Overcome the Darkness

From a Sermon delivered to the United Methodist Church, Elkton, Maryland, January 2013:

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Out of the darkness of December past, the slaughter of the innocents: 

“A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”  -Matthew 2:18

Yet, amidst this evil, the Advent of the Light of Christ came shinning through; His Light overcame the darkness as we celebrated the remembrabce of His birth.  His star filled our hearts once more.

Now, as we move into a New Year in the Year of our Lord, and into the Church season of Epiphany, the revealing of the Christ-Child to the world, let us look forward to His blessings, mercy, love, and grace in our lives.  The birth od Christ is one of the sure foundations of our faith. 

I want to tell you today about the other “sure foundations” that we need to hold to as tightly as we would hold the Father’s hand when we pray.

I want to tell you a story about a man who was searching to find some answers in his life.  He wamted to know God’s will for his life.  Was he good enough; was he doing enough “good” works to please the Lord and be accepted, and thus earn his salvation?

He was unsure, and restless, and had a sad look about him.  People often saw him sitting alone in the churchyard with his Bible, this old man.

One day, just before a Sunday morning worship service, one of the pastor’s saw him, and went over to him.

What’s the matter, he asked?

I’m waiting to hear from God, the man replied.  And then he told him all the questions he had about God’s will, and of works, and forgiveness, and salvation, and that he felt that he was not good enough to be loved, or saved. 

I have just got to do more; and then, perhaps.

The pastor gently took the Bible from his hand, and said, Then you shall hear from God today, for God speaks to us through his holy written word.

Doumbfounded, the man said he never thought of it that way.

Can you help me? he asked.

Yes, said the Pastor, and then he turned in the Holy Bible to the Gospel Acording to John, chapter 6, verses 28 and 29, and read:

“Then they said unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?  Jesus answered and said unto them, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him who He sent.”

The first and greatest work God wants you to do is believe on His Son Jesus Christ with all your heart, and your soul, and your mind, for this is the will of God for your life.

And so that you might know God’s will for your life, Listen, for all your good works shall flow from this, and he turned to verse 40 0f the sixth chapter of John:

“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that anyone which sees the Son, and believes on Him, may have everlasting life: And I will raise him up at the last day.”

Jesus also said, You have seen me and believe; blessed are they who have not seen me and believe.

This, my friend, is the foundation you seek.

And the man said, “O Lord, I believe, help me with my unbelief! tears streaming down his face.

But the man still had many qiestions; didn’t he need to do more works to be forgiven and saved?

Tell you what, said the Pastor, why don’t we take a walk on the old Romans Road? Right here.

Do I need to pack?

Nope.

Toothbrush?

Nope.  It’s a journey we’ll take right from here along the path of Salvation in the Book of Romans.

Remember, how the Apostle Paul walked these roads proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  And he knew the sure foundations of these roads, for all roads led to Rome.

A traveler in those days on these roads felt safe with such a firm foundation.  And along the way at different intervals were mile markers to tell the traveler how far he had walked, and how far it was to his destination.

And thus they, the Pastor and the old man began their walk on the Romans Road.

As they started out, they noticed the road as being very broad.  And soon they came to the first mile marker.  Attached was the message from Romans 3:23…

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

We all have sinned against God in our hearts, said the Pastor.  We were born in sin and born under the power of sin’s control.

And the old man said, O Lord, I am a sinner!

And so they walked on.  Just up ahead was the second mile marker.  On it was a message from Romans 6:23…

“For the wages of sin is death.”

Sin has an ending, said the Pastor.  We all face physical death, which is the result of sin.  But a worse death is spiritual death that separates us from God, and will last for all eternity.

And the old man said, Surely I, the greatest of sinners deserve death for my sins against the Lord, my God.

Then the man gazed upon the second part of the message:

“But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The old man was kneeling now and heard, Salvation is a free gift from God to you!  You can’t earn this gift; you must reach out and receive by faith.

And the old man said, O God, forgive me and save me.

As they walked on steadily through the Book of Romans, the path suddenly became very narrow, and before long they reached the third mile marker, and there attached was a message from Romans 5:8…

“But God demonstarted His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

When Jesus died on the Cross, said the Pastor, He paid sin’s penalty, the price for all the sins of the world, He took upon Himself on the Cross.

He bought us out of the slavery of sin and death.  And the only condition is that you believe what He has done for us…for at that very moment of belief, you will be saved and joined to Him in new life forever.

Today, I give my life to you, Lord Jesus, said the old man, his face changing to joy.  

Look, said the Pastor, there is yet another message, and it’s from Romans 8:1…

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” 

My Lord and my Savior, Jesus, thank you; his face wet with joyful tears, his body low to the ground.

On they trod these Romans Roads with happiness in their hearts. Soon they came to the 4th mile marker, and there was another messege attached, this time Romans 10:13…

“For whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Call out to God in the name of Jesus, said the Pastor, and the old man did so with all his heart and soul and tears.

No more weary travelers on these Romans Roads, it wasn’t too long before they approached the 5th mile marker and a messege from Romans 10:16…

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

They were nearing the end of their walk on the Romans Road. But just up ahead was the final messege, yet this one was different in appearance! It seemed to glow with a bright white light that drew them nearer.

The messege was Romans 10:9 and 10; and the old man, crying to God with his hands lifted up to heaven cried:
“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

And the old man said, Lord Jesus, I believe with my whole heart that you died for my sins, and that you were raised from the dead for my salvation.

And the Pastor replied, So you see, my friend, that our entire walk on the Romans Road was surrounded by God’s great, great love for us. For this is the greatest love He has for us which is echoed in the 3rd chapter of John, verse 16:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

That’s how much God loves you!

I end this with a story about an Irish minister of the 19th Century, known as the “Boy Preacher, who came to preach in Chicago as a guest of the great Dwight L. Moody.

For seven days he preached only on John 3:16 to show the people God’s great love for them. He kept going back to this same verse because it is the greatest expression of God’s love as a sure foundation for those who believe.

On the last night of his week long sermons, he said that all week long I have been trying to tell you how much God loves you. But my words are not enough, and my speech fails.

Then he said, that if he could take Jacob’s Ladder, and stretch it all the way to heaven, so that when I arrived and was greeted by the Angel Grabiel, who stands in the presence of God, and I asked him how much does God love me, he would say:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This is our sure foundation.

If you have never walked the Romans Road, Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart to join Him. The foundation is still as firm as ever, and always will be.

May we rest assured in His unending love for us, and place our trust in Him.

Amen

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