Passage: Luke 7:36–8:3
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 7:36-8:3
Date: June 12th, 2016; Pentecost 4; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I would like to begin this morning by asking you a question: are you going to heaven?
When you die, are you going to receive eternal life in heaven?
When Christ returns to judge the living and the dead - will you be numbered among the saved?
What is the first response that immediately came to your mind?
Maybe some of you answered, “No”. You don’t think you are going to heaven.
I am going to guess for some the answer was, “I sure hope so!” Or, “Maybe.”
The answer that came to the minds of others was, “Yes, I am going to heaven.”
These are the only answers: “No”. “Maybe”. Or, “Yes.”
Here is a follow-up question: why did you answer the way you did?
If you don’t you think you are going to heaven - why?
If you are on the fence and answered, “Maybe” – why?
If you do think you are going to inherit eternal life – why?
These are not meant to be trick questions and there are right and wrong answers.
And all of our Scripture readings for this morning do a wonderful job of correctly answering them.
God established his Church, and provided his means of grace, that you may answer a certain “Yes!” when you are asked if you are going to heaven.
Unfortunately it is easy to focus on ourselves when we consider these questions.
By that I mean it’s easy to think about the things we have and haven't done.
For example, we might believe, “No, I am not going to heaven because I haven’t been to church for a long time.” Or, “I have done way too many bad things in my life to make it to heaven.”
Or, somewhere in the middle, we might think, “I hope I am going to heaven – sure, I’ve made some mistakes, but I have been pretty good. I just hope it’s enough!”
Some might of thought, “Yes, I am going to heaven. I have been going to church my whole life. I’m not perfect, but better than most. That should be enough.”
If these, or similar thoughts, came to your mind when you considered if you are going to heaven, our texts for this morning have something to teach you today.
We heard in our Gospel reading that Jesus was invited to have a meal with a Pharisee.
This Pharisee was interested in hearing more of what Jesus was teaching - our Lord had created quite a buzz.
The Pharisees were a very religious bunch. They studied God’s Word in great detail. They spent a lot of time in prayer. They focused their effort on keeping every detail of God’s Law - and even added a bunch of their own for good measure.
The Pharisees were very confident they were going to heaven because they believed they were holy and righteous and deserved it.
But is that what God has revealed to us in the Bible?
In our Old Testament lesson we heard about King David. The same David who killed Goliath with a mere slingshot. The same David who authored many of the Psalms. The same David who is a direct ancestor of Jesus.
David is a hero of the Bible! Surely he is in heaven because of all that he did for God and his people, right?
Well, when we learn more about David we quickly see that he wasn’t such a saint.
In our text we learn that he was responsible for the death of Uriah the Hittite. Through deception, and the complete abuse of his power, he had Uriah murdered.
Why did he do this? Because he saw Uriah’s wife bathing, lusted after her, and had an affair with her.
He wanted Uriah’s wife for himself and had him murdered to make it happen.
There is no doubt that David did a lot of good things for God and his people. But he also committed many atrocities. He was a sinner.
If David were judged on what he did and didn't do - he wouldn't stand a chance of eternal life in heaven.
But the Good News is that we are not judged on the things we do and don't do.
This is made crystal clear in the letter to the Galatians.
We heard “…that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…”
In other words, we are justified (or made right with God) through our faith in what God has promised and accomplished for us through Jesus Christ.
This is the true Gospel message. This is what it means to be a Christian.
If we rely on ourselves, on our holy living, to get us to heaven — then we don't stand a chance. We have no hope. There is no “maybe” about it.
We heard in Galatians, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.’”
Cursed be anyone who does not live perfectly according to God’s will.
If you have sinned even once - you are not worthy of eternal life in heaven.
That is the curse of the law.
But as we heard in our Galatians reading, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree…’”
Christ hanged on a tree, died on the cross, to redeem us from the curse of the law - to save us from the punishment we deserve.
Back to our original question: Are you going to heaven?
The correct answer is: Yes you are! There is no doubt about it! It’s not a “maybe” – it is certain.
Why? How can I be so sure? Or more importantly, how can you be so sure?
Because it doesn’t depend on you – it depends on what Christ has done for you.
And we receive what Christ has done through the gift of faith.
The gift of faith given in the waters of Holy Baptism.
The gift of faith stirred up and strengthened as we hear, read, and mediate upon God’s Word.
The gift of faith sustained and nourished as we are fed by Christ’s true body and blood.
Through these means of grace, God gives us the gift of salvation, and strengthens us to live our lives as his people - according to his will.
How do you know that you have victory over death and will spend eternity in heaven?
It’s certainly not because of what you have or have not done.
It’s because you are one of God’s baptized.
You hear the Gospel, the Good News, that God sent his Son into the world to save you and you faithfully respond, “Amen”.
You receive the Holy Supper - a tangible assurance that your sins are forgiven and your relationship with God is reconciled.
As Jesus said to the woman we heard about in our Gospel lesson, so he says to you, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.