2011 10 16

A Reversal of Fortune

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

October 16th, 2011  www.FirstPresTucker.org

at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker

Click HERE for the Zephaniah Sermon Series. Sermon # 13

Zephaniah 3:18-19        Sermon Series in Zephaniah # 13         English Standard Version

18  I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach.

19  Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.[1]

Sometimes things don’t work out like you expect.

A child’s birth is beautiful and wonderful. The potential for that human life is unlimited, and yet the path can become filled with sorrow and disappointment.

God is not immune to these disappointments. God’s heart has experienced the pain of parenthood.

Genesis 1:1-5 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And on the sixth day, (Genesis 1:26-31) God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

What potential we have as human beings! We are uniquely crafted after the similitude of Deity by God Himself. The three persons of the Trinity conspired to organize a new life form, a new category of eternal personhood.

God combined two building materials. God used the visible substance of the earth, the dust of the ground, for our body, and then God added the eternal substance of heaven, spiritual components so we could maintain spiritual relationships. And God uniquely combined the earthly with the heavenly when He made humanity.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The Angelic host are not made from the earth. Angels are also not made after the image of God. Humanity is unique. Not in a weird way, but in a marvelous way. This was our beginning.

28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Things were as perfect as God imagined they could be. The universe sang in perfect harmony with the Creator. There was unlimited potential for fellowship, love, unity and peace.

But sometimes, things don’t work out like you plan. The path forward becomes filled with sorrow and disappointment. And God is not immune to these disappointments. Adam and Eve sinned. Things got messy and the Garden Paradise was lost.

But God has the power to change the direction of the creation. God can change the direction of your life.

Don’t think things have to continue down a path of misery and suffering. In Jesus there is power to cleanse our sin, resurrect our soul and redirect our destiny from Hell to Heaven, from homelessness to a mansion in glory, from hopelessness and despair to faith in the promises of the Gospel and joy in God’s salvation.

This is the power of the blood of Christ spilled on Calvary. Believe it. Trust Jesus. Cease from striving to be good, and in faith, let God declare you good on the basis of the good works of His only Begotten Son.

And God will change the direction of your life out of misery of sin and into the light of His glory and grace.

God has determined, willed, to do this for His people over and over again. He doesn’t get tired of saving us. His love is always abounding for His people.

In Genesis, after Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to save humanity through the birth of Jesus. And those people who repented of their sin, who put their faith in the promises of God for their salvation, were restored to sweet fellowship with their Creator.

And God gave humanity a second chance.

And they blew it. People left God for their own devices. Whole generations were ruined in their pursuit for their own comfort and pleasures. People stopped listening to God and did what was right in their own eyes.

So God hit the reset button on human history by sending a world wide flood that wiped out all humanity, save Noah and his family.

This new beginning was filled with hope and peace. A dove left the ark and found rest. But humanity blew it again. Noah got drunk and bad things happened.

But God wasn’t giving up.

God chose Abram to be the new beginning. Promises were made that through his seed the whole earth would again be blessed. There was a marvelous beginning when Isaac was born to barren Sarah when she was in her 90’s.

God’s promises were being fulfilled and there was a new hope. But sinful choices led this whole family into Egypt, into captivity and forced labor.

God then delivered them through Moses. God reversed the fortunes of Israel as they came out of Egypt. They left with the gold and most valued possessions of the Egyptian people.

And God renewed His words of faithful love to them in Deuteronomy 26:18-19 And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.”

God will not stop reversing the negative effects of our sin until we stand in His glorious presence in Heaven. God is 100% committed to His people. He will not grow weary.

God has renewed His words of faithful love to us in the Gospel. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

These blessings are true for us if we place our faith in the promises of God and Jesus Christ His Son. No matter how messed up things have become, no matter how far your life has strayed from God’s best, it can all be salvaged by God if we repent, confess that our sinful choices have led us on this crooked path, and that we want to abandon our own search for a blessed life and submit to the commandments of God which we know by faith will bring the ultimate eternal blessing.

Repentance means that we leave our own devices, we stop listening to our own counsel, we abandon our own plans and we embrace God plans, God’s counsel and God’s opinions about how life ought to be lived.

True faith seeks the commandments of God so we can know how to obey God and find His best for our life. This book, this Holy Book we call the Bible, uniquely holds all the promises, all the commandments and all the secrets to a blessed life.

We seek this book believing that in these pages we will find a blessed life. The secret to a blessed life is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Salvation unites our life within the life of Jesus. We are Baptized into Him.

In His death we die to our sin. In His resurrection we are raised in holiness and newness of life, and in His ascension we will be brought to heaven and eternal glory with the Father.

These are the sorts of blessings that Zephaniah has in mind when we reminds God’s people that our God saves! God restores! God exchanges our tears and sorrow for peace and joy that will last forever and ever.

18  I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach.

Israel could not obey God in worship because they were held back by the oppressive forces of this world. The were cut off from joys of Heaven.

Even today the oppressive forces of this world hold back God’s people from becoming all that He intended for us back in Genesis.

Sin habits and addictions keep us from living in all that God’s goodness has to offer. But God is going to deal with those oppressors.

God will not let your addiction to drugs hold you back from the joys of heaven. Place your faith in the promises of the Gospel and believe in Jesus. God will restore the lost years.

God will not let your sickness, cancer, disease or frailty hold you back from the joys of heaven. They will not get the better of you. They will not keep you from all that God has planned for you. God is the Great Physician. He can heal you from all your brokenness.

God will gather us, God will restore our ability to celebrate the festivals of eternal worship, and God will deal with our oppressors.

We will no longer be considered lame, meaning: spiritually crippled or handicapped, heavenly disabled, Holy Spirit impaired, defected, spiritually weak, morally inadequate, or out of touch with God’s commands.

We won’t be labeled outcasts, meaning: rejected or excluded from the family of God, vagabond or wanderer, thrown out of God’s favor and rejected. We will no longer be excluded from God’s holy society.

Because God will reverse our losses. God will restore our bright future.

19  Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

The world is not filled with stories about how the lame and outcast become more glorious than the King and Queen of England. I Goggled for a good heart warming story to end my sermon and I couldn’t find one that was believable.

To be Renown is to be a world wide celebrity without scandal. Only in a land far, far away will you find a celebrity without scandal. To be renown is to be on the level with nobility. A person of note. Distinguished. Glorious. To have widespread fame.

We won’t get there on our own. Sin makes us infamous, not renown.

But our God promises to restore our fortunes and make us Renown.

What fortunes will be restored? Money? Yes. The assets of heaven will make everyone so rich that no one will care again about money. Even the streets will be paved with gold. Will God restore our health? Yes, new bodies that will never suffer pain ever again. Will God give back the time that sin and disease stole from us? Yes, life forever more.

All the benefits enjoyed in the Garden of Eden will be restored.

But the most prized benefit of being the children of God, we be sweet fellowship with the God of the Creation.

God is going to restore that fortune and our sweet fellowship with the Savior will never again be diminished. We will live happily ever after. We will reign with Christ. And the rest of the creation will consider us renown!

Friends, 2 Peter 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

May we believe in His love and trust in His goodness as He carries us home.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

I want to buy him

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