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Jun 03, 2018

EPIC #10 - Making Everything New

Passage: Revelation 21:1-8

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: The Grand Story of God

Category: The Grand Story of God

Keywords: consummation, new heavens and new earth, new jerusalem, restoration

Summary:

The EPIC Finale – Look, declares the risen Lord and Savior Jesus, I am making everything new! Our theme is restoration. The grand story of God that began with creation, suffered the fall into sin, faithfully responded with redemption, now progresses on to holy renewal. Our passage from Revelation 21 is meant to comfort us and to motivate us. Jesus is on the throne and actively ruling toward restoration. Today, when you come up against the limits of your ability to help or love or care, be assured that Jesus reigns. And he is restoring everything. Tomorrow, when you are tempted to buffer yourself from the concern or needs of others, be motivated by Christ reigning on the throne. The meaning and purpose of your life is to join in the renewal. To serve without need for recognition, to pray without ceasing, and to love as Jesus so loves you. For heaven isn’t just a grand escape from the troubles of this life; it is the consummation of all things.

Detail:

If I say, “it’s the circle of life’

you know what I’m talking about.

You’re thinking of The Lion King

with Elton John singing in the background

while the lion cub Simba is held up for all to see.

New birth is welcomed and celebrated.

Life and the universe go on in a never-ending circle, the circle of life.

But while that makes for good Disney,

it’s not true.

It’s not the whole truth.

Life doesn’t just go around in a circle.

That’s what Revelation 21 reveals.

Life has a purpose and meaning

that points forward toward that great and final day.

The day of Christ’s return,

when he comes to judge the living and the dead,

and a new heaven and earth is established

in the grace of God.

It’s the consummation of the grand story of God.

And it’s wonderful:

‘I am making everything new,’

declares our Lord and Savior Jesus

from the throne of God.

There is a reason for all this that you go through.

God is working his purpose out.

And that purpose is restoration.

It’s the grand story of God

and you are invited to find your place in God’s grace.

 

Way back in September we started our way

through the grand story of God.

The Bible is one epic story of grace.

How can we describe it in one sentence?

“God is out to get back what belongs to him,”

some have said.

We traced that one story at each significant chapter along the way:

The wonder of God is revealed in the main chapters:

creation

fall

covenant

exodus

kingdom

exile

the incarnation,

the cross & resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

Then the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

This brings us to the final chapter,

which is not merely the end,

but the restoration of all things,

that final day when Christ returns

and what he has promised will be true:

I am making everything new.

 

Each chapter of God’s story blesses our lives today,

and together reveal our place in the story.

The grand story of God

answers the big questions of life:

where did I come from?

   life is a gift from God the Creator

Why am I here?

   I live in union with Christ, thankful, I give God glory

through faith that follows Jesus

and blesses others in the fruit of the Holy Spirit

What’s ahead when my life ends?

   No more pain and death,

and full fellowship with God

in a new heaven and new earth,

 

And each chapter tells us how to live out our faith,

how to participate

as God is making everything new.

Let’s review –

The story begins with creation:

In the beginning

God made the heavens and the earth.

The Bible leaves the ‘how’ of creation

a mystery and wonder,

but there’s no mistaking why God created all things: for his glory.

Made in God’s image,

each one of us finds the fullness of living

by being a steward of life and nature.

How can I witness to the Lord’s restoration?
By being a steward of creation.

Creation is not a bag of resources

for me to use for my own selfish ends.

I am to care for it by my lifestyle choices.

Was I a steward of creation this past week?

Will I choose to be one this week?

 

The Triune God made all things good.

But things are not so good today.

So what happened?

After creation came humanity’s fall into sin.

The first human beings

were representatives of the entire human race. When they disobeyed God’s command

all nature felt its effects.

Everything was broken:

the partnership of male and female,

the purpose of labor,

the love of God and neighbor.

And from then on,

each one of us is born broken in sin.

We aren’t sinners because we sin;

we sin because we are sinners.

And the result is the misery of separation from God, from others, and even from ourselves.

 

So repentance is key

to our healthy relationship with God.

Not only learning how to say we are sorry,

but also to love what God loves

and despise what God despises.

To acknowledge that often we deceive ourselves

and the truth is not in us.

To rely upon God’s forgiving grace

and look to God

not first for things or stuff or easy living

but for forgiveness and acceptance,

humbly thanking Jesus for his sacrifice on the cross

that by his blood we are made right with God.

 

The Lord God responded to sin

with the promise of redemption.

Through God’s covenant promises

the way was prepared

for God himself to come in human flesh

in order to take away the sin of the world

by his own sacrifice.

The Lord chose Abraham of all people.

