: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? To be forsaken of God means that God withdraws Himself from the sinner. It means that the sinner is all alone to face the white hot wrath and anger of God. It means that God damns, really damns, sin and the sinner in His Son Jesus Christ. God damned Jesus so that you would not be damned, but forgiven. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, but that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.
On that First Good Friday, God damned Jesus. He damned His Son. When God damns the day light turns black. When God damns sinners and the Devil quake. When God damns, the earth shakes. When God damns the earth and all of creation turns silent. No one can stand, when God damns. So Jesus stands, in the place of every sinner. For Jesus took all of God’s punishment, all of the damnation we and sinners so justly deserve. Just listen to these words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? [2] O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. [3] Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. [4] In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. [5] To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. [6] But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. [7] All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; [8] "He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"
When God damns Jesus stands, in our place as our Substitute and Savior.
Jesus took it all and died on the cross, willingly, never doubting God’s mercy and justice. This is truly God’s gift. This is truly Good News, that we have a loving God, who spared not His own Son but freely damned Him so that we might be saved. And we are! For God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, and Jesus rose three days later, to defeat sin, Satan, and death, for you and for all!
This is what the Bible means when it says that Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for all, that we might know God’s love for all in Jesus. Yes God is good; He is gracious, all on account of His Son Jesus Christ. And so we give thanks to the Lord, for He indeed is good, His love lasts forever, because of His justice poured out on the cross.

Remember to not Remember

HEBREWS 10:3, 17

But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. [17] Then he adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more."

In the name of Jesus:
Tonight is a night of remembering. It really has always been that way. This is a night in which the Church, for almost all of time, has remembered and given thanks. It is a night that has been set aside, commanded by God, that His people remember what He, God, has done to save His people.
In the Old Testament times, this was a night to remember the Passover. The Passover was the great saving acts of God for the people of Israel. History shows, in the book of Genesis, that God had preserved His children, the children and family of Jacob, by having Joseph, one of Jacob’s sons, appointed as a leader in the nation of Egypt. Joseph was an interpreter of dreams, and he interpreted many dreams. God revealed to him that there would be a great famine that would spread throughout the region. First, there would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh, when he heard of Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, asked Joseph what his dream meant. Joseph revealed the coming years of plenty and of famine, so he was appointed as one who was to prepare for the famine. In the course of time, Jacob and his family came to Egypt, to be provided for, and there they stayed. They grew to be a numerous people, a great and might people, so much so that a new Pharaoh feared the Hebrews and enslaved them.
God’s people were slaves in a foreign land. God sent Moses to speak to Pharaoh, saying “Let My people go.” But Pharaoh would not listen. His heart was hardened until the Passover. The great, last plaque, tenth in all, where the firstborn in all of the land would be put to death by the Lord God. However, whoever placed his faith in God and sacrificed a lamb, placing the blood of the lamb on the doorpost, that household would be spared, or in other words, the angel of death would pass over that place. The family inside was instructed to remember this night with a special meal, a meal made and ate in haste, for on this night, the night of the Passover, God had saved His people, freeing them from slavery, so that they could live freely in a land where God would lead them. And so this was a night to remember, a night to celebrate God’s salvation. The Jews even to this day remember this event, the Passover, and still tell the story and celebrate God’s mighty acts.
Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, instructed His disciples to prepare a room where He would be able to celebrate the Passover with them for a final time. On this night, the Passover meal was eaten, the story was retold, and God’s saving acts were celebrated. It was seemingly no different than any other Passover that had been celebrated.
But, the Scriptures say, that on the night when Jesus was betrayed, He took bread and broke it, then gave it to His disciples saying: Take and eat, this is My body, which is given for you. And in the same way He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks He blessed it and said, Take and drink, all of you, this is My blood of the New Covenant, which has been shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins. Do this, Jesus, said, as often as you eat and drink of it, do it, Jesus said, in remembrance of Me.
Tonight is a night we remember. We remember that we are a people who are enslaved, enslaved to sin. We have been conceived and born into sin, we are by nature sinful creatures, we and the entire human race are an enslaved people. We are enslaved and we can’t free ourselves.
And so we remember not only our sinfulness but also the Passover Lamb that God has provided. Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This Jesus has done, for He is the true God who has come down from heaven, to free those who are in bondage to sin, Satan and death. Jesus has freed us, by buying sinners back, not with silver or gold, but with His own innocently led life, His suffering, His bloody death on the cross, and His rising again to life on Easter morn. Jesus was crucified for our sins and raised again that we might be called children of God!
In Baptism God has washed away your sins and have placed the mark of Christ on the doorpost of your heart. In your Baptism you were marked with the sign of the cross both upon your forehead and your heart, to signify that you have been named a child of God for the sake of Jesus Christ. In Baptism, God has guaranteed your salvation by giving you a saving faith in Christ by the power of His Spirit. Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. And you have been saved, by a free gift of God’s grace in Christ through faith in Jesus.
Tonight, we remember what God has done in Christ. And tonight, in keeping with Christ’s command we assemble around His Table to receive the Gift of Himself, in, with, and under the earthly elements of bread and wine. We come in faith, trusting that Christ’s broken body given and shed blood shared in the Lord’s Supper is for our eternal benefit and good. And it is, for Jesus has said so. We come eating and drinking His body and blood to receive once again the forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our faith, and the assurance of the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding. We come to the Lord’s Table, remembering the great Sacrifice of Christ, receiving the benefits of His death and resurrection, and proclaiming to all in the participation of this Sacrament the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection until He comes again.
Make no mistake, Satan and the Old sinful nature, the old Adam within each of us, will seek to remind us of our sinful state. But remember this night, and remember that in this Sacrament, God has chosen not remember your sins. He forgives and forgets yours sins, now and forever. He in Christ has cast your sin as far as the east is from the west. He remembers them no more. He looks at you and He sees His child in Christ, on account of Christ. Remember that God doesn’t remember your sins. You are forgiven! You have been set free! So give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His mercy lasts forever.

