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Worldview Contrasts #1

Scripture often points to a distinction between those who live in faith in Him, and those who do not. John often used the term “world” to identify everything in the world that is hostile to Christ and the gospel. For example, he urges us,  “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15, CSB)

That is a pretty sharp contrast—like night and day. That is another picture Jesus uses: “Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12, CSB)

Again, that is a stark contrast between Christians and those who do not follow Christ.

What is the difference. Are Christians innately better or more deserving? No. The difference is faith, spiritual life in Christ. With faith and the guidance of Scripture we have a different worldview than the world.

Over the next few weeks we will contrast the Christian Worldview with some of the most common false worldviews. We won’t get into the realm of political or social opinion, but will deal with more basic truths.

To begin with …

Christians view the world through the lens of the Holy Scriptures, which are inspired, true and without error, so we understand that we are God’s creatures, originally created in perfection, but now born imperfect morally, spiritually, and physically. We are beings both physical and spiritual in nature. Every one of us is accountable to our Creator for all our thoughts words and actions. We recognize that God has influenced history, including the natural history of the world, both directly through direct divine acts and through providence.

The world, by contrast, looks at the world based on physical senses plus human speculation. While our senses provide empirical information about our world, they are limited. We cannot perceive directly in others such things as pain, or love, or beauty or truth. With our sensed we cannot perceive spiritual realities such as sin, grace, the soul, or the presence of God, Who is Spirit, nor can we perceive the past or the future directly.

This void is filled by the speculation and imagination of sinful human beings, so they cannot know for sure “who we are, where we come from, or where we are going.

By |2019-08-30T18:19:35-07:00August 30th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

What Is Your WorldView?

What Is Your Worldview?

A “worldview” is a body of concepts that describe and interpret the world in which we live. Our worldview may be true or false depending on whether we view and understand the world as it truly is. Do we believe, for example, that human life has value? If so, that will affect the way we look at others. Do we believe that the world was created? If so, we will respect the Creator; if not, we will view life as only a complex assemblage of matter.

Our worldview determines what is important in life. Is getting and having possessions the most important thing? If so, then we will neglect other “less important” things.

We are affected by the prevailing worldview of our culture, and therefore Christians have been “counter-cultural” when the prevailing worldview has been pagan or materialistic or humanistic, as the predominate culture is in our country today.

The Christian worldview hinges on four key realities: -Humanity was created by God in a state of perfection. –We have fallen from that condition. –We have been redeemed by God. –With or without this redemption, all must give an account to God at the end of life.

These realities are not shared by our culture, so they do not live as though they are true. We do live this way. We must!

By |2019-08-30T18:11:33-07:00August 30th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Be Ready for Christ’s Return (Pentecost 12, 2019)

So HOW Is Judgment Day a Blessing?

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Luke 12:32–40 (CSB)

32 Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

35 “Be ready for service and have your lamps lit. 36 You are to be like people waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet so that when he comes and knocks, they can open the door for him at once. 37 Blessed will be those servants the master finds alert when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will get ready, have them recline at the table, then come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the middle of the night, or even near dawn, and finds them alert, blessed are those servants. 39 But know this: If the homeowner had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Dear fellow redeemed: Last Sunday we heard and reflected on Jesus’ words that our lives do not consist in having lots of possessions, and that in the eternal scale of things, what is important is to be rich toward God, that is, to  to have faith, to trust that God is the giver of all things, including life and salvation, not “stuff.”

That teaching was to “vast multitudes” who had gathered to hear Jesus. Jesus then turns to his disciples and talks about how we live this way, as Christians. Our worries are subdued by faith in Christ. Jesus sums up this way: “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.” (Luke 12:31, CSB)

This is really where our faith is lacking. It is typical that we do not comprehend what God does for us. Consider what you have been given already this day: Your life. All the physical and mental strength that you have enjoyed over your lifetime. Spiritual life and faith and the forgiveness of your sins. And the gospel that like an eternal fountain, the water of life, pours faith-sustaining mercy and forgiveness into our lives.

