Five Things We Can Depend On!”
Text: Luke 12:22-33
By Keith Kiper
Why do bad things happen to good people? That question has been asked many times. A newly-wed couple are killed by a drunk driver as they leave the church for their honeymoon. Just this past week, evangelist Rev. David Wilkerson was killed in a head-on crash with an 18 wheeler. Wilkerson is best known as the founder of Teen Challenge ministries and as the author of “The Cross and the Switchblade.” Recently we have witnessed the devastation of the tsunami in Japan and the record setting tornadoes in the south. The death toll continues to climb into the 300’s. Contrast this with all the news coverage and the world’s fascination with the Royal Wedding which took place in London this week. Perhaps the world was ready for some good news for a change. Proverbs 11:10 tells us, ”When it goes well for good people, the whole town cheers, when it goes badly for bad people, the town celebrates.”
Many will blame God when tragedy comes into their lives. The pundits and talking heads on the nightly news are always looking for a cause or an explanation.
Things like climate change must be to blame. Others would point to what the Bible tells us about the last days. Perhaps both these statements are true. After all, the Bible tells us in Romans that the whole earth groans in travail because of man’s sin.
We may never have the answers to all these questions in this short life here on earth. But as Job and others in the past well knew, they could trust God whatever the outcome. That’s what I would like to focus on today. We can find five things that set us apart as Christians. Like God the father, these don’t change and will provide us with comfort regardless of what’s happening in our life.
During a British conference on the World’s religions, experts from around the world were discussing the Christian faith. They wanted to know if there was one particular belief that belonged only to the Christian faith. One by one they began to eliminate the possibilities. Incarnation they said? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of someone returning from the dead. They debated for some time until the great Christian author C.S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about? He asked.
The other experts in the room told him they were discussing what made Christianity different from all the other religions. In his usual forthright manner C.S. Lewis responded, Oh that is easy. It’s grace.”
Grace alone can save us. This is one of the major teaching of the Protestant Church. Grace sets us apart as Christians from the other religions. That is why we celebrated Resurrection Sunday this past week. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection means that only by the unmerited favor of God that Christ went to the cross and paid for our sins. That’s what grace is all about! Salvation comes through faith in Christ alone. Man is depraved by nature and alienated from God his Creator. It is through God’s grace alone through the Holy Spirit that we can be drawn to God through Christ. The only mediator between God and man is Jesus. We can go directly to God in pray. Grace spells out “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” Jesus paid the price at Calvary for our sin. It has been paid for. We cannot pay or bargain for our Salvation through any human being. We can just simply confess and accept this free gift. Grace means that the cruelest, most vile and evil person can find favor with his Creator. All are equal at the foot of the Cross.
The Human mind can no more grasp that concept than it can understand the Holy Trinity. We can know its true. How? True because of the experience in our heart and the changed lives and testimony of others. It doesn’t matter what is happening in the world or in our personal life. When we trust in Jesus, He will always be there. In this life and the next.
The Bible tells us in the last days that false prophets will arise. Liberal pastors will tell us that certain ways of living are acceptable to God. As Christians we realize that Scripture alone speaks authoritatively and it speaks to all believers. The Bible speaks to the individual. As Protestant Christians we believe that we do not need an interpreter or so-called modern day prophet. The Bible speaks to us independently of church leaders and organizations. I realize that different denominations may have differing ideas as to what certain passages mean. Sometimes this is because of what we call proof-texting nor taking a single verse out of context to suit what a certain group wants to believe. But I do believe that as Christians, especially Protestant ones, that we will agree on the central teachings of the Bible. Someone once asked the late Dr. Bill Bright what he thought about some of the things in the Bible that we sometimes wish had a better explanation. He replied, “Well, The plain things are the main things and the main things are the plain things. If it isn’t a plain thing, then it probably isn’t a main thing.”
Ignoring the main things can have disastrous consequences. When we don’t accept the Bible as literal and whole it affects our respect for human life and how we view others. When we don’t accept the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, then it becomes easy to accept certain evolutionary ideas.
When society ignores the truth in God’s Word they will set their own standards. No society in the history of the world has survived long after making that disastrous choice.
One of the most fascinating, yet sad chapters in American history is the story of Ota Benga. Ota Benga was a Pygmy who was put on display in an American Zoo along side a Chimpanzee in the early 1900’s. Darwins theory had so gripped the minds of some scientists that they believed Ota Benga was some form of inferior race. Pygmies were hunted down and killed as portrayed in the movie “Quigley Down Under.“ The word “race’ itself is a result of evolutionary ideas. Even more horrifying examples of this type of thinking can be seen in the concentration camps of WW2. This is what happens when society picks and chooses from the truth found in God’s Word and distort what it really says.
In his letter to the Colossians, we see that Paul is helping a newly established church know that its foundation is the inerrancy of Scripture. He tells them that Scripture living richly within them will keep them united in the faith and strong and focused on the task. Paul writes in Colossians 3:16:
“The word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
Listen to the keys words as Paul proclaims in Romans 1:16,”I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
We are all equal at the foot of the cross. Jesus sees all of us through the same eyes. Whatever we are going through, we still have God’s promises and His plan for our lives. We have it in His unchanging Word.
Another Biblical concept we can always keep with us is our faith. Our faith that only God can be completely trusted. The Bible teaches us that only total righteousness is acceptable to God. This righteousness is found in Christ only, not in man. Man is justified by faith alone in the finished work of Christ.
That very familiar verse in Hebrews 11:1 tells us, ”Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.” Verse six goes on to tell us that, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
At first glance, these statements made by Paul would seem to contradict each other. The Bible tells us that faith must begin in the heart. Yet, God above is the one who puts that measure of faith there in the first place. This kind of faith, or trust in God, springs from the Christian’s innermost being. This kind of faith allowed early Christians and Reformers to endure torture and persecution. They were sawn in half and burned at the stake. Some died a slow, painful death, so that everyone could have the very Bible we read from today.
Our words seem inadequate to describe this kind of faith. The Bible describes many individuals whom God worked through to do great things.
Why? Not because they were somehow superhuman. They accomplished great things because they took that leap of faith and took God at His Word.
Christ alone is our way to heaven! All other teachings of Christianity hinge on this statement. Salvation is accomplished by Christ alone. Jesus plainly told us that He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. We have direct access to Him through prayer. Angels, saints, sacraments, priests, churches, and teachers may direct us to Jesus. But Christ alone was the perfect Saviour, and we have direct access to our heavenly Father only through him.
The angels cried Glory to God in the Highest! God told Moses at Mt Sinai,”I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Duet. 20:1,2)
Religion should be God-centered, not man-centered. Anything else is just a good set of rules to live by. Christianity is the bridge between God and man. It doesn’t matter what the other religions tell us, or what we believe personally.
Dag Hammarskjold said,
“God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a Wonder, the Source of which is beyond all reason.”
We should glorify God in everything that we do. In Old Testament times, the Hebrews would take their portable tabernacles with them as they traveled. In the New Testament Paul tells us we are the tabernacle in which Christ through the Holy Spirit dwells.
Several years ago there was a popular chorus named “Sanctuary.” You may have heard it or even sang it. I may have read the words to this here before. I believe these words speak to our heart and are worth repeating. Whatever is going on around us, we can have peace in our heart. As we close today, think about the words as I read them to you. (I am not a singer by any means)
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I'll be a living
Sanctuary for You
It is you, Lord
Who came to save
The heart and soul
Of every man
It is you Lord
who knows my weakness
Who gives me strength,
With thine own hand.
Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and Holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving I'll be a living
Sanctuary for you
Lead Me on Lord
Fill my heart with
You holy spirit
Take away all my sin
Lord prepare me to a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I'll be a living
Sanctuary for You
Let us pray: We thank you and praise you today for sending us Your Son. We thank you for your Holy Word you have given us to guide us in truth. We pray that in your light, we might see light. You promised us that no matter what is going on around us, You are there with us when we trust in You. Cleanse us each day that we might be the sanctuary and the light that would draw others to you.
And the people said,” Amen.”