A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on May 4, 2008 by Pastor Dale Raether Our Hope of Heaven Is CertainJohn 17:1-11Children, when are you more likely to do something naughty – when your parents are watching or when your parents aren’t watching?  I have a feeling that you sometimes you do naughty things when your parents aren’t watching, or you forget that they’re watching.   The problem with doing naughty things is you might get hurt or hurt someone else.  That’s why your parents want you to learn to not do naughty things, especially as you get older.  However, knowing the right thing and actually doing it are two different things.  For example I’ve heard of teenagers who were being pressured to go to a party where there’d be drinking.  They knew they shouldn’t go, but they didn’t want to say “no” to their friends.  And so, when their parents said “no”, deep down they were happy about it.   Once we’re grown up, fighting temptation and getting ourselves to do what’s right can be just as hard as ever – only we’re on our own.  Now, last week God’s Word reminded us that obedience to the Commandments is the proof of love, and love is the proof of faith.  Given our track record in the past, and given the power of our sinful nature and all the temptations in the world, what hope do we have of not eroding away our faith with sin or false teachings?  However, even if we’re sure WE’RE securely connected to God, what about our children or our grandchildren?  What hope do we have that they’ll always trust in Jesus and love Him?  God’s Word this morning gives us a lot of hope.  We Have Certain Hope of Heaven.  I.  Because the Father gave us to Jesus.  II. Because Jesus is praying for us. We read, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”  Jesus here is praying for so many things with so few words.  The time is Maundy Thursday.  Right after praying this, Jesus would go to the Garden of Gethsemane.  And so, when Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him, He was first of all asking God to lead Him to the cross.  You see, God’s greatest glory isn’t in the wonders of His creation.  God’s greatest glory is in His love for worthless sinners.   Do you know any worthless sinners?  Through Christ, we are not worthless sinners.  Through the water of our Baptism we are a new creation.  On the other hand, apart from Christ, we’d still be running with the pack – sinning and then sinning some more to numb the pain of our emptiness and guilt.  Jesus loves all such sinners!  However, in loving sinners God doesn’t simply ignore their guilt.  Rather Jesus offered Himself to suffer our punishment for us, and in this way He put God’s holiness on display for everyone to see.   So, when we think of about the sights of Good Friday – the darkness, the blood oozing out from His back, His head, His hands, His feet, and His side, see God’s holiness.  See His just anger for our sins.     However, Jesus has turned away God’s wrath.  And so, on the third day, the Father raised Jesus up and this way proclaimed that His sacrifice was worthy to pay for the sins of the whole world.  Furthermore, 40 days after that, Jesus who is still true God and true man in one person, ascended to His heavenly glory, where it’s His turn now to bring glory to the Father.   Here’s how He is doing that.  We read, “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  The Father is glorified when sinners trust that He is their Father for Jesus’ sake.  The Father is also glorified when out of love for Jesus, His children live dedicated and committed lives according to His Word, and when they do all they can so that other sinners may trust in Jesus and become new creations.   But how are people brought to faith?  Again we read in our text, “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”  The Father gave Jesus the authority to forgive the sins of ALL, because as I said before, He had paid for all sins on Good Friday.  As a result, whenever the Father would give someone to Jesus for faith, that person need never doubt that he was forgiven.  Or let me put it this way, we aren’t forgiven because we believe.  We believe because we’re forgiven.   However, this raises a hard question.  Since Christ died for all, why doesn’t the Father give faith to all?  Well, just as God’s great glory is His love, His great glory is also His faithfulness to His Word.  And so, just as God is bound and determined to give faith and strengthen faith and preserve people in faith, He is equally determined to do these things by means of the Word.  On the other hand apart from the Word, we’re on our own, which gets us nowhere.  Because God operates through His Word, on the night before Jesus died, He prays that the Word would go out into all the world.  The Father then answered this prayer by glorifying Jesus at His right hand, so that from there Jesus could pour out the Holy Spirit and send out workers to proclaim His Word.        Now, did you notice how the Father made Jesus have a part in the answer to His own prayer?  The Father often does the same with us.  For example, are you concerned about staying strong in your faith as long as you live?  We should be concerned, because the devil, the world, and our sinful nature are more formidable than we might realize.  We should also be concerned for our loved ones, and for our nation, and for everyone for that matter.  Jesus died for all, yet only those who believe this by the power of the Word are going to make it to heaven.  This is a heavy burden, because there are so many who don’t believe it, and they’re going to hell as a result.   But what should we do with a heavy burden?  Pray!  Pray as Jesus did, and pray as He taught us in the Lord’s Prayer – that His name be hallowed and His kingdom come.  In other words pray that His Law and Gospel be taught clearly.  Pray that I may speak it clearly.  Pray that His Word may take root in the hearts of those who hear it.   Will such prayers be answered?  Absolutely!  First of all, God will answer them by giving us peace in not being in control and that our only job is to get the Word out by as much as He enables us.   Second, God may answer our prayers by arranging for US to be the one to reach the person we’re praying for.  Or, He may arrange for someone else to reach that person.  Either way, God gives, strengthens and preserves faith THROUGH His Word, and He brings His Word to people THROUGH people.   Okay, so maybe we can accept that God insists that we be holy.  And we can accept that He gives forgiveness through His Son and gives faith in His Son through His Word.  But why does God insist on giving His Word through people?  Here’s a clue from today’s Psalm.  “What is man that you are mindful of Him?  You crowned Him with glory and honor.”  We aren’t ants in God’s ant farm.  We aren’t His little science experiment.  We are the crown of creation.  Because we are the crown of creation, our responsibilities are eternally real, and God often allows the consequences of our actions, both for good or bad, be forever.  God be glorified that He would think this highly of us to place us in such a position that our witness and the example we set can be a matter of eternal life or eternal death for others.  Think about that for a moment!  Do you like it that God has put us such a high responsibility on us? According to our sinful nature, we maybe don’t want to be that responsible.  We’d almost rather be God’s pets, so we wouldn’t have to think so hard or work so hard or be bothered by anything.  But that’s a dead way to live!  Just as Jesus ascended into heaven, He wants US to reign with Him.  And this is why God chooses to work through us here on earth, and often leaves undone what we leave undone.      However, this brings up an all important question.  Since we are the crown of creation and God is allowing so much to ride on us, how can we have a certain hope of heaven, and how can we bring this certain hope to others?  Well, remember – the Father gives us faith through His Word.  So, stay in the Word for yourself, and don’t count on your spiritual batteries holding a charge apart from the Word, they need to be recharged every day.  On the other hand, by continuing in the Word, the Father will never let our faith fail us.  Also, remember that Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God, where He is hearing and answering our prayers.  And so, keep praying for your own forgiveness and your growth in faith.  Keep praying for this in behalf of others as well.  Jesus will answer our prayers by blessing His Word, and then more and more we will have certain hope in a hopeless world.   Finally, to make this all practical, I’d like to share with you an idea, we were given at an evangelism workshop last Saturday.  Buy yourself a little spiral notebook.  Then whenever you think of someone who needs your prayers, write his/her name at the top, date it, and write out your prayer.  Next when you see the answer to your prayer, note that below your prayer and then write out a prayer of thanksgiving.  The reason it’s good to use a notebook is God might have us pray for something lots of times before we see the answer, and this will help us keep track.  The last step is when a situation you’ve been praying about has been resolved, rather than tear out that page, just draw a line through it.  In the future it’ll be fun to page through your prayer book and remember some of the great things God has done. You know, there are a lot of things to be concerned about, and there are a lot of reasons to get negative.  But when God’s people are faithful in the Word and in prayer, have hope that great things are going to happen.  Great things are going to happen, because our ascended Lord is sitting at the right hand of God, where He is blessing His Word; He is interceding for; He is ruling in all things for the good of His believers.  Now, what bad news could possibly stand up to that?  So you see, our hope of heaven is certain!  Amen.     

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