Sermon title: 

MEMORIAL DAY, OUR MEMORIES AND GOD’S MEMORY

John 14:1-14

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, May 30, 2021

 

 

 

It’s fitting that our first in-person worship service

after this year-long lockdown

falls on the Memorial Day weekend.

 

Meeting in our building again,

we remember our friends, family members & loved ones

who were still with us,

when we last met in this building,

but whom we’ve lost over this past year.

 

And that’s what the word “Memorial” is about—memory,

remembering those we have lost.

 

Some of them were members of this church family,

who sat in these pews with us in early 2020,

but who are now at home with the Lord.

 

And some of them were family members or dear friends,

who are no longer with us.

 

We cherish their memories.

 

They live on in our memories.

 

But, more than that, they live on in God’s memory.

 

And that makes all the difference in the world.

 

Our grief is different from the world’s grief.

 

Our grief is different from those

who don’t share the hope we have in Christ.

 

The Apostle Paul explained the difference,

when he wrote at 1 Thessalonians 4:13

13 Brothers and sisters,

we do not want you to be uninformed

about those who sleep in death,

so that you do not grieve

like the rest of mankind,

who have no hope.

14 For we believe that Jesus died

and rose again, and so we believe

that God will bring with Jesus

those who have fallen asleep in him.

 

So, we grieve the loss of our loved ones,

but not the way unbelievers grieve.

 

To them, their loss is permanent—with no hope.

 

For us, our loss is just as real,

and the pain of not having our loved ones with us

is just as real,

but we have the hope of being with them again.

 

For us it is like the Italian expression “Arrivederci!”—

literally, “until we see each other again;

goodbye for the present.”

 

It is like the German “auf wiedersehen

which also means, “until we see each other again.”

 

We “do not grieve

like the rest of mankind,

who have no hope,

because we have hope in Christ.

 

We believe that God

will bring with Jesus

those who have fallen asleep in him.

 

Our grief when we lose a loved one

is like the pain we feel when someone we love

takes off on a long journey to a distant place

or moves far away.

 

We miss them sorely,

but we are confident that we will see them again.

 

The Apostle Paul explained it further,

when he wrote at 1 Corinthians 15:17,

17 ... if Christ has not been raised,

your faith is futile;

you are still in your sins.

18 Then those also

who have fallen asleep in Christ

are lost.

19 If only for this life

we have hope in Christ,

we are of all people

most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed

been raised from the dead,

the firstfruits of those

who have fallen asleep.

21 For since death came through a man,

the resurrection of the dead

comes also through a man.

22 For as in Adam all die,

so in Christ all will be made alive.

 

Yes, our hope is in Christ.

 

Not just Christ who was crucified,

but Christ who rose from the dead—

Christ who is alive today,

Christ who is coming again,

and Christ who raises us from death to life.

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Before Christ came,

faithful men and women hoped in God.

 

They knew very little about life after death,

but, somehow, they knew there was hope.

 

It was just a glimmer of hope,

because immortality had not yet been revealed.

 

2 Timothy 1:10 refers to the Lord as

our Savior, Christ Jesus,

who has destroyed death and has

brought life & immortality to light

through the gospel.”

 

Christ came down from heaven and

brought “immortality to light.

He shed light on a subject that had been

shrouded in mystery.

 

The Old Testament speaks a little about life after death

and resurrection from the dead,

but it says very little on these topics.

 

God left immortality to be revealed in the New Testament

through Christ.

 

At Luke 23:42, the thief on the cross,

expressed faith in Christ by saying,

“Jesus, remember me

when You come into Your kingdom!”

 

“Remember me!—that was the key.

 

This thief dying on the cross next to Jesus

had never met Christ before,

and knew nothing of the Gospel message

beyond the few words he heard spoken

there at the place of execution.

Whatever religious education he may have had

was in Old Testament Judaism.

 

He knew that the key to resurrection was

to be in God’s memory.

 

And so, he asked Jesus,

“Jesus, remember me

when You come into Your kingdom!”

 

Jesus must have surprised him with his reassuring reply.

 

Jesus said to him,

“Truly I tell you,

today you will be with Me

in Paradise.”

 

Yes, today!

 

Today!—not thousands of years from now

when all the dead are resurrected,

but Today!

Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

 

And the key to it was being remembered by Jesus.

 

Jesus would remember him,

and would see to it

that he would be “with Me in Paradise.”

 

How that answer must have surprised

and comforted that dying thief!

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Even before the coming of Christ,

the Holy Spirit imparted

the hope of resurrection from the dead,

to the pre-Christian patriarchs and prophets

who lived centuries before Christ came.

 

They knew God told Adam

when expelling him from the Garden of Eden,

at Genesis 3:19

“By the sweat of your brow

you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

and to dust you will return.”

 

God had made Adam from the dust of the ground,

and at death he would

return to the ground,

since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

and to dust you will return.”

 

The chemicals making up the human body

are the same chemicals we find in the soil—

the dust of the ground.

 

God formed Adam’s body directly

from those chemicals in the soil,

and his dead body would decay back into the soil.

 

We, too, are composed of the same chemicals

found in the dust of the ground.

 

We are not individual direct creations by God

in the sense of our bodies being formed as adults

from the dust of the ground, the way Adam was.

 

Rather, we grow in our mother’s womb for 9 months,

and then we are born and grow as infant children.

 

But, think of how that growth in our mother’s womb

takes place.

 

Our mother eats food from the garden and from the field,

and the chemicals in that food

are the raw materials that go into building

our bones and muscles and nerves.

 

Tiny seeds planted in the soil—the dust of the ground—

absorbed chemicals from the soil

and grew into fruits and vegetables and grain.

 

And those fruits and vegetables and grains

passed those chemicals from the dust of the ground

into our mother’s womb.

 

We start out our lives as one of our mother’s egg cells,

fertilized by a sperm cell from our father.

 

And that fertilized cell contains the written instructions

God wrote into our DNA

to assemble molecules from our mother’s nutrition

to form our infant bodies.

 

And we continue all our lives to consume food

that comes from the dust of the ground,

and that supplies the building blocks for our bodies.

 

So, we too—like Adam—come from the dust of the ground

and return to the dust of the ground.

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The Old Testament pre-Christian patriarchs knew

that any hope of rising from the dust

depended on God remembering them

and calling them forth from the grave.

 

The Old Testament patriarch Job

expressed the hope that God would remember him—

just like the thief on the cross.

 

At Job 14:13, he said,

13 “If only you would hide me

in the grave  and conceal me

till your anger has passed!

If only you would set me a time

and then remember me!

14 If someone dies,

will they live again?

All the days of my hard service

I will wait for my renewal to come.

 

Yes, Job hoped for God to remember him.

 

He would be content to be hidden in the grave,

if only the time would come,

when God would remember him

and he would live again.

 

Just as Jesus called Lazarus to come out of the grave,

after Lazarus had been dead 4 days,

Job said to God,

 

15 You will call

and I will answer you;

you will long for

the creature your hands have made.

16 Surely then you will

count my steps

but not keep track of my sin.

17 My offenses will be sealed up

in a bag;

you will cover over my sin.

 

Yes, Job had hope for new life,

forgiven for his offenses,

with his sins covered over

as if they were sealed up in a bag.

 

And it wasn’t just a wistful hope,

but rather a confidence

that the Holy Spirit put into Job’s heart.

 

Even though Job lived a thousand years before Christ,

God’s Spirit inspired him to say at Job 19:25,

25 I know that my redeemer lives,

and that in the end

he will stand on the earth.

26 And after my skin

has been destroyed,

yet in my flesh I will see God;

27 I myself will see him

with my own eyes—

I, and not another.

How my heart yearns within me!

 

Job said, “I know that my redeemer lives

even though Christ had not yet been revealed.

 

By divine inspiration Job knew

that in the end” his redeemer

will stand on the earth.”

 

And Christ did come, to stand upon the earth,

and to redeem his people.

 

And, just as Jesus kept his promise

to remember that thief on the cross,

we know our Redeemer remembered Job.

 

Other Old Testament believers

similarly asked God to remember them.

 

At Nehemiah 5:19, Nehemiah said,

“Remember me with favor, my God,

for all I have done

for these people.”

 

And our Old Testament concludes with the book of Malachi.

