PRAISE FOREVER AND EVER

Eater 2019

Revelation 5:11-14
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

 

(This was a day of confirmation, as you will note throughout the sermon)

Not all of you here today know Jordan, but you should because she is the best.  Isn’t that right, Jordan? You’re so great at everything.  You did such a good job on Thursday night at Examination.  Even though you were nervous, you answered questions about the Bible and Jesus very well.  Even though a lot of people might consider what you said to be foolishness and nonsense, even though some people would make fun of you for studying the Bible and being here today, and even though God says being a Christian is not and never will be easy, you are here.  And that’s awesome.  And do you know what else is awesome? You’ve been here a lot at church.  You have been a part of the Children’s Christmas service a bunch of times, reciting, reading, and singing.  You’ve been at Sunday School, sometimes even when you were tired or under the weather, but you still came.  Jordan, you’ve made it this far, and we are all so happy for you.  We can’t wait for the service to be over so we can all get pictures with you and eat cupcakes and celebrate because, Jordan, you deserve it.  Is this getting awkward for you, yet?

These are the types of things we should be thinking and saying, if Confirmation is your graduation from the Bible.  These are the types of things we should be thinking and saying, if Confirmation is all about what you have done to get here.  Jordan, these are the types of things we should be thinking and saying, if you are just that amazing.  Then, the theme for today should really be Jordan’s life is our praise.

But that’s not the theme for worship today.  You and I and all of us are not here because this is all about Jordan.  This is not your graduation.  And quite frankly, Jordan, you don’t deserve all sorts of praise today.  Over the past three years of Catechism class, you didn’t get every answer right and you didn’t learn all of your memory passages perfectly.  Over the past three years of Catechism class, there was some daydreaming, there were sometimes when I caught you not paying attention because you were finishing up some French fries from Wendy’s, drinking some Dr. Pepper, or talking with your neighbor.  Over the past three years of Catechism class, you didn’t have 100% attendance.  You weren’t at every Sunday School class.  You missed church every once in a while.  You weren’t always excited and happy about being up front for the Children’s Christmas services.

But, Jordan, you are not alone in that.  If we brought up every person here today and put them in the front row and started talking about them, we could say a lot of nice things.  But, Jordan, you know what else we would have to say about each and every person here?  Just like you, they have not been perfect.  In fact, all of you have been a whole lot less than perfect.  Each and every one of you have failed to live up to God’s standard.  You have failed to love God fully and completely.  You have failed to use his name properly.  You have failed to read and study God’s Word and worship like he wants you to. You have failed to love others in the same way that you are willing to take care of yourself. You have failed to respect and honor your parents and all those in authority.  You have failed to keep hatred, lust, gossip, jealousy, out of your heart and mind.  You have failed to carry out the actions that are pleasing to God and refrain from those that are displeasing to him.

That means the theme today cannot be Bill’s life or Val’s life, our praise.  Not Scott, not Carol, not Linda, not Aaron, not Alice, not Courtney,  not Jerry, not Amy, not Jim, not Tim, not Lynn, not Gary, not Perry, not Sherry, not Terry, not Barry.  Not one of you can put your name in that spot on the front of the worship folder and think that praise should be yours.

I forgot another name.  The theme today is not Tom’s life, our praise.  Yes, the pastor is not above God’s law.  Yes, this pastor is not above anyone here, because I have failed too many times to count.  Every single thing that God points his finger at you about, he points his finger at me.  Therefore, this church is not about me.  This worship service, this sermon, is not about me.  If that were the case, we would be in deep trouble.  Because then this church, this worship service, this sermon would be about a sinful man, and I cannot save a single person, not even myself.

But Jordan, you know all about that, don’t you?  You know what’s wrong with you, and with me, and the whole world. God’s Word has taught you the law that shows your sins.  And God has taught you that you can’t change your position.  You can’t change your sins. God has taught you that you cannot by your own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ or come to his side.  God has taught you that there is no way that you can earn God’s love and buy your way into heaven.

So, there has to be someone else who does is perfectly for you.  There has to be someone who can rescues you and me and the world.  There has to be someone who can remove our sins from our record.  There has to be someone who loves us enough to take our punishment for sin, because that’s the only way that you and I can be saved.  There has to be someone who we can praise for giving us the indescribable gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  There has to be someone who receives louds songs of joy and gladness from people all over the world and even from the holy angels because of what he did.

Jordan, by God’s grace with the power of his Word, he has taught you that there is:  “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise… To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

You know, it’s often a sad thing when someone close to you dies.  One way people try to cope with loss is to talk about the good times, right? You remember and talk about all the fun and all the positives.  But you can’t do that forever and ever.  You talk about them for a few days before and after the funeral.  You have fond memories for a while but not forever and ever.  Because eventually your memories fade.

My first grandparent died when I was a senior in high school.  Grandpa Tessmer was a dairy farmer.  I still have some memories, but I can’t remember everything.  And it will only get less and less as time passes and I get older.  Then, I will die and so will all the other people who knew him.  And so in less than 100 years no one will remember Glenard Tessmer.  No more fun stories, no more praise, no more honor.  Nothing.  The same thing will happen to me and to you, Jordan.

But for people who make huge sacrifices, for people who win huge victories, for people who do things that are so amazing, they do get remembered in history books, in museums, in schools, online, and stuff like that.  But those people do not get to personally receive the praise and honor and glory.  They are dead.

This Lamb we are talking about is completely different.  This Lamb who was slain can actually still receive and thanks and praise and honor and glory, because even after he was killed for us, even after he died in our place, even after he took the punishment that we deserve, even after he sacrificed himself to save us, he did not stay dead.  No, the tomb could not hold Jesus.

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

The Lamb of God who died for your sins and mine and the sins of the whole world, he came back for us.  Jesus came back from the dead to save us not just from sins, but also to save us from death and hell.  He came back from the dead so that we could live with him forever.

And guess what we will be doing for the one who saved us from sin, death, and hell?  Guess what we will be doing for the one who destroyed the power of the devil for us?  Guess what we will be doing in the perfect paradise that was purchased for us by Jesus and freely given to us in the gospel?  Guess what we will be doing for the one who sits on the throne of heaven and loves us from all eternity?  Guess what we will be doing for the one who made us and everything in this world and then made us his very own children through baptism?  Guess what we will be doing?

That’s right!  We will be giving him all the praise and honor and glory.  We will be worshipping him for all the things he has done to save us.

But we don’t have to wait to do that, do we?  Jordan, that’s why you are here.  Because God has changed your life.  He has given you a place in his family.  He has promised to love you and take care of you and protect you and uphold you and guide you and bless you.  And so, we get to say thanks right now.  Sinners that we are, through faith in Jesus, we get to live as God’s children right now.  We get to worship him right now.  We get to give him praise right now.  We get to live for him right now.

Jordan, that isn’t going to stop after today, is it?  Jesus is still going to be worthy of our thanks and praise, because he conquered death for us and purchased heaven for us.  It isn’t going to stop when you get to high school, is it?  It isn’t going to stop when you go off to college somewhere, is it?  It isn’t going to stop when you get married, is it?  It isn’t going to stop when you have kids of your own, is it?  I know you think that’s crazy, but I was in your seat just 20 years ago.  Life goes by pretty quickly!  But it doesn’t matter what happens to us, because Jesus will always be the one who loves us, saves us from our sins, removes the sting of death, and brings us home to heaven.  Jesus is the one who does everything for us.

And so, today on your confirmation day, Jordan, it’s a good day to praise the Lord.  And it will be a good day tomorrow, and next Sunday, and a year from now, and 10 years from now, and 100 years from now, and forever and ever in heaven.

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

Amen.

 

 

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WHICH LAMB MAKES A DIFFERENCE

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John 1:29-42a

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

 

It’s the kind of blood and gore you see in a movie or heinous crime scene.  It’s the kind of thing that PETA would protest, for sure.  I’m talking about worship for God’s people in the Old Testament.  Every day, in the morning and evening, one lamb was slaughtered as a sacrifice to God.  That means every year over 700 lambs were killed just as a part of their daily routine. But that wasn’t all.  Lambs were also sacrificed for every fellowship offering, every sin offering, every guilt offering, and every Passover.  The sight of all that slaughter, the sound of it, the smell of it – it’s kind of shocking.  Just trying to make a guess is difficult, but every year thousands of lambs were killed as sacrifices.  Multiply that by more than 1400 years from the time God made those rules for Jewish worship up to the time of John and Jesus and that means maybe 3 million lambs that were killed in Israel.

