Sunday, April 4, 2010

Redemption+ (John 10.1-18, Romans 8.1-4,16-17)

April 4, 2010 – Easter Sunday
Sermon by: Robert Austell

No audio available.

Happy Easter to you! Today I want to talk with you about the significance of the first Easter, almost 2000 years ago. More importantly, I want to talk to you about Jesus and what God accomplished through his crucifixion and resurrection.

First, I want to offer two “disclaimers” of a sort. The first is that while we could talk about the historical basis for the crucifixion and resurrection, at the end of the day, a leap of faith is required. I want to be honest about that. You might be tempted to say, “Well if I could have seen it with my own eyes…” but that is just pushing the case back a step. Even Mary, who saw Jesus risen from death and talked to him, had to face the seemingly impossible question, “How is THIS possible?” Even having seen and heard him, she could have attributed it to a vision, hallucination, or wishful thinking. She was faced with a leap of faith, that someone she saw executed, dead, and buried, was now alive. She took that leap of faith and was willing to put herself out there and tell others, “I have seen the Lord.” Even if we sought hundreds of eyewitnesses (which there were) or extra-biblical records (which there are)… I daresay even if we saw it ourselves, there must be a leap of faith to accept the greatest of supernatural events, a true miracle: death did not have the final word. I say it that way to point to two overlapping miracles: Jesus physically and literally was raised from the dead, and in him we have the promise that the end of this life is not the end of our life. Said more simply, the Bible describes a God who is supernatural, who is greater than death. Nowhere is that claim more powerful or pointed than in the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning. It is okay to struggle with the mental stretch that requires, but each person must either regard it as true or as false. That miracle is at the heart of the biblical story.

Secondly, it is important to ask the question, “Why is this necessary?” A third approach to the resurrection story is to not care, but that indifference probably has not wrestled with the biblical story. We have considered that story for the past six weeks and seen that, if true, we have a desperate, desperate need for God’s miraculous intervention. One must also reckon the story of human suffering, need, brokenness, and despair, as presented in the Bible as true or false. For weeks now we have considered that story and I, for one, have resonated with the stories of real, struggling people.

To that legitimate human need, the Bible claims, God has responded in love and through Jesus Christ. So while we began the service with the narrative of Easter morning, I invite you now to turn to Romans 8, that we might consider the implications of this truth claim about a real Easter resurrection.

The truth claim of the Easter resurrection narrative is “He is risen.” From that, our text in Romans makes at least four applications for those who put their faith in a risen Christ.

Mercy and Grace

Look at verse 1: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” “I do not condemn you.” That’s what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery. He did not ignore her sin or disregard it. Rather, he extended mercy and grace, that is, forgiveness. The one who was perfectly right and pure is the only one who rightfully can condemn us, and he chooses not to. Instead, he offers mercy and grace through the forgiveness of sin.

MERCY is not getting what we deserve; GRACE is getting what we don’t deserve. For all who realize just how imperfect and weak we are, that is good news indeed. Beyond the mercy of “I don’t condemn you” is the grace of “I forgive you.” That is the heart of the Christian Gospel.

Freedom and Life

Look at verse two: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” We talked about God’s Law for a number of weeks leading up to today. We saw (I hope) that it was not given to crush us into the ground, but to give us FREEDOM and LIFE. When my kids were little we had a rule that they couldn’t play in the street. That was not to make them miserable or keep them from playing, but so that they could enjoy life in the front yard!

Jesus didn’t come to overturn the Old Testament Law or do away with it; rather, he came to explain and fulfill it, to remind us and demonstrate God’s intended Word and will for our blessing. Living in obedience to Jesus Christ isn’t a downer or a chain to bind us. Rather, it is to bless and keep us in this life and forever, that we might know and experience the freedom and life God created us to enjoy.

Purpose

Look at the end of v. 3 and the first part of v. 4: “…He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us….” Do you see the difference there? Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but to condemn sin… to deal with the sin that would kill us. He took it into himself, bore the weight of it, and suffered the consequence of it. And by God’s power he emerged victorious over it. He redeemed us – bought us back and brought us back from death itself. In that way he fulfilled the PURPOSE of the Law and God’s PURPOSE for us – to bear God’s image in righteousness through identification with Jesus’ own righteousness.

I know, that’s where the language starts to get really theological and confusing. That’s where the biblical writers launch into analogy to help us understand: Jesus paid our debt to reconcile us with God; Jesus endured the chains of death that we might be redeemed; where we were covered by sin, Jesus washed us clean. All of those analogies simply point us toward the central truth claim of Scripture, that God achieved his long-promised PURPOSE through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – He rescued us from death, for life.

Belonging, Family, and Home

Finally, look at verses 16-17, which offer us one more picture for understanding the blessings of Easter resurrection: “…we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” These verses speak of BELONGING, FAMILY, and HOME. We were created in God’s image, as children of God; but the human race and we, individually, turn and run from God like so many prodigal’s leaving home. But Jesus’ death and resurrection are the ultimate loving invitation to “come home, sons and daughters.” Jesus has welcomed us back into His Father’s house, not as guests, but as FAMILY, heirs of all that God intended and purposed for us as His image-bearers. That’s the GLORY that is spoken of in v. 17 – “…that we may also be glorified with Him.” Our purpose is to bear the glory of God here and in eternity.

How can I put words to that? If you think in family terms, you probably have experienced the opposite of glory. If you’ve treated your husband or wife, mom or dad, son or daughter poorly – if you’ve lied, hurt feelings, or been selfish, you know the lack of joy and relationship that can cause, particularly if you let it fester and build. That is not unlike what has happened in the world between God and humanity. And so we avert our eyes, we badmouth the ones we’ve hurt, and we generally avoid the belonging and relationship that we actually crave with the ones we should love most. And every now and then, in a moment of what can only be called grace, someone will suck it up and reconcile – right or wrong, they will try to make peace. In an important sense, this is what God did through Jesus.

And if you’ve ever experienced that reconciling, that peace, in a relationship, you know the beauty and power of it. That amazing moment is a pale reflection of GLORY – the joy and relationship of being at home with God.

Redemption+

It is correct to say that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. But that is only one part of God’s bigger purpose, and it can become so trite that we don’t really even weigh its significance. What God did through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is bigger and broader. In our great need for God to intervene and act, God showed MERCY and GRACE, “Neither do I condemn you.” God reminded us of His desire for us, spoken to us through Word and Spirit, that we know and enjoy FREEDOM and LIFE. God revealed His PURPOSE for us, understood through a number of analogies: redemption, rescue, reconciliation, adoption, and more. And God made good on His promise of BELONGING, FAMILY, and HOME such that those who put their trust in Him will shine with the glory of God.

How do you enter into that? How do you “get it?” I would invite you to talk to me after the service or contact me for follow up. My phone number and e-mail are on the bulletin. I’d encourage you to check out the sermons from the past six weeks – several are out on the table and all are online at the website listed on the bulletin. I’d encourage you to tell a friend to help mark your interest and encourage forward momentum. Most importantly, I’d encourage you to pray – it’s nothing you have to have special training to do. It’s simply talking to God like you would talk to a person. Ask for God’s help, particularly in taking that “leap of faith.” You don’t have to check your brain at the door, nor do you have to have answered every question. I still have questions; I still have doubts. But I trust in a God who is bigger than my doubts; He wouldn’t be much of a God if he weren’t!

Let’s pray together now…

God, Easter is at the heart of it all – all of the story about you. I need your help to believe, to trust. I want to know your mercy and grace; I want to experience freedom and life; I want to understand my purpose and to belong to you. Help me; help each one here to trust you for what you have promised. We ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.
 

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