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Our Savior Seeks “Those Who WON’T” (Lent 2, 2019)

O JERUSALEM!

But you were not willing.

Download: Lent 2 2019 SRM

Luke 13:31–35 (ESV)
 31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

Have you ever lost anyone you love?  If you have, no doubt the question itself hurts a little bit.  I have no desire to resurrect tragic memories for anyone.   There are many ways in which we can lose a person.  A person may be lost in death, or we may lose their love and they may break the marriage. Or we may lose a child who rebels and runs away.  We may lose someone to drugs alcohol or to a false religion, or to some other vice.

It is a pastor’s duty, it seems, to be in at the losing.  The easy times are when someone dies a Christian death.  The hardest times are when someone turns from the Christian faith in impenitence and unbelief.

There comes a time when you know they are going, and it always seems to be at least a little bit of a surprise, and you say to yourself, “Well, this is it, it is over.”  The last word is spoken.  The last argument is over.

It is this feeling that echoes from Jesus’ words here in our text.  34  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”  This lamentation about hard-heartedness is a proclamation of the law, a proclamation of warning, and the purpose of it is to lead to repentance.

This is the next issue that is ours to consider this Lenten season.  Last week it was Temptation.  This week it is hard-heartedness – hard-heartedness and the way that Our Savior deals with it.  For ever and always,

OUR SAVIOR SEEKS AND GATHERS US

 into His kingdom.

  1. He Proclaims the Word Faithfully
  2. He Acknowledges the Law’s Curse Realistically
  3. He Trusts the Power of the Gospel
  1. He Proclaims the Word Faithfully

The way that our Savior seeks us out is with His word.  That is the point of his answer to King Herod.  It is my opinion that the Pharisees weren’t really warning Jesus when they told Him Herod wanted to kill Him.  They were trying to scare Him off.  But that didn’t stop Him.  “I will do what I plan to do,”   is the essence of His reply.  He plans to do what every one of us should do – reach out with the news of (1) Sin and (2) Salvation

Remember, all are lost without this message!.  John 3:18  — 18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Our Savior brings the message because He …. I Tim 2:4 … wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  And what is that message?  First, that your sin has alienated you from God!  Second that you have been reconciled to God through the redemption of Jesus Christ.  He made full satisfaction for your sins on the cross.

He brings the message even though He knows that not all will believe Him, or the promises He makes.  “But you were not willing!” is the way He puts it – with lamentation.

There’s that helpless feeling again, as we warn and as we urge repentance to someone who is living in open rebellion against God in adultery or drunkenness or grudge-bearing.  Repentance and forgiveness is laid before them.  But they are not willing!

2. He Acknowledges the Law’s Curse Realistically

Christ’s lamentation reflects the fact that He acknowledge the curse of the law realistically.  If someone dies as an unbeliever, he or she goes to Hell.  The Bible speaks of this very clearly:     Mat 8:12:  But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness:  there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Mat 25:41  Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.!  This is a reality of life and a danger to all, because all are under the curse by nature.  “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,”  Jesus told Nicodemus.  Without being given spiritual life, we are all unacceptable in Heaven.

By nature, nobody would believe the gospel. I Cor 1:18  “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”  By nature it is mere foolishness to us.  That is why conversion is always a miracle, a working of God not in accord with nature.

But God always works this miracle through the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation.  As Paul told the Thessalonians, (II, 2:14) “He called you by our Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But when God works through means, we can resist him, so in spite of the Gospel call, some will not believe.

Some, when offered eternal life, will despise the promise. We see them in the community, who don’t care one bit what is going on in our church, even when invited, even when offered eternal life.

We see them in our congregation, who have heard it, have learned it in confirmation class, who have sworn to be faithful to it.  But now they don’t even want to hear it, or  they won’t hear it unless certain conditions are met..

Are you going to be one of them?  I look at the confirmation pictures on the walls in Luther Hall — where are the people now?  They didn’t set out to despise the word, but as Jesus teaches in the parable of the sower, there were other things that just got in the way.

And I have expressed to many of them the same yearning of Christ, that they be gathered into the fold of the believers.  But they will not do it.

This is a fearful thing!  And the REASONS!  Sports.  My feelings are hurt.  Someone told me to go, so I’m not going — Rebellion.

But there is bad news — these are all only one reason.  UNBELIEF.  Damning Unbelief!  Of the impenitent, Paul writes, GAL 5:21 … those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.   And Jesus says of those who will not hear God’s words, “You hear them not because you are not of God.       

I know that some of you can imagine the fear with which  we witness impenitence and rebellion and rejection of the word.  Where spiritual death and damnation are concerned, it is like looking at someone who is very ill and realizing, well, they are going.

My father and I used to commiserate about some of the similarities between being a doctor and a pastor.  I have seen him cry when he lost a patient.  But, if the person was a believer, we agreed, it wasn’t so bad as when I (as a pastor) “lost a patient.”

3.  He Trusts the Power of the Gospel (Means of Grace)

But while none of my father’s patients ever returned to life, some of mine have.

I can remember a man in tears because his son had gone away to school, and showed no interest in the word.  He never went to church.  He got into the drug crowd.  “Yes, but God is faithful, I said.”  He agreed, but we both new that however faithful God might be, that so many reject Him in unbelief.  “You were not willing!”

And yet God was faithful.  It was years later, but that man’s friends never stopped warning, never stopped forgiving.  And the time came when after a close call with death and the precious gospel proclaimed by someone we never knew, the man returned to the faith.

So there are some who, though lost, are found again. Talk about JOY.  REJOICING.  HONOR TO GOD. GRATITUDE!  There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents!

We cannot make someone believe.   We cannot make someone return to the faith.  We cannot coerce or manipulate a person into believing.  (In weakness, we have tried that too.)   It may seem that all we have is so weak and foolish.  All we can do is proclaim Christ and Him crucified!  But that is the power of God.

Just as Christ did, all Christians endeavor to seek and to gather the lost.  And just as Christ did, we use only one power, the power of the Word of God.

You know the power of the word.  You know its power to convict our hearts, to touch our hearts with guilt.

You know the power of the word.  You know its power to comfort your heart, to convince you that Jesus is your Savior, and that as your substitute, He has given you life everlasting.

God grant that the lamentations of our Savior may not be for anyone here, but that the precious confidence in life and salvation may dwell with each of us richly!

AMEN.

By |2019-03-15T15:34:13-07:00March 15th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

His Grief – Our Comfort (Lent Vespers 2, 2019)

THE SUFFERING SERVANT KING – 2

He was despised so we would be comforted.

Download: Lent Vespers 2 2019 SRM

Dear fellow redeemed: Last week we talked about the Glory of the Lord, His victory, and our sharing in it. The victory is over sin, and the death which we deserve. The Servant of the Lord is victorious, and He brings us into glory.

The church is to rejoice in its victory: Isaiah 52:9–10 (CSB) Be joyful, rejoice together,
you ruins of Jerusalem!
For the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has displayed his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations;
all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.
 

In our text last week, Isaiah revealed how this is done. Shockingly! The servant of God descends into the depths to lift us up. Now Isiah elaborates: Isaiah 53:1–4 (CSB)
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a young plant
and like a root out of dry ground.
He didn’t have an impressive form
or majesty that we should look at him,
no appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from;
he was despised, and we didn’t value him.
Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
 

This song, you understand, is YOUR song. We are the ones recounting our life of faith. To start with, we cling to the theology of glory (Remember this term!). The theology of glory is the idea that because God is good and powerful, the church can expect to be glorious and powerful in this world, and the Messiah would establish His power and glory over the world.

But the suffering servant-king (Jesus) turns out to be a nobody. Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

.He grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at him, no appearance that we should desire him.

If we need a rescuer, don’t we want somebody powerful? When we need help, do we call somebody who seems weak? Jesus is just a twig, and we want a towering Cedar of Lebanon.

Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Along with this is the idea that people get what they deserve. What does this mean for the suffering servant-king? He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him.

This is a picture of the rejection and disgust due to someone who had broken the laws of Moses with some abomination or other. Send him away! Don’t even look at him! People believe in “karma,” the idea that there is a particular retribution for a particular sin. See someone suffering and know that they are getting what they deserve.

That is how Jesus was treated. They saw what happened to him and thinking Him evil, they turned away.

The theology of glory despises Christ. This is where we were, and where many are today. Religious groups (“Christian churches”) offer promises of victorious living. 7 steps to emotional freedom. 6 pathways to personal peace. 5 principles of prosperity. 4 keys to living up to your potential.   Etc.

But Jesus gathered people around Him who were broken and sinful and hurting. They couldn’t rise above their poverty, their sickness, their weaknesses or their mortality. When Rome surrounded Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D., they didn’t rise up and throw off the oppressors. They fled with little or nothing. You and I are like that. We haven’t overcome our weaknesses. We have lost loved ones and our hearts are not yet mended. We have regrets – things done which cannot be undone, things said that cannot be unsaid. We have people in our lives who are sick and may never get well, in conflict and may never be at peace.

This is the suffering that is in the world because of our sin.

The suffering servant king gave a foretaste our rescue. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind hearing to the deaf, and He raised the dead. But with all that show of might and power, He still suffered. How could that be?

Do you know what you deserve because of your sins? You deserve regrets, disappointments, a life without love – despised and rejected. What if people knew your worst thoughts or needs, wouldn’t they turn away from you?

This is what Jesus suffered because He bore our sins. It is in understanding this that we understand the Christian faith and the theology of the cross. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.

What he suffered was what our sins deserved, not just on the cross, but in his sore feet, in a bad cold or the stomach flu. He suffered cold nights, long hard days, resentment, rejection, scorn, and all the other afflictions of sinners, though He is righteous. He lived out what we deserve, to what He deserves awaits us.

I can say that a bunch of ways, but you and I need to mull it over. He gave a glimpse of our deliverance, a hint of what awaits us because He shouldered our sickness and pain. I can assure you – indeed Isaiah is speaking to you who know it already – as He carried your sin, the glory of heaven, His glory, is in store for you.

AMEN.

By |2019-03-15T15:10:05-07:00March 15th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Our Vicarious Victor (Lent 1, 2019)

Our Vicarious Victor

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Luke 4:1–13 (ESV)

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ ” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’ ”
And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’
11 and
“ ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Dear fellow redeemed, who walk in spiritual danger from the Devil, the world and our flesh.  Over this Lenten season we will look at several issues involving spiritual combat – issues such as Temptation, and Hard-Heartedness, and Self-Deceit, and Repentance, and Faithfulness, and honor to Jesus as the Christ and Savior.  These are the issues that we will be considering these next six Sundays.

Today we look at the issue of temptation.  We will talk a little bit about how we are tempted, but we will not presume to think that we can merely TEACH a person HOW to overcome temptation, as though we could be saved that way. Knowing the right thing doesn’t give us the power to do it.

Far more importantly, we will consider that Christ overcame temptation IN OUR PLACE, AS OUR SUBSTITUTE.  He is

OUR VICARIOUS VICTOR.

  1. He Saved Us as Our Substitute
  2. He Taught Us To Oppose Temptation
  1. He Saved Us as Our Substitute

How well do you handle temptation? We all must admit that even though as Christians we hate sin, still we do give in to the compulsion of our own appetites, to the coercion of the world, and to the temptations of the devil.

And when we remember God’s warning about sin, (Romans 6:23)  23For the wages of sin is death, ….” we begin to comprehend that defeat and death are staring us in the face!

It’s time to call in the substitute to take over the battle for us.

Imagine being a civilian in a besieged city watching a battle in our defense. If the defending force loses, we will be put to the sword.  Not a one of us will remain alive, except to be made a slave or the toy of some brute.

That is how much we depend upon our substitute and defender, Jesus, the Christ!  And in our text we see a glimpse of the battle.

Unlike us, He had no sinful flesh from which temptation sprang, so His temptation had to come from the devil and the world.  But like us, He has desires and wants and needs — physical, emotional, spiritual – just like us.  So it was true that, as Scripture says, “He was tempted in all ways just as we are, yet without sin.”

Because he is truly man, He was truly our substitute, and He was truly under the law.  Because He is truly God His victory was assured in spite of the greatest torture and temptation.

The temptations He faced are like ours – temptations to human appetites, leading us to sin, and temptations to the mind, leading us into doubt and unbelief.

He faced the temptations to appetite.  After fasting forty days, He was famished, and His mind as well as his appetites cried out for food.

You and I have been tempted, appealing to our own appetites as well – hunger, thirst, sexual appetites, curiosity, desire for the euphoria of drugs or alcohol.  Not all have faced all temptations, but we know the type, and whether as a child we stole a piece of candy or as an adult drank to the point of intoxication, or whatever else, these temptations have been our downfall.

But not Christ’s.  For even for the sake of food, He would not use his divinity in a self-serving way, nor at the bidding of Satan.  He had come in humility to serve, and He would not exalt Himself to please Himself.

He met the temptation with God’s word:  3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”

Note how the devil tries not only to lead him into pleasing His bodily needs, but he also tries to cast doubt.  Such temptations come to us all the time. Just like clockwork you can expect Time or NatGeo, or the History channel to run some blockbuster program or article “debunking” Scripture. Temptation attacks our mind as well as bodily appetite.

Jesus also faced temptations that appealed to his sense of mission.  Just think, if He were the ruler of the world, wouldn’t he then turn the world to God?  He had the chance.  One little, meaningless word of worship, and He would have the whole world in His grasp.

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

8Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

It would have been “just words” for Jesus to worship Satan.  On that basis, the Christian world is fractured and well-meaning Christians tolerate teaching contrary to the word of God.  It is easy to excuse, because it is “just words.”

The truth is conveyed in words, but they aren’t “just words”! Never think that compromising the truth is harmless!

And Christ also faced temptations that appealed to His desire to be believed.  Wasn’t that His purpose after all‑ for people to believe Him?  A jump from the high point of the temple wall would have convinced people in a spectacular way.  Jump off the temple, in plain view of everyone, and levitate miraculously before striking the ground.  THAT would silence the gainsayers and convince the doubters!

But that would be to tempt God.  It is wrong to put God to the test, or to make deals with God.  Think of how we tempt God when we neglect the word or the Sacrament and then expect God to keep us in the faith? Think of how so many of the Pentecostal types insist that there be some sign to validate their ministry!

And these are only three of the temptations He faced – His days and nights were full of the allurements and deception and harassment of the devil.  But since He went through it all WITHOUT SIN, He was able to rescue us from death and judgment.  It is HIS holiness in OUR PLACE that we have to thank for our salvation. Here we see the righteousness of God lived out, the righteousness that is ours and is from God and ours by faith. As Paul says, [by grace we are] 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)

2. He Taught Us To Oppose Temptation

(Back to the defending forces)  If we had actually stood on the walls of the city and watched the defending force stave off destruction, you can bet that we would be devoted to every one of those heroes.  Christ is our defender, our rescuer, our hero, and we are devoted to Him.  So we fight our own fight against our own temptations.

We fill our lives with service to Him, simply because He is our loving Savior and we love Him.  We don’t try to love Him so that we CAN BE saved, we love Him because we HAVE BEEN saved.  What we do out of love for God we do because we have salvation, not because we hope to get it!!

That is the real reason why we wrestle with temptation ourselves.  In that, too, we can learn much from our Savior here.  But there is one thing only that I especially want to emphasize >>> in every case He dealt with the situation with reference to the word of God.  It is written.

As Christians, we must turn to the principle, the absolute, God’s Word.  While the world is consumed with what works, the Christian is concerned with what is right and true.

Under the philosopher, John Dewey, our educational system has been overrun by pragmatism.  Pragmatism is only concerned with what works, not what is right or true..  It was called progressive education 40 years ago.  And it rejects the teaching of anything as being intrinsically right or wrong.  The question stressed is “what is useful.”  And our civilization shows the consequences.

Perversion:  Not “Is it right?” but “How do I avoid the consequences.”

Divorce: Not “Is it right,” but “Does it appear to be more convenient.”

Theft:  Not “Is this taking from someone else,” but “Can I take this without someone getting it back or getting me in trouble.”

We could go on and on.

Our world is set up to give in to the temptations of the Devil, the World and our Flesh.  As Christians we will only be faithful as we take God’s word as our standard. Yes, that will convict us every time, for we fall short over and over again. But as we have seen, our hope is not in our conquering temptation, but in the perfect righteousness of Christ.

AMEN.

By |2019-03-15T15:12:50-07:00March 10th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

His Suffering – Our Glory (Ash Wednesday, 2019)

THE SUFFERING SERVANT KING – 1

He was marred in appearance so we would be glorified.

Isaiah 52:13-15

Dear fellow redeemed: The season of Lent is a penitential season, NOT meaning that we “do penance” or somehow think that we make satisfaction for our sins, but that we take a little time to reflect upon the heart and core of our faith, that we were sinners doomed to an eternity of despair, but are saved by the risen Christ. A faithful observance of Lent assures a meaningful Festival of the Resurrection.

For our devotion this year we will be reflecting upon Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the suffering and death of Jesus, for here we have an account of His suffering – His “passion” just as we do in the Gospels, but looking forward, not looking back. So let’s “set this up,” starting by getting ‘way back and looking at the “whole forest,” the whole book of Isaiah.

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are called the “Book of Judgment” or the “Book of Woe.” The remaining 26 chapters are called the “Book of Consolation” or the “Book of Comfort.” Chapter 40 begins, “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”” (Isaiah 40:1–2, CSB)

Right in the middle of this Book of Consolation comes this passage. It is preceded with a picture of a ruined but (with the common reversal theme) victorious Jerusalem, “Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:9–10, CSB)

You are “Jerusalem.” You need to understand that there is a certain figure of speech that runs down the spine of a good portion of Scripture. (It’s called metonymy, “Metonymy is a figure of speech in which something is called by a new name that is related in meaning to the original thing or concept.”[1]) It’s like when we say, “Hollywood is corrupt.” We aren’t talking about the hills in Los Angeles named “Hollywood,” we are talking about the culture associated with that place.

Zion is the hill on which the temple was built. Jerusalem is the city around Mount Zion. The temple is where the believers went to worship the true God. So “Zion,” “Jerusalem,” “My holy hill,” and so forth are all names for “the church,” the faithful believers in the true and living God.

You are Jerusalem, and one day the “ends of the earth,” the whole world, will see your salvation. You will travel from the ruined city of this world into the New Jerusalem, the dwelling place of the righteous. The Lord Himself will “go before you and be your rearguard.”

This salvation will be accomplished by means of the Lord’s servant. Think of the number of times Jesus said that He went to the cross to “do My Father’s will.” So, in the way of divine reversal that we have come to know, we hear of the “Suffering Servant” who saves us.

Who needs saving, after all? You see, it is necessary for the dying to defeat death, the sinful to be righteous, the condemned to be acquitted, the suffering to be relieved, the conflicted to find peace, the rejected to be reconciled. That is who we are, and that is who the servant of God, God the Son, became, in order to save us.

So now, our text:

13 See, my servant, will be successful;
he will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted.
14 Just as many were appalled at you—
his appearance was so disfigured
that he did not look like a man,
and his form did not resemble a human being—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations.,
Kings will shut their mouths because of him,
for they will see what had not been told them,
and they will understand what they had not heard.

The Lord announces His victory through Isaiah, 13 See, my servant, will be successful; he will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted. But in order that we share in that victory, and become known as righteous, the glory of Christ must be hidden. “Just as many were appalled at you— his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being— so he will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.” (Isaiah 52:14–15, CSB)

Just as Isaiah was hated, just as people saw no worth or value, much less divinity, in his words, so it would be with the Christ. He was hidden, “marred or disfigured in appearance,” so that we might be glorified.

Let’s talk about “glory,” since it is a word used often in Scripture. It is “δόξα” in Greek. It is a “shining forth,” like light, but it doesn’t mean that you will be like a great light bulb in heaven. It means that your goodness, your righteousness, your personality, your virtues, your communion with God, your love for Him and for others will all be apparent.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about this glory to us, who for now are in the midst of this broken world, “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–17, CSB) If you could see the person next to you NOW as he or she WILL BE, with the goodness, love, righteousness, virtue, spiritual life, beauty and wisdom that will be theirs, you’d be scared silly. You’d be temped to worship such a person. Such is the glory that will be bestowed upon us in the resurrection. This is the victory that the suffering servant wins for us.

But for that, he suffered the opposite. He was hated, despised, and treated as subhuman, as is all goodness in this evil world: Just as many were appalled at you— his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being—

This is the opposite of His glory. The world not only does not see Jesus, but it misrepresents Him in every way. He was finally accused and falsely convicted of blasphemy because in raising Lazarus from the dead he incited the envy of the rulers. In our day and age, we in some measure “glorify God;” we let Him shine forth as the source of all righteousness and justice, yes, but also the One who loves the undeserving in Christ. In His glory people will see Him as the Lamb of God.

Using imagery that strikes a chord with Isaiah’s readers as well as with us, Isaiah goes on speaking the Lord’s word: 15 so he will sprinkle many nations., Kings will shut their mouths because of him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.

The sprinkling of nations is with the blood of the lamb, so that forgiveness may come to those who know the law, but not the gospel, who know the natural law, but not the gospel that comes through the word alone. Paul put it this way, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are subject to the law, so that every mouth may be shut and the whole world may become subject to God’s judgment. For no one will be justified in his sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.” (Romans 3:19–20, CSB)

But with the understanding of the law from God’s word, and the sprinkling of the nations with the blood of the lamb, that is with the Gospel, our Suffering Servant King rescues out of this broken world into the glory that awaits us because of Him. For the law, remember teaches not just right and wrong, but the wrath of God over sin. Anyone who sins is cast off forever. The Gospel, again, is that Jesus took the place of anyone who sins, and He has reconciled us to God through His blood because … THE SUFFERING SERVANT-KING Was Marred in Appearance … (so we would be glorified.)

AMEN.

[1] http://www.literarydevices.com/metonymy/, accessed 3/5/19.

By |2019-03-15T15:12:14-07:00March 5th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

The Man Who Went to the Cross Is God

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The Man Who Went to the Cross Is God

Luke 9:28–36 (CSB)

28 About eight days after this conversation, he took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, two men were talking with him—Moses and Elijah. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.

32 Peter and those with him were in a deep sleep,, and when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men who were standing with him. 33 As the two men were departing from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he was saying.

34 While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen One;, listen to him!”

36 After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They kept silent, and at that time told no one what they had seen.

Dear fellow redeemed: Our text takes place about eight days after a certain conversation takes place.  Now John doesn’t pay too much attention to chronology; His gospel follows a theme rather than a synopsis of events. So that means this conversation must have some significance to our text. You will recognize the conversation: But he strictly warned and instructed them to tell this to no one, saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? …” (Luke 9:21–27, CSB)

So Jesus says, (greatly paraphrased) “I need to suffer and die, but I will rise again. Anyone who follows me should be willing to follow me, event to the cross, it is a matter of eternal life and eternal death.”

Really? Does this make sense to you? It should, given the truth that you know about Christ.

These words make sense, given that …

THE MAN WHO WENT TO THE CROSS IS GOD

  1. The Transfiguration Shows His Glory
  2. He Shows the Curse of Sin and the Glory of Salvation
  3. He Stirs Us to Faithfulness

 

  1. The Transfiguration Shows His Glory

What happened here in our text is simple to describe.  Jesus took three disciples, Peter, James, and John and went up on a high mountain, possibly Mount Hermon, at about 9000 ft.  Through their word we are able to know what they knew, to see what they saw:  He was transfigured – that is, His appearance changed.  He permitted His divine nature to show in such a way that human eyes could see it as a whiteness and a brightness.

They saw His glory; they knew Him as holy and divine.  It is apparent in their recognition of Moses and Elijah.  It is clear in the voice of the Father, “This is my Son, the Chosen One;, listen to him!”  Later on, John summed things up, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, CSB)

Peter wrote (2 Peter 1:16) that they were “eyewitnesses of his majesty,” so they were not telling “cleverly invented stories” when they told “about the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The man who went to the cross is God.

2.     He Shows the Curse of Sin and the Glory of Salvation

While this shows us the glory of Christ, it also shows us the joy and glory of salvation, in the fellowship between Moses, Elijah, and Christ.  It is no wonder “Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” Because such perfect fellowship is something he saw as sheer joy.

For that brief moment, the disciples saw what it meant to associate with God.  Moses and Elijah stood there with Jesus, comfortable with Him in his glory and majesty — and comfortable with themselves.  Unafraid.  Sinless and holy.

They could discuss the coming events in Jerusalem, Jesus’ “exodus” – departure from Jerusalem – matters of tragedy and hope, sorrow and joy, grief and triumph.  And they could do so with no doubts or fears but perfectly certain of the glorious mercy and perfection of the living God.

We are missing that because our doubts diminish our faith, and because we know our God and Savior less well than we could if His word were more part of our lives, and certainly less well than we will in heaven.  Think about what it would be like to discuss even the sorrow and trouble that is before us with a PERFECT certainty that God lovingly oversees it all, that victory is ours.

It was with this understanding that Luther taught us to sing, “Take they goods, fame, child, or wife; let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won; the Kingdom ours remaineth.”  Whatever Moses and Elijah suffered, now we see their glory also.

The transfiguration of Jesus also shows the curse of sin because it shows the depths to which God must descend to save us.  Jesus withdrew the veil only momentarily, and then stepped out immediately upon that road that leads to the cross, obeying the will of His Father, that He be blamed for the world’s sins, and bear God’s wrath over them.  As Paul writes, by inspiration,   who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.(Philippians 2:6–8, CSB) The man who went to the cross is God.

The transfiguration of Jesus shows the curse of sin also because it shows the contrast between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man.  Sinful man cowers before the holiness of God.

We see the curse of sin, but also the glory of salvation.   Look again at Jesus.  For Him death is not a separation.  He can speak to Moses and Elijah, dead for hundreds of years, with as much friendliness as He could speak to His disciples, answering their questions, eating dinner with them, and being their friend. The man who went to the cross is God.

3.   He Stirs us to Faithfulness

This is the Christ who stirs us also to faithfulness – to trust and confidence in Him.  Just as an example, the words He caused Paul to write to us, “More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. … My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. (Philippians 3:8–11, CSB)   He wants what Christ here in His transfiguration shows is His to give: To know Christ.  We can do that.  By faith.  By faith we can see Him now, know Him now, even as we look forward to knowing Him better.

We can be like Job:  But I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. I will see him myself; my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.(Job 19:25–27, CSB)

We can be like Paul:  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.(1 Corinthians 13:12, CSB)

And since we can know him as well as He can be known only through the Word, Here Jesus gives us reason to be in the word, in the word, and in the word.  That we might know Him better, see Him better through the eyes of faith, and put our faith in him — even as we face the troubles and disappointments of life.

In the next 6 weeks, we will follow Jesus.  We will follow Him, in faith, all the way to the cross.  Here we see that the one who went to the cross FOR US is God.  Here we see just a hint of His glory.  Here He brings us a wonderful assurance of the glory of our salvation, and through His word stirs faith in our hearts.

We can see why it is worth it even to lose this life, because of the eternal life that is ours through Him.

May God grant such an abundance of faith in YOUR hearts, bearing fruits in joy and peace now, and everlasting bliss hereafter because the man who went to the cross is God.

AMEN!

By |2019-03-04T14:52:42-07:00March 4th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Merciful for the Sake of Mercy

As Objects of God’s Mercy, We Are Merciful

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Luke 6:27–38 (CSB)

27 “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. 31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. 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.”

Dear fellow redeemed: What is it like to be a follower of Christ in this world, a hearer and doer of His word? First, such a person “repents and believes the gospel of Christ.” That is, she or he knows that we have been born into sin and death, and now have our hope in Christ. Because Christ has paid the penalty of your sin, God holds nothing against you. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1, CSB). So that is who we are. We live, rejoicing in the mercy of God.

Now, what is it like for a person like this to live in this world; what do we do? As Jesus Himself has taught us in this Gospel of Luke, we can expect rejection and persecution. In fact, in this evil world if we are spoken well of it is a really bad sign; it’s the sort of thing this world reserves for their favorite false prophets.

So how are you to treat them? How do we treat those who persecute the followers of Christ and speak well of those who proclaim spiritual poison? We see the way they treated Christ; we know how people of this world hate the light and they  … hate you, … exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22, CSB) How are we to treat them?

AS OBJECTS OF GOD’S MERCY, WE ARE MERCIFUL

AS OBJECTS OF GODS GRACE, WE ARE GRACIOUS

  1. Christian Love
  2. Christian Generosity
  3. Christian Mercy
  1. Christian Love

In order to make sense of this, we must understand that each of us holds many offices or stations in life, and what God’s word says to one, it may not say to the other. These words are directed to you in your station as a believer in this world dealing with the enemies of the faith. You are to defeat them, but just as you were born hostile to God, inclined toward sin and disobedience, and you were defeated by God’s mercy, not by His judgment, so are we to live in this world.

Remember we are to catch human beings, but by “capturing alive,” not by destroying. The most important thing you can do toward those who hate you for your faith is to love them. 27 “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also.

Now, if you are defending your family from a criminal attack, that is a different role in life, but here Jesus is talking about those who hate us for our faith, and there our message in return is mercy.

To put this in real terms, think of February 15, The anniversary of the death of the Twenty-One Martyrs of Libya.

“On February 15, 2015, ISIS proudly proclaimed that it had beheaded twenty-one “People of the Cross.” These men, mostly construction workers from Egypt, were kidnapped by Muslim terrorists from Sirte, Libya; and when they would not renounce Christ, their captors tortured them, finally martyring them upon the beach and throwing their bodies into the sea. They died, not in terror, but with the name of their Lord upon their lips: Ya Rabbi Yasou!—“Oh my Lord Jesus!”

“The twenty-first martyr, Matthew Ayariga, was not a Copt like the other twenty, but a Ghanan. Though not originally a Christian, he witnessed the immense faith of the others before him, and when the terrorists asked him whether he would reject Jesus, he responded, ‘Their God is my God.’[i]

That man’s witness lives to this day.

This brings us to the “turn the other cheek” imperative of Jesus. It’s a problem for a lot of people, and I had a lot of people ask me about it as a defensive firearms instructor. Even as one acting in defense of your family, you suffer indignity before you resort to force, but Jesus is talking about those who curse and mistreat you because of Christ.

We may be humiliated, but we are called not to destroy them, but to show mercy. We may be killed, but we show mercy. As Americans, we may cheer at the death of Isis fighters or the death of Osama Bin Laden, but as Christians we recognize that these are souls who suffer the torment of the damned forever. If our warriors are called to visit death upon the enemies of our nation, they do right. If you have done that yourself, you have done your duty before God.

But now that is not our calling, and if someone belittles us because of our faith – or even seeks our death – our victory in Christ is not in taking vengeance on him or her, but in the way that Christ treated us, proclaiming His mercy and forgiveness.

In the “principle of reversal” we realize that this is our victory, even if it is our death, just as Christ was victorious in death. So John teaches us, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of him. This is how we know that we love God’s children: when we love God and obey his commands [=believes His word]. For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.” (1 John 5:1–4, CSB)

2. Christian Generosity

That is not the way of the world, but that’s the point, as we see in Jesus comments on being generous. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. 31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.

Some of you are going to ask me if we are to therefore indulge every panhandler in Medford. That might not do them so much good, as we all have seen, but if the circumstances involve the oppression of the faith, then we act in grace, mercy, and generosity. So if the champions of death picketing the Crisis Pregnancy Center need your coat give it to them.

Even the unbelieving world understands the golden rule: “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.” But the mercy of God is greater than that, and they can learn that from us.

It is not about doing for people what they deserve but what is gracious – mercy that is neither earned or deserved.

 Christian Mercy

Such mercy also shows in our daily lives. Have you ever been around someone who seemed to ooze disapproval? Being around them, you know you just don’t measure up. As a pastor I see them just waiting until “gotcha!” They catch me in a mistake.

You may be that person. You look around at this disreputable group and see our sin. It may be our sins of the past, the consequences of which live on in our lives. It may be that we don’t read the Bible as much as you do, or do as much work in the church, or we may have the wrong politics (in your estimation).

This is not to tolerate what is wrong. You have heard us confess our sins as you have yours. We have received the same absolution as you have, and by grace possess the same righteousness – a free gift of Christ that we have neither earned nor deserved.

This is what Jesus is talking about when He says, 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.”

The Holy Spirit applied it through Paul when he wrote “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:32, CSB)

This doesn’t mean parents don’t discipline their children, judges don’t enforce the law, false teachers aren’t pointed out, or public immorality admonished, but those are for those who are in the station of parent, judge, or citizen. As Christian to Christian we deal as one forgiven sinner with another, for this expresses our joy and our hope.

There is no such joy or hope in this world without Christ. Each age seeks to destroy those that it blames for the troubles and sorrows in the world, only to create a new age with new troubles and new sorrows. For man is not God after all, and cannot make heaven where there is no righteousness.

Yes, as counterintuitive as it is, we take the truth from Jesus: 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Even then our hope is not in our loving, but in His mercy: Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

AMEN

[i] The Feast of the Twenty-One Martyrs of Libya, February 15

On February 15, 2015, ISIS proudly proclaimed that it had beheaded twenty-one “People of the Cross.” These men, mostly construction workers from Egypt, were kidnapped by Muslim terrorists from Sirte, Libya; and when they would not renounce Christ, their captors tortured them, finally martyring them upon the beach and throwing their bodies into the sea. They died, not in terror, but with the name of their Lord upon their lips: Ya Rabbi Yasou!—“Oh my Lord Jesus!”
The twenty-first martyr, Matthew Ayariga, was not a Copt like the other twenty, but a Ghanan. Though not originally a Christian, he witnessed the immense faith of the others before him, and when the terrorists asked him whether he would reject Jesus, he responded, “Their God is my God.”
See Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison address this faithful witness upon its one-year anniversary in 2016: https://youtu.be/HkhsneGX52I.

Bishoy Adel Khalaf
Melad Mackeen Zaki
Yousef Shokry Younan
Somali Stéphanos Kamel
Mena Fayez Aziz
Essam Badr Samir
Malak Faraj Abram
Samuel Alhoam Wilson
Abanoub Ayad Attia
Kirillos Shukry Fawzy
Malak Ibrahim Siniot
Girgis Melad Sniout
Luke Ngati
Sameh Salah Farouk
Hany Abdel-Masih Salib
Ezzat Bushra Nassif
Majed Suleiman Shehata
Bishoy Stéphanos Kamel
Tawadros Youssef Tawadros
Jaber Mounir Adly
Matthew Ayariga


By |2019-02-21T17:00:51-07:00February 21st, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Way of Life, Way of Death

Way of Life, Way of Death

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Luke 6:17–26 (CSB)
 17 After coming down with them, he stood on a level place with a large crowd of his disciples and a great number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those tormented by unclean spirits were made well. 19 The whole crowd was trying to touch him, because power was coming out from him and healing them all.
 
20 Then looking up at his disciples, he said:
Blessed are you who are poor,
because the kingdom of God is yours.
21 Blessed are you who are now hungry,
because you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
because you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you, insult you,
and slander your name as evil
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy. Take note—your reward is great in heaven, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the prophets.
 
24 But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are now full,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are now laughing,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you  
when all people speak well of you,
for this is the way their ancestors
used to treat the false prophets.
Dear fellow redeemed: These past weeks we have been learning from the Gospel of Luke. He shows us Jesus, who is the eternal Son of the father, come from heaven to be born of the Virgin Mary. He reads Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah who comes to proclaim good news to the poor and announces that He is the fulfillment of this prophecy. But as he comes into this world in all his goodness, this evil world rejects Him. So He comes to conquer this world, but not to destroy it, rather to “capture alive,” those who were lost in darkness. He also calls his disciples to follow Him to capture alive the lost. Christ is the way of life; the world is the way of death. Death seeks to destroy life, life seeks to bring life to the dead.

So, Luke lays out…

THE WAY OF LIFE AND THE WAY OF DEATH

  1. Life Is Found in Christ
  2. This Reverses Your Expectations of Success
  3. Rejoice in the Way of Life
  1. Life Is Found in Christ

The way of life is found in Christ. And since this is a dying world, devoted to death, rebelling against God, hating what is good, God reaches down into this world to show us the way of life in Christ. He shows release from sickness and the torment of evil, so … a large crowd of his disciples and a great number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those tormented by unclean spirits were made well. 19 The whole crowd was trying to touch him, because power was coming out from him and healing them all.

Now you might think that this would result in all of these people coming to faith in Him. After all, His power is so great that just a touch would result in health and healing, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, release from the curses of addiction and demonic oppression.

This is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Christ, as Isaiah said, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” (Isaiah 35:5, CSB) But here is the point, only in Jesus is this healing and goodness found. It is not part of this world. Isaiah and the other prophets pointed out that in this world there is sin and rebellion and finally the wrath of God on such evil – evil that destroys marriages and families, that takes advantage of power to oppress, that dissolves lives in the vices of drugs, drunkenness, and porn. And because they condemned the world, the prophets were hated.

So in spite of the goodness that He brings, because He reveals the evil and rebellion of humanity, they hate Him. You and I were also born of this world of darkness and death, so it is only because of His grace that we have been drawn to Him.

Life is found in the Christ because He bore our sins under the wrath of God and died our death. This world is the way of death. This world will never find life in itself.

2. This Reverses Your Expectations of Success

People followed after Jesus, but He did not take them, to start with, where they expected because all the good things He did were not of earth, but of heaven, not of this world, but of the kingdom of God, not found in the way of death that this world follows, but the way of life that leads to heaven.

20 Then looking up at his disciples, he said: Blessed are you who are poor, because the kingdom of God is yours. 21 Blessed are you who are now hungry, because you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh. Even if you have good things now, they are not your source of hope, as James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17, CSB)

Our source of hope is in Christ, the way of life and of heaven: Take note—your reward is great in heaven, He will point out in a moment. The way of life is Christ, even though it means that we must die to this world. This world is incurably evil, it will never be cleansed. We die to this world as long as we live as Christians, meaning that we are at odds with it. To seek for good in this evil world is a fool’s errand, as the apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15, CSB)

So we must die if we are to be rid of this world. Doesn’t that sound as though that is the way of death? For to die is to stand under the judgment of God. But by faith, we avoid that death and share in the death of Christ, “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3, CSB) This is why Paul says, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, CSB)

Christ died YOUR death, under the wrath of God, so that you may share in HIS death, the death that is the pathway to eternal life. You may be poor, you may be hungry, and you may weep with grief, but through all of this, Christ will bring you life in the kingdom of God.

But if on the other hand your hope is in this world, it is a vain hope because that DOES end in death and judgment. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are now full, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are now laughing, for you will mourn and weep. It doesn’t mean that if you prosper now, you are disqualified from heaven, after all, Abraham was one of the richest men of his day. As we just heard, it is in the LOVE of the world that we turn away from the Father.

Isn’t this the way of this world? What do you hear from the political and cultural leaders of the day? The focus is on results. Anything is justified by the results: Universal healthcare, emptying the prisons, self-empowered people, guaranteed income. For an unencumbered life, people will kill their own children. This shows the devotion of the people of this world, to this world. Woe to them, for in the end they will be poor and hungry and will mourn and weep.

3. Rejoice in the Way of Life

Our hope, then, is not in the things of this world, but in Christ – His life and death and resurrection. So I speak to you who have trouble in this life, and haven’t we all! We may be poor, barely getting by. We may be hungry, or we may weep and be discouraged for any of a hundred reasons, but in Christ is life, and He is our hope. The goodness that we see in his miracles came from out of this world, not from within this world, and our hope is that He saves us from this world, and not in this world. Physical death is the end for all of us, unless the Lord returns first, so the way of hope is the way of life.

If we understand that, then we will rejoice in the way of Christ and of life, even if the world hates it. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you,

when they exclude you, insult you,

and slander your name as evil

because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy. Take note—your reward is great in heaven, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the prophets.

It is often amazing how the world hates what is good. Look at the persecution and hatred heaped upon…

Those who want to save children from death

Those who want men and women to marry and raise a family

Those who warn against perversion and offer forgiveness.

Those who encourage sexual virtue.

But as Jesus says, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.” (John 15:18–19, CSB)

If you understand this, you understand how counter-cultural the way of life, the way of Christ, really is, and you will not seek the approval of this world. This evil world has always oppressed the good. If it speaks well of you, if you are comfortable being part of this world, then you had better look at yourself, for 26 Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets.

So life up your hearts! You have been freed from this world and given the righteousness of Christ, by faith. To be a disciple, a catechumen, a hearer and a doer of Christ’s word, is to live with an understanding of the fundamental difference between the way of life and the way of death. We know that we are sinners, born in this world, and in our flesh, we partake of this world, but in Christ we have already died to this world with Him in our baptism.

For a while now, there is weariness.

For a while now there is sadness.

For a while now there are tears.

For a while now there is poverty.

For a while now the world hates us.

For a while now there is shadow.

For a while now we live in a dying world (even though we have died to it.).

But then there will be the light and the dawn of eternal life. For Christ is our risen, righteous king! His righteousness and his life are yours, and great is your reward in heaven.

Amen.

By |2019-02-15T20:25:17-07:00February 15th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Jesus and the Live Catch

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Jesus and the Live Catch

Luke 5:1–11 (CSB)

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: I am going to take you through this text in a way that I hardly ever do. We are going to look at it as a simple, literal, historical account, then at that account as a picture of a spiritual truth that we cannot see, and then as a description of the kingdom that has now come in Christ.

What we have here is a multi-faceted picture of an invasion. It is an invasion in which the invaders seek not to destroy their enemies, but to win them. This is especially important when we remember our text last week, which came from the previous chapter, in which we saw that the invasion of goodness into this evil world is met with evil hatred and hostility. In spite of the hostility, though, this is …

A LIVE-CAPTURE INVASION

  1. An Invasion with the Word
  2. Pictured as Fishing
  3. This Fishing Captures Alive
  1. An Invasion with the Word

First, we see evidence of the invasion of the Christ into this broken world. Though Jesus was run out of Nazareth (as we heard last week) here in Capernaum He demonstrates power over human infirmity and sickness (by healing), shows dominion over demons (by driving them out) and proclaims the good news that the kingdom of God has come.

Now we have Jesus teaching. Think of how strange this appears. Here is God in the flesh preaching to people. The cliché, “fish out of water,” comes to mind. Jesus is God, humbling Himself to proclaim the gospel, the good news, of the kingdom of God. Down He came, into this dark world to take us alive. He is teaching from the boat to avoid the jostling crowd and to be heard better. But here in the boat is the word of life.

Did you know that this room we are in is called the “nave” of the church? It is in the church that we find the word of God, God reaching out into the world to draw all people to him.

Peter is a central figure in this, and he shows the pattern of Christ’s conquest. Christ’s power and holiness show him his fallen situation: “…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,

The power and holiness of God is frightening to sinful people. As professional fishermen, they knew this catch of fish was not natural, but supernatural, not an exceptional event, but a unique and unparalleled event. Imagine that someone went down to the bank of the Rogue River and called all the fish from a mile up or down the river to gather at his feet – that is the scale of Jesus’ power. What would you think of such a person? Scary. Frightening, Awesome. Dangerous. So, the first step in the conquest of peter is that Peter remembered His sinfulness.

But Jesus did not punish him or cast him away. He did not kill Peter, but He claimed Peter as His own. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.” Here he has caught Peter like fish in a net.  The Greek word means “captured alive,” not just caught and possibly “killed.”  Peter, and you and I also, have been captured alive, turned around, and become allies of our conquerors – children of our new Lord. This happens through the gospel, which gives forgiveness, life, and salvation, as Paul explained, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” (Romans 10:17, CSB)

The law and the gospel form the pattern of Christ’s conquest, and the power by which He captures us.

      2.  Pictured as Fishing

Luke lets the similarities play out between God’s invasion of our world, and the fishermen’s invasion of the world of the fish. The glaring difference is that Jesus captures us alive.

Jesus has finished teaching the crowds from the boat. The boat had become the place where God has come to earth. Luke had earlier recorded Zechariah’s song, Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78–79, CSB) Here we see that God has come down into the depths to reach for us.

We see that picture as Jesus says, When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” That isn’t how you catch fish, as these fishermen know. “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”

This gives a picture of how the kingdom of God comes in unexpected ways to unexpected people, and according to His efforts, His volition, and His doing. Then with people all over the world we are brought into the boat, the church.

3. This Fishing Captures Alive

When I heard this account years ago, I thought, “Is being ‘fishers of men’ (as the KJV puts it) a good thing? It doesn’t look very good for the fish.” But as I mentioned a moment ago, when Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will be catching people,” He uses a specific Greek term meaning “captured alive.”

And so you have been captured alive, in fact, we were dead in our transgressions and sins, but Jesus has brought us to spiritual life. We were dead to God, didn’t know Him, knew nothing of His love, much less love Him and trust in Him. We are now the ones who bring life to others, catch them alive for the kingdom of God.

This is what the disciples did. 11 Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.

Now understand, this is not a morality tale that is all about what you must do in order to win God’s approval. The focus of this account is the way that Christ has entered this world, invaded this world, with saving power and grace. And He has given this power and grace to others. You have the words of Christ when you forgive one another. You have the power of Christ to live in the depths of this world and draw others up to the light.

In the case of these fishermen, they even changed their vocations. Their calling in life changed so that they were no longer fishermen. They didn’t have boats. They didn’t have a trade in fish. They didn’t spend their days with nets and with fishing, but with Christ.

We may not change vocations, but our priorities change. We have gone from one world to another. We have gone from where it is all about me, and we are the measure of all things, weighing everything in the balance of our wants, our feelings, we have come to know that way is the way of death. That is the world in which we live.

Now we are counter-cultural, with a different scale of what is good and great, and a different estimation of what is right and beautiful. We know the mercy of God and treasure it.

Listen up, folks! As great a change as a fish rising out of the sea to live on dry land is the change that has come about in your life, because you now know Christ. I know we all struggle with the troubles of this life. We work to make ends meet. We are anxious about the future. We deal with illness and with loss. We suffer from the sins and outrages of other people. We grow older, and we die. But we have been saved from this world and brought into another.

I always treasure Paul’s comments in Philippians, Paul who was plucked from the depths and captured alive to become a precious child of God He said, “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 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 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. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:7–11, CSB)

Hurrah, we have been caught alive!

AMEN.

By |2019-02-08T18:27:53-07:00February 8th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

True Savior = Rejected Savior

True Savior – Rejected Savior

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Luke 4:20–32 (CSB)

20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
22 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?”
23 Then he said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. What we’ve heard that took place in Capernaum, do here in your hometown also.’ ”
24 He also said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them except a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had leprosy, and yet not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. 29 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. 30 But he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.

 31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbath. 32 They were astonished at his teaching because his message had authority.

Dear fellow redeemed:  What if once or twice in your life – every 50 years on the 50’s – all your debts were cancelled, all the losses in your retirement portfolio were restored, and you had basically a paid vacation for a year?  That gives a hint what the Year of Jubilee was like, the year of the Lord’s favor, as Jesus put it.  And it is a picture of the eternal Jubilee that awaits those who are His, those who are faithful until death and resurrection.  Wonderful things are revealed as yours!

This is now yours, as Jesus told the people of Nazareth, His home town: “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.” That’s where we left off last Sunday.  It was an Epiphany, a manifestation of Christ to the people. The kingdom of God has broken into this world.

But the reality is that this is a broken world, a sinful world. The rebelliousness of mankind has not gone away. If God in His goodness enters into this world, it will be met by the “badness” of humanity. Jesus declares eternal jubilee, and release from the bondage of sin and death. So of course, he runs into resistance and rejection.

After all, this sinful world is in love with death. The people of Oregon, including our counties, voted to make sure we all continue paying for the killing of the unborn- all the way up until the mom is in labor. Governor Cuomo of New York signed a similar bill into law with thunderous applause just a few days ago. Is it any wonder that a humanity that loves death will reject the Lord of Life, or that a humanity that loves darkness will disdain the Light of the World?

Jesus tells us that as a true prophet is a rejected prophet so

A TRUE SAVIOR IS A REJECTED SAVIOR

  1. A Humanist Rejection
  2. In Spite of the Warnings
  3. Yet Christ Is Still the Savior
  1. A Humanist Rejection

In the synagogue at Nazareth, first things went well, but then they deteriorated: 22 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? The problem came when, instead of asking, “What did He say?” they asked, “Why doesn’t he say what we want?” or “Who does he think he is?”

This is a tendency in our day also. Secular Humanism is the idea that “man is the measure of all things.” So people  ask, “What does the Bible say?” but “Do I agree with what it says?” Pastors and teachers aren’t accepted on the basis of their faithfulness to Scripture, but on their compliance with popular opinion. You see, Christ’s coming, His ministry, His redemption, and His atonement and salvation all involved invasion of enemy territory.

As you read Luke you see that He records how Jesus faithfully follows the pattern of the Lord’s faithful prophet: He proclaims the word of prophecy and its fulfillment in Himself. He records the people’s wonder at it. But then the people turn on Him. This world will not tolerate our Creator as Lord!

2. In Spite of the Warnings

Jesus warns them that if they reject Him, they will be just like the unfaithful Jews who persecuted the prophets in the past. Implicitly, He is comparing them to the faithless people at the time of Elijah and Elisha.

The people then demanded the prophets dance to their own tune. So also many in Jesus’ day. 23 Then he said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. What we’ve heard that took place in Capernaum, do here in your hometown also.’ ” A little later, He put it this way: Luke 7:31–32 (CSB) 31 “To what then should I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to each other:
We played the flute for you,
but you didn’t dance;
we sang a lament,
but you didn’t weep!

Jesus didn’t dance to their tune any more than Elijah.

When they reject the Savior, who proclaims deliverance from the bondage of this world, from the devil, from death, from sin, and from all the troubles of this life, and who has performed miracles, they are like the people of the past who chose Baal over the true God, and the prophets of Baal over Elijah. They do this not because the miracles are wanting, but because they object to the Word of Christ. They demand further signs, not because the signs are wanting, but because they reject Christ as the fulfilment of the promises.

So Jesus warns them. 24 He also said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them except a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had leprosy, and yet not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

They demand signs or they will reject the word. But God doesn’t deal with us that way, as Jesus shows from Israel’s history.  Miracles don’t create faith, the Holy Spirit does.  Miracles don’t create faith; rather it is to the faithful that God brings miracles.

True prophets show themselves to be true when they speak the word of God faithfully. Naturally they are rejected by the faithless.

What did Jesus do wrong?

To listen so many preachers of today, the measure of a preacher or a church is success. “If people reject you,” they say, “then you must have the wrong message.” But if the world is in rebellion against God, what kind of message will the world accept? We have seen that goodness is punished. If a college or school supports values of chastity, fidelity, marriage and family, other schools won’t even play games there, in order to punish them for their beliefs. If a pastoral counselor helps a person with same-sex temptations they way he would help an alcoholic or addict with their temptations, they will be disciplined for unprofessional conduct. A group of students after marching to preserve the lives of the defenseless children and elderly were “found out” by the manager of a business they had entered and were set upon with hatred and verbal abuse.

If you bring God’s good word and promise to this world as Christ did, you will face rejection. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (CSB) 14 But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.

So how should we who treasure Christ respond? As you listen to God’s word, the question is “What does the Bible say?” Not “Is it important?” but “Why is it important?” or “Do I agree?”

3. Christ Is Still the Savior

But by His power, and working through the Word, God changes hearts, so Elijah found faith in Sidon. Elisha found faith in Assyria. Jesus said that His disciples would go on to the gentiles. He moved on to another city, 31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbath. 32 They were astonished at his teaching because his message had authority.

Jesus didn’t pander to the people, saying what they wanted to hear, but he brought the words that save. He started with the broken, sinful world, enslaved to death and sin. He spoke of His invasion into this world to release us from bondage, to bring light to darkness, life in place of death, hope instead of despair. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”

And they are fulfilled for you as well, for these are the words of Christ.

AMEN.

By |2019-02-01T20:32:01-07:00February 1st, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

At Last – All Hopes Fulfilled!

Jesus: “This prophecy points to me.”

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Luke 4:14–21 (CSB)
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, being praised by everyone.
16 He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As usual, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me
to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.,
20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”

In that simple way, Christ was manifested to His home town. It may have come as a real surprise, for Christ was in what we call His state of humiliation. He did not use the divine power that was His as a man. He was God and man, but lived as man, showing His divinity only during His ministry and to establish who He was.

As we have heard the last couple of weeks, He had already been anointed as the ONE who would be our Savior and champion against our sin, the devil, and death. He had shown Himself as the trust-worthy Savior at Cana – God Himself who had come to save. Now He shows Himself as the One promised, He declares that He,

JESUS IS THE PROMISED HOPE FULFILLED

  1. Much Was Promised
  2. Christ Fulfilled the Promise
  3. It Is Fulfilled for Us Now
  1. Much Was Promised

When we say that Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people, we need to have some estimate of what was promised to us. Many people have a very low estimate of both what was promised to us and what was delivered to us. If we had a better appreciation and understanding of what God has truly done for us, we wouldn’t fall so far short of God’s will for us as we do.

We wouldn’t be so careless of His word, or His sacraments if we really understood the richness of the gift.

Let’s consider these promises first of all.
At first reading, it appears that what Christ is proclaiming is a grand new social program, with something for
–the poor
–the imprisoned
–the blind
–the oppressed.
and for everyone else there would be a year of jubilee (year of the Lord’s favor) in which all debts would be cancelled, all mortgages would be considered paid, all property returned to its owner, a great “leveling out” of society.

And yet in the New Testament these references are made clear by Christ, for the promise is the deliverance from spiritual poverty and imprisonment and blindness and oppression and corruption. The clue is there in the text well enough, for who ever heard of financial poverty or physical blindness being cured by “proclaiming”?

But the fact of the matter is that our spiritual poverty is greater than any physical poverty. Poverty is the lack of simple desires- even necessities. But you and I lack even a crust of bread, even a breath of air, spiritually speaking. We have nothing that could give us even a moment of spiritual life.

For what is spiritual life? It is the ability to live in the presence and good will of God, to be aware of Him as we are aware of the world around us right now. It is Christian faith.

What do we have, when we are born that gives us such life? Not a thing. But Christ has given us the riches of His Grace, so that we have righteousness that makes us worthy of His love, and His trust, and His companionship.

I can say without a doubt that President Trump does not even know you exist, and conversely, you don’t know him as a person at all. You might as well not be alive, so far as Trump (or 300,000,000 others) are concerned. What could you do that would suddenly whisk you back to D.C. and make you a fixture in His cabinet? Nothing.

But Christ has so enriched our Spiritual poverty, that God is not only aware of us, but He makes us part of His kingdom in heaven.

The same is true with regard to our imprisonment by our flesh, our blindness in spiritual matters, and our oppression by death and sin. — Christ has delivered us, given us sight through His word, and delivered us from the curse of death.

But for all that, rest assured that while Jesus proclaimed a spiritual Jubilee when all our debts to God are cancelled, He also proclaims one for us in the resurrection. All debts will be cancelled, all oppression lifted, all blindness will give way to sight, and poverty will be no more – in the resurrection.

You can be sure of it, because the one foretold for ages, who fulfilled the promises of God in Himself, and destroyed death, bestows life, and is risen Himself from the dead – He accomplished it.

     2. Christ Fulfilled the Promise

Studies have shown that human beings are somewhat limited in their grasp of things that are truly large. That is why there is more of an outcry over the Air Force paying $50 too much for a pair of pliers than over entitlements that are billions over their projected costs.

That explains in to some degree why it is possible for me to talk about these promises of God to man and for you to listen without much excitement. It’s easy to forget that these words have come from the very mind of God who created all things.

Yet, as abstract as these things may seem, they were fulfilled quite concretely.

They were fulfilled in a real birth, of a real Baby. They were fulfilled in the real person of Jesus Christ, dramatically placed physically and visibly before the people in Nazareth’s synagogue that day. They were fulfilled in real blood, and in a real tortured, pain-wracked dying body on the Cross. They were fulfilled in a real agony of rejection by the Christ as He died.

They were fulfilled in a real resurrection, and in a real ascension — real history involving real people who ate and breathed and slept just as we do.

     3. It Is Fulfilled for Us Now

As we have said so many times before, Christianity is not a set of abstract Ideas about God. It is the truth – abstract at times, for sure, but embodied in the reality of Christ Himself.

This is what we mean when we speak of absolutes – statements that are true at all times and in all places. It is always true that God is offended when we love anything more than we love Him. It is always true that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It is always true that Jesus took the sins of the world with Him to the cross and atoned for them all – including yours. It is always true that only those who trust in Christ as their Savior from sin will have everlasting life.

Different people are different, but to me there is nothing that brings home the reality of God’s faithfulness any more than Christ sitting in the synagogue and announcing, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” It’s like saying, “look at me, and see me, and know that I am the One promised to Eve and to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to Isaiah and to all the prophets. Here is the faithfulness of God in human form.

And so, as we sit here with our various awareness of guilt, with our fears and worries, Christ says “These promises to you are fulfilled.” Now, we possess the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.

Do you feel any different?

When I was little and had a birthday, my Dad used to ask me, “Do you feel 8 now?” That illustrates well enough that something can be ever so true without any feeling attached to it.

So too with us, regardless of how we may feel, we should know that “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  You are given the boundless mercy of our God in every way.

AMEN.

By |2019-01-24T17:25:12-07:00January 24th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments