The Ultimate Christmas Story

Revelation 22.1-17

In Genesis 1 & 2, we’re told that God created a perfect world, where heaven and earth were one, a good world where there was no sin and no death. No crime. No hatred or animosity. No need for escape. It was paradise. Sounds a lot like what we just read. But that good world was fractured when we chose to rebel against our Creator, heaven and earth were divided, and now sin and death are a part of our experience on this planet. And if that were the end of the story, it would be a sad tale indeed. Not a movie we would want to see. A sad and hopeless tale full of despair. Maybe that’s where some of you are today. You look around and see a broken world and wonder, “What’s the point?” You are desperately looking for meaning, something that gives purpose to life. You totally get the fractured world part, but the notion of paradise seems like a fairy tale. Surely there’s something more.

There is. You see, even in the midst of our rebellion, God provided hope. A Promise. One day He would send a Hero to heal the fracture caused by our rebellion and to rescue us from sin and death…and not only us, but all of creation. And as history unfolded, God’s people clung to that promise as prophesies of the coming Hero created a fuller, richer picture of who He would be and what He would do. A King, a Priest, the Suffering Servant, a Sacrificial Lamb, the Conqueror of death and the Son of Man.

The good news is: the Hero has come. First Advent. Jesus came as a seemingly helpless Baby in a manager, as Andi read for us in Luke 2. The angels alert us that this is no ordinary Baby, but is in fact, the Hero we’ve been waiting for…the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus, God’s Son. He is the One destined to bring peace on earth…peace with God and men. And not only peace, but also joy and love. He is the One in whom we hope.

However since His First Advent, life on planet earth has continued seemingly uninterrupted, sin and death are still a part of our experience…yet something incredibly significant has changed. The reconciliation of heaven and earth has begun…by believing the truth of God’s Word, we can have true hope, peace, joy and love despite the chaos we live in.

Now flash forward to the end of the Story here in Revelation 22. John opens with this beautiful scene…imagery that reminds of the garden in Genesis 1 & 2. A crystal clear river flowing with living water. The tree of life. The removal of the curse. God’s presence. Seeing Him face to face (Matthew 5; Numbers 6). Realizing the purpose for which God created us…to rule and to reign with Him forever. It’s a picture of paradise, a return to Eden. Perfect peace. Unimaginable joy. Basking in the radiance of God’s love. The consummation of our hope. The end is like the beginning, only better. Our return to the garden is not by going back, but going forward. So paradise lost in Genesis 3 is regained here in Revelation 22.

The imagery of a throne reminds us who is in charge…who has the right to rule. The battle for planet earth will be won…the head of the serpent who deceived the hearts of men will be decisively crushed. The throne of God and the Lamb is a picture of the kingdom of God realized on planet earth…(Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven). Heaven and earth become one again, they are reconciled, the spiritual and physical reunited. Satan & His effects, nowhere to be found. And did you hear what John said? There will be no need for a light of any kind…God is the light and in Him there is no darkness at all. His perfect reign over a restored creation. It really is an incredible picture. God’s purpose for His creation being fulfilled.

After giving us a vision of this return to paradise, John warns us…only those prepared will enter. The time is short and only those who take seriously the return of Jesus, His Second Advent will be prepared. How? By believing that Jesus is the promised Hero who in His first Advent came and lived a perfect life…,and out of His great love for us, He died a bloody, horrible death…the death we deserved, but was raised again to life the third day, conquering both sin and death so that we could have life… eternal life forever, eternal life that begins the moment you trust Him, a life lived on this earth not for selfish gain, but for His purposes. A life lived out of love for your Savior and those He created. That’s the gospel. And when you believe that, death no longer brings fear, but hope…hope that we will see Jesus, our Hero face to face, that we will be united with Him in paradise.

Don’t give up, don’t give in, Jesus wins Jesus’ triumphant return is once again good news of great joy for the clean-robed ones, the ones who have trusted in Him; they will eat from the tree of life…and reign forever with Jesus.

But for those who have not trusted in Jesus it is a warning, paradise will be closed. Come to the waters. Jesus is…the Morning Star who signals the end of darkness and the coming of eternal Light, the Alpha and the Omega, the Hero of our story…only those who have washed their robes may enter the eternal city, only those who have trusted in Jesus. Through John’s vision God says to us “come”. Let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who wishes take God’s life giving water without cost. Come. If you haven’t trusted in Jesus, I hope you will reconsider. His invitation is simple and straightforward…Come to the waters. By believing that Jesus did come as the promised Hero, in His first Advent to offer Himself as the Lamb, the perfect sacrifice for our sin,,our rebellion against our Creator God, and by believing that He is coming again as the Conquering King to rule and to reign, you can receive the greatest gift of all…eternal life. Hope. Peace. Joy. Love. All wrapped into one. In the present, the ability to view the circumstances of your life from a different perspective, from an eternal one, as opportunities to love others and bring glory to Him. In the future, paradise forever with Creator God.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

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Unbelievable Christ

Advent 2013…Christ: Isaiah 9.2-7

Merry Christmas!

As I’ve reflected on our advent series, I’ve been overwhelmed by the gifts of hope, peace, joy and love that the people of God in Isaiah’s day could only look forward to with anticipation as they awaited the coming of their Messiah, but that is available to us in a much fuller sense because Jesus has come. It really is unbelievable.

I shared a tweet this past week, “You are infinitely valuable in God’s eyes. Not only are you His image-bearer, but He also entered time and space to rescue you. That’s love.” Isaiah pictures a time of good news for a group of people who desperately needed it. They were under oppression by the enemy. They were defeated. They were without hope. But God hadn’t forgotten them. Light was coming. God Himself would rend the veil of time and space and come down to the earth He had created in the Person of Jesus. He would rescue them. He would save them from sin and death by sacrificing Himself in their place. He would die that they might live. He would provide the way back to Father God. He would establish a kingdom where they could live and reign with Him forever.

For some of us, it’s a familiar story because we have been rescued. For us, Christmas is a time to celebrate the salvation that Jesus has brought. It’s also a time for us to look forward to the time when He will return and make all things right.

But for others, it’s a new story. Maybe you are feeling lost and alone. Jesus wants to rescue you. Maybe you are feeling beat down by the world. Jesus wants to rescue you. Maybe you feel helpless and hopeless. Jesus wants to rescue you. And the good news is…He not only wants to rescue you, but He has the power to rescue you…and He is the only One who can.

The world offers a lot of counterfeits, but only Jesus can satisfy the longing of your soul. And without Him, the people are truly in a land of darkness longing for the appearance of The Great Light. The only hope that the world can offer is as unsure as a smoldering wick…the only peace is as fragile as a flickering flame…the only joy as momentary as a desert rain…the only love as fickle as the seasons that change.

But Christ has come! And so we have the unbelievable hope that we have the confident anticipation that what He has promised…real life with Him in His kingdom…can be experienced both now and in the future. We have unbelievable peace, a true lasting peace, the peace of the kingdom…peace with God and man, that allows us to experience a settled well-being even in a chaotic world. We have the unbelievable joy of knowing that we have been rescued…have been brought from death to life. And we have an unbelievable love…a love based not on our efforts or our just deserts, but a love based in a God who continually pursues us, who entered time and space to rescue us, so that we might be brought from death to life.

Jesus is the unbelievable Christ.  He came to give all of this now and promise it for eternity.  Our Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love in Him will never end.

Until next time…stay salty.

To hear an mp3 of this sermon, visit us at: http://www.centralchristian.org. Follow us on twitter: @mattdumas1969.

Unbelievable Peace

Advent 2013…Peace: Isaiah 40.1-11

As I reflected on this passage, the season of peace is one of the most stressful times of the year for most of us. Gifts to be bought, family to entertain, parties to be attended, too much food to be eaten, painful memories to be relived… we, like the exiled Jews, feel beat down, abused, worn out. We proclaim a peace that we desperately long to experience for ourselves.

I shared a tweet this past week, “The peace the world offers is a peace of avoidance, a peace of denial, a temporary, fragile peace…don’t you long for something more?” It reminds me of what Hezekiah said when Isaiah revealed that the Babylonians would come and ransack Jerusalem… “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he a thought, “For there will be peace and truth in my days.”

The peace of Hezekiah is too often the only peace we know…fleeting, empty, selfish. We get so distracted by trying to maintain our own peace now.  If I can make it through the holidays, If I can make it to payday, I can retire when…, if I can get my kids through college,  if I can keep my spouse happy.  A peace like Hezekiah’s – “at least I’ll know peace”. The only problem is, maintaining peace is hard work.  If you find yourself always trying to keep the peace, know that you don’t have it.

But the peace that the coming Davidic King would bring is as everlasting/eternal as the word of the LORD, never fading, never failing. Isaiah paints a landscape where all war has ended.  Peace has been established.  And that is true, our peace has come.  Our peace is here – here and now, in this moment, today. And our peace is coming, advancing every moment, we are anticipating our bridegroom. And again, to be clear, Jesus is the Davidic King who came to bring that peace. It is the peace of the kingdom…peace with God and peace with our neighbor.

The relationship between peace with God and peace with men parallels the relationship between loving God and loving your neighbor. You can only love people when you are loving God. When you are loving God, you can’t help but love people. We saw that in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said that loving your neighbor as yourself is the law and the prophets. So also, you can only be at peace with people when you are at peace with God. When you are at peace with God, you can’t help but be at peace with people.

Where is our peace today?  As I read these verses, Isaiah seems to offer comfort to the Jewish refugees returning from Babylon by reminding them who they were, or maybe better, whose they were.  They were God’s – the Lords’ – The Lord God’s – Zion – Jerusalem.  When people under Babylonian captivity, in the distant future, would read these words, they would recall whose they were.  The present realities of suffering could not be ignored, but neither could the fact that they were God’s chosen people whom He loved, whom He had made a covenant with.  I think that is our comfort.  We are His.  He chose us, died for us, lives for us.  Paul prayed that his readers might know peace by understanding the depths of God’s love for them.

This story challenges us to pursue true peace…the peace of the kingdom. Knowing that we have peace with God frees us up to pursue peace with others. And as we learn to live more and more fully in God’s perfect peace, then we experience more and more fully peace with others.

My prayer for us this week is that we might more fully realize Unbelievable Peace because we have an Unbelievable Savior.

Until next time…stay salty.

Unbelievable Hope

1st Sunday of Advent. Isaiah 11.1-10.

As I reflected on the passage this week, I thought about how often Israel placed their hope in things other than the LORD. Even though they had seen Him do clearly miraculous things like the ten plagues and parting the sea, of leading them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, of providing manna in the wilderness, of conquering enemies more numerous and powerful than them…yet they continually looked to other gods or other kings or to themselves. Running their own universes was leading them to epic failure. That’s what made guys like Abraham, Moses and David so great…their hope was clearly in the LORD, and they trusted Him to deliver them. They knew that only He could save and that only He could bring about all that He had promised concerning them, Israel and the nations.

And Jesus is the hoped for Davidic King who can bring in the true kingdom. Not an earthly kingdom that is destined to crumble and fade away, but an everlasting heavenly kingdom that encompasses both heaven and earth. He is the One who will restore not only Israel, but all of creation. He is the One who provides life…true life that is eternal and reflects perfectly the Creator. He is the One who brings reconciliation so that we can be adopted into God’s family, that we can sons and daughters of the King.

I shared a tweet last week, “Our hope is resurrection…for that all creation awaits.” Israel does not have a corner on the market of hoping in things that only bring disappointment. We, who have seen God work miracles in our own lives, of rescuing us from the kingdom of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…we too tend to hope in the things of this world that cannot bring about the desired effect. Our confidence is in our own abilities to make things happen, to provide for ourselves…

As I thought about my own life, I realized how often I set my hope on people or events that only disappoint. I’m too busy trying to create the perfect life here, refusing to admit that the world in its current state is destined for destruction. This world and the things of it are doomed to disappear…yet I sometimes find myself clinging to it as if my life depended on it. I forget that my hope is resurrection…it’s the kingdom life that is available now and lasts into eternity. It’s true peace, joy and love. Not the counterfeit version that this world can only offer. I am a sojourner here.

There is (or should be) a difference between the way the world hopes and the way a believer does. The hope the world is always uncertain, flaky and always ultimately disappoints. For the things hoped for in this present world are doomed to fade away. But the believers hope is a confident anticipation based on the sure promises of God. It does not disappoint.

What about you? What are you hoping in? Who are you hoping in? Is your confidence in people or things that are destined to disappoint? Are you so busy building an earthly kingdom that you have forgotten that as a believer this world, in its present state, is not your home?

My prayer for us this advent season is that we would discover anew our unbelievable Savior so that we might know an unbelievable hope.

Until next time…stay salty.

To hear an mp3 of this sermon, visit us at: http://www.centralchristian.org. You can also follow us on twitter: @mattdumas1969.