The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
October 17, 2021 xx
21st Sunday after Pentecost
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, we have gathered to thank and praise You and seek to grow in our walk as Your children. To that end, bless now the proclamation of Your holy Word, grant that we might increase in knowledge and commitment. This we pray in the name of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy be unto each and every one of you from the Triune and Eternal, the only true God.
Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 10th chapter of St. Mark, hear again the words of the living Jesus from verse 25, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."
This far our text.
In our Gospel today, Jesus talks about entering the kingdom of heaven and life as one in that kingdom He first describes it as very difficult,—not really impossible but really, really difficult. Then a few verses later He describes it as truly impossible. So which one is it?
Remember from last Sunday what happened immediately before today’s text? A rich young man came to Jesus, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus truly loves this young man. And this rich young man appears sincere in his request. He has many things right.
Certainly, he has come to the right person, Jesus. Indeed, he runs to him. In the Gospel of Mark, it appears that only sincere individuals, with real needs, ever “run” to meet Jesus. And unlike the scribes and Pharisees, he kneels as a sign of respect to Jesus. He addresses Jesus in a very complimentary way, “Good Teacher.”
It is so complimentary that Jesus uses it to encourage the young man to consider the full implications of what he just said: “Why do you call me ‘good’? Only God is good.” With this reminder of the First Table of the Law, involving God and his name, Jesus does not seem to be criticizing the young man, but rather asking if he understands the true implications of his address.
It is as if Jesus is saying, “How far are you willing to take this? Do you know who I really am? Are you willing to confess who I really am? With not just your lips but with your actions? Are you willing to believe in the impossible? Are you willing to accept just how difficult this mission is?”
The man asks his question: What must he do to inherit eternal life? In our Psalm today we heard, “How shall a young man cleanse his way? Let him with care Thy Word observe”. Thus, Jesus points the man to the commandments.
The list of commandments Jesus gives is not exhaustive, nor need it be. It makes the point. The man responds that he has kept these from his youth. Amazingly, Jesus does not contradict him. He goes into no lecture on the fact that we are all sinners, and no one has kept the commandments perfectly.
Instead, Jesus “loves” him and tells him that “you lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”. Jesus’ “assignment” forces the young man to acknowledge whether or not he can say with the Psalmist, “More joy Thy testimonies gave than all the riches I have known.”
It also challenges him to place Jesus and his mission first, thereby testifying to whether the man gets the full implications of calling Jesus “good.” The man leaves saddened because he had many possessions. Did he go away to do what Jesus said, his sadness merely indicating that he realizes now just how difficult genuine discipleship is?
Or does his downcast demeanor indicate a refusal on his part to pursue the path Jesus has laid out? Whatever the case, Jesus turns to his disciples and comments how difficult it is for the rich to enter heaven: “"How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter 3the kingdom of God!" Difficult. Very difficult.
This surprises the disciples. Perhaps they assume that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and therefore an indicator of one’s relationship with God. Money is a good gift from God, but “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” We are told in First Timothy.
How many of us are rich toward God by supporting the preaching of his Gospel? The text as it stands warns us today about the danger of allowing riches to get in the way of our total devotion to God. Riches, rather than always being a sign of God’s favor, can actually get in the way of one’s trust in God.
But it gets worse—or at least it appears to. Jesus goes on to teach his disciples a deeper truth. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’” Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible’ ”
Humanly speaking, no one can slip a camel through the eye of a needle. Not only are riches a huge hindrance to entering the kingdom and thus merely difficult, but Jesus also says it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom. And not just the rich! “Then who can be saved?” Jesus answers: it is impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven on one’s own.
It is not just riches that can get in the way of heaven. Indeed, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above”). But any of God’s greatest gifts including the gift of wealth, can and often are used by Satan as his greatest temptations and most powerful idols. Jesus says “Whoever loves father or mother more than me” and that shows that parents, children, and spouses can become idols.
How many people forego church because of their family members? Because their family members are visiting? How many leave a church where God’s Word is properly taught to join a church that errs in some doctrine because they want their kids to have a “better” youth group? Or they want to be with other family members?
The Gospel account of the rich man serves as a narrative example of our Epistle’s warning to all believers: “Let us [all of us!] therefore strive to enter that rest” and, as was urged earlier in this same Letter to the Hebrews, to “exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”—any sin, what we call big sins or little sins. Sin is sin.
The truth is that no one can save himself. It is impossible. And unlike “difficulties,” there are not grades of “impossibility.” With man, it is simply impossible. With any man, all men, anyone, anywhere. There are no exceptions.
No matter what race, no matter how smart, no matter what age, no matter what gender, no matter how rich, no matter how poor. Man cannot and does not do it, not even with a little help from God.
It is not that man does his part and God does his. Man’s only part in the equation is the impossible. What man brings to the table is the impossible. Man merely brings sin. The only thing men supply is man’s need.
No, -------man needs the God of the possible to do the impossible. Our text continues with these words “Being exceedingly astonished the disciples said to Jesus “Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at [the disciples] and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” For us, it is not just difficult; it simply cannot happen. But with God, nothing shall be impossible.
Are we willing to believe in the impossible? The Gospel is the Good News that God does the impossible for US He paid the price that was impossible for us to pay. He paid for your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world.
No mere mortal could do that. But with God all things are possible. God became man so that you and I might be saved. In Jesus, God died for us. The impossible is possible with God. Indeed, He and He alone opens stony hearts to believe. He truly can make a camel go through the eye of a needle.
Whether we are rich or poor, we believe. We are saved. We confess this truth whenever we say with Luther in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.
In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” Not only our salvation but also our conversion is all God’s doing. God doing the impossible.
Even though God has done the impossible and redeemed us, paying for all of our sins, and even though he has done the impossible and turned our hearts of stone into believing hearts, until we enter fully into the kingdom in the resurrection, the road will be hard.
Jesus calls us to our own Mission: Difficult—very, very difficult, Jesus, the one who did the truly impossible job of the cross for our salvation, calls upon us to pick up our cross daily and follow him. And as we have heard before, to take up our cross means to share the Gospel..
Jesus wants to alter the simplistic thinking of his disciples in this regard—especially in regard to prosperity being the sign that we are among God’s blessed people. Quite to the contrary—being a follower of Jesus might entail persecution.
And such persecution will seem to the world and even to our own flesh as if God is abandoning us. Contrary to many popular health, wealth, and prosperity preachers, our best life will entail the cross.
In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus explains to the disciples that the benefits are huge—“in the age to come,” Jesus says, “eternal life.” But in the meantime, He says, God’s many blessings come “with persecutions”
The difficulties are also great. Jesus implies that we might lose family members over our faith. As He says elsewhere, “I have come to bring division . . . a son against his father” (cf Lk 12:51, 53). And he specifically warns about persecutions.
In this life we will have great blessings, as fellow believers will make up our new family. But we will also have trials and tribulations. And along with these there will be constant temptations, not least of them the desire to look for our security and comfort in wealth.
But remember, no matter how difficult it gets, the Mission: Impossible is Mission: Accomplished because Jesus has completed his mission for us. We are assured of the victory in Christ because he did the Mission: Impossible for us.
It was John Dyer who wrote in the 18th century these very appropriate words, “A man may go to heaven without riches, without honor, without learning, without friends, but he can never go there without Jesus Christ.”
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.
October 10, 2021 xx Pentecost 20
Let us Pray: O gracious God how thankful we are that You, through Your Holy Word, have given us saving faith in Jesus. Grant that we might forever see that this is the gift above all gifts. Guide us that we live according to Your will and bring all the honor and all the glory to You, This we pray in the name of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Our message today is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 10th Chapter of St. Mark, hear again the words of our living Savior from verse 21, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have 9treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
This far our text.
How loose our use of words! Not so with our Lord. When the rich young man shows him due deference and addresses him as “Good Teacher,” in verse 17, Jesus will not let him get away with it. “Good?” Why?
There is only one way Jesus could be good—if He were the one true God, who alone is good. Is he God in the flesh or not? Therefore Jesus says in verse 18, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Think how God himself had laid bare exactly what is in mankind back in Genesis. We recall these words from before the flood: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”
Nor is that an isolated Scripture passage. We hear in the Psalms: “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Ps 14:3).
Unlike us, who would rather believe that this is a classic instance of Hebrew exaggeration, our Lord knows it to be absolute truth. God’s words before the flood and the words of the Psalmist still apply to people today, yes even to you and me.
So anyone coming to Jesus and calling him good had better reckon with the fact that that means He is Yahweh in the flesh.
Even as we are told in the Gospel of St. Matthew, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us.”
The very question that the young man put to our Lord shows that he was not ready to ascribe to the truth that all human “goodness” is sin in the eyes of God. He had not taken to heart the words of Isaiah 64:6: “our righteous deeds are like filthy rags.”
He thought he still had some wiggle room, and so he puts the question to Jesus in verse 17,: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
For certainly if there is one thing that all religions agree on, it is this: If there is an eternal life, it is given only to a person who is worthy of it, not to a person who is unworthy. So the young man’s question comes down to this: “Just tell me what I need to do.”
This is the question which is at the heart of all world religions except Christianity. Strikingly, our Lord turns to the Second Table of the Law. He says, according to our numbering system, Commandment number five, “Do not murder,” number 6 “Do not commit adultery.” Number seven, “Do not Steal”, number 8, “Do not bear false witness”, numbers 9 and 10, “Do not defraud” and number 4, “Honor your father and mother.”
Jesus has gone through the second table of the Law which speaks of our relationship with other people which Jesus summarizes when asked what is the greatest commandment and He responds, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
In speaking of the second table in our text, Jesus says to the young man he already knows all these things. And that’s true. The young man had been brought up well. He knew what God commanded in the Law at least in relation to his neighbor.
He knew that he was to love his neighbor as himself. Jesus was holding up a mirror in order for the man to see the truth about himself, but he was so blind that he utterly missed it:
In verse 17, the young man said to Jesus, “Good Teacher.” Now in verse 20 he says, referring to Jesus only as, “Teacher, he says, all these I have kept from my youth” Such is the power of the human to be deceived. No longer does he refer to Jesus as good teacher. In Jeremiah, we are told, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?”
Note the contrast between the assessment of Genesis and this young man: “the thoughts of a man’s heart are only evil continually” we hear in Genesis and the young man in our text says, “all these I have kept.” In the young man’s words we hear a perfect example of self-righteousness.
And see the supreme irony that the young man is standing in front of the only Son of Adam and Eve who can make that claim and be right in it. For Jesus truly did keep them all from his youth! But the young man is not ready to see that Jesus stands apart from him in this, that Jesus is “good” in a way that he is not and never could be.
Also strikingly, when the answer comes back, “all these I have kept,” Jesus does not scorn or shame the young man. Our text says in verse 21,: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him”. He pities the young man’s great self-deception and in love gives him the gift he needs most. Jesus takes the Law in hand again, this time unpacking the First Commandment: “You lack one thing.”
And what was that? You can almost see the young man leaning in, listening, and waiting for the one more thing he could do to secure his eternal future. “Just tell me,” his eager face declared. But then the shocking words of verse 21: “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”.
Whoa. Wait a minute. The disappointment and horror are written across the young man’s face. A wealthy young man who had lots and lots of stuff. A man who could not see selling all of it. A reasonable amount given away to the poor, yes. But all? What kind of a person could do that? Would do that.
Could you and I do that? Suppose the Lord Jesus Christ were to visibly stand before us today and say to us, sell ALL that you have, give to the poor and come, follow me. How would we respond? As individuals and as a congregation????
Would we be willing to sell our homes, our campers, all our other toys, cash in our 401 k”s, our bank accounts and give it all to the poor? Maybe? No?? Yes??
Ah, but look upon who it is who is issuing this invitation. There stands Jesus, the truly wealthy one—and the truly Good One. “Though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor so that through his poverty we might become rich”, we are told in Second Corinthians.
Jesus invites the young man to leave all his stuff behind (stuff he will have to leave behind when he dies anyway) and follow along with Jesus as he goes to his cross—where our Lord will give away all that He has to us poor sinners, where He will make his unbroken “yes” to the will of the Father, his absolute keeping of every commandment.
Where he will gain for himself treasure in heaven, not the blessings which are already in heaven because they are His, but the treasure He will gain is —you and me—by suffering and dying to forgive our sins, including our sins of forgetting again and again that He alone is our true and lasting treasure.
All the young man sees in that moment is his own failure. True, he had not kept all these commandments, for he had not kept even the First Commandment, Thou shalt not have any other gods.”
If we cannot keep the first commandment we certainly cannot keep the rest of them, remembering what we are told in James, ‘whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles14 at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”15 This young man had let his stuff become his god because he had violated the First Commandment. And seeing only his failure, he walks away sad.
That is how it ends with all who think that what they do is how they inherit eternal life. They end up walking away sad. Because, of course, they cannot inherit life that way, and so they believe that there is no life for them.
But how wrong they are! Eternal life is a gift. It cannot be earned. It cannot be deserved by any sinful human being. Jesus came to give it freely to poor sinners who confess they could never do enough to deserve it, for they have been sinful from their youth.
Oh, people loved by God, how utterly unnecessary for us to walk away sad from Jesus because He shows us that we have not kept the commandments. How much better to stay on our knees before him and beg for his mercy precisely because our heart is sinful from our youth!
How much wiser to admit that we have had (and sadly still have) other gods and that we are entirely too attached to our stuff and to beg the mercy and forgiveness of our King! And it is not just stuff that sometimes becomes our god, it can be anything which we put before God.
How much more blessed to join the wise thief on the cross and say to our King who died to cover all our sins: “We are only getting what we deserve, but you have done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” For then we, too, will hear with the thief the shocking words of grace from the lips of our Lord: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”
A peanuts comic strip from way back when featured Lucy telling Linus how she was intending to grow up one day and be a queen and live in a big house and even wear her crown while swimming! Linus shatters her daydream with the sad news that you have to be born into a royal family to be queen.
Lucy gets very angry and announces that she intends to work very, very hard and makes lots of money so that she can buy herself a queendom and kick out the old queen….so that she can live in a very big house and wear her crown while swimming.
Like Lucy and like the rich young man who came to Jesus, our temptation is to think that by working very hard we might finally be able to placate God and earn our way into heaven.
But God teaches us that while the Kingdom cannot be earned or deserved by any of our efforts, or bought with money, it is a gift which He delights to give us.
Despite the fact that we could never earn or deserve it, Jesus gives eternal life as a pure gift, “not by works,1 so that no one can boast.” As we come before our King today and he puts into our mouth his body given and His blood, poured out for us and thereby we have the assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, and He gives us right now a foretaste and promised guarantee that eternal life is and will be ours.
For As the Only Good One, Jesus delights to bestow what cannot be inherited or earned by any of our doing. And for that, be all glory to the Father, and to His beloved Son our Lord and Savior now and to the ages of ages!
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.
October 3, 2021 19th Sunday After Pentecost
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, we have gathered to thank and praise You and seek to grow in our walk as Your children. To that end, bless now the proclamation of Your holy Word, grant that we might increase in knowledge and commitment. This we pray in the name of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Grace, Peace and Mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as
recorded in the Old Testament Lesson for today from Isaiah chapter 55. The lesson begins with these words, “Seek the Lord while He may be found.”
Did you ever have a cat or dog that you let outside, and it did not come back for a long time or perhaps it never came back. In such a case someone may have come to you and said, “where is your cat?” The answer was probably something like, “I don’t know he has been gone for a week now.
Maybe there has been a screwdriver or some household item, which you do not use every day, then one day you go to get it, you go, of course, to where you believe it is and it is not there. Again, the statement may be if someone asks what you are doing, Oh I am looking for my screwdriver, but it is lost.
The fact of the matter is, the cat and the screwdriver probably were not lost, they were someplace, they appeared to be lost because you did not know where to find them.
Is our spiritual life like that??? Time and again we are told to seek the Lord, the problem is that for many who have found Him they seem to want to put Him somewhere so that when they need Him again, they will be able to find Him.
Many have tried to keep Him in the Bible, some have tried to keep Him behind the Altar Rail, as we search God’s Word this morning may we learn that this is not what is involved in FINDING GOD.
Our text is a call to action, seek the Lord. We dare not say, I will do it tomorrow. We are told to seek Him while He may be found, while He is near. Some people go through life believing that when trouble comes, or especially when they are near death that then they will seek the Lord, then they will truly call upon Him.
We must remember however that there is evidence in Scripture that at times God removes Himself. There comes a point where God says, enough! In our individual lives we do not know when that point may be reached.
Now, lest someone here begin to believe that God has withdrawn Himself, that we perhaps have already gone beyond that point where He is available. There is Good News, through this very service, through our hearing His Word, He is reaching out His hand, He is at this very moment seeking us.
How do we respond? Do we hear His voice, do we see His outstretched hand and go away from this service, leaving the Almighty God standing there?
We have all heard sermons before about seeking the Lord, we have been told that this is something we must do, but were we told how to go about seeking the Lord? And if we were told, do we remember what we were told? In Isaiah 34:16, we are told, “Seek and read from the book of the Lord.”
Yes, we are to seek God in the words of the Bible. How many here have a bible or perhaps more than one in your homes and it is never read? If the Bible is on a shelf gathering dust, so is our faith gathering dust. Perhaps you will once in awhile dare to venture to the Bible class, but do you come out of a sense of duty or do you come truly seeking the Lord.
In the familiar words of Matthew 6:33 our blessed Lord Jesus says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” To seek the Kingdom of God means to live as members of that kingdom. We seek to provide ourselves with money, food, clothing and other things. Again we get it backwards for Jesus says in the rest of Matthew 6:33, “All these things shall be yours as well.”
Now this does not mean that if we seek the Kingdom of God that all necessities of life will be dropped in our laps, we will still have to work, however the struggle will be eliminated as we will realize that we already are members of the Kingdom of God and God will provide for His children.
We are to seek the Lord through prayer as we hear in the 9th chapter of Daniel, “I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and supplications.” As we are told in the book of James, Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray,… is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray… pray for one another…(James 5)
And of course from Philippians, chapter 4, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Where else are we to seek the Lord? Listen to Psalm 27, “ One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”
For us we seek the Lord in this house, in the ancient liturgies and in His Holy Word, in the hymns, all of these things blend together so that we may see the beauty of the Lord.
In addition to seeking the Lord our text tells us “to seek Him while He may be found. “ We are told in the book of Hosea, “It is time to seek the Lord that He may come and rain salvation upon you.” (Hosea 10:11) And from the 6th chapter of second Corinthians, “Now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Let us not put off seeking the Lord. We may never have another opportunity. This is not some type of scare tactic, this is the stating of truth. Remember the parable of the rich fool told by Jesus, the rich fool said,
‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you,” (Luke 13)
You see we do not know if there will be a later for us. In addition, seeking the Lord must be a continual activity. It is not a one-time thing. People are always seeking the answers to many problems, this is why there are such things as marriage seminars, peace seminars, drug seminars and on and on……people would find the answers they are seeking if they would only first and forever seek the Lord.
Many seek the help of the Lord without actually seeking Him. Here again things are reversed. The words of Psalm 14 apply as we hear, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” And the sad answer is found in Romans chapter 3, “No one understands, no one seeks God.”
The remaining question is, when we seek the Lord, will we find Him? There are many who go through the outward motions of seeking the Lord but their heart is not in it. This is what we find in the 29th chapter of Isaiah, The people were engaged in outward forms of worship.
They were seeking the Lord but not finding Him because they were not seeking Him with their hearts. It is to these people that these words were spoken, “this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,.”
And so according to Proverbs 1, “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.” This is the Almighty God saying , Forget it. I came to you and you refused me.
Finding God is impossible for those who refuse to seek God with their entire heart. Only when we confess our sins without end and repent for not seeking God above all things only then do we receive the beautiful promise recorded in Jeremiah 29, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with ALL your heart.”
Upon finding God, we will have what the world even unbelievers are really after and that is happiness. The Psalmist said, “O how happy is the one who seeks Him with his whole heart. “
Our road map, for going through this world and getting out of this world is God’s Word but it appears that many who claim to be Christians have lost the Bible. When they go out into the world, they do not take God’s Word. God is the one Who rescues us and leads into the light. Now are we going to refuse to be rescued by Him??? The answer is yes if we never search His Holy Word.
It does not matter what we have done in the past. God is standing here this very day, this very hour with His hand outstretched , full of grace and mercy, ready for those who are seeking Him with their entire heart.
Our Lord says to us, seek and ye shall find. Are we seeking? If we ae truly doing that they we will find Him. We just sang in the sermon hymn, “ finding, following, keeping, struggling, Is He sure to bless? Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs, Answer, YES!
You and I are able to add our names to that list, for we know that He is sure to bless. May we leave this service dedicated to not just seeking God once a week through the worship service, but rather dedicated to a daily even an hourly seeking our God for when we do that we are daily and richly blessed in FINDING GOD!
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding truly keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever.
September 26, 2021 18th Sunday After Pentecost
Merciful and Gracious Father, bless us now as we hear Your Holy Word. May it truly be for us the Word that calls us from sin, that guides us in the way we should go and brings us the assurance of forgiveness and life everlasting in the kingdom of heaven. This we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Our message for this Day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 9 th chapter of St. Mark, hear again the words of the living Jesus from verses 49 and 50,
“everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
This far our text.
The American people are having a love affair with their own bodies. All you have
to do is look at advertisements in the newspaper, or on television and you will be
constantly reminded; to lower your cholesterol, avoid sugars and trans fats among
other things. It is good to do these things.
There also people who are on a salt-free diet. There are salt substitutes for those
who believe they need something to replace the salt. And after this substitute has
been used long enough a person forgets what real salt is like. Sad to say, but we
find the same thing within the church which bears the name Christian.
Within God’s house, people are on a salt-free diet and that is not a good thing.
They have substituted something else for the salt with which Christians are to be
salted or they are simply not using salt at all. And they have used this substitute or
nothing for so long that they no longer know what the real thing is.
As we go through God’s Holy Word this morning, may we learn above all else,
that in our spiritual life, there is NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SALT. In fact, we must
be saturated with salt. Not the earthly salt in a box, but the spiritual salt of God’s
The disciples came to Jesus with a problem saying, “Teacher, we saw someone
casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not
Looking at the statement by JOHN, we should ask, what was the problem? Why
did the disciples stop the man from casting out demons in the name of Jesus?
Indeed, we find that Jesus did not see a problem as He said, “Do not stop him, for
no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak
evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.”
The man was casting out demons in the name of Jesus and so he was obviously a
believer, he was a Christian, since the demons were being cast out.
This man was doing the work of God just as the disciples were to be doing. So the
disciples should not stop this man or anyone who is doing what Christ has
commanded. There is a message here for us.
Many times Lutherans are so concerned with their own system of worship that they
will not have anything to do with Christians who have a different system. This is
not saying that we should all become one giant church. We believe the Lutheran
distinctives are the proper ones and so we follow them; to do otherwise would be
to go against what we hold as truth and that would make us hypocrites.
However, that does not mean that people in other denominations are not also
Christians. Do we not recall the passage from Scripture that tells us, “by their
fruits you shall know them?” It is not the name of the church which is important
but what matters is that the True Word of God is proclaimed within the church.
If people are being saved within another denomination and that is possible if the
true Word of God is being proclaimed, then praise the Lord; those people are with
us because they are doing exactly what we are doing or what we should be doing,
they are sharing the Gospel of salvation.
Jesus then says in our text, “For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of
water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.”
Jesus says anyone and that means anyone.
If anyone receives us, if they are kind to us, they will not lose their reward,
however notice the qualification they must do it simply because we are Christians
and for no other reason. Anyone who does this is probably also a Christian for the
world is not likely to be kind to us because we are Christians, if anything the
opposite is probably true; the world will reject us and scorn us simply because we
The next section of our text could be called “warnings about hell.” Jesus begins by saying, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it
would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he
were thrown into the sea” When Jesus talks about a little one, He is referring to
all who have faith in Him as He also said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change
and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
A child like faith is descriptive of those who accept and believe in Jesus without
questioning. We are able then on the basis of our text to say, any person who
causes a believer to sin, it would be better for that person if they were thrown into
sea. And this is not only speaking of those who openly oppose Christ who lead
believers into sin, it is also speaking of those hypocrites within the church who
lead believers into sin.
Here is a message for all denominations, all preachers and teachers who are
causing believers to sin. Any organization, whether of the world or the church
which advocates things contrary to the Word of God it would be better for the
people who make up these organizations, to have never been born. So it is for the
supreme court justices who approved same sex marriage and for all judges or
anyone who sets themselves above the Word of God.
The reason is because as people who have led Christians into sin, they will face the full force of the judgment and condemnation of the Almighty God. And the
message for us is that we must avoid those who would lead us into sin, for if we
willingly enter into sin, if we reject the salt which is God’s Word, we too shall face
To avoid such sin and condemnation, Jesus speaks of cutting off the hand, or the
foot or removing the eye. Certainly, He is not speaking about actual physical
dismemberment, what He is saying is that we are to get rid of that which hinders
our being in a closer relationship with our God. What He is telling us is that we
need to sacrifice whatever is necessary so that we do not lose our eternal salvation.
You see, these verses are all about the choice between heaven and hell, between
life and death and actually between following Jesus and following Satan. Go into
the majority of churches today and you will not find the teaching which our Lord is setting forth in this Gospel. Many, many churches today do not preach or teach
about life and death, heaven and hell or sin and grace.
They speak of life, heaven and grace. This is not the Gospel which is to be salt, it
is a substitute, it is a weak Gospel which does not have any preserving or
seasoning qualities. It is salt which has lost its saltiness!
When you go home, search the Scriptures and you will that the strongest words
regarding hell came from the lips of Jesus. You will also find something else;
when Jesus is speaking about hell, He is speaking to either His disciples or those
who profess to be religious, but He does not speak about it to those who are outside of religion.
To those who had faith or to those who at least professed to have faith, Jesus spoke of hell and to those without faith, He spoke of heaven. The counterfeit churches of our day have turned that around. They speak of heaven to those in the pew and to those in the clutches of Satan they speak of hell. And this is the way those in the pew like it, is that not true?????------------------------------
Oh yes it is! You would much rather hear about grace and about heaven than
about sin and hell. It has been said that the doctrine of hell should be preached in
all its terribleness.
It is not kindness to spread a pretty covering of leafy branches over a pit into which many have fallen and broken their necks. That is the devils work as he hunts the world for souls. But it is not the business of preachers to ruin peoples souls in order to spare their feelings.
For those of us who are partakers of Christ we need to be reminded of what is
waiting for us if we fail to remain faithful to Christ. If we lose our saltiness.
And those who have never tasted the goodness of the Lord need to be shown what awaits those who have faith in Jesus. Yes, they also need to hear about sin, and this is why with Christians and non-Christians alike we are always to use the full counsel of God’s Word for the entire Bible is God’s salt.
The reason for speaking so descriptively of hell to Christians is to draw them into
an ever closer relationship with God. Then Jesus concludes our text by saying,
“everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its
saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at
peace with one another." The age old argument about whether salt may become
un-salty and still be salt is immaterial here.
The point is that the disciples are to be the salt in the world, but if they are salt in
name only, what good are they? To be salt in the world, we must have salt within
ourselves and if we have this salt, then we will be salt in the world and we will be
at peace with one another.
We are to be salt for our own preservation and so that we might through God’s
Word see that others become salt, not only for the preservation of Christians but to retard the spread of sin in the world. If there was ever a time when the world
needed the salt of Christianity it is now. The world is becoming ever more soiled
with sin and left to their own devices; the non-Christians have no way to retard the spread of sin.
If we think the moral fiber of the world and of this country is continuing to decay,
think what would happen if Christianity would be totally removed. The decay of
society would then become complete. And a world without the salt of God’s Word
would be completely unbearable and unlivable, for that would truly be hell on
We became God’s salt shakers when God gave us faith, however, salt shakers are
also of no value if they are empty. It used to be when people went on vacation
they would collect salt shakers and then bring them home and put them on a shelf.
They make nice decorations, but they are of no use. Too many churches are filled
with empty saltshakers. They make nice decorations in the pew, but they are of no value because they are spiritually empty. They are not salting the world with the Word of God.
In a few minutes we will once again have the opportunity to be filled with salt.
Coming to the Lord’s Table we will be re-salted. God grant that we may ever
remain more than nice decorations.
You and I know what the real salt is, it is the Word of God, faith in the Lord Jesus
Christ. May we have the courage to live as the salt in the world, for in checking
the spread of sin in our own lives and in the world, in matters pertaining to the
soul, to our eternal salvation, to the eternal salvation of all people---------------------
there is NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SALT, that is there is no substitute for God’s
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts
and your minds in on Christ Jesus and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.
September 19, 2021 17th Sunday After Pentecost
Let us pray: O Most Gracious Father, we pray that you would cause Your Holy Spirit to move among us that we receive a true understanding of Your Word. May we truly become Your servants in this place and may we serve You for all of eternity in the heavenly home You have promised us through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Our message for this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Old Testament Lesson, the 11th chapter of Jeremiah, hear again from verse 20, “O LORD of hosts…….. to you have I committed my cause.”
This far our text.
The Psalmist prayed to God, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” In these words we are given two applications which comfort Christians while in this land shadowed by Satan, veiled in the sins of man and darkened by death. These two applications are with us in this fallen world in which we live as we journey from here to eternity and they are true for all Christians of all times.
The first comfort we hear from these words is that the Lord has not left us in the darkness we deserve, but He has given us His Word--- that Word which is “able to make (us) wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
In the Bible, we have that Law which reveals what Almighty God’s will is for what we are to do and what we are not to do, what we are to think and not think. For as Jeremiah said, the Lord God is the One “who judges justly and Who examines the heart and the mind.” You see, we can fool other people, but God knows the truth of what is in our mind and our heart.
Since we are not able to keep God’s Law perfectly as He absolutely demands, the Law accuses and condemns the Old Adam in each one of us. Make no mistake about it, every day we sin and God’s Word is true as it declares that the “soul that sins shall die.”
Even though we are not able to keep God’s commandments, God’s Law offers no freebies, makes no exceptions, has no loopholes and cuts no slack.
Then in Scripture, we have the blessed Gospel, the good news that God came into this world in order that we might be forgiven for all our sins. This is the message of salvation that began after Adam’s fall from grace and into sin. And, this Gospel message will continue until the world is no more. This is the Good News that speaks of God’s grace in a world of hurt.
