Sunday, November 20, 2011
God has not destined you to wrath
1 Thes. 5:1-11 (ESV) Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. Judgment day, That is what today is about. The last Sunday in the church year. It has been known as Christ the King Sunday. The day we celebrate an event that has not yet happened, but an event that we know will happen. Perhaps that is misleading, it doesn’t give full reality to the paradox of now and not yet. For the event has happened, and yet it waits for completion, for the full glory of it to fall, for the day to come like a thief in the night, utter destruction for the world, utter grace and salvation for us who have not been destined for the wrath of God. For we have salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. The text translates it, “obtain salvation through him,” Peripetosin, the Greek word, can mean that or to safe guard and keep, or to possess. My Swedish Bible, often a true translation due to the fact that it uses the language of heaven, translates it to win. However you translate that verb, I think the emphasis needs to be on the “through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that … we might live with him. Judgment day has happened as I said, theologians like to say that Christ’s life on earth, his death on the cross was a proleptic event. That is a fancy way to say, that it was an event that happened before its time so to speak. It was the day of our Lord, in which the world was judged, and an innocent man died as a sacrifice in its stead, in it’s place. Our Lord Jesus Christ took the judgment, so that we would win, obtain, possess salvation through him. That we might live with him because he died for us. Yes he died for us. Phenomenal thing. Dawkins quite recently has made it popular to characterize God, our lord Jesus Christ, as a capricious demoniac, well he doesn’t believe in demons, so a jerk, who demands our obedience, and won’t give us a pass for living a “decent and charitable life” but demands we believe in him before he will give us salvation. I hear this juvenile bile, and delinquent thinking quite often from certain quarters, being parroted by people who think they are quite brilliant. I find it to be quite dumbfounding and ignorant. And I have to laugh a little at the thought of these people trying to argue their case infront of God, claiming that they have lived a decent and charitable life. Not that I think they are any worse than anyone else I know, but neither do I think they are any better. And I think the self-righteousness with which they try to lambast belief in God, has a stench to it. I personally don’t want God to let that stench in to heaven. No bother, God literally can’t stand it, his holiness must consume such sin as fire does paper. We don’t make it in on our own merits, we have none. We have salvation through Christ or we have nothing. But to lambast a God as capricious, who of his own free will climbed into the bed we made and slept in it. To lambast him as capricious for being honest with us and exposing our sin, and then dying for us on the cross anyway that we might have salvation. That doesn’t work. God, Jesus, did that out of love for us. For you. Who else do you know willing to die for his enemies, that they might live with him. And so yes, he demands that we believe in him. Is that such a hard thing? Is it so harsh that we acknowledge him who died for us and rose from the dead to give us life as our Lord? A God who so loves us, so loves you and I, that he forgives our sins, atoning for it with his very own blood? Foolish indeed is the person who does not believe. Foolish indeed like the virgins left out in the cold. Our lord desires not your damnation. I’ll say it again, our Lord desires not your damnation, desires not your destruction, the death of the wicked, and wicked you are. Damnation, destruction, condemnation and hell fire is what you deserve, it’s what I deserve. We are sinners, and we sin profusely, we sin in thought word and deed. I imagine God when he looks at us, sees us a bit like the cross I have around my neck. Most people don’t see it, or they are too polite to say. I made it out of agate, and by all accounts it’s beautiful, but one of the points in the fleur de lis did not come out quite right, there was some junk there on the edge of the slab where it cut. I live with it. I might fix it this next week. But that slight imperfection, reminds me that I am not perfect. God created us perfect. But I am no longer perfect. And you know what that little imperfection on the cross does to me? It drives me nuts, half the time I want to throw it in the trash and start over, with a new slab. But then I like it too much. So it is with us. But we destroyed ourselves, we are not imperfect on behalf of the God who created us, but on behalf of our sin. And God cannot tolerate that imperfection. So he decided to fix us, though it require in a way our destruction, so that we can be then re-created in a new heaven and a new earth. To accomplish this he sent his son, to live the perfect life we should have lived, to die as a sacrifice for us, to rise again to new life, so that now we might die in him and be raised to new life, so that when we die we do not perish but receive eternal life. God clearly does not want your destruction. He is a jealous God, who like a jealous lover goes to great lengths to win his lover back. Some people view jealousy as a character flaw, but then I think most women would like to know that there is at least a tinge of jealousy in their husbands, one can’t really love without jealousy. It is no sign of manhood to be unmoved as one’s wife flirts with another man, and neither should a woman be not jealous of her husband, when he flirts with the waitress. Jealousy can get out of hand, but in itself it is not a bad thing, it is but one aspect of love. And it is God’s love for you, his jealousy for you his creation that has inspired him to go through such great lengths to secure your salvation, your redemption. But his jealousy knows limits, and he won’t sit and beg for your love. He offers you his, he gives you salvation. But if you don’t want it, go on with your juvenile objections, your idiotic attempts at brilliance, as the text for today alludes, be drunk, be stupid. Go to hell, God won’t stop you, if that is what you really want to do, reject his son, reject his cross, reject his salvation. By all means don’t question your own facile attempts at brilliance, don’t investigate the Christian faith to see if it has any answers to your questions, after surviving two thousand years and giving birth to western culture as we know it, including the scientific revolution. But then if hell fire and brimstone does not appeal to you. Be awake, be sober, wait for the day of the lord with joy, because with it comes your salvation. For God has not destined you to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, who forgives our sins.