If You Would Give Your Eternal Soul, Then…
IF YOU WOULD GIVE YOUR ETERNAL SOUL, THEN…
A sermon based on Romans 9:1-5, delivered by Pastor David Russow, Hope Lutheran Church, Andover, MN; September 15 & 18, 2019
In the name of Jesus, who gave His eternal soul in eternal death to give us eternal life:
When our kids were little we used to play cassette’s with Psalty introducing the Christian songs, like, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace; I want to see my Savior’s face, ‘cuz heav’n is wonderful place…” And we will see the Savior’s face in that wonderful place, heaven. John 3 says, “Whoever believes in the Son, HAS (not maybe, or might, or probably, or possibly) everlasting life.” (John 3:36)
But the last part of that same verse says, “Whoever rejects the Son, will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” Unbelievers will go to hell, a real hell. The place that Jesus, in the Bible, talks the most about. And he described hell as a place of “outer/utter darkness…of fire that does not go out …where the worm does not die…of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth…” Hell is the opposite of heaven. And the worst part about hell is that God isn’t there. (You’ve heard people say, when they’ve gone through a time of excruciating pain – physically or emotionally – that they went through hell. No. It was hellish, but not real hell. Hell is where God isn’t. And even for unbelievers, this side of eternity God is near them, so they come to him, and he is providing for them – in love – so they make good use of their lives, their times of grace. But in hell, he is not there. There is no grace.
In Dante’s Inferno he describes the signage above the entrance to hell as reading, “Abandon all hope all ye who enter here.” Jesus never mentioned such signage when He talked about hell – and you may be shocked to know that Jesus, who wants everyone in heaven, described hell the most over anyone else in the Bible. Jesus described hell as a lake of fire, where the fire never goes out and the worm doesn’t die. He said it was a place of utter darkness, of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Horrible! And it never ends, ever; forever and ever. No hope. Yet, someone said that he always thought that Dante was wrong, that there is hope in hell. He said that he thought it played out this way. He said, “Imagine a lost soul in hell screams at the excruciating, burning pain. A scream is a release. And at the end of a scream – at least this side of eternity – there’s a split-second thought that the next second will bring some hope of relief. But that hope is immediately dashed. So in hell hope is no hope.
What a way to start a sermon! But hell was on the mind of the Apostle Paul when he thought of his Jewish brothers and sisters who still rejected Jesus as the Messiah, as he had. If they stayed in unbelief they would end up in hell! So Paul – sounding as if he’s out of his mind – had it in his mind to wish that he was CURSED, that is, DAMNED TO HELL, if that’s what it would take to see his genetic family, Jews, in heaven. On a stewardship emphasis Sunday, think about what was on Paul’s mind. Because if you and I’d be willing to give our eternal souls over to hell so that the Gospel would flourish with other souls, then considering a proportionate and regular offering is nothing at all. Here’s what Paul wrote by inspiration.
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
What Jesus did:
Paul knew firsthand what it meant to have all the advantages as a Jew, their adoption as God’s special – line of the Savior – people, the divine glory, the Law, the Temple, the promises, the Patriarchs, and to still be headed for hell. He didn’t want that for anyone. Neither did Jesus and that’s why Jesus did what he did.
What depths of love Jesus had for all lost sinners, for Paul, for the Jews Paul thinks about here, for me, for you. Jesus did what Paul wishes. Jesus was cursed and cut off from His Father’s love. Abandoned on the cross like he was an orphan. As if He had no right to divine glory. As if He had broken the covenants God’s made with Israel and transgressed every Law Moses received on the Mount and held accountable for it. As if Jesus had never worshiped and despised God’s promises - for the sake of the lost. As if Jesus were some bastard child with no right to being the heir to David’s throne, the King of the Jews. What depths of curse Jesus sunk to in order to earn the depths of love we’ve been given. Holy Jesus went through unholy hell for all sinners.
On Sep., 13, 81 A.D, Roman Emporer Titus died and his brother Domitian took over. Historian Pliny described Domitian as a beast from hell who sat in his den licking blood. Domitian took sadistic pleasure in killing animals, watching gladiators gut each other, and in murdering Christians. Domitian went to bed more evil than when he got up every day. He brought the great grandsons of Mary and Joseph, grandsons of Jesus’ half brother, Jude, brought to Rome. But evil Domitian was not impressed. They were too poor to live up to a “King Jesus’” reputation. Yet all they could talk about was the Kingdom of Christ was not of this world and that He’d come back to take them there. Domitian had them beaten and sent them back to Israel. - Hearing that, do you believe that Jesus loved Domitian enough to be cursed with hell for such a reprobate as he was? Yes. Did Domitian believe that? Probably not. But Jesus lived, died and rose for Domitian. He also did for the one who just brings out guttural hatred from you. He loved that person, and you and me enough, to give up his eternal soul. You and I believe Jesus loved us enough to be cursed for us. We don’t take that for granted do we? We are changed people because of that, aren’t we?
What we would do:
Part of that change is to have the same type of great sorrow and unceasing anguish in our hearts for the lost, maybe even to the point, that like Paul. The extent is that that blessed are willing to be cursed so that the cursed will be blessed. - If we’d be willing to give our eternal souls, then it would seem little to give proportionate offerings, wouldn’t it?
A story: a chicken and a pig were out for a stroll down a country lane. It was Easter Sunday morning and their walk took them to a country church. They heard happy voices coming from the church’s basement. They peaked in and saw joy on the faces of the folks in that basement, they’d heard that Jesus who died for them rose and now they were even celebrating that as brothers and sisters in the Risen One with an Easter breakfast. The pig noticed the ham on the serving table. The chicken saw the egg bakes and colored Easter eggs. The pig added, “There’s my bacon on top of your eggs.” And the chicken said, “It’s it great that chickens and pigs are part of the joy of Easter? The pig agreed, but he added, “For you it’s just a contribution, for me it’s a sacrifice.”
No mere contribution for saving us from the hopelessness of hell. It was Jesus’ sacrifice that secured for us the hope of heaven. In view of his sacrifice we offer ours: not our eternal souls, just our consideration of proportionate giving. Amen.