FAITH THAT MAKES US WHOLE

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A FAITH THAT MAKES US WHOLE

“I believe in God,” people say, based on the way He provides for us. But while God’s providence tells us something about His power and goodness, it doesn’t tell us WHO the true and living God is. The faith of the Samaritan in todays text is displayed in His worship of Jesus – as he gives glory to God. His faith is not in some vague spiritual thing, but in Jesus, the Christ, God incarnate.

True Christian faith takes hold of Christ and His righteousness, and while I can’t tell you that this guarantees the cure of some disease right now, I CAN tell you that the cure of all ills is found in Christ, Who is our eternal Savior.

Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 13, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Luke 17:11–19 (CSB)

11 While traveling to Jerusalem, he passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with leprosy, met him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 When he saw them, he told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were cleansed.
15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at his feet, thanking him. And he was a Samaritan.
17 Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have been given uncountable blessings by our gracious and merciful God, to Him be praise forever and ever:  Where shall we look for you in this picture?  Shall we find you among the ten who cried out in hope and faith in the midst of their suffering?  Shall we find you in the nine who went on their way without a word of gratitude to the One who had saved them from a dreadful life and a horrible death?  Or shall we find you in the one, the Samaritan, who had “a past” as it is put delicately, a past full of unbelief, but now has found a spiritual home on his knees before Jesus, his (and our) God and Savior?

Really, it isn’t that we are one or the other, for we may be all three at different times in our lives. The main thing is that we can learn the true nature of faith from Jesus and this Samaritan. The key thing about true faith is that it takes hold of Christ in truth. I can jump out of an airplane and trust that I will drift gently to the ground, but if I don’t use a parachute, all the trust in the world is meaningless.

The Psalmist makes this point in Psalm 121, I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2, CSB)  “The Lord” means the true God and none other.

Those who say they are Christians, have faith, pray often, etc., but do not pay heed to Christ and His word have a vain and empty faith. So, because His faith and His gratitude is in Christ, this Samaritan, this outcast, this foreigner, this undeserving outsider, this half-breed, is not only healed, but returns with thanks and praise.

This faith is crucial as Jesus says, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.” Now, I can assure you that God is gracious to you, for He did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything? (Romans 8:32, CSB)

How can we be in such wretched circumstances, fall so far short of what we want to be, and still receive the gifts that God wants us to receive?  Because of faith, for it is faith by which we receive God’s gifts.

IT IS FAITH IN CHRIST THAT MAKES US WHOLE

  1. When We Suffer
  2. When We Are Ungrateful
  3. When We Turn from Our Sinfulness
  1. When We Suffer

This is the faith that brings us to Christ when we suffer, and to nobody else. This is a reminder to us in this year with the Wuhan virus, Covid, lost livelihoods, isolation, riots in the streets, a nation divided, deadly fires, choking smoke, lost homes, not to mention all the usual afflictions of this life, we need to listen to our true Lord, attend to His word, come to Him alone in prayer, and put our faith in Christ alone.

He may deliver us immediately, as He did these ten lepers, but whether now or in the time to come, He is our only hope. For what we need is more than Gods providence. What we need is salvation. God’s providence comes to believers and unbelievers, but salvation only to those who call upon Christ, our true Lord.

So these ten weren’t just “spiritual,” believing in A god.

What God does for us is clear to all, but not Who he is. Some will give credit to Allah when things go well. Others to “Mother Nature,” or some generic ‘god.” Ture faith is not in the fact that there is a god, but in the True God and His promises.

So, it was with faith that these 10 came to Jesus, and called upon him boldly, asking Him for mercy and deliverance.  At times we are like these 10, bold in our prayers, above all knowing that this same Jesus hears our prayers, eager to show mercy and deliverance. They came to Him, suffering from leprosy. We come to Him with our cancers, our heart disease, and our COPD, – our poverty, loneliness, and disappointment. We come to him with our guilt.

We are like these 10, our faith is  in Christ

2. When We Are Ungrateful

But we are also like the nine, are we not? We have in some measure lost sight of the ONE who is the giver of all good gifts, and that’s a common error. James reminded his flock, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:16–18, CSB)

But if we do forget it, we may focus on ourselves and our thoughts about him, instead of His word of truth.  Perhaps with some skepticism we speak of “luck” or “spontaneous recovery.”  To some degree or other our faith may grow weak, even dangerously so.  Then we are ungrateful, and forgetful of our Savior.  Ingratitude is losing sight of Christ as our God and Savior.

It’s like this: Let’s say that on your anniversary, your friends gave you a check for $50.  How would we respond?  Dear Elmer and Rosie, thank you so much…..  On the other hand, if you found a $50 bill and couldn’t find the owner, you would probably just call it luck.

Ingratitude is when we treat Elmer and Rosie’s gift as though it were just luck, and don’t thank them.

Ingratitude is when we treat God’s gifts as just luck, and don’t thank Him.

How many of the dollars in your paycheck do you see as God’s blessing to you?  How often do you sense the sun or feel the gentle rain, and see that it is God’s gift to you?  How often does your child give you a hug, and you see that hug as God’s gift?  How often do you boys and girls enjoy good times and good food and the love of your mom and dad and see that God has given these gifts to you? The God who speaks to you today through His word!

This is something to remember, next time you savor a chocolate chip cookie, or hear beautiful music, or hold hands with your spouse or drive down the road on a crisp sunny day with the car windows down… Remember that the one who has given these gifts to you is thinking of YOU.  He is giving them to YOU, not to the whole world and you accidentally, but to YOU, individually.  For only God can look out after a planet (a universe!) and still get personal about it.

How can we forget that?  Aren’t we often disappointed with ourselves that it has taken us this long to return and give thanks to God?

3. When we Turn from Our Sinfulness

With that thought, we become like the Samaritan.  We are the convicted sinner, crushed by the weight of our sins.  We are people with a past, a past of transgressions.  The Samaritan was by that name identified with those whose worship of “god” had been in defiance of the word.  He is one whose religion was the religion of the cult.  Accepting only the first five books of Moses, the Samaritans rejected the hope of David and of Isaiah, and of all the prophets.  Jesus describes him aptly, a foreigner.

But this is the past.  For us all our sins, our doubts, our lack of faith are in the past, and though remembered by us, they are forgotten by the one who judges, as it is written:  Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. (Romans 8:33–34, CSB)

Of all the gifts Jesus has given to you and to me, this is the most important gift of all, a gift intangible and unseen except by the eyes of faith.  He gave us forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Truly…

When He died on the cross for ALL, He died for YOU.

When He showed kindness and love to the people in His life, He had YOU in mind, and was living that life for you.

When your conscience stirs, and accuses you, it was with YOU in mind that He said,  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28, CSB)

Now, you and I have received so many blessings.  Have we just picked them up on the road?  Did they just come to us by chance?  No!  Every blessing that you have, most especially forgiveness and salvation, are God’s personal gift to you.  May we return to His house, then, over and over again, praise God with our hearts and voices, and throw ourselves at Jesus feet — and thank Him!

AMEN.

By |2020-09-13T17:20:15-07:00September 13th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

FILLING EMPTY HEARTS WITH HOPE

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Filling Empty Hearts with Hope

Filling Empty Hearts with Hope

The evangelist, St. Mark, brings a message to the jaded and cynical Roman world. He opens a window, as it were, to the true Hope of the World. He shows them the uniquely divine worker of miracles, who (as Isaiah promised) would come and bring hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind. Is there anything in the Roman age or in our own that can do the same? In an age of empty, despairing hearts such as our own, the true Savior fills such empty hearts with hope.

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, August 30, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Mark 7:31–37 (CSB)

31 Again, leaving the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. 36 He ordered them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more they proclaimed it.

37 They were extremely astonished and said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Dear fellow redeemed: The events detailed here are fairly simple. People brought a deaf man to Jesus and begged Jesus to heal him, and He did. He doesn’t set an example for us, because what he does is uniquely divine. The significance of this text is found in what Jesus does in the circumstances.

And what were those circumstances? Briefly, Jesus touches people whose lives are empty of meaning, and so …

JESUS FILLS EMPTY HEARTS WITH HOPE

  1. Born and Living with Empty Hearts
  2. Uniquely Divine Fulfillment
  3.  Jesus Still Fills Empty Hearts with Hope
  1. Born and Living with Empty Hearts

The gospel of Mark was written especially with a Roman audience in mind, an audience similar to our own day. He emphasizes the divine power of Christ, something significant to the Romans. But the Romans were also cynical and jaded. They had filled their pantheon in Rome with multitudes of conquered divinities. They were skeptical of any supposed divine power, and of any religion, except maybe the religion of power. Not surprisingly, they worshiped the emperor as divine, after all, who else Had life and death so much in his hands?

As their civilization waned, life seemed to have less meaning. Virtues and aspirations became like dust and ashes. Wisdom, noble deeds, service,  civitas, the glory of Rome’s law, citizenship, and the worship of the gods (if there were any) didn’t seem worth sacrificing for. Pornography (it’s not a new thing), drunkenness, spectacle, gluttony, and glorification of self was the order of the day. What meaning did life have?

Where in such a world could hope be found?

In light of recent events, we might ask, “What kind of a world is it where hope can be found in burning cars and businesses, demanding people give the communist salute, and seeking to kill policemen? Or is there any hope or meaning there?

What kind of a world is it in which no truth is acknowledged, only a narrative fueled by envy, resentment, entitlement, hate, revenge, and a lust for power?

Human beings are born with empty hearts, which is to say, hearts without faith and without the knowledge of God, and ultimately without lasting hope – only a false hope. We have a sense of higher things, but we cannot find them, except fleetingly. We know there is truth, beauty, love, faithfulness, goodness, fidelity, companionship, comfort, peace, compassion, and joy. There is a natural law, written on the heart, that tells us this; there is righteousness, but we cannot achieve it.

This is the world invaded by God in the person of Jesus Christ, a world broken, sinful, and hoping vainly in itself. You can see the futility of it in the empty demands for a world that cannot be, and in justifying nihilism, destruction, rebellion, and fear. I like the way C.S. Lewis put it, “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” –Mere Christianity

2. Uniquely Divine Fulfillment

This is the world “invaded” by the Divine Son. Hidden in His humanity, He brought divine light and truth into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. 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 1:10–14, CSB)

Now here in our text Mark shows Jesus doing what only God can do. He turns back the effects of death and sin. This is not some kind of “magic,” it is returning things to the way God intended. It is true healing and restoration. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly.

This is a miracle. We speak of miracles a lot, like the miracle of birth, or the miracle of things working out in a wonderful way. Properly speaking, those are not miracles, they are God’s providence, the blessings of life that work out well for us and reflect His goodness. “although he did not leave himself without a witness, since he did what is good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”” (Acts 14:17, CSB)

Miracles are different. There is no natural way to do what miracles do: Feeding thousands with a handful of food, healing blindness, deafness, withered limbs, or palsy. Raising the dead. They are not “magic,” they are not illusion. They are both supernatural and real. They turn back the curse of sin and death itself

What Jesus does here is unique, he fulfills the hope of the (otherwise) hopeless man and his friends.

3.  Jesus Still Fills Empty Hearts with Hope

By including this account, Mark is telling the cynical and jaded Roman world that their false hope in emperor, in empire, in philosophy, in administrative power, in pagan deities, in nature, –in humanity– is vain and empty, but there is hope in the ONE who has entered this world from the heavenly realms to wage victorious war against sin and death.

He conquers sin. We humans have always regretted sin, but we could only make weak promises to do better. He greets our repentance with full forgiveness because He atoned for sin, and perfect righteousness because of His perfection.

He conquers death. We humans have always, finally, surrendered to death, but Christ has risen, and in the resurrection extends life to all believers.

He raises up the human condition. Mark and the other evangelists record how Jesus gives a preview of our glory. Paul put it this way: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18, CSB) What Christ did for this man and for others, He does for us.

He does it in the resurrection. As you have heard me say before, when He comes in His glory to remake this world, He will come in judgment. He therefore comes now in mercy through His word. It means that the world still stands. It means that this world is still dying. It means that the afflictions of this world will continue. But it means that those lost in unbelief may yet come to know and believe in him, and find salvation.

Again, what Christ did for this man and for others, He does for us. He does it now through His church. Contrary to the anti-Christian narrative rampant in the world today, the Christian church has been the source of much good. Hospitals, orphanages, care homes, respect for women and children, adoption, the rights of the individual, the scientific revolution, and so many things that have led to the life that we now enjoy are the result of Christ’s people carrying out their vocations in His fear and love.

And even now, He secures us in hope. He speaks to us through His word. He invites us to speak to him about what is in our hearts, and he promises to hear and bless according to His will and our good. (See the quote from U.V. Koren.)

He comes to us now and gives us what we most need, we who are dying: He gives us forgiveness, faith, and righteousness, so that we can live in the hope of the resurrection.

He come to us relentlessly in His word. You can always know where to find Him, and can always, hear His guidance, His wisdom, and especially His saving promises.

Not much has really changed since Mark’s day. Human nature is the same. The needs of a dying humanity are the same. But most importantly, the hope is the same, the hope of the conqueror of life over death, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

By |2020-08-30T17:30:16-07:00August 30th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Face to Face with God

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Face to Face with God

Catching People

Luke 5:1–11 (CSB)

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

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

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

COMING FACE TO FACE WITH GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. See Our Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Behold His Mercy

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

Again:

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

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

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

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

AMEN

By |2020-07-12T15:16:03-07:00July 10th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

The WORST EXCUSES to pass up the BEST INVITATION.

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The WORST EXCUSES to pass up the
BEST INVITATION

Luke 14:16–24 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

THE WORST EXCUSES TO PASS UP THE BEST INVITATION

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Invitation

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

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

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

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

3. The Excuses & Consequences of Refusal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. God’s Grace

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

How Can Someone See the Kingdom of God?

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How Someone Can See the Kingdom of God

John 3:1–15 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

“How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus.

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

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

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

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

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

HOW SOMEONE CAN SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. That Opens Our Eyes to See Heavenly Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Because of Christ’s Gracious Redemption

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

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

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

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

Remember, you ARE baptized. It isn’t that you WERE and it is over, you were baptized into new life, so that you shared in Christ’s death, which He died for you, and now share in His resurrection, and so live according to the spirit. “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3–5, CSB)

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

AMEN.

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

The Only Path to Peace

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The Only Path to Peace

2 John 3 (CSB) Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”

John 14:23–31 (CSB)

23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 The one who doesn’t love me will not keep my words. The word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful. 28 You have heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. 30 I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me., 31 On the contrary, so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do as the Father commanded me.

Dear Fellow Redeemed: “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” These are the words with which Paul greeted Timothy, and with which I greet you regularly on these Sunday mornings. Grace, mercy and peace are among the gifts God gives us through His word, and the last, His peace He especially mentions as a gift coming to us through the Holy Spirit.

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

27 Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.

For us, peace is elusive. When we hear “peace,” some think of an end to war, others to personal peace, (Don’t bother me!) still others to the peace of living a blameless life. In my experience I see people in every state of chaos, upheaval, and turbulence of life – the opposite of peace.

Where shall they find peace? Living and dealing with people who constantly disapprove. Living with a bad temper- ours or someone else’s. Living with abusive people. Living with our values under siege. Living with family who keep making wrong choices. “Feeling upset.” Living with anxiety and other emotional upheaval. Walking on eggshells with some people. Where shall we find peace.

Jesus here speaks of …

THE ONLY PATH TO PEACE

  1. We Find Peace in Christ Alone
  2. We Find Christ in the Word Alone
  3. In This Way, Christ Gives Us True Peace
  1. We Find Peace in Christ Alone

The world follows many paths in search of peace. The U.N. War to bring peace. Divorce. Psychotherapy. Sociotherapy. Anti-anxiety meds. Counseling. You name it. But the peace of Christ is something different. It is a peace that transcends everything. It is the peace that we can have in the midst of battle, when facing the withering disapproval of others, when suffering from anxiety or depression, or worried you will get sick. The apostles were persecuted struggled with friction in the church, and the pietism and disapproval of others.

The peace of Christ is of a different thing altogether. “27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives,” Jesus said.

Paul wrote to the Philippians about seeking this peace. Understand that he had been persecuted, beaten, stone into unconsciousness, arrested, imprisoned, and threatened with execution. Here is what he taught his people in Philippi: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses [transcends] all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7, CSB)

This is an echo of Proverbs 3, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; (Proverbs 3:5, CSB)

So you see, this is a matter of faith. We put our trust in Christ. Jesus repeatedly said something like this to His disciples: 29 I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. The disciples would find themselves in horrible situations, persecuted, hated, . Then they were to know that above all, Christ is Lord.

The peace of Christ transcends everything. We have the peace of Christ even when we have no other peace. It is a peace of faith and we can see it in several ways:

  • God loves you whether you feel like it or not, even if you feel condemned.
  • You are forgiven because Christ is risen, even when the Devil, your friends, and even your own conscience condemns you. Yes, even when you ARE guilty.
  • You have a future, even when destitute, even when dying.
  • You have hope, even when there is no hope on earth.
  • When your feelings of anxiety, depression, agitation, and the like overcome you, you can know and believe that the Lord is merciful and that this too, shall pass.
  • When we are lonely, we can take on faith Jesus’ promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.

That’s what we mean by transcendent. This is the peace of Christ, of knowing Christ, and trusting in His promises. And ….

2.  We Find Christ in the Word Alone

So if Christ alone can bring us to God, how can we find Christ?  Pentecost, this day which we celebrate, is itself the answer – we find Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit – and the Spirit works alone through His word.

This was the point of Jesus’ discussion in our text.  He is answering one of the disciples who asked Him why He made such a point of revealing himself to them, and not to the world at large.  The reason is that He will be leaving; so He says:  25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” His kingdom is the true kingdom of peace, as He is the Prince of Peace. How does His kingdom come? Luther explained it this way, “The kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eter­nity.” The Holy Spirit’s work is to bring God’s kingdom, the kingdom of which Christ is king, to us.

We live, now, in an earthly kingdom, where there is conflict, pan, sorrow, sickness, loss, failures, and sin. The end of life in this kingdom is death, and here there is no peace. But transcending this kingdom is the kingdom which we are part of by faith, and this is the kingdom of life and peace. Her there is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In this kingdom we possess the righteousness of Christ, and are at peace with God.

It is because we are subjects of this kingdom that we can have peace even in a world afflicted with turmoil, conflict, and hostility. It is because this kingdom has come t you by the power of the Holy Sprit that we can rejoice that whatever we suffer from today, deliverance is ours in God’s good time.

As we said, this kingdom comes to us by the Holy Spirit, and He works through His word. As the apostles were the teachers of the church and have written this word, the Holy Spirit is the teachers of the apostles, as Jesus said, 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. So it follows that the apostles taught the word of God, as Paul wrote, “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. (1 Corinthians 2:13, CSB)

So we find Christ and His peace that transcends the tumult of this world through His word.

3. In This Way, Christ Gives Us True Peace

Because of this, we can be sure of finding peace.  We can be sure of it.  Now the accepted wisdom is that there is no sure thing in this world.  But this word is not of this world.  This is a means of Grace.  This is a way in which God Himself brings His grace to us and bestows it upon us.  We just confessed this in the third article of the creed:  “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…”

You can be sure of finding forgiveness.  You can be sure of the loving fellowship of God Himself.  You can be sure of being kept in the true faith.  You can be sure of finding the peace that transcends all the conflict and disorder of this life.

Listen to Him speak.  Listen to Him promise, “Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37, CSB)

Listen.  Christ prays for you. Christ speaks to you.  He loves you and bids you love Him, and find peace now and forevermore.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-31T13:47:39-07:00May 31st, 2020|Sermons, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Invasion to Conquer — and Save

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Invasion Plan to Conquer and Save

John 15:26–16:4 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

AN INVASION PLAN TO CONQUER AND SAVE

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

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

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

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

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

2.  Fighting on a Foreign Field

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

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

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

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

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

You would be wrong.

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

3.  Where Victory Gives Comfort to the Vanquished

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

A Personal Relationship with Christ

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A Personal Relationship with Christ

John 16:23–30 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

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

A RELATIONSHIP DEFINED BY WORD AND PRAYER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. By Our Coming to Him in Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

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John 16:16–23 (CSB)

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

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

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

PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY

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

1  We Share in the Sadness

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

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

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

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

While this text talks only about the revelation through which the disciples would go, there is still an application for us. What happened there on Calvary and gave the disciples such sorrow was Jesus dying OUR death, and what happened at the open tomb that gave the disciples such joy was Jesus’ preparing OUR resurrection. We share in that by virtue of our baptism. “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3–5, CSB)

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

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

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

2.   We Share in the Gladness

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

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

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

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

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

We live in that joy even now, even in the midst of adversity, as Peter put it, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3–9, CSB)

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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