Tag Archives: grace

Yes! A New Heaven and a New Earth Revelation 21: 1-7 First St Johns Apr 24, 2016

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 look forward to the resurrected, eternal life of fulfillment and order said … AMEN!

So this is where it all comes together. Starting from the Garden of Eden, all of the different aspects of Jesus in the Old Testament, leading to the incarnation/the life of Jesus in the New Testament. Certainly the peak of the Bible for us is the death of Jesus, His sacrifice as a payment of our sins, and then comes the resurrection. The way has been made for us to be in relationship with the Father, to restore what has been broken by sin for so long, but if there is no resurrection, then we still die to eternity. Our hope and promise is in Jesus’ resurrection, that’s why we worship on Sundays, every Sunday being a mini-Easter, a time to come and be blessed and nourished by all the sacraments to be strengthened in our spirit in order to continue to live and function for Christ in a dark world, but also to have the assurance of eternal life. The life we are promised in the resurrection of Jesus and ultimately in our resurrection. Chuck Swindoll quotes S Lewis Johnson: “The resurrection is God’s ‘Amen!’ to Christ’s statement, “It is finished.’”[1] Not that Jesus is finished, or all hope is finished. No! It is the end of hopelessness and despair, the end of separation, the old is swept away, the kingdom is here, it is in Jesus, in the presence of the Holy Spirit and ultimately is all of reality. The old world, the world we live in day to day is no more, it has been destroyed, swept away. Sin, death, disease, the breaking down of our bodies, the failures of age and disability. All of those things are no longer a factor. The resurrection is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that in Him we have life and life more abundant. In the resurrection, it is the ultimate of abundant life. We are no longer limited by death and disease, the result of sin. John writes: “…for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.” The “sea” in Jewish literature was always a metaphor, for chaos, destruction, lack of order, control. The first earth passing away means the world of sin, chaos. The desire in today’s world is for fulfillment, happiness. How many times do you hear people say that, see someone post in social media “I just want to be happy.” How’s that going to work out? Do any of us see any real happiness in the world today? No. You just don’t. I don’t care what your situation is, at some point discontent, envy, want, sneak in and well “you’re just not going to be happy until…” When that happens then what? Yea …, sin! “Well I’m entitled to be happy”, we hear people say that over and over today. This is the first period in the history of the world, where people genuinely feel entitled to happiness. The more they expect, the more their definition of happiness expands, what is the ultimate result? Unhappiness. OK, I won the race this time, but how about the bigger race next time? How about the same race next year? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be motivated and strive to improve. But when we tie it to happiness and place our trust there instead of in Jesus, you’re not going to be happy. We’ve said this before, there is joy in Christ, there is the hope and promise of what He does for us. Certainly in this passage that hope and promise is being plainly spelled out: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” What we have right here, right now, this will all pass away, this is a lead pipe guarantee. This is God’s promise to us that we who are in Christ will be a part of a new earth, the ugliness and putrid death of the old earth is gone. In this new world, our new resurrected life, this world of the here and now will be a vague memory. And since we will have eternal life in this new world, this life will fade even further in our memory, this life on earth is so short. Life in the eternal resurrection will be so long and obscure the pain and heartbreak of this sinfilled world.
Historical context. Edward Englebrecht writes: “At the time that Revelation was written Christians were being terribly persecuted by the Roman emperor Domitian.

The Book of Revelation reveals Jesus in all His majesty and glorious victory. Its pictures and descriptions are true, but not literal. Many early Christians endured unimaginable pain simply because they refused to give up their faith in Jesus. They were thrown to lions and other wild beasts while onlookers cheered. They were set on fire, hurled down cliffs, skinned alive and reportedly even boiled in oil. The cruelty was off the charts! As believers watched friends and family members being tortured, it would have been easy to give up hope. It would have been easy to deny their faith. The Book of Revelation helped God’s people stand firm despite the storms that roared all around them. The book has one focused message: Jesus is victorious and He is coming soon!”[2]

The Book of Revelation has been a source of hope and promise through the centuries. Even for those who may not be suffering from physical persecution, we Christians today know that our hope comes from this passage. We should remember and celebrate what Jesus did for us on the cross. We should remember and celebrate that He has been resurrected. These aren’t general, abstract ideas! These are the hope and promise we have of eternal life: “Behold I make all things new.” And we know that promise is for us, the old that we live in now is gone. The new will be an earth beyond our imagination and of such promise and potential that will astound us. Hold on to that hope and promise. The grittiness of sin and death will soon be over, the world God prepares for those He loves, those who are His in Jesus, His children, will be the world of bliss, of genuine happiness, what is now a vision of breathtaking promise that will be for us the reality of eternal, joyous, exciting life in a very physical world, that will contain wonders that make today’s modern technology look childish.

When John writes that he sees “a new earth”, Spiros Zodhiates writes: “New, as opposed to old or former and hence also implying better, … Also for renewed, made new, and therefore superior, more splendid. … Metaphorically, speaking of Christians who are renewed and changed from evil to good by the Spirit of God; a new creation…”[3] This is why the new world is only promised to Christians. It will be a world that God has created that will only accommodate those whose lives are in Jesus, who live together knowing life in the Holy Spirit. There won’t be room or tolerance for those who insist on the things of the world. Who chose to create strife, grief, greed, for their own ends. As Christians we trust God’s will, we want a world that conforms to His Word and not to the will of those who reject Him and think that they can do things better than Him. If someone refuses God’s will, how could they live in a “new earth” that is entirely about the Father and His will? Our earthly existence is about sorting out those who want to live in Jesus and who will persevere and overcome according to God’s will. That is what the new earth is all about. Not about those who worship their own will and have lived in this world by their own, limited, sinful judgment. I want to live in the perfect, holy, unlimited world of true life, not a world that men and women chose to mess up according to their selfish desires. Randy Alcorn writes: “believers in particular (those with God’s Spirit within) are aligned with the rest of creation, which intuitively reaches out to God for deliverance. We know what God intended for mankind and the earth, and therefore we have an object for our longing. We groan for what creation groans for – redemption.”[4] Paul writes in Romans 8 that the whole creation has been groaning. We trust that the resurrection will be marvelous beyond our comprehension, Alcorn writes: “…the Master Artist, will put us on display to a wide-eyed universe. Our revelation will be an unveiling, and we will be seen as what we are, as what we were intended to be – God’s image-bearers. We will glorify Him by ruling over the physical universe with creativity and camaraderie, showing respect and benevolence for all we rule.”[5] The promise we read about today should take our breath away. Renew us not just for hope for tomorrow, but also with a heart to share what our promise is. For our heart to ache for those who do not have any promise and to reach out to them to share the glorious world that we are promised in Jesus Christ.

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

[1] Dr Charles Swindoll     Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotations. P 492

[2] Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook Edward Engelbrecht General Editor p 442

[3] Spiros Zodhiates Executive Editor “Key Word Study Bible” p 2193

[4] Randy Alcorn “Heaven” p 127

[5] Ibid

The Lord God is my strength and shield 2 Corinthians

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 that God is their strength and their song, said  … AMEN!

How many times have you just thrown it in God’s face, just like the Prodigal Son? That was exactly what he was doing to the “Father”. Even now in the Middle East to do what he did, tell his father to hand over his share of the inheritance, is still a gross insult. Basically saying drop dead old man and hand me over all your stuff. Way over the top. We really miss that in western culture, this kid was totally out of line. We are certainly all sinners, but what this kid did was just so over the top, just a creep. Yet we are all like him. We’ve basically told God go away, we don’t need You, hand over what is “ours”, as if we have anything that is “ours”. Neither did the prodigal son, right? His father was still alive, the son wasn’t entitled to a thing, and yet …

And yet God is our strength, when we do something weak and nasty like the prodigal, we don’t get punished, we get grace. Bear in mind, there are consequences, it may not be God punishing us, but our sinful behavior always incurs consequences. If I go to someone right here, haul off and slug you right in the head, what’s going to happen? You’re going to call the police. God may not be punishing me for battery, but the police will because a complaint was filed after I belted the person. But in repentance I am still forgiven by the Father.

As Christians, though, we can be as obnoxious as this prodigal is, but it is in God’s strength that we are saved, we are forgiven, we are not only forgiven, but we are still, in Jesus, inheritors of eternal life, there will probably be consequences, but ultimately He still saves us. In God’s strength, He makes us His children in Jesus, He gives us forgiveness in Jesus, He gives us eternal life in Jesus. Some see that as weakness. “I saw what he did and he should be taken away and punished! There can’t be any reward for him! Don’t you know what he did? He deserves to be punished, the sooner the better!”

Is that what happened to the prodigal? After he put his father through all that he did? Insulted him, took his money, went off to a foreign land and spent every last dime? He must have caused his father unimaginable anxiety and pain, how many sleepless nights do you think that father had worrying about what happened to his son? How many fathers do you think might have said: ‘Eh, whatever, can’t believe what that kid did, maybe if he gets whacked around a little he might learn something and if something else happens, oh well.” But our Father in heaven doesn’t do that. In what is an enormous, unimaginable amount of strength, God endures so much because of our gross insults, our shameless flouting of His grace, His kindness, His many/countless gifts. What did the father do when the son came home? He could have taken him out back, beaten the tar out of him and no one would have said boo about it. Many would have expected it.

But no! The father shamelessly runs out to the son, kisses him, calls for a fine new robe, a new ring, and!!! The fatted calf, the most delectable meal they knew! Based on the description Jesus gives us, the Father was a very important and wealthy man in the community. Men in general do not run out to greet anyone. They would have to gather their robes up into their belt, which would leave their legs exposed, unless there was an emergency, men of such importance did not run. Reminds me of a Simpson’s line: “You were running? Unless there were lions chasing you down the road, you don’t run.” It would have been the same for the father in this story. Yet there he was, in a most undignified manner, running out to this contemptable, unfaithful young man, who himself admits he is not worthy to be called his son.

This had to be embarrassing for the father, I have no doubt the next day at the city gate some of his peers, at least, gave him a little ribbing, even downright derision, “what was that little demonstration yesterday? We are the leaders of this city, let’s conduct ourselves with a little dignity”.

That’s something we get way too caught up in ourselves, isn’t it? Our etiquette, proper demeanor. That’s something God doesn’t get too caught up in, our dignity. A lot of times, as in this story, He doesn’t get too caught up in His own, especially if it means the difference between saving us or letting us condemn ourselves. Isaiah was called to some undignified acts, David Peters paraphrases Isaiah 20: 1-3; “In the year that Assyria captured the Philistine stronghold of Ashdad, the Lord told Isaiah, ‘I want you to take off your clothes and walk around naked and barefoot.’ Isaiah did as the Lord commanded and walked around naked and barefoot for three years.”[1] Peters points out that God asks His people to suffer hardship and embarrassment because God in His dignity lowers Himself to us in order to pull us out of the hopelessness and despair we are lost in, in our sin. He doesn’t have to tuck up His robes under His belt and run out to take us in and clothe us and give us wealth and food as He did with the prodigal son, but He does it not just to save us, but to fulfill His promise that we would have new life. Paul tells us; “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Through Jesus and only through Jesus do we become that new creation and then makes us “ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” Through Jesus, because of the indignity that He suffered on the Cross, we are put in relationship with God. We are no longer that old man, that lost, sin filled, pathetic hopeless being wandering around, obsessed with the things we think are important, our dignity, our opinion, our self-importance, our obsessive love of self. No! Instead we are a new creation. God the Father has put aside His dignity to run out to us to save us, to reach down from His infinitely high throne in order to save His lost, rebellious defiant creation. Not only does He save us, but He makes us His new creation and He adorns us with new clothes. Remember, a new robe was an extravagant thing in that time. Clothing was very expensive, the material was expensive and each robe was made by hand, a new gold ring was extravagantly expensive, the fatted calf was a costly, precious delicacy in a world where getting enough to eat everyday was a challenge. The Father takes His new creation, what He makes us in Jesus, gives us hope and promise, takes away the indignity of our sin and adorns us to the epitome of what we could expect. How then could we not know in our heart that God is our strength and our shield, even when he could be very righteously angry with us? And because of that, how can we not sing, give thanks and exalt His name because of what He has done for us by giving us His ultimate sacrifice, giving us His perfect, completely holy and sinless Son to die as the only sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. If that doesn’t make you want to sing and shout, then you have no appreciation for that Father who runs out to meet His lost child and is so elated, that His child was lost and now His precious child, you and I are with Him again in the eternal world of the resurrection that His Son Jesus gave us by overcoming death in His resurrection.

Jurgen Moltman writes: “In him the despair that oppresses us becomes free to hope. The arrogance with which we hinder ourselves and other people melts away, and we become as open and as vulnerable as he was.

What initially seemed so meaningless and so irreconcilable – our hope and Christ’s cross – belong together as a single whole, just as do the passionate hope for life and the readiness for disappointment, pain and death.

Beneath the cross of Christ hope is born again out of the depths. The person who has once sensed this is never afraid of any depths again. His hope has become firm and unconquerable: “Lord, I am a prisoner – a prisoner of hope!””[2]

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

[1] David Peters  “The Many Faces of Biblical Humor:“ page 200 Location 4873  Kindle version

[2] Jürgen Moltmann, “Prisoner of Hope,” from The Power of the Powerless, English transl. Copyright © 1983 by SCM Press Ltd., reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

God chases after us and that’s a great thing

One of the things that Lutherans emphasize, different from other, as it were, Protestant denominations is that it is all about what God does for us. It is not about what we do, or chose in terms of God. “Jesus knew that because of sin, no one naturally seeks after God. Sinful man’s inclination is to hide from God, rather than to come to him:” (Henry and Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 25) “ESV John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ESV John 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. ESV John 1:7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. ESV John 1:8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. ESV John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. ESV John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” (from BibleWorks) John talks about man running from the light, avoiding the light. We don’t want to have anything to do with God in our natural state. We are dead in our sins and we don’t want anything to do with the Holy. Go out and mingle in the world a little, people will tell you straight out that they are just not interested in the holy.

It’s not about you walking down an aisle and making a profession of faith. It’s all about how God brought you to Him, gave you the understanding you needed, brought you to baptism and then brought you to an understanding of what you are in Jesus, how you are saved in Him. When we have this new insight into God, isn’t it the Holy Spirit who is moving us to that insight?

Jesus’ teaching (His actual ones, not the ones the world likes to pin Him into) are impossible for evil man to understand. We are lost in sin, we have no concept of the holy.

The Holy brings you into His presence and gives you what you need to understand. That is what baptism starts in our lives. We are drowned in the water of baptism in order to be reborn as that new person in Jesus. At that time as new children in God, we now have the facilities, given to us by the Holy Spirit, to being to apprehend the holy, true salvation. “As you desire to spend time alone with Jesus, recognize that this is the Father drawing you to His Son. You do not seek quiet times with God in order to experience Him. The fact that He has brought you to a place of fellowship with Him is evidence that you are already sensing His activity.” (Ibid)

This is all a good thing. How can we presume to say “I chose God!”? We can’t begin to understand Him in our fallen, evil state. He has chosen us. If I did the choosing, what would happen? In my fallen evil state, I would somehow mess it up, or doubt it, undermine it. When I know that God has done all the heavy lifting, He has made me His son and I did it with no action on my part, totally undeserving of God’s salvation, I have the assurance, the promise of knowing that it’s done right and I am truly saved in Him. Anything else makes me the pivotal figure and that is so wrong and is so bound to dump you hard back into the world.

Know that God saved you, that it’s all about His will, nothing about Yours. When you know that God does the verbs, does all the important things in salvation, we can rest in the peace, assurance and power of God and not sweat if we did something wrong.

If you can! Really? Bring it! Mark 9 First Saint Johns September 13, 2015

[To hear the audio version 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 know that Jesus can said … AMEN!

We often read Scripture in sort of bland/vanilla terms. In today’s Gospel reading we have a father whose son has been tormented, tortured, used, abused, just completely beaten down. No doubt the father is absolutely beside himself with fear and, complete hopelessness. My mother has had issues with epilepsy. The symptoms have been under control for many years, but I remember as a child that she had severe seizures. You can imagine as a child these episodes were very distressing for me and certainly very upsetting experience for my mother. There was only so much I could do as a child. But in this pericope I’m sure the father felt severe dejection. Dads are supposed to take control, fix things and you can imagine how helpless and hopeless the father felt. My mother’s symptoms were serious, but the description that we see of the son’s symptoms were even more serious. Some were classical symptoms of seizures, but there were far more serious issues with the son. He was being literally picked up and thrown down, I played football in my youth, tight end, basketball, basic military training and a little martial arts, I know full well how it feels for someone to put me to the ground. But we were usually fairly equal and I often had padding and was conditioned for it, it hurt, but it wasn’t continuous, or someone trying to seriously injure or kill me. I don’t think they were. The Greek word used to describe the son is paidi,on which means not just a child, but a young child. We’d probably guess no more than ten/eleven years old. So this probably physically small child is literally getting bounced off the walls and the demon even tries to throw him into the fire to burn him or into the water to drown him. In addition to being mute. This little boy was being treated hellaciously and dad was constantly a witness to this, no doubt trying to wrestle his son away from this supernatural power, do doubt failing most of the time and probably being hurt himself in the process. We can imagine the pain the child is going through, quite possibly to the extent of broken bones, stitches, maybe even more serious and the parents trying to protect and restore to health.

We should certainly empathize with the father, he was in a very difficult situation, which he says had been going on since the boy was a child, the Greek isn’t specific here, but perhaps since he was a toddler. Either way we would have to suppose that it had been going on for probably years. So we can certainly understand that the father is at his wits end. Jesus has just come down from the Transfiguration, this momentous event that we celebrate every year. It is coming down to the end of Jesus’ incarnational ministry, He is focused on the Cross, so perhaps in a way He is a little distracted, but also affirmed and glorified by God the Father. The boy’s father seems to know who Jesus is, He tells Jesus straight out that he has brought his son to Him for healing. So certainly the father is aware of what Jesus has done. According to Mark, Jesus has taught new teachings, that only God could introduce. Jesus and God the Father have made it clear who Jesus is. Mark has recounted how Jesus has freed others from Satan and his demons. Jesus has calmed the storm, He has raised the dead, healed many, fed over 5,000, walked on the water, healed the lepers, given faith to many, forgiven the sins of many, healed blind and deaf men, Peter has confessed who Jesus is and now this father brings his son and says: “But if you can do anything and have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus must have been a little put out and his response seems to indicate a little irritation: “If you can!” Jesus’ isn’t asking a question, He’s making what seems to be an incredulous declaration. In the Driskell translation I’m seeing Jesus saying: “Really? If I can! I know that you are weary and desperate and have gone through a terrible situation, but obviously you’ve heard all the other things. You couldn’t come to me and say; ‘I know you can heal my son who has gone through so much affliction, You have given me the faith I need to bring my son to You and I am trusting that according to Your will do what is necessary relating to my son.” And certainly the father does respond, that he does have faith, he did bring his son, “but please help me to have and keep faith in You and in Your will.” But let’s face it, too often we do put limits on what God can do in our lives. We need to remember that it is always according to His will.

Does faith mean that God is always going to act according to our will, that He is always going to heal, or that He is going to provide for us according to our agenda? Faith is trusting in His will, faith is looking for what His plan is according to what is happening. A Wisconsin fishing guide points out: “The only thing that casts doubt on the miracles of Jesus is that they were all witnessed by fishermen.”[1] That’s not true. We have God’s inspired Word in the Gospel, He inspired men to write about the miracles that Jesus did and we know through our faith that Jesus continues to heal, not always the body, but for those He leads He heals the soul and gives us the faith we need to trust and be led by Him, to have the hope and promise that only He gives us. Sure our human weakness gets in the way. When that happens let’s look back at the beleaguered father’s example and pray: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” St Augustine observes: “If one can pray so that one may cast out another demon, how much more should one pray that one’s own demons be cast out.”[2] Jesus told His disciples they needed to pray to cast out the demon afflicting this boy, certainly He is telling us, His disciples, to pray, in faith, that He will cast out the demons that afflict ourselves and always to pray for healing for others. Jesus can! He died to save us to everlasting salvation, He died to save us who are sinners and sin in our own will and who are led to sin by evil beings. He can and does save us and heal us, through His grace, His people who He does give faith to believe and to trust in His will.

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

[1] Rowell and Steffen   “Humor for Preaching and Teaching” p 57

[2] Simonetti, Manlio  quoting St Augustine “Ancient Christian Commentary NT 1b” p 59

You cannot “earn” your way to salvation in Jesus, it is a gift through grace.

When Dr Martin Luther started to raise issues with the Roman Catholic Church (remember he was an Augustinian monk), he wasn’t trying to undermine the church, he was trying to reconcile his Biblical studies and the teachings of the church. The church emphasized what we are supposed to do in order to be “worthy” of salvation. Dr Luther said, No! What can we add to what Jesus did? He was the sacrifice that paid for our sins. What else can we add through anything we could do to Jesus’ full payment for our sins? Are we fully forgiven in Jesus? Yes, we know Him as our Savior, we are baptized into new life in Jesus, we take His Body and Blood, we hear His preached word, we are saved. We are led to salvation by the Holy Spirit, not by anything we do. All of these things are given to us as part of the Body of Christ, His church. We receive baptism, we receive His Body and Blood, we receive/hear His preached Word. Nothing we did, all of what He did.

Dr Luther tries to lead the Christian church back to the original understanding that we are only forgiven and saved in what Jesus does, nothing that we do. Do we do good works? Absolutely, but these are works that are done through us by the Holy Spirit. Any works we do don’t get us any more saved. When we are baptized, the old/dead man is drowned and we are born again, we are a new creature in Jesus. We are now children of God the Father and are His. Nothing that we did, everything that Father, Son and Holy Spirit did for us.

So there were new Christian churches, teaching and preaching that we are wholly saved by what Jesus does and nothing about what we do. But along comes these Americanized Christians who decide that there must be something that we need to add to Jesus’ works in order to assure us of our salvation. “Yet with salvation comes the responsibility to work out our salvation.” (Henry, Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 205). This is referred to as “works righteousness” in other words, it’s our works that make us righteous in addition to what Jesus did. There has to be both what Jesus did and what we add to that.The Blackaby’s are great Christian brothers, but there are too many in Christiandom that continue to try to stress what we do and undercut what Jesus has done and does do for His people. The extreme examples being Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who try to put our salvation entirely on our efforts and try to undercut Jesus entirely. I’ve always wanted to ask one of them, what if I am just not capable of doing anything? Then what? Too bad for me?

In the July 17 devotional (p 199), the issue is that not only are there works that need to be done by us, but we also seem to achieve almost sinlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I am not preaching antinomianism (the belief that since we’re saved in Jesus, then we can pretty much sin at will because our forgiveness is already assured because of our redemption in Jesus). Reality is this, we are never going to be sinless, we just aren’t. Sure I hope that in Jesus the Holy Spirit is going to make me completely pure, holy and sinless. I am completely righteous through Jesus! But I’m not through me, or some bizarre idea that I have achieved sinless perfection. I’m just never going to make that level

The Blackaby’s say “It is exhilarating to be set apart by God, knowing that God observes your consecrated life and is pleased with what He sees.” Sure, absolutely! I do want to lead a God pleasing life and I should not be committing gratuitous sins. But the fact of the matter is that I will be. At the beginning of every Lutheran worship we start with Confession and Absolution. Well if we have just been perfect in our selves for the past week, what do we need that for? Because the reality is that we need forgiveness, as often as possible. We aren’t going to make it through a week without sin. Sure sometimes they’re acts of omission vs commission, but sin nonetheless and we want to be absolved, to be forgiven and not by virtue of having “a special place in God’s heart!” We do! By virtue of what Jesus did, nothing we’ve done. Not by virtue of our works or our sinlessness, solely through redemption in Jesus’ sacrifice.

I’ve talked to many people who have experienced Reformed Christianity (various types of Calvinism, Arminianism), that feel they’ve had to jump through hoops to be “saved”. There’s of course the “accepting” Jesus, Walking down the aisle during worship to declare that you have some how “chosen” Jesus. Ya…, no! “You didn’t chose me, I chose you.” Jesus tells us. Martin Luther put it forthrightly, you are saved by grace, sola gratia, nothing you did, everything Jesus did. Stop fretting whether you’ve done enough works, or too much sin. Jesus died for your sins, you are saved in Him. If He has chosen you to be saved, you are saved! Done deal, lead pipe guarantee, nothing you did, everything He did. That should be incredibly reassuring. If God has done it, it’s done! If part of it is up to us, oh boy, that is a problem! It’s not, you’re saved in Him. Not in you. Praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for that! Sola Fide, Sola gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christi. If you don’t know what that means drop me a message.

The “S” Word Ephesians 5 Mark 7 First St Johns Church Aug 23, 2015

[For the audio version, please click 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 those who hear and respect God’s Word and not man’s said … AMEN!

God’s plan is just so perfect, it’s a circular sort of situation, that doesn’t mean, as always, that we get what we want all the time, we seem to not understand that relationship is not “hey you jump through hoops for me and then maybe I will love you”. This is what we have in society today and why there is this widespread and deep unhappiness and even resentment. We all submit to Jesus. Submit to your husband, because he is the one that is called to love his wife and not just our squishy kind of love, but the same love Jesus had for the church! Jesus died for the love of His church, men are called to love their wives, agape love, to the point of sacrificing themselves. If your husband will do that for you, doesn’t that suggest respect and submission to him?

Oh baby, anyone preaching on Ephesians 5: 21-33 can just feel the ice cracking around his feet. The “S” word! OHHHHH, no one likes to “S”, S being of course “submit, submission”. Oh no! In today’s world, everyone is an expert, everyone knows it all, we are the most equalitarian society in the history of the earth. Apparently if you are born an American, you are an immediate expert on everything and anything. More and more I’m beginning to see that attitude rather cynically. At my age, you’d think that I would have become pretty much irreparably cynical and yet, more and more I find myself realizing that when I submit to God as His minister, to His people, He does work it out according to His will. Romans 8:28 does seem to get a workout, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Isn’t this part of what the Christian life is all about?

When we say “for those who love God”, doesn’t loving someone mean submitting to Him in order for the good of all concerned? Submission doesn’t mean, just throwing in the towel and mindlessly following. It does mean, at some point you just have to trust that the person.

Certainly the military and corporate environments are a lesson in those areas. There are plenty of times where you’re not sure about something that has to be done, you want to fuss over it a little more, but at some point it’s obvious you have to do what you’re entrusted to do, do it to the best of your ability, so that there will be success. If this is what you’re led to do, it may not be perfect, but it becomes your responsibility to make it as perfect as it can be.

Professor Jeffrey Oschwald observes the shift from chapter 6 to chapter 7. People are running to Jesus, the people: “ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. ESV Mark 6:56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” Oh yeah, they wanted Jesus then. Last week’s sermon after Jesus fed thousands and then said OK, now that you have a full stomach, let’s talk real stuff, you have to eat my body and drink my blood to fill your soul, to have real life. Yea, they weren’t so much into that and decided to pick up and leave. In today’s reading, the people are flocking to him and Jesus has healed a number of people, what happens? The Pharisees and the scribes confront Him over a ticky-tack little issue about the disciples washing their hands. Obviously these guys are trying to provoke a confrontation. It’s about 90 miles from Jerusalem, where they’ve come from, to the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, they’re not going to make that trip lightly, they feel threatened and have decided to find any little thing they can in order to pick a fight with Jesus, to somehow discredit Him. You can certainly see Jesus’ frustration. “Here I am, God the Son, look at all these things I’ve done. I’m trying to get you to see real life and what are you doing? Getting up in my grill about a ticky-tack little issue about washing hands? Really?”: “ESV Mark 7:6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘ This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; ESV Mark 7:7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ESV Mark 7:8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” ESV Mark 7:9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Jesus is referring to the quote in today’s reading from Isaiah: “ESV Isaiah 29:13 And the Lord said: “Because 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, ESV Isaiah 29:14 therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

Obviously Jesus is frustrated and is telling them to get a grip. Are you going to stick to your quibbling little traditions or are you going to see what’s going on here. God the Son is here! It’s time to submit to His will, quit worrying about the petty stuff and see what’s really happening!”

Dr Oschwald observes: “If you had the opportunity for a private audience with Jesus, would you argue about the proper way to wash up before a meal?… Jesus’ opponents seem to have completely lost sight of what really matters before God. The way they ask their question suggests that the root of the problem is that they’ve begun to put human concerns before and above what’s important in God’s eyes. Our initial sympathy with the Pharisees’ concern over clean hands at the table goes right down the drain when we begin to see the real problem in all its seriousness.”[1] We, you and I, often have to stop and ask ourselves; are we going to pick a fight over the trivial stuff or do we look around us and see what Jesus is doing, what great things are happening around us. How to point to, contribute to, focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing and do it to His glory, to the glory of Jesus’ church. How do we proclaim to the world what is going on in His service, to His glory?

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

[1] Rev Dr Jeffrey Oschwald   Concordia Pulpit Resources Vol 25, Part 3, Series B p 39

God isn’t going to push, He will encourage

Rev Ken Klaus – Lutheran Hour Ministries: “Years ago I called on a man, a member of my church, who was a good man, at least in the eyes of the community. By that I mean the fellow was honest in his dealings with others; he took good care of his family, didn’t drink, gamble, or swear. He was always faithful and conscientious in paying his bills and taking care of his other debts. During our visit I asked, ‘Tell me, you pay all your other debts, but I never see you in church; I never see you at Communion, and the church offering plate never sees a dollar from your account. Why are you faithful in paying your debts to others, but not to the Lord?” He thought for a minute and then, without being flip, he replied, “Well, pastor, I don’t pay so much attention to God, because He doesn’t push as hard as everybody else.”

Listeners, that guy had it right. The Lord is not going to push; He is not going to beg; He is not going to twist your arm. What He is going to do is say, “Look at My Son who gave His life to save your soul. With faith in Him You will be in heaven; without faith, you are headed for hell. Jesus is the best thing which has ever happened to you and for you. Don’t turn your back on Jesus. Be ready for the day when He will say to this world, ‘enough is enough.’ When that day arrives, I want everyone to be glad to see Me.”

Pastor Klaus is one of my favorites, you have to check out  wwwlhm.org to hear the audio versions of these sermons from Pastor Klaus and also Pastor Greg Seltz.

Have to consider his point. No God’s not going to get up in your face, not normally. To those who don’t know Jesus, yes the Holy Spirit is going to keep tugging at you, getting in your head sometime, continuously pointing to God. But, wow, we really give the world carte blanche, “entre” into our head, never thinking an hour ahead of time. Then we have the arrogance to decide, when we really have to, “well God’s just going to have to take me as I am, I’m good enough.” No you’re not, I’m not, no one is, God accepts us under very simple conditions. We follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are baptized in the Name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus, what was sacrificed as payment for our sins and we hear His Word preached. No heavy lifting, all for your benefit, yet too often, because God doesn’t push, we think the nonsense around us is more important.

True life is in God the Father, His Son Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit. It is a life of meaning, “life, life more abundant”, of joy, promise and hope. Do you get that in the world? Ya, no, just more grind, more gimmee, gimmee, and in the end, we all know death, hopelessness, complete loss and eternal condemnation. I have yet to have anyone give me any other possible outcome. True life in Jesus and then we die, we go to be in His presence, but then true, eternal, perfect, abundant challenging life in Jesus in the resurrection. Gotta tell you, seems logical, it is God who leads you into salvation, but you can resist and refuse, and for what?