And while providing you with forgiveness and salvation, He hasn’t forgotten to provide other things we need as well, the necessities of daily life – food, clothing, cell phones.

This makes sense to us because as Christians we honestly life our life with a view to the eternal things. With that as our treasure, “inexhaustible money-bags,” Jesus says we are …

READY FOR THE ETERNAL FEAST

  1. Ready for the Lord
  2. The Lord Who Serves
  3. We Just Don’t Know When 

    1.  Ready for the Lord

Jesus paints three pictures of what it means to be ready. The first picture Jesus paints is of readiness for deliverance. “Be ready for service and have your lamps lit,” He says. The terms He uses are taken from the Passover scene from Genesis. “Be ready for service” means, “Be ready to go.” The Jews were in slavery, and that Passover night the Lord would bring judgment on the Egyptians and deliver the Children of Israel from slavery to freedom.” Are you ready to leave this vale of tears for the eternal land of milk and honey, the promised land of the resurrection?

Are living your life with a view to the eternal things?

Jesus paints another picture: 36 You are to be like people waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet so that when he comes and knocks, they can open the door for him at once. 37 Blessed will be those servants the master finds alert when he comes.

This isn’t a picture we are familiar with. If I am at a banquet and I return, there is no expectation of someone to meet me, take care of my needs, maybe a midnight snack, make up the bed, and so on. But among the rich that was the custom. By contrast there were the slaves, who were to be ready for the master’s call. I suppose our parallel might be taking the late flight into Chicago and going to the Westin hotel. What would you think if you were left at the door with nobody to open up and show you to your room? They should be ready whenever you arrived. That’s the kind of readiness Jesus to which Jesus calls us.

2. The Lord Who Serves

But still, there is a difference. Jesus says that the slaves are blessed when the master arrives home. “38 If he comes in the middle of the night, or even near dawn, and finds them alert, blessed are those servants.” How is that? Amazingly, He says, 37 Blessed will be those servants the master finds alert when he comes. Truly I tell you, he [the master] will get ready, have them recline at the table, then come and serve them. When the master returns, he will feast the slaves, his servants. Are you ready for the Lord to come and lay out the eternal feast of the resurrection?

You know, this is where you are most privileged to be Christians who are connected directly through the Bible to the teaching of Christ. We call ourselves “Confessional Lutherans” today, but in actuality our faith goes back to the apostles, to Christ, to the Prophets, Moses, Abraham, and the rest. We are privileged because we know Christ as our servant.

That seems disrespectful, even blasphemous, but that is what Jesus is saying here, and not just here. When His disciples were arguing over which of them was the greatest, here’s what Jesus said, “But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who have authority over them have themselves called ‘Benefactors.’ It is not to be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you should become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:25–27, CSB)

And that is our only hope, for who of us can save ourselves? Who of us can atone for our sins?

3. We Just Don’t Know When

And then there is one more call to readiness that Jesus gives: 39 But know this: If the homeowner had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

The criminal chooses the time and the place for his crime, which is why we keep our doors locked all of the time, and why we foster situational awareness and readiness to avoid being victimized. Jesus is saying that if we are in a state of readiness, then we will greet Him with joy when He comes again, or when we die.

Every person has a future. Everyone will live (how long?) and every person will die. That much everyone knows. But as Christians we know that there is an eternal feast waiting for us, to make use of one picture. Another way to think of it is that everything that is good and right and beautiful and pleasant and joyful is only a shadow of the true good, right and beautiful that awaits us.

There are times when Jesus stresses the judgment that is to come in order to call people to repentance. But as he speaks with His disciples here, and with us, he wants us to be ready, not just for judgment, but for salvation.

The people of our secular culture know that we live and then die, and they live according to that empty faith. Everything is about the here and now. The total preoccupation with politics is to build a perfect world here and now. The obsession with possessions is to live life to the fullest here and now, before death ends it all. The devotion to death in the form of abortion and euthanasia and suicide reflects their doctrine that if life isn’t wonderful, and this life is all that there is, then might as well end it.

Do we live like the here and now is all in all? Are we so affected by our culture that even though we know better, we give scarcely a thought to what awaits us in that bright land and that new shore?

Do we live like our story ends in tragedy? Do we live in anxiety and fear? Or do we live like we really should, knowing that our story ends in joy everlasting? We will all face troubles and struggles in life, and we will make it through. But when the time comes when the illness is our last, or our eyes close for the last time, or our life suddenly comes to and end. In other words, when our Master calls us, to be ready is to know that the grave is the door to life, as Jesus told Martha, grieving over Lazarus, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26, CSB)

Jesus says, “38 If he comes in the middle of the night, or even near dawn, and finds them alert, blessed are those servants.

How will you be alert? Be ready? By being in the word, by being with your fellow Christians to encourage and be encouraged. To think about your salvation and make it your treasure, in the ageless money-bags of your immortal soul. For what awaits you is an inexhaustible treasure that is yours because your sin has been exchanged for Christ’s righteousness, and because you have a place in heaven.

Think about it. Savor it so that when hardship comes you realize that the reminders of heaven are no mere platitude, no mere tired expression, but the eternal joy tasted by all the saints in heaven, to be complete in the resurrection.

Reflect upon what awaits you that, as Paul writes, “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17–19, CSB)

AMEN

By |2019-08-30T18:04:13-07:00August 30th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Reason for Hope (July 26, 2019)

Yes, There Is Reason to Hope

There Is an Oasis in the Desert of Life

but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15, CSB)

Why should we be full of hope?

Here are some answers I get:

  • I have a good job.
  • I have my health.
  • I’m young and have my whole life ahead of me.
  • The country is on the right track economically.
  • I have great family and good relationships.

But what if you don’t? What if you don’t have a good job, health, youth, or economic prospects? What if you are alone?

Any of these count as positive thinking, but all of the hopes listed here are bound to come to an end as we get older, the economy changes, we can’t do the work, or relationships inevitably end in death.

So then where is your hope?

Where is your hope when the brokenness of this world descend on us? Remember, God has already said that because of our sin, all these things will be taken away from us eventually. In Genesis 3, God tells Adam that labor, pain, alienation and death will curse this world because of sin.

But He also gave reason to hope. The fact is that He promised a salvation FROM this world and all the sorrow and trouble that is part of it. In fact, this sorrow and trouble is intended to drive us into the arms of our Savior.

We have hope because our Savior has taken sin and its curse upon himself, and so opened heaven for us—a new creation in which there will be no trouble, sorrow, toil, pain, or death.

Reflect upon this hope, and let it show, and then be ready to share this hope with others who ask. And don’t hesitate to use me to help. Is someone you know sick and in the hospital? Dealing with family problems? Facing loss? Tell them of your hope, and then offer to send you pastor around.

In this hopeless world, Christians and the Christian Church are the real oasis of hope.  — Pastor Bryant

By |2019-07-31T18:25:51-07:00July 31st, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Got Peace? (July 20, 2019)

Real Peace?

God’s Peace

In the early 70’s, toward the end of the Vietnam War, a little girl in the Sunday school said emphatically, “I only like “peace” when Pastor says it!” It seems that the wise little 8-year-old had been put off by the “peaceniks” who were misusing the word to insist on the surrender of America in Vietnam.

She impressed on me the common misunderstanding of the word. What is peace of God? What is the peace that Christ gives? Is it emotional well-being? Is it cessation of hostility? And end to war? Is it not being upset in life?

This peace is important. Do you know what this peace is? Three thousand five hundred years ago,  The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22–27, NKJV) Likewise, Paul invoked the Lord, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7, NKJV)

God’s Peace is reconciliation with God. It is the forgiveness of your sins, and the gift of such righteousness that you are beloved of God and counted as His dear child. It is only the Prince of Peace who brings such peace, and He is present in His words of peace.  —- Pastor Bryant

By |2019-07-31T18:18:57-07:00July 31st, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Love Diminished (July 5, 2019)

Toleration Diminishes Love

All false teachers and all false religions are known by their false teachings. That is what Jesus meant when He said, “Watch out for false prophets; by their fruits you will know them.” One of the chief false teachings that Jesus pointed out was the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, that they were righteous because of their goodness instead of God’s mercy.

That false teaching is still alive in the idea that we must give approval to the popular vices of our time. Disapproval is considered “unloving,” even when the one insisting upon approval blasphemes the Name of the Living God, degrades the holy institution of marriage, snuffs out the life of the unborn, and denies the order of creation. This is not love, but the hate of the Evil One bearing fruit in humanity.

The true love that has come into the world is the love that acknowledges the depths of human depravity, recognizes the terrible penalty required to give satisfaction for it, and then pays that penalty upon our behalf. That love is found alone in Jesus Christ!

Anything that minimizes the gravity of our sin minimizes the price Jesus paid to make satisfaction for our sin and so diminishes the love of Christ for us. The true Christian faith upholds the law of God in all its severity so that it may truly value His unfailing love.

By |2019-07-31T18:08:36-07:00July 31st, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Whatchathink? Does Your Belief Matter? (July 13, 2019)

When Does What-You-Think Matter?

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” What do the “crowds”—the people you rub shoulders with daily—say about Jesus? A great teacher? A moral crusader? A rebel? A good example? A fraud? A judge? What about your friends and acquaintances?

Jesus didn’t ask the question because the crowds’ opinions would make a difference in Who He Is. Nor do all these opinions matter.

He then asked his disciples, men who had witnessed His miracles, heard His teaching, and listened to His exchanges with the leaders and teachers of the people. These were men who had heard Jesus expound on the Scriptures and how they applied to Him. Their answer mattered more, because at least it was an informed answer.

Peter answered for them all: “God’s Messiah.”

It was the right answer, although Peter and the others didn’t quite understand everything that they knew. “God’s Messiah,” “The Christ of God,” and “God’s Anointed One,” are all equivalent translations.

The point is that Jesus is Who He IS, and not whoever someone imagines or wants Him to be.

Therefore we are called to know Christ better and better. In this way we grow in faith, hope, and love. This is the reason for preaching, for Bible classes, for individual Bible study, and for personal devotions. That way, when facing troubles or even death, we can with certainty cling to Jesus, God’s Messiah, our Savior.

By |2019-07-31T17:57:06-07:00July 31st, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

The Good Samaritan – What Jesus Did to Save Us (Pentecost 8, 2019)

Who Is Who in the Story of the Good Samaritan?

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Luke 10:25–37 (CSB)

25 Then an expert in the law stood up to test him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

28 “You’ve answered correctly,” he told him. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’

36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

Dear fellow redeemed:  As Luke puts his account together, we follow Jesus on a Journey.  It leads through Galilee and Samaria and Judea and arrives finally at Jerusalem, where the Christ, the lamb of God, made atonement for the sins of the world.

On this path Jesus teaches and performs miracles, and above all, He shows compassion.

On the one hand Jesus fulfills the Torah by living out all of the righteousness that God demands.  On the other hand, he embodies the whole Torah and the whole old testament as He reveals in word and deed the unmerited compassion of God that called Abraham and his offspring, out of all the peoples of the world, and through them gave the promise of salvation to the world.

The astute hearer will recognize the Gospel in the Old Testament when I say that it is fundamentally about what God has done for humanity. Likewise, while this account of the lawyer and the Good Samaritan lays out the absolute requirement for perfect love toward God and neighbor, it still points us not to our own righteousness, but to God’s gift of righteousness, because

THE GOOD SAMARITAN PORTRAYS CHRIST

  1. The Key Question Sets up the Story
  2. The Disturbing Response Puts Us on the Defensive
  3. The Real Answer Is Found in Jesus1. The Key Question Sets up the Story

It all starts, of course, with the question of the lawyer, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  This shows the lawyer’s understanding of the Torah, on the basis of which He is testing Jesus.  There must be something to DO that will make us acceptable to God and win His approval so that He would welcome us into His presence for eternity.

