The Third Sunday of Easter

 

April 10, 2016

Rev. Andre Frandle; Pastor

John 21:15-19: FOLLOW ME

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

 

  1. How many times can you make a mistake before someone loses patience with you? In your house, with your spouse, with your child, with your parent, how many mistakes can they make before you lose your patience with them?  When is enough, enough?  When is the line crossed?  What do you find has to happen for you to finally shout, get out of my sight?  Jesus had what could have been described as an intimate group of disciples, they were affectionately referred to as the 12.  Within this group sprung a faithful inner circle.  These three men shared experiences with Jesus the others would only hear about, like raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead and the transfiguration.  One of them was described as a rock, another a son of thunder, and the last the disciple whom Jesus loved. Jesus’ disciples, even the inner circle, all abandoned Him.  They didn’t do a thing to try to help him escape his trial and murder.  Peter even damned himself to hell instead of acknowledging that he even knew Jesus to a young servant.  Despite having seen Jesus after his resurrection twice, the disciples were not running around telling people that Jesus had risen from the dead and spreading that Good News.  No, instead, they were hiding for fear of the Jews and being tempted to go back to their previous vocations. Despite all that had just happened, the weakness, betrayals, denials, Jesus comes to every sinner, especially the repentant Peters, and calls them to FOLLOW ME.  The LORD knows everything about us.  The LORD calls us to feed His sheep.

I.

  1. Christ calls sinners to Follow Me. We all know people who are just so sweet and naïve that they could be pushed under a bus and apologize for getting in the way of the tires. There are some that are so blessedly blind to the way of the world that they are honestly ignorant of what is happening around them.  There are still others that are so obstinately stiff necked to anything other than what they want to see, they will not acknowledge the truth if it slapped them in the face. The truth of the matter is that Jesus was a dead man.  People saw it happen.  All the disciples knew where Jesus was lying dead and buried.  They all knew it was just a matter of time before the chief priests and Sanhedrin would finish what they started in ridding Jerusalem of this pesky group of people. We remember they said as much when they plotted to murder both Jesus and Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead just before his passion. They all knew this.  They were all afraid of what they knew.  That’s why they have been hiding and trying to quietly go back to what they had done before and not call too much attention to themselves. We are being assaulted with questions about what we know today as well. What do we know about the candidates that are running for office?  What do we know about the water we are drinking?  Do we know what lives really matter?  Do we know what this world does to hateful, judgmental Christians?  Haven’t we seen what family and friends say when we start talking about this Jesus and quoting His Bible?

 

  1. I mean, really, we have had our Easter woo-hoo, let’s just get back to the day to day, shall we. Like the disciples in our text, we hide in our homes for fear of letting our lights so shine before men. Like the disciples in our text, we hide behind our various vocations because we fail to hear the call of the Savior to follow Him because we know He knows. We are humiliated by our accuser who throws our sins of thought, word and deed into our faces every day!  What we know about Peter, well, he tried!  He was one of the pioneers of the modern saying, “go big or go home”.  Peter did!  He confessed that Jesus was the Christ, he walked on water, he helped to feed the 5000, he ran to the tomb and was the first of the disciples to enter it.  He was the leader.  Yeah, he made some mistakes too, like rebuking Jesus for going to Jerusalem to die, denying Jesus three times.  At the end of the day, at least we can see that he tried!  How many of us can say that? That is the question I am asking.  How many of us can say that we have failed boldly trying to proclaim Christ?  When, as men, we try to reclaim the headship that Scripture has given since Eden, only to find ourselves ruling over our wives instead of serving them with the confidence of Christ? When, as women, we rationalize and justify despising our role as helpmeet suitable and keeper at home because we are tempted to feel that I am valued by the one because I earn a paycheck, the other, well, what value do I have to him?

 

  1. As parents, when we fail to see what precious little time we have with our children, or think that being a parent is forcing compliance from the little darlings, or buying the lie that we cannot bring up our children in the training and instruction of the LORD so we have to abdicate their instruction to “professionals” who get paid whether my child progresses or not and whether they turn into descent human beings or not. Even as children, when we know that we are disrespecting our parents by talking back or not doing what we are told. What is worse, these are only the tip of the iceberg. God knows everything. He knows that every thought that we have had had been evil since childhood. God knows that good that we would we don’t, the evil we keep on doing, whether we want to or not, what does it matter in the light of the Law? The wages of sin is death, whether it was on accident or on purpose.  We are even rightly condemned for secret sins and for not doing what we should be doing, like fearlessly proclaiming the resurrected Christ to a hell bound family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, fellow sinner.  God knows all this about us, like He knew about Peter, and what He does doesn’t make sense…or does it.

II.

  1. Christ calls us to feed His sheep: What does it mean to follow Christ? Love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  We know we have not done this. We know God knows this too.  That is what hurt Peter, and what grieves us every day.  What comfort could we possibly have then? It isn’t because God rewards us if we try hard enough.  It’s because of His call to sinners.  Follow me.  As repentant sinners we understand this as Peter did when He was commanded to “feed my sheep” Sheep, like men, are stupid.  Stupid for different reasons, but both take their lives into their own hands despite the fact that there is a ravenous wolf waiting to destroy them.  Both despise the safety of the fold to pursue the desires of their stomachs no matter the cost, irrelevant of whether others may follow.  A shepherd is a necessary protector and provider; a leader.  Jesus bids to follow where there is no want, to lie down in green pastures, to drink in still waters, to be restored in our souls. How does He do this?  Well, His peace isn’t the way the world gives peace.  His Word penetrates the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  The peace of Christ transcends all understanding to guard the heart and mind. He knows what we need before we ask. He knows that anything less than the unconditional Gospel would fail to feed. What does a baby need?  His mother’s milk.

 

  1. What feeds God’s lambs? As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2) .How do the little ones grow from lambs to sheep? Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.  For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: (Is 28:9-10).  We don’t raise lambs, we raise sheep.  We don’t raise children, we raise the next generation of mature Christians. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor 13:11-12).  God has called us out of our spiritual death, blindness, enmity by the power of His Gospel. The Law will keep us humble and hungry.  The Gospel is the only thing that will feed the ravenous hunger for the love from God, status as His child, assurance of eternal life, power to live. He called us by His Word or our Baptismal regeneration. He created life and fed that life through our parents or others who were fed by the Gospel to share and keep sharing the Word of God with you and I.

 

  1. It’s easy to feel that we don’t ever want or need to eat again after pushing away from a feast. It’s stupid.  Of course we will need to eat again, the same day even.  Like stupid sheep, we think that since we have feasted on the Word and Sacrament at church on Sunday, we won’t need to eat again until next week. Only too often and too late do we realize we do not have the spiritual strength to run away, and like Samson, we are alone in our pride. Feed my sheep.  As with the spiritual nutritious value of pure spiritual milk, the faith and soul of a repentant sinner is kept strong and healthy if it keeps feeding on the green pastures of the Gospel.  Like parents who only feed their children McDonalds and Twinkies, we can justify that we are feeding the little beasts.  We must not assume that just because someone slaps the label of biblical on something, that it will automatically be spiritually healthy. Christ doesn’t cut corners on our spiritual health and well-being as He feeds us His body and blood, as He washes and purifies us from all our sins, as He feeds us with the sufficiency of the inspired and inerrant Word that thoroughly equips us for every good work. Why would we try to feed other lambs and sheep with anything less or anything else. If our little ones are crabby, do we automatically think that they are ungrateful little heathens that must be destroyed?  No, we will ask ourselves what do they need – are they tired, are they hungry, do they need to be held?

 

  1. Yet, somehow, when those same little ones get bigger, or full grown adults who are spiritual infants, they act out, sin, do whatever, we are not so compelled to think that we should show them love to get them through their difficulty but the back hand of the Law to keep showing them how much they put us out. After all, they are older, they should know better. Oh, you mean like you and me on a given day!  Feeding Christ’s sheep isn’t starving them with the Law!  Feeding Christ’s lambs isn’t starving them with our testimony of self-righteousness!  They need the one thing needful – God forbid anyone withhold it.  Feeding Christ’s sheep isn’t poisoning them with the confusion of Law and Gospel so that they are left like sheep without a shepherd. Even after Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus called him to Follow Me. I don’t know if we have ever been on that side of a do or die confession like Peter was and it may come with the constant assault of the infidel Muslim, but Satan’s subtle denials are often just as effective for us to damn ourselves rather than follow our Savior.  God knows everything we have ever thought, said or done. Yet, Jesus calls, Follow Me. He makes us hungry through the Law so that as repentant sinners we would follow Jesus to where He feeds us with His life giving and sustaining Gospel in Word and Sacrament. In His call to follow, he commands to feed His sheep.  Like a father, mother or grandmother who made or makes that perfect comfort food that keeps us coming back to the table, Jesus invites us to serve the simplicity of Gospel succulence as the Psalmist says: O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.  O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. 
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The Fourth Sunday in Lent

 

March 6, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Luke 15:11-32

And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

 

  1. Did you ever lose something valuable? In the three parables recorded in Luke 15 Jesus described three different people searching for something valuable they had lost; a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. The Bible describes man as lost. He has wandered away from God and cannot find his way back. Man is also rebellious and hates God’s authority. Left to himself, man would continue wandering away from God until he died in his sins. Sin has blinded man to his true condition. Christ came into the world to seek and to save that which is lost, He came into the world to redeem and reconcile mankind back to God. God loves sinners and is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9). Jesus the Good Shepherd continues searching for the lost sheep who have wandered away from Him. He searches for them through the preaching of His Word of God in the Churches and through individual Christians as they confess their faith in the world. As God’s people proclaim the Word of God to family and friends, the Holy Spirit uses the Word to convince men and women of their need of Christ and grants them repentance and faith in Christ. The story of the Prodigal Son is a picture of man’s rebellion to God. It is also an illustration of the power of God’s love and grace to restore a sinner unto Himself through repentance and faith.

I.

  1. The Prodigal Son rebels against His Father. Jesus tells the story about a man who had two sons. The younger son didn’t want to wait for his inheritance but wanted the money now. He wanted to be on his own, so he asked his father for his portion of the inheritance and the father agreed. He released his son without a fight or even a lecture. After receiving his father’s money the young man travelled to a distant country where he wasted it on riotous living, drinking and wild women. I’ve often wondered why this young man wanted to leave home so badly. Think of what he left, a family that loved him very much, a secure future as the son of a wealthy landowner along with his brother, regular meals, and a comfortable home life complete with servants to do all the hard work. This parable reminds us that sin will blind a man’s heart. Sin makes a person spiritually insane. Listen to Paul’s description of the unbelieving sinner. That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Eph. 4:17-18). No doubt like many young people he thought Dad was too strict, too old fashioned and he was tired of being told what to do, or perhaps he simply wanted an exciting carefree life without any obligations. With the money his Dad gave him he could see the world and live a life of pleasure and ease.

 

  1. He learned the hard way that a life of sin is not freedom at all, but the worst kind of slavery. Life without God, His Law and the forgiveness of sins leads to a life of spiritual bondage. Jesus said: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (Jn. 8:34, 36). Sin leads to death. Sin causes a man to destroy his own life and his eternal soul. You will never truly understand human behavior until you consider the power of sin in the heart of a person. Sin brings guilt, fear, and death. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (Ja. 1:14-15). Sin has the power to cause a man to risk everything to fulfill its lusts, risk his family, his health, his vocation, his reputation, his future, and even his eternal soul. That is the power of sin. Sin is an addiction only Christ can break. I had a pastor friend who helped us start a Baptist church in the Adrian area 30 years ago. He was the pastor of a large congregation on the west side of the state. But while he was on a mission trip in Brazil a few years later, he met a young woman and ended up leaving his wife and family for her. He lost everything, his ministry, reputation, marriage, and family, for what? For a mistress in Brazil. What makes a man that reckless? Sin has the power to deceive and make a man stupid.

 

  1. I’ve often wondered why this father gave money to a son when he knew what he was going to do with it. God is different than an earthly father. He will not force you to believe on Him. He won’t bribe you to be His child or coerce you to obey His Word. He gently and lovingly invites us to come to Christ and be saved. The Christian faith is not like Islam. The Muslim religion teaches its followers to kill anyone that leaves the Islamic faith. Throughout history Islam has forced entire nations to convert to Islam or face death. If you want to leave the Christian faith, if you don’t want to come to church, if you don’t care about your soul or the Word of God, and if you don’t want a relationship with God you can walk away. God will not force you to love and serve Him. The true Child of God serves God out of love for Christ. If you want to waste your inheritance, throw away your gifts, talents, and money, if wish to serve the flesh, the world, and the devil you are free to do so. But the Word of God warns you where such a life will lead. The Lord will chasten His children for their disobedience, but you are free to walk down that path if you wish. But if you do realize that actions have consequences, sometimes for eternity. Millions of people in this country have walked away from God; they have departed from His Word and from the Church. They are wasting the inheritance God gave them and sadly our nation and much of the modern church are doing the same.

II.

  1. The prodigal son returns to His Father. We follow this young man into his new life as he journeys into far country to live in a fool’s paradise where he found lots of drinking buddies and loose women to help him spend his Dad’s money. But after his money was gone, hard times hit. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. His sense of freedom quickly became panic. He was in a distant country without money a job or anyone who could help him. He was getting hungry and destitute. He finally sank so low he took a job feeding pigs for a local farmer, the worst job imaginable for a Jewish boy. He was so hungry he was tempted to eat some of the pig’s food. Solomon wrote: The way of the transgressor is hard (Prov. 13:15). Sometimes the Lord will let a person hit rock bottom to wake him up. He often chastens people by allowing them to experience the consequences of their decisions. When this young man was at the lowest point in his life he began to wake up. Jesus described what happened to him with the words: He came to himself. In other words, he woke up to the stupidity of his situation. He was pathetic and had been acting like a total idiot. The Lord leads you to repentance by shining the Light of His Word into your heart and circumstances to show you your true condition. As this young man contemplated his circumstances he began to reflect on His Father’s kindness and love.

 

  1. How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! The Light of the Law convicted him about how shamefully he had acted toward his father. Paul writes: By the Law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20). He had sinned against God and against his father but now he was faced with a decision. What would he do? Would he stay in the pig pen and continue his rebellion or would he go home and seek reconciliation with his father? The Prodigal Son is a picture of repentance. True repentance is a change of mind and a change of direction. For this young man to repent his next step required action. True repentance says I’m sorry for my sin, sorry enough to stop sinning. And I will prove how sorry I am by beginning to obey God’s Word and amending my sinful life. Repentance for this young man included not just being sorry or feeling regret, he had to get up, leave the pig pen, go home and be reconciled to his father. So he started the long journey home. It was a long walk, but he kept going and as he walked he rehearsed in his mind what he was going to say to his father. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. This young man is now humble. He is no longer the proud, rebellious man that had demanded his inheritance and left home.

 

  1. He was coming home with the attitude of a servant because he knew it was more than he deserved. But as he approached home his father saw him coming a long way off and ran to meet him. His Dad fell on his son’s neck and kissed him. The young man gave him the speech he had prepared but his Dad wasn’t listening. Instead he said to one of the servants: Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. There was no discussion about him becoming a slave. There was nothing he could do to earn his father’s love. He didn’t need to try. The son had put his father out of his mind for a long time but his father had never forgotten him. He had never stopped looking for his son to return home just as God always longs for the sinner to return to His love and grace. The father graciously forgave his son and restored him once again, not as a servant but as a son. The father gave his son the very best robe to put on, a picture of the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all our sins, the spotless garment that is ours in Holy Baptism when we are clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27). He gave him a ring which displayed his status as a son and shoes to wear. Slaves and servants in that day were forbidden to wear shoes and went barefoot. This was truly a day of celebration.

 

  1. Jesus said: I say unto you, that likewise there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. While the party was getting started the older brother was out in the field but when he came near the house and heard music and dancing a servant told him they were celebrating because his younger brother had returned. He was angry and refused to join the party. His Father came out to talk to him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. The older brother saw his relationship to his father in terms of service rather than love. He could have had anything he wanted from his father not because he had served for so many years but because he was a son. If you are a child of God He loves you with an everlasting love. Christ redeemed you from all sin and when you wander away he searches for you, calling you by name and finding you, restores your relationship to Him again. How did the Father deal with the older brother? He showed the same gentle kindness he had shown to his younger brother. Our sins are forgiven through Christ alone. Only Jesus gives us peace with a Holy God.

 

  1. By Christ alone we are admitted into God’s presence without fear. In Christ alone God can be just and still justify the ungodly. Both the prodigal son and the older brother were lost before God, both must repent and return. The older brother was lost in self-righteousness. He had fallen into an even deeper pit of sin. Can we say that we have served God properly? Have we done our duty to our neighbor? Is there anyone who would like to bring forward his prayers, his service, his morality, his faithfulness, his church going and ask to be accepted by God for any of them? Which of these things will stand before God’s perfect holiness? Which of them can justify us? None. If we take any of the Ten Commandments and examine ourselves by it we will discover that we have broken God’s law repeatedly. Before God’s Law there is one verdict, we are guilty and deserve hell. How can we come before God? We come in the name of Jesus with no other plea than this: Christ died on the cross for the ungodly and I trust in Him. Christ died for me and I believe on Him. The robe of Christ’s righteousness is the only garment that can cover our sins, the name of Jesus is the only name by which we will gain entrance into eternal glory. The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. The older brother had stayed home within his father’s house, but in reality he was living in a distant country as much as his younger brother had been. God’s grace reaches out to both of them and to us. Amen.

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

 

January 31, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Luke 4:31-44

Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, meet with us this day according to your promise

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.  And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.  And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about. And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them. Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.

 

  1. In our text Luke introduces us to some of the people Jesus came to save, the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, and the bruised as Jesus described them (Vs. 18). We walk with our Lord on a typical day in His ministry as He is teaching, casting out demons, and healing the sick. The people were amazed at His authority over sickness and the devil. Who were these people? They are people enslaved by the power of sin and Satan. Christ was born to take away sins and destroy the works of the devil (I Jn. 3:5, 8). He is the healer of every evil that sin and the devil have brought into the world; He is the remedy for all the mischief which Satan has brought upon mankind. The devil is very real. He is our adversary, like a roaring lion walking about seeking whom He may devour (I Pet.5:8), and like a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, (Jn. 10:10) and a liar, murderer and deceiver that only Christ can overcome (Jn. 8:44; II Cor. 11:13-14). Man is born a slave to sin and Satan’s Kingdom. Sin entered into the world, and death by sin (Rom. 5:12). Sin is the ultimate cause of all sickness, disease, pain and suffering in the world. Sickness, disease, and suffering are part of the curse which came upon the world when Adam and Eve sinned. If our first parents had not disobeyed God and eaten of the forbidden fruit there would have been no sickness or death. When Adam sinned all of humanity and even Creation itself was condemned to suffer the consequences of curse.

 

  1. This week I was reading about the life of William Cowper. He was born in England in 1731 and suffered chronic depression his entire life often on the brink of insanity. Four times he and had to go stay at an insane asylum until he regained his right mind. He often found relief by reading and writing poetry. Cowper was a recluse who spent his entire life in the English countryside and it was while he was the asylum at St. Albans that he found a Bible on a bench in the garden and began reading it. As he read, he began to feel a ray of hope and then he came across the words of St. Paul in Romans: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God (Rom. 3:25). It was that verse that brought Cowper to faith in Christ but he still struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. Later Cowper’s family moved to the town of Olney where John Newton, the former slave ship captain was pastor and they became close friends. Hoping to lift his spirits, Rev. Newton suggested they write a book of hymns together. He had already written Amazing Grace, one of 280 hymns in the Olney Hymn book and Cowper ended up writing 68 of them. It is often difficult for us to come to terms with Christians who struggle with chronic sickness and depression, yet many believers struggle with these things. It was during Cowper’s worst bouts of melancholy and despair that he wrote some his most memorable hymns.

 

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

With blessings on your head

 

Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan His work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He shall make it plain.

TLH P. 514

William Cowper

 

I.

  1. Jesus came to save and comfort those suffering the results of sin. The redemption of Christ liberates man from the guilt and power of sin and one day creation itself will be set free from the bondage of sin, corruption, and death. Our Gospel lesson raises a question: Why do some people get sick and suffer while others do not? Many skeptics in the past have accused God of being unjust: How can God be loving when He allows pain? How can He be a God of mercy when He permits disease and suffering? These are questions no one can answer completely except to say that: God is too wise to be wrong; too kind to be cruel. In our Gospel we see Jesus going everywhere healing every kind of disease, even raising Lazarus from the dead who had died from sickness. Peter said at the home of Cornelius: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him (Acts 10:39). Christ has the power to heal any disease and provide any thing we need or want in this life. He has complete authority over the devil, sin, and sickness. When Christ speaks, things happen, the fever departs, the demon leaves, and the sick are healed. By healing the sick and casting out demons, Jesus was revealing what He had come to do for the world. All the people Jesus healed during His ministry later died, yet by healing them, Jesus showed us that sickness and death are not the end.

 

  1. What Christ would accomplish on the cross would one day bring ultimate and final healing for our souls and mortal bodies. For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Phil. 3:20-21). Physical sickness reminds us of the reality of death. If people were healthy until the day they died most would not be ready to meet the Lord. They would be like the rich fool in our Lord’s parable who said to himself: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Lu. 12:19-21). Sickness often forces us to consider the things of God and the needs of our soul. Man’s heart by nature is hard as a rock. What can awaken him to his need for Christ? A long illness often draws us to God for it humbles us, and reminds us of the brevity of life as James wrote: For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away (Ja. 4:14). Sickness will reveal the quality of our faith. True religion is good and beneficial not only while we are healthy and sailing on smooth waters, but also during times of sickness when we are in the midst of a storm.

 

  1. Are we building our lives on the rock of God’s Word or on the sand of human thinking and experience? The true foundation of our faith and life will be revealed when the storms come. Every life will have storms at some point. Sickness and suffering show us our need of grace and help draw us back to Christ and the means of grace. If this happens, than sickness was a mercy from God. When Paul was suffering his Thorn in the Flesh, which most say was some kind of physical problem, he prayed three times for God to remove it. But the Lord said no. Then He revealed why He allowed him to suffer. He was preserving Paul from soul damning pride. God said to him: My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (II Cor. 12:9-10). O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Rom.11:33). Now we know in part, but a day is coming when we will know exactly what God was doing and what was the purpose for our suffering. Sickness reminds us to prepare to meet God and to walk with Him each day in true repentance and faith.
  2. Jesus invites us to pray and ask the Father for everything we need and want in this life. I would not leave this subject this morning without pointing you to Jesus the Great Physician. He has the power to heal any disease, to answer any petition, to calm any storm, and to provide any need you may have. He is our Great High Priest, our Mediator with the Father, our Intercessor whose perfect blood and righteousness have opened the way to God’s presence. Jesus our High Priest knows our every need and His ear is always open to our cry. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). Jesus invites us to pray, He commands us to pray, and He promises to answer every proper prayer in His own way and time. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (Jn. 14:13-14). And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Lu. 18:1). If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Mt. 7:11). He is the Sovereign God, able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we or think (Eph. 3:20).

 

  1. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Mt. 7:7). Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you (Jn. 15:16). Do you realize that in the New Testament Jesus never refused to heal anyone who asked Him? He was always ready to hear and answer the prayers of all who came to Him. Do you also realize that He has not changed? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). And do you know that history is filled with examples of how God has answered prayer in the past. He has healed millions of people just like you and if so, then why not you? He is no respecter of persons and He has promised to listen and answer when we call. We come to God in prayer with the attitude of our Lord: Not my will but Thine be done ready to accept whatever God chooses to give us. But let us not be afraid to pray boldly for miracles, and to plead with God for all that we need, as the angel said to Mary: For with God nothing shall be impossible (Lu. 1:37). Let us follow the example of Elijah an ordinary man like us who prayed that it would not rain for three and a half years and God answered his prayer. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (Ja. 5:16-18).

 

Thou art coming to a King

Large petitions with thee bring;

For His grace and power are such

None can ever ask too much

TLH P. 459

John Newton

 

  1. Jesus came to preach the Gospel, to call people to faith in the promise that their sins are forgiven in Him. He speaks with authority and calls you back to the God who knows all your sins yet still forgives and accepts you for the sake of His Son. Christ is still preaching that same message in the church today through His called ministers. He invites you to come to Him for rest. His Word is alive, powerful, and filled with divine authority. His Word is able to grant faith, healing, and new life to all who hear it. Are you bothered by your sins? Does the devil accuse you? Is your heart filled with doubts and fears? Realize that the devil has no power over you. Death has been defeated. One day our bodies that suffer pain and weakness are going to be healed and restored to perfect health at the last day. Christ spoke His Word over you at your baptism through His called minister when the Triune God joined you to Himself, just as He speaks the word of forgiveness in the Absolution, and in Holy Communion: This is My body, this is My blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. After years of doubts and fears about his salvation William Cowper finally understood the reality of Christ’s full atonement for sins. He is an example of Christ’s power to save and preserve His sheep through they are weak and sick and often filled with despair, and depression. He carries His lambs to Heaven to be with Him. William Cowper sat down one day and wrote a hymn about of his new found confidence in Christ.

 

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

 

The dying thief rejoiced to see

That fountain in his day;

And there have I, as vile as he

Washed all my sins away.

 

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue

Lies silent in the grave,

Then in a nobler sweeter song

I’ll sing Thy power to save

TLH P. 157

William Cowper

 

 

 

The Second Sunday after Epiphany

 

January 17, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

John 2:1-11

Lord God Heavenly Father meet with us this day by Your Word through Christ our Savior.

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

 

  1. In our Gospel reading Jesus was attending a wedding in Cana along with Mary His mother and the disciples. His presence at this wedding reminds us that God created marriage. He created it before the fall, at a time when Adam and Eve loved God and one another perfectly; marriage is God’s gift to mankind, one man and one woman joined together for life, till death do us part. After Adam was created the Lord knew he was in need of something. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet (suitable) for him (Gen. 2:18). God created the family, the place where children would be born, nurtured, and prepared to take their place in the world. Nothing can take the place of a biological father and mother in the life of a child. This is why man has no right to redefine marriage to suit his own selfish desires. The Bible condemns homosexual Marriage. It is wrong, destructive, and destined to fail. The true Church must remain faithful to the Bible’s definition of marriage, family, and life in this world lest we fall under His judgment. Marriage is not a sacrament but a gift from God given for our benefit. Christ has promised to dwell with His people until the end of time The Wedding of Cana is a reminder that Jesus is with us at every stage of our lives, present in all of our joys and celebrations and present in all of our disappointments and grief. What is the meaning of Christ’s presence with us in our lives?

I.

  1. Jesus is with us in every circumstance. He is the silent witness to all the events of our life. He was a guest at your wedding. The Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant (Mal. 2:14). God heard the vows you made on your wedding day and though many have forgotten the covenant they made that day He still remembers. God keeps His covenant with us and He expects us to keep the covenant we made with our spouse. Every young girl dreams of her wedding day when she will dazzle all the wedding guests with her radiant beauty, but a wedding back in Jesus’ day was quite different. In Western weddings the bride is the one celebrated. When she walks down the aisle the whole congregation stands, the organ plays and every eye is on her. But in Eastern weddings the groom was the focus, the bride merely showed up for the ceremony. In those days the man paid for the whole wedding which could last for two or three days, sometimes as long as a week. All of the relatives from both sides of the family would come together for eating and drinking. There are times to rejoice and celebrate with feasting and wine. No one can say the Bible forbids all wine drinking. The wine served at a Jewish wedding was intoxicating, the idea that Jesus made high grade grape juice at Cana is ridiculous. Jesus was able to enjoy food and wine at a wedding without sin, and He desires us to do the same.

 

  1. One of the purposes for marriage is bringing children into the world and into the Kingdom of God through Holy Baptism. The Lord is with us when our children are born. When my first daughter was born, the hospitals had just started letting fathers into the delivery room rather than stay out in the waiting area. I personally preferred the old system, just call me when it’s over, but there I was with Carla watching her give birth to my daughter Kara. For some reason we assumed we were having a boy and had not even picked out a girl’s name, that’s how certain we were, but the Lord surprised us. I’ll never forget leaving the hospital that day to take a walk and try to clear my head and to think about a name and though I don’t place much confidence on feelings, I’ll never forget how much I felt God’s presence at that moment. It was overwhelming. I knew He was with me. The Lord blessed us with three more children and I got a boy the next time. The children God gives us are born in sin so parents have the privilege of bringing their children to the waters of Baptism to wash away their sins. And as they grow up in the home they are to teach them the Word of God and the Catechism from their earliest years, teaching them that they are children of God by faith through their baptism into Christ. The Sacrament of Baptism cleanses the child from sin but the Lord tells us to train our children in His Word and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:3).

 

  1. The Lord is with us as our children grow up and even though we are sinful, weak and in need of mercy, the Lord sanctifies our marriage and blesses our homes with His presence. This is why we keep coming back to church each week to hear again the reality of our sins, our need of Christ and the promises of the Gospel. In the Divine Service the Lord meets with parents and children through His Word and Sacrament and the fellowship of His people. The Lord was there when your children graduated from high school and that day when your daughter called home to tell you she had met a boy and wanted to know if she could bring him home to meet her parents. Fathers should not necessarily pick husbands for their daughters, but they should definitely maintain veto power. Only a father knows what it feels like to stand in the back of the church his daughter holding his arm about to walk down the aisle together at her wedding and the thoughts that race through your head. It seemed like just yesterday she was running around the yard but now she had grown up, getting married and beginning a new home. And you realize once again the reality of God’s promise:  Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee (Deut. 31:6). The Lord is with you every step of the way, in every celebration, at every milestone, and even in times of affliction and trial He walks with us each day.

 

  1. And He promises to be with us on our deathbed and all the way to glory. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Ps. 23:4). O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee (Is. 43:1-2). Jesus is with us when things go wrong like they did that day at the wedding. Mary came to Jesus with bad news: They have no wine. This was a social disaster; the absolute worst thing that could have happened to this young couple. Jesus had not performed any miracles up until this time but it is clear Mary expected Her Son to do something about it. When Jesus replied: Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come, He was saying: You don’t understand, if I perform a miracle it does not signal the hour of my glory (a reference to His death on the cross). Mary is satisfied with His answer and tells the servants: Do whatever He tells you to do. What happened next is one of the most glorious miracles recorded in the Bible. Jesus told the servants to fill six large stone jars with water, draw some out and take it to the man in charge of the feast. Without a prayer, a word of command, or even touching the water it was turned into wine.

II.

  1. Jesus is Lord over every circumstance. Jesus isn’t just a passive bystander observing the events of our lives; He is the sovereign God of the universe who has all power in heaven and on earth and is intimately involved in every detail of our life. He is with us when we fall into sin and are in need of His mercy as He continually calls us back to His grace and favor. He knows how often we sin against our spouse, the times we are selfish and unkind, when we lose our temper and His Spirit convicts us, gently leading us to repentance and confession of our sins in order to receive forgiveness. Christ is the sovereign Lord of Creation, the author and finisher of our faith and the true Church is the bride of Christ. If you are one of His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him He has promised that you will never perish, and no one will pluck you from His hand. When the lion came and took a lamb out of David’s flock, David arose and delivered the lamb out of his mouth and Christ will do the same. Not a single sick lamb in Christ’s flock shall ever perish. He will say to His Father on the last day, Of them which Thou gavest Me I have lost none (Jn. 18:9). Fear not! The gates of Hell will never prevail against your soul for greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Do not be anxious about the future. Christ is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. The Good Shepherd will continue to guide you, to feed you, and to provide your every need.

 

  1. Do not worry about corrupt politicians or the wolves in sheep’s clothing, Christ will provide for His Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Christ is the sovereign Lord of the world though our eyes cannot see it. We walk by faith not by sight. The same Lord who had the power to turn water into wine when the waves were breaking into the ship where He was and the terrified disciples woke Him up crying for help, He arose and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea: Peace be still and the wind ceased and there was a great calm. He is the merciful Savior to whom the sinner is urged to flee and is invited to trust. He is the Almighty God who has power to give eternal life to all who believe. When your heart is tossed to and fro like the stormy sea, when you can find no rest, I urge you to look to the One who alone can give you rest. Jesus has the power to say to your heart, whatever its condition, Peace be still. And when your conscience is torn as you remember your sins, and you are attacked by countless temptations, and when your heart seems full of evil and sin tries to convince you that you are a slave, there is One who can give you pardon and peace. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can rebuke the devil’s raging sea and calm your soul’s misery with the words: Peace be still. He can scatter the clouds of guilt that weigh you down and drive away fear. He can remove the spirit of bondage and fill you with a Spirit of adoption.

 

  1. Satan may hold you captive like a strong man armed, but Jesus is stronger than the devil and when He commands, the prisoner must go free. Go to Jesus, cry unto Him, and He will forgive, strengthen, and refresh you. Jesus will manifest Himself to you as clearly as He did to His disciples at the wedding that day. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. God has revealed Himself to man in the person of His Son whom He sent into the world to save us from our sins. He gives us understanding of His Word. We are not left to our own ideas about God for He comes to us in the Word of the Gospel, the Waters of Baptism, and in Bread and Wine of Holy Communion, a better wine than He created for the guests at Cana, for in His Holy Supper He offers and seals to you His Body and Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. The disciples were beginning to realize that Jesus was the God-Man who had power over all creation, the ruler over the natural world, and He could handle anything that happened in their life. If He had the power to take ordinary water and make wine, He could provide everything they needed for this life and the next. The presence of Christ sanctifies everything that happens in your life. The presence of Christ with us each day is the secret to true courage before men. We have no reason to be ashamed of Christ for He was not ashamed of us on the cross.

 

  1. Keep your lives free from covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me (Heb. 13:5-6). Our Savior is with us in every circumstance, every event, every milestone of our life, rejoicing with us in times of joy and comforting us in our sorrows and disappointments. Here is the secret to true Christian contentment and joy. Christ the Savior and Creator of the world is with us. He is our helper, we need not fear what man can do to us. He gives us courage to walk with Him in the Church and in the world, He gives us the courage to be faithful to the covenant we made with our spouse so many years ago, and the courage to trust Him to provide everything we need in our family, our church and our nation. God created marriage, Christ redeemed it, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies and strengthens it. The sovereign Lord Jesus Christ will preserve His true church on the earth in spite of false prophets and violent religions. He is able to renew His church on earth and restore His Word to His people just as He does here each week. Let us pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send a true Reformation to the churches. The Lord will protect our nation and provide for us not because we deserve it, but because of His great mercy toward His people. He alone is able to answer our deepest needs in an instant just as He turned ordinary water into the wine by His grace and power. May the Lord give us this assurance for Christ’s sake; Amen.

 

The Second Sunday after Christmas

 

January 3, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Lu. 2:40-52

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be among us this day by your Spirit and Word.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Know ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

 

  1. When Jesus was twelve years old He gave his Mom quite a scare. The Holy family had traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover as they did every year, and when the feast ended Mary and Joseph joined the family caravan for the return home to Nazareth, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not realize what He had done and supposing He was somewhere in the group hanging out with His cousins and friends they gave no thought to it. But at the end of the day they began to search for Him and when they couldn’t find Him among their family and neighbors they returned to Jerusalem to look for Him. It took a few days but they finally found Him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers and theologians listening and asking questions and all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and the answers He gave to them. When His parent’s saw Him they were amazed and said to Him: Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them: How is it that ye sought me? Know ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Lit: the things of my Father). For any other twelve year old to have said this to his parents would have been disrespectful but Jesus was not an ordinary twelve year old boy. He was God incarnate, a young man filled with divine wisdom and a divine mission to complete in the world, something He understood at age twelve.

I.

  1. Jesus came to accomplish His Father’s will. Jesus is true God and true man in one person; Son of God and Son of Mary, fully divine and fully human. He is the only begotten Son of God sent from heaven, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary for us men and for our salvation. Jesus came into the world for a specific reason. Our text points to this purpose when we realize where Jesus was when He spoke these words. He was in the Temple, the place of God’s special presence; the dwelling place of God on earth. In the Old Covenant, believers came to the Temple to meet with God and so it was the most appropriate place for Jesus to be. When the Temple of Solomon was being dedicated we read that the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for a house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attend unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house that my name may be there forever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually (II Chron. 7:12-16).

 

  1. Sacrifices for sins were offered at the Temple, and it was here that God promised to meet with His people, forgive their sins and hear their prayers. When Jesus cleansed the Temple just before His crucifixion, He said to the merchants: It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves (Lu. 19:46). Jesus told a parable about a Publican who came to the Temple to find forgiveness and mercy from God. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified. (Lu. 18:13-14). The Temple was the outward symbol of God’s covenant with His people and the center of Jewish worship, where the priesthood interceded for the people, and the place where God’s Law and Promises were proclaimed. What was Jesus doing at the Temple that day? He was explaining and unfolding God’s Word to the leaders of the Jewish Church. Jesus came into the world to make God known to man. The entire Old Testament points to Jesus. He is the sum and substance of the entire Scriptures; the Word of God incarnate, the wisdom and power of God. The Lord has chosen to reveal Himself to man in His written Word and so God sent Jesus into the world to explain His Word to man. The knowledge of God is more than mere knowledge, it is divine wisdom that knows what to do with His knowledge.

 

  1. If you want to be wise, if you want the wisdom of God then seek the Lord Jesus Christ in His Word and He will give you understanding. You can find Jesus right here in the Temple, the true Church is God’s Temple where He has promised to be present in the preaching of His Word and the Holy Sacrament. This is the Father’s business Jesus was engaged in. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. Jesus saith unto them, My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.(Jn. 6:38; 4:34). I lay down my life, that I might take it again. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father (Jn. 10:17-18). It was necessary for Jesus to be in His Father’s House that day for He had come to do the will of His Father, to rescue and redeem mankind from the guilt of sin and death. Jesus respectfully reminded Mary and Joseph of something they should have already known. At the time of His conception the angel Gabriel said to Mary: He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: (Lu. 1:32). The words of Simeon to Mary and Joseph at the Temple foreshadowed His work in the world. Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) (Lu. 2:34-35).

II.

  1. Jesus accomplished everything His Father sent Him to do. How would Jesus accomplish His Father’s saving purpose? Twenty years later He would return to Jerusalem once again at the Passover to fulfill the Old Testament sacrifices and what the Passover Lamb signified. By His sacrifice on the cross, death would pass over us and we would be set free from sin, death, and hell. John the Baptist said of Jesus: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). The death of Christ did not just make salvation possible. On the cross, Jesus purchased us with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He accomplished redemption. Our debt is paid in full. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7). Jesus satisfied God’s Holy Law on behalf of sinners by His perfect life and paid the ultimate penalty of the Law by suffering the death that we deserved. He was the propitiation (the appeasement) for our sins and the sins of the whole world (I Jn. 2:2). His perfect life and death delivered us from divine wrath. Christ appeased the wrath of God that was against us once and for all. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (I Jn. 4:10). Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him (Rom. 5:9). When Christ said on the cross: It is finished! These were not words of weakness or resignation, but words of triumph.

 

  1. The Greek word for it is finished, is the word tetelestai: It is accomplished. Ancient business documents from the Greek and Roman world of that time have been found, invoices and receipts for various things, and they are marked with this word: tetelestai, paid in full. The death of Christ objectively justified the entire world and pronounced God’s verdict of not guilty upon the world for the sake of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Subjective justification means that the benefits of God’s verdict of not guilty, become yours by faith. Christ has redeemed the entire world. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (I Tim. 2:5-6). Jesus tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). The doctrine of the objective justification is clearly revealed in Scripture. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:19). For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:23-24). Here we see that all have sinned and that all those sinners are now justified. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life (Rom. 5:19). Objective Justification is the basis for Subjective Justification.

 

  1. If God had not justified the world through His Son and if this justification was not offered to men through the preaching of the Gospel, there could be no justification by faith. Only those who believe the promise of the Gospel are justified, but faith must have an object to which it clings, and that object is the Lord Jesus Christ and the objective justification He accomplished. When you hear the Gospel, how do you know the promise is for you? How do you know God is willing to forgive your sins? You can be sure your sins are forgiven and God has accepted you as His child because Christ has already reconciled the world, atoned for the sins of mankind and justified all men. In other words, salvation is a done deal, the payment for the sins of the world has been made, and all the sinner must do is accept this fact by faith. When he does, all the blessings Christ earned for him on the cross are given personally to him. Therefore the message of the Church to the world is not that God has done His part in saving you and now you must do your part, you must make a decision, pray a prayer, or invite Jesus into your heart. The message we proclaim is the word of reconciliation! God has already reconciled the world unto Himself and now offers this finished work to all men. Faith is not a work that we achieve, but the gift of God, given through the Word of the Gospel, that enables the sinner to reach out and receive for himself what God is offering him.

 

  1. Another question that arises concerning a person’s salvation is, how do I know whether or not I have actually received the forgiveness God has promised me? If I am trusting in my prayers, decisions, and good intentions that is a mighty shaky stick to lean on. Christ earned the treasures of the Gospel on the cross; by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:12). So how does the Lord channel the benefits of His death and resurrection to us here today? A proper understanding of Objective Justification will help us understand the power of the Gospel and the Sacraments. Christ continues to come to His people through His objective Word and Sacraments to offer, seal, and apply the forgiveness of sins to our hearts and lives. The means of grace are objective, which means, they actually contain, offer and give to the believing sinner what they proclaim and promise. They are more than mere symbols of grace. It is Christ’s objective justification of the world that makes the word of the Gospel, Holy Baptism, and the Sacrament of the Altar effective. So we can say with Paul: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (I Cor. 1:18). And we can say with the Apostle Peter: Baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:21).

 

  1. We confess with Jesus when He took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Mt. 26:26-28). All the treasures of the Gospel that Christ earned for the world on the cross are offered to all men in the simple preaching of the Gospel, in the waters of Baptism. And the believer receives the promise of forgiveness in the body and blood of Christ received under the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. Christ came into the world to deal with sin once and for all on the cross. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin (I Jn. 3:5). Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28). His death redeemed and reconciled the world to God and now He continues to call sinners to repentance and to invite us to come to Him for rest. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly Jn. 10:10b). Christ has promised to receive all who come to Him by faith. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (Jn. 6:37). All of the promises of the Gospel are made certain for Christ has already accomplished our salvation. May God grant us faith to receive His promise of forgiveness for Christ’s sake; Amen.

The Third Sunday in Advent

 

December 13, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Luke 7:18-28

Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of  the world, grant us hearts of faith and joy.

And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxuries, are in palaces.  But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

 

  1. Today we light the pink or rose colored candle on our Advent Wreath. Purple is the symbol of repentance, a reminder of John the Baptist calling the people to repentance to prepare the way of the Lord. In Advent the Lord calls us to mourn over our sins, repent and bear fruit in keeping with our repentance. Advent is the church preparing for the Lord’s return. Rose is the color of rejoicing reflected in the words of our Introit: Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. In the midst of repentance there is joy, just as the angels in heaven rejoice when one sinner repents (Lu. 15:7, 10). We rejoice because Christmas is coming soon, the return of Christ is near and our redemption draweth nigh. God calls us to rejoice even though for a time we have to endure affliction, trials, aches, pains, sickness, and sadness. We rejoice though the world around us is often perplexing. I imagine many of the families of those killed in San Bernardino in the terrorist attacks are wondering how in the world this could have happened? Where was God when this was going on? John the Baptist had a similar question for our Lord. God had chosen John to be the forerunner of Christ to prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight. He was sent to call the people of Israel back to God’s covenant through repentance and baptism. He came in the spirit of Elijah (Mt. 11:14), proclaiming the salvation of God’s people and judgment against the wicked.

 

  1. The multitudes who came to be baptized by John had never seen nor heard anyone like him. He proclaimed God’s judgment against the wicked: the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire (Lu. 3:9). God was going to chop down the high and mighty, burn the proud and defiant in the fires of Hell, and save the humble and repentant. John was not afraid of anyone, not the Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, not even King Herod whom he rebuked for committing adultery with his brother’s wife. But what happened to John? In the middle of a successful ministry, Herod had him arrested and put in prison. John no doubt wondered, was this God’s plan? After all, King Herod was still sitting on his throne, rebelling against God’s Law and no one opposed him. Why didn’t the Lord do something? John had preached exactly what the Lord had told him, that when the Messiah came He would overthrow the wicked and deliver the righteous. But now John was sitting in prison and King Herod was living in luxury. Nothing had changed. Finally John decided to send two of his disciples to ask Jesus a question. Are you the one or should we look for another? He was asking: I’ve heard about your ministry and the miracles you perform, but where is the judgment I’ve been preaching about? When is God going to overthrow the wicked? Jesus answered John’s question.

I.

  1. Jesus took the judgment of sin upon Himself. Christ came to accomplish a much greater judgment than mere earthly kings. The wicked would one day be judged and destroyed just as John had predicted, but first another judgment had to take place, God’s judgment against sin. John heard Christ’s message of forgiveness, reconciliation, love, and peace and wondered, had he gotten it wrong? Had he placed his confidence in the wrong person? God established the plan of salvation before the foundation of the world in the person of His Son Jesus Christ who would judge sin and the devil once and for all. Paul wrote: For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (II Cor.5:21). Jesus took the penalty of our sins upon Himself so that now God the Father could declare sinners righteous and by faith personally justify them in His sight. Years ago people used to have accounts at local stores which allowed them to buy things on credit. This was long before credit cards were invented. If you had a debt with the local shopkeeper and someone came into the store and paid the debt for you, the storeowner would stamp your account paid in full. This meant he had no further right to collect the debt from you for it was gone and could no longer be charged to your account. The debt was paid and you were no longer bound by it. The same is true of the debt of our sins we have with God. Sins are often described in the Bible as debts we owe to God.

 

  1. Because of Christ’s death on the cross God no longer charges or imputes our sins to us. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:19). If the owner of the store met you on the street and demanded payment for your debt you could tell him to go jump in the lake. Your debt has been satisfied, full payment was made. The devil loves to accuse us of our sins. So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His Name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also. (Luther). We are no longer under the judgment and condemnation of God, our sins were judged 2,000 years ago on the cross, and confirmed by the resurrection of Christ. He that believeth on him is not condemned (judged): but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn. 3:18). Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life (Jn. 5:24). We will one day stand with confidence before God in the Day of Judgment because of Christ. Our good works will be evidences of saving faith.

 

  1. Christ died for sin once for all and we can add nothing. The axe of divine judgment was laid at the root of sin, the world, and Satan. On the cross Satan was judged and his claim on us was broken. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die (Jn. 12:31-33). The cross satisfied the wrath of God and reconciled the world to God. The satisfaction Christ made for sin was applied to us in Holy Baptism. When we were baptized into Christ the guilt and power of sin were broken in our lives. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). Now in Christ sin and death no longer have dominion over us. We still sin, but we are not slaves of sin. We have been pardoned, our hearts have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, and the devil can no longer accuse us. When Christ laid down His life on the cross the powers of hell were disarmed and rendered powerless (Col. 2:15). Jesus Christ our conquering Savior made a public spectacle of Satan and all his hosts just as ancient generals would often lead a defeated king through the streets of the city in chains to openly display his shame.

II.

  1. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures. John was perplexed. What he was hearing about Jesus just didn’t fit with his thinking. Perhaps you share some of his bewilderment by what you see in the world. When you read about Muslim terrorists gunning down innocent people and cutting people’s heads off over in the Middle East you might ask, where is God? Why doesn’t He do something? Perhaps you are watching a loved one slowly dying before your eyes or seeing friends or family going through a tragedy where it seems like evil is winning. You may wonder if God cares and if He does, is He powerful enough to do something about it. And the problem isn’t just out there for when I look inside my own heart it doesn’t get much better. If we are honest when we look into our heart we see sin and that same old sorry, failing, pathetic excuse for a Christian, with the same weaknesses and confusion we’ve had for years. We may ask, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I live up to my commitments? Why do I fail so often? Like John we are tempted to ask: How long O Lord will I have to wait to see your deliverance and the final judgment against sin? This is one of the oldest questions in the world, how can we explain the existence of evil? It is also a question about the return of Christ when God promises to make everything right once and for all. But waiting for our Lord’s return can be difficult. It was for John the Baptist and it is for us.

 

  1. Jesus answered John’s question by quoting the Prophet Isaiah’s description of the Messiah in Is 35:5-6; 61:1. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. Jesus was telling John, I understand your confusion because evil seems to be winning and divine judgment seems slow in coming, but that day will come. And you can be sure of God’s judgment because the Word of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness was being fulfilled at that very moment. Jesus said to John: Look at what I am doing? I’m healing the sick the blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf and raising the dead, all of the signs that Isaiah said the Messiah would do. The miracles of Jesus were a foretaste of what is waiting for all who place their trust in Christ. Jesus was preaching the Gospel of grace to all who are poor in spirit, to all who recognize their need of a Savior, and believe on Him. His promise is given to people like John the Baptist and to everyone here. If Jesus was really doing the things Isaiah prophesied, then John could be sure He would do everything else the Old Testament had promised. All of the promises about Jesus Christ are going to come to pass and the Word of the Lord would endure for eternity.

 

  1. There was a day 2,000 years ago when it seemed as though evil was triumphant, a day when Jesus prayed from the cross: My God my God, why hast Thou forsaken me. It was on this day that Jesus cried out: It is finished. These words revealed our salvation was complete. It was on that dark day the world had the greatest cause for joy for on that day God was saving the world from sin, Satan, and evil, saving us in the only way possible, by the death of His Son. Jesus took our sins and burdens upon Himself, to give us divine comfort, peace, and joy. The death and resurrection of Christ is our strength, comfort, and rejoicing in the perplexities and troubles of life. Christ offers divine rest and forgiveness to us through the promises in His Word and in His Holy Sacrament where we receive His true Body and Blood under the bread and wine for the remission of sins. God has dealt with our sins completely and when we trust in Christ we share in His victory over sin, death, and hell. We look forward to the day of resurrection and eternal life as we live in a world of sorrow and death. Do you see now why the Christian is able to rejoice on this day of joy? Our joy is based on the finished work of Christ for us. He has forgiven our sins and promises to preserve us in the true faith until the end. Christmas is coming soon! The day of Christ’s return is getting nearer every day! For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed (Rom. 13:11b). Therefore: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Amen.

The Second Sunday in Advent

 

December 6, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Luke 3:1-14

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior of the world, meet with us this day in Thy Word.

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;  And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.  Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?  He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.  Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?  And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.  And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

 

  1. Israel had departed from God’s covenant, and though there were still believers scattered throughout the country, Judaism had morphed into a cult or works righteousness, a religion that honored God outwardly but the hearts of the worshipers were far from God. Not only were the people strangers to God, their religious leaders were corrupt. The Sanhedrin, the highest religious body in the Jewish religion, was in league with the Roman government controlling and fleecing the people. If anyone stepped out of line or challenged their authority they risked being excommunicated from Jewish society or put to death by the Romans. Jesus described the people of Israel as sheep without a shepherd to feed, protect, and lead them (Mt. 9:37-38). In 2017 we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation when Martin Luther confronted the power and tyranny of the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire with nothing but the Word of God. Luther called the church of his day to repentance from the false doctrines of indulgences, and Roman Catholic works back to the truth, beauty, and simplicity of the Gospel. Luther’s first Thesis of the 95 Theses summarized his message to the church: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said repent He intended that the entire life of believers be repentance. The entire Christian life is to be repentance, a turning from sin by faith in Jesus Christ, every day and every moment. Repentance is the Christian’s continual posture before God.

 

  1. This was the message of John the Baptist as he preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Lu. 3:3). When people deny the power of Baptism to apply the forgiveness of sins to the hearts and lives of sinners I remind them that even John’s Baptism contained the forgiveness of sin. John was preparing the people of Israel for the coming of Jesus the Messiah by calling them back to God’s Covenant through repentance and Baptism. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. The message of repentance from sin and faith in the Gospel was the message of our Lord. Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mk 1:14-15). This was also the message of the early church. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:28). The Church of Laodicea thought they were rich and in need of nothing. But Jesus said they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked and called them to repent that fellowship could be restored with Him again. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:19-20). Let us examine the doctrine of repentance together.

I.

  1. The Necessity of Repentance. John was calling Israel to repentance in preparation for Christ’s appearing, and this is the same message the modern church needs to hear. The church in our day needs to repent of doctrinal indifference. It matters what a person believes regardless of how sincere they may be. Many Pastors today do not believe that purity of doctrine is necessary or even possible and so they tolerate false doctrine and error right in their churches. God’s Word can be understood by the power of the Holy Spirit and the key to understanding Scripture is a penitent heart willing to bow before God in His Word. Modern religion needs to repent of a false view of tolerance and love that enables people to continue in sin and still to be Christians. Any supposed Christian love that does not preach God’s Law and the necessity of personal holiness and obedience to God is not love, but hate. It is the devil’s love. Modern churches have been deceived by phony equality, the idea that all religions and cultures are equal. This is the rationale behind our current immigration. People imagine it doesn’t matter who you allow into your country. Since everyone in the world is the same you can replace the American people with Third World Muslims and still have the same country we have always known. Recent events have revealed that Multiculturalism is not only wrong and misguided but also deadly. The job of the state is to protect our citizens from criminals, terrorists, and evil men who would destroy us.

 

  1. If we continue down this path, we are going to lose this country. The reason why the church must proclaim God’s Law and show men their true condition is man by nature is a lost and condemned sinner in need of reconciliation, forgiveness, and new life. From birth man is separated from God his heart and mind are blinded to God’s Word and man is dead in trespasses and sins, an enemy of God and His Law (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 8:7). What is repentance? It is a God given Spirit led change of heart and mind toward God and about sin that turns from sin unto God through faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance involves the reality of sin and the reality of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. If man was without sin he would not need to repent and if God was not gracious toward sinners it would do no good to repent. We are saved by faith in Christ alone but saving faith will always include repentance and a heart of contrition. Faith cannot dwell in a heart that is impenitent. Repentance and faith are gifts from God, man can do nothing to save himself. He cannot make himself repentant nor can he create faith in his own heart. Paul said: The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (Rom. 2:4). When Paul was instructing young Timothy on dealing with difficult and cantankerous church members he advised him not to get into arguments with people who oppose the truth.

 

  1. Instead he was to instruct them in meekness in the hope that God will grant them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (II Tim. 2:25). Only God can give us a heart of repentance. True repentance consists of three things. The first is confession of sin. We must see our sins as God has revealed them in His Word. The word confess means to agree with God or say the same thing about our sins that He has said. In the Nicene Creed we confess our faith, we say the same thing God has said in His Word. If we confess our sins, (If we say the same thing about our sins that God has said) he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I Jn. 1:9). The second part of repentance is Contrition. Paul describes contrition as Godly sorrow over sin. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death (II Cor. 7:10). In true repentance there is not only a desire to escape the consequences of sin but a resolve and a sincere effort to turn from everything that is displeasing to God. The third part of repentance is conversion. True repentance will turn from sin and seek to amend our sinful life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Repentance and faith are inseparable and occur simultaneously in the heart of a sinner when He is saved. You cannot have one without the other. Repentance without faith is nothing more than remorse or regret and faith without repentance makes Christ nothing more than an escape from hell.

II.

  1. The Evidence of Repentance: When John saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized he said to them: O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance (Mt. 3:7-8). John knew these men were not coming to be baptized for forgiveness; they were trusting in their works and in their racial heritage to be right with God. They thought their blood relation to Abraham saved them. John exposed their false thinking: Do not say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Lu. 3:8). God is not deceived about our true sinful condition. True conversion will include a change of heart and life. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Is. 55:7). He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Prov. 28:13). This is the message that Paul the Apostle preached to the Gentiles is: that they should repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:20). Paul said to the Greeks: God commandeth all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). The grace of God will change your life and make you a different person, if it does not, you have not received God’s grace.

 

  1. True repentance will create a new desire, strength, resolve, and effort to amend our lives and to do good works. The good works God desires are revealed in His Word and are the graces the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and lives as we walk in the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22-23). Faith works by love and the love of God is the motivation for all good works. It is our love for Christ that motivates us to serve God by serving our brethren. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again (II Cor. 5:14-15). True repentance and the new birth will make us generous with what God has given us. When the people came to John asking how they should live in light of their baptism he replied: He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. When the Lord truly gets hold of someone’s heart he also gets his wallet and checkbook. I’ve never preached a sermon on stewardship and giving in this church because when God’s people are being fed by the Word of God they will be generous, as you have proven over the years. A man once said: you can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

 

  1. Jesus said it this way: When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Lu. 14:12-14). True repentance will make you generous. Next the publicans came to ask what they should do and John said: Exact no more than that which is appointed you. Tax collectors in that day were notorious thieves who extorted money from people with the power of the Roman Government behind them and John told them to start being honest. True repentance and faith will make a man honest with God and other people. It will make you a person of integrity, who is reliable, and truthful. People will be able to believe what you say and rely upon the commitments you make. We live in a world of lies and deception where God calls us to be people of truth. Finally the Roman soldiers came to John asking what they should do to show their repentance and he said: Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages. John knew that men who exercised the authority of the government, soldiers and policemen in particular, might be tempted to cut corners, to exact their own personal vengeance on criminals or falsely accuse someone of a crime just to solve a case.

 

  1. And like most employees, the soldiers were tempted to complain about the money they were paid for doing a distasteful job. John did not tell them to resign from the military he simply told them to do their job as they were trained and be content with the money God had given them. The sins we commit have names. They are the good things we fail to do like helping our neighbor, being kind to the people in our lives, and teaching our children the Bible and they are the bad we should not do, like some of the movies we watch, or when we lie to people, and yell at our family. When we hear the call to repentance we need to get serious about the changes that need to take place in our lives. With the call to prepare the way of the Lord comes the gracious promise: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. That’s where repentance takes us, to the Gospel, to the forgiveness of sins and that’s what Advent is all about. It is receiving the grace of God in Christ knowing that God wants to forgive our sins and help us live a life that will glorify our Savior. Christ came to win our salvation on the cross. The child of Bethlehem came in human flesh as our brother to live the life God wants us to live and to suffer the punishment our sins deserve. This salvation was declared to the world when He rose from the dead. Therefore I urge you to take time during Advent for self-examination asking God for His help in making the changes He wants you to make in honesty and humility for Christ’s sake; Amen.