All of you have been to the veterans park, right? I took a walk there the other day again and there is a wounded veteran sitting there on a bench, has a cane. On the bench is written “No greater love have those than those who lay down their life for their country.” Freedom is not free. When you look at veterans, and of course you see amputees, and you see veterans with other wounds. Freedom is not free. Not only having served in Korea but also been in concentration camp during World War II, I want to tell you, coming back and seeing that Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor holding that torch up. I want to tell you, I had chills from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Home free! Home free! Home free! We don't know what freedom is until we don't have it. Freedom is not free.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for” who? “His friends.” That makes us what? His friend. Come to set us free, give us liberty as we had in the scripture reading. Share the gospel, preach the good news to the poor, set at liberty those in prison, set at liberty those that are oppressed. Freedom and liberty.
Now there’s only one problem. When this earth's history, when this prison house that we're in is over and the Lord comes, you and I will be resurrected, and whatever the physical deformity, whatever the wounds, whatever veterans suffered, whether artificial legs and limbs gone, we will be totally restored. That young man sitting in a wheelchair. I hope you can get out of it before then, but if you can't, one day you won't need that. Total, total restoration. All the scars of sin gone. But there is One Who will have the scars forever. Huh? One Who fought in this war of sin, Who will have the scars forever.
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples. You know the story Thomas wasn't there. They told him, “Oh, the Lord is risen.” “I will not believe it until I see the scars and touch them. Only then will I believe.” A week later, Jesus appeared to the disciples again. Thomas was among them, right? And Jesus says, “Come, don't doubt, don't doubt, come. See My hands and feet. Touch the scar in My side.” And all Thomas had to do was look and he fell on his knees and he said what? “My Lord and my God.” Bowed. Bowed before the scars. Then Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have seen and have believed, but blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” And then of course, not only those who have seen him resurrected, but those who have not had, do not have all the light that we have. Do not understand the gospel as we understand them, but responding to the Holy Spirit, living up to all they know. There will be some there who did not know, who will not have known that Jesus was crucified. That's why it says in Zechariah 13:6. Lord, Lord, what are these wounds, these scars? What are these wounds in Thine hands?” and the Lord will say unto them, what? “These are the scars or the wounds that I have received in the house of My friends.” How? You mean we belong to a human family, some of whom, and all of us are Jesus’ friends. He gave His life for His friends and some of these took Him and nailed Him to a piece of wood. Nailed the Lord to a piece of wood.
Ellen White, having a vision of what is to be, she said, “We see in the midst of the throne, Someone bearing in hands and feet and side the marks of suffering endured to reconcile man to God.” Scarred forever for you and for me. Then in Habakkuk 3:4-6, the prophet in vision said, “I saw horns coming out of His hands, the hiding of His power.” Another translation says, “I saw rays flashing out of His hands,” or laser beams flashing out of His hands. The hiding of His power. A sign of His power. These same hands, scarred hands, wounded hands; these same hands created you and me. Created this world.
Chuck Whidden, he’s also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he loaned me a CD recently. Incredible. Not a preacher, but it looked like a scientist using the information from astronomy to appeal to people to give their heart to Christ. Now, I studied astronomy. I took a course or two in astronomy, and I know we have all these galaxies in the universe. Sometimes scientists, to make us understand it more, call these galaxies, ‘star cities’ and our ‘star city’ is the Milky Way. Sagittarius being the center. Our planet, this little earth, this planet, just on the outskirts of the city in a little neighborhood there. And as I saw these pictures, even though I knew this, it really made an impact on me. Wow! All these swirling ‘star cities’, and then it showed a picture through the Hubble telescope of where our little solar system, our little earth is, near the outskirts of our ‘star city’. Like a pinhead. I should've brought a pin and held it up. Like a pinhead. Ellen White mentions, she says, “Our earth is only an atom in God's universe.” Wow! And the Lord of glory came down and died for a pinhead. For an atom. He could have just spoken the word, and this atom would've been gone. If that isn’t love, then I don't know what love is. Greater love hath no man.
