“The Significance of the Ascension” by Pastor Andy Braams

Very few people remember the beginnings of WW2. Some may remember the end, but to even be alive at the beginning, which happened when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, you would have to be nearly 81. So, to be able to remember that day would add a few years and limits the number of people considerably. And the war that started over there, would be brought to our shores just over two years later on December 7, 1941.

Many are stating that WW2 is the event that most closely identifies with our current pandemic known as COVID-19. While the circumstances of that war were far different, we can find similarities. First, like the beginning of that war, this virus started over there. Sure, we heard about some people in another nation being affected by a virus, but we have heard similar stories before, and yet we have barely been affected.

But the biggest parallel is the disruption that has come to the lives of people around the world. For Americans, we had two years before WW2 became a national concern. With COVID-19, we had two months, and really, to reach the level it has, we have had about 3 months.

But with WW2, most of the war was fought over there. Sure, people had concerns that led to the use of internment camps. But most of the worry was about those fighting over there. Not this time. This time, the concern is right before us. And it will be for some time.

What faces us is more than concern; it is fear. However, as I said last week, “Fear is real, but it need not rule.”

Last week, I took a break from our current series to discuss a Christian response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That response centered on acknowledging any fear and trusting God as David did in Psalm 56. Then, having acknowledged the fear, we are to love others, and help them through their fears. I believe more can be added, but at a minimum, those two ideas represent how a Christian can respond.

But the question is WHY can a Christian respond that way? Well, that is the message for this week. And to see the answer, we will look to Jesus. But we will look at an aspect of Jesus’ life that is often overlooked.

However, before I do that, I realize that many who may watch this message will not have the full context. So, I want to take a few moments to share about the series I am doing, and how it fits far better than I could have imagined.

The current series is entitled, Constant in a World of Change. The series is based upon the Bible but is designed around the phrases found in the Apostles’ Creed. Each of the phrases found in the creed is a truth found in the Bible. So, the point of the series was to show the constancy of God in the midst of all of the changes around us. And the reality is that our world is changing fast – and it still is, but most all of the attention now is on the changes brought by the novel (or new) coronavirus.

That is the purpose behind the series. Now, let’s move into this phrase:
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

We can find the truth of this statement in one verse, which will be my focus today.

Ephesians 1.20 says, “that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”

That verse has a lot of He, Him, and His in it, so let me restate the verse by backing up and picking up the context:
“that God (the Father) worked in Christ when God (the Father) raised Him (Jesus) from the dead and seated Him (Jesus) and His (God, the Father) in the heavenly places.”

In other words, the Him(s) are Jesus, and the He and His are God, the Father.

So, why does this verse matter. Why would I choose to preach on this during the midst of the challenges of COVID-19? Stay with me for a few minutes and you will see. Let me give you four quick points.

The Ascension Proves Christ’s Work On Earth Is Finished

It is one thing to say, “It is finished.” (John 19.30)

It is another for that statement to be true.
God raised Jesus from the dead. Was it to do more work? Nope!
God raised Jesus from the earth. Because the work Jesus did on earth was done.

Jesus would not have ascended if the Father did not think Jesus’ job on earth was done.

The Ascension Places Jesus in the Position of Authority

Because Jesus work on earth was done, God had a new assignment for Him.
Read Ephesians 1.20-23. (This passage is similar to what is written in Philippians 2.9-11 and Colossians 1.18-20).

What we can know is that Jesus has supreme authority. He is the supreme authority. We will see more of that next week when we look at Jesus as the Judge.

The Ascension Provides the Spirit His Opportunity to Work

Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit when He left. It is the Spirit who guides us in this day. It is the Spirit who equips us.

Jesus said it is to our advantage that He leave (John 16.7)

As Al Mohler writes about this truth, “Without his ascension the Spirit could not come; and, in some mysterious, spectacular way, the indwelling of the Spirit eclipses the physical presence of Jesus Christ.” (1)

So, what is Jesus doing right now? He is preparing a place for us. Many have focused on the rooms, asking questions like what will they be like? Who cares? The purpose is not where we stay, but with Whom we will stay. (John 14.3)

And that leads us to the fourth point.

The Ascension Presents God’s People a Permanent Home

Mark 16.19 says that Jesus was taken up into heaven. Heaven is a real place. Ephesians 2.4-6 says that we will be seated with Him. Revelation 3.21 says the same thing for those who overcome this world. Again, as I mentioned above, Jesus is preparing a place for us now. And the world, with all of its beauty and creativity was created in six days. Imagine what Jesus is preparing having had nearly 2000 years to do it.

CONCLUSION

As I prepare to close, you may recall that I mentioned that this message fits perfectly within the scope of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Let me explain how.

If Jesus died, but did not rise from the dead, how could we know that His death meant what He said it did.

If Jesus rose from the dead, but had not ascend to heaven, how could we know He did not die again.

In other words, without the ascension, could we really have hope? But if Jesus did die (and He did), and rose from the dead (and He did), and ascended to heaven (and He did), then we can know that no matter what may happen to us on this earth, we can have hope for today, for tomorrow, and for every tomorrow’s tomorrow.

The word corona comes from a Latin word that means wreath or crown. A crown is worn by a ruler, and right now, the coronavirus seems to rule the world today, but Jesus will rule for eternity. Rest assured, God is in control. Jesus is seated which means His job is done, and when the time is right, He will return and prove His worth as the One worthy of all crowns, for as the Bible says, He will be crowned the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

That is a hope worth having. That is the hope we need.

(1) Albert Mohler, The Apostle’s Creed, Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019, 108.

“A Christian Response to COVID-19” by Pastor Andy Braams

You may have heard about this little thing called a coronavirus. Specifically, the current coronavirus is named COVID-19. COVID-19 is not the first coronavirus, and it likely will not be the last. A coronavirus will infect both animals and humans. Currently, seven different types exist, with four of those causing symptoms like the common cold. In fact, many of our colds are related to one of these viruses.

But more recent coronaviruses have caused more problems. In 2002, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus infected nearly 8100 people in 24 countries, killing nearly 800. No cases of SARS have been reported since 2004. However, the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) became known in 2012 and has since infected around 2500 individuals, with over 1/3 of those people dying. 27 countries have identified the MERS virus.

Other viruses, such as the so-called “bird flu” and “swine flu,” have impacted our world over the past couple of decades. And one of the worst epidemics was the Spanish Flu of 1918. It is estimated that 500 million people worldwide were infected and somewhere between 20 to 50 million people died. This pandemic came on the heals of some 20 million people dying during WW1.

But this new virus, has the attention of the world. It started in China (as did SARS), and has now spread to more than 100 countries. This week COVID-19 went from an epidemic (upon the people) to pandemic (all people). Some have estimated that as many as 45% of Americans will get the virus. In raw numbers terms, that is 150 million – Americans.

And this pandemic is causing fear and disruption in ways our world has never seen. Certainly, our world has seen major catastrophes before. Earthquakes, famines, plagues, wars (including two World Wars), terrorist attacks, etc., have all caused disruptions for days, weeks, and years. But nothing in the history of the world has caused this level of change so quickly. Decisions are changing by the hour as to how people and organizations are responding. And those decisions will continue to be made in the days and weeks (if not months) ahead.

So, what is our response? Not as a part of the people, but as the church? How should we respond?

Our response should be two-fold – a trust in God and a love for others.

Trust in God

Read Psalm 56.

A follower of Christ should focus first on trusting in God. Fear is real, but it should not rule.

Fear is probably the strongest emotion because once it grips us it does not let go. And, of course, fear is not something the Bible condones. In fact, famously, the Bible records the idea of not being afraid or not having fear 365 times – one for each day of the year. But this is Leap Year, so I guess we get to have fear for one day.

Fear may not be right, but it is natural. But we must also keep it in perspective. Some will call fear a sin, and I understand the rationale. Let me first explain a part of the rationale, but then let me show you from Scripture why I do not believe it is a sin.

First, ultimately fear is the result of a lack of trust in someone or something. Second, the Bible says “do not fear” which is very similar language to “do not lie” or “do not steal” or “do not commit adultery.” But lying, stealing, and adultery are choices we make to do. Fear is a natural response. Just like anger. Thus, as Paul says, in your anger, do not sin. Likewise, I think we can say, “in your fear, do not sin.” Yes, the sin would be different, but the principle is the same.

For instance, David had fear, but he knew where to turn in the midst of that fear. In Psalm 56.3, David say, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” This verse was the first verse I taught our children. By the time they were two or three, they had this verse memorized. Mommy and daddy could not always be there for them, but God would be.

What is great about this chapter is that David never confesses a sin or repents for his fear. At least not directly like he does in Psalm 51. In fact, if you look at Psalm 56, David begins with why he is afraid, then makes his declaration of trust, and then shares more details about why he is afraid. He may have stated his intention to trust in God, but that has not freed his mind from the perils around him. He realizes that simply stating he trusts in God does not remove him from danger. BUT – and this is key – He does not let that danger or fear cripple him.

Notice the structure of this Psalm.

Verses 1-2: He asks God to watch over him because of his enemies. That is, David acknowledges his fear and plainly states it to God.

Verses 3-4: David acknowledges God is greater than His fears.

Verses 5-7: Having acknowledged God, and his desire to trust God, David details why he is afraid.

Verses 8-13: David acknowledges why He can trust in God. David acknowledges that he will trust in God.

A Psalm with 13 verses has 5 verses about the reality of fear. But it has 8 verses about the reality of God triumphing over fear.

38% of the verses talk about fear. That is important. David does not share one verse about fear, then acknowledge a desire to trust God and the fear is instantly gone. A holier-than-thou Christian might think that our response should be 1% fear, and 99% trust. And frankly, maybe it should be. But the reality is that David, the mighty warrior, the man who slayed thousands of people, expressed his fear – openly and honestly.

But David had more trust in God than he did fear. Because 38% of this Psalm addressed fear, over 60% addressed the goodness of God. Again, I am sure some Christians in our world today will say David was weak by only mentioning God’s power over fear 60% of the time. I am glad those Christians have it all figured out and never have any fear. Because you know what, I don’t have the level of faith they have. Frankly, I am not overly concerned about the coronavirus personally, but I have my own challenges, including the fact that I serve a church that has many people who are much older than I and are in the higher risk category for contracting and being affected by the virus.

Now, I do not want the virus. And I will take precautions to avoid contracting the virus. But that fear is not my biggest fear. And yet, whatever fear you may have, the example David gives us in Psalm 56, is that we can have very legitimate fears. And even in the midst of fully trusting God, we may honestly and openly express those fears. And when we do so, we may help others to better process their fears as well.

Love of Neighbor

The second response during this time of crisis – and it is a crisis – is that we should love our neighbor.

Several months ago, when I was preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan, I made following statement: We cannot love the people we label, and we will not label the people we love.

On Friday, I saw a statistic that a much higher percentage of Democrats fear contracting the virus than Republicans. That is one of the most stupid studies and statements I have ever heard. Who cares? People are getting sick and dying and instead of focusing on this being an issue affecting people all over the world regardless of races, religions, and political leanings, and people are making this political. That isn’t love. That is manipulation.

Again, people are afraid. Certainly, some are more fearful than others, but we do not need to beat down on people for their fears. We need to love them through it. Let me give an example.

Suppose a child wakes up from a dream and is frightened. The child bravely gets out of bed to find a parent (or parents). (Don’t discount how much courage it takes for some children to get out of their bed in this situation.) A parent could respond in a few different ways, but let’s go to the edges.

A parent could respond: “You are an idiot. I told you there is nothing to be afraid of. Haven’t I told you that everything’s fine. I just don’t get why you can’t understand this.  Just go back to bed and let me get some sleep.”

Alternatively, a parent might respond: “I am sorry you are afraid. Let’s see what we can do to make you feel better. What if we check to make sure everything is ok and then I will lay down with you until you go back to sleep?”

Again, other possibilities exist. But the first scenario is rather harsh. The second would be considered compassionate. And yet, in the church we often treat others similar to the first example. We are selfish and we show a lack of care. The second example takes time and energy – and love.

And that is what we are to do. Romans 12.15 says to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  We like rejoicing. It is often more difficult to weep. Frankly, in the examples above, I would like to think I will respond like the second example, but I know I am often guilty of the first. Why? Because I am selfish. Because I sin.

However, Jesus tells me to love my neighbor as I do myself. He tells us to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. Thus, I must properly love myself. We must properly love each other. And when we do, the real benefit is that others can know they are loved too.

That is our opportunity right now in the midst of the fear around us. We do have an opportunity to rejoice when it is appropriate, but to weep as well. We do have the opportunities to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6.2). We have the opportunity to stand together to oppose our enemy and whatever obstacles might come before us.

We can do this because Jesus loved His neighbor as He did Himself. And He asks His followers to do the same.

CONCLUSION

Fear is real. But God is bigger than our fears. And, if we truly love others, we will help them to know that truth as well. This week, fear has been front and center in the lives of millions, if not billions. But realize that fear is based upon a virus with a surface area that is measured to be 1/25,400,000 or .0000049213 inches.

How can something so tiny cause so much fear? But it has, and it will continue to do so. But COVID-19 is not the only fear in our world today. And it is not the only fear within our church right now. Other health issues are front and center. Issues like cancer or other chronic diseases create fear. Or maybe your fears stem from a relationship with a friend, a coworker, or a member of your family.

Maybe it is learning to live after the loss of a loved one.

Maybe your fear is financial.

Maybe the fear is changes in our country, in our town, or in this church.

I know the fears that some of you are experiencing. But I do not know the depth of those fears. I know the fears that I face too.

But I also know that I have a God who desires me to trust Him. A God who desires you (individually) to trust Him. A God who desires us (as a church) to trust Him. He is a God who does not change. So, even though we moved away from the Apostles’ Creed this week (which is itself a change), we are still focusing on our constant – on THE constant – in a world of change. And, in a world of fear.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JOURNEY.

We are all on a JOURNEY of faith. And this JOURNEY will requires us to acknowledge and confront our fears. So, let me present a couple of verses for you to reflect upon for a couple of minutes.

The first was written to Timothy, and thus is meant to be internalized individually.  The verse is 2 Timothy 1.7: “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4.6-7 was written to a church, and thus is meant of us to consider corporately: “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

NEXT STEP(S):

      • LEARN.  Learn to trust God through your times of fear.
      • LOVE.  Love others to help them do the same.

As followers of Christ, we must also see this disruption as an opportunity. Fear can drive people in many different directions, but one of those directions is to seek purpose and meaning in their lives, to consider death, and therefore to be open to God.

SPECIAL CALL TO PRAYER

From the SBC:

      1. Ask God, in His mercy, to stop this pandemic and save lives—not only in our communities but around the world, particularly in places that are unequipped medically to deal with the virus (Isaiah 59:1-2).
      2. Pray for President Donald Trump and other government leaders—international, federal, state, and local—to have the wisdom to direct us in the best courses of action for prevention and care (Romans 13:1–4).
      3. Scripture says—teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Pray that the Lord will give us wisdom in this moment of fear as the foundations of what we know are shaken, that others would realize how fragile life is and how real eternity is, and they would see their need to turn to God (Psalm 90:12).
      4. Ask God to protect our missionaries and their families around the globe, using this global crisis to advance His Good News to the whole world (Mark 16:15).

“Abandoned?” by Pastor Andy Braams

Last September, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer died. Now, Dr. Klopfer would not be known to most people and would have simply passed from this life without incident except for a shocking discovery. After the doctors death, relatives found 71 boxes in his garage. Those boxes contained 2,246 aborted fetuses. In the trunk of one of his cars, they found another 165 fetuses. All totaled, this man had saved the fetuses of 2,411 babies aborted between the years of 2000-2003. (1)

Frankly, many questions should be asked, but most can never be answered now that Dr. Klopfer is dead. Why did this many keep these aborted babies? Why did he keep them for 16-19 years? But the biggest question is how could all of these lives be simply abandoned?

Thankfully, an arrangement was made to restore the dignity of these humans by providing them a proper burial a couple of weeks ago – even if the burial was premature for most of them had they been allowed to be born, and much delayed given what happened to them.

Most people who hear of this situation are appalled – and rightfully so. But is the appalling nature of this situation the act of abortion, the act of keeping these children in boxes, or the number of babies involved?

The abortion debate is real. And it is intense. And a lot of people who have been impacted by abortion are deeply wounded. This message is not about opening that wound. This message is not about abortion. But it is about abandonment. And those babies were abandoned. But the issue is that you and I abandon people each and every day – perhaps not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense – perhaps even the individuals impacted by abortions. And although we may never know why Dr. Klopfer did what he did, one day you and I will have to give an account of our actions to our Lord.

See, all of humanity should be in a state of abandonment. That may be true of our lives, but it should certainly be true after we die. But God. God made a way through Jesus, who Himself “was not abandoned to Hades” (Acts 2.31), but loosed “the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him (Jesus) to be held by it” (Acts 2.24).

Read Acts 2.23-24. God had a plan. Jesus executed that plan. And because of that execution, we are not abandoned, if only we believe.

This truth about what God has done through Jesus, and what Jesus has done for us, and what the Spirit desires to do within us is why we are studying the Apostles’ Creed. Today, we come to the part of the Creed that says, “He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead.”

However, we should know that God raised Jesus so that He could raise us too. That is, God raised Jesus back to life, so that we could not only live with Him forever, but that we could truly live.

So, if Jesus rose in order for us to live, what are we doing with the life He has given?

Jesus Descended into Hades

Today, portion of the Creed begins with one of the most challenging truths mentioned in the Bible. But we must consider two aspects to this truth. First, we must examine the wording carefully to make sure the Creed matches the Bible. Second, we must be careful not to make our attempts at understanding the passage say more than what the Bible really says. (Many have suggested this phrase should be left out of the Creed, but it is there, and we must deal with it as best we can.)

First, the challenging passage is found in 1 Peter 3. Specifically, verse 19 says, then Jesus “went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” Now, we do not need to wonder what He preached. Like His time on earth, He preached of the Kingdom of God. He proclaimed Himself Messiah and the fulfillment of the prophecies. But the real question arises as to where He preached.

Most every reputable translation uses the term or concept of those in prison. And, indeed, that is the term in the Greek. It is the same term used of John being in prison in Mark 6, for instance. But the Creed says hell.

Now, hell is a real place that will be the eternal home for the devil, the demons, and all of those who reject Christ. But it is not the word used in 1 Peter 3, which is the source of this statement in the Apostles’ Creed. So, did Jesus go to hell to do this preaching? No.

He went to Hades. Hell and Hades are two places that are often used synonymously. But they are two different places. Hades is the place of the dead, much like the Jewish concept of Sheol in the OT. The concept of Hades actually has three levels. It has a level of punishment (like hell) for those who are evil. It has a middle place where most people will be (those who are not too good and not too evil). And it has a place of blessing for those who are good and heroic.

We see this idea of Hades in Luke 16, when the rich man was dead and looking up from the place of torment in Hades (v. 23) saw the poor man, a man named Lazarus (with no evidence that it was the Lazarus who was brought back from the dead in John 11) in Abraham’s bosom (the place of blessing in Hades). Lest we think this is just some human thought, realize this story is from the mouth of Jesus!

From the cross, Jesus said to one of the thieves, today you will be with me “in Paradise.” That man went to the place in Hades known as Elysium (or the Elysian Fields), and Jesus would be there to proclaim the message of God to all who would listen.

Again, this is as much as we can say. Did Jesus go to the other levels of Hades? Perhaps, but the Bible does not say so. Jesus did mention Paradise, and that is the “best” level or Hades, so He at least went there. And Jesus died for all sinners which would include any who were in the other levels (the Asphodel Meadows and Tartarus), so He may well have gone to proclaim the truth of God there as well. But we must be careful to go further than that in our interpretation, and thus, understanding of the Bible. Jesus went to Hades because those who were there – that is, all who died prior to Jesus death on our behalf – needed to know that Jesus paid the price for sin. His message was meant to deliver them from an otherworld place like Hades into the presence of God after His own resurrection.

For as Paul says, to depart from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5.8; cf. Phil 1.23).

But for you and me, Jesus has already come. He has already died. And He has already been raised from the dead. And thus, we turn to the message that Peter preached, as recorded by Luke in Acts 2, to see what Jesus resurrection can and should mean to us.

The Third Day He Rose Again

First, let me say that I am not dealing with the aspect of the third day in this post. The Bible does say three days and many possibilities exist, but I do not have time to unpack them all. I will say that I personally believe that it is likely that Jesus died on a Thursday.

So, what is less important in these two phrases is not where He proclaimed the message, nor how many days He was dead, but that He rose again.

First, let me speak to the idea of “again.” I was recently asked why the word again is used. It is a fair question because Jesus was not raised twice. As I researched this, the best explanation is found in a close synonym – anew, or even afresh. Others have made a similar argument. (2) Using this idea, Jesus rose anew. He was renewed, and indeed, He was in His resurrection body.

But let us turn to Acts 2 to see Peter’s words.

Beginning in verse 22, Peter appeals to the crowd to take stock of this man Jesus whom they had seen. It was this Jesus who, according to the plan of God, was crucified. But, death could not hold Him. The grave would not defeat Him. And Peter refers to David’s words nearly 1000 years prior when David proclaimed that God would not “let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2.27). The word corruption here means “the pit” (as in decaying in the pit).

It is in this verse, by the way, that we see the use of Sheol and Hades as interchangable. Acts 2.27 begins with, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades…” Peter is quoting from Psalm 16, where in verse 10, David used Sheol. Thus, going back to the previous point, we see that Sheol and Hades were considered as similar in their usage depending upon whether one was speaking in Hebrew (Sheol) or Greek (Hades).

But if Peter had simply quoted David, the people could have believed that David was referring to Himself. So, Peter then revealed that David was more than a king, he was also a prophet.

Read Acts 2.29-31.

David died, but did see decay. He was buried and was still in the tomb. So, God meant someone else. That someone was Jesus. Jesus was buried, but the tomb where He was buried was empty. We have to believe this by faith, but the people who heard Peter’s voice that day could have checked for themselves. In fact, that is what Peter says in verse 32-33. God raised Jesus and Peter, along with the other apostles were simply proclaiming that truth.

What we must understand is that Jesus death was important. It is by the blood of Jesus that we are saved. But it was the resurrection of Jesus that sealed our salvation. Or, rather, I might say, the resurrection confirms our salvation. Paul uses David’s thoughts to say as much in Acts 13.37-38.

In effect, if God did not resurrect Jesus, then we could not consider God to have been satisfied by His death. But because God did raise Jesus from the dead, we can have full confidence that God’s wrath for our sin was satisfied on the cross, if we will only place our faith in that truth.

But before we leave Acts 2, I want to focus on a particular term that Peter used twice. That word is, “abandon.” Again, in Acts 2.27, David said that in the future, the Holy One will not be abandoned. And in Acts 2.31, Peter says that Jesus, the Holy One, was not abandoned to Hades. Hades could not hold Jesus. It was Jesus vs Hades in a death match. And Jesus overcame death.

And because Jesus was not abandoned, we will not be either. Because Jesus overcame death, we can overcome it too. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 (verses 54-55, quoting Isaiah and Hosea), “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

But here is the challenge. If God did not abandon Jesus, and Jesus did not abandon us, then we can not abandon others.

CONCLUSION

Sometimes we feel lonely. We feel isolated. We may feel abandoned. It happens to many people at various times in their lives. But God has a plan. Just like those 2411 aborted babies who were given dignity through a mass burial, as humans, we all have dignity. The death of Jesus for us reveals that truth. The resurrection of Jesus proves it because God did not abandon Him, so Jesus will not abandon us. We must simply choose to be saved by the only one who can truly save us.

Before we can rise again with Jesus, we must be born again by God. As 1 Peter 1.3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”

Jesus rose again by the power of God. But the power of God can do more than resurrect a body, it can change a life. And a changed life can truly change the world. The truth of the resurrection changed the apostles from being of “little faith” to being world changers. The truth of the resurrection continues to change lives – live that otherwise might be abandoned – and those changed lives can change the world again!

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JOURNEY.

Many of our JOURNEY letters in this series have been the J for Jesus. But today, the focus needs to be on our JOURNEY. Each one of us needs to know that wherever we may be on that journey, God is not done with us yet. If you are doing zealous work for the Lord, He has more for you to do. If you are muddling along in life, God has something for you. If you are feeling hopeless and abandoned, God has something for you. If you are still breathing, God is not done with you…your journey is not complete, so you must consider what you will do for Him during the remainder of your journey.

God made a way for a dead man to have purpose. And that purpose includes you. If He could do that with a man who was dead, how much more can He do for you? How much more can He do through you? But the question is not how much more can He do, the question is what will we allow Him to do?

NEXT STEP(S)LIVE.  Jesus influenced many people while He lived. But it was after He died that He changed the world. Likewise, Jesus bids us to come and die. Once we do, our life is not our own, and so He can do through us what He wants and needs for us to do. It is when we die to ourselves that we truly learn to live. So learn to live for Jesus today by allowing Jesus to live through you.

Who’s Your One? Who’s Your One plus One?

 If we follow through on finding, praying for, and investing in both the one and the one plus one, we can help those individuals to know that God has not abandoned them, that God has a plan for them, and then lead them to help others to find their one plus one as well.

      1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/12/ulrich-klopfer-abortion-fetuses/, (accessed March 6, 2020).
      2. See, for instance, Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-rose-again.html, (accessed March 6, 2020).

“It Is Finished” by Pastor Andy Braams

1 Corinthians 1.17-18; John 19.16-42

Have you watched or listened to the news lately? If you watch it over a two- or three- day period you will see developments happening so quickly it is difficult to keep up. Make those days weeks or months and the pace is alarming. In a recent visit with one of our elder members, he said, and I quote, “I see the way the world is going at an accelerated pace.”

He then mentioned horses – the maximum speed humans traveled for centuries was by horse. And then even when the first cars were made (the Model T), they traveled at the same general speed as a horse. But then, the he mentioned that cars quickly moved to 60 mph, and that we had air travel, then space travel. It all developed so quickly.

But today, the developments are even faster. What about the Coronavirus? Or the locusts in Kenya? Politics are out of control. It is no wonder some people claim that the news is fake – because even news that is real changes so fast it is hard to know what is true anymore. What was true yesterday may not be true tomorrow. (AB – this is not my best PC and FCF, but it will do this week)

But some news doesn’t change, and therefore many get bored with it. The most important news is that of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, that news is old, but it is still fresh. Many consider the news of Jesus as out of date and out of style, and would rather talk about the speculation of what we see on TV today rather than the truth of what happened centuries ago.

But the news of Jesus was not just news that day, it was news that was predicted to happen. Read John 19.28-30. “It is finished” requires knowing what “it” is and what needed to be accomplished for “it” to be done.

As we think about the Apostle’s Creed, we can hold tight to the truth of the creed not because of the words in the creed, but because those words are based upon the truth of the Bible. It is the Bible that is true and thus what is directly taken from the Bible must be true too. And today that truth is that Jesus was crucified, buried, and dead.

But it is more than the thought of some man being crucified, dead, and buried. That happened to many people. In fact, two others were crucified and dead on the same day as Jesus, although we cannot know if they were buried. (Likely, they were not, but we do not know, and it does not really matter for our purposes today.)

However, this story is not just about a man, it is about a man who claimed to be God, a man what was God, and thus, He was able to declare that “It is finished.”

So, what was finished? And why is that important?

Let us take a closer look by reviewing John 19.

Jesus Was Crucified

This really happened. Read John 19.18-20.

John writes it, but details are important. Granted John wrote this account decades after the fact (some suggest as many as 60 years later – which is very likely), but people would have still been alive to refute it. Verse 20 says many Jews saw it. They would have told this story to their children and grandchildren. The story they told was either about a lunatic who thought He was Messiah and got what He deserved, or truly was the Messiah and got what we deserved.

But John is not the only one to record this. That is, this story is not just biblical; it is historical. Pilate is mentioned by name. And both Jewish and Roman historians discuss the intersection between Pilate and Jesus (Josephus the Jew; Tacitus the Roman).

Why was Jesus crucified?

      • Because God is holy. And we are not.
      • Because God had to punish sin and deal with its curse and the curse of the Law. For as the Bible says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3.13, quoting from Deuteronomy 21.25). Jesus was crucified by men who hated him, for men who needed him. (Romans 6.23)

Now, many do not like the fact that Jesus was crucified. Some claim God was a child abuser. But the Bible say the word of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1.18). To understand is to receive the grace of God. The reality is that mankind hates Jesus. Men hated Him in Jesus day. They hated Him in Paul’s day (Phil 3.18). And they hate Jesus today. And you and I would be among those who hate Him but for the grace of God – a grace that comes from the sacrifice He made.

So, Jesus was crucified – a process perfected by Romans to make the pain and horror of death as agonizing as possible (as Mike has shared with us before). Jesus received that. We might even say He embraced it – for you and for me. And in the end, Jesus died.

Jesus Was Dead

The crucifixion was the form of death, but it was the death that mattered. Without the death, the wrath of God would not be satisfied. The death of Jesus was necessary because it was upon Jesus that the fullness of God’s wrath was delivered. In Revelation, the wrath of God is revealed as bowl judgments. These bowls are poured out on all who do not believe. These bowls contained sores, water turning to blood, scorching heat, oppressive darkness, water drying up, and a storm and earthquake that is unmatched in human history (Revelation 16).

The intensity of these “bowl” judgments is poured out because of the sin of the world. And yet the true punishment for sin will be much worse and last for eternity in the place called hell.

On the cross, Jesus died so that all who believe (who call on the name of Jesus) will not have to endure the wrath of God on this earth, and will escape the eternal miseries of hell. Jesus death took God’s wrath for us. That is why we call His death the substitutionary atonement. He atoned for our sins by substituting Himself in our place. He did it for you. He did it for me. He did it for everyone. I deserve God’s wrath on me for what I have done, but I do not deserve His wrath for your sins. However, Jesus bore the fullness of God’s wrath for everyone. Imagine the pain, imagine the suffering.

The One who created us, died for us. The one who created was executed at the hands of His creatures. As Peter declared to the audience in Acts 3.15, “…you killed the Author of life…” We may not have been physically present, but we are responsible for the death of Jesus.

But He did die. Read John 19.31-37.

The Romans made certain of it. It was the responsibility of one person to ensure that each criminal was dead. It is said that the penalty for the soldier who did not ensure those being crucified was the soldier would then be crucified. I cannot find evidence of that. However, a centurion, one who led 100 men was in charge and would have been disgraced and strictly punished (at the least) if the individuals were not dead. So, Jesus was dead. We see evidence of this from the centurion’s mouth in Mark 15.39, when the centurion stated, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

Furthermore, when Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate to ask for the body, the body would not have been granted for burial if Jesus was not dead (most people crucified were not buried, they were left to rot or be eaten by animals). Thus, Pilate would have asked if Jesus was truly dead before granting the request.

Jesus Was Buried

Again, we have details in John’s writing (and in other gospel writings) that help us to know Jesus was buried. Frankly, it could have been enough to say, “And then, Jesus was buried.” Many people might accept that statement, but with the details provided, His burial is assured.

Again, most people were not buried after a crucifixion. But Jesus was not most people, so Joseph and Nicodemus made sure He was buried. We may have to accept the burial for what is said in the Bible, but by John naming names, the people of that day could go to Joseph and Nicodemus and ask – “Did you really bury Jesus?” If it was not true, it would have been refuted. Granted John wrote his decades later, but people would still have been alive, and his statement would have been refuted otherwise.

So, Jesus was crucified. He was dead. And He was buried. Those are the facts. It may not be current news, but it is not fake news. It is real. It has happened. The facts have not change. And those facts from the Bible are preserved in the Apostles’ Creed.

It has been three weeks since we recited any of it together, but let’s take time now to recite the Creed up to this point.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.

Next week, we will get into one of the most challenging passages in the Bible. But we will not stay there long, because Jesus did not stay dead or buried – and His resurrection deserves the main attention.

CONCLUSION

In a couple of days, many people in this country will go to the polls to vote on what is known as Super Tuesday. In nine days, it will be our turn here in the state of Missouri. But there is one common factor in each person voting. In fact, one common factor exists between those voting and those receiving votes – the fact that Jesus died for each person’s sin. Jesus died for Bernie Sanders. He died for Pete Buttigieg. He died for Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. He died for Donald Trump. He died for all Democrats. He died for all Republicans. He died for Independents. He died for those who do vote and He died for those who don’t. He died for you and He died for me.

In a year when candidates are pushing their agendas and hoping that we will tell our friends to vote for a certain person, only one name truly deserves to be known – not because of what He might do for us, but because of what He has already done for us. That name is Jesus. And it is our task to know Him and to make Him known.

For all of the campaigns and all of the slogans, the politician’s goal is to make oneself known. But politicians often make promises that are unable to be kept. The promise Jesus made was even more outlandish – that He would come back from the dead. But first, He had to die. Therefore, like Paul, we are to preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1.23). We are to make Christ known – and to do that we cannot separate the work of Christ from the cross.

What was finished? The work of God to fulfill all that had been commanded in the Law. The curse of the Law was broken (Galatians 3.13).

Why was it important? Because none of us could break the curse’s grip. Only Jesus could break the curse. Only Jesus could meet the requirements. And that is why…

JOURNEY

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JJESUS.

Jesus had His own journey that day through the streets of Jerusalem and up to the hill called Golgotha. The journey Jesus made was full of pain and tears. But He made that journey because of the joy that was before Him (Hebrews 12.2) – a joy that was to fulfill the will of the Father…a joy that meant giving us the opportunity to be with Him for eternity.

We cannot overlook the fact that Jesus finished His journey, just as it was planned. The purpose of this passage is not to just to tell us what happened, it is to show that God was in control. The people may have tortured and killed Jesus. But Jesus was always in control. It was Jesus who said, “It is finished,” not the people who were trying to finish Him.

NEXT STEP(S)LOVE.  The death of Jesus came from the love of Jesus. Because of His love, He has made Himself known to you. He commands us to make Him known to others because of our love for them.

Who Your One?

Who’s Your One + One?