Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Palm Sunday Sermon: Supernatural Savior

[You can hear the audio of this sermon by going to Christ Church Longwood: Sermons.]

Scripture Lessons for Palm Sunday:

Isaiah 6:1-12

Psalm 110

Ephesians 2:1-22

John 12:12-36

Supernatural Christianity: Temporary Suffering and the Eternal Kingdom

A man dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates.

St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."

"Okay" the man says, "I attended church every Sunday"
"That's good, says St. Peter, " that's worth two points"

"Two points?" he says. "Well, I gave 10% of all my earnings to the church"
"Well, let's see," answers Peter, "that's worth another 2 points. Did you do anything else?"

"Two points? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."

"Fantastic, that's certainly worth a point, " he says.

"hmmm...," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"

"THREE POINTS!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!"

"Come on in!"


Often we do not realize how fragile our lives are. At any moment tragedy can strike and we are caught off guard and moved out of our false sense of security and our comfort zone. At such moments we are confronted with our bare mortality and the impending hour of our death. Death comes to us all yet we have a supernatural Savior who conquered sin and the curse of death for us by dying a criminal's death on the cross in our place.

Recently, the Science Channel aired a television special called, Apollo 11: The Untold Story. In that documentary we're told how close the Apollo mission to the moon came to disaster on several occasions. First, Neil Armstrong was nearly killed in a training accident when he was flying a mock version of the lunar lander. Later, during the landing on the moon, the guidance computer went haywire and the lander was able to land with only 15 seconds of fuel to spare. To make matters worse, on the take off from the moon the instruments designed to discharge the rocket broke off and Armstrong had to use a ball point pin to get the lander back to orbit for docking. The lander itself was made of what can only be described as tin foil because weight was such a critical issue that heavier shielding was unthinkable. The most amazing thing is that the computers actually on board the Apollo spacecraft were no more powerful than what you get today in a $20 digital watch. Our lives are literally in the hands of Almighty God from one second to the next. It truly was providential that the Apollo missions were successful because they were all in fact highly dangerous and the lives of the astronauts were continually at risk as even the movie Apollo 13 shows. Likewise, our lives are in the hands of Almighty God literally from one moment to the next.

I. First of all, we have a problem accepting the supernatural power of God. If this world is all there is, then basically there is no hope here or ever. Our lives are merely a temporary illusion before we pass into absolute non-existence. There really is no such thing as right or wrong since those are merely human inventions for the well being of society as a whole.

a. We have a problem accepting that Jesus Christ is Lord. We have no problem accepting that Jesus was a good man whose example we should follow but do have a problem accepting that He is fully God just as He claimed to be and just as Scripture portrays Him.

b. John's Gospel is primarily about proving that Jesus is really God come to earth in a true human body and nature. John 1:1-3 tells us:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 ESV)

c. How great a miracle is that? The miracle of creation itself is attributed to Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who was in the bosom of the Father before He became incarnate in human form. And John tells us that Jesus did supernatural signs to confirm that He really was God come to us in the flesh:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 ESV)

d. According to John's Gospel, a sign is not simply something a wise man does but rather a sign is something a divine man does. The sign points to a greater reality behind the man and in fact points to the fact that He is not just a good man or a wise teacher or a good example but He is in fact the Son of God who came to earth on a mission from God.

II. The Proof that Jesus is God in the Flesh

a. Jesus is God because He does miracles by His own authority and His own divine power.

Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." (John 11:39-44 ESV)

b. Our text tells us that the crowd witnessed this miracle and told others who were on the way to the festival in Jerusalem so they all came to see this Jesus who had performed such a great miracle.

c. There is no doubt about the miracle in the minds of the people. Today we doubt the miraculous because we are told that God cannot supernaturally intervene in the natural world. What we wind up with is a form of religion without the power thereof. Religion from below—that is religion in this world is natural. Man-made religion cannot see the revelation of God but rather views religion as just so much myth. Religion is composed of fairy tales and stories, according to the world.

d. The fact is, however, that materialism and science can only tell us the mechanical aspects of the natural world. Science cannot speak to the issue of "why". Christianity is not just another religion but is the ultimately true religion because it is revealed from above. Basically, atheism and agnosticism have no scientific basis for objecting to supernatural religion. Rather the truth is that materialism, atheism, and agnosticism are as much based on dogma as any other religion. How can it be proved that dead men never rise from the dead ever? This is not an empirically verifiable statement which can be scientifically proven and is therefore not based in science but in presuppositions and dogma.

e. So what sets Christianity apart from every other world religion and from even scientific materialism? Christianity is the ultimate and most advanced religion on the face of the earth precisely because it has the highest morality of any religion and because Christianity is not like other religions. Other religions are towers of Babel—man-made ladders which attempt to climb from the earth up to God in heaven. But Christianity is God reaching down to helpless sinners in His Son Jesus Christ.

III. Modern technology cannot give us immortality or eternal life and modern civilization cannot bring us a utopia or paradise on earth.

a. Just as in Jesus' day people follow God for all the wrong reasons. We think that if we follow God that somehow we are guaranteed that there will be no suffering in this life and we will have security until we die. We think the answer lies in belonging to the right political party or to the right country or government on earth. But the Apostle Paul said:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)

IV. Too Often We Bargain with God

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. (John 12:17-18 ESV)

We say things like, "God if only you will do this for me then I'll serve you for the rest of my life." But we don't realize that there is no bargaining with God. He does not owe us anything. In times of desperation we pray for miracles and demand signs from God. "God, if you will just give me what I want, I will do whatever you ask. I'll believe in you if you will raise someone I love from the dead." But the Bible says that there will be no sign given to this wicked generation except the sign of Jonah. Just as Christ was three days and three nights in the belly of the earth, so we too will be raised from the dead at the last day. Jesus said:

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 ESV)

And even if we get the miracle that we ask for we often still do not believe. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man Jesus says that if we do not believe Moses and the prophets we will not believe even if someone rises from the dead:

But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'" (Luke 16:29-31 ESV)


The fact is, we cannot believe because we are powerless to believe God. Christianity is a supernatural religion because even our faith is supernaturally given to us from above. Jesus said, "You must be born again or born from above." Unless and until God supernaturally touches us, John says that we are unable to believe:

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them." 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. (John 12:37-41 ESV)

We have an overinflated sense of our own power, not realizing that God controls not only nature but that He can also supernaturally intervene. He does not need our faith to do anything just as Lazarus had no faith when he was dead and in the grave. In the same way, God supernaturally raises us from spiritual death and transforms us by His grace into the image and likeness of Christ. The signs or miracles point us to the God who is there. He will never leave us nor forsake us because we were bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ who suffered on the cross to reconcile His Father to us.

Modern churches often make it sound as if we need to apologize for God. It is as though God is in the hands of angry sinners and somehow we need to appease sinners so they will accept God. But that isn't the biblical picture at all. The Bible clearly says that we are sinners in the hands of an angry God and it is God's wrath which needs to be appeased or propitiated. We can only have peace with God through the cross of Jesus Christ who bore the sins of the whole world that we might believe in Him.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36 ESV)

Since God demands 100% holiness—not 95% or even 99%-- only the perfect obedience of Christ credited to our account can pass God's test. The bank account of holiness is give to us as if it were our own. And Jesus pays the penalty for our sins and grants us a full pardon so that we no longer face the curse of the law and the curse of death. Jesus literally is our resurrection and our life. The point of Palm Sunday is not that we will not suffer in this life but that through suffering we inherit eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. If we would see Jesus we must see Him on the cross and we must take up our cross and follow Him.

The signs Jesus did prove to us that He is who He said He was. He is both God and man precisely because only a divine man could possibly pay for our sins. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way:

14. Can any mere creature make satisfaction for us?

None; for first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man committed;[1] and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God's eternal wrath against sin and redeem others from it.[2]

[1] Ezek 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18; [2] Ps 130:3; Nah 1:6


15. What kind of mediator and redeemer, then, must we seek?

One who is a true[1] and righteous man,[2] and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.[3]

[1] 1 Cor 15:21-22, 25-26; Heb 2:17; [2] Isa 53:11; Jer 13:16; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26; [3] Isa 7:14, 9:6; Jer 23:6; Jn 1:1; Rom 8:3-4; Heb 7:15-16

Bishop J. C. Ryle said:

What is the true cause of self-righteousness? How is it that such a poor, weak, erring creature as man can ever dream of deserving anything at God's hands? It all arises from ignorance. The eyes of our understandings are naturally blinded. We see neither ourselves, nor our lives, nor God, nor the law of God, as we ought. Once let the light of grace shine into a man's heart, and the reign of self-righteousness is over.

The roots of pride may remain, and often put forth bitter shoots. But the reign of pride is broken when the Spirit comes into the heart, and shows the man himself and God. The true Christian will never trust in his own goodness. He will say with Paul, "I am the chief of sinners." (1 Tim. 1:15) "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Gal. 6:14.)

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.


NewKidontheBlogg said...

Excellent sermon.

Charlie J. Ray said...

NewKidontheBlogg has left a new comment on your post "Palm Sunday Sermon: Supernatural Savior":

Excellent sermon.

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