What Kind of People Ought You to be?

2nd Sunday of Advent
2 Peter 3:8-14

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus dear friends in Christ, (tape cassette, floppy disc, portable tape player, encyclopedia, phonebook, camera film, VHS etc) (Show things) I think each one of these things is headed to be described by the same word, the same category. What is it? Obsolete. In fact, my children will grow up not even knowing what many of these things are or what they were used for.  The old things go away and are replaced by the new. I doubt that anyone is putting investment money in VHS or VCR’s or floppy discs or cassette tapes. That would be a waste of time, money, and effort.

Well, there is something else that is headed for obsolescence. In fact, it’s something that each of us is guilty of putting “investment” in or treasuring as if it will last forever. Why did so many people invest in floppy discs or VHS’s or cassette tapes? Certainly they served a purpose, but today very, very few actually use those things. Why did so many people use them at one time? It’s because those things were all they saw and those things were all they knew about. When something better came along people forgot about the old and treasure the new. But in the end, everything in our world, all the things of this world will be old- it doesn’t matter how new it is or how revolutionary it is or how much it makes our lives easier – everything in this world is “old.” So, investing in the stuff of this world will only finally end up as a bad investment.

But it’s so easy for us to be enamored by the stuff of this world because to a degree it’s all we see and it’s all we know. We also live in a world and society that for the most part denies that the end is coming. Many people live life as if they are going to live forever and don’t consider much that either the end is going to come or their end is going to come at death. Our lives and the entire world is headed for one outcome: the end. God is guiding all of world history to one final destination and that’s the day of Christ’s return to judge the living and the dead. Your life and my life is headed for one outcome: death. The ship is going down. And when the ship is going down you cling with all your might to the life raft and you do all you can to bring as many people as possible on to that life raft. Living life as if it were going to go on forever makes about as much sense as if someone spent the 2 ½ hours while the Titanic was sinking cleaning rooms, washing dishes, or straightening out the deck chairs.

Well, why is it so easy for us to live life like it will go on forever or why is it so easy to cling to things that will one day be obsolete? Well, perhaps part of the reason is because the End hasn’t come yet. Right after Jesus ascended into heaven the disciples and many early Christians were ready for Jesus’ return at any moment and God even tells us that the time of his return is short, close at hand. Now, we look at that and think: “It’s been two thousand years, isn’t it well over due for the end to come?” But God – who himself exists in infinity – does not view what we think is long as long and what we think is short as short “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” God doesn’t view time the same way as we do. There is one reason why God hasn’t come; that He’s to our viewpoint “postponed” Judgment Day: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Why has the end not come yet? The one reason is God’s patience. People’s lives on earth – yours and mine included – is a time of grace, a time to come to know Jesus as our Savior. Every single day that you wake up is another day of God’s grace and another day of God’s patience. Why hasn’t the end come yet? Because one day it will be too late to repent, too late to come to faith, too late to cling to the only life raft there is.  It hasn’t come yet because God is patiently waiting for more people to be brought to a knowledge of their sinfulness, to come to realize that this earth – this ship- is going down, that we desperately need to be rescued, and that God has provided the only rescue in the baby born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger.

One day the end will come. It come like a thief in the night. The problem with the thief or the robber is that they come when you’re not expecting it. And notice what will happen when Jesus returns on the Last Day: the heavens (sky) will disappear with a roar; the elements of the earth will be destroyed; the earth and everything in it laid bare; everything will be destroyed by fire and melt away. Gone will be all the magnificent buildings and sky scrapers, gone all the beautiful works of art, gone all enormous mountains and scenery, gone all the latest techno gizmos, gone all the TVs, laptops, tablets, iphones, your house – gone, your car – gone, your collections of stuff – gone, all the stuff people just bought on Black Friday – gone.  In other words, everything in life is headed for obsolescence, to be obsolete, nothing.

I’m going to guess that no one here is going to wipe out their life savings to stock up on floppy discs, cassettes, or VHS tapes. They’re about to be obsolete. Yet, how much of our time, our effort, our life do we spend on the other things of life that will become obsolete? Now, it’s certainly not wrong to use and enjoy the things of life, in fact, everything that we have is a gift from God and He wants us to use it and find enjoyment in it. But here’s the problem: when what is obsolete becomes more important to us than what will last forever, when what is obsolete distracts and gets in the way of our being strengthened in our faith through God’s Word, when what is obsolete becomes more important to us than God, when what is obsolete becomes our treasure, when envisioning any of the “stuff” of our life burning up hurts us or causes us pain. How much do you cling to what is obsolete? How much do I?

