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His Suffering – Our Glory (Ash Wednesday, 2019)

THE SUFFERING SERVANT KING – 1

He was marred in appearance so we would be glorified.

Isaiah 52:13-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now, our text:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

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

Spiritual 911 #8 Where the Pastor Works

Where the Pastor Works

Spiritual 911

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

#8 Where the Pastor Serves

One way of understanding the way our Lord uses pastors to heal and strengthen His people is to remember where they serve. On the one hand, pastors serve at church to those who come to hear the word , and on the other hand they serve in the  community for those who do not or cannot come.

Serving Those Who Come
It is most efficient for pastors to serve many people at once. In the Divine Service the pastor gives the forgiveness of Christ through the word and sacraments. This is like the regular use of good food and exercise to keep the body healthy; only here it is the soul. Through His word, our Lord warns us of our sins and the deceitfulness that is in the world, He comforts us with the assurance of His forgiveness, and He teaches us the way to live in this world with a view to eternity. It includes practical applications as well.
In Bible classes we look at God’s word in more detail. Our own questions and the questions of others help the pastor make applications to our own lives.
In this way we find healing from our spiritual injuries and renew our faith.

Serving Those Who Do Not  or Cannot Come
But sometimes people cannot come. Perhaps because of infirmity, age, illness, military deployment, etc., a person cannot attend church or Bible class.
At other times someone doesn’t come because of shame or guilt. I have seen this often when people have been though a divorce, have struggled with substance abuse or have otherwise been embarrassed. Often the devil deprives a person of just what they need by tempting them to cut themselves off from God’s healing word.
In Luke 8, Jesus tells us that the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life” so ensnare us that we neglect the word.
So, much of the pastor’s time is spent visiting the sick, sending sermons and devotions to the deployed, seeking appointments, counselling in private, coming by with private communion and just listening, and he loves doing it!
At other times, the pastor is like a shepherd pursuing someone who wanders.

But always, the pastor’s calling is the strengthening and healing of souls.

By |2019-03-04T17:05:12-07:00March 4th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 #7 When to Call the Pastor

When To Call the Pastor

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

  1. When To Call the Pastor

What does the pastor provide that you might need?

Council / Direction
Pastor, my spouse and I can’t seem to stop arguing. How can we live in peace again?
I am filling out a Power of Attorney for healthcare, how should I approach this as a Christian.
I am thinking about getting married / going off to school / joining the military / changing careers.
Anything like this? Call the pastor.

Life Event
Thinking of getting married? Have a new child or grandchild? Have you had a death in the family? Have an unbaptized member of the family?
Call the pastor.

Support
In the hospital? Dealing with illness, including mental illness? Struggling with loneliness or alienation? Trying to cope with age (or youth!)?
Call the pastor! He doesn’t treat the physical or mental illness, but the spiritual injuries that result.

Guilt / Remorse / Doubt
The word “Devil” means “accuser.” The devil attacks our faith in Christ as our redeemer by making it seem that our sins are beyond forgiveness.
In our skeptical age we can easily be led to doubt our forgiveness, the truth of Scripture, or the reality of our faith.
Call the pastor!

Healing
It’s possible to regain our faith, to become reconciled with others, and to deal with remorse. It is possible to make sense of the troubles of life from God’s perspective. God can heal the remorse we feel from the sins of the past, from errors in judgment, and other things we cannot change.

What stands in our way?
Don’t want to bother the pastor? That’s like not wanting to bother the dentist when you have a toothache.
Afraid he will judge you? How can he when God counts you righteous?
Afraid he will tell somebody? The confessional is inviolate, even by the courts.
Embarrassed? The pastor has learned to ease embarrassment as well as any doctor, and never thinks less of you.

Be kind to yourself and call the pastor.

By |2019-03-04T15:05:06-07:00March 4th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

The Man Who Went to the Cross Is God

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The Man Who Went to the Cross Is God

Luke 9:28–36 (CSB)

28 About eight days after this conversation, he took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, two men were talking with him—Moses and Elijah. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.

32 Peter and those with him were in a deep sleep,, and when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men who were standing with him. 33 As the two men were departing from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he was saying.

34 While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen One;, listen to him!”

36 After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They kept silent, and at that time told no one what they had seen.

Dear fellow redeemed: Our text takes place about eight days after a certain conversation takes place.  Now John doesn’t pay too much attention to chronology; His gospel follows a theme rather than a synopsis of events. So that means this conversation must have some significance to our text. You will recognize the conversation: But he strictly warned and instructed them to tell this to no one, saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? …” (Luke 9:21–27, CSB)

So Jesus says, (greatly paraphrased) “I need to suffer and die, but I will rise again. Anyone who follows me should be willing to follow me, event to the cross, it is a matter of eternal life and eternal death.”

Really? Does this make sense to you? It should, given the truth that you know about Christ.

These words make sense, given that …

THE MAN WHO WENT TO THE CROSS IS GOD

  1. The Transfiguration Shows His Glory
  2. He Shows the Curse of Sin and the Glory of Salvation
  3. He Stirs Us to Faithfulness

 

  1. The Transfiguration Shows His Glory

What happened here in our text is simple to describe.  Jesus took three disciples, Peter, James, and John and went up on a high mountain, possibly Mount Hermon, at about 9000 ft.  Through their word we are able to know what they knew, to see what they saw:  He was transfigured – that is, His appearance changed.  He permitted His divine nature to show in such a way that human eyes could see it as a whiteness and a brightness.

They saw His glory; they knew Him as holy and divine.  It is apparent in their recognition of Moses and Elijah.  It is clear in the voice of the Father, “This is my Son, the Chosen One;, listen to him!”  Later on, John summed things up, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, CSB)

Peter wrote (2 Peter 1:16) that they were “eyewitnesses of his majesty,” so they were not telling “cleverly invented stories” when they told “about the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The man who went to the cross is God.

2.     He Shows the Curse of Sin and the Glory of Salvation

While this shows us the glory of Christ, it also shows us the joy and glory of salvation, in the fellowship between Moses, Elijah, and Christ.  It is no wonder “Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” Because such perfect fellowship is something he saw as sheer joy.

For that brief moment, the disciples saw what it meant to associate with God.  Moses and Elijah stood there with Jesus, comfortable with Him in his glory and majesty — and comfortable with themselves.  Unafraid.  Sinless and holy.

They could discuss the coming events in Jerusalem, Jesus’ “exodus” – departure from Jerusalem – matters of tragedy and hope, sorrow and joy, grief and triumph.  And they could do so with no doubts or fears but perfectly certain of the glorious mercy and perfection of the living God.

We are missing that because our doubts diminish our faith, and because we know our God and Savior less well than we could if His word were more part of our lives, and certainly less well than we will in heaven.  Think about what it would be like to discuss even the sorrow and trouble that is before us with a PERFECT certainty that God lovingly oversees it all, that victory is ours.

It was with this understanding that Luther taught us to sing, “Take they goods, fame, child, or wife; let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won; the Kingdom ours remaineth.”  Whatever Moses and Elijah suffered, now we see their glory also.

The transfiguration of Jesus also shows the curse of sin because it shows the depths to which God must descend to save us.  Jesus withdrew the veil only momentarily, and then stepped out immediately upon that road that leads to the cross, obeying the will of His Father, that He be blamed for the world’s sins, and bear God’s wrath over them.  As Paul writes, by inspiration,   who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.(Philippians 2:6–8, CSB) The man who went to the cross is God.

The transfiguration of Jesus shows the curse of sin also because it shows the contrast between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man.  Sinful man cowers before the holiness of God.

We see the curse of sin, but also the glory of salvation.   Look again at Jesus.  For Him death is not a separation.  He can speak to Moses and Elijah, dead for hundreds of years, with as much friendliness as He could speak to His disciples, answering their questions, eating dinner with them, and being their friend. The man who went to the cross is God.

3.   He Stirs us to Faithfulness

This is the Christ who stirs us also to faithfulness – to trust and confidence in Him.  Just as an example, the words He caused Paul to write to us, “More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. … My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. (Philippians 3:8–11, CSB)   He wants what Christ here in His transfiguration shows is His to give: To know Christ.  We can do that.  By faith.  By faith we can see Him now, know Him now, even as we look forward to knowing Him better.

We can be like Job:  But I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. I will see him myself; my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.(Job 19:25–27, CSB)

We can be like Paul:  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.(1 Corinthians 13:12, CSB)

And since we can know him as well as He can be known only through the Word, Here Jesus gives us reason to be in the word, in the word, and in the word.  That we might know Him better, see Him better through the eyes of faith, and put our faith in him — even as we face the troubles and disappointments of life.

In the next 6 weeks, we will follow Jesus.  We will follow Him, in faith, all the way to the cross.  Here we see that the one who went to the cross FOR US is God.  Here we see just a hint of His glory.  Here He brings us a wonderful assurance of the glory of our salvation, and through His word stirs faith in our hearts.

We can see why it is worth it even to lose this life, because of the eternal life that is ours through Him.

May God grant such an abundance of faith in YOUR hearts, bearing fruits in joy and peace now, and everlasting bliss hereafter because the man who went to the cross is God.

AMEN!

By |2019-03-04T14:52:42-07:00March 4th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 #6 The Pastor Is a Healer of Souls

Spiritual 911

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

6. The Pastor Is a Physician of Souls

(Part 2—Spiritual Healing)

(Fictitious names but true stories of people you don’t know.)

Frank has just been told he is worthless as a husband as his wife tells him she has found another man. He thought she was God’s blessing when they met, but now he wonders if God ever cared for him.

Laura has been embarrassed by her teacher because she believes in creation. The other kids snicker, and she wonders if she is the only one that believes the Bible.

Tom goes over the bodies of the dead Taliban looking for intelligence and finds a picture of three children of his dead enemy, and wonders if he can ever be forgiven for killing a father.

Mel shuts off the computer, sick at the porn he has just gawked at, and that he promised the Lord in prayer —for the 10th time or so— that he would never indulge in again. He doubts the he could even be a Christian.

Karrie turns over in bed, unable to sleep, with the image of her dying child in front of her. Did she deserve this? Was she being punished?

Les and Tina had talked about going back to church after a month or two or three, but here they were cozy at home again. They didn’t care any more,  Les said, “ we don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”

All of these people are suffering spiritual injuries, despair, doubt, remorse, guilt, loss, and indifference.

What is the cure?

The first thing is to understand is that these aren’t just emotions or feelings, but spiritual injuries that sap our spiritual life, that undermine our faith. If not healed, they can lead to a loss of faith, which is spiritual death.

But there is healing for such injuries.

We see Christ heal, saying, “Rejoice, your sins are forgiven,” or “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He treats Peter’s remorse and guilt, saying, “Feed my Lambs.”

Jesus assures Martha of her brother’s resurrection. Nathan tells the adulterous David, “The Lord has forgiven your sins.” John the Baptist affirms the vocation of the soldiers who come to him.

This is only a glimpse of Seelsorge, the  healing of souls. Not only did our Savior come to seek and save the lost, He himself continues to heal with His powerful word. Are you hurting, doubting, or afflicted? Talk with Pastor Bryant.

By |2019-02-15T20:38:09-07:00February 15th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Way of Life, Way of Death

Way of Life, Way of Death

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

So, Luke lays out…

THE WAY OF LIFE AND THE WAY OF DEATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. This Reverses Your Expectations of Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Rejoice in the Way of Life

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

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

when they exclude you, insult you,

and slander your name as evil

because of the Son of Man.

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

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

Those who want to save children from death

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

Those who warn against perversion and offer forgiveness.

Those who encourage sexual virtue.

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

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

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

For a while now, there is weariness.

For a while now there is sadness.

For a while now there are tears.

For a while now there is poverty.

For a while now the world hates us.

For a while now there is shadow.

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

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

Amen.

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

Spiritual 911 #5 The Pastor Is a Physician of Souls

The Pastor Is a Physician of Souls

(Part 1—Spiritual Injuries)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: Part 2 Spiritual Healing.

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

Spiritual 911 #4 – The Pastor Is a Shepherd

  1. The Pastor Is a Shepherd

The root meaning of “pastor” is “shepherd.” The Lord Jesus is our good and perfect Shepherd, as we have probably heard often:

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me to lie do

wn in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever. (Psalm 23 (NKJV))

So, what is it that pastors, as spiritual under-shepherds, are supposed to do for us? Our pastors shepherd us with the words of the Good Shepherd.

  • Provide spiritual nourishment (vv. 1-2) Our pastors should feed us with a regular diet of God’s word to strengthen us and build up our faith.
  • Refresh us spiritually (v. 3) Our pastors restore our soul to innocence and hope when we are guilty or depressed, through the promises of our Savior. With God’s word, pastor’s heal our souls from our spiritual injuries.
  • Lead us to a righteousness that honors Christ. (v. 3) The righteousness of Christ is given to us through Jesus words, “I forgive you.” His righteousness is given from God through His word and received by faith.
  • Give us comfort in the face of death. (v. 4) Jesus is the death of death, and our pastors comfort us with the promises of the Risen One.
  • Protect from our spiritual enemies. (v. 5) Listen to your pastor’s warnings and guidance so that you can go through life without spiritual injury.
  • Give the hope of eternal life. (v. 6) Faithful pastors give the mercy of God to their flocks all during this life, and point to the eternal mercies of our Savior that open heaven for us.
By |2019-02-01T20:17:58-07:00February 1st, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 Entry #3

The Pastor Is an Overseer

The Bible uses three main words for the pastor: Elder, Shepherd (Pastor) and Overseer. These all appear as synonyms, especially in Acts 20.  There  Paul said to the elders,Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28, CSB)

The word for overseer is also translated bishop, so if you look for a picture on the internet, you either get somebody in the Catholic hierarchy, or you get a picture of a pushy boss. I finally settled on a picture of a shepherd, because the Bible uses shepherd as a synonym.

The reason for the overseer is that the price paid for them is so high that our Lord wants none of them to be lost. The have been purchased at the price of the life, death, and blood of the Son of God, after all!

The flock is in danger of spiritual injury, from spiritual predators, and in danger of being lost to the flock. Therefore the overseer must be ready to treat injuries, to do battle with false prophets, and to chase after some who don’t want to be found.

And while our overseer isn’t a boss, there are times that our Good Shepherd, Jesus, wants us to do what he says! Hebrews tells us, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17, CSB) If you have a faithful pastor who is burdened with grief because of you, particularly because you will not take his counsel, that isn’t good for you.

A faithful pastor takes great care to speak only God’s word, and so is grief-stricken if we do not listen. So Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”” (Luke 10:16, CSB)

So listen to the one who cares for you—your shepherd-overseer.

By |2019-01-25T15:14:24-07:00January 25th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 Entry #2

Spiritual 911

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

  1. The Pastor Is an Elder

The Bible uses three main words for the pastor: Elder, Shepherd (Pastor) and Overseer. These all appear as synonyms, especially in Acts 20. There Paul gathered the elders of Ephesus and addressed them as pastors and overseers.

In the Lutheran church, our pastors have at least eight years of post-secondary training, so even the younger ones are not so young. Even so, they are backed up by other pastors who are, shall we say, “well seasoned.” When I was young, the expression was that they had “been up the creek and over the hill a few times.”

The point is that by calling His pastors “elders” our Lord tells us that they are people who have compassion born of experience with the troubles, sorrows, and difficulties of life. They are people who have had experience in counseling and leading troubled souls, and they have shown that they hold what their people say in absolute confidence.

So what does this mean for us as church members?

—-First, it means that we feel free to call upon our pastor when we are dealing with those spiritual injuries that afflict us all: Illness,  injury, family uproar, emotional turmoil, and the like. Things like this try our faith. They can lead us to question God and to carry guilt or moral uncertainty.

—-Next, it means that we reach out to our pastor when we are lonely. He isn’t going to be everybody’s daily companion, but he is there in the pinch, and can point us to the One who never leaves us or forsakes us.

—-And he can be a sounding board and the voice of experience when we are trying to find our way in the world. Thinking of moving? School? Marriage? Career? The pastors experience on how these things impact our lives can help us find the best path.

Call your elder brother, your pastor. He will answer.

By |2019-01-18T20:37:57-07:00January 18th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments