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Friday, December 24, 2010

Quiet and Soft and Slow (Philippians 2.5-8)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
December 24, 2010
Some Music Used
Winter Snow (Audrey Assad); Sung by Maddie Shuler

Quiet and Soft and Slow
Texts: Philippians 2:5-8

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Tomorrow morning is Christmas morning. In past weeks we’ve talked some with the children about the giving and receiving of gifts and how that can be seen as a reminder and extension of God’s gift-giving love. In addition to being an expression of love, gifts are also wonderful because of the surprise factor. While kids big and small may look around for weeks before Christmas to catch a glimpse of a gift, most don’t really want to find out until Christmas morning.

God’s people had been waiting for the Messiah for a long, long time. They knew that God loved them and was faithful, and that one day Messiah would come. While they did not know the timing of his coming, they were pretty sure they knew what they were getting. The Messiah was going to be the descendant of King David, returning as King over Israel to once again establish God’s people in the world. This was the gist of their prayers as we saw last week in Psalm 80. And this was the expectation of many in Jesus’ day, as described in the Gospel stories when people wanted to make him king.

But the Messiah didn’t come the way people thought he would. And later, he would not behave or preach the way people thought he should. That was one of the huge surprises, and even one of the great obstacles concerning Jesus. God’s gift was not what we expected, though it was the very best gift, given out of perfect love, wisdom, and grace.

And while I might only speak of the ancient Israelites awaiting the Messiah, or the people of Jesus day with all their hero-expectations, we come at God with our own substantial set of expectations that are not so far from those ancient people. And so I want to speak of us all together as we ponder the gift of God.

We want the gift we want, not the gift God is giving. We want our answers to our problems and we want them quick. We are frustrated by God’s timing, God’s answers, and God’s silence.

We want a splashy gift – big and bold, thunder and lightning; we want a miracle for the problems we can’t see around.

We want a sweeping gift that covers all situations, all circumstances, all problems – like some sort of cosmic band-aid.

And when the gift comes, like the child whose parents give the first two-wheel bike instead of this week’s fad, we miss the significance and the durability and the depth of the gift we’ve received, wanting the quick fix of what we didn’t. And we put on a fake happy face or we pout or we just miss the significance of what has transpired.

People expected God to raise a man to greatness. Instead, God condescended to live among us. That’s a strange word to use, but it literally means “come down with” – and that’s what God did in Christ… Emmanuel, God with us.

In the scripture passage from Philippians, we read of the character and quality of God’s gift in Christ, who “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men.” This is what happened at Jesus’ birth: he set aside his divine rights to be born of a woman into this world, into time, as a baby. No thunder and lightning there, just a young mother, the straw of a manger, and all the frailty of infancy. Later, in his adult ministry, Jesus would still turn aside from earthly power – he further “humbled himself,” says Philippians, “by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

While there are times God shows up BIG, those are the exception rather than the rule. Scripture speaks most often of a God who speaks in whispers or comes to the last and least. We are told again and again to “wait on the Lord” and “trust in God” and to “rest in the Lord.”

This suggests several things if we want to understand and receive God’s gift in Christ.

We must be willing to trust God’s gift-giving ability, that God knows better than we what we need most.

We must look and listen for God’s whisper of direction or response or comfort. I don’t know about you, but I have way too much noise in my life to do that well. So whether that means simplifying or setting aside time and space to be still before God (or both!), we may miss what God is doing because of our failure to tune in.

We must not make God into a genie in a lamp, answering wishes for our every need, or a cosmic band-aid, but as Scripture says, a “very present help in times of trouble.” This winter and spring we are going to study the story of the Exodus. If there is one great lesson there, it is that God doesn’t rescue us out of life, but leads and delivers us through it.

God is indeed the great and perfect gift-giver, for those who have the eyes and ears to receive it.

What if God is already speaking in your life? What if God is already acting, but in a way that is quiet and soft and slow? Will you hear Him? Will you see Him?

The Good News is that God has given you the greatest and perfect gift in Jesus Christ, born this Christmas morning. Welcome, receive, and open up what could be your greatest Christmas gift ever. Amen.

Winter Snow
By Audrey Assad

Could've come like a mighty storm with all the strength of a hurricane
You could've come like a forest fire with the power of heaven in Your flame
But You came like a winter snow, quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night to the earth below

You could've swept in like a tidal wave or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
To wipe away the things we've scarred
But You came like a winter snow (Yes, You did);
You were quiet, You were soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night to the earth below

Oh, no, Your voice wasn't in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn't in a rushing wind
It was still… It was small… It was hidden

You came like a winter snow, quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night to the earth below
Falling (Oh, yeah) to the earth below
You came falling from the sky in the night to the earth below

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Let Your Face Shine Peace (Psalm 80.1-7,7-19, Romans 1.1-7)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
December 19, 2010
Some Music Used 
Anthem: "There is No Rose" (Britten); Trio: Lynda, Morgan, and Maddie Shuler
Offertory: "Tidings of Comfort and Joy" (arr. Maddie Shuler)

Cong. Hymn: "How Deep the Father's Love"

Let Your Face Shine Peace
Texts: Psalm 80:1-7,17-19; Romans 1:1-7

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

bulletin artwork by Lynda Shuler

Today we are going to talk about peace. That’s something I think most of us could use about now… only six days ‘til Christmas. Have you finished your shopping?

Certainly we understand what peace might mean relative to hectic and busy lives. But that kind of peace is really just the outer layer or overflow of something much deeper, and that is what our scripture text gets at this morning.

That deeper and more significant kind of peace is peace with God. And just because God loves us (which most people might agree with) doesn’t mean that we all feel like we are at peace with God.

Today we will mainly look at Psalm 80, but we will see through Romans 1 that what is promised and held out as good news of peace in Psalm 80 is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as described in Romans 1. 

A Common Refrain

There is a refrain repeated several times in Psalm 80. You heard it three times in the selected verses read in the service today. That refrain is this:

O Lord God of hosts, restore us; Cause your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved. (vv. 3, 7, 19)

Those may not be the words you and I use, but isn’t that a common refrain in our life? Or shouldn’t it be?

bulletin artwork by Kathy Larson
God help me! I’m in over my head… I’ve turned away from you… I can’t handle the stress… I’m lonely… I’m afraid. Isn’t that cry to God our deepest cry for help?

The people of Israel knew where that help came from. It came from their God – the God of Israel. And unlike the gods of all those around them, God couldn’t be bought or bribed. They also recognized two important things in the narrative underlying this Psalm: 1) they had strayed and were not at peace with God; and 2) only God could really do something about that.

And so, they cried out; the Psalmist cried out: “O Lord God of hosts, restore us; Cause your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.”

What We Need

Let’s look more in depth at the first half of that refrain: “Restore us; Cause your face to shine upon us.”

In those two phrases we very much hear what we need. We need restoration; we need peace with God. That’s what God “shining His face” means. Even across the cultures and the years, that’s not hard to understand because it is still so close to our own experience. My own kids know the gist of it, even as I did as a child. I could tell when my father was displeased with me, without him even using words. And I’ve been told the same. After an argument or having to discipline them one of the girls has asked me, “Dad, do you love me?” Even as I answer with words, “Yes, I love you!” they are looking for more – for that smile and twinkle that puts truth to the words. They are looking for my face or “countenance” to shine upon them. It’s simply a vivid and personal way to understand what it means for things to be right between two people. And it was a common Hebrew way of describing peace with God. Maybe you know the old Hebrew blessing, “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

The Psalmist describes well what it feels like to not be at peace with God. Listen again to verses 4-6:

How long will you be angry with the prayer of your people? (v. 4) – I’ve felt that way, like not only are my prayers not going anywhere, but maybe God doesn’t WANT to hear my prayers.

You have fed them with the bread of tears, and you have made them to drink tears in large measure. (v. 5) – If you’ve known tears – real sorrow – you’ve probably asked the question whether God caused it to be. This Psalm is not answering that question, but is describing the sorrow of making tears our food when we are not at peace with God. 

You make us an object of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. (v. 6) – Likewise, this is not teaching that God punishes us by making people laugh at us. Rather, it is describing some of the emotion and struggle we experience when we are not reconciled with God.

“Restore us and cause your face to shine upon us” – God, do you still love me? Like my own children (or me, for that matter), what we need is more than the words.

What God Has Done (and what these have to do with Christmas)

The Psalm gets to this “more than words” down in verse 17. The Psalmist recognizes that to make things right, God will have to act. Listen:

Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, upon the son of man whom you made strong for yourself. (v. 17)

It is most likely that the Psalmist envisioned this “man of God’s right hand” as the king of Israel. With God’s blessing or anointing on the king (by this time it would have been one of David’s grandsons), the people might be called back to a right relationship with God. And the envisioned result is in the next verse:

Then we shall not turn back from you; Revive us, and we will call upon your name.” (v. 18)

Surely another great king like David would make this easy!

This actually sounds like pretty classic bargaining with God, though I said earlier that the God of Israel didn’t work that way. (That doesn’t stop us though, does it?!) It is a familiar pattern to me. God, I’m not doing well, so I recognize that I probably have disobeyed you and I need your help to get back. If you’ll just help me out of this situation, I promise to do and be better!

So much right and so much wrong in that. Yes, our turning away or not trusting in God is problematic. If we do not have peace with God that often translates into not having peace in the here and now. But the solution is not for us to make promises, but to trust in God’s promises.

Look with me at Romans 1 for a moment, to see what God has done.

Whether the Psalmist could see it or not, the New Testament writers see God’s promises written through the pages of their Hebrew scripture. Paul introduces his letter by saying that he is a servant of Jesus Christ and set apart for the Gospel (Good News) of God, which God promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy scriptures. (vv. 1-2) That’s God’s promise – that He would save… that he would establish peace and a way to be at peace with Him.

And this is what all this has to do with Christmas: Paul goes on to describe Jesus in terms of God keeping His promise to save. And it is this very description that ties Romans 1 together with Psalm 80 and with the birth of Christ. Remember Psalm 80:17 – “Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, upon the son of man whom you made strong for yourself.” Now listen to Romans 1:3-4…

[God’s son] was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh… [and] declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.

The hope in Psalm 80 was that God would anoint and choose the “man of His right hand” to accomplish the salvation or help that we need so much. Romans 1 declares Jesus as the anointed, chosen, and PROMISED heir to King David and the one God declared Savior through His power.

This is the Good News to the ancient Hebrews, to the Romans of Paul’s day, to us today, and in the Christmas story. Jesus is God’s way of making peace and demonstrating His peace to the world. And I don’t just mean “peace to the world” but “peace with God for all who believe.”

That’s where Paul turns next. It is through Jesus that we receive grace and are sent to the world. That’s what Romans 1:5 is about when it says, “…through [Jesus] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake….”

Through Jesus Christ, God has acted to let His face shine peace on us that we might extend the Good News and experience of that peace throughout the world.

Peace on Earth

I began with asking if you had finished your shopping. But God’s peace is far deeper than not being rattled the week before Christmas. The real gift of these scriptures is the promise that God HAS acted in Christ for us to know true spiritual peace. That’s more than words in a book; that is God acting in human history, and that’s what we celebrate at Christmas – God coming near to smile upon us in the deepest sense of that phrase.

Not only does that deep peace address life-long and substantial questions of our relationship with God, I also believe it can bear fruit in our day-to-day life as we “rest” in the security of that fundamental relationship with God.

And that is not just a gift to be received, but also a gift to be shared, as scripture reminds us that God has made things right with us so that we might share the news with others. That’s where peace on earth begins. Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finding Joy (Isaiah 35.1-10)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
December 12, 2010
Some Music Used 
Joy to the World (arr. Austell)
Good Christians, All Rejoice (arr. Austell)

Finding Joy
Texts: Isaiah 35:1-10

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

This is one of those cases where the spoken (and sung) version of the sermon developed quite a bit from this early manuscript.  I also think the Spirit was moving significantly during the service, and I encourage you to listen to the sermon audio.

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. (v. 3)

With those words, Isaiah got my attention. For all the supposed happiness of the Christmas season, it can carry with it an elevated level of exhaustion, and a whole lot more.
bulletin artwork (photo)
by John Wright

Isaiah was writing to a people who were exhausted, beaten-down, and worn out. The Northern portion of the country, Israel, had been betrayed by their Edomite neighbors (the descendants of Esau!). They had been conquered by Babylon. The routes in and out of their country, and particularly the road to Jerusalem, were fraught with danger from animals, robbers, and thieves. They had lost hope of God’s presence or salvation. God had been alive and well for their grandparents, but life was mostly challenge and frustration now. And into that void, Isaiah spoke of God’s Anointed, the Messiah, who would change everything.

Things are not so different now. The context has changed: we have new enemies, betrayals, disappointments, obstacles, challenges, arguments, and fights. But internally and spiritually, the struggle is not all that different. We admire the faith of those who went before, or perhaps even those around us. But the challenges can seem overwhelming. And there’s nothing like the Christmas season to bring that out. Whether it’s the overspending, the ramped-up family dynamics, missing loved ones no longer with us, or being overwhelmed by the hype, we can get exhausted and even feeble. Or worse, we can despair. I’ve listened to enough stories of what goes on beneath the wrapping to know how many people are really struggling right now. I believe Isaiah’s message is for you this morning, even as God used it all those years ago to encourage and hold out hope to His people of old.

Isaiah continues… “To those with an anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not; behold, your God will come [to judge]… but He will save you.’” (v. 4)

Journeying on the Way (v. 8)

Isaiah again moves into the kind of end of the age imagery we heard last week. Remember what I said about the Messiah and the end of the age. Jesus, as God’s Messiah (Anointed One), announced the coming of God’s Kingdom: it had arrived with him. But he also pointed to a future consummation or completion of God’s reign. Jesus arrival was the beginning of the end, ushering in God’s Kingdom values, including His judgment; but His return will mark the end of the age, when God will make all things right and new. So listen again to Isaiah’s description of what was yet to come. In verses 5-6:

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.”

Does that remind you of anything? It should! Think of Jesus’ ministry of healing, specifically to the blind, deaf, lame, and mute. Think of how Jesus announced the beginning of his public ministry, recorded in Luke 4:18-19. He went to the synagogue and read from the scroll of… yes, Isaiah (61:1-2)!

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

So what Isaiah describes as a hopeful future is both fulfilled in Jesus and yet to be. Jesus has won the redemption of God’s people (see v. 9). He has ransomed us from sin and death (also v. 9). And in doing so, he has united us with himself to walk on the highway of holiness. That was a “road” only he could walk. But in granting us his righteousness, he brings us up with him.

Isaiah goes on to describe the Highway of Holiness and it sounds trouble-free! And this is where I think the poetry and the vision and the New Testament reality get confusing. Maybe this vision is accurate enough; we just keep straying from the road and into trouble. But I don’t think that’s it. The Bible doesn’t promise us a trouble-free life, but promises those who trust in God that we will not face the trouble alone. Rather, I think Isaiah’s vision was of all the Messiah would accomplish rolled up into one event, and specifically with Isaiah’s contemporaries in mind. Instead, God unfolded His plan, indeed bringing the Exiles home, but sending the Messiah generations later, and even then pausing between redemption and judgment out of what I understand to be gracious love and patience. We live in that pause where God has provided who and what we need to journey home.

[In the spoken sermon, this is where I used the imagery of a 2D painting compared to a 3D musical composition that unfolds over time.]

All that is to say that the Christian life is yet a mixture of trouble and help, obstacles and deliverance. We are not yet to Heaven, but because of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, we are on the way. And we are not yet impervious to harm or distraction or discouragement or pain. But we are not alone. And so God’s words are not empty: “Take courage, fear not; God will save you.” And that part about vengeance? The Bible also says that vengeance belongs to the Lord. God will judge all things in the end. Our part is to trust Him, follow His Messiah, and enjoy the journey.

Finding Gladness and Joy (v. 10)

I included that last part because it’s what the passage builds up to. Having encouraged us to take heart and to follow God’s Messiah on the way, Isaiah ends by describing the joy of those who do so. Listen again to verses 9-10:

“…the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

That’s the good news for us, anxious hearts and all. If you have trusted in Jesus (God’s Messiah), God will bring you home. Isaiah’s language calls back to the Exodus, when God redeemed and ransomed His people from slavery in Egypt. So also God would bring His people home from Exile in Isaiah’s day. So also God still brings His people home.

I’d like to end by singing a song to you about this very journey. It is written by Michael Card and describes the joy that we can find in this journey – what Isaiah called the way of holiness. Listen, I think he gets it just right.


There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey

And all those who seek it shall find it
A pardon for all who believe
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind

To all who've been born in the Spirit
And who share incarnation with Him
Who belong to eternity stranded in time
And weary of struggling with sin

Forget not the hope that's before you
And never stop counting the cost
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost

There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey

Monday, December 6, 2010

God So Loved the World (Isaiah 11.1-10, Romans 15.4-13)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
December 5, 2010
Some Music Used 
Children: Prepare Our Hearts (by GSPC children)
Of the Father's Love Begotten (arr. Austell)
Offertory: Away in a Manger, Walker Austell, piano (Murray)
Children: Come, Lord Jesus (Bedford)
The Gospel Song (Kauflin)

God So Loved the World
Texts: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**
Bulletin Art by Maggie Slade

Today is the second Sunday in Advent and we are focused on love, particularly God’s love for the world as shown through His Son, Jesus Christ. We will be reminded how God’s plan has unfolded in human history and over generations upon generations. In a sentence, we will see that God’s saving love was promised of old, kept in Christ, and wide as the whole world.

Promised of Old

Jesus – all he was and all he did – did not arrive unannounced in the manger. And I don’t just mean that an angel-messenger let Mary and Joseph know he was coming. No, Jesus coming was promised of old and the Messiah was the subject of generations of persevering hope. So our Romans text reminds us in verse 4: “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

This verse was in direct reference to a quotation from the Psalms in the previous verse, but also applies to what follows, which summarizes Jesus’ person and work and ends by pointing to the passage from Isaiah. So let’s take a moment to look at the Isaiah passage in more detail.

