Last Judgement

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Last Judgment

Watch, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming! Scripture is very clear that there will come a day when all who rejected Christ will be repaid for their evil. The Christian need not fear this day! For it will be the first day of eternal bliss in heaven!

Today’s sermon is based upon the old testament reading from the book of Jeremiah chapter 8 verses 4 through 7. 

4 “Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says:

“‘When people fall down, do they not get up?

When someone turns away, do they not return?

5

Why then have these people turned away?

Why does Jerusalem always turn away?

They cling to deceit;

they refuse to return.

6

I have listened attentively,

but they do not say what is right.

None of them repent of their wickedness,

saying, “What have I done?”

Each pursues their own course

like a horse charging into battle.

7

Even the stork in the sky

knows her appointed seasons,

and the dove, the swift and the thrush

observe the time of their migration.

But my people do not know

the requirements of the Lord.

Live as an Exile

True Christian living is something that has been grossly misrepresented in our culture. Today in our service we’ll shine the Savior’s Word of truth into our own lives and examine what it truly means to live as a Christian.

Jeremiah 29:10-14 New International Version (NIV)

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Review the Judges Verdict

Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming!  Scripture is very clear that there will come a day when all who rejected Christ will be repaid for their evil.  The Christian need not fear this day!  For it will be the first day of eternal bliss in heaven!

The Lord will restore the remnant

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23rd Sunday after Pentecost
Jeremiah 31:7-9

INTRO:

I was on FB the other day and scrolling down, go figure, I saw a political post.  I don’t even remember what it was about, but I did the thing that they say you’re not supposed to do, and I read the comments.  Friends of mine, and family members all making generally the same comment, “Well, this is just the dumbing down of society!”

You’ve heard that before I’m sure.  The dumbing down of society.  As I started to think about that statement, it suddenly struck me as a bit odd.  I thought, when was the last time that the collective hive mind of our society wasn’t dumb?  Was there ever a time when people didn’t make that comment?  When was the last time our society, generally speaking, did something good or intelligent?  Not in my 32 years of life on this earth it hasn’t.

Well, Christian friends, let me comfort you with this – as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun and not much has really changed in the last 3000 years – When the prophet Jeremiah wrote the words of his Book.  That’s why Jeremiah wrote.  He wrote to God’s people.  He wrote to warn them, to encourage them, to remind them that despite the worries and cares and problems with the world around them – Their Lord, THE Lord will restore his church, he will restore the Remnant of believers – he will gather them, and he will lead them!

CONTEXT:

See Jeremiah’s ministry spanned about 50 years.  And in that 50 years there were some high points and some extremely low points.  He was called during the reign of the good, if not great king Josiah.  Josiah had wiped out pagan Baal worship almost completely from his country.  But after he died, a series of evil kings ruled over Judah.  From an outward perspective – Israel was prosperous! I guess you could even say, society was pretty good!

 

Part I: He will gather

Now along comes Jeremiah.  And for much of his prophecy, much of his book he is either warning or condemning Israel for it’s sins.  He was talking about how they would be dragged off, put into captivity by a foreign nation.  The mighty walls of Jerusalem wouldn’t hold back the forces of their enemies.  The casual observer might think, “What are you talking about man?”  We aren’t doing half bad for themselves!  Why are we supposed to cry out, “Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.”  Save us from what??  Here we are!  Israel gathered together, and sure there’s whispers of war between Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt – but what of it?

Their faith was in themselves.  It was in their own political savvy, it was in their worship of fertility gods and gods of war. in their own mighty walls that surrounded their city.  That was their mighty fortress, not their God.  It was these things that they sang with joy about, they thought themselves the “foremost of the nations.”

