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

God HAS Come To Help His People

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Luke 7:11–17 (CSB)

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

GOD HAS COME TO HELP HIS PEOPLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. He Comes with Rescue Un-looked-for

Because of Its Greatness

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

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

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

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

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

Because of Our Blindness

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

Why don’t we see it?  If this gift of righteousness is so great, then why doesn’t the whole world fall back on its collective heals in amazement?  Because without the Holy Spirit working through the word, we are too blind, spiritually speaking. “But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, CSB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOD HAS COME TO HELP HIS PEOPLE!    Amen.

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

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

Great Faith Is Faith in Christ – The Centurion

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Luke 7:1–10 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

GREAT FAITH IS FAITH IN CHRIST

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

In Christ Who Is True God

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

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

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

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

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

Quite evidently the centurion had it even now.

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

In the Promises of Christ’s Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith Receives Christ’s Righteousness

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

Relevance and Christianity

Christianity Relates to Life

Relevance: The degree to which something is related or useful to what is happening.

The Christian faith is the most relevant truth in the world. After all, every single one of us has a conscience that convicts us. Every one of lives in the midst of conflict, from petty squabbles to deadly wars. Every one of us will leave this life and give an accounting for how we have lived. Every one of us needs the Savior.

During The Season of the Church we come to appreciate the relevance of the Christian faith for all of us in every situation of life. After all, God pays attention to all the details of our lives! Jesus underscored this when He taught, “Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7, CSB)

In this season of the year we especially apply the truth of Gods word to our daily lives, from the things that touch us personally each day to the biggest headlines.

In this Sunday’s lesson, for example, we learn the true nature of faith. It is not just belief that there is a god, but confidence in Christ as the incarnate God, and our Savior, who cares for us intimately.

We also see how God shapes and uses the course of history to accomplish his good and gracious will, for we see that in Christ God has invaded this world, and it will never be the same.

Do you think, for example, that God depends upon the actions of nations to “go the right way” for His will to be done? It’s the other way ‘round. The course of nations depends upon God’s will for His church!

This is RELEVANT for us, because we live according to our view of the world, and through God’s word, that view of the world is rooted in truth.

By |2019-06-19T14:41:43-07:00June 19th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Yes, Christianity is VERY Different (6/14/19)

“It’s VERY Different”

At this time of the year we celebrate the Festival of the Holy Trinity and read together the Athanasian Creed, a confession of Biblical truth about Who is the true God. This underscores the chief difference between Christianity and all other religions: We don’t worship their gods. The God who truly exists has spoken to us through His word. All other gods are imagined, “made up” by human beings.

This makes Christianity fundamentally different from all other religions. But the differences are missed because our secular world pushes the assumption that Christianity is just one of many. The materialist / secularist / humanist believes only in a material world, and therefore rejects the soul, or the realities of right or wrong, or of the Creator.

So does this mean Christianity is different? Yes! It’s very, very different. Here are some of the ways:

The Trinity. God reveals Himself in the Bible unlike anything we find in humanity. Instead of a god imagined in the image of man, He is a God beyond our understanding.

Holiness. God is holy and so what is right and good is determined by Him and His word. The critique of God by man is a non-starter.

Human Sin. The problem of humanity is that, though created perfect in the beginning, we are broken and in continual opposition to what is right and good. Because of the rebellion of our forbears (the fall) everyone born of a human mother and father is born sinful, not knowing God, and hostile to the perfect good. We see this in every page of our history, nationally or individually. Though people do many good and noble things, we never escape the selfishness in our lives, the crime in our societies, or the oppression of the powers in the world.

Grace. This is the unmerited, undeserved love of God for humanity. While all man-made religions plot a path to achieving God’s approval and acceptance, only Christianity reveals God’s plan to reconcile rebellious humanity to Himself through the …

Substitutionary Atonement. This is the pivotal event in human history, when God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, satisfied the judgment of God so that there is forgiveness for the world.

The Universal Church. It isn’t a human, social, or even visible organization. Though there are church bodies and denominations, the essential unity of the church consists in the proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News of what God has done to reconcile us to Himself. The resurrection of Jesus has empowered the resurrection unto eternal life of all who put their faith in Him.

The Christian church is therefore different from all other religions— very, very different.

By |2019-06-11T16:04:05-07:00June 11th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

A Popular Fallacy: “I’m Not Religious, but I’m Spiritual” (6/7/19)

“I Don’t Need Religion; I’m Plenty Spiritual”

Of course you are spiritual. After all you are a spiritual creature– body and soul (or spirit).  As spiritual beings, we are at least vaguely aware of spiritual realities, like right and wrong, immortality of the soul, and the existence of other spirits. The problem is that we are spiritually blind. Even though we know there are spiritual realities, we do not know what they are.

Religion supposedly reveals the truth about these spiritual realities. —There are religions that claim to find the spirit in things and places, like the spiritus of rivers animals and plants. —There are religions that imagine that all things are part of a great spiritual reality. —There are mystical religions which believe that introspection and meditation are ways to find the truth about the spiritual. —There are those who use mind-altering substances and techniques as pathways to the spiritual, like shamans or medicine men.

Results have been disappointing.

I can see why people are disenchanted with such religions. None of these religious efforts seem to offer anything more than we can imagine on our own. They all seem to say the same things: Be good. Resist wrong. There is something greater than we are. This life isn’t all there is. Somehow what comes after depends upon whether we have been good or bad.

If you haven’t been exposed to a clear expression of the Christian faith, you might think that it is just one more religion like the rest. But there is a huge difference. Christianity isn’t our discovery of spiritual truth, but God’s revelation of spiritual truth to us. That’s why we call Christianity revealed truth; it’s the revelation of spiritual truth from God through the Bible.

The truth of this revelation, the Bible, is supported in several ways, both internal and external: The historical accuracy of the Bible. The accurate description of human nature. The verifiable prophesies. Especially through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

At the Festival of Pentecost, we celebrate the special gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets, apostles, and evangelists to write a true revelation of God and His relationship to us.

So you see, the Christian faith is like no other religion in that it is divine revelation instead of human development.

By |2019-06-11T16:05:01-07:00June 11th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Jesus’ Words Reveal the Holy Trinity

Jesus’ Words Reveal the Holy Trinity

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

John 16:12–15 (CSB)
12 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They faced their executioners certain of it.

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

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

AMEN  This is most certainly true.

The Athanasian Creed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Have Witnesses!

We Have Witnesses!

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John 15:26–27 (CSB)

26 “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

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

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

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

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

 

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth Bears Witness

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

We cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we can see the effect of His witness in spiritual life and faith.  Jesus put it this way in John 3:5–8 (CSB) Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Apostles Bear Witness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

Overhearing Jesus’ Prayer for You

Overhear Jesus Praying for You

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John 17:20–26 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT JESUS REALLY, REALLY WANTS FOR US

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

Children of the Apostles’ Word

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

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

A Unity In Heart and Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Glory of God

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

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

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

The Presence of God

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

Wonder (confusion) changed to Wonder (Joy) – Easter Festival 2019

Wonder is Changed to Wonder at the Resurrection

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EXORDIUM

Sing, Ye who now on earth do dwell!
Worthy the Lamb for sinners slain!
From angels praise and thanks from men!
Worthy the Lam, enthroned to reign,
Glory and pow’r!  Amen.  Amen.

Dear seekers after Easter joy, dear world-weary and sin-burdened, dear anxious and apprehensive, dear grief-stricken and lonely – and all who have ever been this way, or in their humanity are liable to be…

Rejoice, Sing to the Lord a glorious song, for Christ is risen and lives.

Dear fellow redeemed, for that is what we all are, all human beings, with our sins taken to the grave by our substitute, full payment, ransom, atonement, redemption paid by Him!

It’s not like it has been a secret!

But as the greatest gift of God to humanity, it is just too big for us to easily wrap our heads around it. Besides that, that old liar, the devil, the fallen, hateful, rebellious creature, fights against the truth at every turn.

So humanity looks at the crucified Christ, the suffering Christ, in amazement. For it seems that death wins and Christ loses. It seemed on Good Friday as though hope itself had died.

That is the way it was with the women at Jesus’ tomb.  They were wondering, trying to imagine what had happened, when the angels appeared to them.  They appeared and said, “Remember.”  Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” They had been given the answer.  Somehow at the time it didn’t make sense.  What Jesus foretold was so unbelievable, and then when it happened – the fear, the violence, the blood, the death, the grief – it was hard to believe, much less connect it with the words of Jesus before.  “Remember,” the angel said.  8Then they remembered his words.

Then Wonder (trying to imagine what happened) change to Wonder (joy and amazement).  6He is not here; he has risen!

Alleluia, God be praised, Christ is Risen!  So let us rise and sing the festival hymn, “Alleluia, Christ is risen; his the scepter, His the throne!.”

Luke 24:1–12 (CSB)

RESURRECTION MORNING

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground.

“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered his words.

Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths., So he went away, amazed at what had happened.

So it is that

WONDER CHANGED TO WONDER

  1. Wonder and Uncertainty Becomes Wonder and Awe
  2. He Is Risen as He Said
  3. Therefore There Is Joy in His Promises

1.   Wonder and Uncertainty Becomes Wonder and Awe

There are many players whose lives crisscrossed that day.  Remember, the Jews counted the beginning of a day at dusk.  The great Passover Sabbath that had begun on Friday at dusk had ended at dusk on Saturday.  As was common the shops then would open up and so it was in the dark that the women probably went to buy the spices they had needed and other necessaries for washing the body of Jesus and preparing it for a dignified interment.  Perhaps they even considered taking his body back to Galilee for burial in the family plot.

They wouldn’t have known that the tomb was sealed and a watch stationed there because that all happened after they, in reverence for the Sabbath, returned home and remained at rest.

They didn’t travel all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem with the things they needed to prepare the body of the dead, for they were coming as joyful pilgrims to Jerusalem for the Passover. So who knows how long it took to get everything together?  It was still dark when they left for the tomb, and probably dawn by the time they got there.  Some or all of them had made the trip before when Jesus body was laid in the tomb.  Surely in their mind’s eye was the image of the stone rolled against the opening of the tomb.

But now it was all different. they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Now they began to wonder, trying to imagine what had happened.  What would you have thought?  What theories would fit the data?  In John we read that Mary Magdalene concluded that “they,” whoever that was, had taken away his body.  The disciples hadn’t done it; they were frightened and in hiding.  The Jews or Romans hadn’t done it – they had sealed the tomb.  Anyway, they would have produced the body to contradict any claims of a resurrection.

All they could do was wonder.

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground.   As sinful human beings in the presence of holiness, they were truly frightened.  I can only imagine the effect, following the life-and-death fears of the last couple of days, the confusion, the uncertainty, and the anxiety – the fear!

2.  He Is Risen as He Said

But fear and uncertainty vanish in the face of God’s word, and that is what these angels brought, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen!Really, this was the only solution that fit all the data, but so far beyond all human experience that nothing less than the certification of God’s own word would suffice.

In fact, they had been told this before.  Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered his words. 

The problem is not one of memory, but of faith.  Do you remember Jesus’ words to you, “I will never leave you or forsake you?”  Do you remember Jesus’ promise, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world”?  Do you remember Jesus assurance, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” (John 14:27, CSB) If so, then why have you sometimes lonely or upset?  Do you feel abandoned at times?

Our spiritual problem is not a memory problem, but a matter of faith, of spiritual life.  In fact, there are many who remember much that is in the Bible, but have lost their faith.  For faith shows in life – it cannot help but do so.

And how does it show?  It shows in an acknowledgement of God’s place in our lives and in a repentant spirit.  It shows in confidence and trust in God’s promises. It shows in a living confession of our faith, as it did with the women: Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest.

We are not gathered on this day just to remember the teaching that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  We come to worship the risen Christ, and to hear this gospel, this good news yet again, so that His powerful word would strengthen our faith.

The good news, God’s own good news, is proclaimed here by the angels of God, but has been brought in all its power by His people in every age.  First now with these women, and then by the disciples.

By Peter in the first sermon of the New Testament church on Pentecost:  “God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death.” (Acts 2:24, CSB)

And in a later sermon:  “God raised up this man on the third day and caused him to be seen, not by all the people, but by us whom God appointed as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (Acts 10:40–41, CSB) .

And it is by this word of God, I can declare to you that Christ … “was appointed to be the powerful Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead.” (Romans 1:4, CSB)

This is such good news because “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, CSB)

3.  Therefore There Is Joy in His Promises

Since Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, as had been foretold in the Holy Scriptures, and according to His own promises, then let us live in the joy of his promises, because we live in faith.

Remember and believe as Paul reminds us “You are not your own, for you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, CSB)

This is something that we sing about, together with the angels in heaven, and all believers who have gone before us: “And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slaughtered, and you purchased people for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9, CSB)

That is redemption.  He has bought you back from sin, death, and hell to be His own as were Adam and Eve in paradise.  Because he is risen and has redeemed you unto Himself I can promise you…

  • The perfect and complete forgiveness of sins.
  • Life, even though you die
  • Eternal fellowship with God, where all the things that you have come to know as good are present in endless abundance.
  • Hope for the future, that you do not go alone through this world or from this world into eternity.
  • Meaning in life, for the things you do out of love for your savior are not transitory, but appreciated by him forever,

Because Christ is risen, we live in faith, that is we live as though all of His promises are as good as fulfilled! And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.(2 Corinthians 5:15, CSB) Because of this, and His forgiving love there heaven is open to you:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.(1 Peter 1:3–4, CSB)

So let us live and rejoice in His promises, confirmed unto us by His resurrection from the dead, and so let us sing with the angels and with all the believers in heaven and on earth, the song composed in heaven itself and written by the hand of the Apostle, John,

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.  Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.  AMEN.

By |2019-06-04T11:19:42-07:00April 17th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

It Is Finished: Your Salvation (Good Friday 2019)

Christ Has Finished Your Salvation

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Christ  Finished Your Salvation

John 19:30

17 Carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called Place of the Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him and two others with him, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate also had a sign made and put on the cross. It said: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’ ”

22 Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see who gets it.” This happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing., This is what the soldiers did.

25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

28 After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now finished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, he said, “I’m thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it up to his mouth.

30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then bowing his head, he gave up his spirit. (John 19:17–30 (CSB))

Dear fellow redeemed: “It is finished.” That’s English. Jesus spoke in Aramaic. John wrote in Greek, “τετέλεσται,” “It has been completed.” Interestingly enough, that is what a merchant of Jesus’ day would write at the bottom of a bill you paid, “tetelestai,” Paid in Full.

It is finished. Do you realize how your understanding of the phrase differs from the world around us? We understand that IT, the redemption of the world, is finished. Jesus has drunk the cup given him to the very dregs and made satisfaction for the sins of men.

But the world reads it differently. The world thinks HE is finished. You’ve seen the Hollywood and Broadway spectacles that end with the crucifixion, and others that only hint at a resurrection. And it is safe to say that the disciples also looked at the death of Christ as the end of their hopes.

But John writes with dramatic irony, and we read it the same way – knowing what those in the middle of things couldn’t know. To those who lived through it, the situation must have been mystifying: How could someone who saved others not save Himself? How could one who brought Lazarus to life succumb to death?

To unbelievers today there is an even greater challenge – how to account for Jesus’ power and relevance today. If Jesus was finished on the cross, then why make a big deal about Him? Lots of people were crucified, including people who rebelled against Rome. There are numerous law-givers with compelling messages, arguably more popular than Jesus at the time. If he were to give the sermon on the mount at a major school today, His affirmation of traditional marriage alone would bring out the cry-bullies to stop Him.

If Jesus was finished on the cross, then it makes no sense to honor him or follow him. Paul pointed this out in 1 Corinthians 15:17–19 (ESV) 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But to John the crucifixion is the climax of Christ’s mission. Jesus set the tone with His words in John 3:14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,” (John 3:14, CSB)

. He was lifted up, after all, on the cross. Ironically, “lifted up” could mean “exalted.” His crucifixion was the crucial moment when the greatest sacrifice was given. Matthew recorded Jesus’ perspective, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11, CSB)

Our salvation hinges on this moment. The death of death, the conquest of Satan, and undoing the devil’s work all rest upon this moment, as Jesus Himself said, though such a “victory” as death by crucifixion made no sense to the crowds, “Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate what kind of death he was about to die. Then the crowd replied to him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” (John 12:31–34, CSB)

The skeptical crowd made no sense of it. The unbelievers of today cannot explain how by crucifixion a man could rise to the heights of power, greatness and victory. Those with hearts oppressed by guilt and loneliness, by fear of death and lamentations of life may wonder how hope can be found here. But you know, and if you do not, let me tell you (or let John tell you). “He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.(1 John 2:2, CSB)

While sin earns death, righteousness gives life. Christ atoned for the sins of the world and no longer bore the sins of the world: It was finished. The crucifixion is the climax of Christ’s mission. Once death had been defeated, death could no longer hold Him. “God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death.” (Acts 2:24, CSB) In fact, Jesus Himself made clear that, having paid the price of our sin, and in all righteousness Himself, death was His choice, not the devil’s or death’s. He laid down his life in obedience to the Father to atone for the sins of the world: “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”” (John 10:17–18, CSB)

Nor can it hold you when you by faith bear the righteousness of Christ.

Repent and believe the gospel.

Turn to Christ for He pours His righteousness out upon you. In your guilt, in your fear, each day in in the hour of death, turn to Christ for your salvation is complete, is finished. Your debt is paid in full.

Our hope therefore depends not on what we must do, but upon what was done. Our life comes not from that which is to come, but from what was done.

Christ, our Passover lamb has been slain for us, and we are free.

AMEN.

By |2019-04-17T16:12:08-07:00April 17th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments