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

So HOW Is Judgment Day a Blessing?

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Luke 12:32–40 (CSB)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

READY FOR THE ETERNAL FEAST

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

    1.  Ready for the Lord

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

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

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

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

2. The Lord Who Serves

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

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

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

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

3. We Just Don’t Know When

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN

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

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

Who Is Who in the Story of the Good Samaritan?

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Luke 10:25–37 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE GOOD SAMARITAN PORTRAYS CHRIST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Disturbing Response Puts Us on the Defensive

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

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

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

Does God really care how I use His name?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Real Answer Is Found in Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN

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

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

The Kingdom of God Has Come

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Luke 10:1–20 (ESV)

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

***

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

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

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

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

THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS COME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because Christ Has Come to His People!

2. Christ Has Come in Word and Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  “The Kingdom Ours Remaineth”

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

Let that sink in.

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

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

Great Forgiveness >> Great Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOVE – IT’S THE DIFFERENCE SAVING FAITH MAKES

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

1.   Starting with Our Debts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Finishing with Christ’s Absolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN.

YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU.

GO IN PEACE.

AMEN.

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

God Has Come to Help His People (Pentecost 3, 2019)

God HAS Come To Help His People

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Luke 7:11–17 (CSB)

11 Afterward he was on his way to a town called Nain. His disciples and a large crowd were traveling with him. 12 Just as he neared the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was also with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said, “Don’t weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the open coffin, and the pallbearers stopped. And he said, “Young man, I tell you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Then fear came over everyone, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people.” 17 This report about him went throughout Judea and all the vicinity.

Introduction

Dear fellow redeemed, whom God Himself has come to save:  Can you imagine yourself flying above the hill country of Galilee on that day?  I’ve never been in a hot-air balloon, but I’m told you can hear everything on the ground.  So I imagine flying above this little town, whose name means “Vale of Beauty.”

Coming into the town is a big procession, headed from Capernaum.  Here there is joy and exhilaration, for Jesus had healed the servant of the centurion there.  But coming from the other direction, out of the town, is another procession.  Here, according to custom, there is shrieking and wailing, and the most pitiable sound imaginable, for in this procession is the body of a young man, followed by his widowed mother.

The two processions meet and mingle.  It’s quiet, and one man speaks.  The young man sits up and is given back to His mother.

No doubt there was plenty said.  The wailing stopped, and a hubbub took its place.  Luke caught the gist of it in the words of many of them, “God has come to help his people.”

GOD HAS COME TO HELP HIS PEOPLE

  1. God Comes to Us in Our Greatest Need
  2. He Comes with Rescue Unlooked-for
  1. God Comes to Us in Our Greatest Need

This is certainly a case of someone saying more than they know.  What the people said was true, but far more true in far more ways than they may have imagined.

If we had the chance to not only take that balloon ride, but to see things the way the people saw them, and hear them the way the people heard them, what would we see?  What is Luke showing US here?  What makes this more than something done once for one person?

Luke certainly shows us what the people saw or should have seen.  When Luke says, “Jesus gave him back to his mother,” he uses a direct quote from our Old Testament Lesson, using the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint.  That clearly showed that Jesus was every bit as great as Elijah, who raised another widow’s son from the dead.

Luke also tells us what the people said, “A great prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people.”Note:  Not just a person, but people.  Heaven has come to earth.

Jesus acted out of true compassion for the terrible situation the one woman was in.  Our text says 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said, “Don’t weep.” (Dry your eyes.)  And well he might have compassion, for the woman was in desperate circumstances.  In our day dad is the butt of the joke, the Homer Simpson character, characterized as somebody who just doesn’t get it, and who is just tolerated around the house.  In Jesus day, the error was in the other direction, and only men had standing in the community, could own property, could conduct business.  To be without a husband or at least a son to speak for her, a woman would suffer poverty, and in some cases even starve if she had no family to care for her.  Jesus did more for her than give her back her son; He gave her back her life.

What kind of a prophet was this?  We can tell from the wider context.  Luke preceded this account with the account of the centurion’s servant, remember?  The cure of that servant was similar to Elijah curing Naaman the Syrian.  And now Jesus raises a widow’s son, as Elijah did!  And the next event after this text is Jesus talking about John the Baptist as the “Elijah” who was to come, so what did that make Jesus?  GOD has come to help His people!

While the prophets came to prepare the way for Jesus, in Jesus, God Comes to Us in Our Greatest Need. He came to save us from sin.

Pick the most terrible things in the world; they are just symptoms of the real problem.   As God tells us in Romans, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12, CSB) The basic problem that these people faced is that they were sinners.

How ever bad things were for the people of Nain, and especially this poor widow, they do not hold a candle to their greater problem, and their greater need.  For what they needed, and what you and I need is righteousness.  For only the righteous will finally be delivered from this evil– wonderfully, joyously, and forever.

  1. He Comes with Rescue Un-looked-for

Because of Its Greatness

It is this righteousness that Jesus brought with Him to Nain.  It is His righteousness that is offered to you.  It is His righteousness that is His gift of grace.  Jesus isn’t just being powerful for this one woman, He is being good – for all.  He is providing a righteousness that comes from God and becomes ours by faith.

This mighty work was being accomplished every day that Jesus lived among us.  It was accomplished in His words of kindness.  His righteousness was made complete in his loving service to others.  His righteousness was complete in His reproof of the erring and in His comforting forgiveness to those grieving over their sins.  His righteousness was established in His virtues of honesty, and chastity, and joy and longsuffering and selflessness.

His righteousness was affirmed by God the Father, Who said, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.

This is the righteousness that is given to you in the gospel.  This is the righteousness that becomes yours by faith.  This is all that is left to your account before God because Jesus died the death that our sins have called down upon us.

This gift of righteousness is greater than the gift of life.  Greater than healing, greater than a resurrection like this one.   For this gift of righteousness is the gift of everlasting life, and it profits all of us – by faith.

Because of Our Blindness

If you had been in that balloon, do you think you would have seen the Lord our Righteousness down below?

Why don’t we see it?  If this gift of righteousness is so great, then why doesn’t the whole world fall back on its collective heals in amazement?  Because without the Holy Spirit working through the word, we are too blind, spiritually speaking. “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.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, CSB)

With the guidance of God’s word, though, we can see and know in some small way, what Christ has brought us without our looking for it.

When we do see who this Christ is, we should be astounded.

Because Jesus has given you righteousness that reconciles us to God, He is your LOVING Father.  He listens with eagerness to your prayers.  As the psalmist says, “My soul, bless the Lord, and do not forget all his benefits. He forgives all your iniquity; he heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit; he crowns you with faithful love and compassion. He satisfies you with good things; your youth is renewed like the eagle.” (Psalm 103:2–5, CSB)

Let me remind you (and so remind myself also), that God’s love is brought to this world especially and most importantly through the gospel.  But hugely, He depends upon YOU and ME to be His instruments to express His love in the world.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10, CSB)

God needs you.  He needs your Christian virtues of love and compassion to care for His children.  He has endowed us with wealth so that in His place, as His stewards, we can care for His church, His families, His creatures.  He looks to us fathers to be the spiritual leaders in our homes, church, and community.  He needs us see the opportunities that there are to be a blessing, and to commit to them, and to carry out that commitment.

For as we live the Christian virtues, particularly as we express the love of Christ in the Gospel, we give people reason to say, even now,

GOD HAS COME TO HELP HIS PEOPLE!    Amen.

By |2019-06-19T15:06:51-07:00June 19th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Great Faith Is Faith in Christ (Pentecost 2, 2019)

Great Faith Is Faith in Christ – The Centurion

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Luke 7:1–10 (CSB)

1 When he had concluded saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion’s servant, who was highly valued by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, requesting him to come and save the life of his servant. 4 When they reached Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy for you to grant this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue.” 6 Jesus went with them, and when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, since I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 Jesus heard this and was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found so great a faith even in Israel.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant in good health.

Dear fellow redeemed, with this, the Second Sunday of Pentecost, we enter the second half of the church year.  As the green symbolizes, this is the season of growth, a time for us to take a look at the importance of what we have seen during these great and marvelous festivals.

We begin the season with three accounts of Jesus dealing with common situations in His ministry.  Today we consider the Centurion and his Servant, next week, the young man of Nain, and the week after, the woman anointing Jesus feet.  Remember, the festival portion of the church year highlights the fact that heaven itself has invaded this world, this time, and this age, in the person of Jesus Christ, Who is God incarnate.  The last days are here now.  The kingdom of God is here now, though we do not yet participate in its fullness until after the resurrection of all people.

The kingdom that is here now is not yet in its fullness, so that there may be time for people to repent, so for now the grace that Christ brings to this world works faith in us and is received by faith.  What can we learn about faith from this centurion who has, as Jesus says, “great faith”?  Above all, …

GREAT FAITH IS FAITH IN CHRIST

  1. In Christ Who Is True God
  2. In the Promises of Christ’s Word
  3. Faith Receives Christ’s Righteousness

In Christ Who Is True God

Of course the most obvious thing about this particular account of the Christ is the great faith of the Roman Centurion; Jesus Himself makes the comment.  The centurion had accepted what so many others, both then and now, really didn’t believe.  In the face of perfect, accepting, childlike faith, probably most of us can learn a lesson in humility.  The centurion had outshone everyone in Israel that Christ had seen.

The most apparent characteristic of this faith of the centurion is that it was faith in Christ as true God and man. The Centurion had trusted Christ who was trust-worthy.  True faith, let alone “great faith” clings to – has as its object – something that is true.

After all, there are people today who go around believing that this or that faith-healer will cure them.  We don’t praise them, we call them fools.  There were plenty of people like that in Jesus’ day too.  We don’t know the names of many of them, because they were frauds. The centurion sets a good example for us with his firm faith that Jesus is God — but it is not only important that the centurion believed, it is also important that Jesus IS God.

We should not think that it is just a lucky fluke, either, that this impressionable religious fanatic just happened to put his faith in the right person.  We receive Christ by faith first and foremost because He comes to us through His word.  Romans 10:17 (CSB) 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.

The centurion was a man who was devoted to the study of the Holy Scriptures.  He was in a position to know on the basis of the Scriptures whether Jesus was the Christ or not. Jesus had to instruct even his disciples on the way to Emmaus how he was the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament Promises, an understanding which the Holy Spirit perfected in them.

Quite evidently the centurion had it even now.

How do we know that he was a student of the Scriptures?  Because he had given of his own wealth to build facilities for regular Bible study in Capernaum.  He had built the synagogue there, where people regularly gathered to hear the Scriptures proclaimed.  The ruins of that synagogue are there to this day, and archaeological evidence has been found which identifies the synagogue as having been built by a certain centurion.

In the Promises of Christ’s Word

So through the Scriptures, the centurion had already gotten to know Christ.  This Christ who walked the dusty roads of Galilee, who preached to the people, who did the miracles had already been revealed in part in the Old Testament.

Just as you and I get to know Christ now, so that when we meet in heaven it will not be a brand new acquaintance, so the centurion knew something about this Christ. He had read of the grace of God, and of this Christ, such as in Psalm 45: You are the most handsome of men; grace flows from your lips. Therefore God has blessed you forever.(Psalm 45:2, CSB)

 He knew of the mighty works that would be done by the Messiah, as Isaiah wrote, Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; (Isaiah 35:5–6, CSB)

  Presumably he had heard that this is just what the Christ would do.

So the centurion knew this Christ.  He knew of Christ’s authority as the Messiah, and extrapolated out from his own experience with authority.  He knew that with proper authority also comes responsibility, so He knew that this same God who had made all creatures, including this pitifully ill servant, would also have concern and care for His own dear creature.

It was with trust and assurance, then that he called upon Jesus with this prayer for healing.

Christ knew the faith he praised, too.  He knew that faith doesn’t lie just in confidence that God would do this or that thing.  True faith must always be, first and foremost saving faith.

Saving faith first of all acknowledges our sin and our worthlessness.  It acknowledges that we deserve nothing but condemnation for our sin.

Think even of our faith, how earnestly God assures us of His never-failing love.  And yet we go through life worrying and fretting as though the here and now were the most important thing, and as though God hadn’t enough good will toward us to make life (which WE, after all have fouled with sin) just a piece of cake.

And recognizing our unworthiness, saving faith believes that God smiles on us.  That there on the cross Christ did all that was necessary to win God’s good will.  It may be a weak faith, it may, as we have said, be tinged by much worry and fretting, but faith it is, and a gift of God, and is the work of God’s saving grace.

But that faith which trusts in the goodness and grace of God is just the faith that asks with confidence.  This is the faith that rushes to the throne of God to ask a favor, and trusts fervently that whatever the answer, it is God’s good and gracious will. Weak as may be, or strong like the centurion’s, it is nevertheless, saving faith.

Faith Receives Christ’s Righteousness

As we said at the beginning, each of these accounts that we consider says something about the people, and also something about our Jesus.  In one way or another, we are like these people.  Maybe we are like the centurion, of a strong and confident faith.  Maybe we are like the others, not so strong.

But in any case, our Jesus is still the same.  He is the same Jesus that justified the confidence of the centurion.  He is the same Jesus that, even without putting in a physical appearance was quick to grant healing to the centurion’s servant.  He is the same Messiah that the Centurion had already been introduced to in the Scriptures.  He is the same Jesus that who is with us today, and whom we get to know, even as we read about Him.

May the Holy Spirit so open all our eyes that we may daily know our Jesus better, as Savior, and as friend.

AMEN.

By |2019-06-19T15:01:08-07:00June 19th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Jesus’ Words Reveal the Holy Trinity

Jesus’ Words Reveal the Holy Trinity

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This sermon is abbreviated because of the importance of including the confession of the Athanasian Creed in the service.

John 16:12–15 (CSB)
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: Who is the God who is really there? What is He like? While there may be some differences in the way that we think of Him, if we actually worship the One who has created all things and revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures, then we must agree on those things. If God speaks of Himself in one way, we don’t get to think of Him in another.

God is a Spirit, for example, a being with mind, will, and emotions, but no body. As Jesus told the woman of Samaria, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.”” (John 4:24, CSB)

On this Festival of the Holy Trinity, we reflect upon the realities of the true and living God that have been revealed to us, so that we may distinguish him from all the counterfeits and imaginings of the people of this world.

Our text is not about the Trinity, or who God is. It is about the way that God deals with the disciples (and us), which incidentally tells us about the nature of God. It picks up where we left off last week, when Jesus taught us that the apostles and the Holy Spirit would tell the world about Him.

Here now He gives some detail, and in so doing…

JESUS’ EXPLANATION OF GOD’S WORK REVEALS THE HOLY TRINITY

The Holy Spirit is God. He has divine names and divine characteristics. Because of this perfection and holiness, He will guide the disciples into all truth. “He will also declare to you what is to come,” Jesus says. His point is that we will know the truth about God because of the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Besides that, we know about such things as the growth of Christ’s church in the world, the power of the gospel, the return of Christ, our resurrection, judgment day, and eternal life because the Holy Spirit will reveal them. This is more than the disciples could absorb before the whole plan of our salvation played out, but it was coming.

But don’t get the idea that the Holy Spirit is a God. Jesus says, “For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears.” As we confessed in the Athanasian Creed, “there are not three gods, but one God.” In our experience if there is one being, there is one person; that is the way God made us. But He is different. He is One being and three persons, so what one person does, God does, and what God does, all the persons of the deity do. So what the Holy Spirit teaches is the truth of the Father and the Son as well.

Scripture often reflects this reality about God, e.g., (Genesis 1:26, CSB) “Then God [singular] said, “Let us [plural] make man in our image, according to our likeness.” So also here, what the Holy Spirit reveals is in concert with the Father. He is God with the Father.

But also with the Son. All the glory of the Son, all that shines forth of His grace, mercy, power, and all the other divine attributes, will be proclaimed by the Spirit: 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Yet these divine attributes of Christ are the same as those of the Father. 15 Everything the Father has is mine.

The significance of this is that this word of the Holy Spirit is the word of the living God, as Jesus concludes with emphasis: This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you. This is so that they will know that what is revealed to them is the very word of God.

Let’s recap. John is telling us that in the upper room, the night of His betrayal, Jesus was preparing his disciples for the next day, bloody and terrible, and for the time of despair before they were confronted with the wonder, joy, and victory of Jesus’ resurrection. And He was also preparing them for what was to come, the New Testament age, in which the gospel goes out into the world to create the everlasting kingdom of the Lord.

They needed to know that the word that would come to them, the word that would in turn bring you and me to faith in Jesus, the word that would be a testimony to the world, was and is the testimony of God.

They faced their executioners certain of it.

What this means for you and me is that we must treat this word as the sacred truth. We don’t give it a certain “spin.” We don’t take what we like and leave what we don’t. It means that if someone does twist it or contradict it or demean it, that we are to treat them as the enemies of Christ, however well-meaning they may seem, as Paul writes to the Romans: “Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them, because such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.” (Romans 16:17–18, CSB)

But more importantly, it means that we have here the absolute truth for our comfort, consolation, and salvation. So that you may face your sins with the certainty of forgiveness, your troubles with the certainty of deliverance, and your death with the certainty of life, Jesus imprints the word of the Holy Spirit and the apostles with the seal of the Triune God. For that is the God who is really there, to whom we pray and from Whom we receive everlasting life.

AMEN  This is most certainly true.

The Athanasian Creed

Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except it be kept whole and undefiled, without doubt, one will perish eternally. And the true Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the Persons nor dividing the substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one; the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father infinite, the son infinite, and the Holy Spirit infinite. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal; just as there are not three uncreated, nor three infinites, but one uncreated and one infinite.

Likewise the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty. And yet there are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three gods, but one God. Likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

For as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be both God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the true Christian faith to say that there are three gods or three lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three fathers, one Son, not three sons, one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another; but all three Persons are coeternal together and coequal, so that in all things, as said before, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. Whoever will be saved is compelled thus to think of the Holy Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary for everlasting salvation that one also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect Man, of a rational soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who, although He is God and Man, yet He is not two but one Christ; One not by changing of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One indeed, not by confusion of substance, but by oneness of person. For just as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, God almighty, from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all will rise again with their bodies and will give an account of their own works. And they that have done good will enter into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved.

By |2019-06-19T17:31:06-07:00June 11th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

We Have Witnesses!

We Have Witnesses!

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John 15:26–27 (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.

Dear fellow redeemed, to whom the Helper (The Paraclete), the Spirit of Truth, comes:  The celebration of the ascension of Christ into heaven is ten days past.  His visible, local, presence, (one place at a time) was exchanged for an invisible omnipresence, by which He continues to work powerfully in every age and in every place, including here and now and wherever His word and sacraments are found.

So also here in our text for today:  Jesus says that in order to keep them from falling away He would reveal what He would do beyond His death and resurrection and ascension. Jesus is looking ahead to His ascension and beyond to His working in every age of the world, including our own. How does He describe it? In the “latter days,” this time between Jesus’ ascension and His return on the last day, Jesus says…

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE APOSTLES WILL BEAR WITNESS ABOUT THE CHRIST

  1. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth Bears Witness
  2. The Apostles Bear Witness

 

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth Bears Witness

It is by the witness of the Holy Spirit and the apostles that the church has been created and has endured.  We who were born spiritually dead have been given spiritual life and faith – how?  By the witness of the Holy Spirit.  We have been called together here as a Christian congregation.  All believers have been called to become the church of God.

We cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we can see the effect of His witness in spiritual life and faith.  Jesus put it this way in John 3:5–8 (CSB) 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.”

The Holy Spirit shows Himself in the creation of faith, the creation of believers, and the creation of the church in every age.

The reality of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is made known through the Holy Spirit: the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me.

Why “witness”?  What effect does witnessing have on us? That word “witness” is very interesting.  A witness is “one who relates what he knows.”  It isn’t persuasion, or manipulation, or oratory, or drama, it is simply passing on what we know to be true.  “Just the facts, please.”

If I tell you what I have seen, what I have observed, and what I know to be true about someone, what happens?  In some measure don’t you get to know them also?  So by the witness of the Holy Spirit we get to know Christ.

Unfortunately people often look for something else.  Some expect some sort of “experience.”  They call it spiritual, but it is really emotional, and they confuse a physiological reaction with the work of the Holy Spirit.  But we can “gin up” feelings:  –Someone did a whole study on just what the popular singer Adele does to create an emotional reaction.  –You can probably predict the “crying moments” in the movies, like when Old Yeller dies.  –Motivational speakers are experts at, well, motivating and stirring people up to action.

That makes merely witnessing about Christ and the cross seem pretty lame, doesn’t it?  Take witnessing like we see in the Apostles’ Creed – a very early form of witness in the church.  We get to know Jesus as God with the Father and the Holy Spirit.   There is the witness about His being born of a virgin and dying on the cross and rising again, and witness about the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.  This is the witness, the good news, the gospel about what God has to save us from an eternity of darkness and despair.  Remember- the gospel is not mere information, but, according to Romans 1:16, the power of God unto salvation.

Unfortunately, with this approach Christ often fails to win the approval of those for whom He suffered, died, and rose again. (Irony there) From time to time people I have been able to talk with people who don’t attend church because (as they put it) “This isn’t quite what I’m looking for.” Really? Isn’t the word of God enough? Isn’t the promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation enough? Isn’t the presence of Christ in word and sacrament enough?

But that is not what people want, and so, sadly, they reject the witness of the Holy Spirit in favor of the medium that plays to the “felt needs” of people who don’t know what they need – the Savior who is the subject of this witness.  Our salvation doesn’t depend upon a feeling here (in the chest) but a Savior there (on the cross).

The Apostles Bear Witness

But the fact that the witness of the Holy Spirit comes in words of witness and in the word with the water of baptism and the word, bread, body, wine, and blood of the Holy Supper means that His spiritual power really is also rooted in the mundane and the earthly. Two things are bound together, spiritual power and the mundane and earthly witness.

But the gospel in word and sacrament is a divine power, as Paul says, 1 Corinthians 1:21–25 (CSB) 21 For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. 22 For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, 25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Now it’s a GOOD thing that the power of the gospel doesn’t depend on our ability to inspire or generate some emotion.  Think about it.  Often, we can’t help but respond with joy to the message of the gospel. The great festivals of the church can be a high point in any of our lives.

Still, many just don’t feel the presence of God.  The good news is that He is here whether we feel like it or not; faith isn’t feeling.

Everybody I’ve seen who was sick and dying felt horrible.  What if spiritual life depends upon being conscious, and then having the right emotional state besides?!  Even people who don’t suffer from depression have days in which they are just blue.  No, they don’t feel like they are the object of God’s love – but we are.

The apostles were witnesses.  They tell what they saw, and what they saw was the love of God played out in time and place.  Their witness is good news for you:  Your guilt has been taken away.  You are purchased at the price of God’s Son; you are precious. Your savior didn’t come to you in spiritual ecstasy, but in His childbirth, in His daily life, in His blood, suffering, death, burial, and finally going the way you too will go, in resurrection.

The means of grace are very physical for physical people looking forward to a physical resurrection.   With mundane and earthly things like the witness to physical realities they bring forth spiritual life.  As John says, 1 John 1:1–3 (CSB) 1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2 that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—3 what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Now He comes to you in the word, in washing, and in Holy Communion. The ascended Christ has reached out to us through the witness of the Holy Spirit and the witness of the apostles, as Paul put it, 1 Corinthians 2:12–13 (CSB) 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 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.

Through this seemingly humble witness, the ascended Christ is with us, and remains with us.  He awakens faith and spiritual life and preserves us in it – not because we have the right reactions and feel the right feelings, but because He is our Savior.

AMEN.

By |2019-06-10T11:28:02-07:00June 7th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Overhearing Jesus’ Prayer for You

Overhear Jesus Praying for You

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John 17:20–26 (CSB)

20 “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. 21 May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. 22 I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation. 25 Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. 26 I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.”

Dear fellow redeemed: As John relates the history, the climax of Jesus’ ministry, His service to mankind, was when he gave up His life on the cross, having atoned for the sins of the world. With his resurrection, He was shown forth as God the Son and our redeemer, and righteousness was declared for this world.

Jesus was our servant, living out our life of perfect righteousness, and dying our death to atone for our sins. But even though “Christ died for all,” there will always be those who are His and those who are not, those who are alive in faith and those who are not, those who believe in Him, and those who are not. Those who are His will be joined with Him in reaching out into the world, so that others will also come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, chosen and sent into this world to save us.

Because of this, eternity touches us. God is acting, not only to cause the son to shine, the crops to grow, the earth, moon, and stars to travel in their orbits. He is touching your heart and your mind and, most intimately, your very life and soul. In the great cosmic battle that embroils this universe each day, we who know Christ are all in this together.

Let me tell you what kind of company your keep, for we are all in this together, with each other, with the faithful all over the planet, with the faithful of the past and of the future, of heaven and of earth. We are joined with the host of heaven, clothed in white, the suffering and imprisoned faithful around the world, the aged and the baptized newborn, and you and me, all in this together.

And what we have here from Jesus on the eve of his self-sacrifice is an outpouring of His soul, …

WHAT JESUS REALLY, REALLY WANTS FOR US

  1. Children of the Apostles’ Word
  2. A Unity In Heart and Soul
  3. The Glory of God
  4. The Presence of God

Children of the Apostles’ Word

The first thing that strikes us is that Jesus has stepped out of that moment and transcends time. 20 “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word.” He says. That includes you, today. Today we pray to Jesus who was praying for us that night of His betrayal. And He prays for us still: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5, CSB)

As in a family tree, your faith, your spiritual life, is traceable back to these apostles and the word of God, the revelation of the Holy Spirit, that was given, and believed, and in turn passed down. And think about it; as He was facing His death, He was also anticipating the victory that would be won first in His resurrection and then in our hearts through the Gospel.

A Unity In Heart and Soul

And what does He pray for? First, for a unity among us that is beyond anything the world can create, a real soul-connection. He says, 21 May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, … 23 I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

I got a letter from the Bahai in Grants Pass last week. They confused us with the local ELCA church. The writer was just sure that, based on publicity from that church, we would love to participate in a sort of “unity day” with all the other religions in the area. Do they really think that true unity is taking part in a demonstration around the lie that all the false gods of this world are the same as the one and true Creator and Savior? Do they think that there can be any unity between those whose faith is in Christ, and those who deny that He is the only Savior?

Jesus is talking about the sort of unity that makes “soul mates” in the true sense of the term. As I tell young couples in the pre-marital instruction that I provide, “The closer you both are to Christ, the closer you are to each other.” So it is also in the church. The more that we are into this word and know Christ, not “know about” Christ, but know him as we know one another, then the closer we are to one another.

Because of this word, we have the same worldview as a teen-age shepherd from 1000 B.C. (David, who became king). At our heart, we have the same priorities as the people of Nyamira, in Kenya. We have the same hope as the house Christians of Red China. And today we are sharing the same experience of listening to Jesus pray for us. So the closer we are to the words of Christ, and the more we share the truth of that word, the closer we are to each other.

But Jesus takes it deeper, dear soul mates. As we heard a week or two ago, in the mystical union God dwells with us, spirit to spirit. The Father lives with us and in us, as do the Son and the Holy Spirit. Your body and your soul are the dwelling-place of God, so your body and soul are the temple of God, as Paul says, “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, CSB)

Why else is there this sense among us that we are family? How many times I have heard that in the last year! We are united more closely, in many cases, than we are with our own flesh and blood.

Sadly, this unity is disrupted when people become proud, or controlling, or domineering, or self-centered rather than Christ-centered. This unity is disrupted when people depart from the true word of Christ that reveals Him. Lord preserve us from anything like that!

The reason Jesus prays for this unity is so that  “that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”

When someone talks with a Christian and hears about the mercy of God, and with another Christian, and hears about forgiveness, and with yet another Christian and hears as sinner grateful for God’s mercy, this brings a torrent of the gospel into that person’s life.

If someone talks to a Christian or a CHINO “Christian in name only” and hears about social justice, and with another one and hears about God as “mother” or that Jesus is a mere man or that He made no sacrifice for sins, and then with a Christian who shares the gospel, you can see that such disunity keeps the world from knowing Jesus.

While this all makes sense, perhaps the most astounding thing about this prayer is the unimaginable blessing that He gives us in order that we may be one. 22 I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one

The Glory of God

You and I actually share in the glory of God. If God dwells with us, and we with him, then we share in what He gives and in Who He is. In at least half a dozen places Scripture teaches this surprising, incomprehensible truth. Peter, for example, writes, “By [His own glory and goodness] he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.” (2 Peter 1:4, CSB)

Immortality, eternity, righteousness, divine wisdom, fellowship with God – – – these are all part of the divine glory, God’s glory, in which we share. Already it has started. Jesus said, I have given them the glory you have given me. The divine nature communicated to Jesus’ human nature,  is what He gives to us also. Already you have spiritual life and fellowship with God that will never end – immortality. Already you possess the righteousness of God.

When I really grapple with what it means to be one with God, I think my head will explode. Think of what Paul says about sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and in His resurrection, and in His death, and in His resurrection: “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 3:10–11, CSB) Or take Peter, “Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13, CSB)

The Presence of God

Jesus ultimately prays for you because He wants you to know Him as He knows you, and to truly grasp, truly “get” the love that He has for you, and are immersed in it, and in the glory of God. He says, 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation.

Let me put it this way: As we live now, we are separated from Christ because of our sinful natures. But where there is love, there is desire for union, to become true soulmates. We experience this even in our lives, wanting our loved ones near, sharing their joys and dreams and triumphs. Loving you, this is what Jesus wants for you, and what He wants to share with you.

We face troubles in this world, don’t we? Tired. Hurt. Sick. Injured. Disappointed. Fearful. Frustrated. Depressed. Anxious. Rejected. Guilty. Embarrassed.

But we have also tasted Joy. Love. Hope. Satisfaction. Beauty. Companionship. Happiness.

The first of these are of this broken world. The rest of these are part of God’s nature, and they, dear ones, are yours, because Jesus said a prayer for you, and went forth and won them all for you.

AMEN.

By |2019-06-04T18:30:16-07:00June 4th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

What Christ Reveals to Believers – and Why

What the Holy Spirit Reveals

The dove with the olive branch has come to symbolize peace, but many forget that it stems from the book of Genesis, in which the dove returns to Noah with an olive branch, to show that God was at peace with the world and new life would now spring forth. The peace of Christ is a peace the world cannot give, reconciliation with our creator!

Easter 6 2019 Sermon PDF

John 14:23–29 (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.

Dear fellow redeemed: These words of Jesus are in answer to a question from one of the twelve.  They were in the upper room on the night in which He was betrayed, shortly after the words of last week’s text in which he tells us that the world will know us as His disciples by our love for one another.

He tells us that He is the way the truth and the life, the only way to heaven, and that His disciples, those who know him, will see him, but not the world.  “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” the disciple asks.  The answer is that only those who possess spiritual life and faith in Christ will know Him now or have fellowship with Him in heaven. To accomplish this, Jesus will send the Holy Spirit, and …

THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL REMIND US of

  1. The Love of the Father
  2. The Comfort of the Spirit
  3. The Peace of the Savior

The Love of the Father

The first thing that Jesus reveals to us is the love of the Father for us, and His desire for us to be His own.  There are four things that Jesus links together, Our love for Christ, our obedience to Him, The Father’s love for us and His dwelling with us 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Our love for Christ shows, it shows in our desire to serve and obey Him.  The Father’s love shows in His desire for us to dwell with Him, to be close to Him, spirit to Spirit.

The Father’s love and fellowship is not something we deserve, as Isaiah says, Isaiah 59:2 (CSB)

But your iniquities are separating you

from your God,

and your sins have hidden his face from you

so that he does not listen.

That is what we deserve by nature.

Can you be sure that the Father loves you, that He and the Son “will come  to [you] and make [their] home with [you]“?  Putting it another way, do you know whether the sins that have separated us from God have been atoned for, have been made up for?  To answer that question, we have remember all that Christ has said about the love of God for us.

Can you remember what Christ has told us about God’s love?  How much does God love the world?  “so [much] that He gave “  WHAT?  His son.  And Paul puts that in perspective for us, in Romans 8:32 (CSB) 32 He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?

This is so crucial when we are doubtful of God’s love.  Satan rails against the love of God, people around us scoff and point to the suffering and the pain that is in the world.  And we ourselves are touched with grief and sorrow and pain.  We are wracked with age and sickness, and especially our guilt, REAL guilt, not just feelings.  Could God really love us?

We could argue about it.  But while truth creates good arguments, good arguments aren’t always true.  We need a source of TRUTH, of data.  What did God do to show His love?

That is why it is comforting to know where the writers of the New Testament got their data – from Christ, who sent the Holy Spirit: 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.   That is what Christ said.  What did the apostles say? This:  1 Corinthians 2:13 (CSB) 13 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.

The Holy Spirit had certainly reminded them of everything that Jesus Said, and they have brought it to us.

The love of God isn’t something wondered at and guessed at and hoped for.  It is something that God Himself has pulled apart the curtain of heaven for us to see.

The Comfort of the Spirit

Is it any wonder that the Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Counselor” or “Comforter”?  Just think what our lives would be like if the Holy Spirit were not active in our lives, if Christ had not sent Him to us.

To begin with, if we knew about Christ at all without the Holy Spirit’s work, it would only be a kind of cultural memory – it would not touch our heart, ignite faith, work new life.  If there were any writings at all, they would be the dim recollections and impressions of those who knew the Christ.  There would be no prophecies, no perfect unity to the New Testament, and no perfect unity of doctrine.  Gone would be the comfort of knowing what is true, left would be the wondering doubt of those who can never know for sure.

Without the comfort of the Holy Spirit, our hearts, which are cold and dead by nature, would remain cold and dead.  “No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”  So, there would be none who could know the true Lord.

Gone would be the love for God and man that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  The institutions of the Christian world which reflected the love of Christians for their fellow man would be unknown: Hospitals, orphanages, the high regard for women.  These came with Christianity, not before.

But since Christ has given us the Holy Spirit, we do have the comfort of knowing Him.  As Paul says, Philippians 3:10–11 (CSB) 10 My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.

We stand firm in the certainty of God’s love because of God’s own assurance, which God the Holy Spirit gives, as it is written, 2 Corinthians 1:21–22 (CSB) 21 Now it is God who strengthens us together with you in Christ, and who has anointed us. 22 He has also put his seal on us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment.

God comes to us, the Holy Spirit comes to us through the means of grace, the gospel in word and sacrament, and we receive Him by faith, which He Himself works in us.  While faith is worked in us, it is not in us or in our experience that Christ is found.  All the false religions of the world are found in the visions, speculations, and experiences of human beings.

The temples of the gods in Greece and Rome had tricks built into them, like magic tricks, so that people could “experience” the visitation of the “god.”  Mohammed, Joseph Smith, the eastern gurus, and tribal shamans all indulged in various practices that resulted in some ecstatic “experience” that appeared to them to have spiritual significance.  The same practices affect also the “charismatic” or enthusiast religious groups that supposedly speak in tongues, have visions and “experience God.”

But the love of God is not shown in our feeling, but in His action to save us.  Likewise, His peace is not a quelling of the emotions in our body, but in the removal of all our offense toward God, and the satisfaction of His wrath.

The Peace of the Savior.

But are you and I worthy of the Love of God?  Are we worthy of the comfort of the Holy Spirit?  What have we done to deserve it?  There is a real tendency for us to be uncertain of this gift.  That is a natural thing, just as those who have been given riches often are fearful that this good thing would be taken away from them.

But we need not be fearful, the peace that Christ gives to us is not what you and I are used to, as He says, 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.

Think of the many ways in which we use the word “peace”– harmony, calm, composure, serenity, tranquility; the absence of conflict.  There are many kinds of peace.  They may mean absence of fear, confidence in being loved and accepted, peace between nations.

But in every instance, such peace, the peace that the world gives, is transitory.  We don’t come through one war without fearing another.  We don’t get through one phase of turmoil in life without being aware of the likelihood of more turmoil.  Man cries, “Peace Peace,” but there is no lasting peace.

But the Peace that Christ gives us is different.  The peace of Christ is perfect, – an absolute cessation of hostilities between us and God.  We are truly reconciled to Him.  “There is now no condemnation upon them which are in Christ Jesus.”

The peace of Christ is lasting.  As the writer to the Hebrews says, Hebrews 10:14 (CSB) 14 For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified.

Christ has ascended into heaven, (as we celebrate this Thursday) but the victory that He won for us will never be reversed.  The triumph that started on that Easter morning will go on to the end of the ages, and beyond that in heaven itself.  For the Holy Spirit in His word reminds us of these:  The love of the Father, the Comfort of the Spirit, and the Peace of the Son, our Savior.  AMEN.

By |2019-05-24T16:56:19-07:00May 24th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments