Sermon Options: February 18, 2018

January 18th, 2018

Our Covenant God

Genesis 9:8-17

The idea of our covenant relationship with God is a major motif in the Scriptures.

• God made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 .
• God made a covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai, where he gave them the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 .
• God had his prophet Jeremiah promise a new covenant (31:31).
• God in Christ said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” when he instituted the Lord’s Supper in the Upper Room (1 Cor. 11:25) .

I. God’s Covenant with Noah (vv. 8-11)

Noah lived in an evil time that brought divine judgment on the human race. The forty-day flood was sent to punish evil and destroy all flesh. (See Gen. 6:5-8.) Noah and his family found favor with the Lord and were spared by building the ark. In this passage we see God taking the divine initiative to establish a covenant with Noah, his descendants “and with every living creature” (v. 10).

Basically, a covenant is an agreement between two parties. It may take the form of a contract or treaty. In the case of covenants with God, God is the superior party and takes the initiative to establish the agreement. God made a covenant with Noah, not the other way around.

God promised Noah that “never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (v. 11). God initiates our salvation and covenant relationship with him. We do not find God—he finds, calls, and saves us. We are saved by divine grace, not by our human initiative.

II. The Sign of God’s Covenant (vv. 12-17)

Ancient people thought the rainbow was God’s weapon from which his lightning arrows were shot. (See Ps. 7:12-13.) The rainbow in the sky after a storm was a fearful sight—a symbol of fiery destruction.

God made the rainbow a symbol not of destruction but of deliverance. It was to be a reminder of his gracious covenant with Noah and with us. The rainbow reminds us of divine mercy: “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” (v. 16).

The rescue of Noah’s family from the flood was an act of divine grace. God saved a family and the ark became a symbol of divine mercy and salvation.

The early church did not initially use the cross as a symbol of their faith. The humiliation of Jesus public execution was too fresh in their memories. Instead, early Christian art often depicted the ark. It stood for the church and salvation for those within it, by faith. By the ark God gave the human race a second chance, even as the gospel gives us the opportunity for redemption. As Lent begins, let the rainbow and Noah’s ark symbolize our gracious God and his covenant promises. (Alton H. McEachern)

That He Might Bring Us to God

1 Peter 3:18-22

Some people think they cannot come to God. One man committed sins in the past for which he was sure God would never forgive him. He had been involved with some atrocities in wartime. I can see how such people, who are having trouble forgiving themselves, could wonder if God could ever forgive them.

Another person was an older man who was dying. All his life he had rejected God’s will for his life. Toward the end of his life, I offered him God’s gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. He refused, saying it just would not be right to wait until the end.

As logical as what these people said appears, look at what Jesus did in order to bring people just like them to God.

I. Jesus Suffered That He Might Bring Us to God

If we could grade sins on a scale of 1 to 10, could we then say Christ died for sins that rank 7 or less, but not 8 or more? Murderers, rapists, and such would not be included? Only those with lesser sins, such as lying or stealing, could be forgiven?

The Bible knows no such grading. Jesus says that to look at another person with lust in your eye is no different than committing adultery. Calling a person a fool is as sinful as killing them. All sins rank 10. Thus, if the murderer cannot be drawn to God, neither can the liar.

Through what Jesus did on the cross—through his sacrifice and death—he has overcome the power of sin: any sin. Nothing stands between us and God, because Jesus has bridged the gap.

II. Jesus Preached the Message of Deliverance for the Captives

Who are the spirits in prison? Some say they are people who died before Jesus lived. Jesus preached to them and gave them the opportunity they had not had in life. Others say they are fallen angels, the spirits cast out of heaven with Lucifer when he rebelled against God. Jesus preached to them and simply told them what he said on the cross: “It is finished!” God’s plan of redemption is accomplished.

Possibly. But I know some other spirits who were formerly disobedient and were imprisoned in bonds of slavery to their sin. Paul was one, according to his testimony in the Bible, and I was another. Jesus preached to me, and told me, “It is true. I suffered for your sins that I might bring you to God. Now, will you come?” Fortunately, I did!

