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.

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Unbelievable Love

Advent 2013…Love: Psalm 89.1-4, 19-29

As I reflected on this passage, I was struck by the picture that the Bible paints of God’s amazing love…a love that truly does transcend both time and space, a love that is enduring. It is the perfect love of the Father. A love that pursues, a love that sacrifices, the Creator-of-the-Universe-enters-time-and-space-to-rescue-you kind of love.

I shared a tweet this past week, “My experience of God’s love is in direct proportion to my perception of my need for His love/mercy. He who has been forgiven much loves much.” Do you believe that God loves you? I think there are a few things that keep us from believing and/or experiencing the love that God has for us. The tweet hits on one of them. If I don’t recognize my desperate need to be rescued…to be brought from life to death, from captivity to sin to the freedom of the cross, from being an enemy of God to being His beloved child…then I’m not going to think a lot of His love. If my life is working out just fine without Him, then why do I need Him? Ask Norman.

The second thing that I think keeps us from experiencing the love that God has for us is the overwhelming circumstances that we often find ourselves in. How can you say God loves me if… you fill in the blank with your life’s tragedy. The psalmist asks the question when he sees the scepter hit the dust and the king hauled off to Egypt. Another way the question is asked is, “How can a loving God allow…” Question of evil in the world that goes all the way back to the garden when we chose to rebel against our Creator. Because the reality is, how can a loving God allow the rebellion that deeply marks our lives?

But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God fulfills the promise He made to David by sending His own Son to intersect time and space…the eternal Son of God enters the world He created as a baby in a manager. He walks among us and lives a perfect life. He dies an undeserved, bloody, horrible death, but is raised again the third day and ascended to the Father. God steps in in the Person of Jesus to do what we could not do ourselves…provide the way back to our heavenly Father.

The third thing…we don’t think that God could possibly love us.  We’ve messed up too badly, sinned too much for too long. How could God love me? is the question that echoes in our ears…lies of the enemy as old as the garden questioning God’s perfect love. But He does love you and has proved it over and over…the most poignant example is sending His own Son to provide the way back. Ask Sydney.

What’s keeping you from experiencing God’s love for you this Christmas season? Is it a low view of your sin? Is it your ignorance of your need? Is it tragedy that has struck? Is it fear that you are beyond His reach? God’s eternal enduring loyal love lasts forever. No beginning. No end. And it was proved in the most unbelievable way when He sent His only son to die so that the object of His love might be redeemed and restored to eternal fellowship. He did what He did because we matter…you matter… He is a God who pursues. He’s been pursuing us since the garden.

I’m amazed as I think about how Jesus’ existence confirms that we are loved by a God we cannot adequately love in return.  I don’t experience God’s love because I make His love about me.  But His love has everything do with Him.  God loves me.  Jesus loves me.  That is truly an unbelievable love.

This story challenges us to bask in the love of the LORD, the amazing, beautiful, undeserved love of the Father, and to delight in His Son, Jesus, who has provided the way for us to know, not just know about, but to really know the love of the Father.

My prayer for us this week is that we might more fully realize Unbelievable Love because of our Unbelievable Savior.

Until next time…stay salty.

To hear an mp3 of this sermon, visit us at: http://www.centralchristian.org. Follow us on twitter: @mattdumas1969. Read more about Sydney and Norman in Phil Vischer’s Sydney and Norman: A Tale of Two Pigs.

Unbelievable Joy

Advent 2013…Joy: Isaiah 35.1-10

As I reflected this passage, I was struck by this overwhelming picture of great joy that Isaiah paints for us. It’s a joy that in many ways is incomprehensible where all of creation can’t help but shout over the salvation that the LORD brings. Nothing on earth can compare…sporting event, concert, celebration of any kind…all pale in comparison.

I shared a tweet this past week, “The pursuit of happiness is a far cry from the everlasting joy of the kingdom…only the latter truly satisfies the longing of our souls.” As the guys and I talked about the sermon, the question was asked, “What’s the difference between happiness and joy?” Great question. Happiness has a lot to do with circumstances. It tends to be more momentary, more fleeting. It’s rooted in the physical. That’s why the pursuit of happiness is a vain pursuit…it never lasts and is always fleeting. It tends to focus on self…building my own earthly kingdom.

But joy, the joy that Isaiah talks about, true kingdom-joy, like kingdom-peace, goes down to the soul. It is lasting and mostly independent, but not totally separate from current circumstances. Positive circumstances may cause you to reflect on that joy (return of exiles to Zion, believer being baptized, unbeliever finally trusting in Christ), but the presence of that joy can be felt and experienced even in the midst of suffering (very negative circumstance).

Where does that joy come from? What causes creation to rejoice with joyful shouting? The movement from death to life. What causes those returning to Zion on the Highway of Holiness, the redeemed and ransomed, to rejoice with everlasting joy? Again, the movement from death to life.

And I think the experience of our joy is tied to our experience of the kingdom. The Israelites in Isaiah’s prophecy rejoice greatly because they have come from death to life, from captivity to freedom, from darkness and despair to hope and light. Our experience of joy is tied to the degree to which we see the gospel as good news. When we think less of our sin, grace really isn’t that big a deal, but when we see the enormity of our transgression against God, then grace is an occasion of great joy, joy that allows us to rejoice in suffering, that gives us that deep settledness that all is well with my soul. It’s the joy of Jesus…a joy that is independent of circumstance.

This story challenges us to pursue true joy…the joy of the kingdom, the joy that comes from knowing that we have been rescued by the King. And as we learn to recognize more and more fully God’s saving grace and the reality of His kingdom, then we experience more and more fully joy even in the midst of the trials, pain and suffering of this life.

My prayer for us this week is that we might more fully realize Unbelievable Joy because of our Unbelievable Savior.

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.

Unexpected Rescue

Mark 5.1-20 has become one of my favorite passages. It’s the story of Jesus’ healing of the Gerasene demoniac. As I thought about the passage, I wondered why it was so important for Mark. All three of the Synoptic Gospels include the story of the demoniac, but Mark, whose narrative tends to be the most terse spends more space than either Matthew or Luke on this account. Mark found something extremely valuable in this tale. Something in it captured Jesus’ ministry for him.

Having just calmed a violent storm at sea, Jesus meets a man with an equally violent storm raging within him. In both cases Jesus is able to squash the chaos with a word. It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Mark is showcasing Jesus’ power or authority over both the natural and supernatural worlds. And it does that, but I think Mark is driving us to something even more powerful…Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea, faces down the forces of hell and is willing to sacrifice 2,000 pigs for one man! Did you get that? Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea, faces down the forces of hell and is willing to sacrifice 2,000 pigs for one man! And having rescued him, He sends him on mission to share his story – of “how much the Lord had done for him and how he had mercy on him.” Now that’s incredible!

So how do we relate to someone like the demoniac?

The message of this story hits us at multiple levels: It is a message for those who, like the demoniac, find themselves lost and as far from God as they can possibly imagine. Think about it. What hope does the demoniac have. He’s a Gentile in the Gentile Decapolis, living among the tombs, with a legion of demons holding sway over his soul. What hope does he have? None. And then he hears a voice…faintly at first and then it becomes stronger and he has his first encounter with Jesus who rescues him and sends the demons away. An incredible story of rescue and of God’s mercy. Some of us are longing to hear Jesus’ voice and to be rescued by Him. We want desperately that story of rescue.

It’s also a message those who have been rescued by Jesus, but now are in need of hope in a time of trial or torment. You’ve trusted in Him, but somewhere along the way you’ve forgotten how he’s rescued you and doubt whether He can today. We need to be reminded of what Jesus did for the demoniac, and realize He’s gone to equally great lengths for us. We were not all as bad as the demoniac, but we were all as bad off as he was. Jesus had to snatch us out of the horrors of hell just as much as He had to for the former demoniac.

But I also believe that Mark includes this story for a third group.

The townsfolk in Mark’s story are unbelievers…but is there a rebuke there for us when we fail to see people because of their problems? When we tend to hide folks away or marginalize them because we no longer see the person, but the problem?

Jesus is still on a rescue mission, pulling folks out of the fires of hell.

My prayer for us this week is that we would be a part of Jesus’ rescue party, reaching out to our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, etc. with our own story of rescue and the gospel.

Until next time…stay salty.

Check out the sermon at: http://www.centralchristian.org