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A BIT OF SUFFERING

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A BIT OF SUFFERING

When we approach our suffering with humility and faith in Christ’s promises, we live in hope.

The sermon for the Third Sunday after Trinity, June 20, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant, Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

1 Peter 5:6–11 (EHV)

6Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand so that he may lift you up at the appointed time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him by being firm in the faith. You know that the same kinds of sufferings are being laid on your brotherhood all over the world.

10After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you. 11To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed:  The last two weeks we considered the situation in which Christians find themselves in the world.  In 1 John 4, the Apostle John taught how the Christian kind of love, gracious and merciful love, was truly counter-cultural – and an inevitable outgrowth of the Christian faith. In 1 John 3, John delved more deeply into this counter-cultural character of Christian love. It is really the love of Christ leading to life vs the hatred of man leading to death.

We continue with the situation of the Christian in the word, turning to the Apostle Peter’s first letter, in which he has been addressing the Christians spread across the empire.  He is writing to people who will be undergoing persecution as well as to all of us who have received his words.  He wrote “… to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” (1 Peter 5:12, EHV) What did he say? He said …

THE CHRISTIAN IN THE WORLD

WE WILL SUFFER A LITTLE WHILE

  1. Humbly Accept His Will
  2. Stand Strong in the Faith
  3. Rest in His Promises

 

  1. Humbly Accept His Will

What do you think? Is that encouraging to know that we will have to suffer? Well, we already have somewhat at least. Any Christian has, because the Devil, the world, and our sinful nature are arrayed against us. The point is that we need to humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand so that he may lift you up at the appointed time.

God Himself says that we will suffer for a while, and for our own good, but God Himself tells us He will deliver us. The same Word that tells us we will face suffering also tells us that we are we are beloved, so don’t reject the idea that hardship and, yes, suffering may very well be the gracious gift of God to us.

Peter makes the point well in few words: 6Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand so that he may lift you up at the appointed time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

Enough of your arrogance and pride, your thoughts that you are somebody special!  Who do you think is in charge of the universe anyway?  In His infinite power, His mighty hand, God will have his way.  But that also means that by His mighty hand He will in good time deliver you from the troubles of life – through most of our lives, usually, but certainly in delivering us from this life.

If we will so humble ourselves we will also learn of His care and compassion, for He says, 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

This isn’t the only place He says so, either. In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches,  “For this reason I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “Which of you can add a single moment to his lifespan by worrying?” (Matthew 6:25–27, EHV)

And Paul reminds us, “What then will we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him?” (Romans 8:31–32, EHV)

This is the measure of His love – that He entered into life and suffering and death itself for us.  Do we suppose that we are better than He is, as though we deserve no suffering or trouble in this life? Peter is here telling us to humbly accept his will, even if it means suffering.

2.  Standing Strong in the Faith

If we do, then by faith we know that His will is also good for us, for He has not only taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” He has promised to do it.

Anybody here free of uncertainty? Many of us are at the age where infirmity could overcome us. And if you are young and strong, there are uncertainties at your stage of life as well.

But as Paul says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, EHV)  Though we cannot see how things will turn out, or how soon we can be sure that His promises will never fail.  That is why Paul, starting with the certainty of our forgiveness and God’s love can assure us that we are blessed also in our sufferings:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we also have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice confidently on the basis of our hope for the glory of God. Not only this, but we also rejoice confidently in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces patient endurance, and patient endurance produces tested character, and tested character produces hope. And hope will not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us. (Romans 5:1–5, EHV)

Tribulation, suffering, affliction is something we can’t do anything about, and so it leads to perseverance, patient endurance, the process of going on and on and on and on and on, in faith and hope.  We then experience God’s deliverance, and so having been tested, we grow in character.  When your folks would send you out into the cold to shovel and you complained, and they said, “Go on, it will build your character,” this is what they meant.  It is sometimes translated experience, because having gone through something you find that you have made it.  This gives rise to hope.  Essentially, it is that we see the promises of God fulfilled.

After going through any number of such “cycles,” and dwelling in God’s word, the Christian may grow stronger in the faith, and learn by experience what is taught in the word, We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose, (Romans 8:28, EHV)

Of course some times we don’t get to see it, and so we are left to take it on faith.  Again, it is a matter of humility, as Peter says, 6Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand… .

But I want you to know that in our age, as in the first century, more of us will suffer actually for our Christian faith, but regardless, the devil makes use of anything to subvert our faith. 8Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him by being firm in the faith. You know that the same kinds of sufferings are being laid on your brotherhood all over the world.

Being rooted in God’s word we are prepared to stand strong in the faith, for in the final analysis this is what Peter is concerned about us.  The devil uses anything in his efforts to separate us from our Savior.  When we are in the midst of blessing, he seeks to lull us into indifference, and so in the days of suffering He seeks to call God’s mercy into doubt.

Rest assured of God’s love and beware of pride.  Remember that you are among many of our Savior’s faithful servants who also bear up under affliction.  Do not give into fear but trust in Him.

3.   Resting in His Promises

And how do we do that?  He does that as we focus on His promises, as we dwell in God’s word, Jesus’ word.  “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31, EHV)

To survive the assaults of the devil we need to abide, to live in the word of Christ, the gospel, the good news of sins forgiven, the good promises of Christ, promises fulfilled.

For finally, what is our hope in the midst of this dying world?  It is the life of Christ that defeated death.

But once this perishable body has put on imperishability, and this mortal body has put on immortality, then what is written will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:54–57, EHV)

So Peter brings us back to the promises of Christ: 10After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you. 11To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

The fulfilled promises of Christ are our everlasting hope!

AMEN.

By |2021-06-20T16:16:17-07:00June 20th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

CHRISTIAN “LIFE” SHOWS IN CHRISTIAN LOVE

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CHRISTIAN “LIFE” SHOWS IN CHRISTIAN LOVE

Love for our fellow Christians shows that we have received the faith God gave us.

The sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity, June 13, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant, Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

1 John 3:13–18 (EHV)
13Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. 14We know that we have crossed over from death to life, because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. 15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. 16This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we also should lay down our lives for our brothers. 17Whoever has worldly wealth and sees his brother in need but closes his heart against him—how can God’s love remain in him? 18Dear children, let us love not only with word or with our tongue, but also in action and truth.

Dear fellow redeemed: Last week we read from chapter four of this same letter, learning about the Christian kind of love – love that mirrors the Grace of God, that forgives, that accepts the sinner. Such love is clearly counter-cultural in an unbelieving age. The counter-cultural character of Christian love is the focus of these verses. We live in a culture that worships death, while we bring the message of life, learning from Scripture as John began his Gospel, “In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4–5, EHV)

Love and life go together; hatred and murder, –hatred and death— go together. 14We know that we have crossed over from death to life, because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death.

The Christian Living in the World

à THE LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN SHOWS IN LOVE

  1. The Christian Life Is Spiritual Life
  2. Worldly Life is Death
  3. Christian Life Shows in the World
  1. The Christian Life Is Spiritual Life

The life of the Christian is the life that crosses over from death to life, it is the new and spiritual life of faith. Such life shows in the love we have for our fellow Christians, particularly. . 14We know that we have crossed over from death to life, because we love our brothers.

To live in faith is to be in harmony with Christ. We talk about faith as trust or confidence in Christ as our Savior, but that is only part of it. It is not an opinion we are convinced of, or an emotion we feel, but a change in the soul from death to life. So you are a Christian, not just when you reflect on or when you feel the assurance that Jesus is your Savior. You live in faith; you live under grace. You are a Christian when asleep, or when living out your vocation. To strengthen our faith we come back again and again to the means  by which the Holy Spirit gives and nourishes this faith: The gospel in word and sacrament.

We know that we have this faith because of our love for one another. What kind of love? Not just affection, or brotherly love, but the love that is gracious and forgiving. We are brothers and sisters in the faith and in the church, and as such we know something of one another’s failings, sins, and shortcomings. We know something of our common penitential spirit. We know one another as objects of God’s grace. It is in this way that we love one another – desiring what is best for one another.

Even if we don’t have similar interests or experiences now, we know that we will spend eternity with one another in innocent glory. So we don’t oppress one another under a cloud of disapproval, or censure, or condemnation. Usually the Greek language uses agape for this unconditional love, this love that, knowing person, still loves. This is the Christian kind of love.

2.   Worldly Life is Death

John contrasts this with the hatred of the world that knows nothing of Grace. The one who does not love remains in death. The spiritual death of unbelief shows in the lack of the Christian kind of love. One who lacks such love shows that he is still dead, without faith, without righteousness. This is what we were once, “remember that at that time you were separated from Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise. You were without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12, EHV)

This is the natural condition of the world, which is why as the world turns from the true faith, it is a world that embraces death, whether in the Soviet gulag, the Nazi gas chambers, the massacres of the Red Chinese, the jihads of Islam, or the killing of the unborn, aged and infirm. The world apart from God is not good, and hates what is good, as John actually introduced our text, “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: Love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the Evil One and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own works were evil, while those of his brother were righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:11–13, EHV)

The murderous hatred of the world doesn’t show just in killing, for the sin of murder dwells in the soul even without the act, as John says, The one who does not love remains in death. 15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.

3.   Christian Life Shows in the World

As believers, we do not remain in death, and it shows in the Christian kind of love, as John says, 16This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us.

Paul puts it this way:  “And he died for all, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him, who died in their place and was raised again. As a result, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we knew Christ according to the flesh, we no longer know him that way. So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come! And all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. And he has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:15–19, EHV)

We learn about love the Christian kind of love, gracious love, from Christ Jesus, who laid down His life for us. In doing so, He satisfied God’s justice. He fulfilled the “anyone who sins must die and be cast off forever” demands of God’s law by taking the place of “anyone who sins.” He took your place and mine.

In this and in so much else he personified love, so His life was love, and He was and is the epitome of righteousness. This is the righteousness God gives in word and sacrament. He gives us faith, the spiritual life by which we receive the “righteousness that is from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:9) So you stand forgiven before God, forgiven also for your less-than-loving moments.

If This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, then we should dwell often on this gospel, and partake eagerly of the Lord’s supper whereby we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) It is the life of the Christian to reflect upon this love of Christ for us, and for the whole world

What a different world this would be if everyone we knew thought of themselves, not as a moment in biological evolution, but as a special creation, with an immortal soul, beloved of our creator. What a different world this would be if everyone understood that there are no ordinary people, that everyone we know is destined either to eternal glory, joy, beauty, light, peace and love, or to an eternity of pain, loneliness, despair and hideous regret?

What a different world it would be everyone connected the cross to themselves and the ones beside them, and saw themselves and others as the objects of such gracious and forgiving love. In other words, what a different world it would be if our prayer “Hallowed be Thy Name” were answered in every heart around us. This prayer IS answered among us.

Do you believe that you and those around you are the objects of this love we know? Yes you do, as John says, 16This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us.

The more we know this love, the more it shows. 16This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we also should lay down our lives for our brothers. 17Whoever has worldly wealth and sees his brother in need but closes his heart against him—how can God’s love remain in him? 18Dear children, let us love not only with word or with our tongue, but also in action and truth.

John is speaking here of the love that we have among the family of believers– brothers and sisters. He is assuming something about the church that is easy to lose in this day and age, namely that we are a community. A “church” is an assembly called together out of the world, among whom there are to be no divisions in the faith (in doctrine), and because of grace, no grudges, resentment, or seething hatred. Because of the grace of God, there is love, also for those different from us.

And this love shows in tangible ways. Among us, none should go hungry, nobody be alone, nobody be destitute, nobody unloved, for after all, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, EHV)

AMEN.

By |2021-06-13T14:15:10-07:00June 13th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

THE CHRISTIAN KIND OF LOVE

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THE CHRISTIAN KIND OF LOVE

We also have come to know and trust the love that God has for us.
God is love … .

The greatest love in time and in eternity is the love of God for us, “Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the Children of God!“ (1 John 3:1, compilation). And of course, ““For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, EHV)

The love of God is a matter of Grace, that is to say, it is a love that we do not deserve. Justice, contrary to grace, demands that we get what we deserve00 to be cast off by God forever, “because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, EHV) But the glorious good news is that God has satisfied His own justice to save us. “That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19, EHV)

This is what the world hates. The Christian is at war in the world because the unbelieving world is at war with the Christian, is at war with grace. The love of the world is conditional, and the alternative is vengeance. But not the Christian kind of love!

The sermon for the First Sunday after Trinity, June 6, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant, Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.


1 John 4:16–21 (EHV)

16We also have come to know and trust the love that God has for us.

God is love. Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17In this way his love has been brought to its goal among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are just like Jesus. 18There is no fear in love, but complete love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who continues to be afraid has not been brought to the goal in love.

19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. For how can anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, love God, whom he has not seen? 21This then is the command we have from him: The one who loves God should also love his brother.

Dear fellow redeemed. With this Sunday we enter the “Non-festival” portion of the church year, in which we shift our focus to consider not only what God has done for us, but the way it plays out in our lives. For the next few weeks, we will study the letters to the church from the Apostles John and Peter. We will see how these Christ-appointed teachers of the church and eyewitnesses of the risen Christ brought that word to bear on the lives of Christians as we live in this world.  Here the cosmic war between Christ and Satan, Light and Darkness, Eternal Life and Eternal Death is played out.

So I am going to organize the next few sermons under the general theme, “The Christian Is at War in the World,” and we begin today with our Lord teaching us here that the Christian Lives in God’s Love.

The Christian Is at War in the World

THE CHRISTIAN LIVES IN GOD’S LOVE

  1. God’s Love
  2. The Love of Christian Brothers and Sisters
  1.  God’s Love

Those two things surely seem contrary to each other. The Christian is at war in the world and at the same time lives in God’s love? It shouldn’t surprise us, for Jesus taught his disciples, If the world hates you, you know that it hated me first.” (John 15:18, EHV) and “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”” (Luke 10:16, EHV)

“World” as John uses the term, (KOSMOS) means “everything in the world opposed to God. So, the reality is that the world hates the God of love. And as our text says, 16We also have come to know and trust the love that God has for us.

God is love … .

The greatest love in time and in eternity is the love of God for us, “Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the Children of God!“ (1 John 3:1, compilation). And of course, ““For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, EHV)

The love of God is a matter of Grace, that is to say, it is a love that we do not deserve. Justice, contrary to grace, demands that we be cast off by God forever, “because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, EHV) But the glorious good news is that God has satisfied His own justice to save us. “That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19, EHV)

This is what the world hates. The Christian is at war in the world because the unbelieving world is at war with the Christian, is at war with grace. It is obvious for all to see. This world will not tolerate grace, and we have three examples:

Cancel culture: Many who hold unpopular views  are not to be heard. They lose their job. They lose their reputation. Credit card companies won’t process their sales. Banks won’t provide their services. Studios won’t make movies where they might benefit. Sports organizations won’t hold events in their communities. Specifically, two teachers were recently fired because they objected to holding all people of one race guilty for sins of the past. The world hates Grace.

Targeting Christians: The world doesn’t distinguish politics from religion, and so Christians are targeted politically for their religious faith. While Jesus said we are to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, the world confuses Caesar with God. In their mind, everything belongs to “Caesar.” Therefore when Jesus says, “Haven’t you read that from the beginning their Maker ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4–5, EHV), the world says that the nature of men, women, marriage, and family are Caesar’s to determine, not God’s. This is why cancel culture doesn’t just deal with politics.

Re-education: Nor can the world abide it when Christians simply choose to practice Christian love as Scripture teaches. Critical Theory is being required by law in some schools, notably Oregon and Washington, so children are being held responsible for knowing it. It is like evolution, a false religion taught as a secular truth. Critical theory erases the concept of forgiveness and demands instead that those born in a certain class or race be treated as guilty and without moral authority

By contrast, penitent Christians live in the confidence of God’s love. We don’t fear punishment, rejection, cancellation, or condemnation from God, because in love, He has made satisfaction for our sins and given us the righteousness of Christ. (as our text says) 16We also have come to know and trust the love that God has for us.

God is love. Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17In this way his love has been brought to its goal among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are just like Jesus. 18There is no fear in love, but complete love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who continues to be afraid has not been brought to the goal in love.

   2.   The Love of Christian Brothers and Sisters

The love of God has invaded this world in the person of Jesus Christ and is displayed in the love of Christ in the lives of His people. 19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. For how can anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, love God, whom he has not seen? 21This then is the command we have from him: The one who loves God should also love his brother.

The love that John speaks of here isn’t the same kind of love that the world treasures. We love not because we overlook wrongs, but because “God first loved us.” His love isn’t approval of sin, but forgiveness of sin at the terrible cost of His only Son.

Christian love is qualitatively different. It is a matter of loving someone you might not even like, of seeing your enemy as someone redeemed by the Lamb of God, of knowing that when at the last God turns his back on the impenitent, damned in his own sins, that it is with sorrow and tears.

It is a matter of knowing that there is mercy in a world that wants compliance, or it will resort to rejection, there is repentance and forgiveness in a world that wants approval rather than forgiveness.

[Ironically, we see this in “Gay Pride.” While the Christian is called to love everyone “in Christ,” both the repentant and the impenitent, the world loves only the impenitent, and hatefully condemns those who repent of their perverse practices.

It’s that We love because he first loved us and put it into practice as it is written, “Get rid of every kind of bitterness, rage, anger, quarreling, and slander, along with every kind of malice. Instead, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us.” (Ephesians 4:31–32, EHV)

As Christians in this world, the Image of God, the spiritual life and understanding lost in the Fall is being restored, as by God’s grace through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit we … “put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in knowledge, according to the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:10, EHV)

It is by this new, spiritual life of faith that we know the love of God, for it is a life created and nourished by the word of Christ, who says, (paraphrasing) “As you live in this world, you will be hated and rejected as I was hated and rejected.  You will be hated and rejected because of your faith in my love for you, for I have redeemed you and say to you, ‘Rejoice, your sins are forgiven, and there is no condemnation for you.’ Be at peace.”

Amen.  This is most certainly true.

By |2021-06-06T15:07:52-07:00June 6th, 2021|Sermons, Uncategorized|0 Comments

THE HOLY SPIRIT FILLS US WITH NEW LIFE

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THE HOLY SPIRIT FILLS US WITH NEW LIFE

Not only does the Holy Spirit bring us to faith, but He also works in us to accomplish more than we can on our own. Coming to saving faith is not just a change in opinion, but a new spiritual life that causes us to live differently. We see this in the disciples also. – They had been cowardly and hesitant, but now they were brave and bold. They were not well-educated men, but now they not only spoke, but preached in different languages. They had been followers, but now they were leaders, admonishing all to repentance and comforting the repentant with forgiveness.

The sermon for the Festival of Pentecost, May 23, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant, Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.


Acts 2:1–13 (CSB)

2 When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout people from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each of us can hear them in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the magnificent acts of God in our own tongues.” 12 They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But some sneered and said, “They’re drunk on new wine.”

 

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus:  I think you all know what this is.  It’s a balloon.  So is this.  Notice that each of them behaves differently.  What’s the difference?  Well obviously this one has no life.  It needs air if it is going to behave like the balloon we are used to.  This one is lively because of what is inside it.

This is the way we are as human beings.  By ourselves we are naturally one way:  Unbelieving, spiritually dead, spiritually blind, and enemies of God.  Only by the Holy Spirit, Who, working from the outside and coming into us brings us to faith and spiritual life, are we able to know the true and living God, know our deep guilt against Him, and know of His great mercy toward us in Christ Jesus.

Not only does the Holy Spirit bring us to faith, but He also works in us to accomplish more than we can on our own.  You see, faith is not just a change in opinion, but a new spiritual life that causes us to live differently.  We see this in the disciples also.  – They had been cowardly and hesitant, but now they were brave and bold.  They were not well-educated men, but now they not only spoke, but preached in different languages.  They had been followers, but now they were leaders, admonishing all to repentance and comforting the repentant with forgiveness.

What was different was what was in them.  What was in them was the Holy Spirit.

Just as the Holy Spirit caused the change in their lives, He caused the change in ours – and still does.  In some ways just like the Apostles, in some ways different, but in any case,

 

THE HOLY SPIRIT FILLS US WITH NEW LIFE

  1. The Holy Spirit Works in All Christians
  2. The Holy Spirit Gives a Variety of Gifts

 

The Scriptures reveal how the Holy Spirit, Who came in a special way to the apostles that day, fills us today; that’s the focus of our sermon today.

 

  1. The Holy Spirit Works in All Christians

In the first place, we are Christians because of the change the Holy Spirit has worked in us.  Therefore I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.(1 Corinthians 12:3, CSB)

If anyone confesses from His heart that Jesus Christ is true God and Savior of the world, he possesses saving faith and salvation; it is alone by the grace of God.

Christ Himself told Peter, when Peter so clearly confessed Him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:17, CSB)

The Holy Spirit is the One who gave the Apostles the truth of God that is contained here in this Holy Word and given now also to us, and that truth is in fact the word of God .  So Jesus said, “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me.(John 15:26, CSB) But that truth is not only information, but the power of God that fill us with life (reference balloon). For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16, CSB)

To fill with life is to convert from unbelief to faith. It is through this word that the Holy Spirit works in us to bring us to faith and salvation.  He is active in us through this word and only through this word, for So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.(Romans 10:17, CSB)

But this conversion begins by convicting us of sin. As Jesus says of the Holy Spirit When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: (John 16:8, CSB)

We are at a common stage in history, wherein people are in rebellion against God and His basic order of life, protecting life and family at the very least.

Without the Holy Spirit bringing the law into its full clarity, many think they can act with impunity against the Lord.  But the Holy Spirit makes it ever so clear and final:  If you have ever sinned in your life, exalted your desires above him, and made man the measure of al things, then God will have nothing to do with you.  Heaven will go on without you.  An eternity of despair is yours.  Have you ever sinned?  If you are judged on the basis of the law of God, then you are lost. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone who does not do everything written in the book of the law is cursed. (Galatians 3:10, CSB)

Nobody is converted to faith by the law alone.  The law can only leave us in spluttering self-righteousness, trying to justify ourselves, or in abject despair without hope.

But the Holy Ghost not only clarifies the law, He also brings us the Gospel, the good news of our salvation. The good news is NOT that there is some exception to the law, that somehow we have slipped through. It is not that God has had second thoughts. Satisfaction must be made for sin. There is judgment upon individuals and upon nations.

The Good news is this, that in God’s eyes you and I HAVE suffered to make satisfaction for sin, inasmuch as Christ did in our place.  We have paid for our sins, in Christ.  As Paul says Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3–4, CSB)

By participating in His death through His gift of baptism, not only are our sins paid for, but the Holy Spirit works to change us so that we actually live a new life.  Just as the balloon became different with the air in it, so with the life of faith and the Holy Spirit in us we live a new life. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!(2 Corinthians 5:17, CSB)

2.   The Holy Spirit Gives a Variety of Gifts

In doing this, the Holy Spirit brings a variety of Gifts to believers, beginning with the gift of saving faith itself.  But there is more. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. (Galatians 5:22–23, CSB) These are the gifts by which God blesses His people through one another.

Don’t you just wish you had these in greater abundance?  One prayer I have for myself and for all of you is that we be “a blessing to others and an honor to our savior.”

That is counter-cultural in a world that exalts the self, that makes man the measure of all things, that despises the word of God and rejects His message of grace.

In spite of this corrupt spirit of our age, the Holy Spirit works in God’s people love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, and self-control.  This is above all so that the Lord may be known as He is – Holy and opposed to sin in wrath yet bearing that wrath for us on the cross so that there may be forgiveness of sins.

This love also shows in the people that God gives to the church.  We have pastors and missionaries and teachers and Sunday school teachers and guild workers and youth leaders and committee members and on and on.  And all of these because the Holy Sprit is active and working in the world through His word.

God Our Savior has created us and made us His own.

He has redeemed us from our Sin and atoned for the sins of the world.

But finally, He has touched our hearts so that we may despair of our own righteousness and rely on the righteousness He gives us.  And He has touched us yet again so that we live out that righteousness, imperfectly now, but in perfect joy in heaven.

 

So on this Pentecost day, let us pray God to send the Holy Spirit to us richly, let us covet His gifts and seek Him ever through His Holy Word.

 

AMEN.

By |2021-05-23T14:43:32-07:00May 23rd, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

CHRISTIANS HAVE GREAT GIFTS TO GIVE.

CHRISTIANS HAVE GREAT GIFTS TO GIVE.

Through His believers, our ascended Lord gives His gifts of grace to the world.  He bestows upon each of us gifts for us to spend upon this whole body of which we are a part.  When we consider the riches of these gifts, how vital they are to every soul, and what happens if they are used too late, we must stand in awe that God lets us have such great gifts to give.

The sermon for The Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 16, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant, Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

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1 Peter 4:7–11 (CSB)

The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins., Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus:  In these weeks leading up to Pentecost, our lessons, especially our Epistle Lessons on which we have been preaching, state categorically that the Power of the Holy Spirit that was active in bringing us to a saving faith in Christ our Savior WILL also so affect our lives that the life of each Christian will be touched, and the Church (invisible church, gathering of believers), therefore will be like no other gathering of people, for here the Grace of God is to be found.

Through His believers, God gives this grace to the world.  He bestows upon each of us gifts for us to spend upon ourselves, that is upon this whole body of which we are a part.  When we consider the riches of these gifts, how vital they are to every soul, and what happens if they are used too late, we have to stand in awe that God lets us…

CHRISTIANS ADMINISTER GOD’S GRACE

  1. With a Sense of Urgency
  2. Exerting Love for Yourselves as the Church
  3. Making Good Use of All the Forms of God’s Grace
  1. With a Sense of Urgency

Peter underscores the sense of urgency that God always connects with His saving gifts:  The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer.   This is fairly clear and cannot be over-emphasized.  The grace of God that gives salvation is the only thing that is ever enough to stand up against death and give life.  We have all had loved-ones die.  Who is next?  You?  Me?  Or may Christ come in one instant today and call every soul to judgment?

What every last one of us needs is to be “alert and sober-minded for prayer.” This doesn’t just mean that you get a good night’s sleep so your head is clear.  It is spiritual sobriety, serious-mindedness.

You know, there is nothing like an impending crisis to make our prayers more focused, right? As we have heard, Christ live, and has ascended into heaven so that He is present and active now through His word– and will come soon.

Although we don’t know when, we certainly know that the end of life – our life – is coming, and the only way that we can possibly know what waits for us is from Christ Himself:  “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.” (John 3:13, CSB)

There is no end of nonsense about the meaning of life and of death, and about the end of the world. I am sure that all your friends have loads of opinions, and we are encouraged to speculate all the time. Resist the temptation to listen, and especially to speculate yourself! Listen to His word, make room for it in your life, then don’t just listen to the Word of God, but believe and do.

Our sense of urgency is heightened by the fact that we need to be ready at all times, for when we are called from this world, it is too late to search for a way to heaven.  The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer [worship].  Spiritual sobriety comes from God’s word, and it leads to worship.  The expression here really refers to the worship of the church, and quite properly, the worship of the church is focused on sin and grace, repentance and faith, confession and absolution, so that we will stand in the righteousness of faith when Christ comes again.

This is the imperative:  Be serious and clear minded about spiritual things so that in your worship, in your spiritual life, you are prepared to be called.

2.    Exerting Love for Yourself as the Church

God’s word and worship come first, for the Gospel in word and sacrament are the means of grace, the means by which God gives and activates all the gifts that His mercy gives us.  But following after is the love that or Savior wants us to have for one another.  Above all, maintain constant love for one another [lit. “love yourselves,” since love covers a multitude of sins., Be hospitable to one another without complaining.

This is a very interesting way of saying things.  God says “love yourselves” because to love other Christians is like loving yourself, for we are all part of the same body.  If you look around you, you see people with whom you will spend eternity.  You see people whom God has given to you to be a blessing to you, and you to them.  To love them is to bless all of us together.  You can imagine the glee of Satan and the sorrow of our Savior when Christians turn against one another!

It isn’t easy to love.  So love deeply.  Exert yourself, for we are still sinners and not in ourselves all that lovable.  Even though we acknowledge our sins, and repent of them, they still show, and this love that we have must stretch to cover over these sins.  In such a situation, it is the forgiveness and grace of Christ that matters, and not the sin.  It is the blood of Christ that washed my sins away, and your sins away, and brought His perfect love to us that matters.  This love covers over our sins, so they do not matter.

This is what Christ meant when He tells us not to judge.  Accept one another as repentant children of God.

Love doesn’t stop there; it reaches out in hospitality to one another, making Christian hearts a place of rest for fellow Christians.  Let’s consider that word: hospitality.  It means welcoming guests.  In the persecutions that followed the writing of this letter, Christians fled throughout the world.  Symbols like the CHI-RHO and Christian anagrams might have been the assurance that here was safety from the sword of the persecutor.

Imagine if a family – or two – showed up at your door hungry, with only the clothes on their backs, needing every kind of care.  Peter’s encouragement, Be hospitable to one another without complaining was well timed.  But Christians showed more hospitality than that as they went on to start the first hospitals.  During the malaria-cursed summers in Rome, Christian hospitality saved many (not even Christians) who were left to die by their relatives who fled to the healthier hills.

But it stretches and exerts our love to care for one another.

And it is just this kind of exercised love that we need in this congregation and community right now.  By this I am not necessarily finding fault, for this congregation has a reputation for love and hospitality.  But we cannot grow slack at this at all.  Our love will be stretched!

3.     Making Good Use of All the Forms of God’s Grace

These are times in our congregation and community that are, frankly, difficult.

Many are hurting spiritually, have been alienated from their family, from other Christians, or even from Christ Himself.  Our community is full of the spiritually dead, wounded, and wandering, even if they don’t know it.  You have the gifts to do something about it.  10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Whatever your gift may be, it has been given to bless you, you the church, you the congregation, you the body of Christ.  Peter just gives some fleeting examples; it is love that will help you find your gift, and so enable to glorify our God and Savior.

Unfortunately, each one of us falls short of what we should be as an instrument of God’s love and God’s glory.  I imagine that we are like the person who was on his way to his remote home, out in the boondocks.  He has just been saved from a deadly infection by powerful antibiotics, and now he is ready to return home.  In that same remote area is another family, near death, but who will survive with these same medicines

So he is entrusted on his way with the same medicine that saved his life, so that he can bring life to this sick family.  But when he gets home, he finds that there is so much to do to get his homestead back in shape.  Besides, the family that is dying might get the medicine from someone else, or they might come over the hill themselves and pick it up.  It IS a long way for him to go out of the way, after all.  And besides, he might need it again.  So, when the last of the family dies, the life-saving medicine is still on the shelf in the kitchen.

10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God.

Whatever gift we have received, and it is probably GIFTS, plural, we have at times been too lazy, too busy, too sinful to spend them as we should.  Our love has been far less than it should have been.  In admitting this, we do what we have done before; we are conscience-stricken.  We are sorry.  We are ashamed.  We truly want to better, for the thought there are those who might die forever because of us, hurts to think about.

But the fact that we want to do better gives us no hope in itself.  It shows that our faith is alive, but it does not earn us heaven.  Our hope, rather, is that we live under grace.  You are forgiven for the poor way you have used the many graces and gifts of God.  Forgiven.  For Christ spent all His gifts, His very life, in the one way that would rescue you from the wrath of God.  He spent His righteous life for you and suffered God’s wrath for you.  Of this you may be certain.

The end of all things is near.  May you ever be clear about one thing:  Jesus Christ has died and risen again from the dead forever, and has given to you his own holiness and righteousness of life. … so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

AMEN.

By |2021-05-16T17:49:15-07:00May 16th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

DON’T JUST LISTEN TO IT, DO IT!

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DON’T JUST LISTEN TO IT, DO IT!

It is self-deceit to think that just because we have read something that we know it; that’s in the natural course of things.  James makes much more of it if we are talking about the “word, which is able to save your souls.” The Word of God isn’t just information, like a mirror that shows my tousled hair and scruffy beard but can do nothing about it. The Word of God reveals, promises and gives God’s gifts – life and salvation. To “Do It” is to believe and live in the promises of God’s word.
So, to us upon whom the ends of the world are come, your savior pleads with you, “Don’t just let my words echo in your ears.  Believe my word, trust my promises, live in My love.”

The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The sermon for The Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 9, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant, Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

James 1:22–27 (CSB)
22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does.
26 If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus:  Last week James, by inspiration, underscored the importance of hearing God’s Word, of making room for His word in your life, concluding, (James 1:21) 21 Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

James picks up right there with today’s text and makes the point that God’s word isn’t something that you can just take or leave as mere information, but something that works on the heart, and when it does, then

DON’T JUST LISTEN TO IT, DO IT!

  1. The Self-Deception of the One Who Only Hears
  2. The Blessing of the One Who Does
  1. The Self-Deception of the One Who Only Hears

James uses a picture to illustrate, 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was.  Now, what affect does looking in a mirror have?  We look, we see, we go on, and there is no affect or change in us.  A mirror has no power.  But the Word of God is different, for it has a lasting impact.  The Word of God is a living power that gives forgiveness, works faith, changes the heart, and directs the life.  (More on that later.)

But the person who is self-deceived hears God’s word as mere information and goes on with his or her life, unforgiven, unbelieving, unchanged, and undirected – all the while confusing lip-service with saving faith.

Therefore, unbelief isn’t necessarily someone rejecting the information, but someone who doesn’t receive it, who doesn’t repent and does not have the spiritual life of faith. Often, people like this are “cafeteria Christians,” who take this and reject that, subjecting God and His word to their own intellect or emotions. Their setting themselves above God’s word marks them as unbelievers.

A person who only “knows” about forgiveness may think that Christ’s redemption is freedom to sin.  That is self-deception; we all know better!  But one who believes the gospel, is changed in heart, and is free to live for God without fearing that he didn’t get things right enough to please Him.  Such a believer rejoices in forgiveness with every desire to live the righteousness that has been given by faith.

The person who thinks they can receive the all-powerful Word of God without an effect on life is self-deceived.  It’s the mirror thing again: They see something without it having any impact, any control, any power over their own notions. The person who claims to be a Christian, but never worships Christ, the person who claims to cherish forgiveness but never acknowledges her sin, the person who claims to love God, but doesn’t love his neighbor is self deceived.  John says If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20, CSB)

So faith and actions, believing and doing, are indissolubly linked together.

This is James’ point when he says, 22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. He is including FAITH as the essence of DOING.

This is true in life, after all.

Why DO you take medicine if you have no faith in it at all?  We live in love toward our family members because of our faith in our mutual connections, our family love.  If we love our country and believe it is a blessing, then we show it in taking part in the political process, even to change direction.  Faith is always linked, however imperfectly, to action.

2.    The Blessing of the One Who Does

And when one takes hold of such rich and wonderful promises as Christ gives, and lives them out in life, there are rich and wonderful blessings.  25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does.

It is important to note that the phrase, “the perfect law of freedom” is in a series with the life-giving “word of truth” (v. 18) and with the “implanted word which is able to save you. [1] It is not just the law in the narrow sense, but the whole Word of God, Law and Gospel in its full power and grace.

We referred to these blessings earlier:  The Word of God is a living power that gives forgiveness, works faith, changes the heart, and directs the life.

  • It is a living power: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.(Romans 1:16, CSB)
  • Gives forgiveness. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:23, CSB)

The promise of Christ gives what it promises, which is why I can assure you of the full and free forgiveness of all your sins.

  • Works faith – “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” (Romans 10:17, CSB)

Through the Gospel the Holy Spirit creates the spiritual life and faith through which we are reconciled to God and receive his gifts.

  • Changes the heart – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17, CSB)

Through this faith a person’s heart is truly changed so that according to our new nature we DO love Him and desire to serve Him.  It is no surprise that one whole category of discussion with God’s people is that they want to know “What would God have me do?  What is God’s will for my life?”

  • Directs the life – For God directs our life through His word, as the Psalmist says, Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105, CSB)

Without this word, a person’s way through life is without meaning or guidance, blown around by the various winds of her own desires, the prevailing group consensus, his conscience – mistrained as it may be – and self-service above all.

With God’s word, we know of the love and concern that our Maker has for us, and how He has brought it to bear in the saving and redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

With God’s word, we know that our journey through this broken world is a short one, ending either in eternal fellowship with God in heaven, or in eternal despair without Him in the emptiness of Hell.

With God’s word we know why this is a broken world, because sin entered into this world and into our lives.  We know what is at the root of broken families, broken societies, all sorrow, all grief, and death itself.

With God’s word we know where hope is to be found – in Christ and in His promises.

With God’s word we understand our place as God’s instruments in the world to death with its hurt and pain and brokenness.

With God’s word as a guide we understand our place in this world, and how, in fellowship with God Himself, we fit into His plans.  So when people give Christ only lip-service it really sounds hollow – as it is.  By His word God wires into our new nature the longing for true service to Him, as James says, as an example, to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

We may not have so many orphans and widows, but we have plenty of hurting people.  In preparation for Mother’s Day we are gathering our annual offering for World Needs. If you look, there are countless ways to bring God’s love tangibly to others, and with it the saving word.

And while we serve in love, we are also at war with the world that would pollute us and lead us again to love our sin and forget our Savior.

So, to us upon whom the ends of the world are come, your savior pleads with you, “Don’t just let my words echo in your ears.  Believe my word, trust my promises, live in My love.”

AMEN.

[1]Roehrs, W. H., & Franzmann, M. H., joint author. (1998, c1979). Concordia self-study commentary (electronic ed.) (253). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

By |2021-05-09T15:37:18-07:00May 9th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

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IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

The central truth of the Christian faith is , “1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; … . By his wounds, you have been healed. It is that by God’s grace we are saved. Jesus showed this love toward us in not seeking vengeance, but forgiveness:  23 when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree

This is why being a Christian also means that we expect to suffer as Christians so that the grace of God is manifest.

The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The sermon for The Third Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

1 Peter 2:21–25 (CSB)

21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth;, 23 when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray,, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Dear fellow redeemed:  Next week’s sermon will be on 1 Peter 2 that leads up to this lesson.  That section talks about living in this world and its brokenness while still keeping our focus on our eternity with Christ.  So when our reading begins, “For you were called to this” Peter is saying, “You were called to suffer for doing good.”  That is what happens when we live as Christ’s own in a corrupt world.

That is where we pick up our reading today, as Peter tells us that because we have been called to faith, called to Christ, even in the face of suffering,

WE FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

  1. We Live Under the Cross
  2. We Live Redeemed and Dead to Sin
  3. We Live Under the Good Shepherd’s Watchful Care – Through His Word
  1. We Live Under the Cross

The usual picture of the Good Shepherd is a romantic one, preserving the charm and the pleasantness while leaving out everything dark and hurtful.  It is easy to say that we would like to follow in the footsteps of someone who carries such a clean and cuddly and cute little bundle of fluff.  But remember, when we say that Jesus is the good shepherd, He Himself reminds us that He gave His life for the sheep.

We are the sheep who were lost and ready to be devoured.  He is the good shepherd who found us in our sins and fought off that wolf, the devil, as he accused us of our sins before God.  He rescued us, but not before He himself was mortally injured and gave up His life.

But because He is good, He not only suffered for protecting us, and not only paid the atonement price for our sins, death was not able to hold Him.  So Romans 4:25 “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, CSB)

Now Peter is talking writing just as real opposition was rising against Christianity, as the Christians were being identified as something other than a sect of the Jews (who were under Imperial protection).  Nero had used the Christians as a scapegoat for terrible calamities in Rome and this “great idea” of persecuting the Christians was spreading to the provinces.

Part of what Peter is doing is comforting the believers by reminding them that their Good Shepherd continues to watch over them, and that we have an eternal and joyful dwelling place with Him.  But He is also reminding the Christians that just as Jesus was called to suffer for doing good, so we too are called to do the same thing.  because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 He

did not commit sin, and
no deceit was found in his mouth;
23 when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

So when we suffer, as Christians, when we suffer because we stand up not only for what is right and true and virtuous, but also because we are gracious and forgiving, how are we to respond?  Like Jesus?  23 when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

What if the Christians had found those who turned in believers for torture and death and slit their throats in the middle of the night?  Perhaps they could have started whispering campaigns to ruin the traitors’ reputations and get them in trouble with the Roman authorities. Wouldn’t that have been fine!  They would have had a reputation like the so-called “Christians” fighting in Ireland and using terrorism to bring down the government, or in the Balkans, wiping out villages of Muslims in retaliation for previous atrocities.

As it was, the Christians got the reputation for suffering injustice. What were they remembered for? They were remembered for their hospitals and orphanages and for their hospitality and generosity.

The essence of our faith is Justification by GRACE through Faith.  God has dealt with us in undeserved love.  Christ dealt with His enemies in undeserved love. This is the way we are to treat one another.  This is the way we are to treat our enemies, even when they use the instruments of justice to treat us unjustly.  This is the way we are to treat one another in our families and in the church.

(Just for the record, this has nothing to do with the way that the government is to carry on its work of defending its citizens and punishing criminals.  Peter is talking about our individual role as Christians.)

2.   We Live Redeemed and Dead to Sin

You and I have been given a true view of our situation before God that is wildly at odds with our intuition, our expectations, and the general view of the world.  God has revealed to us in His word that every sin has been redeemed upon the cross. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; … . By his wounds, you have been healed.

That means my sins, your sins, the sins of our friends, our family, and even our enemies.  Our calling in life is to proclaim this to the world.

As corrupt and licentious as the world has become, the world still must deal with the problem of sin.  However else it may be defined, it is the fallenness of man that is the problem.

The only solution that is enough is the solution that God Himself has provided.  Only God’s grace is enough, the only thing ever enough to give us hope is that 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; … . By his wounds, you have been healed.

This is the central truth of all time.

This is the central truth of our lives.  This is what we live for, and he bore our sins and gave us his righteousness so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. What does that mean for us, it means that we truly love our Savior, and for his sake do live in some measure according to the righteousness He has given us.

Because we have the righteousness that is from God, and is by faith, we start every day as a Christian with a perfectly blank slate. Before God you are credited with no sin, only the good and virtuous things you have done out of love for him. I can’t say it enough: Remember that you are forgiven!

So, as a result of the righteousness given me, I am sad that sin is part of my life.  I’m sure you are, too.  There are the inadvertent lapses, there are the sins that are so appealing to our flesh and so overcome our weaknesses that we fall into them all too frequently- but then turn away from them again.  There are the secret sins about which only our Savior knows.  But this is not what we live for.

The phrase “die to sin” in the Greek is actually more like, “cease to exist.”  We don’t exist to sin, but to serve, and to love, and to give, and to hope – we exist for all that is righteousness.  And that existence is fulfilled in Christ and in eternity.

3.   We Live Under the Good Shepherd’s Watchful Care – Through His Word

This is what it means to belong to the Good Shepherd, who has made us his own, redeeming us on the Cross. 25 For you were like sheep going astray,, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  [you have turned around to be with the Shepherd and Overseer of your Souls]

This closing verse is the one that links everything back to the Good Shepherd.  Our calling to live under the cross, to live in grace, not giving evil for evil, but undeservedly loving others, our calling to live in the reality of our redemption instead of living to appease our sinful nature – all of this is because we follow the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us.

And He is still our good shepherd, giving us guidance through this valley of life in which it seems death rules and ends everything, unto Heaven itself, which is the very definition of life.

He leads us through this book, which is inspired and without error.  It is His living word, and it is truth.  Therefore it is not surprising that the world hates it, and rails against it.  But for all that, it is the living Word of God, and kindles faith in human hearts.  Through it our Good shepherd leads us through the deadly gloom and shade of this sin-cursed life to the new-made world of Heaven.

May we follow Him!

AMEN.

By |2021-04-18T15:07:56-07:00April 18th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMES THE WORLD

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THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMES THE WORLD

The  “world,” as John uses the term is everything in the world that is opposed to Christ and our salvation. Sin, death, deceit, unbelief, despair, and the like are all part of this world. Faith clings to the word of God, His testimony, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has life.” (1 John 5:11-12 (CSB))

By faith you have the Son. By baptism, and by His sacrifice, you “have the Son,” that is, by faith you have received the precious gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Forgiveness is yours, therefore eternal life, is yours, therefore the resurrection is yours, wherein you will live forever in true and everlasting joy, for…

The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The sermon for The Second Sunday of Easter, April 11, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

1 John 5:4–12 (CSB)
               4 because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.
               5 Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus Christ—he is the one who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify:, the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are in agreement. If we accept human testimony, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that he has given about his Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself. The one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Dear fellow redeemed: Remember what Jesus’ apostles do in their letters; they point out the significance of the objective realities, the “what happened” in the gospels, and they apply them to you. The event of Easter was that the One who is God but also a man, who was put to death by crucifixion, rose from the dead on the third day after. He was truly and physically alive, but immortal and incorruptible. There is more. He fulfilled the Scriptures in that His death was sacrificial. He made satisfaction for the sins of the world, and His righteousness is given as a gift to the world. It is also written that what was His, His satisfaction for sin and His righteousness is given by promise in word and sacrament, and it is received by faith.

It is part of this great cosmic war between God and the rebel angel, Satan (the adversary; the enemy), the Devil (the slanderer, accuser). God won. “The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works.” (1 John 3:8, CSB) So in the resurrection, Jesus destroyed the power of sin and death. “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22, CSB)

As John teaches here, this victory of Christ is played out in our lives and our times in this world. We too share in …

THE VICTORY THAT OVERCOMES THE WORLD

  1. The World Our Foe
  2. Faith Our Victory
  3. Eternal Life Our Salvation
  1. The World Our Foe

But for the time being, this world is occupied territory, so to speak, and so it is our foe. It was no wonder that John more than once wrote of “the world” as everything that is hostile to Christ and our salvation. As he said, “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)

So it is in our day, the world is arrayed against Christ and the salvation that He bought for us at the price of His suffering and death.  Then as now the danger of the world is that it separates us from Christ by undermining our faith.

  • The establishment of materialistic religion – that there is nothing beyond what we can see and touch and measure – biases all thinking against the Christian faith. The worldview of many is warped from reality.
  • Anti-Christian propaganda labels the Christian message of repentance and forgiveness as “hate,” and new laws explicitly set aside constitutional protections for the exercise of our faith.
  • The emphasis upon getting and having turns our hearts from our Savior to the idols and counterfeits that offer happiness but give nothing, hopelessness.
  • The world worships death. Whether it is abortion or killing human embryos for stem cells, Stalin’s genocide in Ukraine, or euthanasia, over and again the world clings to death as the universal solution.
  • Finally, “the world” as John uses the term, is completely enmeshed in deceit, in unbelief, and in rebellion against God.

    2.   Faith Our Victory

I could go on of course, but then we might miss the point that John makes that  everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.

Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

We conquer the world because by faith we receive the gifts of God. So while the world falls, we will stand, as Peter wrote, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; … [he gives other examples]… then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,” (2 Peter 2:4–9, ESV)

And about that judgment, Peter tells us, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10–13, ESV)

But our victory is not only at the last day! Overcoming the world is the opposite of the world’s works.

  • We are given a worldview that is not materialistic, but as revealed in the Scriptures, where spiritual, moral, historical and physical realities all have their proper place.
  • We replace the hate of the world with love, and see ever person as worth the price paid for them, – the blood of God’s Son.
  • We use the good things of this world without becoming enslaved to them.
  • We value and enjoy life as a precious gift and as a time of grace.
  • We endure the crosses of live without despair.
  • By the truth of the gospel we are freed of the lies and deceit of the world where it matters.
  • We live life in repentance and faith and in love toward our Savior.

We confess all this in the catechism, in the creed, “[He]  has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death; in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness…” (Second Article, meaning) “…He daily and richly forgives me and all believers all our sins; and at the last day He will raise up me and all the dead, and will grant me and all believers in Christ eternal life.” (Third Article, meaning)

   3. Eternal Life Our Salvation

Again, it is by faith that we receive the gifts of God, won by Christ and His victory on the cross.  John tells us, he is the one who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify:, the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are in agreement. If we accept human testimony, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that he has given about his Son.

That bit about the water and the blood seems unclear, but it is clearer if we consider the situation. John’s letter is written to people who may have been influenced by a heretic name Cerinthus, who denied the two natures of Christ, that Christ was both God and man. Cerinthus said Jesus was baptized with the Spirit that left him to die as any other man on the cross. But Jesus was not just chosen as a great teacher, but He is the Divine Sacrifice, hence the reference to the blood.

The specific heresy isn’t so important, for in all my 38 years of schooling, mainly secular, I found that the attacks on Christianity were all just rehashes over and over again, so what we need to remember is John’s response, that we need to preserve the truth in our faith: 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself. The one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about his Son. Faith is a spiritual life which is in us. We are alive to the truth, which is itself a testimony about Christ, our Divine Savior. We recognize the truth from the lies.

And what is the truth that we reflect upon, still in the glow of the resurrection? 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life.

By faith you have the Son. By baptism, and by His sacrifice, you “have the Son,” that is, by faith you have received the precious gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. Forgiveness is yours, therefore eternal life, is yours, therefore the resurrection is yours, wherein you will live forever in true and everlasting joy, for…

The Lord is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

AMEN: This is most certainly True.

By |2021-04-11T15:43:08-07:00April 11th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

DEATH OF DEATH AND LIFE OF LIFE

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DEATH OF DEATH AND LIFE OF LIFE

The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed!

In the “twinkling of an eye” all will be changed, at the last trumpet, when all believers share in the resurrection of Christ. Corruption puts on incorruption. Mortality puts on immortality.

In chapter 15 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us what Christ’s resurrection means for us. Death is dead, and Life will live in us because our sin is replaced with Christ’s righteousness.

The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed!

The sermon for The Festival of the Resurrection, Easter Day, May 4, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

______________________________________________

EXORDIUM

Dear fellow redeemed, for whom our Lord entered into death, and for whose justification He was raised again from the dead:

The Lord Is Risen!
He Is Risen Indeed!

Do you realize that when you say, “The Lord is Risen!” you  are saying so much more than if you just say, “Jesus is alive”?  The victory of Jesus over death was not accomplished just by His going to heaven.  He died and went to heaven on Good Friday; what happened on Easter was different.  I am right in saying that my mother, my father, and all the saints still live; they live in heaven.  But that isn’t what we celebrate today. We celebrate not just of the immortality of the soul that goes to God while the body returns to the dust. We celebrate the mystery of what happened to Jesus – His resurrection.

The significance of Christ’s resurrection is that He has defeated death for us and won resurrection for us. “But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22, CSB)

This is what is ours at the last day when the trumpet call of the angels echoes across the whole earth “all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out-…” (John 5:28) and “The dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thess. 4:16)

It will be the same for all believers, whether living in their bodies or “asleep” in the grave, our souls in heaven. So it is written,

1 Corinthians 15:51–57 (CSB)
51 Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 53 For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. 54 When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.,
55 Where, death, is your victory?
Where, death, is your sting?,

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

And so let us thank and praise Him together as we rise and sing the Easter Hymn. “Alleluia, Christ Is Risen.”

The Festival Hymn (All Rise)  

                                                  Tune: Hyfrydol – ELH #459  

1.
Alleluia, Christ is risen; His the scepter, His the throne;
Alleluia, His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! The songs of joyful Zion Thunder like a mighty flood:
“Jesus out of every nation Has redeemed us by His blood.”

2.
Alleluia, Christ is risen; He has conquered over death.
Alleluia, He has given perfect life to us by faith.
Grateful hearts and voices raising, we shall praise the King of kings;
Ceaseless thanks and cheerful praises down the ages joyful ring.

3.
Alleluia, Christ is risen, life to give where needed most;
Alleluia, He the firstfruits of the resurrected host.
He has led me through the valley of death’s dreadful gloom and shade,
With his gentle staff and comfort, leads me to a world remade.

4.
Alleluia, Christ is risen, Worthy is the Lamb once slain;
Alleluia, He redeemed us by His rich and bloody stain.
Wealth and glory, strength and blessing, wisdom, honor, songs we raise,
To the Lamb upon the throne: Unto Him be endless praise!

“Unto Him be endless praise!” indeed!

This year we have been preaching from the epistles, and so today, as is usually the case, the inspired epistles interpret, giving us the “why” and “what it means” of the historical realities recorded in the gospels.

So in our Gospel lesson today Mark records the straightforward declaration “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they put him.” (Mark 16:6, CSB)

The whole fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians is a dissertation on what this means for us, and particularly in these (nearly) last words of the chapter Paul addresses what will for us one day be a reality, for

DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY

  1. It’s from Death to Life for Us
  2. Because of Righteousness
  1. It’s from Death to Life for Us

Change is coming for all people, and Paul is here telling us of the change that will come to all the faithful. 51 Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

Scripture speaks of the change in many ways, but always in terms of joyful rescue from death and sin as in the words of Isaiah, “When he has swallowed up death once and for all, the Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove his people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8, CSB) Sorrow and tears be gone! Hello righteousness!

But Paul focuses in on what will happen to our bodies, whether we are living, or newly raised, things will be absolutely different. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 53 For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality.

Just as our bodies are suited to this present life, they will be suited to eternal life. Right now this body is corruptible, something I am aware of more and more each year. It is wearing out and it is approaching death, which is to say that it is mortal, doomed to die. Unless the Lord returns first, the day will come when each one of us will take our last breath, our hearts will stop, and our souls will have no earthly place to live. Sorrow, grief, separation, pain all are connected with such death.

But in a twinkling, that will all change. This corruptible body will be changed, and the new body will last eons – it will last forever – without growing weary or faint or breaking down or being afflicted with disease. And therefore we who have immortal souls will have also immortal bodies. As God created Adam and Eve perfect as beings with both body and soul, so we will be restored to that perfection: Immortal body and immortal soul.

Just as our bodies are now suited to enjoy all the blessings of this mortal life on earth, our resurrected bodies will be suited to enjoy all the blessings of whatever the New Heaven and New Earth may be, as the apostle John prophesies. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, CSB)

2.    Because of Righteousness

How can this be? The first answer to that is “Because God is the omnipotent creator.” But that has always been true. The important thing is the victory over sin. Sin has been our mortality problem. “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12, CSB)

What will make the difference in the defeat of death and the gift of immortality is the righteousness that is ours through Jesus Christ.

54 When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.,
55 Where, death, is your victory?
Where, death, is your sting?,
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Death is the punishment for sin, and sin has power over us because of the law that says, “The soul who sins shall die. ….” (Ezekiel 18:20, ESV) But the law has been fulfilled FOR US by our Lord Jesus Christ. The righteousness of His perfect life is ours, and He made satisfaction for all of our sins. (Once again!) For “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, CSB)

As Paul wrote to the Romans, the instant of our resurrection is coming and inevitable. “Besides this, since you know the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11, CSB)

May you spend part of each day reflecting on the perfect promises of God, and the perfect immortality that await us because …

The Lord Is Risen!
He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
  
AMEN!  This is most certainly true.

By |2021-04-04T15:11:15-07:00April 4th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

DIVINE CHRIST – SERVANT OF HUMANITY

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DIVINE CHRIST – SERVANT OF HUMANITY

In Philippians 2, Paul speaks clearly of the divinity of Christ, but also of His humiliation and exaltation. He became the servant of all and was obedient to death on a cross. So He became the greatest of all and is exalted above all others.
We are instructed to be of the same mind a Christ – as humble servants. For in service of others we are a glory to God and a blessing to one another. How different this is from the spirit of our age, in which people exalt their thoughts and feelings even above the word of Go

The sermon for The Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palmarum), March 28, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Philippians 2:5–11 (CSB)

Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be exploited.
Instead he emptied himself
by assuming the form of a servant,
taking on the likeness of humanity.
And when he had come as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
11 and every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus:  We are defended by the most powerful military in the world.  We have access to the most powerful antibiotics ever produced.  Whenever we plug into a light socket we are connecting to turbines with millions of horsepower.  But these are mere playthings to the God who created the universe and cast blazing suns across the heavens.

For He is all-powerful.  He has cast the mightiest spirit-beings created, the angels (the fallen ones), down to hell, and has held them in bondage, accomplishing a victory that matters in heaven and on earth.

But in our text today and as the Palm Sunday message itself, we consider that God is so gracious that He did not just choose victory, but victory FOR US.  In His omnipotence, God could have cast us down with Satan, whose pawns we are when we are born.  But in His grace, God took

THE HUMBLE PATH TO VICTORY

  1. God Took the Humble Path To Include Us
  2. Victory Took Christ from the Depths to the Heights
  3. III.  This Should Be Our Attitude Too
  1. God Took the Humble Path To Include Us

Every part of this is true: GOD took the humble path to include us.  God took the HUMBLE path to include us.  God took the humble path TO INCLUDE US.

By saying all three of these things, here in our text, Paul reveals a great mystery of our salvation.  (A “mystery” is something that is unknown, that is not understood, unless the answer is revealed.  This is why the “whodunits” are called mysteries.)

The first truth revealed is that GOD is the only one who can take the path that leads to our salvation:  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself… [made himself nothing]

For whoever was to accomplish our salvation, must possess the righteousness of God Himself.  What is more, He must be able to stand in for all of us, every one.  Finally, He must be able to give up His life and take it again.  All of this can be accomplished only by God Himself.

The second truth is that whoever is to save the human race had to live as we live, suffer as we suffer, be under the law as we are under the law, and die as we die. but [He] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And the third is that God did this so that YOU would not be left out of His salvation. (He took the form a servant, like a true human being.) John puts it this way: 1 John 2:2 (ESV) He is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.   1 John 4:10 (ESV) 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for  [as the one who would turn aside His wrath, taking away] our sins.

What this boils down to is that God the Son did what only He could do and did the only thing that could save us – humbling himself to our level, so that YOU WOULD NOT BE LEFT OUT, SO THAT YOU WOULD BE INCLUDED IN His work of salvation.

Yes, you.  Because your sin had separated you from God. Here you and I are, wandering on our way through life, not serving, but seeking to be served and serving ourselves, as though we belong only to ourselves.

Christ became servant of all so that nobody would be left out of His saving work.

GOD took the humble path to include us.  God took the HUMBLE path to include us.  God took the humble path TO INCLUDE US.

2. Victory Took Christ from the Depths to the Heights

And he was successful.  He did take our sins to the cross, and He did accomplish your redemption, body and soul.  So the day will come when the whole world will Honor Him for the glory of his sacrifice, for his boundless mercy and for his infinite sacrifice!!

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Some, many, countless millions, will honor Him now, in this life.  For He speaks to you, whoever you are, to reveal to you the mystery of your salvation.  Like the people on the road into Jerusalem, we will cry out in joyful response, “Hosanna, Hosanna!  Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.”  (Lord Save, Lord Save Now!  Above all things call upon Him for salvation, and Praise the One who lowly and humbly comes in the Name of the Living God.)

Sadly, however, many (most?) do not honor Him. Unbelief takes many forms, but we in our day need to recognize the way unbelief leads many away, and one way is by making the reality of everything “up to me.” The spirit of our age doesn’t honor Christ because it honors self above all. “I am lord,” replaces “Jesus is Lord.” This is why it is a serious thing that people deny clear truths. How else can a man say, “I am a woman”? or “Men can have babies too.” That same philosophy doesn’t ask “What is the truth about God? What has God revealed to man,” but “What do I think about God?”

3.   This Should Be Our Attitude Too

In contrast to this pride, we are to model the humility of Christ: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. In humbling Himself, Jesus still did what you and I cannot do.  He lived righteousness itself, and became sin for us, so that His righteousness could become ours.

Faith reflects this attitude, that we look up to Christ in His humility, and we find greatness not in putting ourselves above Him, but acknowledging that He, having stooped the lowest, to bear ALL the sin in the world – yours too – is our rescuer, our deliverer, our Savior.

And it is just such an attitude that makes a difference in our lives, and (as a result) in the world. We are free to serve.

Luther stressed this repeatedly and abundantly, in reference to the “Theology of the Cross,” the fact that we are called to serve and suffer and so find true joy in life and living. The greatest among us, God Himself, became our servant.

Again, the place of man in this world as a servant in love to God and neighbor is rejected by the world. Have we been infected by the ungodly notion that our self is the center of our universe, and that self can be what we choose, rather than what God made us?

Human beings were made to find joy in what He has made us, not in rebellion. But in rebellion, the unbelieving, anti-Christian world denies the realities of manhood, womanhood, motherhood, fatherhood, family, and the vocations of men and woman as providers and nurturers, as children, creatures of God. They deny these realities and replace them with the fictions of identity politics playing for power.

Do you think you choose what you are, or that you are what God made you? Within what God has made you, there is great freedom, in how you live out what you are. This is true of other attributes as well. Whether are a plumber, or a housewife, a dad, a provider, or a mom, or a teacher, or that you write computer code, or deliver mail, or sell products or services or care for the health of others, or keep books in a business, it is a combination of accepting what God has made you and what therefore gives you joy.

Luther would point out that it is because it is the way you were made.  It is the “way you are wired,” as we say today. You are what God has made you, and you know that both by what He has revealed to us in His word, and by the joyous discovery of the talents and abilities by which we honor Him and are a blessing to others.

Oh, people rebel against it, for sure, denying the true nature of our creation as men, women, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. But let me tell you, that you will find joy and fulfillment if you spend your life asking the question, ‘What has God made me? What has He made me for?  What does HE want to accomplish through ME?  How do I serve Him?”

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

It is a good thing to remember His humble path to our victory.

AMEN

By |2021-03-28T15:00:15-07:00March 28th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments