Real Life Is More

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REAL LIFE IS MORE

In our area the wildfires have take everything from some people. In view of that, how can Jesus say, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear”? Not worry!!?? And He goes on, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

To understand this, we need to realize that He is talking about REAL LIFE. To those who do not know Christ, the horizon of life is their own death, and all joy and happiness depends upon what happens up to that moment. To those who know Christ, however, there is no horizon to the Real Life that He brings, and like Paul, we say that we consider everything rubbish compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s a matter of perspective.

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 20, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Matthew 6:24–34 (CSB)

24 “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

25 “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Dear fellow redeemed: This is an interesting text to cover today. As we sit here, there are thousands of evacuees from Phoenix and Talent and Ashland who have lost everything. Some have nothing left but the bathrobe they ran away with. So how can we tell them “don’t worry! Trust in Jesus?”

Right here, we have to change our perspective. If the perspective is, “This is all there is, and I have lost everything. How can God allow this!” Then you will never understand.

The true perspective, the reality, is this: What happened in Phoenix and Talent and two years ago in Paradise, CA, and with Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast a few days ago is the kind of thing that will happen until the end of time. It is the given. So our true hope is to seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, for that is salvation FROM all of this. And the One who has given you the greater salvation, will also help you get from here to there; all these things [that we need for this life] will be provided for you as well. But this short life, hinging on having enough calories, avoiding sickness, and all the “stuff” of this world is still not most important. Rather …

REAL LIFE IS MORE

  1. Real Life Is More than Anything
  2. Real Life Is Everlasting Life
  3. Real Life is Enough
  1. Real Life Is More than Anything

Jesus asks a really interesting question, Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Is it? Can you have life without food or clothing? Jesus is talking about REAL life, the life of the soul, immortal life. There aren’t many people who are self-aware who believe that human life is just a body, and that the mind is the 5 pounds of grey matter in between our ears. We recognize the eternal intangible realities that every civilization has recognized: truth, beauty, right and wrong, love, devotion, honor and the like. These are realities, whether they can be measured, weighed, or photographed. And the part of us that senses these things is the part that transcends time, place, and circumstance– our immortal soul..

This life, however, now lives in a physical shell that is marred by sin, saddled with troubles, and doomed to die, all because of a lack of righteousness, as Isaiah says, “But your iniquities are separating you from your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not listen.” (Isaiah 59:2, CSB) And who is without sin? Anger, self-righteousness, pride, selfishness, gossip, greed, lust, contentiousness, sins of the mind and sins of the flesh.

It is to save this immortal life from sin, and in the resurrection to bring immortality to our whole selves, that Christ came. John puts it this way,  “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:4, CSB)

So when Jesus tells you that life is more than food, clothing, shelter, more than anything, it is this life that He is talking about, the life that you have now by faith, and in His kingdom, possessing His righteousness, you will enjoy forever. So, more than food and clothing, you need His righteousness.

2. Real Life Is Everlasting Life

This puts everything in perspective. What comes first, and what comes second? Jesus tells us, But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

His righteousness. Your righteousness or mine is nothing really, but the righteousness of Christ is something that IS. It is a reality that Jesus lived out in His life, as true and holy God who took up our humanity. And His righteousness can be given to us, counted as ours, because He also atoned for our un-righteousness. When He lived, suffered, died, and rose again, He accomplished this for all people at all times.

This righteousness is there for you. He gives it to you through His word and sacrament, even as I say His words to you: I forgive you all your sins. You receive this righteousness by faith, and nothing, nothing, nothing, is more valuable, more precious, more desirable, or more important, as Paul put it, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:8–9, NIV84)

But considering what has happened to our neighbors and those whom we love, considering what they lost and what they need just to get by, can we truly love God more than money or stuff, as Jesus says we must? Jesus leads us to the right answer by pointing out the realities under which we live. Yes, there are tragedies and there is death because of sin, yet daily life mostly reflects the mercy and love of God. Jesus reminds us that he spends millions of dollars’ worth of grain to feed the birds. He dresses oven fuel better than Solomon. He then puts it to you, Aren’t you worth more than they?

As much as this world is polluted and broken by the sins of humanity, and as undeserving as we are, year after year He “gives us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and fills our hearts with joy,” (Acts 14:17) 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

Yes there will be troubles in this world but the One who has proved His love by not withholding His own son from us, knows what we need. As John says, “See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.” (1 John 3:1, CSB)

But we do know Him, so we know that when the fire is over, the rebuilding is finished, and life returns to normal, the most important thing, even more important than whether we survived the fire, or got our house rebuilt, or found a place to live, is that we know Christ, have His righteousness, and are destined for His eternal kingdom.

3. Real Life is Enough

If you have this eternal life, then you don’t have to worry, because real life is enough. Why would we worry? Ultimately it is because, with our sinful natures, we cannot quite divorce ourselves from the mast that Jesus spoke of at the beginning. We tend to love this short, troubled, mortal life, and the money that SEEMS to make it work that the real life that we have in Christ takes a back seat.

Thank God that His forgiveness and His righteousness covers even this idolatry!

So as Christians, we fight against it, so that His kingdom and His righteousness comes first. Take the example of poor Job. He lost more than we can even imagine, yet he confessed, “Though the Lord slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” For even in mortal death, we have the real and everlasting life. This Real life is enough.

Real life, the life of the resurrection, the eternal life of body and soul, the eternal life of joy and blessedness, the eternal fellowship with the Triune God, His angels, and the saints of every age, the new life with a resurrected body attuned to it is enough.

Think about His kingdom, which we are qualified for because of His righteousness. When you are struggling with the bills, or mourning the loss of possessions, or grieving over the hardship in this poor, troubled life, then think about the life that never ends, the life we have because of Christ. For in Him is Real life, and that life is a gift to us, Real life that is truly enough.

AMEN.

By |2020-09-20T14:58:13-07:00September 20th, 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

Faith Will Look Like This

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Will the Lord Find Faith on the Earth? – Faith Will Look Like This

Jesus asked the question, “When the S

on of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? And He answered that question, in part, with the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The faith that remains among the remnant of the believers will be a faith that is a humble faith that finds righteousness only in the atoning work of Christ.

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, August 23, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

By |2020-08-23T17:00:33-07:00August 23rd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Graphic Pictures for Slow Learners

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Graphic Pictures for Slow Learners

Jesus painted a graphic picture of a besieged Jerusalem, including the grisly death of the inhabitants and the total destruction of the city, all because they would not learn the lesson of the gospel, that God had visited them in the person of Jesus Christ. He expressed grief over the city, but painted a picture of judgment, so that, just maybe, some would learn. Such judgment will also come upon our age.

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, August 16, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

Luke 19:41–44 (CSB)

41 As he approached and saw the city, he wept for it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come on you when

  • your enemies will build a barricade around you, surround you, and hem you in on every side.
  • 44 They will crush you and your children among you to the ground,
  • and they will not leave one stone on another in your midst,

because you did not recognize the time when God visited you.”

Dear fellow redeemed: Luke records a relationship between God and humanity that is repeated again and again throughout the ages, but it is focused and concentrated here when God Himself comes to humanity. It begins with His love, which is received by some and rejected by others, leading to His grief over the rejection of salvation, and finally the judgment that falls upon the unbelieving.

Jesus Love, Grief, and Judgment toward Jerusalem is universal in His relationship with humanity, which means that His Love, Grief, and Judgment apply also to our age. But in spite of the fear of death, in spite of the warning of eternal judgment, in spite of the clamor or our consciences, every society that has been given the gospel eventually turns away and is destroyed. Look out America! And in case you haven’t gotten the message, here are some …

GRAPHIC PICTURES FOR SLOW LEARNERS

  1. Love from the Beginning
  2. Grief and Judgment
  3. Saving the Remnant
  1. Love from the Beginning

First we need to know about what we call God’s “antecedent will.” For starters, what does God want for all people, and therefore for you? Simply put, as Paul taught Timothy, He “wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4, CSB) We see this when Adam and Eve fell into sin, rather than destroy them and consign them to hell with the rebellious angels, He promised to send a Savior. (Gen 3:15)

He wrote of His power and wisdom in nature, and His judgment in the hearts of people; so Paul writes, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18–20, CSB) So, while every person every born, deserves God’s wrath, He carries out His promises and devised a way to satisfy His judgment without carrying it out on us.

Scripture is full of the good news of what He has done, as Peter summarized it, “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18, CSB) And as Jesus put it Himself, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”” (Luke 19:10, CSB) He said it repeatedly, as in John 3, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17, CSB)

What’s more, He calls upon us to reflect His undeserved love toward humanity in our lives, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44–45, CSB)

Because of this there is always hope for all.

When the drunk repents and regrets the past, there if forgiveness. When those who take the life of an unborn child awaken to what they have done, there is forgiveness. When you reflect on what you have done to hurt others, or what you have not done to honor God, there is forgiveness. The message of Christ is “Repent and believe the good news.” Because of Christ’s atonement there is good news, otherwise there would be only repentance, regret, and despair.

2. Grief and Judgment

But because of this love of God, He has expressed grief over and over again, beginning with the sin that poisoned humanity at the dawn of time, and continuing through the prophets, like Ezekiel, “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11, ESV)

Jesus expressed the same grief, as Luke writes in our lesson for today, or as Matthew recorded Him, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37–38, ESV)

Even to this day His faithful pastors share that grief, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17, NKJV)

Grief comes from a recognition of the consequent will of God. Though God from the beginning desires our salvation, He is Holy and cannot tolerated what is unholy. Even His own son, bearing our sins, was cast off there on the cross. As a consequence of their unbelief, the judgment of God will fall upon all who do not repent and believe the gospel. As David said, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot dwell with you. The boastful cannot stand in your sight; you hate all evildoers.” (Psalm 5:4–5, CSB)

So Jesus expresses His grief. 41 As he approached and saw the city, he wept for it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come on you when

  • your enemies will build a barricade around you, surround you, and hem you in on every side.
  • 44 They will crush you and your children among you to the ground,
  • and they will not leave one stone on another in your midst,

because you did not recognize the time when God visited you.”

Jerusalem was surrounded and besieged. Josephus tells us they were starved until they ate every rat in the city and would fight over the bodies of the children and the aged to eat them. When the Romans broke the defenses, they would swing the children by the feet and crush their heads on the stones and run the others through with the sword or lance. They cut down trees far and wide to crucify still others.

The suffering was indescribable. But it won’t end there. Do you think our society will be spared? Look around you! Our state allows the killing of unborn children up to the day of birth. Marriage (and sex) are divorced from life in children. One of the presidential candidates has threatened penalties against churches if they condemn the perverse practices of the LGBT agitators so beloved of the media and entertainment industries.

Speaking of which, the denial of the Lord as Creator is the only worldview tolerated in media and education. Every sin is excused, and every virtue condemned.

So  why do we think we will escape judgment. What if this Coronavirus were a REAL plague? What if the transportation system broke down and there were no groceries? How many would starve? What if war did the same thing? I can’t tell you when or where it will fall, but judgment awaits this society, and is only held off because of God’s mercy: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22–23, CSB)

In Luke 12 we read of Jesus commenting on a terrible accident, the crushing of 18 men when a tower fell on them, and a terrible injustice when Pilate slaughtered some Galileans and used their blood in sacrifices. He lays down a principle for all such calamities – “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”” (Luke 13:5, NKJV)

And worse than all of this is hell, where there is an eternity sorrow, regret, pain and despair, because people reject, dismiss, or just ignore the Peace of the Gospel. This is the reason Jesus grieves.

3. Saving the Remnant

But some will believe. Elijah thought he was the last believer left, but the Lord assured him that there was a remnant of 7000 who had remained faithful. So, Paul says, “In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace.” (Romans 11:5, CSB)

Because Christ has atoned for the sins of the world, whenever and wherever there is repentance, when someone says, “My God, I have done wrong. Is there hope for me?” the answer is always “YES!”  We don’t have to hope we win God’s love, because His love is from the beginning. We don’t have to hope we can make amends, for Christ has paid our redemption price. We don’t have to hope that He will be merciful, for His mercy is everlasting.

So, until the end of time, sadly, and with so much sorrow and grief, you can expect the judgment of God to fall upon this world. It is to take away the sense of self-righteousness, to tear down the arrogance, and to destroy the self-sufficiency of a rebellious humanity, so that finally they might recognize that God has visited His creation to save, before a person’s death-day, or the last day when He visits in judgment.

God grant that none here give reason for the Lord to grieve, but in good times and bad, everyone her will find their hope in the Lord.

AMEN.

By |2020-08-16T14:42:00-07:00August 14th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Talk about Shrewd!

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Whatcha Do with Somebody Else’s Money?

Make Heavenly Friends

Luke 16:1–9 (CSB)

16 Now he said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions. So he called the manager in and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be my manager.’

“Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’

“So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one.

“ ‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’

“Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’

“ ‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’

“The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth, so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.

Dear fellow redeemed: This section is in a part of Luke in which Jesus is talking about God’s mercy, with the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. From that last parable, Jesus goes into this story about the shrewd manager. From there concludes with some interesting instruction:

USE YOUR MONEY TO MAKE FRIENDS IN HEAVEN

  1. The Basic Ideas
  2. The Story
  3. Now Go and Make Friends
  1. The Basic Ideas

Now the manager is like you, he was in charge of his master’s possessions and could do with them whatever he wanted, although if honest, he would manage them faithfully. Whatever we seem to possess is not really ours, we are just in charge of it for the Lord. We use the Lord’s property, including our minds, our talents, our time, our possessions, our money and our very selves for many different purposes. “Our stuff” definitely needs to be in quotes. It is our Lord’s.

Part of what you are in charge of is called “mammon” in the Bible. Basically, it is what you own beyond what you need for survival. It is your “expendable money” beyond what you need to stay alive. Here’s a newsflash: It isn’t ours. We don’t actually get to spend it any way we want; and we don’t get to spend all the money entrusted to us on ourselves.

This is obvious, really. All of us here have more money than we actually need to stay alive today. With the extra, parents feed and clothe their children. The earners provide for the non-earners in the household. We pay our taxes. We help out family, friends, or strangers. We give to charities to help others. We provide for the gospel. And we spend it on ourselves, from things we want, like telephones, or tv’s to downright luxuries, like fast food, good coffee, a nice car, or the like. Remember this is “mammon,” the wealth beyond absolute necessity, it is somebody else’s money, and we are in charge of it, and supposed to manage it well.

We have all heard of the parents who don’t feed their children, but have all kinds of cool toys, or the people who spend all their money on themselves in the form of drugs or booze or other vices, and so they can’t pay rent. We know of people who don’t use their time on themselves, so they lose a job when the don’t show up for work. Unfaithful managers.

Most people would say they misused their time, talent, and money wrongly. Because sinners so often use mammon sinfully, Jesus calls it “unrighteous mammon,” or “worldly wealth.”

These are the basic ideas. Now let’s get to the story.

2. The Story

The story begins with the “outing” of the manager. He has squandered his master’s wealth. Who knows what he spent it on? Whatever it was, the master didn’t get the benefit of his own money, and he fired the manager.

This manager was clever, and so for the little time he had left in which people would think he was in charge, he used his master’s wealth yet again. “Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’

He used his master’s money to be merciful to the master’s debtors. “So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one.

“ ‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’

“Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’

“ ‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said.

“ ‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’

Smart guy. Crooked as all get out, but a smart guy. He knew his master had a reputation for being merciful and wouldn’t countermand the merciful treatment of the debtors. Even the master praised him for his shrewdness.

“You be like that,” Jesus said (paraphrasing) Use the mammon, the extra wealth that you have (that isn’t actually yours) in a merciful way, so that others will benefit from it. Don’t be so “heavenly minded” that you are no earthly good. “The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth, so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.

Here’s the thing: Dishonest people in our society know how to take care of themselves: The congressman who loses the election finds a cozy spot with the lobbying firm whose clients benefited from the congressman’s votes. More on our level, a smart thief makes sure that he spreads the goodies around with his pals who cover for him. I can tell you that on the streets of Chicago the gangbangers are often deeply loved father-figures to children; they are the only source of the comforts of life. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. As strange is as it may seem, like the unjust manager, they are merciful with other people’s money. They know how to make friends

3. Now You Go and Make Friends

What does that say about the children of light, about Christians? Here we are: Everything we have is our Lord’s. Jesus is saying that if we are as shrewd as this crooked steward, we would be using His wealth, so often used unrighteously, to make friends for ourselves in the way that really counts, in the gospel.

Remember, this is not a way to heaven for you, for Jesus is talking to those who are “the children of light” already. His righteousness, including His perfect stewardship, is yours by grace through faith. As children of light, we want to do what is right, but we aren’t so good at it. Here Jesus is helping us get better.

To help understand all this, remember that we serve God by serving our neighbor. We don’t serve God by locking ourselves in a monastery and praying 20 hours a day, but by serving our neighbor, as Christ says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:37–40, CSB)

So, if the unfaithful manager knows how to make friends for himself in his exile, why don’t we? With OUR Lord’s money we could show mercy to people as well. We do this when we take good care of our families, when we are faithful in our vocations as we give glory to God, and as we bring the gospel to others.

Jesus says, And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth, so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. Have you given conscious thought of how you use the wealth of this world to build His kingdom? Think about it. Figure it out. It’s management of money with real purpose.

Use your money to live where there is a church, and your children can be taught.  Support Christian schools. How many would greet us in eternity because they were not seduced by the humanism of secular, progressive education establishment? We can mercifully befriend the lonely. In our day and age, the work of the gospel is in dire need. If you don’t know of enough opportunities on your own, then look through the flyers in your church mailbox. There is a great example there – remember the people in our foreign missions with Covid, who can’t work? Fortunately, the teachers in Peru were taken care of. They may join in to the “well done” of our Lord and welcome us into heaven.

Have you thought how it is that you have come to know the mercy of God because of someone’s thoughtful management of wealth in view of God’s mercy? It’s what enables me to stand here today to proclaim to you that you are forgiven and the righteousness of the Perfect Steward, our Lord Jesus, is yours

AMEN

By |2020-08-09T17:10:04-07:00August 7th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Running the Gauntlet of Deceit

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The Gauntlet of Deceit

Finding the Narrow Way

Matthew 7:13–23 (CSB)

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

15 “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!,,

Dear fellow redeemed: These words come at the end of the Sermon on the mount, and, appropriately, Jesus ends his sermon with a warning. There are three rather sobering scenarios here – taking a road that results in destruction, being deceived by a deadly enemy, and the false prophet expecting our Lord’s welcome on judgment only to be run off as a stranger. All warn about the same thing – eternal alienation from God.

All three have the same thing in common – damning deceit. The first is to take the wrong road, the second to cultivate the wrong tree, and the third to pass off false teachings as the word of the Lord. Again, the first two are metaphors of warning AGAINST false prophets, and the third is a warning TO the false prophets.

Many today meet Jesus words with excuses (I’ll continue the pattern): Who hasn’t taken a wrong turn and ended up on the freeway? How can you expect everyone to me a master gardener? And for the third, how am I supposed to discern true theology from false, true knowledge about God from false? The answer? Because …

THE TRUTH COMES FROM THE RISEN ONE

  1. He Gives Fair Warning
  2. He Establishes TRUTH
  3. He Rescues Us for Heavenly Glory
  1. He Gives Fair Warning

Jesus began the sermon with the gospel. He calls you to follow Him, to “repent and believe the good news.” He pictures the way as narrow and difficult, in comparison with the way that leads to destruction. Every person reaches the end of their road someday, whatever path they are on. Every religion (including atheism) teaches what road to take and what lies at the end. Every single person takes one road or another. Can you think of anyone who doesn’t make choices that guide their way through life?

Jesus has called you to follow Him, on this path that leads to eternal life. It is a path of sin and grace, repentance and faith, confession and absolution. It is to repent, to acknowledge our sin, humble ourselves before our Lord, and believe his promise of forgiveness. As Christians, we hold the worldview of our Lord as the One who made us, redeemed us, and guides us in life. He is our Savior.

But there are many who would lead us into the more “obvious” path. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing, they seem peaceful enough, attractive, harmless. But they will kill you. These are the false prophets. A “prophet” in this context is anybody who seems to teach the underlying truth of all things. It could be Joel Osteen, the Pope, the “bishopess” of the ELCA [the larger “Lutheran” church body]. It could be Bill Nye, the Science guy, or your favorite psychology professor. It could be Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrasse Tyson on “Cosmos.” It could be the helpful Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon neighbors. It doesn’t have to be from a church or an organized faith to claim to teach foundational realities.

But if a wolf looks like a sheep, how do you tell him from a sheep? Jesus continues with the picture of a tree. A bad tree produces bad fruit. An unbeliever produces false teaching, teaching that is contrary to the teaching of Christ.

Ours is the information age. Information, including teaching about fundamental, foundational realities, comes at us like water from a fire hose. People, you must be into the word so that you can compare the incessant din we are subjected to with the truth of God’s word. We are drowning in messages from every side that teach a materialist view of reality, that matter is all that there is.

Up to this point in our text, Jesus has warned US about the right path, and discernment of the truth. Next he tells us about THEM, the false teachers.  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (To do the will of the father is to be a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 12:48-50,  specifically to repent and believe the gospel, Matthew 21:28-32).

You need to know that many of the deceivers are deceived. No doubt the “bishopess” of the ELCA considers herself a Christian. She prays in Jesus  name. But the fruit she bears reveals her has a false prophet. Her “Bishop-Messages” page consists almost entirely of “progressive” political statements.[i] Her church body denies the substitutionary atonement of Christ,[ii] the key teaching of the Christian faith, that Jesus Christ died to atone for the sins of the world.

Jesus warns, 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers! What could be worse than on judgment day to be greeted, not with recognition, but with condemnation?

2. He Establishes TRUTH

Jesus warns against departing from the narrow path of the truth, so how can we know the truth? This is a serious question because we are bombarded by so many opponents of what Christ teaches.

First, what He teaches is the truth. “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:30–32, CSB)

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

But doesn’t every teacher make that claim? Actually, few make the claim that they are the source of truth. As many commented at the time, Christ speaks, not as one repeating the truth, but with authority, as the source of truth. And he should, for the simple reason that He is the Risen One.  He is the one who said he would be captured, crucified, dead, and would rise again. And He did. A multitude of eyewitnesses confirmed it. Many died rather than take back their testimony. The living reality of the Christian church, brought into existence by His word, proclaimed by faithful preachers, confirms it.

Other evidence would be the contrast between His guidance and the guidance of the world. Look around you. Who is happier, the person raised in a family, loving and faithful to a spouse, self-controlled, chaste, respectful, honest, and industrious, or the person who is dishonest, conceited, unfaithful, tears apart his family, and has no lasting attachment?  Yet the latter is the ideal of the day.

Christ not only teaches the former, but atones for, buys us back from, the destruction of the latter.

3. He Rescues Us for Heavenly Glory

For those who live in repentance and faith, who humble themselves before our Savior and cherish the good news of His redemption, there is life that never ends. The billboards of deceit point to the broad way, the way “everybody else” is going. The yammerings of the false teachers of this world lead to materialism, or a trust in our own righteousness, or to the dictatorship of our own feelings, or the compulsion of the crowd, or the intimidation of the powerful, or the browbeating of the elite.

The word of Christ, the narrow path, leads to heaven. The Risen One gives life beyond what we can imagine. As Paul put it, 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) Have you ever thought of how foolish it is to chase after the petty pleasures of this world when the eternal pleasures and joys of heaven await us?

Any beauty here is just a hint of heavenly beauty. Any joy only a hint of heavenly joy. Any peace a hint of heavenly peace. Any love a hint of heavenly love. Any pleasure a hint of heavenly pleasure.

Stay with the true gospel of Christ. Stay on the narrow way.

Amen.

[i] https://elca.org/Resources/Presiding-Bishop-Messages These are nearly all “progressive” political messages.

[ii] “A second problem has been raised recently by feminist theologians. The concept of atonement, especially the satisfaction model, connotes that God the Father is a child abuser. If the notion of divine appeasement holds, then our heavenly father needs appeasing just as an earthly alcoholic father needs appeasing. The suffering of Jesus becomes a vindictive act on the part of God. Feminists denounce child abuse and wife abuse on the part of earthly fathers; and they fear that this atonement model sends a destructive message to faithful Christian families.” “The language of sacrifice in the New Testament is metaphorical, not literal. Jesus may have literally been a teacher, but he is metaphorically a sacrificial lamb or a Good Shepherd just as he is metaphorically a victorious warrior.” Theological Brief for PLTS/ITE Models of Atonement, by

Ted Peters. Ted Peters teaches systematic theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

By |2020-08-02T16:05:22-07:00August 1st, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

More Certainty in Uncertain Times

More Certainty in Uncertain Times

In the eighth chapter of The Gospel of Mark, Jesus talks about the challenge of living as a Christian in a society that is hostile to the faith. He makes three main points.

Firstly, anybody who thinks that their faith as a Christian will go unchallenged or untested, or that that will be no cost to living as a Christian is terribly naïve. …Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.(Mark 8:34, NKJV)  We should expect that we will face opposition socially, financially, and from those in positions of power. In China, for example, Christians are being forced to renounce their faith or face possible starvation.1 In our own country, Christians face the loss of their job if they don’t publicly advocate for ideas contrary to the word of Christ. For most of us, it is simply a matter of making time for Christ and His word.

Secondly it is worth it even to lose everything if we hold on to Christ by faith. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?(Mark 8:35–36, NKJV)  Or, as Paul put it, “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) It should be obvious that eternal life is more important than anything we could value in this life.

But thirdly, Jesus, in the feeding of the 4000, shows his compassion toward those who follow Him. He said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat.” (Mark 8:2, CSB)  The many who followed Him weren’t persecuted, but they had undergone privation and hunger to hear His word. We also should realize that our Lord knows what we go through as His followers, and He continues to watch over and provide for us, even when we bear a cross.

These are uncertain times, but we have certainty in Christ. The culture is as hostile to the Christian faith as we could imagine, and much is uncertain about the way Christians are treated in our day, but we can be certain that we are under the watchful care of our Savior.    – – – Pastor Bryant

1China Reference

By |2020-07-24T13:29:29-07:00July 24th, 2020|Good News|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

Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

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Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

John 16:5–15 (CSB)

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

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

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

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

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

JESUS BUILDS ON HIS RESURRECTION VICTORY

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

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

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

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

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word

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

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

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

2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected

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

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

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

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

What do these three statements mean?

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

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John 16:16–23 (CSB)

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

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

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

PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY

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

1  We Share in the Sadness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.   We Share in the Gladness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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