No Fear In Death

Oh man, so that was some great worship. man, it’s so good to be together with the family of God, singing his praise! – nofear

So let’s keep it up! Let us continue to worship through the preaching of the Word. OK? Preaching isn’t a solitary sport. It’s not time to sit back and spectate. this isn’t a concert and you are not an audience. Right? This is worship! Preaching the Word of God is Worship that the body of Christ engages in together. As the preacher opens up the Word, the body seeks to understand and accept and treasure that Word. amongst other things that should include praying God would consume the preacher, would accompany the preaching with power and give faith to the hearers and it should include each you taking that word and preaching it to your own soul. Alright? So let’s do this! I’m pumped.

Tonight’s text and likewise tonight’s sermon has a specific goal in mind. And that Goal is to Embolden you… to fill you with courage to face life’s battles, to calm your trembling heart and fill it with cheerful expectation. It is to find in Jesus a mighty and spectacular and humble and brave Savior. A savior who would go to any lengths… would pay any price… would face any giant, in order to set His people free from sin and the fear of death.

So are you ready? Are you ready to find boldness? Are you ready to go to Jesus and receive from Him courage and strength to fight and take the victory?

nofear

Good. Listen to the Words of God…

(Hebrews 2:14-18)  Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood He himself likewise shared in the same. This first part of verse 14 matches up with the first part of verse 17. that says Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren.

That Jesus, (God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, by whom all things were made) would share in your same nature, to be subject to the same constrictions, to have a limiting body, to suffer pain and change, to feel betrayal, to feel hunger, to be exhausted and sleep, to be confronted with the unknown, to grow and fall ill, to be spat on and killed. How could that be? It’s an incredible mystery, but to say that Jesus wasn’t a man but only put on human form like an overcoat to cover up his divine nature for a time, is to strip Jesus of the human nature that he stooped down at great cost to inhabit. And to do that, is to strip yourself of the forgiveness of sins and hand yourself over, completely defenseless, to your accuser.

But there’s another question, one that has an immediate and liberating impact. Why? Why would He do such a thing? The text explains why, like this…

that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death that is the devil.

He took on your nature so that He could die.

but, Why is it necessary for the devil to be vanquished through death and through the death of a man? Surely, if the devil could have been destroyed by any other means the Almighty would not have subjected himself to such shame and ridicule as taking on the nature of a lowly creature to suffer and die by the hands of evil men.

Well the parallel verse to this one sheds more light on the matter. It says,  that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 

nofear

Propitiation means to appease wrath.

For example, Yesterday, a certain man took to work a couple pieces of cake, which he planned to savor little by little on his morning breaks, over the course of the week. Now can you imagine the anger I felt, I mean, that unnamed man, felt when he found that one of his co-workers helped himself to the cake without asking and left little more than a handful of crumbs in an empty container? the injustice of it! The  righteous angry! Can you imagine?! Now when the co-worker was confronted, He apologized and promised to go and buy the exact same cake (except whole and unblemished) and repay the man. Well, such news is well received. and when the cake is replaced, the man’s anger will will also be replaced, replaced with a great big smile. The co-worker will have made propitiation.

But imagine now something more detestable. Imagine a woman comes home to find that her husband of many years and the father of her children has betrayed her love and defiled their covenant by fooling around with a younger woman from the office.

If that man were to offer his aggrieved wife a cake in apology. What are the odds that her wrath would be appeased? Zero. The chance are zero. The wicked man could never make propitiation for his fornication with a cake. If anything it would just add more insult to the injury.

You see, the payment, the peace offering must be proportionate to the crime.

Without a proper propitiation, the wrath remains.

That is the state that man has gotten himself into. You have stirred up God’s fury by tolerating false gods in your community… by singing His praises on Sunday and on monday telling filthy jokes… by desiring another man’s wife… by suppressing the truth of your own sins while exposing and finding comfort in the sins of your neighbor… by abandoning your brothers to pursue after the riches of this world… by remaining silent while your fellow man kills his children and calls it good. Judge for yourselves, Is the Lord not right in hating what he sees?

(pause)

But because of God’s great love, because He cares for man in such an intense and extreme way, He came  down to make that propitiation Himself, to soak up in his body, the wrath of God.  In sharing in your flesh and blood and being crushed for you, He did something so grand, so unthinkable, so as to appease the Father’s wrath.

nofear

And that’s what this text is getting at

But you ask, “why?” “why did it have to be this way?”

Why could you not be forgiven, why could God’s wrath not be quenched in some other way, through some other sacrifice? Why could the blood of  all those bulls and goats not forgive sins? … because it’s the blood of bulls and goats, not the blood of man!

That’s a raw deal.

That’s unequal scales.

That’s a counterfeit offer!

That’s paying with an IOU. You might appease someone for a time but the price has not been paid. It is a statement that confirms, yes there is a debt and I owe you but I can’t or don’t want to or am just plain terrified to settle my account.

And now this is really getting to the heart of the matter

(Hebrews 2:14b) that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death that is the devil and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

This is akin to all the hero stories, where there is the good guy and his evil enemy and the enemy, in order to inflict the greatest possible amount of pain on the good guy, takes the hero’s bride-to-be hostage (you see, Satan is attacking you, not because he hates you, but because He hates Your Maker who chose you over him)

So you end up with the scenario where the evil one is standing, holding a gun to the girl’s head and you have the hero standing opposite. and a choice is presented. Vanquish the foe or save the girl?

But the story of the Bible is Vanquishing the foe AND getting the girl. it’s the sharpshooting hero that shoots the pistol out of the hand of the villain, stripping him of the power of death and saving the girl in one fell swoop.

nofear

It’s part of the all-time greatest story. The story of God.

It’s important now that you understand what that metaphorical pistol is, that your hero shot out of the hand of your oppressor.

What is the power of death that the devil wields? What causes man to fear death? How does that fear bind him and keep him from living a free and happy and holy life?

Well, what is death? … Death is the doorway through which you enter into the presence God… and through which every man must pass.

Now, entering into the presence of the Almighty will plunge you into one of two states:

one of Inexpressible joy, of ecstasy, of fulfillment

or one of utter terror, of shaking knees and trembling hands

One of those states is the fulfillment and consummation of your deepest desires and delights. It is a state in which you could not conceive of anything better. think of the long awaited honeymoon of your dreams. at last united in marital bliss with the love of your life. the constraints and the frustrations are finally behind you and now you’re free to completely enjoy each other. that’s just a picture. a picture which captures but a dripping drop of the true and glorious reality awaiting the bride of Christ, the church, for whom he gave himself.

The other state is the fulfillment and consummation of your deepest fears and anxieties. It is a state in which you will fear for your life but tremble at knowing that it is too late. all is lost. The control and safety you thought you had is now revealed to be what it always was, a thinly veiled lie. Think of strolling about downtown when suddenly and nightmarishly you’re overtaken by an angry and uncontrollable mob. All restraint has been removed, there is no one, no police, no law, no common decency to protect you. In a moment your plans for next week, your promising promotion, your friends and family, your savings account, your diplomas and certifications, have vanished in a puff of smoke. you’re being beaten and kicked and striped of your clothing. will you make it out alive? you know you won’t and you just hope it ends quickly. that’s just a picture. a picture which captures but a dripping drop of the true and terrifying reality awaiting the those who cling to their sins. 

and that’s exactly what makes the difference, what determines the sort of country that the door of death will open up to you. … your sins. your sins.

This is the power of death that Satan wields. Satan. His name is the Accuser. He may have power to inflict pain and suffering upon you for a time, He may be granted the power to spread disease and destruction. he may lie and try to deceive. He may try to blind and numb you with riches and fame and respect. But He may never damn you. He is not the ruler of hell, he is not the judge, He can not separate you from God. The one true weapon he does wield is your unforgiven sin. he is the accuser. He does not fool or convince God of lies. The Father, He is the True, Wise, Just Judge.  He can not be deceived.

No, you have no fear of being charged and convicted of false charges. No, Satan has but one truly lethal weapon, the long list of charges against you, all of which you are actually guilty of.

That is precisely why the natural state of man is to live in fear of death.

The fear of death is not merely the fear of a painful death, it is the fear of the pain of facing the Living God with blood on your hands.

Man fears meeting his maker because he knows that the long list of charges against him, they are true. He knows that yes, he is currently alive and walking about but death is after him. He’s a marked man. This is what the holy scriptures call, being dead in your trespasses.

and men are enslaved by this fear of death and judgment. It controls their lives.  It causes people to do all sorts of things in order to take their focus away from, or to prolong the inevitable. You can see this in

consuming lifetime professional goals… people that are wrapped up in their work, their eyes are always on the next task, the next stage of development, the next promotion. Work is their life. Everything and everyone else takes a back seat. Or you have people that through fear do the irrational and try with all their might to fend off death through crazy diets and workout regimes, or through stockpiling gold and silver and munitions, and mountains of non-perishable food supplies. You have people who fear leaving their home. It’s the fear that locks them up inside away from anything or anyone dangerous.  Or you have people who are bound by the fear of death by filling every  waking moment with noise… time-wasting games other phones, TV shows…  the movies… Facebook…. YouTube… Instagram …“News” stories… podcasts, blogs… ugh! How much of that is needed? how much is actually beneficial? it’s got to be a good 95% garbage. … it’s like socially acceptable mind and life-numbing drugs. It’s just anything to keep your focus away from death and what awaits us when we die.  It’s all about taking your minds away from reality, from anything that really matters, anything that is truly lovely or lasting. It’s enslavement.

Everything everyone does, from the goals you set, your hobbies, the activities you engage in, the way you fill your time, the relationships you build, the habits you form, the addictions you latch onto, the medications you take. It’s all, to one degree or another, consciously or sub-consciously, a coping strategy.

Do you see how the fear of death and judgment keeps you from abundant life by having you cling with all your might to this momentary life and do everything within your power to avoid the unavoidable. … It keeps you from freedom and happiness by keeping you focused on the fleeting fancies of life, lest you contemplate your true state and feel your great burden and then turn and cry out to the great Savior.

Sooner or later it will be time to pay up. You can’t continue to endlessly and mindlessly kick the can further down the road. a Day of reckoning is coming. a time to answer for your evil deeds. Our Father Adam betrayed the Creator and rebelled against him and failed to protect his wife Eve. And Adam’s son, Cain, the first man to be born and raised a human, he grew up to envy his brother. He gave into his lustful desires and rose up to stike his brother down. This is your heritage… this is your lineage. this is who man is. You know inherently, deep down in your bones, that such wickedness will not, cannot go unpunished and as long as it does go unpunished, the fear of death, the day of reckoning holds you in bondage.

(Hebrews 4:13) There is no creature hidden from the sight of God. All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him, to whom we must give an account. There’s a reason why all of you are clothed here tonight. there’s a great gospel message in clothing and it pertains to God covering your sins and the idea of being naked is frightening. people would see you for who you truly are. it’s a very frightening thought because it represents who you are in your sins. uncovered and unforgiven.

Oh, what a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!

And so at the root of this you have men rebelling. you have sin. you have men standing up and fighting against their maker. this is the power of Satan against you… your sins, your ugly and vile sins. He has no other meaningful power against you.

So again you have men rebelling as a result of that you have God’s wrath on men as a result of that you have man fearing death and judgment for their sins and as a result of that you have men throughout their entire lives engaging in destructive habits of distraction and denial and these destructive habits are what bind and enslave  and restrict men from living freely and enjoying Life with The Creator in obedience.

This is why, in order to appease the wrath of God that was on your head, and free you from the bondage of fear, and wipe your sins away and make you clean and presentable to God and bring you back into peace and union with the Father and call you his beloved, … in order to complete that mission it was fitting for Jesus to take on the form of man and endure man’s punishment.

This is how Jesus answers your great need.

Christ offered himself up to be crushed, to endure the punishment for your sins. In so doing, Jesus de-fanged the devil. He Dis-armed the deceiver. By covering all your sin, as it is written, (Colossians 2:13-15) you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

(That’s incredible good news!!!)

This means that, if you are in Jesus, if you lean fully on him and have been united to him in that trust, The wrath over your sins has been appeased, In His death, you died and in his Resurrection You were raised and will live forevermore. Satan no longer has any legitimate grounds to accuse you before God. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect, it is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33) Satan’s ultimate weapon against us is our own sin. If the death of Jesus takes it away, the chief weapon of the devil is taken out of his hand. He may roar all he likes, but he may not separate you from God. He may not use death to frighten you.

for the children of God, Death is the doorway through which you gladly pass into the glorious land of the King. and there he awaits your arrival with open arms. The final battle fought and won. No more waring within you against the sin that so easily entangles. The weight lifted. Rest. For the the church, for the bride of Christ, death is the car ride from the wedding ceremony to the honeymoon. It’s the archway under which you stroll with your bride-groom into an endless life of bliss. It’s not to be dreaded, but embraced, knowing that it leads to the long awaited union of you and the lover of your soul.

(time check. ???  Personal story about car accident?)

(Psalm 16:8-11) I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

So all the children of God are freed from the fear of death. The shackles are sprung. Satan stands to read the list of charges against God’s elect and when he looks down, the page is empty! it’s blank. He’s been made a fool of. God has justified. and satan is powerless to overturn the decree.

And God means for our ultimate safety to have an immediate effect on our lives. He means for the future happy ending, to take away the slavery and fear of the present. If you do not need to fear the last and greatest enemy, death, then you need not fear anything.

Now, some say, wait a minute, isn’t the fear of death  healthy? Doesn’t it causes people to act more carefully, to minimize risks?       Hogwash!

…to act more carefully, to minimize risks… Is that way of thinking compatible with the gospel? why would you minimize risks? and how has minimizing risks helped build up the witness of the church in the culture you live in?  Has acting more carefully strengthened or weakened your witness?

You know what’s risky? … loving people! opening yourself up to people. opening your home and your family to others.

Is it true that the fear of death is healthy?… that it keeps you from doing stupid things and from wasting your life?

Well, that all depends… Is spending the lion-share of your energy and resources on furthering the Kingdom of God a waste? Is opening up your house to someone in need, stupid? Is that a risk worth taking? How about opening up your family to children without parents of their own? What about derailing your career path to go and bring the message of Jesus to a people who haven’t heard?

What about forgetting your personal ambitions in order to focus on the needs of your fellow man? What about being honest even when it will cost you dearly? What about putting aside your “me time” to invest in your neighbor? How about following the example of your hero and humbling yourself and laying down your life to save sinners? How foolish, how risky are those choices?  

Your world has enough people sitting safely at home avoiding risks!

What the world needs, is to see that you cherish Jesus above all! … that risking your health, risking your financial security, risking the world’s esteem is not a risk at all to you. The world needs to see that everything this life has to offer you is worth gladly giving up if it means going to be with the lover of your soul!

Oh praise the Lord!

(Hebrews 2:18) For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

do you hear that tonight? Is the Lord speaking to you? Do you have ears to hear? Do not harden your heart!

For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.

The seed of Abraham are those that put their faith and trust in Jesus. And He is mighty to come to their aid and vanquish their foe and set them free. and empower them to walk in newness of life.

This is the offer of a gracious and long suffering and merciful God. He offers aid, he offers rescue. To man alone, not to animals or angels, but he comes to you, lowly you, and says, (John 7:37) “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”

How shall you escape the the judgment of God if you neglect such a great salvation? Don’t neglect it? Don’t turn your back on Jesus. Come! Come to the fountain of life, come to the hero of heros, come to Jesus, the lamb that was slain but rose again conquering death and now sits on the throne in glory and honor and power. Come! and to all that come, know this, that there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. No condemnation, No fear of death, No bondage.

But holiness… simple, happy holiness. Courage … freedom…  freedom to risk it all freedom to live dangerously, freedom to take part in His incorruptible life. 

Come!

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