Monday, February 15, 2016

First Sunday of Lent Sermon--Jesus the Greatest

Jesus the Greatest
The book of Hebrews is a unique epistle in Scripture. Much of the later texts in Scripture are letters written by Paul or John to a church, often while the author is somewhere else. Hebrews is a little bit different than each of those books in the later New Testament. First, no author is named. Some believe it to be Paul, others believe it to be Apollos, and a minority opinion believe the author is not named because it is a woman.

What people have come to a conclusion about, however, is that this book is actually a sermon. If we read it together it would take about 45 minutes, which is rather lengthy by United Churches standards, but not awfully lengthy in a lot of growing churches and a lot of churches around the globe or in history.

The church written to in Hebrews, was obviously Jewish. This comes through as you read through the book, and how the preacher illustrates and communicates his concerns.

The church in the book of Hebrews used be a little more vital in years past, but has come upon a time where it has begun to struggle. Listen to some of the issues mentioned in the sermon and see if the issues resemble the American church at all.

  • ·         Attendance is steadily declining (Hebrews 10:25)
  • ·         Their church has experienced a recent financial crisis (Hebrews 10:34)
  • ·         The church is theologically wishy-washy (Hebrews 4:14)
  • ·         They have to be urged not to argue with one another (Hebrews 13:1-2)
  • ·         They aren’t listening to Biblical teaching (Hebrews 5: 11)
  • ·         They have been in the church a long time, but have not transitioned from being “babes” in the faith to “eating solid food”. People are content to be involved as long as they are not teaching and leading (Hebrews 5: 11-14)
  • ·         They are struggling in being open to newcomers and their needs (Hebrews 13:2)
  • ·         They are struggling to continue to pray and spend time in God’s word (Hebrews 4:11ff). And struggling in feeling that their prayers are even being heard.
  • ·         Some of their number that used to attend the church have left the church completely
  • ·         Others are considering leaving.
  • ·         Almost all of them are tired. The preacher says that their shoulders are drooping and that their knees are getting weak (Hebrews 12:13)

So, in the midst of this, the preacher begins his sermon. And what does he do? Does he come up with some complex theological treatise? Does he enlist a strategic plan? Does the preacher lay on the guilt really thick? Well, maybe a little bit, but not really. What then is to be done.

He gets back to the basics. He reminds the people who Jesus is, and what is at stake! You see, in our communities of faith, in our spiritual lives, in our journeys together we can be distracted by bills and business meetings, by politics and potlucks, by things going on in the world around us, by grudges and greed, and much, much more.

And so, in the midst of many words and many interests, the preacher uses his voice to amplify the voice of Jesus, and to pay attention to who he is, and why Jesus matters.

For the next several weeks, we will follow the argument of Hebrews, which tells us in a number of different ways, in almost lyrical fashion, how Jesus reigns supreme as Lord, and is worthy of our worship.

These first four verses today, we hear about the centrality of Jesus Christ in God’s mission in the world.

For the next several weeks we will talk about what Jesus is greater than. Today, as we begin, we will talk about how Jesus is the greatest and pinnacle of God’s plan.

The book of Hebrews begins with the radical, powerful claim. God speaks to us.

God has spoken in the world before Christ was born in a number of ways. In a number of places. Perhaps most notably through the prophets, as the preacher suggests, but also through the Scriptures, and in other ways through history and time.

In the fullness of time, as the fulfillment of all that God has done, God speaks through sending us Jesus.

Jesus is God’s Word. God speaks through Jesus.

Through Christ the world was created. God speaks the world into creation in the person of Christ. Christ is the heir of all creation. Everything belongs to Christ.

Christ is now sitting at the right hand of God. Reigning with God. Allowing the kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven through his righteous rule.

You see, what the preacher in Hebrews wants us to know, right from the start, is that Jesus Christ has been in authority, and now has authority over all. It all comes together in him. He is the right one. He is the true one. He is the strong one. He is our King. He deserves our worship.

Now when we speak of authority and leadership, there are generally, by people in the field, two kinds of leadership that people have. One kind of authority is called positional authority. This is the kind of authority that a person has purely based upon the role that they have. For instance, you may have this boss at work, you may not like him or her, you may not even think that the person in that leadership position is awfully competent, but because the person is the boss, they have a certain level of authority. You need to speak to them with a certain amount of respect, you may need to comply with their requests, even if you don’t like it. Because by virtue of their position, they have a certain amount of authority over you.

Then there is concept of personal authority in leadership. There are people in organizations that have authority, not because they hold an office or have some sort of position, but simply because of who they are. You know this type.
In the church I served in Colorado before I came here, there was a man that attended worship. He was not a member of the church, although his family all was. He had never been baptized. Yet, after a few years I learned, it was this man who led the church. He had authority. When he spoke up, for the most part, people fell in line. He had no positional authority. But he had ultimate personal authority in that congregation.
Christ has authority because he speaks God’s Word, and is in fact God in the flesh. When he teaches, he teaches as one who has the very words of God. He is in a position of authority as the Word. And yet, his word gives us life. He hears from God. He speaks for God. His word gives him both personal and positional authority. He’s our King.

Christ has authority because of what he has done. He lived a sinless life. He died on the cross to pay the price for our sins. His actions give him authority to speak the truth in our lives. Because he died for us, we will live for him. He’s our King.

Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. As such he has all the authority of the Godhead in his hand. He’s our King.

This passage says that he is the radiance of God’s glory. That means literally that God’s glory is bursting out from the person of Jesus. He shines like a light in the darkness. Christ stands, even when all others turn away. He stays true when all others turn away. He is the true one. He’s our King.

This passage says that God is the exact representation of God. Literally, this means that the very character of God is present in person of Christ. He is holy. He is beautiful. And he is true. And he’s our King.

There are others in our world who long to make Jesus less than. They say perhaps that he had some good ideas. Perhaps that he was a moral person. A good example. We know that Jesus is more than that. He is the one who God spoke through. Who saved us from our sins. And he’s our King.

Many Eastern religions might say that Jesus is A god, but not the God. Jews will say Jesus is a good teacher. Mohammed said that Jesus was a prophet, but not God incarnate. Jesus is not the first born of the spirit children—he is the only begotten son of God, Emmanuel, God with us. He is not simply a good man. He is the one who holds all authority in his hands. And he’s our King.

He is not our insurance policy, where we are just to treat him as our get out of hell free card.. He is not our bellhop. He did not create us so that he can run errands for us. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. We are called to live in service to Christ and his reign. He is our King.

As such, we need to remember that this life that we live, this faith that we profess has very serious implications. In the next year, people are going to passionately speak about, live for, and give to political candidates. No political party or politician is going to save you. Jesus died to save you. And our allegiance, our loyalty belong to him. He’s our king.

Because of this, we live our lives for him. He give our hearts to Christ. We stand for him in the good and the bad. He is the greatest. Both because of his love for us, and because in the end he is our champion.

He is our King. So let us love him. Let us serve him. Let us worship him. Let us give him our all, knowing he gave it all for us, and yet overcame all his enemies. He is our King.


No comments:

Post a Comment