Here's the rough draft of the sermon today, it was clearer in presentation, but you should be able to get the gist from these notes:
1 That the Hearers Boast in His Love
Gen. 17:1-7, 15-16 God’s fertile covenant… Abram becomes Abraham and Sarai Sarah.
Mark 8:27-38 Jesus asked his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” “John the Baptist… Elijah… one of the prophets.” “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things… killed and raised again after three days… he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’ …
‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father…
Romans 5:1-11 Justified by faith, have peace with God through Jesus and access into his grace through faith… Here we stand. We boast/rejoice in the hope of the glory of God… even more we boast/rejoice in our sufferings knowing… suffering produces endurance, endurance character, character hope, and hope does not put us to shame.
Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Even while we were weak, Christ died for the ungodly… For one will scarcely die for a righteous person, maybe for a good person but never an evil sinner… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We have now been justified by his blood… saved from the wrath of God… If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life… we boast/rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have been reconciled.
(following, one man then sin for all)
+ Grace, mercy, and peace to you from
God the Father and Jesus Christ,
His Son, our Lord. Amen.
All these words, hear them with your ears. But, hold them in your hearts.
“Lord, I need you.” That is the beginning of our epistle today. Paul had begun his letter to Rome, the metropolis of the time, declaring that he is not ashamed of the gospel. He is obliged to share it to both Greek and barbarian; both the foolish and the wise; the Jew and the Gentile; white collar and blue collar; policeman and criminal; homeless and movie star. The fact is that “the righteous shall live by faith.” But, he knows that we are not righteous. And, it is only by this faith that we can be made right again. We need Jesus Christ to be saved, he is “our one defense… our righteousness.”
But, Paul wasn’t always this way. Do you remember the first time he is mentioned in the Bible? It’s in the book of Acts, the second book the historian, Luke, wrote after the Gospel of Luke. After Pentecost and the Holy Spirit is spread into the hearts of thousands of people, one of those people who had been chosen to serve the Church stands alone. He was full of grace and power… doing great wonders and signs among the people… He spoke to the leaders of the synagogue and they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking…
This bothered them. They did not know what to do, so they called him a heretic. They claimed that he spoke against the patriarchs of Israel and against God Himself. This was enough to seize him and bring him before the elder, the scribes, and all of the people. The brought in a council of fake witnesses. But, even as they spoke against him and slandered his name, as they turned to look at him they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
The high priest asked him what he had to say for himself and the servant of the Church told the Israelites their own story. It was a story of a people whose ancestors had witnessed the glory of God. It was the story of a people who suffered. But, in this suffering, they were given the law. They turned the law into their god. They made a building for their Lord, but in the end worshipped the hands who had built the structure more than the hands who had formed them in their mother’s womb. They put God in a box rather than letting him live in their hearts. They circumcised their flesh, they did everything perfectly on the outside, but their insides were hardened. They had killed all of the prophets who had risen to help them. But, they couldn’t even complete the law they worshipped.
As you can imagine, this enraged all those who heard it. The elders, the scribes, the people around the Stephen ground their teeth. But, he did not look at them. He looked into heaven. He saw Jesus. He did not see Jesus sitting on the sidelines, but standing at the right hand of God. He was not a spectator but the only defense that Stephen had against his accusers. Jesus was his righteousness, the only one who made him right with God. You can almost picture Stephen saying, “My one defense, my righteousness, Lord, I need you.” But, his last thoughts were not of himself. They were of his accusers, the martyr cried, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
I can almost see him looking up in one last glance, just out of the corner of his eye, to see the young man named Saul who was holding the garments for those who threw stones at the man who appeared to them as defenseless. God would later change Saul’s name to Paul. And, Paul would be charged with the task of reminding the Church that by faith in Jesus Christ we have peace with God (not let us have peace), we can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Now, this phrase is a little hard to understand to us. When you think of “rejoice,” cheerful little smiley faces fill your head. A fake cheesy face makes a pose. Maybe someone even jumps for joy. But, the word here is the same as “boast.” Now, doesn’t that paint a different picture? “By faith in Jesus Christ, we can boast…” Now, instead of a pretend grin, a guttural shout rises to our lips. There is a pride, a confidence that arises within us. “We boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
This “glory of God” could also use some explaining, the “glory of God” is his presence. In all those scenes of Revelation, those who surround God are in his “glory.” On the mount of Transfiguration, the glory of the Lord is upon Jesus Christ. To be in His company is to stand in His glory. This is what we hope for. This is the hope that faith in Jesus Christ gives us. This is the hope we boast about.
We can even boast in our sufferings. That is what Stephen did. Although he was persecuted, he was proclaiming what God has done. He retained his faith and he saw Jesus standing in the glory of God, at His right side. He was also given the solid hope to stand there one day. This way-of-living, this worldview, effects everything else. We can even boast while we’re suffering. We know that this suffering is giving us the endurance we need to keep on boasting in our God. This endurance gives us the character we need to live in Him. This character clings onto the hope with which we had begun. Hope leads to hope.
This is why Saul became Paul, the faith in Jesus Christ which gave him the hope of the glory of God changed him. Jesus became his defense and his righteousness. This was the same in the Old Testament lesson, Abram was transformed into Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, not because of what they had done, not even because of the suffering they went through, but because of their hope in God’s promise. This hope does not put us to shame.
It would be easy to make this into a process of itself… to glorify suffering itself… to look for suffering in order to produce endurance… character… hope… But, the suffering is nothing apart from faith.
The opposite may also be thought of, does this mean that we do not need to suffer? Maybe we can skip that whole part of life after all. If we already have the character of hope built by faith isn’t that enough? That faith will be weak.
“Get behind me Satan.” Is what Jesus snarled at Peter. Peter had just claimed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. But, then when Jesus started to explain that the Son of God must suffer, Peter rebukes him. More than anyone else, Peter reminds me of the second plant in the parable of the sower… he shoots up in faith, but then falls. But, here, for the first time in perhaps his whole career as a disciple of Jesus Christ, Peter actually understands what’s going on. Jesus spoke plainly about his death and Peter isn’t in for it. No one likes the fact that we were born into sin. Suffering is a part of this life. Jesus says that the life of a disciple is a life of persecution. It’s so much easier to avoid it. It’s easier to point blame or get rid of the problem. It’s simple to stomp down on others rather than reflecting on our own hearts. We are so weak… so sinful…
Although Jesus had never been the problem, he became the solution. He is our scapegoat. While we were still weak… still ungodly, Christ died for us. God showed his love in this. Instead of the wrath we deserve as His enemies, we have been given reconciliation. He suffered for us. Now, we boast in God through Jesus, our reconciler. If we try to save our own lives, we will lose them. If we find our answers in avoiding the situation, getting rid of the problem, stomping down on others… If we find our answers anywhere apart from the love of God which has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, our lives are lost. But, if we give our lives to live for Christ’s sake… for the gospel’s sake… we will be saved. We will be secured in our hope, we will live in the peace of God through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now, may the peace that passes all our understanding guard our hearts and minds as we boast in the love of Christ Jesus, from this time forth. Amen.
 “Lord I Need You” Sermon Music Video