Sermon Options: November 24, 2019

October 7th, 2019

GOD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

JEREMIAH 23:1-6

Jeremiah speaks of the coming of a king whose name is a remarkable summary and affirmation of the faith to which the whole Bible witnesses. "The Lord is our righteousness." The name can also mean, "The Lord is our salvation."

Righteousness means a right relationship with God that puts us into a right relationship with everything else. Both the Old and New Testaments make it clear that we can live in a right relationship with God. Not because of who we are but because of who God is. Not because we are good but because God is loving. The Lord is our righteousness.

The Lord is also our salvation. To be saved is to be brought into a life-shaping right relationship with God. In his Old Testament Theology, Gerhard von Rad tells us that Israel knew God primarily as a God who acts in human life and history to save his people from real troubles, like bondage in Egypt. The New Testament tells us more about God's saving work but it is a great mistake to let our New Testament understanding of salvation get separated from the Old Testament understanding. The Lord is our salvation.

I. Expect God to Save Us Within Life and History, Not from It
Jeremiah's promise to a people who were defeated and scattered because of the unfaithfulness of their leaders, was that the same God who had saved their ancestors from bondage in Egypt would save them from exile in Babylon. We will discover a new dimension of the meaning of salvation when we learn to expect God to save us from the real problems of our lives, problems like career frustrations, disintegration of marriages, parent-child conflicts, alcoholism, and the loss of integrity resulting from life in a sometimes hostile world. We will discover still more when we learn to expect God to save our world from injustice, racial strife, and war.

II. God Promises to Save by Sending a New Ruler into Our Lives
Jeremiah promises the coming of a new and good king in the line of David. It is not clear whom he meant. The name, "The Lord is our righteousness," may be a play on the name of Zerubbabel. But Christians know that the promise was ultimately fulfilled in the coming of another whose name means, "God's salvation." In the event of the life of Jesus, God again acted to show us what God is always doing. God is always reaching out to us in life and in history to save.

III. God's Saving Work Leads to a Right Relationship with God
God does not save just by "fixing" our circumstances. God saves by reordering our lives as a new king reorders life in a kingdom. We are led into a new relationship with God. Then people and communities who are renewed from within move out to change the world. The story of the life of Paul demonstrates how this saving work of God takes place. The lives of Christians both great and small also demonstrates this.

Hold on to this affirmation for hope and direction. The Lord is our righteousness. The Lord is our salvation. (James L. Killen, Jr.)

THE PORTRAIT GALLERY

COLOSSIANS 1:11-20

The world desperately needs to know Jesus. While we cannot see him with physical eyes and cannot know his physical appearance, we can know him through his divine roles.

Take a trip with Paul through a marvelous portrait gallery of Jesus. Paul will direct our attention to four portraits. Each is startling in its own way. Each shows Jesus in his divine grandeur.

I. Jesus the Rescuer (v. 14)
What is it God, through Christ, has rescued us from? He has taken us out of the kingdom of darkness. He has brought us to a better and safer place, namely the kingdom of light. It is no small thing to be rescued.

People take great risks to rescue friends or even strangers. Lenny Skutnick was an ordinary guy who happened upon the sight of the air disaster on the Potomac River outside of the National City airport in Washington, D.C. Lenny watched as several people were waiting to be rescued. He impulsively jumped into the frigid water to rescue a passenger. When asked later why he took such a risk, he said simply, "Somebody had to do something." Lenny was not completely accurate. No one has to, but it is a noble thing to do.

II. Jesus the Creator (vv. 15-16)
This is a startling picture. Paul tells us that as the Son of the living God, Jesus was an agent in creation. This makes Jesus' sacrifice for us all the more unbelievable. The Creator came to bless the created! Even though Jesus had this most lofty position, he did not shy away from coming to his creation and dying for his creation.

III. Jesus the Lord (vv. 17, 18)
The risen Lord is the ultimate authority. He is Lord of all, but is particularly the Lord of the church. There are many churches today arguing over power and authority issues. Ministers and laymen argue over who is the head of the church. They will never solve the problem until they realize Jesus is the head of the church.

IV. Jesus the Peacemaker (vv. 19-22)
Peacemaking may be the hardest business on earth. Just ask arbiters who try to make peace between management and labor. Just ask ambassadors who try to make peace between warring nations. Just ask counselors who try to make peace in feuding families. Jesus made peace between us and God. Most people don't think of themselves as being enemies of God, but in their sins they are. Jesus went to the cross, to bridge forever the enmity between God and his creation.

In the background of all these pictures is the image of a cross. It is the crucified and risen Savior who is worthy to be seen as the Rescuer, Creator, Lord, and Peacemaker. John Bowring, a member of the English Parliament, was touring the Orient. He cruised by ship past the island of Macao and saw the ruins of a city after a monstrous earthquake. Above the rubble he saw the remains of an old mission church with its cross on the steeple. It caused him to write these immortal words, "In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o'er the wrecks of time." Jesus and his cross will always have the preeminence. (Michael Shannon)

IRONY OF IRONIES!

LUKE 23:33-43

As Jesus was nailed to the cross he asked God to forgive his tormentors, "for they do not know what they were doing" (v. 34). His tormentors were not so gracious. They shouted and cursed and mocked him. The irony of it all doesn't seem to have escaped Luke's notice. Luke notes that while Jesus sought God's forgiveness for them (v. 34), the religious rulers mocked him saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" (v. 35). Then the soldiers joined in and jeered, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" (v. 37). Finally, one of the criminals being crucified with Jesus on the hill hurled insults at him and said, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" (v. 39).

I. Jesus Could Have Saved Himself
There isn't any doubt that Jesus could have saved himself from the cross, is there? After all, he had at his disposal the power to simply wipe out the entire crowd, including soldiers, rulers, and mockers. With one word from his mouth they would all be gone! Better yet, Jesus could have prevented the whole thing by calling down all the angels at his command and thwarting his captors in the garden of Gethsemane.

And beyond the power to save himself, Jesus also had the motive. The passionate prayers lifted up through tears of anguish surely indicate that Jesus, at least some part of Jesus, didn't want to suffer and die on the cross. Yes, without a doubt, Jesus could have saved himself—but he didn't.

II. The Religious Rulers Knew They Were Saved
There isn't any doubt that the religious rulers thought that they were right with God, is there? While the soldiers put their trust in their own power and might, and the criminal who mocked Jesus was so full of anger and hate (or maybe it was despair), that he sensed there was no hope, no salvation for him or the others—the Jewish leaders knew better. They were God's chosen ones, they were of Abraham, they worshiped the one true God, they kept the commandments and obeyed the traditions. Yes, the religious rulers knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were saved—but they weren't.

III. The Irony of It All
In fact, one irony of this story is that the rulers killed the only one who could save them, the one who, in fact, made salvation possible to them and the others. But they didn't realize that. For even though they were supposed to be looking for the Messiah, they didn't recognize him when he was staring them in the face or hanging before them on a cross.

But the second criminal did! Somehow, he knew! He knew who Jesus was and what Jesus could do. This second criminal is the only one in the entire narrative who didn't mock Jesus with some jeer about saving himself. Instead, this man asked Jesus to save him. He said, when you enter your kingdom, remember me. It is a statement of faith, not challenge; of belief, not mockery; of vision, not blindness.

But the irony of it all is that by Jesus sacrificing himself on the cross he makes salvation possible to all, even those who think they are already saved or to those who think there is no hope of salvation. Have you ever thought of how things would have turned out if Jesus had, in fact, reacted to the jeering and accepted the challenges and saved himself from the cross? The rulers would have perished in their blindness and the first criminal would have been right, there would have been no hope. But Jesus did die on that cross; he was raised after the third day; and he now stands at the right hand of God. And now, because of that act of sacrifice, we have life. Irony of ironies! (Michael M. Jones)

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