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Main Service Times: Main - 9:30 & 11:00 AM | Evening - 7:00 PM | Arabic - 1:15 PM

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Redemption: The Theme of God's Word

By Lawrence Wilkes

2200 2020-04-01

It’s been a wonderful morning so far, has it not? Just to hear that choir, the solo, the interview; my, it is wonderful. And all of it, whether in word or song, is from the heart of people who have, indeed, been redeemed. That word, redemption, is in the Bible from the beginning to the end. Maybe not the word, but the implication is there, all the way through. The Bible is full of stories of redemption. Why?

Because God is a God of redemption. He doesn’t close the door on any of us. He’s always opening that door for new days, new opportunities, new things, rebirth; it’s always an open door.

I’ve never quite been able to understand the love of God. I know He loves all of us, and yet I can’t say I love everyone. I don’t know if I’m revealing something I shouldn’t at this point, but maybe you’re like me. Every once in awhile, someone comes into your life that you wish hadn’t. And you want to say, “Just go away.” When this happens, I know that God is instructing us to love one another. I do better at a distance with those kind of folks. And so I try to love them, but I also try to keep out of their way.

Redemption is something else entirely, because it’s based on God’s love for all of us. He loves us all. His compassion is endless, tireless. Day after day is a new day with God. It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it, with forgiveness? We can forgive, but we never seem to forget. And we can hold grudges and we can hold things against one another when we have these problems. But God forgives and forgets. Awesome. That is a wonderful gift that God has given to us.

Redemption comes in many different forms. As we look throughout the Bible, beginning, of course, in Genesis with Adam and Eve, there is redemption immediately as they sin and come short of the glory of God as they eat of the forbidden fruit. They did what God had told them not to do. And it becomes the story of every one of us - we’ve all fallen, all come short of the glory of God, and all have sinned. But immediately - even in Genesis chapter 3, the story of Adam and Eve - there is redemption in that story. God provides a way of escape.

Then look at the people of Israel much later on as they’re held captive in the land of Egypt. The Israelites had come to the point where they had become subservient to the Egyptians. They became slaves, these Israelites, and they moaned and they groaned under the heavy burden that was placed upon them. It was a terrible life. You can well imagine that there were those who prayed and prayed and prayed, “God deliver us. Deliver us.” But time just seemed to go on with no relief. It seemed as if God turned a deaf ear toward them, He wasn’t listening, or He was busy somewhere else. But no, God heard their prayers. But, with no signs of relief, I’m sure there were many people who came to the conclusion that there was no God. “Our prayers are not being answered, so there is no God.” And they left the faith.

Finally, God did answer their prayers when He raised up a man called Moses. “Moses,” God, Himself, says to him from the burning bush, “you’re the man. You are the man. You’re going to be the one to save these people and to bring them out of slavery, to usher them into freedom and back into the land that I’ve promised to them. You’re the man.”

And Moses said, “But...but...but...but...but...I stutter, God. I...I...I...I’m not very good at this. I’m not good...Somebody else...surely somebody else.”

But God says, “No, you are the man. And I will equip you with everything you need. And I will give you the powers to persuade these people and you will be my man.”
Finally, Moses succumbs and says, “Yes.”

And you know, of course, the great story where the Israelites move on out as a nation, and they come to the Red Sea, one of the first areas where a miracle is about to happen. There they gather with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit, following them in chariots, on horses, and the like. The Israelites must have felt threatened at that point, thinking, “Moses, what have you brought us to? What is going to happen now?”

Then God performs that wonderful miracle of the Red Sea parting as the children of Israel joyfully, excitedly, in a celebration attitude, cross the Red Sea on dry land. And when they got to the other side on the bank of that great sea, they surely thought, “We’re safe! This is wonderful.”

Then, they saw the Egyptians. “They’re coming! They’re coming right after us into the Red Sea. They’re coming!” And a frightened feeling welled up inside of them. “Has God, again, abandoned us? Has God brought us to this point to slay us? Will we all perish?”

But, just then, another part of the miracle happened as the Red Sea closes in on the Egyptian army, which is annihilated. The much-relieved people of Israel stood on that bank that day and they sang to the glory of God. “God has done a great thing!” God is a God of redemption. He had redeemed them from slavery and given to them a new hope, a new vision, and a new place entirely, and so away they went.

My friends, God has heard your prayers in this congregation, and we are now on another journey, infused with the miracles that God will put before us. The Red Seas will open, the Jordans will part, the manna from heaven will come, the water from a rock will happen. God is a God of miracles! And He’s a God of redemption. Do you believe it? Amen? Amen.

“Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” Those were the dying words on the lips of my grandfather as he lay dying with the family gathered around, quite a large group; everyone was there. Grandfather, gasping his last breaths, suddenly sat up, straight up, and looked around with a smile and began to nod as if there was a whole bunch of people there beyond the ones who were present. It was obvious that he could see beyond that moment into eternity, and he was greeting those that had gone on before him. And then he spoke and those were the words: “Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” Then he lay back down and died.
What a profound thing that was upon my mind as a small child, to have seen all of that. And upon my mother’s mind, as well, who at that time was an atheist. Later on, once I had come to faith in Christ and she had also come to faith in Christ, we talked about grandfather’s death so many years before.

God is a God of miracles. God is a God of redemption. And here is what He said to Israel: “Behold, I make a covenant before all your people. I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.”

He’s a God of redemption. And, of course, the story of Israel goes on to the glory of God, as He, indeed, did more marvelous things.

Looking on in the Bible, you’ll read the story of Esther becoming a queen in a foreign land. She was placed there for such a time as this. God, who knew what was going on, planned ahead of time to place Esther to be challenged. That young lady, placed in such a strategic time and place and moment, takes the challenge and the people of Israel are saved through what she did.

Then there’s Ruth, a Moabite that comes from a foreign land. She had lost her husband, lost her father-in-law, lost her brother-in-law. It was just her mother-in-law and herself, and they choose to go back to Israel where Ruth’s mother-in-law came from, but it was not the homeland of Ruth. Nevertheless, she embraced the God of Israel. And her life changed from one that seemed like it would be something of poverty, into an incredible life and story, to become an ancestor of Jesus Christ. What an incredible story that was.

Jonah, sent to Nineveh, didn’t want to go. He had all the excuses that we as humans put up before us: “No, ask somebody else. I’m not the person, I’m not the man.” Nonetheless, God takes him through a bit of a journey, bringing him to preach to the city of Nineveh, and as a result, the city is converted because God is a God of redemption. It does not please His heart when anyone perishes, but rather, He wants to redeem and bring them back. Nehemiah is a great book. A book of reconstruction. Even so, when the people came back to Jerusalem after being taken into captivity in Babylon, they looked at the city and it was in ruins. It was in ruins, but they began to work together with such excitement and joy. We are like them that dreamed. It was a good dream. It was an exciting event, even to return to things that were not as they were previously.

I think there’s a lesson for you and me right here in this congregation. Things will never be as they were, but you know what, they could be better. You know what, when you’re down to nothing, God is up to something. With God, all things are possible.

I feel this way about life. People talk about it being a journey. And that’s fine, but a journey to me sounds rather dull. The word makes me think of driving without air-conditioning through a desert - this is my impression of a journey. You just have to do it to get from where you are to where you want to go. It’s no particular fun.

When I became a Christian many years ago, now, my life changed from a journey to an adventure. It was an adventure with God. I have a feeling that Crystal Cathedral is being called, once again, not to a journey, but to an adventure with God, a wonderful, exciting time.

In my life, I never know what’s going to happen next. I have learned at my older age never to count on tomorrow, for “Thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” And when I got a call on Monday afternoon, asking if I could speak at Crystal Cathedral for three Sundays, I thought, “Lord, is this a dream? It could be a nightmare. What’s going on?” Then the choir, with members that had dispersed all over the place, is called back together. Within a week, everything is restored, maybe not to what it used to be, but it’s going to be better. I believe that.

When it comes to the word “resurrection,” it implies that, first, something has died before you can resurrect it. It reminds me of the wonderful story of Jesus. He’s healing someone, and touching others, and teaching many, when word comes that a man’s daughter is very ill, and he’s asked if He could come and heal her. He says yes, and they begin to make the journey to that family’s home. Then word comes, “Don’t bother coming; the daughter has died.” Oh, the heartbreak of that horrible news. There’s heartbreak when we lose anything or anyone.

But Jesus goes to that home, nevertheless. And He enters that room where that little girl lay, and said, “Arise.” And the little girl stood up and walked. Can you imagine the joy of those parents and relatives and all of those that were gathered around? “Little girl, arise.” And she walked, and she talked.
I believe wherever Jesus is, there’s a miracle. There’s always life. There’s always redemption, restoration, rebirth, and resurrection.

There’s a story I love to tell about, found in John chapter 11, where Lazarus, a good friend of Jesus, had died. His two sisters, Mary and Martha and a great number of people were weeping. The death of Lazarus, having been well known in the city of Bethany, attracted many people to gather at his home. In those days, it was very common and custom to wail and cry to assist the family in their grief.

Word had gone to Jesus that Lazarus was sick, and eventually that he had died. When Jesus arrives, Martha says to him, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died.” She knew that Jesus had the power to heal, but hadn’t.

Jesus pulled Martha to the next level of faith when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in Me, though He were dead, yet shall he live. Do you believe this?”

Martha said, “Yes, thou art the Christ,” and Jesus went to that tomb. Imagine all the people gathering around, no more wailing and crying, because they want to hear everything. They wanted to see what He would do, so I’m sure there would be dead silence as they wondered what He was going to do. What is going to happen?

Do you ever get those moments in your life when you need a miracle and you wonder what God is going to do, and you stand aside because He’s the one that works the miracles?

He yelled out, “Lazarus, come forth.” Lazarus, who was bound and anointed with death spices, came out of the tomb and they unwound the grave cloth surrounding him, and Lazarus was resurrected. He was alive through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes something has to die before it can come alive. I wonder where we might be in all of that. Well, I believe that our Lord is a God of miracles. A God of the resurrection power, a God of redemption, and I trust you do, too. If you’re here this morning without Christ in your heart and in your life, I want to invite you to know the adventure, not the journey, of life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

My friends, we’re on an adventure here at the Crystal Cathedral. I believe that God is going to do a new thing, so don’t focus on people. Don’t focus on other things. Only look unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith. He’s the one.

Let’s pray. Dear Lord God, we believe that You are God. A God of miracles. A God who loves us beyond compare with a love that doesn’t quit. A God of resurrection, of redemption, renewal, and rebirth. We’ve seen it today in testimony. We’ve seen it in scripture. We’ve heard it in our ears through the singing, from the voices. We hear You, Lord, speaking to us to encourage us. And, Lord God, now we pray that You will infuse us with a faith that’s beyond compare, and with a hope that doesn’t quit, and to know that the miracles are ahead of us. God bless these people in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.


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