Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Amen.
In the name of our victorious Lord Jesus, dear fellow saints:
Where do we find joy? Some find it in reading a good book, others enjoy a movie. Still others are more adventurous and need to find their joy in the great outdoors. No matter where one finds joy – it always seems to be fleeting. Our joy doesn’t seem to last. Our joy as followers of Christ is not fleeting, but a lasting and constant joy. This is not to say we go around with smiles plastered on our faces 24/7. Our joy in Christ is a certainty or contentment. We are certain that our Lord is with us through our troubles on earth and certain that he will take us to the perfection of heaven one day. We are content to know that Jesus rules all things for the good of his church. We are content to wait for him to take us from this vale of tears to himself in heaven. We find our joy in Christ – in his Word of promise. Joy is found and kept in Jesus. So we are encouraged today, Find joy in your heavenly Companion!
We long for joy because we don’t always have it. The reality is that the world in which we live day in and day out is a world of tribulation. In just the last week there have been some of you dealing with the death in the family, some are waiting for the results of medical tests to come back, some of you have gone through surgery, some are concerned about a loved one, some of you have had problems in your marriage, some of you have tried to build friendships – only to fail, again. There are troubles at work, struggles at school, the realization that maybe you can’t live in your home anymore. It seems we are facing thousands of problems every minute of every day all week long. Sure we have a moments rest here or there – but the troubles keep on coming. We find ourselves struggling with our own sin. We cry out in frustration with Paul, “the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” We can easily beat ourselves up over our many stupid sins – things we never really wanted to do in the first place. We find ourselves suffering because of sin. Sometimes we suffer the horrible consequences of our own sinful actions or words. Sometimes we suffer at the hands of others or we suffer just because this is a sinful world. We find turmoil. We wonder where and when we will find joy.
Jesus doesn’t make everything better immediately. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes he takes our troubles away completely and immediately. However, at other times Jesus doesn’t take the trouble away but strengthens us to deal with it and helps us to overcome it. Many times Jesus allows troubles to come our way because he lovingly wants to keep us focused on him so that we don’t lose the salvation he has secured for us. So often God remains hidden to us in the daily grind we call life. But then look into his Word of revelation and look at what he promises: Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. God promises his people a world of joy. This was something for the remnant of believers to look forward to in Isaiah’s day. It is also what we look forward to in our day. Because Jesus lives, we will live too. Because Jesus has secured our forgiveness we have heaven in our future – our citizenship is in heaven! So we look forward to the great and glorious home we have with Jesus in heaven. We know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. We have a grand and glorious future because of Jesus. Those who have been given the gracious gift of trust in Jesus are confident that heaven is their home.
Isaiah shares a picture that looks forward to the New Testament Church and then to the glories of heaven: Never again will there be an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. This is what is in your future fellow believers in Christ! A trouble-free life that will never end. There will be no shortage of blessings, no frustration, no disappointments, no sorrows, no worries. There will always be love, always be a purpose to everything. This is your future in Christ. A world in which all sin is forgiven, all suffering removed, and all turmoil terminated.
Jesus is making everything new. His mercies are new every morning. Some of these blessings we enjoy even now. We are under God’s loving protection every day. God promises that, “in all things he works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We know that “even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil,” because our Good Shepherd is with us. O Lord, open our eyes each day to see the great mercy you pour out on us!
Jesus has brought us peace with God. Because of this peace we look forward to a new world – one without sin or sorrow! This is what we have in Jesus. This is our comfort today to know that we are at peace with God so heaven is ours! In addition we are comforted to know that all those who have died trusting in Jesus are experiencing the awesome blessings of heaven. What great comfort to those who have lost loved ones! What a bright future we will have in heaven. Thank you Jesus for restoring us to peace with God!
We find incredible joy in our heavenly companion, Jesus! For he has done great things for us in bringing us to enjoy eternal peace with God! We know God is with us now! We know that heaven is in our future. So today we also contemplate a fantastic finish to a friendship forged at the font.
An impossible peace awaits us in eternity. Listen to how God describes it through Isaiah: The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord. How does this great peace come about? We know that Jesus came, stood up to the devil’s temptations for us, lived a perfect life in our place, suffered and died for us, and rose again – defeating death for us! But then we ask – how does this peace become mine? God gives it to me. One of the ways that God gives this peace and his gift of faith is through Holy Baptism. In this sacrament we see Jesus as the friend of sinners.
Jesus took pity on you in your sinful state. He came looking for you. He found you. He made you his. He did that, for many of us, in Holy Baptism. Jesus is indeed the friend of all sinners, from the very youngest to the oldest. At the beginning of Isaiah 65 we see to what great lengths God goes in his love for sinners. In verse 2 Isaiah writes, “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people …” In his love God stands there with his arms out waiting to welcome his people. God does that all day long. He never stops waiting, wanting, longing for sinners to come to repentance and live with him eternally.
On that day long ago at the font you got a wet head and a new life. That new life lasts forever. Heaven was opened to you as you were brought to trust in Jesus as your Savior from sin! O what a great miracle occurs at the font – sin forgiven, faith created, eternal life begins!
But don’t dare to think of Baptism as some sort of religious good luck charm or some sort of license to sin. Baptism calls for follow-through. No one would dare bring a baby home from the hospital and not feed it for a few days. That would be sick – incredibly uncaring. So when the new life of faith is started in a child through Baptism, we don’t refuse to feed that new faith – that would be cruelty of a hellish kind. So we bring our children to church to hear of Jesus, we take them to Sunday school so they learn of Jesus and their faith is fed so that it grows stronger. Parents you are preparing your children for eternity – don’t ever forget it! Keep bringing them to Jesus – for that is what our dear Lord wants!
As we speak of Baptism today we especially emphasize its final benefit – never ending friendship with God himself. As we are connected to Jesus he says to us, “I have called you friends, for everything I learned from My Father I have made known to you.” We know that heaven is in our future. We know that God loves us. We know that God continues to walk with us through life until we safely arrive before his throne in heaven.
We find our greatest joy in Jesus. He has saved us. He continues to love us and forgive us. He has secured a place for us in eternity. We rejoice that our names are written in heaven! We praise God for all the faithful believers who have finished their labors and rest before the throne of the Lamb! We praise God for his love! In Christ we are indeed more than conquerors – saints triumphant! Amen.