A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on August 7, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether The Christian Faith One Word at a Time – LongingRomans 8:18-25Children, do you know what we’re going to be doing in four months? Getting ready for Christmas! Christmas, of course, is about Jesus’ birthday, but there’s also something else about Christmas that gets children really excited – toys! As the days till Christmas count down, children can’t wait to see their new toys and play with them. Adults, do you feel that way about heaven? As the days and years count down, do you have that I-can’t-wait feeling about seeing all that God has prepared for you? Actually, we can wait. In fact we don’t even like to hear that Christmas is only 4 months away, because it means we’re going to be another year older, and for some of us this age thing is starting to get serious. However, it’s not that we’re not eager for all the joys and blessings of heaven, it’s the getting ready that bothers us. Paul said, “We must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)” We have been following a sermon series called: The Christian Faith One Word at a Time. Today’s word is Longing. God wants us to long for heaven because: 1. Longing keeps us focused in our daily life. 2. Longing for heaven strengthens us against temptation and fills us with joy. What things do you long for? If it’s the end of wars, or the end of disease, or the end of joblessness, or even the end of hatred, it’s not going to happen in this life. Our text reads: For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21) God put a curse on all of creation when our first parents fell into sin. This wasn’t punishment. God had already forgiven man through His promise of a Savior. However, sin had changed man’s nature. As a result, man’s focus always tends to be on himself and on the things of this life. That’s why God keeps hammering away on us that created things aren’t the end all. They ultimately cannot preserve our physical life. Especially created things cannot preserve our soul. Only God Himself can do that. So, instead of longing for anything here on this earth, even if our wants our “simple”, God wants us to long for His forgiveness.Now in a certain sense we’re all still waiting for that. What I mean is, Christ paid for our sins on the cross. He announces our forgiveness through our Baptism and through His Word and Sacrament. Yet we won’t totally FEEL forgiven until we’re in heaven. In the meanwhile guilt from our past sins and failures may haunt us, especially when we’re still dealing with the consequences. As a result, Christians sometimes say, “I HOPE God forgives me”, instead of “I KNOW God forgives me.” Now, to a point it’s good to have this kind of apprehension – NOT so that we turn to our accomplishments or good intentions to feel better about ourselves. But it’s good to have I-can’t-wait feeling for Jesus to look us in the eye, hold out to us His nail-scarred hands, and say, “I forgive you! Come and receive all the blessings I have been preparing for you since before the creation of the world.” If this is what we long for, it will affect our focus. For example will we let any little excuse or inconvenience keep from worship, or will we love hearing His Word? Will His Word be sweeter to us than honey and more precious than gold? Our actions will tell the story. And yet true worship isn’t about being here physically. True worship is a matter of the heart; and now listen as God strengthens our hearts! We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23) We shouldn’t be discouraged or keep asking, “Why me, why me?” whenever we suffer, because the whole creation is suffering. No one is exempt. However, our comfort here is not that misery loves company, or even that things could be worse. Our comfort in suffering is that there’s a happy outcome. Paul used the example of childbirth. What’s the happy outcome of birth pains? A baby! In the same way, God is using all of our suffering and frustrations for good, not the least of which it’s turning our focus to Him and to the hope He has given us.However, before I talk about the content of our hope, I want to talk about hope itself. We read: Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:24-25) The Bible’s word for hope is different than our word for hope. Our word for hope has a lot of uncertainty. For example, “I hope I get better soon or I hope this economy turns around.” The Bible’s word for hope is absolutely certain. Here’s what makes it so. In the previous verse Paul said we have the firstfruits of the Spirit. Firstfruits emphasize that more is coming, just like making a 30% down payment on a house emphasizes to the lender that more payments are coming. I suppose even with a 30% down payment, things could happen and a person defaults. Well, the Holy Spirit is God’s down payment in us that ALL the eternal blessings of heaven are also coming to us, and God will never default. But how do we know that we have the Spirit in us, since there are times when we can’t feel the Spirit on account of guilty feelings we might have or the fact that the good we want to do, we failed at, and evil we did not want to do, we did again? We can know that we have the Holy Spirit through our Baptism, because God promised the Spirit in our Baptism. And so, if we are baptized, we do have the Spirit, because God says so. And since we have the Spirit, just as He created faith in us, (that’s the down payment), we will also create our bodies new again (that’s His payment in full). And not only this, He will make all creation new again, and it will stay new forever! However, what does all of this have to with our daily life? How does hope of heaven help us for what we’re going through now? Actually this entire section of God’s Word is not just about suffering. The broader context is battling sin. You see, temptations have more power when we don’t understand what’s behind our suffering, and we start looking for easy copouts. For example, suppose a person is born with a pre-disposition to addictive gambling. Now, we’re all born with different pre-dispositions – it’s part our sinful nature. Anyway if a person can’t stand not having more of the good things of life, in fact it’s painful to him, and also if he can’t stand not having an adrenalin rush, and doing boring work is excruciating painful for him, what could be a quick copout for him? Gambling what he needs for paying his bills, but of course that only makes his situation more painful. On the other hand, if this individual had kept praying for godliness with contentment, so that he could do whatever God set before Him each day, think how much more blessed he would be! Yet how can we have godliness with contentment when it seems the entire world’s economy is going south? Well, this goes back to, what do we long for? If we long for forgiveness, if we long for the new earth God will create, if we see our suffering as not punishment but God whispering in our ears, “Better is coming”, then we will have godliness with contentment. Furthermore we will love the Word and the Word will ever keep increasing our hope, so that regardless of what’s going on in our life, we may have joy. Let me illustrate this. Come visit our Academy the week before Christmas. Ask the teachers if the children are depressed? The teachers will probably tell you that all of them are hyper with excitement, because they know Christmas is coming and they know they’re going to get new toys. In the same way know that Jesus is coming and He is bringing with Him every blessing of body and soul. So, let’s be hyper in worshipping Him – well, you know what I mean, joyful, yet respectful because God is creator, redeemer and sanctifier. Also let’s be hyper in serving God and in telling others all He has done and promised. And even if Satan tries to throw some monkey wrenches into our service, like he often did with the Apostles, so be it! That doesn’t change our hope, nor does it change the fact that God is using those monkey wrenches to make our hope stand out more and ultimately make our hope more certain. And finally because our hope is certain, let’s keep fighting very temptation and sin desire. For example, we can only imagine how difficult it is for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their spouse. What keeps them faithful to each other while they’re waiting to be together again? Waiting to be together keeps them faithful. We’re waiting to be with Jesus. Waiting for Jesus keeps us focused. Waiting for Jesus helps us resist sin and fills us with joy. And so, whenever we can’t stand things about our life and are tempted to take an easy copout, let’s keep telling ourselves again and again, “I’m waiting for Jesus. With His help I can wait a little longer. And it’ll be worth it.” Amen.

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