Church Discipline: Suspension

February 18, 2018 in Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Sin

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 (NKJV)
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Several weeks ago we spoke of the biblical rationale for practicing church discipline. In our text today, Paul commands the Thessalonian church to implement the first stage of that public discipline, a stage we commonly refer to as Suspension from the Lord’s Supper.

Paul begins with an exhortation to the congregation at large, “brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” Paul’s command presumes that it is a temptation to grow weary in doing good – after all, we don’t warn against things that aren’t threats. The temptations of the Evil One, combined with the allurements of the world and the sinful desires of our own hearts, often make the task of doing good challenging. So Paul commands us never to grow weary.

Paul then commands the Thessalonians to practice a particular good – to take seriously disobedience to God within the congregation. Paul knows that if a congregation permits blatant sin to go unchecked, then that sin will spread. As Paul says elsewhere, a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough (1 Cor 5:6). So Paul writes, “if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Paul’s command involves two parts – first, the Thessalonians are to note – that is, mark, point out, or publicly identify – that person. Second, they are to refuse to keep company with him – that is, they are to suspend normal fellowship with that person, including sharing in the Lord’s Supper. Why? Note Paul’s words: “that he may be ashamed.” In other words, the purpose of the discipline is to awaken the sinner to the seriousness of his sin. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 20:30, “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.”

It is in keeping with Paul’s words here and elsewhere (1 Cor 5:4) that the elders announce the Suspension of ——– from fellowship in the Lord’s Supper. Despite private counsel and warnings for the last year and more, ——– has hardened his heart in opposition to the wife of his youth, has ceased marital counseling, and has declared his intention to seek a divorce, something that God hates (Mal 2:16). Because ——– has failed to give heed to our private exhortations, we are now announcing this to the church, praying that God will use this to convict and restore him to his family and to the church.

In so announcing, we would remind you of Paul’s exhortation, “do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” Your duty is to pray for and, as occasion permits, admonish ——– as a professing Christian to repent of his sinful conduct and to strive for reconciliation with his wife and with this body. And remember that you are to do this in a spirit of gentleness, taking care lest you also be tempted (cf. Gal 6:1-5). So how might you be tempted at this time?

  • Pride – Imagining that you are above such sins and morally superior to ——–. Such is not the case. Were it not for the grace of God, we would all be in like circumstances. So please pray for ——–, asking God to show him mercy.
  • Gossip – Using this as an opportunity to speak uncharitably about ——– or about his wife and children rather than as an opportunity to pray for him and them, expressing a longing for his restoration and love and affection for those he is hurting by his sin.
  • Slander – Making or entertaining false accusations against the elders, accusing them of heavy-handedness or insensitivity in disciplining him.
  • Flattery – In conversations with ——–, permitting him to blame others for his plight rather than urging him to take responsibility for it. We should want him to deal with his sin in a godly fashion – by confessing it to the Lord and forsaking it (2 Cor 7:8-12).

All this reminds us of our susceptibility to sin and our need of God’s grace and mercy; reminds us of our need to humble our hearts regularly and to confess our sins to the Lord. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and, as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: With Teaching

September 24, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Hebrews, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Preaching, Word of God

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Today we close our series of meditations on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” We consider the last of Paul’s admonitions when he writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” What does Paul mean when he urges Timothy to continue in his work “with teaching”?

Paul’s words remind Timothy that when people enter into the Christian faith, they enter as infants in need of teaching and instruction. We do not enter the Christian faith as mature adults; the Spirit does not magically fill our head with doctrinal truth; rather, teaching is necessary; discipleship is the need of the hour, every hour; for this cause, Christ has appointed teachers in the Church to build up the people of God, instruct them in the Scriptures, and protect them from lies that parade as the truth.

Because of this necessity of teaching, the church has historically insisted that ministers of the Gospel be well-trained prior to entering into ministry. Paul writes, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). This was the pattern. Paul taught Timothy; Timothy was to teach other faithful men; those other faithful men were to teach others. In this way, the work of God would be multiplied and the people of God built up in the knowledge of Christ.

This emphasis on teaching helps us to put Paul’s warnings about knowledge elsewhere in their proper context. For instance, Paul writes to the Corinthians that “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor 8:1). While some have erroneously inferred from Paul’s words that learning doctrine is dangerous at worst or superfluous at best, it is clear that Paul is warning us of the danger of severing knowledge and humility. A true knowledge of God leads to a profound sense of one’s own insignificance and of the magnitude of God’s grace. Teaching is not the problem; learning is not the problem; pride is.

How do we know? Because Paul insists that teaching is necessary. Ministers of the Gospel are to commit themselves to the task of teaching the people of God.

If ministers of the Gospel are to teach the Word of God, then what are Christians to do? Learn the Word of God. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God…” (5:12). Paul is disappointed in these folks because they had failed to learn what Paul and their elders had striven to teach them. They did not give heed to the teaching.

So what of you? Are you taking seriously Jesus’ call to discipleship, Jesus’ call to become a learner? Do you know your Bible? Do you know basic Christian doctrine? Can you defend the Trinity? Can you articulate what it means to be reconciled to God? If not, then learn.

Reminded this morning that ministers of the Gospel are called to teach God’s people and that all God’s people are called upon to learn, let us acknowledge that we have often neglected our duty. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: With all Longsuffering

September 17, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Church History, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Meditations, Preaching, Truth, Word of God

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

For the last several weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” A few weeks ago, we began looking at the series of imperatives that Paul gives to explain his charge. Paul writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Today we consider Paul’s admonition to continue in this effort “with all longsuffering.”

The Greek word translated “longsuffering” can mean patience, fortitude, or forbearance. Paul wants Timothy to continue preaching without growing weary or being dissuaded. He is to stick to the task, be faithful to his calling, whether folks desire to listen to him or not. Paul warns Timothy in the next couple verses (4:3-4):
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Timothy must persevere, he must be patient, for he will face opposition. People will – in this great phrase – heap up for themselves teachers who tell them what they want to hear, who soothe their consciences and who turn away from the truth to fables. But, ultimately, Paul wants Timothy to remember, the truth will prevail and so Timothy must persist in His calling.

It was this firm confidence that buoyed John Wyclif during the 14th century in England. Facing much opposition and criticism for his critique of the pope, his emphasis on the authority of Scripture, and his proclamation of the grace of God, Wyclif persevered, he taught with much longsuffering. What gave him confidence? “Magna est veritas,” he wrote, “et praevalebit.” Great is the truth and it shall prevail.

The reason Wyclif had such confidence in the power of the truth to overcome all obstacles is because God had promised that His Servant, our Lord Jesus, would not fail, in the prophet Isaiah’s words, to “bring forth justice to the Gentiles” (42:1d). This Servant, continues Isaiah, “will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law” (42:4). Jesus will so labor that the truth become fully manifest. So the Apostle Paul assures us that Jesus “must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:25-26). Great is the truth and it shall prevail – or, perhaps better, He shall prevail.

This same patience demanded of preachers of the Gospel is to be practiced by the hearers of the Gospel as well. Paul reminds us that “faith comes from hearing” (Rom 10:17) and asks, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” But sometimes the preacher is unclear; sometimes we have had a rough evening the night before; sometimes the ambient noise is annoying; sometimes the preacher’s mannerisms are distracting; sometimes his voice is too quiet; sometimes his appearance is off-putting. What is your calling then? It is to listen to the Word preached with all longsuffering – to listen for the voice of Your Master, Jesus, in the voice of the preacher and to apply the truth, as best as you are able, to your own life.

And so reminded that we are to pursue patience and persistence in the preaching and hearing of the truth, must we not acknowledge that we often give up too soon, we often boil over in frustration, we often permit ourselves to grow distracted, we often lack patience? Let us, therefore, confess our impatience to the Lord; and, as we are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: Convince!

August 20, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Titus, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

What exactly does it mean that Timothy is, in Paul’s words, to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season”? Thankfully, Paul gave Timothy some guidance and direction, guidance and direction that can help ministers of the Gospel today understand their task. Paul continues, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” So let us consider each of these commands, beginning today with what it means to “convince.”

The Greek word behind “convince” is elencho and means “to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance” (TDNT). The ESV translates it as “reprove” in this case and that captures the sense. Paul uses the word elsewhere in the pastoral epistles:
· 1 Tim 5:20 – He commands Timothy, “Those [elders] who are sinning [reprove] in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”
· Titus 1:9 – Paul notes that elders are to “be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and [to reprove] those who contradict.”
· Titus 2:15 – Paul commands Titus, “Speak these things, exhort, and [reprove] with all authority. Let no one despise you.”

To reprove, therefore, involves two components. First, the preacher must identify what is erroneous or sinful – he is the “reprove” those who are sinning, to “reprove” those who contradict, and to “reprove” with all authority. Second, the preacher must summon the offender to repentance. “Let no one despise you,” Paul commands, since the preacher is to speak the very words of God to the one sinning.

What this means is that the minister of the Gospel must be prepared to deal with the sins of his people. It is not the job of the preacher to tell smarmy stories that make God’s people feel good about themselves; it is not the minister’s responsibility to make people feel comfortable; his responsibility is to speak the Word of God into the lives of God’s people so that their sins are exposed and they grow in holiness and in the fear and love of God.

If this is the duty of ministers of the Gospel, if ministers are “to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance” then what corresponding duty does this require of those who are reproved? What is your responsibility? Your duty is to listen and to give heed. Your duty is not to harden your neck and resent correction, but to cultivate a spirit that longs for reproof.

So reminded this morning that preaching the Word involves exposing sin and summoning God’s people to repentance, let us acknowledge our sin: preachers often fail to speak clearly about the sin that so easily entangles us and Christians often bristle when our sin is exposed and confronted. Rather than humble ourselves before the Word of God, we are tempted to say, “What will they think of me if I say that?” or “Who do you think you are to confront me?” And so reminded of our sin and that there is only one sacrifice, Jesus the Christ, whose shed blood can cover the guilt of our sin, let us confess our sin, beseeching God’s forgiveness. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word!

August 6, 2017 in Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Preaching, Word of God

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

This morning witnesses the happy confluence of several different streams. First, as you know I am returning to preaching today following my month out of the pulpit in July – and it is good to be back. Second, as you have no doubt noticed, we are blessed to have a new pulpit up front. This is the fruit of much urging and planning and craftsmanship and we are grateful to dedicate it to the Lord’s service. Finally, today happens to be the 10th anniversary of my full-time preaching at Trinity Church. Ten years ago this Sunday I began preaching in Coeur d’Alene. Today’s sermon is around number 435.

So the elders thought it fitting that the exhortation this morning (1) remind us why we place such emphasis on preaching the Word and (2) summon us to a renewed commitment to the Word. So why do we devote such attention to preaching and learning the Word? Quite simply because Paul commands it. Note his exhortation to Timothy: Preach the Word! The imperative here is not a one-time duty but a perpetual obligation; not the, “Pick up that towel!” of your mom who saw your towel on the bathroom floor, but the, “Stand up straight!” of your dad who saw you slouching. Do it now and keep doing it!

Paul commands Timothy, “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season.” Preach the Word in the times of Nehemiah when the people are rejoicing to do the will and work of God – those are the “in season” times. Thankfully, I can report that at Trinity Church we have experienced years of this “in season.” You have joyfully listened to the Word of God and routinely asked for more pointed application of the Word to your specific situations. Praise God!

But Paul called Timothy to preach not only in the times of Nehemiah but in the times of Jeremiah – times when the people are hard-hearted and uninterested in the Word of God. Unfortunately, preaching the Word is “out of season” in our broader culture, even within our broader Christian culture. Rather than receive God’s Word preached in faith, kneeling before Him as our rightful Lord and endeavoring to implement His precepts, we raise our fists and declare that God and His Christ will not reign over us. “You can’t preach that,” we say. So we accumulate to ourselves preachers who tickle our ears rather than challenge our hearts.

And so we pray this morning that this pulpit may ever be used for the faithful preaching of the Word of God. May the Spirit of God so move those who preach behind it with a reverence for God and His Christ, that no syllable be expressed save that which fosters the worship of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May the Word preached from this pulpit soften hardened hearts, comfort afflicted souls, and enlighten darkened minds that the glory of God may be displayed to our entire community. And may this pulpit’s stain fade away, its wood rot, and its seams burst should it become an instrument of advocating falsehood.

Reminded this morning of our calling to preach and to listen to the Word of God with reverence, let us confess that we have often hardened our hearts, closed our ears, and handed our pulpits over to false teachers rather than listen to the voice of the Sovereign Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Why shouldn’t you get rebaptized?

July 31, 2017 in Baptism, Ecclesiology, John Calvin, Quotations, Sacraments, Word of God

There are actually many answers to this question – but consider the following from John Calvin:

“Our opponents ask us what faith we had for many years after our baptism, in order to show that our baptism was in vain, since baptism is not sanctified to us except by the word of promise received in faith. We answer that although we were blind and unbelieving for a long time and did not embrace the promise which had been given us in baptism, yet the promise itself, since it was from God, always remained steady, firm, and true. If all men were false and liars, still God continues to be true; if all men were lost, still Christ remains a Savior. We confess, therefore, that when we totally neglected the promise offered to us in baptism, without which baptism is nothing, we received no benefit at all from baptism… Yet we believe that the promise itself never expired…. By baptism God promises the forgiveness of sins and will certainly fulfill the promise to all believers; that promise was offered to us in baptism; let us, therefore, embrace it by faith.”

In short, Calvin reminds us, baptism is not primarily my word to God, my promise to God, but God’s promise to me. Baptism is a visible word. It invites me, summons me to believe the One who has promised to cleanse my sins through the death and resurrection of Christ. The “solution”, therefore, to someone who has not believed his baptism thus far is not to get baptized but to repent and to believe and receive the promise symbolized in that baptism.

Homily in Remembrance of Tom Madison

July 22, 2017 in Bible - NT - Acts, Bible - NT - John, Cross of Christ, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Faith, Funeral Service, Law and Gospel, Resurrection, Sin

Acts 26:28–29 (NASB95)
28 Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”

The passage that I have quoted today contains Paul’s witness to a Jewish king named Agrippa. Two years prior to this exchange, Paul had been unjustly imprisoned and had remained in Roman custody that entire time, awaiting a trial, awaiting his freedom. At the end of those two years, however, the Roman Governor Festus was prepared to deliver Paul into the hands of his enemies; consequently, Paul used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal for justice to Caesar in Rome; his appeal was granted.

Shortly after he made his appeal, King Agrippa arrived and Festus decided to use Agrippa to help him explain to Caesar why Paul was being sent to Rome. Festus permitted Paul to explain why he was in prison; Paul, as was his custom, used the opportunity to preach about Christ. He wanted to persuade Agrippa to become a Christian. So Paul highlighted the way Jesus had fulfilled all the promises that God had made throughout the Jewish Scriptures – “that the Christ [God’s chosen Ruler of the world] would suffer [and die], that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (26:23). Jesus is proof of God’s intention to reconcile human beings with Himself.

This may seem an unusual passage for a memorial service. But it is fitting for this reason: even as Paul had suffered in prison for about two years, our beloved brother Tom suffered in a prison of sickness these past two years. Tom would not have chosen that trial for himself any more than Paul would have chosen to be imprisoned. Far better to be free, far better to be well, and able to do what he was accustomed to doing.

But Tom knew, even as Paul did, that his Heavenly Father had some purpose for his suffering. Consequently, Tom used his suffering to speak to others about Christ. Tom’s faith was always strong – as the testimonies we have heard illustrate. But these last couple years Tom’s faith was even deeper; his perception of eternal realities clearer; and his understanding of the fragility of life keener. Though Tom suffered much in his sickness, he suffered in faith. When I would meet with Tom to encourage him, I would regularly go away encouraged. For he would remind me of God’s promises, remind me of God’s purposes, and remind me of God’s lovingkindness. Perhaps Tom did the same with you?
I was reminded of Agrippa’s encounter with Paul as I spoke with Connie and the children this week. They told me of a conversation that Tom had with an unbelieving friend in which he spoke of Christ and repeated Paul’s words in our text: I would wish to God…[that you] might become such as I am, except for this cancer. Tom would want all to know the hope of being reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ and having hope even in the face of suffering and death.

So I am here to repeat Tom’s urgent appeal; I am here to remind you of the fragility of life; I am here to tell you that you will die and face your Creator and your Judge; and the only way to look forward to that moment in hope, as Tom did, is if you have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Your sins – your failure to worship your Creator as you ought, your acts of selfishness and spite, your mistreatment of your spouse, your unjust divorce, your anger and bitterness, your lust for money, for sex, for control, for youth – your sins have separated you from God; if you should die and stand before your Creator with those sins between you and Him, you will perish eternally.

But hear the Good News: God has been gracious to you – He has offered clear and irrefutable evidence of His existence and of His determination to reconcile you to Himself. Jesus’ death and resurrection are that proof – proof that God has provided a sacrifice to forgive your sins and reconcile you to Himself and proof that death is no longer a cause of hopelessness for those who believe in Jesus. So I am here to plead with you: be reconciled to God before it is too late. Turn from your sin and turn in faith to Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of Sacred Scripture:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

These words remind us that our condition as sinful human beings is so dire that there is no way to deal with our sin and be reconciled to God other than through Jesus; He is the only sacrifice for sins. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). These are the only two options. Believe in Jesus or face the judgment of God.
.
Despite God’s gracious proof of His existence and His purpose to reconcile us to Himself, many continue to resist Him and refuse to believe in Jesus. The Scriptures say again:
This is the [sober truth], that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God… (John 3:19-21)

So what of you? Are you willing to humble yourself before your Creator? Are you willing to come to the light and have your deeds exposed now? Or will you try to hide and hope that the day of death will not overtake you? Tom’s death illustrates that that hope is vain. It is appointed unto all men to die once and after this to face the judgment. So hear Paul’s wish once again: “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.” Let us pray.

Make your pastor’s labor light!

May 31, 2017 in Ecclesiology, Quotations, Sanctification, Word of God, Worship

“In preaching the word there is some toil, and this Paul declares when he says, ‘Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.’ (1 Tim. v. 17) Yet it is in your power to make this labor light or heavy; for if you reject our words, or if without actually rejecting them you do not show them forth in your works, our toil will be heavy, because we labor uselessly and in vain: while if ye heed them and give proof of it by your works, we shall not even feel the toil, because the fruit produced by our labor will not suffer the greatness of that labor to appear. So that if you would rouse our zeal, and not quench or weaken it, show us, I beseech you, your fruit, that we may behold the fields waving with corn and being supported by hopes of an abundant crop, and reckoning up your riches, may not be slothful in carrying on this good traffic.” 

John Chrysostom, Sermon on John 2:4.

The Ruler of the Kings of the Earth – Easter 2017

April 16, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Easter, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Resurrection
John 20:19–23 (NKJV)
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
For nearly two millennia now our fathers and mothers have been celebrating the feast of Easter – the celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. On this day, the first day of the week, nearly two millennia ago our Lord Jesus rose bodily from the grave to conquer sin and death.
So what is the meaning of the resurrection? Is the resurrection just a nice story about the tenacity of life over death? Is it like the fairy tales of old, a tale that’s obviously not true but meant to teach us some moral lesson? The Scriptures proclaim that neither of those answers is accurate – the meaning of the resurrection is, first of all, historical. Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. It is God’s proof to the world of the reality of His existence and the pledge of His forgiveness. It is then, second, theological. Because Jesus rose from the dead, He has conquered death and now reigns as the Messiah, the Ruler over all the earth. As I said in our greeting this morning – Jesus Christ is “the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
John records the significance of Jesus’ Lordship in his Gospel. In the evening of this day, Jesus appeared to the disicples and pronounced his blessing upon them and commissioned them to be his emissaries to the world. “Peace be to you!” he said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Even as the Father sent Jesus into the world to seek and to save that which was lost, to reconcile us as human beings to Himself, so Jesus has sent the Church into the world with this same mission – He has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation so that we petition others on behalf of Christ, “Be reconciled to God!”
To accomplish this task, our Risen Lord has poured out His Spirit upon us and given us the immense privilege of proclaiming forgiveness in His Name. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” We have the privilege of declaring to all those who put their faith in Christ, “You are forgiven. Jesus really has conquered sin and death. He is our great High Priest who makes reconciles us to God.”
Alongside this joyful task, we have the solemn duty of warning the nations that there is no other way to be reconciled to God. We must come to God through Christ alone. “If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” There is no way to be accepted by God other than through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. All other paths end in judgment.
So listen – where have you placed your confidence for acceptance by God? Jesus is the Risen Lord, the ruler of the kings of the earth. On the last day, we shall all rise from our graves and stand before this King as our judge and give an account of how we have served him. If we remain in rebellion against him, refusing to find in him the one who reconciles us to God, then we shall be judged. So turn from your sin and turn to Christ; rely on Him and Him alone for forgiveness. Only in and through Jesus can we be reconciled to God.

Reminded that we can only be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus, let us kneel and seek His forgiveness in Christ.