Messiah Lutheran Church :: The Domino Effect of God’s Love.

The domino effect of Gods love

Dear Friends in Christ,

            When the space shuttle was flying, it was always amazing to me how many times launches were delayed because of malfunctions.  The space shuttles were very complicated.  They had all kinds of systems and parts in them that had to be working perfectly.  There were navigation systems, engines, computers of all kinds, electrical systems, and fuel systems. Most of the systems have backup systems.  I have known three NASA engineers in each of the churches I have served.  Obviously, they could tell you more than I can.  If something went wrong, even if there were a backup and couldn’t be corrected, the mission would be cancelled.  One of the engineers whom I served worked directly on the shuttle to refurbish it for the next launch.  He said the engineering was incredible. Yet if one part malfunctioned there would be a delay. Yet, how dangerous those launches were!  With so many parts all dependent on each other, the tremendous thrust created at launch and the vibration could easily shake something loose or cause delicate instruments to malfunction.  Those parts of each system were like dominoes.  If one failed, there were usually tremendous problems to face.      

            The human body is like that too.  We have all kinds of body parts.  They all have to be working well for someone to feel good.  Years ago I had an umbilical hernia.  My belly button was an “outtie” and it needed to be an “innie.”  It seemed to me that was a small matter until I had it operated on. The pain I felt, even from a minor operation like that affected my whole body.   

            The Bible too has been put together by our God.  It needs to be understood as a whole.  It can’t be picked apart.  The teachings line up like dominoes and we find assurance and certainty of God’s love.  If one of those teachings is misunderstood, that comfort will be taken away.  That’s what I would like to explore today with these words of Paul to guide us - “The Domino Effect of God’s Love.”   

            When you study the letters of the Apostle Paul, each has an interesting background.  In my opinion the two letters he wrote to the First Christian church of Thessalonica are truly extraordinary.  Thessalonica seemed to be a city on the other side of the tracks.  It was a tough place to do mission work.  In fact, Paul, as was his custom, went to the local synagogues first.  It makes sense.  He wanted people who were supposed to know the Old Testament see Jesus as its fulfillment.  In Thessalonica he was able to teach there before a mob forced him to leave town.  Humanly speaking, starting a church in just three weeks seems absolutely impossible.  Yet, ultimately only God establishes churches.  He made it happen in Thessalonica.  No wonder Paul writes “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord.”

            Paul thanks God because they have indeed been loved by the LORD.  That ought to be believed by all who are God’s children. Have you ever gotten into one of those arguments with a child or grandchild where you debate who loves whom more.  Those are nice kinds of arguments. We have a little granddaughter who is going to be a lawyer someday.  “Noelle, I love you more than you love me.” “Papa, no!  I love you more than you love me!” As people of God, the argument is won by God hands down.

First of all, he says it so many times.  He spoke through Jeremiah, “The LORD appeared to us…saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”  John 3: 16, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”  Romans says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  In Ephesians, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” I John, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 

            In the sixties, the Beatles sang, “All You Need Is Love.”  Also in the sixties Burt Bacharach wrote and Jackie DeShannon sang, “All the world needs now is love.”  But they were talking about human love.  Yeah, the world needs that too, but we need God’s love more.  And we have it.  Even when God knew the world would keep on sinning Jesus died for us anyway to save us. 

            Yet we love to be loved in a personal way, don’t we?  We have a daughter who wants me to write her a poem for her birthday each year.  She doesn’t accept it if I say, “Ditto from last year!”  A lady by the name of Mamie Adams went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees were friendly. She went there to buy stamps just before Christmas one year and the lines were particularly long. Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait in line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. "I know," said Mamie, ’but the machine won’t ask me about my arthritis." She wanted the personal touch.  

            God has done that too.  What is objectively true has become subjectively true for God’s children. Here is the domino effect.  He loves all, but it becomes individual. “From the beginning God chose you to be saved…” Here is that doctrine of election that gets to be such a difficult teaching to understand.  We often raise questions when we really ought to enjoy what it says.  As God’s children there is a reason we know Jesus and all the blessings that go along with knowing him. God chose us to be saved.  “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”  You love Jesus; you are here this morning because God chose you to believe in Jesus. It was not your doing.  You and I are like the Children of Israel who were chosen to be the people from whom the Savior came.  God told Israel, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers.”  Yeah, we can ask the question, why me?  The only right answer is, God’s love.  This was not random, this was God’s plan. Don’t question or doubt it.  Just smile and enjoy it!  You have been on God’s mind from forever to forever.

Domino one – God’s love; Domino two-you were chosen from eternity for eternity.  Domino three - How do I know you are chosen?  The Holy Spirit made it happen that you believe in Jesus.  As Paul says, “Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” Joseph Arminius was a Dutch theologian who lived during the 16th century.  He is the father of “decision theology.”  He taught that people have a free will to respond to or resist to the gospel.”  In other words he said that we have the power to accept Jesus or reject Jesus.  That might sound logical but that’s not true.  Adam and Eve caused real damage to every human being who has lived ever since they sinned in Eden.  Ever since that tragedy in Eden the Bible says every person is born with a sinful nature.  Paul says we are born dead in our transgressions and sin.  No one comes into the world believing that Jesus is Savior.  In fact, Romans 8 says that the sinful nature makes people hostile toward God incapable of loving him.  So let’s talk dominoes. 1) God loves us in spite of who we are; 2) God chose us from eternity for eternity; 3) he makes us his children “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” The Holy Spirit separates us from the condition in which we are born.  He sanctifies us.  Born in darkness we see the light.  Born dead in sin we are now alive in Christ.  I’m sorry Mr. Arminius, but you are taking credit for something God does.  “No man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit” is what the Bible says.  Isn’t that nice to know too?  Our faith is also nothing but God’s grace.     

            Domino one - God loves; Domino two – God chose us; Domino three – by his Spirit we came to faith.  Now domino four – “He called you to this through our gospel.”  The Spirit came to us through the Gospel.  The Gospel is the Good news of Jesus.  The sinful nature in us doesn’t know the Gospel, but the Gospel is knowable and believable…by the Holy Spirit who is working when the Gospel is preached; it’s happening now.  The gospel is the good news that Jesus did everything that was needed to save us. Nothing was left to us thankfully; God took care of it all. The Gospel is the news that Jesus’ perfect life was lived on our behalf; the Gospel is that on the cross, God did not overlook sin but that they were paid for by Jesus’ death.  The Gospel is knowing that God did not leave that payment uncertain.  He accepted it.  Jesus rose on the third day.  The Gospel assures us we stand worthy before God only because of Jesus.  The Gospel is Baptism through which we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit as he plants faith.  In Baptism he takes us from being outside the family of God and put us into the family circle of the Triune God. In Baptism we are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  In Baptism Christ’s suffering, Christ’s death, Christ’s burial becomes our own.  In Baptism we are raised with Christ and given a new life to be lived for the LORD.  The gospel includes the Lord’s Supper where God individualizes forgiveness. God gives us his true body and blood of Christ in such an intimate way.  Forgiveness is a done deal.  That’s the Gospel.  It’s a done deal!

            Domino one God loves; Domino two – God chose us; Domino three – by his Spirit we came to faith to become possessors of it.  Domino four – Through the Gospel! 

Now Domino five – “so that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the wilderness the Children of Israel shared in the glory of the Lord.  For forty years in the wilderness the glory of the LORD went with them, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  The LORD was visibly present among them. They didn’t always appreciate it.  The record of Israel was a sad one to review.  They rebelled again and again.  What the LORD does want us to know that the time is coming – because he loves us, because he chose us, because the Spirit brought us into fellowship with him through the Gospel, we are going to see the glory of the LORD Jesus Christ, like Peter, James and John did on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured and his face began to shine like a light and his clothes became whiter than anything known to man.  What God chose us for will be fully realized.  That’s where the domino effect of God’s love is going.  

In summary he says, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” Hold on to it!  Hold on to it by cling to the promises found in the Word that has been handed down and passed on to you.

I read an article this week about a study that the Barna Group made.  They said that almost 60% of Christian young people ages 15 to 29 have distanced themselves from active involvement in church. Behind the mass exodus include young people finding churches "shallow," feeling that God is missing from services, and feeling that church is not a safe place to express doubts. He added that in many cases, churches have failed to equip young people to live "in but not of" the world. "[Young people] tell us that ... Christianity has become so hip, so watered-down, so about entertainment -- and they're looking for something of more substance," Kinnaman said. However, not all is lost: Kinnaman said this has led some young people to begin attending more traditional, conservative churches. "They want to feel that their faith matters, that they're learning the truth of Scripture," he said. God is missing from services, and feeling that church is not a safe place to express doubts. He added that in many cases, churches have failed to equip young people to live "in but not of" the world. "[Young people] tell us that ... Christianity has become so hip, so watered-down, so about entertainment -- and they're looking for something of more substance," Kinnaman said. However, not all is lost: Kinnaman said this has led some young people to begin attending more traditional, conservative churches. "They want to feel that their faith matters, that they're learning the truth of Scripture," he said.God is missing from services, and feeling that church is not a safe place to express doubts. He added that in many cases, churches have failed to equip young people to live "in but not of" the world. "[Young people] tell us that ... Christianity has become so hip, so watered-down, so about entertainment -- and they're looking for something of more substance," Kinnaman said. However, not all is lost: Kinnaman said this has led some young people to begin attending more traditional, conservative churches. "They want to feel that their faith matters, that they're learning the truth of Scripture," he said.God is missing from services, and feeling that church is not a safe place to express doubts. He added that in many cases, churches have failed to equip young people to live "in but not of" the world. "[Young people] tell us that ... Christianity has become so hip, so watered-down, so about entertainment -- and they're looking for something of more substance," Kinnaman said. However, not all is lost: Kinnaman said this has led some young people to begin attending more traditional, conservative churches. "They want to feel that their faith matters, that they're learning the truth of Scripture," he said.God is missing from services and church.  They say that in many cases, churches have failed to equip young people to live in and not of the world. Young people have said that Christianity has become so hip, so watered down, so about entertainment – and they are looking for something of more substance. They said that all is not lost. 

What Paul writes to us about is substance – the domino effect of God’s Love – Yes, God loves you; Domino two – God chose us; Domino three – by his Spirit he brought us to faith in Jesus Domino four – revealed in the Gospel’ domino five – to bring us into glory.  Let’s close our sermon with the prayer that Paul prayed, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”  

 

Amen

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