Tag Archives: Cross

Fear the world or fear God?

Seems like we’ve had it backward for a long time. Oh sure, the world can do bad, mean things to you. However, can it do anything worse than an all-powerful God who can not only allow your life to be tough here, but can just allow you to slide away from Him and into an eternal world of “wailing and gnashing of teeth”. (Matthew 13:42, 50)

Fear is just so prevalent in the world, despite all the technological advances, plenty of almost anything, fear is even more common. You see these people with their facial hair, tatoos, piercings, all intended to intimidate. What you find are these fearful little people who live in a constant state of anxiety.

The Blackabys’ point out “…Their fear hinders them from pleasing God because they waste their efforts appeasing other people…Fear causes us to stop and question what God has clearly told us to do.” (Experiencing God day by day p 34)

Just like all the other vices of the world, the ones that we are just so “free” in, (yea ask the next heroin user you see how “free” that person is. Same goes for alcohol, sex, money, power, yea sure “free”)

The question for me is how to I help people understand how real God is, how they should fear Him. “ESV Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Shouldn’t this focus people’s attention? This life is not all there is, there is an eternity. That eternity will be in Christ in the new world, the perfect life of the resurrection. Or it will be eternal separation and suffering. That is what existence is separated from God, if you reject Him, you are choosing separation, existence without the all-powerful protecting hand of God.

God does not will anyone’s death, He does not want anyone separated. But if you let your fears separate you from God, if you do not trust in His power, that He will save you from anything you are afraid of now, ultimately in the new world, then you have rejected life and allowed yourself to be separated, because of your fears and that you thought you could handle your fears alone.

I hope that you will pray that the Holy Spirit guide you from your fears, to show you true freedom in Jesus, that life won’t always be easy. But in Jesus we will ultimately overcome our fears. Say thank you to the Holy Spirit for guiding you from your fears and into Jesus.

Rejoice? Yes! But for what? Zechariah 9:9-12 First St Johns March 29, 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 rejoice in our Savior Jesus Christ and His sacrifice said … AMEN!

A local radio show a man was saying that he was in traffic around D C and they had just blocked off the lane that he was in and he had to get over. He rolled down his window and pleaded with a woman to let him in. He says that she just let him have it, every blank, blank, blank, what she thought about him and his mother etc. He did get into the next lane and ended up ahead of her and they were going into a toll booth. He gets up to the toll booth and goes ahead and pays her toll.

Yes today is Palm Sunday, it is the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We also have to remember that today is Passion Sunday too. Yes, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem, no doubt the disciples were convinced that this was it, that Jesus was finally going to make His move and restore the kingdom and that they would be on His left hand and His right hand ruling over the new Davidic Kingdom. They had no thought whatsoever of how it would really turn out. The week started in triumph, but it would end in what they probably thought at the time was disaster. There weren’t going to be any cheers, no one was “hosannaing”, cloaks weren’t being laid in front of Him. Instead, He was dragged through an all night trial, the beating began, he had no sleep, no food, no water, thrown into a cell, beaten again. The next day He would be flogged, excruciating torture, forced to drag a rough wooden cross through the streets of Jerusalem, being jeered and hounded. Finally nailed to a cross, left hanging, no mercy, suffering in front of all these people that had been cheering Him a week ago. Instead of cheering they were jeering, they were mocking Him, we can only imagine what else to make His anguish on the Cross even more wretched.

The man in the car could have driven off, cut the woman off, been a jerk too. He didn’t, he showed this woman grace, no doubt when he drove away from the toll booth he felt the satisfaction that he did show her grace. I can’t say I’m as gracious as that, and I know I should be. After Jesus had been so despicably treated, He had every reason to just proceed along. Why would He have to do anything to save these miserable sinners who treated Him so disgustingly? Who could blame Him if He said “let those miserable sinners rot, why should I do anything else for them? He could have just driven off, and let us deal with our own fate, the fate that those who are not in Jesus all face. A life without Christ and an eternity of suffering, of separation from God, of torment.

Jesus didn’t leave us to our fate. God had decided earlier in the Bible to leave people to face the results of their sickening, sinful behavior. He pulled the plug on the world, found the only righteous man and told Noah to build an ark and to save creation for a new beginning. He decided to stomp on Sodom and Gomorrah for their appalling sin, telling Lot and his family to get out of Dodge.

But that wasn’t the plan going forward, that wasn’t how Jesus, God the Son, and God the Father and God the Holy Spirit decided to leave things. They would save us, by the sacrifice of God the Son. He was going to be the payment for all of our sins. He would not destroy the world again until He decides to end time in this world. He gave us a way to be saved, He paid the toll on His way through and not only that, but then returned. Friday He was shamefully treated, on Sunday He overcame our greatest enemy, not His, God the Son will never die, but we will. Jesus overcame death in order for us to live and not just life as we know it here, or life in some spiritual state in heaven. Jesus was resurrected on the Sunday after Good Friday not to perform some magic trick, not just to show us that He could, that since He is all powerful He can overcome death, but as a very powerful promise to us that we have the hope in Him that we too will be resurrected in our perfect bodies, to live in the perfect world where He had always intended for us to have that perfect life.

Now as we enter Holy Week, we have to take it as a composite and remember not just the triumphant entry, but how that will play out, that He will be abused by sinful men, and we are well served to remember that we are sinners just like them. Looking at verse 42 in our Gospel reading, that there are too many who forget Jesus today, some even here, many that we meet outside of this church: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue.” You can’t be halfway about Jesus, you can’t “believe” and yet still carry on in the world. You are either a confessed child of Christ here and now or lost. The world can’t save you, the world is doomed to destruction. We can’t put our agenda on Jesus and expect that He is there for our convenience and our plans. We are His, He is our Lord, He is our Savior, He is our resurrected God. If He is not the Lord of our life in the world, He will not be the Lord of our resurrection. He will leave us to our own plans and that can only result in eternal damnation.

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday, Holy Week are a composite of our life journey, we have to see it in terms of how the crowds cheered Him on Sunday because they expected Him to carry out their agenda and how they turned on Him on Friday. Martin Franzman lays out Holy Week very pointedly to us: “The sign of the resurrection of Lazarus has made Jesus a man of note, sought after by the Passover pilgrims in Jerusalem (John11: 55-57); Mary’s anointing of Him is a token of the devotion He has inspired in His own (John 12: 1-8); a crowd hails the King of Israel at His entry into Jerusalem (John 12: 9-19) Greek proselytes present at the Passover seek Him out ( John 12: 20-22) even among the authorities there are many who believe in Him, though they cannot find the courage to confess Him (John 12: 42-43). But to Israel as a whole the Word has been spoken in vain: Judas, one of the Twelve will betray Him … The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified (John 12:23)”[1]

We see the world glorifying Jesus because they think He has come to carry out their worldview, those who believe but want to see their agenda carried out and will then sign up with Jesus, the winning team. But Jesus clearly knows how this is going to end and He also knows why and it’s totally contrary to what everyone around Him wants: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified (23) The seed must fall into the ground and die before it can bear much fruit – life for the world is won by dying” (John 12: 23-26)[2] We think we know what is best, but in God’s eyes we haven’t got a clue. We have been born into this world as sinners, we have been brought to Christ, through His church, to be baptized, to be made His children. We take His body and blood, we hear the preached Word from His Word and live our lives in the church to be saved because of what He has done for us and to be given new and perfect life in the resurrection. Our friend showed grace at the toll booth to the woman who treated him so rudely, our friend Jesus, our mighty Lord and Savior showed us so much more grace, in His death for the forgiveness of our sins and His resurrection for the promise of eternal true life in the perfect world to come.

Nolan Astley writes: “In our post-9/11 world, we talk a great deal about heroes and victims. Heroes are often portrayed as utterly selfless individuals who willingly throw themselves in the path of danger to save others. Victims are often portrayed as innocent people who did nothing to deserve the tragedy that has come upon them. While there is a certain level of truth in those portrayals, God’s Word tells us something different. We all fall short of the glory of God; this world’s heroes and this world’s victims are all sinners.”

“Hero and victim are not so distinct. On Palm Sunday, we focus on the only true hero. Jesus is the true hero because He selflessly rides into Jerusalem to become the victim. Neither the heroic efforts of our lives nor the innocence of our lives makes us worthy of his love. Our salvation comes only from the Righteous King, who comes to conquer sin and death (Zechariah 9:9). He is our hero because he is the victim!”[3]

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

[1] Martin Franzman “The Concordia Self-Study Commentary p 96

[2] Ibid

[3] Nolan Astley  Concordia Pulpit Resources Vol 25, Part 2, Series B p 6

Memorial Day is also praying for peace, but there is only peace in Jesus

Peace, never in the world, always in Jesus
First St Johns May 24, 2014
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 know the peace of Christ said …AMEN
Peace, when we think of Memorial Day, we really don’t think in terms of peace, we think in terms of loss, of death, of valiant sacrifice for a cause. Simran Khurana is quoted as saying: “On Memorial Day, pay a tribute to the sentinels of peace. Sing praises of the brave soldiers who marched forth on unfriendly terrain, come rain or snow, so that we could sleep peacefully knowing that our country is safe.” To be sure we should think of our American soldiers as those “sentinels of peace”. With a couple of disquieting examples America has been the sentinel of peace, at least peace in the worldly sense. Our fellow Americans have been sent abroad in the hope that their efforts would bring world peace. World War II would be the brightest example of those efforts. As a result many countries had been helped to recover from economic depression and the devastation of war to establish societies that have grown in peace and prosperity. Through history countries have conducted war thinking that they will be able to neutralize threats to the peace and establish a peaceful climate. Gordon MacDonald notes: “In its largest sense, it [peace] describes any system in which there is order, justice and security. The Romans talked about peace (Pax Romana), but their system was sustained through violence and intimidation. The Jews of Jerusalem had their own concepts of peace: a kingdom that mirrored the ancient reign of David. [which was founded and maintained by military force]” So we take from these examples of countries that set their ideas of peace on, “so long as you do what you’re told you won’t get hurt. Step out of line and you will be violently slapped down. Otherwise have a nice day.” The One we call the Prince of Peace was crucified in order to maintain control. Remember the chief priest’s word, “this man must die in order for the nation to survive.” That plan really didn’t work out as Jerusalem was reduced to rubble 40 years later, by the Romans in order to maintain “peace”.
Believe it or not, I am sensitive to the fact that people want to hear the pastor say all sorts of gratuitous nice things, tell everyone that it’s ok, that things will work out according to their plans. Frankly in a worldly sense, I’d feel like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House in the midst of a frantic, fleeing crowd, he’s standing there in his official ROTC uniform screaming: “Remain calm, all is well, remain calm.” In a worldly sense that entire scene is total fiction, all is not well. Of course we have to remain calm, but to proclaim that all is well in any sense, regardless of the economy, politics, education all is not well and never will be.
We talk about peace, but for too many of us Christians we have bought into the world’s idea of peace, which will never happen, or we cherry pick Jesus’ quotes and convince ourselves that there will ultimately be some kind of world wide utopia. In the world’s sense it will never happen. What does Jesus say about the end times, in the Gospels and in Revelation? They will be enormously violent times:“ESV Revelation 6:4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.” The Holy Spirit has maintained “peace” in the world. When that peace is removed in Revelation 6:4, those who are still in the world will see violence on a scale never before seen, even in the most violent episodes of history. The evil of man will truly show itself and all those who have been in denial of Christ and His peace, those who thought they were somehow entitled to any and all kind of peace and prosperity, on their own terms, will be left in the middle of terror and poverty. While they ignored Jesus and relied on their own means, they will find that what they trusted on earth, does them no good when God removes His protecting hand. There is no peace with man, in the entire 5,000 year history of the world, there has only been about 100 years of genuine peace. Man does not understand peace, he will never be able to bring the earth to peace and when God removes His hand at the end of time, the entire concept of peace will fall under the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man.
Many of you here have seen that inhumanity. Those in the world like to point out the times when Christians forgot Christ and took things into their own hands. The crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials. They conveniently seem to ignore the twentieth century, a time when government shoved God out of the center stage and the result? The bloodiest century in the entire history of man, bloodier then all the previous centuries combined. For a lot of you here today you have seen some form of imperialism, some form of fascism, most of us have seen communism and we are witnessing “Islamo-Fascism” in many countries of the world today. When we saw the Berlin Wall come down, too many thought that this was the beginning of world peace, about a decade later a jetliner smashing into the World Trade Center sparked a war, in at least two countries, that has lasted almost fifteen years. I’m not being a pessimist, I am being very much a realist in Christ.
MacDonald notes: “Jesus said his peace was not compatible with the “world’s” view of peace (John 14:27) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” MacDonald also notes that “Paul referred to this as ‘the peace of Christ.” There should be no doubt in your mind that as in everything else, the peace of Christ is far different from what the world sees as “peace”.
I do love you, all of you, you are brothers and sisters in Christ, that is a really good thing. There is no better way to love another then in Christ, because in the eternal resurrection, it will be all about how we love another in Jesus. Too many like to equate it to “I’m a member of the Loyal Order of Buffalo and I love our fellow members.” Being a Christian isn’t a club or fraternity or some benevolent society. When I tell you I love you in Christ, as part of the Body of Christ, in the Fatherhood of God, that is a peace, a love that is forever, deeper than any corruptible, earthly emotion. It does not mean the superficiality of the world, it is a promise of Christ for true peace: “My peace I give you … don’t let your hearts be troubled,” There is nothing, no one, no where, on earth that gives you this true assurance of peace. There is a whole lost world out there, it blames everything and everyone, except themselves, for the lack of peace. The evil of humanity will never be overcome in the world. If anything it will become more evil and more violent.
In the violence and greed of the world we have to remember Paul’s words: “ESV Philippians 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
There is only one peace for the world, that peace is, has been in Jesus. We call Him the “Prince of Peace” and so He is, the peace that will be eternal, a semblance of peace we have in the world now. But Jesus knew that there was no peace on earth and never would be and told us straight out: “ESV Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The world rebels against Christ and like the Pax Romana believes that peace will prevail in our own way. The world can’t get Jesus right, it certainly doesn’t get “peace” right. You and I, we do have peace, we have it right here, right now. This is a peace that you cannot give to someone else, even in the middle of the violence, the greed and poverty, the hysteria of the world, I can quote Kevin Bacon and you can know calm and peace in the middle of all the hysteria. I can say: “Remain calm, all is well, remain calm.” Because in Christ we do know peace in any and every circumstance. All is well in Him.
At this Memorial Day I want to remember Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal, the only Coast Guardsman killed in the War on Terror. Please keep his wife Pattie and his daughter Harper in your continued prayers.
No doubt as Christians we are to continue to pray for peace, but with the expectation that true peace will only be realized in Christ and in His return. We who are in Him know true peace and we want to let others know that true peace is in Him. Share that reality with all you those you know.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.