Tag Archives: risen

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

Set your mind on things above

Set your mind on things above
First St Johns Easter Apr 20, 2014

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Help us Father to set our minds on things that are above, that are greater, inspired, stronger. In Christ we have all that is great, that is good, that is truly the best and the brightest. It has been those who are in Christ through history who have driven us forward, made us strive for the greater things. Not just in terms of achievement or the material, but have shown true love, true agape love, self- sacrificing, striving for the greater good of all mankind. While most strive for their own benefit, their own glory, let us look to those who strive for the glory of Christ, who truly set their minds on things above. 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 strive to glorify Jesus Christ in their lives said … AMEN.
Bruce Howell reports: “A few years ago, a letter appeared in the national news that was sent to a deceased person by the Indiana Department of Social Services. It read : Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.”
Well, there has only been One who, in worldly terms, has had a change in circumstances, who really changed our circumstances, the resurrected Lord, God the Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus called it; at the last supper. He is telling His disciples many things, among them what is going to happen immediately. “ESV John 16:20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy…22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” The next day is going to be very difficult, by any standard very traumatic. Jesus knows how this plays out, but the disciples have no other expectation, then to observe the Passover. Jesus knows differently, that this is going to be very difficult, very traumatic and also triumphant. John writes about this final time together, before the cross, for three chapters. Jesus is trying to get the most important things before His disciples before His crucifixion. He is only leaving them alone for three days, until Sunday, but Jesus knows that the shock, trauma that they are about to experience is going to leave them floundering. Jesus needs to leave them with words that are of the highest, the strongest, the best in human experience and chapters 14, 15 and 16 are chock filled with those things that Jesus wants to carry them through the stunning events that tomorrow will bring. In particular; “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13) And Jesus does just that. Jesus is about to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy written about 500 years before Jesus: “ESV Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Jesus will be high and lifted up in about twelve hours, in a way that the world sees as shameful, the humiliation of the Cross, but what the world deems shameful, in its narrow, fearful, self-centered view, Jesus uses for the ultimate good of all mankind. That love that Jesus just refers to, in the Greek agape, refers to the highest form of love, not the sloppy, sentimental love we always refer to, but that great love that makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save many. This is Jesus’ love for us, while God loves the world, in a way that cares, wants what is best, it is His, those who are saved in Christ, that the Father loves in a way that He would allow His own Son to be that sacrifice. On Good Friday Jesus is high and lifted up before the entire world, in a way that the world sees as shameful and the world rejoices because they reject Jesus, they deny who He is. But as Jesus promises, soon, very soon, your hearts will rejoice. And the disciples did rejoice, but first they are going to be shocked and distraught, completely at a loss to understand how things could evaporate so quickly. Jesus’ sacrifice is in full view of all, the world sees it as rejection, Jesus knows that it is the victory, the sacrifice that will atone for all the sin of the world. When that earthquake strikes on Sunday morning, which leaves the temple guards shaken with fear and like dead men, completely stunned and powerless, the angel whose appearance is like lightning (Matt 28), all to announce that there was much more than Jesus’ ugly death and that ugly cross, sin is ugly and the payment of sin is usually ugly and disfigured, but now is the glorious resurrection. Death can be inflicted by man, man is sinful and filled with death, so inflicting death is nothing unusual, but rising from the dead, the resurrection, can only be accomplished in one way, by God, man can only give death, God only can give life. When God gives us that resurrected life it is perfect, it is eternal, it is glorious. The tomb, the earthquake, the angel, resurrected life, only comes from God only comes by us remembering Peter’s words, to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
That Jesus was dead and rose is fact, those who were witnesses had nothing to gain from it and were compelled to go out and proclaim the resurrection. Even a complete antagonist like Saul of Tarsus was completely convinced. Jesus’ brothers James and Jude, who wanted to put Jesus away because they felt were His embarrassing actions, both would write epistles proclaiming who Jesus is to the world. We are told to set our minds on “things above”… What could be more above, more compelling then He who died in order to save us? He who was resurrected in order to give us the promise of our own resurrection in Him to all eternity? He who is and always has been perfect/He is God. He paid the penalty for us, we are sinners, we are in need of a Savior. People have told me that they want a “just God”, and we do, how could a perfect, Holy God be less then just. If the penalty had not been paid by Jesus, if we had to stand before the Father in our own righteousness and not the righteousness of Jesus, come on, how do you really think that will work out in terms of justice? We have assurance, the promise, the lead pipe guarantee that we are saved in Jesus. We will come before the Holy, just, perfect Father in the righteousness of Jesus. We are so caught up in the phoniness, the mediocrity, the evil of the world, that we think we cannot rely on anything. But here is the Good News, the Gospel, we can trust in the resurrection, we can trust in the promise that we will be resurrected like Him. Yes, for those of us here, we will go to heaven first, to wait for the glorious return of Christ, but our ultimate destination is a perfect, glorious resurrection, where we will live in this world, that will be made perfect, we will live in the real presence of Jesus, but it will be into a life that will truly be life; “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). Randy Alcorn quotes theologian Wayne Gundem: “Christians often talk about living with God ‘in heaven’ forever. But in fact the biblical teaching is richer than that: it tells us that there will be new heavens and a new earth – an entirely renewed creation – and we will live with God there.”
There is no love in the world, there is no compassion. The world we live in is nothing but phoney mediocrity, a lazy/lamblike attitude “…EH whatever you want … eh it’s all good…” No it isn’t! It’s phoney, it’s death. There’s no love there, no compassion, “…EH, whatever you want, however you want to do it…” That’s not love. What is the opposite of love? Not hate, but indifference. “I don’t care how you mess yourself up, so long as your “happy”. Don’t strive, don’t push, don’t do the ultimate, don’t make the ultimate sacrifice, that’s for suckers. Just slog along in the mediocre muck of the world … EH whatever you want to do…yawn.” That wasn’t Jesus, He was strength, courage, idealism, He was perfect. The world, the weak and sinful takes the easy way out, throws money at it, like it did with Judas. Expects someone else to do the dirty work like it did with Pilate and then just sits back and ridicules. That is not what Christ is about, it is what He did. He courageously stood up for what is right, He was there for the truly weak and He made the ultimate sacrifice, by paying for our sin, by being our righteousness with God the Father.
When you leave here today, when you eat the kid’s chocolate bunny and eat your big Easter ham, then kick back to relax, instead of doing the “what do I have to do on Monday” thing, letting anything I have said this morning go by unnoticed. Really consider what the world would be like if we were left to the attitude of the world, “hey whatever makes you happy” and think about what the courage, strength, sacrifice of Jesus is really about. How can you live that life in Christ, how about your son, daughter, grandchildren, how can you be that Godly husband to your wife? Truly live and proclaim a life to all you know that says Jesus was resurrected, Jesus did overcome all the evil of the earth and I am greatly blessed because I have the promise of eternal life and I live this earthly life, not in the mediocre, phoniness of the world, but in the strength, truth and courage of Jesus Christ.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.