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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 |2020-06-04T20:22:40-07:00June 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

A Personal Relationship with Christ

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A Personal Relationship with Christ

John 16:23–30 (CSB)

[23 “In that day you will not ask me anything.] Truly I tell you, anything you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.  24 Until now you have asked for nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in my name, and I am not telling you that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God., 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Look, now you’re speaking plainly and not using any figurative language. 30 Now we know that you know everything and don’t need anyone to question you. By this we believe that you came from God.”

Dear fellow redeemed: Last week we read the words just before this, in which Jesus explained that after His death and resurrection He would govern all things for the good of the church, also through the power of the Holy Spirit. So many things he says make no sense if He were an earthly king, or mortal. They only make sense in relation to the resurrection and ascension.

So also here. He talks about the relationship between Him and his disciples in the future, in the era of the Kingdom of God beginning at Pentecost. What is our relationship to Him in the New Testament era, the age of the world until He comes again? It is …

A RELATIONSHIP DEFINED BY WORD AND PRAYER

  1. By Christ’s Coming to Us in His Word
  2. By Our Coming to Him in Prayer
  1. By Christ’s Coming to Us in His Word

The essence of our relationship to Christ is His NAME, His revelation of Himself to us in Spirit and in Truth. The essence of any relationship is knowledge about the other person, and we can only know Christ as He reveals Himself to us.

Our text last week ended with Jesus comforting the disciples with an end to their sorrow and confusion because in the Resurrection the reality of our salvation would be revealed. “In that day you will not ask me anything,” He says. We begin today with the Jesus’ next statement, “Truly I tell you, anything you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” Why will we not ask and then ask?

The first sentence could actually read, “In that day you will not inquire anything of me, or ask for information.” And the second could read, “Truly I tell you any want or need that you beg of the Father in my name, he will give you.”

Christ had not yet been fully revealed to the disciples in His state of humiliation. But by His crucifixion, resurrection, 40 days of instruction, and finally by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the disciples would come to know the essential whole of Who Jesus is. 25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.

We have come to know Christ in the same way, and in the same way Paul did when He said, “More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8, CSB)

Notice that the initiative is with Christ. He doesn’t tell us what we inquire, but what He reveals to us. What He has done for us to save us is hidden in eternity and only revealed in the doing of it. That is what we need to know. That is what shows the true love of God for us. It would be revealed in the doing of it and in the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus looks ahead to Pentecost: 25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.

He then reveals in four clauses the essence of His saving work: ., 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Look, now you’re speaking plainly and not using any figurative language. 30 Now we know that you know everything and don’t need anyone to question you. By this we believe that you came from God.”

They thought He was clear, and He was, but still they could not imagine what this all meant. But you know. You know Him, for He has been revealed to you. We confess this in our creeds.

I came from the Father: He is the only-begotten Son, the second person of the Trinity from eternity.

[I] have come into the world. Jesus was born also true man of the virgin, Mary. In this world He lived out our righteousness and died our death, rising gloriously.

Again, I am leaving the world: Having risen from the death, He would reside with His disciples 40 days, and then no longer limit Himself to his condition in the state of humiliation.

[I am] going to the Father. Jesus was soon to ascend to the right hand of God, that is, He would not be present in one place or time, but would fully resume His omnipresence in place and time, so that He could be truly with us here today, in His Holy Supper, and in His watchful care over us, as it is written, He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,(Ephesians 1:20–22, CSB)

This is what He has revealed to you so that you may know Him and believe that He is your Savior. To know this is to know “His Name.” Remember, the Bible uses “Name” to stand for the whole revelation of someone. God’s “Name” is the whole of Scripture by which we know Him.

2. By Our Coming to Him in Prayer

So, our relationship with Christ in this age of the world is first defined by His coming to us in His Word and revealing to us His Name. Our relationship with Him is further defined by our prayer to Him in His name: He says, Truly I tell you, anything you ask [beg, demand] the Father in my name, [that is, according to what is revealed of me] he will give you.  24 Until now you have asked for nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

A believer’s prayer is in the Name of Jesus, that is as a believer reconciled to God, but also in the Name of Jesus in this sense, that it takes into account what we know of Him. I may, for example, ask that my life be extended, but I do so knowing that our times are in His hands, and as a sinner, I must suffer the death of this body, unless the resurrection day comes first. I may ask that some trouble in my life be removed, but I may also be reminded when the Lord’s answer to Paul was “No.” He added, “My grace is enough for you.”