Jesus answers with a question that the lawyer fields effectively.  26 “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”  That’s a good answer and it’s similar to what Jesus Himself answered on another occasion.  But then, as Mark and Matthew both record, Jesus turned to point to “the Christ.” So also, here.

But first he uses the lawyer’s answer to unsettle him.  27 He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

28 “You’ve answered correctly,” he told him. “Do this and you will live.”

Yep, that’s all you have to do is love God and your neighbor perfectly in thought, word, and deed.  If you figure out God’s will and get everything right toward Him and your neighbor all the time, then you’ll be fine.

2. The Disturbing Response Puts Us on the Defensive

That’s a pretty disturbing response for the lawyer, 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

If you think that your hope of heaven is wrapped up in parsing God’s law, then this is the kind of question you will ask.

The lawyer wanted to justify himself according to the law, so the law had to be twisted and limited.  It’s the same today, and it’s something we can all fall into:

Does God really care how I use His name?

Does “remember the Sabbath day” really mean every one?

Is it really wrong to be sexually affectionate with somebody of the same sex – or that we aren’t married to?

It is the way the devil seduced Eve: “Did God really say …?”

People ask me all the time if something they have done is right or wrong.  “Why do you want to know?” I ask.  Do you think that it’s the key to winning God’s approval? If so, we better be perfectly correct with the answer – but wait; it’s something you’ve already done!  Too late! And if it isn’t, can you guarantee you will pull it off to God’s satisfaction?

Yet, as Christians we can accept God’s law in its absolute ferocity and purity, in the glaring light of its perfect holiness, and in the stark reality of its unachievable demands.  We can do so because it is not our hope for heaven.  Our concern for the law is a matter of faith:  As Christians His word simply matters. It is the guide to a blessed life in service to God and neighbor, not a path to righteousness.

So back to the lawyer’s question.  Who is my neighbor?  Make it somebody easy and convenient to love and, sure, I love my neighbor as myself.  Jesus didn’t let him off with that.  Instead he told this story.

A man was mugged and left half dead.  A priest happens by and seeing the injured man (or maybe he was dead) went by on the other side.  A priest should be fairly high up the holiness ladder, right?  He would be well instructed in the Law and the Prophets and the Other Writings.  If a formal understanding of the Torah was a mark of loving our neighbor he was your man.  So also with the Levite.  He was chosen to serve in the temple according to the Torah.  He ought to have the formula.

Maybe they needed to remain ceremonially clean.  Maybe they didn’t want to get involved – or bring some disrepute on their priestly or Levitical status.  I mean they MIGHT have had good motives, right?

But it’s obvious that the next person in Jesus’ story is the example of real love and compassion:  The Samaritan.  Arguably at risk to himself he tends the man’s wounds and disinfects them.  At great personal inconvenience, expense and exertion he gives him a ride, gets him set up in an inn, pays the bill out into the future, and obligates himself to further care and concern.

If the lawyer thought he could justify himself by quibbling about the definition of “neighbor,” he was clearly wrong.  Our neighbor is anyone with whom we have any connection who needs our love and compassion.  Who of us hasn’t failed to love our neighbor? What can we “do” to gain eternal life when perfection eludes us?

But remember, over all of this hangs the man’s question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He answered his own question, “Love God and my neighbor.”  So who was his neighbor?

36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

You’ve probably noticed by now, that at the end Jesus didn’t ask, “Was the man who fell among robbers our neighbor??  Instead he asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

3. The Real Answer Is Found in Jesus

With that question, put that way, Jesus doesn’t take away the overall impact of what holiness demands, but at the same time He points to the one who showed mercy and compassion.  Who is like that?  Who could really “go and do likewise?”  You know that only Jesus has done that.  Look at Him and learn that He is your righteousness.

The Torah itself, in which this man was so learned was not a list of rules by which a person could achieve eternal life; it was a record of the grace of God who reached down into this world and revealed Himself as The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6–7, CSB)

So in this account of the Good Samaritan Jesus portrays Himself as the one who, merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love, reaches out to us and sooths the wounds  in our lives because of sin – our sin and the sins of others.

Who is our neighbor?  You can answer fearlessly, even though it will show up your sins of lovelessness, because it is not on that basis that you are acceptable to God.  And you can love your neighbor without fear that it isn’t “good enough for God,” confident that you have been created and placed where you are in the world to do those good things which honor him and are a blessing to others.  All you do out of love for God and the good of your neighbor will indeed be cherished by God himself, and has His approval, because the righteousness of Christ fills up all that is lacking.

So may we love one another, that people may see our love and learn of our Savior Who is truly the Good Samaritan.  He is good to us pitiable wretches who need His salvation so much.

AMEN

By |2019-07-31T17:22:51-07:00July 31st, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

The Kingdom of God Has Come (Pentecost 7, 2019)

The Kingdom of God Has Come

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Luke 10:1–20 (ESV)

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

***

16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Dear fellow redeemed: The sending out of the seventy disciples is mentioned only in the Gospel of Luke. That’s not surprising because Luke is the most thorough of the gospels, with the most universal connections with people. It is part of the section on the “Journey to Jerusalem” where Luke outlines the overarching words and deeds of Jesus.

From a human perspective, this was quite an undertaking. Think of the distance from Ashland to Glendale, or from Eugene to Springfield. That was the distance (about 50 miles) from Galilee to Judea. These seventy were to go two-by-two, so think of 35 villages, towns, communities in that distance. Jesus was coming to all of them, and they were to prepare the way.

They weren’t called to preach, but to bestow the peace of Christ, to heal the sick and to proclaim, “The kingdom God has come near to you.” From all that happened it was clear:

THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS COME

  1. Because Christ Has Come
  2. Christ Has Come in Word and Power
  3. “The Kingdom Ours Remaineth”
  1. Because Christ Has Come

Like us, these 72 disciples were vulnerable in the midst of a world that did not accept the Christ. Nevertheless, as with us here in this town, and regardless of their vulnerability, Christ was with them. This is something that was important for His followers to see – that where the word and promise of Christ is, there He is also. Without Christ, where would they have been? They went out as sheep among wolves and prevailed, could they have done that without Christ? Do you think for an instant that the sick would rise up strong and well, the powers of Satan be overthrown, and the peace of God rest upon human souls otherwise?

Luke underscores the presence of Christ when he records Jesus saying, 16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Today’s skeptics asks in confusion, “Where in the world is God?” The answer is here: He is where His word and sacrament are. So where the disciples went, Christ went. Where their peace was offered, there Christ’s peace was bestowed.

This peace is important. Do you know what this peace is? Three thousand five hundred years ago, the Lord commanded Aaron, And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22–27, NKJV) Likewise, Paul invoked the Lord, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7, NKJV)

Is this an emotional peace: Don’t be upset? Is it the cessation of all hostilities? It is reconciliation with God. It is the forgiveness of your sins, and the gift of such righteousness that you are beloved of God, and counted as His dear child. It is only the Prince of Peace who brings such peace, and He is present in His words of peace.

This is peace for sinners. Consider what your sins have done. Sin always separates. Our sins have separated us from God, whose beauty, love, power and glory we cannot see. The things you say to people in your family to irk them and hurt them, the corrupt and venal words and deeds of politicians, the faithlessness of lust and the selfishness of our lives have put people at odds with one another. The Peace of God is yours because the Son of Peace has made satisfaction for our offences, brought perfect reconciliation and in the resurrection will truly “un-ring the bell” of all we have done wrong.

The everlasting Son of the Father through whom all was created, who was present with Abraham, in the burning bush, who accompanied the children of Israel, the Word of God who was present with the prophets is the One who is present with this word of peace and forgiveness.

Because Christ Has Come to His People!

2. Christ Has Come in Word and Power

And He has come in Word and Power. The seventy-two returned and described it: 17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.

On the front of the Lectionary is a picture of Satan falling. The word of Christ came with power to heal the sick, give life to the dying, rescue those in bondage to the demonic servants of Satan.

It reminds me of the period in WWII when the enemy powers were defeated. The surrender had not yet been signed, but defeat lay on one side and victory on the other. We are in a great cosmic battle – one that extends beyond this place and time. We see Christ invading this world and overthrowing the power of this world, in the word that heals, gives life, grants peace, and forgives iniquity.

Now you might think that therefore we should face every success. Miracles! Church growth in the hundreds, thousands! Glory and wonder!

But Luke settles that in the previous chapter, where Peter had proclaimed Jesus “God’s Messiah,” and Jesus called Himself the “Son of Man.” Daniel tells us about that Son of Man: He was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14, CSB)

So might His disciples then have thought they were on the cusp of glory. But Jesus told them what it means: saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. (Luke 9:22, CSB) He then goes on to say that we must take up our crosses.

So he sobers us up as well, putting these great successes in perspective: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

3.  “The Kingdom Ours Remaineth”

If we are to be saved, then the Lord had to come in suffering and in mercy before coming in victory and in judgment.

Let that sink in.

We bring the peace of God into this world, but in vulnerability and even in danger. We bring peace to the world, but may have it thrown back in our faces. We bring the Gospel to many who refuse to receive it. We don’t wipe off the dust of their town literally, but we grief over their loss and warn them of their doom.

And there may be times, as I remember in my life, where people flocked to the church and reveled in the word of life. But whichever it may be, 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Our joy is in Christ, who gives us the kingdom, and “The Kingdom ours remaineth!”

AMEN.

By |2019-07-24T18:41:25-07:00July 24th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Great Faith >> Great Love (Pentecost 4, 2019)

Great Forgiveness >> Great Love

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Luke 7:36-50
36Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
48Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

Dear fellow redeemed sinners, indebted to our saving Lord far beyond any ability to repay:  Over the years there are some attitudes that have been particularly striking to me.  They have been too common to ignore, so let me give you examples of people you will never know.  (Just to emphasize that, this sermon was first written in the mid 90’s)

A man married a woman who had nothing to do with the church.  He was a member, but only showed up occasionally.  On one occasion she came too.  She heard that God’s love and forgiveness is for her, too, and she was overcome with the comfort and assurance of the Gospel.  Now he is angry with the church because she wants to come to worship every Sunday.  She came to appreciate her forgiveness, he thought he wasn’t so much in need of it.

Someone who had recently started coming to church asked when the next Bible class was to be held.  Next September.  “You mean I have to wait that long?” he replied. He wanted to hear the good news.

A lifelong member was approached to help out with a project at the church.  “Absolutely not,” he said.  “My time is my own, and nobody has a right to ask me to spend it at church.”  Eventually a new Christian leaped at the chance, and literally had tears in his eyes that he would be thought worthy to help out.

A man (a blue-collar guy) who had recently come to know Christ and the gospel of salvation showed up one December 15th.  He asked if I knew anybody in a bad way financially, and I said I knew a couple of young families who were struggling.  “Good!  I was hoping you did,” he said.  He then peeled off 10 $100 bills and said, “I keep reading what Jesus said about the poor, and I was hoping to find some.”

These attitudes I have been talking about are striking – on one hand is the attitude of indifference, on the other the attitude of love toward a person we can’t see, but who speaks words of peace and forgiveness to us through the gospel, namely Christ

As Peter wrote, (1 Peter 1:8-9)  8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Why do these attitudes exist side by side in families, among friends, and in the society at large?

LOVE – IT’S THE DIFFERENCE SAVING FAITH MAKES

  1. Starting with Our Debts
  2. Finishing with Christ’s Absolution

1.   Starting with Our Debts

The difference that saving faith makes starts with an acceptance of our situation in the world.  Jesus described it this way:  41  “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  42  Neither of them had the money to pay him back,… .

One man owed about two year’s wages, and one about two months.  But the difference in their debt was no help – neither could pay back the debt even though one might think he could.  The woman in our text knew her shame, and the hopelessness of finding any perfection and righteousness on her own.  She was a woman who had lived an openly sinful life.  There is a sexual implication here.  She was known to have slept with someone to whom she was not married.

She knew how great a transgression that is.  To engage in any sexual activity outside of marriage is shameful, wrong, and an offense against God, but before we get to complacent, remember that so are drunkenness, gossip & slander, crooked dealing and any number of things people excuse.  How bad are they?  ICO 6:9  Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders  10  nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And how should we treat those who continue in such a sinful life?  1CO 5:11  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

Those are strong words.  Could it be that we don’t realize that we have been forgiven MUCH?

Saving faith makes a difference in our lives, even as we grasp the greatness of our debts and therefore the cost of our forgiveness..  The Pharisee counted her debt as huge.  So did she.  That wasn’t’ wrong.  The Pharisee’s error consisted in thinking that his debt was different, that it was small and manageable.  Therefore this Jesus had nothing to offer him.  Do you see how impenitence is a sign of unbelief?  We know this man is an unbeliever because he says, “If this man were a prophet….”  To the impenitent, to the self-righteous, Jesus never has anything to offer.

But to this woman, Jesus offered grace and forgiveness and eternal life.  So also to Paul.  1TI 1:15  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.

How about you?  What do you think of your own sins?  Even if “only” gossip or drinking too much, our sins are more than we can atone for.  Starting with a real comprehension of the immensity of our debts, an immensity of debt paid by the life and suffering and death of Jesus, faith moves us to love Him who is our rescuer and our salvation.  And when we look at how impossible it is to pay our debts, we must say with Paul.  “I am the worst – the chief of sinners!”

2. Finishing with Christ’s Absolution

I say that our love for Christ begins with our debt, for if we do not know how great is our need, we do not know how great is our salvation.  That is why if you look at the Small Catechism on p 31 of your hymnal, you will notice that Luther put the commandments first.  They are our schoolmaster to show us how great is our need.

But if that is all there were, there would be no love.  Perhaps there would be, as with the early Luther, only a hatred of God who would demand what cannot be paid.  But Saving Faith does not lie in mere sorrow and anguish over sin.  Faith rests in the promise that we are forgiven – that was the faith of this woman who loved so much.

This woman knew the immensity of Christ’s work of salvation:  His humiliation as the Lord of the Universe, the great I AM, the Angel of the Lord who came to sinful people through all time, but has now assumed the nature of one of His own creatures.  Bearing the results of sin, even while living righteousness, bearing guilt, though guiltless, He purchased our forgiveness by paying what our sin deserves.

Having established that this woman DID owe much – far more than she could pay, Jesus reaffirmed her faith by declaring to her, LUK 7:48  “Your sins are forgiven.”

It is unbelief that rejects such grace:  HEY!  WHO’S LETTING HER OFF THE HOOK!?  WHO CAN FORGIVE?  That is what people ask.  Jesus reassures her, and us, again, LUK 7:50  “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

She knew the greatness of her sin.  She knew the greatness and wonder of her salvation.  So she showed great love and devotion to her Savior.  Her love didn’t save her, Jesus did.  Her love was the response.

Do you know who has the opportunity to continually teach such a lesson to the world?  Our Christian families, and particularly fathers.  When we take God’s order for the family seriously, we end up living a wonderful picture of this great forgiving love.  As a man loves his wife unconditionally and as she respects and obeys him, they mirror the unconditional forgiving love of God for us because of Christ and the love we hold for Him in return.

In our day, in which breaking God’s commandments is trivialized; it is easy to love little, thinking our guilt is small.  And besides, as Christians we get used to being forgiven, and forget the price.  So again, it is easy to love little.  When we think our debt of sin is manageable, it is easy to become lukewarm and indifferent toward our Savior.  Then let us take stock of our great debt as an indicator of the immensity of Christ’s sacrifice.

And when we ponder that, what we most want to hear is no comment on our own work or worth.  Much sweeter are the words spoken to this woman.  The sweetest words in all the world, and I assure you they ARE for you,

YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN.

YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU.

GO IN PEACE.

AMEN.

By |2019-07-24T18:09:41-07:00July 24th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments