Posted by: lepages | February 5, 2010

I believe in….

Jesus Christ he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Its a long time since I’ve posted – got lots to post – think I’ll have to go on sabbatical more often to make time to post!! πŸ˜‰

Here’s my notes from my preach last Sunday, or you might like to go and listen to it here.

Introduction
We come to our final session in the Apostles’ Creed for the time being – the final session that looks at the person and nature of our God and of his actions – when we return in April, we’ll look at the final sections of the Creed and how they relate to God and his work in and through his body on earth, the church.

But today, we have 2 great themes – a theme which ought to move us to worship, and a theme which ought to prompt us to sober reflection… and action…

β€œI believe in… Jesus Christ…
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead”

I don’t know whether you ever, like me, find yourself questioning things??!!

I question things a lot – probably more as I’ve got older – that could be assuring for some, a bit worrying for others!!!

One of the things I find myself questioning is how much received truth is the product of later theological reflection and whether it has its roots in the original situation or not. Its good to question, because it can drive us to study, to explore and to affirm things at a deeper level.

Our Bible base for today is Hebrews 1:1-4

Magnificent words! If you want to understand the whole gambit of scripture, the whole message of salvation, there’s no better book to read than the book of Hebrews.

We don’t know for sure who wrote it. Some people think Paul, but its not addressed and concluded in Paul’s usual way. Others think maybe Barnabas, or possibly Apollos. But what you can be sure of is that the writer was rooted firmly in the scripture of the Old Testament, and rooted firmly in the living experience of others.

He begins by looking back to how God had spoken to his people through prophets down through the centuries. Then he focuses in on how God has now spoken to us through his Son – and he tells us so much about him – affirming so much that we have already reflected on in the creed – he tells us that it was through Christ that the whole of creation came into being, that he even now sustains everything and keeps it functioning – he tells us that in Jesus we see the glory of God revealed, we see God’s nature in all his fullness portrayed in Jesus – and he then tells us that in and through Jesus we can be cleaned up from all the dirt in our lives – and that now he is seated in the glories of heaven! And he does all that in under 100 words!! How amazing is that!! I couldn’t manage that – not without copying any way!!

So much, in such a few words.
The Apostles’ Creed is like that too.
It perhaps doesn’t have the same power that these words of scripture at the start of Hebrews have, but it sums up eternal truths in minimum words.

β€œI believe in… Jesus Christ…
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

Belief in the ascended, glorified Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father is not just something added in by Creed writers or later letter writers after theological reflection!

Peter on the day of Pentecost said of Jesus, just 10 days after he had left them and ascended:-
β€œExalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” Acts 2:33

Stephen, when facing stoning in Acts 7:54-58

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look’, he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’. At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.

If you’re facing tough times in life, where should you fix your gaze?
Stephen facing a life taking situation looked into heaven and saw the glory of God and he saw Jesus at God’s right hand.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 12:2,3

β€œLet us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

If you’re facing tough times in your life, fix your eyes on Jesus. Know that he has gone before you. Know that he knows what its like to face tough times and pour your heart out to him. As you do that, know that he has gone ahead and is now seated in glory, to the right hand of the Father, in the position of authority, able to speak on your behalf, able to direct on your behalf as he sees fit – and let that glorious truth that he went through all he went through for you, because he loves you, let that truth indwell your spirit – then you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Are you feeling weary? Have you lost heart? Then fix your eyes on this exalted, glorified Jesus, who laid aside all his glory and became a sin offering for you, bore your sin and my sin, all the dirt of our lives in his body on the tree at Calvary. Fix your eyes on this Jesus who was crucified, dead and buried, was raised to life on the third day and ascended back to the glories of heaven and who sat down at the right side of God in all his glory, back in his rightful position.
If you want to fix your eyes on Jesus, then meditate on these glorious truths, give yourself to worshipping him, let him fill your thoughts, your spirits, your minds and your actions – and as he does that he will restore you again and you will not grow weary and lose heart.

β€œI believe in… Jesus Christ…
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

I love the fact that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus is seated.

It speaks to me of completion – he has done the job – he has completed the task – there’s nothing more to do in saving his people – the problem of sin is dealt with – all that’s needed now is for his people to receive the gift of forgiveness and new life which he offers to all who will turn from their own way of doing things and turn their lives over to God and live his way, by his grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit, given as a gift into our lives.

To me there is nothing better after completing a task, nothing more satisfying, no better way of affirming, ‘yes, I’m done’, than to go and flop down in a comfortable chair. (ILLUSTRATE!!)

Jesus has done it all, he has finished his work of purchasing salvation for you and for me.

I take great comfort in knowing that he is now seated in the position of authority at the right hand of the Father in the glory of heaven.
I know that there is no greater delight for him than seeing people entering into the wonder of that for themselves.
And we need to do that, as we’ll see, as we come to the final phrase in the Apostles Creed for the time being….

β€œI believe in… Jesus Christ…
…he will come to judge the living and the dead”

Jesus will not always be seated at the right hand of the Father in glory. He has completed the work of salvation, making it available to all who will receive it, but there must be a time when the evil that exists in our world is dealt with once and for all, and that judgement is to be entrusted into the hands of the Lord Jesus.

Marshall D. Johnson in his book on the Apostles’ Creed writes:-

‘The theme of divine judgement runs from Genesis through Revelation.’
Marshall D. Johnson – The Apostles’ Creed – A user’s guide

God is right to seek to bring about justice – he is right to deal with man’s inhumanity to man. He is right to deal with how we have abused and neglected our responsibilities as those entrusted with the care of creation, and an end has to be brought to the evil which inhabits every segment of our society from the richest to the poorest, from the most religious to the irreligious, from the God believers to the God haters.

In Eden, God had to judge Adam & Eve for their disobedience which led to their loss of innocence, causing them to need to cover up out of shame, which is why we sit/stand here clothed today.

At the time of Noah God had to judge because of the awful evil being wreaked amongst the people he had created.

And as you read through scripture you see God’s judgement again and again.

Abraham argued with God over his judgement on the city of Sodom and says to God:-
‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thingβ€” to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ Genesis 18:23-25

The Psalms echo to the theme of his judgements
E.g. Psalm 96:10-13
(Note how creation rejoices at the prospect of God’s judgement.)
Say among the nations,
The LORD reigns.
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.

Creation longs for God’s judgement. It longs to be set free to be the beautiful place it was created to be.

Probably the single most hope that exists in our world today is expressed as a longing for peace…. how many times have you heard on interview clips asking what peoples hopes and dreams are, people responding with the words ‘world peace’ – but peace is not just an absence of war, its a removal of everything that divides and separates – and as long as sin and evil is allowed to exist in our world, there will not be peace.

So Jesus is not always going to be seated. He is coming back and he is coming to judge and deal with evil once and for all – and dealing with it is not pretty.

Paul speaks of God’s judgement coming through Jesus Romans 2:16

β€œ…the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ…”

Jesus speaks of his coming to judge Matthew 25:31-46 (selected verses)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world…. Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

This judgement is final. There is a starkness about it. If you’re on one side you rise to a glorious place in the presence of God. If you’re on the other you are condemned to an eternity of punishment, along with the devil and his demons who have wrought havoc throughout creation as a result of their rebellion against God, causing us as human beings to live in rebellion against God also. Maybe, even now as I speak they try to stir in some of us rebellion against the fact that God would do this – but it is deception at its heart, because as long as evil is not eliminated completely, it will continue to exist, and ‘world peace’ will not be a reality.

This judgement raises a question.
How do you get to be on the sheep side on Jesus’ right side and not in the goat’s side on his left?
You can try all you like, but you’ll never do enough to get yourself on the sheep’s side… why?
Because there will always be evil lurking around in you, there will always be a tendency to sin, to fall short – of your own expectations, of others expectations, let alone of God’s expectations of what a perfect world would be.

Turn with me if you would to another passage Revelation 20:11-15

READ Revelation 20:11-15

The only way to be on the sheep’s side is to have your name written in the book of life, elsewhere in Revelation referred to as the Lamb’s book of life.
How do you get your name written in there?
Only by receiving the gift of life which Jesus has bought for us through his sacrifice on the cross, through his death and rising to life again, defeating sin and death. And you receive that by acknowledging that you need to, that you can never do enough, by thanking Jesus for doing it on your behalf and receiving his gift of life and his Spirit into your life.
If you’ve never done that, you can do that now.

You might like to use this prayer to help you do so.
Lord Jesus, I’m sorry for the mess I’ve made in my life. I want you to come and put that right in my life. Thank you that you went to the cross and made it possible. I receive your forgiveness. I recieve your offer of new life and I receive your Holy Spirit. Help me to live my life now as you would have me do so. Thank you for writing my name in your book of life. Thank you for the future I have in you. Amen.

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