In the past two weeks you have heard two sermons from two very different preachers, both proclaiming God’s great love for us, how delights in His people and sings over us. And His love for us is not blind. He knows us completely and His love is absolutely realistic. He already knows the very worst about us and He cannot be blindsided or become disillusioned in any way that would diminish His love for us. For reasons that are almost too much to consider God purposefully wants to love us and be our God and have us as His children, as His friends. So much so He is willing to have His own Son die for us to make it all possible. Von Golder and I both tried to make it clear that the gospel is first and foremost about a loving, forgiving God seeking and pursuing us. How do we react when we discover this love, this forgiveness, this grace and mercy, this incredible and undeserved kindness and generosity? Von used the great Scriptural analogy last week of the slave and the son both working in the father’s field, but they are working for very different reasons. As sons and daughters anything we do in response to God’s love is not out of duty or out of trying to earn God’s love, it is out of love and gratitude, and in the knowledge we have a share in His grace and inheritance. This morning I want to call us to respond to His great love. I want to awaken our souls, to stir us up to love God. To whom so much has been given, much is expected.
We are returning to Esther for one final sermon to address an issue that is lurking under the surface. You may have felt the tension. It has to do with this issue of war, and all the killing in the OT, especially of women and children. Some people like to point a finger at the OT and criticize God for being a God of war, who is mean, harsh, vengeful. Christians and non-Christians shudder and struggle with God’s wrath and judgment in the OT especially when they contrast that with the love and forgiveness of Jesus in the NT. Some go so far as to say the God of the OT is different than the God of the NT. Why does the God of the OT tell His people to fight against their enemies, but in the NT He tells them to love their enemies? Esther eight and nine raise a fundamental moral issue, the ethics of Mordecai’s edict. Was it right for Mordecai to issue a decree permitting the Jews not just to defend themselves but to retaliate against their enemies and their families and households, including women and children? Is there a double standard, what Haman decreed against God’s people was wrong, but the actions of God’s people against their enemies was OK? We are glad that the good guys won, but what about the fact that the good guys turned on the bad guys and then seemed to act like the bad guys? There is a lot of talk these days about the abuse of power. Is Mordecai really any better than Haman when it comes to the use and abuse of power?
Chapter 10 in some ways feels like an awkward, unnecessary, little conclusion. What purpose do these verses serve? Are they a waste of breath by God in His inspired Scripture? Well, we all know the answer to that question, of course not, nothing is wasted or unimportant in God’s Word. So why these words? This chapter is a bit of a wake up, a slap in the face, a way of saying that this life is not some panacea, some kind of utopia, some happily ever afterward story. Unhappily life is back to normal, and nothing says life is back to normal more than taxes going up. King Ahasuerus is still king and is doing the things kings do. He is still acting out of self-interest as he imposes another burdensome tax on all his subjects. When Esther became queen back in chapter 2 the king granted a remission of taxes and gave away lavish gifts. So, this taxation is actually a reversal. Yes, the Jews were granted a great life-saving victory over their enemies but they are still under a king who makes their lives more burdensome. He is still mighty in power and in his own selfish desires. Everything has been reversed and yet nothing has changed. He is completely unmoved by all the providential events that have gone on around him. God has been mightily, even if silently, present and at work, yet the king is clueless to all the signs of grace and faith and spiritual power. But there is good news also. Mordecai is second in power and more powerful than ever and has the favor of all his people and he is not acting out of self-interest, he’s looking out for the welfare of his people and seeking peace (shalom).
What do we think when we hear Zephaniah 3? Or to get past the head to the heart, what do we feel when we hear Zephaniah 3? Some of us have a bunch of walls or filters or past experiences that won’t let this text get through. You are good Calvinists, you know your heart is totally depraved, too full of too much sin. God is too great and infinite and you are too small and insignificant to even be noticed by God. You are nothing special, you haven’t done anything great for the kingdom. Some of you think God is mad at you or at least very disappointed. We need to know not just that God loves us, but how much He loves us. I want us to grasp, not our love for God, but God’s love for us this morning.
Winston Churchill once said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.” Mark Twain said, “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Google has changed their motto from “Don’t be evil” to “Do the right thing” Last Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. day. He said a lot of good things in his day. “Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But, conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.” This morning I want to talk with you about doing the right thing when it is neither safe, nor politically correct, nor popular, even when it’s hard, even when it costs. Because the immediate context of my sermon is the issue of abortion, I want to make it very clear that though I want to speak against abortion in the clearest of terms, I want to speak to those who have had an abortion in the most compassionate of terms. If you have committed this sin or helped or forced someone else to commit this sin, and you have been convicted of it by the Holy Spirit, know that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to completely cover and cleanse your sin, if you will truly repent and turn in faith to Him. And if you have done that and still feel guilt and shame, if you have done that and Satan tries to condemn you as a murderer, know that’s not Jesus talking, it’s Satan. Tell him, “Yes, I am a murderer but I stand in good company, with Moses and King David and the Apostle Paul, and one day I will stand with them before the throne of my Lord and Savior who loves me and died for me. In the name of Jesus I am set free.” Remind Satan of that every time he tries to remind you of this or any other sin. We are all sinners here, and I hold out the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not saved by being good, but by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. So we can talk honestly about sin and shame and guilt and know that we are not under judgment and condemnation if we are in Christ. Don’t stay outside in the judgment of God. Come inside to the family of God, the family created by repentance and faith. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
How many of us have trouble remembering things? And how many of us can testify it seems to get worse as we get older? But it isn’t just an age thing. We are all prone to forget some things, events and experiences from our past. In school we are taught so many things and teachers know that there are tricks to getting things to stick in our heads. These memory aids are called mnemonic devices, things that help us remember.
Well, we have now gone through another advent season to properly prepare for Christmas. And we have celebrated it again for a other year, and have been reminded that Jesus Christ has come to be our Savior & Lord. Now that must also cause us to look forward in eager anticipation, in total trust, & in life-encompassing obedience to His 2nd coming. For after all, the fact Jesus came 1st time, as God promised, surely means He will come again a 2nd time, as God also says in Bible. And we if have properly celebrated Christmas by receiving in faith & obedience as our only Savior & Lord at His 1st coming. Then we will be ready for Him when He comes back to take us to eternal glory to be with Him. Th'fore our Lord command in Matt.25:13: “Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” when He will return.