Sunday, April 15, 2012

“Resurrection Power Gives Us Purpose!” (Acts 4:32-35)

S-1312 2SAE/3B 4/15/12 Hymns: (O) #198; (S) #339; (C) #205

Text: Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Theme: “Resurrection Power Gives Us Purpose!” (Acts 4:32-35)

Question: “What’s your purpose for life?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the book of Acts: “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:33-35).

In the name of the Risen Christ, Amen. From the beginning of creation God had a purpose—to have a personal and intimate relationship with His created beings. The master plan was designed from before the foundation of the world. In the Garden of Eden, God made a place for Adam and Eve and their descendants to live and grow beneath His wings of love and protection. But He also knew we would fall. He didn’t think only of the Garden of Eden, but of Gethsemane, with its kiss of betrayal, and the Garden where Joseph of Arametha’s tomb was to be found.

For you see, God knew that someone else had another purpose. The devil’s purpose was to destroy life and the intimate relationship humanity had with their loving God. Through deception and lies, the deceiver caused them to doubt God’s goodness and forsake the oasis of the lush Garden and streams of living water to the wilderness and wasteland of troubles and heartaches.

Knowing that we are dust, and to dust we shall return, and that He would breathe new life into the dust with the Word of Re-Creation through resurrection, God didn’t give up on His loving creation. He chose Noah and purposely had him built an Arch to save a remnant. He purposely chose Abraham, through whom the “Son of promise” would come. He purposely chose David to be a prototype of the everlasting King, Jesus Christ who would restore fallen humanity to God. Christ is Risen, He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!

From the opening pages of Holy Scriptures to the last verse of this holy Book, we are told of God’s everlasting purpose—[“God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Yes, God’s purpose was to have you and every created and living soul to spend eternity with Him. Study Scriptures and you will read story after story where God intervenes in the lives of His people. Deliverance was brought about when the Israelites were freed from the bondage and slavery of Egypt. Deliverance took place when God saved the Israelites from the abuse of the Philistines. Deliverance occurred when God delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace.

The purpose of God was revealed most in the story of His Son’s life when He walked the wilderness of our earth to bring us back again to the oasis of the lush Garden and streams of living water to be with His Father.

God’s purpose is revealed with the great and glorious procla­mation of the angels to the shepherds outside Bethlehem. (A proud father was announcing the birth of His Son Lk. 2:11-14). God’s purpose is revealed with the voice at Jesus’ baptism, “This is My Son in whom I Am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). God’s purpose is revealed at the Transfiguration of Jesus by sending Moses and Elijah to the mountain top to encourage Him as He prepares for His purpose of going to the cross (Lk. 9:30). God’s purpose is explained by showing how His heart must have ached as He heard the cracking voice of Jesus begging Him saying: “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42). PAUSE.

The purpose of God is carried out only by the heaven-sent Savior; He became one of us, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, standing under our curse just to save us and redeem us and give us what we couldn’t obtain on our own. For 3 years, faithfully and diligently He taught the disciples of His mission. And before He ascended into heaven He gave them the purpose of calling them His followers: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And after the glorious resurrection from the grave, He commissioned them again to go in His name to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19-20).

In today’s text, we behold the resurrection of their Lord that gave them the power to go in His name to the farthest seas and proclaim that salvation is found in the crucified and risen Christ. We see this power at work after the resurrection of Christ. Because of Him the dual dragons of sin and death have been slain. And the disciples stood on Christ’s victory and by His power cared for the needs of others; as they shared and gave freely from the abundance of what they have received with one another. Therefore, it is the resurrection that gave them a powerful purpose to continue the legacy of man’s redemption by teaching the next generation all that Christ has done for them on the cross and the empty tomb. PAUSE.

But there are others whose purpose, like their father the devil is death and destruction like Ivan the Terrible, Mussolini and Hitler. There are those whose purpose is chaos and confusion like Ahmadinejad. Still others, whose purpose is treachery and torture like, Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad.

That’s the world’s purpose. Ours as Christians is to be used by God to further His purpose of calling sinners to repentance. Ours is like the Apostles to tell the great story of our redemption and salvation. To be sure, it is the resurrection power that gives us a purpose to live and even die for the sake of the Gospel. This was evident in the story of the “Saint of Auschwitz”

In February, 1941, Maximilian Kolbe was incarcerated at Auschwitz. He was a Franciscan priest. In the harsh­ness of the slaughterhouse he maintained the gentle­ness of Christ. He shared his food. He gave up his bunk. He prayed for his captors. He was soon given the nickname “Saint of Auschwitz.”

In July of that same year there was an escape from the prison. It was the custom at Auschwitz to kill ten prisoners for everyone who escaped. All the prisoners would be gathered in the courtyard and the commandant would randomly select ten names from the roll book. These victims would be immediately taken to a cell where they would receive no food or water until they died.

The commandant begins calling the names. At each selection another prisoner steps forward to fill the sinister quota. The tenth name he calls is Gajowniczek. As the SS officers check the numbers of the condemned, one of the condemned begins to sob. My wife and my children,” he weeps. The officers turn as they hear movement among the prisoners. The guards raise their rifles. The dogs tense, anticipating a command to attack. A prisoner has left his row and is pushing his way to the front. It is Kolbe. No fear on his face. No hesitancy in his step. The capo shouts at him to stop or be shot. “I want to talk to the commander,” he says calmly. Kolbe stops a few paces from the commandant, re­moves his hat and looks the German officer in the eye.

Herr Kommandant, I wish to make a request, please. I want to die in the place of this prisoner.” He points at the sobbing Gajowniczek. The audacious request is presented without stammer. “I have no wife and children. Besides, I am old and not good for anything. He’s in better condition.” Kolbe knew well the Nazi mentality. Who are you?” the officer asks. “A Catholic priest.” The block is stunned. The commandant, un­characteristically speechless. After a moment, he barks, “Request granted.”

Prisoners were never allowed to speak. Gajowniczek says, “I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me—a stranger. Is this some dream?”

The Saint of Auschwitz outlived the other nine. In fact, he didn’t die of thirst or starvation. He died only after the camp doctor injected phenol into his heart. It was August 14, 1941. Gajowniczek survived the Holocaust. He made his way back to his hometown. Every year, however, he goes back to Auschwitz. Every August 14 he goes back to say thank you to the man who died in his place. (Story is used and modified to fit my sermon from Six Hours One Friday, by Max Lucado pp. 66-68).

Gajowniczek had a purpose to live now and use it well as he returned every year to Auschwitz on the anniversary of the man who died in his place and thank him. The disciples had a purpose too; it is to tell the story of the resurrection and its power that changed the world one soul at a time.

But what about you? What is your purpose for living? Surely you know: just like Gajowniczek you are to bear witness to the great love that took your place on the firing line, to set you free and into the family of men. However you do it, and it will be distinctly your witness, He is using you by the power of the Holy Spirit to live your lives sharing the greatest story ever told—the story of your salvation and redemption. For indeed, not Kolbe, but Mary and Joseph’s Son, the Light to the Gentiles and Glory of His people, Israel, even Jesus, He took YOUR place. He offered it freely as He laid down His life on the cross of Calvary. And because He lives we have the Resurrection Power that gives us Power, Privilege, and the Purpose to share His love with that particular part of the world where you are planted… who need to know not of the “Saint of Auschwitz, but the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ to whom be glory now and FOREVER. AMEN. Go forth and sing it, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed… and so have you… Alleluia! Amen

Now the peace…


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