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To Rescue Us from the Present Evil Age
Galatians 1:3-5


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Last Sunday in the Church Year—November 21, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is Paul’s greeting to the Galatians in today’s Epistle Reading: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Doesn’t it seem rather quaint for Paul to describe his time back then as “the present evil age”?  It’s true that the Greeks and Romans were pretty notorious in the debauchery department, but even the most debauched among them would be astounded by our world today.  A world in which, for example, the most vile material is available at the touch of a button.

“The Lord Jesus Christ . . . gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”  The ever-increasing wickedness and evil of our world should not surprise us, for Paul warned in 2nd Timothy, “There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”  That was written 20 centuries ago, but isn’t it an amazingly accurate description of America at the dawn of the 21st century?

It is right for us to be outraged at the wickedness out there in the world.  But we must also admit and confess the wickedness right here, in our hearts.  As Paul says in Romans, “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? No, not at all. . .  all alike are under sin, as it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’ . . .  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  We must admit and confess that all too often we are active participants in “the present evil age.” All too often we join in the wicked world in which we live. 

But, the Good News is, “The Lord Jesus Christ . . . gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”  How exactly does Jesus “rescue us from the present evil age”? 

Maybe he wants his followers withdraw from the world, as some sects do, so that we can live a pure life free from worldly influences.  But, at the Last Supper, Jesus actually prayed to his heavenly Father, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”  So, withdrawing from the world is not part of Jesus’ plans for his followers.  And, besides, if you’ve ever seen documentaries about these sects that try to withdraw from the world, or if you grew up surrounded by members of such a group, as I did, you know that it is impossible to quarantine ourselves from the wickedness of this world because each of us is a carrier of the disease, in our own sinful hearts.

So, if Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world,” then how does he “rescue us from the present evil age”?  Maybe what his followers need is an enhanced list of do’s and don’ts.  Maybe our denomination, or I as your Pastor, should spell out some detailed rules and regulations for you to live a holy life.  But, Jesus says, “I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  The Pharisees and the teachers of the law already had the most detailed list of do’s and don’ts that you could ever possibly ask for, and Jesus says that’s not good enough.  Paul tells us why in Colossians, “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”  The Bible says that man-made do’s and don’ts just don’t do it.

Well, if Jesus doesn’t want us to withdraw from the world, or come up with man-made do’s and don’ts that are supposed to help us live a holy life, then how does he “rescue us from the present evil age”?  Paul tells us how: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” 

Jesus rescued you from the present evil age by fulfilling his heavenly Father’s eternal plan of salvation.  It was on a hill outside Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago that Jesus rescued you from the present evil age, by his death on the cross.  And in a nearby garden tomb three days later Jesus rescued you from the present evil age, by his resurrection from the dead, which was God the Father’s announcement to the world, “My plan of salvation is fulfilled; my Son’s sacrifice on your behalf is complete; and I have accepted his sacrifice as payment for all your sins.”  Jesus rescues you from the present evil age by bringing you to faith in him as your Savior and keeping you in faith.  “For by grace are you saved through faith.”

At the end of the movie “Titanic,” people are grapping on to whatever they can find to stay afloat.  In our crazy world today, people are grabbing on to all sorts of crazy things, from A to Z, astrology to Zen Buddhism.  But none of that will prevent them from sinking right down to hell. 

Jesus throws out to you God’s three life-preservers: the Word of God, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  Grab on to them and you will stay afloat in the midst of a sinking world.

In six weeks we will enter the “teens,” the second decade of the 21st century.  What should we and our children and grandchildren expect to happen in the world around us as we continue through the 21st century?  Paul says in 2nd Timothy, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and seducers will go from bad to worse.”  That’s what we can expect in our world: Things are going to go from bad to worse.  But, Paul goes on to say, with confidence, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.”

Although physically you remain for a time in this world, God has in fact already transferred you from this “present evil age” to the world to come.  Paul puts it this way: “For our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. . .  Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

There is a bridge in India that has a plaque on it with a legendary saying attributed to Jesus: “The world is only a bridge. Do not build your house on it.”  Although that saying is only a legend, Jesus did say the same thing about his followers, another way: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”  As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are in the world, but not of the world, “For our citizenship is in heaven.”  “The world is only a bridge. Do not build your house on it.”

But, while you are waiting here in this world for the Lord to transport you into the next world, you do have a job to do for him.  Jesus put it this way in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth.”   Salt, because our world is decaying, and we are to have a preservative effect on our world.  “You are the light of the world.”  Light, because our world is in darkness, and we are to bring to the world his spiritual light.  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven.” 

Jesus rescues you from this present evil age, and empowers you through the Holy Spirit to live out your life here as a witness for him.  And the way he wants you to witness for him is not by withdrawing from the world, or following man-made do’s and don’ts, but by faithfully living out according to his Word your sacred calling in life: Your sacred calling in whatever occupation he has placed you; your sacred calling as a husband or wife, mother or father, parent or child; your sacred calling as a member of his Church.  Paul puts it this way in Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

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