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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Great Promise (Genesis 12.1-8)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
November 27, 2011
Some Music Used
Prelude : "Of the Father's Love Begotten" (Wilbur Held)
Advent Wreath Hymn: "We Light the Advent Candle" (vv. 1-2) (Grindal)
Song of Praise: "Of the Father's Love Begotten/Love Shines" (arr. Austell)
The Word in Music: "My Lord He is a-Comin' Soon" (arr. Drennan)
Offering of Music: "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" (arr. Martin)
Hymn of Sending: "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" (HYFRYDOL)
Postlude: "Consolation: The King Shall Come" (David N. Johnson)

Being Thankful
Text: Genesis 12:1-8

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

Manuscript not available this week.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Being Thankful (Colossians 3.12-17)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
November 20, 2011
Some Music Used
Prelude : "The Gift of Love" (Martin)
Song of Praise: "Now Thank We/Give Thanks" (arr. Austell)
Song of Praise: "All I Have is Christ" (J. Kauflin)
Offering of Music: "Let the Peace of Christ Rule in Your Hearts" (Courtney)
Hymn of Sending: "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" (BEECHER)
Postlude: "Now Thank We All Our God" (Bock)

Being Thankful
Text: Colossians 3:12-17

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

Last week we talked about an “identity passage” – a passage in the Bible that describes, not primarily WHAT we do, but WHO we are as followers of Jesus Christ. The particular identity we focused on was being God’s “special treasure” or possession. And I challenged you about the importance of understanding who you are as a Christian rather than simply going through the motions of “doing Christian things.”

This week’s passage is from a different place in the Bible, but builds on what we talked about last week. Though it uses a different metaphor to talk about our identity, it nonetheless begins with identity before moving on to character. So, last week we talked about being God’s “special treasure.” Here, in Colossians 3:12, those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ are called “chosen of God, holy and beloved.” Have you ever considered that, or is church just something you do? If you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are chosen of God and you are holy AND beloved. We talked some about “holy” last week – that doesn’t mean you are perfect, but means that your belonging to God is evident in your life… you are distinctly His.

Well this week I want to look with you at the character of a Christian. And this passage is rich in describing it. In fact, it is so rich, we will not be able to look in a detailed way at what all is said. I want to just focus on one characteristic of a Christian, but I will give you a thumbnail outline of the whole passage so that you can have some context.

The basic structure of this passage is this: it begins with an identity statement – “chosen of God, holy and beloved” – and then goes on in great detail to describe what makes a Christian so distinct. How should we be identifiable as belonging to God, like we talked about last week. There is a whole list of ways.

Get Dressed Like Jesus (vv. 12-13)

In verse 12, those who belong to Jesus are supposed to look like Jesus. Paul uses “put on” to describe a list of character traits and this is the same word for putting on clothes. We are to put on the character of Christ each day just like we get dressed for the day. Here’s the list, and listen for the outcome of dressing this way. “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” And here’s how that kind of Christ-like character bears fruit in the world around us. Those character traits will cause us to bear with and forgive each other, just like Jesus did with us.

Remember the ending point last week, which was part of the identity at the beginning of verse 12 today… we are to be holy. That doesn’t mean “holier-than-thou” and doesn’t mean “perfect”; it means set apart as distinct for God’s honor or glory. We are to be identifiable as belonging to God in such a way that we rub off on others in a positive and credible way. That’s what Paul is describing here. A Christian isn’t the one with the best church attendance record or who has given the most money, but one who daily dresses with the character of Christ, resulting in the kind of holy impact God designed us for… showing others the grace we have experienced from God.

Paul is just getting started though. In verse 14, he adds one more trait we should wear daily, and it is even more important – “beyond all these things”; it is love. He doesn’t say as much about love, only noting that it is the “perfect bond of unity,” but he does say that it is most important.

And then he changes metaphors slightly and keeps building his message.

Let Jesus Rule and Reside Inside (vv. 14-16)

Paul continues describing the character traits of those who are identified in Christ, but he changes the metaphor. He began with a metaphor of getting dressed, daily putting on traits like compassion, kindness, and love. Now he uses two different metaphors: Jesus ruling over us and Jesus living in us.

