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We celebrate the God of Life

November 23, 2014

Eternity SundayVida

 

“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.  I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives  as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells”.

2 Peter 3:3-13 [NIV]

 

On this day, the last Sunday of the church year, we want to reflect on the last things. In particular we want to focus, as the name ‘Eternity Sunday’ suggests, on eternity, the promise of salvation and the new heaven and the new life promised to each of God’s children.

 

Today we will talk about hope, about God’s promise of eternal life and about hope for God’s presence and help in every moment of our lives. We believe in a God who was crucified. But we believe in Him especially because he was raised from death, conquered hell and will come in glory to judge the living and the dead. Therefore, we believe in a living God who lives and has power. We believe in one God who is above all death and sorrow and anguish. We believe in a God of victory, joy, eternal life, miracles, power, salvation, peace and love.

 

That is the God of the Christians; a God who saves, heals and revives Christians and churches. Life in the world is too full of death and sin and our God Jesus Christ is a God who does not send sin and death; despite judgment, he gives eternal life to all who will decide to believe in Him. God is a God that despite the reality of death, conquered death and the devil, and He wants to give us that life. Just as He promised, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) We Christians want to cling to life rather than death. While we know death is a reality, we also know that for those who have given our lives to Christ, this is just another step that will lead us to meeting our Lord.

 

 

Nowadays however, we can find people who don’t believe in Christ, the Bible or the church. There are people who think that because they have everything they are also above the existence of God. Because they feel like gods, they think they don’t need a God. They have forgotten that everything they have, have come only from God.

There are people who even deny the faith and mock the church. They are like a person who I once phoned to invite to church that told me very clearly: ‘Pastor, I don’t need a church! Excuse me.’ When listening to these words, the first thing you feel is rejection from those people, but then it becomes sadness and pity that there are people who look down on the invitation from Jesus Christ. They believe that they are beyond God and with their own thoughts, logic, and achievements in life want to think that God is just a made up story or fable. The apostle tells us what they will say: “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” It’s true; there are people who mock Christians and the church. But we also read in the Bible, unfortunately, that God is also a God of judgment. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.” (Mt 10:14)

 

Unfortunately God is also a God of judgment. I say unfortunately because there are many people who won’t be saved and that is a reality. However, there are many others who call for justice, they have been treated unfairly in life, and they have suffered abuse, gossip, slander, dishonesty, fraud, treachery, violence, torture and death from others and they haven’t seen the justice of God for their lives. God tells us, however, that there will be justice for their children at the end of the times and a perfect justice with wise equity.

 

Some people, especially those who scoff at the Bible and attack Christians, are always looking for the speck their neighbor’s eye. They see the errors of others and do not allow themselves to be challenged by the Bible. Usually people who are attacking the Bible and the church are people who don’t read the Bible and don’t know it. Otherwise they wouldn’t, because they would already be blessed by the Holy Spirit through the reading of it!

 

Many said at the time of the Apostle: ‘When will come the second coming of Jesus Christ.’ Not even the angels in heaven know. Some may pretend to know and call the Bible a lie. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” God’s time and God’s days are not like ours.

If he is taking His time it is because he is waiting for the repentance of many so that they may inherit and receive eternal life. Well, one thing is clear, if we don’t repent and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will not inherit eternal life. That’s a fact, it is divine justice.

 

 

God is love because he wants everyone to be saved. But there is a deadline limit for the appeal and that time is the time of our lives. So if we have not done so yet, we need to urgently get right with God and surrender our lives to Him and accept Him as Lord and Savior. We need to start believing in Him and meeting together with other Christians.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” So we are also told in readings for past services. It means that Jesus can come at any time and we must be prepared.

 

 

“What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming”. So exhorts the apostle. Because we believe in the divine justice of God, we have put our faith in Jesus Christ and we have accepted and are an active part of the community of believers, we must be settled and live our life happily knowing that this life is not everything. There is eternal life for all Children of God. Out of appreciation and for the feeling of peace and happiness we strive to please God and to love one another as he taught us.

 

 

We Christians believe and look for new heavens and a new earth. That is Jesus Christ’s promise. It is not that we reject death as a part of reality, but that we focus especially on the life that God gives us on this earth to love and to honor Him during our existence. We focus on the promise of eternal life to come as a reward for all believers beyond this life.

Even in cemeteries, the place of death, we talked about life and celebrate it. When we celebrate services for the commemoration of the dead in the cemeteries, we don’t want to honour all the dead. As Christians we only remember the saint, that is, those who have lived a life in Christ, that have been given to Christ, and we honor them because they gave us an example to follow and because they honored God and the church with their commitment and testimony and we trust that they will receive salvation. We Lutheran Christians don’t pray for the dead, nor do we intercede for the dead. The dead have had their chance for redemption in life. We evangelical Christians honor life and cherish the promise of eternal life for those who have already given their lives to God and have already started to live life as God intended. That’s why we focus on Eternity on this Sunday. Jesus died, but was raised from death and that is the reason for our faith and hope.

 

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming…. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

When we focus on the last things, we Christians focus on life, the God of light, love, joy and peace. But for this to happen, we must first have peace of mind as individuals. If we have no peace of mind in God, if we have not made peace with God, it is very difficult for us to focus on life and the promises of God. Today God gives us one more chance to accept Him. Surrender to Him in belief, accept Him as your Lord and Savior and start to meet together faithfully in His church. The divine judgment is looming and a reality, but for those who have accepted Christ, it is news of joy and a promise of peace and the light of life, as we face a new heaven and a new earth. Amen.

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