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

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

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

We Confess: Christ Jesus Is Risen from the Dead

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We Confess: Christ Is Risen from the Dead

The Lord is Risen!

HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Our text for today is written in 1 Corinthians 15. It was written some 20 years or so after the resurrection, but in it Paul passes on a creed or confession of faith that was even earlier. The format is obviously not Paul’s way of writing, but rather a repetition of a form adopted by the very eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1–8 (CSB)

15 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, 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.

Dear fellow redeemed: Very early after the resurrection, within just a few years and before the gospels were written down, there came into being this creed or declaration of faith. It is pure gospel. It is the good news of what God did to save you.

In these days of uncertainly as to what will come, it is the ultimate certainty of what has come to pass, according to the Scriptures. The gospel is not just a religious idea, you know, it is fact. Meaningful above all other knowledge, but a meaningful reality. Here is what happened, what was confessed by the eyewitnesses, what has been passed down to us, and the means by which God the Holy Spirit Himself works spiritual life and faith:

First, Christ died.  Not every death is news.  It makes the obituaries, it’s important to the family and friends, but it doesn’t make the front page.

Christ died, and it IS important.  He died for our sins; He died according to the Scriptures, in just the way the Old Testament Scriptures said He would.

He was lifted up, crucified, as David prophesied in Psalm 22.  It’s all there about the mocking, the nails in the hands and feet, the dehydration, the nakedness and the division of the closes.

Psalm 22:6–18 (CSB)
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by people.
Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord;
let him save him;
let the Lord rescue him,
since he takes pleasure in him.”
It was you who brought me out of the womb,
making me secure at my mother’s breast.
10 I was given over to you at birth;
you have been my God from my mother’s womb.
11 Don’t be far from me, because distress is near
and there’s no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong ones of Bashan encircle me.
13 They open their mouths against me—
lions, mauling and roaring.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.
>18 They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.

He died for our sins, as pictured by the Passover Lamb, and the scapegoat, and the lamb that replaced Isaac on the altar, and as explicitly described by Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:4–6 (CSB)
Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.
Next, Christ was buried.  The death of Jesus was affirmed by His final gasp, by John who gave sworn testimony, by the centurion who reported to Pilate, by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who wrapped him tightly in strips of cloth, by the women who saw Him buried, and by the Roman soldiers who sealed the tomb.  Oh, and let’s not forget, by the spear and by the blood and water.  The spear went up into His side, pierced his chest, and confirmed His death in blood and water.  Jesus died and was buried in the rich man’s tomb, all, again, according to the Scriptures:

Isaiah 53:8–9 (CSB)
He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered his fate?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
he was struck because of my people’s rebellion.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
but he was with a rich man at his death,
because he had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.
Next, He rose again the third day. –  And once again, yes, according to the Scriptures.  Jesus Himself had pointed to the sign by which the truth of His teaching would be known:  Matthew 12:40 (CSB) 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish, three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

He had been completely clear, as the angels reminded the first witnesses to the empty tomb,  Luke 24:7 (CSB) saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’”

The resurrection was sung about by David: Psalm 16:10 (CSB)
10 For you will not abandon me to Sheol;
you will not allow your faithful one to see decay.

It was trusted in by Job:  Job 19:25 (NKJV) 25    For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;

Next, good news, He showed Himself to the disciples, to those who would know who He is, whose lives were completely transformed, and who would die gruesome deaths themselves rather than deny it:  that he appeared to Cephas, 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.

These are the certainties, observed by eyewitnesses.  They are important, formulated into declarations of faith.  They are important because over thousands of years they had been prophesied in Scripture.  They are important because this good news gives forgiveness and creates faith:  15 Now I declare to you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

These are certainties.

According to the Lord’s providence, this Easter is celebrated in an atmosphere of uncertainty and the fear of death. Whatever the numbers may actually say, people see death as near at hand, and can imagine themselves taking that last, labored breath.

But when our time comes, we will do so in the certainty of the hope given by the Christ who is our righteousness. He bore the punishment for your sins, into death, and destroyed death by His resurrection, the first to rise, as, yes, you too wil rise to immortality.

So I declare to you the gospel which I have received, which is your declaration of faith, and by which you are being saved:

THE LORD IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

By |2020-04-11T17:55:40-07:00April 11th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Christ the Lord and Hope of the Ages

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Christ – The Hope of the Ages

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

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

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

That tells us about those around Jesus.

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

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

JESUS IS THE LORD OF THE AGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The Hope of the Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN

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

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

The Faith-Challenge of “OK”

“OK” Is a Challenge to Faith

How is it with you?

Sick?
Lonely?
Frustrated?
Anxious?
Uncertain?
Afraid?
Running out of work – and funds?
Retirement Income in jeopardy?

Or maybe just slightly inconvenienced by an apocalypse that hasn’t hit you yet – and may never hit you?

Most of the time people are at least OK. So why are pastors talking to everyone as though they are suffering terribly? Are pastors adding to the angst people are feeling?

My answer is to point out two lies of the devil. The first is that things are OK with us, so we don’t need a Savior. The second is that things are so terrible with us that there is no Savior. The first is indifference and the second is despair. The first lie is to keep us away from savoring the grace and mercy of God when we are being blessed, and the second is to deny the grace and mercy of God when we are afflicted.

I have been a pastor to three generations of some families, and in each generation I have seen mainly good times. In each generation I have also seen heartache, crisis, sin, tragedy, alienation, and death. During the good times some were faithful hearers of God’s word; they sat through sermons dealing with troubles that had never touched them. But then came the troubles, and their faith held firm in our Savior. Others were not faithful hearers, and they blew off all appeals to abide in God’s word. They were OK, after all. But then came the troubles and their faith was swept away.

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24–27, CSB)

I have no idea how things will turn out for any of us in this health (or is it economic?) “emergency.” But you need to know how the mercy of God holds true through it all, by clinging to the words of your Savior.

Pastor Bryant

By |2020-03-25T12:36:40-07:00March 25th, 2020|Good News|0 Comments