- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 3, 2005

The following are excerpts of a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Eric C. Redmond at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills.

There are many traditions in our families associated with Christmas. When I was a child, one of the traditions that we had in our family for Christmas Day was unique: It was my job to get stomach sickness and be ill on Christmas Day. It was a tradition I maintained until about age 14.

Strangely, each year I received almost every gift I requested and many others. So, I should have been able to reason one year to the next, “I received everything I asked for last year. It is a safe bet I will get what I want this year.” But my anxiety would rule year after year.

Fear. Fear hinders us from real living — from being, doing and having all God wants for our good as believers, exiles and sojourners. Fear is the reason many young adults do not go back to school once they have previously failed at completing a course of study — they do not want to be unsuccessful again.

Fear is what motivates elderly parents to badger adult children about calling more frequently when the children are already good at maintaining contact. Many older parents fear losing the love of their children and consequently being “put away” when they are unable to care for themselves.

Fear is a component of men’s desire to continue in relationships without a commitment to marriage. Some men fear being tied to one woman who might point out their weaknesses. Being noncommittal allows a man to move to a different relationship when he thinks his manhood is challenged.

But of most significance to us is that fear is the great reason many of us do not proclaim the Gospel to people we know. However, the good news is that the same cure for our fears brought on by our Christian life is the cure for all of our other fears.

Exiles who overcome fear magnify the holiness of Christ over their fears. “But in your hearts, establish Christ the Lord as holy,” says the Apostle Peter, “and always be prepared to give a reason for the hope you have within you.”

There must be a decision made in the grace given by the Lord. Christ must be seen as greater than all else in life. The very concept of “holy,” in reference to God, is that God is in a different class of being than His creation.

God’s love is not constrained by rejection, nor does it wane over time due to complacency, but it continues steadfastly to pursue people who reject love because His love is not like human love. His love is holy.

God’s justice cannot be bribed, denied, miscarried or swayed to give favor to a guilty offender by the clever argument of a lawyer. Instead, His justice is perfectly balanced with His mercy, being absolute and truthfully commuted to the guilty with due process and penalty, without any hint of corruption, misinterpretation of the facts, or oversentencing, for God’s mercy is holy.

God’s patience is not affected by good or bad days at work, diminished by increased stress, or dependent upon gaining a second wind when tired. Instead, God is extremely slow in becoming angry, filled with compassion, and abounding in grace. God does not become impatient due to fatigue. He pours out His wrath when it is perfect for His patience to end. The Lord gives ample warning of His patience toward sinners with demonstration of His ability to destroy with every storm, every ray of sunshine, every twinkle of a star light-years away that He is holding in place.

Yet, the Lord is waiting without worry for people to turn from rebellion to trust in Him. Both His holy patience is demonstrated in the death of Christ in our place. God’s patience is waiting until waiting should rightly end, for God is holy in His patience. When this picture of the Lord, as perfect in all of His attributes, including His power, becomes the vision we hold before us at all times, there will be no room in our lives for fear, except for fear of the one who is Holy.

We must appropriate the fear of the Holy to our lives daily, so that we can proclaim the greatness of the hope we have as exiles. That is, we must be prepared to look squarely at those who oppose the message of the Gospel and say, “With certainty, we know God the Son satisfied God’s wrath against our sins, and His resurrection promised resurrection from the dead for all who trust in him.”

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