Holding on to the Promise
2 Corinthians 1:20-22 “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
We live in a time when the word “promise” doesn’t carry the weight it once did. When people say, “I promise” it no longer means “You can count on my word as absolute” or “It’s as good as done.” More often it means, “I will plan on it” or “I want to come through.” In many cases it means, “I want you to think I will” do whatever it is that is being committed to. But what does the Bible say about promises? Has the weight of the word “promise” in the Bible also faded or changed?
We may say in contemporary language that making a promise means “giving your word to someone.” That is an accurate understanding or at least an accurate partial understanding of what it means to give or receive a promise.
Turn to John chapter one, and let us investigate what John had to say about the giving of God’s Word to the humanity. John 1:1-4 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Now skip to verse 14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Many of you are familiar with the Greek word for “Word” that is used in this passage. It is Logos. God has chosen to speak to us through the Logos or Word who is the person of Jesus Christ. He is the One who became flesh. What John understood better than me before this week and perhaps better than those of you here this morning is that Jesus was more than just an expression of the will of God. He was more than just the mouthpiece of God and for God. He was more than just the way God communicated with humanity. That was always my understanding of the word, “logos” until this week.
What John captured in these opening verses of his Gospel is that Jesus, the Word, the Logos, was and is God, that He has always existed, and that He participated in and was responsible for the creation of all things. In other words, the Logos, is more than an expression or teaching, but it is THE person who holds the plan or model for the universe, is the Source of order in the universe, and has the creative power to speak that plan into existence! We see in John’s words that the Logos is much bigger than simply the Word of God.
Philo, who lived between 20 BC and 50 AD wrote that “The Logos of the living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated.”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logos)
Scripture affirms this truth in Colossians 1:15-17 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. You and everything in this universe are literally being held together by Jesus Christ. Even when everything is falling apart, the promise of God says, you will be held together!
The Logos contains not only the expression of God and is the mouthpiece for God and is the power of God to enact the will of God for the Universe, but the Logos, Jesus is the One who then holds all of that universe, will of God, and you and me together.
I want to show you something from the world of Science that also affirms this truth. Pastor Louie Giglio was preparing to preach a sermon in a series called “The Glory of God and the Human Body.” Just before it was his week to preach, he met a man at a conference who asked him about his upcoming message. When Louie gave him the subject, “The Glory of God and the Human Body” the man immediately got very excited. He told him he was a molecular biologist and that he knew just what Louie should include in his message that week. It was the subject of a protein, adhesive structure in our cells known as “laminin.” Look at this video which explains the conversation and what happened when Louie discovered “laminin.”
http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=GYGWPNNX (Show video from 4:17 to 8:17)
Oh, the Logos, is so much more than God’s Word to us. In the Logos we see what God says about the weight of His Word, the weight of His promise. For the Logos is God active in creation, revelation, and redemption.
Jesus is the Word of God, yes, but He is also the Word of God that has power and authority to make good on the Word of God, and He is the One who will hold you together in any situation! Jesus is the Source of all things. He IS the meaning of the cosmos. He is the holder of plans and promises, and He is able to make good on every promise of God. He is the “Yes” of God over your life if you are in Him. He is the protector for your soul. He is the One who will guide your steps to follow in the way God has designed for you to go. He is the architect of your physical body and earthly and eternal destiny. It’s not just that Jesus makes promises, but He is the promise of God who makes good on every other promise of God for your life! And He is the proof that God is the only Promise Maker who is also a Promise Keeper! Is anyone else as excited as I am about this discovery God has given to me this week?
Why is it, that God can be trusted? It is because God has kept every promise He has made in Christ including the very biggest promise that was made to Satan in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15. Yes, God even makes promises to Satan! He said to Satan, “You will strike Christ’s heel, but He will crush your head.” In other words, God promised humanity that in the coming of Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross and victory over sin and death, the victory over Satan and death would be won forever.
Perhaps it is easier to make small promises here and there and keep those rather than to make a big promise that would be much more difficult to go through with. Because, let’s face it, sometimes big promises have high price tags. Sometimes they involve tremendous effort and even suffering and sacrifice. When that is the case, it is easy for us to forgive people who break their promises. We realize that the bigger the promise, the harder it is to keep.
The promise God made in Genesis 3:15 is the biggest promise ever made! When God made this promise to Satan in the Garden, He did so with the Logos, Jesus, standing right there with Him. He was promising to send His Son, the Logos, to earth to pay the price for the sins of the world through a horrible, slow, agonizing, excruciating death. What a promise! And we know the end of the story! God made good on His promise. It was the biggest promise ever made which made it the biggest promise ever kept! That is why we can trust God! He didn’t break His promise on the most painful and difficult one to deliver. If God was faithful to put Jesus through all He put Him through and to watch Jesus be slain, surely ever other promise along the way He has distributed through the Bible and through the Logos, Jesus Himself, has come to pass and will come to pass.
We see God’s track record proven throughout history. There were well over 300 prophecies or promises about the coming of Jesus that were made hundreds of years before He came. They were documented promises, and Jesus delivered the fulfillment of every one of them. He didn’t skip a one of them. He didn’t miss a detail. Every word that was spoken about His birth, life, death, and resurrection was fulfilled. God the Father and Jesus Christ are Promise Keepers!
And let me show you something else from our main text today. The Holy Spirit is also a Promise Keeper! 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
The Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and lives to guarantee all of the promises that are yet to come for God’s people! I love it! We have a triune God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who are all promise keepers! Hallelujah! And with the introduction out of the way let me preach my sermon now! J
You need to hold on to the Promise, but even in times when you haven’t been so good at doing so, I want you to know that the Promise will hold on to you. We don’t have a “three strikes and you’re out” kind of God. We have a God who loves us with an everlasting love, who will chase us down the street, through the valley, over the hill and around the world to bring us back into right relationship with Him. Do we really think God quit reaching when He sent Jesus to die on the cross? Do we really think He has taken the attitude that “whatever happens, happens” with us and Him? Do we think He has said, “I’ve done all I am going to do. It’s simply up to them now?” No way! His love is beyond comprehension. He has too much invested in each one of us. So here is the crux of the sermon before I preach it in the next ten minutes: Even when we are faithless to God, He is faithful to His promises.
A promise God made to Moses speaks to this truth: Exodus 33:21-23 21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
In the book of Exodus chapters 20 through 32 while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments and laws from God, the Israelites were breaking them back at their campsite. It is clear from reading chapter 32 that the people knew the things they were doing were wrong, were evil, and were dishonoring and displeasing to God. This wasn’t a case of “they didn’t know better.” They did. Moses smashed the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments had been written. He ground up the idol they had been worshiping and mixed its powder with water and made the people drink it! Talk about having a “taste of your own medicine!” God’s discipline in that camp was pretty tough. 3000 of them died that day.
God’s character was so offended by their sin that He expressed His displeasure in telling Moses that he and the people should keep traveling to the Promised Land, but that He wasn’t going to go with them. That is the intense degree to which God had been wronged by His people. In His emotion towards them He wanted to separate from them. But thanks be to God that His emotion doesn’t override His character. God cannot be unfaithful to His promise. God cannot break His covenant. And something incredible happened in Exodus 33 that shows us the depth of our promise making and promise keeping God. Tell your neighbor, “This is getting good!”
Start with the end of verse 13: –Remember that this nation is your people.” 14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
At the end of verse 13, Moses brilliantly reminded God of His promise to be the God of the Israelite people. And God did what He always does. He kept His promise. He had told Moses He would be with him on this journey, and He didn’t break His promise.
Before setting out to travel again, Moses asked to get as close as any human ever got with God. He asked to see God’s glory. God knew that Moses couldn’t look upon the glory of the Lord face to face and live so He told Moses He would let Him see His glory from a perspective that wouldn’t be too overwhelming for Moses as a human. He said, “I will pass by you, and after I have passed, you will be able to catch a glimpse of me. My glory will trail behind me in a lesser intensity.” But then God said something completely astonishing. “And Moses, just to ensure there is no harm to you, I am going to put you in a cleft, an overhang, a space inside this rock and while I am passing by you, at the same time I am passing by you I am going to cover you with my hand.” How in the world that is even possible? How does God pass by us, reveal His glory and cover us with His hand the whole time? But that is what He did.
Now here is the takeaway. Look at your neighbor and say, “She’s landing the plane.”
God is faithful to His promises even when we break our promises to Him. Moses represented the people who had just broken God’s heart. They had just turned their back on God. They had just broken their promises to be His covenant people, and yet, here we see the tender mercy of our loving God. Though He had reasons to reject Moses and His people, He did not break His promise. Not only did He not break His promise, but He revealed His glory, and He provided the protection Moses needed to be in His presence and still live. He covered Moses. He covered the people who time and time again broke their promises to God.
When we have messed up, when we have broken God’s promises, when we have walked away from Him, our greatest need is to see Him and His glory. Moses knew it. And in verse 18 Moses saw the mercy and compassion of God on display in grand fashion!
Chapter 34 details again the faithfulness of God to His people. Those stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them that Moses had broken in his anger and disgust over the sins of Israel, God re-created. The starting point for the grace of God in our lives is brokenness. The starting point for the forgiveness of God is our sin. And God takes our broken promises and broken lives and says, “Let’s do this over.” That is overwhelming to me.
And before I say “amen” to this message, let me show you what God revealed again in the process of giving His people another chance. Look at Exodus 34:6-7 (NIV) 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
What does He reaffirm to His people in this passage? “Just as I have always been, so shall I always be.” What a promise! Someone to count on. A God who can truly be trusted. What promises to hold onto! We serve an unwavering God. He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
What pain do you hold in your heart that is a result of a broken promise? Do you allow that pain from that broken promise to override the promises of God in your life? Today God is here with mercy and compassion to provide you with healing for your hurt.
Have you made promises to God you haven’t kept? He is offering you a do-over.
Do you feel as if your life is falling apart? Like you are falling apart? Jesus is here to hold you together. There is a safe place in the cleft of the rock. God will cover you with the hollow of His hand. He will reveal Himself in the midst of your brokenness.
You cannot begin to claim any of the promises of God until you have first claimed the Person of the Promise, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior. The promises of God are “yes’ in Christ. Only those who are in Christ get the Divine Yes spoken over their lives. Are you holding on to the Jesus, the Logos, the Promise, who has made good and continues to make good through the keeping power of the Spirit, ever other promise God has made to you?