Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
The Glory of the Lord - May 1, 2016 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Text: Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27
Last week we were reminded, once again, that we get it right when we point to Jesus. We heard that the best way to teach is to teach and reteach, that is to say that we need to hear the same thing over and over and over again until we master it. Indeed, the desire of the one’s who have been given faith is to be in Divine Service and Bible Class as often as they are offered, yes, every Sunday because we need to hear and rehear God’s Word so that we might take it to heart and we may even say, master it, at least as best we can this side of heaven. And last week we were reminded that if God says it, that settles it.
As God has called me here to be the Pastor of this congregation, so one thing I attempt to do, even if it is imperfectly, that is that I attempt to model what I preach. One way I do this is in my own prayer and worship life. Many of you know my usual routine. We are, after all, creatures of habit and my wife will attest that I am as well. My usual routine is to come to church early, have time in prayer, and during that time in prayer I remember each of you as I lift your name up in prayer and for any particular cares or concerns that you have. Following my prayer time I spend about a half hour reading God’s Word. I spend about fifteen minutes in the Old Testament and about fifteen minutes in the New Testament. And then I am ready to begin my day.
The reason I spend so much time encouraging you as brothers and sisters in Christ in your faith life, that is in teaching and reteaching about our need to be in Divine Service and Bible Class, about our need to read God’s Word, to have personal and family devotions is because these are the means we have of being in a relationship with Jesus. Relationships are the things we cherish. We like and even need to spend time with our spouse, our family and our friends. It is the time we spend with others, both quality and quantity time, that help our relationships to deepen and grow. The same is true with our best friend. If you have ever felt like your relationship with Jesus has become strained perhaps it is because you are not spending enough time with our best friend, our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Just as relationships can begin to fade when we do not keep in contact, so our faith and our relationship with Jesus will fade as we keep away from Him.
My faith in Jesus is a relationship even a friendship. I speak to Him in prayer. He speaks to me through His Word. If I do not pray to Him, He does not hear from me. If I do not read His Word, I do not hear from Him, thus our conversation is broken and our relationship can become strained. And just as our earthly relationships and friendships are so important, how much more so is our relationship and friendship with Jesus.
During this season of Easter we have been looking into heaven as we have been following John’s words in his vision in the book of Revelation. And so, this morning we come and we get another view of heaven. In his vision John sees (v. 10-14) God’s glory and he describes it as a “most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” John describes God’s glory as the finest, shiniest thing that he knows, a “most rare jewel.” He describes heaven’s fortress saying, it has “a great, high wall.” We may not understand what that means, completely, but a great high wall was great protection from the enemy, so John is describing heaven as being a place where a person could feel very secure. John goes on to remind us that heaven’s gates are entered through by faith in the teachings of the prophets of the twelve tribes of Israel; that heaven’s foundation is the word of the Apostles given to them by the Lamb, Jesus; and those included in heaven are those included by God’s grace through faith. In other words, heaven is ours, given as a free gift, earned by Jesus’ death on the cross, made ours by faith worked in our hearts by the Holy Spirit working through the Word. Heaven is our real home. Heaven is where we will live forever with our best friend, Jesus.
In the last verses of our text John describes Jesus as the temple (v. 22-23). John tells us that there is no temple in heaven, because Jesus is the temple. And he says there is no sun in heaven, because Jesus is the Light. We would say He is the Son, S-O-N. Here we see Jesus in all His glory, the glory that He gave up to take on flesh and blood, the glory that He gave up to give His life on the cross for us. Jesus is in all His glory and we will see Him and live with Him in all His glory forever in heaven.
Over the past few weeks we have been getting various views of heaven. Perhaps as we are seeing heaven we might ask the question, “Are we ready for heaven?” I have suggested that we are ready and we know we are ready when we take our focus off this world and the things of this world and instead focus our attention on things heavenward. I have suggested that we know we are ready when we understand that our purpose for being here, as Christians and as a Christian congregation is to encourage and build each other up as the body of Christ, to extend God’s Kingdom here in this place by inviting our unchurched family and friends and the community to come and hear the Word and be given faith as well, and to give praise and glory to the name of the Lord, which we do as we do one and two.
This morning I want to ask a different question. The question I want to ask this morning is, “what is important in life?” We live on this earth, in this world for one, sixty, eighty, maybe one hundred years. Heaven is forever. So, what is important, our lives in this world, or our lives in the world to come? We would probably all agree that our lives in the world to come are most important, yet we live our lives as if this world is most important. We put more emphasis in our work, in accumulating the things of this world, in making friendships for the purpose of building our network than we do in building our relationship and preparing ourselves and others for heaven. We are more concerned about what people think about us in this world than we are about spending time with our best friend, Jesus. And we feel helpless in changing our lives because of these things and because our lives in this world are so important to us.
This morning we are privileged to get another glimpse of heaven. Heaven really is undescribable, yet, that is what John is trying to do. Heaven is beyond imagination, a place of complete joy. It is a place of complete happiness. It is a place of eternal life. And again, this is what John is attempting to describe for us. Certainly we would say that John is using a Gospel approach to encourage us to be about the business of having our eternal well being our priority, in other words, we want to make sure we go to heaven, not because we do not want the alternative, but because heaven is such a wonderful place.
When we talk about heaven in earthly terms we often hear people say that heaven is different for everyone. For you, this is heaven, for me something else is heaven. John’s words remind us that heaven is not something different for everyone, rather, heaven is our eternal home where we will eat eternal manna and drink of the river of pleasure forever. Heaven is where we will be in complete union and relationship with Jesus Christ, the Lord. Heaven is a place of complete and perfect fellowship with the Jesus.
Most importantly, heaven is ours. It is ours right now. We may have to wait to move in, at least until after we have passed on from this world, but it is ours now. It is ours and it is ours as a free gift. No amount of money can buy heaven. No amount of doing good or being good can earn heaven. Heaven is not for sale. No amount of head knowledge, that is no amount of knowing the Bible will get us to heaven. Instead, maybe we could say, “we do not get to heaven by what we know, but by who we know,” or even better, “by who knows us.” Heaven is ours, it is a free gift, “not by works so that no one can boast.” Heaven is ours, purely by God’s “goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness within us.” Heaven is ours because Jesus gives it to us. Heaven is ours because Jesus paid the price for our sins so that we might have forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness we know is life and salvation. Yes, heaven is ours because Jesus gave His life for ours.
As we just said, unfortunately, our priorities tend to get messed up. We tend to focus on this world and the things of this world. We tend to focus on our lives in this world as if this is all we have and all we might have to hope for. And so we spend our time fretting, struggling, even fighting to get what we can in this world, failing to realize that this is all temporary. Remember, what we are born with and what we take with us when we die, is what is really ours. Nothing is really ours. Yes, we focus on this world and yet, Jesus focuses on us. His whole life was lived for us. He gave up all the glory that was rightfully His in heaven, for us. He was born for us. He lived for us, perfectly. He obeyed all God’s laws and fulfilled all God’s promises, all His prophecies for us, completely and perfectly. He took our sins upon Himself, even our sins of our mixed up priorities and He suffered and paid the price for our sins. He died, for us, in our place. But, of course, we know the rest of the story. He did not stay dead, but rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil. And after ascending into heaven, rightfully sitting at the right hand of the Father, where He watches over us, rules over us and intercedes for us, He sent the Holy Spirit to give, strengthen and keep us in faith. And now we see Him in all His glory as John relates His vision to us. What an awesome God we have. How can we not want to live our lives to His glory?
This morning I say thank you, for being here. Thank you for coming to spend time building your relationship with our best friend, Jesus. I want to encourage you to keep working on your relationship with the Lord, making regular and diligent use of His means of grace, the means He uses to come to us and to give us the gifts He has to give. As we well know, we live in a world where too often it happens that friendships break and dissolve, because of misunderstandings, because of mis-communication, because of lack of putting time into the friendship. Likewise with our relationship with our best and greatest friend, Jesus. Jesus wants to hear from us. His desire is for us to pray to Him. Jesus wants to speak to us. His desire is for us to read His Word. He wants to be a part of our lives and to be close to us. I think there was a phrase a while back that went something like this, “if you feel like you are not close to God it is because someone moved, and it wasn’t God.” I want to encourage you to pray and to read God’s Word. As you do, the Lord will draw you closer to Himself and you will have a friendship and a relationship that will last forever. You will have a relationship and a friendship that will look like John’s vision. And that is a great thing. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.