Luke 2 :12                            The Evidence                                  1/1/2012        

·        The Incarnation (Luke 1:38-45, John 3:13, Matt 1:20, Rev 12:4)






#1.       The Evidence at the Birth of Christ (Luke 2:12, 2:11-40)






·        The Role of Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1-7, Col 1:18)





#2.       The Evidence at the Atonement (Dan 9:24, Gal 4:25)






·        The Role of the Women at the Tomb (Isa 59:2, Rom 4:25, Heb 7:25)





#3.       The Evidence in You (1John 5:13, 2Cor 13:5, Rom 5:1-5, John 1:13, Heb 11:1)





Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel According to Luke, Luke 1:38 (2X). Last week was the day in which we remembered that heaven and earth rejoiced that the Lord Jesus Christ was born. But the date is wrong. In Luke 1:5 we read that Zacharias was of the course of Abia, and from this we can conclude that Zacharias saw the angel Gabriel in the second half of the Hebrew fourth month, from which we can calculate that the Lord Jesus Christ was born most likely in the second half of the seventh month. But since God did not give us the exact date of the Lord’s birthday, almost any day we choose in the month October will also be the wrong date, and so this will not be an improvement. But since the seventh month is filled with festivities from the ceremonial law, we know that at the time the Lord Jesus was born both heaven and earth rejoiced. What were they actually celebrating? We are celebrating “the Incarnation”; the wonder that God the Son, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, took up residence in a human being, the man Christ Jesus, so that the Lord Jesus Christ existed simultaneously in a Divine nature and in a human nature; as God the Son, who is fully God, and as the man Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary. And now we have to consider the Incarnation itself.

·        The Incarnation (Luke 1:38-45, John 3:13, Matt 1:20, Rev 12:4)

When did the Incarnation take place? Does the Bible tell us when the Incarnation took place? Yes indeed, the Incarnation took place at the time that the Lord Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary. Of course, Jesus did not suddenly become the Christ when He travelled through the birth canal. There was no miracle done when He travelled through the birth canal. He was a baby before He was born and He was the same baby after He was born. We read in Luke 1:38-45,

Luke 1:38-45, “38  And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. 39 ¶  And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40  And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41  And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42  And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44  For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45  And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

In verse 38 the angel Gabriel departed from her. The angel told her that her cousin Elisabeth was now six months pregnant. The miracle of the conception was completed. God the Son united Himself with the egg in the womb of the Virgin Mary. But at the same time God the Son remained who He was in heaven, for the Lord Jesus said in John 3:13, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” In other words, He never ceased to be God the Son, who is one with the Father in heaven. But even though the egg in Mary’s womb was still in the stage of dividing itself, the incarnation had fully taken place, for when Mary went into the house of Zacharias and Elisabeth heard her greeting, the babe in her womb, John the Baptist, leaped in her womb for joy. How did he know who was in Mary’s womb? God must have revealed it to him, like God has revealed it to Elisabeth. Outwardly it was impossible to detect that Mary was pregnant. Who knew it? Mary and Elisabeth and John the Baptist knew it. Perhaps also the mother of Mary must have known it, for she must have informed her mother why she was going to visit Elisabeth. No one else knew it. It was only a few months later that her espoused husband Joseph knew it, because an Angel of the Lord informed him of the fact that Mary was with child of the Holy Ghost (Matt 1:20). But did the devil also know that the Lord Jesus was conceived? Absolutely yes! The devil also knew it, for we read in Rev 12:4, “And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” This child was the Lord Jesus, but the woman was not Mary. This woman represents the body of believers throughout the ages. And thus we can conclude that the angels in heaven also must have known that the Lord Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary. Herein we can see one of the principles God uses in arranging the events of this world: Something may already have been firmly established in the spirit world, but God does not yet disclose it to the world of mankind until He reveals the evidence. That is why the title of this sermon is The Evidence (2X). Let us now look at a few examples where God reveals to mankind the evidence of something that was already known in the spirit world for some length of time.

#1.       The Evidence at the Birth of Christ (Luke 2:12, 2:11-40)

Please turn the page to the Gospel According to Luke chapter 2, Luke 2:12 (2X). Last week I voiced the wonderment that the angels in heaven rejoiced at the birth of the Lord Jesus, whereas the incarnation really has occurred nine months earlier. Why was there no celebration at that time? It was a secret because there was no evidence. It was not a secret to the spirit world, but to the world of mankind it was still a secret. But when the Lord Jesus was born God revealed the evidence. The evidence was lying in a manger, an animal feeding trough. How many newborn babies in Bethlehem were lying in an animal feeding trough? Only one; because there was no room for Him in the inn. But now God displayed the evidence of the Incarnation. Here is the evidence in Luke 2:12, “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And now the evidence would be known far and wide, for the shepherds published the Good News to all who were willing to hear them. And that is why heaven and earth rejoiced and celebrated this day of the Incarnation, because now the evidence was on display. Let us read this in Luke 2:11-45,

Luke 2:11-40, “11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. 21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23  (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24  And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. 25 ¶  And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26  And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27  And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28  Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29  Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30  For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31  Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32  A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33  And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34  And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35  (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36  And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37  And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38  And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39  And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40  And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Behold, here is the evidence, and now heaven and earth rejoices about this fact of the Incarnation.

·        The Role of Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1-7, Col 1:18)

Please turn the page to the Gospel of Luke 2:1 (2X). Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth, in Galilee. But the Scriptures proclaimed that Christ must come out of Bethlehem in Judah. But Mary was very pregnant, almost to the point of delivering her baby. It was October, and very cold. This was not the right time to travel with a pregnant woman. But then came a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered in the town of their origin. The result was that many people had to suffer by being forced to travel. In those days people travelled by foot. It took Mary and Joseph at least a week to complete the distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem. But they had to do it, for it was a decree from the most powerful man in Rome. Who was Caesar Augustus? His name suggests that he was the emperor of Rome. But that was not so. The name Caesar at that time just meant that he was of the family of Julius Caesar. His original name was Octavius. He was born in Rome in 63 BC from a wealthy and respectable family. His mother was the daughter of a sister of Julius Caesar, and Julius Caesar adopted him as his son. When Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC Octavius was only 19 years old, but since he was of the family of Caesar the army was loyal to him. Seventeen years later, in 29 BC, his name was changed to Augustus, and he was the sole ruler of Rome, but with the title of “princeps,” which meant “the first,” the first citizen of Rome. Years later that title came to be “prince.” Augustus was a great organizer and he had much power in Rome. Then God moved him to make a decree that all the Roman world should be registered in the town of their origin. It was a decree at the right time in the right place, for it was in God’s plan that the Lord Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem, the city where David was born. And thus Mary and Joseph were ordered to go to Bethlehem, for they both were of the house and lineage of David. No prophet ever came out of Nazareth. But Bethlehem was the city where the Messiah had to be born, according to the prophet Micah. The heathen ruler of Rome was in the hand of God who caused him to declare the decree. The decree of Caesar Augustus caused the evidence that the world needed. This is how God operates, and this is what we must believe how God operates. No one can move a finger except God wills it. And God waited patiently until the Romans were in power in Palestine. We read in Luke 2:1-7,

Luke 2:1-7, “1 ¶  And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The word “taxed” in the KJV is literally in the Greek text the word “registered.” But the registration was for the purpose of taxation, for Caesar Augustus had many disciplined soldiers who had to be paid. And notice that verse 7 speaks of “her firstborn.” It does not say “The Firstborn”, but it says “her firstborn.” In other words, we should not be surprised to find that Mary had other children after she bore the Lord Jesus. And this is also what the Bible says. But Christ is also “The Firstborn from the dead” as we read in Col 1:18. What does that mean? The Lord Jesus Christ was not the first one to be raised from the physically dead. There were several people in the Old Testament and in the New Testament who were raised from the dead before Christ was raised from the dead. And thus God was not referring to the physically dead but to the spiritually dead. What does it mean to be spiritually dead? It means to be under the wrath of God; it means to be in a condition called hell. And since the Lord Jesus Christ had to suffer on our behalf the wrath of God, to the extent that He had to suffer the equivalent of an eternity in hell, He was in His soul existence in the condition called hell. When He completed His suffering for the guilt of our sins He came out of hell, which means that He was the firstborn from the dead, which means that no one else had the guilt of their sins atoned for before the Lord Jesus completed His atonement. No one else could have their sins forgiven except through the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus. That is why He is called “the Firstborn from the dead.” And since we now landed on the crucifixion of Christ, let us also consider the evidence at the atonement.

#2.       The Evidence at the Atonement (Dan 9:24, Gal 4:25, Gen 49:10)

Please turn to the Prophecy of Daniel, Dan 9:24 (2X). What was the evidence at the crucifixion? What was the evidence that this was indeed the promised Messiah who was being crucified here? First of all, this was the exact time according to the Prophecy of Daniel. We read in Dan 9:24,

Dan 9:24, “Seventy sevens are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”

Seventy sevens refers to 490 years. This is a prophecy when the Messiah will come and shall be cut off. And when is the beginning of these 490 years? The next verse says, “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince.” When we count from the going forth of that commandment to Ezra, the priest, we arrive exactly at AD 33, which is the year of the cross. But when the command to Ezra came the city of Jerusalem was already built. And thus we realize that the command to restore and to build Jerusalem refers to the spiritual Jerusalem. This was the one that was in need of restoration, for the nation of Israel had latched on to a works gospel, which is a false gospel. The works gospel is to believe that obedience to the Law of Moses is the means of salvation. That has never been true, for those who believe in this kind of a gospel are under the curse of God. We cannot believe Christ and Moses at the same time. God says in Gal 4:25,

Gal 4:25, “For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” Notice: “Jerusalem which now is, is in bondage with her children.”

It means that the Jerusalem of bricks and mortar, which is the pride of the unconverted Jews, is under a curse; it is the curse of God for following the Law of Moses rather than following Christ. But God is only restoring the Jerusalem that is above, the spiritual Jerusalem, consisting of all those for whom Christ died on Calvary. The command came to Ezra in 458 BC. And when we count 458+33-1 years we arrive at exactly AD 33. We have to subtract one, for there is no year zero. The time between 1BC and 1 AD is only one year, because there is no year zero.

And since Christ is called the Lamb of God, referring to the Passover lambs that were killed on Passover, we realize that the Messiah shall be cut off on the Passover of AD 33, which fell on Friday, April 3, in the year AD 33. Was this enough evidence for the nation of Israel that Messiah had come? Apparently it was not enough evidence, for most of them remained in unbelief; which tells us that no one will become saved unless God reveals Christ unto them. Even the scattering of the nation of Israel in AD 70 was not sufficient evidence for them. We read in Gen 49:10, this prophecy about Christ, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh (“to whom it belongs”) come; and unto him shall the gathering (“the obedience”) of the people be.”

Meaning: Judah shall have the authority to rule their own territory, until Shiloh has come, until the Messiah has come, and to Him shall the obedience of the people be. No longer obedience to Moses, but to Christ. Christ came and returned to heaven in AD 33, and in AD 70 the nation of Israel was no more. Judah had self-rule until Christ came, and then their self-rule was taken away. Here was enough evidence that should lead them to repentance, but most of them remained in unbelief.

But the atonement is not only the cross of Christ, but is also the resurrection. The cross and the resurrection must be viewed as one act of God for the forgiveness of the guilt of our sins. Let us see where this leads us to. What was the evidence at the resurrection of Christ? The fact that Christ was raised from the dead means that the payment He made on behalf of the guilt of our sins was the full payment, for it was acceptable unto God since He raised Christ from the dead. The righteousness of God was satisfied. How long did God and the angels in heaven know that the payment of Christ on the cross was the full payment? They knew it on Friday afternoon at about 3 O’clock when the Lord Jesus cried out with a loud voice, It Is Finished.” The Lord Jesus indicated thereby that He finished paying for the guilt of our sins. His atonement was complete. And then He died and His soul went to the Father in heaven. The time that followed, from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning His atonement for the guilt of our sins could not be more complete by waiting all this time. Why did heaven and earth not celebrate when Christ completed the atonement on the cross? The evidence was lacking! But when Christ rose from the tomb on Sunday morning the evidence of the completion of His atonement was clearly there. On Friday afternoon the disciples and the women were totally depressed and sad that the Lord Jesus had died. They forgot all the miracles He did, which proved that He was the Son of God, and would God now abandon His only begotten Son? But this sadness was replaced on Sunday morning by an exceeding great joy. Here was the evidence that the Father had accepted the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ as the complete payment for the guilt of our sins. And now heaven and earth rejoices and the church adopted this as the greatest feast day of the New Testament church. But in reality, that feast should have started on Friday afternoon; the payment was complete at that time, but the evidence was only in heaven, but not on earth. When God revealed the evidence, then all mankind could rejoice, because God has revealed the key truths of the Gospel of salvation and of the forgiveness of sins. What was the role of the women at the tomb?

·        The Role of the Women at the Tomb (Isa 59:2, Rom 4:25, Heb 7:25)

Historically their role was to anoint the body of Jesus, and to bring more spices so that the body of Jesus might exist a few days longer. In hindsight we now know that this would have been a severe humiliation for the Son of God whose body would be handled by sinful women with sinful hands. Their goal was to serve a dead Christ; to bring homage to the body of a man who was no longer there. This is a sinful purpose; God prevented them from doing this by raising Christ from the dead. Therefore we should look beyond these historical details, and pray to God that He would give us the spiritual meaning of the role of these women at the tomb of Christ.

The spiritual meaning of women in the Bible is usually a group of religious people. These women who came to the tomb represent churches who worship a dead Christ. Are there people like that in our world? O Yes! If the focus of these people is more on the suffering and death of Christ, and less on the grace of God that His resurrection brings, then their view of Christ is a carnal view; a view on the flesh rather than on the spirit. For example, the Roman Catholic view of Christ is that of a corpse of Christ on the cross, whereas the Christian view of Christ is an empty cross, for Christ has risen, and His power in our life is that He is alive, and is forever interceding for us before the Father in heaven. Those whose focus is on the Law of God are always reminding us of our sins and our obligation to repent from our sins. They are always reminding us of Isa 59:2, where God says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Yes they are reminding us, but they are conveniently hiding their own sins. They serve a dead Christ. On the other hand the Christian view of Christ is given to us in Rom 4:25,

Rom 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

If we are in Christ, then we were justified, we were declared just in His sight at the time of His resurrection from the grave. And thus the role of the women at the tomb was to show us first the role of churches who serve a dead Christ. But then, after Christ has revealed Himself to them, they served a living Christ, one who saves us by His life. And is that not what we read in Heb 7:25, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” And so, where was the evidence? The evidence was the Lord Jesus who revealed Himself to them. Can we say that the Lord Jesus has revealed Himself to us? Yes, but only in the Bible, in the spirit. If Christ has appeared to us literally, we are in the dangerous territory of believing that God is still bringing divine messages today, and that is ground for condemnation. Let us then clarify this important principle. What is the evidence of Christ in us?

#3.       The Evidence in You (1John 5:13, 2Cor 13:5, Rom 5:1-5, John 1:13, Heb 11:1)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 5:1-5 (2X). I often hear from people the desire to know if they have been saved. The Bible absolutely declares in 1John 5:13 that God wants us to know if we have been saved, or if we have not been saved. And so, we are commanded in 2Cor 13:5 to examine ourselves. If then we are saved, we ask ourselves: Where is the evidence?

Rom 5:1  Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4  And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

This is a summary of the process of salvation, and we can go through these steps and find out if we have indeed been saved. Verse 1 speaks of being justified by faith. This is certainly not our faith; we are not saved by our desire to have faith, for we can read in John 1:13, “Which were born (again), not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” We were not saved, or born again, by our will but by the will of God. And so, if I wanted to conjure up a measure of faith because I wanted to belong to that favorite group of people who are called sons of God, then this cannot be done by my will, for that is a salvation by my own free will, and God says that this is a false gospel plan. This justification by faith is a faith that must come from God, it is not a faith that I conjure up. The faith that comes from God is a gift of the faith of Christ. It is like the faith of Abraham who offered his son Isaac, his only begotten son, because God told him to do this. Let us look at the sacrifice of Abraham in perspective: When we ask God to save us from our sins because we do not want to go to hell, we are actually asking God to sacrifice our Brother the Lord Jesus Christ and make Him suffer the equivalent of an eternity in hell for our sins. He is indeed our Brother, for He is our Redeemer, which actually means He is our nearest Kinsman, our nearest next of kin. Is this indeed what we want God to do for us? This sounds cruel in our ears, but did you know that this is the only way anyone of us can be forgiven of our sins? Yes! To fulfill the righteousness of God the Lord Jesus Christ has to suffer the equivalent of an eternity in hell on behalf of our sins, because that is how heinous our sins are in the sight of God. Please put a sticker here in Rom 5:1 and please turn to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Heb 11:1 (2X). And so, we quickly see that the faith that God requires us to have is not a natural faith, it is not a decision that the natural man can make, but it is an unnatural faith; it is a supernatural faith, for it is the faith of Christ. And that is why God must give it to us, or else we do not have it at all. It is a faith that says: I believe all that God says in the Bible; I want to believe even those things that I do not yet understand, and even those things that I do not like; I want to believe the Bible from cover to cover. Now this is an unnatural faith, and it can only come from God giving us a revelation that the Bible is His Word; it is a revelation that Christ is the Word made flesh. Now that faith is a sign to us, for we read in Heb 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” What are the things hoped for? Look here in Rom 5:5 (2X). What does a child of God hope for? It is the hope that we indeed are children of God, and that “the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” That is what we have hoped for. Now turn again to Heb 11:1 (2X). Now faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith is the manifestation that God has had mercy on us. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” What is not seen by man? It is not seen on the outside if we are saved or not. But within ourselves we know where this faith came from. Now we know that it is the evidence of things not seen by others of mankind. But within ourselves we now have seen the evidence of our salvation. Do not stop there, but consider also all the other evidences. Please turn again to Rom 5:1-5, and let us go through all the other steps in this passage. Do we have peace with God? If we indeed believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has paid the full price for all our sins, then what sin is there that can condemn us to hell? There is none. Even our future sins have been paid, for when the Lord Jesus hung on the cross all our sins were future sins. So what hinders us to have peace with God? Nothing! And do we now have access by faith into the grace wherein we stand? What is this access into the resources of God? Do we pray to God and ask Him to save this one and that one over there from their sins? That is what we indeed must do, for this is asking the grace of God, the favor of God, to fall on this one and that one over there. We cannot ask God greater gifts than these. And do we now boast that the glory of God will be done in the souls of these people for whom we pray? And do we now also boast in the tribulations that God sends our way, knowing that these tribulations will work out patience in our soul. And patience will work out experience. We do need experience, do we? We need experience in patiently dealing with tribulations which God sends our way. And from this we develop hope. What hope is this? It is the glorious hope of our future eternal life with Christ in the New Heaven and the New Earth. This is not an uncertain hope. When we sense that the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts, when we sense that we love the brethren in the church and outside the church, and when we sense that we love the Lord more than we have ever done before in our life, we can know for sure that our hope will not be ashamed. And here again we must see the evidence of this love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts. Where is that evidence? Do we have within us a fervent ongoing desire to do those things that are pleasing to the Lord? Do we love to pray to the Father? Do we love to read the Bible and to meditate on what we have read? And then we discover many things which provide the evidence that God has indeed shed His grace on us, and in this we greatly rejoice from this time forth and forever.

AMEN.      Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.