First, he writes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… and be thankful.” He says a little bit about the peace – it is our purpose and flows out of the unity that he previously mentioned as a result of love. And he includes thankfulness, our theme for today. Thankfulness is a sign that Jesus is ruling in your hearts… that you belong to God. If I rule my own heart, if my passions and interests are self-serving, I will only be thankful to myself, and that turns to greed. But if, as we saw last week, I belong to God as His “special treasure” then my gratitude to God will result in a willing service, offered freely. This will not be the only time thankfulness is mentioned in this passage.

Then Paul offers a third metaphor of Jesus living or dwelling within us. Paul speaks in verse 16 of the “word of Christ,” which could be the message about Jesus or the content of Jesus’ teaching, or both. The result of that Word living in us is, again, a rubbing off on those around us as that Word bubbles forth in wise teaching, admonishing, and singing. Note again the word “thankfulness” describing our singing of the Word of Christ.

All in the Name (v. 17)

Finally, in verse 17, Paul gathers up all that has gone before – our identity and the character of Christ – and issues a blanket challenge: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Taken literally, that may sound like we are supposed to tack on, “in the name of Jesus” to everything we say or do.

“Let me get that door for you… in the name of Jesus!”

“Can I bring you some dinner tonight in the name of Jesus?”

Rather, that “in the name of Jesus” is a way of pulling together all the powerful metaphors Paul has already used. He has challenged us to dress ourselves daily in the character of Christ. He has challenged us to let Christ rule our hearts. He has challenged us to have the Word of Christ take residence in our lives. “In the name of” is simply describing a life given fully to Jesus Christ. It means claiming the identity that God has already declared. It means saying ‘yes’ to belonging to God. It means that “Christian” (which is taking on the name of Christ) is not just about what you do, but about who you are.

What Paul is saying here is that if you belong to God, then belong to God. Take on the family name, but not just externally or for show, but as the very essence of who you are.

And then, interestingly, in that summary sentence, we are reminded one last time to give thanks. “Whatever you do… BE and BELONG to Jesus… and give thanks to God.” Something to ponder deeply this Thanksgiving week…

Something to ponder deeply any time...

Who are you? Who does God say you are? What does that mean? Are you thankful about it?

I think the thankfulness comes when we realize whose we are and what that means, because that’s truly amazing when you really grab hold of it and God grabs hold of you. Amen.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

God's Possession (1 Peter 2.5-12)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
November 13, 2011
Some Music Used
Prelude : "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (Manz)

Song of Praise: "Come, All Christians, Be Committed" (arr. Austell)
Song of Praise: "Tame My Life" (Tomlin, Giglio)
The Word in Music: "Something for Thee" (John Palmer Smith)
Offering of Music: "O Word of God Incarnate" (Bobby White, piano) (arr. White)

Hymn of Sending: "We Give Thee But Thine Own" (arr. Austell)
Postlude: "Contrasts" (Diemer)

God's Possession
Text: 1 Peter 2:5-12

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

Today we are looking at a wonderful “identity passage.” I call it that because it offers us a number of vivid descriptions of WHO WE ARE in Christ. I’m just going to focus in on one of those, but just listen to all the ways you are described in 1 Peter 2, if you have believed and trusted in Jesus Christ.

You are… living stones, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, and though once not, you are now the people of God. In the midst of that, in verses 6-8, comes the description of Jesus Christ as both the cornerstone and the stumbling stone. All of that is so rich… it makes me want to come back and revisit all those things in more depth, and maybe we’ll do that early next year.

But for today, I want to focus more narrowly on one of those identities: God’s own possession. I do so because today is what we call Consecration Sunday. It is the follow-up to last week’s stewardship focus, and where we might typically focus on OUR possessions as we contemplate stewardship and giving to God, I found it very interesting that this passage speaks of us as GOD’s possessions.

