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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Jul 23, 2017 SERMON TEXT
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.
The text for our meditation today is the Epistle Lesson before us from Romans 8:18-27. We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN
In todays Epistle, the apostle Paul compares your present experience in life to the future, resurrection life God has promised and has given to you through His Son Jesus.
"For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us," declares Paul. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. for the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay."
Dear Christian friends, The Associated Press announced several years ago that a new federal earthquake map has increased the "shaking hazard" for about one third of the United States. The Show-Me state (Missouri), our neighbor to the south is listed as a high-risk state, which means they finally have something in common with the state of California.
A number of years ago, I drove past a farm in Missouri named "Piece of Eden," in memory of Gods original Eden. From the look of things, the owner of the farm seemed to think that Gods original Eden was littered with rusty automobiles.
A fellow pastor once told me about a childhood camping trip, during which his sister saw a bear. She grabbed what she thought was a stick, hoping to scare the bear away. Come to find out, the stick was a snake. The bear ran because of the shrieking.
Dangerous weather; rust and decay; animals that frighten and even harm us: Paul includes all of these things and more in todays Epistle when he speaks about "the sufferings of this present time."
In addition to the persecution God promises His Christians will suffer (1 Peter 4:14-16), In addition to the ongoing temptation and sin that you feel waging a war within your own body (Romans 7:21-25), In addition to the devils constant prowl and earnest desire to devour you (1 Peter 5:7), God also wants you to know that the very dirt beneath your feet now works against you.
As it is written here, "the creation was subjected to futility," to frustration (NIV), to pointlessness, to nothing to show for your labors. Simply stated, this creation in which you live will ultimately bring you nowhere.
Yes, God uses His creation to feed and sustain you for a while, but "the grass withers, [and] the flower fades" (Isaiah 40:7). Yes, you can build a giant building or a sprawling highway system, an immense city or a great big headstone for your grave.
Time and weather will eventually win. Time and weather will eventually destroy. Not even empires that span entire continents can hold up against the corrosion of the creation.
God did this on purpose. Your Creator willingly threw His entire creation into "bondage to decay." God purposely placed the weather into mercenary service, so to speak, so that it will be merciless and deadly in its power.
God enslaved sunlight and rust and bacteria, forcing these things continually to tear down and break apart everything you attempt to build and keep. Moreover, God is not the least bit bothered by the fact that snakes freak you out. He planned it that way. He wants it that way.
"For the creation was subjected to futility [and] its bondage to decay." Why was the creation subjected to futility? Because God wants you to have hope. God wants you to have faith in His promises, especially those promises of "the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting" (Apostles Creed). In this faith and "in this hope you were saved."
As Paul explains in todays Epistle, "Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?" In other words, God subjected the creation to futility so that you would not see with your eyes the promises God has spoken into your ears.
If you could see such things as forgiveness and resurrection if you could prove Gods promises by what you observe in this world you would have no hope. After all, "Who hopes for what he sees?"
God does not want you to love this present life too much because He has way better things in store for you in the life to come. This present creation is a mere shadow compared to the Light that will shine for you in eternity. Whatever goodness you find on this earth is nothing compared to the goodness and glory of the new heaven and the new earth, which the Scriptures call "the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).
While in Nigeria, one of my classmates was chauffeured about in a very nice air- conditioned car with leather seats. The car, he said, was way too nice and he was too close to the Equator. He said that he really did not want to get out of it. In the same way, if your life in this world is too nice, you probably would not want to leave.
On a trip I once went on while on vicarage, I got stuffed into the back seat of a rusted-out old volkswagon with a non-existent exhaust system. After three hours of crater-sized potholes, sweaty seatmates, and noxious fumes, I could not have been happier to get out of the car. For every moment along the way, I called upon the Lord for deliverance from my situation.
In the same way, "the creation was subjected to futility" so that Christians would not grow too fond of their current situation.
Weather, rust and snakes all give you the benefit of constantly reminding you that there are better things soon to come. They give you the benefit of calling upon the Lord for something better. The "bondage to decay" keeps you discontented and focused upon those future blessings, so that you will be ready and willing to bail out of this planet-sized Volkswagon as soon as you get the opportunity.
Discontent is really what the creations "bondage to decay" is all about: firstly.....God your heavenly Father has forgiven you all your sins on account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ your Lord. Right here and right now, you are NOT GUILTY of any sin you have committed in the past or any you will commit in the future. You are perfect, you are righteous, you are sinless and you are holy on account of the Christ who right now is inside of you, wrapped around you, and always with you. Nevertheless, God your heavenly Father does not want you to feel content with forgiveness because He has more He wants to give to you.
Secondly... The forgiveness God gives to you is so powerful and so complete that you right now are living in Gods gift of eternal life. When you reach the end of your earthly days, you will not die. You will only pass from one room in eternity to another room in eternity. Your Lord Jesus Christ has sworn and declared, "Everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:26).
Nevertheless, God does not want you to feel content with eternal life, and He does not want you to think that the goal of your faith is that you merely go to heaven to be with Jesus. God has more in store for you than even that.
Lastly..... God promises you that your human flesh shall rise again, and that you shall have a fully perfected body in the resurrection on the Last Day. The resurrection is the ultimate goal of this creations "bondage to decay." God earnestly desires to keep your attention firmly fixed upon the resurrection, when even earthly death shall at last be destroyed for you.
As Paul says in todays Epistle, "the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now."
In other words:, the whole creation is longing to give birth to her dead, as Isaiah prophesied of old: "Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead (Isaiah 26:19)."
Dear friends in Christ, go ahead. Enjoy the lake. Sit out on the back deck and sip a nice drink in the cool of the evening. Take long walks in the woods with the one you love. Look upon the beauty of creation and think about Eden.
Then remember the Word of the Lord: Nothing you see here comes anywhere close to what you shall see in "a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13, NIV), promised to you by your God.
You might even pray thanks to God every time a snake gives you the willies. Even that snake is looking forward to better days.
Christ Is Risen
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