Talk about Shrewd!

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Use Worldly Wealth…

To Make Heavenly Friends

Luke 16:1–9 (CSB)

16 Now he said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions. So he called the manager in and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be my manager.’

“Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’

“So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one.

“ ‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’

“Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’

“ ‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’

“The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth, so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.

Dear fellow redeemed: This section is in a part of Luke in which Jesus is talking about God’s mercy, with the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. From that last parable, Jesus goes into this story about the shrewd manager. From there concludes with some interesting instruction:

USE YOUR MONEY TO MAKE FRIENDS IN HEAVEN

  1. The Basic Ideas
  2. The Story
  3. Now Go and Make Friends
  1. The Basic Ideas

Now the manager is like you, he was in charge of his master’s possessions and could do with them whatever he wanted, although if honest, he would manage them faithfully. Whatever we seem to possess is not really ours, we are just in charge of it for the Lord. We use the Lord’s property, including our minds, our talents, our time, our possessions, our money and our very selves for many different purposes. “Our stuff” definitely needs to be in quotes. It is our Lord’s.

Part of what you are in charge of is called “mammon” in the Bible. Basically, it is what you own beyond what you need for survival. It is your “expendable money” beyond what you need to stay alive. Here’s a newsflash: It isn’t ours. We don’t actually get to spend it any way we want; and we don’t get to spend all the money entrusted to us on ourselves.

This is obvious, really. All of us here have more money than we actually need to stay alive today. With the extra, parents feed and clothe their children. The earners provide for the non-earners in the household. We pay our taxes. We help out family, friends, or strangers. We give to charities to help others. We provide for the gospel. And we spend it on ourselves, from things we want, like telephones, or tv’s to downright luxuries, like fast food, good coffee, a nice car, or the like. Remember this is “mammon,” the wealth beyond absolute necessity, it is somebody else’s money, and we are in charge of it, and supposed to manage it well.

We have all heard of the parents who don’t feed their children, but have all kinds of cool toys, or the people who spend all their money on themselves in the form of drugs or booze or other vices, and so they can’t pay rent. We know of people who don’t use their time on themselves, so they lose a job when the don’t show up for work. Unfaithful managers.

Most people would say they misused their time, talent, and money wrongly. Because sinners so often use mammon sinfully, Jesus calls it “unrighteous mammon,” or “worldly wealth.”

These are the basic ideas. Now let’s get to the story.

2. The Story

The story begins with the “outing” of the manager. He has squandered his master’s wealth. Who knows what he spent it on? Whatever it was, the master didn’t get the benefit of his own money, and he fired the manager.

This manager was clever, and so for the little time he had left in which people would think he was in charge, he used his master’s wealth yet again. “Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’

He used his master’s money to be merciful to the master’s debtors. “So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one.

“ ‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’

“Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’

“ ‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’

Smart guy. Crooked as all get out, but a smart guy. He knew his master had a reputation for being merciful and wouldn’t countermand the merciful treatment of the debtors. Even the master praised him for his shrewdness.

“You be like that,” Jesus said (paraphrasing) Use the mammon, the extra wealth that you have (that isn’t actually yours) in a merciful way, so that others will benefit from it. Don’t be so “heavenly minded” that you are no earthly good. “The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth, so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.

Here’s the thing: Dishonest people in our society know how to take care of themselves: The congressman who loses the election finds a cozy spot with the lobbying firm whose clients benefited from the congressman’s votes. More on our level, a smart thief makes sure that he spreads the goodies around with his pals who cover for him. I can tell you that on the streets of Chicago the gangbangers are often deeply loved father-figures to children; they are the only source of the comforts of life. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. As strange is as it may seem, like the unjust manager, they are merciful with other people’s money. They know how to make friends

3. Now You Go and Make Friends

What does that say about the children of light, about Christians? Here we are: Everything we have is our Lord’s. Jesus is saying that if we are as shrewd as this crooked steward, we would be using His wealth, so often used unrighteously, to make friends for ourselves in the way that really counts, in the gospel.

Remember, this is not a way to heaven for you, for Jesus is talking to those who are “the children of light” already. His righteousness, including His perfect stewardship, is yours by grace through faith. As children of light, we want to do what is right, but we aren’t so good at it. Here Jesus is helping us get better.

To help understand all this, remember that we serve God by serving our neighbor. We don’t serve God by locking ourselves in a monastery and praying 20 hours a day, but by serving our neighbor, as Christ says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:37–40, CSB)

So, if the unfaithful manager knows how to make friends for himself in his exile, why don’t we? With OUR Lord’s money we could show mercy to people as well. We do this when we take good care of our families, when we are faithful in our vocations as we give glory to God, and as we bring the gospel to others.

Jesus says, And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth, so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. Have you given conscious thought of how you use the wealth of this world to build His kingdom? Think about it. Figure it out. It’s management of money with real purpose.

Use your money to live where there is a church, and your children can be taught.  Support Christian schools. How many would greet us in eternity because they were not seduced by the humanism of secular, progressive education establishment? We can mercifully befriend the lonely. In our day and age, the work of the gospel is in dire need. If you don’t know of enough opportunities on your own, then look through the flyers in your church mailbox. There is a great example there – remember the people in our foreign missions with Covid, who can’t work? Fortunately, the teachers in Peru were taken care of. They may join in to the “well done” of our Lord and welcome us into heaven.

Have you thought how it is that you have come to know the mercy of God because of someone’s thoughtful management of wealth in view of God’s mercy? It’s what enables me to stand here today to proclaim to you that you are forgiven and the righteousness of the Perfect Steward, our Lord Jesus, is yours

AMEN

By |2020-08-07T14:45:43-07:00August 7th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Running the Gauntlet of Deceit

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The Gauntlet of Deceit

Finding the Narrow Way

Matthew 7:13–23 (CSB)

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

15 “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!,,

Dear fellow redeemed: These words come at the end of the Sermon on the mount, and, appropriately, Jesus ends his sermon with a warning. There are three rather sobering scenarios here – taking a road that results in destruction, being deceived by a deadly enemy, and the false prophet expecting our Lord’s welcome on judgment only to be run off as a stranger. All warn about the same thing – eternal alienation from God.

All three have the same thing in common – damning deceit. The first is to take the wrong road, the second to cultivate the wrong tree, and the third to pass off false teachings as the word of the Lord. Again, the first two are metaphors of warning AGAINST false prophets, and the third is a warning TO the false prophets.

Many today meet Jesus words with excuses (I’ll continue the pattern): Who hasn’t taken a wrong turn and ended up on the freeway? How can you expect everyone to me a master gardener? And for the third, how am I supposed to discern true theology from false, true knowledge about God from false? The answer? Because …

THE TRUTH COMES FROM THE RISEN ONE

  1. He Gives Fair Warning
  2. He Establishes TRUTH
  3. He Rescues Us for Heavenly Glory
  1. He Gives Fair Warning

Jesus began the sermon with the gospel. He calls you to follow Him, to “repent and believe the good news.” He pictures the way as narrow and difficult, in comparison with the way that leads to destruction. Every person reaches the end of their road someday, whatever path they are on. Every religion (including atheism) teaches what road to take and what lies at the end. Every single person takes one road or another. Can you think of anyone who doesn’t make choices that guide their way through life?

Jesus has called you to follow Him, on this path that leads to eternal life. It is a path of sin and grace, repentance and faith, confession and absolution. It is to repent, to acknowledge our sin, humble ourselves before our Lord, and believe his promise of forgiveness. As Christians, we hold the worldview of our Lord as the One who made us, redeemed us, and guides us in life. He is our Savior.

But there are many who would lead us into the more “obvious” path. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing, they seem peaceful enough, attractive, harmless. But they will kill you. These are the false prophets. A “prophet” in this context is anybody who seems to teach the underlying truth of all things. It could be Joel Osteen, the Pope, the “bishopess” of the ELCA [the larger “Lutheran” church body]. It could be Bill Nye, the Science guy, or your favorite psychology professor. It could be Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrasse Tyson on “Cosmos.” It could be the helpful Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon neighbors. It doesn’t have to be from a church or an organized faith to claim to teach foundational realities.

But if a wolf looks like a sheep, how do you tell him from a sheep? Jesus continues with the picture of a tree. A bad tree produces bad fruit. An unbeliever produces false teaching, teaching that is contrary to the teaching of Christ.

Ours is the information age. Information, including teaching about fundamental, foundational realities, comes at us like water from a fire hose. People, you must be into the word so that you can compare the incessant din we are subjected to with the truth of God’s word. We are drowning in messages from every side that teach a materialist view of reality, that matter is all that there is.

Up to this point in our text, Jesus has warned US about the right path, and discernment of the truth. Next he tells us about THEM, the false teachers.  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (To do the will of the father is to be a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 12:48-50,  specifically to repent and believe the gospel, Matthew 21:28-32).

You need to know that many of the deceivers are deceived. No doubt the “bishopess” of the ELCA considers herself a Christian. She prays in Jesus  name. But the fruit she bears reveals her has a false prophet. Her “Bishop-Messages” page consists almost entirely of “progressive” political statements.[i] Her church body denies the substitutionary atonement of Christ,[ii] the key teaching of the Christian faith, that Jesus Christ died to atone for the sins of the world.

Jesus warns, 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers! What could be worse than on judgment day to be greeted, not with recognition, but with condemnation?

2. He Establishes TRUTH

Jesus warns against departing from the narrow path of the truth, so how can we know the truth? This is a serious question because we are bombarded by so many opponents of what Christ teaches.

First, what He teaches is the truth. “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:30–32, CSB)

Right after our text, Jesus goes on, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.”(Matthew 7:24–27, CSB)

But doesn’t every teacher make that claim? Actually, few make the claim that they are the source of truth. As many commented at the time, Christ speaks, not as one repeating the truth, but with authority, as the source of truth. And he should, for the simple reason that He is the Risen One.  He is the one who said he would be captured, crucified, dead, and would rise again. And He did. A multitude of eyewitnesses confirmed it. Many died rather than take back their testimony. The living reality of the Christian church, brought into existence by His word, proclaimed by faithful preachers, confirms it.

Other evidence would be the contrast between His guidance and the guidance of the world. Look around you. Who is happier, the person raised in a family, loving and faithful to a spouse, self-controlled, chaste, respectful, honest, and industrious, or the person who is dishonest, conceited, unfaithful, tears apart his family, and has no lasting attachment?  Yet the latter is the ideal of the day.

Christ not only teaches the former, but atones for, buys us back from, the destruction of the latter.

3. He Rescues Us for Heavenly Glory

For those who live in repentance and faith, who humble themselves before our Savior and cherish the good news of His redemption, there is life that never ends. The billboards of deceit point to the broad way, the way “everybody else” is going. The yammerings of the false teachers of this world lead to materialism, or a trust in our own righteousness, or to the dictatorship of our own feelings, or the compulsion of the crowd, or the intimidation of the powerful, or the browbeating of the elite.

The word of Christ, the narrow path, leads to heaven. The Risen One gives life beyond what we can imagine. As Paul put it, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, CSB) Have you ever thought of how foolish it is to chase after the petty pleasures of this world when the eternal pleasures and joys of heaven await us?

Any beauty here is just a hint of heavenly beauty. Any joy only a hint of heavenly joy. Any peace a hint of heavenly peace. Any love a hint of heavenly love. Any pleasure a hint of heavenly pleasure.

Stay with the true gospel of Christ. Stay on the narrow way.

Amen.

[i] https://elca.org/Resources/Presiding-Bishop-Messages These are nearly all “progressive” political messages.

[ii] “A second problem has been raised recently by feminist theologians. The concept of atonement, especially the satisfaction model, connotes that God the Father is a child abuser. If the notion of divine appeasement holds, then our heavenly father needs appeasing just as an earthly alcoholic father needs appeasing. The suffering of Jesus becomes a vindictive act on the part of God. Feminists denounce child abuse and wife abuse on the part of earthly fathers; and they fear that this atonement model sends a destructive message to faithful Christian families.” “The language of sacrifice in the New Testament is metaphorical, not literal. Jesus may have literally been a teacher, but he is metaphorically a sacrificial lamb or a Good Shepherd just as he is metaphorically a victorious warrior.” Theological Brief for PLTS/ITE Models of Atonement, by

Ted Peters. Ted Peters teaches systematic theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

By |2020-08-02T16:05:22-07:00August 1st, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Compassion for the Faithful

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Compassion for the Faithful

Bearing a Cross, but Not Forgotten

Mark 8:1–9 (CSB)

8 In those days there was again a large crowd, and they had nothing to eat. He called the disciples and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance.”

His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread here in this desolate place to feed these people?”

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked them.

“Seven,” they said. He commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves, he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. So they served them to the crowd. They also had a few small fish, and after he had blessed them, he said these were to be served as well. They ate and were satisfied. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces. About four thousand were there. He dismissed them.

Dear fellow redeemed, I expect that you have heard of Jesus feeding the 5000, and now here we have the feeding of the 4000.  Both Mark and Matthew were led by the Holy Spirit to include both events in their books of the good news about Jesus our Savior, so, it must be that there is something different between them.

Several things were different – the location, the amount to time, the response of the disciples, and even the size of basket used.  The one thing that I am going to focus on, however, is in verse two of our text, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. While both miracles show the divinity of Christ and his power to provide for us, this feeding of the four thousand shows the devotion of these people to Christ and His word while Christ compassionately provided for their needs.  This is just what Jesus taught in But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33, CSB)

PUTTING CHRIST FIRST, EVERYTHING FOLLOWS

  1. The Example of the Crowds
  2. Our Situation
  3. The Compassion of Christ in All Things
  1. The Example of the Crowds

And that is what the crowds of people were doing, putting Christ first and everything else after.  For three days they had been following Jesus away from the towns and villages.  Presumably many had set out carrying supplies; probably they shared, but they were so dedicated that they stayed with Jesus for three days until they ran out of food and had nothing to eat.  They were in danger of collapsing on the long way home.

Jesus had come into this area that was mixed Jews and gentiles with Jews in the minority. He had been teaching the people and had been healing the sick; Mark mentions the healing of a deaf-mute. These people followed Jesus because He had something they needed and wanted to hear.

What did Jesus have to offer that would cause such an effort? Nothing less than everlasting life. What do we have in our day to compare and to give us perspective? Nothing less than everlasting life.

This is what Jesus is revealing.

When Jesus came to announce the defeat of death and sin He showed that victory not only by His perfect life, but by His destruction of the effects of death and sin.  He healed the sick, made the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, as Isaiah said, Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; (Isaiah 35:5–6, CSB)

These things were right there, immediate, in the healing hands of the Savior.  And they are there for you too, if not this instant.  Remember the words of Peter when the disciples were asked if they would leave Jesus, Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68, CSB)

Are you willing to follow Jesus into privation, hunger, and poverty, in faith trusting Him to rescue you at last?

2. Our Situation

Our situation is like these people in that we have life through Christ’s word. It remains to be seen how much we must depend upon him.

So, to start, a simple quiz:

How can we hope for heaven?  Jesus lived a righteous life for us, and bore our sins for us to reconcile us to God.

How does Jesus give us forgiveness, life, and salvation?  Through the gospel in His word and sacraments.

How do we receive these gifts? By faith.  Mark 16:16, Whosoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.

How are we kept in the faith so that we do not fall away?  If you abide in my word, then you are my disciples indeed (John 8:31)

Over and over again Jesus connects our perseverance in the faith with faithfulness in hearing and studying His word.  Over and over again Jesus connects falling away from the faith with neglect of His word.  This leads to the simple question, “Is saving faith, is God’s word, important enough that you will go out of your way to live in it?”  Would you go hungry for it?  Would you give up time for it?

Many people make teeny individual decisions that gradually divorce them from the word.  If you go hiking next week instead of hearing the word that doesn’t mean you neglect the word.  If you read the Bible three times a week instead of seven, that doesn’t extinguish faith.  But little by little by little a thousand choices can lead to neglect until finally, as Jesus says, Luke 8:14 , [there are those who hear the word for a while,] but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. (Luke 8:14, CSB)

They are lost.

So look at those people who followed Jesus into the wilderness to hear him.  They put Him first.  I think you can figure out what that means in our lives.  We make the choice all the time to get the things done that need to be done, and so we put aside the less important things.

And we don’t have to give up much! A couple of ours for the word and sacrament each week. You can get devotions in your daily email.  There are reading plans to read through the Bible in a year, putting in fifteen minutes to a half hour a day.  You can get CD’s or tapes so someone can read it to you.

I can’t tell you how much time to spend with God’s word.  If it is important to you, it will be part of your life.  If it isn’t important to you it won’t be.  If it is important to you, you will not neglect it.  If it isn’t important to you, then you will neglect it.  The fact that you hare hear means it is important to you.  The important thing is that as your life situations change, you don’t let the worries, riches and pleasures affect you so that they come first instead.  Then we won’t see you anymore.

The crowds gave up days at a time and went hungry.  Heroes of the faith have sacrificed more: In China, Christians are being forced to renounce the faith and replace Christian symbols with images of Xi Jinping or lose all their income, over which the state has control. They are forced to replace the prince of life with one of the greatest mass murderers in human history.

In Portland, one of our church members was called into HR because he didn’t have a badge affirming transgenderism. Will our livelihoods soon depend upon mouthing the right party line?

3. The Compassion of Christ in All Things

The important thing from this text is to realize that our Lord will not desert us in such circumstances.

See His compassion: … [Jesus] called the disciples and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance.”

Taking the seven loaves, he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. So they served them to the crowd. They also had a few small fish, and after he had blessed them, he said these were to be served as well. They ate and were satisfied. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces. About four thousand were there. He dismissed them. (Mark 8:1–9, CSB)

Just looking at this example, I couldn’t promise you that you will do OK when you give up things for the sake of the word.  After all, this is just one occasion.  The fact is, though, that Jesus tells us this is just one occasion in which He shows His limitless compassion.  Just a couple of chapters earlier He says, (again) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33, CSB)

We don’t have it bad compared to so many others, yet many Christians, dealing with their worries and charmed by the riches and pleasures of life have neglected the word.  They have fallen away from the faith.  They no longer teach their children nor witness the saving truth to others.  They have fallen away into unbelief.

Will you go with them?  Or will you answer with Peter, Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68, CSB)

Seek Christs words, and His kingdom, and Jesus will take care of you.  Forever.

AMEN.

By |2020-07-26T17:43:43-07:00July 24th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Face to Face with God

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Face to Face with God

Catching People

Luke 5:1–11 (CSB)

5 As the crowd was pressing in on Jesus to hear God’s word, he was standing by Lake Gennesaret. He saw two boats at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the land. Then he sat down and was teaching the crowds from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
“Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”
When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.” 11 Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.

Dear fellow redeemed: Can you connect the dots between what happened here in this text and where you are today? Put simply, God invaded this world, called people to Him by His word, demonstrated His divine power (sometimes frightening those who really saw it) called others by His word who would, by that word, call still others to Him, and so on throughout history. You and I are here because of it.

What happened to Simon was that when the nets filled, it was brought home to Simon that he was …

COMING FACE TO FACE WITH GOD

  1. See His Blessings
  2. See Our Debt
  3. Behold His Mercy
  1. See His Blessings

Luke, remember, is recording all of this by inspiration, but also by careful investigation of all the accounts of Christ’s life and ministry. The Holy Spirit used Luke’s observations and conclusions to shape a picture for us that the Holy Spirit uses to reveal the truth to us – truth that is not just information, but a divine power that offers and gives what it proclaims.

We are presented with this reality of Jesus and His word today: By His word, Jesus confounded Satan when tempted in the desert. By His word Jesus proclaimed Himself as the fulfilment of the prophesies of the Savior, as the one sent with the power of the Holy Spirit by the Lord (Yaweh). By that word many were called to follow Him: They were all speaking well of him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth; yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”(Luke 4:22, CSB)

But because of unbelief, many despised that word, and Christ: They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. (Luke 4:29, CSB) This happened even when He performed stupendous miracles.

Many who were called to faith were reluctant to let Him go elsewhere, but he persisted: But he said to them, “It is necessary for me to proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43, CSB)

So that brought Him throughout the land; and now in Galilee, we see him so overrun by crowds (s!) that he has to grab a boat from some fishermen He knew and teach from out in the lake so they could hear Him. Do you see how His impact is compounded? It is no wonder He was known far and wide even in those days. Please understand that He does not teach moralistic tales life a self-help speaker, and He doesn’t do little tricks like an illusionist. He reveals the Kingdom of God, the action of God in this world, and He moves the physical world at his command. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

Simon Peter gets that. He saw Jesus heal his mother-in-law. That may be one reason he and his partners do what Jesus told them, even though as expert fishermen they knew that a carpenter/preacher wasn’t qualified to give fishing advice. And yet, two boats could scarcely make it back to the shore with the catch. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”

When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Christ revealed Himself, and Simon saw Jesus as the One who had been feeding, clothing, and providing for him all his life, including his life as a fisherman. We should too. The sun, rain, food, clothing, shelter, wealth, comfort, and peace we enjoy is part of the “daily bread” that this Jesus, Creator and Preserver, bestows upon us.

But there is more to this Christ, and Peter saw it.

2. See Our Debt

Peter also saw the relationship between himself as a sinner and Christ as His righteous Lord. He’s the one who spoke of it, but they all grasped the situation. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners.

Let me tell you, if we were openly confronted by our Maker, without anything to shelter us, you and I would also fear, for we are sinful. Everything that you have hidden away in your past is an open book to HIM, and the just displeasure and judgment of true holiness toward our sin would be an open book to US.

What do you suppose was featured in Peter’s catalog of shameful thoughts, words, and deeds? Why was he embarrassed? He knew the psalms. He knew that with God there is forgiveness. In fact, why do I preach against sin – mine and yours – if we know we are forgiven?

Two main reasons: Complacency and despair. We may become so complacent over our sins, too used to being forgiven, even, that Christ as Savior means less and less to us so that we lose faith because of indifference. OR We may be so accused by Satan, others, and by our own conscience that we lose trust in Christ as the true Redeemer from such sins as ours, and so despair.

Already as we read our text, we must have heard the part, “you will be catching people” and “they … left everything, and followed him.” And hearing that we know we have not been quick to share with others the hope that we have in Christ, nor have we been willing to give up much to follow him, we have to question our own commitment. What is wrong with us, that we can’t invite a friend, acquaintance, co-worker, or family member to church? What is wrong with us that we are so attached to our possessions that we can’t do with a little less to provide for the work of the gospel?

It’s tough to confront ourselves. But think what it was like for Peter. Peter knew Christ. He had been to his home, healed his mother-on-law, taught Simon and the others. Yet they had regularly left Jesus to fend for Himself and gone on with their daily lives. I’m sure they were glad of the gospel, but it hadn’t upended their lives or anything.

But now, confronted with the Lord of Righteousness, Peter couldn’t ignore his shortcomings and his obligations.

We also know Christ. We receive His gifts daily. We hear His comforting words, but we haven’t had to upend our lives or anything. We haven’t been “canceled” on social media, or lost a job because of who we talk about forgiveness with. We, too, feel naked when we come face to face with God as we do through His word.

3. Behold His Mercy

But now comes this powerful word of Christ again: “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon.

Again:

“…he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord. …
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.”

Jesus gave Simon his freedom. He could live his life as a Christian without fear. Was Simon perfect as an apostle? Well we know that Paul had to personally rebuke him for his behavior, so, no, he wasn’t perfect. But did that separate him from Christ? No, it didn’t, because of His grace. Because of the Grace of God, we possess the righteousness of Jesus, by faith.

That freedom is yours too. You are free to serve Christ without fear of condemnation that you didn’t do it well enough, weren’t dedicated enough, weren’t correct in your judgment. It is in daily repentance before Christ, and in his declaration, “Don’t be afraid, rejoice, your sins are forgiven!” that we live in this freedom.

So, bear witness of the hope you have, without fear of getting it wrong, or offending your Savior. You can give up everything, without fear that you will be in want. Simon Peter saw his ability to provide for him. You see it too.

AMEN

By |2020-07-12T15:16:03-07:00July 10th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Be Merciful

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Be Merciful

The forces arrayed against morality and truth are not merciful, but hateful and vindictive. MERCY is what’s different about the Christian faith.

Luke 6:36–42 (CSB)

36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

39 He also told them a parable: “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

41 “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the beam of wood in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the splinter in your brother’s eye.

Dear fellow redeemed: If you watch the news, do you think there is anybody you could find fault with? With the people tearing down monuments? With those who set them up in the first place? With those setting up independent states? With those who are looting and burning? With a Supreme Court who says the “right” of a woman to kill her child shouldn’t be even “burdened.” With the firing of people because they don’t put a blurb out on social media showing solidarity with black lives matter?

I’m not going to ask for a show of hands on any of that; and what’s more, because what all those examples have in common is a lack of mercy, I won’t tempt you to be merciless either. Remember this: The essence of the Christian faith is the mercy of God.

THE ESSENCE OF THE FAITH: GOD’S MERCY

  1. People “Justify” Themselves
  2. Christ Justified Sinners
  3. One Sinner to Another
  4. Judgment God Doesn’t Condemn
  1. People “Justify” Themselves

The natural state of things is for people to justify themselves while condemning others. I remember the six-year-old Karen in Sunday School who, after the opening prayer announced, “Mark had his eyes open during the prayer!” “And how did you know that, Karen?” asked the teacher. We smile at those kids, but we carry those same judgmental traits into adulthood, often without mercy.

Judgment without forgiveness is the order of the day today. This is beyond any kind of political statement, this is as much a matter of faith and doctrine as a society turning away from Christ to Islam, paganism, or humanism.

It is widely taught and accepted today that Christianity is an irredeemable evil, because its message is to uphold the patriarchal family, convict as sin the now-protected practices of killing the unborn, homosexuality, lesbianism, denial of God’s order in creating men and women, of pornography, sex outside marriage, and the breaking of marriage. And Christian churches would prohibit them if they could.

2. Christ Justified Sinners

Now before you say, “You betcha!” listen to Jesus. The message of Christian faith is God’s mercy. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Are there Christians who have had abortions? Who have viewed pornography? Who have entered their bed before their marriage? Who have same-sex attractions, distorted view of themselves, or broken their marriage vows?

Did Jesus try to stop them? Or did He eat with them and proclaim forgiveness to them? Didn’t he make one murderer an apostle? And what did that murderer write?- “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.” (1 Timothy 1:15, CSB)

So the judgment of this world isn’t our responsibility; it is the Lord’s, and He doesn’t want to bring down damnation on people, but as Peter writes, The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, CSB)

3. One Sinner to Another

If we are to be in a rush to identify sin, then it should be to find it in ourselves. “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the beam of wood in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the splinter in your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:41–42, CSB)

We find it so easy to be critical of others, don’t we? You find fault and get in a high dudgeon over people doing what they have no permission to do, or not doing what (we say) they are supposed to do. Do you not hear how holier-than-thou that is? Do you not see how the cloud of disapproval you project over others is so devoid of mercy?

One of the definitive studies of the issues that destroy marriages found  that it wasn’t money, as many people think, it was disapproval. We just cannot live under a constant cloud of disapproval, especially from those who are important to us. Not surprisingly, that holds true for Christian congregations. I know of pastors who have resigned from the ministry because of the constant barrage of disapproval. Nothing they did was ever good enough. And likewise, people have left congregations because there was no hope, just a constant drumbeat of what they must do and not do, from the pastor or from other members.

To deal with such disapproval, we must self-justify ourselves – as in self-righteousness,  or we must despair and suffer, or must leave and avoid the pain.

So, does this mean that we are not to judge at all? As one of the most taken-out-of-context verses in the Bible, it is used by many, not for the sake of mercy, but for the toleration of evil. “You don’t like my gossiping? Who are you to judge?” “You think I should be in church? ‘Judge not, lest you be judged.” “You don’t like my foul mouth? Don’t be ‘judgy.’

But Jesus Himself tells us First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the splinter in your brother’s eye. When we have a sense of our own sin, then and only then are we to reprove a brother or sister. First, when we fear for their soul, as Paul instructed the Galatians, Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, CSB) We go to them as one sinner to another for the sake of their soul, not to condemn them but to restore them to repentance and faith. For Christians, in repentance, can see clearly and we welcome them.

What Paul writes about is in harmony with the rest of Scripture, for example “Do not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. (Leviticus 19:17, CSB) And of course Psalm 51 is familiar to you. We know our sin, For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. (Psalm 51:3, CSB), Yet in repentance, Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. (Psalm 51:12–13, CSB)

But for the most part, as we gather here, confess our sins together, commune together, and confess our faith together, there is no room for judging, or for that cloud of disapproval. For though you may know of the sin of someone, you know that they live under the righteousness of Christ, for they live in repentance and faith.

4. Judgment God Doesn’t Condemn

We also judge according to our various vocations in life. A more nuanced translation of verse 37 is, “Do not judge, except so as not to be judged [by God].” There are times when to NOT judge is to call down God’s judgment, as we saw in Leviticus 19:17. Think also of parents, Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV) Think of Eli the priest who was struck down because he didn’t correct his sons.

In verse 26 of this same sermon, Jesus said, Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets.(Luke 6:26, CSB)

So we must discern false prophets. For For the word of the Lord is right, and all his work is trustworthy. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love. (Psalm 33:4–5, CSB)

As citizens of this country, we judge the affairs that are set before us, as sovereigns, and hold people accountable when they outrage what is right and good and true. (Cit.)

But above all we are merciful.  36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. At any time, you may look around you: Everyone you see is an object of God’s mercy. The blood of Christ was shed for him or her. I see you, and I know the blood of Christ was shed for you. You are forgiven; you possess the righteousness of Christ; you are clean. How can I disapprove of you, despise you, or turn away from you, for God himself has not, but “His face shines on you.”

Amen.

By |2020-07-05T15:40:18-07:00July 5th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

The WORST EXCUSES to pass up the BEST INVITATION.

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The WORST EXCUSES to pass up the
BEST INVITATION

Luke 14:16–24 (CSB)

16 Then he told him, “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. 17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 “But without exception they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, and therefore I’m unable to come.’
21 “So the servant came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’
22 “ ‘Master,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’
23 “Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those people who were invited will enjoy my banquet.’ ”

Dear fellow redeemed:  Through Luke and the gospel he wrote, the Holy Spirit speaks often of a rescue.  God has invaded this world so that His kingdom now includes us.  In His kingdom the sick are healed, the dead are raised, and above all sinners are made righteous.  This is an invasion that begins among the Jews, but then encompasses the whole world.

This theme of rescue, and of God’s grace and mercy, and the value He places upon every human being, body and soul, is expressed over and over again, and so beautifully in the next chapter in the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost rebellious son.

But another theme centers on the great grief God expresses about those who will not be rescued because they are indifferent to the Lord’s goodness and mercy. I don’t know how it could be any more pointed than it is in this parable of the Rich Man’s Banquet and

THE WORST EXCUSES TO PASS UP THE BEST INVITATION

  1. The Banquet
  2. The Invitation
  3. The Excuses
  4. God’s Grace
  1. The Banquet

The setup for the parable includes a “great banquet.”  Lots of people had already been invited to it and all the preparations had been made.  This banquet is eternal life and salvation.  We could say that it is heaven, but it is more than heaven.  The kingdom of God has invaded all time and all history, so that even now we partake of this feast.  God Himself serves us in His word with the sweet comfort of forgiveness and wisdom, guidance, and correction.  He serves us with the cleansing bath of Holy Baptism, refreshing our souls and washing away the dirt and grime of our sins.  He sets out the feast of salvation in the Holy Supper of Christ, where He Himself is both the host and the feast itself.

How this foretaste of heaven will be fulfilled in eternity is an exercise in our imagination, for it is written in Romans “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18, CSB)

What’s more, Paul quotes Isaiah, 1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived— God has prepared these things for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, CSB)

What we can be sure of is that in that great love that God has lavished upon us, redeeming us from our sins and making us His children, God has everlasting joy and happiness in store for those who heed the banquet invitation, that is, those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

2. The Invitation

This is an interesting invitation.  Note that at first, all of the people in the parable already had already received an invitation.  16 Then he told him, “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. But now the feast was ready.  This is like the Jews who had already known about the salvation that had been promised.  But now it was ready.  17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’

But the Jews, even though they knew the invitation, would not heed it as it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  They had excuses. It is like people in our day who have heard all their lives about heaven and about Christianity.

But there comes a time when the invitation goes beyond a “save the date” and it is time to come.  Jesus had been proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is here.”  Paul and all true preachers of the gospel have continued, “…We also appeal to you, “Don’t receive the grace of God in vain.” For he says: At an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:1–2, CSB)

People in our day, too, have heard of the invitation but when it comes right down to NOW, they have excuses.

3. The Excuses & Consequences of Refusal

, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 “But without exception they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, and therefore I’m unable to come.’

All of these excuses are “instead of.”  It isn’t that they are wrong in themselves, but they take the place of the banquet.  So it is that the reasons for those who are invited to “repent and believe the gospel” ignore the gospel invitation.

And we need what this invitation gives: Forgiveness, life, and salvation! In the parable, Jesus doesn’t dwell on our great need for salvation, but outside this banquet, outside His kingdom of faith, there is death.

Indifference is deadly. But even though the banquet has started, so many cannot be bothered.  24 For I tell you, not one of those people who were invited will enjoy my banquet.’ 

What about those who don’t care about the gifts and the heaven God has prepared for those who love Him?

21 “So the servant came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’

Now why am I preaching this to you if you are here receiving His gifts?  First as a warning, I suppose, lest you grow indifferent..  Second, it underscores the need to continually witness to others that sinners like you and me have been redeemed by Christ and reconciled to God by Him.

4. God’s Grace

But you must realize that here is also the message of God’s grace.

21 “So the servant came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’
22 “ ‘Master,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’
23 “Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be filled.

You and I, after all, are among those who lived in the streets and alleys.  You and I are among the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.  We are from the country lanes, far away from Judea.  But as far as we are away, so far has he sought us out to win us for Himself.

It is the love of God that did this.  For nobody deserved this banquet.  Nobody deserves heaven.  If God had never sent His son, but had let every last one of us be damned, it would be just.  We would get what we deserve, even the “best” of us.

Thanks be to God that his servants came so far as to find us.  God grant that we may go so far as to find others, so that we may all together proclaim the mercies of our Savior at the eternal banquet.

AMEN.

By |2020-06-21T14:10:31-07:00June 21st, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Hope According to God’s Promise

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Hope According to God’s Promises

Set Your Hope with the Promises of the Lord in View

Luke 16:19–31 (CSB)

19 “There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. 20 But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was lying at his gate. 21 He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side., The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’

25 “ ‘Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’

27 “ ‘Father,’ he said, ‘then I beg you to send him to my father’s house—28 because I have five brothers—to warn them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

Dear fellow redeemed: Most of the time, the portions of God’s word which we consider each week go together and form a whole. Therefore, what we end up with is greater than if just taking one after the other.

Last week Jesus taught Nicodemus (and us) that our spiritual life – which is the eternal life of faith, is the gift of the Holy Spirit and it is an eternal life. But it can also be discarded, rejected or scorned as Nicodemus did, in favor of something more attractive to the flesh. In Luke’s gospel, that “something more attractive” is money, wealth, prosperity, affluence. The Pharisees were described as “lovers of money,” and they possessed their money with the pride that it was an indication of God’s favor, as opposed to being “born again of water and the Spirit.”

But your hope of heaven does not depend on your earning or deserving it, and even more, it doesn’t depend upon some earthly sign or indicator of God’s favor. God’s love for you is shown in something completely apart from you: “He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. …(Romans 8:32, CSB) So, even in misery, we should

HOPE ACCORDING TO GOD’S PROMISES

  1. Beware of Idols, Counterfeits
  2. The Miserable Will Be Comforted
  3. Take Comfort Now in the Word
  1. Beware of Idols, Counterfeits

The rich man has no name. His name is not written in God’s book of life. He had the veneer of religion but had no faith. He was a Jew, a “son of Abraham,” knew of Abraham and the prophets, but his love was for money, by which incidentally, he assured himself he was in God’s favor. He was lavish in his tastes. He enjoyed a feast every day; a simple meal wasn’t enough.

Understand the context here, just before this, Luke wrote, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and scoffing at him. And he told them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.(Luke 16:14–15, CSB) The rich man was made of the same cloth as these Pharisees who scoffed at Jesus when He said that riches don’t show us innocent in the eyes of God. These were the self-congratulatory elites of their day, certain that THEY were in God’s favor and scorned people like Jesus who came as a servant.

I expect that all of us have something about ourselves that we think puts us “in God’s good books,” that makes us complacent about our faith. Is it that we are well educated? That we are members of a confessional Lutheran church? That we have the right politics? That we look down on people who have politics? Is it that we are prosperous? Well washed? Well-adjusted? Popular?

None of those has anything to do with what we really need— that we are born again of water and of the Spirit. And 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) This is the opposite of self-righteousness, of condescending elitism, or of loving only the lovable.

His unbelief, his idolatry in making money his idol, showed in his utter neglect of poor Lazarus. He wasted more food than Lazarus needed, but he wouldn’t share it. So, he died and was buried and went to hell. He had no righteousness by which to claim heaven, rather his selfishness condemned him.

In telling about the rich man, Jesus captures his arrogance and pride, as he demands comfort from Abraham and expects Lazarus to serve him. 23 And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’

     2. The Miserable Will Be Comforted

But things were different for Lazarus. Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. This is something that Luke emphasizes often in his gospel, the principle of reversal. Remember Mary’s song? “He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51–53, CSB)

The fact is that for those who do not repent, there is justice, and justice for God’s people. “For the Lord loves justice and will not abandon his faithful ones. They are kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked will be destroyed.(Psalm 37:28, CSB)

We call this the “Great Reversal.” What God is revealing through Luke is the fact that while none of us deserve His mercy, and that our place in heaven is a gift, that nevertheless he truly loves us, appreciates the faithfulness of those whom He has made His children, and is eager to save and glorify those who have suffered and struggled in this world.

   3.  Take Comfort Now in the Word

This is one more source of hope for us. I can tell you that for fifty years I have looked out upon congregations and seen their struggles. The young people trying to find their way in the world, the parents struggling with rebellious children, faithful children struggling with abusive parents. People torn up by unfaithfulness in marriages. Poverty. Sudden illness. Loss of a dear loved one. Loneliness. Victims of crime. Murder, robbery, rape. Fortunes lost. Injury and disability. Unbelief on the part of loved ones.

But in such a situation Paul wrote (maybe even thinking of this illustration of Jesus) “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.(Romans 8:18, CSB) Our suffering and struggling will be as nothing when, like Lazarus, we are carried to our eternal home and are resurrection to the eternal life where is the ultimate of all joy, all beauty, all peace, all love, all music, all nature, all art, all thought, all dance, all creativity, – – – all good.

Now, the last part of the text deserves its own sermon, but just take this from it. There is no hope in the idols of this world: fame, pleasure, wealth, government, medicine, philosophy, science, or just plain money. Dust and ashes they will be. Escape from these idols is not to be found in emotional pleas, waves of popular social approval, great signs, or even the marvels of God’s power.

We escape from these idols through the rebirth that comes from the Holy Spirit working through the word and sacrament, as Jesus says through his character, Moses, 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

So don’t find your hope in the idols of this world, but HOPE ACCORDING TO GOD’S PROMISES.  Find your hope in God’s word, Moses, the prophets, the witness of the apostles. For through them the Holy Spirit works life in us and keeps us in the one true faith until all becomes new, the old passes away, and we stand in the presence of the Lord.

God grant it to each one of you!

AMEN.

By |2020-06-14T14:33:25-07:00June 14th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

How Can Someone See the Kingdom of God?

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How Someone Can See the Kingdom of God

John 3:1–15 (CSB)

3 There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform these signs you do unless God were with him.”

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again,, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

“How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus.

10 “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied. 11 “Truly I tell you, we speak what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you do not accept our testimony. 12  If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.,

14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Dear fellow redeemed: On this festival of the Holy Trinity we acknowledge the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity of the true and living God, the God who is actually there, as contrasted with all of the counterfeit religions out there, the Mormons, Muslims, pagans, atheists, and whatnot.

We have confessed that in the Athanasian Creed, so we don’t get careless or lax about Who is the true Creator, Redeemer, and Faith-giver.

Because He IS the true God, we see it reflected in our text that there is one God, but that this God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Reflected. What is actually taught here is …

HOW SOMEONE CAN SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

  1. By the Creation of New Life
  2. That Opens Our Eyes to See Heavenly Things
  3. Because of Christ’s Gracious Redemption
  1. By the Creation of New Life

John has begun His gospel by proclaiming that Jesus, about whom He is teaching, is the Word, the true revelation of God, and that He is the Creator. “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.(John 1:3, CSB) Now He has entered this world He continues to create life where death has intruded, death in the form of unbelief, which is spiritual death. He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.(John 1:10–13, CSB)

This new life cannot create itself, but is created according to the will of God. (By the way, it is in teaching this faithfully that the Lutheran church is distinguished from the “evangelical” heresies that are so popular.)

So along comes someone who is dead and blind: Nicodemus. He comes at night. In just the next chapter, John says, … people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19, CSB)  So, John doesn’t give any reason to think that Nicodemus was a believer. And Nicodemus reveals this attitude in the way he addresses Jesus, not as the “Eternal Word,” but as someone who had God with him, like Jeremiah or Malachi; modern liberal theologians would say as much.

While Nicodemus uses flattery and yet confronts Jesus as less than He is, Jesus lays out the fundamental problem of humanity and its solution:  “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The human problem is that we are born spiritually dead, so we must be born again. Literally, the Greek is “born from above.”

Nicodemus replies sarcastically about going back into the womb, showing he doesn’t understand. Jesus goes on: “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

This is a spiritual birth, a birth of the soul by the power of the Holy Spirit. You have a physical birth as God blesses the union of your parents – with you. But they cannot give you life. The work of the Spirit is shown in the spiritual life of faith and all the fruit it brings to our lives.

2. That Opens Our Eyes to See Heavenly Things

If there were a good candidate to get these things and “make a decision” for Christ, it would be Nicodemus. As a leader of Israel, He should know about the grace of God. Israel was not chosen because they were special, or Abraham was special. They were special because God chose them.

But “How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus.

10 “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied. 11 “Truly I tell you, we speak what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you do not accept our testimony. 12  If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

This is an application of what Jesus had just said about being “born again.” Coming to faith is a miracle. It isn’t something we earn, deserve, are “more receptive to,” or are more prone to. It is just like the mystery of existence itself. Once, according to the flesh, we were not, and then we were given life and were born, and now we live.

“Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Jesus is speaking of baptism here. “Water and the Spirit” is one thing; it isn’t “of water and OF the Spirit,” but “of water and the Sprit.” Where God’s word is, there God is, and so there is the Spirit.

For some years before Christ, converts to Judaism were called “newborns,” and they received a ceremonial washing because, after all according to the Pharisees, gentiles were unclean. But here Jesus says, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. He cannot enter the community of faith, the church, and therefore heaven. Nicodemus would have to be born again by water and the Spirit. “How can these things be?” was His response.

3. Because of Christ’s Gracious Redemption

Of course, John began almost at the beginning of his gospel speaking of baptism – the baptism of John, and the rest of this chapter recounts Jesus and His disciples baptizing “unto repentance for the remission of sins.” God has used His word -also in this sacrament- as the means of grace to create life where there was death.

How can this be? Because God (the Holy Spirit) is the creator and giver of life.

How can this be? Because God (the son) bore our sins. Baptism isn’t a transaction, as in “I’ll be baptized and therefore you will forgive my sins. It is a gift of life because of the perfect life and atoning death of Christ. So Jesus said, 14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The righteousness He lived, and the atonement He won for your forgiveness are given to you as you are alive, believing, in faith, to receive it.

It is by the water and Spirit of baptism that God gives new life, that we are born from mere fleshly life, doomed to die, to spiritual life, destined to live, because, living, we know Christ, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.” (Philippians 3:9, CSB)

Remember, you ARE baptized. It isn’t that you WERE and it is over, you were baptized into new life, so that you shared in Christ’s death, which He died for you, and now share in His resurrection, and so live according to the spirit. “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. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3–5, CSB)

Rejoice in the new life in which you now life, by which you now see the kingdom of God, and by which you will live eternally.

AMEN.

By |2020-06-07T14:14:50-07:00June 4th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

The Only Path to Peace

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The Only Path to Peace

2 John 3 (CSB) Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”

John 14:23–31 (CSB)

23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 The one who doesn’t love me will not keep my words. The word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful. 28 You have heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. 30 I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me., 31 On the contrary, so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do as the Father commanded me.

Dear Fellow Redeemed: “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” These are the words with which Paul greeted Timothy, and with which I greet you regularly on these Sunday mornings. Grace, mercy and peace are among the gifts God gives us through His word, and the last, His peace He especially mentions as a gift coming to us through the Holy Spirit.

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

27 Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.

For us, peace is elusive. When we hear “peace,” some think of an end to war, others to personal peace, (Don’t bother me!) still others to the peace of living a blameless life. In my experience I see people in every state of chaos, upheaval, and turbulence of life – the opposite of peace.

Where shall they find peace? Living and dealing with people who constantly disapprove. Living with a bad temper- ours or someone else’s. Living with abusive people. Living with our values under siege. Living with family who keep making wrong choices. “Feeling upset.” Living with anxiety and other emotional upheaval. Walking on eggshells with some people. Where shall we find peace.

Jesus here speaks of …

THE ONLY PATH TO PEACE

  1. We Find Peace in Christ Alone
  2. We Find Christ in the Word Alone
  3. In This Way, Christ Gives Us True Peace
  1. We Find Peace in Christ Alone

The world follows many paths in search of peace. The U.N. War to bring peace. Divorce. Psychotherapy. Sociotherapy. Anti-anxiety meds. Counseling. You name it. But the peace of Christ is something different. It is a peace that transcends everything. It is the peace that we can have in the midst of battle, when facing the withering disapproval of others, when suffering from anxiety or depression, or worried you will get sick. The apostles were persecuted struggled with friction in the church, and the pietism and disapproval of others.

The peace of Christ is of a different thing altogether. “27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives,” Jesus said.

Paul wrote to the Philippians about seeking this peace. Understand that he had been persecuted, beaten, stone into unconsciousness, arrested, imprisoned, and threatened with execution. Here is what he taught his people in Philippi: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses [transcends] all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7, CSB)

This is an echo of Proverbs 3, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; (Proverbs 3:5, CSB)

So you see, this is a matter of faith. We put our trust in Christ. Jesus repeatedly said something like this to His disciples: 29 I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. The disciples would find themselves in horrible situations, persecuted, hated, . Then they were to know that above all, Christ is Lord.

The peace of Christ transcends everything. We have the peace of Christ even when we have no other peace. It is a peace of faith and we can see it in several ways:

  • God loves you whether you feel like it or not, even if you feel condemned.
  • You are forgiven because Christ is risen, even when the Devil, your friends, and even your own conscience condemns you. Yes, even when you ARE guilty.
  • You have a future, even when destitute, even when dying.
  • You have hope, even when there is no hope on earth.
  • When your feelings of anxiety, depression, agitation, and the like overcome you, you can know and believe that the Lord is merciful and that this too, shall pass.
  • When we are lonely, we can take on faith Jesus’ promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.

That’s what we mean by transcendent. This is the peace of Christ, of knowing Christ, and trusting in His promises. And ….

2.  We Find Christ in the Word Alone

So if Christ alone can bring us to God, how can we find Christ?  Pentecost, this day which we celebrate, is itself the answer – we find Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit – and the Spirit works alone through His word.

This was the point of Jesus’ discussion in our text.  He is answering one of the disciples who asked Him why He made such a point of revealing himself to them, and not to the world at large.  The reason is that He will be leaving; so He says:  25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” His kingdom is the true kingdom of peace, as He is the Prince of Peace. How does His kingdom come? Luther explained it this way, “The kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eter­nity.” The Holy Spirit’s work is to bring God’s kingdom, the kingdom of which Christ is king, to us.

We live, now, in an earthly kingdom, where there is conflict, pan, sorrow, sickness, loss, failures, and sin. The end of life in this kingdom is death, and here there is no peace. But transcending this kingdom is the kingdom which we are part of by faith, and this is the kingdom of life and peace. Her there is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In this kingdom we possess the righteousness of Christ, and are at peace with God.

It is because we are subjects of this kingdom that we can have peace even in a world afflicted with turmoil, conflict, and hostility. It is because this kingdom has come t you by the power of the Holy Sprit that we can rejoice that whatever we suffer from today, deliverance is ours in God’s good time.

As we said, this kingdom comes to us by the Holy Spirit, and He works through His word. As the apostles were the teachers of the church and have written this word, the Holy Spirit is the teachers of the apostles, as Jesus said, 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. So it follows that the apostles taught the word of God, as Paul wrote, “We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. (1 Corinthians 2:13, CSB)

So we find Christ and His peace that transcends the tumult of this world through His word.

3. In This Way, Christ Gives Us True Peace

Because of this, we can be sure of finding peace.  We can be sure of it.  Now the accepted wisdom is that there is no sure thing in this world.  But this word is not of this world.  This is a means of Grace.  This is a way in which God Himself brings His grace to us and bestows it upon us.  We just confessed this in the third article of the creed:  “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…”

You can be sure of finding forgiveness.  You can be sure of the loving fellowship of God Himself.  You can be sure of being kept in the true faith.  You can be sure of finding the peace that transcends all the conflict and disorder of this life.

Listen to Him speak.  Listen to Him promise, “Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37, CSB)

Listen.  Christ prays for you. Christ speaks to you.  He loves you and bids you love Him, and find peace now and forevermore.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-31T13:47:39-07:00May 31st, 2020|Sermons, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Invasion to Conquer — and Save

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Invasion Plan to Conquer and Save

John 15:26–16:4 (CSB)

26 “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. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

16 “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling. They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they haven’t known the Father or me. But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you will remember I told them to you. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.

Dear fellow redeemed: By now your have probably caught onto the fact that leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus was briefing His disciples, NOT about how they were to deal with the effects of his life, ministry, crucifixion and death, but how they were to live in view of His resurrection. We remember great men all the time and consider how Jefferson gave us the Declaration of Independence, Madison the Constitution, and Washington, the precedents that gave them life. But they have no further effect. We say, “They must be turning over in their graves,” for this is or that reason, but they aren’t. They are dead and gone and out of the picture.

But our Lord is Risen. Thursday was the anniversary of His ascension into heaven where the Father “subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,” (Ephesians 1:22, CSB)

So, what he says here is for the “after ascension” part of His relationship with the disciples – and us. Here He tells them that they will engage the world so powerfully as to provoke physical attacks – just by testifying about Jesus.  By speaking the gospel, the powerful word of God, the Holy Spirit is going to go into the world in conquest.

You could almost call this an invasion plan.  It isn’t an invasion plan to conquer and destroy, but rather

AN INVASION PLAN TO CONQUER AND SAVE

  1. The Sword of the Spirit – God’s Word
  2. Fighting on a Foreign Field
  3. Where Victory Gives Comfort to the Vanquished
  1. The Sword of the Spirit – God’s Word

At this moment, throughout the world, the Holy Spirit is testifying about Christ. The gospel isn’t just some fluffy “spiritual” speculation; it is rooted in reality. It includes the actual testimony of the people who were witnesses from the beginning of what Jesus did to save us.

The Spirit and those who teach his word invade a world that is always peopled by unbelievers – souls born in spiritual darkness and death, not knowing God and alienated from Him.  The offensive weapon for this is the Word of God, as Paul wrote, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17, CSB) Just as importantly, the apostle Paul wrote by inspiration, “[The gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes….” (Romans 1:16, CSB)

This word is true information, rooted in the reality of what Christ did at a certain place and a certain time, but it is not just information, it is a living power. The gospel not only talks about forgiveness, it gives forgiveness and works the new spiritual life that is saving faith.

As our text teaches here, God the Holy Spirit accompanies this Gospel with His power to call you to faith, to awaken your dead, blind, sinful heart, so that you have come to trust in this Jesus for life eternal, even in the hour of your death. 26 “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. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

2.  Fighting on a Foreign Field

Our Savior is inserting Himself into this world as He has over and over again. We think of the time He revealed Himself to Noah or Abraham or Moses or King David, or the prophets. We see how He entered into human history at those times and others, climaxing in His own incarnation and birth to Mary, and His life, death, and resurrection. But He is still doing that: the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Today is no different. He has told us that He will bring judgment on this world, so that our only hope is in Him, and that hope is proclaimed through the gospel. We hear people quibbling over whether deaths are counted “properly” as “COVID-19 deaths” for one purpose or another, but does that make a difference to the dead? The only thing that makes a difference for them is whether they have come to saving faith in Christ. We testify to the salvation we have in Christ.

But when truth invades the world built on a lie, when life invades a world that worships death, when the true Savior invades the kingdom of this world, the Prince of This World will fight back. It is like we are an invading force fighting on a foreign field.

So Jesus warns, 16 “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling. They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they haven’t known the Father or me. But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you will remember I told them to you. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.

You might think that speaking of the hope that we have in Christ, we would be welcomed with open arms by those whose hopes of an earthly paradise have been dashed. You would think that the message of eternal life would bring joy to a human race that is dying. You would think that the news of forgiveness and reconciliation with God, our Judge, would bring peace and joy to people who cannot bear the judgments they dish out to others.

You would be wrong.

Because humanity is fallen, and human culture is bound up with death and hatred exaltation of self, the Christian gospel will always be counter-cultural. . They will do these things [oppose Christ, the gospel, and forgiveness, and will persecute Christians] because they haven’t known the Father or me.

3.  Where Victory Gives Comfort to the Vanquished

You must realize that you are at odds with the world. Sadly, a lot of Christians think that they must attract the unbelieving world to the church by saying what pleases the world. They are devastated to find they are not acceptable to society (banned from the synagogues). It is not just because of our stands on morality – sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, creation, headship in marriage and family, etc. It is because of the gospel itself.

We are the sworn enemies of the unbelieving world, as John wrote Jesus’ word, “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. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15–17, CSB)

So we do not make peace with this world, we conquer it. Now you may have thoughts there of power and might brought to bear to create the kingdom of God. Or you might look forward to the victorious Day of the Lord in which all will rise from the grave and submit to Him, “For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:11–12, CSB)

But that is not this invasion, this spiritual war, or this battle fought in this age of the world. How do we conquer the world when we are objects of persecution, can only testify to the truth, and are at odds with what this world wants? John answers that also: “because 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?” (1 John 5:4–5, CSB)

So while we warn the world of condemnation, we do not conquer them by destroying them, but by saving them from condemnation. We make clear to the world that anyone without perfect righteousness is damned, but we conquer them not by damning them, but by declaring and giving the perfect righteousness that we have in Christ. We declare before the world that those who do not believe are lost and enemies of God, but then we speak the words  of hope that ignite faith and bring from death to life.

This is how you and I were conquered, defeated, and vanquished. Born as unbelievers, spiritually dead, we have been born to a new and spiritual life of faith through the good news declaring Christ to us as Savior.

Putting it another way, in this invasion of the world, God conquers, not to destroy us, but to make us His own dear children.

So let us live our lives, rejoicing in the victory that was won over us, to save us. May we see ourselves as part of an invading force of the living in the midst of a dying world, proclaiming that even when we suffer the death of the body, we live in the resurrection.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-24T14:23:01-07:00May 24th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments