Roger's Postings

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Romans 16:25-27. To God be the glory forever 21/12/08

{25) Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, {26} but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him-- {27} to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

As my ministry here at Redeemer draws to a close this reading here focuses us again on that which is truly important for us all as we continue on in life; wherever that might be. At the same time as we approach Christmas the same message is ever there and ever so critical: To God be the glory great things he has done. To God through Jesus Christ we alone find the hope and salvation that we need.

Christmas is much more than a shallow, sentimental, feel good event that enables us to escape the realities of life for a few short days , only to leave us even more alone and despondent at the end. Sadly throughout life today we are encouraged to focus so much on that which is froth and bubble; glitter and tinsel; toys and ego builders; to the extent that we think very little about the deep and important things of life. We are encouraged to focus on and follow our own heart and our feelings, to the extent that we are in danger of becoming egotistical, self- righteous, spoilt brats who are unable to contribute to the well-being of society; far less the spiritual side of life.

It is me and what I have to offer that is alone what is important in life. Running a close second it is the almighty dollar and our spending it on the pleasures of life that makes the world go round. On top of that, there are no moral and spiritual absolutes on which we can and are encouraged to build our lives. All this is leaving us in a position in which we are extremely vulnerable to a complete breakdown of society and the individual’s well-being. We are making for a lonely, depleted, ‘every man for himself’ society which will not be able to survive. In fact it will in the end destroy itself. Sadly, we all, to a greater or lesser degree are caught in it and foster this sad state of affairs. The devil is having a field day.

Our eyes and hearts are focussed, and encouraged to be focussed on self and the pleasurable things of life to the extent that we no longer seem to know or even care about that which truly makes for life. As a result we are drowning in the quicksand of meaninglessness, loneliness and an innate sense of ‘there is no point to it all’. With a wrong focus we are in dire straits.

This is just as big a threat to this congregation as it is to our society. If we think of our life here at Redeemer over recent years, we see those same dangers at work. Regular worship and attendance at Bible study is not seen as critical as what God’s Word indicates it should be. Our worship is constantly under the threat of shifting the focus from what God does for us, to what we do that makes worship meaningful and good. Also with regard to the teachings and the practices of the church, the threat is ever present to change to suit the whims of human beings rather than stay with God and his Word. In our relationships with one another our self-righteousness and desire to have our own way, is ever seeking to undermine the unity, love and forgiveness that we have in Christ. Unless we are ever vigilant we too will succumb the pressures of a wayward, sinful world.

So the encouragement and challenge that we have here once again is of vital importance to us all as we go forward in life. The message of Christmas also, as we look behind the tinsel and toys we see God come to us in Jesus Christ to give us that which we cannot find anywhere else: we find that which alone can and does give us what we need in order to live and be the people that can stand in the face of a sinful, fallen world with confidence and hope.

Sure, we too will still suffer as this misguided world fumbles and bumbles it way to its own destruction. But unless we lift our eyes and look beyond the shallow egotistical pleasures that our world presents, we too will have a real sense of emptiness, futility and eternal failure, rather than the peace, joy and hope that comes through Jesus Christ and all that he won for us through his death on the cross and his resurrection. With God alone we have that which gives us a completely different focus and attitude to life and what is important.

So again we are, and we continually need to be, drawn back to the basics. Now I am well aware that this is an accusation that is held against my preaching, however, without a strong understanding and undergirding of the basics everything else comes unstuck, as we can see as we look around us. On the other hand with a solid foundation in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross we very easily find our way into dealing with all the other issues that we long to hear about. The problem is that all too often when we want to hear about the ‘how to’ we have already shifted our focus from Christ to us and our own self-righteousness. We need to hear and seek to hear the basics over and over again, lest we be lead astray. That is a constant cry of the Scriptures themselves.

Now it is also challenging for us to hear in this reading that if we are to be established in life: in other words to have that which enables us to be settled, secure and satisfied, we need to look beyond ourselves to God. It is he alone, through the simple preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is able to establish us. As we hear that message of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection we know that God loves us and has come to our aid despite our waywardness and rebellion. So we can be absolutely sure that salvation and eternal life has been won for us.

This importance and centrality of Jesus Christ and the salvation that is to be had in and with him is we are told here in this reading according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God. In other words, God has always known what he is doing. None of this is by chance. He knew that we would sin and he already before the creation of the world had it planned that at the right time he would send his very own son into our world to do what was necessary for our salvation. All along he promised his people that this would be the case. The Bible again and again foretold this; and records how the people of old trusted that God was true to his word and so were able to live in the full assurance of their salvation and sought to be obedient to his word. Throughout history people from all nations believed and obeyed him. Of course many didn’t and we are also told of the destruction that was there for them.

Now we here also have his sure promise that he is with us as we go through life. Again he gives us this assurance week after week as we are reminded that we are baptised into God’s family. In the Lord’s Supper we receive Jesus’ very body and blood in Holy Communion so that we can be sure of his forgiveness and presence with us as we go about our daily lives.

Yes he tells us that because we still live in a sinful world we will daily have to take up our crosses in order to follow him. His presence will not mean that we will be healthy, wealthy and outwardly happy, as some would suggest; but in many cases the opposite, in order that he will be able to use us to witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ to those around about us. We are, in him, enabled to love and serve those around us, because we know that he is with us and the he already has won eternal life for us.

So again and again we are reminded and reassured that God is in control: That we can and need to always look to him and trust in all that he has told us and done for us. The more we see our world around straying from this central focus, the more we need be strong and even more focussed on him and all that he has done for us. Encourage and strengthen one another with this healthy focus, so that he can continue to establish you in the face of the destruction that befalls the world around us. Throughout you days remember: To God be the glory great things he has done. To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Pastor Roger Atze
Redeemer Lutheran Church


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