THE MAN WHO LEARNED TO TRUST GOD

THE MAN WHO LEARNED TO TRUST GOD

Hebrews 11:8-10, 17-19

It is no surprise that Abraham makes the list of heroes of faith in this chapter. The author of Hebrews had already mentioned Abraham’s name six times before he even got to this chapter. In fact, his name appears 230 times in the Bible. We cannot afford to forget Abraham.

We learn from Abraham how to be God’s friend, his faithful steward, and to reflect God’s generosity. He is the father of the faithful who hear God’s gospel, respond by faith and are justified by faith.

But there is another aspect of faith that is highlighted by the author of Hebrews in today’s text. To have faith in God is to trust him: trust him with your present possessions, and your hopes and dreams for the future. Let’s walk through these six verses today, and ask God to show us through the life of Abraham what trusting him means.

Trusting God means leaving the past even though you don’t know the details about the future (8).

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance.”

God showed up in Abraham’s life and told him to go away. He had to leave his family, the place where he grew up, and the culture that he was accustomed to. Not a lot of people are willing to do that even if they have hopes of a better life.

Abraham obeyed and set out for parts unknown. Not everyone is required to do that, but for Abraham it was necessary. It was his act of repentance. If Abraham had chose to stay, he would not qualify. The act of leaving his former life was an act of trust. It indicated a willingness to turn from what he was so that God could make him into what he was going to be.

So Abraham “went out, even though he did not know where he was going.” God had not provided Abraham with a map, with an X marking the spot of his destination. No, God just pointed him in a certain direction, and said Go.

Jesus did something very similar to his twelve disciples. He invited each of them to follow him, and they did, but he went here and there, and they never knew how long they would be where they were. By the time it came for Jesus to go to Jerusalem and to the cross, it dawned on them that following Jesus was not always going to be safe.

Jesus taught them many times about the cost of following him. Pledging loyalty and obedience to Christ and his kingdom meant uncertainty about the future. It was a lifetime lesson in trusting God.

Trusting God means enduring the temporary for the sake of the permanent (9-10).

Our text points out that Abraham “stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents.” When Abraham got to the land of promise, he found that it was already occupied, and the current residents had no idea that he owned the place. But God did not direct him to start building his castle and organizing an army to take over. Instead, God was giving him a preview of the land that would eventually go to his descendants. So, he lived as a temporary resident – in tents.

Abraham set the pattern for those who would follow him. The text mentions his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Abraham learned to trust God with the temporary while waiting for the permanent. His entire life was lived that way, and his children and grandchildren picked up his trust habit by observing him. They were “coheirs of the same promise” So they learned to endure lives focused on the future rather that obsessed with the present. The descendants of Jacob set out from Egypt in tents.

Now, when our Lord Jesus came to set up his dominion on this earth, he taught people to enter that kingdom with the same attitude. He told them to adopt an attitude of temporary humility, meekness and submission even though they would inherit his eternal kingdom. Faith in Christ for the future often means enduring an unpleasant present.

We are learning to trust God for our daily bread because he has promised us a future where we will never again hunger and thirst.

We are learning to trust God as we weep with Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb because he has promised us a future where He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain. The first things – these temporary things will have passed away.”

We are learning to trust God and live in tents because “here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Abraham could endure his nomadic existence because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” He didn’t need as much safety and security during his lifetime because he was learning to trust his God for an eternity with both security and satisfaction.

Sometimes God allows us to endure an unpleasant present so that we can learn to yearn for his safe and satisfying future.

Trusting God means doing what he says, even though you don’t understand why (17-18).

When we were in school we discovered that the learning process involves times of testing. For Abraham, his lifetime of learning to trust God was put to the test many times. But the particular test that the author of Hebrews mentions happened when God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac.

There was a conflict between what God had promised Abraham and what God was requiring of him. The text says “He received the promises and yet he was offering his one and only son.” God had specifically promised Abraham that his offspring would be traced through Isaac. Isaac had to be alive in order for that promise to be fulfilled.

Abraham knew that God’s command did not make sense. But he also had committed himself to obeying God’s commands. He had to decide that he would obey, even in situations like this, when he did not understand.

You and I have times of conflict as well. He calls us to live in integrity even when the hypocrites and scoundrels get the best jobs, live in better houses, eat tastier food and have greener grass.

Abraham learned something about trusting God that enabled him to overcome the internal conflict he was feeling.

Trusting God means focusing on his ability, not our own (19).

Abraham could have focused on what he was not able to do. He could have said “I can’t.” But it would have been ineffective in dealing with his problem. Instead, he “considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead.” The only way out of Abraham’s personal conflict was right thinking about God.

In the same way, you and I have an internal conflict going on. We want to believe in a future after the grave. But all we see is tombstones.

Jesus told Martha that her brother would live again, but Martha was having conflict. Her theology was spot-on. She told Jesus “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” She was right. Her problem was not in what she knew. Her problem was that her brother was dead. She was having conflict trusting in God’s ability. Even when Jesus asked them to remove the stone covering Lazarus’ tomb, Martha reminded Jesus that he had been dead four days, and would stink.

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead as a sign for all of us Marthas who have good theology but we need to learn to trust in God’s ability. We say that God can but he probably won’t. We need to be praying according to what we know about God.

What Abraham had learned about God enabled him to look beyond even the potential death of Isaac.

The Lord took Ezekiel up and set him down in a valley full of human bones. The Lord said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” He answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” God told Ezekiel to prophecy to the bones, and he did. He listened and he heard rattling. It was the bones coming together. He watched as the skeletons grew flesh. God told Ezekiel to prophecy again, and the breath of God came into the bones and they became alive again.

Remember what God’s question to Ezekiel was? “Can these bones live?” Yes. Abraham learned that even death is not an obstacle because God can undo death. He learned to focus on God’s ability, not his own. They called the place Moriah because that was where God provided a substitute.

We are learning to put our faith in God. A person with faith in God can even face his own death with confidence because God is able to raise the dead. Even as he takes his last breath, his next conscious moment will be inhaling into newly resurrected lungs.

Lord, our Father Abraham learned to trust you. We choose to trust you today.

 


Sermon: The Man who Learned to Trust God

THE MAN WHO BUILT A BOAT

THE MAN WHO BUILT A BOATTHE MAN WHO BUILT A BOAT

“By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7 CSB).

Our investigation into the heroes of faith as outlined in Hebrews 11 has only just begun. So far, we have looked at the man Abel, who had only one shot at demonstrating his faith, and did not throw away his one shot.

By contrast, Enoch had a very very long life to demonstrate his faith by walking with God. What set them apart as people of faith was not the length of their lives. What set them apart was the choices that they made. It was how they chose to live their lives.

Today’s hero is another example. His story is told in four chapters in Genesis, but it is summarized here with only one verse. But that one verse is jam packed with information. Let’s read it again, and this time notice the words that I underline.

“By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

One verse, but the words BY FAITH are included in it three times.

Outside of the book of Hebrews, the New Testament tells us that …

• by faith our hearts are cleansed (Acts 15:9)
• by faith we have been sanctified (Acts 26:18)
• by faith we live (Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11 [Habakkuk 2:4]; Galatians 2:20)
• by faith we are justified (Romans 3:28,30; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:8, 24)
• by faith we are descendants of Abraham (Romans 4:16)
• by faith we have been introduced into grace (Romans 5:2)
• by faith we have attained righteousness (Romans 9:30)
• by faith (and not by sight) we walk (2 Corinthians 5:7)
• by faith we receive God’s promise (Galatians 3:22)
• by faith we are waiting for the hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5)
• by faith we work out God’s plan (1 Timothy 1:4)

So, you see how essential faith is for the Christian. But the apostle James warns us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Noah is a good example of that. Noah put his faith to work by building a boat. It was a big boat. It had to be. God’s plan for Noah was a big plan. He planned to rescue Noah and his family and families of all the animals from the coming flood.

What the author of Hebrews wanted us to know about Noah is the role his faith had in his life. By looking at how faith worked for Noah, we can get instruction on how God intends for faith to work for us.

Noah’s faith helped him to respond appropriately to his fear.

This text tells us that God warned Noah of the coming flood. Genesis 6 tells us that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries. But his contemporaries were not righteous. They had corrupted the earth. So, God told Noah…

“I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with wickedness because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth” (Genesis 6:13).

I don’t know how long Noah had to wait for God to say the rest of what he had to say. I can imagine Noah standing there, looking up into the sky, holding his breath. He’s thinking “every creature? That includes me and mine! The earth – that’s where I live!”

God motivated Noah by godly fear. Friends, fear was not the opposite of faith for Noah. If Noah had not had faith in God, he would not have been afraid of the coming flood. His generation had taught themselves not to fear, and that lack of fear led to their destruction.

We do not have to fear God himself, but we would be fools not to fear his wrath. His coming wrath is real, and that is a wake-up call for us. The axe is already laid at the tree trunks, folks.

Thankfully, God continues…

“Make yourself an ark of gopher wood” (Genesis 6:14).

Noah’s response was that he “built an ark to deliver his family.” He built it by faith. Nobody had built such a thing before. There was no precedent. There hadn’t been any need before. God himself had to give Noah the blueprint for the thing. Building the ark was something that was going to be very hard to do, and it was going to take a lot of effort and resources to do it.

But … and this is very important… it could be done. God sometimes calls you and me to do the impossible, but most of the time he just calls us to do the impractical, to test our resolve and commitment to him. God didn’t call Noah to build a spaceship. A boat was what was needed, and Noah could do that. Noah’s faith helped him to respond appropriately to his fear and build that boat.

Noah’s faith demonstrated the difference between him and his environment.
Our text says that Noah “condemned the world.” He stood out like a sore thumb. He was an island of integrity in a sea of corruption.

In Job’s day, Satan came to the Lord gloating. God asked Satan where he’s been, and he said that he had been roaming through the earth and walking around on it. He said that as if to imply that the whole planet and all its inhabitants were under his power. Then God asked Satan “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). Satan thought “He had to go mention Job, didn’t he?

Noah was like Job in his day. He was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries, and he walked with God like his Great-Grandfather Enoch did. The man was different, and his faith demonstrated the difference.

When his generation had it as their goal the enjoyment of life, Noah had it as his goal to protect life. As such, he condemned the world of selfishness.

When his generation had it as their goal to ignore God, Noah had it as his goal to obey God. As such, he condemned the world of godlessness.

When his generation was insensitive to God’s purposes, Noah was sensitive to them. As such, he condemned the world of carelessness.

Jesus is calling you and me to be the light of the world. But we cannot be the world’s light if we choose to blend in with the world’s darkness. We need to follow Noah’s example and stand out from the crowd.

Noah’s faith gave him an eternal inheritance.
Now, the story of Noah’s faith does not end when the waters settle and he comes out of the boat. God establishes a covenant with Noah. And the author of Hebrews lists Noah as one who “became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” His faith did more that just rescue him and his family from the flood. The Old Testament says that “Noah’s life lasted 950 years; then he died” (Genesis 9:29). But the author of Hebrews lists him among the heroes of faith that “had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

Our permanent inheritance is the city that God has prepared for us. We are all waiting for that city. God is not ashamed to be called our God because he has prepared a city for us (Hebrews 11:16).

That holy city is our inheritance. We share that inheritance with the great heroes of faith like Noah. It will descend from the sky. John saw a vision of that city descending (Revelation 21:2, 10). It is our destiny.

But it is not our present possession. We are in a waiting period, just like everybody else. The thing that distinguishes people of faith from the world is that we know what we are waiting for.

Jesus said “in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. This is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be” (Matthew 24:38-39).

Because we know what we are waiting for, we can respond appropriately to our fear. Because we know what we are waiting for, we can live differently than the world around us.


sermon audio file

THE MAN WHO WAS TAKEN AWAY

THE MAN WHO WAS TAKEN AWAY

Hebrews 11:5-6 (Disciple’s Literal New Testament)

“By faith Enoch was removed, so as not to see death: “And he was not found because God removed him”. For before the removal, he has been attested to have pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him. For the one coming-to God must believe that He is, and He becomes the rewarder to the ones seeking Him out.”

I am returning to the series on the heroes of faith that I started on November 15th of last year. In that sermon, I looked at Abel, whose story is told in Hebrews 11:1-4. He was a man who had a very short life, but he did not throw away his one shot. When he had the opportunity to demonstrate faith, he did it.

Today I am going to talk about Enoch. Now, there are three myths about Enoch, and the first time I wrote this sermon, I spent the whole time dispelling them. I dumped that sermon, and rewrote it yesterday. Every thing I said in it was true, but it is just not what I need to say about living a life of faith. Here is a summary of that message:

• Enoch did not go to heaven. The Bible says that no one has gone to heaven except Jesus. Neither Genesis nor Hebrews claims that Enoch was an exception.

• Enoch did not become immortal. The Bible says “in Adam all die” and that includes Enoch, who was the seventh generation from Adam. In fact, not one of these heroes of faith mentioned in this chapter became immortal. Hebrews 11:13 said “All these died in faith” – including Enoch. Enoch was removed so as not to see death – not his own death, but the death of his descendants in the flood.

• Enoch was not sinless. His personal righteousness was not what made him different from everybody else in his day. Genesis 5:24. says he “walked with God.” To walk with God is to have a relationship with him. How did Enoch get that relationship? Genesis does not say.

But Hebrews does. Hebrews 11 says that Enoch pleased God because of his faith. The gospel tells us that we too can please God by putting our faith in him. All you have to do is believe that God exists, and believe that he rewards the ones who seek him out.

The question I want to address in today’s sermon is this: What choices did Enoch make that set him apart from his generation as a person of faith?

Enoch chose to believe in God.

Our text says that “the one coming-to God must believe that He is” and Enoch did that. He lived in a generation that was turning its back on its creator, and he chose to acknowledge God instead.

All of these Heroes of faith that the author of Hebrews lists are remembered for different reasons. But one thing that is true of each one of them is that he or she chose to believe in God when others chose to ignore or reject him.

The disciples saw Jesus curse a fig tree. They saw the tree wither and die before their eyes. Peter thought “wow, look at that.” Jesus said “Have faith in God.” It’s not about a dead tree. It’s about a living God. That’s why Jesus used that opportunity to teach them about praying to God and expecting forgiveness from God. The same power that can destroy a tree and remove a mountain can also forgive sins. He is God, and our first choice must be to believe in him.

Enoch chose to seek God.

Our text refers to “the one coming-to God” and “the ones seeking Him out.” When his generation was seeking everything but God, Enoch was seeking the God who created everything. Ours is a generation very much like that in which Enoch lived. We have scientists who dedicate their lives to knowledge so that they can solve the world’s problems. But these very same people have often turned their back on the one who holds everything together by his wisdom and power.

The Wise Men came to Herod seeking Jesus, but soon discovered that he was not there, so they set out for Bethlehem. If they had turned back and returned home after Jerusalem, we would not know about them. They were truly wise men because they kept seeking for Jesus until they found him.

Enoch was like that. He heard about God from his parents. He heard stories about God passed on by oral tradition. But he was not satisfied with that. He wanted to have a personal experience with God.

Brothers and sisters, please don’t let family or tradition be your only reason for identifying as Christians. Seek a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ!

Enoch chose to please God.

Our text says that “he has been attested to have pleased God.” When the generation all around him were choosing to disappoint God, he was choosing to please God.

The apostle Paul told the Roman Christians that those who are in the flesh cannot please God because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7-8). He commended the Thessalonians because they were living by the instructions that he gave them, and that obedience was pleasing God (1 Thessalonians 4:1).

So, we learn from both testaments that pleasing God is possible. But in Paul’s generation and in Enoch’s generation, the natural inclination of people’s hearts was against it. Pleasing God will not come naturally. It has to be a conscious choice to go against the grain.

Enoch chose to be faithful to God.

Genesis tells us that Enoch “walked with God.” His generation had chosen to walk away from God. They had the opportunity to have a relationship with their creator and to leave a legacy of blessing and hope. But it was not to be. Their refusal to walk with God would bring death and destruction.

But Enoch’s choice to walk with God meant that he would be removed. By God’s grace, he would not live to see the devastation and destruction cause by his generation’s rebellion.

But what did it mean for Enoch to walk with God. He did not have the Bible. He did not have a church or temple. He did not have the Law or the gospel.

What did he know about walking with God? He only knew that his ancestors had heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they had hidden themselves from his presence among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). Sin had kept Adam and Even from seeking God and from walking with him.

Enoch chose to come out of hiding and walk with his God. He faced his own fears and guilt and decided that his own imperfections were not going to keep him from fellowship with the Perfect One.

That is walking by faith. It is being faithful to the God who wants us to walk with him. God’s presence in the garden was an invitation. Sin kept Adam and Eve from answering the invitation. Faith enabled Enoch to answer God’s invitation for a walk.

Enoch chose to trust God for his eternal destiny.

Enoch believed that God “becomes the rewarder to the ones seeking Him out.”

Besides Genesis 5, the genealogies, and Hebrews 11, the only other biblical reference to Enoch is a prophesy he gave about the Lord coming in judgment. That prophecy is recorded in the book of Jude. So, Enoch had the spiritual insight to understand that some day God was going to judge the world.

We don’t know what Enoch believed about his personal destiny. But if he believed that the ungodly were going to be judged, he must have also believed that the faithful would be rewarded. In today’s text, the author of Hebrews gives Enoch as a witness to God as a rewarder.

One day, Enoch is going to walk with God again – and forever. God offers you and me the same invitation. He knows we have sinned and fall short of his glory. We don’t deserve to have fellowship with him. But he has sent his Son as a sacrifice to atone for our sin, so that we can once again not only enter his presence, but walk with him.

Jesus instructed John to write a letter to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6. He said that the city had a few people who had not stained their clothing by hypocrisy. He promised them that he would not erase their names from the book of life, but confess their names before his Father. He also promised them that they would some day walk with him in white clothing.

We were created to go for a walk, and for that walk to never end. Have you started your walk with God yet?

sermon-audio

OUR LIGHT IS COMING

OUR LIGHT IS COMINGOUR LIGHT IS COMING

John 12:46-48 (Christian Standard Bible).

“I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness” (46).

Imagine a world with no light in it. There would only be darkness. Our eyes would be useless. We would all be blind. There could be no such thing as beauty. There would be be no distinction between the fair and the fowl. Everything would “look” the same.

our problem: darkness

One of the ways that the apostle John told the story of Jesus is by bouncing around a few themes throughout his narrative. One of those themes is the contrast between light and darkness.

• He told us that Jesus’ life was humanity’s light (1:4). We were all in darkness until he showed up.
• He also told us that even though Christ was just one man, when his light shown in our darkness, our darkness didn’t overwhelm it (1:5),
• In fact, John told us that when Jesus was born, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (1:9).

Before we think about the good news that the Light has come to us, we need to step back and consider the bad news. The bad news for us all is that we needed the true light. In other words, we were all born in darkness.

John picks up on the light and darkness theme again in his chapter 3.

• He told us that although the “light has come into the world, … people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God” (3:19-21).

In chapter 8, John records Jesus own admission that he is the light. Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (8:12).

But in chapter 9, he points out that the exposure to the light was limited. There Jesus said “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5).

Then, earlier in chapter 12, John recorded Jesus as saying “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light” (12:35-36).

So, to summarize what John had told us so far, we can say that Jesus has appeared as light for our world briefly, and now he is gone.

What good is that? Well, imagine you have to go into a dark room and do something. Wouldn’t it be a good thing for you to have seen the room with the light on – at least once?

enter a solution: light to save the world

Let’s look again at verses 46-47. There Jesus says “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”

Jesus says that the purpose for his first advent was to save the world. The words that he gave us during his lifetime on earth were enough to make a difference. But the salvation that he offers is conditional. Everyone who believes in him will not remain in darkness. Oh, but anyone can say that they believe in Jesus. That is why Jesus explains that the true believers are those who hear his words and keep them.

Every year at Christmas we remind people that a Savior has been born in Bethlehem. We should also remind them that he has explained just how he intends to save us. His salvation is tied to our choice to believe and follow his teachings.

the consequences of avoiding the light

People who choose to avoid the words of Jesus are said to “remain in darkness” now (46). It is a terrible thing to remain in that kind of darkness. It is the darkness of sin, of error, of failure, of shame, and impending judgment.

Jesus said that those who do not receive his words and sayings have rejected him (47-48). We each have a personal responsibility to learn everything about Christ and everything he has taught us. We cannot let someone else do that for us. The stakes are too high. Our salvation depends on our proper understanding and acceptance of his words. We need to get the light right.

We need to be saved ourselves or else it will do no good for us to try to save others. Jesus warned against the hypocritical blind guides. We need the light straight from the source.

And one final note, and the reason I am talking about this subject as we celebrate advent. Just like the other advent themes, this one as well has a second advent component. Jesus said that the consequence of truly believing him and following his teachings is “permanent life” (12:50). But the consequences of not doing so is that those who reject his light now will be judged by those words “on the last day” (48).

Our light was with us for a while, and our light is coming back. But only those who live by the light now will enjoy the light and the life he offers forever.

OUR KING IS COMING

OUR KING IS COMINGOUR KING IS COMING

Revelation 1:3-8 (Christian Standard Bible)

Our Christmas Carols remind us that Jesus Christ was born a king:

• “Born thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King” (Come Thou Long-expected Jesus).
• “King of kings, yet born of Mary” (Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence).
• “Glory to the newborn King” (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing).
• “Come and behold him, born the king of angels” (O Come, All Ye Faithful).
• “All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to thee, our heavenly King” (As With Gladness Men of Old).
• “Come adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn King” (Angels We Have Heard on High).
• “Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King” (Angels, From the Realms of Glory.
• “Let earth receive her King” (Joy to the World).
• “Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all gracious King” (It Came Upon the Midnight Clear).
• “This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing” (What Child is This).
• Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Born is the King of Israel” (The First Nowell).

It is appropriate for us to stop during this season of Advent and consider Jesus as our Christ – our Messiah, our king. Why was it important that Christ our Savior be announced by the angelic army as the newborn king of Israel? Why did God’s anointed king have to go to the cross? There are all sorts of questions that come to mind when one thinks about Jesus as king. Today’s passage guides us to the answers of some of those questions.

Jesus was born as God’s anointed king.

The Magi asked Herod “”Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” That points to the historical reality that our savior has a birthday. He was born in Bethlehem. We have more historical evidence for the birth of Jesus than we do for our own birth.

John calls Jesus the faithful witness (5). Jesus commands us to be witnesses for him, but long before we were alive, he was a witness for us. Christ told the Laodiceans that he was the “Amen, the Faithful and True Witness” (3:14) But he condemned that church because they kept witnessing to their own wealth but they were really “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (3:17). They were hypocrites. Jesus is the real deal. He was born where he was, when he was, to be the Witness to God’s light in our darkness. I’ll share more about that in the evening service.

When we celebrate Christmas, we remember the most significant life that ever will be. Christmas is not really about family, or joy in the face of hardship, and it is most certainly not about a fat man in a red suit. Christmas is about the man who was born to be Israel’s Messiah, and God’s witness to us.

Jesus went to the cross as God’s anointed king.

John tells us that Jesus “loves us and has set us free from our sins by his blood” (5). The cross was not a mistake. It was God’s plan to send his only Son to die for our sins. The unbelieving word cannot quite figure out why we keep harping on the fact that Jesus died. They might be sorry that he died, but they cannot understand what that has to do with them.

The author of Hebrews tells us that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of humanity, and after that he will appear a second time. This time he will not deal with sin, but he will save those who eagerly wait for him” (Hebrews 9:28 GW). Our king had to go to the cross because that was a necessary step in his plan. He is our Savior, but he has not yet saved us completely. He came first as a sacrifice.

And when he comes again he is going to raise the dead. He’s not just going to raise us from the dead, but everyone. Verse 7 says that every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. Those eyes have long been shut in the sleep of death. But our coming king is going to open them again. They will look on whom they have pierced. Like all those who have chosen to reject Jesus as king, there will come a day when they will be forced to admit that he is their king – they will weep in sorrow, and gnash their teeth in anger. The king will return, and it will be their turn to die – and permanently.

Jesus was raised from the dead as God’s anointed king.

Notice that verse 5 calls Jesus the “the firstborn from the dead.” He is called that because he is the first to be raised from the dead. The apostle Paul explains death and resurrection to us with these words:

• “since death originated through a human, resurrection from the dead ones will also originate through a human. Because just as everyone in Adam is dying, in the same way everyone in Christ will be made alive. But each crop will be harvested in its own order: Christ, the first harvest, then the ones to be harvested by Christ when he makes his appearance” (1 Corinthians 15:21-23 JDV).

But Christ is the firstborn in another sense as well. The firstborn in a royal family inherits the throne. Paul calls him “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). He is the king-elect, just waiting for his inauguration.

We belong to the coming king. He has “made us a kingdom” (6) now. We are citizens of that kingdom which is coming down from the sky.

Jesus is coming again as God’s anointed king.

This planet has lots of kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, chiefs and chairmen, lords and ladies, but it is destined to be ruled by one person: Jesus Christ “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (5).

Daniel had seen a vision of this coming king. He said “with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching” (Daniel 7:13). He said this king “was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).

Jesus said that when he returns, “the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

When Jesus ascended, he was lifted up into the sky while his followers looked on, “and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Then two angels appeared and said “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). He left in a cloud, he will return in a cloud. When he left, everyone was watching. When he returns, everyone will be watching.

The first time our king came to earth, it was to serve, and give his life as a ransom. The next time he comes it will be to take his rightful place as king of kings. Our king is coming!


20201220a OUR KING IS COMING (audio)