TRUE OR JUST USEFUL?

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TRUE OR JUST USEFUL?

 Benjamin Franklin scolded a friend for dismissing religion as necessary in an anti-religious text the atheist was going to publish. Franklin responded instead with reasons why Christianity is useful. (https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/ben-franklins-letter-atheist/) The Apostle Peter, on the other hand, in his second letter makes the point we believe and confess the Christian faith not just because it is useful, but Because It Is TRUE.

Sermon for The Transfiguration of our Lord, January 24, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

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The Christian church is unlike anything in history. At the time Peter is writing the message of the gospel had spread from Jerusalem, in a minor Roman province, throughout the empire, from India to Spain. So wide had it spread that it was targeted for persecution.

2 Peter 1:16–21 (CSB)
16 For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased!” 18 We ourselves heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 We also have the prophetic word strongly confirmed, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Dear fellow redeemed: I’m sure you have heard of the many advantages in being a Christian. The Christian worldview shows wisdom. The value of family (as Scripture teaches) is crucial to society. The golden rule. The importance of hope. The importance of love and the fulfillment of the law.

Christianity gave rise to modern science, to hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions of mercy in society. It led to the end of chattel slavery (which sadly is still practiced among the wicked). It gave rise to the high Christian culture of both the east and the west.

These are the reasons that many would give you for becoming and remaining a Christian. But Peter doesn’t.

He leads up to our text pointing to the real object of our faith, escaping the corruption of this world through the resurrection; we have an other-worldly goal. He urges us to cling to the faith, to “make every effort to confirm your calling and election,” (1:10), not because Christianity is useful, but …

BECAUSE IT IS TRUE

  1. Attested by Historical Fact
  2. Confirmed by Divine Revelation
  3. Fulfilling Ancient Prophecy
  4. Inspired by God
  1. Attested by Historical Fact

At a time when many cannot recognize the difference between truth and untruth, the reasons to believe or disbelieve something are emotional ones. That’s why it’s easy to believe any evil thing about someone we despise, and to disbelieve any evil thing about someone we like.

The devil is good at such lies. He lied to Eve with emotional arguments contradicting God’s threats of death and implying that God was selfish with His wisdom Because of his lies, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; … (Genesis 3:6, CSB)

The great lie in this age of the world -since the resurrection of Christ- is to deny Christ as God and Lord

So it is now, as it was when John wrote, Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This one is the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son.(1 John 2:22, CSB)

So Peter tells us to keep the faith, not based on some emotional reason or other, but because it is true. 16 For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. [referring to the transfiguration] … 18 We ourselves heard this voice [the voce of God] when it came from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Peter saw the glory of Christ revealed. To this is added the eyewitnesses of the resurrection, as Paul wrote of Christ, “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter, whom we have been reading], then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:4–8, CSB)

There are many who call our faith foolish and reject it because they don’t believe it. They don’t believe it because it convicts us of sin, or it contradicts their humanistic assumptions. But we have the eyewitness accounts of the historical facts.

2. Confirmed by Divine Revelation

Not only did Peter see, but Peter also heard the divine revelation and explanation about the things he saw. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased!”

This is the kind of thing that one never forgets, as Peter clearly shows. Finally we have to deal with the reality that God has revealed truth to mankind that we could not otherwise know. The words here speak of the two natures of Christ, the Jesus is both God and man. They speak of the divine righteousness of Christ, that as God He was without sin, pleasing to God. They speak to the active obedience of Christ, that taking our place as human beings He lived our righteousness for us. This is the revelation of God, one of many.

Since Adam and Eve sinned and died spiritually – were alienated from God, all people are born with the realization that there is a god, but not knowing Him. We cannot reach up to Him, so He reaches out to us through His word. This Bible is therefore  God’s word, and therefore to be believed, as John says, “…The one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about his Son. (1 John 5:10, CSB)

3. Fulfilling Ancient Prophecy

The revelations of God through His word have proved true. What Peter saw was what God had foretold through His prophets: 19 We also have the prophetic word strongly confirmed, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

The words of Isaiah were confirmed, that the Savior would be “Stricken, smitten of God and afflicted,” that they “looked on Him who they pierced,” that He “would not suffer corruption” because of the resurrection, that “He would ascend the throne of David forever” in His ascension to rule all things for the good of the church.

Add to this His birth in Bethlehem, His descent from David and Judah and Abraham, His birth to a virgin, and all the rest, and it confirms the reliability of the Scriptures from the time Moses first set pen to papyrus.

Talk about believing and disbelieving as a result of emotion, the detractors of Scripture have to twist into pretzels to dismiss the ancient prophecies. And as for us, you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

In this dismal world in which evil masquerades as good, and lies make every kind of emotional appeal to believe them. In this dismal world where people look to death and deceit to achieve their evil ends, where the innocent die in the womb, and the guilty are held up as noble and good. In this dismal world whose hope is only to die and be done, the prophets are like the lights that prefigure the everlasting dawn of the resurrection, and in the meantime illumine our hearts like the morning star.

4. Inspired by God

We believe the Christian faith, the faith we confess in the creeds because it is true, and because it is drawn from the Bible, which from the time of the ancient prophets is inspired by God. We call this the doctrine of inspiration: The Bible is all inspired (plenary inspiration) down to the very words (verbal inspiration). Peter’s words are just one place where the Bible itself makes this claim. 20 Above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The books we have in the Bible aren’t here just because the writers thought it would be a good idea, or give their own slant on them. Men spoke from God according to the Holy Spirit.

So the faith that we believe, that Jesus Christ “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suf­fered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead,” yes, that faith is I. Attested by Historical Fact, II. Confirmed by Divine Revelation, III. Fulfilling Ancient Prophecy, and IV. Inspired by God .

That is why you have hope. It’s TRUE!

I know at times we sinfully doubt, our faith is week and we question what God clearly says. At times we are discouraged at the unbelief in the world and may flirt with despair. This, too is forgiven!

Jesus DID live a life of righteousness for you. He DID die your death for you. He DID rise everlasting and immortal from the grave. And so He forgives your sins, gives you His righteousness, and you share in His resurrection.

Wonder and glory and joy eternal! “Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy,” (1 Peter 1:8, CSB)

Finally, you have been given faith in Him and you believe in Him …

BECAUSE IT IS TRUE!

AMEN.

 

By |2021-01-24T19:27:44-07:00January 24th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

CHRISTIAN EQUALITY

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CHRISTIAN EQUALITY

 In his sermon of the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Luther speaks of the equality of Christians that is reflected in the 12th chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Christians are unequal in their abilities and circumstances, but they are nevertheless equal in their membership in the body of Christ, in their worth as individuals in Christ.

Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 17, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Romans 12:3–16 (CSB)

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Take the lead in honoring one another. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit;, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Dear fellow redeemed: If you are a Christian, then you are the way you are because of whom Christ has made you, by grace, through faith. You are justified, declared innocent before God. You bear the righteousness of Christ because of his life, and you are forgiven because of his atoning death.

By faith you receive what He has given, but that faith that the Spirit works in you is a spiritual life that changes us. Last week, we looked at two sentences that tell how Christians, who are alive in Christ, are different from the unbelieving world. First is our life, and second our worldview.

Today we follow Paul into the details of this. Our life we live for him, according to the gifts Our Lord has given us. This is why this text is a basis of …

CHRISTIAN EQUALITY

  1. Don’t Think You Are Better
  2. Different Gifts
  3. Same Virtues
  1. Don’t Think You Are Better

Paul writes For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as [because] God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. If at this point, you are estimating the measure of faith you have in comparison with someone else, then you weren’t listening. Paul isn’t talking about how much faith you have, but BECAUSE you have a measure faith. Faith is spiritual life. Do you compare how much life you have compared to somebody else? Life cannot be quantified in this sense.

He goes on: Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: Are you thinking of the gifts you have and feeling pretty good about yourself, especially in comparison to others? Then you haven’t been listening. What is the best part of your body? Your pretty eyes, or your smelly feet, or your sweat glands? You need them all, even if your eyes are pretty (or hawk-like, if you are a guy.) Your feet really miss your eyes if you stub your toe in the dark because you cannot see, and your eye suffers plenty if your feet can’t keep you from falling over and smashing your face. And you don’t even want to know what happens to somebody who can’t sweat.

The point is that just as no part of our bodies are better than another, just different, so Christians are of the same value to Christ and the church whatever gifts he has given them.

This truth is rooted in the Biblical teaching of justification and sanctification. When you were brought to faith, you were united with Christ and your life and view of the world were changed. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, CSB) You were justified, declared righteous and innocent, and therefore were sanctified, changed in your life and worldview. It is NOT the other way around. It isn’t that you have achieved such a Christian life that you achieved righteousness. One causes the other. Justification leads to sanctification, not the other way around. Faith receives the gifts God gives, we don’t have the gifts of faith and then faith comes.

2. Different Gifts

Accordingly, the “gifts” Paul speaks of here in the first part of our text are the “charismata,” the gifts of the spirit: prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy. Paul wanted the Roman Christians to know, Christ through Paul wants His church to know, that using the talents you are born with, the Spirit bestows CHARISMATA, spiritual gifts. These are not miraculous gifts, for those are for special circumstances. These are gifts that now, for the Christian, are used in faith and according to THE faith. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s [THE] faith;

Whatever talent you have is now used in love for God, to His glory, and according to THE faith, the revelation of God. Again, in view of the mercies of God, we live our lives and we understand this world differently as Christians.

Paul then gets specific. If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s [THE] faith; if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

Here’s the thing: Our ascended Savior has given talents and abilities for the good of His church and wants you to use them. (He is speaking here about the way we live among Christians; the world is another lesson.) “Prophecy” here means to proclaim God’s words to others, to declare the truth. If you are good at that, as a preacher, as a teacher, as someone having a neighborly conversation over a pizza, or in teaching your kids, do it in faith and according to THE faith, God’s word.

If you are good at serving, that is at creating the social situation that nourishes the body and the fellowship, then do that. In this time of COVID, those who make connections with people are a godsend.

Teaching and explaining God’s word? Then do that.

How are you at exhortation? What’s that? Have you ever known someone who can correct your error without seeming holier than thou, but instead makes you want to correct your errors? Sort of like a good coach, but including the moral dimension. Then do that.

How about giving – enriching lives? Then be generous. How about leading, encouragement, showing the way, then do that. How about showing mercy – being gracious. Then do so without holding anything against someone.

These are all different gifts, and I’m sure Paul wouldn’t call this exhaustive.  Though these gifts are different, we can’t take credit for them any more than we can take credit for blue eyes or brown. They are gifts.

Paul’s point is that we are to use them.

3. Same Virtues

But while we are called to use our different gifts, we all called to exercise the same virtues. We don’t talk about virtues much, do we? It is important for us as Christians to not only know the sins we are to avoid, but the good things to which we are called. Each of the commandments includes both.

As Paul instructs us in our life and worldview he speaks of some of the Christian virtues that we live out especially among Christians: Let love be without hypocrisy. Love everyone the same for the sake of Christ. Detest evil; cling to what is good. “Evil” is “porneia” here, the evil that is appealing. Don’t. Seek virtue

10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Don’t be superficial in our love in the church. Let me tell you, as things get tougher for Christians in “this present evil age,” so much hangs upon our having real love and concern for one another.

 Take the lead in honoring one another. Let others know what blessings they are and encourage them in it.

11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit;, serve the Lord. Our Christian life is to be deep and meaningful, keeping the Lord in mind and maintaining a Christian worldview. Our faith doesn’t get our leftover energy, but we devote our energy to the Lord.

 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Live life with an eternal perspective. No, you aren’t going to be wealthy, you are going to struggle, but you have the certain hope of eternal riches, so we up with the crosses we bear.

He goes on: 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Nobody among us should go hunger, and all should feel welcome.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what he did when YOU were his enemy.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. It’s called empathy. Value what your brother or sister is going through and share it with them.

16 Live in harmony with one another. It is more important that we live and work together harmoniously in this congregation than that we do things you way or mine.

So then …  Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Don’t think that you have the best ideas ever, that you have it all figured out and we would be well off if we all just listened to you.

Think about these virtues according to the way you live, and if you have been calculating how you compare to others, then again you haven’t been listening. You aren’t more acceptable to our Lord, because his love for you is based on what He gave you – His righteousness – and what He made you – His child.

You are forgiven, that you your hope.

This is the way that we live until all He has promised, our certain hope, is fulfilled.

AMEN.

By |2021-01-17T17:11:40-07:00January 17th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

TWO SENTENCES THAT SET CHRISTIANS APART

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TWO SENTENCES THAT SET CHRISTIANS APART

 The substance of Christianity is the mercy of God, that humanity has been reconciled to God, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is revolutionary. This so far beyond human imagination that no man-made religion has grasped it.

In view of this, Christians are called to a way of living and to a view of the world that is radically different from the unbelieving world, what Paul calls “this present evil age.” So it will always be, since the Christian message is about forgiveness of sins, and the message of this world is about either toleration of evil, or vengeance.

Sermon for the First Sunday after the Epiphany, January 10, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Romans 12:1–5 (CSB)
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Dear fellow redeemed: For eleven chapters now, Paul has been writing of the fallenness of man and of the mercy of God. Our Lord God created this world, including all humanity, but humanity rebelled and worshipped the creation, the creature, rather than the Creator, and so humanity was alienated from God. But (again, in His mercy) God invaded this rebellious territory, lived out our righteousness, atoned for our sins, and has bestowed this righteousness through His word and sacrament, so that through faith we are declared innocent before Him, and heirs of eternal life. So I can declare to you the forgiveness of all your sins.

He sums it up in a hymn of praise:

Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33–36, CSB)

Therefore, because of all this, Paul tells us for the next few chapters how it is that we live in view of God’s mercy, but He introduces all of it in two sentences.

TWO SENTENCES SET THE CHRISTIAN APART

  1. In Living Life
  2. In View of the World
  1. In Living Life

Paul starts out using the language of sacrifice in worship. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.

The aim of sacrifice was to offer to God the bodies of animals such as were pleasing to Him. The books of Moses tell us what kinds of sacrifices they were; it turns out they were the sacrifices that foreshadowed the sacrifice of God’s son for the sins of the world.

The sacrifices didn’t earn forgiveness; that was the pagan idea. The pagans aimed to appease the gods, to get them “off their backs” so as to forge their own destiny. But for the believing Jews, their hope was in the mercy of God, as David sang, Psalm 51:15–17 (NKJV)

15      O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

Because the sacrifices of the faithful were a shadow of things to come, and the reality was fulfilled in Christ, there is no more sacrifice for sin. Instead, Paul tell us, our worship involves our whole lives; He has purchased us. So Paul teaches, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Instead of the dead bodies of animals prefiguring the death of Christ, we present our living bodies, reflecting the mercies of God in Life.

Let’s look for a minute at what Paul would have us present to God.

These are our living bodies. This has to do with the way that we live. We live in a world in which worship is divorced from life. The governments of states like Colorado and Washington and Oregon (and others) tell us that we are free to worship as we please, so long as or worship stays in church. The new policy announced by President-elect Biden is that religious objections will no longer be accepted as a reason to refuse to do certain things – like performing a same-sex wedding, or placing children with homosexual couples, or teaching that the natural family is God’s order for the world.

But if, as Paul says there, worship is the way we live, then it will be at odds with the unbelieving world because it is to be “holy and pleasing to God.” How we discern that I will take up in a minute, but the short version is that we live in such a way as to affirm the righteousness of God’s law and also proclaim His mercy. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

First, the law. God has given every person a conscience, and Paul made it clear that the law of God applies to everyone, whether they have it in written form or not. Therefore, every one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things.(Romans 2:1, CSB)

But we live in a society right now in which the anti-Christians teach that right and wrong are determined by results, not deeds, and by entitlement (a sense of injury or victimhood), not obedience. So according to modern ethical theory, a poor person with a disability is entitled to certain things, and therefore has moral authority, while a prosperous person without disability is morally inferior, and owes the other person. It’s as though the righteousness or sin is a function of our identity.

But in this first sentence, God tells us that HE owns us, and HE is the ONE to whom all people owe themselves. in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

Still, the law does not negate God’s mercy. The law shows us our desperate situation, dying and deserving eternal death, so that we might repent and believe the gospel. To reveal the mercy of God was one purpose of the Old Testament worship (as ours today), proclaiming the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.”

Living our life as living sacrifices to God isn’t something we do to earn or deserve the mercy of God, but it is in gratitude, “in view of the mercies of God,” that we serve Him. Put simply, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, CSB)

2.  In View of the World

While the first sentence of Paul’s introduction to this part of Romans deals with how we live, the second sentence reveals how we (should) understand the world. We call this our “worldview.” Christ tells us through Paul, Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. I mentioned earlier, we would answer how we discern the way of live that is “holy and pleasing to God.” Here is the answer; it is by not being conformed to this age, but in being transformed, changed, from the old way of viewing the world to the new.

When we become Christians, there is a “renewing of our minds,” we think differently. As Christians we think differently from the unbelievers. This is something that we grow in so as to discern God’s will. Peter, the “specialist” in living counterculturally in this present evil age talks about the deceit rampant in the world and counsels, “Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stable position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” (2 Peter 3:17–18, CSB)

So how do we think differently?

We are God’s creatures, not accidents of time, matter and chance.

We are immortal souls with a body, not just animals.

God speaks to all the world through our consciences to admit our wrongs and repent. He speaks to the world through His church, by means of His word and calls all to believe the gospel.

Every moment the world stands is a time of grace, but it will end at the moment the world ends, or at the moment your life ends, and at that moment you will either be covered by Christ’s righteousness, through faith, or be condemned in your sins.

God  is our Lord and has the right to tell us what we should do, and not do, and how we are to be.

We understand that the problems of this world are primarily spiritual and therefore do not have political solutions.

When spiritual issues are concerned, the most important thing about a position is whether it is in accord with Scripture or not.

The most important thing to any person in the world is spiritual life, the life of faith, as Jesus says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36, NKJV)

The building block of society is the nuclear family.

The most important thing about a spouse is that he or she shares the Christian faith with us, and the first thing to seek for a newborn child is his/her baptism into the faith.

We serve God by serving our neighbors, whom He loves.

Each of these statements is rooted in Scripture, and the reason they are important to us is not that we think that we will always understand them correctly or apply them perfectly, but because our hope is in the one who is Himself the Word of God, the perfect revelation of God, Who is our Creator, and has redeemed us to God by His blood. It is because of His mercy and forgiveness that His word and will are important to us in how we live and how we view this world.

AMEN

By |2021-01-10T19:44:38-07:00January 10th, 2021|Sermons|0 Comments

GET READY FOR TROUBLE

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GET READY FOR TROUBLE

 Through His apostle, Peter, Our Lord prepares the church for the world in which we live, particularly in periods of oppression and persecution. Many of our brothers and sisters in the faith are “in the fire” as we speak. Boko Haram carried out deadly attacks again on Christmas, martyring some dozen believers- at least.

The Christian church is countercultural in many ways, but especially in that our hope is ultimately not in this world, but in the resurrection unto eternal life.

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Christmas, January 3, 2021, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

[1] https://news.yahoo.com/boko-haram-kill-villagers-christmas-172143214.html

1 Peter 4:12–19 (CSB)

12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. 16 But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?
18 And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?,
19 So then, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good.

Dear fellow redeemed: Through His apostle, Peter, Our Lord prepares the church for the world in which we live, particularly in periods of oppression and persecution. In the section just preceding our text, Peter reinforces what he said in the first chapter, and what we emphasized on New Year’s Eve, namely that as Christians we should love one another graciously, as Christ loves us. This is the way we live in this un-loving, un-Christian world. And then Peter closed with a doxology, a word of praise of our Lord Christ, “… To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11, CSB)

However something happened right after that. The most common supposition is that he received word from the churches in Asia Minor that things had taken a turn for the worse, and that the “fiery ordeal” that potentially lies in store for every believer was now a reality. It isn’t “if it comes,” but “when it comes.” So Peter adds this postscript to his letter.

The potential is something we should all be aware of, as Jesus made clear, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, CSB) This is to be our mindset as Christians.

GET READY FOR TROUBLE

  1. Suffer It Consciously
  2. Share It
  3. Be Christian about It
  1. Suffer It Consciously

Many of our brothers and sisters in the faith are “in the fire” as we speak. Boko Haram carried out deadly attacks again on Christmas, martyring some dozen believers- at least.[1] It’s become a usual thing. How many of you would have come to worship on Christmas Eve or Christmas day if you knew there were roving gangs shooting up Christian churches and setting fire to them with worshippers inside?

The “fiery ordeal,” however, often comes only at the end of a long campaign of deceit. The devil is above all things a liar. The offensive against the Christian faith in our era takes the form of educational policy, scientism, secularism, and social justice, to mention the most significant.

The offensive doesn’t use physical force so much as group dynamics, the cancelling, ridicule, and marginalization of those who express unpopular truths of Christian faith. Yet we should be neither surprised or despairing. 12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Let’s look at the types of deceit in a little more detail:

Educational policy since John  Dewey has dictated that transcendent truth or morality is irrelevant to daily life.[2] By this, public education has been divorced from Biblical truth virtually as a legal requirement. It should be no surprise, then, that generations have grown up ignorant of the claims of Christianity or hostile to them by default.

Scientism, treating science like a religion; secularism, insisting that the Christian faith has no place in the marketplace of ideas; and social justice, saying that equality of outcome is the measure of morality, and not the moral action of the individual, have displaced Christianity in the mind of society.

The problem is that many Christians don’t even know that these are trials of faith. Christianity and secularism live in separate compartments of their minds, so they don’t even realize the contradictions between them. We need to be conscious of the attacks on the Christian faith long before someone torches the church building.

A couple more examples:

Like the free-love movement before it, the LBGT movement isn’t just benign concern for people with different feelings, but an assault on the divine order for humanity to the extent that Christians are open to conviction for living their faith.[3]

Neo-Darwinism, the truly failed attempt to account for the origin of life and of all living things, isn’t really a religiously neutral science, but is itself a materialist religion that has hounded science itself out of schools and the courts.[4]

If we understand these things, we will see the economic sacrifices parents go through to keep their children in Christian schools, or to homeschool them, as part of the soft persecution of the faith. We will recognize the laws that punish those who practice their Christian faith in life, not  just in church, as not-so-soft persecution. We will understand that those who have lost their jobs or their positions in education because of their faith, to me economic martyrs to the truth.

2. Share It

Peter speaks of a dimension of this “fiery ordeal” that we probably don’t think of much. Rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. Any struggle because of our faith is part of something greater than all of us. If we follow Christ, He says, we carry a cross as well. Paul says, “The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:16–17, CSB) He and Peter are singing from the same hymnal here.

If we all share the trouble with Christ, then we share it with one another as well. This says something about our communion as a church. The world portrays church membership as “belonging, not believing,” as though our unity is in all buying a membership in the same gym or something. But our unity is in sharing faith in the same truth of the Gospel which God has revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.

3. Be Christian about It

This brings us to the point that Peter really emphasizes. We need to make sure that the Gospel of Christ is out front, and that the trouble we deal with glorifies Him. 14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. 16 But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name.

The term “Christian” is only used three times in the New Testament, although it came into wide use in the first century Roman world. It was a term of opprobrium. A “Christian” was countercultural, didn’t quite fit in. Though compassionate, practical, charitable, and helpful here and now, the great hope of the Christian is in the resurrection.

In two thing especially the Christian was out of step, the pursuit of status or honor, and the pursuit of vengeance.

This is because of the Gospel, the fundamental truth that has been revealed to the world.

The real problem in this world is sin, disobedience, and death as a result. Because we are sinners we are all born alienated from God and doomed to the same in eternity.

The real solution, the “good news” or “gospel” is that God the Son became the greatest man ever, but He did so by humbling Himself to be the greatest servant – bearing the sin and guilt of the world and the suffering of the damned on the cross. So we find greatness not in status or honor, but in service.

Because of His sacrifice, God graciously offers forgiveness to everyone in the world, without holding our sin against us. So we see one another, not as objects of vengeance, but of mercy.

So dear fellow believers. Get ready for trouble, indeed it is already here. Abide in the truth and so understand why we are at odds with the world. Realize that if we are faithful to Christ, we will face the same rejection He did, and that we are all in this together. And finally make sure that you suffer as a Christian, and for Christ and the gospel, with the humility and mercy of Christ out in front all the time. 19 So then, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good.

AMEN.

[1] https://news.yahoo.com/boko-haram-kill-villagers-christmas-172143214.html

[2] “The process of secularization arises not from the loss of faith but from the loss of social interest in the world of faith. It begins the moment men feel that religion is irrelevant to the common way of life and that society as such has nothing to do with the truths of faith.” -Christopher H. Dawson, Religion and World History, A Selection from the Works of Christopher Dawson https://www.iwp.edu/articles/2018/02/01/the-tragedy-of-american-education-the-role-of-john-dewey/

[3] No time in a 20-minute sermon to fully lay out the argument, but I would love to engage my readers on this.

[4] Ibid.

By |2021-01-03T17:25:37-07:00January 3rd, 2021|Sermons, Uncategorized|0 Comments

HOW CHRISTMAS MAKES CHILDREN OF GOD

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HOW CHRISTMAS MAKES CHILDREN OF GOD

 It is hard to think of how we are like debtor-slaves, sold to pay our debt-price, and then bought up on the slave market- not as slaves, but to be adopted as sons and daughters. But that’s the way it was when the fullness of time came and God sent His son to be our redeemer.

Sermon for the First Sunday of Christmas, December 27, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Galatians 4:1–7 (CSB)

4 Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. Instead, he is under guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elements of the world. When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.

 

Dear fellow redeemed: Our Gospel lesson today tells of Mary and Joseph fulfilling three commands given in Moses’ law: (1) On the eighth day, Jesus was circumcised and given the name “Jesus,” which means “Savior.” (2) On the 33rd day Mary was ceremonially purified, and (3) Jesus was presented to the Lord and redeemed.

Each of these was significant, especially the first and the last. (1) By circumcision, Jesus entered into the covenant that God made with Abraham, choosing him and his descendants as the bearers of His word in the world. (2) By her purification, Mary was obedient to the ceremonial law. (3) The presentation and redemption of Jesus pointed back to the Passover, at which all the firstborn males in Egypt died, except that God spared the Jews who put the blood of the lamb above and beside their doors. Because God did not take them in death, they belonged to Him, and therefore needed to be paid for. It made them remember their status as the people belonging to God.

Think of what that means, to belong to God, because that is what our Epistle lesson is about also.

In the churches of Galatia, spread about the south-central region of the Roman province of Asia, rivals of Paul and the apostles had come in who had a great appreciation for what it meant to be the people of God, and they looked at things like these rules as the way in which people could become the people of God.

What a thing to aspire to! What a reason to be observant of the laws of Moses! But in fact they missed the point completely. I can tell you that YOU are people of God, not because of what you have done, but because of what Christ has done for you, and He has made you His children by faith. So then let me tell you how through the birth of Christ,  …

CHRISTMAS HAS MADE YOU A CHILD OF GOD

  1. Your Status as a Child of God
  2. How You Got Here
  1. Your Status as a Child of God

God created families. He decreed that a man and a woman would participate with him in the creation of new human life, and that this would bring into being a wonderful relationship of husband and wife, blessed to be Father and Mother to sons and daughters. Parents, especially Fathers, have responsibilities, and sons and daughters have privileges. The Bible uses the term “son” rather than “child” or “children” because of this relationship. I can call anybody a child, but in all the world only five people my son or my daughter.

You are a son/daughter of God because you have been adopted into God’s family. A price was paid for you. You were redeemed. When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. We will talk about that more in a minute, but let’s talk about how you didn’t get here.

Paul presents us with a picture of a child. 4 Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. Instead, he is under guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.

Paul is poking holes in the arguments of the rival teachers who said that by keeping the rules we could become people of God. What made this child a son or heir? Was it the way he was subordinate? Or was he subordinate because he was a son? The child was a son because he was born to his father, and therefore under guardians and trustees. (When I was a child I didn’t do chores to become a son. As a son I had chores to do.)

In the previous chapter, Paul had made the point that Abraham became a son of God by God’s promise to him, and the Spirit’s gift of faith. “So then, does God give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law? Or is it by believing what you heard—just like Abraham who believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness?” (Galatians 3:5–6, CSB) And so the observant Jews became Abraham’s children – God’s sons – also by faith in the promise. It was 400 years later, under Moses that the rules were given to the people who were already the children of God!

Paul went on, “You know, then, that those who have faith, these are Abraham’s sons.” (Galatians 3:7, CSB) God acts to make you sons/daughters of God by faith.

Think about what this means. Whatever your situation in this world, by faith you are a child of God. It means you can come to Him as a dear child comes to a dear father. It means that whatever your situation in this world, God has entered into this world to save you. It means that you have an inheritance in heaven. It means that you have a place prepared for you there, for all things are yours.

2.    How You Got Here

The rivals who thought they became the children of God by their works really were exchanging sonship for slavery, weren’t they? They confused the obedience that showed they were sons, with the means to becoming sons. But their slavery was to the law of Moses. In the case of the gentiles, In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elements of the world.

The “elements of the world” probably means all of the desires of this world, all of the temptations, all of the things which humanity loves, or fears, or trusts, all of the things that are in conflict with the truth, God’s word. Unlike the Jews, who thought righteousness, goodness, and salvation could be found in obedience to the laws of Moses, the gentiles are enslaved to the things of this world in their search for heaven on earth.

We certainly see it in our day, as people seek acceptance and power and a wonderful new world by rejecting the family and seeking “self-actualization” (selfish whims). They seek a new world order in which benevolent experts plan out our lives “for our own good,” and in which people of faith are accused of anti-science superstition. Essentially, it is the belief that the material world is all that there is.

The Jews did not find life and salvation in their observance of the law, nor do the secularists and humanists find peace and joy in their enslavement to the elements of this world. The Jews did not become the sons of God by the law, nor did the gentiles find life and light through unbelief.

Instead God invaded this world at Christmas and He made us sons & daughters. When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.

The term “redemption” had many uses in Paul’s world. Essentially it means “buy back.” In the ancient world those in debt had their possessions sold, and then even themselves, sold on the slave-market to pay the debt. If someone stepped in to pay the debt, they then redeemed or “bought back” the debtor as their slave.

What we owe before God’s justice is perfect righteousness, and the debt to be paid is death. Jesus entered this world, under this law, to live out our righteousness and to die our death. Thus he paid the price, fulfilled the debt, and redeemed us all.

But it didn’t stop there. He redeemed us. He bought us back NOT to make us HIS slaves, but to ADOPT us as sons/daughters.  …so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.

We are joint-heirs, brothers and sisters, with Christ. His holiness is ours. His resurrection is ours. The love of the Father for Him is also ours. His life is ours. His glory is ours. It all started at Christmas, when “the time came to completion,” at the birth of Jesus, the Christ. In this way, CHRISTMAS HAS MADE YOU A CHILD OF GOD

AMEN.

By |2020-12-27T17:45:11-07:00December 27th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

THE PEACE PEOPLE CAN’T UNDERSTAND

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THE PEACE PEOPLE CAN’T UNDERSTAND

How can somebody rejoice when they are falsely imprisoned? How can Paul talk about ALWAYS rejoicing (!) when he knows the world is so full of trouble and trial? It’s something that people, apart from God’s word, cannot understand; it “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.”

What God’s word reveals, however is a reality that transcends emotion. I put it this way: “God loves you and is near to you whether you feel like it today or not!”

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 20, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Philippians 4:4–7 (CSB)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Dear fellow redeemed: I have been grouping the texts for this advent season under the heading, “THE CHRISTIAN IN THE MIDST OF GRACE.” As Christians we live in awareness of something that the world doesn’t see, that is seen only by faith, and that is the undeserved, unmerited love of God for us, because of Christ.

Paul’s situation as he writes this epistle is a living example of it. He is in prison, falsely accused, and just one legal misunderstanding away from losing his head, literally. But … Living in God’s unmerited love, because of Christ, we can rejoice in any circumstances, knowing that the Lord is near and will save us.

THE CHRISTIAN LIVING IN THE MIDST OF GRACE

 WE REJOICE, FOR THE LORD IS NEAR

  1. Rejoice in the Transcendent Reality
  2. The Nearness of Christ Instills Grace
  3. Prayer + Faith Gives Peace
  1. Rejoice in the Transcendent Reality

Now first understand that this is not the bogus self-help advice that many make it, as in “Don’t worry! Be happy.” Some would have you believe that you aren’t really a Christian unless you are on an emotional high, whatever happens. That’s absurd! What about Jesus’ anguish in Gethsemane, pleading to be spared the cross? Not a good Christian was he? What about Paul writing in his second letter to Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close.” (2 Timothy 4:6, CSB) Didn’t he get this memo?

We see the kind of rejoicing Paul is talking about in his final imprisonment. “At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. … The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:16–18, CSB) He says that in his first hearing before the court nobody would stand up for him. He predicts that this case will end in his death, and his entry into heaven.

So the rejoicing Paul talks about deals with reality, not with mere feelings. There is a joy in knowing that even in death we have life. In this you can rejoice. In a similar context, Paul sums up the perspective of the Christian. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, CSB)

Our sight is limited in that it cannot see ultimate truth. Take the crucifixion of Christ. What did Jesus’ disciples see? The death of their friend, lord, teacher, mentor- the death of the One they hoped to bring in some kind of kingdom on earth. But by faith they could have seen the Lamb of God taking away the world’s sins. They could have seen in his ascension the ascent to the Throne of David, and His establishment of the everlasting kingdom that is His church. Faith rising from the Word of God reveals the truth. IF they had the eyes of faith, they would have seen the truth.

So Paul can say, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!The Lord is near. He is near as Lord over the universe, as Lord over the nations, as Lord over the church, and as the Lord of life who will return on the last day of this world. He is near in His word and sacraments, and in His eagerness to hear our prayers.

2. The Nearness of Christ Instills Grace

The nearness of Christ bolsters our faith in His grace. There are many ways Scripture speaks of His nearness to us. He promises, “…  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:20, CSB) “He himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5, CSB) In fact, He dwells with us in what we call the mystical union, “Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23, CSB)

Again, this isn’t some sort of vague exercise in “feelings.” Christ’s presence isn’t something we find inside ourselves; we find it in our baptism, in the Lord’s Supper, and in His word. And what do all these reveal? The unmerited love of God for you- His grace.

In your baptism, Jesus joins with you in His death and resurrection to atone for your sins. “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3–4, CSB)

In the word of God He assures you of your forgiveness so that, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1, CSB)

In His Holy Supper He reminds us that He is not with us just individually, but as a church, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17, CSB)

He is near to us to forgive us, and to shine through us to the world, as Paul says, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

3. Prayer + Faith Gives Peace

Again, the nearness of Christ is not something we see, as such, but something we know by faith that the Holy Spirit instills through His word. The faith that receives and trusts in Christ’s forgiveness responds in prayer and finds peace in His promises. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

That’s a pretty tough expectation, isn’t it? “Don’t worry,” when our very body is created to respond to danger with the fight or flight response. Jesus sweat like blood over what lay ahead of him. Here’s the thing: We aren’t talking about normal physical reactions here, but our soul’s peace. This is peace that is “beyond all understanding.” It is peace that is there even when our mind and body are in turmoil.

Let’s say you leave the doctor’s office after the biopsy, waiting for the results. Cancer.

Let’s say you suddenly lose your sense of taste and get short of breath.

Let’s  say the government announces another restriction on your business that threatens your livelihood.

Let’s say that you get a letter from an attorney threatening suit.

You can probably imagine a half-dozen anxiety/worry – producing scenarios.

First remember with thanks the times you have been rescued from disaster, the times you got well, paid your bills, found a job, and so on. Then with thanks speak in your petitions to our Savior, with your heartfelt needs and requests. And remember He is near with His promises. His promises aren’t that your life will be without trouble, but that in this dying world, there is a promise of resurrection and everlasting life. He answers prayer, so things may all go well (clean bill of health, paid bills – – – or not. Paul prayed for deliverance from Nero’s hate, but things didn’t start out well, and he concluded, The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.

This is the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,  and will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. It isn’t the peace of a Pollyanna who cannot endure calamity, but it is the peace that stands guard over our hearts and minds and truly makes sense of this world for it is rooted in the truth God gives us in His word.

For contrast, just think of a sign we see around lately. “IT WILL ALL BE OK.” It’s about the year 2020 in general and COVID in particular. For the unbeliever that is a pretty empty declaration. Will it all be OK, or will you get sick? Will you die? And if this life is all there is, then what hope is there? There are all the dreams unfulfilled, all the regrets left over, and all the guilt to burden the heart. What peace is there?

But as Christians we have the peace promised by the One who died our death for us to atone for all our guilt, who rose from the dead to defeat death, and who ascended into heaven so that He could be near each one of us, speak through His word, hear our prayers, and deliver us from death to life. There is true peace that is by faith, and it is there even when we are in trouble and turmoil, the peace that surpasses all understanding.

So then … Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN.

By |2020-12-20T17:41:05-07:00December 20th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

REVEALING “WHODUNIT”

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REVEALING “WHODUNIT”

– THE BLESSING OF FAITHUL PASTORS

Paul said this about the apostles and pastors, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” So what are the mysteries of God? Just as in a mystery by Agatha Christie, and you don’t know “whodunit” until she reveals it at the end of the book, the mysteries of God are those things that we don’t know unless He reveals them to us. Some things about God are obvious, Paul says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,(Romans 1:19–20, NKJV)

On the other hand, we automatically don’t know about God’s mercy, or how He saves us from sin and death.  That is a mystery. It has to be revealed. That’s what faithful pastors do.

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

1 Corinthians 4:1–5 (ESV)

4 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Dear fellow redeemed: Our gospel lesson mentions that people went out into the wilderness to get a glimpse of John.  There they subjected him to their criticism as well as their curiosity.  Paul warns us in this epistle of the tendency  to subject the office of the ministry to human standards – the standards of the unbelieving world

That would be terrible for you!

Who but Christ knows what you will face on the last day?  Who but Christ knows the agony of soul that you might face on your death-day? Who but Christ is the perfect revelation of God for what you really need for eternal life? Faithful Pastors prepare their people for the return of Christ.

According to human standards John, and Christ’s pastors, are supposed to be reeds blowing in the wind, bowing to the latest sociological trends.  According to human standards they are to wear fine clothes and tell us how to get ahead in the world – something like a cross between Oprah, a life coach, and a savvy financial advisor.

But in this word Christ has given words of warning and comfort that faithful pastors bring to people like you and me, so that we are ready to greet our Savior joyfully as He comes to us.  Such is …

THE CHRISTIAN IN THE MIDST OF GRACE (having)
THE BLESSING OF FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN PASTORS

  1. According to Christ’s Institution
  2. Stewards of the Mysteries of God
  3. Preparing for the Coming of Christ
  1. According to Christ’s Institution

Just prior to this point in his letter to the Corinthians, a congregation troubled by divisions and constantly critical people, Paul had disputed and challenged the Corinthians’ idea that they had things all figured out. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God….(1 Corinthians 3:18–19, ESV)

This led to a discussion of the pastor’s office. Proud people need to understand that the office has been instituted by Christ. 4 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. This is significant in several ways.

First, they are servants of Christ, and not of people. I can’t remember how many times people have asked me to confirm their “great new idea” or approve their condemnation (or sanction for that matter) of others’ actions. My reply: “I don’t get to say what you want me to say.”

Second, they are, under their Master, in charge of the mysteries of God. This is the gospel in word and sacrament. Like a “whodunit,” where you don’t know who did it until the author reveals it, in a far more significant way the gospel reveals the salvation that nobody knows naturally, but can only be known through the gospel. There is only one right answer as to how we have been saved.

Third, all human views of the ministry, ideas that reflect human reason and no Scripture are just wrong. The pastor isn’t a social worker, a life coach, a moral policeman, a therapist, or a religious philosopher. He isn’t a CEO, a marketer, or an actor. He is Christ’s servant to you.[1]

2.   Stewards of the Mysteries of God

For “steward” or “manager” Paul uses the word οἰκονόμους, which referred to a slave who superintended the master’s affairs. Jesus uses the term in a picture of those who feed the church until His return, “And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, [steward] whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?” (Luke 12:42, ESV)

Of all the things needed of stewards, the most important is that they are faithful, as Paul writes here in our text, Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

And if they are faithful, Paul says we should leave the evaluation (judgment) of the stewards to the Lord: But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

This may sound like, “Don’t you dare question me!” But that isn’t the case. First, Paul, as an apostle, was preserved from error. He had told the Corinthians earlier, “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:13, ESV)

[Second] Those words taught by the spirit of God are normative, so our pastors are bound to the confession of those words, such as we see in the Apostles’, Athanasian, and Nicene Creeds, and in the Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, and the other confessions of the church.

[Third]  The point is that pastors are not hired and fired, and a pastor is not judged by anybody, including himself, according to what pleases people, but according to God’s word. Both pastor and people need to abide by this word of God through Paul: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28, NKJV) Placed in the church by the Holy Spirit, the burden of faithfulness is plenty heavy, without trying to appease people’s opinions.

People also need to see the pastor as holding a sacred trust, and not just as a hired man.  Yet there are those who resent his spiritual oversight, and when he must speak the truth in love, they criticize him for being so insistent upon the word and are more ready to tell him what to teach than to listen to what he teaches.

To people like that, Paul says, . But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. It is a sad and tragic thing to reject in pride the counsel of a faithful pastor, as Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17, ESV)

After all, it is the Lord of the Church himself who has the final say: Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

3.   Preparing for the Coming of Christ

This is so important to understand. Who are we, after all, to judge someone else’s servant, as Paul put it, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4, ESV)

I think of the man who has a genuine and valid call to a congregation. “The Holy Spirit has made him overseer.” But on the ranking of pastors, some people might give him a C or C-. Nothing higher.

The important thing is to warn sinners that our sin really damns us, and to let Christ Himself come through His word to comfort the crushed and repentant with the assurance of forgiveness and reconciliation.  If the pastor has done that, elegantly or not, he has done well.

Now this is a pretty convicting text for you and for me.  I cannot help but think of all my shortcomings in bringing Christ’s words of warning sharply enough and clearly enough and His words of comfort and forgiveness sweetly enough and concretely enough.

And you in the flock should consider if there have been times when, rather than listen to the pastor and how Christ’s words apply to you, you sat in judgment of the pastor and his message.

Perhaps this is why God sent men instead of angels to speak the words of reconciliation, for together we kneel and confess our sins, and together we take comfort in the words of comfort and forgiveness.  And together we say, along with that faithful pastor, Paul Gerhardt,

Guilt no longer can distress me;
Son of god, Thou my load
Bearest to release me.
Stain in me Thou findest never;
I am clean, All my sin
Is removed forever.

Dearest Lord, Thee will I cherish,
Though my breath Fail in death,
Yet I shall not perish,
But with thee abide forever
There on high, In that joy
Which can vanish never.

AMEN.

By |2020-12-13T17:01:23-07:00December 13th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

WHAT KIND OF KING IS CHRIST?

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WHAT KIND OF A KING IS CHRIST?

How many times do we hear people criticize God’s conduct of the universe, or call into question the Divine Royalty of Christ? Most common is the criticism, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” I’m sure the critic would have done much better – NOT.

In Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus, He set’s Pilate straight, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” The cause of Christ was not victory over the Romans, or the establishment of some utopia, but our salvation from sin, death, and hell. In His mercy He is a most victorious king!

Sermon for the Last Sunday of Endtime, November 22, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

John 18:33–37 (NKJV)
33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
34 Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”
35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”
Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Dear fellow redeemed: Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” He began His ministry declaring “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”(Mk 1:15) The phrase “kingdom of God” appears in 398 verses in the NKJV New Testament.

We remember the Magi looking for “the king of the Jews,” and we reflect upon the irony of the kingly entrance of Jesus on Palm Sunday, prophetically described by Zechariah, Zechariah 9:9 (NKJV)

9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.

And Jesus speaks clearly about coming into his kingdom and bringing His disciples with Him: Luke 22:29–30 (NKJV) 29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

So Jesus doesn’t shy away from declaring His royalty.

So is He king?  Is He YOUR king? We don’t have much to do with kings do we? That could be a reason why we pass lightly over this kingship of Christ. But we should acknowledge that Christ is king. He is the absolute Lord of heaven, the universe, and all authorities on earth (governments); and He is our defender.  When faced by Jesus clear words, we acknowledge Christ as the king that He is, whether other people honor Him or not.  He says, I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world. Yes…

CHRIST IS KING!

  1. A King for a Cause
  2. A King over Rebels
  3. A Triumphant King
  4. A Heavenly King
  1. A King for a Cause

For this cause He came into the world. What cause is that? What was happening as He spoke to Pilate there? As He had told His disciples, Luke 24:7 (NKJV) ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ” Why? Paul sums it up, Romans 4:25 (NKJV) He was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

As a king’s vocation is to defend his people from their enemies, Jesus went to war against our sin, our death, and the devil Himself. That is the cause for which He came into the world: He offered up Himself as a ransom for sins and exchanged His innocence for our guilt. He bore witness to the eternal truth, including the truth of the Gospel, so that in His name I can declare to you the forgiveness of all your sins.

This is the great cause in which our heavenly king fought for us and delivered to us righteousness, life, and eternal glory.

2.  A King over Rebels

As we taught you last week, Jesus is absolute king of the universe. In His kingdom of power He holds the whole universe together and charts the course of history.

In the kingdom of grace He atones for the sins of the world and in the kingdom of glory every goodness will be fulfilled. But until judgment day when all will bow before Him, he rules humanity by His word. So, while He poured out undeserved love upon the human race, far from being His dutiful subjects, mankind is stubborn and rebellious, not wanting His rule, His judgment, or even His forgiveness.

We live in an age that despises the truth. Instead of weighing an idea in the scales of truth, it is measured on the scales of expedience. It isn’t whether an idea is true or not, but whether it feels good, fulfills prejudices, or advances an agenda. Slogans and sound-bites are constructed to play to the emotions at the expense of truth, and many is the time that 10 seconds of emotion requires hours of thoughtful analysis to unravel.

Think of the hate that is aimed like a weapon at those who express Christian values, and the name-calling focused on those who confess faith in Christ. “How’s your imaginary sky friend,” is the ignorant cant of unbelief.

I could go on with dozens of examples, but the sum of it all is that this world does not honor our king. His word cuts through human emotion and reveals the flaws in fallen human reason. Jesus declared, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

When people reject that truth they can’t figure out their role in life, whether they are men or women, what is right and what is wrong, whether we should live in families or be wards of the state. They become utterly irrational, blinded by vice and desire. Because God’s word is truth it truly prophesied what is happening now. 2 Timothy 3:1–5 (NKJV)  But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

3.   A Triumphant King

But rest assured that Christ is King! He is king beyond our reckoning, so people of our age dismiss Him. They think of what they would do if they were king over all and then look at Jesus did, and they think He must be a failure as king. This seems to be at least part of what Pilate was driving at when faced with the charge that Jesus claimed to be king. “Some king, if His own people arrested Him and turned Him over to be humiliated and punished!” Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?

But Jesus isn’t that kind of king. Rest assured, if He were there would have been no contest. 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Jesus told Peter Matthew 26:52–54 (NKJV) 52 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

And why didn’t Jesus fight? Because Jesus wasn’t here to defeat Romans (or Turks or Russians or even ISIS or the corrupt powers of the day).  He came destroy the power of sin and death. 1 Corinthians 15:20–26 (NKJV) 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

4.   A Heavenly and Righteous King

Christ is King! He is a heavenly and righteous king. Therefore, His righteousness extends to all: For this cause He came into the world By that I don’t mean that he is some otherworldly irrelevant king.  For we are here today because His kingdom came into this world, and He as king answers our prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come.”

Think what it means to be part of this kingdom, brought about because he came into the world to bring salvation. We are subjects of His kingdom together. By grace, our hope of Heaven and His eternal love is NOT on our getting everything right in life. Some days we are better at it than others, but we always fall short. Our hope is in HIS success as the Lord Our Righteousness.

In the same way, our Christian love for one another doesn’t hinge on our getting everything right. We accept one another by grace. We are dear brothers and sisters together because we are subjects of the king who gives us His righteousness. His righteousness is our through repentant faith.

So,

CHRIST IS KING!

  1. A King for a Cause
  2. A King over Rebels
  3. A Triumphant King
  4. A Heavenly and Eternal King

AMEN.

By |2020-11-22T18:25:25-07:00November 22nd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

FAMILY THANKSGIVING AT HOME

A Family Thanksgiving

Devotion for Thanksgiving at Home

With everything so disrupted by the COVID restrictions, many churches are not having a Thanksgiving service, and many people are staying at home.

Download the devotion at the link below, print off a few copies and “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is Good, and His mercy endures forever.”

Download Thanksgiving at Home

A Family Thanksgiving

The purpose of a Christian thanksgiving is not just to identify what we are thankful FOR, but TO WHOM we give thanks. This Thanksgiving Devotion is provided so that we may offer up thanks to the One who has made us, blessed us with life, called us to faith in Christ, and promised us the treasures of eternal life.

You may begin with a hymn if you wish, and as you wish. You may sing it, or perhaps the host will read the verses, and everyone chime in on the last line.

Americans aren’t the first to think up the idea of a thanksgiving celebration, of course. Giving thanks has always been a big part of worship. In fact, we can go back almost 3000 years to the prophet David and this well-known Psalm, #145.  After reading the psalm you may close with a prayer.

Psalm 145
PRAISING GOD’S GREATNESS
A hymn of David.

 
I exalt you, my God the King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
I will bless you every day;
I will praise your name forever and ever.
The Lord is great and is highly praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation will declare your works to the next
and will proclaim your mighty acts.
I will speak of your splendor and glorious majesty
and your wondrous works.
They will proclaim the power of your awe-inspiring acts,
and I will declare your greatness.,
They will give a testimony of your great goodness
and will joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and great in faithful love.
The Lord is good to everyone;
his compassion rests on all he has made.
10 All you have made will thank you, Lord;
the faithful will bless you.
11 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom
and will declare your might,
12 informing all people of your mighty acts
and of the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
your rule is for all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all his words
and gracious in all his actions.,
14 The Lord helps all who fall;
he raises up all who are oppressed.,
15 All eyes look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all his acts.
18 The Lord is near all who call out to him,
all who call out to him with integrity.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry for help and saves them.
20 The Lord guards all those who love him,
but he destroys all the wicked.
21 My mouth will declare the Lord’s praise;
let every living thing
bless his holy name forever and ever.

PRAYER:

Gracious Father in heaven, we give thanks to you for all the mercies you have given to us, for life and health and strength and for the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus, our Savior. We praise you for your goodness and generosity to us. We remember the good things in life that come from you, such as family, friends, love, joy, peace, and also the good things to each. Fill our hearts by your holy word with the constant assurance of your goodness, so that ours will be grateful hearts, grateful to you, the true and living God, now and forever.  AMEN.

By |2020-11-21T12:34:21-07:00November 21st, 2020|Good News|0 Comments

You don’t have time to GET ready, so BE ready!

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You don’t have time to GET ready, so BE ready!

Jesus compares the wise and the foolish. The wise have some foresight. The wise pilot makes sure she has sufficient fuel before taking off. The wise car buyer makes sure he can make the payments. A foolish youth drops out with no education or training. The foolish hiker heads out into the wilderness without map, compass, (or GPS).

It is the wise who are ready for Christ’s return. The foolish may know He is coming but lack what is necessary. The wise know the need for truth, for righteousness, for faith, and all the other gifts God gives through His word, and they do not forsake it.

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Endtime, November 15, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Matthew 25:1–13 (CSB)

      25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take oil with them; but the wise ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps. When the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
      6 “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’
      7 “Then all the virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’
      9 “The wise ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell oil, and buy some for yourselves.’
      10 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. 11 Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’
      12 “He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you!’
      13 “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.

Dear fellow redeemed: How much do you know for sure about first century Jewish weddings? Me neither. We sometimes work backwards from Jesus’ parables to make conclusions, but we don’t know for sure. But that’s OK, because we don’t need to know to understand Jesus’ point.  He is returning; it may be a while; it will be sudden, you cannot get ready then so you must be ready; and whatever it takes to be ready, you better have enough. That is what it means to

WISELY AWAIT  OUR LORD’S RETURN

  1. The Reign of Heaven
  2. The Shout
  3. The Oil of Readiness
  1. The Reign of Heaven

Jesus begins with a common expression, as Matthew terms it, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” The kingdom He’s talking about isn’t geographical; it refers to “the royal deeds of God in Jesus, beginning in his earthly ministry, then in the intervening years as his disciples wait, and finally in the fullness of his reign at the unknown day of his Parousia.”[1] This parable tells us what it will be like when the reign of God comes to its fullness in Jesus’ return and the resurrection, and especially in the resurrection and eternal bliss of the righteous.

Do with think enough about the reign of heaven, either now or at the last day? We should. While it isn’t something we can see, we do live under His reign, and that is something that we should think about in view of the affairs of men.

Remember, He reigns as Lord of the Universe. The earth orbits the sun and the moon the earth because He has so decreed. As the Bible says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15–17, CSB)

Notice that includes also the spirits, the angels and the demons, and also the powers of the earth. Including those who seek power in our country.

He also reigns through His word, proclaimed by His church, and all salvation is accomplished through Him. “He is also the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:18–20, CSB)

I say to the guiltiest sinner, “You have peace with God,” and it is so because our Lord says so. I say to powers of the earth, complicit in the sins of the age, such as gross deceit, the destruction of marriage, the worship of nature, the killing of the unborn, and so on “Repent our perish,” and it is so because God says it is so. He says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19–21, ESV)

If we acknowledge the reign of God, and we look forward to our resurrection to its fullness, then we acknowledge Christ as Lord, and are at odds with the culture of an unbelieving age. Are you? What if you were a college student, government employee, military officer, nurse, doctor, or someone else required to take “sensitivity training,” which is coercive re-education, because you expressed value for an intact family, or the natural role of men and women. Would you say what you are told so say, something like “men can have babies too,” to keep your job? Would you say that the material world is all there is, and mankind can achieve paradise on earth?

We know there are re-education camps in Communist China, but don’t think the ungodly philosophy, false religion, and unbelief are only over there, or the coercion to deny what is true.

But Christ is Lord, so we look forward to His establishing His reign in all its fullness. Or do you? Are you ready?

2.  The Shout

You won’t have time to get ready when He comes. [Slap the pulpit and shout, “He’s here!”] You have to BE ready. Back to Christ’s parable: “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

“Then all the virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

Some were ready and some were not, and there was no time to get ready, for as Scripture says, the end will come “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52, CSB)

3.  The Oil of Readiness

In Jesus’ parable there are ten virgins to greet the bridegroom, five wise and five foolish. ALL were expecting Him, so Jesus is here talking about people who are in the church, had been in the church, or otherwise at one time knew and believed that our Lord will come. It may be a long delay, but He will come.

Some didn’t have enough oil. What does this picture? Some pare this down very minutely, saying that the lamp is one thing, the flame another and the oil another. Could be. But we could also just call this the “oil of readiness.” It is whatever we need to be ready when the Lord returns.

It is righteousness of course, the righteousness that comes from God, was accomplished by Christ, and is ours by faith.

But some lose that faith because they are mired in sins of the flesh, so they lack repentance.

Some are tied up in the worries, riches, and pleasures of life, so that they forsake the word, and lack the nourishing gospel of the Spirit.

Some are deceived by the lies of Satan and the world, so they lack the truth.

Some grow tired of the conflict, so they lack perseverance.

Some fall in love with the world, so they lack faithfulness.

But whatever they may lack, whatever oil of readiness they were short of, it was because of their foolishness. To be foolish is to act contrary to what you know is reasonable, right, or true, especially lacking foresight.

If your gas gauge is on “E” and you set out across the boondocks anyway, that’s foolish. If you build a fire in your living room (its been done) that’s foolish. If you don’t finish high school, and still hope to make it in life, that’s foolish. If you know your blood pressure will give you a stroke, but don’t take your medicine, that’s foolish.

Now you know you are tempted in this world to treasure sins and not repent, like gossip, resentment, anger, etc., so listen to the gospel, which is the power of our reigning Lord.

You know there is deceit all over, so continue in the word of Christ, that you may know the truth.

You know that the Devil is the accuser, so listen to the comforting words of Christ’s absolution.

You know that your hope is in Christ alone, so put away pride and heed the rebuke of the Lord, so that your hope is only in Him.

You won’t have time to get ready, so be ready. Be ever faithful in receiving the life-giving means of grace, the gospel in word and sacrament. For there is our Lord’s gift of righteousness, forgiveness, life, and salvation.

AMEN

[1] Gibbs, Jeffrey A., Concordia Commentary, A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture, Matthew 21:1-28:20, p. 1318, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 2018

By |2020-11-15T17:23:00-07:00November 15th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments