Summary: Series introduction, this sermon explains why God had to promise us a savior in the first place, and how we can accept him.
TITLE: The God Who Keeps His Promises
SERIES: Matthew’s Portrait of Jesus As The Fulfillment of God’s Promises (Sermon # 1, An Introduction to the Series)
TEXT: 2 Cor 1:20
DATE PREACHED: January 25, 2009
COPYRIGHT © JOE LA RUE, 2009
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
A. Promises are funny things. They’re easy to make and often easier to break, but generally hard to keep. Robert Frost poetically captured that truth in his poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. He talks about how sometimes we wish we could be free, for just a little bit at least, of all life’s obligations that we are required to meet. That type freedom is represented in Frost’s poem by a traveler who stops on his journey beside a quiet wood one wintery evening. For just a moment, he is able to enjoy the quiet and solitude as he watches the snowflakes fall and gently blanket the woods with snow. Frost’s traveler wishes he could stay and continue to enjoy the stillness. But, as the poem says,
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
And sometimes, keeping our word truly feels like having to go miles and miles before we can sleep, doesn’t it? Sometimes keeping promises really is hard. Maybe that’s part of the reason why so many people break them.
Of course, there are other reasons. It was Machiavelli who wrote, “The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.” Perhaps they gave their promise to get something they wanted; but, now that they have it, they no longer feel the need to honor the promise. Or, perhaps when they gave their promise they really intended to honor it, but now that their situation has changed, they realize that keeping their promise will be detrimental to them, but breaking it will be advantageous to them. So, what do they do? They break their promise.
Regardless of the reason why people break promises, it is undeniable that promises frequently get broken. We’ve all had it happen to us, and we’ve all done it a time or two—or more—ourselves. We know firsthand that sometimes its hard to keep promises, and sometimes people don’t keep promises. That’s why when someone does keeps his promise—especially one that really costs him something—we tend to sit up and take notice.
1. ILL: In his book, Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington tells of meeting an ex-slave from Virginia who exemplified the kind of sacrifice that is sometimes involve din keeping promises. This man had entered into a contract with his master whereby he would be allowed to purchase freedom for himself by paying so much for so many years to his master. And, while he was earning the money to pay for himself, his master released him from service on his plantation, so that he would be able to labor wherever and for whomever he could earn the most money.
Well, the slave went north to Ohio because the wages were better there. But each year, he would return to his master’s plantation, to present that year’s payment to his master. After a few years, the Nation was embroiled in the Civil War and President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation which ended slavery and brought freedom to all the slaves, including this man. But, he still owed his master three hundred dollars.
Now, think about this for a minute. This former slave was free. He didn’t have to pay his former master the final three hundred dollars to purchase his freedom—he had already been made free by the Emancipation Proclamation. But he had made a promise. And he was a man of his word. And so he walked from Ohio back to Virginia and presented his former master with the full amount he had promised him, down to the last dollar.
2. We hear stories like that, about someone who would go to great lengths and incur great hardship to keep his promise—a promise that he didn’t even have to keep—and we kind of go, “Wow!” because such a commitment to promise-keeping is a rare thing in our world today. In fact, most people—at least some of the time—fail to keep their promises when it would cost them a lot less than this former slave’s promise cost him. It seems that broken promises are simply very often a part of the fabric of our lives.
B. I think that’s why the twentieth verse of chapter one of the Apostle Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians catches our eye when we read it. In that verse, Paul makes a remarkable statement. He says, “All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’” (2 Cor 1:20, New Living Translation). All of God’s promises! Not some of them, not many of them, not most of them, but all of them have been fulfilled in Christ!