Face to Face with God

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Face to Face with God

Catching People

Luke 5:1–11 (CSB)

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

Dear fellow redeemed: Can you connect the dots between what happened here in this text and where you are today? Put simply, God invaded this world, called people to Him by His word, demonstrated His divine power (sometimes frightening those who really saw it) called others by His word who would, by that word, call still others to Him, and so on throughout history. You and I are here because of it.

What happened to Simon was that when the nets filled, it was brought home to Simon that he was …

COMING FACE TO FACE WITH GOD

  1. See His Blessings
  2. See Our Debt
  3. Behold His Mercy
  1. See His Blessings

Luke, remember, is recording all of this by inspiration, but also by careful investigation of all the accounts of Christ’s life and ministry. The Holy Spirit used Luke’s observations and conclusions to shape a picture for us that the Holy Spirit uses to reveal the truth to us – truth that is not just information, but a divine power that offers and gives what it proclaims.

We are presented with this reality of Jesus and His word today: By His word, Jesus confounded Satan when tempted in the desert. By His word Jesus proclaimed Himself as the fulfilment of the prophesies of the Savior, as the one sent with the power of the Holy Spirit by the Lord (Yaweh). By that word many were called to follow Him: They were all speaking well of him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth; yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”(Luke 4:22, CSB)

But because of unbelief, many despised that word, and Christ: They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. (Luke 4:29, CSB) This happened even when He performed stupendous miracles.

Many who were called to faith were reluctant to let Him go elsewhere, but he persisted: But he said to them, “It is necessary for me to proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43, CSB)

So that brought Him throughout the land; and now in Galilee, we see him so overrun by crowds (s!) that he has to grab a boat from some fishermen He knew and teach from out in the lake so they could hear Him. Do you see how His impact is compounded? It is no wonder He was known far and wide even in those days. Please understand that He does not teach moralistic tales life a self-help speaker, and He doesn’t do little tricks like an illusionist. He reveals the Kingdom of God, the action of God in this world, and He moves the physical world at his command. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

Simon Peter gets that. He saw Jesus heal his mother-in-law. That may be one reason he and his partners do what Jesus told them, even though as expert fishermen they knew that a carpenter/preacher wasn’t qualified to give fishing advice. And yet, two boats could scarcely make it back to the shore with the catch. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”

When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Christ revealed Himself, and Simon saw Jesus as the One who had been feeding, clothing, and providing for him all his life, including his life as a fisherman. We should too. The sun, rain, food, clothing, shelter, wealth, comfort, and peace we enjoy is part of the “daily bread” that this Jesus, Creator and Preserver, bestows upon us.

But there is more to this Christ, and Peter saw it.

2. See Our Debt

Peter also saw the relationship between himself as a sinner and Christ as His righteous Lord. He’s the one who spoke of it, but they all grasped the situation. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners.

Let me tell you, if we were openly confronted by our Maker, without anything to shelter us, you and I would also fear, for we are sinful. Everything that you have hidden away in your past is an open book to HIM, and the just displeasure and judgment of true holiness toward our sin would be an open book to US.

What do you suppose was featured in Peter’s catalog of shameful thoughts, words, and deeds? Why was he embarrassed? He knew the psalms. He knew that with God there is forgiveness. In fact, why do I preach against sin – mine and yours – if we know we are forgiven?

Two main reasons: Complacency and despair. We may become so complacent over our sins, too used to being forgiven, even, that Christ as Savior means less and less to us so that we lose faith because of indifference. OR We may be so accused by Satan, others, and by our own conscience that we lose trust in Christ as the true Redeemer from such sins as ours, and so despair.

Already as we read our text, we must have heard the part, “you will be catching people” and “they … left everything, and followed him.” And hearing that we know we have not been quick to share with others the hope that we have in Christ, nor have we been willing to give up much to follow him, we have to question our own commitment. What is wrong with us, that we can’t invite a friend, acquaintance, co-worker, or family member to church? What is wrong with us that we are so attached to our possessions that we can’t do with a little less to provide for the work of the gospel?

It’s tough to confront ourselves. But think what it was like for Peter. Peter knew Christ. He had been to his home, healed his mother-on-law, taught Simon and the others. Yet they had regularly left Jesus to fend for Himself and gone on with their daily lives. I’m sure they were glad of the gospel, but it hadn’t upended their lives or anything.

But now, confronted with the Lord of Righteousness, Peter couldn’t ignore his shortcomings and his obligations.

We also know Christ. We receive His gifts daily. We hear His comforting words, but we haven’t had to upend our lives or anything. We haven’t been “canceled” on social media, or lost a job because of who we talk about forgiveness with. We, too, feel naked when we come face to face with God as we do through His word.

3. Behold His Mercy

But now comes this powerful word of Christ again: “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon.

Again:

“…he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord. …
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.”

Jesus gave Simon his freedom. He could live his life as a Christian without fear. Was Simon perfect as an apostle? Well we know that Paul had to personally rebuke him for his behavior, so, no, he wasn’t perfect. But did that separate him from Christ? No, it didn’t, because of His grace. Because of the Grace of God, we possess the righteousness of Jesus, by faith.

That freedom is yours too. You are free to serve Christ without fear of condemnation that you didn’t do it well enough, weren’t dedicated enough, weren’t correct in your judgment. It is in daily repentance before Christ, and in his declaration, “Don’t be afraid, rejoice, your sins are forgiven!” that we live in this freedom.

So, bear witness of the hope you have, without fear of getting it wrong, or offending your Savior. You can give up everything, without fear that you will be in want. Simon Peter saw his ability to provide for him. You see it too.

AMEN

By |2020-07-10T19:52:58-07:00July 10th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Be Merciful

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Be Merciful

The forces arrayed against morality and truth are not merciful, but hateful and vindictive. MERCY is what’s different about the Christian faith.

Luke 6:36–42 (CSB)

36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

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

39 He also told them a parable: “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

41 “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the beam of wood in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the splinter in your brother’s eye.

Dear fellow redeemed: If you watch the news, do you think there is anybody you could find fault with? With the people tearing down monuments? With those who set them up in the first place? With those setting up independent states? With those who are looting and burning? With a Supreme Court who says the “right” of a woman to kill her child shouldn’t be even “burdened.” With the firing of people because they don’t put a blurb out on social media showing solidarity with black lives matter?

I’m not going to ask for a show of hands on any of that; and what’s more, because what all those examples have in common is a lack of mercy, I won’t tempt you to be merciless either. Remember this: The essence of the Christian faith is the mercy of God.

THE ESSENCE OF THE FAITH: GOD’S MERCY

  1. People “Justify” Themselves
  2. Christ Justified Sinners
  3. One Sinner to Another
  4. Judgment God Doesn’t Condemn
  1. People “Justify” Themselves

The natural state of things is for people to justify themselves while condemning others. I remember the six-year-old Karen in Sunday School who, after the opening prayer announced, “Mark had his eyes open during the prayer!” “And how did you know that, Karen?” asked the teacher. We smile at those kids, but we carry those same judgmental traits into adulthood, often without mercy.

Judgment without forgiveness is the order of the day today. This is beyond any kind of political statement, this is as much a matter of faith and doctrine as a society turning away from Christ to Islam, paganism, or humanism.

It is widely taught and accepted today that Christianity is an irredeemable evil, because its message is to uphold the patriarchal family, convict as sin the now-protected practices of killing the unborn, homosexuality, lesbianism, denial of God’s order in creating men and women, of pornography, sex outside marriage, and the breaking of marriage. And Christian churches would prohibit them if they could.

2. Christ Justified Sinners

Now before you say, “You betcha!” listen to Jesus. The message of Christian faith is God’s mercy. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Are there Christians who have had abortions? Who have viewed pornography? Who have entered their bed before their marriage? Who have same-sex attractions, distorted view of themselves, or broken their marriage vows?

Did Jesus try to stop them? Or did He eat with them and proclaim forgiveness to them? Didn’t he make one murderer an apostle? And what did that murderer write?- “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.” (1 Timothy 1:15, CSB)

So the judgment of this world isn’t our responsibility; it is the Lord’s, and He doesn’t want to bring down damnation on people, but as Peter writes, The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, CSB)

3. One Sinner to Another

If we are to be in a rush to identify sin, then it should be to find it in ourselves. “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the beam of wood in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the splinter in your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:41–42, CSB)

We find it so easy to be critical of others, don’t we? You find fault and get in a high dudgeon over people doing what they have no permission to do, or not doing what (we say) they are supposed to do. Do you not hear how holier-than-thou that is? Do you not see how the cloud of disapproval you project over others is so devoid of mercy?

One of the definitive studies of the issues that destroy marriages found  that it wasn’t money, as many people think, it was disapproval. We just cannot live under a constant cloud of disapproval, especially from those who are important to us. Not surprisingly, that holds true for Christian congregations. I know of pastors who have resigned from the ministry because of the constant barrage of disapproval. Nothing they did was ever good enough. And likewise, people have left congregations because there was no hope, just a constant drumbeat of what they must do and not do, from the pastor or from other members.

To deal with such disapproval, we must self-justify ourselves – as in self-righteousness,  or we must despair and suffer, or must leave and avoid the pain.

So, does this mean that we are not to judge at all? As one of the most taken-out-of-context verses in the Bible, it is used by many, not for the sake of mercy, but for the toleration of evil. “You don’t like my gossiping? Who are you to judge?” “You think I should be in church? ‘Judge not, lest you be judged.” “You don’t like my foul mouth? Don’t be ‘judgy.’

But Jesus Himself tells us First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the splinter in your brother’s eye. When we have a sense of our own sin, then and only then are we to reprove a brother or sister. First, when we fear for their soul, as Paul instructed the Galatians, Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, CSB) We go to them as one sinner to another for the sake of their soul, not to condemn them but to restore them to repentance and faith. For Christians, in repentance, can see clearly and we welcome them.

What Paul writes about is in harmony with the rest of Scripture, for example “Do not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. (Leviticus 19:17, CSB) And of course Psalm 51 is familiar to you. We know our sin, For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. (Psalm 51:3, CSB), Yet in repentance, Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. (Psalm 51:12–13, CSB)

But for the most part, as we gather here, confess our sins together, commune together, and confess our faith together, there is no room for judging, or for that cloud of disapproval. For though you may know of the sin of someone, you know that they live under the righteousness of Christ, for they live in repentance and faith.

4. Judgment God Doesn’t Condemn

We also judge according to our various vocations in life. A more nuanced translation of verse 37 is, “Do not judge, except so as not to be judged [by God].” There are times when to NOT judge is to call down God’s judgment, as we saw in Leviticus 19:17. Think also of parents, Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV) Think of Eli the priest who was struck down because he didn’t correct his sons.

In verse 26 of this same sermon, Jesus said, Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets.(Luke 6:26, CSB)

So we must discern false prophets. For For the word of the Lord is right, and all his work is trustworthy. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love. (Psalm 33:4–5, CSB)

As citizens of this country, we judge the affairs that are set before us, as sovereigns, and hold people accountable when they outrage what is right and good and true. (Cit.)

But above all we are merciful.  36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. At any time, you may look around you: Everyone you see is an object of God’s mercy. The blood of Christ was shed for him or her. I see you, and I know the blood of Christ was shed for you. You are forgiven; you possess the righteousness of Christ; you are clean. How can I disapprove of you, despise you, or turn away from you, for God himself has not, but “His face shines on you.”

Amen.

By |2020-07-05T15:40:18-07:00July 5th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

The WORST EXCUSES to pass up the BEST INVITATION.

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The WORST EXCUSES to pass up the
BEST INVITATION

Luke 14:16–24 (CSB)

16 Then he told him, “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. 17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 “But without exception they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, and therefore I’m unable to come.’
21 “So the servant came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’
22 “ ‘Master,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’
23 “Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those people who were invited will enjoy my banquet.’ ”

Dear fellow redeemed:  Through Luke and the gospel he wrote, the Holy Spirit speaks often of a rescue.  God has invaded this world so that His kingdom now includes us.  In His kingdom the sick are healed, the dead are raised, and above all sinners are made righteous.  This is an invasion that begins among the Jews, but then encompasses the whole world.

This theme of rescue, and of God’s grace and mercy, and the value He places upon every human being, body and soul, is expressed over and over again, and so beautifully in the next chapter in the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost rebellious son.

But another theme centers on the great grief God expresses about those who will not be rescued because they are indifferent to the Lord’s goodness and mercy. I don’t know how it could be any more pointed than it is in this parable of the Rich Man’s Banquet and

THE WORST EXCUSES TO PASS UP THE BEST INVITATION

  1. The Banquet
  2. The Invitation
  3. The Excuses
  4. God’s Grace
  1. The Banquet

The setup for the parable includes a “great banquet.”  Lots of people had already been invited to it and all the preparations had been made.  This banquet is eternal life and salvation.  We could say that it is heaven, but it is more than heaven.  The kingdom of God has invaded all time and all history, so that even now we partake of this feast.  God Himself serves us in His word with the sweet comfort of forgiveness and wisdom, guidance, and correction.  He serves us with the cleansing bath of Holy Baptism, refreshing our souls and washing away the dirt and grime of our sins.  He sets out the feast of salvation in the Holy Supper of Christ, where He Himself is both the host and the feast itself.

How this foretaste of heaven will be fulfilled in eternity is an exercise in our imagination, for it is written in Romans “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18, CSB)

What’s more, Paul quotes Isaiah, 1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived— God has prepared these things for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, CSB)

What we can be sure of is that in that great love that God has lavished upon us, redeeming us from our sins and making us His children, God has everlasting joy and happiness in store for those who heed the banquet invitation, that is, those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

2. The Invitation

This is an interesting invitation.  Note that at first, all of the people in the parable already had already received an invitation.  16 Then he told him, “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. But now the feast was ready.  This is like the Jews who had already known about the salvation that had been promised.  But now it was ready.  17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’

But the Jews, even though they knew the invitation, would not heed it as it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  They had excuses. It is like people in our day who have heard all their lives about heaven and about Christianity.

But there comes a time when the invitation goes beyond a “save the date” and it is time to come.  Jesus had been proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is here.”  Paul and all true preachers of the gospel have continued, “…We also appeal to you, “Don’t receive the grace of God in vain.” For he says: At an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:1–2, CSB)

People in our day, too, have heard of the invitation but when it comes right down to NOW, they have excuses.

3. The Excuses & Consequences of Refusal

, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 “But without exception they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, and therefore I’m unable to come.’

All of these excuses are “instead of.”  It isn’t that they are wrong in themselves, but they take the place of the banquet.  So it is that the reasons for those who are invited to “repent and believe the gospel” ignore the gospel invitation.

And we need what this invitation gives: Forgiveness, life, and salvation! In the parable, Jesus doesn’t dwell on our great need for salvation, but outside this banquet, outside His kingdom of faith, there is death.

Indifference is deadly. But even though the banquet has started, so many cannot be bothered.  24 For I tell you, not one of those people who were invited will enjoy my banquet.’ 

What about those who don’t care about the gifts and the heaven God has prepared for those who love Him?

21 “So the servant came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’

Now why am I preaching this to you if you are here receiving His gifts?  First as a warning, I suppose, lest you grow indifferent..  Second, it underscores the need to continually witness to others that sinners like you and me have been redeemed by Christ and reconciled to God by Him.

4. God’s Grace

But you must realize that here is also the message of God’s grace.

21 “So the servant came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’
22 “ ‘Master,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’
23 “Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be filled.

You and I, after all, are among those who lived in the streets and alleys.  You and I are among the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.  We are from the country lanes, far away from Judea.  But as far as we are away, so far has he sought us out to win us for Himself.

It is the love of God that did this.  For nobody deserved this banquet.  Nobody deserves heaven.  If God had never sent His son, but had let every last one of us be damned, it would be just.  We would get what we deserve, even the “best” of us.

Thanks be to God that his servants came so far as to find us.  God grant that we may go so far as to find others, so that we may all together proclaim the mercies of our Savior at the eternal banquet.

AMEN.

By |2020-06-21T14:10:31-07:00June 21st, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Hope According to God’s Promise

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Hope According to God’s Promises

Set Your Hope with the Promises of the Lord in View

Luke 16:19–31 (CSB)

19 “There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. 20 But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was lying at his gate. 21 He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side., The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’

25 “ ‘Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’

27 “ ‘Father,’ he said, ‘then I beg you to send him to my father’s house—28 because I have five brothers—to warn them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

Dear fellow redeemed: Most of the time, the portions of God’s word which we consider each week go together and form a whole. Therefore, what we end up with is greater than if just taking one after the other.

Last week Jesus taught Nicodemus (and us) that our spiritual life – which is the eternal life of faith, is the gift of the Holy Spirit and it is an eternal life. But it can also be discarded, rejected or scorned as Nicodemus did, in favor of something more attractive to the flesh. In Luke’s gospel, that “something more attractive” is money, wealth, prosperity, affluence. The Pharisees were described as “lovers of money,” and they possessed their money with the pride that it was an indication of God’s favor, as opposed to being “born again of water and the Spirit.”

But your hope of heaven does not depend on your earning or deserving it, and even more, it doesn’t depend upon some earthly sign or indicator of God’s favor. God’s love for you is shown in something completely apart from you: “He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. …(Romans 8:32, CSB) So, even in misery, we should

HOPE ACCORDING TO GOD’S PROMISES

  1. Beware of Idols, Counterfeits
  2. The Miserable Will Be Comforted
  3. Take Comfort Now in the Word
  1. Beware of Idols, Counterfeits

The rich man has no name. His name is not written in God’s book of life. He had the veneer of religion but had no faith. He was a Jew, a “son of Abraham,” knew of Abraham and the prophets, but his love was for money, by which incidentally, he assured himself he was in God’s favor. He was lavish in his tastes. He enjoyed a feast every day; a simple meal wasn’t enough.

Understand the context here, just before this, Luke wrote, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and scoffing at him. And he told them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.(Luke 16:14–15, CSB) The rich man was made of the same cloth as these Pharisees who scoffed at Jesus when He said that riches don’t show us innocent in the eyes of God. These were the self-congratulatory elites of their day, certain that THEY were in God’s favor and scorned people like Jesus who came as a servant.

I expect that all of us have something about ourselves that we think puts us “in God’s good books,” that makes us complacent about our faith. Is it that we are well educated? That we are members of a confessional Lutheran church? That we have the right politics? That we look down on people who have politics? Is it that we are prosperous? Well washed? Well-adjusted? Popular?

None of those has anything to do with what we really need— that we are born again of water and of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. (Galatians 5:22–23, CSB) This is the opposite of self-righteousness, of condescending elitism, or of loving only the lovable.

His unbelief, his idolatry in making money his idol, showed in his utter neglect of poor Lazarus. He wasted more food than Lazarus needed, but he wouldn’t share it. So, he died and was buried and went to hell. He had no righteousness by which to claim heaven, rather his selfishness condemned him.

In telling about the rich man, Jesus captures his arrogance and pride, as he demands comfort from Abraham and expects Lazarus to serve him. 23 And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’

     2. The Miserable Will Be Comforted

But things were different for Lazarus. Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. This is something that Luke emphasizes often in his gospel, the principle of reversal. Remember Mary’s song? “He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51–53, CSB)

The fact is that for those who do not repent, there is justice, and justice for God’s people. “For the Lord loves justice and will not abandon his faithful ones. They are kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked will be destroyed.(Psalm 37:28, CSB)

We call this the “Great Reversal.” What God is revealing through Luke is the fact that while none of us deserve His mercy, and that our place in heaven is a gift, that nevertheless he truly loves us, appreciates the faithfulness of those whom He has made His children, and is eager to save and glorify those who have suffered and struggled in this world.

   3.  Take Comfort Now in the Word

This is one more source of hope for us. I can tell you that for fifty years I have looked out upon congregations and seen their struggles. The young people trying to find their way in the world, the parents struggling with rebellious children, faithful children struggling with abusive parents. People torn up by unfaithfulness in marriages. Poverty. Sudden illness. Loss of a dear loved one. Loneliness. Victims of crime. Murder, robbery, rape. Fortunes lost. Injury and disability. Unbelief on the part of loved ones.

But in such a situation Paul wrote (maybe even thinking of this illustration of Jesus) “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.(Romans 8:18, CSB) Our suffering and struggling will be as nothing when, like Lazarus, we are carried to our eternal home and are resurrection to the eternal life where is the ultimate of all joy, all beauty, all peace, all love, all music, all nature, all art, all thought, all dance, all creativity, – – – all good.

Now, the last part of the text deserves its own sermon, but just take this from it. There is no hope in the idols of this world: fame, pleasure, wealth, government, medicine, philosophy, science, or just plain money. Dust and ashes they will be. Escape from these idols is not to be found in emotional pleas, waves of popular social approval, great signs, or even the marvels of God’s power.

We escape from these idols through the rebirth that comes from the Holy Spirit working through the word and sacrament, as Jesus says through his character, Moses, 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

So don’t find your hope in the idols of this world, but HOPE ACCORDING TO GOD’S PROMISES.  Find your hope in God’s word, Moses, the prophets, the witness of the apostles. For through them the Holy Spirit works life in us and keeps us in the one true faith until all becomes new, the old passes away, and we stand in the presence of the Lord.

God grant it to each one of you!

AMEN.

By |2020-06-14T14:33:25-07:00June 14th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

How Can Someone See the Kingdom of God?

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How Someone Can See the Kingdom of God

John 3:1–15 (CSB)

3 There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform these signs you do unless God were with him.”

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again,, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

“How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus.

10 “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied. 11 “Truly I tell you, we speak what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you do not accept our testimony. 12  If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.,

14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Dear fellow redeemed: On this festival of the Holy Trinity we acknowledge the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity of the true and living God, the God who is actually there, as contrasted with all of the counterfeit religions out there, the Mormons, Muslims, pagans, atheists, and whatnot.

We have confessed that in the Athanasian Creed, so we don’t get careless or lax about Who is the true Creator, Redeemer, and Faith-giver.

Because He IS the true God, we see it reflected in our text that there is one God, but that this God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Reflected. What is actually taught here is …

HOW SOMEONE CAN SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

  1. By the Creation of New Life
  2. That Opens Our Eyes to See Heavenly Things
  3. Because of Christ’s Gracious Redemption
  1. By the Creation of New Life

John has begun His gospel by proclaiming that Jesus, about whom He is teaching, is the Word, the true revelation of God, and that He is the Creator. “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.(John 1:3, CSB) Now He has entered this world He continues to create life where death has intruded, death in the form of unbelief, which is spiritual death. He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.(John 1:10–13, CSB)

This new life cannot create itself, but is created according to the will of God. (By the way, it is in teaching this faithfully that the Lutheran church is distinguished from the “evangelical” heresies that are so popular.)

So along comes someone who is dead and blind: Nicodemus. He comes at night. In just the next chapter, John says, … people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19, CSB)  So, John doesn’t give any reason to think that Nicodemus was a believer. And Nicodemus reveals this attitude in the way he addresses Jesus, not as the “Eternal Word,” but as someone who had God with him, like Jeremiah or Malachi; modern liberal theologians would say as much.

While Nicodemus uses flattery and yet confronts Jesus as less than He is, Jesus lays out the fundamental problem of humanity and its solution:  “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The human problem is that we are born spiritually dead, so we must be born again. Literally, the Greek is “born from above.”

Nicodemus replies sarcastically about going back into the womb, showing he doesn’t understand. Jesus goes on: “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

This is a spiritual birth, a birth of the soul by the power of the Holy Spirit. You have a physical birth as God blesses the union of your parents – with you. But they cannot give you life. The work of the Spirit is shown in the spiritual life of faith and all the fruit it brings to our lives.

2. That Opens Our Eyes to See Heavenly Things

If there were a good candidate to get these things and “make a decision” for Christ, it would be Nicodemus. As a leader of Israel, He should know about the grace of God. Israel was not chosen because they were special, or Abraham was special. They were special because God chose them.

But “How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus.

10 “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied. 11 “Truly I tell you, we speak what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you do not accept our testimony. 12  If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

This is an application of what Jesus had just said about being “born again.” Coming to faith is a miracle. It isn’t something we earn, deserve, are “more receptive to,” or are more prone to. It is just like the mystery of existence itself. Once, according to the flesh, we were not, and then we were given life and were born, and now we live.

“Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Jesus is speaking of baptism here. “Water and the Spirit” is one thing; it isn’t “of water and OF the Spirit,” but “of water and the Sprit.” Where God’s word is, there God is, and so there is the Spirit.

For some years before Christ, converts to Judaism were called “newborns,” and they received a ceremonial washing because, after all according to the Pharisees, gentiles were unclean. But here Jesus says, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. He cannot enter the community of faith, the church, and therefore heaven. Nicodemus would have to be born again by water and the Spirit. “How can these things be?” was His response.

3. Because of Christ’s Gracious Redemption

Of course, John began almost at the beginning of his gospel speaking of baptism – the baptism of John, and the rest of this chapter recounts Jesus and His disciples baptizing “unto repentance for the remission of sins.” God has used His word -also in this sacrament- as the means of grace to create life where there was death.

How can this be? Because God (the Holy Spirit) is the creator and giver of life.

How can this be? Because God (the son) bore our sins. Baptism isn’t a transaction, as in “I’ll be baptized and therefore you will forgive my sins. It is a gift of life because of the perfect life and atoning death of Christ. So Jesus said, 14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The righteousness He lived, and the atonement He won for your forgiveness are given to you as you are alive, believing, in faith, to receive it.

It is by the water and Spirit of baptism that God gives new life, that we are born from mere fleshly life, doomed to die, to spiritual life, destined to live, because, living, we know Christ, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.” (Philippians 3:9, CSB)

Remember, you ARE baptized. It isn’t that you WERE and it is over, you were baptized into new life, so that you shared in Christ’s death, which He died for you, and now share in His resurrection, and so live according to the spirit. “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. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3–5, CSB)

Rejoice in the new life in which you now life, by which you now see the kingdom of God, and by which you will live eternally.

AMEN.

By |2020-06-07T14:14:50-07:00June 4th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Invasion to Conquer — and Save

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Invasion Plan to Conquer and Save

John 15:26–16:4 (CSB)

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

16 “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling. They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they haven’t known the Father or me. But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you will remember I told them to you. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.

Dear fellow redeemed: By now your have probably caught onto the fact that leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus was briefing His disciples, NOT about how they were to deal with the effects of his life, ministry, crucifixion and death, but how they were to live in view of His resurrection. We remember great men all the time and consider how Jefferson gave us the Declaration of Independence, Madison the Constitution, and Washington, the precedents that gave them life. But they have no further effect. We say, “They must be turning over in their graves,” for this is or that reason, but they aren’t. They are dead and gone and out of the picture.

But our Lord is Risen. Thursday was the anniversary of His ascension into heaven where the Father “subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,” (Ephesians 1:22, CSB)

So, what he says here is for the “after ascension” part of His relationship with the disciples – and us. Here He tells them that they will engage the world so powerfully as to provoke physical attacks – just by testifying about Jesus.  By speaking the gospel, the powerful word of God, the Holy Spirit is going to go into the world in conquest.

You could almost call this an invasion plan.  It isn’t an invasion plan to conquer and destroy, but rather

AN INVASION PLAN TO CONQUER AND SAVE

  1. The Sword of the Spirit – God’s Word
  2. Fighting on a Foreign Field
  3. Where Victory Gives Comfort to the Vanquished
  1. The Sword of the Spirit – God’s Word

At this moment, throughout the world, the Holy Spirit is testifying about Christ. The gospel isn’t just some fluffy “spiritual” speculation; it is rooted in reality. It includes the actual testimony of the people who were witnesses from the beginning of what Jesus did to save us.

The Spirit and those who teach his word invade a world that is always peopled by unbelievers – souls born in spiritual darkness and death, not knowing God and alienated from Him.  The offensive weapon for this is the Word of God, as Paul wrote, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17, CSB) Just as importantly, the apostle Paul wrote by inspiration, “[The gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes….” (Romans 1:16, CSB)

This word is true information, rooted in the reality of what Christ did at a certain place and a certain time, but it is not just information, it is a living power. The gospel not only talks about forgiveness, it gives forgiveness and works the new spiritual life that is saving faith.

As our text teaches here, God the Holy Spirit accompanies this Gospel with His power to call you to faith, to awaken your dead, blind, sinful heart, so that you have come to trust in this Jesus for life eternal, even in the hour of your death. 26 “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

2.  Fighting on a Foreign Field

Our Savior is inserting Himself into this world as He has over and over again. We think of the time He revealed Himself to Noah or Abraham or Moses or King David, or the prophets. We see how He entered into human history at those times and others, climaxing in His own incarnation and birth to Mary, and His life, death, and resurrection. But He is still doing that: the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Today is no different. He has told us that He will bring judgment on this world, so that our only hope is in Him, and that hope is proclaimed through the gospel. We hear people quibbling over whether deaths are counted “properly” as “COVID-19 deaths” for one purpose or another, but does that make a difference to the dead? The only thing that makes a difference for them is whether they have come to saving faith in Christ. We testify to the salvation we have in Christ.

But when truth invades the world built on a lie, when life invades a world that worships death, when the true Savior invades the kingdom of this world, the Prince of This World will fight back. It is like we are an invading force fighting on a foreign field.

So Jesus warns, 16 “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling. They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they haven’t known the Father or me. But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you will remember I told them to you. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.

You might think that speaking of the hope that we have in Christ, we would be welcomed with open arms by those whose hopes of an earthly paradise have been dashed. You would think that the message of eternal life would bring joy to a human race that is dying. You would think that the news of forgiveness and reconciliation with God, our Judge, would bring peace and joy to people who cannot bear the judgments they dish out to others.

You would be wrong.

Because humanity is fallen, and human culture is bound up with death and hatred exaltation of self, the Christian gospel will always be counter-cultural. . They will do these things [oppose Christ, the gospel, and forgiveness, and will persecute Christians] because they haven’t known the Father or me.

3.  Where Victory Gives Comfort to the Vanquished

You must realize that you are at odds with the world. Sadly, a lot of Christians think that they must attract the unbelieving world to the church by saying what pleases the world. They are devastated to find they are not acceptable to society (banned from the synagogues). It is not just because of our stands on morality – sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, creation, headship in marriage and family, etc. It is because of the gospel itself.

We are the sworn enemies of the unbelieving world, as John wrote Jesus’ word, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15–17, CSB)

So we do not make peace with this world, we conquer it. Now you may have thoughts there of power and might brought to bear to create the kingdom of God. Or you might look forward to the victorious Day of the Lord in which all will rise from the grave and submit to Him, “For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:11–12, CSB)

But that is not this invasion, this spiritual war, or this battle fought in this age of the world. How do we conquer the world when we are objects of persecution, can only testify to the truth, and are at odds with what this world wants? John answers that also: “because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5, CSB)

So while we warn the world of condemnation, we do not conquer them by destroying them, but by saving them from condemnation. We make clear to the world that anyone without perfect righteousness is damned, but we conquer them not by damning them, but by declaring and giving the perfect righteousness that we have in Christ. We declare before the world that those who do not believe are lost and enemies of God, but then we speak the words  of hope that ignite faith and bring from death to life.

This is how you and I were conquered, defeated, and vanquished. Born as unbelievers, spiritually dead, we have been born to a new and spiritual life of faith through the good news declaring Christ to us as Savior.

Putting it another way, in this invasion of the world, God conquers, not to destroy us, but to make us His own dear children.

So let us live our lives, rejoicing in the victory that was won over us, to save us. May we see ourselves as part of an invading force of the living in the midst of a dying world, proclaiming that even when we suffer the death of the body, we live in the resurrection.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-24T14:23:01-07:00May 24th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

A Personal Relationship with Christ

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A Personal Relationship with Christ

John 16:23–30 (CSB)

[23 “In that day you will not ask me anything.] Truly I tell you, anything you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.  24 Until now you have asked for nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in my name, and I am not telling you that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God., 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Look, now you’re speaking plainly and not using any figurative language. 30 Now we know that you know everything and don’t need anyone to question you. By this we believe that you came from God.”

Dear fellow redeemed: Last week we read the words just before this, in which Jesus explained that after His death and resurrection He would govern all things for the good of the church, also through the power of the Holy Spirit. So many things he says make no sense if He were an earthly king, or mortal. They only make sense in relation to the resurrection and ascension.

So also here. He talks about the relationship between Him and his disciples in the future, in the era of the Kingdom of God beginning at Pentecost. What is our relationship to Him in the New Testament era, the age of the world until He comes again? It is …

A RELATIONSHIP DEFINED BY WORD AND PRAYER

  1. By Christ’s Coming to Us in His Word
  2. By Our Coming to Him in Prayer
  1. By Christ’s Coming to Us in His Word

The essence of our relationship to Christ is His NAME, His revelation of Himself to us in Spirit and in Truth. The essence of any relationship is knowledge about the other person, and we can only know Christ as He reveals Himself to us.

Our text last week ended with Jesus comforting the disciples with an end to their sorrow and confusion because in the Resurrection the reality of our salvation would be revealed. “In that day you will not ask me anything,” He says. We begin today with the Jesus’ next statement, “Truly I tell you, anything you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” Why will we not ask and then ask?

The first sentence could actually read, “In that day you will not inquire anything of me, or ask for information.” And the second could read, “Truly I tell you any want or need that you beg of the Father in my name, he will give you.”

Christ had not yet been fully revealed to the disciples in His state of humiliation. But by His crucifixion, resurrection, 40 days of instruction, and finally by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the disciples would come to know the essential whole of Who Jesus is. 25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.

We have come to know Christ in the same way, and in the same way Paul did when He said, “More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8, CSB)

Notice that the initiative is with Christ. He doesn’t tell us what we inquire, but what He reveals to us. What He has done for us to save us is hidden in eternity and only revealed in the doing of it. That is what we need to know. That is what shows the true love of God for us. It would be revealed in the doing of it and in the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus looks ahead to Pentecost: 25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.

He then reveals in four clauses the essence of His saving work: ., 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Look, now you’re speaking plainly and not using any figurative language. 30 Now we know that you know everything and don’t need anyone to question you. By this we believe that you came from God.”

They thought He was clear, and He was, but still they could not imagine what this all meant. But you know. You know Him, for He has been revealed to you. We confess this in our creeds.

I came from the Father: He is the only-begotten Son, the second person of the Trinity from eternity.

[I] have come into the world. Jesus was born also true man of the virgin, Mary. In this world He lived out our righteousness and died our death, rising gloriously.

Again, I am leaving the world: Having risen from the death, He would reside with His disciples 40 days, and then no longer limit Himself to his condition in the state of humiliation.

[I am] going to the Father. Jesus was soon to ascend to the right hand of God, that is, He would not be present in one place or time, but would fully resume His omnipresence in place and time, so that He could be truly with us here today, in His Holy Supper, and in His watchful care over us, as it is written, He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,(Ephesians 1:20–22, CSB)

This is what He has revealed to you so that you may know Him and believe that He is your Savior. To know this is to know “His Name.” Remember, the Bible uses “Name” to stand for the whole revelation of someone. God’s “Name” is the whole of Scripture by which we know Him.

2. By Our Coming to Him in Prayer

So, our relationship with Christ in this age of the world is first defined by His coming to us in His Word and revealing to us His Name. Our relationship with Him is further defined by our prayer to Him in His name: He says, Truly I tell you, anything you ask [beg, demand] the Father in my name, [that is, according to what is revealed of me] he will give you.  24 Until now you have asked for nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

A believer’s prayer is in the Name of Jesus, that is as a believer reconciled to God, but also in the Name of Jesus in this sense, that it takes into account what we know of Him. I may, for example, ask that my life be extended, but I do so knowing that our times are in His hands, and as a sinner, I must suffer the death of this body, unless the resurrection day comes first. I may ask that some trouble in my life be removed, but I may also be reminded when the Lord’s answer to Paul was “No.” He added, “My grace is enough for you.”

But that won’t keep me from asking – begging, even. For He has invited me to, and He loves me. My life is full of answers to prayer, as well as countless blessings unasked-for. In the New Testament age, we come directly to our creator with our requests. Jesus goes on …

26 On that day you will ask in my name, and I am not telling you that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.,

We have become priests of God. That is, we can pray directly to God the Father ourselves because we have been reconciled to Him by Christ. You should know that God loves you and is delighted to hear your prayers. That is why, even in this midst of this uncertainty generated in the world, we may call upon the Lord and be certain that He hears, and answers according to His love.

Because He has come to us in His word and sacraments, we know Him, and we receive His gifts daily. Because we know Him, we come to Him to lay our petitions before Him, as He has invited us, Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30, CSB)

AMEN.

By |2020-05-17T14:11:45-07:00May 17th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Services Resume Sunday

Services Resume Sunday, May 17

Our Savior – 9:00 a.m.

Faith – 11:15 a.m.

GOOD NEWS!

THIS SUNDAY, MAY 17, WE WILL RESUME SERVICES. They will be at the regular times, 9:00 a.m. at Our Savior and 11:15 at Faith. No Bible Class at this time.

We will use the brief Office of Prime for the Easter Season, followed by Holy Communion.

There will be no “socializing.” Plan to arrive just before the service and plan on leaving immediately after. We will designate seats to maintain “social distancing” during the service. I will continue to record the services for those who cannot come or should not be out due to underlying medical conditions.

We are leaning it up to you to decide whether it is appropriate for you to be out and about. I must say that every day of our lives we trust in the Lord to provide for us. We take reasonable precautions in everything from the way we drive to how we care for our health and well-being. Whether it is from COVID-19 or some other illness, we will eventually reach the end of this life and exchange this mortal for immortality, so while we are prudent, we do not live in fear. So use sanctified good sense to decide whether you will attend or not.

If you are not able to attend, or consider it unwise, work with me to be sure that you continue to receive the Word and sacrament.  I will continue to shepherd you!

I have been in regular receipt of information from the State of Oregon, and have received confirmation that we are officially in “Phase 1” of reopening. You can find information here: https://govstatus.egov.com/reopening-oregon#countyStatuses

Here is the official description:

  • Phase 1
  • First reopening stage, allowed in specific counties that qualify. Includes limited reopening of restaurants and bars, personal services, gyms, and malls. Gatherings of up to 25 people allowed for recreational, social, cultural, civic or faith events – with physical distancing requirements.

Our regular attendance in Medford does not exceed 25. In Grants Pass we are usually about 30, but I do not expect that everyone will attend. If there are more than 25, we can put chairs up in the narthex, which qualifies as a different room.

Masks are not addressed in the state guidelines, but I will wear one when I am close to someone, as in serving Holy Communion.

Cordially and prayerfully, in Christ,

Pastor Bryant

By |2020-05-14T19:22:13-07:00May 14th, 2020|Good News, Words That Matter|0 Comments

Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

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Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

John 16:5–15 (CSB)

But now I am going away to him who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

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

Dear fellow redeemed:  If you were in the hospital facing the certainty of your death, what kinds of plans would you be making for your activities in the coming months and years? Probably none. If anything, you would be expressing your funeral preferences and telling your family where to find the life insurance and the will.

So what’s with Jesus? He’s on his way to Gethsemane and Calvary and death, but He’s explaining part of His plan for changing the world. That is why this text is an AFTER-Easter text; it means something because Jesus has in fact risen from the dead. Much that Jesus said during His ministry only makes sense in view of the resurrection. What’s more, His teaching makes the connection between the glorious truth of the resurrection, and our daily lives as we live them.

In these words, He tells how he will remove the spiritual blindness from the world and create faith in Him as the risen Savior. He speaks these words of our text to His disciples even before His arrest, so that they will eventually understand that even now, …

JESUS BUILDS ON HIS RESURRECTION VICTORY

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word
  2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected
  3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

In writing on this text, Luther commented, “This is a good text, but it takes good students.”  This is one of the parts of Scripture that reminds us that God’s word is very deep.  It’s not unclear, but it requires that we be careful, and thorough, and willing to do our homework if we are to be benefited by this Word of God.

The first thing that Jesus is telling His Disciples is that His work of redemption is nearing completion, and that since He will soon have redeemed the world, the Holy Spirit will come to build on that, as part of the establishment of a REAL KINGDOM.

Just as the Romans capitalized upon so many battles won to build an empire, so the Holy Spirit capitalizes on the resurrection victory of Christ to build God’s kingdom on earth.

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word

Jesus says, But now I am going away to him who sent me.” In retrospect, we can see that He is referring to His ascension and exaltation.  No longer would Jesus be reduced to a humble earthly life; soon He would be ruling heaven and earth as the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

It would at first seem to be a tragedy, as He says, Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. As I have said many times, what the disciples saw with their human eyes was not the only thing happening.  They saw Jesus capture, arrest, death, and burial, but what was really happening was the redemption of the world and the destruction of death itself.

This is why I say that this text draws the connection between the Easter Victory and you and me today. By working faith in our hearts, the Holy Spirit shows us the victory over sin and death, so that we can truly share in the joy of the resurrection. And his coming ascension was so that instead of teaching those within earshot of His voice, He would teach in every time and every place through the Word of the Spirit, as He tells His disciples, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you.

2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected

It is highly unlikely that either you or I can really fathom the importance of those words. Jesus has redeemed the world, and He proceeds to rule it as the one who has taken possession of it.

Let’s make that more personal.  Jesus died for you.  When you were born, you didn’t know it, much less believe it.  But by His word and power He has directed the affairs of the world, he has directed Christian people, so that His saving word and sacrament would come to you, and work faith in your heart.

You and I aren’t Christians just because we were born to Christian parents.  We were born to Christian parents, so that we might be brought to faith as Christians.

We aren’t Christians because we happened to live in a predominately Christian country, God has raised up predominately Christian countries so that the inhabitants of the world might be brought to faith as Christians.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus puts it, When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

What do these three statements mean?

First:  He will convict the world about sin, because they do not believe in me.  In simple words, the Holy Spirit uses God’s law to touch the hearts of unbelievers with terror over their sins.  Without repentance and faith in the saving work of Christ, the world is lost and condemned, as Jesus said already: “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”” (John 8:24, CSB)

Second:  He will convict the world 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me. In simple words, this means that through His word, the Holy Spirit will strip away any righteousness by which mankind of itself hopes to gain God’s favor. Only the righteousness which Christ proclaims for us before God’s throne will avail.  That is the righteousness to which the Holy Spirit points in His Word, as He did through Peter “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36, CSB)

Third:  He will convict the world about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. In simple words, this means that as God has rendered judgment upon the Devil already, and certified it by the resurrection of Christ, so He has passed judgment upon all the world that is with the devil and at odds with Christ.  The Holy Spirit teaches us that there IS no question of the absolute judgment of God.  All who oppose God have already brought judgment upon themselves, and only God’s time of Grace has stayed His hand.

Put another way, the world will know what judgment took place on Calvary – there YOU, sinner, were judged and condemned in the person of Christ.  But that judgment will fall on the devil and all who do not believe in Christ.

So in these ways, the world’s unbelief, and false righteousness, and arrogant persistence in the ways of the prince of this world are condemned and corrected.  That is part of His plan to rescue you.

3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

Jesus promised His disciples that they would have access to absolute truth so that they could share this truth with the world. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.

It is that absolute truth that I have quoted so many times already this morning.  It is the absolute truth that you learn when you study and confess the doctrine of the church. It is the absolute truth that you share with others when you speak the fact that we are all condemned under sin but delivered by the sacrifice of Christ.  It is to impart this truth, and to prepare our children to speak it and defend it that we support Christian education, from Sunday school to Christian schools to colleges. It is because they teach this truth that we are so grateful for Christian moms. In this way they give not only physical life but spiritual life.

Because the Holy Spirit reveals the truth, you benefit personally from the saving work of Christ. You are made part of the kingdom of God on earth.  We are made part of God’s church, in which there is the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life.  What Christ has earned becomes yours, as He says,  15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

While the unbelief of the world damns and destroys, God’s gift of faith to you comforts you with the certainty of deliverance from all the woe of sin.

While the righteousness of the world cannot bring even social order, the righteousness of Christ has brought an end to condemnation for you.

While the world falls under the judgment of God, you stand in the victory of Christ, by faith in Him.

So then, may each of us rejoice in the victory of the resurrection, and cast off the unbelief, false righteousness, and doom of this world.  May we hunger and thirst for what the comforter brings – forgiveness, life, and salvation in word and sacrament.  And so may Christ’s church, Christ’s kingdom on earth and in heaven, be our safe refuge, and our passage into life.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-09T16:36:22-07:00May 9th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

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John 16:16–23 (CSB)

16 “A little while and you will no longer see me; again a little while and you will see me.”
       17 Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this he’s telling us: ‘A little while and you will not see me; again a little while and you will see me,’ and, ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They said, “What is this he is saying, ‘A little while’? We don’t know what he’s talking about.”
       19 Jesus knew they wanted to ask him, and so he said to them, “Are you asking one another about what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me; again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you.
       23 “In that day you will not ask me anything.

Dear fellow redeemed: We are going to go back to a moment of impending doom. Jesus was with His disciples in the upper room on the night in which He was betrayed. Jesus said that something was coming that would be at once terrible and wonderful. Like a woman giving birth, in pain; but it would also be like a woman giving birth – great joy.

It would come in just a little while. This coin with two sides, this moment of both sorrow and joy would come in just a little while. But there would also be a before and after, and therefore …

PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY

  1. We Share in the Sadness
  2. We Share in the Gladness

1  We Share in the Sadness

It is easy to share in the disciples’ confusion, because just a little while before he had talked about going away to the Father. There He was talking about His ascension and about giving the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. But in this circumstance He is talking about Christ’s passion, a horror that would come upon them in a little while, but which would in a little while be resolved in the resurrection.

Now, we need to understand that this was one occasion only. Jesus talks to His disciples and not to us specifically. There is no little while in which we are without Christ and then a while when He is with us. He isn’t talking about the trials of life until the second coming here. Instead, on this Jubilate Sunday, the Sunday of Rejoicing out of suffering, we remember the sadness of the crucifixion, but live in the gladness of the resurrection.

One other thing about this event that was so sad and ended up being so wonderful – it made sense. The disciples couldn’t figure it out beforehand, but afterwards, Jesus said, 23 “In that day you will not ask me anything. If they had possessed the understanding of faith, they would have looked at the cross, and seen there the Lamb of God taking away the world’s sin.

It is something like the symbol of the crucifix: There we see the judgment of God upon the sinfulness of man, but there we also see the Love of God, Who gave up His only-begotten Son.

While this text talks only about the revelation through which the disciples would go, there is still an application for us. What happened there on Calvary and gave the disciples such sorrow was Jesus dying OUR death, and what happened at the open tomb that gave the disciples such joy was Jesus’ preparing OUR resurrection. We share in that by virtue of our baptism. “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. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3–5, CSB)

We share in the sadness, acknowledging that Christ suffered the rejection that we sinners deserve. We also share in the sadness because we know that as Jesus shared in the suffering of sinners, we share in His. Paul embraces this in Philippians 3, “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death,” (Philippians 3:10, CSB)

The world around us has hope only in this world and only for a short time, and an unreasonable expectation that all should be good. But as the world despairs we know that the sorrow is passing, but the joy abides forever.

As Christians, we know the way of the world and have an expectation also of suffering, as Jesus said,  “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.(Matthew 5:11–12, CSB)

2.   We Share in the Gladness

In terms of shear emotion, we believers would never share in the sadness of the disciples, or the despair, but we do share in their gladness, in the hope that was theirs in seeing the risen Christ. As with them, we have passing sorrow but abiding joy.

Because Jesus took our sins the cross, and there paid the full price of them, He was accepted into heaven when He died. “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, CSB)

Because He went to the Father in victory over our sin, His disciples would see Him again, for He had succeeded in accomplishing the justification of the world.

20 Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you.

For them it was just a very little while, parts of three days.  For us it may be a little while longer, but finally there is for all of us the joy of the resurrection.

We live in that joy even now, even in the midst of adversity, as Peter put it, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 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, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3–9, CSB)

Everything changed that day when Jesus rose. One had borne the sins of the world, and atoned for them, so that we were acquitted, declared innocent. Now we have something to say to our accusing consciences: “Forgiveness is ours.” Now we have something to say to the threat of death: “We shall live, even though we die.” We have something to say to the voices of regret: “Our sins will be forgotten.”

We live today in a world, a nation, a society gripped by fear: Will we get sick and die? Will we lose our job, our savings, our wealth, our freedom? Will we die alone?

There may be some fleeting sorrow, but we do not despair, because for us there is abiding joy. Not because OF us, but because of Christ, and offered to all. But because we live in faith, the joy we live in now will bear fruit in the life that is to come, the great celebration that is heaven: In Jesus’ words, I tell you that many will come from east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11, CSB) Picture an eternal fellowship and joyful feast. Or, as the Psalmist says, “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11, CSB) Joy upon joy! And exaltation too< as Daniel says, Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3, CSB)

We say, “O Lord, there is trouble and sorrow in my life, but with David we continue, “Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23–26, CSB)

Let us then rejoice with the disciples in the wake of the resurrection, for there is PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-02T14:48:23-07:00May 2nd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments