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7-24-22 “Heaven or Hell?”

Heaven or Hell? (Galatians 5:1, 13-25)

David Peterson / General

Judgment; New Creation / Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13–25

Sermon type: Textual-Topical

Proposition: Heaven and hell are not arbitrary realities but the consequences of a life lived in God or apart from God.

Introduction

1. A hard saying

I. Hell is real. So real everyone knows about it.

1. He warned them before, part of his message Acts

a. Acts 20:26ff; Ezekiel 3:16ff

2. Still speaks today — hell all around us.

Painting Judas and Jesus

Leonardo Da Vinci, the noted Italian artist, painted the Last Supper. It took seven years for him to complete it. The figures representing the twelve Apostles and Christ himself were painted from living persons. The life-model for the painting of the figure of Jesus was chosen first.

When it was decided that Da Vinci would paint this great picture, hundreds and hundreds of young men were carefully viewed in an endeavour to find a face and personality exhibiting innocence and beauty, free from the scars and signs of dissipation caused by sin.

Finally, after weeks of laborious search, a young man nineteen years of age was selected as a model for the portrayal of Christ. For six months Da Vinci worked on the production of this leading character of his famous painting. During the next six years Da Vinci continued his labours on this sublime work of art. One by one fitting persons were chosen to represent each of the eleven Apostles – with space being left for the painting of the figure representing Judas Iscariot as the final task of this masterpiece.

This was the Apostle, you remember, who betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. For weeks Da Vinci searched for a man with a hard, callous face, with a countenance marked by scars of avarice, deceit, hypocrisy, and crime. A face that would delineate a character who would betray his best friend.

After many discouraging experiences in searching for the type of person required to represent Judas, word came to Da Vinci that a man whose appearance fully met his requirements had been found in a dungeon in Rome, sentenced to die for a life of crime and murder. Da Vinci made the trip to Rome at once, and this man was brought out from his imprisonment in the dungeon and led out into the light of the sun. There Da Vinci saw before him a dark, swarthy man his long shaggy and unkempt hair sprawled over his face, which betrayed a character of viciousness and complete ruin. At last the famous painter had found the person he wanted to represent the character of Judas in his painting. By special permission from the king, this prisoner was carried to Milan where the picture was being painted. For months he sat before Da Vinci at appointed hours each day as the gifted artist diligently continued his task of transmitting, to his painting, this base character representing the traitor and betrayer of our Saviour.

As he finished his last stroke, he turned to the guards and said, I have finished. You may take the prisoner away. As the guards were leading their prisoner away, he suddenly broke loose from their control and rushed up to Da Vinci, crying as he did so, “Da Vinci, look at me. Do you not know who I am?” Da Vinci, with the trained eyes of a great character student, carefully scrutinized the man upon whose face he had constantly gazed for six months and replied, “No, I have never seen you in my life until you were brought before me out of the dungeon in Rome.”

Then, lifting his eyes toward heaven, the prisoner said, “Oh God, have I fallen so low?” Then turning his face to the painter he cried, “Leonardo Da Vinci, look at me again for I am the same man you painted just seven years ago as the figure of Christ.”

Source: Unknown.

3. Not arbitrary but rational, logical

II. Christ brought heaven down to earth.

1. Heaven is where God’s will is accomplished—fully realized in Christ

2. Fruit of the Spirit the qualities of Christ—self giving. Works of flesh self-centered.

These two words, “grace” and “truth,” describe His personal character. By “grace” we are to understand His graciousness of soul, manner, attitude, speech and action. We can see this very plainly in His influence on the daily life of those disciples who were His constant companions. It is writ large on every page of the Gospels that He was attractive to people generally, and not least to little children. It is a fine test of personal power to observe how little children regard a man, and Jesus Christ answers this test to perfection. Grace was manifest in everything that He was and did. There never was such a life of graciousness to those around. “Truth” is also another marked characteristic of the life of Jesus Christ. Reality was stamped on everything about Him. His life was holy, His word was true, His whole character was the embodiment of truth. There never has been a more real or genuine man than Jesus of Nazareth. It is not only the presence but the combination of these two elements of grace and truth in Jesus Christ that calls for attention. We cannot help noticing their perfect blend and their equally perfect proportion. Grace by itself might easily lead to weakness and mere sentimentality. Truth by itself might easily be expressed in rigour, sternness, severity. But when grace is strengthened by truth, and truth is mellowed by grace, we have the perfect character and the true life of man. It is the union of these opposites in Jesus Christ in perfect balance and consistency that demands our attention. Other men are only fragmentary one-sided, biased. He is complete, balanced, perfect. Ordinary men often manifest unequally one or other of these two elements; Jesus Christ manifested them both in beautiful harmony and exquisite proportion. He embraces all the good elements which mark other men, and it is not too much to say that there is no element missing which men think desirable in the human character. Not only so, He possesses all these elements in a higher degree than anyone else, and with perfect balance and proportion. There is no weakness, no exaggeration or strain, no strong and weak points, as is the case with the rest of mankind. Still more, there are certain elements and traits of character which are not found elsewhere, such as absolute humility, entire unselfishness, wholehearted willingness to forgive, and the most beautiful and perfect holiness. Nor must we overlook the wonderful blending of contrasts which are to be seen in Jesus Christ; the combination of keenness and integrity, of caution and courage, of tenderness and severity, of sociability and aloofness. Or we may think of the elements of sorrow without moroseness, of joy without lightness, of spirituality without asceticism, of conscientiousness without morbidness, of freedom without license, of earnestness without fanaticism. (Christianity is Christ by Griffith Thomas)

3. Source of hell, sin the empty self

III. Only Believe. Trust that it is yours (by our union/grounding with Christ).

1. Paul reminds them they are not the same people. A decisive change has happened. They’ve died and the life they now live …

Luther Primer: A Little Book of Goodly Excerpts from the Writings of Martin Luther (II. Baptism)

The first thing to be considered in baptism is the divine promise—“He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved” [Mark 16:16]. This promise must be set far above all the glitter of works, vows, religious orders, and whatever man has added thereto; for on it alone our salvation depends.… Just as the truth of this divine promise, once pronounced over us, continues until our death, so our faith in the same ought never to cease, but to be nourished and strengthened until death, by the continual remembrance of this promise made to us in our baptism.

2. Fruit is the result of living in this reality

a. Grounded in Christ. Church, Word, Sacrament, Prayer, Service

b. Receiving the gift each day

c. Virtues grow.

Conclusion

When Life Tumbles In

In 1927 the wife of Scottish preacher Arthur Gossip died suddenly. When he returned to the pulpit he preached a sermon titled “When Life Tumbles In, What Then?” In that sermon Gossip compared life to watching a plane pass through the sky during wartime. There you are, lying on your back watching a plane fly gracefully across a brilliant sunlit blue sky when all of a sudden it is blown apart by gunfire and falls to earth a tumbling, tangled mess of metal. Only on this occasion the gunfire was the tragically unexpected death of his beloved wife.

Gossip went on to explain that he didn’t understand this life, but what he did know was that during this darkest period of his life he needed his faith more than ever. “You people in the sunshine may believe the faith, but we in the shadow must believe it. We have nothing else.” Without his faith there was no hope.

Source: Reported in Hans, God on the Witness Stand (Baker 1987). Hans sourced the sermon from Arthur Gossip, The Hero in Thy Soul (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1930)

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