But that won’t keep me from asking – begging, even. For He has invited me to, and He loves me. My life is full of answers to prayer, as well as countless blessings unasked-for. In the New Testament age, we come directly to our creator with our requests. Jesus goes on …

26 On that day you will ask in my name, and I am not telling you that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.,

We have become priests of God. That is, we can pray directly to God the Father ourselves because we have been reconciled to Him by Christ. You should know that God loves you and is delighted to hear your prayers. That is why, even in this midst of this uncertainty generated in the world, we may call upon the Lord and be certain that He hears, and answers according to His love.

Because He has come to us in His word and sacraments, we know Him, and we receive His gifts daily. Because we know Him, we come to Him to lay our petitions before Him, as He has invited us, Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30, CSB)

AMEN.

By |2020-05-17T14:11:45-07:00May 17th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

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Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

John 16:5–15 (CSB)

But now I am going away to him who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

12 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

Dear fellow redeemed:  If you were in the hospital facing the certainty of your death, what kinds of plans would you be making for your activities in the coming months and years? Probably none. If anything, you would be expressing your funeral preferences and telling your family where to find the life insurance and the will.

So what’s with Jesus? He’s on his way to Gethsemane and Calvary and death, but He’s explaining part of His plan for changing the world. That is why this text is an AFTER-Easter text; it means something because Jesus has in fact risen from the dead. Much that Jesus said during His ministry only makes sense in view of the resurrection. What’s more, His teaching makes the connection between the glorious truth of the resurrection, and our daily lives as we live them.

In these words, He tells how he will remove the spiritual blindness from the world and create faith in Him as the risen Savior. He speaks these words of our text to His disciples even before His arrest, so that they will eventually understand that even now, …

JESUS BUILDS ON HIS RESURRECTION VICTORY

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word
  2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected
  3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

In writing on this text, Luther commented, “This is a good text, but it takes good students.”  This is one of the parts of Scripture that reminds us that God’s word is very deep.  It’s not unclear, but it requires that we be careful, and thorough, and willing to do our homework if we are to be benefited by this Word of God.

The first thing that Jesus is telling His Disciples is that His work of redemption is nearing completion, and that since He will soon have redeemed the world, the Holy Spirit will come to build on that, as part of the establishment of a REAL KINGDOM.

Just as the Romans capitalized upon so many battles won to build an empire, so the Holy Spirit capitalizes on the resurrection victory of Christ to build God’s kingdom on earth.

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word

Jesus says, But now I am going away to him who sent me.” In retrospect, we can see that He is referring to His ascension and exaltation.  No longer would Jesus be reduced to a humble earthly life; soon He would be ruling heaven and earth as the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

It would at first seem to be a tragedy, as He says, Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. As I have said many times, what the disciples saw with their human eyes was not the only thing happening.  They saw Jesus capture, arrest, death, and burial, but what was really happening was the redemption of the world and the destruction of death itself.

This is why I say that this text draws the connection between the Easter Victory and you and me today. By working faith in our hearts, the Holy Spirit shows us the victory over sin and death, so that we can truly share in the joy of the resurrection. And his coming ascension was so that instead of teaching those within earshot of His voice, He would teach in every time and every place through the Word of the Spirit, as He tells His disciples, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you.

2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected

It is highly unlikely that either you or I can really fathom the importance of those words. Jesus has redeemed the world, and He proceeds to rule it as the one who has taken possession of it.

Let’s make that more personal.  Jesus died for you.  When you were born, you didn’t know it, much less believe it.  But by His word and power He has directed the affairs of the world, he has directed Christian people, so that His saving word and sacrament would come to you, and work faith in your heart.

You and I aren’t Christians just because we were born to Christian parents.  We were born to Christian parents, so that we might be brought to faith as Christians.

We aren’t Christians because we happened to live in a predominately Christian country, God has raised up predominately Christian countries so that the inhabitants of the world might be brought to faith as Christians.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus puts it, When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

What do these three statements mean?

First:  He will convict the world about sin, because they do not believe in me.  In simple words, the Holy Spirit uses God’s law to touch the hearts of unbelievers with terror over their sins.  Without repentance and faith in the saving work of Christ, the world is lost and condemned, as Jesus said already: “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”” (John 8:24, CSB)

Second:  He will convict the world 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me. In simple words, this means that through His word, the Holy Spirit will strip away any righteousness by which mankind of itself hopes to gain God’s favor. Only the righteousness which Christ proclaims for us before God’s throne will avail.  That is the righteousness to which the Holy Spirit points in His Word, as He did through Peter “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36, CSB)

Third:  He will convict the world about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. In simple words, this means that as God has rendered judgment upon the Devil already, and certified it by the resurrection of Christ, so He has passed judgment upon all the world that is with the devil and at odds with Christ.  The Holy Spirit teaches us that there IS no question of the absolute judgment of God.  All who oppose God have already brought judgment upon themselves, and only God’s time of Grace has stayed His hand.

Put another way, the world will know what judgment took place on Calvary – there YOU, sinner, were judged and condemned in the person of Christ.  But that judgment will fall on the devil and all who do not believe in Christ.

So in these ways, the world’s unbelief, and false righteousness, and arrogant persistence in the ways of the prince of this world are condemned and corrected.  That is part of His plan to rescue you.

3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

Jesus promised His disciples that they would have access to absolute truth so that they could share this truth with the world. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.

It is that absolute truth that I have quoted so many times already this morning.  It is the absolute truth that you learn when you study and confess the doctrine of the church. It is the absolute truth that you share with others when you speak the fact that we are all condemned under sin but delivered by the sacrifice of Christ.  It is to impart this truth, and to prepare our children to speak it and defend it that we support Christian education, from Sunday school to Christian schools to colleges. It is because they teach this truth that we are so grateful for Christian moms. In this way they give not only physical life but spiritual life.

Because the Holy Spirit reveals the truth, you benefit personally from the saving work of Christ. You are made part of the kingdom of God on earth.  We are made part of God’s church, in which there is the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life.  What Christ has earned becomes yours, as He says,  15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

While the unbelief of the world damns and destroys, God’s gift of faith to you comforts you with the certainty of deliverance from all the woe of sin.

While the righteousness of the world cannot bring even social order, the righteousness of Christ has brought an end to condemnation for you.

While the world falls under the judgment of God, you stand in the victory of Christ, by faith in Him.

So then, may each of us rejoice in the victory of the resurrection, and cast off the unbelief, false righteousness, and doom of this world.  May we hunger and thirst for what the comforter brings – forgiveness, life, and salvation in word and sacrament.  And so may Christ’s church, Christ’s kingdom on earth and in heaven, be our safe refuge, and our passage into life.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-09T16:36:22-07:00May 9th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

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John 16:16–23 (CSB)

16 “A little while and you will no longer see me; again a little while and you will see me.”
       17 Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this he’s telling us: ‘A little while and you will not see me; again a little while and you will see me,’ and, ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They said, “What is this he is saying, ‘A little while’? We don’t know what he’s talking about.”
       19 Jesus knew they wanted to ask him, and so he said to them, “Are you asking one another about what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me; again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you.
       23 “In that day you will not ask me anything.

Dear fellow redeemed: We are going to go back to a moment of impending doom. Jesus was with His disciples in the upper room on the night in which He was betrayed. Jesus said that something was coming that would be at once terrible and wonderful. Like a woman giving birth, in pain; but it would also be like a woman giving birth – great joy.

It would come in just a little while. This coin with two sides, this moment of both sorrow and joy would come in just a little while. But there would also be a before and after, and therefore …

PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY

  1. We Share in the Sadness
  2. We Share in the Gladness

1  We Share in the Sadness

It is easy to share in the disciples’ confusion, because just a little while before he had talked about going away to the Father. There He was talking about His ascension and about giving the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. But in this circumstance He is talking about Christ’s passion, a horror that would come upon them in a little while, but which would in a little while be resolved in the resurrection.

Now, we need to understand that this was one occasion only. Jesus talks to His disciples and not to us specifically. There is no little while in which we are without Christ and then a while when He is with us. He isn’t talking about the trials of life until the second coming here. Instead, on this Jubilate Sunday, the Sunday of Rejoicing out of suffering, we remember the sadness of the crucifixion, but live in the gladness of the resurrection.

One other thing about this event that was so sad and ended up being so wonderful – it made sense. The disciples couldn’t figure it out beforehand, but afterwards, Jesus said, 23 “In that day you will not ask me anything. If they had possessed the understanding of faith, they would have looked at the cross, and seen there the Lamb of God taking away the world’s sin.

It is something like the symbol of the crucifix: There we see the judgment of God upon the sinfulness of man, but there we also see the Love of God, Who gave up His only-begotten Son.

While this text talks only about the revelation through which the disciples would go, there is still an application for us. What happened there on Calvary and gave the disciples such sorrow was Jesus dying OUR death, and what happened at the open tomb that gave the disciples such joy was Jesus’ preparing OUR resurrection. We share in that by virtue of our baptism. “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)

We share in the sadness, acknowledging that Christ suffered the rejection that we sinners deserve. We also share in the sadness because we know that as Jesus shared in the suffering of sinners, we share in His. Paul embraces this in Philippians 3, “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death,” (Philippians 3:10, CSB)

The world around us has hope only in this world and only for a short time, and an unreasonable expectation that all should be good. But as the world despairs we know that the sorrow is passing, but the joy abides forever.

As Christians, we know the way of the world and have an expectation also of suffering, as Jesus said,  “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.(Matthew 5:11–12, CSB)

2.   We Share in the Gladness

In terms of shear emotion, we believers would never share in the sadness of the disciples, or the despair, but we do share in their gladness, in the hope that was theirs in seeing the risen Christ. As with them, we have passing sorrow but abiding joy.

Because Jesus took our sins the cross, and there paid the full price of them, He was accepted into heaven when He died. “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, CSB)

Because He went to the Father in victory over our sin, His disciples would see Him again, for He had succeeded in accomplishing the justification of the world.

20 Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you.

For them it was just a very little while, parts of three days.  For us it may be a little while longer, but finally there is for all of us the joy of the resurrection.

We live in that joy even now, even in the midst of adversity, as Peter put it, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3–9, CSB)

Everything changed that day when Jesus rose. One had borne the sins of the world, and atoned for them, so that we were acquitted, declared innocent. Now we have something to say to our accusing consciences: “Forgiveness is ours.” Now we have something to say to the threat of death: “We shall live, even though we die.” We have something to say to the voices of regret: “Our sins will be forgotten.”

We live today in a world, a nation, a society gripped by fear: Will we get sick and die? Will we lose our job, our savings, our wealth, our freedom? Will we die alone?

There may be some fleeting sorrow, but we do not despair, because for us there is abiding joy. Not because OF us, but because of Christ, and offered to all. But because we live in faith, the joy we live in now will bear fruit in the life that is to come, the great celebration that is heaven: In Jesus’ words, I tell you that many will come from east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11, CSB) Picture an eternal fellowship and joyful feast. Or, as the Psalmist says, “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11, CSB) Joy upon joy! And exaltation too< as Daniel says, Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3, CSB)

We say, “O Lord, there is trouble and sorrow in my life, but with David we continue, “Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23–26, CSB)

Let us then rejoice with the disciples in the wake of the resurrection, for there is PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-02T14:48:23-07:00May 2nd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

You Have a Truly Good Shepherd

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Your Good Shepherd Nurtures You

John 10:11–16 (CSB)

11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired hand and doesn’t care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not from this sheep pen; I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, beloved of our Good Shepherd:  This third Sunday of Easter is traditionally Good Shepherd Sunday. The title “Misericordias Domini” means “The Goodness of the Lord,” and tells us something about our Good Shepherd.

The image of “shepherd” is of the defender of the sheep as wolves scatter and snatch them. The Shepherd stands between the wolves and the sheep. He gathers the sheep together again, and all at the risk of death.

But having died for His sheep, Jesus has rescued them!  How right we are to call Him our Good Shepherd! But there are other shepherds too, who are not Good Shepherds, and also there are wolves, who are forever the enemies of this Christ.  The important thing about the Good Shepherd is that at whatever cost …

YOUR GOOD SHEPHERD NURTURES YOU

  1. With His Words of Truth
  2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace
  1. With His Words of Truth

It’s hard to pick a word to say what our Good Shepherd does for us. He doesn’t abandon us to the wolf. He doesn’t let us scatter this way and that. He does care about us. He does gather us together in safety. He not only seeks us, but the many souls who are lost and wandering.

The wolf, that is to say, the Devil, uses events like these last few weeks to scatter people and separate them from our Good Shepherd. Others have been scattered through the various voices seeking our attention.

Now understand what “scattered” means, it means separated from the safety of the flock and of the Good Shepherd, easily separated and snatched. It means set up to be killed spiritually. You’ve probably seen it on TV, where the wolves or coyotes or hyenas or lions or whatever, cut an animal off from the heard, run it down and kill it. The same happens when people are separated from the word of Christ, which creates and nourishes our spiritual life.

For Christ’s words and no others really reveal a salvation that can bring comfort to the likes of you and me – to sinners.

As Peter preached in his second sermon in Acts, there is only one Savior:  “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12, CSB)

People are consumed by the dangers of this virus, who caused it, who can make us safe, and how we can avoid dying. It goes beyond mere prudence; it becomes an expectation of eternal life. Maybe I’m the one who has to tell you: most people my age won’t make it 20 years. In the last two years I have had plenty of funerals. There will be more, virus or no virus.

“Gather ‘round,” Jesus says, “and listen to me.” I have killed death. I have brought eternal life back to humanity. I have healed the wounds of alienation, resentment, blame, guilt, condemnation, and disapproval among people and with God.

This is the voice of the Good Shepherd. He knows us. He knows your troubles, sorrows, and grief. He knows your sins and shortcomings, your guilt, and your struggles with your weaknesses. He wipes your slate clean and fills it instead with His righteousness.

Against this are the wolves, who murder with their lies. Do you suppose Eve thought the devil was helpful? No doubt, for starters. How often do I have to  warn people that the unchristian teachers – Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Materialists, Humanists, etc. are not just people of another opinion, but wolves dressed like sheep.

The Mormons and Muslims deny the true Triune God. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, the materialists and humanists believe that matter and energy is all there is, and deny any true love, true good, or even the human soul.

If you believe them, then you cannot believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of the world, and are lost to Him.

But Christ nurtures and blesses you with His words of truth. Truly you are a sinner, no excuses, but truly are you forgiven for the sake of Christ, not with excuses but with Jesus’ true satisfaction of the righteousness of God.

But not only are there wolves, there are also hired hands, those who will not stand with Christ, but will compromise and make allowances, so that the faithful are without true shepherds. Many preach the doctrine of toleration and universalism, rather than the Christian gospel, even though they are found within the church. If you go to many such churches, you will never hear about hell. It will seem as though nobody is ever damned. They will bury the most blatant unbeliever “in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead.”  Any vague religiosity is considered to be the same as saving faith. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as atonement for our sins aren’t even proclaimed.

Sometimes these are called liberals or moderates or modernists – whatever is socially acceptable this season.

While such teachers may call themselves Christians, they are just as damned as the people they mislead. For they effectively deny Christ as the one and only Savior. Jesus warned against them when he also said,  ““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.” (Matthew 7:21, CSB)

Often while they may take the name “Christian” and “shepherd,” in fact, they hound people with the law, and so seek to make them good and either eligible for heaven or citizens of a brave new world.

And how prone we are to catch hold of this message!  For we easily think that if we can just “Be Good” and make others “be good’ that we and they can be sure of heaven. After all, we think, do “bad people” go to heaven?

Luther says, “They who are not good shepherds, however expect to make people good by hatefully scolding and driving them, whereas they are thereby only making matters worse.  For when we are exhorted to goodness we so quickly rebel, or despair of being the kind of person we should be.”

And the deceitfulness of this message is all the greater because it resembles the truth in so many ways.  There is no question that we MUST speak out on the moral issues of our day.

           2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace

But the Good Shepherd did not, does not, suppose that He can lead us poor sheep to save ourselves. The Good shepherd did the only thing that could save us. He laid down His life for the sheep. It is HE who has reconciled us to Himself.  He laid down His life in a perfect life on our behalf. He laid down His life to pay the price of our iniquities. 11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. He calls us to our salvation with His own voice.

And with this salvation comes true comfort, joy, and peace. With a good shepherd, sheep are safe, healthy, well-fed, well-watered, clean, and together. This is a metaphor. The comfort, joy, and peace we enjoy is not green grass and good water. It is to be healthy in our bodies, young and vigorous. It is to be loved, and to love. It is to see and hear the beautiful. It is to live without fear, without death, to be close to loved ones, and in harmony with them. It is to live without reproach from God or from anyone else, to be liked and appreciated even by the Holy God: That is to be at peace.

And it is to have a future.

One of our good Lutheran writers wrote recently about the horizon of hope[1]. If we were cursed with the religion of this world, we would be truly cursed, for I am past the horizon of being young or vigorous, or of being with my parents. For them any good must come soon or be lost forever.

But as children of the King of Kings, our horizon of hope is eternal. It is beyond old age, beyond death, beyond the grave, and it is for certain, for the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

And because He is risen, He says in all truth, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, CSB)

AMEN.

[1] https://wolfmueller.co/the-horizon-of-hope/

By |2020-04-26T09:56:15-07:00April 24th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Unbelief Succumbs to the Truth

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Unbelief Succumbs to the Truth

John 20:19–31 (CSB)

19 When it was evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20 Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
 
24 But Thomas (called “Twin”), one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.”
28 Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
 
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

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

Dear fellow redeemed: I am focusing today on the portion of our Gospel lesson that includes the apostle Thomas. Matthew, Mark, and Luke report that He was an apostle and present at Christ’s ascension and awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Christians in India have a fairly rich folklore about his work as an apostle there, and faithful Indian Christians have for all these years called themselves the church “Mar Thoma,” The church of St. Thomas.

John is the only inspired source with information about Thomas, and he first gives us a hint of his personality in chapter eleven. Jesus had twice evaded stoning in Judea, and had left the region to avoid arrest; His time had not yet come. But now he announces that he will go back to Judea. Then after that, he said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.” “Rabbi,” the disciples told him, “just now the Jews tried to stone you, and you’re going there again?” (John 11:7–8, CSB) Jesus reiterated that it was his intent to go to Lazarus, in Bethany, just two miles from Jerusalem. To this, “Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.” (John 11:16, CSB) To me, that seems like a sarcastic remark.

Of course the words for which Thomas is most famous are found in our text, 25 So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas wasn’t the only one to forget Christ’s promise and disbelieve the witnesses. On Easter Sunday, Cleopas and one of the other disciples told Jesus on the way to Emmaus, “Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive.” (Luke 24:22–23, CSB) While they were telling the disciples all about it was when the whole group had the encounter with Jesus that Thomas missed out on. So, Thomas was not alone in his skepticism.

But he did persist for a week. It must have been a little lonely, clinging stubbornly to his insistence that he had to see physical proof, not testimony. But as a result, we get to see one of the great occasions where

UNBELIEF SUCCUMBS TO THE TRUTH

  1. Unbelief – Spiritual Death
  2. Faith – Spiritual Life
  1. Unbelief – Spiritual Death

The meaning of this text is clear. Thomas, barring physical evidence, would not accept the testimony of the other disciples, but when confronted by the Christ, even before he “put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side,” confessed, “My Lord and my God!”

Let’s apply this to our circumstances:

Unbelief is not just a different opinion, you know. That has always been part of Satan’s lies. “God said … but, you know, it’s just His opinion; go ahead and eat the fruit.” So many act today as though it is up to God to meet our personal standards of truth.

The materialists say that if God cannot show up as matter and/or energy, they will not believe.

The rationalists say that if God does not appeal to their finite reason, they will not believe.

The emotionalists say that if they cannot feel God move them, then they will not believe.

The narcissists say that if they cannot experience God, then they will not believe.

This is just a way of slicing and dicing unbelief, just different ways of looking at the fact that we are born spiritually dead. Now the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6–8, CSB)

Anybody who says that they will not believe in the risen Christ condemns herself / himself. Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. (John 3:18, CSB)

It starts with simple morality. By any standard, I am a sinner. Anybody must say the same. It is better to be disabused of any pretense at holiness now, before standing before the Righteous Judge who will take no self-justifying nonsense from anyone.

Our conscience holds us responsible to a universal standard of right and wrong. As fashionable as it is today to be downright perverse, such perversion cannot bear the weight of reality. Throughout history, societies that have abandoned the sanctity of life, of family, of marriage, of the promise given, of property, of the honor of God have been brought low.

We have no excuse if we do not face the problem of sin, and death, and an accounting for sin hereafter, which is written on our soul. And if we seek we will find, for God has so ordered the world: From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26–27, CSB)

To put this in current terms, do you think that anybody in our country – or practically the world – shut up with social media this Easter could not have heard of the resurrection of Christ – our Savior, had they the slightest curiosity?

              2. Faith – Spiritual Life

But if spiritual death is the default, how can we find life? How can the dead make themselves alive, or the mindset of the flesh change to that of the spirit? We have the promise, Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:10–11, CSB)

Put another way, how can we have the blessing that Jesus speaks of when He says, “Don’t be faithless, but believe.”
28 Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.””

We who have not seen, believe because of the life-giving power of God through His word. At the end of the Gospel lesson, John says, 31 But these [things, signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name. What he has written is that word of God called the gospel, the good news. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. (Romans 1:16–17, CSB)

To those who acknowledge their sin, despair of their own goodness, and desire a hope that is not found in the idols of this world, this comes as good news: Christ is your righteousness. He has reconciled you to God. He gives you forgiveness, life, and salvation. He who is risen promises you a true resurrection. Awaken, faith! For Christ the Lord is risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!  AMEN

By |2020-04-18T12:00:04-07:00April 17th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

We Confess: Christ Jesus Is Risen from the Dead

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We Confess: Christ Is Risen from the Dead

The Lord is Risen!

HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Our text for today is written in 1 Corinthians 15. It was written some 20 years or so after the resurrection, but in it Paul passes on a creed or confession of faith that was even earlier. The format is obviously not Paul’s way of writing, but rather a repetition of a form adopted by the very eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1–8 (CSB)

15 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.

Dear fellow redeemed: Very early after the resurrection, within just a few years and before the gospels were written down, there came into being this creed or declaration of faith. It is pure gospel. It is the good news of what God did to save you.

In these days of uncertainly as to what will come, it is the ultimate certainty of what has come to pass, according to the Scriptures. The gospel is not just a religious idea, you know, it is fact. Meaningful above all other knowledge, but a meaningful reality. Here is what happened, what was confessed by the eyewitnesses, what has been passed down to us, and the means by which God the Holy Spirit Himself works spiritual life and faith:

First, Christ died.  Not every death is news.  It makes the obituaries, it’s important to the family and friends, but it doesn’t make the front page.

Christ died, and it IS important.  He died for our sins; He died according to the Scriptures, in just the way the Old Testament Scriptures said He would.

He was lifted up, crucified, as David prophesied in Psalm 22.  It’s all there about the mocking, the nails in the hands and feet, the dehydration, the nakedness and the division of the closes.

Psalm 22:6–18 (CSB)
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by people.
Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord;
let him save him;
let the Lord rescue him,
since he takes pleasure in him.”
It was you who brought me out of the womb,
making me secure at my mother’s breast.
10 I was given over to you at birth;
you have been my God from my mother’s womb.
11 Don’t be far from me, because distress is near
and there’s no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong ones of Bashan encircle me.
13 They open their mouths against me—
lions, mauling and roaring.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.
>18 They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.

He died for our sins, as pictured by the Passover Lamb, and the scapegoat, and the lamb that replaced Isaac on the altar, and as explicitly described by Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:4–6 (CSB)
Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.
Next, Christ was buried.  The death of Jesus was affirmed by His final gasp, by John who gave sworn testimony, by the centurion who reported to Pilate, by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who wrapped him tightly in strips of cloth, by the women who saw Him buried, and by the Roman soldiers who sealed the tomb.  Oh, and let’s not forget, by the spear and by the blood and water.  The spear went up into His side, pierced his chest, and confirmed His death in blood and water.  Jesus died and was buried in the rich man’s tomb, all, again, according to the Scriptures:

Isaiah 53:8–9 (CSB)
He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered his fate?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
he was struck because of my people’s rebellion.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
but he was with a rich man at his death,
because he had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.
Next, He rose again the third day. –  And once again, yes, according to the Scriptures.  Jesus Himself had pointed to the sign by which the truth of His teaching would be known:  Matthew 12:40 (CSB) 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish, three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

He had been completely clear, as the angels reminded the first witnesses to the empty tomb,  Luke 24:7 (CSB) saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’”

The resurrection was sung about by David: Psalm 16:10 (CSB)
10 For you will not abandon me to Sheol;
you will not allow your faithful one to see decay.

It was trusted in by Job:  Job 19:25 (NKJV) 25    For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;

Next, good news, He showed Himself to the disciples, to those who would know who He is, whose lives were completely transformed, and who would die gruesome deaths themselves rather than deny it:  that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.

These are the certainties, observed by eyewitnesses.  They are important, formulated into declarations of faith.  They are important because over thousands of years they had been prophesied in Scripture.  They are important because this good news gives forgiveness and creates faith:  15 Now I declare to you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

These are certainties.

According to the Lord’s providence, this Easter is celebrated in an atmosphere of uncertainty and the fear of death. Whatever the numbers may actually say, people see death as near at hand, and can imagine themselves taking that last, labored breath.

But when our time comes, we will do so in the certainty of the hope given by the Christ who is our righteousness. He bore the punishment for your sins, into death, and destroyed death by His resurrection, the first to rise, as, yes, you too wil rise to immortality.

So I declare to you the gospel which I have received, which is your declaration of faith, and by which you are being saved:

THE LORD IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

By |2020-04-11T17:55:40-07:00April 11th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

The Cleansing Power of the Blood of Christ

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The Cleansing Power of the Blood of Christ

1 John 1:5–10 (CSB)

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Dear fellow redeemed: In our age that is big on feelings, moods, and thoughts in general, we aren’t so good at being specific. On Thanksgiving we are supposed to list what we are thankful for, but unless we include to Whom we are thankful, we just have a list of things we like. We carelessly say things like, “My thoughts and prayers go out to our heroic healthcare workers,” but, really, we don’t pray to them. Our prayers go to our true Lord, who can watch over them – and us.

Likewise, on Good Friday we can cavalierly say that we know that Christ died for our sins, but who really wants to get specific? In our general confession of sins, we say, “I confess unto You all my sins and iniquities, with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your punishment in both time and in eternity.” That’s general enough, except now we are facing a social, economic, and medical calamity, and it is because of my sin, and because of your sin. In the face of the very worst of these calamities, Jesus says, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. (Luke 13:5, CSB)

To repent means to turn around, to turn away from our sins. It means more than just saying “I’m sorry.” Once again it makes a difference to be precise. It means I confess of my particular sins. It means I confess to God, whom I have truly offended. You too.

What difference does it make to say, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin, if I don’t stop to consider MY sin?

It is comfortable to think of other people’s sins. I’m good at admitting those. You too. Surely this nation, this whole world deserves judgment for the millions of lives snuffed out in infancy. Only one elective procedure is permitted in Oregon – the killing of children. Our society deserves judgment as the natural expression of love between a man and a woman is bent and twisted by pornography. So many bend their minds through intoxication – whether drugs or alcohol. People swear in God’s name to be true for life, and they aren’t. People swear to the living God to raise their children in the Christian faith, and then they don’t.

Gossip and lies are the currency online, destroying reputations and alienating people from one another. Love grows cold. Covetousness burns in people’s hearts as they envy and resent what others possess. Those who seek power stoke the fires of envy incessantly.

And people repent, not to the true and living God, but they set up idols of nature or government to whom they look for rescue. Prayers are offered up to imaginary “gods” like Allah and the Mormon gods, and whatever god inhabits the common imagination.

People grow careless of the name of Christ, and preach (or believe) falsehoods taught as Christian truth. So many are indifferent toward the word of Christ that they don’t for 15 minutes miss gathering together around word and sacrament to receive the gifts of God.

But by now we recognize those “sins of other people” are our own sins. I am selfish. You have misused God’s name. I have not loved Him above all things. You have not been faithful to his word. You have been hurtful to people He loves, negligent of pastors and others whom He has called to lead you. I have been unfaithful, stingy, and covetous.

And if you don’t think so, then you convict yourself of self-righteousness and the cloud of disapproval you cast over others brands you as a hypocrite. John anticipates our denials, If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

The more we understand the depths of our sinfulness, the more we grasp the immensity of the gospel promise, the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

To walk in the light is to live in faith, to live in the knowledge of God’s perfect holiness, and to acknowledge that we are not holy, but deserve to be cast of by God. To live in the light is to live in faith, in the knowledge that Jesus, the Messiah, lived out that righteousness having washed our sin off of us and onto Himself, He has atoned for our sins and so now declares you innocent.

The shedding of the blood of God’s son, His rejection under God’s wrath, was a terrible price to pay, but it was the price of our sin, so that … If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

“Come, let us settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are crimson red, they will be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, CSB)

AMEN.

By |2020-04-10T15:41:13-07:00April 10th, 2020|Good News, Sermons|0 Comments