December 29, 2019

The Pioneer of Our Salvation

Preacher:
Passage: Isaiah 63:7-9, Hebrew 2:10-18, Matthew 2:13-23

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to forget things?

I mean really important things. 

I’m not talking here about trying to remember the name of that movie star from the old flick you were watching the other day. 

I’m not even talking about trying desperately to remember the name of that old school friend you bumped into at the mall the last week.

No, I am talking about how easy it is to forget about the really important things in life.

Things like gratitude for your good health.

Things like grateful remembrance of your parents. Remembering them for all the hard work and sacrifice they went through to raise you well.

And most importantly, and probably the easiest thing to forget about, is remembering what God has done for your salvation.

It is particularly easy to forget the mighty deeds our God has done throughout all of history; supernatural deeds that have accrued to our salvation.

And then there is the story of your life and what God has done specifically for your salvation.

Let’s not forget about that. 

Let’s think for a moment and reflect on your testimony, the story of your personal salvation.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TOOK TIME TO REMEMBER WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR YOU. 

Again, have you noticed how easy it is to sail through life without giving a second thought to such really important things as your health, your family and perhaps especially, your salvation? 

I know when I get busy with my stuff, I have a strong tendency to not bring to mind the things in life that actually are important. 

So, the question is this; “With all the millions of things we have to do every day, how can we avoid these critical memory lapses?” 

One answer to this vexingly modern question is:

Intentionality.

That is, being (or becoming) intentional or purposeful about reminding ourselves of the important stuff in life. 

One of the best ways to become intentional about a “thing” is to build that “thing” into your daily routine. If your intention is to become physically fit, the only way to fulfill that intention is to structure your day around a workable fitness routine. If you leave your workouts until you can finally find the time to fit them into the rest of your busy life, you are likely to remain unfit. 

Rather, to improve your aerobic capacity, to shed a few pounds and firm up some of that flab, so you can do the Sun Run this year; you must restructure your life around your new intention to gain physical fitness. 

Committed time must be taken on a daily basis to first walk and then jog and finally to actually run. 

Failure to do so, failure to restructure your day to work toward your goal, will surely mean failure to attain your fitness objective. 

And so it is with the one thing in life that truly matters; the state, not of your fitness. But the condition of your faith relationship with your God. 

Presbyterians are of the Reformed tradition. We firmly believe that we are saved by God’s gracious gift to us of faith in Jesus as the Son of the God. 

We firmly believe that there is nothing we can do that can add to our state of justification before our God, beyond simply believing in God’s promise of forgiveness and redemption through faith in Jesus. 

This is sound theology and a deep spiritual truth; we are indeed justified before God ONLY through God’s gracious gift of faith in Jesus as the Christ. 

But this theology, while true, comes with a pitfall.

The idea that we can do nothing to add to our justification before God, beyond believing in Jesus, leaves us open to the pitfall of doing nothing with our faith.

As we have seen, doing nothing when it comes to developing a fitness routine, dooms us to failure.

Doing nothing when it comes to our faith; doing nothing about responding to God’s gift of faith by expressing that faith through love, can lead to a failure of our faith. 

This is so simply because when we do not, as a matter of intentional practice, express our faith through love, we can forget who we are; sinners saved by grace. 

Forgetting who we are, leads to us forgetting whose we are, children of the Living God, called to be in the world, but not of the world. 

When we forget who we are, when we forget whose we are, this forgetfulness leads to us being, slowly but surely, absorbed into the culture that surrounds us.

Galatians 5:6b tells us, “…the only thing that counts (speaking here of salvation) is faith expressing itself through love.” (NIV)

So, if expressing your intention to get fit, means getting up and getting active. Expressing your faith though love, requires doing the same thing.

You must get up and get intentional about reordering your live around expressing your faith through love, so your faith doesn’t get flabby.

And how do we do that?

How do we get intentional about expressing our faith through loving? 

Well, I would say a great place to start building faith-intentionality is by remembering on a daily basis the pioneer of our faith
– by remembering Jesus
– by remembering what Jesus has done for us,
what he has done for you.
 

And how do we do that?

Well the best way to do that is to regularly and prayerfully read what scripture has to say about what the pioneer of our faith actually did for us when he was here with us.

Our reading from Hebrews is particularly helpful with this.

So, let’s take another look at our reading for today; looking this time through a lens of being intentional about expressing our faith through love.

Let’s look to see what Hebrews reminds us about what Jesus has done for us.

Remember we talked about how easy it is to forget what our parents did for us in helping us to grow into healthy, happy and productive adults?

Well let’s remember what Jesus has done for us to first initiate our salvation and then to support us in living out that salvation.

Hebrews 2:10 reminds us first that God is the One who created all things and that he created them for himself.

This is a good thing to remember when we feel like complaining about the way things are and why they aren’t the way we want them to be.

2:10 also reminds us that the One for whom all things exist, freely chose to bring many children to glory.

That is the God who needs nothing, in that all things are created for and by him; without need or obligation chose to create us.

And he chose to bring us to the glorious state of being justified before him (or saved) through faith in Jesus.

And if we remember what the Gospels tell us about what Jesus did to bring us into the blessed state of being in God’s glory, we see that it was through Jesus’ own suffering.

Jesus himself was perfected through obediently suffering according to God’s will.

Should we therefore think it strange when we suffer?

Especially when we suffer for our faith?

And how glorious is that faith when we see in 2:12  that by being sanctified through faith, Jesus himself is happy to call us his sisters and brothers.

It does pay to read scripture and remember who we are; 2:13 reminds us that we are God’s own children, bought with a price. That price being the suffering of our Lord.
Who ever said that the grace of God is cheap?
Free, yes; cheap, no.

But let’s get back to remembering.

Hebrews 2:14 brings us back to that place where we recall that Jesus actually shared our humanity, our flesh and blood. And because he suffered a flesh and blood existence like our own.

A flesh and blood existence that included suffering and death itself.

And because he rose again from that death by the power of the Holy Spirit and took on a resurrected and glorified body, walking through that very death, his death on the cross, our Lord conquered death for us, destroying the devil in the process.

Because our Lord destroyed hell and death in the flesh, when he rose from the dead in his glorified flesh; we by faith will also share in his divine resurrection on that last day when our flesh too is glorified in eternal life.

Thanks be to our God for reminding us of the glory to which we are called by the pioneer of our salvation.

Thanks be to our God for calling each of us into our place in Christ’s own body, the Church.

The church, that place where we are reminded of the gift of faith given freely by our God.

The church, that place where we are challenged to express that faith through love.
Through loving God.
Through loving one another.
Through loving God’s creation.

 

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