Tag Archives: salvation

Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Good Shepherd

We are looking for leadership in America today. We are looking for good leadership. I believe this is true all over the world. What makes good leadership? Jesus described what that is:

Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.   (Mark 10:42-44)

We have a few great leaders, but some of them are great in their own minds. They are not great for the people. We need leaders that care. We need shepherds that care for the flock. Reading from the Gospel of John:

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.   (John 10:11-15)

There are leaders who are only working for the money. When tough issues arise they are no where to be found. They duck under the cover of lies, distortions, and propaganda. Then they blame others for the evil that they do.

Good leaders are always there for the people. They are comforters. They may challenge us, but they also reassure us that we can rely on them. They have our backs covered. King David wrote:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.   (Psalm 23:1-4)

Good leaders care about the welfare of the people. They sacrifice their own wants and desires in the interest of the welfare of others. In his First Epistle, John wrote about the ultimate leader:

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us— and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?   (1 John 3:16-17)

Jesus went to the cross for us. Peter told the high-priestly family who forbid him to speak about Jesus:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”   (Acts 4:12)

Jesus is a true leader. He is still the leader today for all who put their trust in him. He paid the price of our sins on the cross. And today he is looking for under-shepherds who truly care about his sheep. Are you one of them? Am I?

If so, we must be prepared to lay down our lives for others. We must demonstrate our love of Jesus by loving the way he loves. A leader without love is a follower of the lawless one. The lawless one leads his flock into devastation and destruction. He is the father of lies. He hides in the darkness. But his days are numbered. His deeds and those who follow him will be exposed.

For the sake of good government we must chose our leaders wisely. For eternal life we must choose the ultimate leader, the good shepherd, Jesus Christ the righteous Son of God. He, alone, is our Savior and Lord.

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Resurrection Sunday: Easter Early Service

Do Not Be Afraid

One of the following readings from the Old Testament:

Genesis 1:1-2:4a [The Story of Creation] 
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13 [The Flood] 
Genesis 22:1-18 [Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac] 
Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 [Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea] 
Isaiah 55:1-11 [Salvation offered freely to all] 
Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 [Learn wisdom and live]
Ezekiel 36:24-28 [A new heart and a new spirit]
Ezekiel 37:1-14 [The valley of dry bones] 
Zephaniah 3:14-20 [The gathering of God’s people] 

Romans 6:3-11 
Matthew 28:1-10 
Psalm 114

Do we believe that we are living in difficult times? Our whole way of life is under attack? The future appears to be uncertain? This was true for the disciples of Jesus, especially after his crucifixion. Fear had taken over most of the disciples. In their minds all had been lost. The miracle worker was no longer with them. The promise of Israel’s Messiah had been dashed. Governmental and church authorities were breathing down their neck.

But the scene was about to change. The women went to Jesus’s tomb on the first day of the week. We read in Matthew:

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”   (Matthew 28:9-10)

Alleluia!  The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

As Christians, we do not have to live in fear. On this resurrection Sunday, we celebrate the triumph of our Lord over sin, the grave, and Hell. What we could never accomplish on our own, Jesus has won for us, through his death and resurrection. He paid the price of our sin on the cross and opened, for us, the door to heaven,

The good news of the Gospel is that our Lord’s resurrection is also our resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.   (Romans 6:3-5)

Does this sound too good to be true? Again, Paul writes:

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.   (Romans 6:6-11)

Today, Jesus is telling us, as he told to the women at the tomb: “Do not be afraid. I have risen. Go and tell others that you have seen me.”

Are we still so focused concerning the world around us that we miss what he is saying? The disciples of Jesus were, at first. They had not yet encountered the risen Lord. But when Jesus appeared to them their whole world changed. In fact, the whole world changed for everyone, but especially for those who believed.

Have we encountered the risen Lord? If we have let us encourage those who are in despair with little hope. From the Old Testament reading of Zephaniah:

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you[a] in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.   (Zephaniah 3::14-19)

If we have not had an encounter with the risen Lord, it is not too late. Today is our day of salvation. Today is the day of our deliverance. All we need to do is to look away from our present circumstances for a moment and look to Jesus. Let us listen to the voice of the Lord:

Peace I leave with you; my own peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.   (John 14:27)

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.   (John 10:9-10)

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.   (John 11:25-26)

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 2Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.   (Matthew 11:28-30)

If any of us have never embraced Jesus as our Lord and Savior, now is the time to do so. He has been raised up so that we may raise. us up. Let us cry out to him for forgiveness. He wants to give us newness of life. He wants to pour out his Spirit upon us and into us. He wants to impart to us the hope of glory.

Tribulations are very much a part of this world we live in. But this world is passing away. Jesus said:

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.   (John 16:33)

His victory is our victory. The Apostle Paul writes:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   (Romans 8:37)

Let this be our joyful refrain:

Alleluia!  The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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Holy Saturday

8940635-largeO Grave Where Is Thy Victory?

Job was a good man, but he was aware of his sins. He realized that God had every reason to pass judgment on him:

“I wish you would hide me in a grave!
    I wish you would cover me up until your anger passes by!
I wish you would set the time for me to spend in the grave
    and then bring me back up!
If someone dies, will they live again?
    All the days of my hard work
    I will wait for the time when you give me new life.   (Job 14:13-14)

Jesus died and hid in a grave for us:

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden. A new tomb was there. No one had ever been put in it before. That day was the Jewish Preparation Day, and the tomb was nearby. So they placed Jesus there.   (John 19:41-42)

Jesus bore our shame. He suffered the consequences of our sins, even to the extent of descending into Hell. His ministry did not stop there. His mission remained the same: “To seek and to save those who are lost.” The Apostle Peter makes it clear that the Gospel was proclaimed even to the dead:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.  (1 Peter 4:1-6)

We must be judged in the flesh in order to live in the Spirit. The good news is that Jesus has been judged for us. Jesus does not leave us in our flesh, but lifts us high into the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul writes:

Therefore it says,

“WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH,
HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,
AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”

(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)   (Ephesians 4:8-10)

Are we ready to come out of the grave? Are we ready to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Are we ready to become citizens, no longer of this earth, but in heaven? If so, we must embrace him. Job said:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he[c] will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.   (Job 19:25-27)

We look forward to the resurrection of the dead. Jesus’ resurrection has become our resurrection.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 KJV)

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Good Friday

Painting by homilist

 

He Opened Not His Mouth

What price did Jesus pay for our salvation? He paid with everything in his being. He paid it all. From Isaiah we read:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.   (Isaiah 53:7-8)

By his own volition, Jesus allowed himself to be crushed like grapes to that we might have new wine. He was brought before Pilate by the Jewish authorities, having been cleared by the high priest Caiaphas. From today’s Gospel reading:

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”   (John 18:28-31)

The authorities were asking Pilate for one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised. But Pilate realized that they had no real case against Jesus. He was reluctant to proceed beyond a certain point:

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”   (John 19:1-7)

As we can see, Pilate did not want to do what they asked. He suspected that the charges were trumped up. That is what lying people do to cover their own iniquity. He was shocked by the demand for crucifixion:

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”   (John 19:8-11)

The courts have become rubber stamps. They are manipulated and controlled by evil people with evil intents. Nothing has changed down to this day. God the Father allows this to expose this great evil.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.

When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;

through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;

he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;

because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.   (Isaiah 53:13-12)

The crushing had to take place. There is no redemption of our sins without the cross. Yet, some churches want to rush to the resurrection narrative. But there is no resurrection without the crucifixion:

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”   (John 19:16-22)

The execution was carried out only because God the Father required it and only because Jesus was obedient to the Father, even to death upon a cross. This terrible execution had to be done to atone for all of our sins:

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.   (John 19:28-30)

It was finished. The price for sin was paid. The opening of heaven was complete for all who would believe. Reading from Hebrews:

The Holy Spirit testifies saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,”

he also adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.   (Hebrews 10:16-18)

We have looked towards the cross today. What is our response? The psalmist wrote:

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

For kingship belongs to the Lord;
he rules over the nations.

To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;
all who go down to the dust fall before him.

My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him;
they shall be known as the Lord‘s for ever.

They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn
the saving deeds that he has done.   (Psalm 22:26-30)

Our response to the cross determines whether or not this Friday is good. Such a high price was paid. Unless we are willing to reap the benefits, Jesus died in vain for us. He was crushed for us so that we might also be crushed. We can no longer live for ourselves. Our confidence before the judgment seat of God cannot be based on anything that we are or can do.

Satan is still our accuser. Who is defending us against this accuser? Are we still defending ourselves? Or are our mouths closed so that the Lord Jesus Christ can defend us? Mazy it be said about us in the courts of heaven: “They opened not their mouths.”

If we allow Jesus to defend us, then a whole new world is opened up to us. Reading from Hebrews:

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   (Hebrews 10:10-25)

Amen! Amen! Thanks be to God who gives us our victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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