Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20th - Giving the Gift of Eternal Life

Giving the Gift of Eternal Life

Sermon Notes

Canyon Shearer

20 December 2009

Good morning, for those of you visiting this morning, I am not the pastor, but I do thank him for graciously loaning me his pulpit. My name is Canyon Shearer, I am Summit’s volunteer pastor of evangelism and I also teach Middle School Bible on Sundays. One of the reasons I am preaching this morning is because as of Friday, I have some letters after my name, an MDiv in counseling and an MAR in evangelism. In the 8:30 service we almost didn't get to the sermon, I was so mesmerized by the idea that I don't have a paper due this week that I just stared at the screen.

Please turn with me to Psalm 107. While you’re turning, let me tell you a brief story, you’re going to notice that I don’t move around too much behind this pulpit. The reason is because my normal stage is a soap-box that sits about 18 inches tall, and has a platform about two feet square. If I move around, I’ll fall off. I was preaching once in the open-air from my soap-box and had a lady heckle me, she yelled at me and told me to go read a certain popular book and I would see that “my god is a god of love, and he wouldn’t send anyone to Hell.” I did the last thing that she expected, I agreed with her, I cried out, “Ma’am, you are right, your god wouldn’t send anyone to Hell because he can’t, because he is a figment of your imagination; your god doesn’t exist!” When I said so I put some body movement into it, inertia took over; I lost my balance, and took a tumble. Sometimes when open-air preaching, it is hard to draw a crowd, that day was one of those days, but when I fell off my portable stage people came over to see what was going on and God was able to use my overzealous clumsiness for good.

So that is why I don’t move around much, because this stage is somewhat higher than my soap-box, and if I fell off, I might not get back up.

Hopefully by now you’re seeing a theme, that I like evangelism, and since I know you came this morning expecting a Christmas themed sermon, I’m going to do my best to point you not so much at the event of Christmas, but at the purpose of Christmas, that of giving the gift of Eternal Life. And as we do well to remember; Christmas without Easter wouldn’t be a holiday at all, and Easter without Resurrection Sunday wouldn’t be a holiday either. The whole thing revolves around Jesus’ ability to defeat death, and yet a famous Genevan Reformer once put it perfectly that, “If the gospel be not preached, Christ is, as it were, buried, let us stand as witnesses therefore and do him this honor.” Indeed it might even be said that if the gospel be not preached, Christ might as well not even have been born.

So we’re going to read from Psalm 107 today on how to do that. First, some basic context; this Psalm is anonymous and contextless. There is some evidence that this Psalm was written after the return from the Babylonian exile, but there is also some evidence that refutes that. Without going into it too deeply, the Psalmist here did a fantastic job of writing a beautiful Psalm that works for all believers at all times, and I encourage you to read the entire Psalm later today and see if it doesn’t tell your story; but today we are only going to read the first three verses.

Stand with me out of respect towards the Word of God.

Psalm 107:1-3 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

Prayer – Father, bless the reading and hearing of your Word, let us be doers and not just hearers, recognizing that you are good and your steadfast love endures forever, you have redeemed us from so many wicked things but mainly from the curse of sin, and that you did by sending your Son Jesus Christ. Let us who are the redeemed proclaim your goodness and your grace, your love and your mercy, so that you receive the glory, for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.

I know you may be thinking that this is a stretch for a Christmas passage, but beloved, I can assure you that it has everything to do with Christmas. My first point is that we have to know the purpose of Christmas just as much as we have to know the event of Christmas. We all know the story of the census, the manger, the angels, the wise men, the Nazarene baby born of a virgin in Bethlehem called out of Egypt, but why is any of that important? Let’s let scripture answer that, why did Jesus come, why was he born?

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

Luke 4:17-19 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He (Jesus) unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

And my favorite,

John 18:37-38 Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

Jesus was born to bear witness to the truth, and what is truth? The truth is our first verse, that the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures forever. He is both totally righteous and totally merciful, the just and the justifier, God is love and yet God will by no means clear the guilty; he is a perfect judge and a perfect judge must be just, will not the judge of all the earth do right? Yet he is love and a loving God is mighty to save. these are totally contradictory ideas yet Jesus came to bear witness that God is both good and merciful, but the judge and the forgiver.

Now the translation you are using may not say steadfast love, the reason being is because this word in Hebrew is impossible to translate, it is Chesed and it carries so many meanings with it that it is very difficult to capture in a single word.

The ESV translates it as steadfast love.

The Holman translates it as faithful love.

The KJV translates it as mercy.

The NIV translates it simply as love.

The NASB translates it as lovingkindness.

In fact, the English word lovingkindness was actually invented to try to capture the meaning of Chesed. The word bears with it a faithful love in action that overlooks transgression; grace or agape love fit into the definition of Chesed. Remember this word, we’re going to be looking at it momentarily.

Our second verse says that the redeemed of the Lord ought to bear witness to the truth, but we have to ask ourselves first, what are we redeemed from? This is our second point.

Galatians 4:4-5 When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

We are redeemed from under the law, the law which meant life but which when transgressed has meant death for you and I. This is precisely the definition of sin, according to First John 3:4 which says sin is transgression against the law. One of the biggest sins, I’m sure, is trying to set ourselves up as God, check out Proverbs 20:6.

Proverbs 20:6 Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?

Anybody want to take a guess as to which word translates steadfast love? You guessed it, Chesed. Only God has a perfect steadfast love, a perfect chesed, yet almost every person will proclaim their own. The KJV really gets this verse right when they translate it here, “most men will proclaim every one his own goodness.” And it's true, I've asked over 2,000 people if they consider themselves to be a good person, and I've yet to find a non-Christians who would answer this question correctly, "There is none good but God."

Beloved, if you’re good, then you don’t need to be redeemed, and you certainly don’t need a Redeemer, because you’ve set yourself up as your own personal redeemer. You’ve pretty much declared to God that you are as good as him and therefore are set to go, Jesus agrees in Luke 5 when he says,

Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

He doesn't save good people, he came to save the bad. How do we turn ourselves and others from declaring our own godliness to recognizing that we and they are a sinners in need of redemption? Just as Jesus was born to redeem those of us under the law, so does that same law show us our sin.

Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost, if you’ve never been lost, how could you be saved? And this not an easy law, it’s a law that says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” but Jesus said, “If you look with lust, you’re guilty of adultery already in your heart.” It’s a law that says, “Thou shalt not commit murder, and everyone who murders is liable to the judgment,” but Jesus said, “If you hate someone, or call them an idiot or a curse word, you’ll be judged as a murderer, and you’re liable to Hell.” It’s a law that says all liars will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Surely the wrath of God will be revealed against all ungodliness.

To this effect the evangelist Leonard Ravenhill said,

"If I was to ask you tonight if you were saved? Do you say 'Yes, I am saved'. When? 'Oh so and so preached, I got baptized and...' Are you saved? What are you saved from, hell? Are you saved from bitterness? Are you saved from lust? Are you saved from cheating? Are you saved from lying? Are you saved from bad manners? Are you saved from rebellion against your parents? Come on, what are you saved from?"

I was preaching on KSU some time ago and a female student cried out, “We don’t care!” I responded, “That’s why I’m out here!” She responded, “But we don’t care!” I replied, “I know you don’t care, you need to care and know that lest you repent, you will surely perish, unless you care, you won’t recognize that Jesus Christ is God and you are not.”

She put together a very eloquent and very well structured reply of nothing but curse words pointed at Jesus Christ, then turned and directed a similar assault towards me.

Beloved, I was offended, she said some very nasty things about me, I wanted to vindicate myself so badly and it was everything I could do to not cry out, “Watch your mouth, there’s ladies present!” But something, or more accurately someone, inside of me was also offended, the Holy Spirit, infinitely more offended and infinitely more capable of vindicating Jesus Christ than I was of vindicating myself; so my response came from Psalm 73 and 139 fused together,

“When you take the name of the Lord your God in vain, you set your mouth against Heaven, you declare war on the God who made you. And this is not a God who loses wars.”

Remember I said that sometimes gathering a crowd is difficult? That day was somewhat slow, but with her outright assault against God, a very large crowd that was walking by stopped in their tracks, and I was able to go instantly into the gospel, which is how we are redeemed.

This is my favorite part and the third point. Martin Luther said to preach 90% law and 10% grace, in other words, 90% what you need redeeming from and 10% how you are redeemed; which means most of the message to unbelievers should be outright violence, seeking to show them their lostness, their hopelessness, their sinfulness, then when they see that they are not good, that they are dead in their sins and trespasses, enemies of righteousness, children of wrath, children of disobedience, children of Hell, following after their father the devil and utterly without hope, then you finally you get to open the floodgates of grace.

And how are we redeemed? Two-thousand and some years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, stepped out of Heaven, born of the virgin Mary, he lived a perfect sinless life, tempted in every way we’ve been tempted but he never succumbed, then thirty three years later he went willingly to the cross to pay for our sins. He would pray in Psalm 69 that what he did not steal he had come to repay, we broke the law and he paid the fine. The wrath of God against sin was poured out on him, and he died in our place, despised by men and forsaken by his Father...and then he was laid in a tomb.

He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we can become the righteousness of God in him.

Hebrews 9:15 sums up our redemption,

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

But beloved, it doesn’t end there, but if the gospel be not preached, it might as well; but three days later Jesus Christ rose from the grave, he lives forevermore to judge the quick and the dead and to make intercession for his saints.

So what ought we do about it? This is the third part of our passage and my fourth and last point. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

Notice the verb here, say, you're never going to guess what it means. It means to say, it means speak, which means vocalize, it means declare, it means open your mouth, it means tell, it means you have say something. Peter shares the sentiment in 1 Peter 2:9, that we ought to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Paul said in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of Christ. Jesus said that he who has ears, let him hear. You have to speak, you have to proclaim, you have to vocalize that God is good and his steadfast love endures forever.

There is a quote that many hide behind that says, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” A parallel would be saying, “Feed starving children at all times and when necessary use food.” Beloved, you have to open your mouth, being deliberate as the redeemed of the Lord to tell people of your redemption, both what you were redeemed from what you were redeemed to and how you were redeemed, and especially about your Redeemer.

We’ve all heard that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and so beloved, in this Christmas season and out of this Christmas season, I implore you as the redeemed of the Lord to proclaim the excellencies of the King who was born from Heaven, who though he was rich for our sake became poor, in order that he and now we give the gift of Eternal life. Just as Jesus’ purpose was to bear witness to the truth, you go likewise and make it your purpose to bear witness to the truth.

Titus 2:13-15 really sums up the whole thing well,

Titus 2:13-15 We are waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

I love that last verse, let no one disregard you, you go after them anyways, tell them they have to listen to you! You have the words of Eternal Life! So let us as the redeemed of the Lord say so.

And finally, as powerful, as beautiful, and as Christmassy as Psalm 107 is, there is an implication within this verse that it is the redeemed of the Lord who are to be doing the speaking; if you are not redeemed, then this passage is not for you, you have no part nor lot in the kingdom of Heaven, you are still under the law, and God’s wrath abides on you.

If you have never repented towards Heaven and placed your faith in the Living Christ in order to receive forgiveness and righteousness, then I implore you in the name of the Redeemer Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God. There is one mediator between you and God, the man Jesus Christ, who was dead but is alive, so where you sit call out to him in repentance, beg him to save you, and beloved be sure that he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to him in faith. If you have questions, we have counselors available, but they can't save you, only the Nazarene baby born in a manger in Bethlehem called out of Egypt who grew up to die for you can save you; he is good, he steadfast love does endure forever, and he is mighty to save.

For those of us who are redeemed, the call today is to follow Jesus, emulate him in seeking and saving the lost, giving the gift of eternal life, and bearing witness to the steadfast love of Jesus Christ. Maybe that is through an overseas mission trip, maybe that is through open air preaching and street ministry, maybe it is through teaching a class, maybe it is through being an assistant teacher, or maybe you're not even in a fellowship and you need to take the first step and join this church. Whichever it is, beloved, I ask you to do something to declare the excellencies of your King.

Let’s pray. – Lord God Almighty, we are so humbled under your love, that you would send your Son from Heaven to dwell among men so that we would no longer have to dwell under the law, but that you have adopted us as sons. How can we keep this to ourselves? As your redeemed give us the words to speak and the boldness to speak them so that your name receives the glory, for you are good, and your steadfast love endures forever. Let us hail the heaven born Prince of Peace, who has brought life and light, let us join with the heavenly host as they sing his praises. In the righteous and resurrected name of Jesus Christ that I pray, amen.


Charles Spurgeon, after preaching a sermon similar to this one, gave one of the best exhortations I’ve ever heard. Charles Spurgeon was a famous preacher in the late 1800’s, the man had a vocabulary that was so large he could make a dictionary blush for inferiority, and so you knew every time he said something it was going to be precisely what he intended to say. When exhorting his hearers, as the redeemed of the Lord to say so, he summarized his sermon this way, “Do something, do something, do something!”

So beloved, I implore you to do something, we have resources on the welcome desk that will teach and equip you on how to give the gift of eternal life, or check out Summit's website, we have a fantastic gospel presentation that is designed to be sent to your friends and family. Just do something.

Remember that if the gospel be not preached, Christ is, as it were, buried, let us stand therefore as witnesses and do him this honor.

Stand with me for your benediction, and won’t you please give someone the gift of Eternal Life this season. Your benediction today is from Isaiah 60 and Second Thessalonians:

Arise, and shine, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness the people, but the glory of the Lord has risen upon you and his light is seen upon you, and nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. May the Lord Jesus Christ himself establish your hearts in every good work and word so that through your life all of the glory goes to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Merry Christmas. Amen.