Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sermon Dec.31, 2013 New Years Eve

Title: Christ has conquered death so that you are conquerors!
Text: Romans 8:31-39

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“This past year, this year of years, how shall it tell upon my whole life! All has gone well in a worldly point of view, how is it in a spiritual? My God how? I fear I have lost ground. I fear I have had less of the spirit of piety this year than during the last; yet God’s goodness has been given more than usually to me this year. How ungrateful! What a poor return!

One year ago I had myself under a tolerable discipline [and yet] the many secret determinations to pursue a straightforward course of industry, diligence, virtue … how few of them have I kept. I am almost weary of making resolutions and feel more like giving myself to circumstances.”

Those words written on December 31, 1843 are an excerpted from the book Forgotten Valor – the Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox.

Robert Scott Editor

While General Willcox’s sentiments still sound very contemporary for a journal entry written 170 years ago; the tone seems to reflect the wisdom of a veteran of many New Year’s Eves rather than the 20 year old officer fresh out of West Pointe, that Willcox was at the time of the writing. His thoughts and his concerns mirror ours as we enter a New Year, with new resolutions and new uncertainty in the times we live.

Christ has conquered death so that you are conquerors!

The Roman’s text chosen for the sermon text today speaks of trial and comfort. The believers in Rome were being persecuted for their faith and the Apostle Paul offers assurance to them that no matter the trial whether, tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Rom. 8:35) that they and we can be certain that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8-28)

The world, our sinful flesh and the Devil continued to bring these believers in Rome to doubt that their salvation was secure. Paul comforts them with the assurance that no matter whether trial, persecution in this life or even death … that God has redeemed them and bought them with the precious blood of His only begotten Son and that they cannot be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:39)

Christ has conquered death so that you are conquerors!

How do you feel about New Years Eve? Do you look at it with joy for what lies ahead or are you glad to see all that baggage from last year left behind. I, probably like some, see a little of both. It was a joyful year as I began ministry here at Peace as pastor, looking forward to our 50th anniversary, confirmation, and retirement parties for Pastor Merrell and Jan Gallipo. I also looked forward to my son’s graduation from college though I didn’t really look with joy to moving him out of his college apartment or moving my daughter out of one apartment into another but at times new things can be fun.

With the passing of Monica’s mom and my dad, as well as many old and dear friends here at peace, the sadness as we all said our final goodbyes to these loved ones and friends could cause us to reflect that this last year is good to be rid of.

Paul asks:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

General Willcox looks optimistically at the new Year when he continues:

“Oh how can I but feel that God has been with me! How can I but determine again and; again that I will begin the New Year with a renewed heart, and lead a new and better life. But how weak am I, how incapable of carrying out such plans! Help, oh Thou who hast hitherto sustained me, that I may make a good improvement of the New Year. Not by living entirely to myself, but by preparing both mind & body for serving Thee as circumstances require.”

The truth is that resolutions we make are resolutions we break. It seems that no matter how many or how few we are guaranteed to fall short. So as well with our spiritual life as the Law of God is concerned; our ability is unable to keep the Law and our sinfulness continues to point to that reality. And too, just like you, I will fall short of the mark I set for myself with this past year and the one to come, this ministry and this church. But, blessed are you and blessed am I in the joy we share because:

Christ has conquered death so that you are conquerors!

Just prior to the text for today there is a very important passage:

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:29-30)

God foreknew – or knew beforehand - these believers in Rome before the foundations of the world. He predestined – which is to determine or decree – that they would bear the image of His son; that they would be covered by the righteous, royal robes of the God/man Himself, Jesus Christ. He called them by name to believe the Good News of the Gospel and He justified them through saving faith in the blessed Gospel that they too, like the Son, would be glorified, forgiven in Christ and would be with Him forever in heaven.

You have that same joy and that same blessing because you have the same faith and God who has made you His own. He has called you by the gospel to believe and has given you faith to trust in the promos of salvation and the forgiveness of sins in Him.

Because of Christ you have conquered death!

And because of Christ you are conquerors!

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

Amen


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