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The Wonder of It All

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(3/15) "Expect a Shaking...Before We're Humbled"

"The whole system of my politics is summed up in this one verse, "The Lord reigns! Let the nations tremble! Psalm 99:1"

"The times look awfully dark indeed; and as the clouds grow thicker - the stupidity of the nation seems proportionally to increase. If the Lord had not a remnant here, I would have very formidable apprehensions. But He loves His children; some are sighing and mourning before Him, and I am sure He hears their sighs, and sees their tears. I trust there is mercy in store for us at the bottom; but I expect a shaking time before things get into a right channel - before we are humbled, and are taught to give Him the glory."

"The state of the nation, the state of the churches - both are deplorable! Those who should be praying - are disputing and fighting among themselves! Alas! how many professors are more concerned for the mistakes of government - than for their own sins!"

Sounds like something from Newt Gingrich, Shawn Hannity, Bill OíReilly, or Franklin Graham, doesnít it? Itís not itís from - John Newton, (1725-1807) pastor, writer of Amazing Grace, excerpt from Letters of John Newton

Hard to believe, isnít it? Those words were written well over 210 years ago, in England. The majority of people in our country, still believe that if the right person were to be President, America could have what it once had or America could achieve some state of being that would be euphoric.

When John wrote his gospel, the Jews were waiting and praying for the Messiah to come. The people knew that God had, from the beginning, promised to send a Savior who would be a descendent of David and would establish a glorious kingdom with Israel being the center. He would reign supreme over the earth. There would be peace on Earth. Peace among people, and peace among the animal kingdom (Isa. 11). Those who opposed the King would be punished in hell forever. But those who were ready to meet the King would enjoy a paradise that would roll into eternity.

When John the Baptist began his ministry, he began with these words, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ĎPrepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.í" (Matt. 3:2-3) Literally, the King is coming, get ready to receive your King.

When Jesus began His preaching ministry, Matthew says, that He said these words, (following His testing time in the wilderness, Matt. 4:17), "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Many of the parables that Jesus spoke were about the Kingdom. When He taught us how to pray, (this is crazy because I never hear anyone pray along these lines, except me, unless they repeat the prayer verbatim.), "Thy Kingdom come,"

Jesus said, that seeking the Kingdom should be the number one priority of life; that is, if we will make His business our business, He will make our business His business. "Therefore, do not worry, saying, ĎWhat shall we eat?í or ĎWhat shall we drink?í or ĎWhat shall we wear?í 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33).

Now letís pause for a moment and clarify something. The Kingdom of God is broadly, the place where God rules as King supreme. With that in mind, there are 4 aspects of Godís kingdom.

1. The whole universe is Godís Kingdom. Though, sometimes difficult to understand. God is in supreme control of the whole universe. The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. (Ps. 103:19)

2. Those who are saved by Grace are part of His kingdom. "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love," (Col. 1:13) "King of my life I crown thee nowÖ."

3. The 1000-year reign of Jesus over the earth when He returns in all His glory as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as in the Revelation and all the O.T. Prophets pointed to. This will be earthís golden age. Peace, righteousness, justice, equity, health, and all that any soul could long for because the King will be here.

4. Heaven and eternity in Godís presence, Paul said, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God," (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Now, it is amazing to me that most people, if they are honest, want to know that they are going to be with God for eternity. They want the paradise, or the peace, or the equity, the justice that this life seems to keep from them. But few make any effort to know how to be assured of being part of that Kingdom. Nick knew His Bible, He was a key teacher in Israel, yet like so many, He thought that keeping as many laws as he could and being a Jew would get him into the Kingdom of God. With all that Jesus, had been doing, Nick was probably wondering if this could be Messiah or a prophet of God in anticipation of the Golden Age on earth. This is the reason that our Lord, who knows what is in the heart of everyone, said that unless there is a new birth, no one can see or enter the Kingdom of God.

To enter this wonderful kingdom where everything is different than it is today, one must be different. One must have a re-birth; one must as Mark 10 says, become as a little child. Without this transformation Jesus said, you cannot see nor enter the Kingdom of God.

Letís pause and remember, why. Most people who believe in God, not Allah, or Vishnu, want to believe that Godís primary attribute is His love and goodness, and so His favor will rest on those who love and are basically good, or in the end, His favor will rest on everyone. But, that simply is not so, Godís primary attribute is His Holiness. He is who He is, and who He is, is Holy. His holiness is the glory that we all fall short of (Rom. 3:23). His holiness means that He is absolutely, separate, and distinct from all that is sinful or evil. And we were born with the venom of the snake in our blood. We were all born with the sin gene in our DNA. Solomon rightly said, that there is not a just man on all the earth that does good and sins not. (Eccl. 7:20), Paul quotes from the Psalms when He says, "There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." (Romans 3:10-12) and again, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned," (Rom. 5:12)

Attending church, memorizing scripture, praying, and all the good deeds in the world cannot bring us into the Kingdom of God. We are doomed, condemned, subject to the wrath of a Holy God and a Just God who must punish all sin and put it away from Himself. What started in the Garden of Eden continues to this day, and though I have told you many times, it was not rape, robbery, or murder that brought sin, death, and judgement into this world. It was one act of disobedience against a Holy God. One manís offense made us all infected. Everyone, without exception, which is why we cannot believe in the immaculate conception of Mary, everyone is born a sinner. Everyone is subject to the wrath and justice of God. No one is fit for the Kingdom of God. That is His point to Nick.

But the Holy God of Justice, doesnít delight in anyone getting the justice they deserve. He didnít create man to send him to hell. He created man for His glory, and for us to enjoy Him forever. So, the very God that we have offended, did what is beyond our comprehension. He sent His incarnation, His Son on a rescue mission, that would result in His cruel death. Look at John 3:12-16. Now hold your place and go back to Proverbs 30:2-4.

As a simile, God is like a coin. If Holiness is the heads side of God, Love is the tail side. God is also Love, and God loves His creation. That means that he seeks the very best for us. Godís love may include His emotions of joy and delight over us, but more than anything, it means He seeks our best. Our sins demand justice. And there are only two ways to deal with that. Either we pay the penalty, or a surrogate pays the penalty. In that case, it would have to be a surrogate that had no penalty of His own to pay. It is as if God looked at you and then at His Son, you and Jesus, and He chose you. And so, the Son descended from heaven through the womb of Mary, to be your sin bearer and surrogate. He was lifted up from the ground, just as the bronze snake on the pole was lifted up for people who were snake bitten, to be saved, by faith.

Look at verse 16.

The word, "For," It is explaining verses 12-15.

"God so," Is explaining how God loved. He did it in this manner. The word, "So," is not a quantitative word, it is demonstrative word. God displayed His love like this.

"Loved," sought the highest good for the objects of His affection. Healing the heart, soul, and mind, adopting as His children.

"the world," The entire population of the earth, every person in the world. No-one is outside of the love of God. His death was for all of them, no exceptions.

"That He gave," Jesus is the gift of Godís love to us. His life, His death, His resurrection was a gift.

"His only begotten Son," His monogenes, His one of a kind Son, there is no angel, nor human, who is called a son of God, that compares to this Son.

"That, whoever," No exceptions, this isnít a Jewish thing, or an American thing, this is a whoever, regardless of crime, regardless of age, regardless of any baggage, God extends His offer to absolutely every human being.

"Believes in Him." This is the parachute clause. Believe implies an all-in belief. He is King, He is the boss, I confess my sinfulness, and unworthiness and believe He came as my surrogate. I will not trust in myself or my righteousness, but wholly lean on Jesus name. I will receive Him into my life with a repentant spirit, and I desire to be different.

"Might not perish," that is, will not rot in hell forever. That is the picture of this word perish, it is a rotting potato, or piece of meat, sour milk.

"But have everlasting life," New life that begins the moment I believe and lasts forever." It is quality life that produces fruit as we saw last week, and it is quality life that lasts forever. That life is His life. It is the presence of the Spirit of the Risen Christ living in you. You are alive because Jesus lives in you. Listen to how Paul says it in Galatians 2:20, "For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

God chose for this Son to suffer hell, so we would not have to. He descended to the earth, gave His life, and paid hell, so we could ascend to His Kingdom, and have His life, and heaven.

Look at verses 17-18.

No one is condemned because they reject the gospel. Unlike Islam where they believe everyone who will not believe deserves to die. Jesus came on a rescue mission. Everyone is already condemned. Jesus came to be the anti-venom, the object of our faith, His hand is extended to everyone. Some will die and experience hell because they never knew there was cure. Some will die and experience hell, because they reject the cure. But all are already condemned. An all-in faith in Jesus is the only way of being rescued from the effects of sin in our genes and the venom in our blood. Some believe that being religious is good enough. Some believe that being good is good enough. Some believe they can talk their way in when the time comes, they will take their chances. Some are banking on death being the end of all life.

Verses 19-20

Many just donít want to give up their current life to follow the King. This life focuses on the present and the pleasures of running my own affairs, the best I can. I am in control. It is my life. And I hate anyone who tells me I am wrong, or wants to push their morals on me. Ever heard that? The Result is, Jesus is rejected and condemnation is assured. Elsewhere, our King would say, that the choice we have is, "lose our lives to have life, or keep our lives to lose them." (Matt. 16:25).

In Chapter 5, our Lord will say this, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." (John 5:24)

Verse 21

Darkness is the realm of the dead. Darkness is the realm of ignorance, and the absence of light. Darkness is the realm of sin and selfishness. Those who sin like to do so under the cover of darkness. But those who follow the King, want their actions to bring honor to the King and so they live openly, honestly, and want their King to be proud of them. They want to love like the King loved them and to bring help and healing to those who need it the most. John in his first epistle gives us a picture of the born-again life. "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this worldís goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him," (1 John 3:16-19).

Letís go back to Nick for a moment. As a Pharisee, and Teacher, He had been quick to condemn people who did not live as religiously as a Pharisee. Quick to condemn people who were nationally, or ethnically different. He supposed all men to be sinners worthy of hell except the Pharisees. But our Lord graciously told Him that the Kingdom of God was for anyone who by faith would look to Jesus to be rescued from the condemnation that everyone is under.

Have you been rescued-saved? Praise God for His grace?

Has His life transformed your life to help and heal others?

Need to be rescued? Repent and call to Him, give Him your all-in faith.

Know someone who needs to be rescued?

Letís pray for him, or her, or you, right now.

If this article has spoken to your heart, would you write to me at pastorgarybuchman@gmail.com and let me know or if you have any questions about following Jesus, I would be glad to try to answer them for you. May God bless you as you seek to do His will.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman