Like Lazarus

LIKE LAZARUS

RESCUED IN TIME AND IN ETERNITY

John 11:1-57

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Hello viewers, this is Pastor Bryant from Our Savior Lutheran Church in Grants Pass, Oregon and Faith Lutheran Church in Medford. This is our Midweek Lenten Devotion.

You know, it’s interesting; even without much communication, still several people have remarked to me what a coincidence it is that the most severe week of this pandemic should come when the Christian church celebrates Holy Week. And in fact, there is an intersection between today’s reading and our situation here in the midst of this Pandemic.

For our midweek devotion today, I have chosen a fairly lengthy reading – Chapter 11 of the Gospel of John.

11 Now a man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent a message to him: “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was. Then after that, he said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.”
“Rabbi,” the disciples told him, “just now the Jews tried to stone you, and you’re going there again?”
“Aren’t there twelve hours in a day?” Jesus answered. “If anyone walks during the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks during the night, he does stumble, because the light is not in him.”
11 He said this, and then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.”
12 Then the disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.”
13 Jesus, however, was speaking about his death, but they thought he was speaking about natural sleep. 14 So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. 15 I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.”
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem (less than two miles away). 19 Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, but Mary remained seated in the house.
21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.
24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.”
28 Having said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw that Mary got up quickly and went out. They followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to cry there.

32 As soon as Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked.
“Lord,” they told him, “come and see.”
35 Jesus wept.
36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Couldn’t he who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Remove the stone,” Jesus said.
Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42 I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.” 43 After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”
45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what he did believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and were saying, “What are we going to do since this man is doing many signs? 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God. 53 So from that day on they plotted to kill him. 54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and he stayed there with the disciples.
55 Now the Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56 They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will he?” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should report it so that they could arrest him. (John 11:1-57 CSB)

Let me remind you of the dynamics, of what was going on here. Many who had been following Jesus had left them because He didn’t say what they wanted to hear, nor be the earthly king they wanted Him to be. Others, especially those who had followed John the Baptist and his preaching of repentance and faith remained faithful. Also added were those who had come to repentance and faith and believed the signs of Jesus’ divinity.

At the same time the Jewish leaders’ determination to kill Jesus had hardened; and raising Lazarus from the dead was the last straw. People streamed out of Jerusalem to Bethany to see Jesus and to see Lazarus. The Jewish leaders were plotting to kill Lazarus too, in order to blunt the impact of what Jesus had done. On the first day of the next week, these people who had come out to see Jesus and Lazarus followed Jesus to Bethphage, where Jesus mounted the donkey. They were met by crowds out of Jerusalem who had anticipated His arrival.

Hosanna! Lord Save. Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Jesus entered Jerusalem as the heir of David, the One bearing treasures of the Lord in heaven, the one who brings the light of the gospel, and- undeniably in the face of Lazarus’ resurrection -the true Lord of life.

How He was to defeat death, atone for sin, and rescue the world was soon to be accomplished and revealed.

So, you see, in one way of looking at this, everything was crashing: Jesus had come to Jerusalem where His enemies had power. They were more than every determined to kill Him. Lazarus was in danger. His own disciple, Judas, was going to give away His secret location. He had been identified as the enemy of the whole nation by the High Priest himself. An arrest order had gone out to the general public. Jesus was doomed. Mary had even anointed Him for burial.

But through the eyes of faith and the light of Scripture, we see a different picture altogether. Lazarus’ death was the occasion to  reveal Christ as the Lord of life, the “Seventh Sign” of John’s argument for Jesus as the Divine Messiah. He was heralded as such by the whole nation on Palm Sunday, and on the day commemorating the spilling of the blood of the lambs so that the Lord would pass over Israel, the blood of the Lamb of God would shield humanity from the wrath of God.

Christ, the LORD, was in charge of it all. And because of that, I can assure you of an everlasting hope. “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, CSB) Forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours.

This is important for you every day of your life, of course, but it is especially important at this time in our lives. I don’t know your state of mind right now, upbeat or depressed, fearful or confident, frustrated or eager, in good health or feverish and ill. But whatever it is, consider Lazarus as the image of God’s watchful care for you. Look through the eyes of faith as God’s makes sense of this affliction and gives us the reason for hope.

Over all, the comfort of Psalm 23 applies. It applied in Lazarus’ life and it applies in ours: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

To begin with, we don’t deserve it. We deserve what is happening to this world. In Luke 13 Jesus tells me that when I look at such trouble in the world, I am to repent. You are too. “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” But God is gracious. He is gracious to all. “For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45, CSB)

But to those who believe in Him, He invites us to come to him in prayer, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14, CSB) And hasn’t he taught us to pray, in the face of problems like this pandemic, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”?

And hasn’t he delivered us in the past? Paul points to God’s past mercies as reason to hope for the future. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character [experience], and proven character [experience] produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5, CSB)

So, if you are afraid of getting ill, or getting worse, or having an economic calamity, or losing someone you love, (a half hour listening to the news will give you no end of calamity to worry about) then see how Jesus answers Martha’s prayer. He even went so far as to raise Lazarus from the dead to restore Him to Martha and Mary, to the glory of God. Surely, goodness and mercy followed Lazarus and his sisters.

But notice this also. Lazarus would eventually die again. So, as Christians we have every expectation of the Lord working His gracious will during this time, and He will most certainly hear our prayers. But beyond and behind all that is greater mercy. For while He will bestow goodness and mercy upon you all the days of your life, the pinnacle of salvation is that He has destroyed death, so that you will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

AMEN.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, our comfort in life and in death, strengthen our faith through your Holy Word, and especially as we see how you moved all things, even the machinations of your enemies, to accomplish our redemption. As you have lived a perfect life for us, and atoned for the sins of the world, so give us your righteousness, reconcile us perfectly to you, as indeed you have promised and fulfilled your promises.

Hear our prayers this day for our loved ones and for your believers throughout the world. We acknowledge our sin before you and deserved your wrath in time and in eternity, but now, for your mercy’s sake hear our prayer for ourselves and our loved ones. Deliver us from all evil. But also turn the hearts of the unbelieving to You. To that end, help us to speak of our perfect hope as we have opportunity.

In the name of Jesus.  AMEN

Join us again on Good Friday for the Service of the Holy Cross.

By |2020-04-08T15:01:00-07:00April 8th, 2020|Good News, Sermons|0 Comments

Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

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Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

Matthew 21:1–9 (CSB)

21 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”
This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and its colt; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Dear fellow Redeemed: What’s important? What is important to you? What is important to you today as opposed to a month ago? A guy named Maslow conceived of the “hierarchy of needs,” which is a fancy way of saying that if you are starving, you won’t be much interested in what movie is opening next week or what celebrity was arrested recently.

Jesus was about 2000 years ahead of Maslow when he talked about the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life” that would crowd out God’s word, and so crowd out true and saving faith in the One who is our true hope and salvation.

But the fact is that whether in sorrow or joy, pleasure or pain, confidence or fear, the gospel message, the  essence of Gods relationship with you, remains of paramount importance.

So, whatever you are going through today, protective isolation, a day of many blessings – or even if you were sick and dying, this gospel is important:

JERUSALEM WELCOMED THE WORLD’S SAVIOR

  1. The Daughter Zion
  2. The Savior King
  3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures
  1. The Daughter Zion

Let me tell you why.

Jesus’ disciples went to Judea expected that He would be killed. They thought in terms of a victim of the Jews’ envy and hatred. They figured Jesus would be found out, thrown into prison and, perhaps like John the Baptist, kept until the crowds quieted down and then killed. But Jesus talked about it differently, “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)

They thought of Jesus as victim. Not so! Jesus was the one giving himself over to the cross. He was in charge. Jesus faced the of the Jews’ murderous intent having just raised the dead, after all. Now, in what world is King and Lord of Life unimportant?

Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. John tells us that crowds had gone to Bethany to see Lazarus, and they were now the ones who “followed after” Jesus into Jerusalem. Then there were those who “went ahead” of him, ”the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him. They kept shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” (John 12:12–13, CSB)

Jesus was no victim to be caught, imprisoned, and secretly executed. He is the One Zion looked for, so now … Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

“Zion” is a figure of speech, meaning the church, believers.[1] You are the daughter of Zion. You are one who lives in hope. Whether you enjoy all the delights of life, and know they are just a shadow of the true joys and delights of heaven and the resurrection, or you live in fear, and sorrow, and misery and look forward to the deliverance of the Lord, you are Zion, and your King is coming to you, and now has come, to save you.

We see both His divine and his human natures paired here. In his humanity, He walks down from Bethphage, across the Kidron valley and rides a donkey into the city. In His divine omniscience and omnipotence creates the circumstances to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah.

     2. The Savior King

This business of finding the donkey and the willing owner was “providential” as we say; it was part of the Lord’s management of life. Even as a true man, He is our king, and The Father … “He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,” (Ephesians 1:20–22, CSB) So now, instead of providing beasts of burden for His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, He, in His providence, provides for the church. So as you face the troubles of life, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, CSB)

He exercised His divinity in humility, and even now it is indirectly through His providence, His watchful care, and His loving power. Do not think, when you are safe and healthy, that it is just luck, or when you are sick, that it was bad luck, for even in our troubles our Lord works good.

He came into this world as he came into Jerusalem. He comes in humility and not in judgment. Many is the time that we have talked about this. For the Lord to appear unhidden, in divine power is to be the end of all things and the judgment of all souls. But this is put off for a while (How long? O Lord come quickly!) in favor of His coming in humility so that He may be our Savior.

As Lord of life, He came into this world that He may die and defeat death. He entered into Jerusalem to be captured by the Jews, turned over to the Romans, and crucified. Thereby on the tree of the cross he overcame the Devil who overcame our first parents by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

               3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures

Because it was the daughter of Zion, the church that greeted Him as the King coming to her. And because He was here showing Himself as the Savior King, many spoke the truth about Christ. Hosanna, they cried. “Lord Save Us.” Oh, that people in our age of the world would learn that word, “Hosanna.” It is a cry of repentance, a cry of needing help that only the Divine Savior King can give.

But in our day, there is precious little repentance, and precious little acknowledgment of the Lord. Still people worship their false gods. Government, for one. We hear “If we had just been in power!” What then, eternal health and prosperity? When has humanity ever succeeded in that? Or the god of the world itself, offended by our misdeeds, as one former world leader said (paraphrasing) “this is what comes of not recognizing our role in changing the world’s climate. Repent!” Not to the Living God, but to His creature.

Hosanna, indeed, as God’s subjects and as His creatures we should cry every day. Lord Save! For we have sinned!  Have mercy!

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the true Savior King who is the unique descendent of David, and who will ascend the throne of David in Heaven, Who will judge and save, give life and damnation, take to Himself and cast off forever.

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna in the Highest Heaven.” For we join with the angels of heaven and all the saints, those who have died in faith. We join in their eternal song now, and in the eternal joys of the resurrection hereafter.

But perhaps, for us, the sweetest phrase for us to sing is this: “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” By “blessed” is meant that He is the one blessed (chosen, anointed) by God, not just to receive, but blessed to be the One coming to this world to pour out the treasures of heaven: Mercy, forgiveness, grace, life, salvation, the resurrection unto eternal life.

The greatest treasure, the Son of the Father, was given as a blessing to this world to redeem us from our sins. He lived the life that won God’s own approval, “In Him I am well pleased.” And having lived the righteousness that He gives to us by faith, He poured out His life and blood to atone for our sins, so that you are given the innocence of Christ Himself.

And the treasures continue to pour out through Him today. Light to see and know the truth. Grace, the unmerited love of God. Forgiveness, so that we are reconciled to God. Life, life like the Risen One himself, body and soul.

In His providence, through this pandemic God has put the world on notice of our mortality. As fragile as is our prosperity, our health, even our life, our Savior King is shown to be our hope in life and in death. I assure you, He hears our prayers with mercy.

It is my prayer that you are warm, safe, comfortable, healthy, and prosperous. I pray that you will remain so, despite the storm of fear that surrounds us. But whatever your situation I can point you to our true Hope, our Savior king. He has come in the name of the Lord, Yahweh, Creator and Preserver of all. He has poured out heaven’s treasures to you – forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Be at peace, in Him is the Hope of the world.

AMEN. This is most certainly true.

[1] Jesus fulfilled the prophet’s words so conspicuously that all physically present on that occasion and all of us present in spirit now might recognize and acknowledge him as the kind of Messiah or Christ he wants to be for all men, one who matches Zechariah’s prophetic picture. “Say to the daughter of Zion.” If we go back to Zechariah 9:9, we find a double summons there: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!” One term explains the other. Zion is the same as Jerusalem. Originally, Zion was the name of the site on which Jerusalem was built. Then it was narrowed down to designate the highest point of the city. The reader should note, however, that this was not where the temple was built. It was erected on a lower hill, called Mount Moriah, which we recognize as the eminence on which Abraham had been fully prepared to sacrifice Isaac. (Genesis 22:2) Finally, Zion or Mount Zion came to be used for the whole city of Jerusalem.

In New Testament times the name Zion, or Mount Zion, was employed for the new people of God or the new Israel, in other words, the Christian church. (See Hebrews 12:22, 23; 1 Peter 2:6.) In Revelation 14:1 Mount Zion is the place where the Lamb (Christ) is surrounded by all the saints in glory.

Franzmann, W. H. (1998). Bible history commentary: New Testament (electronic ed., pp. 601–603). Milwaukee, WI: WELS Board for Parish Education.

By |2020-04-04T17:41:25-07:00April 3rd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Midweek Update 4/2/20

Midweek Update 3/2/20

Here is your (probably regular) midweek update.

Let me point out that in these uncertain times we find our refuge, not in up-beat emojis, not in positive thoughts, not in wishful thinking, and not even in the expert information from the CDC. They may all be useful in some way, but true certainty comes from God’s word. Good theology, that is, a good understanding of God’s clear word and promises is of utmost importance because it is rooted in the absolute truth of the word of God.

Whatever happens in terms of health or the economy, forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
We may not be able to get together to hear the word and receive the sacrament, but our assurance lies not in our devotion, but in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

To stand firm in God’s word and promises, cultivate a good devotional life. Here are some suggestions. Don’t let the devil accuse you for not doing everything here, rather find what works for you to receive God’s comfort regularly.

  • Read from the Bible. Start with the Gospels and read a chapter or more at a time. I find it very helpful to read a whole book at a sitting. They aren’t really that long, and it gives me a good perspective.
  • Read your Meditations that we hand out at church.
  • Read Good News for You, a devotion book from the ELS in .pdf format.
  • Subscribe to an email or video devotion here. It will be sent to you daily.: ELS Devotions Sign-up
  • Keep up on the devotions and sermons I put out for you. Because there are so many good devotions available, I am not trying to get a devotion out every day, but I plan to have a Wednesday evening devotion and a Sunday morning service and sermon. The devotion and sermon will apply more to us than the more general devotions can.

PRAY!
We all know that we face the troubles of this life because we are sinners, and that we will one day leave this veil of tears for eternal life and the resurrection, but Jesus Himself teaches us to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” And Paul reminds us that even when we are suffering tribulation His mercies in the past give us hope for deliverance from our present troubles. In your prayers…
– Acknowledge your sins and unworthiness
– Praise God for His mercy
– Because He is merciful, boldly ask Him…
– Ask that our nation be led to repentance.
– Ask that the dire predictions of death and morbidity will not come to pass.
– Ask that you will be given life, health, and strength, and be spared severe illness.
– Ask that your loved ones and fellow church members will be spares.
– Ask that your pastor will be given the right words to comfort people.
Here is the closing part of the prayer that I happen to use, “Lord, help me to see Your Fatherly hand, even in my troubles, so that I may bear my cross in cheerful submission to your holy will, sins You alone know best.”

So commit your future to Him and trust that by His mercy “goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

HERE ARE THE LATEST PLANS:

  1. We will not have services at church until further notice.
  2. We will not offer individual communion during Holy Week as we had hoped.
  3. Some of you have called me for counsel.  Keep it up. I am happy to meet with you by phone for counsel, comfort, confession & absolution, etc.
  4. If you want to meet with me in person, call me and I will set it up.
  5. I am generally reserving my in-person contact for those in the hospital, who are very sick or dying, or who are otherwise in distress, but if you are in that situation I assure you I will be there.
  6. Here is how I will keep in touch:
  • Midweek update (like this one) –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page, –Printed and mailed out with the Sunday sermon in time for Saturday.
  • Midweek Devotion midweek (usually Wednesdays) Recorded on YouTube. Links will be distributed in these ways: –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page.
  • Sunday Sermon Recorded on YouTube Saturday Night. Links will be distributed in these ways: –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page. I will also print it out and mail it out in time to arrive by Saturday.

Cordial Regards, in Christ

Pastor Bryant

By |2020-04-02T12:07:51-07:00April 2nd, 2020|Good News|0 Comments

Christ the Lord and Hope of the Ages

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Christ – The Hope of the Ages

John 8:46–59 (CSB)
46 Who among you can convict me of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 The one who is from God listens to God’s words. This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God.”
48 The Jews responded to him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you’re a Samaritan and have a demon?”
49 “I do not have a demon,” Jesus answered. “On the contrary, I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and judges. 51 Truly I tell you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
52 Then the Jews said, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?”
54 “If I glorify myself,” Jesus answered, “my glory is nothing. My Father—about whom you say, ‘He is our God’—he is the one who glorifies me. 55 You do not know him, but I know him. If I were to say I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”
59 So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden, and went out of the temple.,

Dear fellow redeemed: Who are we dealing with here? That is really the question -and answer- that is before us in this picture of Jesus before the Pharisees. The time is “not yet,” that is to say it is not yet Passover time, not yet the time of His passion. The Jews were trying to kill Him alright, but at this time he prevented it,  59 So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden, and went out of the temple.,

As Jesus clarifies who He is, we see things settle out. There were those who saw the light and those who continued in darkness. There were those who listened to God’s word, and those who rejected it in favor of their own intellect. There were those who those who honored the Father and therefore the Son, and those who dishonored them. There were those who acted in faith and those who acted in unbelief.

That tells us about those around Jesus.

But we also see that it becomes clearer and clearer Who Jesus is. He speaks God’s words. He is the glory of the Father. He is the source of life. He is the source of light and truth. He is eternal. He is the object of Abraham’s faith. He is I AM.

This is the objective, eternal, and everlasting truth: God has walked among us to be our Savior.

JESUS IS THE LORD OF THE AGES

  1. Lord of a Rebellious Humanity
  2. The Hope of the Ages
  1. Lord of a Rebellious Humanity

One thing that has become clear over these last few weeks of the Clovid-19 epidemic is that not everything is about “me.” We witness something that we self-reliant Americans so easily forget, that there are great tides in the affairs of humanity that sweep away everything, and we cannot stop them. I think one example of this was the well circulated comment, from a college student on spring break, “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not gonna let it stop me from partying.” (https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2020/03/23/ohio-spring-break-partier-apologizes-coronavirus-comments/2901591001/, accessed March 26, 2020.) It’s as though he had his truth and the rest of the world had some other truth.

As it turned out, he expressed regret because he came to see that there was an objective reality, a real and deadly affliction spreading across the world and it didn’t stop to ask his permission. It didn’t change to suit him or conform to “his truth.”

The words of the Pharisees in our text, while on a different subject, reveal the same kind of arrogance. In truth, a great and wonderful thing had happened; God had come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. “He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:10–11, CSB) They rejected Him.

We see the Lordship of Christ in His feeding the 5000, in His calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee, in His casting out demons, in His healing the sick, and in His raising the dead. But while the winds and the waves obey Him, His own rebel against Him – His brothers and sisters, His fellow human beings, among whom He came as Savior.

It wasn’t that the Pharisees then (or people now, for that matter) just didn’t understand. Jesus is Lord of life and the destroyer of death.  He said so clearly, 51 Truly I tell you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” They understood that well enough, but they didn’t believe it. 52 Then the Jews said, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?”

They understood; but they ridiculed it. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”

Here in His state of humiliation, they could rebel against Him. They could ridicule Him, . Eventually they would kill him.

Nothing has changed since the fall. Humanity rebels against our true Lord. We see it in society-wide movements that teach that there is only this material world, or that deny the sanctity of the family, or that make humanity the measure of all things. We see it in our own rebellious hearts, in our love of self, our disregard for God’s word, and our doubt of His promises.

So, what of it? Do you think you will every have to give an account? You boys and girls, do you think that you will really ever get in trouble for disobeying your mom and dad, I mean to the point that you really wish you had never done the wrong? Many people who cheat and lie and do shameful things online, or who just live irresponsibly, think that it’s worth the risk, and eventually, if they get away with it, the whole idea of punishment for our rebellion fades away.

But then comes the reminder that we can’t put off the reckoning forever. As we say, we become conscious of our own mortality. And then comes hopelessness and fear. When your mom and dad won’t take your disobedience any more, when your lies catch up with you, you are caught in your shame, or when you are dying. “For we know the one who has said, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30–31, CSB)

  1. The Hope of the Ages

There must be punishment for sin. And sometimes people wonder when there will be judgment. If Jesus is Lord, why did He put up with this rebellion and humiliation? If Jesus is Lord, why didn’t He come in power and might? If Jesus is Lord, why did He use His power to preserve himself from this murder by stoning just so He could die on a cross. If this is the way He comes into this world, why did Jesus say, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

It is true that Jesus is Lord of a rebellious humanity, but He is a Lord who loves, and who in mercy offered Himself to be punished for the sins of the world. It is as the hymn says, “The master pays the debt His servants owe Him, Who would not know Him.” (ELH 292 v. 4)

Now there will still be consequences/ punishment/ an accounting for our sins. Mom or Dad might make you really sorry, our shame might be revealed, self-centeredness turn to rejection, losing those we love. And for all of us, we will die. The troubles of this life, whether directly connected to the wrongs we do or the good we fail to do are a reminder of that full and complete satisfaction for sins required of all of us.

But there is hope. Jesus came in humility so that He could save. He will come in glory and then He will judge. Abraham was glad, there in heaven, to see God the Son enter into this world in humility to redeem the world. His hope, in life and in death, is in Christ. He is the hope of the ages. Our hope, in life and in death is in Christ. He is the hope of the ages.

He allows this world to stand and to go through tribulations and suffering; he delays His return as Peter says, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, CSB)

He is the hope of the ages because, as He said, If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death. The Pharisees thought those were foolish words, but they didn’t know Who they were dealing with. They were dealing with the Lord of Life. The One who was present at creation, who preserve faithful Noah and His family, who intervened to save Isaac, who Passed Over the blood-painted homes of the believers in Egypt, who tore down Jericho, preserved Elijah’s life, raised Lazarus, and paid the sin-price by dying.

The wrong we have done and our failure to do good is inexcusable. But He offered no excuses, He offered His blood and life so that there may be forgiveness. He is the hope of the ages.

The trouble that is in the world today, whether it is from fearmongering or real sickness, from inconvenience or mortal illness, whether from the present emergency or from all the other things that go wrong in this mortal life- the trouble that is in the world today will pass.

By and large, your prayers in Christ’s name will be answered, as David said, “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” He will deliver you from trouble. In the words of today’s favorite psalm (91) “no plague will come near your dwelling.” This is because He is merciful. Christ is your hope.

But this is still a broken world, so one day death will come (or Christ will return first). But our hope is yet the greater for again, in David’s words, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  For Christ is the hop of ALL the ages.

AMEN

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forevermore. AMEN.

By |2020-03-28T18:18:44-07:00March 27th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Faith Listens to the Prophet (12/15/2019 – Advent 3)

Faith Listens to the Prophet

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Matthew 11:2–10 (CSB)

Now when John heard in prison what the Christ was doing, he sent a message through his disciples and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news, and blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me.”
As these men were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? See, those who wear soft clothes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.,

Dear friends in Christ Jesus, awaiting the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:  Do you know what a reality check is?  It’s one of those times when we set aside our self-deceptions and our wrong-headed emotional view of things and get in touch with things as they are.

I remember one young lady who thought she was really in love with a fellow.  He asked her to marry him, and for the first time, instead of thinking what a great time she had with him on a date, she though of actually spending her life with him.  She said “No.”  Reality Check

Coaches will put aspiring but unexceptional athletes up against the best.  They make the choice to do something else rather than having to be cut – Reality Check

Sometimes our friends do us a service when they break it to us that we have an annoying habit or bad breath or some other issue. Reality Check.

Advent, is a penitential season.  It’s a reality check.  If Christ came for you today, if life were over for you today, would you be ready?  I mean, are you certain that you would be in heaven?  Have you taken a real look at who you are, and what your relationship is to the Creator of all things?

How shall we conduct such a reality check?  How can we TRULY know God?  How can we TRULY know the reality of our wrongdoing?  How can we really know God’s feelings toward us?  In our text for today we see where Jesus points us, and a group of blundering disciples to a reality check on our faith …

Prepare Your heart by Faith, for Only Faith Sees…

FAITH LISTENS TO THE PROPHET

  1. His Words About Our Plight
  2. His Words About Our Deliverance
  1. His Words About Our Plight

Are you familiar with the story of John the Baptist?  His birth was spoken of by Malachi the prophet 400 years before,  “See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies.” (Malachi 3:1, CSB)

John was the messenger, and Jesus came right after him.  They were relatives, remember, and John was born six months before Jesus, and at the usual age of 30, started his ministry.  Jesus began His ministry 6 months later, then.

The purpose of John’s coming was to so convict the people of sin that they would despair of the righteousness of the law, and see how absolute was their need for a savior.  He would then point out the Savior, Jesus, as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

God blessed John’s ministry by moving the hearts of people to believe him, and to leave Him for Jesus.  John himself applauded this saying of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, CSB)

John, remember, had been imprisoned for condemning Herod’s public adultery. From prison He asks Jesus if He is the Messiah. That seems odd, because John had pointed to Him as the Messiah. Was John losing faith? It could be that he was beaten down in depression, but more likely that this was a reality check for his own followers. Were they listening to Him?

Faith grabs hold of spiritual realities through the words of the prophets.  John’s words pointed to Jesus as our Savior and our Life, So John when sent them out to Jesus it served as a reality check. — Now when John heard in prison what the Christ was doing, he sent a message through his disciples and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” That is an interesting question.  If in fact Jesus IS the one who was to come, then why aren’t they following Him?

As you and I perform a reality check, we too need to listen to the words of the prophets – including Jesus.  If we do, these words will make clear our REAL plight.

Jesus, for example, says, ““If you love me, you will keep my commands.” (John 14:15, CSB) Do you?  Here’s a reality check; do you love your Savior absolutely?

How about His command, “Search the Scriptures?”  How about His command, “[Do not neglect] to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” How about his command, And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. (Ephesians 4:32–5:2, CSB)

This is altogether too convicting, isn’t it?  It’s scary, too.  A reality check tells us that we are in trouble.  It’s like the pilot who calculates that he has 1.2 hours of fuel in the tank and he is over the ocean 2.3 hours from land..  He isn’t going to make it back.  He should have turned around more than an hour before.  That’s reality.

That’s the true picture, from the words of the prophets, the ones who speak the words of God, the words about our plight, as sinful mortals.

2. His Words About Our Deliverance

John sent his disciples for a reality check, and Jesus gave it to them.  Putting his answer in the familiar words of Isaiah, Jesus told them what they were really looking at.

Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news, and blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me.”

Here are words of deliverance from Christ himself, connected to the words of the prophets that these disciples professed to believe.  Isaiah had said, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. (Isaiah 35:5, CSB)  in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those sitting in darkness from the prison house. (Isaiah 42:7, CSB) The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; (Isaiah 61:1, CSB)

Why words of good news, healing, and liberty?  Because they proclaim Jesus as the ONE LONG EXPECTED.  Just as real as our sin, our plight in the face of death, is the reality of our salvation in Jesus Christ.  It’s the real thing.

Can you sense Jesus’ exasperation in His words? As these men were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? See, those who wear soft clothes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way before you.,

Do you think the words of God are just a curious opinion?  Just an emotional crutch?  Just for other people?  Are you a Christian because it’s nice to be one or because it is REAL and TRUE?  And because we really will die, each of us, and we need to get real about it, and confess our sins to the Redeemer who has taken them all upon Himself and saved us?

As we come to the festivals of the Nativity and of Easter and of the others, take a reality check.  You and I are such sinners that we need God in the manger to live our righteousness.  GOD on the cross to redeem us from all our sins.  GOD stepping out of the tomb as victor over our own death.

By his own work, you have forgiveness of all your sins.  Including the sin of not taking His word seriously. And your sins of anger and grudge-bearing, and of lust and greed, and coveting what isn’t yours – things and other people too.

Advent is a good reality check.  Get in touch with reality through the true and everlasting word of God, given through the prophets and apostles.  Forget the messenger, forget the circumstances, and check in with the message of our desperate plight, and our perfect forgiveness.

Then truly from the depths of our hearts we can earnestly pray: Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

AMEN.

By |2019-12-14T12:41:55-07:00December 14th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

This Could Be You (12/8/2019 – Advent 4)

This Could Be You

Jesus said there would be signs in the heavens. I have always been in awe of one of the many signs in the heavens, namely the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 striking Jupiter in 1994.  It is as though heaven itself is saying, “This Could Be You! Be Ready”

(Incidentally the fireball in the upper left reached the size of the earth itself.)

Download the PDF: Advent 2 2019 SRM

Luke 21:25–36 (CSB)

25 “Then there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and there will be anguish on the earth among nations bewildered by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and expectation of the things that are coming on the world, because the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near.”

29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they put out leaves you can see for yourselves and recognize that summer is already near. 31 In the same way, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

34 “Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, or that day will come on you unexpectedly 35 like a trap. For it will come on all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Dear fellow redeemed: What we have in our text for today is Christ’s urging that we do not miss out on the joy that is in store for us, for Christ is coming. He is coming soon. You will be surprised how soon. So, the message is simple:

BE READY FOR CHRIST’S COMING

  1. See How He Comes
  2. See the Signs of His Coming
  3. Be Ready for Resurrection and Unspeakable Joy
  1. See How He Comes

“Be ready for Christ’s coming.” What does “Christ’s coming” mean? The most direct answer is that it is the end of the world as we know it, and everything will be changed. Peter teaches, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for the day of God and hasten its coming. Because of that day, the heavens will be dissolved with fire and the elements will melt with heat. But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10–13, CSB)

Then will be the resurrection of everyone who has died for  final judgment, as John tells us, Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28–29, CSB)

This will come upon all people in an instant. For most (?) of us it will come at that moment when we die, as Paul writes, Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.(1 Corinthians 15:51–52, CSB)

Christ comes on the last day, surely, but also in the hour of our death.

But whichever we face, 28 But when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near.”

2. See the Signs of His Coming

So, be ready. It is not like we haven’t been warned.

Basically, the brokenness and rebellion of this world against God calls for judgment.  There will be anguish on the earth among nations bewildered by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and expectation of the things that are coming on the world. These things happen in every age of the world; but are accelerating as the end approaches. The fear of climate change, of overpopulation of earthquakes, tsunamis, or disasters of all sorts is amplified by instant communication tech.

And there really are signs in the heavens. Then there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; … the powers of the heavens will be shaken. If you doubt that, look at this iconic picture. This is the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 striking Jupiter in 1994. This fireball grew to the the size of the earth. This as close as I can imagine to God saying, “This could be you!”

This is the pattern Jesus lays out: Anguish and fear and then His appearing. It may be the anguish of death or the anguish of the world, but the message is the same: This can’t last. Humanity has no hope in itself, no hope in its false gods, science and wealth and reason and power. Here is an invitation to an unbelieving world to repent and turn to the Lord of Life.

But the devil has a strategy: Don’t repent, double down on this broken world: The rich man in one of Jesus parables takes that tack,Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’ (Luke 12:19–20, CSB)

Here’s another part of the devil’s deceit: It may seem that except for that instant when He comes, that we have plenty of warning. After all, we get old and we know what’s coming. We get sick, and we know what’s coming, we are in the hospital and we know what’s coming. But readiness is repentance and faith; it is a spiritual condition, not just an exercise of prudence. We don’t just suddenly DECIDE to repent in the nick of time. So, Jesus warns, 34 “Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, or that day will come on you unexpectedly 35 like a trap. For it will come on all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.”

3. Be Ready for Resurrection & Unspeakable Joy

We speak of Jesus’ coming, when all things change, and we speak of the signs, but then what. What does our Lord want us to draw from the brokenness of this world? The thing is, don’t let the brokenness of this world be understood apart from His promises. 29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they put out leaves you can see for yourselves and recognize that summer is already near. 31 In the same way, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.

We so easily compartmentalize our thinking and narrow our focus to the calamities that are in store. But the calamities are but a moment, and the rescue is forever. The kingdom of this world is but a moment, and then comes the eternal spring, the eternal summer, the eternal wedding feast, with no end of delightful figures of speech.

Just consider how Jesus speaks here: 36 But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.” Escape the anguish and stand before Jesus. Here He refers to Himself as the Son of Man. Because you have listened to sermons based on Luke over the last year, you know that this has a very special meaning, taken from the prophet Daniel. “I continued watching in the night visions, and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. 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 7:13–14, CSB)

So prepare for the end of days, that instant when our Lord comes in glory, but don’t forget what you are preparing for. You are preparing to be sons and daughters of the kingdom that we also call heaven, or paradise or the wedding banquet or the mansions prepared for us or eternal life. It is where there are “pleasures forevermore.” We navigate the anguish and trouble of this world as Paul described: 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)

We face the end of all this earth in possession of its remedy in our baptisms: Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3–4, CSB)

So dear friends, confess your sins. Turn your back on this broken, sinful life, be ready for Christ’s coming and so look forward to eternal Glory!

Amen.

Photo Credit

https://www.google.com/search?q=comet+strikes+jupiter&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwiyj8D3_6HmAhXZAjQIHeRpBXUQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=come&gs_l=img.1.0.35i39j0i67l5j0j0i67l3.29767.30345..33287…0.0..0.111.414.1j3……0….1..gws-wiz-img.SPduas7O6D8&ei=gMzqXbLPD9mF0PEP5NOVqAc&bih=937&biw=1920&safe=off#imgrc=R-Ed9Jux2cUZYM

By |2019-12-14T12:38:50-07:00December 6th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Worldview Contrasts

Worldview Contrasts #1

Scripture often points to a distinction between those who live in faith in Him, and those who do not. John often used the term “world” to identify everything in the world that is hostile to Christ and the gospel. For example, he urges us,  “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15, CSB)

That is a pretty sharp contrast—like night and day. That is another picture Jesus uses: “Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12, CSB)

Again, that is a stark contrast between Christians and those who do not follow Christ.

What is the difference. Are Christians innately better or more deserving? No. The difference is faith, spiritual life in Christ. With faith and the guidance of Scripture we have a different worldview than the world.

Over the next few weeks we will contrast the Christian Worldview with some of the most common false worldviews. We won’t get into the realm of political or social opinion, but will deal with more basic truths.

To begin with …

Christians view the world through the lens of the Holy Scriptures, which are inspired, true and without error, so we understand that we are God’s creatures, originally created in perfection, but now born imperfect morally, spiritually, and physically. We are beings both physical and spiritual in nature. Every one of us is accountable to our Creator for all our thoughts words and actions. We recognize that God has influenced history, including the natural history of the world, both directly through direct divine acts and through providence.

The world, by contrast, looks at the world based on physical senses plus human speculation. While our senses provide empirical information about our world, they are limited. We cannot perceive directly in others such things as pain, or love, or beauty or truth. With our sensed we cannot perceive spiritual realities such as sin, grace, the soul, or the presence of God, Who is Spirit, nor can we perceive the past or the future directly.

This void is filled by the speculation and imagination of sinful human beings, so they cannot know for sure “who we are, where we come from, or where we are going.

By |2020-04-02T11:46:23-07:00August 30th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

What Is Your WorldView?

What Is Your Worldview?

A “worldview” is a body of concepts that describe and interpret the world in which we live. Our worldview may be true or false depending on whether we view and understand the world as it truly is. Do we believe, for example, that human life has value? If so, that will affect the way we look at others. Do we believe that the world was created? If so, we will respect the Creator; if not, we will view life as only a complex assemblage of matter.

Our worldview determines what is important in life. Is getting and having possessions the most important thing? If so, then we will neglect other “less important” things.

We are affected by the prevailing worldview of our culture, and therefore Christians have been “counter-cultural” when the prevailing worldview has been pagan or materialistic or humanistic, as the predominate culture is in our country today.

The Christian worldview hinges on four key realities: -Humanity was created by God in a state of perfection. –We have fallen from that condition. –We have been redeemed by God. –With or without this redemption, all must give an account to God at the end of life.

These realities are not shared by our culture, so they do not live as though they are true. We do live this way. We must!

By |2019-08-30T18:11:33-07:00August 30th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

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

Reason for Hope (July 26, 2019)

Yes, There Is Reason to Hope

There Is an Oasis in the Desert of Life

but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15, CSB)

Why should we be full of hope?

Here are some answers I get:

  • I have a good job.
  • I have my health.
  • I’m young and have my whole life ahead of me.
  • The country is on the right track economically.
  • I have great family and good relationships.

But what if you don’t? What if you don’t have a good job, health, youth, or economic prospects? What if you are alone?

Any of these count as positive thinking, but all of the hopes listed here are bound to come to an end as we get older, the economy changes, we can’t do the work, or relationships inevitably end in death.

So then where is your hope?

Where is your hope when the brokenness of this world descend on us? Remember, God has already said that because of our sin, all these things will be taken away from us eventually. In Genesis 3, God tells Adam that labor, pain, alienation and death will curse this world because of sin.

But He also gave reason to hope. The fact is that He promised a salvation FROM this world and all the sorrow and trouble that is part of it. In fact, this sorrow and trouble is intended to drive us into the arms of our Savior.

We have hope because our Savior has taken sin and its curse upon himself, and so opened heaven for us—a new creation in which there will be no trouble, sorrow, toil, pain, or death.

Reflect upon this hope, and let it show, and then be ready to share this hope with others who ask. And don’t hesitate to use me to help. Is someone you know sick and in the hospital? Dealing with family problems? Facing loss? Tell them of your hope, and then offer to send you pastor around.

In this hopeless world, Christians and the Christian Church are the real oasis of hope.  — Pastor Bryant

By |2019-07-31T18:25:51-07:00July 31st, 2019|Good News|0 Comments