Since the audio quality of the video is so poor, I’m also going to post a copy of my manuscript from my sermon yesterday. There are a few very minor differences between this and the video but I always stick pretty closely to my manuscript when I preach.
God’s Provision – The Death of Death
Preached at Chapel Next – Fort Stewart
November 15, 2015
- Introduction- Well we are just a couple of weeks out from Thanksgiving and this Sunday we are going to continue in our Thanksgiving series. Last week Chaplain Squires preached a sermon about giving thanks which is such an important thing for us to remember to do not just once a year but every day of our lives. Thanksgiving provides with a great opportunity to refocus on all we have to be thankful for as Christians! Today we are going to talk about something else that goes hand in hand with giving thanks and that is God’s provision. Now, there are a lot of different places we could go in talking about God’s provision, right? I mean, we could talk about how God provides us with homes, jobs, food, family, etc. You could go down a long list of wonderful things that God in his grace and mercy has provided to us. But this morning I want us to look deeper than the many physical things God has blessed us with and instead look at one of the greatest and most impactful provisions that God has made for each one of followers. I’m going to be upfront with you guys, this sermon is going to take us to some tough places but that’s because life is tough and thankfully Scripture has truth to offer us even when life is at its most difficult. And I believe that this is one of the best places for us, as a community of faith, to talk about those things that most challenge and trouble us.
One of the biggest blessings and challenges of being a pastor and a Chaplain is getting to share in some of the most impactful moments in people’s lives. Many of these are joyful moments such as a wedding or the birth of a baby. But some of them are decidedly not joyful. Some involve illness, injury, and even death. And it’s in those dark moments when we are faced with the very realness of our mortality that we can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the crushing and seemingly unstoppable power of death.
Yet, even as we are confronted with the inevitability of death, there’s a part of us that longs for it not to be so. There’s a part of us that, even as we say goodbye to loved ones in this world, that deeply desires to live in a world where these goodbyes are not a part of life. So I’ll tell you upfront that what we are talking about today is not an easy or a happy topic. But we all know that our lives are not always easy or happy and thankfully we serve a real God who cares for us not just when life is easy and happy but also when life is hard and doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
So this might not be an especially happy topic, but it is a hopeful topic. Because, as we’ll see as we work through these passages today, a part of the provision that God has made for his children is in the defeat of death. So even when we face what is surely hopeless and insurmountable on our own, we can take heart in the fact that we are not facing it alone and that God in his grace has made a provision for us even in the face of death.
- God’s Provision in Creation (Genesis 1:27-31) – We are going to be looking at several passage of Scripture this morning so keep your Bible or your Bible app handy. This morning, I think it will be helpful if we start in the beginning because, if we’re being honest, our only personal frame of reference is a world with an awful lot of sin and an awful lot of death. That’s the only type of world that we’ve ever known. But that’s not how things started.
- Perfect Fellowship-No Death (perfection) – READ PASSAGE At the end of the 6th day of creation God looked out over the perfection that he had created and he called it “very good.” It was a world with no sin and no death. It was a world designed to bring glory to God and a world where God and humanity could commune together. It was a place where humanity could fully and completely enjoy the presence of God and where God could fully and completely delight in every aspect of his perfect creation.
- So God first demonstrated his provision to humanity by designing an extraordinary world where every single need was met. Death wasn’t even part of the pictur. He provided for the physical needs of the man and the woman by placing them in a garden for them to tend. He met their social needs by giving them each other, and most importantly by fellowshipping with them himself. Their spiritual needs were perfectly met because they enjoyed an unbroken relationship with God.
- From the very beginning of creation, God established himself as a provider. He would not be a distant and uncaring deity. He would not create the world and then, like some twisted reality TV show, sit back and watch things start to unravel. He created a world that bore his fingerprints on every atom and on every galaxy and then at the pinnacle of creation he put humanity and he created humans in such a way that we could fellowship with and delight in the Creator. That was the world in the beginning. A perfect place that perfectly demonstrated the provision of God and it was all very very good.
- God’s Provision in The Fall (Genesis 3:14-15) – Man, I just want to park there and not leave Genesis 1 and 2 but unfortunately humanity chose rebellion rather than obedience. Humanity decided that we knew better than God and instead of trusting his perfect provision we decided to make gods of ourselves and place ourselves above the Creator by effectively saying that we know better. That’s what Adam and Eve did when they sinned and that’s what we continue to do when we sin. They said God’s provision wasn’t perfect and that there was something they needed that he hadn’t provided.
- Fellowship broken-Death enters-All is not lost (hope) – READ PASSAGE The result of that sin was that the perfect fellowship that God and humanity enjoyed was broken. Sin had entered the world and there was and is not a single aspect of the world where we live that is not touched by the decision of humanity to attempt to usurp God.
- In this fall, God still made provision for humanity. He didn’t owe humanity anything. We were the ones who had rebelled and who had wronged God. The only thing we deserved was God’s judgement. And God did judge humanity, but in the midst of those pronouncements of judgement in Genesis 3 shines a bright glimmer of hope. As God pronounces a curse upon the serpent he also makes a promise. A promise that there was coming a day where a man, born of a woman, would take that ugly old snake and crush him under foot. It’s a promise even on this bleak day in Scripture where death and despair have come into the world that even the seeming victory of the serpent would ultimately result in his destruction. Because God is able to take even the outright rebellion of humanity against him and weave into that rebellion the threads of love, grace, and glory. So God effectively tells Satan that he might think he won a battle here but all he’s effectively done is seal his own fate because God is not going to stop providing for humanity even with the prospect of death now hanging over the entire human race.
- God’s Provision through Sacrifice (Exodus 12:21-23) – As we move forward in the Old Testament, we continue to see that God provides a system for his people to maintain a right standing. At this point in the book of Exodus, the people of Israel have been enslaved by the Egyptians for centuries but they are now on the verge of redemption. Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world and much of their wealth and prosperity had been won on the backs of these Hebrew slaves. The Pharaoh, who was not just the leader of the people, but also seen to be a god, had refused Moses’ request to let the people go. So on the night of the final plague, the death of the first born, God demonstrates not just judgment on the Egyptians for their enslavement and mistreatment of the Hebrew people but God also demonstrates his grace and provision in how he makes a way for his people to avoid this plague.
- Sacrificial system points forward (sacrifice) – READ PASSAGE In this passage God makes a way for his people to be safe from death and it is through the sacrifice of a lamb. And not just any lamb but one that is without blemish. In years to come, the people of Israel would celebrate death passing over their homes in a yearly feast to remind them of the provision of God in making a way for them to be saved from the death that surrounded them.
- Generations later, in an upper room, again on the eve of a great deliverance God stood before a group of men to explain to them that the Passover feast which they and their ancestors had celebrated had all been pointing forward to this moment. Jesus took the unleavened bread on the table and in front of his disciples he tore the bread. Telling them that after this meal the breaking of bread would serve as a remembrance of his body which was soon to be torn and broken just like the bread. He took a cup of wine from the table and told his disciples that now when they took a cup at a meal like this they would be reminded of the blood that he was about to shed as a sacrifice on their behalf. Just as spotless lambs had been killed year after year at Passover with their shed blood serving as a reminder of God’s provision so now the blood of the ultimate Lamb would be shed in an ultimate act of provision. It would be the sacrifice to end all sacrifice. Just like God had provided a way for the people of Israel to escape death now he would make a way for all who would believe to have the sting removed from death and the grave.
- God’s Provision at The Cross and at The Empty Tomb (Romans 8:1-4) – Now you guys might have noticed in your bulletin that the passage I put in there is Romans 8:1-4 and that’s because it’s the key passage for this sermon. It articulates the reason why followers of Jesus can look at death differently than other people. It tells us in just a few verses what Jesus accomplished on the cross when his body was broken and his blood shed on our behalf.
- Death defeated by death (hope) – READ PASSAGE What these verses tell us is that for those in Christ we have reason to be hopeful even in the face of death because when Jesus went to the cross on our behalf he effectively gave us his perfection. Even though none of us could ever be perfect on our own and could never perfectly keep God’s law, God provided a way for us to be made clean. For all our sins to be forgiven and for the seeming victory of death to be turned into a defeat because death becomes not an ending but rather the beginning of a new life.
- So all those sacrifices that happened at Passover each year, all those spotless lambs that were slain to remind the nation of Israel of death passing over their homes and of their deliverance from Egypt, Jesus is now presented as the ultimate lamb and the ultimate sacrifice. His death did what no other death could do: it brought freedom and it signaled the ultimate defeat of death which God had promised in Genesis 3.
- See, with the sacrifice of Jesus, the most terrifying and powerful weapon in the arsenal of Satan is defanged. Now, don’t hear me wrong, I’m not saying that death isn’t terrible and fearsome because it most certainly is. It is still the result of a world that is being ripped apart by sin. But Jesus took that fearsome beast and he took the teeth out of it with his death and resurrection so that now, even in death, the believer and those left behind have cause for hope and for peace even when mourning and grieving a loss.
- God’s Provision in The New Creation (Revelation 21:1-5a) – But now I want us to be really honest. Because many of have heard this before, right? Many of us memorized John 3:16 as kids and we know in our heads and our hearts that there is no condemnation for those Jesus saves. But why is it that death still hits us so hard? When someone close to us dies I can’t think of any other way to describe it than to say it feels like being punched in the soul. It hurts us deeply even when our hearts and minds know this person has walked through a doorway into a perfect world where sin and death are no more. So why does it still hurt so badly? It’s because Christians, more than anyone else, realize the brokenness of the world and when a death happens it’s a reminder that all of creation is groaning and crying out to God to be made new. Even for the believer a death vividly illustrates that the world we live in is not as it is supposed to be and not as it always will be. So yes, Christians grieve and mourn precisely because of that longing deep in our hearts for this to end and because we have hope that it will.
- The ultimate realization of God’s provision-Perfect fellowship-No death (perfection) – READ PASSAGE So when I read that passage in Revelation I see the end game. I see a reason to hope. Because right now we live in this in between time where God is gathering his people to himself but also where sin, sickness, and death continue. But God has said it won’t always be this way. That not only do we have a life to look forward to after we die but that God is going to take this broken old world where sin and death have been a part of life for so long and he will begin again. He will make it all new. That’s the promise of these verses. That one day the world will be returned to a state like it was in the beginning. A world where there is perfect fellowship between God and humanity. Where creation operates in perfect harmony. A place where sin and death and the one who would wield those weapons has been banished.
- So Christians, realize that Heaven is not us sitting on a cloud somewhere with a harp and wings. But Heaven is God’s Kingdom fully realized in a new cosmos. Take all the beauty and complexity of this world and remove sin and death and add perfect and unbroken fellowship with our Creator and you have a picture of Revelation 21:1-5. That’s why, Christian, we don’t grieve like those who have no hope. We do have hope. We know how the story ends and right now we are just living in the middle act of that story with the beautiful ending still to come. PLAY SONG – “Even Unto Death” by Audrey Assasd
- Living like Death is Defeated
- So cling to Jesus with everything that you have. With every fiber of your being. Know that Jesus will never ever ever ever let you go. He will never ever ever ever give up on you. In the darkest days that you face upon this earth Jesus goes with you and loves you. When you stare death in the face whether it be your own or that of a loved one and you weep because you know it shouldn’t be like this, rest in the peace of knowing that Jesus has made a way. That death might be the way of the world right now but it won’t always be this way because of the provision God made on the cross through Jesus. Death could not defeat Jesus and death will not have the final say in the life of any follower of Jesus. So Christians, let us endeavor to live like death has been defeated by clinging to the promise that, even unto death, Jesus loves us, provides for us, and makes a way for us.
- Prayer- When we are in pain and despairing, father help us to remember that you didn’t leave the world in pain and despair but instead entered into that pain and despair and offered hope and peace. Father, may your Spirit do the same for us today.