Tag Archives: heaven

Resurrection, true life for eternity Isaiah 25: 6-9 First St Johns Easter April 5, 2015

[For the audio of this sermon click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are looking forward to being resurrected in a perfect physical body in a perfect physical world said … AMEN!!

We’ve been doing a sermon series by Rev Dr Reed Lessing for Lent. I’ve really gotten a lot from this series, so I’m staring our Easter sermon noting what he says about Easter: “Home! The very word evokes feelings of love and laughter, security and serenity, warmth. It means mom and dad, fun and games, good food, deep sleep, a little girl from Kansas says it best, “There’s no place like home.””

Truly that is what Easter is all about. The world as a whole, all of us, we have become so camped on our home being heaven. It’s not! Sure there’s comfort when we lose a loved one to say that they are in heaven, and when they die in Jesus, we have the assurance that they are in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV) But that’s where we leave it, it has somehow become imbued in our understanding that we spend eternity in some kind of ethereal state sitting on a cloud strumming a harp. No! We will die. We will, unless Jesus returns before we die, we will go to heaven, but that’s not our final stop.

We are going to talk about the resurrection. We should be every Sunday. Why? We worship on Sunday versus Saturday, which was the Sabbath Day, because every Sunday is a little Easter, it reminds us of our ultimate destiny, destination. Because Jesus was resurrected, we too will be resurrected. Jesus returned to this world, in the same body He died in. This was to give us the promise that we will be resurrected just like Him. “ESV 1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

You really have to kind of wonder, why would Paul be so excited about being “changed” into some kind of diaphanous, wispy form. This idea comes from a belief system unrelated to Christianity called neo-platonism and also Gnosticism. Both of these belief systems teach that the physical is somehow evil, that because the Father is spirit, then we will want to be spirit. What’s the point of Hell, if we aren’t physical, how do we really suffer. Conversely, if we are spirit and are saved in the resurrection, how do we truly enjoy the resurrection? We can’t. We were made to be physical. If we are “going home” as Dr Lessing submits, is home really heaven. I’ve never been to heaven, I don’t remember anything about it. Sure I will be in Jesus’ presence and that will be tremendous joy, bliss. But that’s not what we were made for, that’s not how God created us.

We know how God created us. Despite what you hear in the world, we didn’t come from animals. The Book of Genesis tells us how we were put here, why we were put here and in what form we were put here. We were created in the Imago Dei. We are unquestionably special, unique, highly privileged by God because we were made completely uniquely in the Father’s image and in very physical, tangible bodies. Adam and Eve lived in perfection, in their created bodies, for many years. They then simply chose that everything God created for them wasn’t enough, that they were entitled to more, who was God to withhold even one thing from the? They waved God off and did what they wanted.

God wasn’t going to tolerate their defiance, He just wouldn’t, His nature is to be completely holy, to be completely just, be completely perfect. He was not going to tolerate their imperfection, their sin, in their defiance.

Yes, God booted them out into the cold, harsh world. But our loving God never leaves us alone. He never rejects us, He always makes a way where He, not you, will bring those He created back to Him.

Yea, we know those who just reject God and make it all about them. But even in our imperfection, we who have been brought to Jesus, are brought back to God’s intention for us. He promised Adam and Eve that there would be a deliverer, that Savior would be the payment for our failures, our sins and would put us back into relation with the Father. He did, Jesus. Jesus died a very physical, a very gruesome, gorey death, He died that death, not because of what He did, but because of what we did, because of our sin. Jesus, God the Son, was the perfect sacrifice for us who are so imperfect.

Randy Alcorn in his book, Heaven, writes extensively that we will be resurrected, we will be raised in very real physical bodies, just like we are now. This is my reason, this is my hope, the reason for the hope that lies within us. That is what being a Christian is all about, H-O-P-E. We are not lost and helpless like those who are without Jesus. We know we will be raised in a perfect body, in a perfect world, to live the life that we were always intended to live. Not in this sinful, corrupted, thoroughly messed up world and I defy anyone here, anywhere to try to make this world something that it isn’t. Sin is what has caused violence, disease, death, deformity. It’s all on us, do yourself and everyone else a big favor and quit blaming it on God.

Alcorn reminds us: “As human beings, whom God made to be both physical and spiritual, we are not designed to live in a non-physical realm. Indeed, we are incapable of even imagining such a place… An incorporeal state is not only unfamiliar to our experience, it is also incompatible with our God – given constitution… We are physical beings as much as we are spiritual beings. That’s why our bodily resurrection is essential to endow us with eternal righteous humanity. Setting us free from sin, the Curse and death.”[1] Alcorn rightly points out that because of our physical nature and when heaven is portrayed as a non-physical place, that our senses that do bring us pleasure, touch, smell, sight, hearing, won’t be a part of us, this really repels us at our core. Alcorn writes: “…when Heaven is portrayed as beyond the reach of our senses, it doesn’t invite us; instead, it alienates and even frightens us…”[2]

For most of us, we will spend our time in that “spiritual” form, but that is because we are the “church in waiting”, the world is still in tribulation and the “church in waiting” is still a part of that battle against sin and evil. In heaven, we will still be in prayer. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”. Our loved ones in heaven don’t know what we’re going through, they don’t need to, they know we are still being subjected to the spiritual struggle that goes on around us. But ultimately we have the promise of the resurrection. Paul writes: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:” (1 Corin 15:42) We have the promise that Jesus made to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25). We will be raised up in very real bodies, to live very real lives, but lives the way God originally intended for us to live, in a very real world. But this is a world not limited by sin, by physical defect, it is a world where the possibilities are limitless, not this world, that is limited by all our human failings. A world where as the beer jingle says “you can have it all”. You can’t in this world, but you can in the world that God has promised to all those who are saved in Jesus. A life that God intends for us, that Jesus promised us when He said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10) That is the world of the resurrection, a life of limitless abundance, no more pain, none of the disability of body and sin. It will still be a world of challenges, we are still expected to grow and achieve, move and accomplish, but in a way that builds us and strengthens us in Jesus.

Dr Martin Luther wrote: “Be thou comforted, little dog. Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.” You and I will have so much more than a golden tail.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Randy Alcorn, “Heaven” p 16

[2] Ibid p 17

True disciples in Jesus, not phoney expectations

This is from Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day by Day p 142: “James and John sought to outmaneuver their fellow disciples in order to gain the places of greater honor next to Jesus (Mark 10:37). Over and over the disciples’ actions showed that they did not truly understand who Jesus was (John 6:7-9; Mark 6:49). Even after three years with Jesus, Peter was afraid to confess Christ before a young servant girl (Matt 26:69-75).

Yea these guy’s definitely failed, but I respectfully disagree being in Jesus does not mean that we all of a sudden become lions for Jesus. As a Lutheran we certainly know that we become a new creation in Jesus. Baptism makes us a new man or woman, we have been born again in the Spirit a new creature. We absolutely do. But Martin Luther always cautioned that the old/worldly person would always be lurking waiting for the chance to jump in and assert itself.

When it’s not about Jesus it’s about me. I have no doubt that the ratio is well over fifty percent weighted to me. Sure they became new men on the day of Pentecost and we praise God for that. We do become spiritual beings in Jesus and the Holy Spirit does keep working on us.  I pray that we do respond to Him when we are called on, that we are raised up far more than we fail.  But the beef I have with Reformed theology falls in to works righteousness theology, that we have to become virtually perfect. This side of heaven we aren’t going to be perfect or even too close. I’ve talked to too many people who have given up, have despaired because some uneducated, self-proclaimed “evangelist”, who doesn’t know what he/she is talking about and makes it up. Who genuinely thinks he/she has reached some state of perfection and thinks everyone else should be. They just don’t know what they’re talking about. The Blackabys certainly are much better educated than me, but all Reformed theology still breaks down in this works righteousness and creates an environment where too many give up because they can’t reach an impossible goal of perfection.

I’m not saying give up and don’t strive. Christians should always be striving for Jesus. But don’t get sucked into this idea that you’re going to be perfect and have it all together. Too many have been spit out the “big box” church because of faulty teaching and faulty people. These are the kinds of Jim Jones/cult kind of thinking that causes serious spiritual dysfunction. The fastest way to truly die is to let your spiritual life be undermined.

Look at ISIS, all the places where Christians are truly persecuted and truly living for Christ. They don’t have the time and resources for big box Christianity, the Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll, nonsense. We have brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia who have and continue to suffer persecution. While people sit in their non-denominational big boxes being amused and convinced they’re perfect just by virtue of being them, the denominational churches, the ones who live the life and put it on the line are out there truly serving. I wonder when non-denominational churches are going to be sending military chaplains who are right on the front line. Who are going to do the work of Lutheran World Missions, for those who sit in pretty sanctuaries, world pleasing sanctuaries.

The big box phoney churches can try to sell that you need to be perfect, but for those who are living the life by actually serving, who are suffering, who know the real world of Christianity, we aren’t perfect. Dr Luther knew the old man, and I certainly have never known a Christian more real than Martin Luther. We need to quit creating phoney expectations that are not Biblical and are only in the head of some self-important big box player to the crowd. Let’s stand up as true brothers and sisters in Jesus accept that we and those around us are fallible and go out and really live the life in Jesus. Let’s not set people up for failure which the big box churches are doing.

The Keys please

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The keys to heaven and hell
First St Johns Apr 27, 2014
He has risen, He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Father, You know our struggle. In all different forms, we are told that we have failed, fallen short. That our sins separate us from You. Satan and his demons are our constant accusers. “You aren’t worthy, you can’t be saved, look at all the things that you’ve done that are sins against God.” We often get to the point where we simply give up, our faith is destroyed, we know there’s nothing we can do and we feel rejected. That we can never measure up to Jesus’ expectations and we believe what the world tells us, what the great deceiver Satan tempts us with and we let ourselves sink into the muck and despair of the world. But we know that Your church has the keys to heaven, that there is forgiveness and salvation in your church. Help us Lord to keep that foremost in our minds and reject what the world tells us. Help us to remember to return to Your church weekly so that we know forgiveness and life in Christ and not the death, despair and sinfulness of the world. We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who trust in Jesus, in His church and in the keys of heaven said …AMEN.
He has risen. He has risen indeed.
I posted on Face Book, that I would make time available to hear confession, I heard back from this one guy, who in this very self-righteous/pompous attitude, “I don’t confess to any man, I confess to God.” Sort of like Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles “harrumph, harrumph, hey I didn’t get an harrumph from that man”. Seems there are a lot out there who let their personal theology get in the way of what the Bible tells us and seems to feel that everyone should join in with him harrumphing, hmm I don’t need anyone else.
Yea, well, not exactly Biblical. When we lay our sins before God, that is called repentance. God knows our sins, we aren’t telling Him anything He doesn’t know. When we lift up our sins to Him, it should be in the attitude of repentance. “I know, that You know that I’ve sinned and I’m lifting them up in repentance, I am asking You for forgiveness of these things Father. And you should do this, I would never ask you to ignore taking your sins before the throne in repentance. But despite what our self-righteous friend thinks, we are told: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16, ESV) When I conduct healing services, yes something else no one does, but… Part of that healing service quotes James, that a great deal of our sickness and disability is caused by our sin and quite often could be the result of unconfessed sin. We certainly know today that stresses in our life are often the direct cause of many physical and mental issues that we have.
This self-righteousness that we insist on, it’s all about me, I do what I want, leaves us even more isolated, more separated from the Body of Christ, from our brothers and sisters. Let’s see how that attitude can continue to mess up our entire life: “Much celebrated cyclist Lance Armstrong seems to have chosen a new career, making himself a pathetic figure. Now admitting he used performance enhancing drugs, he met with Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, in hopes that Tygart would lessen his life time ban from competition. Apparently Mr. Tygart didn’t budge. Faced with truth, people either submit or rebel. Armstrong allegedly told Tygard, “You don’t hold the keys to my redemption. There’s one person who holds the keys to my redemption and that’s me.”1 Have you ever seen the cartoon, where the little field mouse is making a final sign of defiance to an eagle swooping in to eat it? Yea, okay, that one final gesture of independence, but it only makes the person look clueless, in total denial of the facts.
In today’s reading, Jesus is telling His disciples: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (Jn 20:23) Jesus is even more specific in Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Jesus’ disciples make up the Body of Christ. Jesus is giving them the keys to heaven, He is telling them very forthrightly, they have the authority to present the forgiveness of Jesus. They are the church and Jesus is telling His church, that if someone comes to them in repentance to confess the things that they have done, by commission or omission, that are sins against God, they, Jesus’ ministers His apostolos, they are to forgive them their sins by the authority of Jesus
Let’s go back in time, decades ago for most of us, to Luther’s Small Catechism, remember confirmation? Dr Luther asks: “What special authority has Christ given to His church on earth?” The first response is: “Matt 18:18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” and “John 20: 22-23 [Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Not only was He giving his apostles authority of the keys, but he was impressing that fact on them with the Holy Spirit. Every Sunday I stand up before you and we join together in what is called “corporate confession” and we admit that we have sinned against God since the last time we were in church. At the end of that I announce to you that as a called and ordained servant of Jesus Christ you are forgiven. I’m not forgiving you, I am telling you that because of what you did in faithfulness, you are now forgiven, not because of what I do, but because of what Jesus did for all of us. In individual confession, it is even more to the point, for God to be merciful and to strengthen you faith. “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” If the person says “Yes”, I reply, “let it be done for you as you believe”. You know that through the faith that God has given you, and I have affirmed that, that you are forgiven. I have exercised the keys of heaven, by affirming your faith, knowing that you are forgiven, that you do have the promise of salvation in Jesus and that He will continue to strengthen you in your faith. I was talking about this at the Mission Store and one lady says: “So I need to go to church in order to be forgiven?” Yes, to not only be forgiven, but to know that you are forgiven, because your pastor affirms that you are forgiven, you have heard that forgiveness from the minister of Jesus and so it should be cemented into your heart.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship writes: “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.’ Isn’t that our calling as pastors?
Instill in your congregation the importance of confession. Avoid fostering the image that your fellowship is full of perfect people (you won’t fit in) [yea, Amen to that JD] Instead, show by example a church where members and leaders alike confess their sins and show humility, where the price of admission is simply an admission of guilt. Healing happens in a church like this. Grace happens in a church like this. Followers of Christ have been given authority to hear confession and proclaim grace. ‘If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’ (John 20:23 NCV).” [This is also referred to as the keys to heaven and hell that Jesus gives to His church. JD]
This week really think about confession, the assurance you receive, why we maintain this opportunity to raise up the things that you are dealing with, with your pastor and how that will give you forgiveness, assurance and the renewal and strengthening of your faith. What do you want to lift up, what do you want to be healed of? Write it in your journal and bring it with you next Thursday 5:30pm, I’ll be here.
HE HAS RISEN, HE HAS RISEN INDEED!
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.