Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sermon for 6/10/12 Jesus, Our Eternal Fortress

Sermon “Jesus Our Eternal Fortress

Lord, grant us a view of our frailty and your mighty loving power, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we want to recognize our graduates. As we look around and see Krista, Scot, Sarah, and Blake we realize that they have done a good bit of work to reach the milestone they celebrated not long ago with their classmates. They call that graduation ceremony something interesting, don’t they? What was that “c” word they used for it? Commencement. What does that mean? It means you are beginning something. Graduation is not an end, it is a beginning. The word “graduation” itself means “a step.” And you step forward into the next stage of your life. At that time, yes, you get to wear funny clothes and go through some ceremonies. Believe me, the clothes continue to have more layers of symbolism the more degrees you have completed. There’s a good deal of ceremony involved. It’s a dignified occasion. It isn’t a time for silliness. It’s a time to take stock of your life so far and look at the next step you are going to take. Usually there isa speaker who more or less tells you how to be careful in that next step.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 4 the apostle Paul tells the church at Corinth about some of their next steps. They have found that life is difficult. In fact, it’s very difficult. They ran into some troubles, church troubles like I hope we never see here, but troubles that we are all capable of engaging in. The congregation members were quarreling about one another. Some were saying they were more spiritual because of which apostle they tended to follow. There were people who were exalting themselves because they were rich. There were people who were boasting about being poor. There were people who always desired to show the most prominent spiritual gifts and who were always on display for the congregation. There were people who had involved themselves in immoral living situations and were approved by some, condemned by others. These are all situations that can and do happen in today’s world.

Does our Lord care about our finances? He sure does. He cares about the poor and blesses them. He cares about the rich, whom he has blessed financially so they can love and serve their neighbors. Does our Lord care about our seeking out training in his Word as well as in other areas? Yes he does. He cares as much about what you are studying and learning if you are reading the Bible while sitting on your couch or if you are trying to decode big theological books at a library or if you are studying anatomy, physiology, molecular biology, or economics. All the affairs of this life come from our Lord and they are all important to him. Does our Lord care about whether we strive to live a life which is morally pure in our financial and emotional dealings? He sure does. It’s all important to him. And it’s important in this local congregation just like it was in the congregation at Corinth.

What did Paul see, though? What is it that he saw and talked about that I expect your commencement speakers forgot to mention? In verse 16 he says that they do not lose heart. Those graduation speakers and other motivational speakers never seem to focus on the idea that we could lose heart. It’s always a very rosy world which we face. You the graduates, or other people in the crowd are always the cream of the crop and you are going to rise to the top. There’s no reason even to think about losing heart. But if we’re honest with ourselves, there’s plenty of reason to think about losing heart. As Paul says, we are wasting away outwardly. We wear out. We find ourselves in conflict with others. We look for peace and find strife. We look for health and find weakness. We look for riches and find this world is full of financial need, more than we could ever meet. We look for knowledge and understanding and we find there’s always another book we haven’t read, another idea we don’t understand. The more I study the more I realize I don’t know. And for some of us who are in business the more money we make the more we realize we didn’t make. In manufacturing the more efficient we become the more inefficiency we see. In health care the more we are able to help and heal people the more illness we see around us. And in our moral lives, the more we pursue purity the more we see our impurity. We have reason to lose heart. We are sinful people. We are wasting away. We’ve got trouble. This world is full of sorrows. What will we do? We graduate to the next step, like everyone does many times in every day, and we see that next step is full of challenges, some of them brought on by our sin, some by the sinful condition of the world.

Do we lose heart? No, we don’t. Why not? Because, as we read in 2 Corinthians 4:14 (NIV), “the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” There’s our picture of eternity. There’s our priority. It isn’t about us. It isn’t about what we can do. It isn’t about how smart we are, how well trained, how honest, how pure. Those are all good things but they won’t seal our destiny. And the more realize about our nature the more glad we should be that we aren’t the ones who get to earn eternity. We couldn’t do it. We’re wasting away. But we don’t lose heart. Jesus has come, has lived that perfect life of righteousness and has been able to do it on our behalf, to give us his righteousness. Jesus has come, has died in our place so that we don’t have to die eternally. Jesus has come, has risen from the dead so we can be raised from the dead. Jesus has ascended to the Father in heaven so we will also rise and ascend to our father. We don’t see all this right now, but we can look forward through eyes of faith, knowing that Jesus has done all that is necessary for us. We do not lose heart. Though the world come apart at the seams, we do not lose heart. Though our intelligence leave us we do not lose heart. Though our health go from us we do not lose heart. Though our family and friends forsake us we do not lose heart. Though we realize the depths of our sinful desires, how we have sinned in thought, word, and deed, yet we do not lose heart. Why not? Because Jesus has risen from the dead. Because Jesus has given us his perfect righteousness, desiring that he should be the firstborn among many brothers. Because Jesus is our Lord, the eternal lord. He is our fortress. He is our strong tower. He is our deliverer. We do not lose heart.

Graduates, this is what your commencement speakers didn’t say. When your world throws challenges at you, you don’t lose heart. And you don’t lose heart because Jesus is here for you. All the education you have received or ever will receive may fall apart. It may or may not serve you. You don’t know. But when the challenges of your world are great, Jesus is greater. He has promised to stand by you, to lead you, to guide you, to provide you with that eternal home in heaven, not made by human hands, made by God in Christ. And this is your home as you believe that Jesus gave himself for you.

But as we close, I want to ask everyone. Is this what we are believing? Do we believe that Jesus gave himself to redeem us from the curse of sin? Do we believe that our Lord has purchased us by his own blood? Do we look to him in hope? Or maybe we have lost heart. Maybe we have been crushed and are not looking to Jesus. Remember what we confessed. We have sinned in thought, in word, in deed, in what we have done, in what we have left undone. We turn then to Jesus asking for his forgiveness. And he has promised it. How much of your sin does he forgive? He forgives it all. It is gone, as we believe that he is the one who lifts that burden off of us. Look to Jesus, one and all! He is the one who cleanses us, who renews us, who makes us walk in his paths. There is our hope.

Now may the grace of God give you hope and confidence in HIm, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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