Tag Archives: Advent

Unworthy, yet still saved in Jesus Luke 3 First Saint Johns Dec 6, 2015

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who hear John the Baptist’s words to warn those to flee from the wrath to come said … Amen!

It’s Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year when we remember the coming of Jesus, not just the first coming His incarnation, but we also think about His second coming, when the old will be destroyed and Jesus brings the new perfect world.

John the Baptist, some like to call him John the Baptizer, can well be talking to our generation as well as talking to the generation of the first century. John was an Old Testament prophet, he wasn’t playin’, he was there to make sure that things were set up for the coming of God the Son. He was quoting Isaiah, we often call Isaiah’s book the fifth Gospel. The Greek word Gospel means “Good News” and Isaiah was certainly telling the people of his time, five hundred years before Jesus’ coming, the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus’ coming. That the hope and promise of Yahweh, God the Father, would come and that they would have the hope and promise of reestablishing the relationship that Yahweh had with His people. The people of Isaiah’s time had been brought to the bottom. They needed this hope and promise, they were beaten, they were exiled, they had no expectation of seeing their homeland, Israel, ever again. They felt abandoned and lost, and they knew they were exiled for a reason. They knew that they had sinned against God over and over. They knew they deserved to be punished. By the same token, God knew that He couldn’t just leave His people in Babylon with no hope and He gave Isaiah the words to give them the hope and promise that He had not forgotten them and that they would be restored into the relationship they had with Him. But it wasn’t going to be right away. God wanted to make sure the lesson had sunk in. It seems that it had. Israel stopped looking for foreign “gods” we don’t see further evidence of people worshipping Baal or Molech or other pagan “gods”. By the time John made his appearance, they did seem to be patiently waiting for Messiah, the anointed one of God, to restore them.

This doesn’t mean that they were all nicely squared away in waiting. They let a lot of pious kinds of beliefs build up around God’s Word. Jesus certainly criticized them for letting their man-made traditions get in the way of God’s Law. Also the Jews expected that Messiah would come to drive out the Romans which was wrong. Jesus was not some Davidic king who would drive out the Romans and re-establish a Davidic kingdom, the height of the Jewish nation. Jesus came so that all people would know the true God, and to give them God’s Word and Will. Jesus came to live that perfect life, to be the perfect, wholly innocent sacrifice, He would be the payment of our sins. God is truly holy, merciful and just. God’s justice cannot allow sin, there has to be a penalty for sin. The only penalty that would be truly sufficient to pay for the sin of the world, was the sacrifice of His truly holy, perfect Son, who lived the perfect life, in order to be the perfect sacrifice. So the Old Testament preacher, John the Baptist, is sent to fulfill the first prophecy that in the spirit of Isaiah, the one Isaiah said would come to make his, the Messiah’s, path straight. Like Isaiah and the rest of the Old Testament prophets, John knew he hadn’t been sent to make nice, pat people on the head, tell them it’s all about “Your best life now” [Joel Osteen book]. John is telling them, no more playin’, it’s time to pay attention and know that God the Son is coming and will lead you back to a relationship with the Father in Him and John is not pulling any punches.

John quotes Isaiah saying: “…Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight … all flesh shall see the salvation of God…” [Isaiah 40:3-5]. His words, 500 years earlier. Now, it’s happening and it’s time to stop floundering around, making things up, living in denial. It’s time to either know who Jesus is and that a new generation, a new era has begun, or resign yourself to hopelessness and loss. There’s no other choice. John says: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Let’s take the second part first. John is saying, you’re not worthy to be here, who led you here in order to hear the words of salvation? If we are following God’s script, that’s really kind of a rhetorical question. If you know why you’re here, how do you know that? As Lutherans we know the answer to that. Who leads us to know Christ as our Lord and Savior and leads us to salvation? … The Holy Spirit leads us. We can’t know how to be saved, we don’t make that decision. We are too lost in our sin to know the holiness and salvation of God. John is the first to refer to the Holy Spirit, that Jesus will baptize us in the Holy Spirit.

Too often we read the Bible as being all nice and polite. But John’s first statement is flat out judgmental, oooh, that’s not nice, being judgmental. Yet here it is. Why is this so judgmental? A brood is defined as a family of young animals. So first Johns is saying that you’re just a bunch of not just immature, but animals. Not just any animal, he says they are a brood of snakes. Why snakes, why would that be especially compelling, even insulting to a group of Jews? What was special to them about the snake? … The snake was the form that Satan took to corrupt God’s perfect creation. The snake corrupted Eve and because Eve had fallen, Adam followed Eve and gave in to the temptation offered by Satan. Adam snubbed God and chose to give in to Satan’s temptation. The same with the people John is preaching to.

So John goes on to say. “OK, you may be here as a result of the Holy Spirit leading you here. If that’s the case, then you better start living up to that and repent of all your sins, and start to bear fruit in accordance with that repentance.” In other words, you need to start living your life in a way that glorifies God and justifies the fact that He has sent His Son to save you. Why? Because “…Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” John is saying that at this point, every one of you here is doomed to Hell. God has already condemned you and judged, oh, that bad word again, judging. God has already condemned your sin and your snubbing of Him will send you to Hell.

The people listening, have completely understood what John is saying and decided that they need to take him seriously. How do we know that? … The crowds started to ask him “What then shall we do?” It’s too early for John to say “you need to know Jesus as Savior.” Neither he nor anyone else there knows how that’s going to play out. But he does say, “start getting your life together”. Stop trying to live just for yourself and live for those around you, so that they will see that things are changing. John answers the crowd saying: “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food to do likewise.” Stop living selfishly, if you are in a position to help someone else give them something that they are in need of. The tax collectors and soldiers then ask John what they can do. Remember, these are probably the two most hated groups in Israel at the time. But clearly the Holy Spirit has moved these groups of men, who appear to be far over the boundary of redemption. No one wants them saved, yet John gives hope and promise to even the two groups of hated sinners. He tells them, stop ripping people off, stop trying to intimidate, injure and kill other people.

His listeners are now just breathless with anticipation, “…surely this has to be Him, this has to be the Messiah that God has promised us for centuries.” John sets them straight, that someone who will be much more then him is coming. He promises them that the Messiah to come will be that hope and promise. But in good Lutheran style, John warns them one more time: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” For those who are trying to convince us that Jesus isn’t serious about Hell, John is making it very clear. Jesus will come and gather the wheat, the good crop, gather those who are saved in Him into His “barn”, into heaven, to eternal life in the Resurrection. But, for those who are chaff, those who are not a good crop, not saved in Him, they will burn with unquenchable fire. The only place I know that is “unquenchable fire” is Hell. John makes it very clear, this is the default, which we are all in danger of, which is Hell. Salvation and true life is in the Messiah to come. That is the message I am telling you now. John then goes on to “preach good news to the people”. The Gospel of salvation in Jesus.

Advent is a time of preparation, our preparation as those who are saved in Jesus is always to the time when He will return, our resurrection in the New perfect World. Part of that preparation has to be in terms of being someone who will warn those around us who do not know Jesus “to flee from the wrath to come.”

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

Remembering our sin in preparation for the Child First St Johns November 30, 2014 Isaiah 64: 1-9

For the audio version of this sermon, click on the above link, or copy and paste it into your web browser. Thank you and God bless.

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who prepare for the coming of the Son in the new liturgical year said … AMEN!

Happy New Year, sounds a little weird, aren’t we supposed to have Christmas first and then have New Year? Today is the first Sunday of the church New Year, the time of Advent, the time where we wait in anticipation, our whole life is a time of waiting in anticipation of the coming of Jesus in the clouds of His power and glory. But for now we wait on the feast, the celebration of the coming of the Christ child. The Advent of His Kingdom in the world. We joined together in the Apostle’s Creed to remember that He will come again, to judge both the living and the dead. Those who have died in Christ will be raised to the resurrection the eternal Kingdom, the New Jerusalem.

Isaiah says “Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold please look, we are all your people.” (Is 64:8-9) Ya, Isaiah is addressing the Old Testament God. Remember Isaiah 6? Isaiah is raised into the presence of God: “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips… for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!’ (Is 6:5)? From the beginning of Isaiah to the end, our reading today, Isaiah is readily acknowledging the fact that we are sinful and unclean, we are simply not suitable to be in the presence of a pure, holy, God. Clearly God has revealed to Isaiah that we are sinful and there needs to be a solution to our condition. Yahweh makes it very clear to Isaiah that the sacrifices of Israel; rams, bulls, lambs, just doesn’t cut it. Read all through Isaiah 1: 10-15. But then what does God do? He promises that they will be made as white as snow… our sins will be like wool, nice and white, cleaned, made pure. He makes it very clear all through Isaiah’s book that we are sinful, and Isaiah is completely aware of his own condition. Imagine being brought straight into the presence of our completely holy God, just being overwhelmed by His holy presence, His Holy being and our being, the complete opposite, totally depraved and sinful. It must be an overpowering experience. Many people demand that God come into their presence, we couldn’t begin to cope with that, we would be consumed by our sinfulness in contrast to His holiness, we would be completely blown away and that’s why God won’t do it.

