Sunrise Sermon by Dr. M.O. Owens, Jr.

Dr. M.O. Owens, Jr. is the founding Pastor of Parkwood. He is now 94 years old. Each year he preaches for our Sunrise service. I was so moved by his message yesterday that I wanted to share with you today.


Romans 4:13, 18-5:2

It is difficult for us, even though we are believers, to keep God in full perspective. The Christian faith is full of paradoxical declarations. God is love – and we know that is true. We have experienced it in so many ways. He has shown it in its fullness in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the sacrifice for our sins. – But God is also wrath – wrathful toward anyone who refuses to take Him seriously. But He is also wrathful toward all sin.

The same can be said for Jesus God’s only Son, whom He sent to be one of us, yet at the same time the very embodiment of God’s being. This man demonstrated love in its totality. His life was a continual manifestation of profound and unprecedented love. Yet He could, and did, deal out decisive and devastating wrath. He is a loving Messiah, who has been sent to bring us God’s greatest blessings. But He is also a Messiah who has the will to be punitive and wrathful against that which seeks to block God’s will.

Jesus’ love is of heroic proportions. In Himself He was entirely free and innocent of any evil whatsoever – no finger could ever be pointed at any deed of His as evil. Yet this man volunteered to die the death you and I deserve. It is difficult for us to even imagine the tremendous pain, suffering and humiliation He endured in order to provide to us the possibility of our receiving mercy from God, our Judge. If you saw the movie The Passion of the Christ you saw a disturbing depiction. But the real road of the cross was probably far worse. And He did not have to do what He did. He didn’t owe it to us. We did not, and do not, deserve such a sacrifice. The universe could have gone on just fine with the whole lot of us condemned to destruction. The stars would still have stayed in their places. But it was His love – a God-like love – that took suffering and death upon Himself so we could avoid the ultimate suffering of hell.

But we should never forget the coming wrath of this same Jesus, which will be of epic proportions. The day will come when this Jesus – raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the throne of God – will declare judgment on the earth. When He comes, He will come with a sword – a sword sweeping across all who have opposed the truth He proclaimed. He will not then be coming to forgive, but only to judge unbelief – the only truly ultimately unforgiveable sin.

Those who have looked upon Jesus as a cuddly, toy Messiah, who could be played with as a toy, will be destroyed. Those who have believed in Jesus as their tolerant, kindly, all-accepting enabler, will meet their doom on that day. Those who have looked upon Him as life-giving sugar-daddy will be cast into darkness in that day.

For His judgment on evil was so severe, so intolerant, that He gave Himself as the consummate result of such evil, dying on a cross, so that those whom He loves, and who will put their trust in Him, will be spared condemnation on the day that Jesus returns in wrath.

Today we celebrate a risen Christ. Why did God raise Him from the dead? To bring ultimate defeat to Satan and his rebellion? Yes, in part.

Because God’s mercy overrides His justice? Yes, in part.

Because God in His love provided that our condemnation to death is swallowed up by His gift of eternal Life? Yes, that’s part.

He came forth from the dead as proof of God’s promise that all who are righteous in His sight will live again. Jesus’ words were and are: “. . . because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:19b-20 NASB). Had there been the slightest iota of sin in His life, there would have been no resurrection. But His righteousness was complete, and death could not hold Him. – By that same construction, you and I who have faith in Him, are clothed in His righteousness. “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5 NASB).

Through our faith in Jesus, all our sins, past, present, future were gathered upon Him, and He took them to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, not His. On that cross, He nailed the divine statement, “Paid in full.” Now, instead of that sinfulness quivering under the wrath of an angry, retributive God, we lift our faces in glorious freedom, covered by His redeeming righteousness, freed from the penalty for sin.

It is the risen Christ who justifies the ungodly. He “who was delivered up because of our transgressions” has been “raised because of our justification” (Roman 4:25 NASB). In His resurrection is the guarantee that we too, shall be raised on that Day when He returns in all glory and power. But we shall be raised, not to face His anger and justice, but instead, to stand before Him clothed in His righteousness, to hear Him say, “Come ye blessed of My Father; inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34 NASB). God has raised Him from the dead to rule as God and serve as Judge of all the earth. And He will have stood before the Father to say of those of us who have true faith, “Father, these are Mine; they are justified as without the condemnation of sin, for I paid the penalty.”

Raised from the dead, He lives. I am foolish not to take Him for who He is – the Lord of the universe, and King of kings. He has all power and authority. I know that except for Him I will die an eternal death.

Because He lives, I know His message is eternal truth; I dare not turn away from it. I must hear it, and understand it, and heed it. He calls me to follow Him in all seriousness, to make my life count for Him. I must not fritter my life away in the foolishness of this world. There is no place for mere entertainment in His plan. Nor is there any place for the material to become a prime objective.

Because He lives, I must be vigilant to guard my own heart – turning it to love for God and His righteousness. I must diligently seek to learn and know the difference between good and evil and truth and error. I am not my own; I’ve been bought with a price; I’m only a servant in His kingdom. I’ve been made alive to share with Him in His kingdom, knowing that one day, because He was raised for my justification, I’ll share in all His glory.

His resurrection is the forerunner, and the provider of our resurrection. For we died to sin, and have been raised to walk in newness of life, His life is now in us, and we are justified by our faith, for His resurrection has opened the door to heaven for all who are His.

Raised for our justification.

Dr. M. O. Owens, Jr

March 23, 2008


  1. […] Sunrise Service on March 23, 2008. He was 94, currently 103, when he exposited Romans 4:13, 18-5:2. His sermon explores God’s character and nature, as it relates primarily to Christ’s Lordship solidified at […]

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