Episode 1: The Good News & Christ's Present Ministry

Peace to Live By Episode 1: The Good News & Christ's Present Ministry (2017 Remaster) - Daniel Litton
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Episode 1 Full Sermon

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       I hope everyone's morning is going well thus far.

       It is one thing for us to consider that Christ is a human, but it is another thing to consider that Christ is God. Why did Jesus come into the world? This is a vitally important question to consider today.

       This morning I am going to discuss the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am going to talk about why Christ came into the world. It is necessary to have a good understanding of God's redemptive plan, so that we may understand our own depravity and so be saved.

       I am also going to talk about Christ's present and future ministry with Christians. I understand there has been some debate among theologians about the kingdom of God, about whether or not the kingdom of God is here and now on the earth or is still yet to come. I believe, we believe, that the kingdom of God is still yet to come in the future. If the kingdom is here now, then it's not too impressive. Besides, there is a great deal of information in the Bible about the future for Christians and non-Christians.

       First, I want to examine the underlying foundation of the Good News of Jesus. In order to do this, turn with me in your Bibles to Romans 3:23-24. The passage states: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (ESV). This is perhaps the best explanation in the New Testament of God's plan through Christ. We note first that all people are sinners and they cannot match God's standard that he expects from us. You see, God from the very beginning placed rules in this world for humans to live by so that me might be pleasing to Him. And he did this in order that we may live life to its fullest extent. His rules are good, and right, and true. With our own efforts of trying to be good, there is no hope of any of us ever being approved by God. We just have to assume that, again with our own independent efforts, we will never measure up to God's standard. But there is hope, and that is found in the Good News of Jesus Christ.

       The next part of the verse states we “are justified by his grace” (ESV). Now it is important to note, first of all, that this is a gift. It is not through anything that we can do that we are justified before God in his sight. This is good to know, as we do not need to aimlessly pursue so called ‘good works’ in order to be made right with God. Now, there are a lot of folks who believe this is how it works, through works. And our justification through grace as a gift is brought about by Christ's redemption that he grants to anyone who believes in Him. So, it is by Christ's work that we are justified and saved from our sins. If Christ had not died on the cross for our sins, there would be no hope of us ever being justified. But through Christ, we have the forgiveness of our sins, so that in Him we might bring glory to God.

       Now with the doctrine of Christ's redemptive ministry, the Good News, there are several key theological concepts that we need to understand in order to see the full picture, and they are all of which are very important.

       First, I want to consider the concept of redemption. I think to get a background understanding of redemption, it is beneficial to look at the Exodus from Egypt by the Israelites in the Old Testament. God says in Exodus 6:5-6:

“Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment” (ESV).

We see that God had made a covenant with the Israelites in the past, and he was seeking to keep that covenant. God fulfilled what He said he was going to do, and he removed the Israelites from the Land of Egypt. And God said again, “I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.” This, along with the rest of the verse, I believe can be taken allegorically for what God would do in the New Testament through the person of Jesus Christ. God brought Christ into the world to die for the sins of the world, that we as human beings might be reconciled to Him by the blood of Jesus' death on the cross. God judged Satan and his demons when Jesus died on the cross. Jesus can rightfully say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (ESV) as he did in Matthew 28:18, right before he gave the Great Commission.

       The Good News also involves Christ's saving work of purchasing back to Him those of us who were in the bondage of Satan. The Apostle Paul stated the following in Galatians 6:19, 20, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”” (ESV). Christ took our place on the cross and died the death we deserved to die. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (ESV). This tells us two key things. First, God has sealed those who believe in Him with his Holy Spirit. That is, God living in us. We learn in another passage that God is the guarantee of our salvation, until it becomes truly ours. It also tells us that we really do not belong to ourselves, like we think we do. Our society teaches that everyone has rights because he or she is a rightful god. However, the Bible makes it clear that this is really not the way it works. Even unbelievers do not belong to themselves, but to God, who can do with them whatever he pleases, even though they are not aware of that fact. Nonetheless, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 7:25. It states, “You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men" (ESV). This verse adds from the previous verses that we should not be a slave to anyone, that is, other than Christ. Paul would say it another way, when he said in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (ESV). So, we are to be free in Christ.

       The next concept I am going to look at in this study we are going through of the redemptive ministry of Jesus Christ is atonement. This concept describes the work that Christ accomplished in his life and death in order to make human beings able to have salvation. It is written in Romans 8:3, 4, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (ESV). We see that Christ was crucified in the flesh to satisfy the righteousness of God so that we would not have to pay the penalty for our sins. Now Christ himself never sinned, but he was slain by God in our place so we could have peace with God by his blood that was shed on the cross.

       Now let’s talk about propitiation. This concept involves Christ's sacrifice as bearing God's wrath to the end, in order that God's wrath might be turned away from us and God would rather then favor us. So again, turn with me to a rather long passage in Romans chapter 3. I am going to read verses 21 through 26:

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (21-26, ESV).

So, this paragraph shows us that the propitiation by Christ's sacrifice “was to show God's righteousness.” This is because, as we read, God is just. He is just for the one who believes in Jesus for the forgiveness of his or her sins.

       Next I want to discuss both sacrifice and substitution. This involves Christ's sacrifice at Calvary for the sins of all the world and that He indeed was the substitutionary death for all people of all time. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (ESV). So, again, we understand that Christ has taken our place as sin for us who really never sinned. Christ could do this because He had never sinned. And that is critical—that Christ never sinned because if Christ had sinned, He would not have been an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. Now, because of what Christ did, we are now “the righteousness of God.” Galatians 5:21 states: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV). When we give ourselves by faith to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, we surrender ourselves to God. Therefore, the Apostle Paul could say that it is now “Christ who lives in me.” Really, we should not want our old selves to live within us, because those selves are full of sin and are passing away. So now, even though we are still in the flesh, we are living “by faith in the Son of God” as he showed us his love for us by dying in our place on the cross, a substitutionary death, for us.

       Our attitudes about ourselves before God should be like that of the tax collector found in Luke 18. In Luke 18:13, it says, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (ESV). See, we are sinners, and should humble ourselves before God. He have no right to say that we have obtained our righteousness before God as if it were by works. Nor are we good in our behaviors; nor do we need to outweigh our good from our bad. Jesus called us evil, and we have all fallen short of the glory of God, so that we need the gift of God's grace. So, our attitude before God should be humble.

       Now I want to discuss what the Scripture teaches about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Turn with me to John chapter 19, and verses 38 through 42. We know that Jesus was crucified on the cross, and then was buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. The Scripture says starting in John 19:38:

“After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there” (ESV).

That was the way in which Jesus was buried. We also know that three days after he was buried, that he was raised from the dead by God’s power. Mary Magdalene saw that Jesus tomb was opened, and she ran and told the Apostle Peter and Apostle John. They then went to the tomb and saw it for themselves.

       Now there are more details following the resurrection, but we do not have time to discuss them today. Perhaps another time. We can look at the Apostle Paul's summery in 1 Corinthians 15 as a good summary of the events:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (3-8, ESV).

Finally, we know that Jesus gave the Great Commission to the Eleven Apostles before he had returned to heaven, that was before the Apostle Paul saw him, and that was in Matthew 28, among other passages.

       But let us examine some of the evidence of Christ's resurrection. We know that several people saw the tomb of Jesus empty after he was raised, as we have already touched on a little bit. Even Jesus' grave clothes were laying in the tomb, folded up. The Scripture records the lie that the leaders of the Jews developed in order to explain away the resurrection. The Scripture records:

“behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day” (Matthew 28:11bc-15, ESV).

The guards that saw the angel come down from heaven to remove the stone, they were ones that became part of the human cover up. But even after all of this, probably the greatest evidence for Christ's resurrection is that his own Apostles died for his name's sake. Why would these 'real' people, as verified by secular human history, die for a lie? Were they all crazy? That wouldn't make any sense. Remember, they saw the things they preached with their own eyes. Today, others who do die for lies, because some people do, are brainwashed, and most often, they never seen anything.

       Let’s take a moment and consider the value behind Jesus' resurrection. We know that, first of all, Jesus predicted his own resurrection. And he did this on more than one occasion. It is true that Jesus saw his death as his primary purpose for coming to the earth, and the point of fulfilling the Father's will in his life. The primary value of Jesus' resurrection is that it is the foundation of our hope in life. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. This passage states that:

“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied" (ESV).

       Now I want to shift gears a little bit here and talk about Christ’s present ministry for those who believe in Him. What does it look like?

       Well, first, consider that Christ is the intercessor for the saints of God, that is, people who believe in Him. Romans 8:33, 34, states that, "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us" (ESV). These verses show us that even though we as saints will stumble, Christ prays for us on our behalf so that we have help in time of need. Another passage puts it this way: "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25, ESV). That is an encouraging passage. The Apostle John would note in 1 John that if anyone does sin, he has an advocate with the father, the righteous Jesus (1 John 2:1). Another point to note is that Satan is constantly bringing charges against the saints when they sin, as noted in Revelation 12:10.

       Secondly, I want to consider that Jesus understands what we are going through in life on a personal level. The writer of Hebrews points this out. Hebrews 4:14-16 says: "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (ESV). There are some things we can note from this passage. First is that we as Christians can hold on to what we have learned and stand by it even though we are weak. Second, Jesus was tempted in the same respects we are, and yet he did not yield to those temptations. He remained perfect. Third, we can have confidence before our gracious Father, who gives us both mercy and grace when we need it. But the key summery, overall, to this I think is that Jesus helps us with our weakness.

       Now the third thing I want to consider about Christ’s present ministry is that, through Jesus Christ, God Himself guarantees our salvation. Again, the writer of Hebrews again talks about this subject in depth. Let us examine part of the passage in Hebrews 6, namely verses 17-20:

"So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (ESV).

The passage tells us that we as Christians can have "strong encouragement" in holding fast to the promise of Christ, making us right with God. God is unwavering, and He will not change what He had done or said. God setup The Lord Jesus Christ to be our "high priest forever," and this is a sure and true thing that we can count on. Plus, Christ sets us an example by having become first "a forerunner" for us.

       Fourth, I want to discuss the fact that Christ has given us His Holy Spirit by Whom we are to live out our lives. When Christ was getting ready to go to the cross, He promised his disciples that the Father would send them a Helper, who is the Spirit of Truth. This Helper leads believers into all things, and brings to memory what Jesus has taught us (John 14:26). He enables us to live the Christian life in the here and now. The Apostle Paul would assert the following: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Galatians 5:16-18, ESV). So, part of Christ's present ministry is that we live holy and righteous before God our Father, and be blameless before Him. Jesus said, "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48 ESV).

       In closing today, I would like us to think about why is it so important that we be saved from these so called ‘sins.’ So of you might be thinking, ‘I’m a good person. I have never done anything worthy of being separated from God, or even worse, going to hell.’ But I would say to you friend, that you need to look at this from God’s perspective. God is a holy and righteous God, and He cannot tolerate anything that offends him. Now, you might say, “What do you mean? He is tolerating it right now?” (things that offend Him). Well, not really. God is patient. When a person dies, if he or she doesn’t know Jesus Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior, that person has no covering for his or her sins. The person I’m talking about is left completely open, by his or her choice, to the wrath of God. That is why God sends the person to Hell for torment day and night forever and ever.

       People are not gods, and they live in a world that belongs to its Creator. People might think they are in control of their destinies, but they are not really in control, though they can choose from one of two destinies. But those are their only two choices. You can choose to be made right with God through Jesus Christ, or you can choose to do it your way. But, let me warn you, if you do it your way you will incur the consequences because, remember, this is God’s world. This isn’t your world. You have to play by His rules.

       Perhaps today you have been pricked in the heart, and believe what I have been saying. Perhaps you do not know Jesus, but you would like to know Him. If you would like to live—if you would like to have eternal life, and dwell with God in utter peace and harmony forever and ever—if you would like to be set free from the strains of sin and believe in Jesus—there is hope for you today. All you need to do is pray a simple prayer, and God guarantees that he will come into your life, save you and change you to be conformed to the image of His Son. Just pray a prayer something like this:

God, I have sinned my whole life. I have not done things your way, but I have done things my way. Now, I accept your free gift of life through Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus came to the earth in the flesh of a man and died on the cross at Calvary for my sins, which now stands as my payment for my debt against me. I believe Jesus rose on the third day from death, and that He now dwells with you in heaven above. I believe Jesus truly is Lord of everything. Please transform my life. Make me like Jesus.

[Closing prayer]

       Father, I thank you for your wonderful love, the love which you bestow on the world, and love which you show to all people—both saved and unsaved. I pray that those at the sound of my voice who have heard what was said today and have been cut to the heart, would accept your free gift of salvation and so be saved from any of your wrath to come. I pray for those who us who have already made that decision and know Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, that we would be strengthened by what we learned today, and that we would take it with us, and consider these things that you have told us from your Word. Now bless each of us as we go out and about the rest of our day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

-Daniel Litton