God’s Possessions (v. 9a)

Peter is quoting Exodus 19:5-6, which was originally God’s Word through Moses to His people at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Since we have recently talked so much about the covenant in the Old Testament, listen to those verses:
5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
There, “my own possession” literally means “my special treasure.” That’s what God said to the people of His covenant in Exodus and that’s what God is saying to followers of Jesus through Peter. Peter is writing to all who would trust in Jesus, whom indeed he recognizes in this same passage as a “stone of stumbling.” Peter is writing the new “people of God,” whom God is drawing from all nations through His Son, Jesus. And Peter is intentionally connecting this new gathering-in-Jesus with what was said to the people of Israel in Exodus.

It is covenantal language – binding, promise language, like marriage vows: “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, ‘til death do us part.” It is also interesting to note the different ways that phrase has been translated. Sometimes it’s “God’s own possession” (NASB); sometimes “people belonging to God” (NIV); and my favorite, the King James “a peculiar people.” So, I’d definitely take off any negative connotation of personal possession, as if God’s intent for us is harmful or to make us less than human. What is closer to the meaning there is that in Christ we are so identified with God and God’s family that we should bear the imprint of it. It should be noticeable. Someone should be able to look at you and think, “She’s a Christian” or “He must be one of those Jesus people.” And while it’s not here in the New Testament Greek of Peter, I would also hold on to the Hebrew connotation of the original that we are also God’s “special treasure.”

It puts a different spin on stewardship and giving of our own time and “special treasure” to God, doesn’t it… that we ourselves are God’s special treasure? Let’s look on and see what Peter has to say about it. 

For His Public Glory – “proclaiming the excellencies” (v. 9b)

The remainder of verse 9 describes the purpose of belonging to God. I should note that this also describes the purpose of being a “chosen race… royal priesthood, and holy nation” – so know that this purpose is tied in deeply to our identity as Christians – our identity in Christ. You are a “people for God’s own possession,” His special treasure, SO THAT you may “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (v. 9b)

What does that mean? It simply means that our purpose in belonging to God is to declare God’s greatness. And look how it is doubly, triply rooted in our identity. Not only are we to “proclaim His excellencies” as chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and God’s own possession/special treasure, but it’s even there in the message we proclaim – the excellencies of Him “who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” God has so radically saved us that He has re-named us… but far deeper than that, God has re-identified us. Verse 10 goes on to describe that even more: you were once not a people, but now are the people of God. You once had not received mercy, but now you have. Darkness to light, non-people to people, judgment to mercy – God has done amazing things for those who believe. And our purpose is to point others to the God who does all these excellent things.

And this is to be public. We very much treat religion today as a private matter, but God is clear from Genesis to Revelation that what He is accomplishing in us is not a private matter, but a public one. In fact, it is God’s design that this transformation of people be part of His revelation and witness to the world. The remainder of the text goes on to describe that in a particular way.

Consecrated and Consecrating

While one might read our purpose – to “proclaim the excellencies [of God]” and think that is mainly a verbal thing, the remainder of our text makes it clear that the proclamation in view here is action-oriented. Verses 11-12 are focused on behavior as witness to the world. So, Peter urges us, the former “aliens and strangers” – that is the ones who were not a people, but who now are (and who were also redeemed from darkness to light and from judgment to mercy) – to keep sexually and morally pure from “fleshly lusts.” He challenges us to “keep your behavior excellent” out in the world so that because of these good deeds, others might come to glorify or honor God.

The word that describes behavior that is distinct from the world around us for the sake of honoring God is “consecrated.” It means set apart or holy, but we often think of that as separated AWAY from the world rather than distinct WITHIN it. But it is the latter that is being described here. From the beginning God has set apart His people – by laws, by covenant sign, by behavior. The purpose is not to shelter them away and keep them pure and aloof, but as a witness to the surrounding world of the character and nature of God.

Let me say that another way. We are to be a reflection of the holiness of God. But God, as perfectly holy, is not hidden away from humanity. Rather, in holiness God has come among us in Jesus Christ, to live and be one of us, but to do so with complete distinctness as the perfectly obedient one, to redeem and draw humanity unto Himself.

Whether we talk about consecrating gifts of money for the mission and work of this church or talk about consecrating our lives in service to God, we are talking about openly belonging to God for His public glory. So, the mission and ministry of this church is not for ourselves, but for the world around us, to point to God. Our mission and ministry as Christians is not to get blessed by God, but to give ourselves in service to God for the blessing of others.

I invite you today to consecrate all you are and all you have, tangibly expressed and renewed through pledges and covenants, as God’s own possession, set apart as distinct for God’s public glory. Amen.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Small Faithfulnesses (Luke 19.11-27)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
November 6, 2011
Some Music Used
Prelude : "Fairest Lord Jesus" (arr. Rick Bean)

Anthem of Praise: "Gloria" (Chilcott)
Song of Praise: "Christian Women, Christian Men" (arr. Youngblood)
Anthem of Confession: "Kyrie" (Chilcott)

Offering of Music: "Jesus Christ Lies Here Tonight" (Peterson)
Communion Liturgy: "Sanctus" & "Benedictus" (Chilcott)
Music During Distribution: "Agnus Dei" (Chilcott)

Hymn of Sending: "Be Thou My Vision" (SLANE)
Postlude: "He Is Risen" (Peterson)

Small Faithfulnesses
Text: Luke 19:11-27

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

Today we look at a parable, a story Jesus told, which probably sounds a little familiar, but maybe not quite what you remember. It is close to the more-familiar “Parable of the Talents,’ but is really told in a different context and for a different purpose. Because of this similarity, I have never paid it much attention; but, I have realized that this is an important story in its own right because of what it has to teach us about being a Jesus-follower. First I want to look at the broad point of this parable, and then as a point of application will focus on v. 17 and the principle of being faithful in small things. 

Why Did Jesus Tell This Story? (v. 11)

Parables are stories with a teaching point. They always have a context and that context is always important to “getting it” – understanding the point of the parable. In the case of this parable, that context and its importance are given in the text.

Look at verse 11. There are two important bits of information there about the context. The first is “while they were listening to these things.” This refers to the preceding text, which is the story of Zaccheus. The last verse of that story is Jesus saying, “Today salvation has come to this house… for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” The story of Zaccheus is a story about a man who encountered the person and grace of Jesus and who responded in faith and action, paying back over and above what he had stolen from people. Zaccheus is a man who responded to Jesus in faith and obedience. Keep that in mind as we move into the story of the ten minas.

Also in v. 11, we are explicitly told why Jesus told the parable. It was “because he was near Jerusalem and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” We have talked before about the “Messianic expectation” of Jesus’ day. There was a belief and a hope that God would send His Messiah, or chosen one, to restore the political strength and independence of Israel. There were a whole set of prophecies and signs associated with this belief and many of those signs centered around Jerusalem. One of Jesus’ central teachings was about the “Kingdom of God” and just as people hoped the Messiah would lead a restored Israel, they believed that the restored Israel would be the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus was aware of this expectation, often teaching to correct it, and he told this particular parable specifically because of the proximity to Jerusalem and the tangible expectations of those around him.

The short version of what he consistently taught – and this parable is no exception – is that there was indeed a coming Kingdom, though it was a spiritual Kingdom rather than a military/political kingdom. He also taught that the Kingdom was come NOW – with His ministry and presence – but also NOT YET. There was a future component still to be awaited in hope and faith. What this parable does is describe the NOT YET of the Kingdom and the what-to-do-in-the-meantime question of all who were looking to God in faith.

As we are still living in the NOT YET time, this parable has direct application to each of us as we try to understand what it means to hope in God, trust and follow Jesus, and as we ask, “What do I have to offer?”

Finally, the parable distinguishes at least three different types of “citizens” of the kingdom in the story, pointing us to some application for our own lives and reality. We’ll consider the parable from the viewpoint of these three groups.

Group 1: Servants of the House

The first and obvious group in this parable is the group of ten servants. In the story a nobleman was going to a far country to become king and then return. He called together ten slaves and gave each of them a mina in order to “do business until I return.” Now a mina was 100 days wage. The instruction was to engage the world, investing, buying and selling – in other words, to do the work of the household in his absence. The two servants who the master praised wisely invested the minas and multiplied them, because they knew and obeyed the master. Jesus is describing what servants of God are supposed to do in the NOT YET of waiting for the coming Kingdom. We are to “be about the Father’s business” – and simply that.

Group 2: Hostile Resistance (v. 14)

There is a group in the parable that is set against the ruler from the get-go. Look at verse 14: “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” In this, Jesus is recognizing that some of those waiting for God’s Messiah have opposed him from the beginning. One’s mind goes quickly to the scribes and Pharisees who so openly opposed Jesus and worked to discredit him and eventually kill him. They were not strangers to the kingdom, but were not ready to see a “local” as their king. This group appears again at the end of the parable, in verse 27, where the end has come, and the King executes judgment against his sworn enemies. So we are to understand that God’s grace and mercy are part of the NOT YET that we live in, but that God’s judgment is coming and there will be a time when being God’s enemy will cost everything.

Group 3: In the Dark

There is a third person described in this parable, and that is the third slave. This slave is afraid, but also mischaracterizes and even libels the master, describing him as “an exacting man” who “take[s] up what you did not lay down and reap[s] what you did not sow.” In other words, he makes the master out to be unfair and a thief. The master seems to play along, but finds the slave unworthy, saying that he failed both the actual task and the one he imagined himself to have. In other words, even if the master were an unfair thief, the slave should have invested the mina in order to multiply it for the supposed money-loving master. And the master takes away the one mina and gives it to the first slave, who made ten out of one. And that’s really the end of the transaction with the one slave because the focus shifts back to those gathered around, who find the master’s action unfair – see v. 25, “But master, he has ten minas already.” The story goes on and turns to the fate of the hostile resistance when the master returns in power. 

The Need for Salt and Light: our mission

What do we make of all this?

Jesus is speaking to those who are expecting the immediate coming of God’s Kingdom, and with that comes judgment of those not right with God. This story also comes right on the heels of the encounter with Zaccheus where a scoundrel and a criminal – surely one not right with God – seemingly “finds the Lord” late in life and is blessed and honored by Jesus.

This parable simultaneously answers the question of what followers of Jesus are to believe and do during the NOT YET of waiting for Jesus’ return in glory and the question of people coming late to the party. Let me explain…

There are some who trust and obey God. We are not perfect, but it’s not about us or our abilities or our rightness. Rather, like the servants and the minas, God has given us what we need to be faithful and obedient. Because of Jesus, we have what we need. And Jesus has simply said, “Come, follow me.” So every person who has trusted in Jesus has their mina. It’s the same for every Christian. We have hope; we have forgiveness; we have the Holy Spirit and the fruits and gifts that come with the Spirit; we have God’s Word. Every one of you who trusts in Jesus has those things – that’s your mina.

There are some folks who are hostile to God. They are no less created in God’s image or inhabitants of this world that God has made. But, like we would be apart from Jesus, they are hostile to God’s rule in their life. And barring a miracle or Jesus breaking through that hostility, if they remain so, their fate is as certain as the enemies of the master in the story.

And then there are a whole host of people who live in the dark. Like the unfaithful slave in the story, they may have a wrong view of God. They may be misinformed, and even appear hostile to God because they believe God is hostile, unfair, or a thief. Those attitudes are tangled in with some of the big questions about “How could God do this?” and “Why did this happen to me?”

This landscape of people living in the NOT YET was entirely appropriate to the Zaccheus encounter, where someone assumed to be an enemy of God encountered the truth and the person of Jesus and proved to be a “faithful servant.”

This landscape of people living in the NOT YET describes the world we still live in, and it ties in to our core mission of being a searchlight church. Look again at the verse right before our parable. There it is in verse 10: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

How will they know the truth if we don’t tell them? How will people know that God is not exacting and unfair, but gracious and loving, unless we show them? We are salt and light because the story of humanity isn’t over until it’s over. We are living in the NOT YET, and so it is not too late for anyone. 

Small Faithfulnesses

What do I have to offer Jesus? What shall I do with the mina which he has entrusted me?

What small faithfulness can you offer Jesus?

Perhaps your mina is a desire to pray. Start with a small faithfulness. Commit to pray each morning or evening for one friend who is living in the dark. You don’t have to pray for 100 or even for the one to have a supernatural, life-transforming, burning bush kind of experience. Start small, but be faithful. Keep praying; keep praying; keep praying. And when you have been faithful, God will expand your prayers.

Perhaps your faithfulness is raising your children in the knowledge of the Lord. Start with a small faithfulness. Understand your cleaning up of messes and your control of your temper and your words of love and stories of Jesus to be acts of faithfulness to Jesus. Start small, but be faithful. Keep mothering; keep fathering. And when you have been faithful, God will expand your calling, which is good, since children grow and get bigger and have bigger challenges!

Perhaps your faithfulness is your work. Start with a small faithfulness. I know different kinds of work relate differently to faith. But whether you are in teaching, nursing, business, retail, banking, counseling, or anything else, start small and figure out how the work of your hands or mind or heart can honor God. Find one way each day and keep at it. Keep at it! And when you have been faithful, God will expand your mission field.

Perhaps your faithfulness is literally financial. But you have never really understood the connection between money and faith. And it really isn’t about the level of income. Start with a small faithfulness. Commit to setting aside something for the work of God’s Kingdom, off the top and with faithfulness. And keep at it. Keep at it when the bills come in high. Keep at it when you’d rather use it for something else. And when you have been faithful, God will expand your vision and understanding of how your financial resources can serve His Kingdom.

Perhaps your faithfulness is…. What? What were you hoping I’d say? Can you fill in the blank? Can you imagine what a small faithfulness would look like in your life? Can you envision how you could serve God and shine light and love into another person’s life through such a small act? Keep at it; keep at it; keep at it. And when you have been faithful, God will show you more.

What small faithfulness will you offer Jesus?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ruler of the World (Psalm 24, Revelation 11:15-17)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
October 30, 2011
Some Music Used
Prelude : "Trumpet Tune" (German)

Song of Praise: "Come Now, Almighty King" (Kauflin)
Song of Praise: "Beautiful Savior" (Townend)
The Word in Music: "23rd Psalm" (Bobby McFerrin)
Hymn of Sending: "Joy to the World" (ANTIOCH)
Postlude: "Hallelujah Chorus" (Handel)

Ruler of the World
Text: Psalm 24; Revelation 11:15-17

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

Testimony - by John Shuler

For many weeks now we have been talking about God’s love of the world He made. God has demonstrated that love, as the Scripture reminds us, through sending His Son, Jesus, into the world. We have traced this purposeful love of God from the earliest parts of the biblical story through Abraham, the people of Israel, the exiles in Babylon, the coming of Jesus, the formation of the Church, and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Last week Greg (in his sermon) and Graham (in his testimony) reminded us that God sought us from a long way off in order to bring us home and into his family.

Today we reach the end of the story… Revelation. We get to peek behind the curtain and into the very Heavenly worship scene and see that indeed, God has drawn together people from every tribe and tongue and nation. Our ending point today is to be reminded that God not only loves the world, but rules the world in glorious and perfect power, justice, love, and wisdom. Today we will be reminded that all of history bends in an arc toward this eternal moment, where those whom God has pursued in love gather in humility, worship, and praise. We will consider what it means not only that God loves you, but that God reigns over everything… that Jesus is not only a personal Savior, but Lord of all of life. 

The King of Glory (Psalm 24)

I used Psalm 24 for the call to worship and the first scripture reading this morning. It is an ancient reminder that everything belongs to God. Listen again to the first verse: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” The Psalm goes on to root God’s sovereignty in Creation. The earth is the Lord’s possession because He “founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.”

Then, the Psalm asks an interesting question: if the Lord is this powerful and awesome, who may approach God? Who may ascend His hill and stand in His holy place? (v. 3) It is only one with clean hands and pure heart. Not only is the Lord powerful and awesome, but holy and righteous. There is a purity and perfection that only adds to God’s power and presence. This middle portion of the Psalm reminds us why it is necessary for God to come to us, for who among us has clean hands, pure heart, true soul, and consistent witness? Other scripture (Psalms 53:3, Romans 3:10) will confirm what we probably know instinctively: no one, not one is righteous.

The next verse bridges our plight to God’s salvation. Though we may not approach on our own, we may seek the Lord (v. 6), and the glorious good news is that God is coming among us. Lift up your heads; look up and out, for the King of Glory approaches. God is come to us and among us. The God of power and might and GLORY has come to us! In this setting in Psalm 24, that language probably described the coming of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. But, that action and this language is such a powerful reminder of what God did once and for all in Jesus Christ: the King of Glory came among us and approaches that He might “come in” to our lives and hearts. What a truly awesome thing. This Psalm depicts God FOR the world He made, for sure! 

The Kingdom of Our Lord (Revelation 11)

Revelation is the end of the biblical story and describes the scene in Heaven where God is being worshiped in glory. The main part I want to highlight is part of verse 15, which is sung by “loud voices”: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” This is a significant kingdom-shift from the current world, according to scripture. The New Testament (and Old Testament for that matter) says two key things about the time and place in which we live.

First, though we live in the world God made (and loves!), it is a fallen and broken world. There is sin and sorrow, sickness and suffering, difficulty and death. And there is a spiritual aspect to the physical/material world in which we live. For a time, God has given some rein to Satan in this world, to tempt and try and test. So the New Testament refers to Satan as “the Prince of the Power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; Ephesians 6:12).

Secondly, Jesus’ primary message while on this earth was to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t in the distance, but was now HERE. And yet, it was not yet fully established. There was still a conflict and a confrontation to happen. According to scripture, Jesus’ death signaled the beginning of the end for Satan; the war was won against sin, death, and evil! But there were still battles and skirmishes during this in-between time after the beginning of the end and before the end of the end, described in Revelation 11 and elsewhere.

So, scripture reminds us that God made this world and everything in it; God loves this world that He made; and the King of Glory has come to us. The New Testament declares that Jesus is this King of Glory; John tells us Jesus is the glory of God, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) And Jesus has announced and accomplished the beginning of the end of Satan’s power, rule, and influence. What remains is what we heard in Revelation 11. God will fully establish His kingdom, righteousness, power, and peace, and shall reign forever.

You may recognize this verse from the Hallelujah Chorus: it is the refrain of the Good News of God in a day and age when we need to hear it. God loves you and the world He has made, and is working even now to redeem and rescue it. This big story that God is not overwhelmed or even tried by sin, evil, and death is a comfort in a world full of sin, evil, and death. It is Good News that all that we know already belongs to God and will one day be fully ruled by God Almighty. 

Savior and Lord of All of Life

Is there anything personal in these texts beyond the big picture claim that God is still on His throne and engaged with the world He has made?

Yes, I think there is. If you’ve grown up around church people much at all, you have probably heard language of trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord. In fact, that language is the first of our membership and baptismal vows: “Who is your Lord and Savior?” It is a foundational question to Christian faith.

It is straightforward enough to explain what “Jesus as Savior” means. It means that God has pursued you, loved you, claimed you, adopted you, and welcomed you from death to life with him. Jesus came and lived and suffered and died in order to be the Savior. And all who believe and call on his name will be saved!

What is harder to grasp and live out is the idea of Jesus as Lord. That means doing a lot of things that we really struggle against: submitting, obeying, listening, following, emulating. It means recognizing God’s authority in your life and responding to God as King or Lord. Said another way, it means anticipating Heaven and the Kingdom of God, and living like you are already there. Which you are, according to Jesus!

So I would say that this passage has even more to say than, “It will be okay; God is still on His throne.” Even more than that, this passage is an invitation to love and serve the God who has loved and served you first through Jesus the Son. Jesus is not only Savior of the world, but is Lord of Life.

Do you know him?

Will you trust, obey, listen, and follow?

That’s the question. What is your answer? Amen.