Whatever holds you captive, Jesus Christ is ready to loose the bonds and free you to experience new life.

III. Jesus Gave Us Baptism as a Sign We Can Be Brought to Him

We receive that “good conscience” when we begin with a bad conscience, or conviction for our sinfulness. By faith we desire to turn away from sin and live for God. We desire to see the old sinful self crucified as Christ was, and buried. By faith we desire to see God create in us new hearts and a new spirit, and be raised from the dead to live for him. Then by faith we act out this spiritual drama in water, burying the old and being raised anew. The entire process, everything baptism means—repentance, believing, trusting, obeying, and hoping—is the faith that saves us.

IV. Christ Now Calls to Us from a Position of Supreme Authority

Can you come to God? Can your sins be forgiven? Only if you have heard the preaching of Jesus. Only if you admit being oppressed by your own sinfulness. Only if you want to be set free to follow Christ.

You may know Jesus suffered that he might bring you to God, he preached to you, he has given you baptism for a sign, and his call has come with authority. (Bill Groover)

Knowing the Son

Mark 1:9-15

It is important to Mark for the reader to know that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. This is one of the major themes running throughout Mark’s Gospel. That identity is proclaimed boldly in the events surrounding the baptism of Jesus.

These events signify the beginning of something radically new and different in terms of God’s self-revelation to the world. Mark wants to make it clear that through the life of Jesus, God is seeking to bring a new kingdom into the reality of the world.

I. We See Who Jesus Is Through His Baptism

The powerful image of the heavens being torn apart and the descending dove provide for the reader bold, authoritative proof that Jesus is no less than the Son of God.

This text lends itself to a powerful dialogue of all the encompassing claims that are made upon one’s life by God through the church at baptism. According to Mark, baptism identifies who we are as God’s children. Mark’s story of baptism and of what it means describes vividly a life identified and led by God.

II. We See Who Jesus Is Through His Temptation

Immediately following his baptism, Jesus faced a time of temptation in the wilderness. Despite the harshness of the surroundings and the seductive nature of the temptations, Jesus withstood the experience.

It is important to recall that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the spirit of God. Many times in the church we emphasize the justifying grace of God in baptism, but forget the sanctifying grace of God in baptism. Mark seems to be saying that it is not enough just to know to whom we belong; we must realize that such a claim has far-reaching implications as to what we do and where we are willing to be led. Jesus life and authority in the kingdom were expressions of how and where God was leading.

III. We See Who Jesus Is Through His Proclamation

Jesus not only lived in the reality of the kingdom’s presence, he also proclaimed the kingdom’s arrival. In announcing the kingdom’s arrival, he challenged his listeners to respond in repentance and faith.

The kingdom of God is here in the person and identity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Following the time of temptation, Jesus lays out the formula for how one comes to such saving and life-giving knowledge. The kingdom is here, Jesus proclaims; repent, and follow where the kingdom of God is seeking to lead. This proclamation becomes the heart and soul of all that Jesus is and does.

Lent is a time of soul-searching in light of the truth of the gospel. It is all about knowing whose we are and allowing that knowledge expression in all that we do.

Catherine Ann Powers is the student who was an accomplice in a bank robbery in Boston in 1970, when a policeman was murdered. For twenty-three years she was a fugitive from justice. In 1993, after all those years of running, she turned herself in to the authorities. What makes her story interesting is she had put together an enviable life. She was married, had a daughter, and held a good job. All the ingredients of happiness were there, except one: she was not whom she appeared to be.

In answer to why she turned herself in, she responded, “Because I had to reclaim my past in order to live with full authenticity in this moment—in openness and truth instead of hiddenness and shame.”

In this passage, Mark reminds us who Jesus is—through his baptism, temptation, and proclamation. And because of who he is, we can be all God wants for us—to experience life at its best and most meaningful! (Travis Franklin)

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