“Christ Died for US”

 

Text:  John 15:1-17, Romans 5:1-11

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

In my time on earth, I have learned many valuable lessons. For instance, never touch a hot motorcycle muffler….learned that again last week. Always make sure you have your key with you before you lock your house…learned that again a few weeks ago. All of us are in a never ending cycle of learning.

One of the greatest things I have come to learn is that people are generally good. We listen to the news and we’re tempted to think that the devil’s winning, but all we need to do is look around to see that the vast majority of people still hold onto doing what is right, what is kind, what is useful and productive.

I think all of us can look back on our lives and see the many wonderful things our fellow humans have done for us. I, myself, have countless blessings received because of someone else. For instance, this church continues to impress me with how warm and welcoming they are to me and my family. Do you know I have been given two vehicles during my time here. Well, to be honest I did pay $1 for one of them, but I even had to force that on the person. When I am down you give me strength. When I am in need of expressing myself, you put up with it with a smile. When I need encouragement, you are only too happy to give it.

It is only natural, when thinking of such things, to think of all that God has given me. He has given me a wife who has been my best friend for almost 40 years. He has given me children who have become good people and kids any father would be proud to have. He has given me shelter, food,…..He has given me life. In fact, He’s given me so much it’s easy to take it for granted because of its enormity.

But of all the things I have been given in this life, there is one that is much greater than all of them. One gift that ranks above all others. A gift only a God sized love could give. A gift that is so vast that it cost the life of the greatest person who ever lived. That gift is salvation, won for us by the suffering and death of the only Son of God, Jesus Christ.

With the gift of salvation, we see many other gifts that are attached to it. There is the gift of grace because the gift was not deserved but given anyway. Attached is mercy for not receiving what we truly did deserve. Attached is justification for being made right when we had no hope of doing it on our own. Also attached is sanctification because this gift also brought with it holiness. And of course, with that gift came the added benefit of a loving relationship with the creator and redeemer of us all.

Yes, this gift ranks above all other gifts combined because it affords us everlasting life with the one true God free from the limitations, temptations and transgressions of the world.

And all of this was given out of divine goodness and mercy, not because of anything we had done, but because of what Christ did for us. For you and me, imperfect and limited as we are. Christ died for US because we needed Him to make things right by instilling His own righteousness upon us. Christ died for US because the perfect sacrifice was needed to take away the sins we, ourselves, had brought into the world. Christ died for US because, long before, a promise was made that had to be kept so that we might come from everlasting death in the torments of hell to everlasting life in the paradise of heaven.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…….God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for US. Since then we have been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if, while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11) 

The motto for our 500th anniversary celebration this year was, “It is still about Jesus.” A very appropriate and welcome reminder. We might have a tendency to get lost, even in our celebration and worship, but one thing we must never forget is that it’s still and will always be about Jesus Christ. He who died for US, so that we might live for Him.

Martin Luther, as you can imagine, spoke often about what Christ has done for us. In fact over 60 pages of quotes are of Christ in the book “What Luther Says.” One of my favorites concerning Christ and what He has done for us is this, Luther says, “Why does Christ suffer? He is a fine, good and fruitful tree and has not deserved so stern a sentence; but He suffers for our sake. He is now undertaking this journey in order to carry out His office of Priest; and he intends not only to pray for sinners but also to sacrifice His body and life on the altar of the cross so that God will be appeased through this sacrifice and poor sinners will be freed from the wrath of God and be heirs of eternal life. That is why it hurts the Lord to see that we weep at the sight of His suffering. He wants us to be glad, praise God, thank His grace, extol, glorify and confess Him; for through this journey we come into the possession of the grace of God. By it we have been freed from sin and death and we have become God’s dear children.”

Martin understood the enormity of the gift we have been given. He understood that Christ died for US not because He was obligated to or because He was simply following orders. Christ died for US not because He was looking for glory to be placed upon Him or because He wanted to make a name for Himself. Martin understood that Christ died for US because of a love we could never comprehend.

It was love that brought Him to be spit upon and whipped. It was love that held the cross as He dragged it to Calvary to be hung like a common criminal. It was love that drove the nails that would eventually cause His death. A God-sized love that no mere mortal could hope to give.

Think about it. God certainly doesn’t need us, but He wants us. His life would be so much easier, it would seem, if He didn’t have to deal with us, yet we bring Him joy. He loves us despite ourselves, not because He is forced to or because He is indebted to us somehow, but because He chose us from the very foundation of the world to be His own. Instead of being Christ’s regret, we are His bride. Instead of paying the price that we were due for our transgressions, He suffered so that our debt would be paid.

This is a love deeper than anything we could ever imagine, and He longs for each one of us to experience the fullness of that love every day of our lives. Christ died for US so that fullness could be both seen and felt.

God told His people through Jeremiah, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3) 

Every day of our lives God has worked to draw us to Him. From the beginning of our existence He has been pursuing a love relationship with us that will endure for all time.

It’s a kind of love that defies logic because it goes well beyond human love and human understanding. It’s a kind of love that would offer His own Son so that, by His death, we might be given everlasting life with Him. Did you catch that? God wants us to be with Him for all time. Talk about being beyond human logic.

And that same love He wants to give us in such great quantities that we have plenty to share with those around us.  From 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” All demonstrated in that Jesus died for US.

And this love that was demonstrated on Calvary’s cross is unchanging. Even as He disciplined His people for their sin, that same love reigned. Even as He watched those who cursed His Son, His love did not diminish. Even when His people lose their love for Him, His love for them never ends. That’s what Godly love is capable of.

This is the kind of love we are to strive for. The kind of love that would sacrifice their life for others. A kind of love that doesn’t change when we’ve been wronged. The kind of love that originates in God’s Son and is passed through to others, from of all that is good and right.

That is my wish for you. Paul describes it so eloquently in Ephesians 3, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Christ died for US to give us that fullness of God. Christ died for US so that we might gain His Godly strength through His mortal weakness. Christ died for US so that His power could rule in our lives to be renewed over and over again until that day we too will rise just like He did to be with our Heavenly Father.

Christ did not die in vain. He died for US so that we might experience more of Him. He died for US so that we might gain the greatest of all gifts. Now He asks you to give your life in return. Not to be sacrificed as His was, but to be a living sacrifice by serving those He loves. Let us follow His example by sharing the overabundance of love He has given us. All this is ours, because Christ died for US. Amen.

 

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