Epiphany

/Tag: Epiphany

His Suffering – Our Glory (Ash Wednesday, 2019)

THE SUFFERING SERVANT KING – 1

He was marred in appearance so we would be glorified.

Isaiah 52:13-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now, our text:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

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

Merciful for the Sake of Mercy

As Objects of God’s Mercy, We Are Merciful

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Luke 6:27–38 (CSB)

27 “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. 31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

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

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

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

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

AS OBJECTS OF GOD’S MERCY, WE ARE MERCIFUL

AS OBJECTS OF GODS GRACE, WE ARE GRACIOUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That man’s witness lives to this day.

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

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

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

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

2. Christian Generosity

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

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

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

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

 Christian Mercy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN

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

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

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


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

Way of Life, Way of Death

Way of Life, Way of Death

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

So, Luke lays out…

THE WAY OF LIFE AND THE WAY OF DEATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. This Reverses Your Expectations of Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Rejoice in the Way of Life

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

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

when they exclude you, insult you,

and slander your name as evil

because of the Son of Man.

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

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

Those who want to save children from death

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

Those who warn against perversion and offer forgiveness.

Those who encourage sexual virtue.

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

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

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

For a while now, there is weariness.

For a while now there is sadness.

For a while now there are tears.

For a while now there is poverty.

For a while now the world hates us.

For a while now there is shadow.

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

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

Amen.

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

Jesus and the Live Catch

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Jesus and the Live Catch

Luke 5:1–11 (CSB)

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

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

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

A LIVE-CAPTURE INVASION

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

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

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

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

Peter is a central figure in this, and he shows the pattern of Christ’s conquest. Christ’s power and holiness show him his fallen situation: “…he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken,

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

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

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

      2.  Pictured as Fishing

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

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

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

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

3. This Fishing Captures Alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I always treasure Paul’s comments in Philippians, Paul who was plucked from the depths and captured alive to become a precious child of God He said, “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:7–11, CSB)

Hurrah, we have been caught alive!

AMEN.

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

Spiritual 911 #5 The Pastor Is a Physician of Souls

The Pastor Is a Physician of Souls

(Part 1—Spiritual Injuries)

In everyday life, people face tragedy because they don’t know about their illness or injury. The undiagnosed diabetic, the undetected heart disease, or the hidden cancer can take a life suddenly and without warning. The head injury with a hidden bleed or the seemingly simple injury that causes internal bleeding can lead to serious consequences.

Among the most serious illnesses and injuries are spiritual ones. In our day it seems that we don’t even think of them. It wasn’t always that way, as we see from an old term for the pastor—seelsorger, soul-healer.

Our Good Shepherd is the true healer of our injuries, as the Psalmist says, “The Lord is near the broken-hearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, CSB)

And we know that our spiritual warfare is liable to result in injuries, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, … In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10–17, CSB)

What do these illnesses and injuries look like? You are probably familiar with them: Doubts, resentment against God, despair over our sins, alienation from God and from other people, an unforgiving spirit, spiritual confusion, and the like. All of these undermine our Christian faith.

What causes them? The lies of the devil are at the bottom of them all, but specifically I think of the propaganda in schools and the media that the material world is all that there is, the constant disapproval by others that undermines the gospel and our own self-indulgent sins and the constant temptations of the world that lure us into impenitence.

The devil’s aim in all these things is the destruction of our faith, which is spiritual death.

Next week: Part 2 Spiritual Healing.

By |2019-02-08T18:14:08-07:00February 8th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

True Savior = Rejected Savior

True Savior – Rejected Savior

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Luke 4:20–32 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A TRUE SAVIOR IS A REJECTED SAVIOR

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

In the synagogue at Nazareth, first things went well, but then they deteriorated: 22 They were all speaking well of him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth; yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son? The problem came when, instead of asking, “What did He say?” they asked, “Why doesn’t he say what we want?” or “Who does he think he is?”

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

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

2. In Spite of the Warnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did Jesus do wrong?

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

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

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

3. Christ Is Still the Savior

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

At Last – All Hopes Fulfilled!

Jesus: “This prophecy points to me.”

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

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

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

JESUS IS THE PROMISED HOPE FULFILLED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     2. Christ Fulfilled the Promise

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

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

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

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

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

     3. It Is Fulfilled for Us Now

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

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

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

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

Do you feel any different?

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

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

AMEN.

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

What Does “Messiah” Mean?

Jesus Was Chosen as Our Substitute

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Luke 3:15–17, 21-22 (CSB)

15 Now the people were waiting expectantly, and all of them were questioning in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I am is coming. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing shovel is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.”

21 When all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized. As he was praying, heaven opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.”

 

Dear fellow redeemed:  How many names do you know for our Savior?  I know people sometimes become confused because we call Him Jesus, Christ, God, Savior, Messiah, Lord, and other names as well.  We use different names to emphasize different aspects of what Jesus has done to save us.

Take “Jesus,” for example.  January 1, eight days after Christmas, is called “The Circumcision and Name Day of Jesus,” because it was on the eighth day that male children were circumcised and also given their names.  He was named Jesus as the angel had commanded Joseph, Matthew 1:21 (CSB) 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The name “Jesus” means “Savior.”

Now, here in our text, we come to know the meaning of the name Christ, “anointed one,” for Here the Lord Jesus was anointed as our replacement, and as the one who would bring forgiveness and salvation to the world.

All that happened here at His baptism.

Here there is a powerful contrast, a powerful juxtaposition: At one and the same time He is anointed as the beloved Son of the Father, and also as one lowly enough to submit to baptism, not as a sinner, but as the One who Isaiah 53:12 (CSB)… was counted among the rebels;       yet he bore the sin of many …

At his Baptism Jesus is clearly MANIFEST as the Messiah,

THE CHRIST, THE ANOINTED ONE

  1. Announced Already in the Old Testament
  2. Accomplished Now in the New Testament
  3. Anointed as Sinners’ Substitute
  4. OUR Messiah
  5. A Blessed Assurance

 

  1. Announced Already in the Old Testament

This title of Christ makes a direct link back to the Old Testament. The word “Christ” is Greek. “Messiah” is Hebrew.  Both words mean “Anointed” or “Chosen”. He is the descendent of Eve that was promised to Eve in the Garden of Eden after our first Parents brought us all under the influence of Sin. Gen 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Christ Baptized is the same Christ, the same Messiah foretold throughout the history of the promise: to Noah, to Abraham, and, as an example, to Isaiah 42:1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, mychosen one in wham I delight; I will put my Spirit on him . . .

The anointing of the Christ (the anointed one, the Messiah) is so central a point of prophecy that it was with that Word that He was known to all who awaited the fulfillment of their hope. He was called the MESSIAH, the anointed one, the chosen one. It was in this way that the disciples spoke of Him, John 1:41 41The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).

     2. Accomplished Now in the New Testament

What was prophesied in the Promises of God, was fulfilled in Christ. It was fulfilled first of all at His conception, as Paul explained to the Galatians (4:4) But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

He was chosen for this purpose, even then, though the time of His public ministry had not yet come.

It was here, at His Baptism, that the truth was proclaimed, especially for John the Baptist, who also saw it. 21 When all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized. As he was praying, heaven opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.”

Jesus talked about Himself as the Anointed One, using the words of Isaiah 61, Luke 4:18

18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,

Peter  put it this way as quoted in Acts 10:38   …God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Do you see why all of this is important? While people today might be convinced by other evidence (or today go with their feelings!), truth itself demands that the Messiah, the anointed one, be, well, anointed! So He was, and so it is written.

 

     3.  Anointed as Sinners’ Substitute

What office was He anointed into? Anointing was reserved for kings as well as some priests and prophets.

Here He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and set before all as the Son of God, and the Sinner’s Substitute.

Right from the first, there was no doubt as to who this chosen one was; who He had been from eternity.

No ordinary dove, this dove came from an opened heaven. Because we are spiritually blind, Heaven is ordinarily closed to us. Only occasionally is it opened so that any can see. It was from this unmistakable heaven, not a mere sky, that the dove came.

As Luther remarks, the dove is the sign of peace and reconciliation, which are the work of the Holy Spirit, who brings us to faith and keeps us in the faith.

And there came with the anointment an announcement as to what the anointment was for. As God’s Son Christ is sent out, as no less than God Himself, to do battle with our old adversary the Devil. This is a divine work, and it is the Second person of the Trinity Himself who undertakes this work.

The doctrine of the trinity, and Christ’s position as a person of the Trinity, cannot be more clearly declared.

It was true God who was chosen.  But what was He chosen for? To be our Substitute!  In his Gospel, Matthew records John the Baptist’s attempt to deter Christ, but Christ replied, Matthew 3:15 (CSB) 15 Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John allowed him to be baptized.

But even though He kept the law, He came as our substitute sinner as well. As Isaiah 53:12 says, “He was numbered among the transgressors…”

He took the place of us sinners and replaced our sin with His righteousness. Was His goodness sufficient? The Father Himself said so: And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.

Because we are sinners, this means everything to us.  Day by day we face our sin, as Jesus has called us to do, to pray, “Forgive us our sins.”

This isn’t a trivial command.  This world is a mess because of sin – our sin.  Weeds.  Sickness.  Sorrow.  Loneliness.  Poverty.  Disaster.  Don’t think for a minute that these have nothing to do with you.  They are judgments upon the world for sin, and our sin too.

And of course, our sin brings upon us the curse of death – and after death the judgment.

That is why it is so important that Jesus is …

     4. OUR Messiah

When we speak of the anointing of Christ, we are not speaking of some interesting event in the life of Christ, We are talking about Christ being Chosen for you, and for me.

Christ was Chosen to be obedient for us.

Christ was chosen to be counted as the sinner for us – the one who was blamed, the scapegoat for our sins.

He is OURS because we are joined to him by faith, as the Bible says, “Whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life,” and

He is OURS because we are joined to Him in Baptism. for the promise is, Galatians 3:26–27 (CSB) 26 for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.

27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.

He is OURS because we are joined to Him in the Lord’s Supper.  For in the sacrament of the altar we show forth for our own comfort, and before the whole world, the death of our Lord Jesus Christ Who has redeemed the world.

     5. A Blessed Assurance

So what does this anointing of Christ do for us? It gives us the most blessed assurance, that the one who took our place to do battle with sin and death itself was none other than God Himself, who guaranteed victory.

And He not only defeated Satan, but through baptism took our place that we might share in the victory over death and in the certainty of everlasting life.

AMEN.

 

 

By |2019-01-11T19:50:08-07:00January 11th, 2019|Sermons, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Universal Law, Universal Fall, Universal Savior

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The Star Didn’t Just Shine on the Magi

 

Matthew 2:1–12 (CSB)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Christ would be born.

“In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah:
Because out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.,

Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship him.”,

After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen at its rising. It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route.

 

Dear fellow redeemed:  You may very well have noticed that a text like today’s is included for a particular reason that guides our approach.  Today is the Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord, the feast commemorating the epiphany or manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.  It is also called the “Christmas of the Gentiles” and in some parts of Christendom it is the pinnacle of the Christmas cycle.

The meaning of the text is one thing and its significance is another.  The meaning is simple and straightforward.  It is an account of Magi from the east, from Babylonia or Persia, seeing a star appear and concluding that it signified the birth of the great and long-awaited king of the Jews.  They traveled to the Jewish capital, Jerusalem, to do honor to Him and were in turn directed by Scripture and by the star to the place where Jesus was.

Matthew also alludes to the historical situation: Herod the Great has brutally killed supposed rivals, including some from his own family.  His attempt to destroy the Messiah as a possible rival will lead to the “slaughter of the innocents,” the killing of all boys two years and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

That’s the simple meaning.  That’s what happened.  We see what God did in bringing out this star, what believers like the Magi did, and what atrocities the unbelieving Herod committed.

But its significance goes beyond this and is revealed in Isaiah’s prophecy, Isaiah 60:3 (ESV)  And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Jesus isn’t just for the Jews, …

 

THE CHRIST CHILD IS THE LORD AND SAVIOR

OF ALL THE WORLD
I. Revealed So by God
II. Worshiped As Such by the Magi

  1. Revealed So by God

One of the ways that the old Liar separates people from the hope of the gospel is by casting religion as merely a cultural phenomenon.  That’s the unofficial religious position of our culture today.  I violate that concept every time I greet you at the beginning of a sermon, “Dear fellow redeemed,” because I am declaring that whoever you are in the world, whatever your language, race, color, or culture, Christ is your redeemer.

To say otherwise, to say that Christianity is just a cultural phenomenon, is to deny the universality of sin and the universality of our salvation. It reduces them from divine truth to personal opinion. The world (a Scriptural term meaning everything in the world opposed to Christ), the world wants to compartmentalize this universal truth. In Muslim and in communist countries you may believe such things, but not teach them or actually live according to them.

This is an agenda of “progressivism” in our country too, dividing “religious” from “secular.” The social theory is that you get to exercise your religion only in church, but outside in other organizations you can be required to violate God’s word and you have no choice.  Ask Hobby Lobby’s owners who are forced to pay for abortion drugs for their employees, even though they oppose it.

But if that is bad, then what’s worse is the prohibition of the gospel.  If God’s law isn’t universal, then the gospel isn’t either.  But He IS both Lord of all and Savior of ALL.

So you see the significance in the star that is seen by people elsewhere in the world than in Judea and Galilee. Think about that!  You see the significance of the fact that the Magi saw the star and believed the promise it represented. As God told Abraham, in his seed ALL the nations of the earth would be blessed.

Matthew gives us only the broad outlines necessary to grasp this.  He doesn’t tell us much about the wise men, the Magi (cf. “magician) other than that they were from the East.  They were evidently among the great scholars and observers of Persia or Babylon.  The prophet Daniel was probably one of them.  We still have some incredibly accurate star maps from antiquity that shows how great their knowledge of the heavenly bodies really was. Recently scholars uncovered trig tables that were more accurate than ours. These were not superstitious tribesmen but great scholars.

Their celestial and mathematical knowledge was complemented by the knowledge gleaned from the Jews during their exile in Babylon.  They must have been aware of prophecies like that from Numbers 24:17, I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.  Evidently Daniel also was even able to ascertain when the Messiah was to appear, so that his colleagues anticipated it.

The bottom line is that God announced to the wider world the birth of His Son so that all of us might hear and know the truth of those words, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.”  So God has clearly revealed His son as Savior and Lord of all.

 

2. Worshiped As Such by the Magi

And He was worshipped as Savior and Lord of all by the Magi.  Their faith is shown above all in that they worshipped this little child without hesitation.  They weren’t put off by his poverty, by his social circumstances, or by his infancy.

Doesn’t this teach us something today? How many people judge Christ according to His circumstances? He comes to us in His word and sacrament in places like this, in house churches in China, in ruins in Syria and Iraq. People reject him because there are no trappings of “success,” because of the people He is found with, His pastors, and disciples, the music or worship that, while rich in His word and therefore in Him, isn’t the “right style.”

And then there are the “feelings” and the “experience,” that isn’t exciting, warm & fuzzy, or “inspirational.” Jesus is your savior, whether you feel like it or not, and that’s a good thing.

Whether or not He met some expectations or other, they worshipped Him.

That is an astounding fact to absorb.  What would we have thought of them if they had just gone on their way without comment?  “And they returned to the East with a few reflections upon the condition of the roads.”  “And they returned to the East in time for the annual games in the Babylon Hippodrome.”  “And they returned to the East wondering why they had made the trip.” “And they returned to the East kinda disappointed and underwhelmed at the impression Jesus made on them.”

That seems to be the way many observe Christmas. Consider that these wise men can travel for perhaps two-three months one way to worship the Christ child, and that some cannot travel 30 minutes to worship Him at least some time during the 12 day festival.

They worshipped Him.  That is in itself an astounding fact.  In the hierarchical society of the ancient world for someone of stature to humble himself before another was a huge thing.  But they did this because they believed that He is indeed their Lord.

So He is also our Lord.  He is the One who has the absolute right to command what we must do.  Now who here likes being told what to do? “Lordship” is not a big part of American culture. Our experience with people who think we should do what they say because of who they are – some elite or other – is decidedly negative.

Many frankly feel the same about God. People resent Him. The challenge Him in his commands about our personal life: Whose body is it anyway?  Marriage, family, virtues of chastity, humility, chivalry, respect, honesty, courage, faith and the like – are all so “old fashioned.”  But they are what our Lord asks of – ALL.

So again, they worshipped Him.  That is an astounding fact.  In the hierarchical society of the ancient world for someone of stature to humble himself before another was a huge thing.  But they did this because they believed that He is indeed their SAVIOR.  There is no other reason to account for their devotion other than the fact that this same LORD whom mankind has offended is also the SAVIOR of mankind.

That means He is also your redeemer, whoever you are.  He is the redeemer of everybody who lives in Medford or Grants Pass, or the Pacific Northwest, or on the North American Continent, or in the Amazon Basin, or on the tundra of Siberia, or the subcontinent of India.

THE CHRIST CHILD IS THE LORD AND SAVIOR OF ALL THE WORLD, and he is manifested as such here before the Magi and, through the Word of God, to the whole world.

 

AMEN.

 

By |2019-01-03T17:26:48-07:00January 3rd, 2019|Sermons, Uncategorized|0 Comments