Roger's Postings

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Acts 4:5-12.                 Salvation – nowhere else!!                               29/4/12

5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Here on Good Shepherd Sunday the focus is again centred on our risen Lord Jesus and what that means for us as we live out our lives each and every day of our lives. Here, in this reading Jesus is again the centre and source of everything for Peter and the disciples. In the letter of John it is Jesus Christ who is to be obeyed and pleased, because of who he is and what he has done for us. In the Gospel reading Jesus is the good shepherd whom the sheep [us] will listen to, obey and follow, because he has laid down his life for his sheep.

Easter has reshaped God’s people in a most amazing way. Now we have one that is to be truly looked up to and seen as the only source of life and salvation. Here is one who truly looks after us and has what we need for life – this life as well as the next. He has the power over sin, death and hell; and he has what is needed for us to be able to live happily with God and the people around about us. This is amazing! This is life changing!

Yet sadly, what do we find, as we look here [to ourselves] and at the people around us? We all too often are still leading the same old life – struggling, hurting and fearful. Still we want to go on living the same selfish, self-centred life. We still want to control ours and others lives. We still know what is best. Yes, now we might couch it in ‘God-talk’, but it is all too often the ‘same old, same old’.

What are the results? Instead of living in Easter joy and confidence, with Jesus Christ now as Lord of our lives, we still have placed ourselves under pressure to perform and have control of our lives. We still are left with things not working out for us, because it doesn’t work out the way we think it should. Meaninglessness and depression takes control big time. We change what God’s Word says, so that it becomes more palatable to the way we think is good, and finish up with God being less and less meaningful for us. And the list could go on and on.

When the central focus is shifted from the crucified and risen Lord Jesus and placed elsewhere we will always be left struggling and in trouble. We will be left fearful like those disciples were before Jesus appeared to them; or be proud, arrogant and controlling, like the Pharisees. We will be despondent with regard to church life and be constantly seeking after the next great thing or program that might once again make things right. When we look within, we will ever be trying to justify ourselves and to ‘paper over’ the major cracks that are there. Life will never be what it was intended to be.

But here again, remember, this is Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus is the crucified and risen Lord: the Good Shepherd that we can rely on as we live out our lives every day.  He is the one, who as Psalm 23 tells us; is the one who will ensure that we shall not be in want. He is the one who makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside quiet waters. In other words he is the one who will ensure that we have enough so that we can live comfortably day by day. Sure he still expects us to work as best we can, but he will ensure that we have enough so that we don’t have worry and fret and think that it is all up to us and the fortunes that we can amass for ourselves. He has provided for humanity throughout its existence and he promises that he will continue to do so.

But the Psalm goes on to say that there is more. The Good Shepherd guides his people in paths of righteousness for his names sake. His ways for living and acting are good and appropriate for us as his people, so that we can happily live with God and one another. So why do we constantly want to change what God’s Word says? Why do we listen to the world around us instead of listening to and following what God says? His ways are right and good. He can be absolutely trusted in this area as well. What God’s Word has to say on a whole raft of issues is what we can rely on to help us to live in the right way. When we hold to it, we are holding his name up as the one who our world can look to as being the God who is truly great.

And there is even more. Even though I walk through the shadows of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Yes, the Good Shepherd is there with us through the rough and tumble of life, using it all for good. There is no need for us to fear evil any longer, for nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We can look to him and go forward with confidence and certainty.

But there is even more still. With the Good Shepherd at work for his people we can know that he has prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies. He will anoint our heads with oil; and our cup will overflow. So surely goodness and love will follow us all the days of our life, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Every week he prepares a table for us here in this place, feeding us with his Word and his body and blood; assuring us of his love, forgiveness and eternal life that he has won for us through his death and resurrection. We are richly blessed for this life and the next. His goodness and love thereby chases after us so that we can constantly know what he has done for us so that we can be assured that we can have eternal youth in the very best of settings.

Then to add to this, we have God Word reminding us in this reading that we have before us, that:  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. So Jesus Christ then is the only source of hope and salvation the humanity has. He is not just one of many ways to God. He is the only way. This is quite simple and very, very clear: there is no other way for us to attain salvation. It is only there for us, through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. So we don’t have to struggle with the issue of who is right and who is not; or which the right guru or philosophy to follow. There is only one way; and it is very simple way: And it is available to everyone.

This Good Shepherd lay down his life so that we could have this salvation as a free gift. He took the punishment for all our guilt so that no one or nothing can bar anyone of us from attaining it. Since he was freely prepared to do this for us, we can be ever so appreciative and confident that this is for real. All we need to do is trust that he is true to his word; and we have an enormous amount of evidence that prove that he is reliable and trustworthy. His death on the cross and his resurrection three days later is one of the many evidences of this, but is the absolute centerpiece of it.

Yes, we can reject this Good Shepherd and his wonderful message that we have before us, and so choose to lose out on all of these wonderful benefits that he has for us: but they are there for us all. If we choose to wilfully turn our backs on this Good Shepherd and all that he has to offer us, then we have got no one else to blame but ourselves when we end up in hell. He is gracious enough to allow us to reap the consequences of our own decisions.

But surely, in light of all of this that we have before us today, we can now lift our eyes out of the mud and focus the permanently on this Good Shepherd and hold him up as that which is absolutely central and vital for life now and always. Now we will surely not want to put ourselves, our thinking and our actions into the forefront of life; for he is our crucified and risen Lord Jesus: he is our Good Shepherd who truly has good in mind for us all. Our thinking and ways are surely a load of garbage compared the greatness of this one who truly has ultimate good in mind; in every way.

Now we can go forward with confidence and certainty, leaving this Good Shepherd to be the Lord of our whole life. He can be the One who determines what I do and what I don’t do. We can leave him to allow good and blessing to come our way, or to allow sickness, suffering or even death to come our way: for we know that he knows what is ultimately good for us or for those around us. When we or others make mistakes and fail along the way, we can now look first and foremost to him for forgiveness, but also for help to make it all right once again. As we allow him to be Good Shepherd over all that we are and all that we do, we will find that we are enabled to be positive and hopeful, whilst still being realistic aware of all that is happening in our sinful world around us.

And yes we can even be enabled to show kindness to others around us, like Peter and disciples did in this reading to the cripple. Or be given the ability to stand up and witness to the greatness of Jesus Christ and all the he has done for us through his death and resurrection, to those who are our greatest fear; just as Peter did to those very people who had Jesus put to death on the cross. The Good Shepherd goes with us and before us to ensure that it all works for good. As we look up to him, recognising and holding him up as all important we can have the boldness and certainty that he will do what is needed in and around our lives. As we allow him to lead and guides us, life will be very interesting, but above all, all glory and honour will go where it truly belongs: to our crucified and risen Lord Jesus, and to his Father and the Holy Spirit.

 So go with this in mind; to hold Jesus Christ up as the Good Shepherd that he truly is; and may great blessing abound. AMEN

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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