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Jesus is Better

True Saving Faith

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(9/1) Part 5 - Today as we continue our series "Jesus is Better" in Esther 4:1–17 we look at the story of two people, Mordecai and Esther, who despite what you may have been led to believe in some Sunday School class or in stories you were read as a child, these are not perfect people. But starting here in chapter 4, this is a pivotal point in the story; this is where we can see they start making progress. We start to see change.

Let’s read together at Esther chapter four verse one… "When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 2 But he went only as far as the king's gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

4 When Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to urge her to go into the king's presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

9 Hathach went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 "All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king."

12 When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther's instructions. NIV

1. Active

Let me start by saying that true saving faith is active. Think of a 100-yard football field. We don’t judge or evaluate a team member by where they are, but by where they started, what direction they’re going, and how far they’ve gone right? Now some of you were born on the fifty yard line, but others of you were born on the one yard line. The question is, are you making progress, and what direction are you going?

Today, I want to talk about true saving faith; and with Mordecai and Esther, they’ve got the ball… they’re on the two yard line… Life is hard, things are tough, it’s not easy, and for many years they haven’t made any progress. Esther’s been married to Xerxes about five years and nothing has really happened, but then in chapter 4, both Esther and Mordecai begin to make progress. And for those of you who haven’t made progress in awhile spiritually, it’s a great encouragement, look at yourself on the field of life. Are you making progress in your faith?

Mordecai and Esther begin moving forward spiritually in chapter 4. It takes them awhile, but they do start, and in verse one it says, "When Mordecai learned of all that had been done." Now he’s going to protest. Now he’s going to publicly identify himself with God’s people. You see up to this point he’s been private about his faith, right, he’s been silent, but now he’s going to speak up, now he’s going to get active, now he’s making progress, now he’s going public with his faith.

I don’t know what happened spiritually, what caused the turnaround in his life, and when he becomes a believer, but up until this point, he hasn’t walked with God. He’s far away from Jerusalem, he’s not praying, not reading Scripture, not tithing, no sacrifices, nothing that indicates he’s walking with God. And so now suddenly he gets active… he’s making progress.

Suddenly, Mordecai’s faith gets activated in mourning and weeping. And here’s what I mean: faith is an internal conviction that leads to an external action. Faith is not just what you believe, it’s how you behave. Havent you noticed before that you can really tell who has faith by what they do.

And I’ll give you a real life example. You go to a pool, you see a little kid standing on the edge… you know, they’ve got the swim diaper, they’re looking nervous… and you see dad in the pool, "Trust me, I’ll catch you. Jump!" How do you know whether or not the child has faith in their father? If they what? If they jump! If the kid jumps, it shows they trust their dad. Faith is demonstrated in action.

Faith is demonstrated in what you do. True saving faith is active!

2. Progressive

Now, admittedly, Mordecai’s got the ball on the two yard line. He’s living far away from Jerusalem. The prophets haven’t spoken in Susa. There are no miracles, no angels, it’s a dark time right? But now he’s making progress… now he’s moving forward… but what about Esther?

Well, Esther has an opportunity to make progress too… in verse 4… "When Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress…" Outside of the palace: Haman has decided to be Hitler… to commit genocide on millions of Jews… meanwhile Esther is in the palace and has no idea. The death sentence goes out, people are in the streets wailing, mourning all over the Persian Empire and she’s in the palace… clueless.

So, word comes to Esther. "They’re going to kill your father and all the Jews." It’s a crisis, but with the crisis comes an opportunity. You know most of the time our spiritual progress is made during seasons of great trial… during times of pressure. Spiritual progress usually happens when there’s a crisis; whether it is through cancer, divorce, betrayal, suffering, poverty, unemployment, bankruptcy, you name it… whatever it was…. our spiritual growth happens in the hardest, most desperate seasons of life.

And so Esther learns that there’s a crisis… up to this point in the book, Esther has been passive, not active. She’s been silent… others are making decisions for her… people are speaking on her behalf… and she’s not active… she’s not making any progress spiritually. There’s no indication… no hint that she’s prayed, read the Scriptures, or worshiped with God’s people… none of that.

So nobody knows that Esther is one of God’s people. And she’s like so many of us; her faith is a private matter, not a public matter. It’s a secret because she doesn’t want her life to be inconvenienced. She wants to just try and fit in… to go with the flow.

How many of you, that’s been your story? And now, circumstances have you in a position that’s very difficult. Maybe your second guessing your marraige, you shouldn’t have taken out that debt, you shouldn’t have got into that contract, you shouldn’t have bought that house. You shouldn’t have and now you’re in a really complicated, difficult, hard place, and the answer is: you need to get active and make progress. It’s time to go public with your faith. It’s time to say something. It’s time to do something. It’s time to get moving.

And so here’s the truth: some of you… your community, your family, friends, the people you spend time with, you’re all stuck, and if one of you gets going, you can help motivate the others to get going. Mordecai gets going and he encourages Esther to get going… and together they make spiritual progress.

And so Mordecai’s getting active and he’s making progress, and he’s urging Esther to get active and to make progress. I so I want to urge you today to get active and make progress. The question is: What will you do?

3. Public

Now Esther, if she ever had faith, her faith has been dormant for a long time. Her faith at the very least had been in regression. She was born a Jew, one of God’s covenant people. She was born with the ball on the twenty, but now we find that she’s slipped back to the five yard line, and now things begin to change. Her and Mordecai, they’re starting to make progress. It wasn’t like this eruption of complete, total, obedience, but maybe like us, it’s one step at a time… bit by bit… just getting started.

And she says this, "When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."

That’s public faith. We see her faith through her actions. You see… you can’t meet God and not change… you might have a season of rebellion… you may have a season of backsliding… but ultimately, God’s people make progress. The only characters in this story who don’t make any progress are Xerxes and Haman. They don’t make any progress. They’re the same at the end as they are in the beginning. And that’s how it is with people who don’t know God. They don’t change. But people who do know God… they change… there’s progress… and both Mordecai and Esther are changing.

So here we find Esther’s getting brave… she’s courageous... she says, "I’m going to the king." There’s great faith here… to go "even though it is against the law." But I want to clarify this. Romans 13 says that the laws of man are to be obeyed, so we need to obey the law, but over human laws, is God’s unchanging, perfect, and eternal law. So when the government is telling us to do something that violates God’s law, we need to say yes to God’s law and no to wrong laws, sinful laws instituted by men.

Here’s what Esther is saying: "And if I perish, I perish." In other words, "My greatest treasure was my life, but my greatest treasure is no longer my greatest treasure. My greatest treasure is God, and I’m willing to lose my life because they can’t take from me my greatest treasure." And isn’t that what Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." (Luke 9:24).

If your life is your greatest treasure, all people have to do is threaten you to control you. But Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it" You see once the God of the Bible becomes your greatest treasure, people can’t threaten or bully you into obeying them. You’re free. And Esther just got free. She’s going public with her faith. "If I live, I live. If I perish, I perish." She just wants to do what’s right.

And ultimately, this whole story, points us to Jesus. Where at the end of Luke’s gospel, Jesus, we are told, went through the Old Testament and showed how all of it was pointing to and pertaining to himself (Luke 24:27). So, this story is a little story that’s really part of a big story. And here in Esther, millions of people are going to be saved but it’s really pointing to our ultimate salvation when Jesus comes; not to save millions, but billions; not just from Xerxes, but Satan; not just from death, but from the wrath of God.

You see here’s our problem. We’re under the judgment of God. And we’re all under a death sentence because of sin and rebellion. We’ve not bowed down to our God in worship, honor, and obedience. We’ve rebelled against him, the sentence is death, and it’s a sentence for us all. But we can’t save ourselves… we can’t deliver ourselves… because we don’t have access to the king’s throne. So, what does God do? Well, he gets off his throne, the one thing Xerxes doesn’t do, and he comes down as the man, Jesus Christ, and he lives without sin.

See, we can make progress because Jesus is our perfection. And Jesus says, "If I perish, I perish," and then he perishes. He dies in our place for our sins, and what he does is he reconciles man to God because he’s God become a man. Jesus, being fully man and fully God, is able to reconcile God to men and men to God. He’s the bigger, better Esther.

And so, there’s so much hope here for you, and I need you to have that hope. And the hope is not in Esther… the hope is not in Mordecai… the hope is in their God as he is the hope for us. So, let me close with why Jesus is a better.

Our King Jesus got off his throne to come to us. Jesus identifies with us by becoming human. He is our great God and Savior who came down from another place. Jesus gives us constant access to his throne of grace. Jesus serves as a mediator between God and his people and actually died for his people.

And he’s alive… he’s alive today… he’s seated on a throne. And what we’re going to do right now is have Communion and we’re going to do like Esther did. We’re going to come before our King confident of this one thing… knowing that he will not kill us. In fact, he’s died for us… and he welcomes us always into his presence. Amen!

Let’s pray together!

Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.

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