Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Believe the Promises

The Text: John 12:20-32

Sermon Notes
Believe the Promises
January 4, 2015
Lynchburg, Virginia


Sentimentality vs. Reality
It should make us nervous when the gospel of Christ has become so popular that none need find it offensive.  We have seen the tragedy of this in the recent events here in America.  The kind of religion that is common to all men is the kind of religion that saves no men.  When there is a national crisis, it is common for the people to call on something or someone that is bigger than the nation. 
Of course, all men instinctively know that there is such a something or a someone and we have come to call that someone God.  And if we were speaking of the One Supreme Being Who rules over all men, nations, and any lofty thoughts against Him, then we would render a hearty Amen.  But this god of social discourse who is necessarily pleased with all men everywhere is a most hideous creation.  This god is nameless, faceless, and defies all attempts at definition.  When we define him, he is seen as a most dangerous threat.  We want a god of convenience that we can easily mold into our image.  This way we are never confronted with the need to come to the One True God on His own terms.  If we choose to believe in a god that defies definition, then we can always find a way of escape for our own faults.
Why this lovefest for Islam? Is it really merely fear?
Why is Islam seen as a friend to those who hate intolerance, ignorance, and dogmatism from Christians?  Are they so incredibly blind? There have been comparisons between conservative Christianity and radical Islamic belief.  Both take seriously the need to evangelize the world and seek nothing less than world conquest. 
But Islam has a distinct advantage.  It requires that its adherents appear to be holy, pray five times a day, make a pilgrimage to the holy land, and become a holy and righteous man.  It is a religion that promises salvation to those who do such things and men are able to do them.  It appeals to all the fleshly desire of men to make themselves worthy in God’s sight. It is a paradox and reveals the spiritual nature of the conflict that men would choose the inheritance that can never be gained rather than the promise given in the name of a Perfect Benefactor, Jesus Christ.
But such is the nature of sin.  Man cannot tolerate, will not tolerate, being made to admit, confess, and repent of sin and then receive full forgiveness for His sins. This grace is too fantastic, too easy.  This is the true nature of the gospel and is our only way of entrance into God’s blessing.  But we, like stupid sheep, prefer to feed ourselves on the leftover stubble rather than the lush fields open to us through the Shepherds gate.
This is why there is hope in Christmas.
We see in the advent of Christ all the hope for mankind.  Something has gone wrong in the universe and God has got to set it right.  But we should not think that the glory of Christmas is all about the cradle in Bethlehem.  The Incarnation is marvelous and incomprehensible to us.  How could God become man, born of a virgin?  We don’t know but He did. He became a baby in a womb and was born into poverty and essentially, homelessness, born in a stable in a manger. These facts sometimes cause us to think of the cuteness and innocence of a baby and the universal sense of the need to be kind to babies and feel good about seeing them. 
But if we merely focus on the good feelings of a baby in a manger, we miss the purpose of His coming.  Herod understood better than our blind culture.  This baby was a threat to his reign.  He feared that Jesus would take over his position as king.  And Herod was right.  I started with the passage I did, because in it we see the purpose of Christ’s coming.  The Son of God didn’t come to Earth so that we could gawk at a baby, but rather to die for the sins of all of His people.  He came to make a distinction between those who love God and those who hate Him. He came to set prisoners free. He came to reveal the hearts of men. He came to chase away the darkness of wickedness and establish the glory of His righteousness in the Earth. He came to fulfill all that God had promised since the foundation of the world. 

Let’s take a quick look at those promises so that we can understand the true meaning of Christmas.

1.   Adam
a.   Adam was our first father.  He was called on to obey God and pass on this obedience to his children.  He was to take dominion of the land.  But Adam sinned and in doing so lost the land.  He was kicked out of the garden and had to make a way for himself in the world by the sweat of his brow.
b.   Adam was a king- but by his sin he lost dominion and was driven away from Eden.
c.    Adam possessed the Word of God but by his sin did not do the will of his father.
d.   God spoke to the devil and in it, made a promise to Eve-
Proto Evangel- Gen. 3:15- 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

2.   Abrahamic Covenant-God made a covenant with Abraham calling him out of land of he Chaldeans and promised to give him a land of his own.  He also promised to make his seed like the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore.  This promise came to one who had no way to make this happen.  Abraham and Sarah were past the years of producing children and could not manufacture a son to fulfill the promise.  But God was faithful and Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.  And God still reckons righteousness to all those that believe on Him through Jesus Christ His Son.
Gen. 12:1   Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:  2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:  3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

         Promise is Expanded to Stars and Sand
Gen. 22:15   And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,  16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:  17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;  18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

3.   Moses cannot take you into the Promised Land- Lost in Egypt but….
Moses was a Christian.  He was a faithful man like Abraham.  The law is great and glorious.  It shows us the need for a Savior.  It is a tutor to lead us to Christ.  But the law itself cannot bring us to salvation.  It shows us our need for salvation, by placing before us a perfect righteousness that we cannot attain.  Thus, Moses cannot take you to the Promised Land.  Jesus must do this.
God delivered them from Pharoah and gave them His law because of transgressions. This is a grace and blessing from God but does not deliver body and soul. But Moses could not deliver them to the Promised Land. It took a Savior to do that.

4.   Joshua fulfills the promise- This Joshua is Jesus.  See the picture? God raises a Savior and delivers His people into the Promised Land. God keeps His promises!

Heb 3:15-4:8 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
4:1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
         But this, too, is still a type.  This Jesus, that is, Joshua, took them where Moses could not, into the Promised Land, the land of rest.  But this was to point to us of the true rest we can only have in the promised messiah, Jesus Christ.  Only in Him can we have the true rest, the seventh day but has now been moved to the eighth day!
David understood this and spoke of a rest yet to come.  There is rest in the land during Solomon’s day, but this, too, is short-lived and the Jews were ever looking for the Messiah to give them rest on every side. The true rest is in Christ Jesus, the new Joshua.

5.   The Davidic Kingdom-David is about the business of God, conquering the enemies of God, the Giants in the land on every side.  The land is his because God has given it to him and he is letting everyone know about it.  His words to Goliath are a call to all those who know and understand that God has given us the nations.
1 Sam 17:45-46 45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
All the Earth was to know of this God in Israel. God promised to make David a name and to subdue His enemies beneath His feet. David did this through war and Solomon reaped the benefits in a glorious kingdom of peace.

The second Psalm gives us the reality of what was a picture or shadow in David.  David conquered the land, but Christ has conquered the nations.  We are to tell them that they must kiss the Son, lest He be angry and bring His wrath upon them.
Ps 2 2:1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

6.   Jesus Christ-Here is all the promises fulfilled in Christ.
Matt 2:9-119 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Isa 60:1-6 60:1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. 3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. 4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. 5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. 6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.
These verses and all the verses around the sixties in Isaiah are talking about the glory of Jerusalem.  Those who are waiting for this glory to appear in the Middle East have missed it.  The great light did appear.  That great light was Jesus Christ.  He has given the promise.  The promise of the land has been fulfilled.  Christ is King over all the nations!

Heb 2:6-8 6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? 7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: 8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
But the fact remains that Jesus Christ came to fulfill all these promises through His own death.  He has taken that which was promised to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, and the Prophets.  What they saw in shadow, we have inherited.  Rejoice, the Lord is King!!  Jesus Christ is the new Adam, the Promised Son, the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, the despoiler of the Wicked One, the Reigning King!!


Don’t turn the gospel on its head.  We often think of the Old Testament as the concrete teaching.  It was based on real life examples of faith.  We know God chose Abraham, talked to him and told him to go to a land that God would give him. God appeared to Moses and followed after with miracles.  He accompanied Joshua in the conquest and brought the walls of Jericho tumbling down. He blessed David and put him on the throne of which one from his loins would reign forever.  These are all things that we think we can clearly see.
But when we enter into the New Testament where Christ has come, we get muddled as to which are shadows and which are the things themselves.  Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, and entered Heaven from where He sends us the Holy Spirit.  But we somehow misunderstand this completely.  We think that the New Testament is shadowy because the Holy Ghost cannot be seen with the eyes.  We think that spirituality is internalized to such a degree that no man can know the reality of these things.  To many, Christ has become merely “the spirit of christmas” doling out nice and pleasant feelings to all mankind everywhere.  Everybody seems to like the Jesus of Christmas because He is so unthreatening.  Who can be opposed to a little baby in a manger? He is so innocent, cute, and represents all the hope and sentiment that every parent feels for their own dear little ones.  But if this is our view of the incarnation, something terribly wrong has occurred in our thinking. 
The baby is not a representation of the brotherhood of man, but the reality of the fall of man.  The incarnation is a declaration from God about man’s dreadful condition and the fact that man, any man, no man, can rise up into heaven.  Every man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  At first glance, the incarnation is horrific.  The infinite, holy, and perfect God has become man.  How can this be?  What horrible event has happened in the cosmos that can account for this?  But we must go further up and further in.
 If God can become man; if the Word of God can be enfleshed and dwell among us; if the Messiah is God, and is a Man, then the manness of man is no evil.  God has given flesh and blood, humanity to His Son.  He did so precisely because the truth of fallen man’s inability to go to heaven required a Savior to fully and finally redeem His beloved.  The Son of God has become Man and fixed that which Adam defaced.  Jesus Christ, born a baby, from a virgin’s womb, has overcome the sinfulness of the flesh, and despoiled the enemies claim on mankind.  The chosen race in Adam has become the redeemed race in Christ. 
The incarnation as a fact, as an historical event, is necessary to the actual salvation of men.  If Christ had not come, you would still be dead in your sins, without hope and without God in the world.  But, indeed, He has and the fact of His coming is our glorious hope. 
I gave the list of promises so you can see that God is ever faithful, through all ages, from the beginning of time until now. But, you might respond, I see that He is faithful to His big plan, but how does that include me?

God was not just faithful to His plan for Earth. He was faithful to particular men in particular times. He was faithful to Eve, to Noah, to Moses, to David, to Joshua as well as to Israel and His Church. God remembers His promises and He keeps them. He who said that He will never leave you nor forsake you is true to His promises. Believe Him and be at peace.

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