These Things Remain
Hebrews 12:28; 6:19
In the midst of his world that could be shaken the writer to the Hebrew Christians was aware
of those things that would remain.
In Hebrews 12:28, we read of "a kingdom that cannot be shaken."
In Hebrews 6:19, we read that "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul."
The writer of Hebrews is saying in such a time in which he lived he needed that.
When so many things he had cherished and counted on or being swept aside like straws in the wind,
he needed something that was steadfast and abiding.
That's what we need in our world today.
Our generation has had one thing after another taken away.
The rug has been pulled out from under its feet, and it has nothing to to stand on.
Often it is necessary for that which can be shaken to be taken away so that we may turn
to that which cannot be shaken.
That is what we want to see in this message.
The Unseen Is Real
Too often have we put our confidence in things that we can handle and measure and see with our eyes.
We have been led to believe that these alone have an ultimate reality.
If we are wise, we will see that this is not so.
Financial security can be taken from us.
Political kingdoms change and die.
Man-made institutions are transient.
We need faith to see the reality of the unseen.
As a blind man once said, "People say 'seeing is believing,' but I say, 'believing is seeing.'"
Because of his blindness, he had a deeper sense of reality.
He believed that faith itself would enable him to lay hold upon it.
This has always been the hidden force back of those who have sought for "a city, not made with hands,"
a city that has foundations beyond man's unstable existence.
The writer of Hebrews says: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)
Phillips translates it: "Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hoped for;
for it means being certain of things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1, Phillips)
Within man is the faculty that binds his soul to a fixed reality -- faith, hope, love, and God himself.
This is not wishful thinking.
It is not the wild dream of an idealist.
People have ventured forth believing that God could be trusted and that His universe would not lie.
The record of their incredible achievements stand for all to read.
They were always searching for a deeper reality, believing that God would validate their faith.
God did not disappoint them.
God will not disappoint us.
For "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:
for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
(2 Corinthians 4:18)
The Certainty of God
Faith in the unseen does not go far enough.
It must lead us to an Ultimate Reality to the One we can trust.
It is because of Him that the invisible qualities of love and faith and hope have meaning.
It is God who gives abiding quality and meaning to everything else.
Sir Arthur Hugh Clough writes:
"It fortifies my soul to know
That, though I perish, Truth is so;
That, howsoe'er I stray and range,
Whate'er I do, Thou dost not change.
I steadier step when I recall
That, if I slip thou dost not fall."
Nothing less than this will satisfy the soul's quest for security.
That is nothing less than God himself.
As the author of Hebrews says, ... "we who are refugees from this dying world might have
a source of strength, and might grasp the hope that he holds out to us.
This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very certainty of God himself."
(Hebrews 6:19-20, Phillips)
When we lay hold upon the certainty of God then we no longer depend upon the things
we have made or upon our own strength.
We are "kept by the power of God through faith." (1 Peter 1:5)
We are held not only by our faith, but we are held by the certainty of God.
Our Eternal Contemporary
God is spirit.
God is eternal.
God is omnipotent.
God is beyond our knowing, yet, He is knowable.
He is above and before and beyond time.
Yet, He is in time.
With each new flash of revelation across the centuries man saw some facet of His nature
and gave Him another name.
God's revelation of himself reached its climax in Jesus Christ.
God carried into time the full accent of eternity.
He vocalized God.
As John said, He was the Word.
In nature, in the voice of history, in our own institutions, there are broken syllables,
but Jesus is the full-spoken Word.
Christ is our eternal contemporary.
He goes back as far as God.
He reaches ahead as long as time will last and beyond.
He is "the same yesterday, and to day, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)
He is both timeless and timely.
He meets our needs today.
He is abreast of our times and always ahead of our times.
George Matheson in his Studies of the "Portrait of Christ" writes:
"In the culture of the past, Thou, Christ, art the only modern.
No one else felt the need and sympathy of man for man
Thou has broken the barriers of caste!
Thou hast reached the last motive of charity, which is the right of the hungry for bread.
Thou hast outrun our philanthropy.
Thou hast anticipated our benevolence.
Thou hast modeled our infirmities and orphanages.
Thou hast sketched our asylums.
Thou hast devised our homes of refuge
Thou hast asserted the sacredness of infant life.
Thou has given a hand to the climbing steps of the woman.
At the end of all our progress we meet Thee."
In Christ we have the man of the hour dealing with each moment as if it were eternity as it really is.
He is also the man of the centuries belonging to all men of every age and every race
and giving eternal significance to each moment.
For hundreds of centuries He has haunted the thinking and conscience of all mankind
Judge and Saviour, Servant and King.
He is our eternal contemporary.
He will abide ever the same.
The Cross over the Wrecks of Time
Why has the cross endured as a symbol of our faith?
Why not a star or a palm branch or a yoke?
All of them and many other symbols were associated with Christ.
It is because the cross has to do with that which is eternal in God and in man.
Joseph Fort Newton gives us the story that points toward the deeper meaning.
"Florence Converse has a story, titled "Crux Ave, Spes Unica," in which Mr. Budget, blueprint in hand,
proposes to take down the old Cross as a thing out of date and unsightly.
He intends to erect in its place a short-wave radio station, to broadcast a modern religion with no Cross in it.
The wrecking crew tries, with ropes, ladders and tools, to pull the old Cross down
warning a poor 'lunatic," the only sane man on the scene, not to let it fall on him.
Having failed to pull it down, they try to dig it up, but that fails also.
The lunatic tells them why: "They can't pull it over, they can't dig it up.
It's from the beginning.
It's the core of creation."
And so it is.
The cross was in the heart and mind of God.
It is woven into the very fabric of the universe.
It cast its dim shadow across Eden.
It's anguish is in Abraham's uplifted arm.
It's heartbreak is in Hosea's story of pathos and love.
It is in every struggle of our Saviour from the wilderness to Gethsemane.
Like the Crimson strand that is found in the the ropes of the British Navy
it is woven into the very fabric of God's purpose.
The cross is a human necessity.
Sin came to destroy everything good and beautiful that God had designed.
It would not be satisfied until it had taken God's best gift and nailed Him to the cross.
Whatever else the cross may mean it stands over the wrecks of human lives saying:
"This is what the power of sin can do."
The cross is also a divine necessity.
God's love for man meant that He must find a way of redemption.
The way He chose the cross even before the foundation of the world.
In the cross is the symbol of God's suffering love.
The struggle between man's sin and God's love is an ageless struggle, but it culminated
in the white heat of combat on Calvary.
There God's best engaged sin's worst and conquered.
The cross shall ever stand against man's blackened sky and over the wrecks he has made of his world
and himself to remind us that there is no cheap or easy solution to the problem of sin.
It cost God the life of His Son.
As long as man needs a Saviour and as long as God's love goes out to meet that need
the cross remains man's last, best hope and only hope in a shaken world.
"In the cross of Christ I glory,
Tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time,
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime."
Strength For The Inner Citadel
Christ warned us that our lives were destined to be lived out in a troubled world.
If we expect to find strength and security from our environment then we are doomed to disappointment.
We need to discover a source of inner security something that the world cannot give us or take from us.
In our troubled world that is our ultimate need.
We are constantly up against unsolved and insurmountable problems and we are spiritually exhausted.
The demands of life are so great that our inner sources of strength are depleted.
Those who deal with the human problems the pastor, the psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor
are recognizing more and more the poverty of the inner life of man.
Man does not build up emotional and spiritual reserves adequate for his day.
We need to give attention to the fortifying of the inner citadel of life.
That was the secret of Christ's serenity in a troubled world, and it can be ours.
We Must Find The Kind of Peace That Christ Gives.
Christ's kind of peace!
Those are thrilling words for a strife-torn world and for people who are searching everywhere
for peace of mind.
The thing that makes these words meaningful is that they were spoken by One who knew much trouble.
Almost all His active life was lived under bitter opposition and struggle.
When He spoke those memorable words, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you"
He was walking into the shadow of Gethsemane and the cross.
For Him, it would seem, there was everything but peace.
Yet there was within the citadel of His soul a calmness that has continued to amaze and bless those
who have come to know Him.
It is His legacy to a troubled and uneasy world.
What kind of peace was it that made it so utterly different from the peace the world gives?
It is certainly not a peace that is dependent upon the outward circumstances.
It is not the peace of a sheltered pool, unrippled and motionless; that is stagnation.
It is not a peace that knows no trouble or has no concern for those who do.
It is not a kind of surface peace a pretense that cries, "Peace, peace"
when life within is torn by turmoil.
Christ's kind of peace is that which stands sentinel at the gateway of the soul, that marches
into our and minds like a garrison defending the inner citadel of life.
It is not the kind of peace that the world knows nor can give.
It is a gift from God.
It can belong to that life whose trust is in Him and whose life is committed to the doing of His will.
It is a peace with God that man knows in his heart when all about him is struggle and confusion.
Finding Christ's Kind of Power
Our feeling of insecurity often comes from our sense of inadequacy.
We take our world today or today's problem, for that matter and become frightened
and apprehensive because we are no match for it.
What kind of power did Christ have to match the world of His day and ours?
How did He propose to conquer a world that was dominated by vastly superior force like Rome?
Who but a fool would dare to say, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world"? (John 16:33)
Yet, He did dare to make that affirmation.
And the most incredible thing is that His power was neither in the vast power at His disposal
in the physical universe nor in some fearful and shattering act of judgment.
Rather, it was in what took place [or occurred] on Calvary.
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32)
It was the power of love God's kind of love over the forces of this world.
Neither hate, nor selfishness, nor even death could conquer Him.
Through His atoning death and resurrection, He released a power that nothing could stop.
That was Christ's power a power that could take the worst sin in the world and command
and defeat it, or turn it to serve His purpose.
The forces of evil handed Him a cross, but when He had finished with it had become
the world's greatest symbol of victory for His time and ours and forever.
With this power Christ's a few disciples went forth to conquer the world.
It was this power with which Paul stormed the citadel of Rome's strength.
His battle cry was: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:
for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." (Romans 1:16)
Christ never sought security in some impregnable fortress.
He never recommended safety first.
Security for the Christian has always been on the battle field.
The only safe movement for those who follow Christ is forward.
He never asked us to find little jobs equal to our strength.
He promised us power equal to world-shaking conquest.
Not in some underground shelter will we find security in a nuclear age but in moving ahead for Him
and with Him in tension and in struggle to win a world!
Then and only then does He promise "Lo, I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20)
This is Christ's gift to us in our time and day.
It is a source of our confidence in a world where the odds are constantly against us.
If Christ be for us that is all that matters.
If the citadel is garrisoned with His strength, nothing can ultimately defeat us.
Beyond the Last Horizon
What about death?
"If a man die," Job asked, "shall he live again?"
There is no "if" here.
Sooner or later, death will come to all of us.
We see an illustration of this in the old legend of a merchant in Baghdad.
One day he sent his servant to the market.
Before long the servant came back white and trembling, and in great agitation and said to his master,
"Down in the marketplace I was jostled by woman in the crowd,
and when I looked around I saw it was Death that jostled me.
She looked at me and made a threatening gesture.
Oh, Master, lend me your horse, for I must hasten away to avoid my fate.
I will ride to Samarra, and there I will hide and Death will not find me."
The merchant lent him his horse, and his servant galloped away in great haste.
Later the merchant went down to the marketplace, and saw Death in the crowd.
He went over to her and asked, "Why did you frighten my servant this morning?
Why did you make a threatening gesture?"
"That was not a threatening gesture, "Death said.
"It was only that of surprise.
I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."
All of us have an appointment with death.
Even if the inner citadel can hold out against all that can happen to us here on earth,
what assurance do we have in a victory over death?
That is, of course, man's "invincible surmise" that he is immortal.
Job in his troubled life believed that death was not the final act.
In Job 19:25 we read: "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he stand
at the latter-day upon the earth."
The Greek philosopher, Socrates, discussed the possibility of immortality often with his pupils.
Even the infidel has not always been able to escape it.
Confronted with the death of his brother, the infidel Robert Ingersoll said, "What lies beyond?
From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word;
but in the night of death hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing."
In his immortal poem Tennyson wrote:
"Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die."
In answer to this ageless hope comes with clear and triumphant word of Christ,
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." (John 11:25 26)
This was no mere guess on immortality.
It rested upon the solid foundation of what had happened on that early Sunday morning
in the garden long ago.
"Why seek ye the living among the dead?
He is not here, but is risen." (Luke 24:5-6)
His followers saw this for themselves.
This became their transforming experience.
This was their witness to a dead and dying world.
"I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins
according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day
according to the scriptures."
(1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
It was the message for those dead in trespasses and sins.
It was their one reliable hope for a new life in Christ.
And it was more.
It was the basis for their hope that life would go beyond what we call death
to an ultimate and glorious fulfillment in heaven.
Someone has written, "His resurrection was the triumph of the life that was in him
over all the powers of darkness and death which seemed, and still seem, to rule in the outward world.
Not death and fear, but life and love, are the ultimates."
The security of the new life in Christ rests neither upon man's supposition nor his hope
but upon the strength of God's eternal love and purpose.
In that ultimate purpose extended to us in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
is our security now and forever.
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, life, or angels, or principalities, nor powers,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
And so we pass from the inner citadel in which Christ dwells into "an house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens." (2 Corinthians 5:1)
That is the word to us, and it is the word of God, and we can trust Him beyond all else
no matter what happens.
As with Paul we can also say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded
that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." (2 Timothy 1:12)
"I know not why God's wondrous grace
to me he hath made known,
nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
redeemed me for his own.
But I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed
unto him against that day.
I know not how this saving faith
to me he did impart,
nor how believing in his word
wrought peace within my heart.
I know not how the Spirit moves,
convincing us of sin,
revealing Jesus through the word,
creating faith in him.
I know not when my Lord may come,
at night or noonday fair,
nor if I walk the vale with him,
or meet him in the air.
But I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed
unto him against that day."
-- "I Know Whom I Have Believed"
Text by Daniel W. Whittle
Music by James McGranahan
This is the new life can be ours in Christ, and it finds both its fulfillment
and its eternal security in Him.
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White