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.
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Christmas Eve Service

December 24, 2014

Rev. Ross Mahan, Pastor

Is. 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 

  1. History is in God’s hands! His providence rules the world. The Lord turns the hearts of kings wherever He will. Our story begins with a tax. Caesar Augustus decided to do what governments do best, raise taxes. And his decree brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the city of David. It was here Jesus was born according to the Prophet Micah. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2).  Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn and there were shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. God revealed the birth of His Son not to priests and kings, but to lowly shepherds. Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (Ja. 2:5). Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. (Lu. 2:10-12). The first Christmas Sermon was Don’t be afraid!

 

  1. Jesus was the promised Savior who was born to crush the serpent’s head and deliver mankind from sin, death and Satan. God entered the world in the person of His Son to redeem mankind. Jesus was the Light of the world sent from Heaven to overcome the darkness of sin and save His people from their sins. In the silence of the stable the Lord of glory was born, wrapped in flesh and blood. This was no ordinary baby! He was God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man. God had come to save us. Only He could free mankind from sin and death. O God, who hast made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light, grant, we beseech Thee, that as we have known on earth the mysteries of that Light, we may also come to the fullness of His joys in Heaven. The angel said to the Shepherds: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. The glory of God is revealed in the plan of salvation, in His Wisdom, love, grace, and mercy toward sinners. The glory of God is the manifestation of His Majesty, perfection and righteousness. Christ is the brightness of His glory and the glory of God continues to be revealed to men of faith in Jesus Christ. He was the eternal Word made flesh.

 

  1. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14). The glory of God is revealed in Creation, in Providence, and in Salvation. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, honor, and glory, and blessing. The birth of Christ brought peace on earth, not an external peace or even an internal peace, or even the peace Christ would accomplish on the cross. The words of the angel refer to Christ Himself. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Paul wrote: He is our peace (Eph. 2:14) born to be the author of peace between God and man. Man is born in sin. By nature he is an enemy of God, unable to satisfy God’s justice or fulfill His Law. Jesus is our peacemaker. He is God and Man in one person and thus He is able to reconcile us to God and grant access to the divine presence. This is what Christmas is about. The Church through the centuries has developed many traditions around Christmas. We don’t have to honor tradition but we do.

 

  1. Some people say the church should get rid of all tradition in its Christmas celebration but if you removed European traditions from the Christian faith you wouldn’t recognize what was left. Tradition is simply allowing the wisdom of the past to speak. Tradition supports and reinforces the truth of God’s Word. Christmas trees, bright lights and ornaments are symbols of the Light of Christ. But the brightest Light of all shines from the Scriptures in the cross of Jesus Christ.

 

From the Cross Thy wisdom shining

Breaketh forth in conquering might;

From the cross forever beameth

All thy bright redeeming light.

Alleluia, alleluia!

Praise to Thee who light dost send.

Alleluia, Alleluia without end. 

 

  1. The cross does not dampen the light of Christmas, it magnifies it! The Baby of Bethlehem was born to die, born to be our Savior. The angel said: I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. The angel said to Joseph: And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:20-21). Jesus came to reveal the good will of God toward mankind and His favor and pleasure toward the objects of His mercy. God showed His good will, not to angels but to men.  And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (I Jn. 2:2). God loved you with an everlasting love and blessed you with all spiritual blessings in Christ. He has made a Covenant with Christ for sinners and provided His son as Savior and peacemaker. God delivered His Son into the hands of men, justice, and death in order to make peace for them. Salvation is God’s work. Peace, reconciliation, and salvation are not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. We also note that Jesus was born in poverty. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich (II Cor. 8:9). He slept in a borrowed crib and years later, was buried in a borrowed tomb.

 

  1. Jesus did not come into the world with the glory and pomp of an earthly king but by way of the crib and the cross. The angels gave the shepherds a sign: And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. The sign given to the shepherds was a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. What exactly is a sign? A sign is a miracle, a visible proof given to confirm God’s promise to mankind. Signs are reminders of God’s power and promise. The miracles of Christ while He was among us are often called signs. In the Old Testament God promised Noah that He would never destroy the world again with a flood and confirmed this promise with a sign. From that time on the rainbow would be a perpetual sign to God’s people that His promise is true. God gave a sign to King Ahaz in Isaiah. After promising to destroy the king’s enemies the Lord encouraged Ahaz to ask for a sign to confirm it. But the king was reluctant to ask so God gave him a sign anyway, one he didn’t expect. Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Is. 7:14). A Virgin conceiving and bearing a son would be the sign that God’s promise to save mankind had come to pass. And the death and resurrection of Christ would prove that Jesus was the Messiah. His redemption was a sign of God’s grace and a sign that a change had taken place in the heart of God toward sinners.

 

  1. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved (Eph. 4:4,5). For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God sent the world a Savior. If we had needed instruction He would have sent a teacher. If the world was in need of technology God could have sent us a scientist or an engineer. If the world needed money, He could have sent gold or silver, but we needed much more. Man was dead in trespasses and sins. We were in need of spiritual life and forgiveness. This is why Jesus was born; this is why He lived a perfect life and died a perfect death, and why He rose again the third day. The shepherds went to Bethlehem that night to see a sign, a miracle, a manifestation of God’s love and compassion toward sinners. The child wrapped in swaddling clothes was proof that God keeps His promises and that His Word cannot fail. The Baby of Bethlehem was proof that God was not going to leave man in his sinful condition. His love caused Him to save us. God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son. Therefore on this Christmas Eve let every creature in heaven and on earth praise the Father Son and Holy Spirit.

 

  1. Let no voice be silent. For the Son of God who was born in Bethlehem once, continues to be born in the hearts of men through His Word. Christ comes to reveal His mercy and grace to us, to cast out our fears and to give us peace with God. We come before God as unworthy sinners to receive the forgiveness He offers in His Word. When sinners come to Christ by faith it is truly Christmas for the Lord of glory is born in their hearts, the dark night of sin is banished, and the child of God looks forward to the glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. May the Lord grant this faith to each of us this night as we celebrate the birth of our Lord! Amen.

 

Oh, come Thou Dayspring  from on High,

And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to Thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

The Second Sunday after Trinity

June 29, 2014

Rev. Ross Mahan, Pastor

Luke 14:16-24

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior

Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

 

  1. Our parable this morning took place at a dinner Jesus was attending at the home of one the chief Pharisees. He had just healed a man with dropsy and taught a brief lesson on serving others and then He told these men that those who serve others will be recompensed at the resurrection of the righteous. At the mention of the resurrection one of the guests at the table said: Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God (Vs. 15). No doubt the man who made this remark about dining in the Messianic Kingdom subscribed to the popular notion that only Jews would be part of that Kingdom but the parable Jesus told in response revealed that those who will be eating at that Great Banquet will be different than he expected. Jesus reminded all of the dinner guests that day that it is possible to have the Kingdom of God offered to them and yet willfully neglect that Kingdom and be lost forever. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation (Heb. 2:3). We see people everywhere neglecting the salvation God offers to them by refusing to take time for His Word, His people, and His worship in the local church. We are living in the days predicted by our Lord. Because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold (Mt. 24:12). As we saw last week, every parable reveals one basic truth and the details are often included to make it an interesting story. So, what is the meaning of this parable and who is who in the story?
  2. The master of the house is God, the great banquet is the Kingdom of God (salvation and divine grace), and the invited guests are the Jewish nation. The image of a feast or dinner in the Bible is often used as a picture of fellowship and communion with God. 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 (eat) with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20). God often invites sinners to come to him and be saved using the image of a meal. Jesus invites men to come and partake of the Bread of Life. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (Jn. 6:51). Isaiah wrote: Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.(Is. 55:1-3). An accusation leveled against our Lord while He was on earth was that He ate with publicans and sinners, something no self respecting Pharisee would ever dream of doing. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

 

  1. There is an interesting story recorded in Exodus 24:1-18. When God was establishing the Old Covenant with Israel, at one point He invited Moses along with 75 Elders of Israel to come up to Mt. Sinai to share a meal with Him. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the meal, other than one verse: They saw God and did eat and drink (Vs. 11). What exactly they saw that day we are not told but the meal they ate with God on Mt. Sinai ratified God’s Covenant with Israel. When God established the Passover the people were instructed to eat of the sacrificial lamb and this became the means by which individual believers personally participated in the blessings of the Old Covenant. And in the New Covenant Jesus established Holy Communion, what we call the Lord’s Supper, to connect His people to God in the New Covenant. Finally in the Book of Revelation we read about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, a banquet Christ will one day host for His bride, the church. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-8). John is describing the great feast of salvation that will take place in eternity when the Lord gathers His elect together at the end of time. So a banquet is often used as an image of salvation and divine favor. Everyone loves a good meal on special occasions so the imagery of a banquet describes God’s invitation for all men to be saved.

 

  1. The master of the house is God, the people invited to the feast are the nation of Israel, God’s covenant people, but where is Jesus in this parable? Our Lord did not place Himself in the parable as a character because He is the banquet. His coming to earth as a man to live a perfect life and to die a perfect death for the sins of the world is the preparation of the Feast. The Feast of salvation rests entirely on Him apart from Christ no one can be saved. The invitation to come to the Supper is the preaching of the Gospel. Jesus came unto His own people and invited them to be saved but Israel was not interested. There were some Jews saved but the majority had better things to do. The excuses for skipping the banquet were laughable. No one buys land without seeing it first; no one buys oxen without trying them out and what exactly would keep a newlywed couple from attending a social event? Each had a different excuse but really they were all the same. The men that were invited did not want to come to the feast. Their problem was not outward circumstances but the condition of their hearts. Jesus said to His fellow dinner guests that the Jews had no excuse for rejecting Him as Messiah and every reason to accept Him. Christ provides everything the sinner needs to be saved. By nature we are starving, empty, helpless, ready to perish and desperately in need of forgiveness, peace with God, justification and sanctification of the heart which only God can give.

 

  1. The Master of the Feast pronounced his judgment against the men that had rejected His invitation. None of those men which were invited shall taste of my supper. They had judged themselves unfit for His banquet. Like many today they had taken their relationship with God for granted. Our nation is filled with people who think it’s all about them and not about God. The only thing that seems important to modern man is life in this world and nothing greater. This is why the things of this world distract them from God, faith, and being faithful. The Jews thought God was obligated to them not the other way around. After all, He had chosen them so it was His job to take care of them. Many modern Christians think the same way. They expect God to jump at their command if they name it and claim it and He will give them whatever blessings they want. The government has a name for this attitude and we see it all around us and the word is entitlement. The Jews in Jesus’ day had a sense of entitlement. They were like many church people today and many citizens who think God or the government owes them something and so they’re going to demand it. Pastors often create this attitude in their people by always talking about God’s grace and His gifts without preaching the Law and the need for repentance and obedience. Christ offers Himself to the world as the Bread of Life and invites all men to come to this Gospel feast. We participate in this feast by grace through a heart of repentance and faith.
  2. The guests invited to the banquet after the Jews had rejected the invitation were the Gentiles nations. We are the ones the servants were sent to find in the streets and lanes of the city, along the highways and hedges. We are the poor, and the maimed, and the halt and the blind, the ones no one would have invited to such a fine dinner. The Master of the House was angry and opened the invitation to the poor and downtrodden, the ones the Pharisees thought were under God’s curse. This is the essence of the Gospel. God in His grace invites sinners to come to the Gospel feast through His Word having prepared our salvation without our knowledge out of His great generosity and goodness with no thought of whether we deserved it. The fact is none of us belong at that feast. We would not have responded to the invitation until His Spirit forced us against our nature to partake of it. We would still reject the salvation He offers to us if it were not for His great compassion and love. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. The servants in this verse are a picture of the work of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God, who subdues our hearts by His grace and makes us willing to believe and come to Christ. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. The master is not satisfied with a partially full banquet hall but wants every place at the table filled.

 

  1. God is more willing to save sinners than sinners are to be saved. Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:4). We are still not worthy to partake of this banquet yet the Lord places His Name upon us in Holy Baptism, speaks His word of absolution over us, forgives our sins, calls us His children and feeds us with His Holy Supper. What do we receive in this banquet? We have peace with God and resurrection from the grave, the promise of eternal life beyond the sorrow of this world, an eternity without pain and death. The devil accuses us of not being good enough to be saved and he is right. But God speaks to us in Christ telling us that despite how we feel, He forgives and welcomes us into His presence. When we fall He picks us up and invites us to sin no more. The trials and afflictions of this life are not His judgments us but simply the pains and sorrows that happen to everyone in a world distorted by sin. In times of doubt He invites us to look at the cross and see what He endured for us and to hear Him say: It is finished and to believe His promise in the Gospel. He isn’t waiting for you to accept His gift or to shape up until you finally deserve it. Christ paid for your sins. That is what Jesus meant when the Master of the Feast said; everything is now ready. That man sitting at the dinner with Jesus that day who said: Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God was right.

 

  1. But he didn’t really understand who would be dining at that great feast. He and his Pharisee friends had worked so hard for so long to be at that dinner but works righteousness would exclude him forever. Few if any of the Pharisees would ever taste of that supper. Another truth revealed in this parable is the fact that God’s eternal purposes in salvation will be fulfilled. When one race of people rejects God’s invitation He will invite others. If one nation refuses to believe others will be invited in their place. If the people of this nation think they can reject God’s Word with impunity they are mistaken for God will give His Word to other nations, to the poor, the despised, and the downtrodden and like the Jews, they will be cast into outer darkness. Those who ignore the invitation to believe the Gospel choose their own punishment. Their choice will be confirmed and they will never taste the joys of heaven. If a man is not saved it is not God’s fault. The Father is ready to receive all who come to Him by Christ; the Son is ready to cleanse all from their sins that come to Him by faith; and the Spirit is ready to come to all who ask for Him. God took His Word away from a rebellious, ungrateful, and unbelieving people and gave it to the nations of the world, to Europeans, Asians, Africans, and Arabs, nations that for centuries had been outside the Covenant, without God and without hope in the world. We are now fellow heirs with Christ and partakers of God’s promises to Abraham. God cannot fail.

 

  1. God’s decree of salvation will be fulfilled. Why did you hear the Spirit’s invitation and come to Christ? Thousands make bad choices and perish in their sins so why were you different? God alone makes you to differ in this life. God does not force anyone to believe He simply makes us willing to come to Him by the New Birth. Only He can give us strength to choose Christ and work within our hearts to will and to do of His good pleasure. We received the new birth in Holy Baptism as a gift from God and He alone can save us. The same love that prepared the feast gave us the desire and the willingness to partake of it. Apart from Him we would have all refused to believe and perished in our sins. As the Word of God is proclaimed the Holy Spirit convicts men of sin, opens their eyes to the truth, and leads them to repentance and faith. God is able to fulfill His eternal purpose even when men reject His invitation. The fulfillment of God’s sovereign plan does not depend on man. When men excuse themselves from the Gospel banquet in this life they forfeit the love of Christ. The Church continues Christ’s mission by inviting sinners to believe the Gospel. Baptism incorporates us into the unity of the Body of Christ and the Lord’s Supper renews and sustains our fellowship and communion with God in Christ’s Body. The Lord invites us to partake of the Gospel feast this morning in Holy Communion. May God grant us faith to respond to His invitation with joy; Amen.

 

 

The Sovereignty of God

Adult Instruction

The Sovereignty of God

February 2014

Read: Romans 11:33-36: The Sovereignty of God is a doctrine that the church clearly understood in the past, a doctrine that brought great comfort strength and character to the hearts and lives of believers. God’s sovereignty is the key to understanding history and Christian theology. The Sovereignty of God describes the greatness of God; the fact that God is God; self existent, independent and all powerful. No one can overthrow God’s sovereign purpose in the world. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? (Dan. 4:35). But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased (Ps. 115:3). For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations (Ps. 22:28). (He) is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords (I Tim. 6:15).

Compare the God of the Bible to the god of the modern church. The modern god is helpless, weak, and delicate. He is an object of pity more than reverence. This new god winks at sin, refuses to enforce His Law and will not judge or condemn anyone. The god of the modern church would never send any one to hell. He is forever tolerant loving, and non-judgmental. When the Christian church loses the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty the foundations of the church and the culture are destroyed.

The way a man views God will determine his character and conduct. You cannot live right if you don’t believe right. When we view God as weak and helpless, never judging or punishing man’s sin and rebellion, we will act the same. But when the Church sees God as the Omnipotent Almighty Sovereign Savior and king who work all things after the council of His will, it will make us bold and confident in life. Sadly we have raised an entire generation of spineless wimps who refuse to stand for the truth, who lack in courage, integrity, and are willing to excuse sin, wickedness, and rebellion. What happened to them? The majority of modern churches are strangers to the God of the Bible. Modern man hates the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. If God is sovereign He has the right to direct our lives and to tell us how to live. He has the right to hold us accountable to His Law and demand that we live lives of responsibility, accountability and conviction unafraid of what man may do to us. It was God’s Sovereignty that gave the Reformers the ability to stand, fight and die for the truth of God’s Word.

I. God is sovereign over civil Government! (Rom. 13:1-6). Man cannot live without government. God has ordained three entities to govern the lives of men, the family, Church and Civil Government. These are all separate. The government has no right to interfere with the family or the church. The government that is ordained of God is not a terror to good works but to evil. When government becomes a terror to good works it is an enemy of righteousness, justice, and God. The Lord did not ordain lawless tyrannical governments to trample the rights and freedoms of people. Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?  (Ps. 94:20). The Throne of iniquity describes a wicked government that encourages people to rebel against God’s Word. God has no fellowship with such a government. The state is God’s minister (Deakinos). The state is God’s servant and subject to His Law just as the church, the family, and the Christian. No one is exempt from God’s authority. God did not ordain the state to be His enemy or rival but His servant. The government is an revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Another word for revenger is an exacter of righteousness.

We find righteousness in God’s Law. The government was never intended to be a Law unto itself and free to do as it pleases. The state is to be subject to His Law just as every individual citizen. In verse 6 Paul uses another word for minister: Leitourgeo: For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. From this Greek word we derive the word Liturgy, denoting a public form of worship. The government is God’s servant, an exacter of righteousness, and a public form of worship. God has not ordained any other form of government. The family, church, and civil government are intended to be Christian. We have a choice. We can either be ruled by God’s Law or by man’s sinful human reason which is the devil’s rule. When we understand the Sovereignty of God it will lead to limited government. There can only be one Sovereign. If God is not sovereign, then who is? The Federal Government has usurped the place of God in the lives of our citizens and has become the source of everything. This has created a generation of people who refuse to work for a living and think the government owes them something. Civil government is limited by the Word of God and the Constitution.

Why does no one seem to care that our nation has left its Biblical and Constitutional foundations? Why do the American people tolerate our government’s ungodly and unconstitutional assaults against our freedoms? The American people have forgotten God. When men forget the true God they lose the only true source of sovereignty, authority, and freedom and will think the government has all power. When men no longer bow to the Sovereign God they will worship the state. No nation can exist without an ultimate authority or lawgiver therefore without God, men will bow to the state. God alone is the source of all authority. By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth (Prov. 8:15-16). And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding (Dan. 2:21). When Christians understand the Sovereignty of God and the limited nature of the government they will stand against tyranny. Tyranny is rule apart from God and His Law. All delegated authorities, in the church, the family, or the government are limited and defined. God’s Word forbids unlimited civil government. The state, family, and church are servants of God and subject to His Law.

II. God is Sovereign over all men equally! All men are equally accountable to God’s Law. Government officials are just as answerable to God as preachers. Our Founding Fathers established this nation as a Constitutional Republic under the rule of Law. A Republic is not ruled by the majority but upon principle and justice, on what is right. When the church understands God’s sovereignty it will rise up and do away with tyranny in the church and in the government. The Gospel gives the sinner true liberty for it sets him free from the power of sin and the devil. Civil liberty is impossible without spiritual liberty.

Everything we enjoy in this life came from the sovereign hand of God. We are free to obey God’s Word because the Sovereign God has commanded and empowered us by His Word. The Word of God gives the Christian a bold and defiant freedom before men (Rom. 8:31; 37). What can a tyrant do to a man or woman who understands these truths? If the world takes away all our possessions the Christian knows that everything comes from God. Death cannot frighten us. If our enemy takes our physical lives he sends us to God. We also see God’s sovereignty in His providence. God places us exactly where He wants us for particular acts of service according to His sovereign will.

There are no mistakes in God’s providence even when things are difficult. Paul and Silas went to the city of Philippi to preach the Gospel and were arrested and thrown into jail. Did they murmur and complain? No. Luke tells us that at midnight they were praying and singing praises to God. Paul and Silas believed they were in prison for His purpose and glory. (Phil. 1:12-14).

This is why we are to pray for those in authority. The Lord may allow you to be a testimony to unjust judges and rulers. God will go with you wherever He takes you, even to prison. God rules the universe as He pleases and does with men as He sees fit (Rom. 9:20-25). God is under no rules outside His own will and will not explain to anyone why He does anything. The truth of God’s Sovereignty fills the unbeliever with terror but is a tremendous comfort and peace to the child of God. Because of what Christ has done for us on the cross God is gracious and merciful toward His people. We are His children by grace through faith and he promises to complete the good work He began in us. May God grant us this faith today for Christ’s sake; Amen!

The Third Sunday after Epiphany

January 26, 2014

Rev. Ross Mahan, Pastor
Matt. 8:1-13

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Grace mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior

When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

 

  1. The Epiphany Season celebrates God manifest in the person of Jesus Christ. There are five miracles recorded in the eighth chapter of Matthew that took place immediately after the greatest sermon ever preached, miracles that proved beyond all doubt that Jesus was the Son of God. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount we read: And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Mt. 7:28-29). I was reminded of John’s Gospel when the Pharisees sent temple soldiers to arrest Jesus but they came back without Him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man (Jn. 7:45-46). Those who heard the Sermon on the Mount confessed: No one ever spoke such words as this man, and now in this chapter: No one ever did such miracles as this man. The miracles of Christ revealed His divinity. This was the proof our Lord’s offered the Pharisees: But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me (Jn. 5:36). The two miracles recorded in our text are the cleansing of the leper and the healing of the Centurion’s servant and each contains a powerful confession of Christ’s authority and compassion.

I.

  1. The healing of the leper! Leprosy was incurable, infectious, and destructive, one of the most feared diseases of the day. Anyone with the disease had to be isolated from other people for he was considered unclean. When a leper came near to anyone he was required to call out a warning of unclean. Everything the leper touched became unclean including clothing, homes, or people. It was a disease that affected every part of life. Today we can treat leprosy but in Biblical times there was no treatment. Leprosy would cause skin sores, nerve damage in the arms and legs and disfigurement and the only way to stop it from spreading was to isolate the victim and burn all of the clothing and materials he came into contact. The leper in our Gospel lesson broke the rules by coming to Jesus. He said: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. What a confession of faith! He said if Jesus wanted to He could heal him. Everyone in that day knew that only God had the power to heal leprosy. This leper was confessing that Jesus was either divine or in touch with God. Jesus was willing so He touched and cleansed him of leprosy. Jesus commands his healing and it was done. This miracle was the work of almighty God and the foundation of a Christian’s faith. The entire Christian religion is built upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. If Jesus is not the divine Son of God, Christianity collapses and we can close the doors of the church. Without Jesus there is no Christian faith.
  1. 3.      The Gospel invites sinners to come to Jesus, to believe on Him, to rely on Him, to cast all our cares upon Him, and to live by faith in Him and we can do this without fear. Christ is the Rock of our Salvation, the foundation of our lives and the One in whom we rest our eternal soul. Jesus taught us to build our life upon the Rock of God’s Word so that when the storms of life come, which they surely will at one time or another, our faith will endure it. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. (Mt. 7:24-25). The hymn writer wrote:

 

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Blood and Righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

 

His oath His covenant, his Blood, support me in the whelming flood.

When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

 

  1. 4.      Christ has the power to heal the sick, give life to the dead, power to the weak, and strength to those who have no might. Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Is. 40:28-31). After Jesus healed this man He told him not to make a big deal out of it but go to the Temple, get examined by the priest and make the proper sacrifice. Jesus had given this man back his life. Now he could be reunited with his family, neighbors and friends again. All of the healings in the New Testament reveal a gracious and compassionate Savior who is touched with the feeling of our infirmity. While Jesus was on earth He never refused to heal anyone who asked. He was always willing to heal the sick and comfort penitent sinners. We have the same promise today. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him (I Jn. 5:14-15).

II.

  1. 5.      The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant! The Centurion in our Gospel lesson was a unique man. We don’t know very much about him, his name, his nation, and his past history are not revealed to us, but we do know he was a man of faith. He was a Gentile, a Roman soldier and military officer whose servant was at home paralyzed with pain. He comes to a Jew for help. He had no doubt heard about Jesus and when he told our Lord about his servant Jesus agreed to come and heal him, but the Centurion declined. He didn’t want to trouble Jesus and he knew that Jews did not like to enter the homes of Gentiles, but the real reason was he understood the authority of Christ. Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. Jesus didn’t need to come to his home, all He had to do was say the word and his servant would be healed. The Centurion understood how authority worked. He was himself a military officer and if he wanted something done he simply commanded a soldier under him and he did it. He knew that Jesus had authority over sickness. The situation was not so much an issue of healing as of divine authority. Jesus the Son of God had authority over disease, sickness, and death and He was the Lord of all providence the master of every circumstance. When Jesus heard the words of the Centurion He marveled at the level of this man’s faith and understanding.

 

  1. 6.      Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. After this Jesus began speaking about the future and how the Gospel would be proclaimed throughout world. The Centurion represented millions of Gentiles who would be saved during the Day of Grace. But God’s mercy on the Gentiles would bring judgment upon the Jews who had rejected Christ And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. God’s saving purpose in the world would not fail. The unbelieving Jews would be excluded from the Kingdom of God in bitter sorrow and damnation but Gentiles from around the world would enter God’s Covenant with Abraham by faith. The idea that the salvation God has promised to Abraham included the Gentiles was unthinkable to the Jew and beyond their ability to imagine but it happened just as Jesus predicted. The Gospel beginning at Jerusalem was preached in Judaea, Samaria, and finally the uttermost parts of the earth until today the Christian Church in the world is mostly Gentile. The Jews continue their hostility toward Christ and His Church. The primary truth revealed in our sermon text is the authority of Jesus to work His will in all of our circumstances, troubles, and illnesses.

 

  1. 7.      The Centurion understood it. Jesus said: Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour. Here we see Christ’s willingness to heal and bless us. If God is willing to do something He is able. He has all authority in heaven and earth. He exercises authority in our salvation. We are sinful by nature. The evidence of man’s sinful condition is his refusal to listen to God’s Word. Man from birth ignores God and pretends he doesn’t need Him. The man outside of Christ rebels against God’s authority crying: we will not have this man reign over us (Lu. 19:14). Man rejects God’s Law, denies the reality of sin, and proclaims himself to be god. This was the condition of every one of us before we were saved. God comes to us by His Spirit through the Word granting us repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ along with new desires to walk with Him in holiness, peace, and joy. Only the Sovereign God can work grace in the heart of a sinner and grant him a new heart of penitence, worship, and obedience. When Jesus speaks the troubles and obstacles we face listen and obey like soldiers under their commanding officer. The Centurion understood Jesus was in charge and that his servant was in the hands of the Savior who loved to heal sinners in need. This is true faith. The Centurion knew: When Jesus commands something to happen it cannot fail to be accomplished. We worship the same Jesus today.
  1. 8.      Christ is able to help us in all our troubles. For this reason He invites us to pray. Why do we not see more answers to prayer? We lack faith in God. James writes: But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord (Ja. 1:6-7). Faith in God’s promises please the Lord for without faith no one should expect an answer to their prayers. Later James points to another problem, our lack of prayer. Ye have not, because ye ask not (Ja. 4:2b). Then he says that even when we ask we do not receive because we ask with wrong motives. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (Ja. 4:3). In other words we ask just for ourselves, for our own comfort and pleasure. Sin and unbelief often stand in the way of our prayers. The Centurion came to Jesus completely confident in His authority and person. We also come to God knowing who Jesus is and who we are before Him. And we come to God with the right motives submitting to His will and His sovereign plan for our lives. When we pray according to His will He always answers our prayers with a yes. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us (II Cor. 1:20). When we call upon the Lord trusting in His Word He gives us what we need and will accomplish His perfect will in our lives.

 

  1. 9.      If Jesus wants to do something nothing can stand in His way; when He speaks it is done. This is our comfort and hope. The same is true in your life. You continue to sin; you do not trust in God or call upon Him as you should but He loves you and died for you. He paid for your sins and delivered you from the power of the devil. He exercised authority over sin and death when He called you to the true faith and joined you to God in your baptism. You are one of the people Jesus said shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. We gather together this morning at the Lord’s Table in the presence of all the saints who have gone on before to partake of spiritual realities of which the patriarchs and prophets could only dream. This week we saw the March for Life in Washington as Christians from around the country gathered together to speak against a culture of death that has killed 55 million children since 1973. God’s will is life freely given a gift at birth and spiritual life offered and sealed to us through the means of grace. God would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Jesus cleansed the leper, He healed the servant of the Centurion, and He has called you to everlasting life. He is the source of all life as Jesus said: I am the way the truth and the life. Like the Centurion we are men and women under authority and we live by faith without which no one can be saved; Amen.

 

Christmas Eve Service

Nativity-Scene1

December 24, 2013

Rev. Ross Mahan, Pastor
Luke 2:1-14

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our blessed Savior

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 

  1. We’ve heard a lot of discussion over the past few years about the War on Christmas; the attempts to remove Jesus Christ from the Christmas season and the public square. Retailers have instructed their employees to say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas; schools ban the singing of Christmas carols if they mention Christ, and the ACLU will take a city to court if they allow a manger scene on a courthouse lawn. Those fighting to put Christ back into Christmas are to be commended but in this day of unbelief and skepticism it is more important to make sure we put God in Christ. True Christianity is in decline in the West and many professing Christians have lost a Biblical understanding of Christ. I have a pastor friend who told me of a young man in his denomination who recently received a call to a large congregation in Lansing, Michigan where he has discovered that half of the people in his congregation do not believe that Jesus is divine. One man asked the pastor if it was possible to be a Christian and not believe all of this divinity stuff. This is why the church must make it clear that the Christ born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago is the One True and Living God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, true God and true man. The Christian faith is the only religion founded upon fact and real history. All other religions are religions of the Law created by man. Christianity alone teaches that a person gets to heaven by the grace of God in Christ and not man’s works.

 

  1. On this Christmas Eve the true Church celebrates the fact that God sent His only begotten Son into the world to save sinners (Gal. 4:4,5). In our text, the time had come! The moment God had chosen from all eternity had arrived. The gift promised from the foundation of the world would now be given. The world did not realize what was happening in Bethlehem that night when Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger. A decree from Caesar Augustine for a census brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem in fulfillment of the words of the Prophet Micah. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2). In the Old Testament there were clear indications that the coming Messiah the Son of God would be true God.  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). Jesus is the Prince of Peace, a universal King for everyone as the angel said to the shepherds: Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Salvation had come in the person of a baby, Christ the Lord.

 

  1. The tiny infant born that night was true God, begotten of His Father from all eternity as John wrote: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:1-3, 14). Belief in the deity of Christ is an essential part of the Gospel. No one can be saved who denies it. Jesus had to be divine for only God could save sinners. The Father sent His Son into the world to accomplish what only God could do. Jesus said: For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me (Jn. 6:38); I must work the works of him that sent me (Jn. 9:4a). Jesus was born under the Law and through Mary His mother, assumed human nature. He placed Himself under the obligations of the Law to fulfill all of its righteous requirements in our place by keeping all of the precepts and requirements of the Law for us. The Law demands personal obedience, perfect obedience, and perpetual obedience which none of us could give. Jesus took our place under the Law to suffer and die in our stead and His perfect life and death redeemed mankind from the bondage and penalty of the Law that we might receive the adoption of sons.

 

  1. The word redeem is a unique word meaning to buy back by paying a price, to recover from the power of another, and to ransom. How did God’s Son, ransom sinners under the condemnation of the Law? Jesus fulfilled our obligation to the Law perfectly in thought, word, and deed. 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 (Heb. 4:15). Because of what Christ has accomplished for us God has now declared believing sinners to be righteous before Him by faith. 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). For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom. 10:4). For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous (Rom. 5:19). Christ earned perfect righteousness for the unrighteous and He also assumed another responsibility for sinners; paying the penalty of our guilt under the Law. Jesus said: Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. 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). This is the real meaning of Christmas, not the trees, the holly, and the presents, but the salvation of the world.

