************ Sermon on Nicene Creed ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 19, 2012
Nicene Creed 12
"His Kingdom Will Never End"
I Nothing on this Earth Lasts Forever
A President Assad in Syria is not expected to remain in power much longer. His kingdom will end.
Many hope the same thing for President Obama – that come November his presidency will end.
President Assad and President Obama are part of a growing list: Saddam Hussein, Mubarak, Gaddafi, George Bush, Bill Clinton, to name only a few. Each one is faced with the reality that their rule comes to an end.
B We have all been horrified by the mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin. For a day or two, at least, we have come to know the names of James E. Holmes (Colorado) and Wade Michael Page (Wisconsin). Both wanted to make their mark on history. But six months from now most of us will say, "Who?"
Fame is a fleeting thing, even for mass-murderers. We all understand that yesterday's villains and heroes become today's has-beens, and tomorrow's forgotten footnotes. It is said that when a Roman general came back from a great victory in a distant land, during the victory parade as the people watched and cheered, a slave followed behind the general, whispering in his ear the Latin for "The glory of the world is fleeting."
Everything good, everything bad, everything happy, everything sad. It all passes away. All of it is fleeting.
C Twenty-two years ago, WordPerfect was the most popular Word Processor; today, it is barely a blip on the radar. In 1988 Ruth and I finally broke down and bought a color TV, a big 26" color TV; it came in its own console and occupied space as another piece of furniture in the family room; is there anyone who even has this kind of TV anymore. Also, in 1988, we bought a VCR; today, you can't even buy VCR tapes anymore. When our sons were at CVC they learned how to use AutoCad design software; I thought it was expensive at $850; today, our son Josh, uses design software that costs $23,000 per computer.
The lesson: nothing in this world lasts forever.
D When is the last time you thought about Zachary Taylor? Until a few years ago, my answer was NEVER. But then I read something interesting in the newspaper. Some CSI types were digging up the remains of Zachary Taylor because he died suddenly and somewhat mysteriously in the summer of 1850. The scientists dug up his remains to see if he had been poisoned with arsenic by his enemies. It turns out the answer was no.
Here is the humbling part of it all. When he died Zachary Taylor was considered a very great man. One writer put things in perspective by calling him "the Norman Schwarzkopf of his day." In other words, he was a great military leader who later became president. He was the hero of the Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican War. But we have forgotten all of that. Until they dug him up, we had forgotten Zachary Taylor altogether. One of our old hymns, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past", puts it this way:
Time, like an ever rolling stream,Solomon put it this way in Ecclesiastes:
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
(Eccl 9:5) For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.What a sobering thought! "Even the memory of them is forgotten." It's true. Zachary Taylor has been forgotten – and he was once the president of the United States.
This is true of all human endeavors: "they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day." What a lesson this is for all of us. If you are counting on somebody remembering you after you are gone, forget it. Sooner or later, you'll be just another name on a tombstone. Let me tell you what will happen after you die. Your family will call up the funeral home and arrange a real nice service. Then they will bury you in the ground. Friends and family will say some nice things about you. And then most will go on with their lives.
You might say, "How depressing!" No, it's not. That's reality. And if I happen to die before you do, you'll do the same thing for me. And before long, I'll just be a dim memory, and then I'll be forgotten altogether.
If you are looking for significance and permanence in this world, you are wasting your time. This world forgets the past, lives in the present, and dreams about the future. And all those things we do to give ourselves significance – the degrees after our names, the houses we buy, the money we save, the cars we drive, the empires we build, the relationships we seek, the clothes we wear, the networks we create – in the end, those things will amount to nothing. If you are living for this world, you are of all people most to be pitied.
Why? Because nothing in this world lasts forever. Just ask Zachary Taylor.
II The Kingdom of Christ Lasts Forever
A Is there anything on this earth that will last forever? Consider these familiar words from the Nicene Creed: "His kingdom will never end."
Like the rest of the Nicene Creed, this confession is based upon the very words of Scripture:
(Dan 7:14) He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
(Lk 1:32-33) He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, (33) and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.
(2Pt 1:11) and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The book of Hebrews tells us that we who are Christians are receiving "a kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Heb 12:28). Everything that is of this world is shakable. Buildings crumble into dust, companies go into bankruptcy, our houses age and creak and crumble, our cars break down, and – worst of all – our bodies eventually wear out. But the Kingdom of God lasts forever.
B "His kingdom will never end." Why does the Creed include this line? A couple of reasons.
First, do you remember the Arians? They are the main reason for the writing of the Nicene Creed. The Arians wrongly believed that the Son was subordinate to the Father. Like the Jehovah's Witnesses today, they believed the Son is less than the Father and more than man; that the Son is a third kind of being – not man, not God, but somewhere in-between. We've already looked at the Creed's affirmation that Jesus is fully God: "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father." We've also looked at the Creed's affirmation that Jesus is fully man: "he became incarnate ... and was made human."
The Arians, and others like them, misunderstood our Bible reading. Especially verse 1:
(Ps 110:1) The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."They honed in on that word "until." "Sit at my right hand until ..." Ah, ah, they claimed, this means Jesus is not fully God because God always rules but Jesus rules only "until." They also pointed to 1 Corinthians 15:
(1Cor 15:24) Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.They point to the time when Jesus hands over the Kingdom to God and argue, again, that He cannot be God.
Not so, says the Nicene Creed. "His kingdom will never end." Whatever the handing over means, whatever "until" means, it does NOT mean Jesus is no longer King. Because the message of the New Testament is that Jesus rules with God:
(Rev 11:15) The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever."
"His kingdom will never end." Here is an affirmation, again, that Jesus is fully God.
Second, this line is included for our comfort. "His kingdom will never end." Meaning what? Meaning His kingdom will never be defeated. As you know, since the very beginning of time, ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, there has been an ongoing battle between the seed of the woman and the offspring of Satan. At the cross and grave Satan must have thought He won – for 36 hours, or so, Jesus was in the grave. But, as Eileen sang, He arose and trampled over death and in strength He reigns. The battle rages on to this day between the Kingdom of Light and the kingdom of darkness. It is easy to think Satan is winning – especially as we see injustice, hatred and warfare, and all sorts of bad things on the news. It is easy to think the gates of hell are going to prevail. It is easy to think God and His Christ are indifferent or impotent to all of this. When we think this way we need to go back to the very words of Scripture as we find it in the Creed: "His kingdom will never end." In other words, the Kingdom of Christ cannot and will not be defeated. Or, to put it more positively, Jesus is gonna win.
Third, this line also says something to and about the church. "His kingdom will never end." The church has existed from the beginning of the world and will last until the end as appears from the fact that Christ is eternal King Who cannot be without subjects (cf Belgic Confession Article 27). So, here is an assurance that the church, too, will never be destroyed in spite of the Devil's attacks and the hatred of the world.
C "His kingdom will never end." The problem, for many Christians, is that it seems the kingdom has never started. As I said, there is so much bad in this present world: death, crying, tears, pain, suffering, depression, poverty, hurt, illness; oppression; wicked rulers; warfare. With all of this, how can we proclaim – with the Revelation – that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords (cf Rev 17:14; 19:16)?
Jesus explains this in His parables. The Kingdom is small like a mustard seed and becomes big like the biggest tree of the forest (Mt 13:31ff). The Kingdom is like a man who sowed good seed but an enemy sowed weeds (Mt 13:24ff). The Kingdom is like yeast a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough (Mt 13:33ff). The Kingdom is like treasure hidden in a field (Mt 13:44ff). The Kingdom is like a net that caught all kinds of fish (Mt 13:47ff).
The Kingdom is already here BUT BUT it is not yet fully here. Using the language of Psalm 110, Jesus already sits at God's right hand but all His enemies are not yet a footstool for His feet.
For this reason, Christians pray. They pray, "Your Kingdom come." They look and they wait and they pray for the coming of the Kingdom in all its fullness. For that day we can hardly wait.
III Kingdom Living
"His kingdom will never end."
Do you acknowledge this Kingdom? Do you bow before King Jesus?
Our world belongs to Him. Not to earthly powers. Not to demons or devils or fate or chance. Our God is King. Christ is Victor; His rule has begun. So, as followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world do you declare with joy and trust: "Our God reigns"? Do you offer your hearts and lives to do God's work in His world? Do you expect the Day of the Lord? Are you confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the whole earth when Christ comes again?
I am sure you realize that the whole human race may be divided into two groups – those who decide to live by earthly values and those who decide to live by Kingdom values. The difference is this. Living by earthly values produces earthly rewards that pay off quicker and disappear faster; living by Kingdom values produces Kingdom rewards. They usually don't come as quickly, but they last forever.
You can live for this world or you can live for the Kingdom of God. The choice is yours. Either you join yourself to the kingdoms of this world that are doomed to fail. Or, by grace, you join forces with Jesus Christ and follow Him as your Savior and Lord.
"His kingdom will never end." So, why would you follow anyone else? As the "Hallelujah Chorus" puts it:
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
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