Can we talk about Jesus for a little bit? Whenever I get a chance to preach on a first Sunday, I like to talk about Jesus, because this is the Sunday where we take communion, and we take communion in remembrance of what Jesus did for us, so if you don’t mind I’d like to take a little time for us to remember exactly what it is that Jesus did for us. So, this is a very basic sermon, about some very simple, foundational truths of our faith, but I hope it will bless you. LET US PRAY.
Rev 5:1-9 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. 2) And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? 3) And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.4) And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. 5) And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. 6) And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. 7) And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.8) And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four [and] twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9) And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
Psa 19:13 “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous [sins]; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
I love that David prayed this prayer from Psalm 19. Has anyone ever prayed this kind of prayer to God? It takes a lot of humility to admit that we are yet in danger of falling in to sin. It takes an especially humble heart to be willing to admit, in a Psalm, which is a song lyric to be sung in worship before the whole congregation, that you need to be “kept.” “David prays God, please keep me from presumptuous sins, presumptuous sins are sins related to arrogance, prideful sins, spotlight stealing, self-glorifying sins. Here is one whom God had anointed to be King of His chosen people. A man who could easily claim to be the most highly anointed one on the face of the earth at that time, and He’s praying — God keep me humble, don’t let me be controlled by my pride, because I want to be upright before you and I want to stand before you innocent and pure. Then he ends this beautiful Psalm by saying I just want the things that I say out loud, and even, Father, the things that I never say out loud, even the things that I just think on in my heart, I want them to make You happy. In other words, God I want to please you. But then David adds something to his prayer that explains why he believed that he could be kept. He called on God as his strength and his redeemer. This let’s me know that as much as David wanted to be innocent and pure before God, at some point he knew he was going to get weak – and he was going to need to call on God for strength, and he also knew, that as much as he wanted to please God always, at some point he was going to sin, and he was going to need to call on God His redeemer. I sometimes think the church would be a better place if we could all be a bit more honest about our “stuff.” We all get weak, and we all sin sometimes. One of the things I like best about the Potter’s House is that we’re not too proud to admit that we have “stuff” and we need to be kept. That’s why we come to “The Potter’s House” so we can get back in the hands of God, and He can put us back on the wheel, and put us back together again.
I have often struggled to please God. I’m one of those kind of perfectionist types of people, I want to get the details just right, but no matter how hard I try, I always seem to find myself in a place where, I have fallen short of His glory. I don’t know if any one else has ever struggled like this but, the challenge is that like David, I want to please Him. I want the things that I say and the things that I do and the things that I think about and the dreams that I dream and the words that I write and the way I treat my friends and my associates, and the way that I dress and the way I raise my child, and the way I treat my family, and the choices that I make – I want it all to be acceptable – or pleasing – in His sight. But somewhere along the way, without fail, I fail. I love that David prayed this prayer because it shows me that David knew He was capable of falling into sin, and the only way you really come to know that, is by falling into sin. But when David fell, he did continue down a road of despair and enter a downward spiral of guilt and depression, He didn’t give up trying to please God because the task can seem so great and our resources can seem so inadequate. No, David continued to be a man who was seeking after God’s heart. He just asked the Lord to keep Him, and He called on God because He knew what had only been revealed to a very few of the Old Testament partiarchs and that is, “there is a redeemer.” That’s the topic I’d like to talk to you from briefly this afternoon if that’s ok – “There is a redeemer.” Is anyone glad that we have a redeemer and his name is Jesus?
An Object Lesson
To redeem means to buy up for oneself. To release from bondage through the payment of a price or ransom. Throughout history, God proved His love for His people by redeeming them from trouble. God redeemed His people out of the land of Egypt when they were enslaved under Pharoah. He redeemed His people when they were captives in Babylon, in the book of Judges you can read of at least six instances where the people of Israel sin against God and fall into idolatry and were taken into slavery. And then God raises up a judge like the mighty Samson, or the great warrior woman Deborah or Gideon, to fight against incredible odds and redeem His people, or free them from slavery once again.
I believe God was using all of these times of enslavement as object lessons. He was trying to teach His chosen people something that still rings true for us today. And it is that your enemy wants to control you, but God wants to set you free. To be enslaved means to no longer have free will. God wants us to have the freedom to make choices, but He didn’t want us to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because He knew that if we became aware of Good and Evil, we would surely at some point choose Evil and become caught up in the middle of the whole rebellion that Lucifer and his fallen angels had already started in the heavens. And what’s worse, the relationship between God and His creation would be fractured. And true enough, as soon as we ate the fruit, and our flesh became aware of what is Good and what is Evil, it became impossible for us to walk through this life without choosing to do the wrong thing sometimes.
It’s a daily battle. When you wake up in the morning, do you reach for your Bible – or do you play with the cell phone? Do you spend that time in prayer, or do you end up spending it on Facebook? Do you curse this person out, or do you hold your peace? Do I give my money in the offering, or do I withhold it because I don’t like the way the deacon looked at me? It just seems like every moment is filled with opportunities to choose to do the wrong thing. It seems like there are just too many ways to fail, too many ways to fall short of His glory, too many temptations knocking at the door and too many mistakes just waiting to be made. And every choice we make outside of God’s will leads to enslavement.
The Bible says the first thing the enemy comes to do is to steal. When you steal something, it becomes your possession. It becomes your slave. The enemy wants to steal and control you and use you to give him glory instead of God. He wants to make you his slave because a slave can no longer make their own decisions about their own life. And part of the reason why, we as redeemed children of God, have to stay “salty” as Minister Myriam taught us last week, is because there are slaves all around us. Tied to situations and circumstances that are controlling their lives and desperately wanting to break free. It’s that cousin that wants to be reliable and wants to be responsible, but once the alcohol gets in, who knows whether they’ll be up in time to go to work, or if there’ll be money left to handle their responsibilities. They’re a slave to the substance.
It’s that sister that wants to stand up for herself, but every time he yells she hears her father and the voices of all the others who used ugly words to make her feel worthless and stupid and dirty, and now there’s no strength left in her. She’s still a slave to that pain.
What to DO?
It is our calling, as believers, to walk in the freedom from sin that Christ bought for us on the cross – and to share with others what Jesus set us free from. It is our calling to be humble enough so that whether we are anointed to be king on the throne like David, or we are just an every day child of God, we can admit to others – and to ourselves, that we have to pray daily, that God will keep us from sin, and that we will come a little closer, today, to living a life that is pleasing and acceptable in his sight. This is the kind of honesty that I believe will compell others to ask “What must I do to be saved?”
But we can’t do that if we are not truly free ourselves. So I want to ask you this afternoon, have you truly laid hold of the liberating power of Christ’s redemption? Have you allowed yourself to be made free from the snares that the enemy would use to keep you under his control? What would you do differently, if you were completely free from guilt? What doors would you walk through with confidence, if you were truly free of all of your insecurities? How would you live your life differently if you were not captive to your fears? How much more would we step out on faith and walk in that calling, or take that position, if we weren’t a slave to pride – and the fear of how we would look if we made a mistake.
Even the saved, sanctified, Holy-Ghost filled and fire baptised Apostle Paul became so frustrated by his own evil ways that he eventually declared in Romans chapter 7, you know what, it’s a law. Meaning it’s actually a rule – it is a given that whenever I try to do good, evil is present with me. I can hear Paul saying, iN my heart, in my inner man, just like David, I want the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart to please Him. I want to serve Him and I want to do right. But in my flesh – in my flesh Paul said, dwells no good thing. And it’s true, since the day Adam ate the apple, the war between Good and Evil has been fought in the battleground of our flesh. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: Romans 8 says, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Paul says in Romans 7:23, I see a law in my flesh that is constantly fighting to do the wrong thing “and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” There’s that word again. Captivity, slavery. Was even the mighty Apostle Paul a slave to his own flesh? Is this the anointed Apostle crying out in Romans 7: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
There IS a Redeemer
The good news I’ve come to share with you this day, is that there is a redeemer, and His name is Jesus. And “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8) The word for somebody today is that for everything that enslaves you, Jesus the redeemer can set you free. After Paul cries out who shall deliver me from the body of this death? in Romans 7 he answers his own question in Romans 8, probably one of the most powerful chapters written in the whole Bible. I’m not condemned, Paul says, because I’m in Christ Jesus and in Christ Jesus there is another law, it is a law of life that flows from the Spirit of God. “Now the Lord is that Spirit, (II Corinthians 3:17 says) and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is Liberty.” Christ’s Spirit gives life because it frees us from the slavery of sin.
It is His Spirit of Life that intercedes for us, that prays the prayers when we can’t find the words to say, that searches our hearts when our traitorous flesh yields to temptation one more time. It’s His Spirit that calls to the inner man to come up higher and declares that you are yet predestined, you are yet called, you are yet glorified and you are even yet and still justified because what we were incapable of doing, because our flesh is too weak, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. I love that phrase – in the likeness of sinful flesh because it points out the distinction between Jesus and the rest of mankind. Jesus’ flesh was not sinful. When Jesus walked the earth, He may have looked like he had the same sinful flesh as the rest of us fallen human beings, but He didn’t. This man was different. And that’s part of why so many people found it hard to believe in Him because He looked like us, so how could we bring ourselves to trust Him when we don’t even trust ourselves! I know how many times I’ve let myself down, so why wouldn’t this man, who looks just like me, let me down as well? I’ve heard a hundred preachers prophe-lie about how if I give them this or that I’ll get the car I always wanted. I’ve seen a whole bunch of pastors telling me to live right, and then I seem them on the news caught up in some kind of mess that I wouldn’t even touch with a 10 foot pole. This man looks just like them – why should I trust Him to save me?
But that was the beauty of the plan, nothing about the divinity of Christ was visible to the naked, natural eye. But to the soul who was seeking God, to the one who was praying in his heart – “God, keep me from sin, I want to be pure before you,” Jesus was right there to be found. When Simon Peter looked Jesus in the face and said “thou art the Christ, the son of the living God” Jesus declared that flesh and blood did not reveal this to you Peter, God did. Because the prophet Isaiah (53) told us thatn “he hath no form nor comeliness; and there is no beauty that we should desire him—” but there was a purity and an innocence in Christ’s flesh that no other human being had ever had since man first became a living soul. And as He walked the earth, His sheep were drawn to Him, and those who sought after the truth came to worship Him because His presence and His power with God hinted to us that even we could live a life that was pleasing to God, if we were yet willing to take up our crosses and follow Him. Jesus may have looked like a weak man – and the whole world may have seen Him “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted,” but He wasn’t weak, He was, at all times, one with Almighty God. He was tempted like you are tempted and He faced the same choices and felt the same burdens that we do, but He was NOT a SLAVE to sin. He may have looked like Adam, but He was the SECOND Adam, and in His flesh was NO corruption. Because of this, Christ had the ability, to substitute His own death on the cross for the death that should have been ours, and condemn sin in the flesh.
I think some of the power of that gets lost in translation, He condemned sin in the flesh – meaning He damned sin, He sentenced sin to eternal death. He took away it’s power to enslave. Now, for every instance where our flesh comes up weak, for every time that we fall short of His glory, for every bad decision and every mistake – Jesus says as long as she’s in me – as long as he is living by my Spirit, Devil you can’t hold her sin against her. You can’t punish her because she made the wrong choice and you can’t enslave her because she yielded to temptation. Because she’s in me, I’ve redeemed her and I’ve set him free. But, you might say, I still seem to suffer some pretty big consequences when I make mistakes – of course we do – and the truth is, outside of Christ, the consequences for our sins would have killed us a long time ago – BUT — IN CHRIST, even the harsh consequences – even the miracle we missed because we weren’t walking in obedience, or the opportunity that passed us by because we weren’t standing where God told us to be, even those consequences are working together for our good – because as we recognize the goodness of God it just leads us directly to repentance (Romans 2:4). And when we repent we lay hold to the power of Christ’s redemption. And when we lay hold to the power of redemption, we are made free, because Jesus, the redeemer is our liberator (John 8:32), and he whom the son sets free, is free indeed (John 8:36).
Our Redeemer is WORTHY!
In case we should find it difficult to grasp the significance of Christ’s redemptive act on Calvary, God gives us Revelations chapter 5. Let’s look at it just a bit more closely. During his time of exile on the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, John the apostle is shown various revelations of things to come. In revelations 5, we are in the throne room of God with the Apostle John as he experiences a vision related to the end of days. The 24 elders represent the saints of God, and the incense, the odours that are in the golden vials that the elders carry, represent our prayers. The four beasts are high-order angels whose primary job is to worship the one who is sitting on the throne. Scripture says they rest not day or night but simply cry saying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” And when the beasts begin to worship like that, the 24 elders throw their crowns down on the ground and say: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
Chapter 5 opens with God on the throne with a book in His hand, The book, or scroll is written on both sides, which is unusual but speaks to the imporance of the mysteries that are written therein, and the scroll is sealed with seven seals. And then comes this “strong angel,” asking with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” John the Revelator begins to weep because he is up here in Heaven and he wants to see the will of God carried out but it doesn’t seem like there is any one who is worthy to unseal the mysteries of the scroll. There is no one on the earth, not one pastor, not one holy deacon or praying mother, there is no one under the earth, none of the saints who have gone on before, not Mother Theresa, or Martin Luther King and there’s no one in Heaven, not an angel, not a cherubim or a seraphim or even any of the 24 elders around the throne.
So John stands there weeping, and then one of the elders looks over at him and says, don’t worry, we’ve found somebody. They call Him the “Lion of the tribe of Juda, and the Root of David. He is described as being in the midst of the throne and in the midst of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, and He has the form of a Lamb as it had been slain – I’m glad about that because it lets me know why it is that the blood has never lost it’s power, because even now, in the midst of the throne and in the midst of the angles, the Lamb is there, as it had been slain, meaning the blood of the Lamb is yet there before the throne, being sprinkled on my behalf. So Whenever you feel your mistakes and your sin beginning to wrap their chains around your neck you need only apply the blood that is yet available in the throne room of God.
This lamb is described as having seven horns. Horns represent power and seven represents perfection, so the seven horns show that Christ is “Omni-potent” meaning He has power over everything. And then John describes the lamb as having seven eyes which represent the seven spirits of God travelling to and fro in the earth, which shows that Christ was “Omni-scient” meaning He sees everything and He knows EVERYthing. Christ, the lamb of God walks up to the throne of God, and HE TAKES THE SCROLL. Jesus is the one who “hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” Why? Because scripture says, He was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by His blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;”
He is worthy to unleash the power of God’s revelation into the earth because He redeemed us. Jesus is worthy because He did what was necessary to free us from sin. If He hadn’t done what He did, the enemy’s control over our life would go unchallenged – and sin, and the eternal death that follows, would have forever enslaved us and separated us from God. If He hadn’t done what He did, God would not have been able to purchase His creation back from the rule of sin and release us from its hold. If there had not been a redeemer, none of the good that anyone else did would have been possible. If there had not been a redeemer, your soul would have been lost. And so we join the elders singing Jesus “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;”
What does that mean to you? If redeeming our soul was the act that made the lamb worthy to open the scroll, then God must place the highest value on protecting and freeing your soul. Whatever you do, don’t take the power of redemption lightly. God who, “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Romans 8:32) wants us to remain free from the bondage of sin. He doesn’t want us bound to any situation that begins to control our lives and force us down the spiral of depression and despair. As you pursue God, and His will and as you do your best to follow His ways, I cannot promise you that at some time you will make a mistake because for as long as we have the treasure of God’s spirit in the earthy vessel of corruptible flesh, we will be capable of sin. But You don’t have to be a slave to fear or guilt or your own mistakes. Today’s mistakes cannot force you out of the presence of God, nor can they be used to control your future, as long as you seek Christ as your strength and your redeemer.
I can also promise you this — that because there is a redeemer, (1Jo 3:2) “Beloved, now, we can be called the sons and daughters of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every one that hath this hope in him will continually purifieth himself.” I can promise you that the Holy Spirit is still in the earth, searching our hearts and interceding on our behalf praying the prayers we don’t even know we need to pray and working to make us more like Him. And I can promise you that the blood of the Lamb is yet available to cleanse from every sin and I can promise you that because there is a redeemer, we are all able, “to behold, even in our imperfect state, the glory of the Lord, and that we are being changed into that same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:18)” So I can encourage you to “Be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can continue to search out what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)” and I can also promise you that one day, because there is a redeemer, (1Co 15:51-7) “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet sound the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. And this corruptible, sinful flesh will put on incorruption, and this mortal body will put on immortality and then shall be brought to pass the saying O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory? Because the sting that causes death is sin; But thanks [be] to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And because there IS a redeemer, one day we’ll be in that throne room that John the Revelator saw. And when the elders throw down their crowns, we’ll be somewhere around the altar saying “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” Worthy is the one who redeemed my soul.” Worthy is the lamb that set me free.”
So when you take communion today, I want you to consciously receive the power of redemption in the blood of Christ. The one who is worthy to unlock the seven seals, is fully able to unlock every chain that has kept you bound. In His blood, I want you to receive release from everything that has tried to hold you back. God knows you want to please Him, and He knows that your flesh is weak. That is no excuse to sin because if you make the effort to walk in His Spirit He will help you not to fulfill the desires of the flesh, but having sinned is also not an excuse for being bound by guilt or shame. Provision has been made to keep you free and it is in His blood. As you take communion see it as a baptism and a cleansing on the inside. There is a redeemer, you can be free, worthy is the Lamb!