October 17, 2010: The Glorious Facets of the Glorious Gospel

Let us pray: Dear Savior, remind us today to always look to You for strength, help, comfort, and life. Remind us that this life is but a series of trials that are all about making us stronger believers. And because of all that, our faith in Your faithfulness to us will never let us down. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR FAITHFUL SAVIOR!

TEXT: 2 Tim. 2: 8-13

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Some people have premonitions of death. I’ve read stories of soldiers who knew they would die the next day in battle. I’ve ministered to a few people in the hospital who knew they would never leave alive. I’ll always recall the last time I saw my sick father, and although neither of us said it out loud, both he and I knew it would be our final good-bye. Such times are sobering. They are unforgettable. And our gracious God provides them in order to give us the opportunity to prepare our souls for the afterlife.

I’ll never forget the sermon text I found and used for the funeral of little Isaac Brekken who died a few hours after his birth. It was from Ecclesiastes and it says: “The day of death is better than the day of birth.” Only a believer could ever utter such words. Only a baptized baby could possess such a comforting truth within their little heart. We all think that our birth is the most important day of our lives. But, in reality, our death far outweighs it. For when it comes to a believing Christian, death is our entrance into the glorious joys of heaven and eternal life. And so, for this reason, I’ve seen various faithful believers who have been given death premonitions actually embrace them with fearlessness.

Today, St. Paul does the same in our lesson. He’s under arrest in Rome and awaiting death. And yet, instead of moaning or complaining about his plight, instead of wallowing in self-pity, Paul takes the time to pen this amazing letter to young Pastor Timothy. And in it he lays out:

THE GLORIOUS FACETS OF THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL

I

When you face certain death, and all of us do—sooner or later—we naturally think back upon our lives and focus on what’s really important. So, what’s on Paul’s mind? “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.”

Note well that the resurrection of Jesus is all-important. It is the truth that separates us from unbelievers. For if Christ rose from the dead, and He did, our faith is living and not even death can destroy it! It could not destroy Christ. It cannot destroy us, who reside in His grace. Sad to say, this life-changing truth is the hardest thing there is for humans to embrace. Think back to Paul upon Mars Hill in Athens where he spoke to the Athenians about the Triune God. They listened carefully and thought it was all quite wonderful until he talked about the resurrection of Christ from the grave. Then they shook their heads and walked away! For most the resurrection is simply too good to be true.—But not for Paul and not for you! It is the ultimate comfort when death comes calling.

The second glorious facet of the gospel is spelled out in those words: “descended from David.” That takes us back to all those OT passages and prophecies concerning God’s coming Messiah. It takes us back to God’s promises to save His people through His one and only Son, a direct descendent of King David. Now that Jesus has fulfilled those many prophecies, we know that He was and is the real deal! So, God always keeps His promises to us!—Including the promise of heaven.

II

“This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”

Paul was imprisoned and ultimately killed because he taught, preached, and believed in Christ. He suffered because human evil cannot bear to hear of God’s goodness, love and salvation in Jesus. You see, the Gospel is the ultimate affront to human pride. It takes away our mirage of control. It preaches total reliance on God and not on ourselves. And then it also says that God’s perfect love under-girds our lives. Human pride and self-reliance crash upon this Rock of infinite love and it shreds them. Human pride hates this and tries to silence, to chain this profound truth. It sings its siren’s song to God’s elect still on this earth and tries to lure them away. But, in the end the glorious gospel has a greater hold because God in Christ bought our hearts, souls, and minds with His life-changing Gospel. Yes, the unbelieving world hears words like: “The day of death is better than the day of birth” and it cringes, gets angry, and views people like us as lunatics. That’s because it fears what it cannot control, whereas we fear nothing because we know that God is in total control.

III

Now Paul quotes a common saying that apparently was well-known and well-used among 1st century Christians. This saying sums up the glorious, sparkling facets of the glittering Gospel. “Here is a trustworthy saying: ‘If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
All those little “ifs” are used to counter any internal objection, doubt, or fear that anyone may have. Yes, Christ died on the cross for all sins, for all souls, and thus paid the death penalty for all people—you and me included. Yes, when you were baptized, it’s as if you were placed into His grave with Him and since He came out of the grave, when the water clears—after baptism eternal life now is your most prized possession. Yes, life is hard, temptations come and they try to coax us away from His embrace. But if we focus on what’s truly vital—”the day of death is better than the day of birth”—just as He reigns in glory, so will we!

Then, since Paul knows just how weak we can be and how easy it is to walk away from our faith, he adds a word of warning: Yes, we can disown God’s goodness. We can renounce our faith and throw it all away. As human beings stuck on this earth we still have the power to say “No” to God. And if we do so, eventually God will simply say: “ok” and disown us. But then, to this sad truth that Paul had seen played out in the lives of many of his listeners over the years, comes the clincher. Even if we adopt faithlessness and fall into gross sin and evil—much like Peter when he actively denied Christ the night before His crucifixion—God still cares for lost souls, and faithfully tries to bring us back into His fold. God is always faithful to His love for us Christ. And since such grace is part of His core Being, (remember: “God is love”) God will never quit trying to work repentance within us and the change our hearts with His forgiving love.

Let all these glittering facets of Gospel truth shine brightly in your life right now. Don’t try to hide them or dim any of them down. And then, no matter whether you have premonitions of death, fear of human evil, or apprehension over coming human history—nothing will be able to hurt you where it counts—in your soul…..Amen