Living In Harmony: Imitating Christ


Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, [8] he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In the name of Jesus:

In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn't a technology problem like radar malfunction--or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship's presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.
Pride comes before the fall. Just like stubborn captains who didn’t not want to give way to another, so human nature seeks its own way, unwilling to submit, unwilling to give in, more willing to be proud than humble, and as such, pride and arrogance can destroy a church. The congregation at Philippi was no strangers to dissention.
The Philippians’ church was near and dear to the Apostle Paul. Just listen to what he has to say to his brothers and sisters: “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. [3] Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” There was the problem! Within that church there was a lack of unity in how they thought about one another; there was a lack of love for one another; there was strife; people seeking their own glory; a lack of humility and a total lack of concern for the well being of others.
The church at Philippi and the problems which the congregation encountered were not rare, it still takes place today. These very same sins are evident today. For who of us has not at one time in our lives or another experienced strife between another person, who of us has not had the love that we should have for brothers and sisters in Christ or for members of our own flesh and blood; who of us are guilty of seeking our own welfare and glory; or have had a lack of concern for others? Like the church at Philippi, we stand condemned before God! We have not lived in harmony with one another, and our lack of harmony displeases God.
This is why Paul speaks as he does in our text for today. He wrote these verses so that sinful Christians can compare their behavior with the Savior’s behavior, for Jesus is the greatest example of humility and love in the history of the world.
There are two ways of being united -- one is by being frozen together, and the other is by being melted together. What Christians need is to be united in brotherly love, and then they may expect to have power. Yes, there can be union without unity: tie two cats together by their tails and throw them over a clothesline. God does not call us to this type of unity, a unity which is only for show. No, we are called to be united in brotherly love, a unity which starts with our spirits and in our hearts. We cannot achieve this unity in and of ourselves. It IS given to us, only in Christ, as a gift of God.
This unity has been given to us in Christ as a gift, for He Himself became united with us in our nature, yet without sin. Christ just didn’t speak words of mercy and comfort; He actually became our mercy and comfort. God’s only Son set aside His glory for a time, to be united with humanity in His life, experiencing everything that we experience, from being formed in the mother’s womb, born into this world, growing into the Person that God had planned, living His life in service to others and giving Himself in death for the life of sinners. All this Jesus did and He did it in your place and mine. He did it perfectly, that by His innocently led life, His damnable death on the cross, and His victorious resurrection all who believe in Christ would be forgiven. And you are. You have become a child of God in your Baptism, in Baptism your sins were nailed to Jesus’ cross, and a new life was given, so that even as Jesus rose from the grave, you too are empowered to rise to live before God in righteousness and purity.
We as God’s children are called to live this new life in thanks to God. WE aren’t to live this new life when and where we please, but our lives are to be living examples of the love that Christ has for us. This is what Paul means when he writes: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, [8] he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
You have been freed from sin, so that in thanks to God, you can now do God’s will. You can do what God calls you to do in your life. God’s will is this: that you have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Jesus through His life, suffering, death, and resurrection has given us a harmonious relationship with the Father. We, in turn, are to seek to live in harmony with one another. This means crucifying the sinful self, with its pride and arrogance, and allowing the Sprit to work in and through you so that you will live in harmony with all. To have the mind of Christ means that just as Jesus sought to serve His Father first and foremost, loving God above all else by sacrificing Himself for the sins of the world, so too you have been recreated in Christ to serve God BY serving others, in humility, and living in harmony, all to the glory of God. Note what Paul says, that on the Last Day every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord TO THE GLORY OF THE FATHER. Jesus never seeks His own glory, even in His glory He is giving glory to His Father. So too you have been recreated in Christ, not so that you will get your own way or get the glory, honor and praise in your life, but so that you might imitate Christ in your life, living in harmony with all, to the glory of God the Father.
The strange tale of the Rose Baskavsa and Theresa Sokatitis serve to illustrate what God calls us to do. Rose and Theresa are in their eighties and are sisters. Throughout their lives they have been best of friends. But no longer. You see, they live in New England and there is no love between the two. Why? They are arguing over a $500,000 Powerball lottery ticket. To make a long story short, these two sisters were joined at the hip throughout their lives, and they used to play the lottery together, go to casinos together, and they would always split the winnings. A contract was drawn up that said the same. But they got into a disagreement, in which one sister in anger tore up the contract. She didn’t want to be partners anymore. And in this dispute, the issue grew larger. They hadn’t spoken for a year, and one sister ended up buying a winning Powerball ticket, the $500,000 ticket. And the winner wasn’t sharing.
Now, I am no lawyer, but as I look at this, I wonder, what has gotten into these people? For the sake of harmony, for the sake of family, why not split the winnings, each getting $250,000? Is it really worth it to sue for the winnings, for the sake of peace in the family, why not just share? I know that legally one sister may not have a case, but come on! Looking from the outside, how sad it is to see a family split over this. Shouldn’t family love be stronger than money?
In a way, we can all relate. For we have God’s bountiful treasures given to us in Jesus. Heaven is ours and God gives us a relationship with Him that is to be shared and realized with others. How we saddened our Lord, who loves us and died and rose for us, when we as God’s children don’t live in harmony with one another.

May God so bless us, that even as Jesus humbled Himself unto death to make us God’s children, we too might imitate Jesus by living in harmony with one another.
May God grant it in Jesus’ name.