Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday of End Times: Saints Triumphant (November 17, 2019)

ISAIAH 65:17-25


In the name + of Jesus.

     Genesis, chapter 1, verse 1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis, chapter 1, verse 31: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”  We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.  God made a physical world with water and stones and soil and bones and flesh.  And God made it perfect and flawless.  But it is not so anymore, and God is certainly not at fault.  The world was corrupted when man brought sin and death into the world.  The heaven and the earth no longer function as God created them to be. 
     God still loves his creation.  Even though it has been corrupted, it has not been stripped of God's love and blessing.  Rain still waters the earth.  The earth still produces crops and fruit.  Animals are amazing and beautiful.  People still retain some semblance of justice and compassion.  But it has all been corrupted.  While rain still waters the earth, we have to endure snow storms, droughts, and floods.  While the earth still produces food, we have concerns about rotting crops, e-coli, and listeria.  Animals may be amazing and beautiful, but they can also be deadly.  People may retain some semblance of justice and compassion, but they still lie, cheat, steal, exploit, and demand the rights to abort their babies.  It has all been corrupted, and we see it with every tear, every act of terror, every illness, and every death. 
     The heaven and the earth no longer function as God created them to be.  Isaiah referred to this when he said, “They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat.” (Isaiah 65:22)  Israel knew what it was to work hard only to be invade and oppressed and to have other people enjoy the fruits of their labors.  But even when we get to enjoy the fruits of our labors, sin makes us discontented with our lives.  How often does our daily routine seem futile?  We go to work and wonder if we really produce anything useful at all.  We buy nice homes, only to have to continually repair them.  We want to make a difference in the world, and are disappointed that we barely even get noticed.  Is that all there is to life—go to work, make money, and die?  We want our life to mean more than that.
     The heaven and earth no longer function as God created them to be.  Isaiah referred to this when he spoke of “the sound of weeping and the cry of distress,” and “an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days” and “[bearing] children for calamity.” (Isaiah 65:19-20,23)  God did not create people to taste the bitterness of tears and heartache.  It was not God's plan for people to die—whether in nursing homes or children's hospitals.  But the world is corrupt.  All people are sinners.  And the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)   
     The heaven and earth no longer function as God created them to be.  Isaiah referred to this when he spoke of the wolf and the lion being next to the sheep and the ox.  Unless you are planning on feeding the sheep and the ox to the wolf and the lion, you don't put them together.  Adam had a brief time when the animals were not divided into predator and prey.  They all came before him so that he could name them.  He did not fear fangs or claws or venom.  But not anymore.  Zoos have barriers and cages for a reason.  People don't treat predators as pets.  The world has become corrupt, and violence is seen not just among mankind, but even in the animal kingdom.
     The heaven and earth no longer function as God created them to be.  Isaiah referred to this when he talked about people being for joy and gladness.  But our hearts do not exult in other people.  We have been on one end or the other with rivalry and jealousy and annoyance and road rage.  But worse that dysfunctional families and bitter enemies among mankind is the ruined relationship between God and man.  The heaven and earth no longer function as God created them to be because of man's sin, but we fault God when we suffer the consequences of man's sin.  We treat God as our underling—criticizing his wisdom and demanding answers for what he does!  The creation mocks its Creator, and then is shocked and offended when God speaks words of judgment for our rebellion.  Repent.  We are sinners.  That is not God's doing.
     The heavens and the earth no longer function as God created them to be.  And yet, God still loves his creation.  He continues to supply all creatures with what they need to live.  The rains still fall.  The ground still produces.  The beauty of animals and flowers and mountains are still there.  But God has done much more than give us food to eat and pretty pictures to take.  He assures you that life is not boiled down to some futile trip to the grave.  God has acted to make all things renewed, restored, and right again.
     In love for his creation, God made himself one with mankind.  He became part of his creation in order to redeem his creation.  Jesus is the man who takes for mankind everything that has incurred God's wrath.  He bears all guilt, takes up all shame, and suffers for all wickedness.  The creation itself voiced its curse over Jesus as the sun stopped shining when he hung from the cross and when the earth quaked upon his death.  Jesus died on behalf of a dying world in order to bring its release from death and decay.  The Lord does not despise the physical world.  He acted to redeem it and all things in it.  Jesus has assured you that your life is no relentless march to the grave.  Thanks to Jesus, all things will be renewed, restored, and made right.
     This is what the Lord says: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create...” (Isaiah 65:17-18)  Jesus not only delivers you from the guilt of sin and the power of death; Jesus also shall deliver you to a kingdom which abounds in glory, where heaven and earth will function as God created them to be.
     All things will be renewed, restored, and made right.  Isaiah declares it.  No more will anyone have his life cut short or even cut off.  No longer will anyone weep or cry out in distress.  No longer will God's blessings be snatched away, worn out, or lost.  No longer will anyone be destined for calamity.  No longer will God's creation have groups of predators and prey.  No more will we face any threat from an enemy, no jealousy from an acquaintance, and no disappointment from a friend.  No one will let us down or put us down.  No more will we suffer shame or regret.  In fact, we will not even remember the shame or regrets of the past.  For, as Isaiah declares it: “The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)  As surely as the Lord has removed all charges from your account, so also he will remove any memory of them from your mind.
     All things will be renewed, restored, and made right.  At the resurrection, the Lord Jesus will raise you up from the grave with renewed and restored bodies.  And all will be made right.  That means we will never suffer an aching back, an annoying itch, a seasonal allergy, or the frailty that comes with age.  All things will be made right—not only in regard to physical weakness, but also in regard to spiritual weakness.  You will delight in all that is good.  You will be treated perfectly by your fellow saints, and you will find great joy in doing good to them.  You will not only be free from the guilt of sin, you will be free from any temptations to sin.  For the Lord says, “Be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.  I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people...” (Isaiah 65:18-19)  
     “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)  In the end, God will make a new heavens and a new earth.  And it will be very good.  Best of all, we will dwell with the God who loved us enough to create us and bless us, to suffer and die for us, to come to dwell among us so that we could dwell forever with him.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have cleansed us and set us apart for everlasting glory and goodness.  We will forever get to marvel at God's glory and grace.  We will forever have all things renewed and restored.  It will forever be good and right.  The new heavens and the new earth will be exactly what God had designed them to be.  And God has designed our salvation so that we will be there—renewed, restored, and made right.

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

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