 

Just before describing the coming of the Day of the Lord,

when all the wicked will be destroyed,

it speaks of a time like now

like our day today—

when Malachi 3:15 says it appears that

the evildoers prosper,

and even those who challenge God

escape.”

 

But it adds, concerning that time,

Then those who feared the LORD

spoke with one another.

The LORD paid attention

and heard them,

and a book of remembrance

was written before him

of those who feared the LORD

and esteemed his name.

 

Yes, the Lord keepsa book of remembrance

with the names of those who belong to him—

those who fear Him and who honor His name.

 

It’s referred to in other passages as the “book of life.”

 

Whether it is a literal book,

or refers to being recorded in God’s memory,

we can’t say for sure.

 

But it is a Memorial

in more than just the sense of being remembered,

but of God remembering an individual

to resurrect them from the grave.

 

At Exodus 32:32 Moses spoke of this ‘book of life’

that the Lord keeps.

 

While Moses was on the mountain-top,

receiving from God the stone tablets

with the 10 Commandments,

the people became impatient,

waiting for him to come back down,

and they had his brother Aaron

make an idolatrous image to worship—

a golden calf.

God spoke to Moses of wiping out the Israelites

and starting all over again,

building a new nation from Moses’ own offspring.

 

But Moses begged God not to do that—

offering to give up his own eternal life.

 

At Exodus 32:32 Moses said to God,

32 But now, please forgive their sin

—but if not, then blot me out of

the book you have written.”

33 The Lord replied to Moses,

“Whoever has sinned against me

I will blot out of my book.

34 Now go, lead the people

to the place I spoke of,

and my angel will go before you.

However, when the time comes

for me to punish,

I will punish them for their sin.”

35 And the Lord struck the people

with a plague

because of what they did

with the calf Aaron had made.

So, the Lord told Moses he would blot out of his book

the individuals who had sinned against him.

 

And he started taking those lives

by sending an epidemic disease among the Israelites.

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Another reference to God’s Memorial ‘book of life’

is in Psalm 69:28,

where it says regarding certain wicked people,

May they be blotted out of

the book of life

And may they not be recorded

with the righteous.

 

Hundreds of years later, God’s angel

spoke to the prophet Daniel about the resurrection.

At Daniel 12:1 he said,

“Now at that time Michael,

the great prince who stands guard

over the sons of your people,

will arise.

And there will be a time of distress

such as never occurred

since there was a nation

until that time;

and at that time your people,

everyone who is found

written in the book, will be rescued.

...

13 But go your way until the end;

for you shall rest,

and shall stand in your lot,

at the end of the days.”

 

So, Daniel would be one of those

written in the book”

who would be raised to life.

 

And we have the Bible’s assurance that we,

as born-again children of God

are indelibly written in that ‘book of life.’

 

At Luke 10:20 Jesus told his disciples to

rejoice that your names

are recorded in heaven.”

 

And Hebrews 12:22-23 says,

...you have come to Mount Zion

and to the city of the living God,

the heavenly Jerusalem,

and to myriads of angels,

to the general assembly

and church of the firstborn

who are enrolled in heaven.

 

At Philippians 4:3 the Apostle Paul spoke of

his fellow-workers in the Gospel ministry,

and said that their

names are in the book of life.”

 

And the Bible’s concluding book,

the Revelation or Apocalypse

makes several references to “the Book of Life.”

 

In Revelation 3:5, our Lord Jesus says,

“All who are victorious

will be clothed in white.

I will never erase their names

from the Book of Life,

but I will announce

before my Father and his

angels that they are mine.”

 

And, near the end of that prophetic book,

Revelation Chapter 21 speaks of the New Jerusalem

and says in Verse 27,

Nothing evil

will be allowed to enter,

nor anyone who practices

shameful idolatry and dishonesty

—but only those whose names

are written in

the Lamb’s Book of Life.

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So, we have the loved ones we have lost to death

in our memories.

 

And we erect gravestones and keep photographs

as memorials to them.

 

But our Lord Jesus does even better than that.

 

He keeps us in his Book of Life.

 

When we leave this world,

we go immediately to join him

in our new spiritual bodies.

 

And we are with the Lord forever.