Tag Archives: Imago Dei

Wow, do we make the wrong choices! First St Johns April 19, 2015 Acts 3:11-21

[For the audio version 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 have denied Jesus for the ways of the world said … AMEN!

Peter, Peter, not known for his subtlety … I know, you always recognize in someone else the thing that is your own biggest issue. Peter was as subtle as a sledge hammer, like me. But I would submit that there is a time for tact and diplomacy and there is a time for up in your grill. Don’t hand me this odd idea that Jesus was always nice and comfy and tactful. He wasn’t! There were plenty of times when Jesus wanted someone to feel uncomfortable, He wanted the other person to know Who He is. Calling Pharisees white washed sepulchers, telling the Rich Young Ruler, “you go and work out your issues with all that wealth that you have, really show me who is God in your life, sell all that stuff, give it away to those who don’t begin to have enough and then we’ll talk. The Biblical talk might seem couched, but when Jesus was calling the religious leaders, snakes, vipers, He wasn’t pulling any punches. Neither is Peter.

“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murder to be granted to you …” There is no one more debased, more sinful, vile, more of an affront against God than a murderer. God gives us life, there is no one permitted to take it unless it is specifically granted to someone as a public authority in the left hand kingdom. Let’s not get into these arguments about the capital penalty. The state is authorized by God to protect the citizenry and that includes putting to death those who would deprive another of life. As Christians we know we are made in the imago dei the image of God: “ESV Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Every life is of value to God and yes that includes the whole discussion on abortion. Is this the “unforgivable sin”? No! Jesus died for all the sins of the world, including murder, yes. As Christians when we repent and lift up our sin for forgiveness to God He forgives, even murder, but remember, taking life, God’s creation, is grievous sin against the Creator of Life.

The issue is the terrible irony that Peter is pointing out, that when given the choice by Pilate, the people in the crowd chose to ignore all the proofs that Jesus had given, the incontrovertible evidence who Jesus was, is, who He said He is during the incarnation, the people still chose a murderer over Him: “ESV Matthew 27:17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ”?… ESV Matthew 27:21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” How do you justify that? How can you with any kind of honesty, given the choice of life “I am the way, the truth and the life.” chose someone who, with his own agenda, choses to kill? Jesus healed, gave people new life, healed them of diseases such as leprosy, an issue of blood, young people who died. He restored hope and promise in so many ways, how can you chose someone who arbitrarily decided to be judge and jury and deprived people of God’s gift?

Peter goes on to point out: “ESV Acts 3:15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” Remember who Peter is talking to, this is all very fresh in everyone’s mind, they were either right there on Good Friday and watched while they turned against this man who had given so much or they had heard about it. Jesus raised at least three people from the dead. Two ; the ruler of the synagogue and the “widow’s son of Nain”, it happened way out of the way, up in the north, you know what kind of crazy stuff comes out of there. But the straw that broke the camel’s back, the raising of Lazarus, happened just one and a half miles outside of Jerusalem. Jesus was getting right in the face of the rulers of Israel, for that matter everyone in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where it mattered, if it happened in Jerusalem, a statement ended with an exclamation point. “ESV John 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well,” Meaning as well as Jesus. John goes on to write: “ESV John 12:11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” Don’t try to confuse us with the facts, just because Jesus did this, doesn’t mean that we’re going to fall on our knees to Him, you can hear them saying, as too many of us often say; “There’s important things to do and we haven’t got the time to get into this Jesus stuff right now, we’ll do that when we have to. I seem to run into people who are obsessed over end times prophecy, eschatology, the study of end times prophecy. Those who are more concerned about maintaining their current life so that they can time it just right to come to Jesus at the end of time and be saved. Wow, that’s a gamble, for anyone who is like that, they are assuming they’re going to live that long and then be able to just jump right over and be saved. God is not mocked, and that makes playing with fire seem like a kiddie birthday party game.

We all play that game to an extent. Yes, we are human, Dr Luther says, the old man is constantly going to assert himself, steer us away from Jesus and to sin. Too often we make the wrong choices. It is not our choice that the Holy Spirit guides us to the church of Christ and gives us pastors and brothers and sisters in Jesus to minister to us. That is grace, that is God saving you. You do not make a choice for Jesus, He chooses you. We really have no choice, we either are led to Christ as our Lord, or anything else we do leads to destruction. The path to destruction is wide, wide enough to accommodate all the things that take us from Jesus. As Peter said, it’s not so much that the people on Good Friday made the wrong “choice”, as much as they denied Jesus. They denied the Lord, the Author of life, the one whom God raised from the dead. They were witnesses to that and we are as much today. Too often, we simply deny the Lord and turn to other things to worship. Sure we don’t turn to murders as such, but we do turn to things that clearly deny Jesus. Are we forgiven when we turn to the idols in our lives that deny Jesus? Yes, we are. Jesus died for all of our sins. As my good friend and brother pastor in Christ, Christopher Irelan writes: “”Have no fear, little flock. For the Father has chosen, to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) You future is secured. “Lead me in good paths, for your Spirit is good.” (Psalm 143:10) Your present is secured. “Rejoice in the Lord, always.” (Philippians 4:4) You can rejoice.[1]” It’s not so much about how we deny Jesus, it’s about the fact that the Father has chosen us. We can start on the wide path to destruction, take the wrong course, deny our Lord, but He chooses us, He puts us on good paths, as Christopher says “Your present is secured in Him”, even when we deny Him.

Lift Him up and praise Him, ask the Holy Spirit to guide us around those things that turn us away from Him and as Peter promises the crowd: “ESV Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”

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

[1] Christopher Irelan FB devotional April 18, 2015

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