Did God hate lambs?  Did he like the smell of lamb chops?  What did all this sacrificing accomplish?  Well, think of it this way: it’s kind of like a walk through Arlington National cemetery.  I’ve been there twice.  Whenever you walk around, you see row after row, section after section of white grave markers and you can’t help but think of all the lives that were given so that I could enjoy a pretty peaceful and free life in America.  It’s a very visible reminder of the sacrifices that keep us free.

With all those sacrificial lambs, God was sending a very similar message to his people of Israel.  It wasn’t about their freedom as a nation.  God wasn’t showing his people how to earn blessings.  With every one of those lambs, God was painting a bloody picture of what sin causes.  Sin always causes death.  If you want to know what’s wrong in the world nowadays, there’s your simple and God-given answer.  Sin is wrong with this world.  And some must be dealt with.  Every sacrificial lamb was God’s honest way of saying that sin must be paid for.  But as I said, all the blood from those innocent lambs was just painting a picture.  A simple year-old lamb cannot pay for my sin.  That has never been possible and never will be.  Before the judgement throne of our holy God, the blood of any animal cannot count for us.

For so many people in Israel, they thought that was how it worked.  They thought those religious practices and sacrifices were keeping them in God’s family.  Being acceptable in God’s eyes was all about following the rules that were given back at the time of Moses.  So if all those lambs needed to die to keep God happy, then that’s what they were going to do.  For so many of the Jews around this time, life with God was all about what they were doing and how they were living.

Is that still going on today?  We don’t bring lambs to worship services.  We don’t slaughter animals.  But sometimes without even realizing it, we might be making a case for that kind of religious life.  We aren’t raising lambs for the slaughter, but we can act as if our sacrifices are most important for a life with God.

Do you know how that happens? It can be pretty subtle, but I’m sure you have done it before.  It can happen on Sunday morning.  You could get an hour or two more of sleep, but you don’t.  You could have a lazy morning and a big brunch, but you don’t. You show up here.  That’s what God wants, right?  So, you do it because that is just what you have to do to be in God’s family.  It makes him happy.

And you bring an offering with you, too.  No, it’s not a lamb but money.  It’s something you are giving up for yourself so that God can use it to take care of his church and others.  It’s not easy, but you do it because you know God wants you to do it.  It’s just part of being his child.

It’s true that those are sacrifices that God’s children will make.  But if we think these kinds of sacrifices are going to make a difference for our eternity, then we are falling into the same trap as all those Israelites.  We are thinking our sacrifices are the important part of our spiritual and eternal life.

There are plenty more ways how this happens.  It can happen at work.  You try hard to do your best.  You go in early sometimes or stay late.  You try not to get involved with the office gossip.  You put up with a couple coworkers who are not the easiest to handle. You may even invite a few to church.  It’s not always the easiest thing to be a Christian at work, but you try.  It’s a sacrifice, and you do it because you know how God wants you to let your light shine at work.

This happens at home, too.  You try to fulfill your God-given roles as a parent, a spouse, a child, or what have you.  You try to be patient, loving, humble, careful, selfless, and all that because your light doesn’t just shine at work, but it also shines when you are in the privacy of your own home.  God still expects you to be his child in private as well as in public.  Maybe it’s easier at home or harder, but you do it because you are a child of God.  That’s just how it has to be.

This kind of thinking enters our minds pretty regularly, because being a child of God is not an on and off thing.  Either it’s on or it’s off.  You can’t have it both ways.  And so you make the effort, the sacrifices, to live this way because God tells you to do it.  And you had better do it his way.  Because that’s what is most important, right?

Well, there’s a couple problems with that.  No, the problem is not with any of those sacrifices you make as a child of God.  God’s law is a good thing, and following his laws is a good thing.  The problem starts not with him but with me.  How can my sacrifices ever be perfect?  I’m tainted by sin.  Everything in this world is tainted by sin.  And if I’m not perfect and my sacrifices aren’t perfect, then how can a perfect God ever accept them?

Lamb after slaughtered lamb, Israelites thought that their religiousness would somehow help them with the Lord.  But it was just a picture, a reminder, of what sin causes and how God would deal with it. When the focus becomes my actions, my attitude, my life…my sacrifices for the Lord, then it starts to drift from the Lord.  His promises get fuzzy.  His grace starts to fade into the distance and everything depends on what I do.

Stuck in that system of religion, the sacrifices can never stop.  And in a figurative way, the lambs will continue to shed their blood.  For us, instead of blood, it’s a dollar here or there.  It’s an hour today, tomorrow, or next week. It’s extra car rides.  It’s running here and running there.  That becomes the new sacrificial system that takes control, that makes me feel like a child of God.  I will still try to make up for what I have done wrong.  I will still think that my actions and attitudes can change God’s view of me.  I will continue to carry out everything in my life with the focus on me. And the figurative blood of all of these sacrifices will never take away my sin.  Because the blood of an animal cannot cleanse each spot and stain in my life.

Only God can cleanse me.  Only the Lord of heaven and earth can create a new heart in me.  Only God forgives every one of my sins.  Only God removes them from my eternal record and forgets that they were even there to begin with.  Only the eternal Lord can open the door to his home in heaven.  I cannot – even with my most fervent and determined obedience and service – I cannot shed the blood that is necessary for salvation.

So, do you know what God did?  God became the Lamb.  John points to Jesus and says, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  Now, his blood is different.  This is the blood of the God who created all things.  He made the lamb.  He made the blood that flowed.  He made the sacrificial laws for Israel.  And he promised that those sacrifices would never pay, but his blood would. This is the blood of the God who left heaven and to be born in a stall.  This is the blood of the God whose first guest were those who watch over lambs and sheep.  This one sacrifice is the only one I need, because the blood of Jesus purifies me from all sin.  The perfect blood of Jesus is spilled because God loves you that much.  He’s the sacrifice, the only sacrifice that could pay the debt I owe.  God knew that the blood of those lambs in Israel was just a picture, so he promised and sent the one Lamb who could actually pay for you and for me.

No wonder, John made such a big deal about him. “LOOK!” He says it so anyone there and anyone who has these words of God could hear.  He says it the next day to some of his students, because he knows we don’t need to be students of a man, even if that is a great man like John, to be saved.  We need the blood of God’s perfect Lamb.  We need Jesus’ sacrifice.

And do you notice that this Lamb makes a huge difference? Jesus is the only way our sacrifices can be acceptable.  Only with God’s perfect Lamb as the payment for my sin can I offer what is pleasing to God.  Only with his blood can I be purified to live as God’s child.

That made the difference for those men who left John behind and followed Jesus.  And how about Andrew? He couldn’t keep it to himself; he had to go find his brother.  And it doesn’t seem like the reason was that he thought that was a necessary sacrifice to make.  The focus wasn’t on him.  The focus was on the Lamb of God.  Andrew needed Peter to have that Lamb, too.  So he brought Peter to Jesus.

Do you think there are still some Andrews and Peters out there?  Are there still people who are seeing God’s Lamb?  Of course.  Are there still people who need a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a coworker, or a pastor to bring them Jesus, to show them that the one sacrifice has already been made?  You bet!  Just think back to the WELS Connection video.  There are some places that don’t have a pastor.  There are some places that don’t have churches.  There are some places that don’t even have Bibles in good supply.  Can you be the difference? I think so.  See, Andrew wasn’t trained.  What made him such a great option to go to Peter was that he had seen God’s Lamb and Peter was his brother.  What makes you a good candidate to be an Andrew is not your skill or personality.  It’s not your supreme sacrifices.  What makes you a good candidate is that you have God’s Lamb and some people who know you.  That’s all it takes. We are a congregation full of Andrews simply because this Lamb is just that good.

The lamb makes a difference, wouldn’t you agree?  If we are going to continue to make our own sacrifices, our lambs will never work.  If we look to the Lamb of God, then we see the one sacrifice God made for us.  And life will never be the same again.

Amen.