Until we completely internalize Paul’s words in our epistle reading: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus… who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ( 1 Cor 1: 4, 8) Only in Christ are we guiltless, that we can then be in the presence of the Father, totally righteous and holy, but only through our baptism-new life, we are made holy, we don’t have to be reduced to the fear and disgust that Isaiah felt. In Christ, in the Father’s presence we are lifted up to joy, we can rejoice. I have no doubt that it will be an overwhelming feeling of love and freedom in Christ, in the Father’s presence.

Isaiah is making a plea for restoration. He has been made completely aware of how unworthy he is, how unworthy we all are. Isaiah is no better or worse then we are, none of us is any better or any worse. Isaiah is making this plea that we can be restored. In what way are we restored? We can now be in the Father’s presence, we are no longer separated from Him, alienated from Him. We are alienated from Him because we are aliens in relation to Him. No we aren’t green or odd-shaped, we don’t have antenna’s in our head, but our nature, as Isaiah has been made profoundly aware of, is totally opposite to His. He is completely holy, completely perfect, we are imperfect and deeply sinful. Walter Roehrs in the Concordia Self-Study Commentary writes: “Isaiah devotes the remainder of his book to correct two misconceptions his hearers and readers are prone to harbor about the way God wants to lead them to glory.” I might add that this is the way we think today, probably more so, then what the people in Isaiah’s time thought. “It is a fatal mistake on the one hand, to … walk with God with one foot, and with the other to stalk through the sewer of sin.”1 That’s the way we think today, “I’m good enough, I haven’t killed anyone, there are others much worse than me.” So we continue to live our lives in this mind-set that I can give God what ever I decide and He has to take what I give Him and deal with it. God is not a half-way kind of guy, it’s His way or no way. How the world comes to another conclusion totally baffles me. Why should a perfect, holy God be happy with some scraps that we throw Him, bring us into His presence and just allow whatever phony, mooshy, sentimental whim we chose over His perfect being? Why would He let our lusts and greed overcome His Holiness. Through our sin, we’ve messed up what God created, away from Him, cutoff from Him. He drove Satan out of heaven when Satan presumed to be better than God, why would He let us in to do the same thing Satan did? He’s not and if you think otherwise, you’re only kidding yourself. Dr Roehrs writes: “Isaiah had to set Israel straight [and by extension us who are now Israel] on both counts. He [Isaiah] foretold certain disaster for a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity’ and so depraved as to lift ‘hands … full of blood’ to the Lord in a pose of prayer.” (Is 1: 4, 15)2 That’s us, and that’s not going to work in the presence of God the Father, but in Christ we become cleansed and pure and suitable enough to be saved to eternity in God’s salvation in Jesus.

Isaiah is acutely aware of the human condition in relation to God: “We have all become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

So what now, what needs to happen. Can we do anything that is going to make us closer to God, to make us more desirable, more deserving of being in His presence? No… But earlier in his book, Isaiah knew that God was going to move, to do something. It was going to take about 700 years, for us that would be intolerable! We want the solution, we want it now and well, if you can’t make it happen on our time table, we’re just going to have to get ourselves a new “god”. But in God the Father’s time, it is perfect, complete, not a band-aid fix, an eternal, complete, perfect fix: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:6) I like what David Johnson says: “…Advent is not just anticipatory of a saccharin sweet nativity story, but bona fide bitter judgment against sin! Heaven and earth collide and are mingled in Jesus! God and man! Jesus is wrapped in human flesh; the world is wrapped in divine grace…”3 The seasonal color for Advent is usually blue, although purple is acceptable also. What other season is purple the seasonal color? Lent. The blue, and some say it’s bluish-purple, is a symbol of waiting, it represents Mary waiting with the rest of the church for her child. But the more traditional color is purple and like Lent means a time of repentance, in the sense of preparing for the coming of the Savior in repentance, being prepared for Him by repenting of our sins. That’s why we don’t normally sing Christmas carols, which are celebration, we are faithfully preparing and repenting so that in the Christ Child we are saved and we spend the Christmas season in joy and celebration. Spend the Advent season raising up your sins for forgiveness, clean out your heart, like you clean your house on Shrove Tuesday and you will be prepared to receive the child on Christmas Day as we receive the risen Christ on Easter.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

1Roehrs, Franzman Concordia Self-Study Commentary p 490

2Ibid

3David A Johnson Concordia Journal Fall 2014 p 322