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. (v. 1)

This verse points to the covenant promise God made to David (the “stem of Jesse”), that God would preserve his lineage and kingship (cf. 2 Samuel 7:16). Both Matthew and Luke include genealogies to connect Jesus with the Davidic line and this covenantal promise.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (v. 2)

As Isaiah describes the promised Messiah, it is not hard to make the connection to what we know of Jesus. Consider the story at the end of Luke 2 of his childhood visit to the Temple, where he demonstrated godly wisdom and understanding. That story ends with a description that hearkens back to the Isaiah prophecy. Luke 2:52 says of the boy Jesus: “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” As Jesus began his adult ministry, again and again he demonstrated the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, and knowledge. I think of his interaction with the woman at the well, or the scene we looked at for several weeks in November, with Simon the Pharisee and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet.

And if you keep reading in Isaiah, it only sounds more and more like the Jesus we read of in the Gospels:

And he will delight in the fear of the Lord and he will not judge by what his eyes see, nor make a decision by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth… (vv. 3-4a)

I think of the many times Jesus spent time with the poor and outcast, with prostitutes, sinners, lepers, the sick, lame, and blind. He was more interested in a person’s heart and faith than in their outward appearance, station, or standing.

From there, the Isaiah prophecy starts to sound a little fantastic, describing both a judgment and a peace we have yet to see. But that, too, is the message of the New Testament, that Jesus not only fulfilled Messianic hope, but inaugurated or ushered in the age to come, which will not be consummated until his return. So, unlike Isaiah’s original audience, we have seen the beginning of hope fulfilled; and like Isaiah’s original audience, we still wait in hope of God’s completion of His plan.

Let’s look back at Romans, though we will return to the end of the Isaiah passage once more before we are done.

Kept in Christ

God’s promises were kept in Jesus Christ! The Romans passage says a number of important things, but that essential truth is right there in the middle of it. Listen to verse 8:

For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers…

The part that is a little obscure is “becoming a servant to the circumcision.” What that means is what is taught throughout the New Testament, and Romans in particular. Circumcision is the Old Testament sign of both the Law and the Covenant with God. There in that one obscure reference is the whole Good News story. Though humanity could not live up to covenant faithfulness and God’s law, God was eternally faithful and Himself kept both “sides” of the covenant by assuming humanity through Jesus Christ. Jesus was the true covenant-keeper of Israel who was obedient to the Law and faithful to the covenant in our stead.

Through his birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus accomplished all that God intended, which is all God had promised of old. Jesus was the shoot from the stem of Jesse, and not only did he come to save each one in the covenant who believes, but he came to extend God’s salvation as wide as the whole world.

Wide as the Whole World

This breadth of God’s salvation is really at the heart of both the Isaiah and the Romans passage, as well as the original Abrahamic covenant itself. Listen first to how it is described in Romans:

Christ has become a servant to the circumcision (i.e. the covenant-keeper of Israel… to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy. (v. 9)

And again and again in what follows, as if Paul wants us to understand just how significant it is that God’s salvation is as wide as the whole world.

…as it is written, “Therefore I will give praise to you among the Gentiles…” (v. 9b)

Again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.” (v. 10)

And again, “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise Him.” (v. 11)

Again Isaiah says, “There shall come the root of Jesse, and he who arises to rule over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles hope.” (v. 12)

And there is the connection back to our passage in Isaiah. In Romans, Paul quotes Isaiah 11:1, which goes on in verse 10 to say, “Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples….”

What’s the point in all this? It is that from the beginning, and spelled out in the covenant with Abraham, God has set apart a people as a witness to all. He set apart Abraham and his family, and then their descendants, in order to bless the nations and the world. He established David’s kingship and line in order to bless Israel, but also the surrounding nations. And He sent His one and only Son, when the time was right, as the shoot from the stem of Jesse, to be savior not just the set apart chosen people, but to fulfill their purpose within the covenant, to be the witness, savior, and blessing agent for the world.

God So Loved the World

To summarize, then, these scriptures flesh out the verse we know so well, that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

From the beginning, God has pursued fallen humanity wherever and whoever they are. From old, God promised to save, and in Christ God has kept this promise with a love that is as wide as the whole world. This is both our motivation to come to Christ and our motivation to go with the news of Christ, that all who believe might know the depth and breadth of God’s love. Amen.