Pastor

/Tag: Pastor

Jesus’ Words Reveal the Holy Trinity

Jesus’ Words Reveal the Holy Trinity

Download PDF

Download / Play Audio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They faced their executioners certain of it.

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

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

AMEN  This is most certainly true.

The Athanasian Creed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Have Witnesses!

We Have Witnesses!

Download PDF of Pentecost 2019 Sermon

Listen / Download Audio of Pentecost 2019 Sermon

John 15:26–27 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth Bears Witness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Apostles Bear Witness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

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

Download PDF

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

Download PDF

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