For example, the prophet Jeremiah lived in a time and place where the forces of evil were all around him. Even though God had delivered the people out of bondage, the generations following that deliverance stopped hearing the Lord and listened rather to the voices of liars including religious leaders who no longer held to the truth of God’s Word.
The religious leaders preached a message of tolerance which enabled the people to engage in all kinds of sin. Many, many people rejected God and His Word and so suffered the temporal and eternal consequences.
We certainly are able to recognize that the world we live in is not so very different, as we are told in Ecclesiastes, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
We are told by those who live by and accept what is in opposition to God’s Holy Word that we must be tolerant. No we do not!! We must never tolerate those who spew teachings which are against God’s Word.
Even though Jesus came into this world to die for the sins of all, thereby affording peace with God the Father through the forgiveness of sins, and even though Jesus, True God and True Man, rose again from the dead conquering death and the devil, the generations since that time have stopped hearing the Lord.
Instead, with ears itching for something new and with an insatiable hunger for forbidden fruit, they listen to the voices of liars whether those liars be in the pulpit or in the pew, and we too have listened to those voices.
Religious leaders are still engaging in idolatry that is they no longer hold to the True Word of God. They permit and encourage that which is clearly contrary to the Bible, turning God’s Word into the opposite of God’s will, thereby attempting to create God in man’s image, according to man’s likeness…male and female they create him or her or them or it.
We, too, are capable of that. We are prone to taking our lives into our own hands. We would provide for our own security, peace and well-being. Our things, the world’s objects seem to give us the greatest security, peace and hope. We would put ourselves in the place of God. Indeed, we would be God!
We turn again to our first parents who faced such temptation. The devil came to them telling them that they could have control over their own lives. They would live not by the Word of God alone, but by the bread of the world, the things of the world.
They could take pride in the fact that they would be independent of God and they would find their joy in the world and its pleasures.
Such was the temptation brought to our first parents and such is the temptation that comes to us. And as Adam and Eve fell, we also all too many times fall. However, the Word of God has not changed as He said through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.”
In the midst of individual, corporate and national sin which is rampant in our country, it is the faithful Christian, the True Christian who prays, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” And, the true faithful follower of Christ seeks to live by the Word and in that Light.
While the first comfort we heard about is that the Lord has revealed His Word, the other comfort comes from the fact that not all areas around us are given light; that is, the lamp and light are only given for a small area around us---the path where our feet are.
We are not able to see everything that is happening or will happen. In dark areas to one side are the wicked men of the earth, lurking or in a more familiar term, stalking. How many of them were close to us this past week? We don’t know, do we? But we would most certainly be terrified if we found out just how many were so very close to us.
In the shadows to the other side of us is Satan, the prince of Darkness in whom there is no light and no truth. That, my brothers and sisters is a reality. Though certainly chained, the devil is nearby seeking someone to devour---someone who strays from the path enlightened by God’s Holy Word, and who while carelessly wandering about in the darkness stumbles into the camp of the evil one.
Such has happened with those who no longer come to worship and partake of the Sacrament of the Altar. Those who are failing to provide for their children’s Christian education have succumbed to Satan and are living in the darkness.
Those who tolerate that which is contrary to God’s Word have become followers of the Evil One. How much longer will we confirm children knowing that their parents are never again going to bring them to Sunday School or worship. What is the point of confirming them?
This is what we heard in the Epistle for today, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”
As we just said, on one side of us then we find the wicked men of the earth, on the other side is Satan and above us are all the devils in the world and below us, just under the skin of this earth’s crust are all those graves.
God in His mercy prevents us from seeing all this. You have heard people say, “Oh, I wish I knew what was going to happen.” Thank God we cannot know that for each one of us would die in an instant if everything suddenly became visible.
In God’s great mercy we are not shown what lies ahead of us in the shadows beyond our lighted path. For in those shadows there might be physical pain, the casket of a loved one, betrayal by family or friends, Alzheimer’s, cancer, loneliness---just an absolute flood of tears or guilt that weighs down. There are some things, many things, it is best for us not to know.
We are told in God’s Word, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this (doctrine).
So, as our blessed Lord said, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s trouble be sufficient for the day.”
Will there come a day of trouble? Yes, and we will know it when it comes. That day came for Jeremiah. There was a revolt against God among the people of Judah and Jerusalem. They knew that Jeremiah was the Lord’s prophet and the wicked men were out to get him.
So Jeremiah writes in our text, “The LORD made it known to me and I knew; then you showed me their deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know 2it was against me they devised schemes, saying, "Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, 3let us cut him off from 4the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more. "
Though this was a struggle and Jeremiah had to endure suffering, insult, hardship, lies and pain of body, soul and spirit, still he trusted in God and prayed, “O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who 5tests 6the heart and the mind, 7let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause..”
What is ahead for us?? Only God knows. If it is physical pain, we need have no fear for God is not punishing us since Christ took all our eternal pain of punishment upon Himself when He was crucified.
If betrayal should come upon us we need not fear Jesus was betrayed and He is faithful in His unchanging promise of grace and love. If some disease such as Alzheimer’s awaits us with the insidious possibility that we may not even know who we are, we need have no fear, Jesus has redeemed us.
He has called us by name, we are His as we are told in Scripture, “the sheep listen to the voice of Jesus. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” The voice of Jesus can pierce through the darkness of any disease that may engulf us.
God will never leave us or forsake us, this we know to be true for He has told us so in His Word. And we have the promise of Jesus that He is with us always even to the end of the age.
If in the future or even in the present if we find ourselves locked in prison or in a prison of addiction or sorrow, if we find ourselves in poverty, if we are gasping for breath or unable to move, Jesus will be there, He will be there to deliver us.
If we should find ourselves filled with overwhelming guilt, we need not fear but rather recall the Good News of God’s Word that Christ has paid the price for all our sins and by God’s grace we are forgiven of our sins. Let this Word of God dwell in you richly today and always and may you be guided by the Light of Christ.
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ Jesus and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.
SEPTEMBER 12, 2021 Isaiah 50:4-10 16TH Sunday After Pentecost
Merciful and Gracious Father bless us now as we hear Your Holy Word. May it truly be for us the Word that calls us from sin, that guides us in the way we should go and brings us the assurance of forgiveness and life everlasting in the kingdom of heaven. This we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy be to each one of you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our message for this Day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah, chapter 50, hear again from verse 8, “He who vindicates me is near.”
This far our text.
For all of us, there are times in life when the path ahead looks dark and difficult. There are times when we are unsure which direction we should take or whether we should take any direction at all.
These are times we are called into the darkness, and the darkness is frightening. When these moments occur, where do we find the strength to move forward? Our reading for today will put light on this.
The lesson for today is from Isaiah chapter 50. This is the third of what are widely known as the “Servant Songs” in Isaiah. In the Jewish world, there is debate as to whether the Servant is Israel, Isaiah, or the promised future Messiah.
But as Christians, we hear the witness of the texts themselves. Each of the songs paints a picture of the Servant. And with each successive song, one becomes more and more convinced that the Servant is Jesus, the Promised Messiah, who came into the world to redeem the world.
Listen to the depiction of the Servant in this song. In verses 4 and 5, the Servant is depicted as one who sustains the weary and listens. In verse 5, he has not been rebellious and does not turn away.
Verse 6 offers a stark description of the Messiah. He offers his back and cheeks to blows and does not hide his face from the mocking and spitting.
Undoubtedly, this is a picture of Jesus, who was beaten, mocked, and spit upon and who, through it all, did not hide his face or turn away as we are told in the 27th chapter of Matthew, (cf Mt 27:27–31).
And what does this Servant do amidst such obstacles? Verse 7 provides the answer. He sets his face like a flint and is not put to shame. This is a picture of Jesus encountering Satan during the temptation in the wilderness.
It is Jesus in the days leading up to Holy Week as he sets his face toward Jerusalem. It is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying that this cup would pass.
But after the night of praying and sweating blood, Jesus arises. He looks into the darkness and cries, to His Heavenly Father, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Lk 22:42).
There are times in life when our paths ahead may be dark. We are familiar with these times. Perhaps it is when a series of tests has taken place and the diagnosis is not good
Or perhaps it is more common and mundane. There is so much to do, and we are not sure where to start. In each case, we are similar to the Servant. The world is beating us on the back and pulling our cheeks, mocking and spitting on us.
All this reflects the human heart after the fall. In response, our own sinful condition will, at times, bring doubt and fears into our lives, and we question whether God really cares. The Stoics would have an answer.
They would tell us to endure. One of the most famous Stoics, Marcus Aurelius, once said, “Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it is endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it is unendurable, then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well.”
Or perhaps the Epicureans could bring some light. They would encourage us not to get too attached to anything in this world because someday it will all be gone. Just live for today. But that offers no hope, because a life without attachments brings no joy.
Sadly, many Christians will also tell us that the answer is simply to pray harder or trust harder. They will say that if we just find more strength internally, we can get through whatever struggles we face.
The Servant, however, provides an alternative way. The key is found in verse 8. It is here that the Servant says, “He who vindicates me is near.” We have already established that the Servant is Jesus. Why does he need vindication? Why is it important that the one who vindicates is near?
Well, for his own sake, Jesus did not need vindication. His standing before the heavenly Father was always secure. But for our sakes, when bleak times are ahead, it is important for us to find two things in God’s vindication of Jesus.
First, we should understand that the root cause of all doubt is our separation from God after the fall. There was a time when we walked with God in the “cool of the day.” We had no worries or concerns or doubts because God was walking beside us every step of the way.
We knew that we were his beloved. But when sin entered the world, we broke that relationship with God, and now we doubt whether God really does walk with us. A famous historian of the Reformation period relates that in his days as a student he was seriously bothered by doubts about the Christian religion.
He related his troubles to a minister and the minster told him, “If I were to rid you of your doubts and difficulties, others would soon arise. There is a simpler way of getting rid of your doubts.
Let Jesus Christ really be the Son of Almighty God and the divine Savior to you and no doubts will be able to disturb the serenity of your mind. The person who comes to the Lord Jesus Christ and says,
“Just as I am though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt Fightings and fears within, without O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” That person will find that the Lord will erase doubts and will fill the heart with a sure faith.
We should remember that God the Father sent the Servant into the world to provide vindication for his beloved. Jesus was fully human and fully divine, but he allowed himself to rely only on the promises of God’s Word.
While confronting Satan in the wilderness, there was temptation. Before heading to Jerusalem, he must have paused. In the night in the garden, he cried out to God to take the cup away. But God, who vindicates, was near.
And Jesus set his face like a flint and headed to Calvary. There, by his atoning death, he reconciled us to God the Father, restored that relationship we broke. So now God is with us, walking with us, again.
The cure for dark times is to remember that this same Jesus, the Servant, has walked before us. He who needed no vindication nevertheless trusted his Father to do just that, to declare him the very Son of God by raising him from the dead (Rom 1:4).
Christ—obeying his Father perfectly, dying in our place, rising from the grave—has done everything; we need to do nothing. And now we can trust the same promises of God that Jesus trusted—that in his time, God will vindicate us, declare for all to hear that we are his beloved children.
When the guilt of sin is overwhelming, remember that he who vindicates is near. When the diagnosis is not what we have hoped for, remember that he who vindicates is near. When the work ahead seems daunting, remember he who vindicates is near.
God, Who Vindicates Us, Is Always Near.
For Christians, that is those who have real abiding faith in Jesus, our victory happened when the Servant broke through death and won eternal victory. Even in our sins, even in our doubts and the very real troubles with which a sinful world assaults us, he has vindicated us, and he is near.
Perhaps you have heard the following phrase. When I was younger it was in common use. When a group of people are going to get into a car one person will claim the front passenger seat of the car with the phrase, “I’m riding shotgun.”
It is a rather curious phrase, with an even more curious history. For those who do not know that history. It was back in the days of stagecoaches and stagecoach robberies; two people would ride up front. The driver controlled the horses and spent his efforts making sure that they worked as a team to pull the stagecoach.
But the second person, sitting right beside him, watched for potential bandits and other bad guys. Sitting on his lap was his firearm. He was riding shotgun.
Sometimes when the road ahead was precarious, the driver’s concentration could be so focused on the task at hand that he might actually have forgotten that his partner was near.
But the sidekick never left. Through all road and weather conditions, he protected the driver, the team, the stagecoach, and the payload. In our text we hear, “He who vindicates me is near.”
Even when we get busy with life, when we are afraid or troubled or threatened, when the truly wicked one is hot after us, God is riding shotgun, for He is watching out for all those enemies that would destroy our God-given faith.
He will protect us and get us safely to our eternal destination in heaven. So, when life gets too burdensome, when we are tempted to sin, enticed to follow a path away from God, when we leave God on the shelf,
let us forever remember and be comforted with the truth that He who vindicates, that is He who defends and redeems us our Almighty God is near. Remember the words of the old hymn---He walks with me, and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding truly keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen .
September 5, 2021 Pentecost 16
Let us pray: O Lord, it is with thankful hearts that we have gathered in Your house today. We are bold to pray that You would bless us again through Your Holy Word. Comfort us with the assurance of salvation and encourage us and give us the courage to share the good news of salvation with all those we meet. In the name of our Lord and Savior, we pray. Amen.
Grace, Peace and Mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our message this morning is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the Book of Acts, where we hear these words, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."
This far our text.
Our text is from the 4th chapter of Acts, and it is another account of the courage of the apostles. This time it is Peter and John. It is the story of how the early Christians told a message to their friends and neighbors. The message was not popular with the religious authorities, but it was such good news that they told it anyway and through the message many people were saved for eternity.
The account we are looking at took place near the time of Pentecost. We recall that on that particular day about three thousand people were brought to faith in Christ and beyond that we are told in Scripture, “The Lord added to that number daily those who were being saved.”
Then through Peter God healed a man who had been a cripple since birth. Peter and John continued preaching salvation through faith in Jesus and as we are told in Scripture, “many who heard the message believed and the number of men grew to about five thousand.”
When we add to the number of men, the women and the children who were also brought to faith, it is possible that the number of Christians easily numbered more than ten thousand. The Jews had a real problem.
Earlier in this fourth chapter of Acts we are told that the Jews “were greatly disturbed because the Apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.”
The Jewish leaders had Peter and John arrested. Then they had them brought before the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law and they began to question them with these words, “By what power or what name did you do this?” They were referring to the healing of the crippled man. Peter responded, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ whom you crucified.”
The admonition throughout Scripture is that God’s people are to be “strong and courageous.” This is what Peter and John were doing. They were proclaiming the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
They proclaimed this message to the people in the streets, to the religious leaders and to the civil leaders. They understood what we are told in Second Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
They were teaching as we hear in Scripture that “salvation is found in no one other than Jesus.” He is the One who came into the world to save us from eternal condemnation. That good news of Jesus has not changed throughout the centuries.
On our televisions it is possible for us to watch events as they happen on the other side of the world. We can transplant human organs. Computers enable us to do things we never thought possible. Scientists are involved in cloning.
And yet, and yet, the only way of salvation is still through faith in Jesus Christ. Who, other than God, knows what will happen in the future? Perhaps one day everyone will have their own personal robot to do all the housework and yard work.
Perhaps one day the secrets to eliminating deadly diseases such as cancer will be discovered. The possibilities are unlimited. But no matter what happens in any area of life, eternal salvation will still be possible only through true and abiding faith in Jesus.
There never has been, there is not now and there never will be salvation in anyone or anything other than Jesus of Nazareth, the only-begotten Son of Almighty God. We certainly cannot save ourselves.
From the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are told, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” We might be able to refer to someone as a self-made millionaire or we may speak of a self-educated person, but there is no one who is self-saved.
Salvation is not found in a particular religious system. As much as we might like to believe otherwise, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is not going to save us or anyone else. We might be listed as members of this congregation, but that does not secure our salvation.
Many who are in churches around the world today will find themselves in hell for eternity. The only way to go into the paradise of heaven is through real abiding faith in Jesus, not faith when it is convenient or faith which will not offend anyone.
The messages Peter and John were preaching was that Jesus gave His life as a ransom and that He had been victorious over death, over sin, over the world, over Satan and that this Jesus was alive. He was living in heaven and had gone there to prepare a place for all who would believe in Him.
The message is the same today. Jesus Christ is still risen from the dead, He still lives and reigns to all eternity. This is the message which is to be taken into all the world. What a beautiful, life-giving message the apostles were proclaiming.
And how different from the religious messages the people had been hearing. The people had been told that the only way to be saved was to be a Jew. And that meant among other things the keeping of over six hundred laws. It was a works righteousness religion.
In contrast to this, the Apostles were, in effect saying, “Look you don’t have to keep these laws. You do not have to observe specific religious holidays. It is not necessary to make animal sacrifices.
You do not have to be a Jew. None of these things will secure your salvation. What you must do to be saved is to believe that Jesus is the Christ.” Which is what we, in this congregation, confess every Sunday.
There was resistance to this message about Jesus being the only way of salvation.
In this section of Acts, the jewish leaders said, “To stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." We too can expect resistance to the Gospel message. Peter and John were warned to stop telling the message and in many ways we are also warned to be quiet.
The message of Jesus is resisted by those who forbid prayer in His name in the public schools. We are warned not to tell the message by those who have seen to the elimination of nativity scenes on public property. We have heard about these things before and there are many more examples we could give.
However, our emphasis today is in a different area. Much of the resistance we encounter in proclaiming Jesus as the only way of salvation is because of those within the church who teach that all religions are equally good and therefore we cannot say that Jesus is the only way of salvation.
There are Lutherans who believe that as long as people have some type of belief in some type of god, they are going to be saved. God forbid that anyone here believes that.
Such a teaching should infuriate us because what it is saying is that Jesus suffered and died on the cross for nothing. Such a teaching is against everything we are told in God’s Word.
In telling the good news to others, Peter and John risked being put in prison and even being put to death. They kept telling the message anyway. Eventually Peter was put to death and John was banished to a lonely island. But they had done what Jesus had commanded them to do and what He also commands us to do. There are risks when we tell the message to others.
We do not face prison or exile or death, at least not yet, but we may risk losing a friend or being estranged from a family member. This is a risk we should take not because we have to but because we want to.
If we have a friend or relative who needs a blood transfusion, do we say, “I certainly hope somebody gives blood”?
Again, if someone we care a great deal about, does not have enough food or clothing, is our response to wait and see if someone else helps them? No, in both cases we are going to do what we can to help them.
What about a friend, a neighbor, a relative who does not have faith in Jesus? We know that those who die without faith in Jesus are lost for eternity. Is this what we want for them? Do we want to know that they left this life headed for the eternal fires of hell?
Or are we willing to risk losing a friend, neighbor or even a relative when there is the possibility that in sharing the good news of Jesus, they might be brought to faith and so be saved. The question is, are we concerned enough about their eternal salvation to share Jesus with them, or do we just hope someone else gives them the message? Or do we think that for some reason God will overlook their denial of His Word?
This also applies to sharing the truth of God’s Word with those who are in unbelieving churches. Churches which accept all kinds of sinful teachings. You cannot be a true saved Christian and attend a church which teaches lies.
Remember what Jesus said, “a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:36-38) So people must decide to they love Jesus or the false church more.
Peter and John were bold. In our text the religious leaders made this observation about Peter and John, “they were unschooled, ordinary men.” While that was true from a human viewpoint, it was incorrect because Peter and John had been filled with power and understanding by the Holy Spirit.
That same Holy Spirit lives within us today and He has not lost any of His power throughout the ages. Therefore, the same power and understanding that Peter and John had is available to us.
But notice in our text what else the religious leaders observed, “They took note that these men had been with Jesus.” When you and I spend time with Jesus, it makes a difference. We are with Jesus every time we have private devotions, every time we open the Word of God. Every time we are in prayer.
In this worship service we are with Him and in the Holy Communion we are with Him. And the fact is that the more time we spend with Jesus, the bolder we will be in speaking of Him to others.
One way to speak of Jesus with others is to invite them to church. In fact, bring them. Tell a friend, neighbor or relative about Jesus. Tell of His love. Tell what He has done is doing and will do for you. To tell someone about Jesus is the greatest thing that we can do in this world. We cannot leave it to someone else.
What an eternal tragedy that someone we care about, maybe even someone we love might miss out on the joy and happiness of living with Christ in this life and in the life to come and they might spend eternity in hell because we fail to give them the message of salvation through faith in Jesus. We cannot leave it to someone else to tell them.
This week, pray for someone you know who is without true faith in Jesus. Pray that those in false churches will see the light of Christ. Tell someone the good news about Jesus, about His life, His death, His resurrection, tell them that He is alive and gives eternal life to all who believe in Him.
We can expect resistance, but we tell others about Jesus because we care for them, and we tell them with boldness. The boldness that comes through the Holy Spirit.
Wherever we live, people need to hear the Gospel. May God use us to spread that good news for the salvation of people’s souls and to His honor and His glory. May we say with the apostles, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.
August 29, 2021 (Ephesians 6:10-20) 14th Sunday After Pentecost
Let us pray: O Eternal God, bless the proclaiming and the hearing of Your Holy Word. Grant that we might go forth from this sanctuary to boldly proclaim the message of salvation. By Your grace, grant us the courage to live as Your children so that our joy might be complete. This we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Epistle, the 6th chapter of Ephesians, hear again from verse 13, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
This far our text.
Our opening hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” is one of my favorite hymns and I would imagine that it is a favorite of many of you. However, why is it a favorite hymn? In my case, it inspires me.
And, if we look carefully at the hymn, it really is a call to battle. For other lines in the hymn say, “Lift high His royal banner---The trumpet call obey---Stand forth in the mighty conflict---Let courage rise with danger---Stand in His strength alone---Put on the Gospel armor.”
This is a hymn for “soldiers of the cross.” And while I might wish that I could make some bold stand for Jesus and you may wish that as well, we have to be honest and admit that we have all had the opportunity, in fact, more than one opportunity, to stand up for Jesus and what we really did was fall flat on our face. Not only was our confession not bold, we did not even make the “good confession.”
By our silence, by our failure to stand up for Jesus and the truth of God’s Word, we have made another confession and that is that we have failed to rely on God’s strength, and we have instead relied on our own strength.
When we do that we are certain to fail for our conflict, our battle is not really with people meaning friends and neighbors, our text says we battle “against the rulers, against the authorities” and never has that been more true that it is our day.
Our text also says that we battle against “the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
That is we battle against the devil himself and his millions and millions of angels. For that battle we need spiritual strength and equipment. The most important thing for us to know and the hardest to accept is that those who rely on their own strength will never stand.
Many people are into strength building today. Almost every major sport from the high school level through professional competition requires strength building to be included in the process. The idea being that no matter what the sport, the stronger one is the more likely the team or the person is to win, to be able to stand and not fall.
Strength building has many advocates even among people who are not engaged in athletic competition. The reason for its popularity varies. Some people like it because being strong gives them a sense of power and well-being. Others like it because it helps them have confidence or gives them a sense of worth.
People might be impressed with physical strength, but God is not. God wants us to be strong, as our text begins, “Be strong”. However, it is not primarily physical strength that God is concerned with as our text does not just say, “Be Strong.”, it says, “Be strong in the Lord.”
That does not mean that body building exercises do not have any value at all. It means that their value is very limited when compared with what is of value to the true Christian. Being strong physically is much less important than being strong in the Lord as we are told in First Timothy, “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
People work so hard for physical strength and well-being and yet one day the body will lie silent in the grave. All the while they fail to see to spiritual strength and well-being for the soul which will never die.
The value of physical strength is very limited. There have been airplane crashes in which all the members of a college basketball team were killed; Another where a company of airborne paratroopers perished. It would be imagined that all of these people were in great physical condition, they were physically strong. And yet, their physical strength could not save them.
Not only accidents but also disease claims the lives of the strong as well as the weak, Physical strength is not a guarantee that one will escape sickness and most certainly physical strength cannot defeat death. The Psalmist declares, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
Physical strength might be a source of pleasure to us, but it is not a source of pleasure to God. God takes pleasure in a different kind of strength as the Psalmist writes, “(God’s) pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
One of the most successful devices that Satan uses is to have people depend on their own spiritual strength. An example of this is the account a young man named Paul who got a job with a service station. It was a good job except that Paul had to work on Sundays. One day the pastor went to see Paul and find out why he was not in church. The Pastor warned Paul about the danger of staying away from worship.
Paul’s response was, “don’t worry about me Pastor. I have a firm faith in God that nothing will shake.” But it wasn’t long before Paul lost interest in the church and in the Lord. After about a year he was no longer working on Sundays, but by that time he had closed God out of his life, and he was depending on his own spiritual strength. He was no longer strong in the Lord.
Consider your family and friends who are no longer coming to God’s house to be fed with Word and Sacrament. They might think they have faith, you might think they have faith, but Scripture warns us, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall.”
So, my heart breaks for those who are listed as members of this congregation, but they are not faithful in their worship of God. In fact some have not been here for weeks, months and even years. They are not being fed spiritually and so they are either dying or already spiritually dead. You see they be listed as members of this physical church but they are not members of the invisible church and that is what matters.
Next week, God willing, we will begin Sunday School and adult Bible study. By my count there should be 50 people in theses classes and the same number in worship and the same number at the picnic, However, based on recent attendance there will probably be 10 total in Sunday School and Bible Study, there will be 28 in worship and 22 at the picnic.
May God have mercy on those who no longer seek to know God’s Word, to be fed with the living bread from heaven and drink the of the living water which never runs dry and which alone satisfies our spirit for this is the bread and the water which is Christ Himself.
An obsession with physical strength can blind us to the fact that there is a spiritual strength with which we ought to be concerned. But even more deadly is the blindness of imagining that one has spiritual strength when it is merely confidence in one’s own spiritual ability. .Our own self-righteousness is our greatest obstacle to being strong enough to stand
The reason that our own strength, whether physical or spiritual, will not help us in the least is that our basic conflict as we heard earlier might at times be with other people, however, the real enemy is the devil and all his followers. That may include those we consider friends, it may even include our own family members because anyone who is not a follower of Christ is a follower of Satan.
Because the enemy is the devil, human strength is not effective in the conflict. To stand against the devil, we need spiritual strength and equipment from the Lord. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, Jesus overcame the devil not by the use of His divine attributes, but by relying on the Word of God.
On the cross when Jesus bore the sins of the world, He broke the devil’s hold on mankind. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the devil is powerless to condemn us. Have we forgotten those reassuring words of Scripture, “He who is in you is “greater than he who is in the world.”
Now the Lord provides us with His strength and the equipment that we need so that we can also stand, so that we can be victorious in the battle. Our text calls what we are given, “the full armor of God.” Did you catch that? It is not our armor, but God’s. God has given us this armor so that we might be able to stand, to withstand all the fiery assaults of the devil.
Look at what God has clothed us with; the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, a shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and on our feet the Gospel of peace. That is to say, God has given us that which will protect us from our head to our feet. And with that armor too many of us are content to just stand.
God has prepared us so that we will not be defeated in the battle, but we fail to enter the battle. We are content to just stand by and let others lift high the cross of Christ. In the sermon hymn we just sang, “the Son of God goes forth to war, A kingly crown to gain, His blood red banner streams afar----Who follows in His train? Brother, are you following the Lord Jesus Christ into the war? Sister, are you following?
The war, O redeemed of Christ is the battle for the eternal salvation of our own soul and the souls of all the people of the world. It is a battle we cannot lose because we are clothed with the full armor of God, however, we must enter the battle and this is why along with all this body armor, the Lord has given us “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”
God has given us that which will protect us and He has given us that with which we might slay the enemies of Christ and that weapon is nothing less than the Holy Word of God. Being equipped to survive and to defeat the enemy, we are told to “pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication”
Another blessing, we are able to speak with the Almighty God. As we enter the battle, we pray; we pray that we might be able to stand, which we will be able to do and we pray for the defeat of the enemies of God, and they will be defeated. In our text, St. Paul wrote to the congregation in Ephesus asking them to pray for him that he might be fearless in his declaration of the Gospel.
So, you and I need to pray for each other that we also might be fearless in our proclamation of the blessed Gospel. In the last chapter of St. Matthew, our Lord commands us, “go and make disciples of all nations.” God has not clothed us with His armor and given us the sword of His Word that we might remain in the pew. But that we might remain in faith as we go out into the world.
Whether we are young or old, healthy or fighting disease, whether we are rich or poor, all of us have had and will continue to have opportunities to stand up for Jesus. One day we will no longer need the armor of God; the battle for us will be over.
But as long as we draw breath on this earth, we need to “fight the good fight of faith” so that not only can we stand against the devil but just as importantly so that we will one day stand on the golden street in the glorious city of God, our heavenly home, where we will behold our Eternal God and there sing His praises for all eternity.
So, brothers and sisters, how goes the battle?????????????????????????????? Are you even in the battle??????????????????????????????????????????????
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.
August 22, 2021 13th Sunday After Pentecost
Let us pray: O most Gracious God, bless the meditation of our hearts, turn our minds to the truth of Your Holy Word. Grant that we might in this hour be moved to that place where we will more and more live as Your children seeking always to follow our Lord Jesus Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
The Bible has two primary doctrines, as we know, ---the Law and the Gospel. The Law is the Lord God Almighty’s holy will. The Ten Commandments are Law. The Law tells us and even more than that, the Law demands what we are to do and what we are not to do, what we are to say and what we are not to say, and even what we are to think and what we are not to think.
For example as we hear in Philippians, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.”
The first primary doctrine is the Law which is directed to the activities of mankind. The Law always accuses our old sinful self. Even one violation of one commandment, like a little white lie as lies are often referred to, even though there is no such thing, or some gossip, taking the name of the Lord in vain, one act of disobedience toward our parents.
No matter how slight we consider our sin to be, that one sin condemns us to everlasting separation from God and keeps us from the eternal paradise of heaven, for as the Scripture tells us, “Whoever keeps the entire Law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” Further we are told in Ezekiel, “The soul who sins shall die.”
That means that when we sin, “even a little”, we are as guilty under God’s Law as any serial killer or any heathen. And, each one of us has broken God’s Law. Time and time again, we sin. You know it. I know it. And most assuredly, most importantly, God knows it.
We deserve nothing less than God’s punishment and banishment, both in the here and now and in eternity. That is the good, perfect, holy and just Law of God and the Law kills.
The other primary doctrine of Scripture is the Holy Gospel. This is the Good News of God in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of all sins. This is God the Father’s gracious gift of salvation because of what His only-begotten Son did when He suffered and died on the cross and rose again from the dead.