 

  1. Martin Luther was the first to use an evergreen tree at Christmas. He saw it as a symbol of eternal life. Christ gave us eternal life by another tree, a tree of eternal death. Paul writes: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Gal. 3:13-14). Christ suffered the full torment of the damned in hell, being forsaken of His Father and taking upon Himself the full curse of the Law to appease and satisfy the wrath of God that was against us. 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: 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. 3:23-25). The Bible tells us that we were redeemed with God’s own blood. Paul told the elders of Ephesus: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28b). In a mysterious way God Himself laid down His life on the cross to redeem the world from sin, death, and hell. The words of the old Hymn writer are correct:

O sorrow dread!

Our God is dead!

But by His expiation

Of our guilt upon the cross

Gained for us salvation

THL # 167 Vs. 2

 

  1. The Christmas colors are red and green. Red symbolizes the blood of Christ and green, eternal life. The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (I Jn. 1:7b). We were redeemed with an infinite price. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (I Pet. 1:18-19). At Christmas time we give gifts to family and friends, yet how many people today will spend their money on Christmas gifts but forget the real gift of Christmas and the price that was paid to give it. Here is the perfect gift with which no one can find fault, a gift no one should refuse, and a gift everyone needs. This gift does not come wrapped in bright colored paper and ribbons for God sent this gift into the world wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This gift is the greatest gift because it is the gift of God Himself. God in His wisdom came to us as a tiny baby. This is the true meaning of Christmas and why the devil does everything in his power to stop people from saying Merry Christmas or singing Christmas carols in school or saying anything that may remind people of the real meaning of the birth of Christ. Radical liberals and progressives are seeking to remove all Christian tradition and history from our nation and we must not allow them to succeed.

 

  1. The real meaning of Christmas is revealed in John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God sent forth His Son to redeem sinners that hated Him, sinners who by nature were under His wrath. Now by faith we have been adopted into His family and are His children as part of God the Father’s eternal purpose in history. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:5-7). Christians have received the knowledge of God in Christ and are now children of God by faith in Jesus Christ through the promise of forgiveness attached to the Sacrament of Baptism. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:22; 26-27). On our adoption certificate are the simple words: Baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must never forget our Baptism. Through this means we are children of God by grace for Christ’s sake through faith.

 

  1. The gift of our salvation comes to sinners during this Day of Grace wrapped in the simple Word of God, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Our Savior enters human hearts through the way of repentance and faith in the Gospel and in Christ we find forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We are the most blessed people in the world. We have every reason to rejoice! There is something about the birth of Jesus that fills the hearts of people with joy but the heart of every child of God should especially be filled with peace and joy this evening. He has made us God’s children by grace through faith. He has reconciled us to Him. The fear of death has been removed and now we can look forward to an eternity in heaven with Christ. All of this is ours through the miraculous birth, life, and death of our blessed Savior, God’s gift to the world. We now say with the Apostle Paul: Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift (II Cor. 9:15). I urge you during this Christmas season to take time to ponder again your adoption into God’s family and the great price that was paid for your redemption. There is nothing we can add to that payment. God saves sinners and all through the Scriptures the Lord has assured His people of eternal salvation: Isaiah wrote: Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine (Is. 43:1). Amen

 

The Third Sunday in Advent

December 15, 2013

Rev. Ross Mahan, Pastor
Luke 1:39-56

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior.

And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

 

  1. The special presence of God on earth had relocated from the Temple to the womb of the Virgin Mary. God was accomplishing His great plan of salvation beginning with Elizabeth and Mary, two women of faith. God has always preserved His elect on the earth, a remnant of believers to worship and serve Him and to be His witnesses in the world. God does not change. He is immutable. The Law and the Gospel have not changed over the centuries. If people in the Old Testament were saved in a different way than people in the New Testament then one of two things must be true. God is either evolving over time or there is more than one God. If either of these is true then how could we trust His Word? Adam and Eve were saved by grace through faith in the promise of the Gospel, God’s promise to send His Son into the world, the Seed of the woman to destroy the works of the devil. Christ the Savior would restore what mankind had lost in the fall. Abel, the son of Adam, was also a believer who worshiped God with a sacrifice offered by faith according to His Word and was declared righteous in God’s sight. Noah believed God’s warning about the flood and built the ark to the saving of his household and became the heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Heb. 11:7). Abraham believed God’s promise of the coming Messiah that would be born through his son Isaac, the seed of Abraham and his faith was counted unto him for righteousness (Gen. 15:5; Rom. 4:1-5).

 

  1. David understood the Gospel of grace and wrote about it. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile (Rom. 32:1-2). In our text Luke introduces us to two women of faith, women who understood and believed the Word of God. The Lord used them to fulfill His promises. God has always used women in the Bible to accomplish His will and in fact Luke’s Gospel is a testament to women of faith. Later in Luke a woman who had been forgiven of many sins anoints the feet of Jesus while He was having dinner at the home of a Pharisee (Lu. 7:36-50). Luke describes a certain group of women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities that supported our Lord financially (Lu. 8:1-2). In the village of Bethany we read about a woman named Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus hearing His Word, (Lu. 10:38-42). Jesus commended a poor widow for her offering (Lu. 21:1-5) and it was the women who returned from the tomb proclaiming the resurrection to the disciples (Lu. 24:1-11). Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth and the Holy Spirit fills them with joy and praise. John and Jesus, both conceived under miraculous circumstances, come together at Elizabeth’s home and the child in the Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy. The child in the womb of Mary is the cause of her blessedness just as Christ dwelling in His church is the source of every blessing we enjoy.

I.

  1. The spiritual understanding of Elizabeth: God gives spiritual understanding to those who seek it prayerfully and humbly in His Word. These Old Testament saints understood the Scriptures and were waiting for the coming of the Lord. Elizabeth now six months pregnant with John calls Mary the mother of my Lord. She understood that the child that would be born of Mary was the long awaited Messiah and the Lord of whom prophets had written. Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, the Son of God and Son of Man, of whom Isaiah spoke: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). Elizabeth gives one of the greatest confessions of faith in the Word of God, a confession worthy to be placed alongside the words of Peter: Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God. Only the Holy Spirit can give anyone the knowledge of Christ. Only God can show us Jesus the Word who was with God and was God, and who was the Word made flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1-2; 14). Apart from the revelation of the Spirit through the Holy Scriptures no one would ever understand these things and be saved. Paul wrote: No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost (I Cor. 12:3b). Jesus is Lord! We must use these words carefully for they apply to Jesus our Savior and no one else.

 

  1. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (I Tim. 2:5). The only true God is the Triune God and we were baptized in His Name. The God of the Bible revealed Himself to mankind in the person of His Son. He came to earth as a servant to give His life as a ransom for sinners but one day He will return as King of kings and Lord of Lords. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:5-11). Every knee shall day bow before Christ. Mary sang: He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away (Lu. 1:51-53). Elizabeth worshiped Jesus her Savior in Mary’s womb and praised Mary for her faith.

 

  1. Blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. It is no surprise that these women praised and commended saving faith for all of the saints were men and women of faith. Why were the saints blessed of God? They were redeemed and blessed because they believed the promises of God even when they didn’t completely understand them. They walked by faith. They endured hardships by faith. By faith they looked for a Savior whom they could not see with their eyes and they looked to the future for things to come. By faith they did battle with the devil, the world, and the flesh and by faith they were victorious and arrived safely in heaven at death. This was the faith of Mary and Elizabeth, the same faith that dwells in the hearts of God’s people in every age. Do you know something of this precious faith? Saving faith is the work of God in the heart of the sinner through the Word of the Gospel. Do not go to sleep tonight until you know that you possess true saving faith and can say with Paul: For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (II Tim. 1:12b). Mary was blessed because she was a woman of faith as the book of Hebrews reveals: Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). It is better to be rich in faith than rich in money. May God grant us the faith of Mary and Elizabeth!

II.

  1. The spiritual graces of Mary. Mary is a woman of humility and gratitude. God had chosen Mary and given her the honor of being the mother of our Lord yet she does not speak of her greatness but of her low estate and need of a Savior. My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name (Lu. 1:47-49). These are not the words of a woman who thought she was sinless or immaculate but the words of a believer who has been taught by the grace of God to feel her sins and to trust in the Savior. She praises God for all He is doing for her and for His people Israel. Mary heard and believed the Word of the angel and now she is pregnant. In her Magnificat she is amazed that God had chosen her. She was not special or significant in the eyes of the world but the object of God’s grace. As the mother of our Lord she would go through trials and afflictions but one day all generations will count me blessed. She would experience pain and sorrow, but what a privilege God gave her. The Lord had done great things for her just as He has for all of us. He created and chose us to be His children, sent His Son to die in our place to rescue us from sin and today He continues to forgive and declare us to be His children. His mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

 

  1. Humility is the highest grace of the Christian faith, a grace appropriate to human nature. It is also a grace that every Christian can have. Not everyone is rich or educated. Not everyone is gifted to preach but every child of God can be humble. Those who are proud in their hearts and think they are special often fail in life. When the Messiah was born there would be a great reversal in the world. The humble would be exalted and the rich would be humbled. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. She knew from Scripture how God had put down Pharaoh, the Canaanites, the Philistines, and Nebuchadnezzar and had exalted godly men like Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, and Daniel. We find this same theme elsewhere in Luke’s Gospel when Jesus said: For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Lu. 14:11). And the publican, smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Lu. 18:13-14). In Luke’s record of the Sermon on the Mount we read how the hungry are blessed and the rich are cursed (Lu. 6:21; 24).

 

  1. This principle was demonstrated in the life of our Lord. The Creator comes to His creation as a man, a created being and just as the Father exalted Jesus in His humility, so now Jesus exalts those of low estate. Jesus said to the Chief Priests and Scribes concerning Himself: What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Lu. 20:17-18). Jesus came to minister to the sick and to sinners (tax collectors and prostitutes) instead of the healthy and self righteous. Jesus the child in the womb of Mary is the humble servant sent from Heaven to show God’s grace to the world by coming to those who expect it least and bringing them salvation. Not only is Mary humble before God but also thankful for all that God had done for her. Gratitude is the mark of God’s people in every age. The saints of the Old and New Testament were men and women of praise and thanksgiving. Gratitude comes from the understanding that we are debtors to God, Each day the Lord gives us more mercies than we deserve. Mary was thankful and humble because she believed the promises of God’s Word. He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. She remembered the promise God had made to Abraham. In thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed.

 

  1. The birth of Jesus would the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Let us like Mary lay hold on the promises of the Bible. The Promises of God are the bread and the water we eat and drink each day to sustain our souls in the world. God’s promise to Abraham speaks of Jesus Christ. The help we have in Christ is the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Christ has accomplished everything necessary for our salvation. He kept the Law in our place and paid the penalty for our sins. He did all this for the church, the new Israel. The people of God walk in the faith of Abraham, trusting in God through the new birth of the Spirit. Everything we have is a gift from God. We could never earn His favor. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:27-29). We are sons and daughters of Abraham and we believe the promises of God, just as Mary and Elizabeth and every saint in history. Mary praised God for all that He had done for her and boasted of God’s power, wisdom, and goodness. We get to do the same thing each week in the Divine Service as we hear once again the promises of His Word and receive the Holy Sacrament. May God grant us the faith of Mary and Elizabeth for Christ’s sake; Amen.