“The Resurrection Life” by Pastor Andy Braams

Do you like your body? I do not know the stats, but I would guess that most people do not. Well, good news – at least for those who follow Christ. One day, we will get a new body – and one that is beyond anything you can imagine.

The truth is that your current body will die – it must die. And when it does, it will decay at a rate even faster than what some of you may think it is decaying today. It will rot. It will be garbage. Even if you are alive when Christ returns, your present body will not be the body you will receive – as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 – the perishable will be replaced by the imperishable.

So, the body you know…the body you like or dislike…the body that has grown, and aged, and thrived, and/or failed…the body that gets you where you need to go, and the body that slows you down…the body that feels good or the body that aches…however you describe your current body, it will cease. But a new one – a better one – will replace it. At least for those who have their faith in Christ.

But that is where the idea of resurrection comes into play. Resurrection is not just about coming out of the grave; it is not just coming back to some zombie type of life. It is returning in a body that was meant to truly live. To be resurrected is to be truly restored.

Let me clarify. A restored body is not patched back together, nor is it made “like new.” People can do a lot of cosmetic work on various objects to make something look good, including a body, but it is still not truly new. Of course, “like new” is better, but it is still not new. For instance, I buy a lot of books. And sometimes I will buy used books, and when I do buy a used book, I prefer ones that are “like new.” That is, they are not new, but they are not well-worn. They may have a few markings or they may have a few dog-eared corners, or perhaps the cover is slightly damaged, but for the most part the book is in very, very good shape. But I still prefer new books…because they are new!

But our new bodies will be newer than new. Not only will any decay be gone, the body will be unlike anything we can fathom. Many listening right now will have heard me say this before, but I must say it again in this context. I cannot say what our bodies will be like with any certainty, other than they will be like the body Jesus had after His resurrection. He could eat food and walk through a closed door. Frankly, our mind cannot conceive those two ideas simultaneously. But whether you can conceive it or not, that is the reality of a new body – which can one day be yours. But if we are to be resurrected like Jesus, what is the purpose?

Well, let me quickly give you three ideas. We need a new body to live eternally, to live abundantly, and to live truly.

A New Body Allows Us to Live Eternally (1 Corinthians 15.35-41)

Your current body will not last forever. Very few bodies make it 100 years. Medical advances and sanitation have extended the lifespan, but bones still brake, muscles still pull, illnesses still debilitate, and organs still fail.

However, the promise of God in John 3.16 is that those who place their faith in Jesus will have eternal life – that is, life that does not end. And for a life that will not end, you need a new body. And that body will come one day after the current one expires.

That is the promise of this passage in 1 Corinthians 15. The earth has one kind of body. Heaven will have another. Just as different species have different types of bodies, so too will our physical body be different from a spiritual body (see vv. 45-47).

But I do want to make sure we understand that we do not need to wait for a new body to live eternally. We need a new body to live forever, but living eternally begins the moment you place your faith in Jesus.

That is what “your Kingdom come” means. We are not to wait until after we die to experience the Kingdom of God. No, we are taught to pray for God’s Kingdom to come – to be experienced on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus would not have taught us to pray those words if it was not possible. So, again, we need a body that will allow us to live eternally, but the beginning of that eternal life begins in this body, not after we die.

A New Body Allows Us to Live Abundantly (1 Corinthians 15.42-49)

This point about living abundantly falls perfectly between the other two.

First, our current bodies limit us from abundant living. All of us have experienced needs. We have been hungry and thirsty and tired and sick. We have been frightened and worried. We have needed compassion. We have needed love.

But the abundant living Jesus promises will include a new body built for a new place where hunger and thirst are no more. We will not be tired. We will never grow sick. Our fears will cease and being in the presence of the Lord will remove all worries. But best of all, the presence of love will be unlike anything we can fathom. Sure, the street will be gold, and the gates made of pearl, but those things will mean little to us – which shows what true abundance really is.

Second, abundant living will mean we will be able to fully live. We will not be limited by our bodies. We will not be too short or too tall. We will not be too skinny or too fat. We will not have weak eyesight or weak knees. We will have the perfect amount of strength. The perfect amount of stamina. We will receive a new body that is ideally suited to serve exactly as God desires us to serve.

Consider the idea of living abundantly and living eternal together. We will never have needs – not in 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years, not ever.

Consider the words in this section – raised imperishable, raised in glory, raised in power, made for heaven. The new body is in contrast to our current bodies which are made from dust (v. 49) and will therefore die (v. 42), are dishonorable (v. 43), and weak (v. 43). Yes, the abundant life that God offers us is available now (John 10.10), but not necessarily as we think of abundance. But the fullness of what God has for us will be experienced by those who are called His children (1 John 3.2).