The Gospel makes no threats, issues no demands and forces no obedience. It is God’s sweet, comforting, soothing message of complete pardon, full forgiveness, eternal life and the bestowing of salvation by and through His Word. Given through Baptism, and sustained in the Lord’s Supper, the forgiving Word gives, grace, mercy, peace, joy and life.
These doctrines, simple to know in terms of what Jesus said, were not, and are not at all easy to understand and acknowledge as true. The teachings were hard to take and many were offended by what Jesus said about Himself and why He had come into the world. So what causes people to be offended at Jesus? The Law or the Gospel????
This causes us to examine the scandal of Christianity. The offense is not the Law. For we find forms of the Law outside of Christianity. Human nature as it relates to God seeks to earn God’s favor by doing something and by being “good”.
Cain sought God’s favor by making an offering. His offering did not get the job done. Cain failed. Judas sought to undo his sin by an offering in the temple. But his faithless act only condemned him further and led him to die in his sin and suffer eternal death.
Even for those within the pale of Christendom, it is the natural inclination to try to earn one’s salvation. Indeed there are many attempts to turn the tables on God by putting Him in a position where He owes eternal life to the individual. Entire religious systems are built around a form of the Law, including Roman Catholicism.
Many religious groups demand that a God-pleasing decision be made. Adherents of another religious group are obligated to do penance to earn forgiveness and salvation. Still others slave under the ladder-climbing litany of progressive elevation. And even some here today believe that salvation is tied to church attendance and putting some coins in the offering plate.
In the midst of all this, people just like you and me, people whose days in this world are ticking off, which includes every human being, people ponder what eternal place will be ours when our last day on this earth is checked off.
The natural question is, How much does God’s gift cost me? What must I do to “earn” God’s grace? The question was put to Jesus in these words, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Just tell me what I must do to be right with God.
You see, people are not offended by a system of laws. What astonishes people is that they cannot do it, they cannot earn it.----------------- Why not??
Because, if eternal life and salvation are to be earned, then the Law of God demands perfection from our first breath to our last breath. We reply, “no one is perfect.” God replies, “No, not one of you is perfect.” If a law had been given which could make people alive then righteousness would indeed be by the law.
Brothers and sisters, the scandal of Christianity is not the Law, it is the Gospel. Jesus proclaimed the Gospel and “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?"
First there is the scandal of who Jesus is. This is the offense of the incarnation of the Son of the living God. Jesus is the One who came down from heaven, He is the one and only perfect man, the only one ever born without original sin. Despite what the church in Rome teaches, Mary was not sinless.
Jesus is the One who is “God of God and very God of very God.” Who was born of a virgin for our salvation. He is God with us. This is the Gospel and it offensive to many in the fallen world. Many of His disciples said, “this Word is difficult. Who is able to listen to it?”
Second is the scandal of the work of Jesus. This is the offense of what Jesus came into the world to do. Many want Jesus to be a new law-giver showing us how to accomplish our own salvation. But this is not why Jesus came into the world. He came not to be a law-giver but a sin-bearer. In that work, He paid the eternal price for the sins of all mankind, and therefore He bore the penalty for us also.
The Son of the living God satisfied the wrath of the Almighty Father in order that we might eat and never be hungry, that we might drink and never be thirsty. He descended into hell so that you and I would never spend a split second in that never-ending torment.
This is the Gospel and it is offensive to many in the fallen world. Many of His disciples said, “this Word is difficult. Who is able to listen to it?”
Next is the scandal of the Resurrection. Jesus speaks of His ascending back to heaven and knowing that the disciples were grumbling about this and about His teaching that he would die and rise on the third day, He says to them, “Does this offend you?”
That is, are you scandalized at this? This is the Gospel and it offensive to many in the fallen world. Many of His disciples said, “this Word is difficult. Who is able to listen to it?”
Fourth is the scandal of the Word of God. People are offended that God works through His Word and His Word alone to bestow faith. God also gives through that Word forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. As Jesus said, “The Words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”
The Gospel, the Good News, is that salvation is not by or because of our works, but only by the grace of God alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.
There is the Word of Christ in the floodwaters of Holy Baptism wherein we are in the words of Scripture, “justified by grace becoming heirs of eternal life.” There is the Word of Christ in the Holy Communion wherein He says, “Take eat, this is my body, take drink, this my blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”
This is the Gospel and it is offensive to many in this fallen world and sadly, this also occurs within the congregation of those who call themselves Christians. They leave the Lord when they change Baptism from the Gospel in which God bestows His grace to a law which mankind is fulfilling.
They neglect the true, clear Word of God in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar denying the Real Presence of the Lord where we receive forgiveness, life, salvation, peace and joy and they turn it into no more than another Law where we remember Christ’s death.
It is little different with many people today than it was when Jesus said that His Words are Spirit and Life as well as when He spoke the truth that “no one is able to come to (Him) unless the Father has enabled him.”
In Scripture we are told that “many of (Jesus)disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Oh, how we see the reality of those words yet today. Look at the church and you see this taking place because people are “offended” scandalized by the Gospel.
Lonely pews in the Sanctuary bear witness to the fact that many have gone away. Places at the Lord’s Table are empty. This should not surprise us for our Lord said, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Well there are certainly are many churches where He would not find true faith. For one cannot have true faith and accept that which is in contradiction to God’s Holy Word.
And what of those who have not left but still believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him? What of you?? Listen, for it is Jesus, our Brother, our Lord and our Savior who is speaking. He asks a question even of the faithful as they behold so many others leaving the presence of the Lord and abandoning the Body of Christ.
We are told in the first chapter of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We know then that the Word is Jesus, so Jesus not only asks this question of those who have left the presence of the Lord by failure to worship and those who have left him by failing to partake of the Lord’s Supper often as He commands, but He also would put the question to those who have left His Word.
It is a question which Jesus put not only to His disciples, He also puts the question to each one gathered here today, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” What a soul-searching question and it is also asked of those who still claim membership in this congregation and yet they are not faithful in worship.
Let us understand that even though we might come to worship every week, if we accept any teaching which is in contradiction to either the Law or the Gospel, we have already left the Lord. For as Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, (then, and only then,) you are really my disciples.”
Let each one of us hear the question once again from the lips of Jesus, as He says to us, “you do not want to leave too, do you?”
God grant that we might ever respond in the words which we proclaim every week in our liturgy, and we should echo every day of our life, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Indeed, to whom shall we go, Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life. He said so and it is therefore the Truth.
May the peace of God keep your hearts and your minds in and on Christ Jesus and Him alone, now and forever. Amen
August 15,2021 (John 6:51-69) 12th Sunday After Pentecost
Let us pray: O most gracious Father in heaven, we pray that in this hour we might be assured of the forgiveness of our sins. Feed us with Bread from Heaven that our souls might be filled and that one day we might enter the paradise of heaven to live with you and the Holy Spirit and your only-begotten Son in whose name we pray. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy be unto you from God or Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our message this day is from the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God as recorded in the appointed Holy Gospel, the 6th chapter of St. John, hear again the words of the living Savior from verse 54, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
This far our text.
From all eternity and forever, the Lord God Almighty, is in His heaven. From the Bible we perceive that heaven is up---up there somewhere. For a time and until time is no more, mankind---man, woman, child, is on this earth. From this experience, that is, from our life, we understand quite clearly that we are not in heaven, but rather we are down here and heading even farther down.
For awhile, but not forever, we today, are down here. God is in heaven, up there. Unless history ends in our lifetime, it will not remain that way forever, for it is most certainly true, it is a guarantee that on a certain day, whether that day be today or a day in the unknown future, we will lie down and for one reason or another we will be unable to arise.
And, if we are not able to raise ourselves up from even six feet under the ground to stand once again on this earth, is there any possible hope that we will one day physically be with God in His heaven---up there??
Left to us, the answer is, no. Even if we assemble all our resources and exert the greatest exercise of our wills and think only positive thoughts, and speak a million nice words, and do all the good works possible, we still will not be able to raise ourselves up to heaven. As Jesus said, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-- the Son of Man.”
Even if we could send a crew into the air beyond the atmosphere of the earth, the rocket will never reach heaven.
You might recall that a Russian Cosmonaut said on his return that he was certain that heaven and God did not exist because on his trip he never saw heaven or God. The problem was that he did not go far enough because such a trip is impossible.
We are well aware of the deadly, downward plunge of rockets and also the fall of mankind. Our best efforts at reaching heaven miss the mark and left to ourselves our aspiration to someday be with God in His heaven---up there--- is beyond us.
No one is able to ascend to God. We certainly know that and every day we are being convinced of it. Therefore if you or I or anyone else is going to be with God in His heaven, then God must come and make it happen.
Does God want us to be with Him in heaven? Does God want to make this happen for all people? The answer is in our text for today as we consider “Jesus---the Living Bread from heaven.”
The words of our text are the words of Jesus and in His words there is the Good News that is intended for all people to hear and believe and have. Not one of us alone and not all of us together could ascend to be with God. The Lord knew this from eternity and so He put forth the plan for our salvation and the salvation of the world before the foundations of the world came into being through His Word.
Before time ever began, we are told in Scripture that the Lamb of God was slain from before the creation of the world. The plan was that the Son would be the One who would come down and be the Savior of the world. It would not be the Father, it would not be the Holy Spirit, our Redeemer would rather be the Lord Jesus Christ.
Throughout history the minds of mankind have conjured a god or gods which they have taught came down into this world. The mythical gods of Greece and Rome came down to stir up trouble, to mettle in the affairs of man and to engage in competitions with one another where the people were simply pawns on a chessboard or puppets on a string.
And this is exactly what we are left with when leave the truth of God’s Word. The flight from truth is always in the direction of myth or more precisely falsehood.
But the Good News of the Son of the living God coming down to the earth to be Immanuel, God with us, is not myth. Rather this Gospel, like all the words of Holy Scripture, this Gospel is doctrine—true, unwavering and eternal doctrine.
It is true that God’s Son came down from heaven, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and made man. He was born of a virgin and given the name “Jesus” which means Savior.
When He was about thirty years of age, Jesus, the eternal Son of the eternal Father and also the Son of Man taught in a synagogue of Capernaum saying to those assembled in His presence, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”
There from the lips of Jesus we are told that He is sent from heaven, that He has come down to give Himself for the life of the world. This living Bread came down from heaven to expose His flesh to whip so that by His stripes we might be healed.
He poured out His blood and gave His body as the perfect sacrifice for all our sins. In response, we are told in our text, that the “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat"
It is a question of reason and in it there are two assumptions, one wrong and one in the direction of what was right. Their first assumption was that Jesus was only a man. He did not appear different than other men.
His hands were the same as any other carpenter who swung a hammer and drove a spike. His head bore beads of sweat. His feet were covered with same dirt as any other person who walked the dusty roads. He became tired, He was hungry. He felt the pain of the whip and the crown of thorns and the nails driven into His body.
The people who were arguing among themselves were looking with their eyes at a man and not hearing with their ears the Words of the Almighty God. They got it wrong and like so many today they imagine a different Jesus, one who is only human, but Jesus is Jehovah, He is God.
The second assumption is leading in the right direction. They, in effect, say, “Look in order for anyone to eat His flesh, He will have to die and be a sacrifice. Is He going to sacrifice Himself? For unless that takes place, how will this man be able to give us His flesh?”
Being a sacrifice is exactly why Jesus came to the earth. Jesus then says to the people, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
The question then becomes, how is the Lord able to give us His flesh to eat? The answer is, that He gives us His Word. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John we are told, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.’
And anyone who believes those words, has eternal life. This is the very reason the Living Bread came down from heaven. In Scripture we are told, “Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed.” He has been sacrificed and yet He is not dead.
He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. In these words from the Book of Hebrews, “when Christ was offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, (then it was that) He sat down at the right hand of God.”
Therefore listen, listen to the Savior speak such wonderful news for those who trust in Him, for those and those alone who have faith in Him, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Another way of saying this came from the mouth of Jesus after His resurrection, when He said, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Or, as we are told in Romans, “don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
In Holy Baptism we were buried into Christ’s death; That being so, we have already been raised spiritually. We have already been raised from spiritual death. We are spiritually alive and the second death has no power over us.
By God’s grace, our bodies shall also one day be raised to life eternal in heaven, not by our power but by God. We have the certain promise from God’s Word that the Lord Jesus Christ “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
That being so, we do not have to concern ourselves with ascending to heaven because our Lord also gives us this promise, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Heaven is our eternal destiny and it is proper that you and I should desire to leave this world and be with our loving God, even as we are told in Second Corinthians, “We are confident…. and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
For as long as we are in this world, not only will we have trials and troubles, sickness and sorrow disappointments and sufferings of all kinds, but more importantly we will never love God the way we should, we will never give Him the proper praise; in this life we continue to do that which is against God’s Word because we are still in a body of sin.
But once we enter the portal of heaven, we shall behold the living God and then we will not only be free from all the adversities, the pains and suffering of earthly life, but then, then at long last and for all eternity we shall love God the way we should, we will give Him all the praise and all the glory.
And, in heaven, we shall partake of the Living Bread from Heaven, who once descended to the earth so that we might be delivered from the earth.
“The hope of heaven is like the sun which as long as we keep it before us, casts the shadow of our burden behind us,” someone has said. That being so, rather than becoming entangled with and enticed by this world, let us ever look forward to our eternal home—up there--the city God has prepared for us.
May the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding keep your hearts and your minds sin and on Christ and Him alone, now and forever. Amen.
August 1, 2021 (Ephesians 4:1-16 10th Sunday After Pentecost
Let us Pray: Heavenly Father, when we hear the Law preached fill our hearts with godly sorrow realizing that we have dared to offend You. Make us despair of any attempts to merit eternal life. When we hear the Gospel comfort us with the assurance of forgiveness. Bless here and everywhere the preaching of the Law and the Gospel for the sake of Jesus. Amen.
In His great high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” This prayer Jesus prayed on the night when He was betrayed and yet in the face of the great agony which He was about to endure, He prayed this prayer for you and for me. It was a prayer which was offered in love for us. As the Son loves us so the heavenly Father’s love has taken hold of us through Jesus. There is only one Jesus and one Father. In Holy Baptism, the Father has made us His own children and by His grace we confess One true faith. When doubt is cast on any aspect of our faith, or if our faith is contradicted, in the least, this is heresy and with heresy comes division. We can look in the distance and see this happening or we can look closer to home among ourselves and see this happening. We see congregations torn apart by petty arguments. Others are bitterly divided over Christian preschools, building programs and new hymnals. Families and friends are divided, the pious are offended and the very souls of the weak are imperiled. Grace peace and mercy be unto each one of you from God or Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4, our text for today directs us to church unity, to how we should live what we confess and so our text begins with these words, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ”Threats to the Spirit-given unity are all around us, but the greatest act of being without love is to deny, distort or compromise the truth. In opposition to that, we are told in our text, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
We must take the threat of false doctrine seriously. The stakes are very high, in fact, eternal life itself, is in the balance. Before the Ephesians heard the Gospel, they never knew were they stood with God. They tried everything possible to bridge the gap between themselves and God. They tried living moral lives. They indulged in mystery cults. They tried the speculation and wisdom of Greek philosophy. Bu no matter how sincere their efforts, no matter how much good they did, they could not overcome that wall of sin that separated them from the holy, sinless God. Some of us know how they felt. We sometimes think that we are good people. We want to live positive lives. But then we also realize that all our human efforts, good living and positive thinking are to no avail. God remains silent and we feel alone. At times we feel that we are making progress as we seek to move closer to God, but then it is that our hearts whisper the truth spoken by St. Augustine, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. ”Our loving God understands how we feel and so by His inspiration these words of the second chapter of Ephesians were written, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. ”Here we find comfort, peace and freedom. In these words God frees us from uncertainty and from the endless grind of trying to make sense out of life and death by our own efforts, hear the blessed words again and note that it is all God’s doing---Out of God’s love He made us alive, by His grace, God has saved us. Life and salvation are not earned, they are the free gifts of God. We know that in the Bible the number seven stands for completeness and so listen to our text, “There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Seven times the number one is used to drive home the point that true oneness, complete unity with God and within the church is possible only through the one True God. God the Father has given us His Son, the Word made flesh and the Son has given His life that He might also give us the forgiveness of our sins. Luther says that we deal with this gift of the forgiveness of sins in two ways; how it is achieved and won and how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, but He has not distributed it there. Luther correctly notes that God delivers His gift in the Word and Sacraments and He does so continuously until the end of the world. When the delivery system is attacked the unity of the church is destroyed. For Lutherans, the problems of disunity must be addressed at the point of Word and Sacraments. When a church damages or destroys the delivery system for the forgiveness of sins by the misuse of the Word and Sacraments any hope of true unity is destroyed. The resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus Christ has given His church the gift of apostles and prophets to make sure that it would continue receiving forgiveness until the end of the world. These men were inspired by God to write, “the holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”To this day the gift of Holy Scripture remains our only source and norm for doctrine. The primary doctrine being what we just heard that we have salvation through God-given faith in Christ. And the gifts keep coming. Christ gives the church of every generation the office of the holy ministry—pastors and teachers who according to our text are “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” I am to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the preaching of God’s Word in its full truth and purity and when that is done then according to our text, this is done so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ “Nevertheless, having said that, it is the lay people who are to preserve the unity of the church. If you leave the task of preserving the doctrinal integrity to the clergy alone, it will not be preserved, souls will be lost and the church will die.
Unity will be preserved only when you listen intently to God’s Law and Gospel and when you come on a regular basis to the Lord’s Table to receive the assurance of the forgiveness of sins and witness to the unity of the faith.No one can look into another person’s heart, but unity can be seen, observed, kept and preserved in the outward confession of faith. This is why the Lutheran Church teaches and we as Lutherans agree that “it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with thedivine Word.”In these days of blurry denominational lines, of the disintegration of belief in the Bible as God’s inspired, inerrant and infallible Word, it is ever more difficult to maintain unity, but it is ever so necessary. Few issues have received more attention in recent years than church unity. Dialogs, mergers and even schisms have occurred on both the denominational and congregational levels. Developments on the national level go virtually unnoticed by the majority of people, but when the unity of the local congregation is shattered, the effects are felt by all.To keep a balanced perspective it is helpful to remember that the church in every generation has had to struggle with the problem of disunity. In addition to studying the Bible, it is helpful to observe how our forefathers dealt with the problem during the time of the German Reformation. Let’s go back to Luther. It is hard to imagine what was going through his mind as he secretly left the Wartburg Castle and returned to Wittenberg. He had to return. The church was in an uproar. Misguided reformers were teaching false doctrine, causing chaos, instigating riots, and destroying church property. So Luther went to the parish, entered the pulpit, looked out at the people of Wittenberg and said, “The summons of death comes to us and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone….therefore everyone must himself know and be armed with the chief things which concern a Christian. First, we must know that we are the children of wrath; and all our works, intentions and thoughts are nothing at all.
Second, we must know that God the Father has sent us His only-begotten Son that we may believe in Him and that whoever trusts in Him shall be free from sin and a child of God…Here we should all be well versed in the Bible. Next, we must have love and finally, we must have patience. ”Luther displayed an incredible trust in the power of the Word of Truth, to be more precise, He trusted beyond all trust in the power of the Law and the Gospel. And so it was that tranquility was restored in Wittenberg. Arguments at voters meetings, personality conflicts, disputes over policy, secret meetings, angry words thoughtlessly spoken, scandalous living, nonchalant attitudes toward doctrine, all threaten the unity of the church. And beyond that we cannot pretend to have unity with those with whom we are not united, for such is hypocrisy. It is the One Holy Spirit working through the One Word of God that empowers those of the One faith to follow these words of our text, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, ”People and religious groups which teach and believe that the Lord’s Supper is simply a memorial to the death of Christ, that the entire Bible is not the Word of God, that evolution is how the world was created, that abortion and homosexuality are acceptable, that it is okay for women to be pastors, that one may be saved without faith in Christ, that it is okay to pray to saints, that Jesus is not God, that we all believe in the same God, no matter what we call Him, that God will save all people, that faith means going to church once a month or so, All such doctrines are falsehood, they are abominations in God’s eyes and with such people we cannot have unity because they are not one with God and for us to pretend that we are one with them is a mockery of God’s Word. The Scripture admonishes us to "watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them." By God's grace we know the truth and we cannot exchange that truth for a lie.