Summary: The final step along the journey of repentance is the step into life. Through death, God brought me into life. Abundant life! Vibrant life!! Encouraging life!!!
A Journey of Repentance 4 – Into Life
Acts 12:1-11; Rom 6:2-14 Mar 6, 2005
The Return of the King DVD Ch: 30 Start: 2:07:13 End: 2:08:40
(for second service, here is the description:)
Perhaps many of you are familiar with JRR Tolkien’s classic story, The Lord of The Rings. In the final chapter, war has come to the largest city of men. The city is surrounded by the evil hosts, the cause appears hopeless, they are pounding on the doors and about to break through. From the perspective of all those about to fight, it looks as though the war will only lead to horrible, violent death.
Pippin, one of the small, mostly powerless creatures called Hobbits, is just inside the door, sword in hand. He looks up to Gandalf, the mighty, wise, powerful wizard, in despair. “I didn’t think it would end this way,” he says, with fear and hopelessness.
Gandalf looks down, and a quick look comes over his face. “End?” he says. “Oh, our journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One we all must take." He pauses, then says: “the grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and it all turns to silver glass. And then you see it.”
“See what, Gandalf? See what?”
Gandalf has a far away look in his eyes as he says, “White shores. And beyond, a far green country, and a swift sunrise.”
Pippin considers, then a slight smile crosses his lips and he says, “That isn’t so bad...”
And Gandalf, his smile now full of hope and peace, agrees: “No, no it isn’t.”
Death is not an end point for us, as Christians. Physical death is not, and neither is spiritual death. As we have been journeying together through this lenten season of repentance, we have together walked through 3 steps thus far: Step 1: Join the Journey – decide that you will try this road out, that you will be open to discovering the difference between repentance and confession, and that you will walk through the difficult things because of the incredible promise of God on the other side. Step 2: Surrender Control To Jesus – in other words, make Jesus truly the Lord of your life, kneel before Jesus as your King, and declare your allegiance and your intention to live life in obedience and service to God. Last week we talked about Step 3: Through Death – where we explored the Biblical themes of dying to self, of the “old, sinful” self dying with Jesus. There were two things I wanted to emphasize last week, first that this death has already happened on the cross (remember the past tense in Romans 6:2-14), and second that this death is something we step through. We step through death into new life.
Out of several conversations this week, I want to step back into the idea of dying to self for just a moment and clarify: We are talking about both something that has already happened – “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death” (Rom 6:4), and yet also something that we must continue to participate in – “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5, among others). Our part is to make room for God, to create space in our lives where God can speak and mold, to create habits that “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” and that “take every thought captive”. It is already completely finished by Jesus on the cross, yet it is something which we must embrace and act on if it is to truly become a reality in our lives. Every time a sinful action or attitude creeps up, we must cooperate with God in putting it to death, and live differently.
Peter and Prison (Acts 12:1-11):
Perhaps a story will help make this a little more clear (with thanks to Pastor Fred Harter for reminding me of this last week). It is Acts 12, and the church in Jerusalem is under some pretty heavy attack. On of the apostles, James, is killed by Herod, and that goes over so well that Herod decides to do the same thing to Peter. He grabs him up, and throws him in jail, and sends 16 Roman soldiers to guard him, 4 at a time, 2 chained to his arms, two on guard at the cell door, behind 3 separate gates which are also each guarded carefully. Peter is there for several days, after which Herod has full intentions of killing Peter just like he had James.
But the night before, we find Peter fast asleep, which is interesting in and of itself. “The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.