A New Body Allows Us to Live Truly (1 Corinthians 15.50-58)

I hinted at this in the previous point. But what do I mean by truly living? Honestly, I don’t know. We can’t fully know on this side of eternity. We cannot fathom what awaits, but our present bodies will not be able to withstand the joy.

Some people have a false understanding of heaven. We will not be floating around on clouds. Certainly, we will sing praises to our King (Revelation 5, 7, 19). But heaven will not be an everlasting worship service or time of preaching. We will serve. In the Parable of the Talents, the master says to the two faithful servants, “You have been faithful over little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25.21, 23). That is, those who serve well will be given more responsibility to serve in the presence of the Master.

But the toil will not be burdensome because The Curse will have been lifted. It is as NT Wright says, we will have “Life after life after death.” That is the life I look forward to having. Not just life after death, but truly living in the life that comes after death.

That is the fullness of what Paul means when he quotes from the prophet Hosea, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15.54-55; cf. Hosea 13.14).

We must seek to live our lives as faithfully as we can in this life. But life on the other side of eternity will be a life that we cannot fathom…but it will be a life that will allow us to truly live.

Are you ready?

Well, don’t rush it. But be ready! And be expectant!

CONCLUSION

Perhaps no phrase better captures the idea of what true life is meant to be than Jesus words, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11.25).

Jesus did not just say He would be resurrected and offer life – He said, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.” That claim is probably the second most bold claim ever made by anyone. And it is second only to another claim by Jesus – that He was God (just a few verses earlier in John 10.30).

Jesus’ claim about being the epitome of life is followed by a statement about those who believe will live, even though they die (John 11.26). And then He asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” (John 11.26).

He is asking us the same question today. The reality is that Jesus has made promises that will be fulfilled one day and one of those promises is our resurrection and our new bodies. It will happen. But He gives us the choice of whether to believe or not. I do not understand the fullness of that statement. I can barely begin to understand any portion of it:

I AM

THE RESURRECTION

AND

THE LIFE

But I believe it. Of course, I have a good grasp of of the word AND, but that’s it. The rest is beyond me. But I believe it. And I want to experience the fullness of whatever Jesus meant by that statement.

Having a resurrected body in the presence of Jesus is my hope. (Biblically, hope is not a wish, it is a certainty that is not yet an experienced reality.)

And for those who believe, Paul wrote that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we who believe are to be pitied above all else – because our Hope would lead to nothing, if His resurrection were not true. But as I have said before, if nothing exists beyond this life, why do we do anything? Why should we do anything? Why do we have fear over a virus? Or the economy? Or whatever? But if something, or Someone, does exist, then our primary concern should be about whether or not we are ready to meet Him!

It goes back to last week’s statement about our need for forgiveness. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15.22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Yes, we will die, but it is then that you and I can fully understand what it means to live, in the new body, that God has prepared for each of us.

“Forgiveness” by Pastor Andy Braams

Last week I talked about the church – the first reference in the Apostles’ Creed that was not directly about God. Yes, Mary and Pontius Pilate were mentioned, but they were mentioned in their relationship to the Son – they were not the direct focus.

Last week, the focus did turn to a portion of mankind – the church. On a day when we celebrate the Resurrection (the WHAT), it was good to see a part of the WHY. Without the resurrection, Jesus could not have fulfilled His promise, but because He rose again, His statement, “I will build my church” is still being fulfilled today (Matthew 16.18).

But this week, the Creed moves fully to the place of man – and the description is not favorable. We are sinners. That is, we fail to keep the commands of God. God never fails to keep His promises to us, but apart from the Holy Spirit living in and through us (click here to read post of April 8), we can do nothing good (Romans 3.10).

It is because of this sin that Jesus had to die. It is because of this sin that we are condemned (John 3.17-18, see the post on April 1). We desire forgiveness. We expect forgiveness. We need forgiveness. God grants forgiveness. That is the message for us today.

We Desire Forgiveness (Matthew 6.12, 14)

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6.12). This phrase comes from the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray – commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray these words (not just say them), we do so showing our desire to be forgiven. And God wants to forgive us. He wants it so much that He made the way for us to be forgiven – the sacrifice of Jesus.

But the forgiveness we desire in that prayer comes with a cost. Notice the words, forgive us as we forgive. That is, we are only asking God to forgive us if we forgive others. Now, here is the most challenging part. The words “us,” “our” (twice), and “we” are personal plural pronouns. Why is this important? Because if we pray that prayer together and you forgive someone, but I don’t, then well, WE may not be forgiven. Ouch.

But we do desire forgiveness. And so, we ask. And God desires to forgive us. Two verses later, Jesus says that if you (plural) forgive others, then God will forgive you. That is God will focus us. He wants to forgive us; but He wants us to be forgiving as well.

But the point is that we pray for forgiveness because we desire it. And I will share why in just a few more minutes.

We Expect Forgiveness (Matthew 18.21-35)

This passage has a similar point to the previous one – we want to be forgiven, so we should forgive. But these verses contain a parable that provide a little clarity.

The servant in this parable thinks he is better than others. This first servant does desire forgiveness. He falls on his knees pleading for mercy (Matthew 18.26). But when he receives it from the king, he does not extend it to others. Why? Because he thinks himself better than others. The people who owed the servant money pleased in the same way (desiring forgiveness), but he did not grant it. The debts that the first servant owed the king far outweighed what his fellow servants owed him, but that did not matter to him. Why? He thought he was better than them.

This parable is similar to Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about removing the log from our eye to see clearly enough to help another person by removing the speck from their eye. But when we think we are worthy of forgiveness and others are not, we have a serious problem. This man desired forgiveness, but his attitude after receiving it showed he did not appreciate it so much as he expected it. And if we expect forgiveness, we are much less likely to extend it to others.

Ultimately, it comes down to thinking that what we do is as bad as what others do. Ultimately, when we take that attitude, we will forget our desire for forgiveness because we will lose our understanding that we need forgiveness.

We Need Forgiveness (Romans 5.12-21)

It is sin that brought death, and that death came through one man. 1 Corinthians 15.22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

The Bible is clear that we sin.

Psalm 143.2: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.”

Romans 3.10: “None is righteous, no not one.:”

Romans 3.23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

1 John 1.8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Some will say that mankind is basically good. That teaching is nothing new, but it certainly contradicts the Bible. David shows that our sin is not just from the lives we lead; rather, it is a part of our being from before our births.

Psalm 51.5: “Behold I was brought forth iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

The sin of which David speaks is not his mother’s sin, it is his.

So, these verses and other show our propensity towards sin. It is a part of our nature. And the sin we have leads to death. The first part of Romans 6.23 makes this clear. So does Romans 5. Read Romans 5.12-21. Adam’s sin is the cause of all sin. And because of his sin, Adam eventually died. Furthermore, we sin because of Adam’s sin, and statistics show us that we will die too.

But, and this but is important, the death of the body is one thing; the death of a soul is another.

We die because of Adam, but if we have faith in Jesus, we will live because of Him. That is what Paul is trying to communicate to the Romans. It is what he communicated to the Corinthians in the verse I mentioned above. Adam sin leads us to death; the gift we receive through Jesus leads to life, if only we choose to receive that gift.

Think of it this way. When Adam sinned, God removed mankind from the Garden. When Christ died, Jesus provided a way back in at the proper time.

God Grants Forgiveness (Ephesians 2.4-5)

Ephesians 2.4 is one of the great “But God” verses. I will share another one in a moment. In Ephesians 1, Paul has stressed the importance of the people knowing the truth of God and that their salvation rests in Him. Then, as he begins the next section, he turns to the idea that they were dead in their transgressions, following the world, and were sons (and daughters) of disobedience. They deserved wrath (Ephesians 2.3). But God. God made a way – even though He did not have to do so. He made a way through the man we know as Jesus.

Romans 5.8 says something very similar – “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Here is the most important point I can make today. We desire forgiveness. We even expect forgiveness. We desperately need forgiveness. But if God did not grant us what we desire, expect, and need, then it would not matter. We would be doomed. And we should be doomed.

But God. God grants forgiveness.

And He does so even before we knew we needed it. He did so even if we do not desire it now. He made it possible because of His love. And all we must do is confess. As John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

People often cry out for fairness. But God does not offer fairness. He offers grace. Fair would be allowing us to die in our sin. Grace says we can live – eternally with Him. Fair would mean that because of what God has done, we stop pretending to be the rulers of our own lives (which requires us to ask for forgiveness again and again). Grace says, “I wish you wouldn’t, but I love you.”

God made a way for us knowing we could not make a way for ourselves. What God allowed His Son to endure was not fair, but it was necessary for His purposes.

And all we have to do is respond.

CONCLUSION

So, yes, as the Apostles’ Creed says, I believe “…in the forgiveness of sins.” And I do. I believe it not because I desire it, although I do. I believe it not because I expect it, although I do. I believe it not because I need it, although I desperately do. No, I believe it because the Bible tells me God offers it.

But I wonder if we feel the weight of our sin. In Psalm 51, David said he could not escape the torment of his sin (v. 3). Do I constantly sense the heaviness of my sin?

The reality is that we probably don’t feel the weight of our sin because we don’t like to talk about sin. But if we are not willing to talk about our sin, then we will likely not confront our sin. And if we are not willing to confront our sin, then we have no need of Jesus. Again, if we do not realize the gravity of our sin, then effectively we have NO NEED FOR JESUS.

But again, the Bible says differently. Let me close by reading just a few more verses.

Romans 6.23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2 Corinthians 5.21: “For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

1 Timothy 1.15a: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners,…”

And one final one, which I mentioned above, 1 Corinthians 15.22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Let us choose to overcome death, by choosing forgiveness in the One who died for us.

“The Church” by Pastor Andy Braams

We are moving toward the end of our series on the Apostles’ Creed. As we consider all of the changes in our world over the past few months, it is good to know that God is still in control. And the Creed provides a summary of the timeless truths found in the Bible.

Up to this point, the Creed has been about God. Now the attention turns to the notion of God’s people. The next phrase in the Creed is a stated belief in “the holy catholic church and the communion of saints.”

Now, you may be questioning why I would be preaching about this topic on Resurrection Sunday. That is a fair question. But my argument is that the Resurrection was the beginning of something new – not only life after death, but life while living through the promise of Jesus. One of those promises is the idea of the church.

So, my point today is not that the resurrection does not matter. Indeed, it matters greatly. And I wrote about that here. And the ascension matters as well as I wrote about here. But the resurrection is more than an item in history. We also need to understand why the resurrection happened.

First, and foremost, the resurrection defeated death. Jesus rose again, and now we have the opportunity to do so as well.

But, Jesus made a promise to build the church, and that did not happen before He died. So, either Jesus was unable to do what He said, or He would fulfill the promise in some unexpected way. That unexpected way was by being raised from the dead.

So, let’s look at the promise and the fulfillment through the lens of the resurrection.

The Promise (Matthew 16.18)

Matthew 16.13-20 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. I have taught on the passage over many different sermons at various times. (A series of links from a sermon series Andy preached on this passage is at the end of this post.) It was also the foundation for my dissertation. The passage is critical to our understanding of the founding of the church. In fact, this passage contains one of only three uses of the word church in all four gospels combined (the other two uses are in Matthew 18.17).

In Matthew 16.18, Jesus says, “I will build my church.” This promise is made in response to Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the living God. That is a substantial promise. Of course, the disciples had no real idea what He meant in that moment, but Jesus did, and that should be enough.

The problem is that this promise was made near the end of Jesus ministry. After this story, Jesus moves south towards Jerusalem where, within a matter of just a few months, He would be killed.

Now, I know we are all guilty of making promises that we cannot keep. I am certain many of us had plans and made promises that have been pre-empted by COVID-19. But if Jesus is God, and He is, then He not only should be able to keep His promises, He should keep them.

But if Jesus is dead, He cannot keep it.

The Solution (John 20.1-10)

Immediately after Peter made the Great Confession, Jesus began to talk about His suffering and death. Then, He mentioned His resurrection. A few of the disciples had witnessed Jesus bringing back people from the dead, and the rest of them, plus many others would soon witness Lazarus coming out of the tomb. But the concept of people returning from the dead was not understood. And particularly for a person to say that He would do it Himself must have been considered foolishness. But that is what Jesus said (see John 2.19). More importantly, that is what Jesus did.

READ John 20.1-10.

In this story, we have not one, but three witnesses mentioned. If we add in the other gospels, we know that a few women went to the tomb that morning (Luke mentions 3 by name and then says “others” were involved as well, see Luke 24.10). So, multiple people saw the empty tomb. The more witnesses, the more credible the story. And the fact that the Bible says that women were the ones to break the news is significant because of their place in society in that day. The story would be much more believable if a man had said it. But since the Bible tells us that it was women, it creates an extra measure of truth because no one would have dared considered a woman’s word in place of man’s unless what she said was true.

The Blueprints (Matthew 28.18-20)

After the resurrection, Jesus eventually gathered His tribe on the side of a mountain one more time to give them instructions. Those instructions were the blueprints for His earlier promise. The instruction was simply two words, “Make disciples” (Matthew 28.19). We do this my going, by baptizing, and by teaching others to observe what He taught. But that is the command. He commissioned us with His authority (v 18). He gave us the blueprints. And now we join Him in laboring to build His Church.

Rest assured, Jesus is the architect and the true builder. But we are co-laborers. Furthermore, we are the materials. Jesus is placing each of us right where He wants us…right where He needs us. Like a master builder placing brick after brick or fastening one joist to another, Jesus is building what He wants, how He wants.

And right now, it appears Jesus is doing some rearranging. Of course, that is our perspective. As Christians around the world celebrate the Resurrection, most do so from their homes, perhaps gathering with just a few other people. Instead of gathering in a building that man has built, we watch and listen online this week and wonder what the future of the church that Jesus is building will look like.

But again, Jesus was not caught off guard. Jesus is still building. And He will continue to build His Church, until He returns. While gathering together as a church can be done in many different ways to do many different things each week, we, the Church at large, often do things that would make little sense to Jesus. We often do things that the early church would have done. And we don’t know things like we should, including following the basics of the blueprints – love God, love others, love one another, and make disciples.

Are we guilty of treating His Church like it is our church? Are we guilty of assuming that Jesus is not active in building His Church today? Do we know that Jesus is risen, but live our lives and treat His Bride as if He is still dead?

Rest assured. Jesus is alive. The tomb is empty. The buildings may be empty this week, but the Church is still alive because Jesus is alive. And His last promise for the Church was as great as His first promise was about the Church – He will be with us always.

Why?

Because He is alive.

Why did Jesus raise from the dead?

To show sin and death were defeated? Yes. But also to build His Church!

And the promise of the Church, the truth of the resurrection, and the blueprints we are to use have been passed down for centuries. Now, it is our turn to guard that truth and to pass it on to others, so they can pass it on as well (2 Timothy 1.14, 2.2).

So, yes, I believe in the holy catholic church and the communion of saints, the latest phrase in our look at the Apostles’ Creed. By the way, catholic means whole – as in the whole church, not the belief system/denomination known as Catholicism. And, even though we cannot be in physical communion with one another today, a time is coming when we will gather together again. Why? Because that is what church really is – a gathering of people, specifically those who are called out by God and for God in order that we may serve Him. And that serving includes, making disciples so He can continue to build His Church.

CONCLUSION

On that Sunday morning, nearly 2000 years ago, the words were spoken that still ring true today, “He has risen; He is not here” (Mark 16.6).

Jesus is still not in that, or any tomb. Instead, He is still active and is building His Church. If you are a follower of Jesus, then that means you are a part of what is being built. If you do not yet know Jesus (not know about, truly know), then He wants you to be a part of what He is building as well.

Peter confessed the identity of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus gave him a new identity. When we confess Jesus as our Savior, He gives us a new identity as well. And a part of that identity is to be a part of the Church, which therefore must include the local church.

So, what are you doing now?

Being a part of what God is building does not mean that we wait until we die. No, eternal life begins the moment you receive the gift of Jesus – the salvation He purchased on the cross, the resurrection that proved that salvation is real, and the opportunity to live with Him for eternity at His invitation.

But, what do we do while we are living? That is, if you are reading this, then you are not dead, so the resurrection cannot just be about life after death…it has to mean something for this life too. And that something is about each of us being a part of the Church He is building.

One thing I know, one day you and I will be asked a question very similar to the one Jesus asked His disciples. That question, “Who do you say that I am?”

The time to answer is now. Do you know what your answer will be?

While Andy has preached other messages on this passage, the following links are posts (from his sermon notes) from a series on Matthew 16.13-19 preached in January-March 2016.

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/engage-obstacle.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-magnificent-savior-vision.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-significant-purpose-mission.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-luxurious-design-strategy.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-limited-detail-strategy.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-simple-portion-steps.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-modest-servant-steps.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/03/engage-opportunity.html

“Our Helper” by Pastor Andy Braams

When I first conceived of our current sermon series in 2019, none of us knew of COVID-19. Indeed, the virus, for all we know, did not exist yet. It certainly was not infecting humans. My intent was to share stories about issues which are affecting us in new and different ways and then point to the one constant in the midst of all that change – Jesus. Thus, the title of the series is Constant in a World of Change. I could have never imagined how much change we would see in 2020.

And, of course, the virus is only one part of that change. The sexual revolution marches on and does so without as much attention right now because the focus is elsewhere. But other changes are happening and will now happen in ways that were inconceivable just a few week ago. Why? Because of an invisible virus called COVID-19.

Of course, the virus is not really invisible, but it does take a microscope to see it. However, the invisible force of the virus is not the most powerful, yet unseen force right now. No, that title belongs to the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is still present. He is still active. And He is still providing hope for all who know Him. We talked a little about the Holy Spirit’s role in the conception of Jesus a couple of months ago. Today, I will discuss His ongoing role for us.

BODY

The Holy Spirit Comforts Us (John 14.16)

When Jesus knew He was leaving the earth, He knew His followers would need comfort. The ESV uses the term Helper. But another word could be Counselor (John 14.16, 26; 15.26; 16.7).

Counselors do not bring comfort; they help us find comfort. Their words can help us understand our troubles, they can provide possible solutions, and they can guide us along a path. But the counselor himself or herself does not bring comfort. Our response to a counselor is what brings comfort.

The same is true for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us find comfort which is truly found in peace – a peace offered by God the Father, promised by the Son, and fulfilled by the Spirit. Many people say they believe in Jesus but have no peace. That is, they cannot find comfort. If we are truly born again, and do have the Spirit within them, the Spirit (or Counselor as Jesus calls Him) gives us the ability to find peace, but we must choose to receive the help and guidance.

In the context of John, Jesus was speaking not only of the lasting comfort that the Spirit would provide, he meant the comfort His disciples would need soon. Jesus was about to depart and when He did, the Counselor would come (John 16.7). But Jesus HAD to depart for the Counselor to come. Jesus knew His disciples (i.e. His friends) would be devastated at His leaving. But He promised them a Counselor (a Comforter) who would comfort them, if only they would allow it.

The Holy Spirit Lives in Us (John 14.16-17)

Jesus first introduces this idea of a Helper (Counselor) in John 14. He says that His disciples already know this Helper and He knows them. Specifically, in verse 17, Jesus says that “He dwells with you, and will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit was upon Jesus. We see this in a literal sense in Matthew 3 when the Spirit descends as a dove after Jesus is baptized. But it is through the Spirit that Jesus does what He does. And so, the disciples having seen and known Jesus already know the Holy Spirit, even if they cannot see Him.

But Jesus says it is more than knowing. The Spirit will be within them. Therefore, He will be with them all the time, whereas Jesus was not – at least not with all of them all of the time. But the Spirit would be.

And it is because of the Spirit that we can abide with Jesus. John 15.1-7 talk about the need to abide with Jesus. In a physical sense, that may have been possible for the disciples, but it is not for us. But Jesus did not mean physically. He meant a spiritual intimacy. And that intimacy with Jesus, that is, with God, is possible because of the Holy Spirit. We can abide with God even though we are not physically with God because the Spirit is within us just as it would be for His first disciples, if we truly believe in God.

But the Spirit is within us for more than intimacy. He is there for three more reasons which I will cover quickly.

The Holy Spirit Teaches Us (John 14.26)

We need to spend time with God to be taught. God wants to teach us and does so through His Spirit. During our current situation, it is not hard to imagine a teacher showing up to teach but not having any students. That could often be true of God. God has much to teach us, but if we are unable or unwilling to receive His teaching then we are poor students. Now, we must be willing, but the Spirit makes us able. And the ability He gives us is to understand the truth. Not my truth or your truth, but His truth which is THE TRUTH.

John 14.26 says that the Spirit was to teach the disciples what they needed to know, including reminding them of what Jesus taught. That is, in part, how we have the gospels, and how and why the Bible was written. 2 Timothy 3.16-17 and 2 Peter 1.21 both talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in writing the Scripture and the 2 Timothy verses share how Scripture can help us.

Much more can be said, and should be, but I want to spend just a minute talking about the difference between guilt and shame. Most of us know when we have done something wrong. If we are Christians, we might be struck with guilt. That is the Holy Spirit. We feel guilty, or a better word is convicted because we have violated what God desires for us and for others. But shame is not from God. Shame is feeling unworthy. Shame is what others make you feel. The devil wants us to feel shame – to feel unworthy, to feel unloved, especially by God. Guilt on the other hand is the realization we have done something wrong, and with the teaching of the Spirit, we can respond and have a chance to grow. Shame will not bring growth. Guilt can.

The Holy Spirit Testifies to Us and Through Us (John 15.26-27)

In John 15, Jesus speaks of abiding, but then He says that they disciples need to know more about Him. They need to further realize the truth of who Jesus is. That is a part of the teaching that the Spirit will do. He will “bear witness” about Jesus. He will make it clear who Jesus is. He will make it clear what Jesus did. And then the Spirit will use us to tell others.

Honestly, this is one of the key understandings of the Holy Spirit. If we do not desire to tell others about Jesus, then we may not have the Spirit within us. Now, let me be clear. I am not attempting to shame you if you do not share. I am not saying that “you should be ashamed of yourself.” I am certainly not saying that God does not love you if you do not share. If you hear that voice, it is not mine, and it certainly is not God’s. It is of the devil as I said in my last point.

But you may feel convicted. And as I just stated in the previous point, that is good. That means the Holy Spirit is pushing you, teaching you, to want to do that. If we have the greatest gift God could give (salvation through Jesus Christ), then we should want to share. That is what Jesus said to His disciples on that last night He was with the before He was crucified. And it is what He says to us – not only through the words of the Bible, but through the testimony of the Spirit.

The reality is that we can all share more than we do. We can all testify more than we do. So, if you feel guilty about not testifying, thank God for that guilt. But then, do something about it. Testify.

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us

And we can testify not only because Jesus said that the Spirit will testify through us, but because He empowers us. But He not only empowers us to understand God’s teachings, He also empowers to live our life free from sin. We talked about this topic a little this past Wednesday night in our Bible study.

Romans 8.2-17 talks about the freedom we have in Jesus because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. (If you want more on that topic, I invite you to watch the video from last Wednesday night’s Bible study on the church’s YouTube channel. Go to Youtube.com and type in Fairfax Baptist Church Missouri – Missouri is important because we are not the only Fairfax, think Fairfax, VA).

A part of the breaking free from that bondage is found in Galatians 5. The chapter begins with the declaration that Christ set us free so we could truly be free.  Beginning in verse 16, Paul wrote about the distinction between those who live according the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit. The desires are very different. And the desires of the Spirit are to honor and glorify God. Specifically, we do that by showing fruit in our lives. And the fruit that comes from the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23).

This fruit was so evident in the life of Jesus, and it is meant to be evident in our life as well. We cannot grow that fruit ourselves. It is the fruit of the Spirit. That fruit comes when we allow Him to plant Himself into us and allow Him to cultivate us to allow it to grow. It is then that the fruit becomes evident. It is then that the fruit becomes mature. And it is mature fruit that helps not only us, but others.

CONCLUSION

So, the Holy Spirit live in us to comfort us, to teach us, to testify to us, to testify through us, and to empower us. But only if we believe – that is, if we are born again.

The Creed says, I believe in the Holy Spirit. But are these just words to you, or are they a way of life?

If they are simply words, you will live your life the way you always have which is exactly the way that you desire to live. Sure, you may feel ashamed of yourself and your lifestyle, but you will not change because you do not have the power to change yourself.

But if those words are a way of life, then you will be empowered to change. Sometimes the change will be slow. At other times, it may be so fast you will feel your head spinning. You will still make mistakes, and thus you will still feel convicted, but you will use that conviction as an opportunity to grow. Your fruit will grow. Your relationship with Jesus will grow. And that is all possible (and only possible) because of the Holy Spirit.

“The Judge” by Pastor Andy Braams

Matthew 25.31-34

People are worried about the world ending…what happens when the world ends.

If there is no God, then nothing, so why should we care about what is happening now, or ever. That is, if nothing awaits us beyond this life, then we need not worry about having purpose and therefore nothing should matter to us now – people are sick, people are dying, maybe it could be us, who cares?

But we do care. Why?

Well, before I answer that, let me remind us that this series is about the Apostles’ Creed. But we are at a transition point this week. The Creed has been primarily about the past until this point. But today’s phrase, “whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead,” points to the future. Jesus will come.

And when He comes again, it will not be as a servant, it will be as Lord. He will be King. And thus, He will judge.

The Real Judge

We all have a sense that judgment is right. And therefore, we all judge. We talk about fairness and equity and rights. All of these terms and more imply judgment. And thus, we recognize judgment as necessary, but we do not want to be judged ourselves. Ultimately, this is the answer to the question above. We care because something inside us seeks justice. The problem is that justice is not the same as fairness and what we want is fairness. But who determines fairness? If it is me, then sometimes you will not like what I think is fair. If you are the one determining, then, at times, I will not like what you think is fair. Therefore, for judgment to be real it must have come from a higher authority than humanity. For me, that authority is the one true God.

Now, many people believe that God will be the judge. But what most people do not consider is which Person will be the judge. Is the Judge God the Father, God the Son, or God the Spirit. I think most people would assume that the judge is the Father. But we do not have to assume. And we do not have to guess. The Bible is clear: the judge is Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (5:10). But beyond the words of Paul, we can know straight from the mouth of Jesus. John recorded Jesus’ saying, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,…” (5:22).

So, Jesus will judge. And He is the Judge. But what kind of judge will He be?

The Righteous Judge

Paul calls the Lord, the righteous judge (2 Timothy 4.8). He wrote these words from a prison in Rome while awaiting his execution, which was imminent, although probably months away. He was comparing the judgment of Christ (who place a crown of righteousness on Paul’s head – v. 8), with the judgment of Nero who was to remove Paul’s head from his body.

Now, when we talk about judgment, we must be clear about what is meant. We are called to discern – that is, use judgment. In fact, the verse that many will use about us not judging others (Matthew 7.1) is in a passage that actually goes on to say that we are to help others (which requires judgment that they need help), but to do so after making sure we are right with God. (Read Matthew 7.1-5. Then read verse 6 which goes further into the need to “judge” the situation.)

But in our focus today we are talking about eternal judgment. We are not talking about helping others; the intent here is about condemnation And only Jesus can do that.

Any judicial system has issues. We are all prone to judge others based upon a lot of factors that are irrelevant such as theological understandings, skin color, political affiliation, nationality, or even geographic location within a country, state, or even city/town, etc.

But the judgment of Jesus will be based upon one thing – belief. And, in fact, Jesus will not have to condemn anyone on the day of judgment (see Rev 20) because as Jesus said just after one of the most oft-quoted verses in the Bible,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of he only Son of God” (John 3.17-18).

So, the righteous Judge is not condemning people. He is just pronouncing the judgment that they have already chosen for themselves.

The Faithful and True Judge

In Revelation 19.11-19, Jesus is also referred to as Faithful and True. That faithfulness is to Himself as God. That truth is to His purposes as God. The reality is that we all want to think of ourselves as faithful to ourselves and true to our purposes. But we are not. We can see this in so many areas of our lives. Maybe it is treating one child differently than another. Maybe it is reacting differently to different people when they do the same thing. May it is when we give up on a New Year’s (or any other) Resolution. Etc.

But Jesus has never wavered. Jesus is always faithful. To Himself. And thus, to us. We can know exactly what He expects of us. We can also know His love for us never wavers. Ever. For He is faithful and He is true. And He wants us to be as well.

What is interesting is that those who are found faithful (not perfect, but faithful), will also sit as judges. In Revelation 2.26-27, Jesus says that the “one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end” will have authority. We will judge with Him, but under His authority. Furthermore, Paul wrote that the saints will judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6.3). That is, we do not become angels when we die – angels were created before mankind); instead, we will judge them.

And that leads us to the last point. A judgment is coming.

The Coming Judgment

For the sake of time, I will not read all of Matthew 24.32-42 and Matthew 25.31-34; 41. But let me summarize each.

At the end of Matthew 24, Jesus speaks of the fig tree. The fig tree is supposed to produce figs in season. It did not, so Jesus cursed it and it died. Jesus then talked about a future time when some will be ready and some will not, because the exact time of the coming judgment is not known. He does not even know (Matthew 24.36). So, just like the fig tree, we need to produce fruit in season – before it is too late. And this is our season.

At the end of Matthew 25, Jesus describes the final judgment as a separating of the sheep from the goats. In this passage, the idea is not just having belief, but what we do with that belief. Jesus gives scenarios such as being hungry, thirsty, and being a stranger and being welcomed by some, and rejected by others. While anyone can provide care for others, Jesus is saying that those who believe should show the necessary compassion to provide that care. That is what distinguished true belief from merely stating a knowledge of something, or in Jesus’ case, Someone.

Ultimately, both of these passages talk about what we will do because of what we know. It is belief that is important, but it is our fruit that shows belief. The goal of the servant is to first hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21, 23) so that we can hear the rest, “enter into the joy of your master.” But as I say often, to hear “Well done” we first have to do.

CONCLUSION

The Bible is clear that doing is not what grants you salvation, but what we do should be the result of what we believe (Ephesians 2.8-10). And we need to serve our King, but it is He, our King, the Lord, who will judge. Jesus is that King. And Jesus will return. And when He does, He will come in judgment.

Jesus is the ultimate judge. He Himself was judged by man, but when He returns He will judge mankind.

I do not know when He will return, but some people are concerned that the time we are living in right now may be the end. Maybe it is. Again, I do not know. But whether this is the end of not, Jesus will come again one day. If He comes today, are you ready? If He comes tomorrow, or next week, or next year, will you be ready?

If you are not sure, I encourage you to find a friend who knows Jesus, who loves Jesus, and wants you to know and love Him as well. Or, perhaps it would be easier for you to contact our church. You can email us at fairfaxmobaptistchurch.org or send us a message on FB. If you leave a comment in Facebook or YouTube, the comment could be overlooked depending on the number of comments received or when you leave the comment, so directly contacting us is a better option. If you do, someone will reply as soon as possible in order to set up a time to talk.