Not Perfect, But Forgiven

The following sermon is from the closing 2019 Divine Service at the Higher Things Conference in St. Paul, MN.  

Text: Revelation 7:9-17

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

There they are, standing before the throne and the Lamb of God.  There they are standing, dressed in white, with the palm of victory in their hands, while crying out in triumph.  Who is standing before the throne of God in glory?  Well, it is a great crowd of victorious people. 

But who specifically is this great crowd?  Who are these people?

Well, they must be very impressive, strong, and successful to be before the throne of God.  They also must be very smart, good, and holy to be before the throne of God.  You know, the kind of people that make sure to dot every “I” and cross every “T.”  The kind of people who are the cream of the crop – A-List kind of people, the ones who are always on the starting lineup.      

Maybe you and I might be with them someday in that large crowd of victory.  Yes, maybe, if only we could be good enough, smart enough, and if enough people like us.  If only! 

The truth of the matter is this, though.  Deep down, you and I know that we don’t measure up.  In fact, we have just confessed in today’s service that we are poor miserable sinners in thought, word, and deed. 

But let us not get too far ahead of ourselves.  Is this who these people really are – those who are victorious before the throne of God?  In other words, who are these people specifically that the Apostle John sees in this vision of heaven?  Well, they are people just like you and me.  People who have had their share of struggles, failures, and pain in this life.  They are those who struggle day by day to just hang on and keep going with life.  They are people whose faith has never come easy.  Who are they?  Well, among them are those that you have known and loved.  In fact, brace yourself for what I am about to say!  When the Apostle John sees that vision of thousands of people covered in white, in victory before the throne of God, he sees your face!  Yes, he sees you in victory in that crowd, dressed in white. 

Dear Baptized Saints, this vision of the Saints before the throne of God includes all the believers in the Old Testament, all the Christians and martyrs of the New Testament, and all of you who are still alive on earth, waiting to stand before the throne of God.  That large crowd of people standing in victory, cheering, is that great bunch of forgiven sinners whom Christ has gathered home.  That great crowd of people is the great multitude of sinners who are baptized into the name of the Lord – covered in the righteous goodness of Jesus. 

You see, this great crowd is made up of men, women, children, elderly, rebels, jerks, greedy executives, churchgoers, thieves, teachers, plumbers, adulterers, IRS agents, nurses, ragamuffins, tightfisted farmers, millennials, boomers, Gen Xers, North Americans, Africans, Asians, and you, who confess,

“God have mercy on me, the sinner! Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Yes, you are a part of this great multitude because you are a part of Christ’s church.  You are a part of Christ’s church not because you are perfect but because you are forgiven in Christ. 

The reality, my friends, is that you are a part of one church.  You are in concord and unity with a great crowd of people from every nation, every tribe, and every language, who find hope not in themselves but in the blood of the Lamb – Jesus Christ. 

And as you are a part of this great church, you can know that this church does not consist of perfect people but Saints.  That is to say; the church consists not of perfect people but forgiven people - forgiven people like you and me. You see, when you and I are forgiven by Jesus, well, we are considered Saints.

And so, today we live this Christian life with our titled halos, scars, and our scuffed up spiritual resumes, knowing that we are not only washed clean in Christ’s blood but that we are not alone.  Surely Christ will never leave you Baptized Saints, nor forsake you, but you also must hear that you are a part of His church – a mega church.  You stand with the Saints of the past, the present, and the future from all parts of the world, which gives you the courage and strength to go on and muddle through this life, knowing that in the end that our God will take all of us out of this vale of tears unto Himself.  And with that great multitude, there will be no more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat; complete salvation from sin, death, and damnation, and every last of your tears will be wiped away.    

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

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