We take to heart what that covenant promise

said about the life we live:

I will bless you

and all nations will be blessed through you.

 

So covenant is a big word in God’s story

and therefore also in ours.

Because God is faithful I can trust the Lord,

like Israel,

through the desert,

through exile when I feel alone in my sorrow,

even through loss.

For I serve a risen Savior.

As a child of Abraham by faith you are blessed,

but for the redemptive purpose of Christ:

that others may be blessed through you.

I wake up each day in God’s blessing,

so my restoration task is to ask,

who is the Lord asking me to bless today?

 

Since his ascension to the throne of God in heaven, Jesus has begun to reign over all things

to make them new.

The Kingdom of God

is God’s reign or rule over all creation.

It’s already visible where grace shines through,

but not yet fully realized.

So kingdom values become my desire:

it’s commanded of us in the ten commandments:

: honor your father and mother,

: life is a sacred gift from God, so protect life –

from the baby in the womb

to the infirm, to the persecuted,

the refugee, the poor one in need,

and to the one who is dying,

: respect the body,

because your body is a temple of the Lord,

: be full of truth and grace in your words and acts,

: be fair and respect the rule of law

in business and politics,

: and love your neighbor as yourself.

These kingdom values deserve our first allegiance,

over any political party or other power.

Because my first concern in grace isn’t what’s

right or wrong, legal or illegal,

or where’s the moral line drawn,

my concern is holiness.

‘Be holy, because I am holy,’ says the Lord.

Today participate in restoration by choosing holiness.

What is that?
It is choosing to live differently for Jesus’ sake.

How will you choose holiness today,

I will act differently simply because of Jesus.

 

There will come a day when the trumpets sound,

the dead are raised,

and Christ will come again.

Then the whole cosmos will be fully made new.

 

Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration.

That’s the grand story of God.

The invitation from God,

is to find yourself in God’s story.

That there is a place for you

in these final chapters of redemption

and restoration right now.

Our secular age teaches us

that life is about writing our own story.

The Bible gives us a better take on it all.

And scriptures make us wonder:

Wouldn’t it make sense

to learn from one who lived perfectly?

Who promised fullness?

Who both created life and lived it?

 

Revelation 21 points the way:

It uses the negative phrase, ‘pass away,’ twice,

and that tells me that we’re right to understand

that our way in God’s grace comes by repentance,

by change,

by saying no to the ways of this world

and saying yes to the way of Jesus.

 

Vs 1 - Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

 

The first heaven and first earth

mean all the consequences of sin, guilt, and shame that have polluted and broken this world

and our lives.

They aren’t the way to life, but to death.

John writes out this revelation

as he suffers for believing in Jesus.

He is confined to the prison island of Patmos.

He looks out at the sea

and how it separates him from his people,

his friends, his fellow believers.

That is the old way of sin:

separation from God and one another.

 

But no longer.

That way of living is passing away.

A new heaven and a new earth, sees John.

 

2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

 

The new Jerusalem comes down from God.

That’s word picture language to tell us it is a gift.

Restoration happens by God’s gracious favor alone.

Salvation and all the wholeness and joy

of resurrection and eternal life

come because of what Jesus has accomplished

by his death on the cross

and his rising from the grave.

He was handed over to die

by Jewish testimony

and by Roman authority.

Not so we point fingers at them

or blame certain people,

but to confess

the best and worst of humanity did this.

The best and worst of who we are did this.

We are all guilty before God.

But when Jesus passed away,

he took those powers with him.

And the old order has passed away.

 

vs 4 - ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

We traced that old order through our EPIC Sundays.

The exodus out from the land of slavery –

that’s the old order,

human beings using other human beings

for their own gain.

Human beings not known in their relationship to God

but as slaves to and for sin.

And then out of exile –

There Israel enjoyed the blessings of God

but didn’t respond with the justice and mercy of God.

Exile taught them repentance again,

and the health of returning to the Lord.

 

We know all about tears,

death, mourning, crying and pain.

And everything we have tried to wipe them away.

“HE will wipe every tear from their eyes,” we read.

God’s grace, the Lord’s gracious activity in your life,

is what restores you and strengthens you

through the pain.

 

A living relationship with the Lord is our hope:

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

 

A new relationship.

Instead of religion.

 

So what does my place in this grand story look like?

To live in hope and joy,

loving what God loves

and despising what God despises,

first let’s recognize what the passage is not saying,

and then what it is.

 

The Bible does not say all this takes place

in the physical Jerusalem

that we see on maps or in the news

or visit on trips to the Holy Land.

The Bible does not predict or push

for all physical or biological Jews

to return to the present state of Israel

or for Jerusalem as it is today

to be the center of God’s activity in the world.

When Jesus said, The meek will inherit the earth,

all the land promises of the Bible

were now fulfilled in him.

The New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven

is the restored people of God

from every nation, tribe and tongue;

beautiful as the bride of Christ, we read,

which is his church,

the redeemed of the Lord.

So God’s restoration is not about

getting all Jewish people

to live again in Israel.

That’s not a true Christian concern.

 

Because God is about restoration

and making everything new,

Revelation 21 reveals to us

that heaven is not some great escape

from earth for believers in Jesus.

The new heavens and the new earth,

coupled with Jesus the King declaring

I am making all things new –

all this reveals to us that The Triune God

isn’t just sanctifying your heart and mine,

but all things:

things like love and labor and leisure,

and the land, too.

So faith is not about keeping ourselves

safe and separate from the troubles of the world.

Be IN the world, but not OF it, Jesus said.

But many Christians today live that backwards:

they are of the world,

taking from the world all they can,

but not in the world,

sharing its pain in order to bring

the healing presence of Christ.

 

I am making everything new, said Jesus.

Eternal life isn’t just living out a holy retirement

on some cloud in the sky.

It is living for the restoration of all things,

the old made new,

the broken restored,

the incomplete consummated.

Get it?

Revelation 21 tells us we are to practice faith

by following Jesus in this restoration of all things.

How you behave as a neighbor,

as a friend,

as a sibling,

as a fellow church member,

as a spouse,

it all matters.

How we treat each other as male and female,

fairness in the workplace,

how we use nature’s resources,

our care for the sick and the poor

and the homeless,

calling out racism and repenting of it,

loving the most vulnerable

whether suffering with mental illness,

or those abused or neglected or needing safety,

all of this is what it means to have faith in Jesus

because of his promise to make everything new.

 

So let’s recap and ask ourselves

which of these great revelations of

the person and work of Jesus

have I forgotten,

and need to add again to my loving praise to God.

The big words of the grand story of God

are covenant, kingdom,

incarnation, and union with Christ.

 

Covenant is a big word that means promise:

promises made and promises kept.

God covenants with his people

and the result is exodus,

return from exile,

and finally the coming of Jesus himself,

who embodies the new covenant,

so that every time we participate in the Lord’s Supper we remember his loving sacrifice

and his call for us to deny ourselves,

take up our cross, and follow him.

 

The phrases of Revelation 21

help us see the faithfulness of God

keeping covenant promises.

One promise after another is brought fullness.

To say, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth"

takes up the theme of Isaiah 65:17-18.

To speak of the new Jerusalem

descending like a bride adorned for her husband echoes Isaiah 61:10.

Announcing that God's dwelling place

is among people recalls Ezekiel 37:27.

Proclaiming that death will be no more

and that God will wipe away every tear

from their eyes

is a comforting affirmation of Isaiah 25:7-8.

To say that the former things have passed away returns to Isaiah 65:17,

while declaring that God makes all things new

echoes Isaiah 43:18-19.

The use of language from the prophets

emphasizes the integrity of God.

What God has spoken, God will do.

There is integrity between God's speech and action.

God is faithful, the Lord keeps his promises.

 

When we make promises and keep them

we are witnessing to the image of God in us.

What promises do you need to renew?

This is one way to live in hope of restoration,

choosing faith because Jesus is coming again.

 

Our citizenship is first of all in the kingdom of God.

Just as God established his kingdom physically through King David,

and forever in the reign and rule of Jesus Christ,

so now we live in loyalty and allegiance

to the law of God.

Will you renew your love for God and neighbor

by applying again God’s commands

and value his will.

 

Jesus is God with us and God one of us,

that’s his incarnation,

which means God lived a human life,

living in a mortal body,

sharing life in the neighborhood.

We are renewed in his image,

so we too are to share his blessings

in the neighborhood.

Incarnation:

faith isn’t confined to our reasoning

and the thoughts in our head;

it’s sharing Christ’s presence

in our neighborhoods with one another.

 

We are empowered to do so

because Christ now lives in us.

Union with Christ results in the Holy Spirit

gifting us so that the point and purpose of our lives

is measured not by health or bankbooks

or achievement

but by the fruit of the Spirit:

love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

 

These are the ways to find our place

in God’s grand story

and to live hopefully,

assured of that final restoration.

 

He who was seated on the throne said,

“I am making everything new!”

Then he said, “Write this down,

for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

Jesus grants us a new way of looking at life

and a new way of living:

loving God instead of owing God

loving our neighbors

instead of fearing them or using them

loving the church and not choosing to go it alone.

I can trust these words

because they come from the one who

was one of us

and God with us

who died our death and

rose again for our justification.

He’s not the same old,

so I’m not the same old.