In these Words of the text for today, Jeremiah reminds them of their REAL purpose as the nation of Israel.  “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’

The “foremost of the nations” that Jeremiah is talking about here is not Israel, but the LORD.  The Lord of the nations.  And it was him they were supposed to sing about, they were supposed to praise him, and proclaim his name and all he had done for his people – but they forgot that purpose.  They forgot that it’s God, the Lord of the nations, the God of all promises made and kept – It’s he who gathers, protects, and saves his people.

APP:

Now, as Christians in America, I think we often are tempted in the same way as the Ancient People of God.  What’s easier to talk to someone about – Politics or Religion?

We spend a good deal of time worrying and fretting about who will be in office.  We often wonder and worry about global affairs – Oh is Russia arming up again?  Is China militarizing?  Is Europe as a whole even capable of defending it self?  Will we be dragged into another war somewhere??? Isn’t it easier to proclaim a political point of view, worry about the “dumbing down of society” or taught the laurels of a political candidate than it is to speak to someone about the faith you have in Christ?

Are we, the CHURCH, called to form a Godly nation with mighty walls around it?  Is it our job on earth to create a morally upright society?  No.  Friends, society and the world around us changes, it’s politics shift and move like sand.  Nations rise against nation and peoples succeed and fail.

Like Jeremiah, we have a God who is the Lord of the nations.  Nothing happens on this earth that is beyond his watchful eye.  It and His Word does not change, it does not fail, it tells you of a kingdom that will never fall.  It tells you how God himself has gathered you.  How he has put a hedge, a mighty fortress around you.  It’s a kingdom created not by the strength of arms or crafty politicking.  It’s a kingdom created by the Lord who can save.  The only one who can save his people, who has by the blood of Jesus saved you and me.  And it’s our purpose and privilege to Sing, Proclaim, Praise his Holy Name.  This is how God gathers and protects his people – by the proclamation of his Word.  It’s songs of praise and shouts of Joy that gather all the people of God – those from distant lands, cultures, peoples and nations.  This is how God gathers his people – by his Word!

See, I will bring them from the land of the north
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame,
expectant mothers and women in labor;
a great throng will return.

Part II: He will lead them

How do the blind and the lame travel great distances?  How does a pregnant woman, or one who is about to give birth hop on a horse or a camel or jump in a wagon and traverse a great expanse.  It’s virtually impossible for that to happen! Unless of course they have an excellent leader!

See, this is the reality of the situation that Israel was in!  They were blind, lame and vulnerable as expectant mothers, or mothers of young children. And many of them didn’t know it.  God, through the prophet Jeremiah reminds his people that he is and always has been their leader.

Jeremiah writes, “They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble”

Through weeping, and prayer and confessing their sins and repenting they would come back.  And what a comfort and promise that God gives to his people here!  It was a comfort to those living in the days of Jeremiah, those that felt helpless at the terrifying political climate.  Those who were scared to death of war an exile to a far-off place.  This was also a comfort to those who many, many years later – would be returning from that exile in Babylon.  That their God would lead them, that he wouldn’t let his people fall, he would keep his promises to them.  Despite the fact they were blind, lame, pregnant – he would help them, lead them care for them and restore the remnant to their rightful home!

APP:

We have this promise too.  That the Lord will restore the remnant of his church.  That he will lead us on.  But often times that is a difficult thing to see.  We see the degradation of Christianity in America and we shudder.  We see people leaving the church and we worry.  We see changing attitudes in our nation with regard to religion in general and wonder about the certainty of our own future.

In preparing for the sermon for today, I ran across a quote from a Lutheran pastor living in Nazi Germany during WWII.  Talk about a time of uncertainty, and worry about the church, or religion period! A time not all together different than the one Jeremiah carried out his ministry in.  This pastor’s name was Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the difficult time in which he lived gave him a unique insight into how Christ our Lord gathers, leads, builds and restores the remnant. He said:

It is not we who build. [Christ] builds the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess—he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him—that he may build. We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don’t ask for judgments. Don’t always be calculating what will happen. Don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Church, stay a church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

Christ gathers, Christ leads, Christ leads us on the straight and even path, along the streams of water of his Word.

CONCLUSION:

Relatively speaking, the Church has always been small, hard pressed and troubled.  It exists in a sinful world, with “dumb” societies, or scary societies.  Like Jeremiah, like the true believers of Ancient Israel, our job isn’t to fix those things – our mission is to sing, proclaim, cry for joy because of what our God has done!  He will preserve his church, he will restore the remnant – so that it is even greater than it was before!  He will gather us and he will lead us to his holy mountain, Amen.

The Blood of the Covenant

Covenant

Maundy Thursday 2016
Jeremiah 31:31-34

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, friends in Christ, what is a “covenant”? That term is used all over Scripture, but it’s not something that we use a whole lot in our day to day lives, right? Perhaps we could think of a covenant as being something like a two sided contract that determines a relationship between two parties. We do have contracts in our society. If you contract someone to build a house for you, what you are saying is that you will pay a certain amount of money and the contractor will purchase the materials and hire the workers to build your home. So, in the end you get a home and they get money. It’s a two sided covenant. What about a one-sided covenant? Perhaps the closest thing in our world to a one-sided covenant is an infant child. The mom goes through a lot of pain to give the child birth, feed the child, nourish the child, protect the child, take care of the child and often at a lot of work and expense. What does the child offer the parent? The child isn’t going to offer emotional support, financial support, physical support. In a way it’s a one sided covenant because even in our society it’s still viewed as a deplorable crime for a parent to neglect or abandon an infant child.

Now, in Scripture there’s all kinds of “covenants.” There are covenants between two parties of people, there are two sided covenants between people and God – where both have a responsibility, and there’s unilateral or one-sided covenant where God promises something despite the action or non-action of people. It’s such a new covenant that God is promising in this text. But first we have to understand the old covenant.

One of the most important covenants was the covenant God made at Mt. Sinai with the Israelites- this covenant described how God was going to interact with his old covenant people. After God had wondrously led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt they assembled at Mt. Sinai and God made a covenant with them. It was a conditional covenant – He would be their God, their Protector, He would guarantee a great future for them- the condition was that the Israelites would remain faithful and totally consecrated to Him and live by all His commands. In a way, God treated them like children- he spelled everything out for them. And to ratify this Sinai covenant Moses took blood from young bulls and half of it he sprinkled on the altar offering it to God, the other half he sprinkled onto the bodies of the people (Exodus 24). That ratified this old covenant.

But this conditional Old Covenant was always meant to be temporary. They had to repeat all these offerings and sacrifices over and over again. It was also meant to keep the OT people separate and distinct from all other nations until the promised Savior would come. It also, in a way, showed that it was impossible to earn God’s love by obedience. There was just almost this impossible list of rules, regulations, laws, and commands. Imagine living as an Old Testament believer- almost every aspect of your life was regulated from the food you ate to contact with dead bodies to how to clean mold or mildew!

Now, we have to keep in mind that the way of salvation, however, is exactly the same in both the old covenant and the new. In the OT a person was saved exactly like a person is saved today: through faith in Christ. It’s just that the OT person looked ahead to the Savior, while the NT person looks back to the Savior who has come. But God understood the human weaknesses and tendencies to sin, so in the old covenant, in the old way that God interacted with people, He provided a ton of pictures for people of what forgiveness looks like. They had all these sacrifices and offerings which pointed ahead to a future sacrifice and offering and assured repentant sinners that they were forgiven by God.

So, the Old Covenant was: obey me, keep my commands and laws, and God will protect you and you’ll live long in the land. But the people broke God’s covenant with them. Instead of sacrificing to God, they sacrificed to idols and false gods, they abandoned God, didn’t keep His commands. That’s what was happening at the time of Jeremiah –and because they broke the Old conditional covenant- the people were on the verge of experiencing the most severe covenant curse – their land was about to be destroyed and they were about to be hauled into captivity in Babylon.

So, in the midst of all of this, God promises a “new covenant.” A different covenant, a new way He is going to interact with His people. It is not conditional, it is unconditional and unilateral. It is an unconditional promise of God to the unfaithful Israelites.

We live in the new covenant. But do we sometimes think that church, religion, the Bible is all about following rules and laws? There are two pitfalls we can fall into. On the one side we could view God’s moral laws as burdensome- “Ugh, all this stuff about sexual immorality, coveting, honoring God by hearing His Word – it’s burdensome! Why can’t I just do what I want?” Or, on the other hand we could view keeping God’s moral laws as a way to deserve God’s blessings, like “As long as I do this, as long as I go to church, as long as I’m good, God will have to reward me and give me the things in life I really want.” But both are wrong.

You see, the new covenant is totally different. He’s going to put His law in our minds and write it on our hearts. What does that mean? This is a different covenant. It’s not about outward obedience but heart transformation. There are no rules, or laws, or commands that have to be kept. It’s about the heart, trust, believing. The center of this new covenant is “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”  When did that happen? It happened when Christ offered the one sacrifice that really matters. He offered the once-for-all sacrifice that pleases God and removes sin and guilt. His blood shed on the cross removes sin forever. The new covenant announces salvation that is complete, finished, and above all, free through Christ. The new covenant is forgiveness of sins.

In baptism God seals this new covenant to us because in it He gives us the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins and the faith to believe it. In baptism we hear this promise of God, “I forgive your wickedness and remember your sins no more.” But that’s not it! In further grace God shares the meal of the new covenant with us in the Lord’s Supper. He ratifies, seals this covenant of forgiveness with us. In the old covenant blood of bulls was sprinkled as an offering on the altar of God, in the new covenant Jesus sheds his blood on the altar of the cross, in the old covenant blood was sprinkled on the bodies of the people, in the new covenant God gives us his own body and blood personally in the Lord’s Supper. He ratifies this new covenant, He removes any doubts about His love for us, He comes to each of us personally to touch it, taste it, hear it, see it that we belong to him, we are one with him, all that is his is ours. When we receive the Lord’s Supper it’s a special assurance that we are the recipients of this new covenant- In the Lord’s Supper you receive the blessings of the New Covenant- the forgiveness of your sins. His lifeblood is our life.

In the new covenant God deals with us differently than in the old. Now God doesn’t have to beat you and tell you- now here are all the rules and laws you have to follow. Rather, God tells you what He’s done to save you and rescue you, so eternal life is yours. You know what that does? It sinks deep inside of you, in the Supper He gives you His own body and blood in a supernatural way with the bread the wine, and you literally cannot help but live a new life, a life of love! The new “law” is to live a life of love. And you want to! It’s not from a heart that’s enslaved but a heart that’s been set free, a heart that’s been forgiven.

So as you receive the Lord’s Supper this evening, receive forgiveness, receive the blood of the covenant, Jesus’ body and blood together with bread and wine that unites you with Jesus and transforms your heart to a live a life of love and service to God and others.

Thank you, God, For Working in Mysterious Ways!

Give thanks to God at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day Sermonettes

Jonah 1:17– Thank you, God, for confronting me

How would you have felt?  God asked Jonah to go preach in the capital city of one of Israel’s most powerful enemies… because God wanted to show them compassion and love.  Would you have been jumping up and down to go?  Jonah wasn’t.  So he got on a ship that was sailing as far away as possible.  But God sent a fierce storm, so fierce the ship was about to break up, the sailors figured out that the storm was because of Jonah.  So with Jonah’s permission they threw him overboard…and everything immediately grew calm.  But what happened to Jonah?  “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”  Do you think Jonah got God’s message?  Do you think he had time to think?  Do you think God got his attention?  He did…in a very unusual way.

Have we been in Jonah’s shoes, shoes of rebellion against God? God tells us to forgive those who sin against us, but do we say, “No way!  That’s his problem; after all HE sinned against ME!”  God tells us to put Him first, but do we say, “No!  I have my own wants and needs to take care of first, maybe if I have some leftovers I’ll give something to God.”   We’ve all had times like that.  And what does God do?  He wakes us up.  Probably hasn’t been with a great big fish, but maybe it’s a sudden challenge in our lives which draws our attention heavenward.  Maybe it’s a serious illness that strips us of our “I can make it on my own” attitude.  Maybe it’s a long, hard look at God’s law that shows us how greatly we’ve fallen and how desperately we need a Savior.  Whatever it may be, THANK the Lord for confronting us with our sin and showing us our desperate need for a Savior.  Realizing our sinfulness let us confess our sin to God:

Hosea 3:1 – Thank you, God, for your faithful love

God has taken away your sin.   For as high has the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for you; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed your sin from you.  You are forgiven.  How might you picture that kind of love?  I’ll bet you wouldn’t have guessed this one.  God gave the Israelites and us an object lesson.  God told the prophet Hosea to marry an adulteress, a prostitute.  God wanted Hosea to unconditionally and unselfishly commit his life to a woman who had a terrible history of being faithless and unfaithful in the deepest way.  How would you have felt if you were Hosea?  I think it’s safe to say that no one looks for a spouse who is unfaithful or not-trustworthy.  But what was God’s point?  Look at the verse, “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.  Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”  What’s the point?  God still loves the unfaithful.

Although we are the unfaithful ones, unfaithful with the gifts and abilities God’s given us, unfaithful with our devotion to His Word, although that is who we are…guess what…  God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for your unfaithfulness.  God picked you up and united Himself with you.  God still continues to love you. God will not turn away from you, God will never divorce you, God does not leave you.  God loves you unconditionally and His abounding love and forgiveness will never, ever run out for you!  Is that something to be thankful for?  THANK you, Lord, for Your incredibly faithful love!

Jeremiah 32:7-25 – Thank you, God, for reminding me of the big picture!

To understand this next segment, we need to understand the context.  Nebuchadnezzar – the Babylonian king – has come with his army and is besieging Jerusalem.  He’s already overrun the rest of the country, and is about to destroy the capital city, Jerusalem, and will be killing many and taking many more off into exile.

What do you think?  Is that a good time to be buying property?  Not so much, right?  J

And, yet, that’s exactly what God tells Jeremiah to do.  He tells Jeremiah that his cousin is going to come and ask him to buy his field, and that Jeremiah should buy it.  So, sure enough, Jeremiah’s cousin shows up, and Jeremiah dutifully weighs out the silver, and buys the field.

Later, Jeremiah’s praying, and he says to God, and it seems like it’s probably with some degree of frustration, “See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. {25} And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign LORD, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.'” (Jer 32:24-25 NIV)

What was God teaching Jeremiah, and us?  He’s reminding us that He sees the big picture!  Yes, the army was at the gates at that point.  Yes, the Israelites were in trouble at that point.  Yes, they would be going into exile.

But they would be coming back!  It would be years later, but they would come back!  God knew the big picture, and would guide His people through it!

And so God will do with you and me.  He knows what will happen next month, next year, 50 years from now.  Even now He’s guiding and directing all things for the good of His people, including you.  In fact, even now God’s causing/allowing things in your life which will be a blessing for your great, great, great grand-children!

Thank you, God!  Thank you for knowing the big picture!  And thank you for reminding me of that big picture, that I might approach all of life with confidence and joy!

Exodus 17:10-12 – Thank you, God, for Gifting Me in Unique Ways!

Okay, everyone, I want you to do something a bit different.  Hold up your arms into the air.  Go ahead, hold them up high as you listen to this last sermonette.

The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land after having left Egypt.  Indeed, it wasn’t long after God had begun giving them manna, that the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites.  And God did something, well, strange.

He had Moses stand on the top of a hill, holding up the staff of God (the same staff, apparently, which he’d held out over the Red Sea when God divided it).  As long as Moses’ hands were up, the Israelites would be winning the battle; when his hands went down, the Israelites would begin losing.  Strange!  The challenge, of course, was for Moses to keep his hands up there.

By the way, how are your arms doing?  Starting to feel it a little bit?  Well, imagine doing this for hours, and the success of the battle depends on you keeping your hands up!  Would it be nice to have some help?

Well, that’s what happened!  Aaron and a man named Hur stood to Moses’ side, and held his arms up, and so the Israelites won the battle.  Aaron and Hur’s contributions were huge!  Simple, but huge!

And, you know what’s neat?  God uses each of our talents in accomplishing His eternal work!  God uses each of our talents – maybe we’re “Moses,” maybe we’re “Aaron/Hur”, maybe we’re one of the “foot-soldiers” in the trenches – to accomplish His eternal work!

All of which leads us to again say, “Thank you, God!  Thank you for gifting me in a unique way!  Thank you for using me to either hold up my hands, or to help hold up someone else’s hands, or to be blessed by those hands being held up!  It may not be obvious to me how it’s happening.  It may not be obvious to me how I’m a blessing to others.  But You’ve promised that I am.  Hands down!  J

What’s New in the Bible?

New Year’s Eve Sermonettes

New Creation – Genesis 1:26-27, 5:1-3, Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:9-10

So a new year! What new opportunities, new starts, new challenges are facing you this year?  Every year we mark this succession of years: the old year is gone, the new year is upon us.  Well, it’s fitting for us to go back to the first new year.  Time began when God first created the world and brought light out of darkness.  The world in which we live was once brand new.  You remember how God created the world.  For the land, the water, the sky, the planets, the sun, the moon, the stars, the birds, the fish, the plants, the animals – all of those things God simply spoke and they were there, they were formed.  But when God got to His final creation, the top of creation, He paused and He counseled with Himself, and then he carefully formed and made the first man and the first woman, the first you and me, the first humans.  And He made them in His image and in His likeness.  So what does that mean?  Well, it doesn’t mean that they physically looked like God for God is a spirit.  Rather, the Hebrew word image means “an exact copy of the original in some ways.”  It’s like our word “photocopy.”  If you take a color picture and photocopy it on a b/w copier, you get an exact copy of the original in some ways.  Well, you and I were originally made like God in some ways, specifically the first humans were created perfect and holy and righteous.  Their intellect, emotions, and will were in direct harmony with God.  They wanted what God wanted, they hated what God hated, they loved what God loved.  Out of their own free will they were in direct spiritual harmony with God.  Their divine image flowed out of their bond of faith in God, out of their perfect trust in God.

And Satan knew that.  So, when he came tempting Adam and Eve in the garden his aim was to attack their trust in God and in His goodness.  “Did God really say…” in other words, “If God really loved you would he hold something back from you?”  And then when Adam and Eve believed the lie and trusted in the devil instead of God, their image of God was shattered and lost.  So, later on, when they have children, we’re told that Adam’s son Seth is born in his image, in his likeness, in sinful Adam’s image.  And every human born of a sinful dad and a sinful mother has inherited that sinful image.  You and me included.

But then God did His wonderful thing in our hearts.  Through the Gospel, maybe it was through hearing His Word or maybe it was at our baptism, God worked faith in your heart to believe that Jesus is your Savior from sin.  That alone is our acquittal before God’s judgment seat.  Yet, immediately when God worked faith in your heart He also re-created His image in you!  He made you into a new creation, gave you a new self!

The image of God re-created inside of us moves us to want to be like God.  As believers we again think like God thinks, find joy in what pleases God, want to conform our lives to God’s will.  That’s the new creation inside of us!

Yes, however, in this earthly life, the image of God inside of us remains imperfect, it’s only partially restored.  We still have a sinful flesh, an old self, that we have to continually battle against until our dying day.  But the real you and me is the new creation of God’s image.  And it’s through hearing and reading and being strengthened by the gospel that our new self can with the battle against our old self.  So this coming year, make this a goal: feed your new self by hearing the gospel regularly, live the new self by being like God in your thoughts, words, and actions.  And what’s really neat?  When you live according to your new self you’ll have the most meaningful life because you’ll be living how God in Christ recreated you to be!

New Covenant – Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:19-20, Hebrews 9:11-15

Covenants are a big deal in the Bible.  Covenants were kind of like treaties or pacts that two different groups would make.  Sometimes it might involve a peace treaty for war, sometimes it would be between a conquered group and the conqueror, sometimes it would involve one group paying another group a certain amount of money for that group’s commitment to protect them from other invading groups who want to battle them.  There were one sided covenants and there were two sided covenants.  And the typical Hebrew phrase wasn’t “make a covenant” it was “cut a covenant.”  Because sometimes when a covenant was made they would cut animals in half and lay them down and the two parties would walk between them in order to say, “If I don’t fulfill my side of the covenant cut me in half like these animals.”  Powerful!

God had made a number of two sided covenants in the OT.  One was that Israel was to follow all of God’s laws and regulations and God promised to keep them as His special people, to care for them, to fight for them.  However, if they failed to keep His laws, they would also lose His protection.  Another had to do with their land: Israel was to be careful to obey God fully, follow all His laws, and they could have the Promised Land as their possession till the end of time.  However, if they failed, which they did, they would lose the land, which they did.

God has also made a 2 sided covenant with every human.  If you live perfectly, completely perfect, don’t have one sinful thought, word or deed, you will be welcomed into heaven.  If you don’t, you die.  That’s exactly what Jesus told a religious teacher: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus said, “Do this and you will live.”  But the problem?  Everyone has failed.

And that’s why we need a New Covenant.  Back in Jeremiah God promised it.  This new covenant wouldn’t deal with outward things, but with heart things.  It wouldn’t be conditional or two-sided, it would be one sided, God would make it and make sure it happened regardless of what the human party would do.  And the heart of this new covenant would be the forgiveness of sins.  And Christ became the mediator of this new covenant who with his blood cleansed us of our sins.  And part of this new covenant is Jesus’ own body and blood that He gives us to eat and to drink in the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord’s Supper is part of the new covenant in which God gives and assures us of the forgiveness of all of our sins! What better thing to do in the new year than to make more use of this new covenant by hearing more about Jesus and receiving often this covenant in the Lord’s Supper!

New Heavens and Earth – 2 Peter 3:11-13, Revelation 21:1-5

A new year brings new hopes, new goals, new excitement for this year to be better than the last.  But no matter how much we might dream or hope or try to make our lives better, it will never be heaven.  In this life there will always be pain, sadness, crying, disappointments, problems, troubles, hardships, death, etc.  Why?  Because this old world that we live in has been corrupted with sin.  Even nature itself suffers from the consequences of sin- hurricanes, tornadoes, natural disasters, sicknesses, disease.  All of nature is longing to be freed from its bondage to decay.  So what problems are awaiting us in this new year?

Thank the Lord that this world is “old” and that we have a new world to look forward to!  Thanks to Jesus – His life, death, and resurrection – you have a wonderful new heavens and new earth to look forward to!  God will make a new heaven and a new earth – the home of righteounsness.  A place where everything will always be right and good.  Where God will dwell with us, where there won’t be any more tears or death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things will pass away!

So, how should we live in this new year knowing that this world is “old” and is “passing” and one day will be destroyed?  Should we cling to the things of this life at the expense of treasuring heavenly treasures?  No way!  In the new year focus the new heavens and new earth, arrange your priorities knowing heaven is your home, and rejoice for you have an awesome heaven to look forward to!