And we can see it in how we view Christmas.  What’s most important about Christmas for us? Making sure all the decorations are just right, the tree is up on time, the favorite Christmas shows are watched, the family is all together, the right gifts are bought, favorite Christmas cookies are made? What is it that makes Christmas Christmas? No matter what Christmas is Christmas when you’re ready to receive the greatest gift of all no matter what: Christ the Savior.

And that’s exactly what it is that makes us ready for the end too. How are you ready for Christ’s 2nd coming? You’re ready when you’re ready to receive Christ. And the only way that you can be ready to receive Jesus when He comes in glory is if you are blameless, spotless, holy, godly, and at peace with him. “But wait! I’m a sinner! I’ve often made a mess of my life with my selfish thoughts, my warped priorities, my treasuring the obsolete things of this world, my neglect of God’s Word! I’m not spotless and blameless!” That’s true, but that’s not what God sees. You see, to God you are spotless and blameless, holy and at peace with Him. Why? Because God’s Son was born in a stable and laid in a manger, because God’s Son was holy and blameless, because God’s Son was laid upon a cross, dying to forgive your every sin and rising from the dead to declare you innocent. Because of that baby born in Bethlehem you are holy, blameless, and at peace with God!

And that’s why you are ready for Jesus’ return. One day all the things you see in the world will be destroyed, they will be utterly obsolete. And we are looking forward to this day because God will make a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. Someway somehow everything will be made new – heaven and earth will be combined and you and I will live in perfect peace, joy, gladness forever and ever!

You know, it’s funny at times to watch my 1 year old son David. Now you all know he does cry J, but there are times when all 3 of our other children are balling but if mom is smiling at him and holding him, he’s as happy as a lark. I’m convinced our house could be burning down and if mom or dad is smiling at him- everything is just great.  And isn’t that how it is with you and me? With God’s love, his care, his grace, his peace who cares what’s going on in the world or what happens to the obsolete things of life. We have God’s love and His grace for he kept his promise to send a baby wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger, we have a Savior who died to rescue us and win a new heavens and a new earth for us!  Let us live as His people and cling to the true treasures of His Word and Sacraments!  And let us prepare for Christmas with the same excitement we have for when He comes again to take us to our real home in heaven! Amen.

What’s New in the Bible?

New Year’s Eve Sermonettes

New Creation – Genesis 1:26-27, 5:1-3, Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:9-10

So a new year! What new opportunities, new starts, new challenges are facing you this year?  Every year we mark this succession of years: the old year is gone, the new year is upon us.  Well, it’s fitting for us to go back to the first new year.  Time began when God first created the world and brought light out of darkness.  The world in which we live was once brand new.  You remember how God created the world.  For the land, the water, the sky, the planets, the sun, the moon, the stars, the birds, the fish, the plants, the animals – all of those things God simply spoke and they were there, they were formed.  But when God got to His final creation, the top of creation, He paused and He counseled with Himself, and then he carefully formed and made the first man and the first woman, the first you and me, the first humans.  And He made them in His image and in His likeness.  So what does that mean?  Well, it doesn’t mean that they physically looked like God for God is a spirit.  Rather, the Hebrew word image means “an exact copy of the original in some ways.”  It’s like our word “photocopy.”  If you take a color picture and photocopy it on a b/w copier, you get an exact copy of the original in some ways.  Well, you and I were originally made like God in some ways, specifically the first humans were created perfect and holy and righteous.  Their intellect, emotions, and will were in direct harmony with God.  They wanted what God wanted, they hated what God hated, they loved what God loved.  Out of their own free will they were in direct spiritual harmony with God.  Their divine image flowed out of their bond of faith in God, out of their perfect trust in God.

And Satan knew that.  So, when he came tempting Adam and Eve in the garden his aim was to attack their trust in God and in His goodness.  “Did God really say…” in other words, “If God really loved you would he hold something back from you?”  And then when Adam and Eve believed the lie and trusted in the devil instead of God, their image of God was shattered and lost.  So, later on, when they have children, we’re told that Adam’s son Seth is born in his image, in his likeness, in sinful Adam’s image.  And every human born of a sinful dad and a sinful mother has inherited that sinful image.  You and me included.

But then God did His wonderful thing in our hearts.  Through the Gospel, maybe it was through hearing His Word or maybe it was at our baptism, God worked faith in your heart to believe that Jesus is your Savior from sin.  That alone is our acquittal before God’s judgment seat.  Yet, immediately when God worked faith in your heart He also re-created His image in you!  He made you into a new creation, gave you a new self!

The image of God re-created inside of us moves us to want to be like God.  As believers we again think like God thinks, find joy in what pleases God, want to conform our lives to God’s will.  That’s the new creation inside of us!

Yes, however, in this earthly life, the image of God inside of us remains imperfect, it’s only partially restored.  We still have a sinful flesh, an old self, that we have to continually battle against until our dying day.  But the real you and me is the new creation of God’s image.  And it’s through hearing and reading and being strengthened by the gospel that our new self can with the battle against our old self.  So this coming year, make this a goal: feed your new self by hearing the gospel regularly, live the new self by being like God in your thoughts, words, and actions.  And what’s really neat?  When you live according to your new self you’ll have the most meaningful life because you’ll be living how God in Christ recreated you to be!

New Covenant – Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:19-20, Hebrews 9:11-15

Covenants are a big deal in the Bible.  Covenants were kind of like treaties or pacts that two different groups would make.  Sometimes it might involve a peace treaty for war, sometimes it would be between a conquered group and the conqueror, sometimes it would involve one group paying another group a certain amount of money for that group’s commitment to protect them from other invading groups who want to battle them.  There were one sided covenants and there were two sided covenants.  And the typical Hebrew phrase wasn’t “make a covenant” it was “cut a covenant.”  Because sometimes when a covenant was made they would cut animals in half and lay them down and the two parties would walk between them in order to say, “If I don’t fulfill my side of the covenant cut me in half like these animals.”  Powerful!

God had made a number of two sided covenants in the OT.  One was that Israel was to follow all of God’s laws and regulations and God promised to keep them as His special people, to care for them, to fight for them.  However, if they failed to keep His laws, they would also lose His protection.  Another had to do with their land: Israel was to be careful to obey God fully, follow all His laws, and they could have the Promised Land as their possession till the end of time.  However, if they failed, which they did, they would lose the land, which they did.

God has also made a 2 sided covenant with every human.  If you live perfectly, completely perfect, don’t have one sinful thought, word or deed, you will be welcomed into heaven.  If you don’t, you die.  That’s exactly what Jesus told a religious teacher: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus said, “Do this and you will live.”  But the problem?  Everyone has failed.

And that’s why we need a New Covenant.  Back in Jeremiah God promised it.  This new covenant wouldn’t deal with outward things, but with heart things.  It wouldn’t be conditional or two-sided, it would be one sided, God would make it and make sure it happened regardless of what the human party would do.  And the heart of this new covenant would be the forgiveness of sins.  And Christ became the mediator of this new covenant who with his blood cleansed us of our sins.  And part of this new covenant is Jesus’ own body and blood that He gives us to eat and to drink in the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord’s Supper is part of the new covenant in which God gives and assures us of the forgiveness of all of our sins! What better thing to do in the new year than to make more use of this new covenant by hearing more about Jesus and receiving often this covenant in the Lord’s Supper!

New Heavens and Earth – 2 Peter 3:11-13, Revelation 21:1-5

A new year brings new hopes, new goals, new excitement for this year to be better than the last.  But no matter how much we might dream or hope or try to make our lives better, it will never be heaven.  In this life there will always be pain, sadness, crying, disappointments, problems, troubles, hardships, death, etc.  Why?  Because this old world that we live in has been corrupted with sin.  Even nature itself suffers from the consequences of sin- hurricanes, tornadoes, natural disasters, sicknesses, disease.  All of nature is longing to be freed from its bondage to decay.  So what problems are awaiting us in this new year?

Thank the Lord that this world is “old” and that we have a new world to look forward to!  Thanks to Jesus – His life, death, and resurrection – you have a wonderful new heavens and new earth to look forward to!  God will make a new heaven and a new earth – the home of righteounsness.  A place where everything will always be right and good.  Where God will dwell with us, where there won’t be any more tears or death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things will pass away!

So, how should we live in this new year knowing that this world is “old” and is “passing” and one day will be destroyed?  Should we cling to the things of this life at the expense of treasuring heavenly treasures?  No way!  In the new year focus the new heavens and new earth, arrange your priorities knowing heaven is your home, and rejoice for you have an awesome heaven to look forward to!