Pastor’s Sermon

Pastor’s Sermon

The Lord is with Us!
Photography by Don Blais

The Cost of Freedom

May 24, 2020

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven….” Verse 8 continues, “…a time for war and a time for peace.”

Throughout human history this has been true. There have been countless times of war and of peace.

How many of you have served in the armed forces?

How many of you have children or grandchildren who are serving or have served?

Several of us remember World War II and the Korean Conflict. Most of us remember Viet Nam, Operation Desert Storm, the conflict in Afghanistan that is still going on and many other lesser military conflicts. We know all too well the cost in human lives that has been paid and continues to be paid. How many of you know someone who was killed while in military service?

The Old Testament has many stories of wars, battles and their casualties. Joel 3:9-10 says, “Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.” It warns of a conflict that would rouse the people from a time of peace to prepare for war.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God foretold the conquests by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and later the Persians as punishment for the people’s wicked ways. He also foretold the fact that the armies of Israel, Judah, and their allies would not be powerful enough to hold off the enemies.

Isaiah also prophesied that someday a Messiah would come to bring peace. Predicting the second coming of Jesus, Isaiah 2:4 says, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” This is the opposite of Joel 3:10. Instead of making weapons out of agricultural instruments the weapons will be transformed into tools to feed people.

At that time the prediction of Psalm 46:9-11 will be fulfilled. The psalmist wrote, “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” We are not there yet. Until that time comes there will be times of war and of peace; and military conflict will continue.

But there is another conflict that has been going on since the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The conflict is between sin in people and God. In that war there have been many casualties. Prophets warned people of the consequences of their behavior and many would not listen, they even killed some of the prophets. There have also been numerous times when people were killed for their faith in God and their faith in Jesus and it is still happening today. There is an ongoing battle between good and evil. Jesus sacrificed his own life in this battle. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Jesus didn’t die defending a nation. He didn’t die for an ideology. 1 Peter 3:18 says he died to bring people to God. He gave his life for their ultimate freedom. Paul wrote in Romans 5:6, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

The war between sin and righteousness is ongoing. But it is not a war with swords and spears; guns and airplanes. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

So then what are our weapons? First, before we get to the weapons, God provides us with armor to protect us. Ephesians 6:12-18 describes it. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Knowing the truth is the first protection: the truth that God exists, that God loves us, and that God desires that everyone be saved. The second protection is righteousness. Not righteousness by being good and following all the rules, but the righteousness that comes from admitting our faults and mistakes to God and receiving his forgiveness. Next, having a peaceful attitude within yourself and toward others. Faith is a necessary shield to take into the battles ahead. Certainty of your salvation is crucial. Now we come to the two weapons that Paul mentions. First, knowing God’s word and sharing it with others is a weapon against the evil of this world. Lastly, we have been given the weapon of prayer. Prayer is a powerful weapon able to demolish strongholds.

I’m sure those of you who have served in the armed forces remember what your training was like. The question now is, how do we prepare for this warfare. What is the boot camp we need to get us ready? We are already here. God has been preparing you all your life. Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Through the pleasant times and difficult times of your life, God has been getting you ready for everything that lies ahead. Jeremiah 18:1 says, “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’  So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” Through God’s constant companionship, you are being shaped into a unique instrument to help others through what lies ahead.

Many people believe that these tasks are for only a select few. I disagree. I believe that this is a call for every believer. True, not all of us are called to be pastors, evangelists, missionaries or Bible teachers but there are people who will listen to you and take what you have to say more seriously than what pastors say to them. I believe that Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20 apply to every believer. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” In John 20:21 Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jesus is sending you.

Finally, in Acts 1:8 he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jerusalem represents where you live. Judea and Samaria represent the surrounding area. To the end of the earth is self-explanatory. In other words, there is no limit. Wherever you go, God will provide you with opportunities to fight the darkness by being a light for Jesus. Remember, Jesus promised you the power of the Holy Spirit. You can bring freedom to those who don’t yet know Jesus, simply by telling others what he means to you.

Amen.