Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sermon -- Memorial Service for Edgar Vollmer (Dec. 15, 1926 - June 20, 2014) July 13, 2014


In the name + of Jesus.

     I would like to say that I had known Edgar Vollmer, and from what I have heard about him, I wish I had.  His family, and no doubt his friends, all have fond memories of him.  That’s the way it should be.  Our Lord has put us on this earth to bless and to serve one another.  We want to be remembered well and loved dearly.  We want other people to believe and to tell us that we are good people.  We want to believe that we are good people.  And your family and friends will probably always tell you that you are, and you will be eager to believe it.
     When we stand before our Lord at the judgment, however, God will not ask you what your family and friends thought of you.  Nor will he ask your enemies if they have something to say against you.  Even if someone hates you, that does not affect your judgment.  On the other hand, no matter how many people tell you that you are great, that does not affect your judgment either.  The only thing that matters is what God thinks of you.  The judgment is his.  His assessment is the only thing that matters.  And therefore, you must hear his word to find your hope and your comfort.
     If you would desire to stand on your own goodness, then you must also know what God holds out as the standard to keep.  He declares, “Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)  You will notice that God does not tell you to try and do your best.  You can look up the Commandments.  None of them begins with the word, “Try.”  God demands that you always do good—not just to friends, but to strangers and even to your enemies.  And God forbids that you do any evil—not in deeds, not in words, and not even in thoughts or motives.  That is the standard by which God assesses the heart of every person, and he sees that all people are ruled by selfishness, envy, greed, and lust.  No man can stand before the Lord and boast of how good he is or that he has earned his place in heaven.  On the contrary, the Bible reminds us, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)  It is what everyone deserves, and we can’t fix it.
     There is another part to that verse, however, and you do well to take it to heart. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  Our Lord does not desire that anyone perish in his sinful condition.  Yes, we will all die, but we need not be condemned for our sinfulness.  For that reason, God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to deliver us from sin, all of its curses, and all of its consequences so that there should be no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
     The Law demands obedience.  Therefore, Jesus lived a holy and obedient life.  He never sinned, but kept every Commandment of God continually.  However, if you know anything about Jesus, it is that he died a horrible death on a cross.  That was no accident.  While it might appear that Jesus was a victim of bitter enemies, Jesus went to that cross on purpose.  He took all of your sins to that cross with him.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Sin must be punished.  The wages of sin is death.  And so Jesus bore all your sin, suffered God’s wrath, and died under God’s curse in your place.  Through Jesus, every sin of every sinner has been punished.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
     But what does it mean to be in Christ Jesus?  Jesus answered that himself.  “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)  While Jesus won salvation for all, it is only given through baptism and through faith in his promises.  It is faith which takes God’s word seriously.  Faith recognizes that we have a Savior whose blood covers over all our guilt.  Faith believes that God loves us, not because we have been good enough for him, but because Jesus Christ has supplied the very holy status we need and has covered us in it through Holy Baptism.  Faith clings to the hope that not even death can destroy God’s promises or remove his love from us.  Faith is sure that our judgment before God is certain because Jesus’ promise of forgiveness is certain.  Whoever does not believe this is lost, for such a person calls God a liar.  He stands outside of Christ Jesus and forfeits the love and salvation of God.  But, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
     How can we be so sure of these things?  Because the same Jesus who suffered and died a cursed death also rose from his grave on the third day after his death.  Jesus Christ has conquered death.  His resurrection proves that God the Father accepted his payment for sins.  His resurrection proves that Jesus has authority to declare your forgiveness, and even authority to raise you from the dead to eternal life.  Remember?  The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)  That is the confidence that every Christian has even in the face of death.
     There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)  On the contrary, we look for our own resurrection from the dead.  These bodies that we have are tainted with sin.  We get old.  We get sick.  We get weak.  Finally, our bodies give out—whether in old age or much earlier than expected.  These are not the bodies that will dwell forever.  But at the resurrection, the Lord Jesus will summon us from our graves.  And the grave must listen; for Jesus has authority over death.  And Jesus will transform these lowly, mortal bodies of ours.  He will give us the bodies that we can only wish we had.  But you do not have to wish for it; you only need to wait for it.  He will raise you up glorious, holy, immortal, and incorruptible.  Never again will you get old or sick or weak.  Never again will you hunger or thirst.  You will dwell in God’s presence where you will never again get sad or sore or die.  For, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23), and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) 
     Whoever believes this and is baptized into the name of Jesus will be saved.  That is God’s promise.  We live in it and we die in it.  More than that, we are saved by it and shall be raised to eternal life by it.  That is the truth, no matter what anyone tells you.  It is your final judgment if you cling to Jesus.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)  Neither tears nor heavy hearts nor even death can change that.  Jesus lives and reigns forever.  And those who believe in him shall live and reign with him.  God says so, and therefore it is so.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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