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BEING GOD'S CROWNING GLORY

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

26 DECEMBER 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Isaiah 62:1-5
Zechariah 9:16-17
Romans 11:17-24
2 Corinthians 1:13 -14
Philippians 4:1
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

We have talked about what it really means to be ''born again."

It doesn't mean that a person is automatically born again if he or she is born into a Christian family.

It also doesn't mean that you speak in tongues, or dance in the aisles of the church.

Being born again is being born anew by the Holy Spirit as He enters into us, and this doesn't happen until we have established a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This relationship begins when we come to believe in Jesus, that we recognize we have sinned and no longer desire to do so.

It is when we realize that Jesus died for us personally, to pay the price of our sin; and when we sincerely repent for what we have done and ask Jesus to forgive us.

This rebirth is manifested when we sincerely desire to have Jesus control our lives, and ask Him to enter into us and change us into the person He wants us to be.

As the Holy Spirit enters into us, we experience this new spiritual birth.

And if we are truly born again, we will experience a change in our life for the better.

The sins we desired will, for the most part, lose their desire; and we will find our true desire centered upon the things of the Lord, and following his loving, compassionate, peacemaking teaching for the benefit of the whole of creation.

It is in this state of being that the words of Paul to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) have their meaning for us, personally:

19. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?

20. For you are our glory and joy.

This morning we sang the hymn "We Three Kings."

These three wise men, or however many there were, weren't Hebrews, and their wisdom appeared to be in a practice that the Lord didn't even approve of that of astrology.

Yet because these men truly desired their salvation and the truth, and sought after it, God led them to Jesus. The fact of their obedience and worship is fairly positive proof of their rebirth.

In Romans 11:17-24, Paul explains to us what happens to outsiders who come to believe and to those on the inside who do not believe.

This passage speaks literally of the Jewish people, but it speaks just as literally of the Christian church:

17. But if some of the branches were broken off [meaning the non-believing Jews], and you, being a wild olive [meaning a non-Jew who has come to believe], were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree [meaning the root of the Hebrew fathers, and God's Word],

18. do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.

Some people, in their supposed rebirth, are arrogant toward others who don't practice their faith as they do; yet both have been grafted in or, perhaps, are original branches.

19. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."

20. Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;

21. for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.

22. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

If you have ever wondered why I keep preaching and exhorting you to greater depths of love and compassion, without exception, it is because I am fearful that some of you may step over the boundary that God has set, and get cut off.

And if, unfortunately, this has happened, or someone has never been grafted in, such a changed life will bring back the hope of salvation, as we are told:

23. And they also [those who are not grafted in or who have been cut off], if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.

24. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

In Isaiah 62:1-5, the Lord speaks through Isaiah to the people of Israel about being re-grafted, and of the change that will take place in their lives, if they are willing.

It is our willingness to be conformed into the image of Christ that brings forth the fruit on our branch, a state of being that is God's crowning glory.

And God will keep working on us until we are willing to be grafted in or until we absolutely reject His offers and are cut off forever.

My concern is, however, that with the following passage it was 2,700 years ago, and with the New Testament it was nearly 2,000 years ago, making Christ's return that much nearer, and the real possibility that He will return before many are willing to be grafted in; at which time it will be too late.

Listen to what Israel is told:

1. For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
And for Jerusalem's sake I will not keep quiet,
Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness,
And her salvation like a torch that is burning.

This is the Lord's desire, but as we know, all Israel was not willing to serve Him; and similarly, not many people who call themselves Christians are shining forth with the hope and assurance of salvation.

Most are still going about the world doing as the world does.

But to all of us who are willing to serve the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, there is a glorious result:

2. And the nations will see your righteousness,
And all kings your glory;
And you will be called by a new name,
Which the mouth of the Lord will designate.

This new name is at least "Christian," and perhaps we will have a personal name as well.

But consider what the nations and their leaders perceive about Christians.

It is obvious that they hear our words, but when they look at our collective lifestyle, they see inconsistencies; thus, they fail to come to believe and, in turn, to be grafted in.

This makes us responsible, in part, for their lack of salvation, and could result in our being cut off.

This is why for the past six years I have been standing up here, and teaching our studies, so that none of us would be cut off; and that others would come to salvation, and have the Lord say of us

3. You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
And a royal diadem [or headdress] in the hand of your God.

4. It will no longer be said to you, "Forsaken,"
Nor to your land will it any longer be said, "Desolate";
But you will be called, "My delight is in her,"
And your land, "Married"; [for our relationship with the Lord will be forever and ever]
For the Lord delights in you,
And to Him your land will be married.

5. For as a young man marries a virgin [or as God intended it to be],
So your sons will marry you [or become grafted-in believers with us];
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So your God will rejoice over you.

The prophet Zechariah also speaks of this transformation of believers as being God's crowning glory, in 9:16-17.

16. And the Lord their God will save them in that day
As the flock of His people;
For they are as the stones of a crown,
Sparkling in His land.

17. For what comeliness and beauty will be theirs!
Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine the virgins.

Not only will we shine forth as God's crowning glory, but we will also prosper.

Paul begins the second part of his letter to the Philippians (4:1) with this thought, and with much encouragement:

1. Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

Our steadfastness in the Lord is an encouragement to others as well; thus, the Lord's crowning glory in someone else can also become ours, so that together we become an even greater glory for God.

In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians1:13-14), he also amplifies this mutual encouragement in the Lord:

13. For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end;

This is my personal prayer for all of us as well.

14. just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.

If you wonder why Mary and I are against violence of any kind...

If you wonder why we seek to show you the importance of extending our love and compassion beyond our own personal interests to all of God's creation...

It's because we live in a violent land with many violent people in a world of violent nations.

It is because our youth are growing up with the attitude that violent revenge is an acceptable practice, and even a status symbol.

So when they see Christians pick up a gun, or behave as people on television behave, it only serves to reinforce this ungodly image, and to literally push them further towards hell.

We need to give our children and the world around us a light in the darkness.

We need to give them hope instead of despair.

We need to show them that it's good and acceptable to make the Lord our constant vision.

We need to show them the truly wonderful state of being it is to be God's crowning glory.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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