Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Jesus: “I Am With You Always”

Matthew 28:18-20

 

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Happy Resurrection Sunday! We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to life after he was crucified dead and buried. We believe that Jesus is the first of many and that when he rose from the dead, we, through the grace of God the Father, will also rise from the dead. Jesus defeated the power of death in our lives and overcame the destruction of sin over all of humanity.

 

Now that we are saved from the power of sin and death, we live our lives with grace and gratitude. In our Scripture passage today, Jesus Christ gives us the “why, what and how” of living as followers of our Savior and Lord.    

      

Why we follow Jesus: Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth. He has been restored to his full power as the Son of God. His personal ministry on earth has ended. He gives the next chapter in his ministry to us. To us! Yes, to us. Now we are responsible for the work of God here on earth. We are in the “Age of the Church.” An old way of saying that the followers of Christ have been given the ministry of Christ to carry out in this world.

 

As the current disciples of Christ, what does the passage tell us to do? What does it mean to carry on the ministry of Jesus? It means that it is our turn in God’s love story with humanity. Our church carries on the ministry of Christ with acts of service. In addition to service, we share Jesus’ message of salvation and forgiveness of sin. Jesus’ work is now our message and our story to tell. We share the good news of the Gospel with friends, family, colleagues and neighbors. Our church does this in our Youth Discovery Bible Study. We are to go and make disciples of all nations.

 

How do we carry out our ministry to the world? Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as he loved his disciples. He would tell us that we cannot do it in our own strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. How we do God’s work in this world is through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is always with us and dwells within us. How we share the Gospel is through the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives every day, every second we live, and in everything we do. Jesus tells his disciples before he departs that, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus means it. Jesus means that he is always with us. Jesus also means that he is completely with us. We never get a part-time Jesus or a less than full measure of Jesus. We get all Jesus, all the time. Jesus Christ’s presence enables us to takeover Jesus’ ministry.

 

Today, we celebrate the Resurrection. Jesus is alive! But he didn’t rise from the dead only to leave us alone and our hearts empty. He gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Jesus Christ lives, and he is present. I want to focus on what it means for Jesus to be with us always until the end of the age.

 

We expect that a life lived so near to Jesus Christ will be full of intensity. Let’s be real, most days our lives don’t feel spiritually intense. Life gets in the way, and the intensity of the Spirit fades. Our feelings can confuse us. Christ can feel absent and not present. Yet, the presence of Christ in our lives is as much of a reality as the air we breathe. We confuse our feelings of Christ not being around with the reality of Christ always being with us. Christ is not only always with us, but Christ always gives us the blessings of God the Father. God does not hold back from us.

 

In our world, God’s goodness engages in a battle between good and evil and we see it in individual lives and in individual moments. But, for those who follow Christ, the resurrection of Christ has the final say. Resurrection Sunday means that God will redeem our lives and bring us to life eternal with Christ our Lord.

 

Eventually, life in heaven is great, but people in our church experience trying circumstances today. We have sick people, and people with long-term health struggles. We have people who’ve lost loved ones, and others who may lose loved ones soon. The forces of sin and death can exact a terrible cost. In these moments, God can feel very far off. Our feelings of abandonment by God our Father hurt, and they can shake our faith. We ask, where is God in this moment; I need God and he is absent. It feels awful. Yet, let me assure you that God is right there with you. God is holding you and walking through the circumstances with you. God is loving you and desiring to make your situation better. I think one reason we don’t grasp God doing this is because we are created beings that live in a human realm and God is a divine being and lives in the heavenly realm. Our natures and realms are so very different.

 

The best example I can come up with is Hazy, my dog.

 

Most of you have met my dog Hazy. She is a wonderful dog, and I love her deeply. But she cannot always understand my love. I withhold nothing from Hazy that is good for her. I want to make her happy. I also want her to be well and healthy. There are times when I withhold treats from her because she would eat them until her stomach exploded. For her own good, I must have a leash on her when we walk. Without a leash, an animal running into the woods would have her chasing it into who knows where—that includes skunks. In Hazy’s eyes, I could be a better master. If I were, she would hunt every day. I could do much better at providing her with good gifts. I would provide endless squirrels and no trees. Walks would be without a leash and would go on for miles. I could pay more attention to her and make her happier. Even when she is receiving my full attention, playing with her or rubbing her belly, she does not experience my love, attention and words to the depth of my sharing because she is a dog, and I am a human.

 

Our experience of God’s love is like Hazy’s experience of my love. Hazy and I are different species, and Hazy can’t receive all that I offer. I want to give Hazy good things. God wants to give us all good things. Even if we can’t receive all of it now.

On Good Friday, God gave us all that God had. God’s own son and God’s very self were given up to free us from the bondage of sin and death. On Easter morning, Jesus rose out of the grave. A grave cannot hold God. A grave can never hold God. That is the nature of Jesus as the Son of God.

 

Jesus as the Son of Man, the human Jesus, could be held by a grave. The grave claimed the human part of Jesus. The grave and Satan wanted to hold on to that human Jesus with all the power and might that sin and death could bring to bear. The human Jesus did not have the power to rise from the grave. Sin had won and placed the human Jesus in the grave for eternity. Or so Satan and sin thought.

On Easter morning, the Son of God rose with more power than the rising sun. God’s grace – the unmerited, one-way gift of God’s boundless love for us – came through and gave the Son of Man, the human Jesus, the gift of resurrected life. On Easter morning, humanity received the boundless grace of God’s love when God raised Jesus from the grave. Through Jesus’s resurrection, God gave humanity eternity.

We praise God for the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord! We know that someday we will be in the presence of God in heaven. But what about the here and now? We want God to make a difference now. In this life. When I stand beside someone’s bedside and they are dying or struggling to get well, I ask, “Where are you God.” When someone in GriefShare talks about the loss of a child, I ask, “Where were you God.” Jesus Christ doesn’t feel very present. If Jesus Christ is present and nothing changes, why does God’s presence even matter? I could give you some long theological explanation of why it is important that we move past our feelings and have faith that Christ is always present with us.

 

But as a person who lives with people and not in a university, all I can tell you is that when we believe that Christ is always with us, we have hope. We can feel God’s love even during absolute misery. We can live in a reality that says that our grief will heal, our pain will stop, and our circumstances will change. The presence of Christ brings with it an unceasing hope that pulls us through amazing pain. Even if the pain never ends, our hope continues into eternity with Christ.

 

People who live with a deep experience of Christ’s presence understand that God only wants good for them. We can have an inner knowledge of God’s love for us. We can know that God is never absent from our lives. God is always fully present and working for our good.

 

One of my favorite worship songs goes like this:

More love, more power
More of You in my life
More love, more power
More of You in my life

And I will worship You, with all of my heart
I will worship You, with all of my mind
I will worship You, with all of my strength
For You are my Lord

 

I love this song. But there is a problem. We may want to feel more of God’s love, more of God’s power, more of God’s presence. But we can only receive more if God holds back from us. We can only ask for more love if God doesn’t give us all God’s love now. Does that sound like the Father, our Father who gave up Jesus to death for us? We sing to God to praise God. We don’t sing to get God’s favor or provision. We don’t need to ask for God to show up or come down or give us more of something. We are not pagans praying to gods who withhold gifts. Our God gives freely. Our God is already here and wants to give us good gifts. There isn’t more love or more power of more of God to have in our life. When Jesus said I will be with you always, it means that all God’s power and love and self are with us all the time.

 

How does this change how you live as a Christian? I can only talk about this from my experience. In my own life, there came a day when I got tired of seeking more. It didn’t make sense to me. As I came to understand the Scriptures better, needing to ask the Holy Spirit for more just stopped working for me. Maybe because my spirit is greedy and didn’t have limits. Maybe because more didn’t explain the God I came to know. Today, I wholly believe the Matthew passage from today, and I look for the presence of the Holy Spirit in what I am doing. I often find the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I don’t and life gets frustrating. More times than not, I can sense God with me. I began to feel God’s presence once I began to expect God’s presence. Even if I do not feel God’s presence, I assume it is there and at work for my good. And the good of the person I am ministering to.

 

In our world, God is always present and always at work. We cannot attain, achieve, accomplish, or turn up God’s work and God’s presence. We cannot dial up the intensity of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We cannot have a greater measure of the Holy Spirit. God is not sending us a small portion of presence. Christ Jesus is present with us. The Holy Spirit dwells within us.

 

Our spiritual life is not a recipe that calls for a tsp of Holy Spirit for me, a tablespoon for you and a cup for you. That is not our God, who desires to give us all goodness all the time.

 

In our limited nature and capacity, it can feel like we need more of God’s love or power. God does not hold back love or power. I often think of God’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit as an electrical socket.

 

When we plug an appliance into the socket, the socket delivers 120 volts at 20 amps of power. That socket delivers that power consistently. That power is always present and ready for use.

 

When I plug in a blender or an air fryer, I can turn a dial, and that power becomes available in lesser or greater amounts depending on the power the appliance needs. Like an appliance, it is my life that restricts God’s love and God’s power. It is not God. Even if God is silent, God is still present and God is still at work in my life. God never goes away. I may go through seasons when I feel unplugged from God’s presence, but God is still there. I may have sin in my life, or I may be preoccupied with concerns that ignore God’s presence and love, but God is still there. It can seem like God is not interested in our circumstances or in our ordinariness, yet God is beside us and attentive to our lives.

 

God created us to be with us. Our very purpose of existing is to be with God and loved by God. God is already closer to us than we can imagine, and God is always with us and desiring good for us. As Jesus said in our passage today, “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Christ is Risen! Christ is Alive! Christ is Present, now and forever, Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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