Even though this little earth of ours, this pinhead is out there on the edge of the city, it's going to be moved into the center of the city. I'm going to refer to a number of texts this morning, but there are probably one or two that you may want to look up, and let’s look up this one. It's in Isaiah the 13th chapter. Isaiah 13, it actually begins with verse 10, but the important text is verse 13. Isaiah chapter 13 verse 10. “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light. The sun shall be darkened, and it's going forth,” and then it talks about the end of the world, and verse 12, “I will make a man more precious than fine gold, I will shake the heavens,” now notice this. “I will shake the heavens and the earth shall remove out of her place.” And the earth shall be removed out of her place. “And the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of His fierce anger.” What seems to be the indication is, when God created this little planet, created men and women in the image of God, that He would want to have this little planet close to Him. But maybe because of sin, and Adam and Eve sinning, this little speck of a planet was quarantined and moved out to the outskirts of the city.
Remember in the Old Testament. What happened in the Old Testament when people had leprosy. What happened to Moses’ sister Miriam when she had leprosy? What did the Lord say? “Take her out of the camp.” Right? And then when the leprosy was over, then what? “Bring her back.” And the earth shall be removed out of its current place, because we know that the holy city will come down and land on this planet. And God Himself shall be here, and this little planet, with the holy city and with God will not only be at the center of this Milky Way ‘star city’ of ours, it will be the center of the universe. Of all ‘star cities’.
How about you and me. Will we be there? Well, it mentions in Revelation, in the 22nd chapter, who will be there. 22:14. “Blessed are they that do His commandments, have a right to the tree of life. Outside the city are sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers, idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” No liars in heaven.
So how are we going to solve that problem? How are we going to get there? How will we be admitted?
I want to turn to Romans and expand this concept. I know we can say, “Well we’re going to be there because Jesus died for us. He died on calvary for us. We will be there.” Well it's true, but I want to expand that concept a little bit. Paul, in the book of Romans and other of his epistles, but particularly in the book of Romans and the book of Acts, he talks about the rights of Roman citizens. Our law is similar to Roman law. Case of people are investigated and either they’re guilty or they’re innocent depending on the evidence. And so Paul is talking about Roman law. He's talking about the rights of citizens to be heard. Remember when he was arrested by Julius and Julius wanted to give him a whipping. What did Paul say? “I am a Roman citizen. Are you going to whip a Roman citizen?” “Oh, I didn’t know you were a Roman citizen.” And so, of course, Paul was taken up to see Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and they were debating his guilt or his innocence. And then of course Paul says, “No, I appeal to a higher court. I appeal my case to Caesar. As a Roman citizen, I have a right,” and they recognized this. Festus, Agrippa, they recognized this, so they said, “This man is innocent. But he has appealed to a higher court and he’s appealled to Caesar and so to Caesar he will go.” So our court system is similar. The person comes before a court and it’s decided by the evidence, is he guilty or is he innocent. Guilty or innocent.
Let me just share a story with you real quickly. I remember when I was pastoring up in New Jersey there was a family and their teenage son was in academy. He and another boy had gotten a job cleaning doctor’s offices at night. And while they were cleaning the offices they came across some sleeping pills, pain pills, and I don't remember what general pills they took, nothing serious, but anyway, they took them. The doctor noticed they were gone. They reported it and they were found out and they were taken to court. Now this family's young man wanted to go into medicine, and he was convicted. He was put on probation. He had to be drug tested every week while he was on probation. Could he get into med school? And the answer is, what? No. So as he went to college and got better grades and all that, he was still determined to go to med school. And so his parents had to hire an attorney. Probation was fine, no more drug testing was fine and all that sort of thing. And so the lawyer was hired, and the record, his record was expunged. It was gone. He was admitted into med school. The record was gone. Therefore, when it came before the med school, as far as entrance was concerned, he was what? Innocent. Right? The record was gone.
Students who take a college course, university course and get an F, they can retake the course and if they get a good grade, whether it’s A or B. or whatever, what happens to the record they got F in. It is erased. It is gone. There is no record of an F for that class. So whoever looks at the transcript, fine.
This is not the way it works in our relationship to Jesus Christ and salvation. I know, you can say, “Sure, the record is erased.” We can go to text like Isaiah 44. “Our sins are blotted out.” Micah 7:19. “Our sins are thrown into the depths of the sea.” Jeremiah 31. “Our sin will be remembered no more.” But wait a minute, now wait a minute. I tell the students, if you interpret a text you've got to take the context into consideration. You’ve got to take the whole Bible into consideration. Okay? Now what you do with these marks? What do you do with the scars? The scars are there. Never will we be declared innocent. How can you look at the scars and be declared innocent? You can't. That's why Paul in the third chapter of Romans says yes, now the righteousness of God is manifested. The righteousness of God which is by faith to those who believe, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We are all guilty. There are no innocent ones of us who will be in heaven. Yes, the sins are forgiven, the remission of sins, yes.
But now notice verse 26, “To declare I say at this time His righteousness that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus Christ.” Now if the Lord perverted justice and declared us innocent when we are not innocent, that would be a perversion of justice. So how can God be just and yet justify us. Do you understand what I'm saying? How could He be just and justify us? He can't just declare us innocent. So what do we do? And what does God do to be just? To be a just Judge?
Well, the word ‘justify’ means ‘acquittal’. ‘Justify’ means to change our status. It is not to declare us innocent, because when you and I get to heaven, and we see the scars in His hands and His feet and we see those scars, you and I will know that we are not there because we are innocent. So “where is boasting?” Paul says in verse 27. “Where is boasting?” It is excluded by what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith in Jesus Christ. We can't boast. “Well, we have gone to church every week and we have done this and we have done that.” Those are the fruits of faith in Christ Jesus. These are not merits, so we can ‘merit’ our way into heaven. It doesn't work that way. The record is always there, and no matter how good we live from here on, the record is always there. A sex offender is always a sex offender. Even if he is no longer practicing as a sex offender. Do you understand what I mean? Isn't that true? And so where is boasting? Our lives are lives of gratitude, not boasting. Our motivation is gratitude. Our status has been changed. We are acquitted. And that's what justification means. Not justifying ourselves in sin because we have faith in Jesus Christ. That's a travesty. Say “I have faith in Jesus Christ,” and yet we continue to sin? Willingly?
Deuteronomy 25 verse one speaks about the same thing. A change of status. Acquitted. Exonerated. Yes. Sealed. Isaiah 49:15 and 16 says, “I have engraved you in the palms of my hands.” The record of sin is here. Right here. No, our sins will not be remembered anymore. No, God will not show them to anybody else. God will not remind you of them. They're all gone. That's what it means. Except, we will always know that we are redeemed sinners. Redeemed sinners. You hear what I said? Our status has been changed by Calvary. We are exonerated. We are acquitted, but yes, we are guilty. We are guilty, and yet we have been exonerated. Oh what a mystery. A mystery of godliness and yet the divine Judge can be just because He is not declaring us innocent. He is changing our status.
Scarred forever for us. Your record and mine is in the hands of Jesus Christ our Savior. Are you with me? It's right there, and when you and I look at those scars, we will know, and we will bow, like Thomas in adoration and say, “Yes, my Lord, my God.” Angels can sing to the glory of God.
As our closing hymn says “Holy, holy is what the angels sing, and I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring. But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings, for angels never felt the joy that our salvation brings.”
Turn with me to hymn number 425. Let's sing it together. Praise the Lord.
Loving Father in heaven. Thank You for the gift of Your Son and our Savior Jesus Christ, without Whom there would be no redemption. Thank You for forgiveness, but Lord, thank You for being a just Judge. Not twisting the law in any way to get us in, but justifying us by changing our status. By acquitting us and giving us the privilege of being sons and daughters and princes and princesses in heaven next to Your throne. Father we express our gratitude to You in everything we do because we love You. Now may Your grace and Your love permeate our lives, permeate this congregation, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
Hymn of Praise: #12, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee Scripture: Luke 4:18-21 Hymn of Response: #425, Holy, Holy, Is What the Angels Sing
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Sermon at McDonald Road transcribed by Steve Foster 12/3/09