“Why do we talk so much about suffering, death and sin? Isn’t Christianity ‘supposed to be’ about joy and happiness?”
Grace and peace to you in Jesus name, Amen! We are nearing the end of our year long intensive study on some of the facets of the Christian faith and what each of them do to bring Jesus to us in Word and Sacrament. This month, much of the academic approach that has been used over the last 10 months will be put away and we will be addressing a more ‘practical’ question that I hear quite a bit “Why do we talk so much about suffering, death and sin? Isn’t Christianity ‘supposed to be’ about joy and happiness?”
This is a wonderful question that helps us to understand, even more deeply, the great love, grace, mercy and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore, I will address this question by asking three other questions in turn: Why did Jesus come? Does He still come to us today? What does this mean for us?
For many of you, especially those of you who have lived your entire lives in the Christian faith the first question is pretty easy and straight forward; Why did Jesus come? Thankfully scripture addresses this particular question, so that I don’t have to. The first place I’d like to look is in Matthews Gospel where we see the angel Gabriel speaking to Joseph saying: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21 ESV) Inherent in these words from Gabriel is the very reason that Christ or Immanuel would come among us, Jesus’ sole purpose for coming was to save His people from their sins.
Well then, you might be thinking to yourself, what then are these sins that Jesus was going to save His people from? The answer can either be as big as you’d like to make it but I think, once Pinnacle Lutheran Church preaches Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.
again that the scriptures address this better than we ever could so I’ll once again defer to God’s word in the Psalm 130:3; If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? The psalmist is stating here that the depths of our sin know no bounds, there is no way that we could ever count the ways in which we have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. But there are words of comfort for us here as well, we are not compelled here in scripture or anywhere else in scripture to count our iniquities and sins, because, the fact is, if we tried, we would never cease to be counting. But! It is sufficient for us to know that in spite of our sinfulness, Originally inherited from Adam and Eve, and actually in terms of sins that we have committed in our lives; that Jesus had come to save us from the slavery this sin had brought us into. Thus, the answer to the first question; Why did Jesus come? Is found in this simple statement: Jesus came, because God the Father, who loved us, sent His only begotten son into the world to save sinners. This was accomplished, of course through His perfect obedience to the Law of God in our place AND by His vicarious satisfaction (He did these things in order that we might have new life vicariously through Him and because of Him.)
Most of you already know this. And thanks be to God that He has revealed these things to you by the teaching and preaching of His Holy Word. But I often find that so often people remember only the Jesus who came 2,000 years ago; the suffering servant who laid His life down once and for all for the sins of the world. I am not saying that this is wrong, because it is not wrong! But, too often we Christians fail to apprehend that the very same Jesus who was present at the Creation (“Let us make man in our image), and the Incarnation (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”) is the very same God today, in our day and age as He always has been. Which leads us to our second question: Does Jesus still come to us today?
So, does Jesus still come to us? To answer this question we defer to the Words of Jesus Himself; “Lo I am with you always, until the end of the age.” But what does this mean? How is He present with us? What does He do for us? Why do we have any reason to believe that He still pays mind to us today and further, if He is present today, just what is He present to do? And if He is present, How is He present? There you go; I’ve just gone and dropped a bunch of questions all over the place, and it might seem that we’ve gotten ourselves into a big hairy mess, on the contrary, we have never been poised for a better confession of the Christian faith as we are right here and now.
What is Jesus present to do? My friends, the scriptures remind us that Jesus is the same today, tomorrow and forever, in other words He doesn’t ever change. So… what that necessarily means is that He is still present today to do exactly that which He has always done. Furthermore, He will continue to do what He always has done, but what is that? Recall, Matthew 1 again; Jesus has come to save people from their sins. Wait! Wait! Wait! I thought He had died for the forgiveness of our sins Pastor! Are you now telling us that this didn’t really happen? By no means. Our sin has been put to death on the cross, and to this end we in the Christian church preach this on a weekly basis. Our sins are dead! But, to understand further what’s going on in our day we must travel back to the book of Genesis 3:15 and recall that God had promised that “The woman would bear a seed, and that the seed would crush Satan’s head, and that Satan would bruise the seeds heel.” This crushing blow took place on the cross, but the final death of the Evil One, the final and definitive blow against sin and the final judgement of the world has not yet taken place. So… what we must understand is this: NOW, yes even NOW the victory over Sin, death and the Devil has been won! But we see this side of heaven only dimly what all this really means. In other words, we see perfectly by faith, that the victory has been won! BUT, NOT YET have we seen with our eyes, as we will on the last day, that the victory has been totally won! Suffice it to say, that we live in the NOW where the victory has been won, that we can only see dimly, But NOT YET have we seen by our eyes that this is totally Pinnacle Lutheran Church preaches Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.
fulfilled. And so it is that in the NOW BUT NOT YET where we still deal with Sin, death and the devil.
Just take a look around you to determine whether sin, death and the devil still cling to us and others. Do people still die? Do people still feel pain, fatigue, agony and suffering? Yes! And to this end, the ‘job‘ of the Christian Church is to remind the faithful that NOW we are fully saved by Christ’s work for us on the cross, but NOW that is, until the last day, sin, death and the Devil will continue to roam this world seeking ones to devour. Who do they want to devour? Does the Devil seek those whom he has already claimed and deceived? NO! Instead, he seeks those who have been bought and paid for by Christ; that’s you and me; the devil seeks to lie to you saying things like “Did Christ really die for you!?” “Does Christ still come for you even now?” “Christ has forgotten you, you are not worthy of His grace and because you are not worthy then you shall not have what He gives!” In addition, our old Adam, the very one who was drowned and died in Holy Baptism, is, as a good friend of mine once said “The Old Adam is a very good swimmer.” Which means that the old Adam, who wants to cling to sin, looks to drag us back down into the depths of our slavery to sin. And the world… my goodness gracious, what isn’t the world doing these days to turn us away from Church, Christ’s gifts, grace and mercy? Here is the answer to the question; The Church preaches so much about sin, death and the devil because, THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN, in the NOW where we are fully redeemed by Christ’s blood, sin, death and the devil are in the throes of their last reigning days. NOW, by faith, we can see that they are conquered foes, but NOT YET can we see that final victory, and because of this it is the Church’s ‘job‘ to remind the faithful that there are still ever
present dangers, subtle foes whose desire it is to wrestle us away from the victory won for us by Christ. The Church preaches so much about sin, because the devil is still very much alive, and uses the world and our own sinful flesh in order to snatch us out of the Father’s hand. The church preaches and teaches about sin so much because it is the REALITY OF THE WORLD THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN.
So, the Church teaches and preaches about sin, death and the devil in order that they may be exposed as the things that they truly are; those things that sever us from the love, forgiveness, life, mercy and grace that Christ has died to procure for us. We preach about sin, death and the devil as conquered foes who have no power over us, but when these things cling to us, we also preach against sin, death and the devil in order to, once again kill those things with the only thing that has ever prevailed over them; THE WORD OF GOD!
What does this mean for us? It means that we sinners come into the place solely reserved for sinners, bringing with us nothing other than our sin, the ways of the world that we have adopted, and the lies of the Devil which we so often have believed to be true; in order that these things might weekly, indeed daily, be killed and put away by the WORD which John reminds us IS CHRIST. What this means for us is that although we, like Paul, are the chief of sinners, that there is a place where we can go to lay our sins down, be forgiven by the WORD spoken by the pastor, that we might be reminded of who we are and whose we are through the preaching of the WORD in the
sermon and that we might leave this church, as often as we come, as forgiven sinners for the sake of Christ. We preach about sin in order to put it to death, we preach against any and all sin, not to judge or condemn, but rather to set the sinner free, to remind them that the sin that clings to them is not the reality that has been given to them through their rebirth in Holy Baptism. We preach against sin, death and the devil in order that you might know, time and time again, that Christ your Lord has defeated all these foes, and that by Him, through His death and resurrection, through His continual coming to save you in WORD AND SACRAMENT that you have the true JOY that doesn’t just last from minute to minute or day to day but instead transcends all time and reaches unto the end of time. Our Joy is real! It transcends death, it transcends sickness, pain, poverty, weakness and sorrow. Our Joy, in fact, comes in the midst of these things, and we are reminded that though the devil still prowls Pinnacle Lutheran Church preaches Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.
fierce as he will, that he cannot over power us, the victory has been won, it is a victory that we see NOW by faith but NOT YET do we see it by sight. But there is a day, and it is coming soon; Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
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