Hey everyone (or no-one)… Long time no blog! Just figured since I was writing it for church anyway I would fire it up here for some people to read through if they want. Basically It’s a sermon on getting fresh perspective on the gospel both for Christians and non-Christians. Hope you enjoy it and get some benefit from reading it. Any questions etc just fire me a mail on facebook or something! :)
As many of you know in January I was to go on placement up in Londonderry at Altnagelvin hospital. You will also know that while I was on placement I suffered an injury to my shoulder which caused me to have to cancel said placement. At first I was pretty gutted about this (And still am because I have to redo it which is taking a sizeable chunk out of my summer holidays). It did however allow me 4 weeks off university, and I had absolutely no work to catch up on (though my lecturers might say otherwise…). This, combined with other circumstances allowed me time to meet up regularly with Jonny and Sam, sometimes just for banter and other times to do some Bible study and just chat about the things of God in general. While this was a real testimony to me of how God works all things for good it was also a real time when God spoke to me, he revealed things in my life which weren’t right and that needed to change (and I am still working on many of them), but also through our studies in John’s gospel he showed me the need to get fresh perspective on the gospel as it was perhaps at risk of becoming ‘old news’ to me. Now while we only got the chance to study the first few chapters together as Sam thankfully found work with Patrick it was enough to inspire me to consider again the good news of the gospel and to reconsider just what it means to be a Christian and all that entails. This time gave me a fresh perspective on four areas in particular which I would like to share with you today. You will need a bible handy because I will be throwing out references pretty thick and fast Also my points today will follow in an ordered and logical fashion, one linking to the next and so please try to stay with me and not allow my dulcet McIlrath tones to put you to sleep.
So the first thing that I had to re-evaluate my perspective on was the sinfulness of man in the presence of a Holy and Just God. This is the bad news if you like because it’s hard to appreciate the good news without first being in need of it!
Now I know that for most of us in this room who are saved people, who have already come before God and formally acknowledged how utterly sinful and wretched we are, are pretty aware of man’s sinful and lost position before God. But in this world we live in it is always good to be reminded of who we were so that we can deeper appreciate who we are now through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Also for those who are not saved, who do not accept that they are sinful before God, or those who maybe just don’t think it’s that big of a deal, to you I would challenge you to listen to this part as I lay out what God’s word has to say about your sin, and needless to say it is a big deal. A colossal deal in fact!
So what does the Bible say about man’s sinful condition?
Bible’s at the ready!
1. We are born in sin – Psalm 51:5
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
2. All men are guilty of sin – Romans 3:23
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
3. Man can do nothing of himself to change his sinful condition – Jeremiah 13:23
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”
4. God has promised to Judge Sin and will do so – (as anyone who has been at the Wednesday night meetings will know from the studies in 2 Peter.) – 2 Peter 2:9
“The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgement, and especially those who indulge in the list of defiling passion and despise authority.”
- Hebrews 9:27
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
So here we see that we are all born in sin, guilty of sin, in an of ourselves incapable of being free of sin and what’s more we are awaiting the judgement of our sin – which Romans 6:23 tells us is death! It’s a pretty depressing picture! But still this lingering question is left, what’s the big deal about sin? Why is it so offensive to God?
I think John Piper sums it up well in his book “The Passion Of Jesus Christ”
He says, “God’s law demanded, “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
But we have loved other things more. This is what sin is – dishonouring God by preferring other things over him and acting on those preferences. Therefore the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23). We glorify what we enjoy most. And it isn’t God. Therefore sin is not small, because God is not a small sovereign. The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted. The creator of the universe is infinitely worthy of respect and admiration and loyalty. Therefore failure to love him is not trivial – it is treason. It defames God and destroys human happiness.”
So to conclude this point, man is sinfull to the core, sin is an insult to God, God must judge sin, man is awaiting God’s judgement.
Now to point number two, and thank God that this talk doesn’t end after point one or we would all be leaving here today a depressed people! This is where we see the good news of the gospel! For you see while man had fallen as far as he could fall, God was not content to leave him there, God went deeper still to rescue us.
This is something that I have been really contemplating lately as a result of our studies in John’s gospel and it was triggered by the first 4 verses of John’s gospel and verse 14 of the same chapter.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men.”
And verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,”
My point here is this, if you do not begin to understand what it meant for Jesus to come to save us then you will never be as grateful as you should be that he did. You will rather be like a spoilt child who doesn’t know the value of anything and so does not appreciate the things it has been given. If however we can begin this morning to grasp afresh just how incredibly awesome and important Jesus is from verses 1-4, then we will be filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude at what we read in verse 14.
So just how important is Jesus Christ? Well we learn several things that answer that question in just these 4 short verses.
1. He is eternal.
2. He has been eternally in relationship with God.
3. He is God.
4. He was the means of creation and without him there would be no creation.
5. He is the source of life.
6. He is the source of light.
When we understand all of these attributes and ascribe them to Jesus Christ as John does then we begin to see the incredible outrage of verse 14. This eternal, life giving, light emitting, creator God, clothed himself with mortal flesh and stepped into that which he had made! Just let that sink in for a second, God became man! He was born as a baby in Bethlehem, worked as a carpenter and grew up to be a man. He experienced hunger, thirst, pain, friendship, betrayal and every other human emotion. He lived alongside his creation, he rubbed shoulders with regular men and women like you and me every day.
What an unbelievable step down, what a lesson in humility to us!
But it doesn’t end here, God did come as a man, he did live among us, but, that is not all because he also died for us.
Jesus did not come to this earth for a holiday or to identify with our emotions (although he does do this and we are grateful for it). Jesus prime purpose in life was his death. More specifically his death on the cross, his death where all the sin, shame and wrath of God was poured out upon him, the one who knew no sin.
Again, let this thought really wash over you. Jesus was innocent. Not just of the crimes which the Jews manufactured to have Pilate put him on the cross but of every sin of every man and woman that held him on the cross.
I know we can never really grasp this but just to try to get a measure of what Jesus experienced I want you to imagine the worst sin you have ever committed. Remember the embarrassment, the shame, the pain it caused. Now think of the number of people in this room, each one with a sin that caused them such shame. Now think of all the sins of all the people in the room…Vastly beyond counting. Now imagine the sins of all people on the world today and all through history. Sins so innumerable it would be impossible to even conceive of a figure. And God lays these sins on his son, his perfect son, his son, the source of all light and life and goodness in the universe. He puts our shame on him. Isaiah 53:5 says,
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
We will never fully understand the inner workings of the cross, we will never fully know what it meant for Jesus to bear away the sin of the world and take its full punishment. But when we stop to realise who we were and who Jesus Christ is then we will be inescapably awestruck and grateful that he was prepared to bare that great cost for us.
But the good news of the gospel does not end there and this brings me to my third point, Jesus did not remain dead! And again we thank God for that! For as we know on the third day he was raised to life again as a once for all sign that his work was finished, sin was paid for and we are now free when we come to faith in him!
More than this even, Christ has not only been raised but he has been glorified in heaven! Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”
It is impossible to overstate the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ. God the father has set him above everything as it says in Philippians 2:9-11,
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. “
Jesus is Lord of all, he is God and he is with God in heaven. He is the most glorified being and this is the way it will be for all of eternity without change. This is something that this world hates to hear. It hates the fact that there is someone above them in authority and to whom they must answer, but the bible is clear, every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is whether they do it willingly in this life or through coming face to face with their creator and judge in the next.
And so to summarise my third point, Jesus Christ did not remain dead, he was raised to life again and has been seated at the right hand of God in absolute, undiminishable glory.
That would really have been enough, wouldn’t it? To know our sins forgiven and to see the wrath of God averted and Jesus in his rightful place at the father’s side? Indeed it would and it would be much more than we ever deserved! The good news goes further however! For you see not only has Christ been glorified but we too are glorified with him and receive all the blessings that go with such honour. To name but a few of these things we have received through the work and glorification of Christ:
1. We are new creations – 2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
2. We have eternal life – John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
3. We are children of God – John 1:12
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”
4. We are indwelt by the spirit of God – John 14:16-17
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
4. When we pray God hears us and answers our prayers - Mark 11:24
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
5. We have a great inheritance in heaven – 1 Peter 1:3-4
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,”
6. We have everything we need to live the Christian life on earth – Philippians 4:19
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
This is only a very short list of the blessings that Jesus Christ has won for us through the cross and resurrection, the bible is filled with many more and I would encourage you to explore them in your own time for your own encouragement as I do not have time to go into them all this morning. Suffice to say for now with Paul in Ephesians 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
And so to sum up, as Christians we must constantly reflect back on the basic principles of the gospel in case we might risk losing some of the wonder we had for them at first. We must remember who we were, the vile, sinful, judgement deserving wretches. We must realise more of the person of Jesus Christ, who he is and what he had to endure to win us back from the curse of sin and free us from God’s righteous judgement. We would be advised to keep in mind that Jesus did not remain dead but rose again on the third day, and that he is now seated in the place of ultimate authority at the father’s right hand. And we will be blessed to consider our new position in light of the work of Christ in saving us, transforming us and bringing us into the family of God.
And if you are not a Christian today, you must realise your fallen state and its offensiveness to God, you must realise that there is a holy God who made you and will hold you to account for your actions if you continue to ignore him. You must understand that God has offered you a way back to him, a way that he spared nothing to open it but instead gave up everything he had in the person of his son Jesus. You must realise that should you not repent then Jesus has been given authority to judge you for your sins eternally but should you repent he is completely justified in removing the debt of sin, giving you his righteousness and welcoming you with open arms into the family of God. You must understand that God’s gift is for you as well, you can know all of those blessings discussed above, you can know what it is to be right with God and experience knew life and all you have to do is come and repent of your sins and accept Jesus as the head authority and guiding force of your life. Do not wait, do not put it off, no one is garaunteed tomorrow and as it says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”