Sermon Options: March 8, 2020

February 5th, 2020
 

YOU ARE A PROMISE

GENESIS 12:1-4a

Children sing a song with the line: "I am a promise to be anything God wants me to be." What a wonderful thought for children to have instilled into their minds and hearts! It impresses upon them more than one important attitude toward life. Not only does it basically teach them to believe in God-given possibilities for their lives; in addition, it enables them to believe that with God's help and blessings, they can become blessings to the world. God's covenant with Abram, which became the basis for future covenants with Israel and with Christians, was essentially a promise to bless Abram so that Abram and his descendants might bless the world. All future covenants between the Lord and his chosen people carried this purpose. God blesses a people in order to make them a blessing. Notice the blessings given in the covenant with Abram, and compare the parallel blessings given to Christians.

I. God Gives His People a Dwelling Place
From the beginning, a land was promised to Abram and his descendants. Abram never possessed the land. He was always a sojourner there, but he was a man always looking for a city, "whose architect and builder is God" Heb. 11:10) . The actual possession of the land came hundreds of years later when Joshua led Israel into Canaan.

Christians have the promise of a home, whose architect and builder is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:1-6). Our homes on earth are given by God and cherished deeply, but our ultimate home, the home of promise, is heaven.

II. God Gives His People a Great Name
Abram's (or Abraham's) name became and remains great because of an enormous progeny both physically and spiritually. He became the father of descendants as numerous as the stars and also became the source of three great world religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

The name of Christian becomes great through our "new name" (Rev. 2:17) . The new person in Jesus Christ is represented by the "new name." Also, there is a parallel in our covenant promise to the great nation promised Abram. The 144,000 people of Revelation 14:1 represent an awesome complete number of folks who have the names of the Lamb and his Father written on their foreheads.

III. God Gives His People Security
God protected Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from their foes again and again. Later God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, protected and provided for them in the wilderness, and eventually led them to conquest of as much of Canaan as they were willing to take. Throughout the period of the judges and the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, God protected his people when they remained loyal to the covenant.

Christians are given the security of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Jesus has promised to keep us in his hand (John 10:27-28). Furthermore, we have the promise expressed in regard to the church's triumph over evil. Jesus declared that "the gates of Hades will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18b ). God blesses his people according to his promises. God always has and he always will. May we be loyal to our promises to God so that his blessings in our lives will in turn make us blessings to others. (Jerry E. Oswalt)

IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?

ROMANS 4:1-5, 13-17

In our culture much attention is being given to the understanding of paradigms. In best-selling business books, Joel Barker and Stephen Covey identify the power of the paradigm as a tool to understanding the great truths concerning life and leadership. A paradigm is a kind of worldview—a way of seeing and understanding the world. A paradigm is the particular set of lenses through which you view the world. Paul seeks to make the life of Abraham a paradigm to the early church as he identifies and interprets God's action in Christ and its meaning to the life of the world. This paradigm of Abraham is key because it links an Old Testament figure of faith to a New Testament interpretation of God's saving activity in the person of Jesus Christ.

I. Salvation Comes Through Faith, Not Our Actions
It was a paradigm shift—the transition from the Jewish understanding of favor with God being a result and reward from works of the Law to the new paradigm whereby God seeks restored relationship by justifying the people by grace through faith in Christ. And it was a most delicate issue, especially among Jewish Christians. It was a paradigm shift in the way in which God sought to reconcile his children.

II. Salvation Is Possible Because of What Christ Did, Not What We Do
The issue for Paul is one of trusting through faith what God has done and is doing in Christ. The work of redemption is at God's initiative as God's love in Christ finds its fullest expression in the Cross. That was also the burning issue for Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and all the great church reformers. Paul understands that the indispensable link between God and humans is our willingness to trust the salvation God has made possible in and through Jesus Christ.

Parents love their child. However, for that love to produce a meaningful relationship, the child must receive it. Abraham stands as the person in Hebrew faith who models this concept so powerfully. Abraham trusted God, and that trust was lived out long before the promises of God were realized. As such the realization from the paradigm is that the old idea of God's favor being given as a result of the works of the Law is dead.

The words of Martin Luther King, Jr., on the eve of his death illustrate the proper relationship of trust in faith as he said, "[God has] allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land." The famous sermon goes on to share his trust in what God will do on behalf of his children. Martin Luther King, Jr., simply and yet profoundly placed his trust in the love of God as revealed in Christ. This is the central issue of Paul's concern in this passage. It is an issue with which the church continues to labor. In a post-Christian United States these words need powerful expression. So many persons get sidetracked in believing that God will reward them because of who they are and what they have done. Paul's words remind us that such salvation is hollow and mocks the work of God's grace in Christ on the cross.

In Hebrews 11 , we find the roll call of the faithful. As the names are shared, they are prefaced by the phrase "by faith." The authentic Christian witness to faith in Paul's eyes must be expressed from one place and one place only: by faith! (Travis Franklin)

FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD

JOHN 3:1-17

"For God so loved the world..."—it stands there like a rock upon which the heresies of history have smashed and sunk. Over and over again we have tried to separate or combine the two. God—absent or transcendent, high above creation, indifferent to creation, just watching history. Or God—immanent, at one with creation, every tree and every brook pulsing with the creative power of life.

I. God's Love Is Unlimited
"For God so loved the world..." stands there against all our attempts to narrow and make specific God's love. Even the author of the Gospel faces the temptation to say that God doesn't love all humanity and history, God just loves his own: those whom Jesus has called out of the world. The disciples are spoken of as loving Jesus and are commanded to love one another, but they are never told to love the world. Even John seems a bit tempted to restrict the scope of Christian love to Christ and the church, and yet John can't get past this fact that love is the most adequate description of God's attitude toward all creation.

"For God so loved the world...," the whole world, all creation. We have compartmentalized life so that most of us think that God loves us and we need to serve him. But we aren't very good at thinking what it would mean if God loves political power and corporate structures and natural energies and vast space. Our failure to understand the whole meaning of "for God so loved the world" has meant we have not cared very well for the whole world, which we were made to be God's stewards of.

II. God's Love Is Unconditional
"For God so loved the world..." is the beginning of a declarative statement. It is a given. God's love is for all creation. So often that word is spoken as if it were conditional, as if God will love us only if we meet some condition. If you are righteous, God will love you. If you are educated and literate, God will love you. This phrase is our defense against thinking that God's love is some abstract and metaphysical emotion. God is not distant and unconnected from creation. God loves this creation in time and history. God loves and acts and is involved with this combination of time and space, energy and matter, people and power. It is this cosmos that God is concerned to bring to fulfillment of his intentions in creation.

God still loves this world and is still creating and working. Creation is still God's work. Creation continues to be sustained because God continues to love creation and sustain it.

III. God's Love Is Redemptive
"For God so loved the world..."—that love is the reason for God's continued actions to redeem and restore creation. God in Jesus Christ comes to save and to redeem. God gave himself in Jesus Christ with the desire and intention to redeem us. "For God so loved the world..." that he acted in Jesus Christ. Those of us who have felt that love and know that grace are motivated to the same kind of compassion, hope, and love for all creation. As we are linked in Jesus Christ to God, so we begin to share his love for creation and bring into the service of that love all of our gifts and talents and desires. For God so loved the world. (Rick Brand)

 
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